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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A rare gem in Puchong

By The Star

Nilam Puri Condominium and Ametis Terraces epitomise quality living

AT the forefront of Puchong’s growth explosion, Bukit Puchong is fast becoming a desirable address.

Developed by Bukit Hitam Development Sdn Bhd (Bukit Hitam), the hot 1290-acre Bukit Puchong is riding on the new wave of Puchong’s property growth.

The clubhouse and swimming pool

With innovative products and contemporary designs to meet the demands of an increasingly sophisticated market, the developer is confident with sales generated from recent launches, namely its Nilam Puri Condominium range, as well as its Ametis Terraces properties.

The Nilam Puri range and Ametis Terraces are Bukit Puchong’s flagship properties, which epitomise Bukit Puchong’s characteristics of a quality and modern environment for good living.

More importantly, it allows prospective buyers to own a piece of freehold property located in a thriving, well-planned integrated township.

A modern kitchen
Nilam Puri: Affordable Housing with Sophistication

Nilam Puri features the township’s latest array of quality homes with easy access.

Comprising a total of 272 units, the first phase of Nilam Puri boasts of impressive sales, having achieved 100% take-up rate upon completion and handover in August 2006.

The second phase, essentially an upgrade of the first, has a larger and more spacious built-up area ranging from 947 to 1,173 sq ft.

The developer is optimistic about the successful take-up rate of the second phase based on that of the first.

Meanwhile, Phase Two, which has all of Phase One’s features and more, comes with value-added finishes and extras.

Each unit in the second phase accommodates three bedrooms and two bathrooms and comes with a car park bay.

Clean lines in the bedroom
Most of the units in this phase offer a view of either the swimming pool or the landscaped garden.

Young professionals and entry-level house buyers are the main target for the second phase, which comes with security and a surprisingly reasonable price tag ranging from RM132,888 to RM228,888.

Nilam Puri also features a resident clubhouse with swimming and wading pools, gymnasium, a children’s playground and a multi-purpose hall.

“With full fledged amenities and a right balance of residential, commercial and industrial properties, we believe that buyers will get to know the real value of good living in Puchong. And Nilam Puri units are comparatively priced”, said Lim Jee Kong, Bukit Hitam’s general manager.

Nilam Puri Condo Phase Two is expected to draw a total gross development value (GDV) of RM42mil. Construction work is ongoing, and is expected to be completed by September 2009.

As part of its promotional campaign, the developer is giving away RM1,000 worth of home electrical products.

Meanwhile, buyers at the launch can also enjoy the buyer-get-buyer scheme and a referral incentive of RM1,000 for every successful sale.

To get to the Nilam Puri Phase 2 show unit, visitors can use the dedicated BBP interchange on the LDP just before the last toll to Putrajaya.

No-fuss dining room
Ametis Terraces: Secured Living, Open Spaces

Launched early this year, Ametis Terraces comprises 120 units of low-density 2 1/2-storey and 2-storey residential development designed for secured living in the heart of Bukit Puchong.

The Ametis Terraces intermediate units are fully furnished with a brand new interior design concept, which would appeal to the younger generation, especially newly married couples and young families.

The boudoir concept of Ametis Terraces’ new intermediate show unit gives a sense of intimacy, signifying the homeowner’s love of comfort, warmth and tactility.

Catering to a niche and increasingly sophisticated market, Ametis Terraces symbolises Bukit Puchong’s position as a self-sufficient medium to high-end township of choice in the Klang Valley.

Ametis Terraces comprises two designs – Classic and Contemporary. The former has a conventional home layout, whilst the latter, a refreshing reconfiguration of living space with an in-built water feature for feng shui and creative purposes.

“Water features are a key element in attracting positive and beneficial chi, especially with its continuous trickling, splashing and reflection of light and shade. With this in mind, we incorporated the water feature for future buyers to enjoy,” says Lim.

“Another attractive feature of Ametis Terraces is its one-acre landscaped park, situated right at the heart of the development. This doubles up as an extended garden for some premium units.

“To date, 60% of Ametis Terraces have been sold since its launch early this year, prompted by effective word-of-mouth marketing by existing buyers. This shows our products do speak for themselves!” he added.

Slated for completion by early 2009, Ametis Terraces is expected to have a gross development value (GDV) of RM46mil.

Prices for the intermediate units range from RM355,000 to RM389,000, while corner units are going from RM587,000 to RM691,000. Units have lot sizes from 20’ x 75’.

A stroll in the park

By The Star

Grab this chance to own a resort-style condo unit

HOW many property offerings in the Klang Valley are in the price range of RM150,000 to slightly above RM200,000?

Think hard. Not many, right?

An artist's impression of Villa Park
Well, this is the golden opportunity for property buyers, newlyweds and young couples planning to start a family to get a home at a very reasonable price.

It’s called Villa Park.

Nestled in the commune of the Bukit Jalil Technological Park, the condominium development is embellished with resort-style facilities – plush landscape and generous spaces for leisurely activities in the common area, and not to mention, a hard-to-miss Balinese-themed d├ęcor to invigorate tired souls.

The straight visual linkage between the bedroom corridor and the kitchen and dining hall exhibits the unit's functionally-designed layout
“The property can be owned by those with a combined income of between RM5,000 and RM6,000. You really can’t find similar developments with such spacious designs in the vicinity with similar facilities and amenities.

"Furthermore, we are absorbing homebuyers’ mortgage loan interest during the construction period, on top of providing free legal fees on sale and purchase agreement, and early bird discounts,” said developer Villamas Sdn Bhd’s managing director Gan Teck Seong. A 7% discount for Bumiputra buyers apply.

There are 392 units in total, segregated by two blocks – 206 in Block A and 186 in Block B. To be launched next month is Block B, followed by the other one on a later date.

“We are expecting completion in November 2010, and we’re giving a complimentary parking bay for unit purchases.

"They may also opt for a second parking lot at only RM18,000. There’s a 50% discount on the extra parking bays purchases for early birds, which comes up to only RM9,000,” added Gan.

Villa Park is situated to the south of the Bukit Jalil National Sports Complex (7km away) and Technology Park Malaysia (about 300 meters apart) and to the north and north-west of Taman Bukit Serdang.

Once fully erected, it shouldn’t be too difficult to spot the two-tower condominium development right from the adjacent highway – the Jalan Sungai Besi-Puchong Expressway, when passing Astro’s head office.

Residents of Villa Park may save time further with the new link road currently under construction, which branches out from Jalan Sungai Besi-Puchong Expressway, cutting through the housing area.

Expect total comfort and spaciousness with Villa Park's space-generous floor plan
Otherwise, you can also reach Villa Park via the Kuala Lumpur-Seremban Highway, followed by the service roads of Taman Serdang Raya and laterite paths of Taman Bukit Serdang – a new housing project in the immediate catchment area comprising medium-cost apartments and two-storey terraces.

Nearby shopping malls like the South City Plaza, The Mines Shopping Fair and Endah Parade will keep you occupied during the weekends. A turf club fan? The Selangor Turf Club is just 3 kilometres away.

Couples and families with school-going children will be served well with the many primary, secondary and international schools and universities in this area.

Namely, they are SJK (C) Serdang Baru (1), SJK Bandar Baru Seri Petaling; SMK Seri Kembangan, SMK Bandar Baru Seri Petaling; the Australian International School and the Alice Smith International School.

Universiti Putra Malaysia, International Medical University and the Universiti Tenaga Nasional are also within the area.

How does it look like inside?

The development boasts three design layouts – Type X, Type Y and Type Z. To start with, Type X units are priced from RM172,800 to RM185,300 with a minimum built-up of 1,106 sq ft. There’s a special “lanai” porch just outside the living hall for this unit design and the owner is free to convert it into either an outdoor meet-the-sun balcony or enclose it with an external glass partition to form part of your living room.

“It’s interesting as each unit here has its own storage heater – you don’t need to install a bulky water heater on the wall of your lavatory. Just turn on the tap, and voila, hot water pours out,” said Gan.

Location of Villa Park
Type Y units, on the other hand, are priced between RM197,300 and RM209,800 with built-up from 1,300 sq ft onwards.

The lowest entry units are from Type Z, which have built-ups from 956 sq ft.

Prices are from RM152,800 to RM165,800.

The open floor plan concept provides visual linkage from the living room through to the dining hall and subsequently, the kitchen.

Hence, you almost get an entire glance of your abode with one look.

Centralised facilities?

Notable sports facilities in Villa Park include full-sized futsal and basketball courts, a gym room, family-oriented cafeteria, children’s playground, gazebo, wading pool and a 30-meter lap pool. Besides that, there’s also a multipurpose hall, barbecue area, a kindergarten, convenience store, an indoor shower and changing room, an ICT room, as well as a surau.

Security worries? Fret not with the single entry-exit point, 24-hour guarded security, and CCTV in crucial spots.

Miss not the opportunity to view the beautiful onsite show unit – it merits a look.

BLand sees growth in property sector

By The Star

PETALING JAYA: Berjaya Land Bhd (BLand) sees potential growth in its property development earnings, both overseas and locally, says Kenanga Investment Bank Bhd.

