Saturday, December 31, 2011

China stock regulator says no help for market

BEIJING (Dec 31): The government does not plan to offer help to China's stock market, whose main index lost one-fifth of its value in 2011, and investors should instead have faith in market forces, the country's stocks regulator was quoted as saying on Saturday.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index ended the year down 21.7 percent, its worst annual performance since the global financial crisis in 2008, amid evidence that Chinese factory activity continues to shrink.

But newly appointed China Securities Regulatory Commission Chairman Guo Shuqing said he has no plans to ride to the rescue, the official Shanghai Securities News reported.

"There is no such concept as rescuing the markets; the markets have their own operating rules," the newspaper quoted Guo as saying.

People should have faith in the "superb" companies which underpin the Chinese economy. "We're confident because we have a number of strong enterprises in the real economy," Guo said.

Some have already listed, while others will join them gradually, he added. "So everyone should have confidence in the market."

China's factory activity shrank again in December as demand at home and abroad slackened, a purchasing managers' survey showed, reinforcing the case for pro-growth policies from Beijing to underpin the world's second-largest economy.

Earlier this month, Chinese leaders pledged to keep monetary policy "prudent" and fiscal policy "pro-active" to stabilise economic growth while keeping inflation under control. .

Some analysts and brokerage houses, including Guotai Junan Securities, are now cautiously optimistic for stocks after China ended a monetary policy tightening cycle in November by cutting banks' required reserve ratios.

Guotai Junan expects China's stock market to hit a low in the first quarter of next year followed by a rebound. - Reuters

Iran says crude will exceed $200 if its oil sanctioned

TEHRAN, Dec 31 (Reuters) - Iran's oil minister said crude prices will rise to more than $200 per barrel if foreign sanctions are imposed on the country's oil exports over its disputed nuclear work, the Aseman weekly reported on Saturday.

"Undoubtedly the price of crude will increase dramatically if sanctions are imposed on our oil ... It will reach at least over $200 per barrel," Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi told the weekly.

Air transport markets weaken in November

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 31): Global traffic results for November showed a softening in passenger markets while air cargo markets remained weak compared to levels attained earlier in the year, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

In a statement Dec 30, the IATA said passenger traffic was 4.3% above November 2010 levels but this was skewed as November 2010 was a particularly weak month.

It said the softening in passenger markets became apparent when compared to October 2011, adding that this showed a 0.5% decline on a seasonally-adjusted basis.

Meanwhile, freight markets were 3.1% below November 2010 levels despite a 1.1% increase on October 2011 performance, it said.

IATA director general and CEO Tony Tyler said weak global economic performance is being reflected in air transport markets.

Freight markets have contracted some 4% compared to January, he said.

'Although passenger markets have had some growth relative to the beginning of the year ' about 2%' the trend has been both soft and volatile.

'Continuing economic uncertainty will likely mean market shortcomings deepening as we enter 2012,' said Tony Tyler, IATA's Director General and CEO.

IATA said that globally, passenger load factors fell sharply to 76.3% from 78.5% in October.

'This shows that the weakness in passenger demand is outpacing airlines' ability to adjust capacity accordingly. Regional differences are sharp.

'While North American carriers saw a 0.8% decline in travel, carriers in the Middle East experienced a 10.1% increase, followed by 9.0% for Latin American airlines,' said IATA.


EMERGING MARKETS-Latam stocks end year down

MEXICO CITY (Dec 30): Latin American stocks edged upward in a session marked by thin volume on Friday as investors closed their books and warily eyed 2012.

The MSCI Latin American stock index added 0.05 percent, though the index was down about 21 percent for the year after fears of a widening European debt crisis turned investors away from riskier assets in 2011.

"Because of Europe everyone is nervous about the first quarter," said Patricia Berry, a strategist at brokerage Intercam in Mexico City.

Market players are awaiting a verdict from ratings agency Standard & Poor's, which put nearly the entire euro zone on a downgrade warning this month. They will also keep their eyes on an upcoming French debt auction as investors remain nervous about debt-laden European countries' ability to handle their finances.

Banks snapped up cheap loans last week after the European Central Bank injected nearly half a trillion euros into the market in a bid to ease a growing credit crunch.

Some hoped the unprecedented injection of funds would boost the purchases of debt, but an auction on Thursday of 10-year bonds in Italy was disappointing, with investors demanding yields of nearly 7 percent.

"It's already very evident Europe is in recession and nobody really knows the impact in terms of GDP that is going to have on China and the United States," Intercam's Berry said.

Brazilian markets were closed for the New Year holiday.

Mexico's IPC index fell 0.29 percent but was down about 3 percent for the year. The United States is Mexico's biggest trading partner and investors have been cheered by signs the economy of its northern neighbor is gaining momentum.

America Movil, controlled by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, slipped 0.38 percent but was offset by retailer Wal-Mart de Mexico, which added 0.53 percent.

Chile's IPSA index advanced 0.13 percent but ended the year down 15.2 percent. - Reuters

Wall St Week Ahead: You thought 2011 was tough?

NEW YORK, Dec 30 (Reuters) - Shaky Europe. Political gridlock. Volatile markets.

Familiar themes for those who lived through 2011, and investors should be ready to revisit them next year.

With a spiraling debt crisis in Europe, political upheaval around the world, and crumbling creditworthiness in major industrial nations, 2011 was a tough year to know where to invest. 2012 is unlikely to offer much respite.

The S&P 500, a measure of the biggest U.S. companies' market value, spent much of the year getting pushed up and down, flummoxing shorts and longs - and scaring Moms and Pops away from stocks. It ended the year at 1,257.60, down a mere 0.04 of a point.

But the S&P 500's tepid performance was encouraging, compared with other world equity markets. The United States may still be seen as a safe haven, though even that looks uncertain.

For every rally built on improving economic figures this year, selloffs were never far away on worries the European debt crisis would eventually drag the continent into a recession and perhaps the United States as well. That could continue in 2012.

China and other fast-growing emerging markets can no longer be leaned on as those economies slow. In 2011's last half, the poorest-performing sectors outside of banks were most connected to global growth - materials, energy and industrial companies.

"There is a growing realization that the global economy is in jeopardy," said Bruce Bittles, chief investment strategist at Robert W. Baird & Co in Nashville. "There is uncertainty in every corner of the world."

That uncertainty fed substantial volatility in 2011. Despite the S&P's flat performance this year, there were 66 trading days when stocks moved in a 2 percent range. In 2008, when Lehman Brothers collapsed during a global financial crisis, there were more than 130 trading days when stocks swung that much. But that led to a flight from equities by retail investors.

U.S. equity funds had outflows in every month since May. More than $483 billion left U.S. mutual funds in 2011 through the year's second-to-last week, even though the U.S. market outperformed foreign stocks late in the game.


The S&P 500 ended the year off a scant 0.003 percent, the closest it has come to unchanged since 1947, according to Standard & Poor's. The Dow Jones industrial average finished 2011 with a 5.5 percent gain, while the Nasdaq Composite Index slipped 1.8 percent.

In contrast, the MSCI world stocks index fell 9 percent, while the FTSEurofirst-300 index slid nearly 11 percent.

The darlings in the emerging markets fared the worst. China's Shanghai Composite index lost 22 percent, India's BSE sank 25 percent, and Brazil's Bovespa dropped 18 percent.

Strategists say the U.S. stock market may benefit from reasonable economic growth and attractive market valuation. The S&P 500 is expected to rise 6 percent by the end of 2012, according to the most recent poll of Wall Street strategists.

When Wall Street gets back to work on Tuesday, it will face a holiday-shortened week and a slew of economic indicators. The most crucial numbers will come on Friday when the government will release the December non-farm payrolls report. Economists polled by Reuters expect a December gain of 150,000 jobs, compared with an increase of 120,000 jobs in November.

Volatility is likely to persist through early 2012 because of the uncertainty in Europe and rising concern about slowed earnings growth due to recent revisions.

The S&P 500's price-to-earnings ratio - what investors are willing to pay for a dollar of earnings - is under 12, below the 25-year average of 15. In weaker markets like Germany's DAX, the figure is below 9.

"We're building in a massive recession into these numbers," said Marc Pado, U.S. market strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald & Co. in San Francisco.

U.S. companies cutting earnings' outlooks recently outpaced those raising theirs by the greatest ratio in 10 years. Some sectors, such as materials, have seen a sharp drop in forecasts for the fourth quarter, Thomson Reuters data showed.

Last week, downbeat earnings from Oracle Corp shook confidence in the tech sector's health before the quarterly earnings season's start in January. Oracle joined a growing list of companies, including some of TECHNOLOGY []'s biggest names, whose results and outlooks have set off alarm bells.

Next year, S&P 500 earnings are seen rising 9.9 percent, down from an estimate of 13 percent in October.


Many economists believe the euro zone is already in recession. They forecast that the economies of the 17-nation bloc will stagnate in 2012 after contracting in this year's fourth quarter and the first quarter of the next.

Investors are worried that Italy and Spain will have to keep refinancing borrowings at unsustainable levels early next year, which could escalate the crisis.

The correlation between the U.S. stock market and the euro skyrocketed in 2011 as investors tied bets on risky assets to the euro's moves. That trend ebbed as equities rallied near the end of the year, but it is likely to flare up again.

So far the U.S. economy has stayed on course for moderate growth. Economists expect it to expand by about 2.1 percent next year. But it is unclear how a slowdown in the rest of the world will affect the economy stateside.

The key may be China rather than Europe.

"China is the 800-pound gorilla in the room and is probably the most important country to watch in terms of their contribution to global growth," said Michael Sheldon, chief market strategist at RDM Financial in Westport, Connecticut.

Chinese business confidence is weakening. A survey showed export orders fell for the first time in nearly three years.

The drop in materials shares in 2011's second half reflects worry about declining activity overseas. The S&P Materials Index lost nearly 14 percent in the last six months.


One of the pivotal events of 2011 was the downgrade of the United States' perfect triple-A credit rating. Standard & Poor's cited congressional bickering as the reason for the downgrade.

August's stalemate in Washington over raising the debt ceiling sparked a selloff that accelerated after the downgrade.

