World Bank to Lend US$100M For Y2K Remedy

Malaysia is seeking World Bank funding to remedy its year 2000 (Y2K) problem, but experts fear it may already be too late.

World Bank spokesman Graham Barrett confirmed the government was now applying for a loan specifically to address the Y2K problem which will only likely be approved in early 1999.

The allocation is believed to be in excess of US$100 million.

The application followed the government’s admission recently that it may have underestimated the complexity of the date rollover problem.
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Engineers Still in Demand, But Take Pay Cuts

Engineers are still in demand in Malaysia, but their incomes may have shrunk as result of the economic crisis and slump in the electronics industry in the last year and half.

A recent survey by the Institution of Engineers Malaysia indicated that average salaries dipped by between 6 and 20% since the crisis began.

About half of the 1,250 survey respondents said they were affected through cuts in salaries, bonuses, increments and benefits, while 3% said they were unemployed as a result of the crisis.

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Sony Strengthens Local DVD Production

By Julian Matthews

Sony Corp of Japan plans to make Malaysia a major global manufacturing facility for digital video disk (DVD) players outside Japan.

Sony (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd managing director Hideo Kojima said the decision was made based on the availability of high technology skills and similar technical processes already in place in the manufacture of CD-ROM drives in the country.

The company has been assembling DVD players since October with imported parts from Japan at the factory located in Bangi, Selangor. The initial production is for the domestic market.

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Banks to Launch E-purse Pilot

By Julian Matthews

Six local banks will launch a commercial pilot for an electronic purse system in January, the first of its kind in the country.

The system uses reloadable chip-based cards which are the forerunners to the national multipurpose card the government plans to rollout as part of its Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) project.

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Penang Mooted as Removable Disk Drive Center

by Julian Matthews

A disk drive industry pioneer has predicted that Penang will become the removable disk drive capital of the world by the year 2000.

Castlewood Systems Inc president and CEO Syed Iftikar said this at the launch of the first Malaysian-owned plant to build 2.16-Gbyte magneto-resistive (MR) removable drives in August.

“If Singapore is the hard disk drive capital of the world, then I look forward to making Penang the leading manufacturer of removable drives in the world by the next millennium,” said Syed, who was the founder of SyQuest Technology Inc, and a co-founder of Seagate Technology Inc, where he invented the first 5.25-inch hard drive.

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IDT Banks on Winchip to Drive Growth

By Julian Matthews

Integrated Device Technology (IDT), Inc of the US expects to expand chip sales in Asia in the next two years despite market softness and the prolonged economic crisis in the region.

Integrated Device Technology (M) Sdn Bhd managing director B T Tan said the high inventory causing the current industry-wide weakness will be over in six to nine months.

“Although we see an impact in demand, I believe the semiconductor industry still has a bright future in this region, and will bounce back by next year,” he said.

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Kulim Park Pioneers Gigabit Ethernet

By Julian Matthews

Kulim Hi-Tech Park is setting up a Gigabit Ethernet network believed to be the first of its kind in the country for the delivery of a variety of electronic community services for the park’s tenants.

The network is being set up by networking company 3Com Asia Ltd and systems integrator Stacks Technology Sdn Bhd in a joint project with Kulim Technology Management Sdn Bhd under an agreement signed recently.

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Foreign Equity Cap For Telcos Raised to 61%

By Julian Matthews

The government is allowing foreign companies to buy majority stakes in local telecommunication service companies in a move to prop up their troubled ventures.

Energy, Telecommunications and Posts Minister Leo Moggie said the government has raised the foreign equity cap of local telcos to 61%.

This is the second hike in three months, indicating the dire straits local telcos are in from the protracted regional financial crisis.

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Taiwan Investors to Profit on Ringgit’s Fall

By Julian Matthews

Taiwanese investors are keen on pumping in new investments into Malaysia despite the regional financial climate.

Taipei Economic and Cultural Office representative to Malaysia, Paul Tso, said the country is seen as a choice destination for investment.

Taiwanese investors are expected to capitalize on the devaluation of the ringgit, depressed stock market, fall in property prices and lower labor costs.

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Subcontractors Bank On Telecom, Networking Orders

By Julian Matthews

Local subcontractor manufacturers are expecting between 25% and 30% growth this year despite the Asian financial crisis.

Growth is spurred by increased demand for a variety of linear and mixed-signal electronic components particularly for the telecommunication and networking industries.

Carsem (M) Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Malaysian Pacific Industries Bhd, is investing about US$90 million for equipment and expansion for this fiscal year.

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