It was anticipating RM30.2bil worth of mixed development projects in Vietnam to contribute to its growth, in addition to the revaluation of its landbank in Taman Tar and Selangor Turf Club (STC) in Malaysia, it said, noting that the projects in Vietnam would spread from 2009 to 2019.

An analyst from Kenanga believed that BLand had a high probability of securing these projects, noting that less cost and time would be needed on resettlement issues, seeing that most of BLand’s Vietnam lands were unoccupied.

On the local front, BLand was expected to launch projects with a gross development value (GDV) of RM1.2bil on top of its on-going property development projects in the financial year ending April 30, 2008 (FY08) and FY09, the analyst said.

Its on-going projects, with GDV of RM802mil, are located in Bukit Jalil, Berjaya Park in Shah Alam, Taman Tar and Kuantan Perdana in Pahang.

According to Kenanga, BLand has planned a RM4.2bil mixed development project on the 248-acre STC, noting that its 10-year development plan had included a range of low to high-end residential development with commercial elements like a shopping mall, offices, service apartments and hotels.

STC’s possible conversion title to freehold from its current leasehold was expected to increase the land value by 30% to 50%, and a potential to increase its GDV to RM6.2bil from its original GDV of RM5.4bil, it said.

On top of that, BLand has also withheld launches of its Taman Tar bungalow plots to capitalise on higher pricing upon completion of Taman Tar’s main infrastructure works, as well as the pending approval for land title conversion, which is expected to increase prices by 30% to 50%.

The analyst believed that the remaining GDV of approximately RM324mil would increase by more than 15% once BLand resumed selling the land plots at Taman Tar towards the end of the year, adding that BLand had so far traded its bungalow plots in the Peak at Taman Tar at 81% to 127% higher than other residential sites in the area.

The research house rated the company as “trading buy” with a target price of RM7.61.

The counter closed two sen lower at RM4.30 yesterday on volume of 903,200 shares.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

SP Setia to lease 3.92ha JB land to Tesco

KUALA LUMPUR: SP Setia Bhd has entered into a conditional lease agreement with Tesco Stores (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd to lease a 3.92ha parcel of land in Johor Bahru to the hypermarket for a fixed term of 30 years.

In a statement yesterday, SP Setia said the land, located in the Bukit Indah Johor Township, was part of a 12ha master land belonging to its subsidiary Bukit Indah Johor Sdn Bhd. It would construct a building with a gross built-up area of 233.578.8 sq ft for Tesco to operate its business.

“The land is a part of a larger parcel of commercial land owned by Bukit Indah Johor within the 10 year-old mixed residential township. Given the prime location of the said land within Bandar Nusajaya, the lease is in line with the group’s strategy to further diversify its earnings base to include investment properties with attractive rental yields in strategic locations,” it said.

It added that the lease was expected to provide stable recurring income to complement its profits from property development.

The presence of Tesco would greatly improve the quality of the township’s overall amenities, while increased vibrancy and traffic flow into the township would increase the value of its 195.5ha undeveloped landbank there, it said.

“The lease is also anticipated to improve the attractiveness of Setia Eco Gardens, the proposed 383.6ha township, which is located only a mere 5km from the said land,” it added.


Residential property investment: Is there more upside?


PETALING JAYA: The party has just begun. This seems to be the common sentiment shared by some respected members of the property industry at The Edge Investment Forum on Real Estate 2007 last Saturday when asked if there was any more upside to residential property investment in Malaysia.

The panel discussion on whether Malaysian real estate is underpriced, comprising Datuk Richard Fong, executive vice chairman of Glomac Bhd and current Fiabci Malaysia president; Lai Voon Hon, president and CEO of Ireka Development Management and Previndran Singhe, CEO of Zerin Properties all agreed that the Malaysian property market has at least another five good years. They also concurred that the exemption of the Real Property Gains Tax (RPGT) has also helped boost the market.

Moderated by Kumar Tharmalingam, the panel discussed three issues, namely: property prices in the region and whether there was any more upside for Malaysia; how long the party will last; and their three hot property locations.

Glomac’s Fong kicked off the discussion by comparing prices of luxury highrises with Singapore’s market, saying that our prices were “dirt-cheap” as it costs eight to 10 times more for luxury homes in Singapore. He added that Malaysian properties offered world-class standards as many developers used foreign architects to design their projects.

“The foreigners are buying because it is so cheap. There is no downside. We can only go up,” he said. Fong picked KLCC, Bangsar/Damansara Heights and the Hartamas/Mont’Kiara area as his hotspots.

From left: Previndran, Fong, Kumar and Lai. Photo by Kenny Yap

Meanwhile, Ireka’s Lai said several factors are driving Malaysia’s current property market. Among them are the capital values we offer, rental yields and capital gain. He quoted some examples of Ireka’s projects in the Mont’Kiara vicinity stating that they enjoyed between 18% to 23% return of equity per annum.

Lai felt there was still room for yield compression and that foreigners are confident investing in Malaysia. “Development costs are going up and don’t expect them to go any cheaper. Our prices are at rock bottom already,” he said.

His hot three locations were KLCC, Mont’Kiara and the Jalan U Thant/Embassy Row area in KL. Lai also pointed out three other locations to watch, namely Langkawi, Sabah and the east coast.

The crowd during break time at The Edge Investment Forum on Real Estate 2007. Photo by Kenny Yap

Zerin Properties’ Previndran concurred with Lai on Sabah. “One of the latest properties called Kudat Riviera was launched in the UK only and is sold out,” shared Previndran. He said Malaysia was attracting a lot of foreign interest because of our political stability and real estate transparency.

“The only reason Singapore is hotter right now is because our transactions take longer to process,” said Previndran, adding that KL could be the next property play after Singapore.

Previndran picked KLCC, Mont’Kiara and Ampang Hilir as his Klang Valley hotspots. His other hot locations include Penang and the Iskandar Development Region (IDR).

The other speakers at the forum were Allan Soo, managing director of Regroup Associates; Ang Kok Heng, chief investment officer of Phillip Capital Management Sdn Bhd; Ho Chin Soon, director of Ho Chin Soon Research Sdn Bhd; Datuk Michael Yam, managing director of Sunrise Bhd and Datuk Alan Tong, chairman of Bukit Kiara Properties Sdn Bhd.

Close to 500 people thronged the forum held at The Eastin Hotel in Petaling Jaya to listen to the speakers. The inaugural event was organised by The Edge.

Market overview


The Edge Investment Forum on Real Estate 2007 opened with Allan Soo of Regroup Associates Sdn Bhd giving an overview of the local and regional residential property markets.

Soo presented a macro view of the region, making a comparative study of pricing and rental of properties in various markets like Singapore, Shanghai, Bangkok and Hong Kong.

He said Malaysian properties continued to enjoy good yields compared with places like Singapore where yields were at 2.55%, and Shanghai, where values were up but rentals were falling.

“The boom in Malaysia only started about five or six years ago, driven by rent and sale. However, investors are less concerned about yields at the moment and I feel it is a capital-led market rather than a yield market,” he said.

Soo observed that price trends in the country have grown fast in the past few years and jumped tremendously this year, citing transactions of high-end condominiums in the Kuala Lumpur city centre where prices have breached the RM2,000 psf mark. He also named Kenny Hills, Bangsar and Damansara Heights as other areas to look out for in the Klang Valley.

Outside the Klang Valley, Soo picked Langkawi as an increasing favourite among foreigners buying holiday homes.

“Although there appears to be some looming problems with the subprime crisis, Malaysia is still relatively very cheap. I think the market will still be good for the next two years or so,” said Soo, adding that it should do better with the Iskandar Development Region and strong foreign direct investments due to the exemption of the Real Property Gains Tax.

Property hot spots


“The new real estate mantra should be location, timing and branding,” Ho Chin Soon told The Edge Investment Forum on Real Estate 2007.

In terms of location, Ho said the Klang Valley remains the centre of gravity and buyers should concentrate on the first and second-tier growth areas. The first tier is a 15km radius from the centre while the second tier is the next 25km.

“One of the things to look out for when buying property is whether it is easily accessible to highways,” said Ho. For him, Petaling Jaya remained a favourite area for landed properties while the golden triangle and Mont’Kiara are hot spots for highrises.

In his paper titled “Property hot spots: IDR; NCER or Klang Valley? Where in the Klang Valley?” Ho said the IDR is being used as a test bed by the government.

“They have begun to liberalise policies and we will have to wait and see how this takes effect,” he said.

On the NCER, Ho added, Penang is attracting a lot of attention from the Malaysia My Second Home programme and projects like the second bridge and monorail will only augur well for the northern state.

Ho said 2005/2006 was a good time to invest in property but felt the market would remain good for another two to three years. “I am not saying it (the downturn) will happen in 2010 but if the (property) cycle repeats itself, than it will be about another three years… (before it turns),” he explained.

“Currently, I think the market is still stable and it is still a good time to buy,” Ho said, adding these words of caution: “Make sure you buy from a branded developer!”

