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Asiaweek: Restructuring or a Reshuffling?
By Arjuna Ranawana

15/6/2001 11:42 pm Fri

[Syarikat Vincent Tan sering bertukar nama kerana tidak berjaya walaupun dulunya kelihatan Berjaya. Beliau sebenarnya bukannya pakar berniaga tetapi pakar bermain bawah meja mengunakan orang tertentu dipuncak kuasa. Apabila gagal dia akan beredar dan cabut dengan selamba. Banyak projek yang diceburinya mendatangkan masalah yang semakin melanda-landa seperti IWK, Monorel dan mungkin juga Times Square (dulunya Berjaya Square). Projeknya telah mencetuskan ketidak-puasan pengguna, boikot kontraktor dan krisis yang kronik sehingga akhirnya tersadai begitu sahaja. Kerapkali kerajaan datang menyelamatkannya juga melalui pelbagai cara, samada secara terang atau pun sembunyi. Kadang-kadang beberapa angka dipermainkan untk menipu tetapi ia terbongkar jua. Yang peliknya mengapa kerajaan masih sayang kepadanya sedangkan dia asyik menimbulkan masalah sahaja? Tidakkah ini bermakna orang tertentu dipuncak kuasa mendapat sesuatu darinya? Tiket kapalterbang dan tempat percutian yang nyaman itu sudah lama tersedia di luar negara buat sesiapa yang mampu diperkuda. Kalau bekas hakim negara yang arif pun kena, apakah orang lain yang kurang arif pun tidak terkena?
] business/0,8782,130502,00.html

Issue 22nd June 2001

Restructuring or a Reshuffling?

The fortunes of Berjaya, one of Malaysia's leading conglomerates, are closely tied to the weakened economy


In happier times, a Malaysian corporate restructuring including the injection of a $450 million asset like the Times Square high-rise in downtown Kuala Lumpur might be welcomed by investors. Not now. Tycoon Vincent Tan recently announced he will try to reverse the crumbling fortunes of his Berjaya Group by creating a new company that will include most of the old company's assets and a few new ones, too, like Times Square. But with the city in the throes of a property glut and unfinished Times Square saddled with around $150 million of debt, in the first four trading days after the news was announced investors knocked down Berjaya's share price 26%.

Like acquisitive conglomerates the world over, Berjaya has always relied on strong revenue growth to service its debt. When the Malaysian economy slowed after the 1997 economic crisis, the company assumed that growth would quickly return. But the recovery sputtered, and now Berjaya - with interests in retail, real estate, financial services and gaming properties - must face up to the fact that in this economic environment its debts could quickly get out of hand. Malaysia's GDP has been falling ever since it topped out at a rate of 11.7% in the second quarter last year. Growth in the first three months of 2001 was 3.2%. Bankruptcies are up, nonperforming loans are on the rise and consumer confidence is plummeting.

Berjaya has been taking on water for the past two years and has not shown any ability to rise above economic adversity. The company lost almost $80 million in the first nine months of its fiscal year to the end of January 2001, the most recent period it has reported. Berjaya has about 100 operational units employing more than 22,000 people. Since its inception in 1984 as a maker of Raleigh bicycles, the company has grown to have annual sales of $2 billion and operations in more than 10 countries.

The immediate goal of the restructuring, which still must obtain regulatory and shareholder approval, is to reduce some of the company's $1 billion debt. An as yet unnamed firm - for now, company officials call it "Newco" - will essentially replace the Berjaya Group as the company's listed vehicle. Besides owning Times Square, the new entity will differ from Berjaya in that it will buy 24% of another Tan asset, mobile-phone operator, which is Malaysia's third-biggest mobile-phone company in a field of five. is a solid company, but the Times Square development is the joker in the deck. The ambitious, mixed-use development will open next year, and a real estate glut could mean high vacacancy rates or low rents. But Berjaya Group executive director Freddie Pang Hock Cheng insists the project will be a winner: "The depth and breadth of activities at Times Square will be more than any other place. Everyone will want to go there."

In return for the cash and assets he plans to inject into the new listing, Tan's holding in Berjaya would increase to 66% from his current 34% stake. Pang says the hope is that the additional assets will help boost the value of the stock, allowing Berjaya to swap shares for part of its debt. Minority shareholders will receive just one share in the new firm for every four they hold of Berjaya. But Pang says that with the stock down to M$0.20 (5 cents), things could hardly get worse for shareholders: "The markets have already given [them] more than a haircut."

And given the current political environment in which the government is hypersensitive to accusations that it is helping cronies at the expense of the public, there is little hope of a government bailout. Berjaya investors are stuck with Tan's plan, and, as ever, he remains optimistic. Pang says the tycoon expects to achieve a turnaround for the group by 2003. Says Stephen Hagger of CFSB Research in Kuala Lumpur: "You never know. He may pull it off."