Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Karambunai in the limelight after budget

Sabah-based Karambunai Corp seems to have received more than its fair share of attention in the past month.

More recently, it hit the limelight when recently-revealed Budget 2011 stated that Nexus Karambunai – a renowned resort in Sabah – had committed to develop an integrated RM3bil eco-nature resort.

Under the Karambunai integrated resort plan, there are plans to develop a 150ha eco-nature resort at Karambunai alongside a mangrove centre, water theme park and waterfront properties to push for higher return on investments. It is understood that the RM3bil investment will be privately funded, although there are yet to be any concrete details on how this funding will be raised and by whom.

The budget stated that the project would commence next year. In the same paragraph on the Karambunai initiative, the budget proposed that “to support the tourism industry, the Government will allocate RM100mil.” However, it is not clear if this means that the Government will actually invest that money directly into the Karambunai project.

The major shareholder of Karambunai is its president, Tan Sri Chen Lip Keong, who owns 43.9% stake in the company. The 62-year old also owns gaming company NagaCorp, which is listed in Hong Kong and operates a casino in Cambodia.

Having long languished as a penny stock, Karambunai Corp’s shares have been on an uptrend in recent weeks, recording its 52-week high yesterday at 26.5 sen. This stands in stark contrast to four months ago, when the stock price was hovering at a meagre 5 sen.

Still, scepticism abounds on Karambunai’s ability to execute this grand plan, not least because of its weak financial status. The company has been in the red for the past three financial years.

For the quarter ended June 2010, the company continued to remain in poor financial health, suffering losses of RM14.39mil from a previous loss of RM14.62mil. Revenue was up 7.78% to RM24.03mil. As of the period, the company had cash amounting to RM7.29mil. In addition, it has piled on huge debts with short-term borrowings of RM192.07mil and long-term borrowings of RM283.77mil.

This is not the first time the counter has witnessed such exuberance in the absence of any fundamental development. A month ago, the company made headlines when it was speculated that it would start a casino operation in Sabah.

The speculation came about from a proposal of the 500-acre “eco-nature” resort in Sabah by the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) at the Economic Transformation Plan (ETP) open day a month ago.

Continue reading at: Karambunai in the limelight after budget

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