Thursday, April 29, 2010

HP to buy struggling smartphone maker Palm Inc.

HP announced that it is acquiring Palm Inc, once a leading smartphone maker with aims to resuscitate the company and compete with Apple's iPhone and RIM's BlackBerry. The deal was reported to amount US$1.2 billion (RM3.84 billion)

Source and credits: Reuters via Malaysian Insider


HP to buy Palm in bet on smartphone arena

Hewlett-Packard Co announced a deal to buy Palm Inc. - Reuters pic

SAN FRANCISCO, April 29 — Hewlett-Packard Co announced a US$1.2 billion (RM3.84 billion) deal to buy Palm Inc, betting it can resuscitate the struggling smartphone maker to compete with the likes of Apple Inc and RIM.

Analysts say 2010’s third-largest US tech acquisition grants Palm’s devices global production and distribution reach while launching the world’s top PC maker into a tech arena experiencing blistering growth.

The news yesterday surprised many on Wall Street, since much of the long-running takeover speculation surrounding Palm had shifted in recent weeks to focus on potential Asian bidders, such as China’s Lenovo.

An early pioneer in handheld devices, Palm once dominated the market but has since been surpassed by Apple’s iPhone and Research in Motion’s BlackBerry. Palm put out a new mobile operating system, the well-reviewed webOS, last year but even that has been overshadowed by Google Inc’s Android software.

In a sign of Palm’s struggles, the money-losing company headed by Jon Rubinstein — an ex-Apple executive famous for developing the iPod — slashed revenue expectations for the current quarter. It said slow product sales have led to low order volumes from carriers.

“If you saw the guidance Palm just put out, it was clear they had to sell,” said Phil Cusick, analyst at Macquarie Research. “Given how quickly Palm’s business was falling off and how fast their cash was going out the door, they’re lucky to get what they got.”

Shares of Palm, 30 per cent owned by Elevation Partners, jumped 27 per cent to US$5.88, above HP’s US$5.70 cash offer. Some investors could be betting on a higher bid, while others could be covering short positions on the heavily shorted stock, analysts said.

HP said the deal for Palm, which both boards have approved, valued the company at US$1.2 billion including debt. Based on Palm’s latest filing, the deal values Palm’s 167.892 million shares outstanding at US$957 million.

Analysts said HP has deep pockets to invest in Palm, can expand its carrier relationships and negotiate better component pricing from existing suppliers.

“PC companies don’t need cellphone-type margins to make the model work; they can be much more price-aggressive in capturing share and will certainly drive margins down for everyone else,” said Avi Cohen at Avian Securities.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch advised HP, while Goldman Sachs advised Palm.

HP’s foray into the fiercely contested smartphone arena, while it may not immediately threaten Apple, and Research in Motion’s BlackBerry, may increase pressure on Nokia, Motorola and other device manufacturers now battling to expand their market share.

“Nokia will be one of the most affected players,” said IDC analyst Francisco Jeronimo. Because of a “wrong portfolio and lack of carrier support, Nokia never moved from its eighth the smartphone segment. This deal puts also pressure on Motorola and HTC.”

Others, however, were more skeptical about HP’s ability to turn around Palm, whose Pre and Pixi phones have withered in the face of fierce competition.

“If HP wants to have a global role in the mobile space, spending US$1.2 billion in Palm is not the way. Palm has no brand outside the US, and it has no distribution outside the US” said John Strand, chief executive of Strand Consult.

“To pay US$1.2 billion for a US-centric mobile player that’s not successful is a first-class way to destroy shareholder value. Palm has tried to move from the PDA world into the mobile world for eight years without success,” Strand said.

According to Gartner, Palm held 1.2 per cent of the global smartphone market in 2009, compared with Nokia’s 41.1 per cent, RIM’s 19.9 per cent and Apple’s 14.4 per cent.

Despite Palm’s shortcomings, persistent takeover rumors have attracted many investors to the heavily shorted stock. For example, Philip Falcone’s hedge fund Harbinger Capital Partners LLC bought Palm shares on April 12, when they were trading between US$5.43 and US$6.29, and had a 9.48 per cent stake.

The deal may mark the culmination of a long-running effort by private equity firm Elevation Partners, the private equity firm that boasts U2 frontman Bono among its partners.

Elevation — which bought a quarter of Palm for US$325 million in 2007 — had brought in numerous ex-Apple executives over the years in hopes of turning the company around, including Rubinstein.

