Transport, Logistics & Infrastructure

A report by the Malaysian-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

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Rail transport has been introduced to Malaysia in the late 19th century with the aim to speed up transportation of the tin mining areas to ports along the coast. Nowadays rail transport is one of the country's most important ways of transportation. 

By Sofie Serrer | 9 April 2019

 

The change of government in May 2018 has led to the postponement of several high profile infrastructure projects, but Malaysia remains as an important railway market.

Rail land is owned by Railway Assets Corporation (RAC). It is studied to be developed to ensure optimum returns Government, thus contributing to the development of the national rail industry. RAC wants to develop and redevelop railway infrastructure through planning and implementation of high value and systematic asset management.

Major Projects

In total there are three new MRT lines planned in Kuala Lumpur, covering more than 150km of track. The total investment is estimated to top RM61bil.

The MRT1 from Sungai Buloh to Kajang, also known as SBK line, started its full service in July 2017. It is the ninth rail transit line and the second fully automated and driverless rail system in Klang Valley. The SBK line covers a span of 51km, starting in the northwest of Kuala Lumpur, passing the KL city centre where the MRT goes underground, and ending in the southeast of KL. It serves a corridor with a population of around 1.2mil.

The MRT2 from Sungai Buloh to Putrajaya is currently under construction. Just as MRT1 it will be fully automated and driverless. Phase one between Kwasa Damansara and Kampung Batu is expected to be opened in July 2021. MRT2 is expected to start full service by 2022. The total length will be 52.2.km, 13.5km (11 stations) being underground. It is expected to have 533,000 passengers per day once it starts full service.

The MRT Circle Line or MRT3 is currently postponed. If completed, the line would operate as a loop line, covering Bandar Malaysia, Ampang, KL Ecocity, Bukit Kiara and Sentul.

The LRT Bandar Utama-Klang line, also known as LRT3, BKL or Shah Alam line, was announced on 24 April 2013 and started construction in August 2016. The rail line will be 37km long and is expected to be operational on 31 August 2020. The LRT3 will feature a couple of interchange stations with the MRT1, the Kelana Jaya Line and the KTM Komuter Port Klang Line. Furthermore, it will be connected with the TESCO Bukit Tinggi and AEON Bukit Tinggi retail malls. The trains will have a maximum speed of 80km/h and a capacity of transporting 36,720 passengers per hour per direction. The LRT3 is the very first rail project in Malaysia to use green technology applications, such as water retention, energy efficient and natural air flows.

A feasibility study is underway for a Johor Bahru to Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS). This rapid transit system would connect Johor Bahru, Johor and Woodlands, Singapore, crossing the Straits of Johor. Both stations are proposed to have Malaysian and Singaporean customs, immigration and quarantine facilities. As of April 2019, Malaysia and Singapore have agreed to suspend the line for a six-month period.

Mainline

The HSR line (Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail) from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore has been deferred for 2 years. The project would link Kuala Lumpur and Singapore via a high- speed rail line. On 5 September 2018, it was announced that the line operations will start in January 2031. The HSR line would cover a distance of 350km and once completed is expected to reduce the duration to travel from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore and vice versa to 90 minutes only. The line will start from Bandar Malaysia, stop at Seremban and Melaka, and eventually end at Jurong East in Singapore.

 

The West Coast railway line runs from Padang Besar, at the border to Thailand down to the Woodlands Train Checkpoint in Singapore. It covers a total distance of 1,151km. So far 759km of this length are electrified and double-tracked. Construction on the final stage of double- tracking and electrification of the West Coast mainline is due to be completed by October 2021.

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The East Coast railway line runs between Gemas, Negeri Sembilan and Tumpat, Kelantan. Despite its name the line does not run along the coast until it reaches the final station in Tumpat. Currently Terengganu is the only state on the Malaysian peninsula which is not served by the KTM railway network, though this will change due to the ECRL project (see below). Currently, there are feasibility studies are conducted for a new 620km East Coast mainline.

 

The East Coast Rail Link, abbreviated as ECRL is an infrastructure project connecting Port Klang at the Malaysian west coast to Pengkalan Kubor in northeast Peninsular Malaysia. Once completed it should carry both freight and passengers from coast to coast. Construction began in August 2017 but after the change of government in May 2018 the works were suspended on 3 July 2018 mainly because of the high costs of the project. There are currently discussions to resume the project on a smaller scale. A final agreement will be announced in April 2019.

 

Sabah and Sarawak Network Development Planning

 

The development of railway network in Sabah and Sarawak are under the responsibility and jurisdiction of the state governments of Sabah and Sarawak. However, the Federal Government is committed to assist the State Government in the development of the railway network system in Sabah and Sarawak. Therefore, the Federal Government has provided allocation to the Sabah Railway Department for the work of short-term modernization of the existing railway network in 2005 with the total amount of RM335 mil comprising RM133.8 mil for the Tanjung Aru - Kimanis and RM201 mil for the Kimanis – Tenom lines.

