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Monday, November 12, 2007

Brick and mortar challenge


Raja Mohd Azmi Raja Razali broke out in a wide smile as he extended his hand and I thought he looked a little different — it had to be the missing AirAsia cap!
Until June this year, Raja Azmi was the CEO of Fly Asian Xpress Sdn Bhd (FAX), now renamed AirAsia X — the world's only long-haul low-cost airline and an extension of AirAsia. In fact, he was one of the pioneers behind AirAsia, Asia's leading low-cost airline.

So what's the brick-and-mortar story?

Board and key management of Mainstay Development.

Raja Azmi is now the executive chairman of Mainstay Properties Sdn Bhd and Mainstay Development Sdn Bhd. It takes a while to associate the bubbly Raja Azmi with the scale model of a hybrid commercial complex called space u8 that takes centrestage in the developer's modest shop-office, located in Kuala Lumpur's Taman Danau Desa.
But listen to him talk shop and one cannot miss the passion and the must-succeed philosophy that must have been honed in the five years he worked alongside childhood friend and airline maverick Datuk Tony Fernandez, a man known for his ability to successfully change the business landscape.

"Based on the enquiries received, we do not see a problem in selling the project, but we want to make sure it works beyond sales. We cannot just 'tembak'. The [project] concept has to work... We cannot go half-way. We must show our commitment; we cannot just sell and 'cabut'. Either be there all the way or no way!" says Raja Azmi emphatically on space u8, his debut project.

The freehold stratified project, coming up in the Shah Alam hot spot of Bukit Jelutong, embraces what the developer calls the SUMO (shop unit mall office) concept that combines business and leisure under one roof. In all, there are 58 units of four-storey shop office (46 intermediate, eight end and four corner units) with one four-storey anchor (84,000 sq ft) on an 8.39-acre tract. space u8 will be soft launched next month.

The architectural design has managed to capitalise on the odd-shaped plot to come up with shop offices with dual frontages, most of which afford a view of an internal courtyard, designed to let in natural lighting plus regulate the temperature, helped by natural air flow (see accompanying story).

How did Raja Azmi, an accountant by profession, end up a developer? What does the once executive vice-president and group chief financial officer of AirAsia know about brick and mortar?

It all started very quickly after he called it a day at AirAsia, Raja Azmi tells City & Country in an interview inevitably peppered with fond references to Tony Fernandez and his relentless journey to success. "I don't want to be a billionaire. Tony has a vision of AirAsia being the biggest airline in the world. Tony is a one of a kind; we are lucky in Malaysia we have a Tony. I have worked with a number of CEOs but Tony is something else...

"Tony is on a rocket and he has to have people who are 100% with him. It's very intense, not easy. Our yardstick is global — we want to be the world's best. The first five years were growth years and I was there right from the start. But I now want to have a bit more time for myself..."

Raja Azmi may have thought he had cleared his plate, but it is fast piling up again.

The space u8 site is part of 20.8 acres that he and his partners, introduced by their mutual friends, acquired from Guthrie for RM59.2 million. Besides the 8.39 acres (RM36.5 million) for space u8, the rest is industrial land. "Originally, it started off with me as an investor. But as we got along, it became more and more exciting and I found myself getting more involved. Initially, I wanted to be a director but now, my partners have put me as executive chairman. It is exciting in some ways as my input 'boleh pakai' for finance, marketing, networking and so on," he says.

"I am optimistic the project will work. Why? Because we have done our homework. We believe the concept is right for the area. There is a good feel about the project. Selling the units is not a problem, but it is what happens after that..."
Raja Azmi is right on the mark. While a project needs to boast unique selling points, a credible developer, who is in for the long term, has to create and build value. What good, after all, is a commercial project that is all sold out but is lifeless?

His partners and key management team, who offer different types of experiences in both construction and property development, are totally in sync. The multi-disciplined professionals onboard include Zakaria Meranun (chairman of Atrium REIT Managers, manager of Malaysia's first industrial asset-focused real estate investment trust) and Hasnan Saaidin, with over 14 years of experience that extend to projects like the Petronas Twin Towers and Precinct 20 Putrajaya.

As for the pricing, the space u8 units are tagged at an average of RM330 psf. This works out to about RM2.97 million for a 4-storey block or between RM393,000 and RM1.4 million for a stratified floor. The developer will be running the courtyard space. The rate for maintenance, primarily for the common walkway, staircase and lifts, has not been fixed but the developer says it will be the market norm.

A question-and-answer session with Raja Azmi reveals what this new kid on the property block is made of, life after AirAsia and how he puts to use the guiding principles that have been inculcated at AirAsia.

City & Country: What do you know about property development?
Raja Azmi: The price of the land must be right. When it comes to property, it is about location, location, location. I like the land because I stay in Shah Alam (laughs), because there is a premium attached to the Bukit Jelutong address.

Did it take you long to decide on becoming a developer?
It is all about people — having the right people with chemistry and who have the ability to work. We are a professional organisation; not an Ali Baba. We want to do this well. A property is a property, you sell to maximise value. This is our first project and we have to get it right!

What parallels can be drawn from property development and AirAsia?
It is not dissimilar — it requires teamwork, a single objective. There is also the similar feeling that the project will not fail... the vibes are right. Timing is important — AirAsia might not have been so good had it started five years later or two years earlier. When we first started, there was uncertainty as to how AirAsia would pan out but there was deep confidence that it would not fail. We went through the model and the financials. I have a similar feeling that space u8 will not fail. space u8 is a concept development and it has what the market needs. AirAsia has the right key people who are clear about what they want to do. The vision is clear. The key people execute it with passion and commitment. These people are professionals, chosen based on merit. space u8 also has all the expertise required — from construction to pricing and marketing. The team worked very fast. We have a single objective. We want to ensure that it will not merely be launched with a bang. We want people to go there. We are not a fly-by-night developer. The basic business fundamentals would apply in both (AirAsia and property) — giving the market what it wants.

How do you look at the property market?
We have gone through cycles. Some say the cycle is coming to an end. The government is pumping money into the economy with the promotion of the Iskandar Development Region, North Corridor Economic Region and East Coast Economic Region, so I don't think the market has peaked. My only worry is the US or China...