It was unclear how much Elevation, which has invested about US$460 million in Palm, made or lost.

Some investment banking sources had thought that Lenovo was the leading candidate to buy Palm after the US company was rebuffed by other potential Asian buyers including HTC Corp and Huawei.

Palm now expects fiscal fourth quarter revenue in the range of US$90 million to US$100 million, compared with its mid-March forecast that revenue would be less than US$150 million.

Todd Bradley, executive vice president of HP’s computer division, said the company plans to “invest heavily” in Palm, increasing spending on sales and marketing and research and development in the hope of spurring the developer community into writing more applications for the platform.

Palm’s app universe now has more than 2,000 applications, dwarfed by Apple’s App store with closer to 200,000 apps.

Bradley also said Palm’s platform is attractive for an entire ecosystem of mobile devices, from smartphones to slate devices to netbooks.

HP Executives expected a few cents” dilution for from the deal in the second half of fiscal 2010 and “mild” impact in 2011 — for a company that in the fiscal first quarter reported non-GAAP earnings of US$1.07 per share.

“Coupled with our scale, global reach and investments in the ecosystem, we expect we will see solid growth,” he said.

HP already has a smartphone, the iPaq, which runs on Microsoft’s Windows mobile platform. But the device has gained little traction in a crowded market.

Rubinstein is expected to remain with the company, HP said in a statement, adding that the acquisition would likely close during its third fiscal quarter ending July 31.

Shares of HP fell 1 percent to US$52.75 in extended trading from their New York Stock Exchange close of US$53.28.

HP “would be one of the few companies that I think could successfully turn Palm around. The company has great brand, great international distribution,” said C.L. King Associates’ analyst Lawrence Harris. “That will open a lot of doors.” — Reuters


Source and credits: Reuters via Malaysian Insider

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Malaysia scorpene deal probe underway

Legal team from France represented by Joseph Breham is due to arrive in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia today to seek further information about the alleged scandal involving the purchase of Scorpene submarines by Royal Malaysian Navy in 2002.

The first of the two submarines arrived in Malaysia in January this year and quickly become the subject of embarrassment to Royal Malaysian Navy when it is reported to be having technical problem and unable to dive. A submarine that could not dive! What a shame.

Source and credits: Malaysiakini and Asia Sentinel


French legal team in KL to probe Scorpene deal
John Berthelsen
Apr 28, 10

Joseph Breham, a member of a French legal team that filed complaints in a Paris court in connection with a potentially explosive scandal over the billion-dollar purchase of French submarines by Malaysia is due to land in Kuala Lumpur today, to seek further information on the case and to speak with their clients, human rights organisation Suaram.

The deal was engineered by then-defense minister Najib Razak, now prime minister, in 2002 and resulted in a massive RM3.7 billion commission for one of Najib's closest associates, Abdul Razak Baginda.

NONEThe purchase price included two Scorpene-class diesel submarines built by Armaris, a subsidiary of the French defense giant DCN (formerly Direction des Constructions Navales) and the lease of a third retired submarine manufactured by a joint venture between DCN and Spanish company Agosta.

Breham, one of the three lawyers who filed the case with Parisian prosecutors on behalf of Suaram, told Asia Sentinel the French court has opened a preliminary investigation into the matter and that he would be advising his clients on the next steps.

Breham, Renaud Semerdjian and William Bourdon, the lead lawyer, filed the request to investigate bribery and kickback allegations against DCN first in December and filed additional documents in February.

abdul razak baginda najib altantuya murder 201108The case has been making headlines in Malaysia since the gruesome October 2006 murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu, a Mongolian translator and spurned lover of Razak Baginda who had accompanied him to France on some of the transactions over the submarines.

Altantuya was shot in the head and her body was blown up with military explosives in a patch of jungle outside of Kuala Lumpur. Two of Najib's bodyguards, who were directed to intercede with her by Musa Safri, Najib's chief of staff, have been convicted of the killing. Neither Najib nor Musa has ever been questioned by law enforcement officials about the case.

Although records showed Najib was in France at the same time as Altantuya and Razak Baginda, he has repeatedly sworn to Allah that he had never known Mongolian. One report filed by a private detective hired by Razak Baginda said she had been Najib's lover first. After she was killed, authorities discovered a letter she had written saying she was blackmailing Razak Altantuya for US$500,000, although she did not say why.

