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Monday, November 12, 2007

Malaysians making an impact at Cityscape Dubai

Something out of this world; glitzier and larger in size and scale; a whole different culture; the place to be for real estate. These were some of the comments of Malaysian developers and architects who returned from this year's Cityscape Dubai 2007, held between Oct 16 to 18 at the Dubai International Exhibition Centre.

Officially the largest business-to-business real estate event in the world, Cityscape Dubai has been growing at breakneck speed since its introduction five years ago. This year's exhibition welcomed more than 50,000 regional and international investors, property developers, governmental and development authorities, architects, designers, consultants and professionals from more than 120 countries. More than 1,000 exhibitors showcased their projects and services on 70,000 sq m of exhibition space. This year's exhibition saw a 50% and 27% increase in the number of exhibitors and exhibition space, respectively.

Previndran Singhe, CEO of Zerin Properties, tells City & Country that Cityscape Dubai is the place to be. "It's the biggest and most diverse real estate platform in the world. Truly a business-to-business (B2B) platform with lots of institutional investors." His second time at Cityscape Dubai, Previn came away impressed with some of the exhibitors, including Malaysia's top property developer, S P Setia Bhd.

They had a fantastic booth showcasing several of their projects including the award-winning Setia Eco Park and carried the eco theme through out," shares Previn. This is S P Setia's first outing at Cityscape Dubai.

Apart from S P Setia, other Malaysian players who went on their own were UEM Land Sdn Bhd, Ekovest Bhd and KL Metro group. They exhibited Nusajaya, Danga Bay and the Legend International Water Homes, respectively. Architecture firms who went were Archicentre Sdn Bhd, as S P Setia's architects and Zone Architects.

Since its inception in 2002, more Malaysian companies are beginning to exhibit in Cityscape Dubai. Matrade began organising a Malaysian Pavilion four years ago. This year, it had six companies exhibiting at the Malaysian Pavilion. They were Arch Collection Sdn Bhd, MK Land Holdings Bhd, Maymont Development Sdn Bhd, Park Games Equipment Sdn Bhd, Unique Green Recreation Sdn Bhd and Veritas Architects.

According to national news agency Bernama, the companies received more than 408 enquiries during the three-day exhibition and recorded sales under negotiation over RM1.75 billion.

The place to be
The buzz at Cityscape Dubai 2007, says Tan Loke Mun, is "pretty much the same as last year's, just glitzier and larger in size and scale". Director of Archicentre and immediate past president of Pertubuhan Akitek Malaysia (PAM), Tan echoed Previn's thoughts about S P Setia's booth standing out as it continued to develop the eco theme it first used at Cityscape Singapore in April.
Tan says projects in this region are generating a lot of interest, especially modern new cities of the future that place an emphasis on ecology, the environment and energy efficencies.
"S P Setia's Windcatcher Tower was the most popular with many coming round to see the model and take photos. That was quite gratifying to us and we are more convinced now of the need for buildings of the future to address energy usage and improve efficiencies as well as harness energy from the sun and wind where they can," Tan tells City & Country.

The Windcatcher is part of two iconic towers (the other being Trillium) in S P Setia's 97 ha project called Setia City in Shah Alam.

Another project showcased by the developer was Setia EcoCity in Johor Baru. The twin city to Singapore will boast yet another iconic structure called the Chrysalis Towers, three sculpted and articulated vertical art structures rising from a 7.5ha central urban park.

"We want to promote Malaysian architecture and the incredible added value that good design can bring to all projects and buildings. Setia City and Setia EcoCity stood out well from the rest of the projects that were exhibited and we look forward with great anticipation for the next step for
Malaysian and regional architecture," he adds.

Good response
While S P Setia may have impressed the crowd, Maymont Development's Matahari project was reeling in the buyers. According to its director Gerard Pereira, the developer recorded RM30 million in sales and bookings and expects more to come for its luxury super condominiums located in Sri Hartamas. "The people who have bought are Arabs from the UAE and some residing in the UK. Most are under the MM2H programme. Some have stated strong interest and will be flying in to Malaysia to look at the property further before they decide," he shares.

Gerard describes Cityscape Dubai as something out of this world. "The exhibitors know how to do things in a different style, spending millions on one exhibition. We're talking about taking up 10,000 sq ft of space for a booth!"

This is Maymont's first overseas promotion and it is thinking of participating in other Cityscapes now. "We've been thinking about taking Matahari overseas for a while and thought Cityscape Dubai would be a good option. We're glad we did as Maymont has also managed to garner interest from various parties who want to look at JVs with us to work with their projects in the UAE. The scale of projects they are building is amazing. Here, we offer units in the hundreds. There, they're talking about thousands," says Gerard. To date, Maymont's Matahari is more than 60% sold.

Another first timer, UEM Land says response have been positive and very encouraging. "Prospective investors were impressed and interested in the natural green tropical setting of Nusajaya," says its managing director Wan Abdullah Wan Ibrahim. Nusajaya is located in Johor's Iskandar Development Region.

According to Wan Abdullah, UEM Land has already signed up for Cityscape Asia (in Singapore)and Dubai in April and October 2008, respectively. He feels there is a strong need to educate prospective investors on the location of Nusajaya in both its physical and economic context.

"Cityscape Dubai has given us the opportunity to be in association with established international brands which will enhance Nusajaya's positioning as a regional city," Wan Abdullah adds.

Lessons learnt
One of the lessons learnt by UEM Land at Cityscape Dubai is to be ready with well defined offerings. "And be ready to do actual transactions. Cityscape Dubai is both for B2B and B2C," says Wan Abdullah.

For Datuk Low Tak Fatt, managing director of KL Metro group, Dubai is not about attracting the Arabs. The group has been participating in Cityscape Dubai since 2005 and recently decided to set up an office there to further promote its water chalets in Port Dickson.
"The atmosphere and buying culture in Dubai is certainly different. I feel there is strong sentiment to invest in Malaysia. The Arabs like us because we are a strong Islamic nation," says Low. However, it is not only the Arabs that are buying. From the developer's experience, other nationalities are also snapping up properties exhibited at Cityscape.KL Metro managed to sell six units and has three more tentative bookings from Arabs to Indian expatriates living in Dubai. Which explains why the developer decided to exhibit in Cityscape India this year

Although Low observes that there is a slowdown where very high-end properties are concerned, investors are very interested in Malaysia because of the guarantedd rental returns", he says of KL Metro's project.

"That is why we decided to enter India as well. Our economy is doing well and these people still perceive us to be a good market. Singapore is expensive and Thailand is politically unstable, so we are perfect."

The success of Cityscape Dubai has contributed to the launch of sister events around the world, including Cityscape Abu Dhabi, Cityscape Asia, Cityscape China, Cityscape India and Cityscape South America. This year, Cityscape became a biannual event in the Middle East with Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, a natural choice for a second location.

By The EDGE (By Diana Chin)

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