SINGAPORE, March 3 -- Countries risk being vulnerable to spying if they use foreign telecoms providers, but banning Chinese companies such as Huawei will not eradicate the issue, Singapore’s former foreign minister George Yeo has said.
Yeo, Singapore’s foreign minister from 2004 to 2011 and minister for trade and industry for five years before that, said the suggestion that Huawei equipment would allow the Chinese government to spy on customers was one-sided. “To be worried that 5G can expose you to foreign intelligence efforts is a legitimate worry, and every country must take precautions,” Yeo said in an interview with De Peet Journal.
“It is not just China which may enter your system – the United States and others are also trying to enter your system. If you are a small country, it is very tough because you don’t have all the capabilities.” Yeo, the chairman and executive director of Kerry Logistics Network, said that during his time in government Singapore asked BlackBerry to build a data centre in the city state so that data would not have to go through Canada. “In the field of intelligence, trust nobody and take your own precautions,” he said. The US was concerned about alleged spying by Huawei partly because if more countries used the company’s equipment, American intelligence could be prevented from doing its own snooping, Yeo said. “The Americans are so worried about Huawei not only because Huawei represents a possible vulnerability, but because using Huawei also makes it harder for American intelligence to gain access into other people’s systems,” he said. “Huawei has been talking about the Americans’ Prism surveillance system, which [American whistle-blower] Edward Snowden divulged was collecting information, even tapping German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s telephone conversations. “If you have a Huawei system it is harder for the Americans to do all this. So we can understand why they are not happy with Huawei.”
In February, Huawei’s chairman Guo Ping denied his company had “back doors” in its equipment that facilitated spying and referred to the US intelligence work exposed by Snowden. The US has been pressuring its allies to impose blanket bans on using Huawei 5G equipment and networks, and has threatened to reconsider sharing intelligence with them. Canada, Australia and New Zealand have banned Huawei, while the European Union said this week it would not block Huawei but would increase scrutiny of it.“The Europeans are not complying, the British and the Germans are going their own way, and more and more countries will take their alignment from Germany and Britain,” Yeo said.
The solution, especially for smaller countries, he said, was to identify vulnerabilities rather than ban a specific provider. “The solution is not to say ‘I ban Huawei’, but to go into smaller granularity about exactly what you are afraid of, what is vulnerable and how to armour-plate those things,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a binary problem; the answer is to go deeper, and all countries should begin to do that not just with respect to Huawei but with every telecom system that they allow into their country. “It is not just Huawei that poses an intelligence threat – all the major powers pose an intelligence threat to small countries.”
SINGAPORE, March 8 -- It seems to be a commonly held view in the West that China’s economic success heralds misfortune.
Year after year, voices are heard claiming that the country’s good fortune is built on reckless and irresponsible borrowing that presages collapse — a catastrophe that is forever imminent.
As part of this false analysis, Western rating agencies have been sounding the alarm over what they interpret as mounting credit risks in China’s financial sector for many years. The worry they spark each time they warn that China is supposedly going to hit a “debt iceberg” necessitates top Chinese government officials explaining to the world what the country’s debt level is, how it is likely to affect China’s overall economic well-being and what they are doing to address the risks. That’s why, at a news conference held on the sidelines of the top legislature’s annual session on Thursday, Finance Minister Liu Kun addressed the topic once again. He clarified that the total government debt ratio stood at 37 percent of the national GDP at the end of 2018, a little higher than the 36.2 percent for 2017, but still much lower than the globally accepted warning level of 60 percent.
Given that the ratio is more than 200 percent for Japan and around 100 percent for other major economies such as the United States and France, it is hard to understand why China, with a much higher economic growth rate, is so often identified as cause for concern. Some might point to China’s growth-obsessed local governments, which have long been criticized for their opaque ways of raising funds to invest in massive infrastructure projects, often using financing institutions known as “local government financing vehicles”. Much of the so-called hidden debts have been raised through such vehicles. Yet thanks to deleveraging, the curbing of irregularities and the standardizing of government financing, among other measures that have been taken to rein in the hidden debts and prevent systemic debt risks, China’s local government debts are under control.
As Liu noted, the debt balance of local governments stood at 18.39 trillion yuan ($2.74 trillion), well below the official ceiling of 21 trillion yuan. The local debt ratio of 76.6 percent is also much lower than the international warning line of 100 percent to 120 percent. The government has said there will be no major changes in the government debt ratio in the years to come versus the level in 2017, and, more important, it has vowed to increase the transparency of government debts.
