The Week Ahead: Who is behind DreamEDGE, the company leading the new national car project?

This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on August 12, 2019 - August 18, 2019.

Khairil: In our investment, we do not just seek profitability

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DreamEDGE Sdn Bhd — the Cyberjaya-based company leading the third national car project alongside Japanese carmaker Daihatsu Motor Co Ltd — is previously majority-owned by government-controlled Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT).

MIGHT is under the purview of the Prime Minister’s Department.

According to a statement by Khairil Adri Adnan, founder and CEO of DreamEDGE, the company is a 100% bumiputera-owned, of which he is a major shareholder.

Since 2017, Khairil says, MIGHT’s wholly-owned VentureTECH Sdn Bhd has been owning only 10% of DreamEDGE and does not even have a board representative in the company, which is formerly known as A-Bio Sdn Bhd.

The statement, issued last Friday, shows that VentureTECH has a 52.63% stake in the company while Khairil holds 43.11%. The remaining 4.26% is held by general manager Azhan Abdul Aziz.

Such a shareholding structure is drawing criticism that the third national car project is not a private-sector initiative.

“DreamEDGE has secured funding from a private investor for the development of the new national car. We have also secured the technology to deliver the new national car,” Khairil says, without naming the investor.

His statement also made no mention of VentureTECH’s exit price and whether he is now the largest shareholder in DreamEDGE. There is also no specific mention of whether the technology secured is from Daihatsu.

Initiated by the government as a strategic programme under the purview of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, VentureTECH is an investment company set up to catalyse the growth of high-technology industries in the country by investing in dynamic entrepreneurs.

“In our investment, we do not just seek profitability. We select commercially viable ventures with high socioeconomic impact. More importantly, we look for ventures that are spearheaded by people that share our aspiration, which is to build iconic Malaysian companies,” VentureTECH says on its website.

According to company filings obtained from CTOS last Friday, DreamEDGE was incorporated in March 2007, had RM12.38 million in share capital and retained earnings as at end-December 2017, and was loss-making in the latest two available financial years. There was no data for financial year ended Dec 31, 2018 (FY2018).

In FY2017, DreamEDGE narrowed its net loss to RM856,278 from RM1.64 million in FY2016. Revenue increased 20.5% year on year to RM20.66 million in FY2017.

International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Ignatius Darell Leiking told reporters that DreamEDGE is “wholly privately funded”. Daihatsu, which has a 30% stake in Perusahaan Otomobil Kedua Sdn Bhd, will not hold a stake in the third national car project.

During the press conference at its headquarters in Cyberjaya on Aug 9, Khairil said the first model will be a C-segment sedan. The first prototype is expected to roll out in March 2020, followed by the launch of the first model in March 2021.

According to him, the company has more than 150 engineers, who specialise mainly in the automotive industry. Some of its Malaysian engineers are based in Japan. The company, which has long collaborated with companies in Japan, having provided technical and long-term strategic collaboration to support clients focusing on technology innovation, from ideation to prototyping to mass production.

In fact, Khairil himself graduated with a Bachelor of Science Electronics and Engineering from Polytechnic University Japan before starting his career with Digital Process Ltd, Japan (DIPRO). Khairil, during his 10-year stint at DIPRO, was responsible for the development of 3D CAD environment and his portfolios included multinational companies and Japanese conglomerates, OEM companies as well as Tier 1 automotive components suppliers. He returned to Malaysia as he saw that there is vast potential in digital engineering technology for the country.

DreamEDGE, which was established more than 11 years ago, currently has a manufacturing and prototyping centre in Cyberjaya, an innovation lab in Bukit Jalil within the R&D institute Sirim, a design centre in Taiping as well as an R&D office in Tokyo.

Beyond automotive, DreamEDGE has also built experience in various applications through the establishment of multi-vertical mechanical design and process engineering, cutting across industry verticals, including oil and gas, rail, defence, ship-building and repair as well as digital dentistry.

The company has also developed robotics and augmented reality design capabilities that add value to smart manufacturing for the automotive industry.

It is worth noting that Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was the guest of honour at DreamEDGE’s Empowering the Nation’s Automotive Industry seminar back in 2014.

The new national car is said to be fully designed and developed by Malaysian engineers, focusing on new upper body, interior and human-machine interface systems as well as enhancement of noise, vibration and harshness and ride and handling. Daihatsu will provide support to DreamEDGE in advanced technology, which may include platform and engine development.

As a start, DreamEDGE says the new national car will take a new approach by segmenting itself through exclusive models featuring advanced technologies, but assures that its offerings will be affordable to the public.

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