Eyeing a recovery, some U.S. airlines resume pilot hiring


(Reuters) – American Airlines’ wholly owned regional subsidiary PSA Airlines and budget carrier Frontier Airlines plan to resume pilot hiring this year, a positive sign for an industry ravaged last year by the coronavirus pandemic but now preparing to ramp up flying.
As COVID-19 vaccines roll out, airlines are hoping for a significant improvement in domestic air travel by the summer, even if demand does not fully yet recoup pre-pandemic levels.
“As we continue to work with American Airlines to identify our flying needs this year, and in combination with recent attrition numbers for our Pilot group, we will be initiating hiring efforts for First Officer team members,” Keith Stamper, vice president of PSA’s air operations, said in a memo reviewed by Reuters.
A PSA spokeswoman confirmed the plans, which also include flight attendant hiring, but said: “We are declining disclosing specific hiring numbers at this time.”
Ultra low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines, which is owned by private equity firm Indigo Partners, intends to restart recruiting in July, with a plan to hire about 100 pilots this year provided passenger demand recovers, a spokeswoman told Reuters.
For years, airlines were aggressively recruiting to address projected pilot shortages during an era of industry growth, but hiring and training programs were halted last year as the pandemic forced thousands of furloughs.
Dayton, Ohio-based PSA, which operates domestic routes for American, furloughed 723 pilots and 323 flight attendants last October when an initial COVID-19 relief plan for U.S. airlines expired. Employees were recalled last month following a fresh $15 billion in government aid for the struggling industry.
Major airlines like American rely on regional carriers, which have a cheaper workforce, to operate a large share of their domestic networks.
Over time, regional pilots work their way up to the majors, which are preparing for a wave of retirements in coming years even after many pilots took early departure deals during the pandemic.
American, for example, expects over 11,149 pilots to reach the mandatory retirement age of 65 between 2021 and 2041, with 455 expected to retire this year alone, according to internal company projections updated on Monday. Source: Reuters

5 community malls added 40,650sm into supply in 2020


The quarter boasted no new completions or launches, resulting in the total increase in supply for 2020 being comprised of the addition of 5 community malls which added 40,650 square metres of new stock, a 17.6% increase y-o-y, according to a report from CBRE Cambodia.
Occupancy dropped up over the quarter, with a 5.5% decrease q-o-q. However, considering the level of disruption, occupancy only shifted down by 5.9% y-o-y. The changes in occupancy were predominantly brought on by the increase in supply over the year.
The incident on November 28, which led to the temporary closure of some retail venues, did little to encourage footfall. However, Christmas and New Years sales drew crowds to many of the retail centres. Google’s Mobility Tracker recorded average footfall to be approximately -18% over the quarter vs. the pre-Covid baseline in February.
Rents showed mixed results over the quarter. Both Prime Shopping Malls and Prime High Street rents remained unchanged. Retail Podiums had the largest adjustment of -5.9%, reflecting the challenges the format is experiencing. Community Mall rents also adjusted downwards, compressing 3.3% q-o-q. This fall can mainly be attributed to the additional supply reaching the market throughout the year.
Brand activity increased q-o-q and boasted the strongest net increase since Q1 2020. The quarter saw 12 new entrants, 4 expansions and 1 branch closure. Brand entry and exit activity were split between the F&B and Fashion & Accessories sectors, equating to 64.7% and 35.3% of the activity, respectively. Four large fashion houses made their entry in the fourth quarter including, Balenciaga, Burberry, Coach and Dolce and Gabbana

Fintech Acquisitions May Affect Competition Among ASEAN Banks


Fitch Ratings-Hong Kong/Jakarta/Singapore-18 January 2021: Recent acquisitions of small banks in Indonesia by technology firms have highlighted the potential for fintech entrants to shake up the competitive landscape for banking in ASEAN over time, says Fitch Ratings. However, such moves are unlikely to pose a material challenge to the biggest incumbent banks in the near term as technology firms are first likely to target underserved segments of the market.

Media reports in January 2021 of a planned acquisition of Bank Kesejahteraan Ekonomi (BKE) by Singapore-based Sea, and moves in December 2020 by Indonesia’s Gojek to increase its stake in Bank Jago, underscore the ambition of tech firms to deepen their involvement in the provision of financial services. Fitch has previously argued that Indonesia and the Philippines provide the largest market potential among ASEAN’s six major economies owing to their large unbanked populations and low levels of household leverage.
The acquisition of existing banks may help to smooth the path for fintech firms wishing to offer financial services in Indonesia, which has moved more slowly than some other ASEAN governments in developing so-called “virtual banking” licence guidelines. Sea secured a virtual banking licence in Singapore in December, but will still need approval from the Indonesian financial service regulator, OJK, to acquire BKE wholly due to limits on foreign ownership. Approval from OJK, if granted, may come with conditions attached.

