he UMW Group sees positive growth for the automotive sector in Malaysia in the second half of the year, driven by the demand for vehicles for the upcoming festive season.

UMW Holdings Bhd President and Group Chief Executive Officer Datuk Syed Hisham Syed Wazir said he expected the automotive segment to gradually pick up though the company experienced a slight drop in sales in the first quarter of this year.

“The automotive market is quite positive though the results of the first quarter of this year saw a slight drop (in car sales), but moving forward, I am confident the sector will pick up due to festive seasons like Hari Raya,” he told reporters after attending the renewal ceremony of the UMW-MERCY Malaysia corporate social responsibility (CSR) partnership programme at the UMW Corporate office.

UMW Holdings’ pre-tax profit for the first quarter ended March 31, 2013 slipped 0.9 per cent to RM432.7 million from RM436.7 million in the same period last year.

Asked on his reaction to the government’s pledge to decrease car prices gradually, Syed Hisham said he would elaborate on the matter during a press conference after the company’s annual general meeting scheduled next week.

On the CSR programme, he said UMW group, one of the nation’s biggest conglomerates, renewed its existing community service partnership with MERCY Malaysia since it was formalised in December 2008.

Through the partnership, UMW had contributed about RM2.2 million in funds to date, and close to 4,200 hours in manpower in support of MERCY Malaysia’s programmes, especially for rural and vulnerable communities in Sabah, Sarawak and Johor since 2009.

Syed Hisham said for this year, UMW Group had allocated more than RM407,000 to MERCY Malaysia to fund activities, which among others included outreach clinics for the indigenous community in the rural areas of the three states and disaster risk reduction programme for the disabled in Selangor.

To date, more than 14,563 people had benefited from the programmes under the UMW-MERCY Malaysia partnership.