Property development's about track record, credibility...
We want to build credibility. We have the expertise and are sincere. We have to think beyond racial lines and stuff like that. We have the right people for the right job — whoever is best for the job, gets it. We have a very good team here. We are focused.

What's next after space u8?
It is too early to tell. But we are looking. We are here for the long term. We have been looking at a couple of prospects. A joint venture would be easier but we have to find the right one. This will probably be in the Klang Valley, but not Shah Alam.

Your plans for the industrial land in Shah Alam?
We are holding it for the moment. We are looking at the possibility of custom building it... Zakaria , one of our partners, is chairman of Atrium REIT managers, so there is some synergy that we can look at. Atrium is basically into industrial properties.

Do you miss the pace at AirAsia?
The five years were intensive but fun. If you are not in AirAsia, you will not get that experience. You are able to change the landscape — you only read that in books! It was a chance of a lifetime. The company has to move on, the successors are in place, so let the next echelon take over. But Tony must be there! I want to enjoy life a bit.

Any sense of emptiness after AirAsia?
Sometimes I miss the intensity (laughs). Five years is a long time... it was the best experience of my life. It's tough. Overall, I am happy. I never knew the kind of business opportunities out there. People think I have a lot of money but I don't have so much... I've got time! Now I can say that! (more laughter).

What other businesses are you now in?
I am involved in start-ups... Masterskill (M) Sdn Bhd (a nurses training college) is going through an exciting phase, we want to get it listed next year. Then there is Gemilang Maintenance Services Sdn Bhd, which is a facilities management company with a contract to manage federal government buildings. Again, there is no reason why we cannot move to the next level of business. My role is to facilitate that move and hence allow more people to be rich, hopefully. I am still a shareholder of AirAsia X and AirAsia. I'm cool! I'm lucky. I'm blessed. My way of giving back is to try make other people richer.

What is life after AirAsia?
You live only once. I have five children aged between 22 and eight. And one wife (laughs). My eldest son, aged 19, is in AirAsia's cadet pilot scheme — I nominated him but he has to go through all the tests before he can qualify. I wanted to be a pilot before but [couldn't because] I needed glasses. Those days, you needed 2020 vision before you could fly a plane and I ended up an accountant. Now my son can live my dreams... At least I worked in an airline; that's as close to an aircraft as I can get! I have thought of getting flying lessons... Who knows?

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)

Learning from the Dubai experience

The recent Cityscape Dubai Exhibition from Oct 16-18 showcased projects from 25 countries in over 700,000 sq m of exhibition space. The major Dubai (GLCs) government-linked companies — namely Dubai Properties, Nakheel, Eemar and Limitless among others, owned by the ruling Sheikh — had the best designed pavilions and the most impressive multimedia presentations. They showed how they used their oil money to raise their profile. It is the surplus oil money that is driving this city which has three foreigners every local. Parts of Dubai are like one huge construction site. A desert with oil underneath is being transformed with profits from extracting the oil.

Cityscape Dubai is perhaps one of the few in the world to be a business-to-business property exhibition where property sales are conducted in blocks and sites rather than single units.

Dubai itself is a city of contrasts. What started off as a small desert port has captured the imagination of the international property market place. This is a place to do business, to buy and sell real estate worldwide, to participate in the Middle East oil and gas industry and most of all, to allow the western business world and the Arabic business world to co-exist.

Up to 2003, foreigners were not allowed to buy long-term leases or freehold sites. But today, the major freehold developments which are controlled by the GLCs have seen massive increases in capital value and rentals under the "freehold with no restrictions" offered to foreigners. That alone must be a lesson to anyone wanting to "protect" their land for the locals.

Freedom to do business here is tempered by the fact that there are still no clear land laws to protect long-term investors. That is a problem waiting to happen. But happiness is the "flipper", where purchasers of properties under construction keep selling their rights at higher values. It is possible that a parcel in a development might change hands up to four times before completion.

Over the last six months, there has been concern about the long-term viability of the current real estate boom due to the sheer scale of the developments under construction. With the population of 1.4 to 2 million (official), the following are some statistics that merit consideration.

What started off as a small desert port has captured the imagination of the international property market place


Residential incoming supply — apartments

  • Local zone (not for foreigners)
    = 11,894 units
  • Foreign ownership zone
    = 134,838 units

Current rent for apartments

  • Studio = US$18,000 per annum
  • 1 bedroom = US$24,000 per annum
  • 2 bedroom = US$34,000 per annum
  • 3 bedroom = US$40,000 per annum

Current occupation is steady at 97%-98% in most buildings, but the total supply will increase from 1.6 million sq m to 5.6 million sq m by 2009. That could put pressure on rents in future.

Annual rents
Ranges from US$600 per sq m per annum to US$1,000 per sq m per annum.

In the retail category, there is currently 15 million sq ft completed with another 20 million sq ft under construction. The most successful retail centre is the Mall of Emirates at 2.23 million sq ft. The Mall of Arabia (Part I) will have 4 million sq ft when it is completed in 2010.
The malls are world class with indoor ski slopes, and international brand retailers. Dubai is now second in the world for recreational shopping behind Hong Kong.
The mantra for malls has been "Build them and tourists will come".

September to May is the peak period for hotels in Dubai. Cccupancy drops during the summer months and Ramadan. But compound annual growth rate for tourist-visitors is still targeted at 15% per annum between 2006 and 2012 as they try and reach the target of 15 million tourists per annum. Approximately 30 hotels that have 2007 delivery dates remain under construction and only six hotels have been completed.

The following hotels will be completed over the next two years.

Hotels rates range between US$180 and US$250 per room per night.

Dubai is a great story. Its increasing exposure to international prominence has been due to the world-class airport anchored by the eighth largest airline in the world by passenger volume. Tourism dollars have been the catalyst for real estate investment. It has also become the new face of the Arab world in the modernisation drive by old Islamic cities to show that they can compete in the new world.

Cityscape Dubai is a microcosm showing the best of real estate in the Middle East and elsewhere. The Dubai GLCs are not afraid to trumpet international architects, international consultants and world-class managers as marketing tools to sell their real estate at high values.

Technology plays a large part in presentation since in Dubai, it is all about perception, perception, perception. Each of the GLCs try to outdo the other with the use of robots that walk, talk and sing love songs, to beautiful Ukranian dancing girls as well as inviting international artists like Shakira to perform in their stadium. No dance code here. Branding the Emirates Airline as the best airline in the Middle East and hiring the best brains in the world to achieve this objective has paid rich dividends indeed.