 

Singapore Kunming Rail Link (SKRL)

 

A railway project along 6,617.5 km connecting Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, China, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The project’s objective is to promote and enhance trade, tourism and travel between the countries involved. Malaysia has been appointed as the Permanent Chairman of this meeting since 2007.

 

Malaysia has developed an Electrified Double Track Railway network from Padang Besar to Johor Bahru. The construction of an electrified double track railway from Padang Besar to Gemas has been completed. Malaysia’s commitment will be accomplished after the electrified double track railway project from Gemas to Johor Bahru Malaysia is completed.

 

MARIC

 

Originally, the rail industry in Malaysia was very fragmented, and had no platform to voice their issues and concern to the government or related agencies. Rail companies urgently needed a platform which can serve as one stop centre to address localisation, liaison and overall growth of the rail industry.The Malaysia Rail Industry Corporation (MARIC) was established to provide empowerment for Malaysian rail industry players and to fast track the development of the local rail industry.

 

In August 2016, a few selected companies that represented several prominent sectors in rail were called to share their overviews about rail industry. In September, the formation of the Protem Committee was established to carry out the task of conveying the MARIC messages to the stake holders, industry players and the public.

 

Malaysian Rail Supporting Industry Roadmap 2030

 

The industry as it is today is facing many challenges, such as high maintenance cost, lack of track record, discontinued OEM support after ten years, high dependence on foreign products and many more. This is why the industry strives for inter-operability, speed and comfort and to become energy efficient and environmentally friendly.

 

There are three goals under the Malaysian Rail Supporting Industry Roadmap 2030 to achieve these objectives. First, a conductive rail industry ecosystem. Second, high localisation of rail products and service and lastly, to be a competitive regional and global player.

 

A special report by the French Trade Commission - Business France Malaysia (May 2019)

GENERAL OVERVIEW

Despite being one of the least populated countries in Southeast Asia (excluding Singapore and Brunei), with about 32.6 million inhabitants, Malaysia is the third largest automotive market ASEAN after Indonesia and Thailand. 
Malaysia has been developing its automotive industry since 1984, with the creation of the national government-linked manufacturer Proton. Malaysia is the only country in ASEAN that has successfully developed its own brands. The majority of vehicles produced and assembled in the country are destined for the local market. The two local manufacturers, Proton and Perodua, dominate the personal-use car market with 38% of sales in 2017.
A new strategic partnership between Proton and a globally established Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) will be enacted to enhance Proton's competitiveness in a global market and its long term viability.
The National Automotive Policy 2014 (NAP 2014) aims to accelerate the growth of the local automotive market through more investment, innovation, and technology in this sector. 
80% of the components used are supplied by local equipment manufacturers.
Energy-efficient vehicles (EEVs) are gaining market share with 52% of vehicles sold in the 4th quarter of 2017 and expected to reach nearly 60% of units sold (350,000) in 2018.
The automotive market attracted more than EUR 1.6 billion in investments between 2014 and 2017 and this trend is expected to continue in the coming years.
Exports of components and spare parts increased in 2017. The automotive industry recorded a record EUR 2.5 billion in exports at the end of 2017.

KEY PLAYERS 

Several European manufacturers are present in Malaysia (Mercedes Benz, BMW, Volvo, Volkswagen, etc.) but the market remains dominated by their Japanese competitors (Nissan, Toyota, Honda). Of note, Daihatsu plays an important role through its participation in Perodua (20%). The French brands that are present in Malaysia include Peugeot, Citroën, and Renault. As part of an alliance with its Chinese partner Dongfeng Motor, PSA changed its regional headquarters for ASEAN several times, first in Kuala Lumpur and then in Singapore with DFM, and in 2017, it returned to Kuala Lumpur where its sales and after-sales activities (regional training centre and technical assistance platform) were grouped together. In 2016, Peugeot sold nearly 2,000 vehicles in Malaysia, Renault nearly 600, and more than 27,000 for the Renault-Nissan group. The market share of French automakers is approximately 7%.
PSA and Naza Corp signed a joint venture agreement in early 2018 to jointly produce PSA cars for the Malaysian and Asian market at the Kedah factory in Malaysia, boosting PSA's presence in the country. The factory will have an annual capacity of 50,000 vehicles. The first vehicles should be produced in 2018 for Peugeot and in 2019 for the Citroën model. 

   

BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES

National Automotive Policy
The objective of the NAP 2014, is to ensure long-term development and competitiveness following market liberalisation, create a conducive environment to attract new investment, improve the competitiveness of national manufacturers, promote technological development, and develop high value-added production activities, all by 2020
Through the NAP 2014, the Government also wishes to develop the market for electric and hybrid vehicles with a tax allowance for investment. Furthermore, by 2020, Malaysia wants to position itself as a regional hub and a leader in the market for energy-efficient cars in Southeast Asia. 