Investors expect the gridlock in Congress to get worse as the U.S. presidential election approaches in November. The election is likely to be close, which will not make legislative efforts to tackle high debt levels and weak demand any easier.

Rancor was in view again in December as Congress struggled to pass a two-month extension of U.S. payroll-tax cuts.

"There will be less certainty about taxation and regulation so that will inhibit business formation and business growth," said Brian Battle, a trader at Performance Trust Capital Partners in Chicago.

Goldman Sachs sees global growth highly susceptible in 2012 to even minor shocks - and those shocks may be political.

"Slowing growth (and in places outright contraction), public-sector cuts, and a renegotiation of the social compact between state and society in different parts of the world is an environment ripe for political turmoil," Goldman said in a note to clients.

Boeing wins $3.48 bln US missile defense contract

WASHINGTON (Dec 30): Boeing Co beat out Lockheed Martin to retain its position as the prime contractor for the U.S. long-range missile shield, the Pentagon said on Friday.

The U.S. Defense Department said it was awarding Boeing a $3.48 billion, seven-year contract to develop, test, engineer and manufacture missile defense systems.

A team led by Lockheed Martin Corp and Raytheon Co had vied with Boeing to expand and maintain the Ground-based Midcourse Defense, or GMD, hub of layered antimissile protection.

Boeing partnered with Northrop Grumman Corp to retain the work.

"We believe the government conducted a fair and open competition, making the right decision for the future of the program," Norm Tew, Boeing vice president and program director of GMD, said in a statement.

Lockheed said it was "honored" to have participated on the bid, a company spokesperson said in a statement on Friday.

The GMD contract's value to Boeing will have been about $18 billion from January 2001, when it formally became the system's prime contractor, through the end of this year, Boeing has said.

GMD uses radar and other sensors plus a 20,000-mile fiber optic communications network to cue interceptors in silos at Fort Greely, Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

The shield has been shaped initially to guard against ballistic missiles that could be fired by Iran and North Korea. It is the only U.S. defense against long-range missiles that could be tipped with chemical, biological or nuclear warheads. - Reuters

Gold's 10 pct gain in 2011 extends run to 11th year

NEW YORK (Dec 30):'' Gold rose 1 percent on Friday, rebounding from losses earlier this week that sent the market briefly into bear territory, and the metal sealed its 11th consecutive year of gains.

Bullion posted a gain of 10 percent for 2011, its smallest annual rise in three years. It remains down 18 percent from a record $1,920.30 set in September, and finished the fourth quarter with its first quarterly loss in more than three years. Analysts said a rebound rally is possible in the near term but gold is far from retesting all-time highs.

"Gold's technical set-up since late yesterday could be the start of a bullish reversal and a short-term bottom," said Michael Matousek, senior trader at U.S. Global Investors Inc , which has $2.5 billion in assets.

Spot gold rose 1.2 percent to $1,564.69 by 2:26 p.m. EST (1926 GMT), but it has limped into the end of the year with a 10 percent drop in December.

Gold fell heavily in December, as hedge funds scrambled for cash to meet client redemptions and European banks trimmed their gold holdings to raise capital. U.S. February gold futures contract settled up $25.90 at $1,566.80, snapping six straight sessions of losses.

The metal enters the new year on an uncertain footing and appears to have lost its safe-haven status.

"We think gold could struggle into the first part of 2012 and potentially drop into the $1,300 to $1,450 region," said Mark Arbeter, chief technical strategist of S&P Capital IQ. "...considering that gold remains in a decade-long bull market, in our view, we think a major bottom could be seen in the weeks ahead," Arbeter said.

Gold was one of the top-performing assets in 2011, giving investors a return of 10 percent, but it underformed U.S. 10-year Treasuries, which returned about 17 percent and Brent crude oil, which gained around 14 percent.


Despite Friday's rally, technical factors suggest gold's momentum has turned bearish.

Bullion's 20-day moving average (DMA) dipped below its 200 DMA on Thursday, in what technical analysts termed a "death cross," as short-term momentum has turned more negative than long-term momentum and could show that the current downtrend is pervasive.

"When you start seeing a lot more bearish technical events occurring, more and more shorter-term traders are inclined to selling their positions," said Adam Sarhan, chief executive of Sarhan Capital.

In recent months, gold has often shed its traditional safe-haven status as investors liquidated positions to free up cash as the euro zone debt crisis caused money markets to seize up.

"We need to see real money from the money managers coming back to this market. They have been absent throughout December," Saxo Bank senior manager Ole Hansen said. Managed money's bullish futures position was at its lowest since early 2009, CFTC data showed, a sign that investors were bailing out of the market.

Silver rose 0.4 percent to $27.85, down 9.5 percent in 2011 for its first loss in 3 years.

Platinum was up 1.6 percent at $1,391.24 and palladium jumped 2.8 percent at $647.50. - Reuters

Wall St back at Square One, with S&P flat in 2011

NEW YORK (Dec 30): For the U.S. stock market, 2011 was a long wild ride to nowhere. The broad S&P 500 endured huge daily swings but a year of drama left the index almost where it started.

It lost a mere 0.003 percent, closest to unchanged since 1947, according to Standard & Poor's. Global markets have been battered this year by the euro-zone debt crisis, upheaval in the Middle East, and U.S. political gridlock. Similar events probably await investors in 2012.

"The earnings and fundamentals were there for companies, but the political crisis and paralysis in Washington and Europe were too much," said Martin Sass, who founded and runs the $7.5 billion M.D. Sass hedge fund. "They overwhelmed the fundamentals. I didn't think the euro- zone crisis would have been so protracted as it has become."

The Dow industrials gained 5.5 percent for the year as investors sought safety in large-cap, dividend-paying stocks. The Nasdaq lost 1.8 percent. Investors took out their ire on the financials, which were the weakest group this year, falling more than 18 percent.

Concerns about exposure to Europe and the threat of a renewed financial crisis hurt those shares. Bank of America Corp was the Dow's worst performer, tumbling 58.3 percent this year, and it was also one of the S&P 500's biggest losers.

JPMorgan Chase & Co slumped 21.6 percent in 2011. Cabot Oil & Gas Corp was the only S&P component to double its stock price in 2011 - rising 100.5 percent - followed by another energy name, El Paso Corp, which rose 93.1 percent.

The S&P 500 's weakest stock was First Solar, as shares of that company were hit by falling solar panel prices. For the year, the stock was off 74.1 percent.

Defensive sectors like utilities outperformed growth sectors, underscoring the view that investors were concerned about the economic outlook. McDonald's Corp advanced 31 percent this year, making it the Dow's biggest gainer.

Reflecting the wild market swings, the CBOE Volatility Index, or VIX, rose about 32 percent for the year, the first increase since 2008. The S&P 500 climbed 9 percent at its peak, and dropped 14.5 percent to its bottom.

One potential silver lining headed into 2012 is that after relatively flat years, the market tends to bounce. "The other times (the S&P 500) didn't change much during the year, it performed quite well during the next year," said Jason Goepfert, president of in a report.

"Overall, the years after these small-change years did well, especially during the past 50 years." Of those, the next year returned a median gain of 17.8 percent, according to Goepfert's data. The maximum loss averaged a decline of only 1.6 percent versus a maximum gain that averaged 20.9 percent.

He also noted the final session of the year has not had a great run lately, being positive only 34 percent of the time during the past 30 years.

On Friday, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 69.48 points, or 0.57 percent, to 12,217.56 at the close. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index slipped 5.42 points, or 0.43 percent, to 1,257.60. The Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 8.59 points, or 0.33 percent, to 2,605.15.

Daily volume this week has been running about half of the average, with many traders away for the Christmas and New Year's holidays. The anemic action amplified moves in both directions.

European shares closed up on Friday, but recorded their biggest annual drop in three years as debt tensions in the euro zone strained the financial sector and threatened to derail a fragile economic recovery.

Some believe investors may have become too panic-stricken about Europe, an issue that will dominate headlines in coming months. "Most of the Italian debt gets rolled over in the first quarter ... Once that debt's rolled, if it's rolled successfully, then there isn't any more to talk about this subject we've beaten to death for over a year now," said Ken Fisher, chief executive of Fisher Investments.

Composite volume was 4.07 billion shares on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and Amex, well below this year's daily average of about 7.84 billion shares. Decliners led advancers on the New York Stock Exchange by about 4 to 3, while on the Nasdaq, about three stocks fell for every two that rose. - Reuters

Friday, December 30, 2011

Cypark 4Q earnings dn 21.5% to RM4.11m on-year

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 30): Environmental TECHNOLOGY [] and engineering specialist CypARK RESOURCES BHD []'s earnings fell 21.5% to RM4.11 million in the fourth quarter ended Oct 31, 2011 from RM5.24 million a year ago due to lower profit margins then the previous quarter.

It said on Friday the group's gross profit margin was 25%, a decline from the 36% a year ago when it benefited from design income fee and good material rate negotiated in the quarter.

'The decrease in gross profit margin is however offset by significant savings in finance cost in current quarter. This has resulted in profit margin before taxation for current quarter to decease only by 8% to 17% in the current quarter as compared to 23% in the previous year's quarter,' it said.

Revenue rose 14.7% to RM42.41 million from RM36.95 million while earnings per share were 3.0 sen versus 4.0 sen.

In the financial year ended Oct 31, Cypark reported an 8.3% increase to RM21.98 million from RM20.29 million. Revenue declined by 9.2% to RM161.21 million from RM177.55 million.

The company's profit margin after tax and after comprehensive income for the current financial year has also improved significantly to 14%, compared to 11% in the previous financial year.

Its chairman and founder Tan Sri Razali Ismail said: 'With the stable and repetitive income flow expected to come from our renewable energy business starting early next year, Cypark will be blessed with even more sustainable business.'

Razali added that he was very positive with the company's bright prospect in 2012.

'The market growth for solid waste management services is driven by recent the implementation of Solid Waste Management Act in September 2011. With the increasing waste output of Malaysia's population, the group expects to benefit from government projects earmarked under the 10th Malaysia Plan,' he said.

Razali also said Cypark would be able to tap into the various attractive initiatives offered by the government under the National Renewable Energy Act and with the implementation of the Sustainable Energy Development Authority.