Aeon purchases land from SP Setia

By New Straits Times

AEON Co (M) Bhd has signed a sale and purchase agreement with SP Setia Bhd's subsidiary Bukit Indah (Johor) Sdn Bhd to acquire a 15.2ha land in Pulai, Johor for RM106.97 million. Aeon, which operates Jusco stores in Malaysia, plans to build a shopping centre on the purchased land. The land is located within the Bukit Indah Johor township.

Zecon plans RM2b development in Sarawak

By New Straits Times

SECOND-board listed Zecon Bhd plans to develop over RM2 billion worth of residential and township development on an 800ha land not far from Kuching in Sarawak.

The company's subsidiary, Zecon Land Sdn Bhd, has received a provisional approval from Sarawak state planning authority for the development of the land at Semenanjung Demak, about 6km from Kuching.

The company will build more than 4,000 low- to medium-cost terrace houses and related infrastructure for Syarikat Perumahan Negara Bhd (SPNB) on a 200ha of the land, which is expected to cost about RM613.9 million.

The development on the remaining 600ha of land will include a township, comprising commercial, office and residential properties, with a gross development value of about RM1.6 billion.

Zecon group managing director and chief executive officer Datuk Zainal Abidin Ahmad said the projects will unlock the value of the group's land and accelerate revenue contribution from its construction division.

"With a development of this size and the group's commitment to deliver good quality properties, we are looking into tying up with other established property developers in Peninsular Malaysia to jointly develop the 600ha land," Zainal Abidin said in a statement released in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

Zecon is optimistic that the SPNB project, which is set to start by year-end, would contribute positively to the group's construction division in the next financial year.

SPNB is undertaking the sale and marketing initiatives for the affordable housing project, while Zecon will be the contractor to complete the project in three years.

Zainal Abidin said site clearance and earthworks have already commenced.

Zecon and its group of companies are a leading integrated construction and infrastructure group. The group's principal activities include foundation engineering, civil engineering, building works, construction of highway and water infrastructure, property development, and toll concession.

Low-cost homes for PJ squatters

By The Star

ALL primary occupants squatting on government land at Kampung Micheal Chen, Kampung Desa MB and Kampung Seri Setia will be offered houses at a low-cost project near Jalan SS 9A/14, Petaling Jaya.

Kampung Tunku state assemblyman Datuk Dr Wong Sai Hou, who announced this recently, said members of the squatters’ extended families were also eligible to apply for the low-cost units.

Dr Wong: Preliminary work on the project has already begun.
Wong said the happy arrangement was reached after much negotiation and discussion between the residents and the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) over a five-year period.

“Credit must also go to PJ Utara MP Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun, who had worked tirelessly with me to ensure that the occupants of government land at Kampung Michael Chen, especially, are given a fair and equitable deal,” he said.

According to Wong, the authorities have instructed the developer Taipan Focus Sdn Bhd to proceed with the signing of the sales and purchase agreements by next week, with the aim of completing the low-cost project by mid-2010.

“We believe that this date is achievable because all approvals and permits to start work have been given as at Oct 20, and preliminary work on the project has already begun,” he said.

All occupants of Kampung Micheal Chen, Kampung Desa MB and Kampung Seri Setia, who have been duly verified and registered by the MBPJ as squatters, are advised to call Wong at 03-7875 9493 or the developer’s office (03-3371 6010) if they do not receive any offer to execute the sales and purchase agreement by Nov 7.

Zecon gets nod for RM614mil project

By The Star

KUCHING: Zecon Bhd has obtained approval from the Sarawak authorities for a RM613.9mil property development project in Semenanjung Demak near here.

Group managing director Datuk Zainal Abidin Ahmad said the company was the turnkey contractor for 4,166 terrace houses in the proposed Petra Indah project for Syarikat Perumahan Negara Bhd (SPNB).

“Earthworks have started and the project is expected to be completed in three years,” he told StarBiz.

Petra Indah will have low and medium-cost houses on 202ha about 6km from the city centre. Zecon had earlier sold the plot, which was part of 808ha it owned, to SPNB.

Zainal said Zecon was in talks with several big-time developers in the peninsula to jointly develop the remaining 606ha into an eco-park township. He said the company expected to conclude negotiations in two months.

“The proposed eco-park township will feature medium to high-end bungalows and houses with low density. The proposed greenery development, planned for a 15-year period, will have an estimated gross development value of RM1.6bil,” he added.

Zainal said a bridge would be built across the Santubong River to link the township.

On Zecon’s Vista Tunku development in Petra Jaya here, he said the proposed 61 shophouses could be completed next year.

Zainal said the company had tendered for two other water-related jobs, the proposed Triang dam and a water pipeline project in Negri Sembilan, where it was awarded a RM77mil water works project last week. The contract involves the construction of the Petaseh intake pumping station, an access road and associated mechanical and engineering works.

The project is expected to start in two weeks for completion in 32 months. Three months earlier, Zecon won a RM125mil contract from the Negri Sembilan Water Works Department to build the proposed Triang transfer tunnel.

Zecon, a leading integrated engineering and construction company, had recently completed the RM750mil permanent campus for Universiti Malaysia Sarawak in Samarahan near here.

Fiabci awards galore

By The Star

About 1,300 guests at the 15th International Real Estate Federation (Fiabci) Malaysia Property Award held last Saturday observed a minute of silence for the passing of Genting Group founder Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong.

The late Lim was awarded the “Property Man of the Year” by FIABCI in 2002.

The Malaysia Property Award, dubbed the “Oscars” of the property industry, was organised by the Fiabci Malaysia chapter. The event was graced by the Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah.

YTL Land & Development Bhd bagged two awards at the International Real Estate Federation (Fiabci) Malaysia Property Award 2007, while SP Setia Bhd group managing director and chief executive officer Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin was named Property Man of the Year 2007.

YTL Land's Sentul West & Sentul East Master Plans won the best master plan development award and its Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre picked up the special award for national contribution.

Other winners included Stonor Park (best residential development for high-rise), Pinggiran Bayou Village (best residential development for low-rise), Genting Highlands Resort (best resort development), KB Mall (best retail development), Sultan Abdul Aziz Royal Gallery (best specialised project) and Persada Johor International Convention Centre (best specialised project).

In his speech, Liew said the past decade had been a challenging but rewarding journey for him at SP Setia.

“My vision was simple - to be the best in all we do. I demanded the best service and product quality from my team and I am deeply gratified that our commitment in these areas has propelled us to the forefront of the industry.”

He added that the group would continue to “improve and evolve'' to become a global player.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Designing sustainable luxury villas

Richard Hassell is one half of one of the hottest design and architectural firms in town, WOHA, which he set up with co-founding director, Wong Mun Summ. He grew up in Southern Australia back in the 1970s. Amid a global oil crisis then, his father, who had a great interest in sustainable energy, built a holiday home in the outback powered by a wind generator and a solar panel system to capture solar power.

"I remember listening to the radio, and my mum running around with the vacuum cleaner, all using solar power," reminisces Hassell, who spoke at the Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) inaugural conference on sustainability on Aug 30, with the theme "Sustainable Real Estate in Singapore: Where to from Here?".

He became fascinated with the idea of building a completely self-sustainable property, way before it became fashionable. "It's something that we've always wanted to do," says Hassell. "But all through the 1980s, because of cheap fuel, no one was interested in doing anything sustainable."

Until now, that is. It was a hotel resort property in Uluwatu, on the southern tip of the island of Bali in Indonesia, that presented him with the opportunity. In most sectors of real estate, especially in office, the designer, the developer and the end-users or occupiers are not connected, thus there are no feedback channels as to whether a design worked, or what else can be done to improve sustainability.

"The hotel industry is quite interesting in that the missing connections between the designer, the developer and the end-user or operator have actually been [in place] for a long time because of the kind of operation agreements they have and because they usually benefit from the shared profits of the organisation," explains Hassell. "And customers respond very well to the green idea."

Through the design of the Alila Villas Ulu­wa­tu, Hassell shows that being eco-friendly doesn't come at the expense of luxury and comfort. The 13.5ha plot, owned by Indonesian property developer Franky Tjahyadikarta of PT Bukit Uluwatu Villas, was perched on the edge of a steep cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean. The idea was to build a project based on the principles of Environmentally Sustainable Design (ESD). The resort is also registered for Green Globe certification and will be the first hotel in Bali to get the highest level of certification for ESD. "We were trying to create something contemporary, [while being] conscious of the environment," says Hassell.

This was the overall theme driving the design of the Alila Villas Uluwatu, which has 41 one-bedroom hotel villas available only for rent, and 25 three-bedroom hillside bungalows and villas for sale. The hillside bungalows and villas, which will be completed in mid-2008, are priced from US$2 million (RM6.7 million).

"We wanted to capitalise on the dramatic site and the views of the sea," says Hassell. So, instead of the traditional Balinese steep rooftops that would have blocked all the million-dollar views, the roofs have been made flat and turned into terrace gardens that follow the contours of the terrain. The roofs were covered with lava rocks, which absorb solar energy, thereby keeping the villas cool, but they are also ideal for growing the local Balinese Savannah-like vegetation. The developer turned the rooftops of the hotel villas into nurseries to see which plants thrived best in the local climate, which was drier than central Bali and "very much like South Africa", says Hassell.
The architect was also conscious of keeping the existing terrain and not discharging water from the site into the sea, which would have damaged the coral reef system. In clearing the land, large trees were left untouched. To conserve water, rain gardens were created to serve as water catchments during the rainy season; they were designed such that water is gradually drained from them to irrigate the plants.

