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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Cambodia a promising market for LPI Capital

KUALA LUMPUR: LPI Capital Bhd is upbeat on its prospects in Cambodia, where it set up CampuBank Lonpac Insurance Plc last August with Public Bank Bhd.

Executive director Tee Choon Yeow said Cambodia was a “very promising” market for the group.

“Cambodia is a completely new market and there are only about five licensed insurers in this country. At the same time, the insurance industry penetration is very low, less than 10%. We are looking forward for more profit in Cambodia,” he said after the company AGM yesterday.

LPI Capital, which has a 45% interest in CampuBank Lonpac Insurance, provides general and personal insurance products through subsidiary Lonpac Insurance Bhd.

The company aimed to be the leading general insurer in Cambodia, Tee said, adding that CampuBank Lonpac Insurance currently had no agents but would soon be recruiting.

He believed its operation in Cambodia would contribute positively to the group going forward. Currently, overseas operations contribute about 12% to the group’s revenue with the bulk of it from Singapore.

Tee said LPI Capital would not discount the prospects of venturing into Vietnam since it would be able to leverage on Public Bank’s presence in the country.

LPI Capital, he said, had been conducting feasibility studies in Vietnam and, if it were to venture into Vietnam, it would possibly use the same model in Cambodia.

Meanwhile, LPI Capital intends to maintain the levels of its interim and final dividends.

“We believe in paying high dividends and we expect to maintain the dividend payout,” Tee said.

For the financial year ended Dec 31 (FY07), LPI declared an interim dividend of 30 sen, a final dividend of 55 sen and a special dividend of 25 sen per share.

LPI posted a net profit of RM87.8mil on revenue of RM551.6mil in FY07, up from RM78.1mil and RM473.5mil respectively in FY06.

Earnings per share improved to 63.8 sen from 56.6 sen previously.
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Media watchdog concerned about Cambodia

Phnom Penh (dpa) - Paris-based journalism watchdog Reporters Without Borders expressed concern about Cambodian press independence in the lead-up to national elections in July in its annual report released Tuesday.

The group also said it was concerned that three journalists had reportedly received death threats for covering logging issues and that it believed one newspaper had been temporarily closed after reprinting part of a report on the issue made by anti-corruption non- government organization Global Witness.

"Prime Minister Hun Sen ... can count on the support of the majority of the broadcast media (and) the highly-politicised written press struggles to maintain its role of challenging authority," the international journalism watchdog claimed.

A May 2007 Global Witness report on illegal logging which claimed that high ranking officials were involved in the industry was quickly banned from distribution in Cambodia, and many of the officials named in it have accused it of being defamatory. Some journalists said the ban illustrated a lack of freedom of information in Cambodia.

"Ahead of legislative elections scheduled for July 2008, there are fears that the ruling party will tighten its grip still further on electronic media," it said in the report.

Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith has repeatedly said he defends the right to a free press in Cambodia and strenuously denied allegations that the media is muzzled. Media in Cambodia is regarded by analysts as one of the most open in the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

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Temple area 'should be jointly managed'

PIYAPORN WONGRUANG

The area around the ancient Preah Vihear temple on the Thai-Cambodian border, which has been proposed as a World Heritage site, should be managed jointly by the two countries to avoid stirring up conflicts between them, a seminar was told yesterday.

Associate Professor Surachart Bamrungsuk, a military strategy expert at Chulalongkorn University's political science faculty, said at the seminar that the site proposed by Cambodia also covers a disputed common border area.

Therefore, until the dispute could be settled, the area should be jointly managed by the two neighbours so they could feel at ease with one another in dealing with the issue.

It is virtually impossible now to delay Cambodia's world heritage site application, and therefore working together would be the best way out, he said.

Under the joint management concept, both Thailand and Cambodia would benefit, said Assoc Prof Surachart.

The area could be developed into the region's new tourism magnet, he added.

It is unlikely that world heritage status for Preah Vihear would rule out Thailand's claim of sovereignty over the disputed area since it has nothing to do with border demarcation, he said.

''Demarcation problems in this region are a legacy of colonisation in the past, and obviously they are not easy to fix. However, we may find a way out of this if we just look beyond the border and look for an opportunity during a crisis,'' the academic said.

In 2001 Cambodia officially asked the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation to put Phreah Vihear on the World Heritage List, and has since developed its proposal without Thailand's participation. Thailand last year protested against Cambodia's proposal at a World Heritage Committee meeting in New Zealand.

This resulted in a recommendation that the two neighbours work together on how to manage the site. Thailand is still waiting for Cambodia's response.

Preah Vihear is a cluster of ancient Khmer temples that sit atop a cliff in a border area claimed by both Thailand and Cambodia.

The International Court of Justice in 1962 ruled that Cambodia has sovereignty over the temple ruins and parts of their surroundings.

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