MAS unveils mgmt structure, departure of several top officials

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 30): MALAYSIAN AIRLINE SYSTEM BHD [] (MAS) unveiled a management structure with new business units, group chief executive officer Ahmad Jauhari taking on the role as CEO of long-haul and the departure of several top officials.

The national carrier said on Friday that deputy group CEO Mohammed Rashdan, who is CEO of short-haul, would head the short-haul, group finance, aircraft finance & management, and in the interim helm commercial.

Among the new business units were the network, alliance, strategy & planning division and programme management office. The divisions which would be renamed were communications to strategic communications and corporate finance as aircraft finance & management. Audit & business advisory would be renamed internal audit, reflecting the heightened roles of these business units required to support the airline's new business plan announced on Dec 7.

The national carrier said the new management structure, effective Jan 1, 2012 was to rally its staff and steer it into a new era for the success of its business plan.

In the new structure, customer experience, operations, human capital, network, alliance, strategy & planning would now report directly to Ahmad Jauhari.

Commenting on the new management structure, Ahmad Jauhari said the organisation structure signalled a new era for the MAS group that would further build pride for its employees and confidence for its customers and stakeholders.

'It involves the setting up of several new business units and the re-naming of existing functions as well as the introduction of new leaders to take over from familiar faces who have decided to pursue other career opportunities.'

'This will ensure both the smooth transfer of responsibilities and the successful execution of the business plan to enhance the group's reputation and significance for its eventual entry into the oneworld alliance by the end of 2012.'

MAS said the new organisation structure would also see with the departure of the MAS senior team including Datuk Dr Amin Khan (from commercial strategy), Mohd Roslan Ismail (MAS aerospace engineering), Shahari Sulaiman (MASkargo) and Datin Sharifah Salwa Syed Kamaruddin (revenue management).

'I take this opportunity to thank these colleagues for their many contributions, commitment and dedication to Malaysia Airlines and wish them well in their future endeavours,' he said.

Commenting on the network, alliance, strategy & planning division, he said it would support the effective implementation of the group's network to meet the dynamic needs of the market and to leverage on strategic alliances and partnerships with other airlines.

This division, viewed as a crucial game changers of the business plan, would focus on aspects covering rights planning, network, aircraft utilisation and strategy.

The programme management office would drive the implementation, alignment and tracking of key initiatives and activities to support the business plan's recovery phase and game changers to unlock and maximise the value of Malaysia Airlines Group.

Ahmad Jauhari said the MAS group's leadership team would be strengthened with the entry of highly experienced talents, namely Hugh Dunleavy to lead network, alliance, strategy & planning and Shihaj Kutty to lead revenue management.

He said Dunleavy, had more than 30 years experience in the aviation industry, and joined MAS 'with a solid reputation for delivering results in his assigned areas'.

These include strategy and planning, revenue/yield management, airline alliances, decision support systems, operations research and regulatory affairs.

Dunleavy's previous senior positions were at WestJet Airlines, Lufthansa Systems, Star Alliance, Air Canada and at PROS (Passenger Revenue Optimization Systems) revenue management.

Shihaj Kutty has over 15 years experience in aviation, specifically in sales and revenue management, as well as managing reservations and ticketing offices for major European and Gulf carriers while based in the Gulf region. He joins MAS from Etihad Airways where he was head of pricing.

Both report for duty at MAS by mid-January 2012.

Menang Corp deputy chairman ups shareholding to 26% after buying 20 million shares

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 30): Property-based Menang Corporation Bhd group deputy chairman Datin Mariam Eusoff increased her shareholding in the company with the recent acquisition of 20 million shares, or a 7.48% stake.

A filing to Bursa Malaysia on Friday showed she bought the shares from the open market at 20 sen each on Dec 27.

The recent acquisition saw her shareholding increase to 26.18% or 69.949 million shares.

According to Menang Corp's website, she was appointed to the board in February 1991 and was subsequently appointed as group executive director in 1992.

She was appointed the non-executive group deputy chairman in July 2005. She was the alternate chairperson of the group management committee in the absence of the group executive chairman.

KLCI ends year with a bang, posts YTD gain of 0.78%

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 30): The FBM KLCI ended a volatile 2011 on a high note, as late buying into banking and key blue chips saw the index reversing its earlier losses to register a 0.78% year-to-date gain.

Regional markets, with the exception of Indonesia and the Philippines ended their year in losses, as lingering concerns over the eurozone debt crisis and heightened worries about the global economy kept investors on the sidelines.

The FBM KLCI jumped 1.6% or 24.04 points to close at 1,530.73. However, this is still ways off its all-time high of 1,597.08 on July 11 this year.

Gainers led losers by 468 to 327, while 336 counters traded unchanged. Volume was 1.33 billion shares valued at RM1.53 billion.

At the regional markets, the Shanghai Composite Index rose 1.19% to 2,199.42, Japan's Nikkei 225 increased 0.67% to 8,455.35, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index added 0.20% to 18,434.39, while Taiwan's Taiex fell 2.74% to 7,072.08 and Singapore's Straits Times Index lost 0.99% to 2,646.35.

On Bursa Malaysia, Petronas Dagangan rose 50 sen to RM17.80, BAT 32 sen to RM49.92, JT International added 24 sen to RM7.39, Nestle and Sime Darby added 20 sen each to RM56.20 and RM9.20.

Among the banking stocks, CIMB jumped 28 sen to RM7.44, Maybank 26 sen to RM8.58, Public Bank 20 sen to RM13.38, RHB Capital 18 sen to RM7.48, HLFG 10 sen to RM11.66 and Hong Leong Bank up two sen to RM10.90.

Decliners included AIC that fell 15 sen to RM1.15, DKSH and Wah Seong down nine sen each to RM1.56 and RM2.07, Paragon and Esso eight sen each to 24 sen and RM3.54, while Tan Chong lost seven sen to RM4.08.

The actives included Utopia, Mulpha, KFCH, Wijaya, Coastal, Mah Sing and Sanichi.

SMR Technologies gets government contract worth RM14m

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 30): SMR TECHNOLOGIES BHD []'s unit SMR HR Group Sdn Bhd has secured a contract worth RM14 million from Pembangunan Sumber Manusia Bhd of the Ministry of Human Resources.

SMR Technologies said on Friday that the one-year contract was to implement a trainining programme known as Accelerated Skills Enhancement Training Programme (ASET).

'The implementation of ASET would expedite the Government's intention to transform Malaysia into a high income country,' it said.

The company said the contract was expected to contribute positively to its earnings.

European shares inch higher, set to end year lower

LONDON (Dec 30): Positive U.S. economic data lifted European shares slightly on Friday, the last trading day of a dismal year set to end with their worst performance since 2008.

The market found some support from strong existing U.S. homes data and the Chicago PMI on Thursday.

But gains were limited by investor reluctance to make big bets as worries over funding pressures for Italy continued to haunt. Yields remained at high levels following a bond auction on Thursday.

The country faces 100 billion euros of bond redemptions and coupon payments by the end of April which is likely to make investors nervous going into next year.

Banks, which have been the focus of the euro zone debt crisis due to their exposure to the region's debt, are set to become the worst performers for the year, with the STOXX Europe 600 Banks index expected to end 2011 down 33 percent.

"The year has been characterised by the European debt crisis and going forward it will depend on policymakers and how they implement better fiscal integration in the euro zone as to how markets will perform next year," said Veronika Pechlaner, a fund manager on the Ashburton European equity fund.

By 1004 GMT, the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index of top shares was up 0.07 percent at 993.43 points but was set to close out the year down around 11.3 percent.

Pechlaner said she was sticking to large cap companies with high dividend yields and favoured energy stocks like BG Group , which has a 12 month dividend yield of 1.02 percent.

Energy stocks featured among the best performers, boosted by the improving economic data, and BG Group was up 1.7 percent making it one of the top movers on the FTSE 100 index.

The energy sector has fared well throughout the year and the STOXX Europe 600 Oil & Gas index is set to end 2011 up 1.2 percent, making it the third best sector behind drug makers and the food and beverage sector. - Reuters

Nikkei sheds 17 pct in 2011, all eyes on Europe

TOKYO (Dec 30): Japan's leading share average ended higher on Friday but marked a 17 percent loss for 2011, a tumultuous year in which massive natural disasters triggered a nuclear crisis and Europe's debt turmoil drained volumes, leaving investors uncertain of a turnaround next year.

Tokyo Electric Power Co seesawed in volatile trade, edging up 0.6 percent following four sessions of losses after the trade minister urged the utility to consider de facto nationalisation in the face of massive costs due to radiation leaks at its Fukushima Daiichi plant.

The utility, known as Tepco, has shed more than 90 percent of its value this year after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami wrecked the Fukushima plant, causing reactor meltdowns and mass evacuations.

"There was the earthquake, the Thai floods and the European sovereign debt crisis. It's difficult to say investors will rush back into equities next year, and as things stand it's hard to see a clear theme for the market to rally round," said Toshiyuki Kanayama, a senior market analyst at Monex Inc.

The Nikkei edged up 0.7 percent to 8,455.35 on the back of a recent run of positive economic data out of the United States, although it failed to top its closely watched 25-day moving average near 8,479. The broader Topix added 0.9 percent to 728.61. Volume was thin on the last trading day of the year, with just 838.7 million shares changing hands on the main board, up only slightly from a seven-year low hit this week.

Italy's long-term debt sale on Thursday saw lucklustre demand even after the European Central Bank offered cut-rate loans to banks earlier this month in an effort to entice buyers to debt of struggling euro zone countries.

"Without more specifics of the European Stability Mechanism and a significant increase in Europe's bailout facility, it's difficult to see a positive outcome for Europe's massive debt issuance early next year," said Masayuki Otani, chief market analyst at Securities Japan.

"It's hard to see the tide moving back to equities early next year with so much uncertainty in Europe."

For the year, the Nikkei shed 17.3 percent and the Topix fell more than 18 percent, marking the second straight year of losses and the worst since 2008. By comparison, the S&P 500 has gained 0.4 percent this year and Europe's FTSEurofirst 300, at the centre of the region's debt crisis, has declined 11.5 percent.