All material used came from Bali and Java, and the biggest challenge was getting timber. Fortunately, the government was converting telephone poles in Bali from wood to concrete, and also replacing old railway tracks, so the company managed to buy all the discarded wood.

Inspired by Central Java's 2,000-year history in the use of bronze for furniture and ornaments, the design team used the material for their furnishing. "The problem was that we had so much bronze in our furniture that they were stolen and had already been recycled," Hassell says. "But I think it's nice to use local materials and provide employment for the local community. It's the idea of thinking globally, but doing a lot of research locally to make a lot of these things."

All the hard work was worth it, though. "I think it's philanthropy — sharing knowledge, having an environmental plan and involving the community," he adds.

(Cecilia Chow is City & Country editor at The EDGE Singapore)

By The EDGE Malaysia (By Cecilia Chow)

What a makeover can do

Old and basic. This is among the reasons Pantai Hill is generally cheaper than Damansara Heights. It must be noted that Pantai Hill homes that have enjoyed a makeover do command a premium in price.

Attracted by the potential return on investment, interior design contracting company Bukit Kiara Interiors Sdn Bhd paid RM2.05 million for a bungalow in Pantai Hill in early 2004. After obtaining approval from the relevant authorities, the company invested another RM1million in renovations and other incidental costs. Upon completion of the renovation works a year ago, the property was put back on the market and within weeks it was sold for RM4.2 million, says Bukit Kiara Properties group managing director N K Tong. Bukit Kiara Interiors is a sister company of Bukit Kiara Properties, a developer of landed and high-rise residences in the upmarket Mont'Kiara.

The 10,000 sq ft property had some 4,500 sq ft in built-up but this was expanded to about 5,500 sq ft with the renovations.

This was the second such property in Pantai Hill that Bukit Kiara Interiors has bought, renovated and sold. The first was acquired in 2002 for RM1.95 million. This freehold 9,100 sq ft property was sold in early 2005 for RM2.8 million after the gross built-up area had been expanded by 10% to 4,400sq ft.

On the renovations that went into the recently sold house, Tong says the main objective was to capture the advantage of the elevated site, as the location has little obstruction in terms of city view.

With that in mind, new walls, glass panels and partitions were erected; an outdoor pool was created, the wet kitchen extended and the roof dismantled and replaced. A walk-in wardrobe was added to the master bedroom, while a part of the courtyard area was converted into a wet kitchen and maid's room. A new study with en-suite bathroom was also created. Almost all the floor finishes were replaced with quality tiles or solid timber. The electric supply, electrical wiring and air-con piping were upgraded while all plumbing pipes and sanitary ware changed. New designer grilles and a new gate went up at the driveway. A new alarm system was also installed. Outside, the gardens were re-landscaped.

"By doing this and more, about 1,100 sq ft was added to the built-up area. But more importantly, the property now fully capitalises on its potential and enjoys breathtaking city views both day and night," adds Tong.

According to Pillai Properties managing director Prasad Pillai, refurbishing an old home and then selling it at a premium is a lucrative business especially in land-scarce prime areas. "Pantai Hill is a target of investors who are waiting to pounce on any old rundown bungalow for sale here," he says.

Pantai Hills is an old and established area, which makes it ideal for investors. They pay mainly for the land value as the house itself would be of little value. "I have a long list of clients who constantly call me up asking me to remember them if there are any such houses for sale," he reveals.
There are, however, few houses among the 300-odd bungalows that come on the market. If there is any house up for sale, it is usually taken up within weeks, he says, adding that those who buy into the area are usually successful businessmen between the ages of 40 and 45, wishing to upgrade their lifestyle. They are willing to pay for something they like and since they have the means, they are fussy about quality. Not only do they look for refurbished homes, but also at the quality of the design, adds Pillai.

Rahim & Co managing director Robert Ang says it is quite common nowadays to redevelop an old house. "A number of houses built 30 years ago are small but the land area is large so today's purchasers with new money, will tear down the house and rebuild with a much bigger built-up to show they have 'arrived'. They are not going to stay in a house with four rooms and two bathrooms. They want a house with seven bedrooms and seven bathrooms."

Ang cites the experience of a buyer who paid RM2.8 million for a house in Pantai Hills two years ago, spent RM1 million over 1½ years to upgrade it and then sold it for RM5.1 million recently.

Prices, offers Ang, will continue to appreciate as demand increases and supply diminishes. Sellers are also getting very savvy and many are not selling just yet.


Pantai Hill, the hidden gem

When one talks about upmarket and exclusive landed residential enclaves in Kuala Lumpur, the addresses that come to mind include Kenny Hills, Damansara Heights and U-Thant.

There is one other place that is just as exclusive, but which has remained hidden. In the words of some real-estate agents, Pantai Hill or Bukit Pantai is probably one of the country's best-kept secrets in terms of exclusivity.

Located between Bangsar and the part of the SPRINT Highway that runs next to the grounds of Universiti Malaya, Pantai Hill covers about 120 acres of mainly freehold land, estimates real estate consultancy Rahim & Co.

Pantai Hill is appealing, especially to owner-occupiers, given its centralised location with easy access to Petaling Jaya and the city centre. While the area enjoys the benefits of being neighbours with popular Bangsar in terms of accessibility and amenities, it remains relatively private, Robert Ang, managing director of Rahim & Co, tells City & Country.

Not only that, the homes on Pantai Hill sit on sizeable plots. "We are talking about an average 10,000 sq ft of land for the bungalows here. Some even have up to 20,000 sq ft of land," Ang points out.

In comparison, the average land area for bungalows in Damansara Heights is between 5,000 and 6,000 sq ft. Value-wise, on a per sq ft basis, Damansara Heights is more expensive.

With such appealing features, why has Pantai Hill been so "quiet"?

Pantai Hill is not as well known because there are not as many houses on sale here, reasons Ang. This could be because, as resident Katherine Lim emphatically declares, "once you have lived here, you don't want to move".

Lim, who is also a real-estate agent, has been living in Pantai Hill for 16 years, since relocating from Damansara Heights.

"I love the place. It is centralised. It is also extremely convenient; you want to get a bottle of milk, just go down the road. We go to Bangsar for everything and yet we are away from the hustle and bustle of Bangsar," she says.

"My house is on top of a hill, so it is quiet and the view is great. We have tree-lined roads and lots of cul-de-sacs. Many of the residents here are from the older generation and have been in the area for a long time. There are quite a number of doctors who own houses here, maybe because of the hospital nearby," she adds.

For Prasad Pillai, managing director of Pillai Properties, Pantai Hill's success is thanks to neighbouring Bangsar with its excellent amenities, including thriving retail offerings such as Bangsar Shopping Centre and Bangsar Village 1 and 2.

However, unlike Bangsar, Pantai Hill has lower density and is quieter. Its busiest part would be the houses along the main road of Jalan Bukti Pantai, Pillai points out.

The view seen from Lim's house, says Pillai, is one of the area's selling points.

"The houses are, after all, on a hill. So, many of them have magnificent views. There are actually not many high-rises here getting in the way of these views. One of the high-rises is the rather old Pantai Towers and the other is the spanking new Zehn Bukit Pantai, which has received tremendous response," he adds.

Pantai Hill is about 35 years old and its values have been climbing at no less than 10% per annum over the last five years, Pillai says, adding that today's prices are as high as RM350 to RM400 psf, depending on the location and condition of the property. His office is in the vicinity.

Rahim & Co's Yap Kong Keong says the average price of a bungalow that is more than 10 years old averages around RM2.5 million, while it is around RM3.5 million for a newer one (based on transactions handled by the agency over the last five years). This works out to about RM250 to RM350 psf. The average growth in property values here is about 10% a year but just over the last one year, there has been a jump of as high as 50%, notes Yap. Prices are certainly rising fast.

"One landowner in Pantai Hill recently even asked for RM350 psf just for the land and he is not settling for anything less," he adds.

Although the hilly terrain here is quite challenging, most of the land here has already been carved out, with houses on them. So, "one good thing about the area is you won't find a condo suddenly in front of you," offers Rahim & Co's Ang.

The recent jump in prices, he says, is in tandem with the rise in value of high-end residential properties across the Klang Valley. This is mainly due to the various government incentives for the property market and resultant influx of foreign investors, and the generally positive outlook for the economy, buoyed by a strong stock market.

For example, Rahim & Co sold a property for RM5 million in Kenny Hills a few months ago and the owner is now looking to selling it for RM7 million. This is a potential gain of 30% to 40% in less than six months.

Clearly, more investors are looking at Pantai Hill for its potential upside. Resident and property agent Lim sold a bungalow here for RM4.3 million early this year. The property had a land area of 9,000 sq ft, with a built-up of 4,000 sq ft and a swimming pool, but it still needed doing up.

Lim herself paid RM180 psf for a parcel here early last year. She sees the land going for probably RM300 psf now. She also believes that property prices here will eventually be on a par with those in Damansara Heights.