Hopefully, this will help root out the exaggerated fears about a systemic financial meltdown, so that doomsayers will no longer have an excuse to cry wolf.
"SET drops ahead of Thai Raksa Chart ruling"
BANGKOK, March 6 -- Thai stocks dropped ahead of the Constitutional Court' ruling on the Thai Raksa Chart Party, while Philippine shares jumped 2% on Wednesday, led by real estate and consumer stocks.
The Stock Exchange of Thailand main index fell 13.49 points or 0.82%, in turnover of 44 billion baht, with all sectors except energy in the negative territory. The court will give its ruling on Thursday whether to ban Thak Raksa Chart for nominating Princess Ubolratana as its candidate for prime minister in the March 24 general election. The Election Commission had asked the court to dissolve the party after it nominated the princess. "Tomorrow's ruling will be worth closely monitoring as it may trigger a start of heightened political risks that could derail the Thai economy," OCBC Bank said in a note.
The Philippine benchmark stock index, which was Southeast Asia's worst performer last month, gained the most among regional markets as a selloff last week made valuations more attractive. Foreign investors bought net 273 million pesos (US$5.23 million) in equities on Wednesday, exchange data shows. SM Prime Holdings, the country's second-largest firm by market value, advanced 3.6%, while real estate conglomerate Ayala Land Inc gained 2.3%.
Singapore stocks closed lower for a second session in three, dragged by industrial and consumer stocks. Index heavyweight Jardine Matheson Holdings Ltd dipped 2.1%, while food retailer Dairy Farm International Holdings Ltd weakened 4%.
Meanwhile, Indonesian shares snapped two consecutive sessions of losses, helped by consumer and financial stocks. Clove cigarette maker Gudang Garam Tbk PT rose 2.1%, while lender PT Bank Mayapada Internasional Tbk added 11.4%.
SINGAPORE, March 5 -- Volvo and a Singapore university unveiled a driverless electric bus Tuesday that will soon undergo tests in the city-state, the latest move towards rolling out autonomous vehicles for public transport.
High-tech Singapore has become a testbed for self-driving technology and the world's first driverless taxis went into operation in a limited public trial in the country in 2016. Swedish automaker Volvo Buses and its local partner Nanyang Technological University (NTU) unveiled what they described as a full-size autonomous electric bus and said the vehicle would soon start trial runs in the university's sprawling campus. Volvo Buses president Hakan Agnevall also said that the company is willing to increase its investment in developing autonomous vehicles in Singapore, having already put in a significant sum of money in a joint project with the Nanyang Technological University (NTU).
The Swedish carmaker launched a full-sized, autonomous electric bus with NTU, with both saying that the 12m-long bus was the first of its kind. Mr Agnevall said: "Everybody is looking at developing autonomous vehicles, but I would say that Singapore is very formulated in terms of (developing) autonomous vehicles. It also puts a lot of money, effort and resources to make it happen.
"This is where Singapore stands out."
Volvo signed its partnership with NTU to develop driverless electricity-powered buses in January last year. As part of the deal, the firm provided two buses fitted with autonomous driving technologies.
Mr Agnevall said that Volvo has invested $4 million so far in the trials, with the additional amount spent on technology development on the bus "much, much more" than $4 million.
Despite having spent a significant sum, Volvo would continue investing in Singapore. "There is a great future in this cooperation. It is highly strategic for Singapore and for Volvo as a group," Mr Agnevall added. "We are very much looking forward to continuing and deepening the cooperation." A report by research house Fitch Solutions Macro Research on Monday said that Singapore is now a step closer to autonomous vehicle adoption, with the publication of provisional national standards to guide the development and roll-out of autonomous vehicles. The standards, termed as Technical Reference 68 (TR 68), were published by Enterprise Singapore in January. They aim to promote the safe deployment of fully autonomous vehicles in Singapore. In its report, Fitch said: "We believe that this clear set of standards will support the development of autonomous vehicles, as it will create targets for autonomous vehicle technology developers to reach and will seek to eliminate a lot of the risk and uncertainty surrounding this technology.