Despite this year's steep drop, the Topix is only slightly cheaper than the S&P 500. It carries a 12-month forward price-earnings ratio of 11.4, compared with the U.S. index's 11.7.

"Japan can expect solid growth from reCONSTRUCTION [] spending next year, but any gains in the market will be challenged by factors out of Europe," said Kenichi Hirano, operating officer at Tachibana Securities.

Market participants are looking to sectors such as infrastructure, home building and building materials, citing expected reconstruction demand after the events in March devastated large areas of the northeast coast.

The Topix construction subindex is up 4.1 percent this year, outperforming the broader market. Securities and high-tech companies recovered some recent losses on Friday, although Japan's heavyweight stocks tumbled in a year of disasters and corporate scandal. Floods in Thailand pressured Japanese automakers and tech companies, already struggling with the strong yen.

Nomura Holdings, Japan's No.1 brokerage, sank 54.8 percent this year and touched a 37-year low in November after it posted its first quarterly loss in 2 1/2 years and tripled a cost-cutting target to $1.2 billion.

Olympus Corp finished the year with gains after dropping nearly 60 percent since ousted CEO Michael Woodford first blew the whistle on a $1.7 billion accounting scandal.

Trading house Marubeni Corp added 2 percent after it signed a $1.7 billion contract with Kazakhstan's oldest oil refinery on Thursday to produce cleaner fuels. Marubeni outperformed rivals Mitsui Co Ltd, which rose 1.2 percent, and Mitsubishi Corp, up 0.8 percent. - Reuters

Yinson eyes O&G sector in Southeast Asia

JOHOR BAHARU (Dec 30): Land transportation and logistics services provider, Yinson Holdings Berhad, is ready to expand its business to embrace the
Oil and Gas (O&G) industry in South East Asia.

Its managing director Lim Han Weng said the company's transformation in the direction of the O&G industry, will not however mean, it was completely
sidelining its land logistics business.

"We will continue to retain between 20-30 per cent of the company's business in the land transportation and logistics services. The oil & gas industry
provides good returns," he told Bernama after the EGM here on Friday.

He said the company saw a lot of opportunities in the O&G sector in Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand.

"We will build our ability and expertise before entering the oil & gas industry outside of South East Asia. For the moment, the South East Asian market
will suffice," he added.

He said the company's joint venture partner, PetroVietnam Technical Services Corp (PTSC), is now building the first floating, storage and offloading
(FSO) facility in Busan, South Korea at a cost of US$150 million and which is expected to be ready in 2013.

The FSO will have a capacity of 350,000 barrels of liquefied natural gas for use to fuel power plants.

In June this year, Yinson received a US$331 million contract for the FSO provision and rental from PTSC for 10 years, with the option to renew for a
further 10.

The two parties had agreed to jointly provide the FSO based on a bareboat charter basis to PTSC, which would charter it in turn to Bien Dong Petroleum Operating Co.

Lim said the next move for the company is to enter the floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO)facility for the O&G industry in this region.

He said the FPSO service is more technical than the FSO and needs a bigger capital of at least US$500 million.

He added that in the light of not many local companies having entered he FPSO service, Yinson believes, it has the ability to grab a lot of revenue
opportunities in that sector.

"We are moving in this direction (FPSO service)," he said.

At present, the local companies involved in the provision of the FPSO service are Bumi Armada and MISC.

Lim said the company was also looking at opportunities arising from the effort by Petronas to undertake the US$20 billion Refinery and Petrochemicals
Integrated Development (RAPID) project in Pengerang, Johor.

"We have plans to participate in the opportunities arising from the RAPID," he added. - Bernama

Hong Kong,China shares post worst annual drop since '08 crisis

HONG KONG (Dec 30): Hong Kong and China shares suffered their biggest annual loss since the 2008 financial crisis as mounting fears about China, worries about a global recession and heightened volatility in financial markets trumped cheap valuations.

Tight monetary policy in China, concerns about bad loans and corporate governance issues saw investors sharply pare exposure to China this year, particularly in the second-half.

The Hang Seng index ended 2011 down 20 percent, roughly in line with other Asian markets but significantly underperforming the S&P 500, which is poised to finish the year little changed.

The Shanghai Composite ended the year down 21.7 percent.

On Friday, the Hang Seng rose 0.2 percent while the Shanghai Composite rose 1.2 percent.

The China Enterprises index of top Chinese firms listed in Hong Kong, the most popular route for foreign investors managing China portfolios, fell 0.1 percent, taking its losses for the year to nearly 22 percent.

The last trading day of the year was marked by low turnover with investors continuing to favour large-cap defensive utility and telecom names as data pointing to a slowing Chinese economy gave investors further reason to stay on the sidelines.

China's factory activity shrank again December as demand at home and abroad slackened, a purchasing managers' survey showed, reinforcing the case for pro-growth policies from Beijing to underpin the world's second-largest economy.

"The key is what measures China implements to offset the slowdown," said a Hong Kong-based trader at an American brokerage, adding that global factors are also hurting China's domestic economy.

With China's economy on track to slow for a fourth successive quarter and global markets still dominated by headlines on Europe's debt crisis, investors in Hong Kong have gravitated towards defensive sectors, a trend that continued on the year's last trading day.

Utilities Hong Kong & China Gas Co Ltd and CLP Holdings Ltd both rose 0.8 percent, while telecom major China Mobile Ltd ended the day 1.2 percent higher.

China's no.2 operator China Unicom was the year's top performing blue-chip, rising 46.7 percent.

Chinese consumption companies Want Want China Holdings Ltd and Tingyi (Cayman Islands) Holding Corp, the latest inclusions to the Hong Kong benchmark index, were among the weakest performers, falling 1.4 and 1.3 percent, respectively.

European retailer Esprit Holdings was the worst performer this year, with almost three-quarters of its market cap wiped out.

The Hang Seng Index is closing the year trading at about 9.2 times forward 12-month earnings forecasts, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S, representing a 25 percent contraction in valuations over the past year.

Earnings expectations have come off sharply with analysts, on average, forecasting 12.5 percent growth in earnings next year compared with an over-30 percent growth projection last December.

While conditions in the early part of next year are likely to remain volatile, analysts expect to see a turnaround in the second half.

The positive news is that the government will gradually shift to policy easing and market liquidity may improve, CICC analysts said in a note, adding, however, that the key to next year's performance would be whether the easing was enough to offset the negative impact of weakening fundamentals.

MNRB up in line with firm market, ignores downgrade

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 30): Shares of MNRB HOLDINGS BHD [] rose slightly in thin trade on Friday, in line with the firmer market sentiment, as investors ignored the downgrade by Malaysian Rating Corp Bhd (MARC).

At 3.23pm, MNRB was up three sen to RM2.53. There were 81,500 shares done at prices ranging from RM2.47 to RM2.53.

The FBM KLCI was up 7.69 points to 1,514.38. Turnover 809.11 million shares valued at RM691.29 million. There were 383 gainers, 316 losers and 318 stocks unchanged.

MARC had on Friday lowered its rating on MNRB's RM200 million Islamic medium term notes (IMTNs) to A+IS from AA-IS after the reinsurer suffered two consecutive years of losses and thin cash flow coverage measures.

It said while the outlook for the debt notes was stable, the downgrading reflected weakened holding company level financial metrics after losses for FY ended March 31, 2010 (FY2010) and FY2011.

Mah Sing call warrants actively traded, shares up

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 30): MAH SING GROUP BHD []'s call warrants surged in active trade on Friday, accounting for 41 million units transacted.

At 3.36pm, Mah Sing-CE was up one sen to 2.5 sen with 23.269 million units done while Mah Sing-CB jumped 4.0 sen to 7.5 sen with 20.76 million units transacted.

The mother share rose 12 sen to RM2.10 with 4.13 million shares done.

The FBM KLCI was up 8.32 points to 1,515.01. There were 905.45 million shares done valued at RM747.86 million. There were 398 gainers, 315 losers and 323 stocks unchanged.

Its managing director Tan Sri Leong Hoy Kum said in an interview with The Edge Financial Daily that the property group, after securing more than RM2 billion in sales for 2011, targets a sales target of RM2.5 billion for 2012.

'We are optimistic that we can continue our strong sales momentum as our products cater to market needs and are well sited in strategic locations,' he said.

'We shall create our market by tapping the pent-up demand of selected sectors and would include new phases in existing projects like Icon City (Petaling Jaya), M City (Jalan'' Ampang), Icon Residence Mont' Kiara, Kinrara Residence (Puchong), Garden Residence (Cyberjaya) and Garden Plaza (Cyberjaya), as well as new projects like M Residence@Rawang, all located in the Klang Valley,' he said.

AirAsia extends sponsorship deal with 1Malaysia Racing Team

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 30): AIRASIA BHD [] is maintaining its presence in the Formula One racing scene and this has seen it extending its sponsorship agreement with 1Malaysia Racing Team Sdn Bhd (Caterham F1) for another year, starting Jan 1, 2012.

The low-cost carrier said on Friday it would be the an official team partner of Caterham F1, the F1 racing team formerly known as Team Lotus and title sponsor of the Caterham F1 driver development programme for the 2012 season.

AirAsia chief Tan Sri Anthony Francis Fernandes and Datuk Kamarudin Meranun, who are AirAsia directors and major shareholders, are also the directors of Caterham F1 and each has a direct interest of 25% respectively. They are also co-team principals of Caterham F1.

AirAsia said the sponsorship amount for Caterham F1 was RM5.36 million company media value/space and RM1 million further expenditure for advertising, on ground and PR related activities with Caterham F1.

Caterham F1 was incorporated on Oct 16, 2009 and is principally engaged in F1 racing.

'Through continuous association with F1, the company intends to elevate its brand perception from that of a low cost carrier to a brand associated with high end sports and cutting edge F1 TECHNOLOGY [],' it said.

AirAsia said it intended to use sports sponsorship and sports branding to drive consumer aspirations and build sports related themes in relation to sales campaigns for various flight destinations.

'This will enable the company to differentiate itself against its competitors which are only pushing low fares and also attract a different segment of customers wanting to associate themselves with F1,' it said.

