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Monday, November 19, 2007

Borneo Highlands eyes world market

Built on a former timber logging area, the Borneo Highlands Resort is a unique eco-friendly luxury residential development in Southeast Asia that is set to penetrate the international market starting next year.

Standing at 1,000 metres above sea level atop the Penrissen mountain ranges and literally a stone's throw away from the southwest Kalimantan border, about 25 per cent of the total area of 2,097ha of land has been developed so far by promoting the "Back to Nature, Back to Basics" lifestyle.

The resort's chief operating officer Loh Leh Ching said its developer, Borneo Heights Sdn Bhd, will initially target the real estate at regional markets including Singapore, Brunei, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Australia, especially as a second or holiday home.

The resort, which has spent RM120 million on facility upgrading and infrastructure since its inception in 1995, is a joint-venture between Country Heights Holdings Bhd, which holds a 70 per cent stake, and the Sarawak Land Custody and Development Authority (LCDA), the remaining 30 per cent.

"At present, 149 of the maximum projected 500 bungalow lots are already developed, including one lot purchased by a lawyer from the UK and another by a Singaporean businessman, while we have also received enquries from Japan and Taiwan," Loh said during a recent tour of the resort, about an hour's journey by road from in Kuching.

With the property prices expected to increase to RM700 per sq ft (psf) in the next five years from RM72 psf at present, he said the company will also look at European, US, Russian and the Middle East markets.

On investment returns, Loh said the property prices had risen from a mimimum RM38 psf to RM72 psf, an increase of about 90 per cent in the past two years.

He is confident that potential buyers will find Borneo Highlands, dubbed the Rainforest Haven Properties, an attractive long-term investment because of the 198-year land leasehold period compared to the normal period of less than 100 years in and around Kuching city.

Currently in the phase four of development, the land starts from a minimum RM31,000 per point (100 points equivalent to one acre) and the bangalows' features are being built according to owners' personal taste and preference. They are expected to fetch up to a whooping RM8 million per unit, said Loh.

Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud and former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad are among some of the public figures who have taken up the bungalow units.

But owners at the Borneo Forest (phase one), Golf Forest (phase two), Hornbill Forest (phase three) and Swan Lake Forest (phase four) need to abide by rigid rules on nature preservation and are encouraged to designate a small plot for organic farming with assistance from the resort, Loh said.

He said the resort management also reserves the right to replant up to three trees at a cost of RM500 each for every big tree chopped down by the owner.

Borneo Highlands Resort's business development manager Caroline Yeo said the resort, which is undergoing a RM3 million renovation and upgrading works, will have its 60 accommodation rooms reduced to 30 when it reopens in April next year.

Other infrastructure developments include the upgrading of the access road from the foothill to the plateau at a cost of RM8 million and the installation of electricity cables at an estimated RM8 million, Yeo said.

"Residents and visitors can have a peace of mind as regular security patrols as well as two security checkpoints are installed, including one at the entrance of the foothill," she said.

By Bernama

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