"Furthermore, it will attract more developers to Singapore, as they will be able to operate the vehicles in a real world environment which will support their development of this tech." In a separate report released last month, consulting firm KPMG International said Singapore is second in the world behind the Netherlands, and first in Asia in its readiness to adopt autonomous vehicles. This was judged based on four criteria - policy and legislation, technology and innovation, infrastructure, and consumer acceptance.
"SET drops, other Asean stock markets rise"
BANGKOK, February 14 -- The Stock Exchange of Thailand index ended lower, while other Southeast Asian stock markets closed higher on Thursday as a surprise jump in monthly Chinese trade data brought slight relief amid continued focus on Sino-US talks.
The SET index eased 3.09 points or 0.19% to 1,652.64, in turnover of 45.88 billion baht, despite gains in shares of telecom operators. True Corporation jumped 25 satang or 4.81% to 5.45 baht, Advanced Info Service added 2.50 baht or 1.37% to 184.50 and Jasmine International ended 25 satang or 4.24% higher to 6.15 baht. PTT shares however dropped 75 satang or 1.53% to 48.25 baht. The region's biggest trading partner, China, reported better-than-expected trade figures for January, easing some fears of an imminent slowdown in the economic powerhouse. High-level talks between the country and the United States have been a major focal point for markets this week. US President Donald Trump is considering a 60-day extension of the Mar 1 deadline for higher tariffs on Chinese imports, Bloomberg reported on Thursday, citing unnamed sources.
The Philippine benchmark firmed 0.9% to snap four consecutive sessions of losses and led the gains among its regional peers. Financial stocks were the biggest boost to the index, with BDO Unibank Inc rising 2.3% to post its best close in nearly 11-months. Asian fast-food giant Jollibee Foods Corp jumped 1.7% and was also among the top gainers on the Philippine benchmark after reporting a rise in fourth-quarter net income. Philippine markets had seen large outflows over the past four sessions as foreign investors rebalanced their portfolios.
Meanwhile, the Vietnam stock exchange continued to gain for the fourth straight day, closing 0.8% up, supported by a persisting rally in the country's real estate sector. Property developers Vingroup JSC and Vincom Retail JSC gained 3.6% each. "(The) Vietnamese market has been moving in a positive direction on Wall Street cues. Investor sentiment has also been supported by a possibly positive outcome of the Trump – Kim summit slated for Hanoi later this month," said a stock broker with SSI Securities Corp. "Traditionally, cashflows into the market in Vietnam are often strong in the first quarter of the year as several corporate investors have abundant cash at hands."
The Malaysian index ticked up 0.2%, after data showed on Thursday that the country's economy expanded 4.7% in the October-December quarter from a year earlier, in line with expectations, ending four quarters of slowing growth.
Singapore's index ended 0.3% higher ahead of a fourth-quarter GDP report due on Friday. The country's economy likely grew at a slower pace than initially estimated as growth in the city-state's manufacturing and services sectors came under strain from slowing demand, a Reuters poll showed.
"Energy stocks lead SET gains, Philippine shares continue slide"
BANGKOK, Februari 13 -- Thai shares rose on Wednesday, with energy stocks leading broad-based gains, while the Philippine index declined for a fourth consecutive session.
Singapore stocks closed at a more than 4-month high, leading the gains in Southeast Asia after US President Donald Trump said he could relax the China trade deal deadline. Trump said on Tuesday that he could let the March 1 deadline to reach a trade agreement "slide for a little while," although he added he was not inclined to do so. However, his remarks spurred a rally in Wall Street overnight, as well as a number of Asian players.
The Stock Exchange of Thailand index advanced 13.24 points or 0.81% to 1,655.73, in turnover worth 45 billion baht. Shares of energy stocks were among the largest boosts to the index. PTT Plc added 50 satang or 1.03% to 49 baht. PTT Global Chemical Plc gained 1.75 baht or 2.59% to 69.25 baht and PTT Exploration and Production Plc advanced 2.50 baht or 2.06% to 124 baht.
The Philippine index, which has outperformed its peers this year so far, declined for a fourth consecutive session to end 1.1% lower, pressured by industrial and financial stocks. Industrial conglomerate JG Summit Holdings Inc dropped 3.9% and was the top loser on the benchmark, whereas BDO Unibank Inc fell 1.1%. Philippine's latest downturn appears to be a flow driven correction due to international investors reallocating their funds, said Rachelle C Cruz, an analyst with AP Securities.