Managing your mortgage well

Part of managing the investment that is your home is managing the mortgage that comes with it. Here are ways to maximise cost savings when getting your home loan.

A good mortgage package is integral when investing in a home for the long term as you would want to hold down the lowest interest rates to maximise savings.

Adrian Un: Fixed rates allow you to hedge against future interest-rate hikes

Just as with buying property, shop around for the best rates. Although the first offer may look good, with mortgage packages as competitive as they are today, you may be able to get a better deal. Compare the quotations given by financial institutions and talk to the officers in charge about a counter-offer if their competitors are able to provide better rates. Adrian Un, director of Mortgage Broker Sdn Bhd, says banks would usually consider giving a more attractive deal if the applicants have a good record. "If they come from a good background (for example, working for a multinational company) and have a good credit rating, the banks would usually provide better rates."

What sort of mortgage package should you get? Un and Martin Chow, head of sales and business development at Fiscal Wise Sdn Bhd, give some tips.

Refinance, but be cautious
Since banks are becoming more competitive, refinancing an old home loan may be a smart move. If you had bought your home five years ago, your loan could be as high as BLR + 1%. Today, banks are offering rates as low as BLR ­- 1.6%. Imagine that you had borrowed RM250,000 over 25 years at a rate of 7%. That translates into RM1,770 per month. Say you have whittled down your outstanding loan to RM230,000 after five years. Refinance now at a fixed rate of 6% for the remaining 20 years and this lowers the monthly instalments to RM1,650.

Watch out, though. There is always a potential to get deeper into debt when you refinance. Banks now offer 30-year mortgages even though the borrower may already be 35 years of age. Refinancing a 20-year mortgage to a 30-year one can be tempting because it effectively reduces your monthly payments. But on the whole, you may be worse off, especially if you spend the savings.

Foo: Consider your overall cash flow and risk profile

"A leverage itself is not bad but needs to be managed depending on a person's situation," says financial planner Robert Foo, financial planner and principal consultant of MyFP Services Sdn Bhd. By the time you retire, you should be debt-free, note financial planners.

"A 30-year loan would normally mean that you will still be repaying it when you're retired," says Foo.

Making prepayments
One good way to pay off your mortgage faster is to make payments on the principal. This effectively lowers the total interest amount. You can achieve this by paying extra amounts each month or dumping in a lump sum, such as your year-end bonus.

In a 25-year, RM250,000 loan at an interest rate of 6%, making an extra payment of RM5,000 a year would result in the loan being paid off eight years earlier.

Sure, it sounds good. If the interest rate is at 6%, paying down your loan effectively gives you a 6% return on the funds, fuss-free.

But again, consider your overall cash flow and risk profile, says Foo. "There could be better uses for your money."

By The EDGE MALAYSIA (By Tho Li Ming)

Lien Hoe makes baffling moves

Eyebrows were raised when ailing property company Lien Hoe Corp Bhd became a substantial shareholder in new property player Perduren (M) Bhd two months ago. However, when Lien Hoe doubled its stake in Perduren, raising it to 20% last Monday, with the purchase of an additional 13 million shares, the extent of the relationship between the two companies becomes quite clear.

It seems that Lien Hoe, which had in January this year sold its Kompleks Lien Hoe in Johor Baru to Perduren for RM94.7 million, now has exposure to the same asset at the cheaper price of RM22.7 million.

To recap, in August, Lien Hoe forked out RM10 million to increase its shareholding in Perduren from 2.94% to 10.28%. On Oct 22, Lien Hoe purchased an additional 13 million Perduren shares in a married off-market deal for RM11.7 million. Both were bought at a premium to Perduren's share price at the time.

However, given that property prices are likely to rise in the coming months, Perduren could see a significant improvement in the value of its two shopping complexes. As such, there could be some potential upside to Lien Hoe's investment.

At present, Lien Hoe's biggest shareholder is its managing director Datuk Yap Sing Hock, who directly holds a 26.9% stake.

Although it looks to be a sweet deal, it should be noted that Lien Hoe is increasing its exposure to a company which is holding an asset that it (Lien Hoe) had earlier sold because the property was giving diminishing returns. Also, the fact that Lien Hoe is increasing its stake in Perduren when its own finances are still on shaky ground has baffled property analysts.

"Lien Hoe has been actively disposing of its assets in the past year as part of its restructuring exercise, and using the money to pare down its debts. Logic suggests that Lien Hoe would not undertake such an investment at this point in time," says an analyst.
Yap could not be reached for comments.

Lien Hoe now holds a 20.56% stake in Perduren and is its largest shareholder. This is significant, considering that Perduren's previous shareholding structure was highly fragmented, according to its latest annual report, with no one shareholder holding more than 10% of the company's shares.

However, Lien Hoe shareholders might want to question whether this investment in Perduren is making the best use of the company's limited resources.

When Lien Hoe first upped its stake, the company came under flak for increasing its gearing from 0.67 to 0.70 times. Although marginal, analysts found it unusual that a company that had been focusing on shoring up its balance sheet would intentionally increase its debt level.

In its latest exercise, Lien Hoe stated that it would be funding the share purchase using its cash reserves. But, according to its latest second-quarter results, the group's cash and bank balances only total RM7.2 million. Add in the short-term borrowings of Lien Hoe totalling RM89.3 million, and it appears that the company can ill-afford its latest purchase.

However, Lien Hoe is confident that turning Perduren into an associate company will prove beneficial in the long run.
"This move will enable the company (Lien Hoe) to equity account the financial results of Perduren in its books.
Further earnings growth for Perduren can be expected from its intended venture into property development," Lien Hoe states in an announcement.

But if Lien Hoe's reasons for increasing its stake is to equity account the share of profits, it is not going to be anytime soon, considering Perduren's less than stellar financial results. For the financial year ended March 31, 2007, Perduren made a loss of RM1.8 million while its revenue stood at RM6.9 million.

The good news is, the losses came from Perduren's discontinued garment operations and are hence a one-off thing. As such, Perduren is optimistic about returning to profitability for FY2008, on the back of its two main properties Holiday Plaza and Kompleks Lien Hoe.

Lien Hoe had seen income from its various shopping complexes decline in the face of stiff competition. The company also saw the resignation of its executive director Kenneth Vun, who left on Oct 24 under a cloud of controversy. Earlier this month, the Securities Commission had filed a civil suit against Vun for RM2.5 million for alleged misuse of funds from the initial public offering of FTEC Resources Bhd, where Vun is the managing director.

There also could be another potential twist to the tale. On Oct 1, Perduren appointed its current property manager Holiday Plaza Sdn Bhd to manage Kompleks Lien Hoe for RM285,000 per month.

"The price paid appears rather steep, given the condition and location of the mall," says an industry observer, who admits he was surprised at the pricing.

Coincidentally, listed in Lien Hoe's latest annual report as a wholly owned but dormant subsidiary is a company named Holiday Plaza Complex Management Sdn Bhd. However, information given by Perduren about Holiday Plaza reveals no obvious links to Lien Hoe or any of its subsidiaries.

Whatever the case, Lien Hoe, by being the single largest shareholder in Perduren, has indirect control over the complex it sold to the latter. And that too at a much cheaper cost. So, has Perduren shareholders really benefited from its acquisition of Komplek Lien Hoe? It certainly does not appear so.


Hospitality investments trending up

By New Straits Times

Foreign investments in the local real estate sector are not confined to just commercial and residential properties: Money is being put into the leisure/resort sector as well.

According to Zerin Properties chief executive officer Previndran Singhe, foreign investors accounted for a hefty 85 per cent of the value of hotel transactions last year, compared with 44 per cent the previous year.

Increasing investments in the hospitality market are a growing trend, he said, adding that foreign investments in hotels in Malaysia grew by 64 per cent in 2006, with both hotel funds and investment funds driving the demand.

Among the hotel transactions, Previndran added, were the 571-room Crown Princess which was transacted at RM240 million or RM420,315 per room, Grand Centrepoint (100 rooms for RM12.5 million/RM125,000 per room) and Westin (452 rooms for RM455 million/RM1 million) in Kuala Lumpur; and Sheraton Subang (502 rooms for RM140 million/RM278,884) in Selangor.

The others were Ferringhi Beach Hotel (350 rooms for RM43 million/RM122,857 per room) and Midtown Hotel (96 rooms; RM12 million/RM125,000) in Penang; Holiday Villa (258; RM55 million/RM213,178) in Langkawi; Holiday Villa (160; RM31 million/ RM193,750) in Kedah; Holiday Villa (100; RM21.87 million/RM195,286) in Kuantan; and Berjaya Palace Hotel (160; RM21 million/ RM131,250) in Sabah.

In the four- and five-star hotel sector in KL, local investors accounted for 58 per cent of the ownership as of December 2006 and foreigners the remaining 42 per cent.

In 2005, hotel transactions in KL included the Mandarin Oriental in KL City Centre (642 rooms; RM600 million/RM933,000), Sheraton Imperial (398; RM225 million/ RM565,000) and Nikko Hotel (470; RM235 million/RM500,000).