Despite having a huge foreign presence, there are only three main languages spoken — Arabic, English and Urdu. More than 75 different communities live and work in Dubai. Most of them are there for the money.

Malaysia at Cityscape Dubai was represented by Matrade, (still sticking to the 1970s formula of exhibition planning) and Nusajaya — a brave effort although it could have done better. Danga Bay and the Westin Langkawi's small pavilions were tucked away in a corner. The best Malaysian pavilion was Malaysia's SP Setia, with a pavilion to rival those of the Middle East. The branding effort was well received with offers to S P Setia for joint ventures in Omar, Abu Dhabi and Jordan.

Not surprisingly, Malaysia has a very positive image in the Middle East due to the very strong contributions by Malaysian leaders over the years to the Organisation of Ismalic Conference.

We could learn a large deal from the Dubai experience in how to turn a desert into valuable real estate. In fact, we have more advantages but we still seem to be afraid of letting go and aiming for the sky.

Despite our (MM2H) Malaysia My Second Home marketing and the "Malaysia Truly Asia" marathon, the most amazing endorsement for Malaysia came from an Iranian family. They have visited Malaysia during the months of August and September for the last two years and at the S P Setia Pavilion, said that they wish to live in Malaysia because the country is peaceful, the people are friendly and all the races seem to get along with each other on a daily basis despite some vocal minorities needing their 15 minutes of fame. The couple said they slept soundly every night, something they could not do where they are living currently.

That is something we take for granted here.

By The EDGE (By Kumar Tharmalingam - heads Hall Chadwick Asia, a corporate real estate advisory specialising in origination of quality commercial property for cornerstone investors in the region.)

Potential snag in IDR?

When it was first reported that Middle East parties were looking to pour money into the Iskandar Development Region (IDR), it was seen as a major coup for the government's south corridor project.

However, it may be too early for the regional authorities overseeing the IDR to consider it a done deal. According to sources, the recently announced RM4.1 billion investment by certain Middle East parties is conditional on certain developments taking place within a year. Part of that includes the implementation of various infrastructure projects as well as a certain amount of interest from other investors in this part of the IDR.

The exact details are not known at this time, but if the stipulated conditions are not met, there is a possibility the Middle East investors may not come up with the amount promised. And that, in turn, could be a roadblock to the IDR's progress.

The Iskandar Region Development Authority (IRDA) — the Federal statutory body responsible for realising the vision and objective of the IDR — did not reply to emailed questions from The Edge. It was reported in August that three Middle East consortiums — Mubadala Development Company, Millennium International Company and Kuwait Finance House — had signed agreements to invest some RM4.1 billion into the IDR.

The report stated that the funds would be spent on land and infrastructure for three investment clusters in the IDR, which will include a financial centre, lifestyle and entertainment zone and cultural zone. All will be located in a sector earmarked as Node 1 that is wedged in between the Johor State New Administrative Centre and the Second Crossing to Singapore covering of 96 million sq ft.

KFH has already stated that it is looking for partners for its project in the IDR. However, the source says, the big money from the Middle East would only start to flow in once the infrastructure within the IDR is more mature, as per the conditions in its agreement.

"Among the infrastructure works they are waiting for are the coastal highway and plans to turn Senai Airport into a low-cost hub," says the source. But despite the fanfare surrounding the IDR, sources in Johor say nothing substantial in terms of infrastructure has appeared yet.

To be fair, given the magnitude of the project, it would be unrealistic to assume visible results in such a short time. The biggest fear is that what happened at the Port Klang Free Trade Zone could happen within the IDR.

To recap, eight years ago, when the concept of the Port Klang FTZ was first mooted, Jafza International was given the concession to manage and operate the project. Jafza was credited with turning Dubai's Jebel Ali Free Zone into a commercial success. But in July this year, Jafza walked out of the project, frustrated by red tape and various political obstacles it encountered, according to foreign reports. Among the controversies was the sale of land within Port Klang. According to reports, the land was purchased by the port authority from a private company, Kuala Dimensi, at RM25 per sq ft. This was at a steep premium to Kuala Dimensi's original purchase price of only RM3 per sq ft.

Costs for the project had also ballooned from an estimated RM1.08 billion to RM4.6 billion. Jafza, fearing that its reputation would be tarnished, exited the project leaving the government with debts totalling more than RM4.6 billion.
There had been fears that the fallout from the Port Klang FTZ could affect other growth areas in Malaysia, particularly the IDR. Recently, it was reported that Walt Disney Co had been offered 500 acres in the middle of Nusajaya to build a theme park.

"The bright spot amid the troubles is that given the fiasco surrounding the Port Klang FTZ, the government would make sure the same does not happen in the IDR," says a Johor-based property consultant.

According to a source, some parties with interests in the IDR are not happy with the high level of incentives being offered to the Middle East investors.

"Although the tax incentives are nothing new, one sore spot is that the land where the investment is located has been converted from leasehold to freehold. It has inspired a small backlash from certain parties, who have not been offered the same treatment," says the source.

However, one party close to the matter explains that "this matter of converting leasehold to freehold land is done on a case-by-case basis. It depends on how much you are planning to invest in the IDR and what exactly your investment is. It is fair in that sense because the bigger your investment, the more willing the government is to give you incentives".

Regardless, the entry of investments from the Middle East would be a substantial shot in the arm for the IDR. So it does make sense that the government would do what is necessary to keep the investors happy.

By The EDGE (By Nadia S Hassan)

In Dubai, nothing is impossible

Even adages can become obsolete these days. Whoever says Rome was not built in a day, hasn't been to Dubai, the second largest of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

While it would be an exaggeration to say that the city of Dubai sprang up overnight, its landscape has undergone a transformation so phenomenal in the last 10 years, a first-time visitor like me couldn't help but view the sometimes outlandish, state-of-the-art buildings and the huge number of soaring skyscrapers, with dropped-jaw awe.

Yet, Dubai was once nothing more than a fishing village watered by a creek, on the edge of the Arabian Desert,.

And herein lies a lesson for Malaysia if it wants to make its growth corridors a success.
The government of Dubai has shown that with determination and radical policy changes, anything is possible. The fact that it has lots of moolah makes a huge difference, of course.

