LUMPUR: Haj operator Lembaga Tabung Haji (LTH) is looking at investing
up to RM300 million initially in syariah-compliant equities in the Asia
Pacific, ex-Japan, this year as it simultaneously seeks to leverage on
local companies to become a global halal food producer.
LTH chief executive
officer Datuk Ismee Ismail said the organisation was eyeing equities in
syariah-compliant industries, including food, in markets such as Kuwait
He said there were some very attractive companies on the Kuwait Stock Exchange ripe for investing.
would be surprised, there are a lot of undervalued companies there. But
we are in no big hurry to invest abroad, with the world equity market
rather choppy this year, we will take all the time we need to make the
right investment,” he said.
In an interview with
The Edge Financial Daily recently, Ismee said: “We’d rather start
small; we may go as high as RM300 million in our initial investment.”
He said LTH, which has
four million depositors, was looking at some food-related companies,
including those which own ranches, for possible investment as it would
serve its goal of being a prominent player in the halal food sector.
“A lot of people here
would not know it, but these companies know a lot about halal (food).
Australia is also a good pick as there are a lot of halal companies
there,” he said.
Ismee said LTH was
also scouting for investment opportunities in the region and would also
look for good counters in Malaysia to invest in.
He said LTH would
leverage on Malaysian companies, such as bread maker Silver Bird Group
Bhd, as its vehicle to venture into the halal food business.
He said LTH may launch
its own brand of food via Silver Bird or any other company it had a
stake in. “The food sector is new to us, but that does not stop us from
learning and our first step is to bridge the (knowledge) gap.
“For us, that means
venturing into the business with people who are already in it, for
example, Silver Bird. In the bigger picture, we want to be a prominent
player in the halal (food) sector,” he said.
LTH is one of the
largest shareholders in Silver Bird, with 55.65 million shares or a
23.72% stake. It also holds 24.29 million shares or a 9.89% stake in
QSR Brands Bhd, a fast-food chain operator.
“Slowly, but surely,
we are heading there. The market is aware that we have taken a
substantial share in Silver Bird and we are now the single largest
shareholder in the company,” Ismee said.
“We also hold some
other counters in the food sector and we have begun to increase our
stakes in these companies, which include QSR. There are others in the
“We are also working
very closely with the Halal Development Corporation and we are drawing
up a scheme to make that quantum leap in the halal sector but I am not
at liberty to disclose any details,” Ismee added.
On its interest in QSR, he said the stake was purely an investment for dividends.
Ismee said LTH has
started introducing its own halal products on a small scale, beginning
with its mineral water “Taha” last month and would proceed to other
products such as biscuits and bread.
He noted that “Taha”
comprises the Arabic letters “Tha” and “Ha” (as in Tabung Haji). “The
feedback was positive and we may just keep that as our brand,” Ismee
Asked if the emergence
of Berjaya Group Bhd as a major shareholder in Silverbird would dampen
LTH’s halal food plans, Ismee said: “It should not, we have a board
representative and we are looking at the option of launching our brand,
if not with Silver Bird, then with another entity. We are looking at
Berjaya Group holds a 22.02% stake comprising 51.69 million shares in Silver Bird.
Ismee also refuted
analysts’ claims that the Silver Bird stake purchase was made with the
intention of setting LTH’s own catering business for Haj and umrah
pilgrims while it was more economical to outsource the catering
business to Saudi Arabian companies.
“There are over 20,000
pilgrims to cater to at any one time and we have opened tenders for
local (Saudi Arabian) kitchens to supply the food. It works,” Ismee
He said LTH will announce its full-year financial results tomorrow.