Elsewhere, the transactions included Sheraton Perdana (207; RM77.5 million/ RM374,396) in Langkawi; Merlin Inn (66; RM13.5 million/RM204,545) in Cameron Highlands; Merlin Johor Baru (149; RM10.46 million/RM70,201); and Sheraton Kuantan (267; RM36.6 million/RM137,078).

Previndran envisages the advent of resort homes in Langkawi, Kuala Terengganu and Kuantan in Peninsular Malaysia as well as Kudat, Kota Kinabalu, Tuaran and Papar in Sabah, given the country's gorgeous islands, breathtaking sceneries, spectacular diving spots, laid-back charm and good quality of life.

For Far East Consortium International Ltd (Fecil) deputy chairman and chief executive officer Tan Sri David Chiu, growing tourist arrivals, which rose from 15.7 million in 2004 to 16.4 million in 2005 and on to 17.6 million last year, was a key factor in his decision to invest in the local hospitality real estate.

Other reasons are the improving infrastructure, Malaysia's evolvement as a shopping haven, low hotel rates, and of course commendable real gross domestic product growth.

Besides Malaysia, which is expected to see a 10.8 per cent increase in tourist arrivals next year, Fecil also owns and operates hotels in Hong Kong, Macau and China.

According to the Leisure Stock Report for the second quarter of this year from the Valuation and Property Services Department's National Property Information Centre (Napic), the average occupancy rate at five-, four- and three-star hotels was well maintained at 65.4 per cent, 60.8 per cent and 62.6 per cent respectively.

The average occupancy rate for hotels in KL ranged from below 50 per cent at those in Jalan Ipoh and Jalan Raja Laut to near 100 per cent at hotels in Jalan Bukit Bintang, Jalan Changkat Bukit Bintang and Jalan Masjid India.

In Selangor, the rate ranged from 60 per cent at hotels in Shah Alam to 70 per cent in Subang and above 80 per cent in Sepang.

In Johor, the figures varied from below 20 per cent in Muar to above 70 per cent in Batu Pahat and Kluang.

In Penang, the average occupancy rate of hotels in the city centre and those at beachfronts ranged from 65 per cent to almost 90 per cent, while Genting Highlands, dubbed Asia's leading integrated leisure and entertainment resort, saw an average rate of 75 per cent for a five-star hotel and over 90 per cent for a three-star.

The country has a total of 2,180 hotels and 149,820 rooms, with KL, Johor, Pahang, Sabah and Sarawak accounting for over 200 hotels each.

KL has the highest number of "incoming supply" of hotels and rooms, at 16 and 5,066; followed by Johor's nine and 3,038; while Selangor, Pahang and Terengganu are getting four hotels each, offering 3,163, 994 and 725 rooms.

Of the total of 128 "planned supply" of hotels offering 33,713 rooms, KL again accounted for the lion's share of 95 hotels with 21,650 rooms. Terengganu was a distant second with six hotels offering 482 rooms while Negeri Sembilan and Pahang each will have five new hotels offering 1,805 and 4,977 rooms.

Overwhelming response to Tan & Tan's One Jelatek

By New Straits Times

TAN & Tan Developments Bhd's latest low-density condominium, One Jelatek, received overwhelming response during a recent sales preview. Purchasers snapped up 90 per cent of the 90 available units in just two hours, leaving behind only Bumiputera units.

One Jelatek is expected to achieve attractive rental returns when it is completed in 2010, the developer said in a statement.

"This 20-storey chic and stylish development sits on a valuable pocket of freehold land along Jalan Jelatek, located just minutes away from KLCC, Great Eastern Mall, The Amp Walk, and Gleneagles Medical Centre, and conveniently connected to the rest of Klang Valley via the Jalan Ampang, the Ampang Elevated Highway and two Putra LRT stations," Tan & Tan group marketing general manager Kevin Kuok said.

The built-up area of One Jelatek standard units range from 1,327 to 1,649 sq ft, with one bedroom and study, two bedrooms and study, and 3-bedroom configurations at an average price of RM420 per sq ft.

All units come with split unit air-conditioning, built-in kitchen cabinets, sizeable four-fixture master bathrooms, dedicated powder room, store and laundry area and two car park bays.

"Over the years we have been one of the leading property players in the city area. With the record success of One Jelatek and other developments such as U-Thant Residence, Northpoint, Cendana, Bukit Sri Persekutuan, Desa Damansara 2 and Hampshire Park, Tan & Tan's prime focus will remain within the city," added Teh Boon Ghee, Tan & Tan senior general manager (project developments).

He said Kuala Lumpur will continue to be the location for Tan & Tan's new developments next year.

Tradewinds mulls setting up property trust

By New Straits Times

TRADEWINDS Corp Bhd, which recently reorganised its business to focus on its hotel and property businesses, is weighing the option of setting up a real estate investment trust (REIT) possibly on a joint venture basis.

"Doing a REIT is a possibility on our property side," chairman Datuk Seri Megat Najmuddin Megat Khas said.

"We have been approached by a few managers to spin off a REIT and approached by parties to do it on a joint venture basis," Tradewinds Hotels and Resorts Sdn Bhd's chief executive officer Shaharul Farez Hassan said.

Shaharul added that the properties likely to be injected into the REIT vehicle are the non-hotel commercial properties such as the 657,866 sq ft Menara Tun Razak and 60,153 sq m Komplex Antarabangsa which have an estimated value of RM350 million.

The rental for the former is RM3.80 per sq ft and the latter is RM4.60.

In a recent interview with Business Times, Shaharul said that while the company's plan to set up the REIT instrument is still preliminary, it is an option the firm is looking into.

"As a rule of thumb, we want to have a minimum asset value of RM500 million before we do a REIT," he said, adding that at this point it does not have the said portfolio.

"If we do a REIT, we cannot do it by ourselves ... either we build more or we do it on partnership," Shaharul said.

"The ones who have approached us are those who also have about two or three buildings, he said.

"Together there would be two promoters with the required critical mass."

The company owns some 10 hotels including Crowne Plaza Mutiara Kuala Lumpur, Hotel Istana, Hilton Petaling Jaya and Mutiara Johor Baru.

Asked why it does not want to inject one of the hotel components into the REIT to achieve the RM500 million asset target, Shaharul said the group does not see value in pumping in the hotel and then to underwriting the yield return on the property.

Tradewinds recently split its plantation and sugar refining business from the group to focus on its hotel and property businesses.

On the likely date when the REIT will take off, Shaharul said it will depend on timing, including whether the market is willing to pay a premium for it.

BLand eyes upmarket buyers

By New Straits Times

Taman Seputeh link bungalows expected to draw strong response

Land Bhd (BLand) hopes to attract upmarket homebuyers with its soon-to-be-launched link bungalows in Taman Seputeh, Kuala Lumpur.

The project, known as Vasana 25, spreads across two hectares of freehold land and will house 22 link bungalows and three bungalows.

The gross development value of the project is RM109 million and the selling price of the link bungalows will begin at RM3 million.

"By early next year we will launch (this project)," BLand properties marketing general manager Mah Siew Wan told reporters after the company's shareholders' meeting last Friday.

Mah said she expected the three-storey bungalows to be "very well-received", given its gated community concept but declined to provide the expected take-up rate.

The built-up area is 4,000 to 5,000 sq ft with land area of 5,000 to 7,000 sq ft.

She added that since some link bungalows would be built on higher ground, these units would come complete with elevators.

"As you age, it becomes more difficult to climb stairs hence we've factored that consideration into our design," she said.

Mah said another project to be launched by end-2007 is Savanna 2 in Bukit Jalil, which is currently awaiting building plan approval.

This project is a four-storey block with 32 units of condominium villas built on 0.49 hectares of freehold land.

This follows the success of Savanna, two blocks of condominium units fully sold after the launch in October 2005.

"One block was taken by Korea's Hanju I & D Co Ltd, which has also expressed interest in purchasing another development in Bukit Jalil," she said.

Hanju signed a memorandum of understanding mid-2007 for RM126 million in cash to purchase the KM3 project, which is a 20-storey condominium with 308 units on 1.18 hectares of freehold land.

Mulpha Land wins another Fiabci award

By The Star

MULPHA Land Bhd has bagged another Fiabci award for its Leisure Farm Resort.

Picture: view of the Pinggiran Bayou housing development.

This time, it won the Fiabci Malaysia Property Award 2007 in the best residential development (low rise) category for its lovely Pinggiran Bayou Village Homes, an exclusive enclave of 122 courtyard homes in a secure and double-gated and guarded community.

The low-density series of courtyard homes lines a linear waterway and fronts the expansive Canal Park.

One has to visit the place to truly appreciate the amount of effort Mulpha Land has put in.

The environmentally-friendly clubhouse at Pinggiran Bayou Village Homes.

The freehold, 1,765-acre Leisure Farm Resort in Gelang Patah, Johor, has bagged numerous accolades such as the Fiabci Malaysia Property Award for Best Masterplan 2005, Fiabci Prix d'Excellence 2006, and PAM Architecture Steel Award.

Pinggiran Bayou homes are not only attractive but they were designed to reflect its philosophy of creating a healthy balance of mind, body and soul. One can see the effort to protect, preserve, recycle and conserve as much of its natural surroundings as possible.

