M’sians most indebted in Asia
A recent survey by Manulife showed 68% of Malaysians to be currently in debt, the highest proportion of the eight markets surveyed in Asia, and more than double the regional average of 33%.
The survey, the Manulife Investor Sentiment Index, was based on 500 interviews in Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia.
Manulife said the average debt for Malaysians was RM56,000, which is nearly 10 times the average monthly personal income, mostly due to daily living expenses (60%), with rental payments (44%) and children’s education (37%).
“Worryingly, much of the debt is long-term, with a quarter of those in debt not expecting to be able to pay it off for three years or more.
“The high debt levels reflect poor financial management, with investors failing to effectively manage their cash flow,” it said.
While 89% of Malaysian respondents track their expenses regularly, 44% of investors spend 70% or more of their monthly income every month, suggesting they are not acting on their tracking by curbing expenses.
Manulife Holdings Bhd group CEO Mark O’ Dell said investors needed to better manage their finances and track expenses to avoid incurring too much debt.
“Without effective debt management, Malaysians are less likely to achieve their long-term savings goals, which could jeopardise their future financial security,” he added.
M’sians spend above RM700mil on holidays
Malaysians spent more than RM700mil on holidays in 2015, an increase of more than 9% in 2014, based on recent data released by United Overseas Bank Bhd (UOB Malaysia).
The bank said the data, mined from the spending patterns of all UOB Malaysia personal credit card members, revealed that the travel segment recorded one of the highest percentage increases across all spend categories which include insurance premiums, retail, petrol and groceries.
UOB Malaysia’s head of personal financial services Ronnie Lim said Malaysia’s growing affluence and better connectivity across South-East Asia was driving the penchant for travel among Malaysians.
“The growing affluence among the Malaysian middle class and increased connectivity through the rise in the number of regional low-cost airlines in the past few years have made travel popular among Malaysians,” he said.
Singapore topped the list of travel destinations followed by the US, UK, Australia and Thailand.
Retail industry to rebound by 10%
The retail industry is set to rebound with a 10% growth in 2016 as consumers have factored in the impact of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), Malaysia Retail Chain Association (MRCA) predicted.
Its President Datuk Liaw Choon Liang said in 2015, the sector was dampened by plunging oil prices coupled with the introduction of the GST that weighed on sentiments as a whole.
“Besides consumers getting familiar with the GST, increased awareness about e-commerce is also expected to help spur the country’s retail sector further this year,” he said.
At the same time, he urged retailers to be more innovative in their marketing and embark on aggressive promotions as consumers were more cautious now.
“We believe there are still plenty of opportunities. E-commerce is the future. We encourage retailers to look seriously into this segment,” he added.
Carsome raises US$2mil in funding
South-East Asia’s first online automotive portal, Carsome, has closed its series A funding round, raising US$2mil (RM8.42mil), a major portion of which will be used to explore markets in Indonesia and Thailand.
The remainder will be utilised for marketing, strengthening brand presence and talent acquisition.
“Malaysian investor IdeaRiverRun is leading the funding for this round with the participation of Japan’s IMJ Investment Partners and US Silicon Valley-based 500startups,” the company said.
Currently, Carsome’s gross merchandise value exceeds US$5mil, and expected to grow ten-fold and reach profitability by year-end.
“South-East Asia is a key market for us and we are committed to growing Carsome’s presence within the region,” said CEO and co-founder Eric Cheng.
Established in February last year, the online automotive portal now has 500 active dealers across Malaysia, Australia and Singapore and aims to double the numbers across all markets by year-end.