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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Telekom Malaysia may return cash if no acquisition

KUALA LUMPUR: State-controlled Telekom Malaysia is prowling Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia for acquisitions to help buffer dwindling growth at home, but may return cash to investors if those plans don’t materialise, its chief executive said on Friday.

Telekom, 40 percent-controlled by Malaysian state asset arm Khazanah Nasional, is in buying mode, having amassed almost 5 billion ringgit ($1.45 billion) in less than two months to help it fund deals in the three Indochinese countries.

“When we made the announcements for capital raising, we were basically gearing ourselves for potential acquisitions, but if those acquisitions do not materialise, then we will look at distributing the surplus cash,” Abdul Wahid Omar told reporters.

Telekom is not yet in advanced talks with any parties, Abdul Wahid said, adding that the firm was operating within an earlier-announced 18-month timeframe for an acquisition, although he did not make clear when the deadline would lapse.

Telekom has operations and financial interests in nine Asian and Middle Eastern countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Iran, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Singapore and Thailand.

An acquisition in Cambodia, Vietnam or Laos would give it further exposure in countries with low mobile penetration compared to Malaysia, where 80 percent of the population has a mobile phone. In Vietnam, mobile penetration was less than 20 percent as of February. Takeover targets in the region are likely to have become more expensive after a frenzy of mergers and acquisitions in the Asia Pacific region surged 50 percent in the first half to a record $253 billion, analysts say.

In April, Vodafone Group paid $11.1 billion for a controlling stake in Hutchison Essar, India’s fourth-largest mobile phone carrier.

Since the middle of May, Telekom has built its acquisition war chest by selling shares in its Sri Lankan mobile operator Dialog Telekom for around $70 million, issued $324.9 million in Islamic trust certificates, announced a $212 million repayment plan from its Celcom mobile phone unit and closed a $870.8 million Islamic bond issue.

“Proceeds from these exercises (not including the Islamic bond) amount to 0.59 sen a share, which we think can be paid out to shareholders on top of regular dividends without straining cashflows and gearing,” Citigroup Inc analyst Karen Ang said.

“However, we doubt whether the market expects increased capital repayment after previous disappointments, which is emblematic of low-expectations for the company in general.” Telekom’s dividend yield is about 4.34 percent.

Telekom shares, unchanged at 10.60 ringgit at the mid session break, have gained 18 percent in a year, underperforming a 49 percent advance in the benchmark Kuala Lumpur Composite Index.

Telekom has a monopoly of Malaysia’s domestic fixed-line business and is the second-largest mobile phone operator, with about 6.2 million subscribers.

It has earmarked 3 billion ringgit in capital expenditure for home operations, Abdul Wahid said. Indonesia said on Wednesday it had capped new foreign investment in the fixed-line and mobile telecommunications sector at 49 percent and 65 percent respectively, against 95 percent earlier.
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American Red Cross Observation Trip to Vietnam and Cambodia

American Red Cross spokesperson Carol Miller in rural Vietnam shares sites and sounds from a Red Cross school and community nutrition and health education program. School children enjoy a mid-morning snack of fortified biscuits, then learn to wash their hands after using the newly build latrine provided by Red Cross.

Friday, July 06, 2007 — A group of observers from the United States recently traveled with American Red Cross to visit Vietnam and Cambodia, where some of the most successful programs we support with our Red Cross partners were highlighted. Included were Board of Governors members, National Celebrity Cabinet member Elisabeth Rohm, and other friends of Red Cross. The purpose of the trip was to build support for programs that are improving the health of mothers and children, their families and communities through cost effective, high-impact services for the most vulnerable people. And, near Danang, Vietnam, to view progress on typhoon relief and recovery efforts.

In Vietnam the group visited a USDA-funded project that focuses on maternal and child health, school nutrition and water and sanitation projects – including newly built latrines and hand-washing facilities to help prevent life-threatening illnesses; a volunteer project and hospital ward for people living with HIV and AIDS; a blood donor recruitment project, and typhoon relief and recovery operations where American Red Cross funds are helping repair and replace damaged and destroyed houses.