The Malaysian Government also encourages investment through incentives in the following areas: electronic components, research and development, and new technologies. 
Forecasts predict that the ASEAN region will be the 5th largest automotive market in the world in 2019. In parallel, the Malaysian population is expected to grow by more than 50% by 2050.

ACCESS TO THE MARKET

Open sector: up to 100% foreign share in the capital of a company registered in Malaysia.


Specific regulations
Malaysia has imposed excise duties on foreign vehicles, which can be up to 300%, to protect local production (Proton and Perodua). Currently, Malaysia has the second highest excise duty in the world, after Singapore. After the signature of the « Common Effective Preferential Tariff » (CEPT) in 1992 under the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA), cars which are manufactured in ASEAN can benefit from preferential customs tariffs (between 0 and 5%). This agreement was contested by Malaysia when it was implemented.

Two major economic treaties are underway in the region. They will make it easier for member countries to export automotive parts to Malaysia:
- The « Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership » (economic agreement between ASEAN, China, India, Japan and South Korea) ;
- The « Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement » (economic agreement between 12 Pacific Rim nations).
Due to differentiated taxes, foreign manufacturers prefer to assemble imported vehicles in Malaysia as spare parts (CKD, Completely Knocked Down) rather than import fully assembled vehicles (CBU, Completely Built-Up).

A report by the Malaysian-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Malaysia is one of the most globalized and urbanized developing countries in the ASEAN region. And in view of the increasing population in urban areas (urbanization) nationwide, the Malaysian government has been increasingly leaning towards the smart city concept, albeit at a modest pace. In order to realize its smart city vision, particularly in the Greater Kuala Lumpur and Klang Valley region, the Malaysian government is taking positive steps to ensure a high success in the delivery of sustainable cities in its rapidly developing urban cities and economy. This includes a strong focus in the development and enhancement of its transport and infrastructure sector.

 

IN BRIEF: SECTOR DEVELOPMENT

Transport infrastructure is a major driver of economic growth and competitiveness, and is the backbone to any effective smart city strategy. In Malaysia, urban mobility remains one of the biggest challenges confronting the government. Over the years, the country has significantly spent on infrastructure with the government making substantial investments in transport and infrastructure sectors, in line with the rising demands. But despite the rapid urbanization and town developments, the transport and infrastructure sector in the country has not always been given the necessary priority. With urbanization in Malaysia expected to reach 70 percent by 2020, the government realized that there is a need to enable an efficient and smooth flow of people - which in turn, would also enable growth of new urban areas through increased connectivity.

Today, it can be observed that there has been increased sophistication of transportation networks and services in Malaysia. The need for a practical and encompassing public transport motivates the government to invest particularly in the expansion of the railway transportation systems to cater for current and future national development agenda. Consequently, this development enhances connectivity within urban centers in the country via the Light Rail Transit (LRT), Monorail, Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) rail services and stage buses. Moreover, the highly anticipated transport and infrastructure projects such as the LRT extensions, the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), Klang Valley Double Track, Pan Borneo Highway and the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) will bring the Malaysian transport infrastructure to even greater heights. The Klang Valley MRT has kicked start on 16 December 2016, providing fast and efficient public transport to the city folks.

Malaysia is also currently on its way to bringing the first high speed rail system that connects 5 cities in Malaysia and Singapore. The Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) which is expected to begin operation in 2026, is likely to be 350 kilometers long with a speed of 330 kilometer per hour. It will reduce the travel time between the two neighboring countries to merely 90 minutes. The construction of the HSR is expected to make the Malaysian economy more closely integrated with the Singaporean economy. Although the transport and infrastructure industry is said to be the immediate beneficiary to this project, the tourism industry is also expected to reap benefits once the HSR service commences. Reportedly, in July 2016, Malaysia and Singapore signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), marking a significant milestone and testament of the two countries’ bilateral cooperation. This development is expected to be the game changer in the rail sector.

 

HIGH QUALITY AND SERVICES ARE THE TREND

For European companies, entering the Malaysian market can be rather challenging as competition is intensifying and pricing is affected by the competitive structure of the market. The emerging trend however is heading towards a higher focus on high quality products and services. This especially applies for niche projects that require high-tech equipment or system.  As the government is now gradually shifting the focus to high-quality and reliable technology rather than choosing the cheapest options in the market, this further gives European players a competitive advantage in the sector. European products and services are well-known for its quality, reliability and proven experience. Despite increasing competition coming from China, European players are still leading the high-end niche market here in Malaysia in the transport and infrastructure sector where no other players in the market can or are competent enough to supply such products or services.

