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Thursday, October 25, 2007

House of silver gelatin

By The Star

Moh's black and white photographs match perfectly the colour scheme of the room

FINE art photographer Alex Moh and his wife Lim Wai Leng believe that propitious renovations to their cosy home in Taman Seputeh in Kuala Lumpur, have brought them luck.

When the couple bought their three-storey link-house from the developer more than 20 years ago, they embarked on three phases of renovations.

The house was built on a plot of land spanning 22ft (6.6m) by 80ft (24m).

It was the lush greenery of the neighbourhood that influenced their decision to buy the house.

The living room on the first floor has been extended to what was once the balcony. Note the three bay windows and the shady plants

It originally cost RM190,000 and a neighbouring, dilapidated unit sold for about RM500,000 three years ago.

Lim, who is a semi-retired business consultant, has a keen sense of interior design while Moh is an avid gardener besides being passionate about photography.

Moh was involved in putting together the exhibition History and Beyond: Malaysian Photography from 1900 to the Present Dayat the National Art Gallery.

The lady of the house was the one who set about making changes to the lay-out which originally featured six rooms and four bathrooms.

The rooms were considered too “tiny” to be comfortable.

Said Lim: “Over the years, we have renovated our house three times. When we first moved in, we changed the size of the bathrooms and bedrooms by knocking down adjoining walls to create bigger rooms. We also changed the orientation of the doors.

“Later, we changed the fa├žade. Then three years ago, we added a 'cabana' and a wet kitchen at the back of the first floor.”

“The 'cabana' is actually built on top of the darkroom on the ground floor which had been extended.

"The contractor charged us RM60,000 for the cost of renovations including a pair of timber-and-glass door.

"We provided the accessories such as decorative ornaments and brass door-handles.”

The 'cabana' with an attractive pebble-wash floor

The Mohs believe that their last renovation was done at the right time.

Explained Lim: “When we were renovating, both of us were out of jobs during the economic downturn. I was in head-hunting consultancy and many companies weren’t hiring at that time.

"But as soon as the renovations were completed and the fax machine was plugged in, we immediately received a job offer that paid for the entire renovation cost.

.Two tiny toilets were converted into a more comfortable and practical bathroom big enough to house a washing machine

"We have to attribute this to God and his blessings.”

Even from the outside, the facade stands out from the rest of the other units. The front-yard features a driveway and a small garden.

A massive traveller’s palm plus ginger plants and heliconias shade a little pool with carps swimming in it.

There is even a white rabbit scurrying around.

Moh’s green thumb extends to the backyard where there’s a herb garden.

There are two front doors. The main doors open to a reception hall which leads to a staircase.

The other front door which has been aligned at an angle opens to a studio and the darkroom at the back.

A Burmese card table in the dining room is decorated with an old glass jar. The glass doors open out to the 'cabana' shaded with water plants

The studio is where Moh teaches photography enthusiasts – mainly expatriates – the finer points of the art.

In fact, Moh is a founder-member of the Silver Gelatin photography group.

The living room, on the first floor, comprises two-thirds of the floor space.

The cosy dining room at the back opens to the cabana and wet kitchen while the dry kitchen takes up the rest of the space.

The master bedroom spans almost half of the top floor while their teenage son’s room has been turned into a library as he is studying overseas.

The maid’s room is not in use as Lim decided she can make do with part-time domestic help.

It is apparent that the couple has quite distinct artistic talents as Lim’s uncluttered interior design and Moh’s exquisite photographic works attest.

Tower REIT plans to sell properties

By New Straits Times

TOWER Real Estate Investment Trust (Tower REIT) plans to sell two of its three commercial properties, which could provide a gain equivalent to about a year in rental income.

The properties held by Tower REIT include Menara HLA on Jalan Kia Peng, HP Towers in Bukit Damansara and Menara ING on Jalan Raja Chulan Kuala Lumpur.

One source, who identified Menara HLA and HP Tower as the two properties to be sold, said that a foreign investor is likely to emerge as the new owner.

Company officials could not be reached for comments.

Industry players were surprised by the news. The move may be good only if the company has other reinvestment plans, they said.

"Some players like Axis REIT and Atrium REIT have been accumulating properties to enhance its attractiveness and by having a sizeable portfolio they are able to entice more foreign fund managers," he said.

"There is nothing wrong if a REIT sells its property under trust if there is capital gain from the sale or as long as there is money coming in.

"However, hopefully the Tower REIT has plans in the pipeline to reinvest the money," an industry expert said.

In fact, Tower REIT, in its half-yearly report (ended June 30 2007), says that it intends to hold the properties on a medium- to long-term basis.

"In the future, where any of the properties have reached a stage of optimum growth, we may consider selling the properties and hence, realise potential capital gains and thereafter, use the proceeds for alternative investments in properties that meet Tower REIT's investment criteria to further maximise the total returns to its unitholders," Tower REIT added in the report.

On what the property will fetch in the event of a sale to a foreign investor, a property expert said: "Foreign funds are more likely to pay five per cent to 10 per cent more than the market value of the property as they are more willing to speculate on the investment".

