BN-linked companies suffer as new favourites emerge in KL stock market

Malton Berhad had already seen its share price fall last Monday, the first day of trading for Malaysian financial markets after the country's shock election result of May 9.

But the company, controlled by property tycoon Desmond Lim, suffered worse on Thursday when the country woke up to news that police had searched luxury apartments in his Pavilion Residences that were used by his close associate and ousted premier Najib Razak.

Another counter linked to Tan Sri Desmond - WCT Holdings - also fell, but it plummeted another 15 per cent on Friday when police returned to the apartments a second time and left with a jaw-dropping haul of 284 boxes containing luxury handbags and 72 bags filled with jewellery, cash in various denominations, watches and other valuables that needed five trucks to cart away.

Companies and corporate captains linked to the vanquished Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition saw red all week on Bursa Malaysia, the country's stock exchange.

And new favourites have emerged in their place - stocks seen as aligned to the newly minted Pakatan Harapan (PH) government.

Eden Inc and Thriven Global, both linked to the son of Home Minister-designate Muhyiddin Yassin, more than doubled their value when the bell rang last Monday.

Berjaya Corporation, controlled by founder Vincent Tan who was photographed dining with Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in the aftermath of the PH leader's victory, also climbed 26 per cent on the first day of trading.

"There could be speculative upside for PH-friendly stocks... we note that the parties which are friendly to the current administration include Berjaya Group, Country Heights, MK Land," said UOB Kay Hian's Malaysian head of research Vincent Khoo, referring to two other counters headed by businessmen close to Tun Dr Mahathir that gained about 30 per cent on Monday.

There was also no respite for AirAsia, whose boss Tony Fernandes had to apologise for openly backing Datuk Seri Najib during the election campaign. Asia's top low-cost carrier lost more than 13 per cent in value over the week, despite Tan Sri Fernandes insisting he "buckled" under pressure due to the highly regulated nature of the aviation industry in Malaysia, a decision he "will forever regret".

Other companies that have skidded include engineering firm George Kent, controlled by Mr Najib's supposed "golfing buddy" Tan Kay Hock, and the YTL conglomerate, whose boss Francis Yeoh famously decried "crony capitalism" in 2014, but was then seen to jump ship from Tan Sri Muhyiddin's camp after the former deputy premier was sacked by Mr Najib in 2015.

MyEG was another casualty, losing more than 64 per cent of its value over the week.

The well-connected concessionaire is termed "the ultimate middleman" as it collects a fee for a wide range of government services including road tax renewal, foreign worker permit renewal, summons checking and zakat payments, as well as the monitoring of goods and services tax payments.

The government has announced it will effectively scrap the 6 per cent consumption tax by zero-rating it on June 1. This, in turn, should create some upside - irrespective of political affiliation - for other companies.

The expectation that the policy will return more spending power to Malaysians has helped boost consumer giants such as Nestle, which gained 6 per cent in the week, and British American Tobacco, up a whopping 43 per cent partly because it will also benefit from a PH election pledge to stamp out smuggling.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 20, 2018, with the headline BN-linked companies suffer as new favourites emerge in KL stock market. Subscribe