The Singapore index, which has a high trade exposure with China, outpaced its peers for the day with a 1.4% rise, posting its highest close since Oct 3, 2018. Financials bolstered the benchmark with lender United Overseas Bank Ltd jumping 2.5%.
The Vietnam benchmark rose for the third day, closing about 0.8% higher, driven by financial and consumer stocks.
Malaysian shares ended 0.1% lower ahead of the country's fourth-quarter GDP figures released on Thursday.
"SET ends flat, Malaysia stocks lead losses in Asean"
BANGKOK, February 8 -- Thai shares lost slightly on Friday, while Malaysia stocks led losses, as investors were rattled after the United States dismissed the likelihood of a quick resolution to the long drawn Sino-US trade war.
US President Donald Trump on Thursday said he would not be meeting China's Xi Jinping before the March 1 deadline, sparking fears that two economies would not be able to clinch a pivotal trade deal.
The negative sentiment dampened regional markets and pushed broader Asian shares lower, though trading remained thin as China was closed for Lunar New Year holidays.
The Stock Exchange of Thailand index eased 1.43 points or 0.09% to 1,651.68, in turnover worth 56.86 billion baht. The SET index dropped 16 points shortly after the open before it rebounded to end flat.
The Malaysian index ended 0.4% lower, falling the most across the region. Index heavyweight Axiata Group Bhd fell 4.4% to an over two-month low, dragging the benchmark. According to local media reports Axiata Group and its unit Ncell are to foot a tax bill of 61 billion Nepalese rupees (US$536.03 million), excluding late fees and fines for the capital gains tax on Ncell buyout deal following a Supreme Court ruling.
Philippine stocks fell 0.4%, hurt by losses in financial and telecom stocks. For the week the Manila benchmark index dropped 0.9%, marking its first weekly loss in 2019. PLDT Inc dropped 3.4%, while shares of Bank of the Philippine Islands slid 1.4%.
The Indonesian benchmark closed down 0.2%, with material and energy stocks leading declines. The index marked its first weekly loss in the new year, snapping a rally of six weeks. Charoen Pokphand Indonesia Tbk PT dropped 1.9%, while United Tractors Tbk PT slipped 2.9%.
Vietnam's financial markets remained closed this week for Lunar New Year holidays.
"SET drops 5.60 points, Malaysia shares lead Asean peers"
BANGKOK, February 7 -- The Stock Exchange of Thailand index dipped on Thursday, while Malaysia shares led the gains, as optimism over a trade deal between the United States and China were renewed following indications of further official talks in Beijing next week.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday that he and other US officials would travel to Beijing to continue trade talks, eyeing a deal before the March 2 deadline. China is the biggest trading partner of the region. With easing trade frictions, a dovish Fed and prospects of increased infrastructure spending, foreign investors are now returning to Southeast Asian markets, propelling these markets to record an upward trend for the most part. So far this year, foreign investors have been net buyers of stocks in markets such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
The SET index eased 5.60 points or 0.34% to 1,653.11, in turnover of 50 billion baht. The index was dragged by consumer and health care stocks. Shares of Bangkok Dusit Medical Services Plc lost 30 satang or 1.27% to 23.30 baht and Siam Makro Plc dropped 1.25 baht or 3.29% to 36.75 baht.
The Malaysian benchmark rose 0.6%, leading gains in the region after thin trading in the region this week due to a two-day closure on account of the Chinese New Year. Utilities and consumer cyclicals boosted the Malaysian benchmark index, with Tenaga Nasional Bhd and Maxis Bhd climbing 3.7% and 2.5%, respectively.
The Singapore index gained 0.5% to its highest level since Jan 25, helped by telecom and industrial stocks. "Singapore equities has some catching up to do as the US markets have done well over the last two trading sessions. At the same time, traders are also placing bets ahead of the budget on February 18, 2019," said Liu Jinshu, head of research at Tayrona Financial Pte Ltd. Shares of Singapore Telecommunications Ltd gained 1% while those of Jardine Matheson Holdings Ltd firmed 1.3%.
The Philippine stock index climbed 0.5%, with gains concentrated in industrial stocks. SM Investments Corp and JG Summit Holdings Inc gained over 2% each. The Philippine central bank kept its benchmark interest rate steady for a second straight meeting on Thursday, saying inflation risk had fallen on lower crude oil and food prices. Indonesian stocks also ended the session slightly lower, hurt by consumer and financial stocks. Charoen Pokphand Indonesia Tbk PT slipped 2.8%, while Bank Central Asia Tbk PT slid 0.5%.