As for the public relations (PR) value, AirAsia said Caterham F1 was a Malaysian brand and the company's involvement and support will generate significant local interest and goodwill towards the company.

As for the sponsorship of the driver development programme, it said this scheme would provide the company with exposure through the Caterham F1 Team website, and continued support of the company's initiatives throughout the year through their media platforms.

AirAsia pointed out the programme would help nurture drivers from across the region which would create strong PR opportunities Asean-wide as well as domestically.

'The financial risks associated with the extension are expected to be minimal as the risks are limited to the sponsorship fee,' it explained.

Asia stocks end 2011 sharply lower, Europe in focus

SINGAPORE (Dec 30): Asian stocks were poised to end their first losing year in three on Friday, having shed nearly a fifth of their value as Europe's debt crisis and financial turmoil took a toll on investors' risk appetite, driving them to safer assets such as the U.S. dollar and gold.

European stocks were set to edge higher on the last session of a dismal year that saw them tumble about 12 percent, while U.S. futures pointed to a weaker opening on Wall Street later in the day, with the S&P 500 looking set to end the year pretty close to where it began.

Safe haven investments and cash are likely to remain in favour early in 2012 as investors closely monitor efforts to contain Europe's debt crisis and the health of the Chinese economy, which may determine their return to risk.

"The general outlook is that going into next year, there is going to be a lot of negative factors to watch from the European sovereign debt crisis. The market will remain very sensitive to the developments out of Europe in the beginning of the year," said Kenichi Hirano, operating officer at Tachibana Securities in Tokyo.

"This year's popular word was 'risk-off' or investors shedding risk. Whether the market can switch back to taking on more risk and come back to equities remains to be seen, and the timing of that change will be in focus next year," he added.

Japan specifically will benefit from the government spending to fund reCONSTRUCTION [] after an earthquake devastated the country in March, he added.

Reflecting the flight from riskier assets, U.S. 10-year Treasuries gave investors a return of about 17 percent in 2011 with German Bunds returning 13 percent and gold around 10 percent. At the other end of the spectrum, copper fell nearly 23 percent on worries about cooling global demand and MSCI emerging equities tumbled some 18 percent.

The MSCI index of stocks outside Japan is down more than 18 percent this year, while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index, shed 14.5 percent, recording its first back-to-back loss in 30 years and Japan's Nikkei had a second straight annual drop, losing 17 percent in 2011.

"If you look around at all the asset classes, it really has been a year of safe-haven flows, it is about preserving your capital and returning your equity," said Chris Weston, institutional dealer at IG Markets in Melbourne.

Investors were spooked in 2011 by an earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which was followed by debt crises in the United States and Europe and floods in Thailand.

On Friday, the mood was cautiously upbeat after U.S. data on Thursday pointed to positive trends for the world's biggest economy and triggered modest gains in U.S. and European stocks.

The MSCI ex-Japan index was nearly flat, while the Nikkei was up 0.7 percent on the day.

Pending sales of existing U.S. homes surged to a 1-1/2-year high in November and factory activity in the U.S. Midwest grew more than expected in December..

The euro was poised to end a roller-coaster year on a downbeat note, with its break below crucual technical support level boding ill for the year ahead.

Over the past year the euro has shed more than 3 percent on the dollar, adding to a 6.6 percent decline in 2010. On Thursday it broke below support at this year's low and sank to a 15-month low of $1.2858. It later recovered in Asia to $1.2940.

Against the yen, the euro softened 0.2 percent to 100.37 , nearing the 10-year low around 100.01 hit overnight.

The U.S. 10-year Treasury yield inched up in Asia on Friday but was on track for its biggest annual drop since 2008, yet another indicator of how the euro zone's debt crisis has stoked safe haven demand.

Commodities such as crude oil and gold fared better this year. Brent crude is set to end the year up nearly 14 percent and at a record high annual average, as political tensions in OPEC member states help negate a global economic slowdown that has dampened oil demand growth.

The oil market will end 2011 the same way it started, with fears of a major oil supply disruption in the Middle East and North Africa supporting prices and the uncertainty is expected to continue into the new year as well.

The immediate focus remains on Iran after Tehran again threatened to block traffic through the Strait of Hormuz, a crucial passage for Middle Eastern crude suppliers after the European Union's decision to tighten sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme. The United States said it would preserve oil shipments in the Gulf.

Gold is still down 19 percent from the year's peak touched in September, as euro zone worries drove investors towards the dollar, making it expensive for holders of other currencies.

Next year will continue to be dominated by worries over economic growth and sovereign debt, gold analysts say. - Reuters

AirAsia seals RM1.71 bln sponsorship deal with QPR

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 30): AIRASIA BHD [] has formally sealed its sponsorship agreement with QPR Holdings Ltd for ''350 million (RM1.715 billion).

The low cost carrier said on Friday the sponsorship deal would be for the Queens Park Rangers Football Club (QPR) away shirt in the Barclays Premier League.

The salient terms of the agreement were that it would be for one year and in consideration of the rights to be made available to AirAsia, it would pay ''350 million for the duration of the term as sponsorship fees.

AirAsia said the it would receive the rights to be the official 'Away Shirt' sponsor of QPR; designation of 'Official Partner of QPR' for advertising and promotional purposes.

It would also be able to use QPR intellectual property for advertising and promotional purposes; the LED, static board and interview backdrop signage at the QPR Loftus Road Stadium.

Other rights were to advertise at the QPR Loftus Road Stadium on match days and advertising in QPR official match programme and other QPR publications.

MARC assigns final rating of AAAIS to PLUS's RM23.35b debt notes

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 30): Malaysian Rating Corp Bhd (MARC) has assigned a final rating of AAAIS with a stable outlook to Projek Lebuhraya Usahasama Berhad's (PLUS Bhd) RM23.35 billion Sukuk Musharakah Programme.

Upon MARC's review of the final documentation for its forthcoming notes issuance, the rating agency said on Friday it was satisfied that the terms and conditions of the programme have not changed in any material way from the draft documents on which the earlier preliminary rating of AAAIS was based.

IRCB major shareholder disposes of 9m IRCB shares

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 30): Chip Lam Seng Bhd, a major shareholder of INTEGRATED RUBBER CORPORATION [] Bhd (IRCB) disposed of nine million shares over three trading days in late December.

Filings with Bursa Malaysia showed Chip Lam Seng sold 2.5 million shares on Dec 23 and 3.5 million shares on Dec 27. It disposed of three million shares on Dec 28.

After the recent disposals, its shareholding in IRCB was reduced to 154.62 million shares or 26.12%.

Jaya Tiasa exits Brazil ops on continuing losses, unclear recovery

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 30): JAYA TIASA HOLDINGS BHD [] has divested'' its Brazilian operations with the sale of Selvaplac Verde Ltda for 2.0 million Brazilian real (RM3.39 million).

It said on Friday the disposal was in line with the group's plan to divest its Brazilian operations in view of continuing losses incurred and unclear prospect of recovery.

Jaya Tiasa said its subsidiaries -- Atlantic Timber Holdings Ltd and Pacific Timber Holdings''Ltd had on Wednesday signed a sale and purchase agreement with businessman Cezar Augusto Carrenho De Souza, to sell their collective 100% stake in Selvaplac Verde.

KLCI stays firmly above 1,510-level at mid-day

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 30): The FBM KLCI stayed firmly above the 1,510-point level at the mid-day break on Friday, as global markets mostly pushed towards ending the year on a positive note.

At the mid-day break, the FBM KLCI rose 7.23 points to 1,513.92.

Gainers led losers by 337 to 254, while 333 counters traded unchanged. Volume was 572.05 million shares valued at RM483.97 million.

The ringgit strengthened 0.02pct to 3.1772 versus the US dollar; crude palm oil futures for the third month delivery gained RM13 per tonne to RM3,168, crude oil was up 12 cents to US$99.77 while gold added US$8.28 an ounce to US$1,554.25.

Meanwhile, Asian stocks nudged higher and the euro clung to overnight gains on Friday, the last trading day of 2011, as positive data from the United States helped allay concerns on the global economy, while year-end short covering lifted crude prices, according to Reuters.

Still, the region's stocks have collectively lost about a fifth of their value this year, as natural calamities and financial turmoil took a toll on the risk appetite of investors, driving them to safer assets such as the US dollar and gold.

At the regional markets, Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.42% to 8,434.55, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index gained 0.41% to 18,472.76, the Shanghai Composite Index was up 0.82% to 2,191.46, while Singapore's Straits Times Index fell 0.25% to 2,666.17 and Taiwan's Taiex shed 0.09% to 7,068.56.

On Bursa Malaysia, gainers were led by BAT that rose 28 sen to RM49.88, Lipo Corp 14.5 sen to RM1.13, IJM Corp 13 sen to RM5.67, Faber and IOI Corp 12 sen each to RM1.74 and RM5.40, Milux 11 sen to RM1.26, LPI Capital up 10 sen to RM13.60, while Aeon and AIRB added nine sen each to RM7.30 and RM1.65.

Among the decliners, Nestle fell 50 sen to RM55.50, SHH 15 sen to 25 sen, Sunchirin nine sen to RM1.36, Hunza PROPERTIES [], Theta and DKSH lost seven sen each to RM1.42, 50 sen and RM1.58 respectively.

Mulpha was the most actively traded counter with 32.66 million shares done. The stock added one sen to 39.5 sen.

Other actives included Utopia, Sanichi, TMS, Cybertowers and LFE Corp.

VS Industry 1Q net profit dn 10.9% to RM11.59m on stiffer competition

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 30): VS Industry Bhd's earnings fell 10.9% to RM11.59 million in the first quarter ended Oct 31, 2011 from RM13.01 million a year ago as it was affected by stiffer competition and losses from its China associate.

It said on Friday that revenue increased 14.1% to RM282.43 million from RM247.39 million while earnings per share were 6.39 sen compared with 7.27 sen. It declared an interim dividend of 5.0 sen versus 2.0 sen a year ago.

VS Industry said at the pre-tax level, its profit fell RM5.2 million or 28.7% to RM12.90 million from RM18.10 million.

