Short Position - mixed signals

  • Corporate News
  • Saturday, 02 May 2020

Mixed signals

HLT Global Bhd, a company whose mainstay is to provide support services to the glove manufacturers, made two important announcements over the past three months.

In February, it announced the securing of a technology that would further improve the productivity of rubber glove manufacturing plants.

HLT’s share price hardly moved, which was a surprise considering that the technology would improve productivity of the glove manufacturers and reduce cost.

On April 21, the company announced a partnership with a local biotech company for the distribution of Covid-19 rapid test kit.

HLT Global principal business is to design, install and commission glove-dipping lines. It also is in the business of manufacturing rubber gloves. However, the company felt that it could use its distribution network to cross sell the rapid test kits.

Riding on the wave of positive sentiments attached to any company that is dealing with products related to the Covid-19 pandemic, HLT Global’s share price saw more activity than normal.

However, what happened in the days after the announcement would have left speculators puzzled. The reason is the key office bearers of the company disposed of their shares.

Among them were the founders of the company – Wong Kok Wah and Chan Yoke Chun. They hold 27% of the shares and 35% of HLT warrants. The duo together sold more than 28 million warrants via off market transactions. The warrants expire in 2022 and comes with a conversion of 20 sen each.

Considering their sizeable stake in the company, the disposal comes as no surprise as they still hold a sizeable amount in HLT Global.

Moreover, it adds to the liquidity of the company.

However, it does not exude confidence on the company’s foray into the Covid-19 rapid test kit business.

The common question raised would be why are the principal directors trimming the stake if the venture was so good?

Contact tracing

CONTRACT tracing apps are meant to help countries embark on opening up their economies while minimising the risk of spreading Covid-19.

Globally, numerous tech firms are hurriedly working to use the ubiquitous handsets most humans carry today to develop a system for tracking and halting the spread of coronavirus.

There is a catch. Personal data, such as one’s movements and body temperatures will have to be constantly provided into this big data pool and this is where the whole debate about privacy comes in.

But first, is the question of why would joe public even bother to download such an app and get it activated.

The answer is simple: without having this app activated on your personal device, you will not be able to get access into many places, not only public amenities but also your own workplace, post MCO. Yes, the government can insist that corporations implement the same contract tracing tools into their own office entry points.

So from going to your grocery store right up to you workplace will only be possible if you have this system installed and activated.

So how then can the public be ensured that their privacy data will not be compromised? In developing the apps, the government ought to ensure that security and privacy will be prioritised in all stages of the app’s production, from initial design to user testing. Meanwhile, another challenge in Malaysia is that there seems to be a number of similar projects being embarked.

Instead, there should just be one single master app with a very good user interface and experience that meets all users’ needs whether you are at home, the office, school, at the park or in your car, or on a train and even taking a flight.

Guarding our generosity

ONE of the pillars of the government fiscal package to save the economy has been the money being doled out by the Social Security Organisation (Socso).

The fund that watches over workers’ safety is central to the Employee Retention Programme (ERP) and the Wage Subsidy Programme under the various economic stimulus packages by the government.

It has been so sought after that it was reported that the allocation under the ERP is exhausted and that the WRP has received 248,216 applications from employers involving 1.98 million workers. Socso later clarified that the ERP is still in operation.

The application for WRP was just for the month of April and most of the applications came from employers of the micro and small businesses.

It said that for companies with fewer than 75 employees, there were 238,482 applications involving 1.46 million employees.

That group forms the bulk of the 248,000 applications involving 1.98 million employees for the entire scheme.

The amount of money under both those schemes will run into the billions of ringgit and it is imperative that whatever money that workers have contributed to the fund has to go towards helping the needy.

When it comes to determining the needy, maybe some time has been spent on vetting through the list of companies applying for the aid for their workers.

It’s because in the US, there have been subsidiaries of large listed companies that applied for aid and received that money, only to return it after public furore.

Listed companies have the ability to raise funds that most SMEs cannot. They are large and have the ability of issuing shares tro raise cash.

Their avenues to tap the capital markets are longer than small companies that do not have the protective umbrella of a large parent.It will be a waste of resources if subsidiary companies of listed companies, especially GLCs, that have tapped those monies. It would be a truly inefficient allocation of valuable resources in time of great need.

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