But the success story of Dubai is not just about how its leaders have been putting its huge cash-pile to good use, as members of the Kuala Lumpur Business Club (KLBC) mission to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, from Nov 3 to 6, found out.

It is also about the ability to adapt and change with the times, to accept the changes that globalisation brings, and more importantly, to push through effective execution of decisions and delivery of results.

It is about how the private sector has taken over the baton for development from the government, and where the motto for everyone seems to be, if it makes business sense, it makes sense in Dubai.

Innovation is a major thrust, reflected in the creation of the Hydropolis, an underwater hotel. Then there is this new township in the sea in the shape of a palm tree and of course, the construction of the Burj Dubai, which is touted to be the next tallest building in the world. Dubailand, the largest theme park in the world, is under construction. The list goes on.
These are lessons Malaysia can learn from the Emirates.

From our conversations with the people in Dubai, the explosive growth of skyscrapers and megamalls is not about building iconic structures, but to be the best in everything they do. And there is nothing wrong with being competitive.

It was only in the 1980s that the Dubai government made a major effort to wean the emirate from its dependence on oil revenue because of dwindling reserves. Today, oil contributes less than 10% to its gross domestic product (GDP). Tourism and financial services have become key growth areas, and it has emerged as the financial and cultural hub of the Middle East.

Consider these statistics.

According to the Dubai Statistics Department, last year, Dubai's population grew by 292,000, to 1.422 million people. This translates into 24,333 new people in Dubai every month, or 800 people a day.

In the last six years, Dubai has registered GDP growth averaging 13% per annum, surpassing the growth rates of even China and India. And the plan is to sustain this growth at 11% over the next 10 years.

Dubai is also a truly global village. Close to 90% of its population comprise foreign labour from some 165 countries, and the locals do not have hang-ups about that either. The largest corporations and, yes, even government institutions, are headed by foreigners, because the government subscribes to the philosophy that if Dubai does not have the talent, it can import it. And as long as these foreigners make profit for the companies, that is the bottom line.

Today, there are about 4,000 Malaysians working in Dubai. We are talking about a brain drain from Malaysia here.

Dubai is often described as the world's most luxurious tax haven, and a major business hub between the East and the West. Because of its strategic location at the epicenter of the Middle East, Europe, Asia and Africa, it has become a transport hub.

Of course, along with the explosive growth in the last 10 years, comes its own set of problems – pollution, traffic congestion and the social problems that the huge influx of blue-collar migrant workers, mostly from India, brings.

But then again, these are problems that are not unique to Dubai alone.

At the end of the four-day visit, most KLBC members were impressed with what they had seen and heard. Dubai has sold itself very well.

And herein lies another lesson for Malaysia.

We are not doing a good job selling the country abroad. David Eldon, chairman of the Dubai International Financial Centre and who once served in HSBC Malaysia, stressed this point when he gave a dinner talk in Dubai during the KLBC mission.

It takes more than trade missions once every few years to create awareness. We are not aggressive enough, even though Malaysia has all the necessary ingredients to compete head to head with the other countries.

Indeed, in many instances, we were first off the starting block but we fell short on delivery and execution. For example, we were first to explore becoming an Islamic financial hub, and the first in Asean to open the education sector to foreigners. But today, others are not just catching up, but overtaking Malaysia.

So, it is time not just to increase the drumbeats, but also to ensure that rhetoric is translated into action.

By The EDGE (By

CIA 2007

Embracing the Future of Process Technology, Instrumentation and Analysia

CIA 2007 is the leading event in Asia for process engineering technology and process control, automation, instrumentation, analytical and laboratory technology and services.

Market Demand in Asia has hit high gear in chemical processing, oil & gas, F&B processing, refining, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, life sciences and R&D. With China and India becoming the main growth engines for measurement and automation technologies in the world market, and increasing investments in power plants, refineries, chemical and metal production in the region as a whole, Asia's need for world-class performance standards and improvements in the entire process chain has never been more acute

As the leading event in Asia for process engineering technology & process control, automation, instrumentation, analytical & laboratory technology and services, CIA2007 is in place to present yet another eventful staging. Showcasing the latest scientific instrumentation and process engineering technologies which can enhance product quality, improve process safety and plant availability, gain competitive advantage, increase production uptime and compliance, efficiently utilize resources and expand manufacturing capacity, CIA2007 is certainly where industry leaders make their mark.

ControlsAsia & InstrumentAsia
As Asia continues to bustle with major upgrade orders and new project launches in industries such as chemical processing, oil & gas and life sciences, significant opportunities exist to sell into Asia with your latest technologies and solutions.

The biomedical sciences industry in the region has been showing promising growth and is expected to continue for many years. Asia is also heading up with massive developments in the chemical & petrochemical, engineering, environment and life sciences clusters, which are driving the demand for innovative laboratory and analytical technologies and services.

AnaLabAsia2007 aims to take your company to the heart of these markets and explore the business prospects available in fulfilling the industry's sizeable demand for innovative laboratory and analytical technologies and services.

What' up at CIA 2007 ....
  • Numerous launches of new products and services from the industry leaders;
  • 7 strong Group Pavilions which will showcase and impress you with their country's best and latest;
  • Grasp the latest technology and innovative products at the ICS New Technology Forum
  • Gain valuable insights and more on Resposible Waste Stewardship through the CHWMEG Conference;
  • Participle in a FREE, half-day workshop on life sciences organised by the Singapore Society for Mass Spectrometry
CIA2007 will be held at the largest purpose-built convention and exhibition centre in Asia Pacific, Suntec Singapore. Situated at the heart of Singapore's Central Business District, the centre boasts the latest in exhibition and conferences facilities. It enjoys a central downtown location with hotels, shops and restaurants within walking distance. This world-class centre is easily accessible by Mass Rapid Transit(MRT), and public bus or private transportation.

Suntec Singapore
1 Raffles Boulevard
Suntec City
Singapore 039593

Click on the map to see an enlarged version.

Number of Asian free zones rising

The number of free zones in Asia is increasing at a rapid pace, according to World Free Zone Convention chairman Graham Mather.

“Asia's free zones have steadily gone up to about 1,000.