'The lower profit before tax was mainly due to increased competition in the electronic manufacturing services sector and higher share of loss from associate in China,' it said.

On the Malaysia operations, it said revenue increased by RM25.80 million to RM242.80 million from RM217 million a year ago. However, its pre-tax profit fell to RM12.8 million from RM14.6 million due to increased competition in the electronic manufacturing services sector.

On its Indonesian operations, it reported higher revenue of RM38.60 million from RM25.90 million a year ago. Its pre-tax profit remained comparable at RM3.7 million mainly due to change in business model mix.

When compared with the immediate quarter, VS Industry, said the first quarter just ended saw the group making a pre-tax profit of RM12.90 million compared to RM6.0 million in the preceding quarter.

VS Industry said the better performance was mainly due to higher sales generated by the Malaysian and Indonesian operations and lower share of loss from its associate in China.

KLCI extends gains for seventh day

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 30): The FBM KLCI rose for the seventh day on Friday, and stayed above the 1,500-point level for the fourth day running, in line with the gains at most global markets.

US stocks rallied on Thursday, moving the S&P 500 back in positive territory for 2011 ahead of the last trading day of the year, on more positive signals on the U.S. economy, according to Reuters.

The FBM KLCI was up 5.42 points to 1,512.11 at mid-morning, lifted by select blue chips.

Gainers led losers by 216 to 139, while 264 counters traded unchanged. Volume was 233.73 million shares valued at RM156.04 million.

At the regional markets, Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.39% to 8,431.49, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index added 0.42% to 18,474.82, the Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.63% to 2,187.25, Taiwan's Taiex edged up 0.10% to 7,081.62 while Singapore's Straits Times Index shed 0.21% to 2,667.09.

BIMB Securities Research in a note Dec 30 said it may be holiday mood for many but the equity markets are determined to end 2011 with a bang.

Encouraging signs of improved economic outlook from the US and a not too shabby Italian bond auction have placed investors on a steadier platform before entering into 2012, it said.

'For now, with 2012 just around the corner such positive news would be a welcomed sight and boost sentiments hence an all round gains by European bourses,' it said.

The research house said on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average recorded a 135 point jump to almost 12,300 or an impressive 6% year-to-date improvement.

Meanwhile in Asia, the overall performance was rather mixed with Malaysia posting another positive session registering another 2.6 points gain to remain above the crucial 1,500 level, it said.

'We presume the FBMKLCI to maintain its uptrend with 1,515 as the immediate resistance.

'Though it falls short of our 1,530 closing target for 2011 we are still pleased,' it said.

On Bursa Malaysia, BAT was the top gainer at mid-morning and rose 34 sen to RM49.94; Petronas Gas was up 10 sen to RM15.30, Guan Chong up nine sen to RM2.10, Box-Pak eight sen to RM2.31, YHS and DiGi added seven sen each to RM1.92 and RM3.85, while KLK, Sime Darby and KPJ were up six sen each to RM22.74, RM9.06 and RM4.68.

Mulpha was the most actively traded counter with 22 million shares done. The stock added one sen to 39.5 sen.

Other actives included Utopia, TMS, LFE Corp, Scomi Marine, Sanichi and Scomi.

The decliners included Batu Kawan, Sunchirin, Hunza PROPERTIES [], GAB, Theta, KrisAssets, Nestle and Esso.

RAM Ratings reaffirms AAA(s) rating of LKPP's Islamic debt securities

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 30): RAM Ratings has reaffirmed the AAA(s) rating of Lembaga Kemajuan Perusahaan Pertanian Negeri Pahang's (LKPP) RM300 million Bai' Bithaman Ajil Islamic Debt Securities (2005/2015) (BaIDS).

It said on Friday that the long-term rating has a stable outlook.

The enhanced rating reflects the unconditional and irrevocable guarantee extended by the State Government of Pahang, with approval from the Federal Government of Malaysia, it said.

The guarantee enhances the credit profile of the BaIDS beyond LKPP's inherent or stand-alone credit risk, it said.

LKPP is a state-owned entity; its operations can be broadly divided into 2 segments, social and commercial.

Under the commercial division, its main focus is on the development of the agricultural sector in Pahang.

The Group is mainly involved in oil-palm PLANTATION []s, accounting for 96% of its revenue.

The Group held 42,438 hectares of oil-palm plantations as at end-June 2011.

Under the social division, LKPP is responsible for improving the living standards of the rural community by providing good infrastructure for the development of agricultural activities, and the implementation of various programmes for the development of entrepreneurs in rural areas.

'Excluding the guarantee, LKPP's fundamentals are supported by its healthy tree-maturity profile which underpins the production of fresh fruit bunches (approximately 68% of its palm trees are in the high-yielding 'prime' and 'young' brackets), strong balance sheet position and healthy debt protection measures,' said Shahina Azura Halip, RAM Ratings' Head of Real Estate and CONSTRUCTION [] Ratings.

LKPP reported a net-cash position as at end-December 2010 while its funds from operations debt coverage ratio came up to 1.01 times, said RAM Ratings.

On the other hand, LKPP's credit fundamentals are moderated by its need to balance its social obligations with its commercial agenda, by fostering the development of rural settlers, it said.

'The group's cost structure also remains rather steep compared to its peers.

'In addition, LKPP's financials hinge on the performance of crude palm oil, which is characterised by volatile price swings as a result of industry cyclicality and speculative elements,' it said.


Affin Research lowers UMW fair value from RM7.90 to RM7.25

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 30): Affin Investment Research lowered its sum-of-parts based fair value from RM7.90 a share to RM7.25 after its earnings downgrade.

It said on Friday that at its fair value, the implied valuation of 11.8 times CY12 EPS is at parity to the stock's average five-year price-to-earnings ratio (PER).

'Whilst earnings forecasts were cut, we left our dividend forecasts unchanged. We opine our assumed dividend payout ratios of 65% for FY12 and 61% for FY13 are reasonable, predicated on dividend payouts of between 61%-66% over FY09-10,' it said.

Affin Research said at the current share price, investors can look forward to an attractive net dividend yield of 5.8% for 2012.

OSK Research: Rimbunan Sawit's upward momentum may resume soon

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 30): OSK Retail Research said Rimbunan Sawit's share price has been consolidating nicely after rebounding strongly on Dec 7.

It said on Friday based on the fact that a new strong support floor is being constructed at the 83 sen level, its price action has been constructive throughout the month of December.

'Moreover, with its trading volume momentum seemingly picking up over the last two trading sessions, we advise traders to start accumulating the shares at the current level.

'The stock may start retesting the RM1.04 peak recorded in October this year. The cut-loss point is pegged at either the 84 sen or 83 sen level. Meanwhile, the latest uptrend that started since September this year remains firmly intact,' it said.

KLCI starts final trading day of 2011 on positive note

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 30): The FBM KLCI started the final trading day of 2011 on a positive note, in line with the overnight gains at the US and European bourses, as well improved sentiment at the regional markets.

At 9.05am, the FBM KLCI was up 3.80 points to 1,510.49, lifted by gain at select blue chips.

Gainers led losers by 116 to 32, while 111 counters traded unchanged. Volume was 41.76 million shares valued at RM48.66 million.

Among the early gainers were Nestle, BAT, KLK, Petronas Gas, LPI Capital, UMW, Sime Darby, IJM Corp, Faber and YHS.

Cypark rises on Jempol landfill upgrade contract

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 30): CypARK RESOURCES BHD [] shares rose on Friday after the company secured a contract worth RM14.71 million to upgrade the landfill site at Jempol in Negeri Sembilan.

At 9.10am, Cypark added four sen to RM1.45 with 43,500 shares done.

The company said on Thursday that it received the letter of acceptance for the contract dated Dec 23 from the National Solid Waste Management Department (NSMWD).

Cypark said the completion date of the project was Nov 6, 2012, which was 44 weeks from the date of site possession of Jan 4, 2012.

It said the contract, among others, involved works for the closure of one part of the landfill and the upgrading of the other part of the landfill into a sanitary cell.

Cypark said the contract was expected to contribute positively to its earnings for the financial year ending Oct 31, 2012.

Trinity dips despite narrowing 3Q net losses

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 30): Trinity Corporation Bhd (formerly TALAM CORPORATION BHD []) shares dipped in early trade on Friday despite the company narrowing its net loss to RM29.26 million in the third quarter ended Oct 31, 2011 from net loss RM83.29 million a year ago.

At 9.25am, Trinity was down half a sen to 6 sen with 2.5 million shares traded.

The company said on Thursday that the losses were due to an impairment provision of RM9.20 million made on a piece of development land to be sold to a third party and also provisions made for doubtful debts of RM14.93 million.


U.S. data lifts Nikkei; 25-day moving average eyed

TOKYO (Dec 30): Japan's Nikkei stock average advanced on Friday after upbeat economic data from the United States, though it is still on track for double-digit losses this year -- the second straight year of decline and the worst since 2008.





The Nikkei was up 0.5 percent at 8,440.67, while the broader Topix gained 0.4 percent to 724.83.

For the year, the Nikkei has lost 17.5 percent and the Topix is down more than 19 percent, partly hit by the triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis, and a strong yen.



That compares with a 0.4 percent gain in the S&P 500 and a 11.5 percent decline in Europe's FTSEurofirst 300.


RHB Research expects Mulpha Intl to end 6-wk consolidation

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 30): RHB Research Institute says technically, it expects Mulpha International to end its 6-week long consolidation and resume its uptrend in the immediate term on expectations of strengthening buying momentum.

In its technical outlook for the share price on Friday, it said given the stock's positive short-term outlook, it expects the stock to retest the 76.4% FR level of 42 sen in the short term.

'Any breakout above the 42 sen barrier, would then turn the medium-term outlook positive and drive the stock's price towards the next resistances of 47 sen (61.8% FR level) and 51 sen (50% FR level) over the medium term,' it said.

RHB Research said while it does acknowledge that the stock's medium-term outlook is still negative, it thinks its proximity to its immediate support of 37 sen (which held well over the last two months) offers investors a compelling risk to reward ratio for a short and medium-term play.