Aspiring tech entrants could target markets in a swift and scalable manner, without the overheads associated with operating physical branches, by leveraging data analytics on their extensive customer bases across their regional operations. This may pressure incumbent banks’ profitability over the medium term, with smaller banks and those that have sub-par digital offerings at greater risk of losing out.

However, the impact is likely to be manageable in the near term, as we believe that these new entrants will first target niche segments of the market, such as more tech-savvy, younger demographics or the underbanked, where yields are often higher and competition is still developing. Some established banks have also invested heavily in their IT infrastructure in recent years, with the pandemic providing added incentive for incumbents to accelerate their digitalisation, potentially closing off openings for some new entrants.

It remains unclear which companies will ultimately be able to realise benefits from the growing nexus between technology firms and banks. In markets such as Indonesia, there is a risk that aspiring virtual lenders may misprice credit risks when targeting the unbanked, notwithstanding their potentially more advanced data analytics capabilities. In more developed markets with dominant and more tech-savvy incumbents, like Singapore, they may face difficulty out-investing conventional banks in digitalisation to offer distinctive value beyond niche areas.

The growth of fintech in ASEAN is also prompting closer regulatory scrutiny. In markets where digital bank licensing frameworks are already available, regulators have generally opted to introduce viability requirements for new digital banks, designed to minimise the risks to financial stability presented by the growth of new services and market entrants. This will add to execution risks around technology firms’ strategies for expanding into financial services, a sector that generally has high regulatory bars and compliance requirements.

Fitch believes the tech firms that are likely to provide more formidable competition for incumbent banks over the longer term include those that have established platforms and user bases or are backed by deep-pocketed corporates. These are more likely to be able to sustain the heavy financial investment necessary to attain scale, maintain cost competitiveness and survive the initial loss-making stages of a start-up.
Source: Fitch Rating

Myanmar cancels Thai investment in controversial mega-port


YANGON: Myanmar on Monday (Jan 18) announced it was cancelling contracts with a Thai industrial giant to work on a controversial deep sea port project.
The Dawei mega-project was touted as a way to encourage foreign investment in Myanmar as it emerged from decades of military rule, but it has been hit by numerous setbacks, including funding struggles and local opposition.
As well as a port, the long-delayed project around the southern town of Dawei aims to develop an industrial area of around 200 square kilometres.
The committee in charge of the Dawei Special Economic Zone said Monday it had “lost confidence” in Italian-Thai Development (ITD) after repeated issues.
Announcing the cancellation, the Dawei Special Economic Zone Management Committee complained of “repeated delays, continuing breaches of financial obligations under the contracts and the concessionaires’ failure to confirm their financial capacity to proceed with development”.
The chair of the Dawei management committee Tun Naing said Myanmar would now look for new developers to invest in the projects.
ITD could not be reached for immediate comment.
The Bangkok-based firm had already scaled back its involvement in the project in 2013, while Japan has shown some interest in getting involved. CNA
Source: AFP

More than 1,000 construction sites suspended in Sihanoukville in 2020


By: Leakena
Sihanoukville: during a situation the world and Cambodia faces Covid19, many sectors, including the construction sector in Sihanoukville, about 1,000 construction sites have been suspended in 2020.
According to a Mr. Kheang Phearum, spokesman for Sihanoukville province said that Sihanoukville would also be affected by Covid-19 in 2020, with more than 1,000 foreign-invested construction sites have been suspended, but about 90 construction projects invested by Cambodians are still under construction normally.
“In Sihanoukville, there is a huge impact, mostly on foreign investors, with China being the largest investor,” he said. “When people and tourists can travel again, I believe that the economy of Sihanoukville will improve.”
Mr. Kheang Phearum continued that during Covid time, it is a global crisis that not only affected to Cambodia but also the world, and this crisis has affected many sectors. For example, the construction sector in Sihanoukville shows that in 2020, construction activity was declining, with a total of 1,514 construction sites, of which only 89 were under construction and the remaining was suspended.
He also stated that in the last 4 years, from 2017 to December 2020, Sihanoukville province had a total construction permit of 1,514 buildings with a total area of 14,736,559 square meters and total investment of more than $8 billion.
At the same time Mr. Po Eav Kong, president of Advance Real Estate, also said that in Sihanoukville, the real estate sector seems to have grown too fast in recent years, making property prices in this province higher than in other provinces. Many of the investors are Chinese, he added.
He continued that when the world faced the crisis of Covid19, that making foreigners impossible to enter and leave the country to seek investment, so the number of foreigners as well as foreign investors entering Cambodia has been steadily declining since the beginning of 2020.