“The free zone boosts economic success as well as foreign direct investment and it has spread from Europe to Latin America, the United States, Africa, the Middle East and now Asia which is seeing enormous growth,” he said at the 7th Annual World Free Zone Convention last week.

Mather said there were currently 10,489 free zones globally including export-processing zones, free ports, bonded warehouses, industrial parks and special economic zones, which employed some 63.5 million people, up 50% in four years.

An aerial view of the Port Klang Free Zone.

“In India, 366 special economic zones (SEZ) have been approved in August and the SEZ Act 2005 has been set up for fast track approval to reduce bureaucracy and red tape.

“Last month, China announced that its State Council has approved plans for a fourth free trade port in Hynan province, with investment of US$7bil by 2012,” he said.

Mather said Gwadar Port in Pakistan was in its second phase of development alongside a special industrial zone carried out by the Singapore Port Authority.

“In Indonesia, its House of Representatives has recently agreed to enact a regulation on the establishment of free trade zones covering three islands in which all import duties, value added tax, luxury goods tax and excise duties will be eliminated,” he added.

He noted that companies have started investing in a free trade zone at the South and North Korean border with more than 300 trucks crossing the demilitarised area daily.

Datin Paduka O.C. Phang
“In Malaysia, the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) has shown great progress securing over 35 investors in just nine months and targeting 80% occupancy in five years,” he said, adding that that there were also substantial free zone developments in Africa, Egypt, Turkey and Kosovo.

As far as Malaysia was concerned, Mather said the establishment of the PKFZ was a good decision and he was impressed by its rapid growth, organisational structure and excellent packages offered.

PKFZ provides a total of 404ha of land of which 259ha was prepared infrastructure land with facilities such as water, electricity, sewerage and broadband telecommunications.

It also offers industrial land from one acre upwards, 512 light industrial units, 500,000 sq ft of office space, a business-class hotel with 135 rooms and an exhibition centre.

PKFZ chairman Datin Paduka O.C. Phang is confident PKFZ would achieve the targeted 80% occupancy rate in five years.

She said to date, a total of 35 companies have taken up 12% of the total open land lots of 259ha, 4.15% of the 512 light industrial units and 1% of the 500,000 sq ft leased office blocks.

The 35 companies have invested about RM725mil in PKFZ.

“Based on what we have achieved in less than a year of operation, I am convinced PKFZ will hit its target within five years,” she told StarBiz.

She said this was due to the options offered by PKFZ to existing customers to expand their operations within the free zone.

“Moreover, we are confident of landing another four major investors by year-end,” she said.

Phang added that although there were about 37 free zones in Malaysia, PKFZ was unique as it offered an integrated commercial and industrial free zone.

By The Star (By Sharidan M.Ali)

Bringing back the energy

The name QI Ltd may not ring a bell to most of us now, but this would not be the case for long.

It is a well-known company in Hong Kong with diversified interests in training and education, media, financial services, resorts and e-commerce, among others.

Director of investment management Kuna Senathiarajah, who is a Malaysian, said the move to relocate some of its operations back to home was a plan that had been thought about as far back as three years ago.

“Although the thought came about a few years ago, we have gradually moved our backroom operations back to Malaysia from Hong Kong just recently,” Senathiarajah told StarBiz in an interview.

He is also heading the local holding company, Wawasan QI Holdings Sdn Bhd. Wawasan QI is currently based in Petaling Jaya.

The energetic and confident Senathiarajah explained that the group obtained its name from the Chinese character Qi or Ch'i which literally means ‘vapour' or ‘spiritual energy'.

Kuna Senathirajah

“QI means the energy of life, the vital force believed to be inherent in all things. It represents prosperity and is the driving force behind the success of our company. We believe in the power of the individual, and we encourage talent to flourish,” he said.

The Hong Kong-based company, which has relocated to Malaysia, plans to make significant investments locally over the next few years. In line with the group's plans to expand its businesses, QI is working closely with the Pahang state government and the local authorities to develop eco-tourism in the state.

“We expect to invest RM200mil and RM250mil to develop a 170-acre beach resort in Kuala Rompin, Pahang. To date, we have spent about RM50mil. The earthworks have started and the project is due for completion by end-2008,” Senathiarajah said.

Apart from developing resorts, the group is also keen to develop both residential and commercial properties. It is currently looking for potential developments at the KLCC area.

He said the group was currently in advance negotiations to acquire a commercial building but declined to elaborate.

“Malaysia's real estate market is very attractive. It is an emerging market with good yields.

“We will be making Malaysia our next phase of growth but we will not take our eyes off India, the Middle East and Asia,” Senathiarajah said, adding that the company was also moving into new markets in Africa.

“We have a lot of plans in the country. We will develop a regional and global business in voice over Internet protocol and broadband though a joint venture with a state government. The project will be developed through our British-based telco subsidiary QiComm,” he said.

The group is also involved in bringing the world-famous Disney on Ice show to Malaysia. The show has been a sell-out for the past two years. It was also involved in bringing Disney Live! Mickey's Magic Show which took place over the weekend.

QI currently has about 200 personnel in Malaysia and the workforce is expected to increase in tandem with its growing business.

Senathiarajah did not rule out the possibility of establishing a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) in future. He added that the group was considering a listing option but nothing has been firmed up yet.

“I’ve always believed that a business person shouldn’t be stagnant but should always think of means to expand his or her business,” he said.

Despite being in the industry for just a decade, QI has established itself around the world. The group, which started as an e-commerce company has presence in more than 30 countries and has since expanded to other business sectors.

It has become one of the world's largest and most respected providers of limited-edition numismatics, fine gold and diamond jewellery, as well as distinctive timepieces and stylish writing instruments.

It has a customer base of three million in over 160 countries. Senathiarajah said he has lost count of the number of subsidiaries and countries that the company currently has a presence in.

Senathiarajah, who has a bachelor's degree in business administration from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia said he would probably be a diplomat today if he had not become an entrepreneur.

He is a businessman very much at the top of his game. He leads a hectic lifestyle, a job hazard that is part and parcel of running a successful business. He travels a lot and has been to Hong Kong more times than he has ever been to downtown Kuala Lumpur.

He confessed that it was not all rosy running a business.

“It is not as easy as many people think. I spend most of my time working. I do not really have much free time,” he said.

Senathiarajah said he was not a very hands-on person but was very goal orientated and would push his colleagues to perform.