In addition to the cost of the submarines and the whopping "commission" fee, it has now emerged that under the terms of the original contract, the vessels were basically bare of armaments and detection devices. The Malaysian military must pay an additional €130 million (RM550 million) to equip them.

"You mean we bought bare metal?" wrote one incredulous and anonymous military official in an email to Asia Sentinel.

Other countries investigated

The charges go well beyond the Malaysian purchase. Judges in the Paris Prosecution Office have been probing a wide range of corruption charges involving similar submarine sales and the possibility of bribery and kickbacks to top officials in France, Pakistan and other countries. The Malaysian piece of the puzzle was added in two filings, on Dec. 4, 2009 and Feb 23 this year.

French politicians seem to have a knack for backhanders. On Oct 26, in a trial that centered on illegal arms sales to Angola, Jean-Christophe Mitterrand, the son of the late president Francois Mitterand, was given a two-year suspended sentence and ordered to pay a €375,000 (RM1.6 million) fine for receiving embezzled funds.

The court ruled that he had accepted millions of euros in "consultant fees" on the arms deals between 1993 and 1998. In the dock with him were 42 people accused of selling weapons to Angola in defiance of a UN arms embargo, or of taking payments from the arms dealers and using their influence to facilitate the sales.

The trial, it was said, shined a light into a murky world of secret payments made in cash and discreet deals linking Parisian high society with one of Africa's longest-running wars. But it hasn't shined a light on what happened elsewhere with contracts concluded by the representatives of France, and particularly by DCN.

For instance, 11 French engineers employed by DCN, which peddled subs to Pakistan, were blown up in a bus bombing in 2002 which was first thought to have been perpetrated by Islamic militants. The 11 were in Karachi to work on three Agosta 90 B submarines that the Pakistani military had bought in 1994, with payment to be spread over a decade.

According to Reuters, commissions were promised to middlemen including Pakistani and Saudi Arabian nationals. Agosta is a subsidiary of DCN. It is believed that Pakistani military officials blew up the bus in retaliation for the cancellation of the payments.

In the Taiwan case, the French company Thales, formerly Thompson-CSF sold six DCN-built La Fayette-class 'stealth' frigates to Taiwan in 1992 for US$2.8 billion (RM9 billion).

At least six people connected with the case have died under suspicious circumstances including a Taiwanese naval captain named Yin Ching-feng, who was believed to have been killed because he planned to go to the authorities about fraud connected with the case. His nephew, who was also pursuing the case, a Thomson employee in Taiwan and a French intelligence agent were also among the dead.

It gradually emerged that some $600 million (RM1.9 billion) in commissions had been paid into various Swiss accounts set up by Andrew Wang Chuan-pu, the Taiwan agent for Thomson-CSF. In October 2008 a French judge finally ruled that no one could be prosecuted because of lack of evidence.

Half a billion ringgit in commissions

The Malaysian allegations revolve around the €114 million (RM482 million) payment to a Malaysia-based company called Perimekar for support services surrounding the sale of the submarines. Perimekar was wholly owned by another company, KS Ombak Laut Sdn Bhd, which in turn was controlled by Najib's best friend, Razak Baginda, whose wife Mazalinda, a lawyer and former magistrate, was the principal shareholder, according to the French lawyers.

In the complaints filed in Paris, the issue revolves around what, if anything, Razak Baginda's Perimekar company did to deserve RM482 million. Zainal Abidin, the deputy defense minister at the time of the sale, told Parliament that Perimekar had received the amount - 11 percent of the sale price of the submarines - for "coordination and support services". The Paris filing alleges that there were neither support nor services.

Perimekar was registered in 2001, a few months before the signing of the contracts for the sale, the Paris complaint states. The company, it said flatly, "did not have the financial resources to complete the contract." A review of the accounts in 2001 and 2002, the complaint said, "makes it an obvious fact that this corporation had absolutely no capacity, or legal means or financial ability and/or expertise to support such a contract."

"None of the directors and shareholders of Perimekar have the slightest experience in the construction, maintenance or submarine logistics," the complaint adds.

"Under the terms of the contract, €114 million were related to the different stages of construction of the submarines." The apparent consideration, supposedly on the part of Perimekar, "would be per diem and Malaysian crews and accommodation costs during their training. There is therefore no link between billing steps and stages of completion of the consideration."

- Asia Sentinel

Source and credits: Malaysiakini and Asia Sentinel

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Shooting of Aminulrasyid Amzah: Justice to be served during cabinet meeting?