For example, these clustered homes (following the successful launch of the Garden Court cluster homes) feature wide spaces and private garden.

They are carefully sculptured with a series of interior and exterior green spaces that retain much of the land's natural contour and maximises natural lighting and ventilation. The building design is one of the winners of the PAM Architectural Award 2003-Johor Chapter.

Mulpha International Bhd general manager (property division) Ronn Yong said: “We're very honoured to win this award. It is a result of great teamwork and our efforts to build a product that is a market leader.

“We are constantly setting new benchmarks as a long-term commitment to our purchasers.”

Yong said the concept took into consideration the need to conserve and recycle rainwater, the provision of shades and a children-friendly and handicapped-friendly environment.

The double-volume living room of a Pinggiran Bayou Village Home.

“As such, we have provided ramps in public areas where one can push a trolley or wheelchair. There are also parking bays for the handicapped,” he said, adding that the internal streets had low curbs.

For example, the roof of the clubhouse does not have gutters but rainwater falls into a pond and all surface water runs off into the canal. Some of the water is recycled for watering the gardens.

Rain is collected and recycled in ponds and weir canals that also form pocket parks and eco-friendly recreational spaces. “The idea is adapted from the Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan,” said Yong.

Features of the Pinggiran Bayou Village Homes include double-volume ceilings for the living area, natural lighting, cross ventilation, private sanctuary, roof deck garden, floor-to-ceiling windows, private courtyard, open plan kitchen, formal dining area, forecourt garden, two covered parking bays, 26ft-wide frontage (Type A), private enclosed yard, alarm system and split level living and dining rooms.

In its effort to live up to its tagline Redefining Community Living, the developer has also designed meandering textured streets and landscaped corridors. It even built a canal link bridge.

There is a small but cute clubhouse with Spanish step garden, steam pool and a reflective roof pond, garden maze, amphitheatre, water features and children-friendly pool.

About 70% of the 122 completed units (with certificates of fitness) have been sold. A two-room unit with 1,900-sq-ft built up is priced from RM522,000. A three-room 1,600-sq-ft unit is priced around RM500,000 (sold out) while a four-room unit with 2,300-sq-ft built-up area is priced from RM570,000.

Yong said 15 new show bungalows would be built along the canal. They would have land size of 20,000 to 30,000 sq ft with built-up areas from 7,000 sq ft. Prices are from RM4mil to RM5mil each.

There are plans to revamp the completed Golf View zero lot bungalows. As for the sale of bungalow lots, there are still left about 100 Phase 1 lots (an acre each) and 80 lots of the Phase 2 bungalow land. Prices have risen from RM18 per sq ft to between RM35 and RM60 per sq ft.

Meanwhile, 10 of the 11 big show villas in the resort, including the majestic Colonade, have been sold.

For this writer, it has been an unforgettable experience staying in several of these mansions over the past eight years or so, and Leisure Farm is truly a gem of a resort that is waiting to be discovered.

Hotel sector high on investors’ radar screen

By The Star

FOREIGN groups are coming in greater numbers to acquire hotels in Malaysia, especially in the Klang Valley, to take advantage of the good value and expected strong growth in the industry.

Last year, a whopping 85% of the value of hotel transactions in the country was by foreigners compared with 44% in 2005.

»I think we are going to see a consolidation of hotel ownership« PREVINDRAN SINGHE
Foreign investments in hotels grew by 64% last year with foreigners, including regional chain players, hotel funds, foreign investment funds and individuals, making up 42% of the ownership of 4- and 5-star hotels in Kuala Lumpur now.

According to Zerin Properties chief executive officer Previndran Singhe, the growing interest among foreigners in the hotel sector was triggered by the strong growth in the tourism sector and the economy.

Generally the foreign investors were from the region and the Middle East, he said, adding that there was also a growing interest from investors in Singapore, Thailand and Europe and American funds and hotel chains.

“The advent of low-cost carriers and the strong tourism drive may create an insatiable appetite for hotels,” Previndran told StarBiz.

In the past few years, Zerin Properties has concluded a number of hotel transactions within and outside the country for foreign groups.

“We are basically hotel dealmakers in the region. We are in the midst of concluding a sale in Indochina and selling a resort in the Philippines, and has been appointed by a Middle East fund to negotiate the purchase of hotels in the region.”

Previndran said Zerin was also involved in hotel sales in Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia and other emerging markets.

As the exclusive agent for the asset disposal programme of the Sheraton Chain of Hotels in Malaysia, it concluded the sale of the 207-room Sheraton Perdana in Langkawi for RM77.5mil and the 267-room Sheraton Kuantan for RM36.6mil in 2005.

It was also involved in the sale of the 149-room Merlin Johor Baru for RM10.46mil and the 66-room Merlin Inn in Cameron Highlands for RM13.5mil.

Last year, the 100-room Grand Centerpoint in Kuala Lumpur was sold for RM12.5mil, and the latest deal was the sale of the 91-room Four Seasons in Langkawi for RM435mil.

The 452-room Westin Kuala Lumpur was sold for RM455mil in 2006, or a whopping RM1mil a room
“Malaysia has some of the finest hotels in the region and the growing number of foreign brands and players is adding a new dimension to the local hospitality sector.

“The hotels here are on par with other international markets and the local industry is leading in terms of product innovation through products such as The Datai, Hilton Batang Ai and Tune Hotel.

“New hotels coming in with truly leading designs include Maya Hotel and KL Hilton, which are niche in their market positioning and are market leading,” Previndran said.

Renovation work to spruce up some of the leading existing hotels such as Shangri-La Kuala Lumpur, Sheraton Imperial and The Regent is also underway.

With the tourism drive, average room rates (ARR) for 5-star hotels have moved up by at least 20% over the past two years while other categories of hotels have recorded an ARR increase of to 5% 10%.

Hotel occupancy rates in the Klang Valley have also increased from the mid-60's two years ago to about 70% now.

In August, 4- and 5-star hotels recorded an average occupancy rate of 86% while the average room rate climbed to RM361 from below RM300 previously.

“Moving forward, I think we are going to see a consolidation of hotel ownership – from fragmented ownership to chain ownership, and maybe even a hospitality-based real estate investment trust (REIT) like the Starwood REIT in the US.

“These consolidated owners will be locals and foreigners from the region who are already chain owners. There is also a strong Middle Eastern interest coming into the market, mainly in the premium properties,” Previndran said.

He said more top class brands, such as Conrad and Intercontinental, were expected to come into the market in the near future.

“On the other end of the spectrum, more chain-based limited service hotels in the likes of Ibis, Formula 1 and Holiday Inn Express will also be making its presence felt. I also see interest in resort locations picking up tremendously.”

Around the region, Previndran said Vietnam was experiencing a boom in the hotel industry due to shortage of good hotels.

“We see strong opportunities in the Vietnamese cities and resorts for premium and limited service hotels.

“The Philippines is also a good market as the population base is big and its islands are truly a big attraction for the Korean and Japanese markets.

“Australia is also another strong market, with Sydney being the most visited city in the Asia-Pacific.”

CIMB-Mapletree buying YNH condo, say sources

By The Star

CIMB-Mapletree has agreed to purchase one block of YNH Property Bhd's Ceriaan Kiara project in Mont' Kiara, according to sources close to the deal.

The project comprises two luxurious condominium blocks, each with 119 units, located opposite the Garden International School.

StarBiz learned that the acquisition had an estimated gross sales value of over RM60mil. It is understood that there would also be other deals with CIMB-Mapletree soon.

YNH has sold over 85% of the units in the other block.

It is learnt that the capital value of similar properties in the Mont' Kiara area has risen about 20% from a year ago. At present, the selling price is RM450 to RM600 per sq ft.

The Ceriaan Kiara project, currently under construction, is about 30% completed and will be fully finished in 2009.

CIMB-Mapletree is a joint venture between CIMB Real Estate Sdn Bhd, a wholly owned subsidiary of CIMB Group, and Mapletree Capital Management Pte Ltd, a wholly owned unit of Mapletree Investments Pte Ltd.

Mapletree Investments, in turn, is wholly owned by Temasek Holdings (Private) Ltd.

Recently, YNH Property appointed Fraser Hospitality Pte Ltd to manage its RM300mil Lot 163 Suites project in Jalan Perak, Kuala Lumpur.

Fraser Hospitality, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Fraser & Neave Ltd, is an international serviced residence management company providing consultancy and other services.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Shopping haven

By The Star

LOCATED in Kota Baru, the capital of Kelantan, KB Mall has become a popular shopping haven that is successful and modern. Locals and tourists from Terengganu, Pahang and even Southern Thailand are drawn to it.

Its aims to be the “one stop shopping mall” so it emphasises on convenience for shoppers.

Wholly owned and managed by Y.S. Tang Holdings Sdn Bhd, KB Mall is a joint venture with Perbadanan Kemajuan Iktisad Negeri Kelantan (PKINK).

KB Mall opened its doors in 2004 and has since enjoyed a high occupancy rate of 98% with an average growth of 7.5% per annum.

The Mall is strategically located at the junction of four main roads: Jalan Hamzah/Sultan Ismail/Sultan Yahya Petra/Kuala Kerai and transportation is easily available. The 24-hour CCTV surveillance ensures maximum security and handicap-friendly facilities are also available with vertical transportation, travelators, escalators, user-friendly toilets and lifts from basements to the upper floors.