'Hence, we advise short and medium-term investors to buy at yesterday's close of 38.5 sen in anticipation of the stock's price resuming its uptrend in the immediate term. Long-term investors are, however, strongly advised to stay aside for now,' it said.

RHB Research said on the downside, it noted that the breaching of the support of 37 sen would turn the immediate outlook negative and the stock's price could lose its chance of redeeming its uptrend in the short term. Hence, investors should strictly cut loss at below 37 sen.

Overall, investors with a theoretical entry price of 38.5 sen would see a limited downside risk of 1.5 sen from the cut loss level of 37 sen compared to an upside of 3.5 sen and 8.5 sen to the resistance of 42 sen and 47 sen respectively.

RHB Research: MPHB top pick for NFO sub-sector

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 30): RHB Research Institute's top pick for the numbers forecast operations (NFO) sub-sector is MPHB.

'We believe that MPHB is a deep value stock at current prices. We highlight that even at our fair value of RM3.10, this implies a PE of only 12.3 times CY12, which is still at a discount to BToto,' it said on Friday.

Its top pick for the casino sub-sector is Genting Malaysia, for the positive news flow on its global expansion plans and the earnings kicker from its New York racino project, whose full potential may not have been factored into consensus' forecasts.

HDBSVR sees local bourse extending its 6-day winning streak

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 30): Hwang DBS Vickers Research (HDBSVR) says with Friday being the final trading day for 2011, the local bourse could extend its six-day rising streak.

As for Thursday, the research house said the FBM KLCI had chalked up cumulative gains of 41.5 points or 2.9%, to close this year on a high note.

HDBSVR said on Friday this comes after major U.S. stock indices rose between 0.9% and 1.1% at the closing bell last night as key economic data released showed that the US is weathering the European debt crisis, with jobless claims in the US reaching its lowest level since June 2008.

Stocks to watch on Friday investors include Berjaya Corp, after it released its weaker 2QFY12 results last night.

HDBSVR said QSR Brands could also see trading interest after the Malay Chamber of Commerce Malaysia said it would offer RM6.90 per share for the company, higher than the RM6.80 per share previously offered by Johor Corp and CVC Capital.

Cypark Resources was awarded a RM14.7 million contract to upgrade a landfill site in Negeri Sembilan.

US STOCKS-Wall St rises, on track for slight gains in 2011

NEW YORK (Dec 29): U.S. stocks rallied Thursday, moving the S&P 500 back in positive territory for 2011 ahead of the last trading day of the year, on more positive signals on the U.S. economy.

The S&P 500 edged above its 200-day moving average, a key measure of the market's long-term momentum, but scant volume increased volatility, and made the gains harder to trust.

Europe's sovereign debt crisis has been the primary concern for U.S. investors in 2011. Mixed results on an auction of long-term Italian bonds was another sign bond markets remain worried about the euro zone.

With trading thin, the only bit of suspense left for U.S. investors is whether the S&P 500 will end positive for 2011 or not. It is now up 0.4 percent for the year, the closest it has been to unchanged for a year since 1970.

"Equities are gravitating towards that 1,260 mark on the S&P to get the end of the year in the green," said Joe Cusick, senior market analyst at in Chicago.

The Dow Jones industrial average shot up 135.63 points, or 1.12 percent, to 12,287.04 at the close. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index gained 13.38 points, or 1.07 percent, to 1,263.02. The Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 23.76 points, or 0.92 percent, to 2,613.74.

Banks were the biggest gainers along with commodity-related sectors, which sold off hard on Wednesday. JPMorgan Chase & Co gained 2.4 percent to $33.42. The S&P financial index rose 1.6 percent, while the capital goods sector added 1.3 percent. Shares of Dow component Caterpillar advanced 1.4 percent to $90.58 while Alcoa, another Dow stock, rose 1.3 percent to $8.63.

Cusick added that strength in offensive sectors like banks, materials and industrials "could be a catalyst for stocks to end the year higher."

Italian bond yields, which helped break a five-day rally with a sharp selloff in the last session, eased Thursday after a debt auction.

Stocks added to gains after the euro erased losses against the dollar, rebounding from a 15-month low in thin trading.

But the yield on 10-year Italian bonds hovered near 7 percent, a level markets see as a danger zone for Italy's government debt.

Pending sales of existing U.S. homes surged to a 1-1/2 year high in November, offering more signs of a tentative housing recovery. That report drove the Dow Jones home builders index up 4.3 percent.

In addition, factory activity kept growing in the U.S. Midwest in December, as purchasing managers reported rising prices and employment, even though production eased slightly.

On the down side, initial claims for jobless benefits rose more than expected, giving a mixed labor picture, but investors said the trend was still lower.

Recent economic data, including reports on housing, have been largely positive, contributing to stocks' gains over the past month and bolstering the view that economic growth is picking up steam.

"We have seen a pretty encouraging trend in the U.S. economic data over the last two months," said Peter Jankovskis, co-chief investment officer of OakBrook Investments in Lisle, Illinois. "If that trend continues, that will provide good support and perhaps some upward momentum."

The next big test for markets in terms of U.S. economic data will be the December payrolls report at the end of next week.

For the year, the Dow is up 6.1 percent and the S&P 500 is up 0.4 percent, while the Nasdaq is down 1.5 percent. Inc shares dipped 0.02 percent to $173.86. Goldman Sachs said the online retailer's sales growth in the current holiday quarter could miss expectations.

Diamond Foods Inc shares rose 7.2 percent to $31.51 after CNBC reported rumors that high-profile investor David Einhorn may have invested in the company. - Reuters

GLOBAL MARKETS-US stocks rally on data, gold falls on Europe

NEW YORK (Dec 29): U.S. stocks rallied about 1 percent on Thursday as data signaled positive trends for the economy, but gold prices fell for a fourth consecutive session as investors constrained by tight liquidity resulting from the euro-zone debt crisis were forced to sell.

The euro initially slid to a 15-month low against the U.S. dollar after a key Italian debt auction failed to ease concerns about the crisis. It erased losses later - trading a tad higher at $1.2951 - as market sentiment improved and the S&P 500 made it back into positive territory for the year.


World stocks also rose. The MSCI All-Country World index gained 0.83 percent, although it remained down nearly 10 percent for 2011.

"We have seen a pretty encouraging trend in the U.S. economic data over the last two months," said Peter Jankovskis, co-chief investment officer of OakBrook Investments in Lisle, Illinois. "If that trend continues, that will provide good support and perhaps some upward momentum."

Among Thursday's encouraging economic data, pending sales of existing U.S. homes surged to a 1-1/2-year high in November and factory activity in the U.S. Midwest grew more than expected in December.

In addition, even as initial claims for unemployment benefits rose last week, the U.S. labor market showed signs of recovery, with the more stable four-week moving average for jobless claims falling to its lowest level since June 2008.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed higher 135.63 points, or 1.12 percent, at 12,287.04. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index rose 13.38 points, or 1.07 percent, to 1,263.02.

The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 23.76 points, or 0.92 percent, to 2,613.74.

The rally left the S&P 500 with gains of 0.4 percent for the year, with one more trading day left in 2011.

In Europe, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top shares extended gains after the release of the U.S. data. The index climbed 0.96 percent to close at 992.78 points.


Gold prices fell as many investors, facing tight capital market conditions due to the euro-zone crisis, had to raise money to meet their financial obligations.

At one point, gold was down more than 20 percent from a September high, briefly entering bear market territory. It later pared losses to trade down 0.38 percent at $1,546.20.

Concerns about Italy continued to weigh on global markets after the country's latest debt auction, with banks unwilling to lend despite massive capital injections by the European Central Bank.

On Thursday, Italy sold about 7 billion euros in bonds, below its target of 8.5 billion euros. Yields on the 10-year paper fell from a recent high, but remained just under 7 percent - a level seen as unsustainable in the long run.

"There's a real worry now that the first quarter could be crunch time in the euro crisis just because of the sheer volume of debt that needs to be rolled over by euro-zone countries," said Standard Chartered strategist David Mann.

Italy has a debt burden of around 120 percent of GDP, and about 150 billion euros in debt coming due between February and April.

Reflecting lingering concerns about the euro zone, U.S. government debt prices rose in thin trade. Benchmark 10-year Treasuries rose 7/32 in price, sending its yield down to 1.8971 percent.

U.S. crude oil settled at $99.92 per barrel, 0.29 percent higher on the day, in a very choppy session. ' Reuters



Silver Bird Group calls off placement, subscription commitment of RM100m

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 30): SILVER BIRD GROUP BHD [] has called off its proposed placement exercise and a subscription commitment of up to RM100 million with GEM Global Yield Fund.

It said on Friday it had to abort the proposals as Bursa Malaysia Securities Bhd rejected its waiver from complying with all the requirements to undertake back-to-back placements.

To recap, Silver Bird had on March 15 proposed to place 10% of its paid-up share capital and also a non-binding term sheet in relation to a subscription commitment of up to RM100 million with the fund

The non-binding term sheet was also subjected to further negotiations as well as the entry into a definitive documentation between the relevant parties.

However, Bursa Securities considered certain aspects of the proposed Issuance to be back-to-back placements.

Silver Bird said as the company did not meet all the requirements in undertaking back-to-back placements, it had sought Bursa Securities' approval for a waiver from having to comply with all the requirements to undertake back-to-back placements.

'However, Bursa Securities had rejected the company's said waiver application. Accordingly, the company is unable to proceed with the implementation of the proposed issuance. Thus, the board of Silver Bird has decided to abort the proposed issuance,' it said.

JAKS Resources posts RM25.13m net losses in 4Q on goodwill impairment

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 30): JAKS Resources Bhd posted net losses of RM25.13 million in the fourth quarter ended Oct 31, 2011 from a net profit of RM1.19 million a year ago'' due to goodwill impairment adjustment of RM25.90 million.

It reported on Friday revenue rose 9% to RM93.24 million from RM85.74 million mainly due to higher revenue recognition of works done for projects in the CONSTRUCTION [] division. Loss per share was 5.73 sen compared with earnings per share of 0.27 sen.

For the financial year ended Oct 31, 2011, it swung into net losses of RM22.89 million compared net profit of RM2.28 million in the previous financial year.