The shooting of teenager Allahyarham Aminulrasyid Amzah (15 years old) will be discussed during weekly Cabinet Meeting tomorrow, Wednesday 28 April 2010

Source and credits: Malaysiakini

Teen shooting case to be brought to cabinet
Jimadie Shah Othman
Apr 27, 10

The case of teenager Aminulrasyid Amzah who was shot dead by police yesterday in Shah Alam will be brought up in the cabinet's weekly meeting tomorrow.

NONEMinister for Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Noh Omar (far right) said he would raise the matter for deliberation.

Noh, who is also Selangor Umno deputy chief, said the party would offer legal assistance to the family as they have a right to sue the police force and the government over the incident.

"They can also bring up this case to Suhakam (Human Rights Commission)," Noh told reporters at the teenager's home this afternoon.

The 15-year-old was shot in the head in the early hours of Monday, after Aminulrasyid allegedly acted suspiciously and tried to ram a car into members of a police patrol unit in Section 11, Shah Alam.

Noh said the party sympathises with the family over the incident and expressed hope that the matter would be investigated transparently in the interests of justice and the truth.

“I hope this case will not be sensationalised or politicised,” said the minister.

NONENoh said this after meeting with Aminulrasyid's family members, who had held a press conference at their home in Section 11.

Aminulrasyid's mother dismissed media reports published today portraying her son as a criminal.

"I know my son. He is not as they report in the newspapers. I know who my son was," insisted Norsiah Mohamad, 60.

The anguished mother of eight - Aminulrasyid was the youngest - said her son had never been involved in criminal activities as alleged in media reports.

The media, therefore, should not report "yang bukan-bukan" (nonsense), because "as a mother, I cannot stand to read such things," said Norsiah as she wiped away tears.

NONEAsked whether the family would take legal action against the police force, Norsiah (right) - a single mother - said the matter would be discussed with the rest of the family.

Also present at the press conference were Norsiah's daughter Norazurah and her son-in-law Kamarudin Hassan.

According to the police report lodged by a witness involved in the incident, he and Aminulrasyid were returning home in the latter's Proton Iswara from a restaurant in Section 7.

After overtaking a police MPV, they were chased, then shot at by the police until the car was forced to the side of the road.

"I went out of the car to surrender. One of the police personnel kicked me from behind, while others punched and kicked me.

"I struggled and was able to escape from the police, then went straight home," said the witness in his police report.

Suspect tried to ram police

A different version of the episode, however, was reported by the print media today.

khalid abu bakar selangor cpo bukit antarabangsa pc 201208 03Speaking to the press yesterday, Selangor police chief Khalid Abu Bakar (right) was reported as having said the police chased Aminulrasyid after chancing upon him and the other suspect "in suspicious circumstances".

Rather than slowing down after being told to stop their car, the teenager sped up. The police then shot at a tyre of the Iswara, said Khalid.

After the car stopped, he added, one of the suspects exited the vehicle and escaped on foot.

The driver of the vehicle suddenly reversed the car and tried to ram into the police personnel - who had by then been joined by officers from another patrol unit.

"Surprised by the action of the suspect and (trying) to defend himself, the police officer shot in the direction of the suspect in the car," said Khalid.

The suspect died on the way to the Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital in Klang due to the injury sustained, added the police chief.

A long machete was found in the Iswara by police personnel, Khalid said.

All four police personnel involved in the incident have been transferred to desk jobs while investigations are carried out under Section 302 of the Penal Code, he said.

He posed no threat

This afternoon, Norsiah lodged a report at the Shah Alam district police station.

NONE"I ask that an independent probe be carried out by police (officers) from the federal police headquarters of PDRM (Royal Malaysian Police Force) on every police officer involved, including superior officers who had allowed this incident to occur."

She was accompanied by PKR information chief Latheefa Koya, Selangor exco Yaakob Sapari, Seri Setia state assemblyperson Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, and Kapar parliamentarian S Manikavasagam.

"I want justice for my son," Norsiah told reporters, reiterating Aminulrasyid's innocence.

She also questioned why the police could not merely stop the car her son was driving, as "there was no proper reason why the police had to shoot".

She dismissed the suggestion that Aminulrasyid (left) had posed a threat to the police officers involved.

Source and credits: Malaysiakini

Not to point fingers to anybody, but this is a very sad tragedy .

