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Politician trades in ballots for bakery

After introducing gourmet croissants to Malaysia, a national politician is now cooking up an invasion of Southeast Asia of the baking kind.

by: Jalil Hamid | 03 Oct 2007

Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad plans to turn his Japanese-style bakery business into a chain with outlets throughout the region, said his business partner.

The 82-year-old politician, who is currently in hospital recovering heart bypass surgery, is chairman of the firm operating "The Loaf", Malaysia's first fancy bakery and which opens its second, and biggest, outlet this week.

"I think we can go to Singapore at the end of 2008 and Jakarta, Bangkok, Phuket and Bali in 2009," Jiro Suzuki, Mahathir's Japanese partner, told Reuters.

"It will be either through franchising or joint venture," said Suzuki, speaking at the new two-million-ringgit ($588,000) outlet in Kuala Lumpur's swanky shopping belt of Bukit Bintang.

"Ultimately, we will go for the initial public offer within five years," he said, adding that the 3,600 sq foot flagship store could be profitable within two years.

Unlike existing Malaysian chains, "The Loaf" offers about 100 kinds of premium bread, pastries and muffins prepared by a Japanese chef using traditional Japanese baking techniques.

Malaysians eat mainly noodles, nasi lemak or rice cooked with coconut and roti canai, a type of flatbread, for breakfast.

At "The Loaf", patrons pay 5 ringgit for breakfast croissants, but a French bakery in a Japanese department store across the street charges less than half that amount for its version.

Mahathir had some business experience before turning to full-time politics, running a medical clinic and petrol kiosk. He retired in 2003 after 22 years in office as prime minister.

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