Singapore’s exports rebound 6.8% in December


SINGAPORE: Singapore’s non-oil domestic exports (NODX) rebounded by 6.8 per cent year-on-year in December, mainly due to a rise in shipments of non-electronic products such as specialised machinery and non-monetary gold. Electronics also grew from a low base a year ago.
This is the first positive print for NODX in three months andcomes after a 5 per cent drop in November, official data from Enterprise Singapore showed on Monday (Jan 17).
Economists had expected a 0.3 per cent increase, Reuters reported.
On a seasonally adjusted month-on-month basis, exports rose by 6.6 per cent in December, extending the previous month’s 3.7 per cent increase.
“December’s expansion of NODX does paint an optimistic backdrop for 2021,” said UOB economist Barnabas Gan.
“Singapore’s position in producing and supplying biomedical products and supplies especially during this COVID-19 pandemic, will likely continue to lift overall manufacturing activities and support NODX into next year,” he added.
December’s rebound was boosted by a 5 per cent year-on-year increase in the shipment of non-electronic goods. This compares with the 5.3 per cent decline for the segment in November.
Specialised machinery, which rose 30.9 per cent, was a major contributor to the increase, followed by non-monetary gold (14.5 per cent) and measuring instruments (21.4 per cent).
In the electronics segment, shipments rose 13.7 per cent year-on-year due to a low base in December 2019. This follows the 4 per cent decline in November.
Integrated circuits, personal computer parts and diodes and transistors contributed the most to December’s shipments, rising by 15.7 per cent, 33.8 per cent and 16.5 per cent respectively.
Exports to Singapore’s top markets mostly rose in December, although exports to China, the European Union, Indonesia and Japan declined.
“The country breakdown of Singapore’s December exports makes curious reading,” said Mr Robert Carnell, ING’s regional head of research for Asia-Pacific.
He noted that China, “despite its comparative global strength”, was one of the weakest destinations, registering a 27.5 per cent year-on-year decline.
On the other hand, the US, reeling under COVID-19, registered a 52.5 per cent increase in shipments from Singapore following November’s 9.5 per cent growth. December’s growth was led by non-monetary gold, pharmaceuticals and measuring instruments.
“We probably need to see another month or two of this data to make sense of this directional curiosity,” said Mr Carnell.
Exports to South Korea grew by 46.2 per cent in December after the 9.7 per cent decrease in November, mainly due to specialised machinery, measuring instruments and heating and cooling equipment.
Exports to Taiwan rose by 14.8 per cent in December, following the 8.7 per cent increase in the preceding month, due to integrated circuits, other specialty chemicals and structures of ships and boats.
Exports to emerging markets expanded by 28.3 per cent in December, after the 4 per cent decline in the previous month.
South Asia (47.5 per cent); Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (40.8 per cent); and Latin America (21.5 per cent) were the markets primarily responsible for this growth.
Total trade fell by 0.3 per cent in December on a year-on-year basis, following the 7.3 per cent decrease in the month before. This was mainly due to oil trade, which continued to decrease amid lower oil prices as compared to a year ago, though easing from the contraction in November.
Source: CNA/Reuters/kg