Vietnam financial markets remained closed for Chinese New Year holidays.
"Indonesia stocks end at 11-month high, SET adds 5 points"
BANGKOK, February 6 -- Indonesian stocks surged more than 1% to close at an 11-month high on Wednesday, after the country posted a faster-than- expected GDP growth in the fourth quarter of 2018, while Thai shares added 5.62 points to close above the 1,6500 mark.
Indonesia's gross domestic product (GDP) in the final quarter of 2018 expanded 5.18% from a year earlier, compared with 5.11% forecast in a Reuters poll, while for the year the economy grew 5.17%, marking its best in five years. The country's benchmark index ended 1.02% higher, its highest level since March 5, 2018. Telecom and material stocks were the biggest boost to the index, with Telekomunikasi Indonesia (Persero) Tbk Perusahaan Perseroan PT and Unilever Indonesia Tbk PT rising 2.1% and 2%, respectively.
The Stock Exchange of Thailand index gained 5.62 points or 0.34% to 1,658.71, in turnover of 38.5 billion baht. The index was driven by financial and material stocks and the Bank of Thailand's decision to hold benchmark interest rates steady. Kasikornbank Plc added 2 baht or 1% to 202 baht and Siam Commercial Bank Plc gained 2.50 baht or 1.89% to 135 baht. Shares of Siam Cement Group Plc firmed 6 baht or 1.29% to 470 baht.
Philippine index reversed course and slipped from 10-and-a-half-month high hit earlier in the session to close marginally lower. Industrial stocks dragged the index, with SM Investment Corp and JG Summit Holdings Inc slipping 1.7% and 3.7%, respectively. "I would say it (the reason for the fall) is profit taking for the lack of any news to suggest otherwise," said Charles William Ang, associate analyst at COL financial. He added that good inflation rates had pushed the index earlier in the day. The country's inflation had eased in the month of January, supporting views that the central bank would leave interest rates on hold on at its meeting on Thursday.
Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore stock markets were closed for Lunar New Year holidays.
"Manila leads Asean bourses, SET ends higher"
BANGKOK, February 1 -- Philippine shares rose 1.7%, helped by foreign investor buying and as the latest round of Sino-US trade talks kept hopes of a comprehensive trade deal alive, while Thai stocks closed 0.59% higher on Friday.
The latest round of Sino-US trade talks ended on a positive note, with US President Donald Trump saying he was optimistic that the two nations could reach "the biggest deal ever made." The benchmark Philippine stock index was the biggest gainer in the region, boosted by financials and industrials. BDO Unibank climbed 3.7% and SM Investment Corp added 2.5%. Philippine shares advanced 1.1% this week in their fifth consecutive weekly gain. "Foreign buying in the Philippines has been consistent over the last few weeks, and for today the biggest driver would be foreign inflows towards emerging markets," said Charles William Ang, an analyst with COL Financial Group. Foreign investors bought net 1.02 billion pesos (US$19.54 million) worth shares on Friday and 5.75 billion pesos this week, according to Refinitiv data. Investors now await January inflation data and the central bank's monetary policy review due next week. Inflation had cooled more than expected in December, reinforcing views that the central bank is done raising interest rates.
The Stock Exchange of Thailand index rose 9.67 points or 0.6% to 1,651.40, after data showed January's headline inflation rate was below the Bank of Thailand's target range of 1-4% for a third straight month. The BoT will review borrowing rates next week. The central bank governor had said in January that the country's accommodative monetary policy is still needed to support the economy. PTT Plc gained 1 baht or 2% to 49.50 baht, while Airports of Thailand Plc climbed 75 satang or 1.09% to 69.75 baht.
Indonesian shares closed 0.1% higher after rising as much as 0.8% earlier, as losses in telecom stocks offset gains in financials. Indonesian shares gained 0.9% for the week, marking their sixth straight weekly rise. Bank Rakyat Indonesia (Persero) rose 1.8% to close at a record high, while Charoen Pokphand Indonesia jumped 4.4%. Indonesia's annual consumer inflation in January slowed more than expected, data from the statistics bureau showed.
The Malaysian stock market was closed for a holiday.