However, it can be a challenge to penetrate this quality-sensitive sector as proven long track record of industry experience may be preferred, over other criteria.  Cooperation with local players in the sector is important to provide foreign companies with the relevant knowledge of the specificities of the market and is highly recommended. As large construction corporates in Malaysia are also becoming increasingly active in overseas markets and operations, foreign companies can expect greater opportunities for collaborations in the sector. This allows foreign companies to further capitalize on the market opportunity as well as strengthen their presence in the region. Moreover, if partnerships with these Malaysian corporates are orchestrated successfully, foreign players can expect to gain not only from the Malaysian market, but also from other ASEAN countries, Africa and the Orient.

Despite the endemic market access barriers, the Greater Kuala Lumpur and Klang Valley area is very open to international business, particularly in the areas of green and smart technology, where technology advantage and expertise is scarce. This can be regarded as both an opportunity and a challenge, as it brings a lot of competition to the table. There is likely to be a local preference for any smart solutions and technology, but both parties are needed to solve problems and use technology to deliver real world solutions and more effective city services.

 

ENCOURAGEMENT OF FOREIGN PARTICIPATION

Subsequently, foreign participation is encouraged in areas where local expertise may be scarce, such as smart solutions and energy-efficient technology, while market demand in these areas is gradually picking up. In the areas of scarce expertise, the largest private developers in the country usually prefer foreign players, as they recognize that quality contracting supersedes pricing. The current preference is still towards the more established foreign companies.

On top of that, the government has also introduced the so called “Offset Program” where selected main contractors are required to give back the same value of the contracts won, either directly or indirectly, to Malaysian companies as part of plans to build local capacity and expertise. For example, in the ongoing MRT project Offset Program, there are three main foreign companies that collaborate with MRT Corporation to provide trainings in various disciplines in rail systems and technology. These companies include Siemens, Mitsubishi and Bombardier.

In response to this government initiative, German electronics giant Siemens has helped shaped the future of the local rail industry. Thirty MRT Corp engineers were part of a structured training program with Siemens in various disciplines of rail systems and technology, for a period of 36-60 months, in Malaysia, Austria and Germany.

“Siemens has long been a reliable partner in the development of the country’s infrastructure since 1908 and we are committed to stay and grow together with Malaysia. Our investment in key sectors ensure that technological know-how is transferred to our local partners in order to encourage growth, increase the country’s competitiveness and further develop innovative, efficient and sustainable technologies,” commented Mr Prakash Chandran, President and Chief Executive Officer, Siemens Malaysia.

Foreign players are also advisable to make future plans in advance and implement an adjusted risk management as market data in Malaysia are rather difficult to interpret. It is therefore recommended for foreign companies to have the support of bilateral chambers to help with their market entry strategies.

 

FUTURE PERSPECTIVES

With a number of large rail infrastructure projects either underway or in the pipeline, it is believed that the rail sector will provide a great source of opportunities in the next few years. Furthermore, it is reported that real growth in Malaysia’s transport infrastructure sector will continue to moderate over the coming years, driven primarily by rapid development in the rail sector. By 2020, railways are expected to account for approximately 52 percent and 72 percent of total infrastructure and transport infrastructure industry value, respectively – making it the primary driver of growth in not only the transport sector but also infrastructure sector.Furthermore, railway has been forecasted to be the fastest growing transport infrastructure sub-sector in the country.

In 2016, many industry players predicted that by 2017, the rail sector will see more refurbishment projects than new projects. Malaysia is also said to will continue to enhance and upgrade its transport sector in order to serve the commuters better by developing a more integrated urban transport system in its major cities, apart from improving accessibility and convenience, not only for the regular commuters but also for people with disabilities. It is further expected that public projects are to remain the bright spot in the sector, moving overall growth. Furthermore, the National Key Economic Areas (NKEA) for Urban Public Transportation (UPT) as well as the National Land Public Transport Master Plan (NLPTMP) are viewed as crucial elements in driving the development of transport and infrastructure sector across the nation.

 

EMERGING TREND IN TRANSPORTATION BUSINESS

The accelerated rise of technology, digitization, changing mobility and new business models have further revolutionized various business sectors – and transportation business is not excluded. This has given rise to the app-based private car sharing market in Malaysia, such as Grab. Originally established in 2012 as MyTeksi in Malaysia, it has enhanced the competitiveness in the transportation business.

 “Our focus at the moment and their strategy to continue to create the best possible experience for drivers and passengers by making strategic investments in product, technology, driver recruitment, user experience and beyond as they extend their market leadership across the region,”  Sean Goh, the Acting Country Head of Grab Malaysia said during an interview with MGCC.

