Govt-linked financier out to stop others from Grab-bing local start-ups

Grab, which was founded in 2012, moved its headquarters to Singapore in 2014.

BUTTERWORTH: A government-linked financier today indicated its willingness to provide financial assistance to tech start-ups in Malaysia, to stem the outflow of such initiatives to other countries.

Lee Kah Choon, chairman of Malaysia Debt Ventures (MDV) Bhd, said the country had seen many great start-ups over the years which left for greener pastures due to a lack of financing from banks, among other factors.

He gave the example of ride-hailing firm Grab, which is touted as the largest e-hailing company in Southeast Asia, valued by Forbes at close to US$6 billion (RM24.8 billion).

It was founded by Anthony Tan and Tan Hooi Ling in 2012, and established its headquarters in Singapore two years later. According to a company filing, Anthony became a Singaporean citizen in 2017.

“Singapore is now saying Grab is theirs when it was ours. It was Malaysian but is now no longer Malaysian,” he said at the opening of a MDV event in Perai here.

“We want to stop people from stealing our jewels, which are great start-ups. We want more great start-ups to take root in Malaysia so we can be proud of them,” he added.

MDV, a wholly-owned unit of Minister of Finance Inc, funds tech start-ups and enterprises.

Its CEO Nizam Mohamed Nadzri said it is looking for “the next Grab” start-up as well as keeping an eye out for tech companies which have difficulty getting loans from banks.

He specifically mentioned start-ups in the green tech or energy-efficient fields such as solar farms, advanced technology projects, biotech, and information technology projects.

Nizam said giving out loans to start-ups is MDV’s core business.

To date, he said, MDV has financed 760 companies and made RM11.7 billion in payouts since 2002.

It currently has RM4.1 billion in aggregate funds, with 880 credit lines. Each month, it collects RM20 to RM40 million in repayments.

MDV Bhd chairman Lee Kah Choon says he does not want to see more local start-ups leave for greener pastures elsewhere.

According to Nizam, some of these companies have become listed entities. One was given RM5 million in funding and made RM60 million in returns.

He said the government had given MDV an additional RM1 billion in the form of sukuk bonds for the period of 2017 to 2030.

Through the funds, he said, MDV plans to fund energy-efficiency projects worth RM50 million and Fourth Industrial Revolution-related projects worth RM25 million.

It will also play a pivotal role in the government’s green agenda by providing an additional 4,000 MW of energy by 2030.

The government will announce large-scale solar and feed-in tariff requirements by the third quarter of 2019.

MDV also has an energy saving target of up to 137,775 GWh of RM46.9 billion from 2016 to 2030.

MDV, which was set up in 2002, was mandated by the government to facilitate the development of high-impact and technology-driven sectors of the economy by providing accessible and innovative project financing for the technology-based SME sector.