He added that setting goals was relatively easy but “having a vision of what you want to achieve would be challenging.”

“A clear vision will serve as a roadmap of what you have achieved and how you are performing. Once you become successful, there will be new challenges confronting you,” he said. He normally starts his day late because of the difference in time zones as the company operates in a lot of different countries.

“If I start my day as early as 8am, I will be very miserable as I normally finish late at night and sometimes even after 12 midnight.”

Senathiarajah has always been passionate about what he does. His interest in running a successful business led him to constantly improve things– to look at a problem and tackle it in different and novel ways.

Although he is full of zeal, he finds joy in the simple things in life: spending time with family and friends, reading, and watching movies.

By The Star (By Leong Hung Yee)

Getting the right mix

How do you upgrade an existing shop office, increase its rental value by almost two folds and yet be able to attract tenants?

Well, if you have 10 blocks of four-storey shop offices such as the See Hoy Chan Sdn Bhd group in a prime location like Damansara Utama in Selangor, and with the right team you can do wonders.

The group has successfully transformed the 30- to 40-year-old shop offices (formerly Fajar) into a chic retail-style shop office complex called Uptown 37.

Today, Uptown 37 is about 90% tenanted. Its tenants include HSBC that occupies two shop lots over two levels (including a corner lot), IZZI Pizza, Starbucks Coffee, 99 Speedmart and Umai-Ya Japanese Restaurant.

A year ago, it would have been quite difficult to imagine how one could knock down the walls here and there and turn it into such a stylish retail shop office complex.

The Uptown 37 in Damansara Utama

After about nine months of extensive renovation and refurbishment, Uptown 37 was completed early this year and has since become a new landmark in the bustling Damansara Utama commercial centre where the Damansara Uptown office blocks are located.

In fact, some new developments are going in this direction – creating a mix of retail lots seen in shopping centres and the traditional shop offices.

In the case of Uptown 37 at Jalan SS21/37, the upper office floors that are normally vacant or fetch the lowest rentals in most traditional shop offices have been turned into retail lots that can fetch much higher rentals.

An entire four-storey shop lot was “sacrificed” to create the main lobby with escalator and lifts as well as a high and attractive atrium. Many CCTV cameras are placed at strategic locations all over Uptown 37, thus giving its tenants and visitors a sense of security. The security control room is on the ground floor.

There are spacious corridors to the front of the retail/office lots and a rear corridor has also been created on each floor to give that spacious and airy look.

SHC Property Services Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Ng Kim Poh said a Vietnamese restaurant and other tenants would also be coming in soon. (SHC is a See Hoy Chan Sdn Bhd group company).

“Uptown 37 will enhance the entire rental value of the complex and will be a trend setter. It is definitely a rung above the normal shop offices. We managed to get tenants without any advertisements as many people were attracted by the transformation,” said Ng.

Rental for the ground floor unit is around RM8 to RM9 psf while the upper floors is from RM3 to RM4 psf.

The penthouse in Sutramas condominium in Segambut

Despite Uptown 37's ground floor rental of over RM10,000 per month as compared with RM5,000 to RM6,000 for the other shop offices in Damansara Utama, people see value and are willing to pay more.

“This commercial centre is more vibrant and prime than other centres like SS2 or Kelana Jaya,” Ng said. There are lots of car parking bays outside including open-air car parks. Most of the banks are also located here.

SHC Property Services sales & marketing manager Chew Peng Seng said See Hoy Chan group executive director Teo Chiang Khai has taken the lead by transforming the commercial landscape of Damansara Utama with the Uptown 37 project. “We are bringing in the right mix of tenants to enhance the image of the place,” he added.

Meanwhile, the group has also shown its innovativeness when it recently furnished all its unsold penthouses in its 178-unit Sutramas luxury condominium in Segambut.

And, what a great job it did! Nine of the 16 penthouses (2,700 sq ft to 6,000 sq ft) were sold. The unfurnished penthouse was originally priced at around RM950,000 but people liked the luxuriously furnished unit so much that they were prepared to pay RM1.4mil for it.

Chew felt that the buyers could have ended up paying much more had they tried to do the furnishing and renovation themselves and they might even mess it up. “A lot of purchasers of high-end condominiums actually prefer to buy a nicely furnished unit as it would save them a lot of hassle but there were none for sale,” he said.

The one-block Sutramas was issued with Certificate of Fitness for Occupation this April. All the standard units priced from around RM300,000 to RM500,000 (or about RM230psf) have been sold out. It boasts of one of the grandest lobbies for a condominium in the country.

By The Star (By S. C. Cheah)

Raising the profile of Putrajaya Perdana

Now that Swan Symphony Sdn Bhd has become the major shareholder of Putrajaya Perdana Bhd, the market is asking what is the next course of direction for this niche construction outfit

It has continued to make news over the last two months with announcements of grand plans locally and in the Middle East.

While the management of the company has been open about the direction in which Putrajaya Perdana is headed and what it would be doing since August, they have now decided to keep mum on future plans.

The Finance Ministry building in Putrajaya
When contacted in the earlier part of the week, a company official commented that much had been said over the past months and management has now decided to lie low, for the moment.

Putrajaya Perdana, which specialises in master plan development and energy-efficient construction, has definitely sparked some retail interest.

In a filing to Bursa Malaysia on Oct 31, it was reported that the takeover of Putrajaya Perdana, by Swan Symphony, a 51%-owned subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Kuwait Malaysia Investment Corp (ADKM), has been completed.

ADKM, through Swan Symphony purchased a 50.6% stake in the company from Eastern & Oriental Bhd for RM199mil or RM2.90 per share.

Swan Symphony is led by Yousif Mana S. Al Otaiba and associates who has substantial stakes in ADKM.

The exercise would trigger a mandatory general offer for the remaining shares not owned by Swan Symphony, but management had said it aimed to keep Putrajaya Perdana listed.

Most analysts said Swan Symphony's acquisition of a majority stake in Putrajaya Perdana could signify interest by the former to transform the company into a global construction player.

An analyst with a local broking house said: “We believe there could be a change in direction or pace of development for Putrajaya Perdana in the near future.”

He said mergers and acquisitions (M&As) were common these days as many companies in various industries wanted to expand their businesses and grow in the fastest possible time.