Goh added that the recent round of investments received now makes Grab the best capitalised technology start-up in the region, and brings their war chest in Southeast Asia to more than $1 billion. They plan to use this new capital to continue to grow their core transportation platform and drive the region forward. They are continuing their investment in stronger data science and machine learning capabilities to leverage on the data they have to enhance their services robustness of the app.

Goh believed that the way for all parties to ensure that the overall transportation needs of the people are met is through continuous consumers’ gratification and feedback as the growth and transformation of the local public transportation industry is very much driven by the market demands. In order to improve and enhance their services, they will continue to invest in talent and build strong local teams that understand the habits and preferences of their drivers and passengers.

When Grab was first introduced in the market, several parties raised various issues on ride hailing services. But after being in operation for more than three years, the Malaysian government has decided to legalize these e-hailing services in a move to liberalize the country’s transport policy.

This move is clearly in a positive direction and is also a testament of our Government’s commitment not only to support innovative solutions to address the transportation woes in Malaysia, but to also ensure that the welfare and livelihood of taxi drivers and many others who have turned to ride hailing service as a viable source of income, are seriously taken into consideration. Overall, with the many initiatives by the government, the transport and infrastructure sector is expected to continue to experience growth in the coming years.

A post-elections report by the French Trade Comission - Business France Malaysia [August 2018]

 

GENERAL OVERVIEW

The stunning outcome of the Malaysia’s 14th general election on May 2018 has given the local construction industry a heavy beating. Since Pakatan Harapan (PH) formed the federal government, several big changes have already taken place - with many more in the pipeline.

Keeping to the promises under its election manifesto, the Malaysian government quickly announced the zero-rating of the unpopular goods and services tax (GST), and then the scrapping of two mega projects – the KL-Singapore High Speed Rail and the MRT3. The cancellation of the two mega projects worth over RM100bil (€21.3bil) so far, has already sent some construction stocks tumbling to multi-year lows.

At this point, the fate of other mega projects remains unknown, facing deferment, renegotiation or outright cancellation. The East Coast Rail Link (ECRL - RM60bil / €12.8bil) is still under review, while the RM9.4bil / €2.0bil Gemas-JB double-tracking rail projects will proceed as scheduled after few months of intensive review. In fact, there is a possibility of expansion to the project scope with additional stations versus the current planned 12 stations.

In a nutshell, construction players and other companies exposed to mega infrastructure projects are now faced with a new reality. The government is aggressively looking to cut costs, with the new revised national debt at over RM1 trillion / €0.2 trillion and axing mega infrastructure projects are a sure way of saving billions of Ringgit.
 
This new unforeseen scenario means that there are unlikely to be major domestic infrastructure projects in the near term. Many construction players have been heavily reliant on domestic jobs and have never had to venture overseas due to the abundance of large infrastructure projects here.

Some of these construction companies, as well as building materials players may now have to relook their strategies, including exploring other markets to sustain their order books. While Malaysia will continue to have various infrastructure projects in the pipeline, the jobs available in the near future may not be as big as the recently-scrapped planned billion-dollar projects.

 

MARKET OPPORTUNITIES AND PROSPECTS

Although there have been major changes on the initial plans, talks by the government on possible revival of certain existing mega projects have relived some uncertainties in terms of policy direction. Malaysia has sent Tun Daim Zainuddin, chairman of the Malaysian Council of Eminent Persons last month to Beijing to pave the way for Mahathir’s trip to China planned in the coming months.
 
The trip on August was mainly efforts to renegotiate contracts entered into by the previous Barisan Nasional government with Chinese firms. The new Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir understands China’s concern on this matter and has been proactively developing Malaysia's relationship with the country.

Other than that, the Government has taken an initiative to boost the construction industry by announcing the exemption of Sales and Service Tax (SST) on building materials and construction services. Mismanagement and lopsided contracts are also fall under the priority of the new government, in order to improve transparency and confidence among the investors, developers and the publics.

 

PROJECT UPDATE

The priority is the Tun Razak Exchange (TRX) as the development is almost completed. Once the new government has sorted out the issues with TRX, its focus will directly go to Bandar Malaysia. It is said the government would then have to redraft and revise Bandar Malaysia’s master plan and objectives — whether to build a concrete commercial jungle or cater to the need of the people, as the 197ha Bandar Malaysia mega project is located on one of the country’s most prime land.

Few other big projects such as (as listed below) are still on-going, with minimal or total assessment by the Government:

  • PNB 118, the 118-storey office building launched by former prime minister Najib Razak in 2016;
  • Pan-Borneo, 2,325km Pan Borneo Highway, connecting the state of Sarawak and Sabah;
  • Gemas-Johor Bharu double-tracking rail projects;
  • River of Life project in Kuala Lumpur, a mega cleanup river project with surrounding infrastructures, including several wastewater treatment plants;
  • Development of three ports in Melaka: Port of Malacca Gateway, Port of Tanjung Bruas and Port of Kuala Linggi;
  • Forest City, a $100 billion metropolis project, with a projected population of 700,000 by 2040; and many more.