Based on this possible upside, Menara HLA, valued at about RM240 million currently, could fetch as much as RM24 million in additional premium. HP Towers is valued at RM150 million while Menara ING is worth some RM75 million.

Assuming it gets a 10 per cent upside from the sale of its properties, this premium itself would be equivalent to a year's worth of rental income.

For example, Menara HLA makes rental of about RM10 million in six months, its half-year report shows. This probably comes up to RM20 million in a year as rental rates are stable.

Tower REIT was listed on the main board of Bursa Malaysia on April 2006. AmTrustee Bhd is acting as the trustee for the REIT.

Sycal Prop, SJK to develop Perak property project

By New Straits Times

SYCAL Ventures Bhd's subsidiary Sycal Properties Sdn Bhd (SPSB), formerly known as Cygal Properties Sdn Bhd, has entered into a joint-venture agreement to jointly develop 122 units of shoplots and 92 units of residential buildings in Perak.

In a statement to Bursa Malaysia late Monday, Sycal said the estimated gross development value and construction/development costs for the joint- venture development are RM77 million and RM61.1 million respectively.

The project, with Syarikat Juwasa Khidmat Sdn Bhd (SJK), will be located in Aulong Lama Tambahan, within a development known as Rancangan Kampung Tersusun, Aulong Lama, Mukim Assam Kumbang in the districts of Larut and Matang.

The property, covering about 10ha, is about 2.5km to the east of Taiping town.

SPSB's entitlement from the project will be 78 per cent of the gross sale revenue from the shoplot units and 80 per cent from the residential buildings, while SJK will get the remainder.

Sycal said the development will increase the landbank of the group for future development and contribute positively to its order book.

Astral Asia to start on high-tech park

By The Star

Firm hopes project will be endorsed by Federal Government

KUALA LUMPUR: Astral Asia Bhd is ready to embark on the development of its proposed Kuantan High-Tech Park after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi launches the East Coast Economic Region (ECER) next week.

The company hoped that the project, a joint venture with a Pahang state agency, would be endorsed by the Federal Government as a component of the ECER, Astral Asia deputy executive chairman Datuk Lim Kang Poh told StarBiz yesterday.

Abdullah is expected to launch the ECER in Kelantan and Terengganu on Monday and in Pahang the next day.

The Federal Government would back projects in the ECER with tax incentives, and new or upgraded infrastructure such as highways, utilities and expansion of ports and airports costing billions of ringgit. Such stimuli would kick-start the projects.

Astral Asia is keenly awaiting the range of incentives for the ECER before it starts marketing the land in the high-tech park to manufacturing companies.

Datuk Lim Kang Poh with a map of the proposed joint-venture Kuantan High-Teck Park

The firm told Bursa Malaysia last week that its subsidiary, Syarikat Ladang LKPP Sdn Bhd (SLLKPP), had received approval in principle from Lembaga Kemajuan Perusahaan Pertanian Negeri Pahang (LKPP) for its proposed high-tech park project. LKPP is chaired by Pahang Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob while its board comprises several senior state government officials.

Astral Asia's architect was drawing the park's layout plans for submission to the state authorities within a month, Lim said.

The company will use SLLKPP's oil palm estate to develop the proposed high-tech park in phases over the next 15 years. The estate is leased from LKPP.

Broadly speaking, the Kuantan High-Tech Park would be similar in concept to the Kulim High-Tech Park where, Lim noted, all the industrial land had been sold.

The project is particularly feasible for Astral Asia because the group already holds the land. “We don't have to go out to buy the land that can cost millions,” Lim said.

Astral Asia would be able to finance the development of the project as it had RM26mil in cash and its borrowings were less than RM600,000, he added.

The proposed high-tech park would be sited on the 1,873-acre estate in the mukim of Kuala Kuantan. “That is one of our estates. All in, Astral Asia has about 10,000 acres of oil palm plantations, and we manage further 5,000 acres on a profit-sharing basis,” Lim said.

The estate to be developed into a high-tech park was valued in the company's books at about RM20,000 per acre. When the land use is converted from agricultural to industrial, it is believed that the land value could appreciate by more than 10 times.

The project's planners have noted that Pahang has a couple of clusters of specialised activities. The Pekan area, for instance, is focused on the automotive industry and the Gebeng area concentrates on the petrochemical industry.

The planners have, therefore, proposed to attract companies in the medical and pharmaceutical equipment industry to locate their plants in the high-tech park, which would become a medical industrial hub.

They would also seek Multimedia Super Corridor status for the high-tech park as it would attract some companies in the medical industry that could qualify for the status, Lim said.

He said the high-tech park project was timely for Astral Asia as the oil palm trees on the estate involved were about 25 years old, and if the company did not convert the estate into an industrial venture, it would have to incur a lot of cost to replant the trees, Lim said.

There has been some interest in Astral Asia shares following its announcement of the high-tech park project, with its share price rising 17 sen on Tuesday and gaining a further five sen to RM1.55 yesterday.