Its revenue was 26.9% higher at RM326.68 million from the RM257.26 million a year ago. The higher revenue led to an increase in pretax profit of RM6.60 million from RM4.40 million due to the goodwill impairment adjustment of RM25.90 million.

FOREX-Euro edges up v dollar but limps into 2012

NEW YORK (Dec 30): The euro pared losses from a 10-year low against the yen and edged slightly higher against the U.S. dollar on Friday, nearing the end of a year of stumbles that could presage more of the same in 2012.

The single currency fell to 99.963 yen on the EBS trading platform, breaking below an options barrier at 100.00 yen. The euro last traded at 100.15 yen, according to Reuters data. The euro is down about 7.8 percent against the yen for the year.

Thin trading exacerbated volatility, with many traders out for the end-of-year holidays.

But analysts said the euro was likely facing a bleak year as the euro zone sovereign debt crisis, which has roiled markets for two years, rages on.

"The currency markets are going to continue to take their cue from fixed income and sovereign credit markets" in 2012, said Omer Esiner, chief market analyst at Commonwealth Foreign Exchange in Washington.

"Particularly we'll be looking at Italian and Spanish debt and those nations' ability to access reasonably priced capital."

In a move to cut back its budget deficit and reassure markets, Spain's government said on Friday that the country would cut 8.9 billion euros of spending next year across all ministries, as well as raising some taxes.

But the government also said that the 2011 deficit would be higher than expected.

The single currency reversed an early dip against the U.S. dollar to advance 0.08 percent to $1.2972.

Helped by investors squaring positions before year-end, it recouped losses from Thursday, when it sank to a 15-month low of $1.2858 as high yields at an Italian bond auction prompted euro selling.

"The euro has held up relatively well given the crisis we've seen, but that view is likely to come under pressure in the new year," said Simon Smith, economist at FXPro.

"There is huge focus on what's going on in Europe. Next year is likely to be the year when either euro zone leaders send the region on a path towards greater fiscal integration or we see some of the more vulnerable countries having to leave."

Traders said falls in the euro versus the yen were partly driven by the dollar extending losses against the Japanese currency after triggering stop loss orders on the break below 77.50 yen.

The dollar index was at 80.159, off a near one-year peak of 80.854 hit on Thursday.


This year the euro has lost more than 3 percent versus the dollar, adding to a 6.6 percent decline in 2010.

But the relatively modest drop belies the currency's volatility this year, as the 17-nation monetary union lurched from problem to problem as policymakers failed to staunch the sovereign debt crisis.

Some analysts said the currency could drop as low as $1.20 by the end of 2012 in the absence of a comprehensive policy response to the crisis, potentially moving towards its 2010 low of $1.1876.

Italy, the euro zone's third-largest economy, remains at the centre of the debt crisis that began in Greece two years ago, and its borrowing needs could overwhelm the bloc's financial defences if it were forced to seek an international bailout.

Ten-year Italian yields are above the 7 percent level seen as unsustainable, with the country needing to raise 450 billion euros in debt markets in 2012. Government issuance of new euro zone debt will be scrutinised for any sign investors are shunning the currency bloc.

Analysts expect euro zone funding pressures to intensify in early 2012, with 230 billion euros of bank bonds, up to 300 billion euros in government bonds, and more than 200 billion euros in collateralised debt maturing in the first quarter.

Last week the ECB provided banks with almost half a trillion euros in three-year loans at low rates to encourage lending. Some policymakers have urged banks to use the funds to buy Italian and Spanish sovereign debt.

But the latest ECB data on Friday suggested banks were hoarding the cash, with 445 billion euros being deposited in the central bank's overnight facility, up from 436 billion euros the previous day.

"If the euro is going to be salvaged the market needs an injection of faith over the next few weeks. The Italian and Spanish auctions are key," said Neil Mellor, currency strategist at Bank of New York Mellon. - Reuters

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Kumpulan Europlus posts RM1m net profit in 3Q vs RM19m net loss

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 29): KUMPULAN EUROPLUS BHD [] posted net profit of RM1 million in the third quarter ended Oct 31, 2011 compared with net loss of RM19.31 million a year ago.

It said on Thursday its pre-tax profit of RM1.33 million versus pre-tax loss of RM16.08 million a year ago was mainly due to interest income of RM1.66 million, accretion of equity interest in Talam Corp Bhd of RM 2.21 million and fair value gain of RM 2.09 million on short term investments.

Kumpulan Europlus said its revenue fell 19% to RM3.84 million from RM4.74 million mainly due to lower billings by the group's manufacturing and CONSTRUCTION [] divisions. Earnings per share were 0.2 sen compare with loss per share of 4.10 sen.

For the nine-month period, it recorded net profit of RM5.01 million in contrast with the net loss of RM24.05 million in the previous corresponding period.

The group recorded a pre-tax profit of RM 5.64 million compared to a pre-tax loss of RM20.07 million mainly due to gains arising from redemption of financial instruments by Trinity totalling RM44.27 million and interest income of RM4.40 million, reduced by fair value loss of RM 6.25 million and provision for doubtful debts of RM23.04 million.

Revenue declined 27.8% to RM14.81 million from RM20.51 million also due to lower billings by the group's manufacturing and construction divisions.

Trinity Corp's net loss narrows to RM29m in 3Q from RM83.29m yr ago

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 29): Trinity Corporation Bhd (formerly TALAM CORPORATION BHD []) posted net loss of RM29.26 million in the third quarter ended Oct 31, 2011 from RM83.29 million a year ago.

It said on Thursday the losses were due to an impairment provision of RM9.20 million made on a piece of development land to be sold to a third party and also provisions made for doubtful debts of RM14.93 million.

Its revenue shrunk 27% to RM37.01 million from RM50.68 million mainly due to lower progress billings from the development projects. Loss per share was 0.74 sen compared with 2.76 sen a year ago.

Trinity said for the nine-month period, its net loss was RM54.08 million compared with the losses of RM81.48 million in the previous corresponding period.

Its revenue jumped 247% to RM434.78 million from'' RM125.29 million boosted by the completion of the disposal of the 1,322.44 acres of land in Bukit Beruntung 2 to Menteri Besar Selangor (Incorporated).

The pre-tax loss for the current year-to-date of RM52.68 million as compared to a pre-tax loss of RM74.23 million a year ago was due to lower gross margins mainly due to foreseeable loss provision of RM13.80 million on certain development projects of the group.

Trinity'' said it would also be affected by impairment provisions totaling RM46.30 million consisting of RM37.10 million on two pieces of leasehold development land proposed to be disposed to an associated company and RM9.20 million on a piece of leasehold development land proposed to be disposed to a third party.

Thailand's Charoen Pokphand buying MKH's food processing biz for RM64m

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 29): Thai conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Foods PCL's Malaysian company is acquiring property-based MKH Bhd's food processing and livestock farming operations for RM64 million.

MKH Bhd, formerly METRO KAJANG HOLDINGS BHD [], said on Thursday it was selling its unit Makin Jernih Group to Charoen Pokphand Foods (M) Sdn Bhd under its plan to dispose off its non-core business.

It said the group's focus was on its core business in property development, property investment, CONSTRUCTION [] and oil palm PLANTATION [].

'The proposal disposal will enable the group to raise proceeds to be utilised for the repayment of bank borrowings and working capital,' it said.

The Makin Jernih Group comprises of Makin Jernih Sdn Bhd and its subsidiaries, Chau Yang Farming Sdn Bhd, Tip Top Meat Sdn Bhd and AA Meat Shop Sdn Bhd.

Chau Yang Farming's core activities are livestock farming and oil palm cultivation, Tip Top Meat is involved in food processing and trading while AA Meat Shop trades in food and meat related products.

For the financial year ended Sept 30, 2011, Makin Jernih recorded an unaudited consolidated profit after tax of RM3.0 million while its unaudited consolidated net assets was RM61.2 million.

'The sale consideration of RM64.0 million represents a premium of approximately 4.4% or RM2.8 million above the consolidated net asset of Makin Jernih based on the unaudited accounts of Makin Jernih as at Sept 30, 2011,' it said.

KLCI rises for third day, but gains limited

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 29): The FBM KLCI rose for the third day on Thursday and closed above the 1,500-point level, as the slight recovery at most regional markets and bargain hunting activities lifted the local bourse.

The FBM KLCI closed 2.58 points higher at 1,506.69.

Gainers led losers by 492 to 254, while 335 counters traded unchanged. Volume was 1.59 billion shares valued at RM1.16 billion.

At the regional markets, the Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.16% to 2,173.56, Taiwan's Taiex gained 0.26% to 7,074.82, South Korea's Kospi added 0.03% to 1,825.74 and Singapore's Straits Times Index edged up 0.24% to 2,672.78.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index fell 0.65% to 18,397.92 and Japan's Nikkei 225 shed 0.29% to 8.398.89.

Meanwhile, European shares rose on Thursday in low volume, recovering from the previous session falls, on hope there would be demand at an Italian auction of long-term sovereign debt after the European Central Bank's three-year funding operation last week, according to Reuters.

On Bursa Malaysia, BAT rose 40 sen to RM49.60, RCI added 33 sen to RM1.80, Cocoaland gained 18 sen to RM2.18, RHB Capital and Sarawak Oil Palms added 17 sen each to RM7.30 and RM5.59, Panasonic gained 16 sen to RM20.02, JT International and Faber rose 15 sen each to RM7.15 and RM1.62, while Batu Kawan gained 14 sen to RM17.44.

Among the decliners, Nestle fell 70 sen to RM56, Box-Pak lost 24 sen to RM2.23, Chin Teck down 20 sen to RM8.79, Southern Acids and Tasek fell 15 sen each to RM2.15 and RM7.80, HLFG lost 12 sen to RM11.56, Perduren fell 10.5 sen 74.5 sen, while UMW and Supermax lost 10 sen each to RM6.85 and RM3.79.

Utopia was the most actively traded counter with 197.45 million shares done. The stock fell one sen to 6.5 sen.

Other actively traded stocks included Sanichi, Mulpha, JCY, KNM, Flonic and LFE Corp.