To add, the Malaysian government aims to reduce greenhouse gas emission by 40% by 2020. Consequently, it plans to increase the share of renewable energy in the country's total energy mix from 2% in 2015 to 11% by 2020. For this, the government plans to build a 1,250MW solar power plant and a 1,250MW biomass plant by 2020 under the PPP model.

 

CONCLUSION

For Malaysia, the construction industry is crucial to its economy and its growth. The construction industry currently contributes 4% to the Malaysian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and is expected to contribute 5.5% to the Malaysian GDP up to 2020. 

The significance of the industry will continue to evolve, and it will become increasingly critical as Malaysia becomes a developed nation. Malaysians will require more energy-efficient and higher quality buildings, infrastructure and cities, while trying to maintain its debt-GDP ratio at a healthy rate.

A special report by the French Trade Commission - Business FRANCE Malaysia (November 2018)

GENERAL OVERVIEW

The aerospace industry in Malaysia has experienced unprecedented development since the early 2000s, in the context of a state-sponsored support plan (Blueprint 1997) and the dynamism of new low-cost Malaysian airlines, especially Air Asia, which has founded its prosperity (50 million passengers transported in 2017) on a fleet of more than 200 aircraft exclusively supplied by Airbus (475 units on order until 2028). This dynamic is bound to last and Malaysia to become a major country in the region.

 

A GROWING AND STRATEGIC MARKET

The growth of the fleet operated from Malaysia with the withdrawal of infrastructure and associated services. Malaysia has 5 international airports (Kuala Lumpur International 1 & 2, Penang, Langkawi, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu), 16 domestic airports and 18 STOL ports (short take-off and landing ports), operated by Malaysia Airports (60% owned by the State), for a total traffic of 95 M passengers in 2017. MMC Gamuda operates the international airport of Senai in Johor Bahru (border with Singapore).

 
Source : centreforaviation.com

The aeronautical equipment and services sector is organized into four clusters:

  • aeronautical manufacturing;
  • technical design;
  • maintenance, repairs and overhaul (MRO);
  • integration systems.

It includes foreign companies Airbus, Spirit Aerosystems, GE, Safran, Honeywell, RUAG, Celestica, Agusta Westland, Hamilton Sundstrand, SR Technics) and local (CTRM Aero Composites, UMW, Contraves, Airod, Global Turbine, Mycopter Aviation Services, BHIC Aeroservices, Sapura Aero). In 2017, this sector had an estimated turnover of USD 3 billion and 20,000 jobs, including 6,500 in high-tech fields.

Public authorities support the development of the industry and were adopted in March 2015 a new roadmap (Aerospace Master Plan of Malaysia - 2030), with Malaysia's top ASEAN target, for a $ 12 million environmental activity creating 32,000 high-value jobs by that time. A new international business office is created: NAICO, National Office for the Coordination of the Aerospace Industry (NAICO).
In this context, Airbus is in Malaysia and directly or indirectly uses more than 4,000 people. The investment focused on the creation of two regional MRO centers, respectively for civil aircraft in Sepang (near Kuala Lumpur International Airport) and for helicopters in Subang (with single flight simulator).

 

CONCLUSION / OPPORTUNITIES

Business opportunities for European companies are wide and some international companies and European SME are already present in Malaysia. The key of success are:

  • the search for foreign expertise;
  • the government's desire to position the country as an MRO hub while developing local engineering and production;
  • government aid or rebates (tax exemption, subsidies, etc.);
  • the needs for technical and vocational training.

This article was first published in MGCC Perspectives, the magazine of the Malaysian-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry

OPINION. Since its inception, observers have been trying to understand the goals and implications of this new initiative, as well as its funding model. Alexander Woo highlights that for Malaysia, no matter how big or small, a win is a win.

 

Without dwelling into too much details of the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), a simple way to understand it would be the efforts by China to enhance trade routes in both land (the Silk Road Economic Belt) and sea (the Maritime Silk Road). The focused regions include mainly Asia and Europe. And to accomplish this, China has allocated huge sums of financing for infrastructure projects including ports, roads, railways, bridges, pipelines, among others, across these regions to improve connectivity and to enable more efficient trade.

 

BELT & ROAD IN TRADING

To explain the fundamentals of the existence trading, certain countries have advantages over others in producing certain products. It could be due to their natural resources, skills and efficiency, cost of production and so on. Instead of trying to do everything ourselves, it makes sense to focus on what we are efficient at and to allow others to do the same. This way, everybody is more productive and there are more resources to go around. One other factor to consider is the cost of transportation in mobilising these products for trade purposes.