Hopefully justice will be uncovered, I fully support for a Royal Commission of Inquiry be set up to determine the what, who, why, where, when and how was the events that lead to the shooting of late Aminulrasyid Amzah.



Tuesday, April 13, 2010

RM77 mil paid to APCO for 1 year period

Datuk Nazri Aziz, Minister in the Prime Minister's department today revealed in Parliament that the contract signed between the government of Malaysia and APCO Worldwide amounted to RM77 million currently.

News report by Malaysiakini as follows...


Apco contract cost RM77 mil a year
Hazlan Zakaria
Apr 13, 10

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Nazri Aziz today revealed in Parliament that the contract signed between the government and the controversial communication consultant giant Apco Worldwide amounted to a whopping RM77 million.

azlanIn a written reply to Tian Chua (PKR-Batu) to his query on the fees paid to Apco, the amount provided by Nazri is more than twice what was earlier reported.

Chua referred to a newspaper report which quoted Nazri as saying that the amount paid to Apco was RM28 million.

"Convert this to ringgit and you will get almost RM77 million," he said based on last year's currency exchange rate.

"I don't know whether he was mistaken or his conversion rate of ringgit to US dollars is different. Maybe he thinks that the Malaysian ringgit is still strong, almost on one to one with the dollar?"

Chua also expressed his disbelief that much money is being paid to a foreign contractor for a task which could have been performed by a local company.

He said that the RM77 million contract was for one year.

"Are Apco's services so special that we need to pay so much? Why wasn't a local company employed? I am sure there are local firms that can do the job."


Thursday, April 08, 2010

Malaysia APCO contract to be terminated in August?

It appears that APCO will cease serving as PR for Government of Malaysia comes August.
According to Malaysiakini, APCO will not have its contract renewed once it expires this August.


Apco to face the axe in August?
Apr 8, 10 3:10pm

Controversial media consultant Apco Worldwide Sdn Bhd will not have their contract renewed once it expires in Aug 4.

A highly-placed government official said that Apco, engaged by the government to oversee their international media strategies, will not have their yearly contract extended.

"He (Prime Minister Najib Razak) is not very happy with the way they have been handling themselves in the recent controversy and are becoming a liability," said the source.

NONEHe added while it appears that Najib (left) will give Apco the axe to reduce pressure on the BN government for hiring the international image consultancy firm, which has been recently linked to Israel, the premier is generally not satisfied with their services.

It is understood that Apco had started work for Najib as early as June last year even before the contract was signed.

But when Najib was interviewed by the Associated Press during his visit to Beijing last June, where he was asked about slain Mongolian model-cum-translator Altantuya Shaariibuu, he was less than impressed by the company's preparation for the interview.

Apparently the question had caught Najib off-guard, but he was still able to handle the question and even took the opportunity to joke about it.

Apco alienating PM's officers

It is also understood that Apco's presence has stirred uneasiness even among Najib's media strategists.

Malaysiakini understands that the PM's media advisor Jalaludin Bahaudin, a vocal critic of Apco in private, has been at loggerheads with Najib's press secretary Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad over Apco's role in the Prime Minister's Department.

"It is mainly because Jalaludin thinks that Apco does not know what they are doing," said the source.

Tengku Sariffuddin could not be reached for comment while Jalaludin refused comment when contacted.

Journalists in the foreign press circles have also said that Apco seemed to be "aloof" when it comes to local issues with the potential to grab worldwide attention.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim had previously alleged that Apco was formerly known Mind Teams Sdn Bhd and that it was Omar Mustapha, a managing partner in Ethos Consultancy, who had introduced Tengku Sariffuddin to Apco.

RM28 million contract?

Apco was tasked with "promoting and improving Malaysia's image overseas", as confirmed by Minister in Prime Minister's Department Koh Tsu Koon in Parliament last October.

NONEApart from their bread and butter task of setting up interviews with foreign wires such as BBC and CNN, their job is also to repair the government's image in the eyes of the US government, which has traditionally been sympathetic towards Anwar.

The Washington-based firm has also brought in international public relations figures to give training to various press secretaries to ministers.

While Minister in Prime Minister's Department Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz said in Parliament yesterday that the total payment of the contract has not decided, it is understood that the bill comes up to RM28 million.

Controversy regarding Apco Worldwide reached a crescendo last month when Anwar had alleged that the 1Malaysia concept was derived from the One Israel initiative, and that Apco had a hand in both.

Both Apco and Najib have since gone on the record to deny the accusations.