The Cambodian government has signed a deal worth $700 million with Malaysia’s Nexbis Sdn Bhd, a privately owned company that assists governments with national security in areas such as identity verification, though neither the company nor government officials were willing yesterday to provide details of what the agreement entails.
“The government has given its approval to the Malaysian company to provide supplies to the national security system,” said Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, adding that he did not have any further details on the deal.
“For the national security system, the money is $700 million,” Mr Kuong said.
Nafies Aziz, a senior account manager at Nexbis, said he could not reveal details of the deal, citing confidentiality agreements with the Cambodian government.
According to the company’s website, Nexbis provides government’s with computer technologies specializing in fraud detection, document security, online criminal tracking devices and revenue transparency. The firm also provides security technologies for the telecommunication sector.
Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said that Nexbis would help the government in areas such as printing passports, but he had no other details of the massive deal.
The deal was signed yesterday during the Cambodia-Malaysia Business Forum in Phnom Penh, which was attended by visiting Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s and 64 visiting Malaysian companies.
Malaysian news agency Bernama reported over the weekend that the private sector agreements between the two countries were valued at $1 billion and covered a range of sectors including education, information technology, agriculture, retail and halal foods.
Mr Kuong said that other agreements included a $6 million venture in the production of halal food as well as an $8 million investment in 20 bistro shops, adding that he did not have any further details.
Officials from Malaysia’s state-owned Halal Industry Development Corporation were present at yesterday’s forum but could not be reached for comment.
Prime Minster Hun Sen also announced yesterday that Malaysian bank CIMB had been issued a letter of approval from the National Bank of Cambodia on May 6 to start operations here.
“I warmly welcome this new project and wish CIMB Cambodia much success in its future operations,” the prime minister said while speaking at the Cambodia-Malaysia business forum.
Tal Nay Im, director general of the NBC, said yesterday that CIMB would probably open inside six months.
“They have approval and they have to prepare for six months until opening,” she said.
If CIMB fulfill all the requirements laid out by the NBC, it will bring the total number of commercial banks operating in Cambodia to 29, she added.
CIMB will join three other Malaysian banks, Cambodia Public Bank, Maybank and OSK Investment Bank, who already operate in the country.
Kith Meng, president of the Phnom Penh Chamber of Commerce and chairman of Cambodian conglomerate Royal Group, confirmed yesterday that a deal had been signed for a poultry farm in Cambodia by Malaysian retail food giant QSR, which is the operator of KFC outlets in Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore and Cambodia. Though he declined to say how much the deal was worth or what other deals had been struck. KFC outlets in Cambodia are run by a joint venture between QSR, Royal Group and the Hong Kong-incorporated Rightlink Corp.
The deals between Malaysia and Cambodian come as governments throughout the region are pushing for wider economic integration among Asean members. Experts say that Cambodia must diversify its export markets in order to protect itself from fluctuations in markets in the US and Europe where most of its exports are currently sent.
Haridass Nagalingam, deputy director for the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation within Malaysia’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry, or Matrade, which organized the forum, said yesterday that Malaysia was keen in helping Cambodia meet requirements for becoming a full member of the Asean Free Trade Area in 2015. Such requirements include the reduction of trade tariffs.
“If they don’t move forward, come 2015 they will still not be prepared,” Mr Nagalingam said. “That’s our basic reason to be here.”
Mr Nagalingam added that the domestic supplies of rice, rubber and wood-based raw materials in Malaysia were not enough to fulfill local demand and Malaysia is looking to import such items from other countries in the region.
Speaking at the business forum yesterday, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said there was great scope to expand the number of products being traded between Cambodia and Malaysia – bilateral trade in 2009 dropped to $168.5 million in 2009 from $179.9 million in 2008.
“Currently our trade base is very low,” Mr Razak said. “I believe that there is still an opportunity to expand the scope of products and services that can be traded between our two countries.”
“It is timely for us to come now,” said Mustafa Aziz, a director for Matrade. “A lot of Asean member countries are also exploring the opportunities over here.”