Cost efficiency and speed of delivery are both important. Finding the right balance can be a challenge. If we fly the products in it may be costly; and if we ship them in it may take too long. Thus the viability of trading between countries with farther distances apart may be compromised. This is where China’s President Xi Jinping proposes the BRI as a solution to shorten transportation time while keeping costs reasonable.

 

WHO BENEFITS?

For all the countries involved, the competitive advantage would be enhanced by tapping onto the BRI to conduct trading activities. But this comes at a cost because infrastructure is key in the success of this initiative and not everyone can afford to upgrade their infrastructure to the necessary standards. This is where China generously offers favourable terms to come in and finance the cost of constructing these infrastructures. Is it too good to be true? It may appear that way and thus it seems there is a lot to gain by taking the offer from China. Of course there are some terms that come in a package. Although there may be variations in arrangements, and Chinese firms are generally playing huge roles in the construction of these infrastructure projects.

While countries participating in the BRI get to enhance their infrastructure, Chinese firms are using this as a stepping stone to set foot into these countries and to generate productivity for these firms and those who are supplying resources for the works.

 

CHINA'S AGENDA

China had moved from a manufacturing based economy to a consumption based economy and while there is strong spending power from within, it never harms to generate more economic activity from sources abroad. Helping to build infrastructure is just the beginning; it is likely that these firms would want to take on more projects in their industry in the coming years.

On top of that, not only do participating countries benefit from trade, so does China. The motivations to spearhead such an enormous project goes beyond nobility of uplifting neighbouring countries. China has much to gain from trading too as they have established much production capacity in the past and could capitalise on the BRI to efficiently bring in resources and to easily export production. This is one way for the country to stay competitive amongst the emerging markets that are turning into major players in the manufacturing sector.

And of course China could use this opportunity to foster stronger political ties with participating countries who willingly accepted their kind gesture of financing the BRI within the host countries with friendly terms. There would be some obligation to give concessions to China, having taken large sums of financing from them.

 

MALAYSIA'S OPPORTUNITY

Malaysia is among the countries who have accepted the offer to participate in the BRI. This comes as no surprise given the political relations of both nations. While some feel that awarding major projects to foreign firms may deprive local firms the opportunity to get involved in a more desirable extent, it must be remembered that such projects would not have existed if it were not for China and the BRI. So in fact, more economic activity and job opportunities have been created due to the BRI.

The Chinese government alone is unable to finance everything and Chinese firms play a part too. With their involvement, Chinese firms bring forth not only their finances but also other resources including their expertise and technology. There is much to learn from them and it is indeed an opportunity to have them come here and help Malaysia enhance infrastructure while indirectly sharing their knowledge with us. Ideally, local firms can play a role alongside the Chinese to gain hands on experience in their best practices; or at least, we are able to observe and learn from projects in our own backyards.

 And meanwhile, with strong bilateral ties, Malaysia has also been able to get concessions from China in increasing their imports of Malaysian agricultural produce such as pineapples and palm oil. And efforts are on the way to increase the export of durian products from Malaysia to China, especially fresh durian. With upcoming BRI infrastructure, this would be and even more doable and viable.

With China’s vision to expand influence through BRI, it would not be surprising to see more Chinese firms expanding overseas too. One of the opportunities that Malaysia could benefit from is having more Chinese MNCs use Malaysia as a hub for their international expansion. Given the substantial population here who master both Chinese and English languages, Malaysia would be among the top contenders to serve this purpose. This would mean even more economic activity, demand for real estate use, and job opportunities. While Singapore has a good command of both languages too, Malaysia has the upper hand due to bilateral ties and comparative advantage in costs.

So while some are concerned of China’s agenda and other implications, it looks like Malaysia has a lot to gain. It does not matter who wins more as long as it is a substantial win for Malaysia.

 

About the author: Alexander Woo is the director of Absocap Holdings Sdn Bhd.

The shipbuilding market is a strategic sector and one of the growth driver for the Malaysian economy. This growth factor is capable of generating significant revenues and activities with high added value.

Started in 1912 with the establishment of Brooke Dockyard in Sarawak (Borneo Island), the transport of goods by ship now accounts for about 95% of import and export traffic in Malaysia.

 

KEY FIGURES:

In the construction and naval maintenance sectors, Malaysia is :

  • 6th world country in terms of container traffic
  • 100 shipyards (61 on Borneo and 39 on the Malaysian peninsula)
  • 608 ships, total capacity of 16.13 billion DWT (Deadweight tonnage)

 

Of the 100 shipyards, only 6 cover most of the shipbuilding, maintenance and repair (Boustead Naval Shipyard, Muhibbah Marine Engineering, Malaysia Marine & Heavy Engineering, Shin Yang Shipyard, Labuan Shipyard & Engineering, and Selat Melaka Shipbuilding Corp)

 

CHARACTERISTICS AND EVOLUTION OF THE SECTOR

2020 Horizon Development Strategy

The Malaysian Shipbuilding / Ship Repair Industry Strategic Plan 2020 (SBSR 2020), launched in 2011, is the first action plan of the Malaysian government to guide the development of this sector.