“Ideally it should also involve growing at the lowest cost to gain bigger market share and higher profitability, via economies of scale,” he said.

The brickwork facing of buildings in Parcel D, Putrajaya

He added that such M&As would hold true for the construction industry as well.

It was possibly easier for a company or a group of investors to buy over an existing company, preferably one that was not too large with a clean balance sheet and good assets and use it as a vehicle to fast track its growth in the industry.

On why Putrajaya Perdana was chosen, a construction analyst said Swan Symphony could possibly be attracted to Putrajaya Perdana due to the company's mid-size cap (for a construction company) and unique business model which emphasised on the environment, especially energy-efficient buildings. Another factor was that the purchase price was attractive.

The low-energy office of the Energy, Water and Telecommunications Ministry

So far most of Putrajaya Perdana's projects are local and mainly in Putrajaya.

However, one of the company's largest and latest projects was the construction of the Pavilion KL (RM400mil) located in the heart of the city, Marc serviced residences (RM100mil) and the construction of government quarters in Putrajaya (RM300mil).

Currently, Putrajaya Perdana is also bidding for a few projects under the Ninth Malaysia Plan and it is hopeful of securing some projects in the Middle East soon.

On whether M&As was the right way for the company to grow, the analyst said M&As were probably the fastest way to build a business today.

“In the case of Putrajaya Perdana it was acquired. It would depend on how effective the new majority stakeholder manages the company and its acquisitions going forward.

“More importantly, will be how Swan Symphony is able to justify the acquisitions, locally and abroad based on return on investment,” said the analyst.

He said the interesting part in this deal was that it involved a new and foreign partner/investor with a strong network, especially in the Middle East and the financial strength to raise the profile of Putrajaya Perdana among the big boys in the construction sector.

“We suspect there will be more acquisitions by Swan Symphony in the not so distant future,” he said.

In fact, the same group of investors have made an offer to acquire a 45.6% stake in Loh & Loh Corp Bhd, which specialises in water infrastructure construction.

The analyst said Putrajaya Perdana stakeholders including retail investors should be happy that a foreign partner with “clout” was willing to support the company.

“The new partners with the controlling stake in Putrajaya Perdana has informed shareholders that there would not be any change in management,” he noted.

By The Star (Stories by Danny Yap and Fintan Ng)

Putrajaya Perdana’s order book set to go up to RM4bil from RM2.2bil

For a company whose projects have always been local, the entry of a new majority shareholder could possibly point to more exciting times ahead.

This is because Putrajaya Perdana Bhd was set up specifically to develop the federal administrative capital but today, it is poised to take up jobs worth potentially billions of ringgit due to its relationship with Middle Eastern companies such as Mubadala Development Corporation, whose subsidiary, Madsar, is a specialist in green projects.

A source in the construction industry said Putrajaya Perdana's order book, which currently stood at about RM2.2bil was expected to balloon to about RM4bil in the next twelve months.

“I don't think the management of the company could be so confident in making a prediction if they were not adequately backed-up,” he said. An earlier report by a business publication said Yousif Mana S. Al Otaiba, a shareholder of Abu Dhabi Kuwait Malaysia Investment Corp (ADKM), plans to pump up the company's order book to over RM4bil soon with new businesses from Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and Malaysia.

The other shareholders of ADKM are Sheikh Sabah Mohd S. Al-Sabah and Tengku Datuk Faisal Ibrahim.

ADKM's 51%-owned subsidiary Swan Symphony Sdn Bhd recently purchased a 50.6% stake in Putrajaya Perdana from Eastern & Oriental Bhd.

Another local analyst said the strong support and commitment pledge by Swan Symphony's major shareholders to expand the company's order book locally and overseas puts it in a favourable position, especially in the eyes of investors and punters.

“Moreover Swan Symphony aims to be an active investor in the company,” the analyst said, adding that Putrajaya Perdana could also rely on getting some local projects under the Ninth Malaysia Plan.

The analyst said Putrajaya Perdana has established a leadership position in the energy-efficient building market in Malaysia.

“It's a niche market with few players,” he said, adding that the Government was likely to give some tax breaks to the company for some projects because of its innovations in the construction industry, especially in energy conservation.

The analyst said it was likely to get some projects at Node 1 (South Johor) of the Iskandar Development Region (IDR) from Aldar Properties PJSC of Abu Dhabi.

Aldar Properties is part of a consortium that plans to invest billions of ringgit to build properties in Node 1 of IDR. It is also the master developer for 2,230 acres in IDR - Node 1.

Moreover, Aldar Properties has over 34 million sq m of land at strategic locations throughout Abu Dhabi with development projects worth over US$60bil.

The analyst said Swan Symphony could also tap into Aldar's vast network in the Middle East to bring Putrajaya Perdana into these markets and not just Malaysia, he said.

“Putrajaya Perdana has entered into an agreement with Aldar Properties to undertake some projects in the IDR,” he said, adding that further collaboration might lead to the company undertaking some projects in Abu Dhabi.

By The Star (Stories by Danny Yap and Fintan Ng)

Fact file on Putrajaya Perdana

PUTRAJAYA Perdana was formed in 1998 as the construction arm of Eastern & Oriental Bhd.

Since then it has constructed several of the more prominent buildings in Putrajaya, among them the Finance Ministry complex, Energy, Water and Telecommunications complex and the entire brick facing of office buildings in Parcel D of the federal administrative capital.

A model of the Pavilion in Kuala Lumpur

Apart from public-sector projects, the construction outfit was also involved in the construction of the Pavilion KL as well as Capital Square in downtown Kuala Lumpur. It was also involved in the development of the Sri Penaga condominium in Bangsar and other construction jobs in Johor.

Putrajaya Perdana's property arm, Putra Perdana Development Sdn Bhd, has developed half of the 113-acre freehold landbank it owns in Precinct 16 of Putrajaya. It also has over 23 acres of land in various parcels located in Precincts 2 and 3 where it planned to develop commercial properties.

Completed projects of the property arm include townhouses, semi-Ds and superlink houses as well as the official residences of senior civil servants and ministers.

Podium Pavilion Kuala Lumpur

Service Apartment Pavilion Kuala Lumpur

By The Star

Steven introduces Australian lifestyle in house design

HAVING a supportive family that has established a reputation in the Klang Valley property market has certainly helped Steven Ng hone his skills and passion in the property development business.

