More Mid-East investments


STORIES BY YAP LENG KUEN, K.P. LEE, JAGDEV SINGH SIDHU, HANIM ADNAN, LEE KAR YEAN, PAULINE S.C. NG, HONG BOON HOW, KATHY FONG, DALJIT DHESI, P.W. THONG, YVONNE CHONG, DAVID TAN, DANNY YAP, ELAINE ANG AND YAP LIH HUEY 

WITH the start of the Iraqi conflict, the point has been raised in some business circles whether this would lead eventually to a diversion of Middle East investments to this country, since Malaysia is deemed to have many advantages and seen as a friendly Islamic nation. 

Earlier, Second Finance Minister Datuk Dr Jamaludin Jarjis was slated to visit a number of countries in the Middle East, such as Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, to look for new markets for Malaysian products, including new Gulf investments for the local capital market. The Iraqi war has now put this mission on hold, although significant interest has been indicated by some Gulf states towards investing in Malaysia. 

“A lot of Gulf investors have taken their money out of American and European markets and they will have to look at other places to invest. Malaysia is as good as any,'' said Amin Rafie Othman, CEO of Mayban Investment Management Sdn Bhd. 

“It is a question of identifying the right opportunities for them. The Gulf investors are very specific in their needs and objectives and if we can meet these objectives, why not, especially in the area of project investment.'' 

“We have a number of advantages – a strong economy and political stability, plus the fact that they now know us better, having come to Malaysia for their holidays. So we have a good relationship with them. But one cannot just take a product off the shelf and offer it. You have to know their risk profile, the returns they require and so on. The key is to give them added value,'' Amin stressed. 

Another director said that there has been a willingness by Gulf investors to listen to Malaysia. “It remains to be seen whether this interest will be translated into firm decisions.'' 

“A lot of promotional and educational work has to be done,'' the head of equities at a merchant bank said. “Although they may know us a little more, they are still are not familiar with the region. So far, they have invested only a tiny portion of their money in some of our Islamic funds. We need to have more frequent top level delegations going to these countries to promote Malaysia.'' 

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