The 2020 SBSR aims to achieve:

  • 80% of the new boat construction market in Malaysia (50% in 2013);
  • 2% of the global market for the construction of new boats (1% in 2017);
  • 3% of the repair market for boats sailing on the Strait of Malacca;
  • 80% of the repair market for boats sailing in the South China Sea.

 

It defines 7 key strategies:

  • The establishment of pro-business policies that support the growth of the shipbuilding industry;
  • Strengthening the institutional framework;
  • Strengthening the regulatory framework to ensure the integrity of companies and the quality of their products;
  • The employment of a qualified workforce and the development of the training of this sector;
  • Application of local design and adoption of new construction and repair technologies;
  • Improving financial programs to promote investment;
  • Improving the skill level of this industry.

 

The goal is to achieve a national income growth of 6.35 billion ringgit (1.4 billion euro) by 2020 and a total of 55,500 employees in this industry (35,000 in 2015).

57% of the revenues generated by the shipbuilding industry in Malaysia come from shipbuilding activities, 18% from repair activities, 17% from parts manufacturing and the rest from marginal activities.

 

INSTITUTIONAL ACTORS

Government agencies: Malaysian Industry Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT), Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA), Ministry of Transportation (MOT)

Public Maritime Safety Agencies: Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), Marine Department Malaysia, Maritime Institute of Malaysia (MIMA), Energy Supply and Services Company (ESSCO)

Industry associations: Association of Marine Industry of Malaysia (AMIM), Offshore Support Vessels Malaysia (OSV), Malaysian Shipowners’ Association (MASA), Miri Shipyard Association, Sarawak and Sabah Shipowners Association (SSSA), Federation of Malaysian Freight Forwarders (FMFF)

Shipowners: Icon Offshore, Alam Maritime Resources Berhad (AMRB), Jasa Merin.

 

ACCESS TO THE MARKET

What You Need To Know Before Exporting

In general, we observe a good positioning of the French offer on the Malaysian market compared to the competition. Malaysia's Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) introduced a tax incentive in 2011 to encourage national shipbuilding and the ship repair industry. MITI has recently issued an official statement that new businesses will be granted pioneering status with a 70% exemption from their statutory income for a five-year period or an investment tax deduction. 60% on capital expenditures for five years from the date of commitment of the first eligible investments.

Market outlook: SWOT analysis table

Benefits Constraints
  • Workforce: Available, English speaking
  • Location: Geographical advantages related to Malaysia's central place in ASEAN
  • Tax and non-tax incentives for capital investments and investment tax deductions
  • Few globally recognised names in the Malaysian maritime industry
  • Lack of computer and technological knowledge
  • Lack of brand image: Malaysia is not recognised as a maritime hub
  • Most shipyards specialises in the construction of small and medium size vessels
Opportunities Threats
  • Potential for the development of opportunities related to other "heavy industries" in the country
  • Research of local actors of strategic partnerships
  • Loss of engineering and welding skills to other countries (Brain Drain) but also to other Malaysian industries
  • Consolidation and overcapacity of the global chain industry
  • Competition from neighbouring countries

 

Penang is the third or even the second largest airport in Malaysia in terms of number of passengers after Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu. With a capacity of 6.5 million passengers, the airport has welcomed more than 6.7 million passengers in 2016. Clarifications on the nature and scope of its extensions have not yet been released. Although a capacity of 9 million passengers has been included in the initial project, the airport authorities in Penang would eventually extend the airport to accommodate 12 million potential passengers.

Following numerous requests from the state of Penang, the federal government in Putrajaya decided to prioritize this project in 2018. According to the Penang Chinese Chamber of Commerce (PCCC), one of Penang's major institutions, given the urgency of the situation, the airport should plan to double its existing capacity by adding two airstrips. The announcement of this expansion was coupled with the decision of Qatar Airways to provide for the opening of a direct line Doha - Penang in February 2018, which would increase tourism on this island by avoiding going through Kuala Lumpur.

 

Decision-making entities: MAHB (Malaysia Airports Holding Berhad), Ministry of Transport, DCA (Department of Civil Aviation).

Type of project: Extension of the airport and addition of airstrips (to be confirmed) knowing that the terrain is available.

Type of service to be provided: Consulting, design, goods & supplies (equipment, materials, etc.), work supervision services.

Amount of investment: Not yet unveiled by the government.

Funding: Federal Government, State Government, EPF (Employees Provident Fund) etc.

Organisation in charge of publishing the invitations to tender: The Ministry of Transport, DCA (Department of Civil Aviation).

Project status: No advance date or provisional timetable.

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