KB Mall’s anchor tenant is Pacific Hypermarket and Departmental Store, a 2-in-1 concept where a single premise houses a hypermarket, departmental store and home mart. All together there are over 180 retail shops offering fashion and accessories, jewellery and timepieces, cosmetics and fragrances, souvenir and gifts, home furnishing and decoration, health and personal care. The Pacific Group is also found in Alor Star Mall, Batu Pahat Mall and Taiping Mall – the newest of which will open its doors to shoppers in 2009.

The opening of KB Mall has created 2,000 over new business opportunities for local retailers. The shopping mall has created an immense impact on the local socio-economy – new jobs, training and experience are provided to local entrepreneurs.

KB Mall is just the first phase of an integrated building with further expansion plans in the works. It is the largest shopping mall in Kelantan and is not only a success story to the developer but also to the city of Kota Baru.

Practical patronage

KB Mall, the largest mall in Kota Baru, clinched the Malaysia Property Award 2007 in the Retail Development category. It is a prestigious award much sought after by developers as it brings immediate recognition to the property.

Yiap Toon Cheng, General Manager at Y.S. Tang Holdings Sdn Bhd, says that KB Mall is built with practical patronage in mind of its customers and caters more towards user-friendliness even for the disabled, and is not just about fancy framework. A big brownie point awarded to KB Mall by FIABCI evaluators is the Mall’s unique feature of it being built around existing shops.

This is planned with high foresight by the management – there will be minimum disturbance to other buildings within the vicinity when work commences on subsequent phases of development. With a modern layout that is subtle and suits local traditions and tastes, KB Mall is built with a spacious, linear design with high ceilings and maximum visibility through clear unobstructed views. Plans are afoot to further expand the development into an integrated building, with a new business class hotel, service apartments and shop offices. KB Mall will also have a brand new six-hall cineplex and a gymnasium for shoppers to get their dose of entertainment and workouts when expansion plans are complete.

Green homes

By The Star

The Pinggiran Bayou Village gated residence is the first green development that truly handles Mother Nature with the finesse of a 21st century environmentalist.

UNLIKE other developments, the beauty of our development is in gradual sequence; after the slow enticement, we give you the ‘wow’ factor,” says General Manager, Property Division of Mulpha International Bhd Ronn Yong.

The award-winning developer has done it again, this time winning the Malaysia Property Award 2007 in the Residential (Low Rise) category.

“We feel very honoured to have won this award. We wanted to redefine community living in a different way. We aimed to develop something unique for a certain group of people and we paid attention to detail. Pinggiran Bayou is now our benchmark for future works,” says Yong.

The Pinggiran Bayou clubhouse at night.

122 Village Homes define this 7-acre plot. The monsoon drain facing the development is today a panoramic canal.

“The concept of Pinggiran Bayou is reminiscent of the little towns in Bali and the hill towns of Tuscany,” says Yong who has seen much during his travels. “We’ve infused a village ambience and created a community spirit, which is very much the hallmark of our development.”

“Homeowners have told us how they love the morning climate when they go for walks. The sound of birds chirping, the cool air and the greenery is truly a balm to the soul,” adds Koh Boon Teng, Senior Sales & Marketing Manager, Property Division.

Living in a quaint hill town

Launched in 2003, Pinggiran Bayou epitomises resort living. Today, it is 70% sold, with 50% purchased by Singaporeans keen on having a weekend home to experience the surreal pleasures only the countryside can give. The rest are maintained as rental homes for its surrounding expatriate community, although request for sales can still be considered.

“We’ve incorporated all the qualities of a Singaporean condominium – modern and clean designs –ensuring a similar fabric within a neighbourhood while adding our local flavour and all the things a typical condominium cannot have such as courtyards, gardens and great outdoor spaces,” begins Yong.

“It serves as a great weekend home for Singaporeans who will have the luxury of wide spaces and fresh air.”

Pinggiran Bayou is certainly unique for its perceptive conceptualisation to its inclusion of Mother Nature.

“Normal terrace houses are built in barracks or clusters of hundreds, but here, our homes are built in clusters of four and cascaded on different gradients. That creates a village feel, an identity, and corridors and open spaces that encourage lighting and ventilation. Homes at the top will have a great view. Even a person walking through the row of homes will also enjoy a better view.”

General Manager, Property Division of Mulpha International Bhd Ronn Yong.
This master plan with its clusters of smaller cascading modules and environmentally sustainable designs have helped to minimise excavation, speed up the construction process, reduce the need for landfill and reduce the reliance on heavy engineered and reinforced concrete retaining walls.

Wide-open spaces are very much in sync here, for houses aren’t built in a boring single file, but taper outwards. So, when one drives down a street, it feels like one is going down a winding road.

“Our roads are textured, so a driver passing by tends to slow down. We do this because priority is given to pedestrians. We don’t like speed bumps because they’re annoying and aren’t good for your car,” explains Yong.

And where do you congregate for suburban gossip?

The Spanish Step Gardens at Pinggiran Bayou is inspired by the Piazza Del Senora in Rome, a famous row of steps where three roads meet.

“People congregate and do everything there.

We are doing the same here and it becomes almost like a central place in a town where people meet. It’s a great place to take in the view and take a refreshing break. We’ve taken into account that the weather here is a little hot, so we’ve added trees all around the Steps. We’ve also noticed that our customers come with old people and sometimes wheelchairs, so the Steps and the rest of the development is disabled-friendly, with ramps for easy access.”

Village Homes that would make Al Gore beam

“This is an environmentally-conscious development,” says Yong. “Full usage of light and ventilation is utilised so energy bills can be reduced.

“Our homes are built with canopies on top of the windows, for more than art’s sake. For one, it shades your building, and you don’t get direct sunlight when the windows are open. See, if the sun’s too glaring, no one will want to keep the windows open, hence the air conditioning.

“The canopy blocks off glaring light, and what enters is indirect light; it’ll be cooling. With your windows open, you have a gentle breeze coming in and out as well.

“We don’t just have large windows as well.

Some developments may have large windows but they let in bad sunlight. Our directions have been carefully calculated and homeowners won’t be getting the east-west sun, which is bad. There’s no splash of light and your room is kept cool,” he says.

Each home has at least one courtyard, which is placed strategically in the house, near the kitchen for instance, where ventilation is most needed.

The cluster of four Village Homes share a fore court, which keeps your driveway always cheery, doing away with dungeon-like darkness and keeping in line with open spaces.

In case you want a little privacy, bedroom windows have screens. Even pretty trees and hedges have been scattered around low windows to ward off inquisitive children from peeping in while not compromising on light and ventilation.

“These shrubs, which are part of the plant system in the development, help demarcate boundaries for the units,” says Koh.

The roofs of each home have been sprinkled with stone chippers to keep the roof cool and break down the heat.

“When the weather becomes hot then cold, concrete is bound to crack. But these stones keep the temperature of the roof consistent. If leaves get blown in, the stones will hold the leaves and there’s no blockage at traps like in typical scenarios.”

For the record, stone chippers are environmentally friendly unlike pretty pond stones which are needed by fish to breed. In fact, most materials used in this development are recyclable or environmentally friendly.

Wood is used minimally and marble only in limited areas.

Even in the canal, shallow safety benches have been constructed so that if a child falls into the canal all he’ll suffer is a bruised ego and a telling off from his parents for his muddy clothes.

At the heart of it all is the club house, a proud creation inspired by the Four Seasons Hotel in Sayan, Bali. Ventilation shafts have been fitted in the back of the clubhouse to bring in the cool air and push out hot air. An amoeba-shaped pool fronts the clubhouse and there’s a steam pool in the middle. As you climb to the roof of the clubhouse, a roof pool beckons with koi fish (for goodwill) swimming inside.

“The roof pool works to insulate the whole area and conserve energy besides creating the ‘wow’ effect. It is also used to collect rainwater which is channelled off to water plants and for other uses,” says Yong.

A testament of hard work

Competitors have noticed Pinggiran Bayou’s success and are now tapping their consultants and contractors.

“It’s also an assured investment, especially when you look at the location and the surrounding developments taking place,” says Koh. “The FIABCI award shows that we’re going in the right direction,” he adds.

“We stuck very closely to the concept,” Yong sums up. “ This award is a recognition of our hard work.”


KNOWN as an award-winning developer, Mulpha has won many accolades over the years. A market leader in Johor, they continue to inspire with their new ideas and high standards. Pinggiran Bayou Village, their latest win, was CONQUAS ( Singapore’s Construction Quality Assessment System) assessed, a testament of its high quality construction work.

Malaysia Property Award 2007 for Residential (Low Rise) Category

Pinggiran Bayou Village

2007 ILAM Design Award

Kayu Manis Orchard Leisure Farm Resort

2005 FIABCI Prix d’ Excellence – Finalist

Bale Equestrian & Country Club

2005 PAM Architecture Steel Award

Innovative use of steel in architecture

2003 Architecture Award – South Chapter

Show Unit Pinggiran Bayou Courtyard Homes