In Cambodia the group visited the USAID-funded integrated child health project that focuses on preventative health lessons for pregnant women and mothers of young children. Cambodia has one of the highest infant and child mortality rates in the world, and the rural communities that the American Red Cross support are some of the poorest in the country. Visitors observed rural home visits where health lessons are taught by Red Cross volunteers, rural community trainings involving skits about the five danger signs of pregnancy, a demonstration of oral rehydration salts that mothers use when a child is ill and dangerously dehydrated, a Red Cross health volunteer training session, and conversed with mothers and children who depend on critical Red Cross services.

As part of the world's largest humanitarian network, the American Red Cross alleviates the suffering of victims of war, disaster and other international crises, and works with other Red Cross and Red Crescent societies to improve chronic, life-threatening conditions in developing nations. We reconnect families separated by emergencies and educate the American public about international humanitarian law. This assistance is made possible through the generosity of the American public.
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Foundation to build stilt houses in Cambodia

By Emmanuelle Landaise, staff writer

Dubai: UAE residents will be heading to Cambodia for a three-day self funded initiative to build homes for the underprivileged as part of a housing scheme with charity organisation Tabitha Foundation UK.

The volunteers come from all walks of life but have come together to form a group of ten that will head east to give a helping hand in building ten stilt-houses outside the capital city, Phnom Penh.

"The equipment and tools are already there. The concrete stilts and the frame of the house are up so when we arrive we have to put down the wood flooring and the corrugated iron walls and roof," said Christine Pain, one of the volunteers.

Tabitha Foundation UK was established to support Tabitha Cambodia, a non-profit organisation which has been active in Cambodia since 1994 and helps poor communities by digging water wells, building houses and providing some form of employment by inciting communities to make and sell arts and crafts.

Savings

"At the moment the houses are made of leaves and wood and the people have to rebuild their homes after bad weather or heavy rains. In the scheme, families are encouraged to save as much as they can so they can buy their plot of land," said Pain.

"Around 15 to 20 per cent of the population in Cambodia has been reached by the Tabitha initiatives. It's very far spread. Volunteers build homes or dig wells. In the village we will go to about 45 families live there. We plan to build the homes altogether," she said.

For each home, $860 (Dh3,160) have been raised through fundraising and donations. Karen Allen, another volunteer who works for the Shaikh Mohammad Centre for Cultural Understanding in Dubai said, "We're so lucky here. We have airconditioning and good lifestyles. It's a big thing to be able to go and provide housing for these people, it's part of the basic things everybody should have - food, clothing and shelter," she said.
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Vietnam raises dengue alert, death toll hits 27

HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnam's health minister has raised concerns about a spreading dengue outbreak, citing 27 deaths this year and a jump in the number of cases, a newspaper reported on Saturday.

The mosquito-borne disease has struck a number of Southeast Asia countries this year, including Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, due to warmer weather and rising rainfall.

Some experts have said 2007 may be the worst year on record.

"The risk of the dengue epidemic outbreak in southern and central provinces is very high in the coming time," Health Minister Tran Thi Trung Chien told the Thanh Nien (Young People) newspaper.

She said the focus to fight dengue was to eliminate areas where mosquitos breed.

The Health Ministry has also sought government approval to include dengue prevention in a national programme that targets social, dangerous diseases along with HIV/AIDS for the period until 2010, Chien said.

There is no treatment for dengue, which is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

The infection rate has accelerated in recent years due to increasing urbanisation and travel or migration within the region, experts say.

Dengue infected 24,255 Vietnamese in the first half of this year, up 23 percent from a year earlier, 19,000 of them live in southern provinces, Chien said.

The tropical viral fever has killed 27 people, compared with 17 deaths from the fever in the first half of 2006.

Last month Cambodia appealed for international help to fight dengue, which has killed more children early in this year's wet season than in all of the last.
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