The Good, the Bad, the Ugly and the Hero

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Mar 18 2008
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So, the sleepy Prime Minister has unveils a trimmed-down cabinet *yawn* albeit the line-up is a boring one which doesn’t offers much excitement from the previous old faces. There’s not a single soul made of admired professionals, technocrats or intellectuals who are not politician included in the administration (unless you consider former Maybank CEO Amirsham one of the top brains). No wonder the stock market plunged about 10 points immediately after the announcement before recovered and registered a small gain of 2 points.

Ong Tee Keat Zaid Ibrahim - The GoodFirst, the good guys as perceived by the public. Lawyer Zaid Ibrahim who owns the country’s largest law firm and made it to the Forbes Asia Heroes of Philanthropy list is probably one of the few good guys from UMNO. Zaid was appointed one of the five ministers in the Prime Minister’s Department with the hope of revitalize the corrupt image of judiciary but will Nazri stands on his path? Another good guy is Ong Tee Keat from MCA who despite trying very hard to correct his former colleagues from UMNO was outnumbered severely.
Rafidah Azalina Hishamuddin - the BadLet’s talk about bad politicians from National Front. Yes, it’s a surprise that Abdullah dare to tell the former International Trade and Industry Minister, Iron Lady a.k.a A.P. Queen, Rafidah Aziz to fly kite. I bet Rafidah is still crying for losing the ability to generate Approved Permits (AP) but rest assure the “top-brain” Muhyiddin Yassin (transferred from Agriculture Ministry to Rafidah’s portfolio) could pick-up the skills pretty fast. Do you need any introduction as to the Education Minister Hishamuddin who couldn’t stop waving “keris” (traditional Malay dagger) threatening other ethnics? And to include the incompetent Azalina as the Tourism Minister simply shows how the government is shorts of quality and good people. Remember how a set of screw-driver was marked-up to RM224.94 when the street-value was only RM40.00?

Mohd Taib Ong Ka Chuan - The UglyThe ugly side re-emerged with the reappointment of Muhammad Mohd Taib a.k.a. Mike Tyson as the Rural and Regional Development Minister which also raised many eyebrows. The former Selangor Chief Minister who does not speak a word of English was caught smuggling carrying millions of dollars into Australia (Brisbane Airport) without declaring it – was acquitted after he pleaded ignorance of the English language. Of all the dynasties, MCA President Ong Ka Ting’s plan to continue his legacy by “promoting” his own brother, Ong Ka Chuan, as the Housing and Local Government Minister seems to have succeeded. Worst still Ka Chuan could be the next MCA President.

Anyway, while the latest Cabinet announcement stole the limelight, IOI Corp Berhad (KLSE: IOICORP, stock-code 1961) continues to expand the group’s plantation land-bank. IOI Corp announced today that it bought controlling stakes in several plantation firms in Sarawak for RM439.9 million (US$138 million). The second largest listed palm oil plantation company added another 44,350 hectares (13,500 hectares are already planted with oil palm) to its land-bank.

With this latest acquisition, IOI Corp will have a total of 364,350 hectares under its belt. Back in Dec 2007, IOI Corp has prepared sufficient bullets to goes on buying spree – US600 million (RM2 billion) of bonds issued. IOI executive chairman Tan Sri Lee Shin Cheng had hinted the group’s RM2 billion raised is for strategic acquisitions. After today’s announcement, IOI Corp still has RM1.6 billion for further acquisitions and you can bet its chairman will take advantage of any weakness in palm oil prices to acquire more land-banks.

IOI vs Sime DarbySince Dec 2007, IOI Corp market capitalization has shrunk from about RM43.62 billion to current RM40.73 billion, based on today’s closing price of RM6.65 a share. On the other hand, Sime Darby Berhad (SIME: stock-code 4197) market capitalization shrunk even faster when its value depreciate to current RM54.98 billion (based on today’s closing price of RM9.15) when it was comfortably at RM67.30 billion back in Dec 2008. In another words while IOI Corp has lost about RM2.89 billion, the recent general election effect has wiped out about RM12.32 billion off SIME’s value. Could IOI Corp somehow overtake SIME as Malaysia’s largest palm oil producer and new hero?

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