: They came, they asked direct questions as they usually do and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak answered assuredly if not more than they had expected.
Fifteen high powered representatives from 14 Tier 1 United States (US) fund managers representing US$ 1.75 trillion financial Assets Under Management (AUM) for more than an hour queried the Malaysian team of investment and economic leaders headed by Najib, on various economy related concerns at Invest Malaysia New York 2015.
For the previous one year since the last Invest Malaysia New York, these fund managers had been relying on news reports and other indirect information which, with the ringing “noise” and “headwinds” as Najib puts it
, needed a fresh; clear the air direct engagement.
“I do concede that currently the noise levels might not be all that positive about Malaysia but I want to assure you there is political stability in Malaysia. Being a mature democracy we have to allow for divergent of views,” said a very composed Najib.
This is the fourth Invest Malaysia New York and as such the closed door meet is very directly targeted, exhaustive and strategic amongst the stakeholders.
For the mind behind the organising of the meet, Invest Malaysia New York had achieved the target of presenting the clarity of data-backed positive investment outlook for the country and restoring investors’ confidence amidst the interfering noise of negative perceptions.
Bursa Malaysia Chief Executive Officer, Datuk Tajuddin Atan which jointly organised Invest Malaysia New York with Maybank Kim Eng, said Malaysia emerged from scrutiny even better as the positive research data presented cleared the hazy clouds of perceptions.
“Generally for me it is quite satisfying to actually have 15 fund managers from America and they are known to be direct in America to tell their facts and to receive answers directly.
"So we are hopeful this Invest Malaysia New York programme, which is an outreach programme for Bursa Malaysia, will continue in the years to come to actually help the investing public, especially in America, to understand our market and hopefully spend a little bit more money or invest in our country given the fact that there is actually underlying value over a longer period of time.
"That’s the message.”
Co-organiser Maybank Kim Eng had researched and prepared the sets of data that prove the facts of Malaysian sustainable investment attractiveness even compared to the perceived favourites of Asia.
The findings from Maybank Kim Eng's "Unmasking Asia: I So Wanna Be Resilient" is a series of reports stress testing the resilience of earnings, free cash flows and balance sheets of corporate across Asia, of which to the discerning data hungry eyes of the fund managers is exactly the more familiarly relevant information for consideration.
“What we found here is, while certain countries after doing that stress test are looking rather vulnerable, vulnerable meaning in the stress test it shows negative cash flows. In China, for example, we had some vulnerability. In Indonesia, it was vulnerable in terms of smaller stocks, not the larger ones, but in Malaysia what we found it was very, very resilient,” said Feisal Zahir, the Group Head of Global Banking for Maybank.
Feisal added that Malaysia has managed to point out the resilience of the Malaysian investment scene directly to the top fund managers that matter at Invest Malaysia New York.
“We have top quality fund managers managing over US$ 1.75 trillion who came here who had direct conversation with the Prime Minister as well as Datuk Seri Abdul Wahid Omar.
“They talked about real fundamental issues that’s happening in our economy and I saw that the fund managers we invited today are actually quite satisfied.
“There is clear indication that they understand the fundamentals for they are hearing it directly from the source. So that, to me, was a successful event. We had fund managers getting their answers and quite satisfied with that.”
A very confident looking Najib had earlier in his opening address just before the closed door breakfast meeting at Mandarin Oriental Hotel tackled the bull by the horns by acknowledging current issues of concern confronting the Malaysian economy including 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
On 1MDB, Najib admitted that the business model was too idealistic previously and didn’t meet its fast IPO listing target hence saddled with large debt financing but that is being managed and recovery measures are being taken with results promised by the end of the year.
"Bank Negara Malaysia has come out to say there is no systemic risk related to 1MDB. In other words, we have more assets than liabilities.
"There will be an announcement in the coming days to reduce the total debt for 1MDB by a significant amount, something in the region of RM16 billion, and then for Edra (Edra Global Energy Bhd) there are two very real and huge proposals on the table to take over Edra's power assets."
However, Najib had stressed that these are current, short-term issues that have and are being dealt with appropriately and should be put in context to the still on track economic progress with transformation measures validated by reputable international rating firms like Fitch.
"I was with Fitch just before I came to New York. The blanket subsidy that we implemented and rolled back into a more targeted form of subsidy has been a major success story in Malaysia.
"So I think these two things make the government revenue base much broader, fiscal considerations have taken place and we are committed towards achieving a balanced budget by 2020.
"But I have to be frank with you, I really think we may not be able to achieve a full balanced budget but it could be in the region of minus one percent."
Najib closes the curtain of his eight-day visit to the United Nations 70th General Assembly on Friday during which he will be addressing the general debate session.