Major firms urge Japan to bolster 2030 renewables goal


TOKYO: Major firms including Sony, Panasonic and Nissan on Monday (Jan 18) urged the Japanese government to make its 2030 renewable energy target twice as ambitious.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga last year set a 2050 deadline for Japan to become carbon-neutral, but the country’s shorter term renewables goal has long been criticised as lagging.
Japan currently aims to source between 22 and 24 per cent of its power from solar, wind and other renewables by 2030, a target set three years ago and soon to be reassessed as the government revises its energy strategy.
A group of 92 corporations known as the Japan Climate Initiative on Monday urged ministers to double this goal to 40 to 50 per cent.
Many of Japan’s biggest firms, from Fujifilm to Toshiba, as well as household names in insurance, electricity and food and drink, signed the petition.
“In order for Japan to meet its responsibilities to be one of the leaders in global efforts (against climate change), the target needs to be much more ambitious,” they said in a statement.
“An ambitious target will stimulate renewable energy deployment, and Japanese companies will be able to play a greater role in the global business environment, where decarbonisation is accelerating.”
Japan’s renewable energy use was around 17 per cent in 2017.
And by some estimates it may have already hit its 2030 target last year, due to a combination of growth in the green energy sector and a pandemic-related fall in demand.
The country ploughed US$16.5 billion into renewable energy in 2019, according to a UN report – making it the world’s fourth biggest investor in the sector, but still far behind China, the United States and Europe.
However, Japan is still heavily reliant on fossil fuels, especially after public anger over the 2011 Fukushima meltdown pushed all its nuclear reactors temporarily offline.
It has struggled to cut carbon emissions since the disaster, with a third of total electricity generation provided by coal, and nearly 40 per cent by LNG-fired plants. CNA
Source: AFP/dv

Condo Supply Added Near 26,000 Units to the Market


by Bee
Phnom Penh: Although at the beginning of 2021, the light of the positive signs of the real estate market is not yet clear, for the growth of the supply of condominiums continues to increase at the beginning of this year, the growth of the supply of total condominiums in the market increased to nearly 26,000 units.
In the fourth quarter of 2020, a supply of 937 new condominium units was added to the condominium market in Phnom Penh, bringing the total supply of condominiums to 25,914 units by the end of 2020, according to the latest report from CBRE Cambodia.
According to the report by CBRE Cambodia, at the end of 2020, the BaoLi Mansion mid-range condominium project in 7 Makara district supplied 644 units to the market, while the Royal Park Condo project was affordable in Toul Kork district supplied 293 units to the market.
With the increase in the supply of condominiums, the international real estate company has divided condominium projects into three categories: “luxury “, “mid-range” and “affordable”.
The price of luxury condominiums averaged $3,000 per square meter in the fourth quarter of 2020, down 1.19 percent from the third quarter, the company said.
The average price of mid-range condo was $2,250 per square meter, down 5.89 percent, while the average price of affordable condo was $1,400, down 1.56 percent.
For the fourth quarter, the luxury condo rental market was $12.69 in the average per square meter, down 0.08 percent per month, and the affordable condo was around $10.20, down 6.7 percent.

Trump bolsters ban on US investments in China


WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump has signed an order strengthening a November ban on US investments in alleged Chinese military companies, the White House said on Wednesday (Jan 13), curbing Chinese access to US capital markets days before he leaves office.
Under the amended directive, by Nov 11, 2021, US investors will be required to have completely divested their holdings of securities of companies designated by the Defense Department as owned or controlled by the Chinese military.
The change expands the scope of the initial November executive order, which initially only restricted US investors from buying those securities by that date.
“Today’s executive order ensures that the United States retains a key tool to protect US investors from funding Chinese military modernization,” a senior administration official told Reuters.
The executive order is part of Trump’s bid to cement his tough-on-China legacy in the waning days of his presidency. It also sought to give teeth to a 1999 law that tasked the Defense Department with drafting a list of Chinese companies it believes are owned or controlled by the Chinese military.
Among the 35 companies that the DOD has blacklisted so far are China’s top chipmaker SMIC and oil giant CNOOC. But Reuters and other outlets reported earlier on Wednesday the administration had scrapped plans to blacklist tech giants Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment. CNA
Source: Reuters

WeWork CEO says company on track to be profitable by end of year


LONDON: WeWork Chief Executive Sandeep Mathrani said on Wednesday (Jan 13) the co-working firm is “completely on track” to reach profitability by the fourth quarter of this year, and its office spaces in China have nearly bounced back to pre-pandemic levels.
Mathrani took the helm at WeWork in February to turn around the company after a disastrous period in which WeWork scrapped its initial public offering, fired its founder Adam Neumann and faced bankruptcy.
In an interview during the Reuters Next conference, Mathrani said he expects many Americans will still want to work in an office environment despite the ongoing pandemic.
“We’ve seen mental health reasons for people who want to come back to work ,” he said. “I’m a firm believer that the office is an important part of everyday living.”
WeWork locations in China “are back to virtually 90 per cent of pre-COVID levels from an occupancy perspective and leasing and demand perspective, Mathrani said.
He added that WeWork currently has US$3 billion of liquidity on its balance sheet, which is enough to carry the company through 2022. CNA
Source: Reuters