The third son of A&M Realty Bhd founder and executive chairman, Dato' Ng Thian Hock, Steven has been exposed to the family business from an early age.

Steven's eldest brother Datuk Ambrose Ng is the managing director.

Second brother Milton Ng is the president and chief executive officer of plastic injection moulding company, HIL Industries Bhd. A younger brother, Malcolm Ng is still pursuing his studies in Australia.

“My dad and brothers are my mentors who have been instrumental in showing me the way and encouraging me to develop an interest in the property business.

“A&M Realty has been around for 30 years and among its landmark projects are Taman A&M and Taman Sentosa in Klang. So it is no coincidence that the Ng siblings have been shown the ropes of building quality and reliable property projects by our father,” Steven said.

While pursuing his studies in Perth, Steven used his free time to learn and research the property business Down Under and grew to appreciate Australia's home designs and lifestyle.

“There is a distinct character in the way houses are designed there. Besides the open, no perimeter fencing concept, the emphasis is on big open space inside and outside the house, open courtyard area, and huge, foldable doors.

“This allows the interior and exterior space to blend seamlessly and promote a sense of spaciousness inside the house. I find the concept suitable for the Malaysian market and am eager to introduce it here,” he said.

After spending nine years studying in Perth, Steven graduated at the age of 19 in 1999 with a Bachelor of Commerce degree, majoring in finance and marketing, from the University of Western Australia.

An artist’s impression of the central park and lake at Amverton Park

The opportunity to put his creative traits to good use came when he joined A&M Realty in 2000 as general manager in the sales and marketing department. While there he was also trained in the operational and financial aspects of the business.

Steven was responsible for the planning and launching of about 2,000 units of properties in various projects by the company.

In 2004, he was appointed to the board of A&M Realty as executive director overseeing the sales and marketing, operations and administration and overall project development of the A&M group.

Steven is one of the brains behind the expansion of A&M Realty's initiative to promote the new Amverton product series.

“We did a thorough feasibility study to find out what buyers really want and the types of product that will appeal to them.

“The result is the exclusive range of Amverton products that emphasises on quality living within a wholesome healthy environment for the family,” he enthuses.

The spacious and contemporary design inside the bungalow

Generally, after a hard day's work, people look forward to going back to a relaxed and secure suburban environment.

Steven said a house should be a sanctuary and escapade from the hustle and bustle of city life.

“Through our well designed residences within the relaxed and secure environment of our golf resorts, we want to bring the best of Australian lifestyle and localise the designs and layout to meet the Malaysian way of life,” Steven said.

By The Star

A&M goes high-end

Amverton series to set lifestyle benchmark for affluent buyers

The Australian-inspired Amverton series of residences by A&M Realty Bhd marks the company's foray into the high-end lifestyle residential sector in the Klang Valley.

The latest initiative by the Klang-based property developer will set a new lifestyle benchmark for affluent homebuyers.

Steven Ng showing the show bungalows at Amverton Park @ Bukit Kemuning Golf and Country Resort.

According to A&M Realty executive director Steven Ng, all the Amverton series of products will be located in prime locations and have the hallmark of exclusivity, comfort and security.

The first project to kick off will be Amverton Park @ Bukit Kemuning Golf & Country Resort in Shah Alam, planned for launch early next year.

A total of 147 exclusive bungalows are planned at Amverton Park, to be developed in five phases by AMJ Properties Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of A&M Realty.

The 30-acre freehold development with a gross development value (GDV) of RM300mil is located within the established neighbourhoods of Kota Kemuning, Bukit Rimau, Kemuning Utama and Berjaya Park.

The bungalows will be located within a gated and guarded enclave with condominium facilities and round-the-clock guard patrol.

Featuring the popular Australian suburban lifestyle, Amverton Park offers homes with practical and spacious layout within lushly landscaped resort environment.

The residences are targeted at home upgraders, professionals and business owners.

Ng said the spacious innovative layout would offer room for individuality while the generous open courtyard promotes a sense of space.

With lot sizes from 5,400 sq ft to 15,000 sq ft and built-up from 4,100 sq ft to 7,000 sq ft, the bungalows will be priced from RM1.4mil to RM3mil.

Buyers can choose from five bungalow designs – The Alfresco, Vista, Maestro, Grandieur and Pavillion – with unique features such as big window panels, 20 feet front lawn, alfresco terrace, double volume ceilings, and bathrooms and walk-in wardrobe in all the rooms.

“We are putting in a lot of effort into the project to promote a wholesome healthy living within a suburban resort environment. It will set a new benchmark for all future Amverton product series,” Ng told StarBiz.

He said buyers of the company's Amverton products would get to enjoy a whole new lifestyle experience through the A&M Lifestyle membership that would be offered free to them for the first 10 years of their home purchase.

The membership offers them the use of facilities at the company's golf and country resorts including Bukit Kemuning Golf & Country Resort, Puteri Resort in Air Keroh, Melaka, and the upcoming Amverton Golf & Country Resort @ Carey Island.

Besides the use of the golf course at privileged members' green fees, other benefits include special dining rates at affiliated restaurants and discounts at affiliated hair stylist and facial outlets.

Bukit Kemuning Golf & Country Resort, which is connected to the Amverton Park residential enclave via a jogging track, is undergoing a RM5mil expansion programme to add new facilities.

A hotel will also be build beside the clubhouse. In Mont'Kiara, A&M plans to build the first Amverton condominium project on one of the highest points in Mont'Kiara, located 140 meters above sea level.

Amverton Rise @ Mont'Kiara will comprise 190 boutique condominiums in 20- and 30-storey blocks.

With built up of 2,200 sq ft to 4,000 sq ft, the residences will be priced from RM400 per sq ft for a GDV of RM300mil.

With only two units on each side of the two wings, the units can be connected to become bigger units for extended families to stay nearby each other.

The next Amverton project lined up will be Amverton Golf & Country Resort @ Carey Island.

Construction of the golf course will start next year for completion in two years while the residential precinct will be launch in the next three to four years.

“We are also looking to build more Amverton projects in other parts of the Klang Valley, including Sungai Buloh, Petaling Jaya and Kuala Lumpur,” Ng said.

By The Star (Stories by Angie Ng)

More information about Amverton Park