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Friday, December 7, 2007

PM: Opportunities available for private sector in IMT-GT

PENANG: The private sector in the Indonesia Malaysia Thailand Growth Triangle (IMT-GT) should take advantage of commercial opportunities available in the Northern Corridor Economic Region (NCER), which was recently launched by the government to enhance trade flows in the region.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said while the government's main thrust under the NCER was to accelerate economic growth and elevate income levels for the northern peninsular region, participation from neighbouring Asean provinces in Thailand and Indonesia was welcome.

Abdullah said this at the launching of the IMT-GT SME Conference and Expo 2007 themed "Strategic Partnership: SME Growth for the Future" jointly organised by the Penang state government, Ministry of International Trade and Industry and SMIDEC.

Also present were International Trade and Industry minister Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz, Penang Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon, Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Tajol Rosli Ghazali and Perlis Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim.

More than 1,000 participants from Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia are attending the conference which will be held until Dec 9.

"Since we are in Penang, which is expected to be a prime mover of the NCER, Penang can offer to the IMT-GT business community many opportunities as Penang is strategically positioned to be the best logistics and transportation hub in the IMT-GT region.

"Under the NCER plan, the government will upgrade Penang's logistics infrastructure, which includes the airport, seaport and land transportation facilities. We hope these upgrades will act as a catalyst to increase growth of distributive trade in the region.

"In turn, higher trade will spur more cross-border investment transactions between the three countries," he added.

Abdullah said another area that Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand were well placed to capitalise on was the partnership in the supply and marketing of halal products, especially those related to food and herbal-based products.

He added that 29 acres had been designated as a halal park in Padang Besar, Perlis which could serve as a logistics gateway for halal products between the northern peninsular Malaysia and southern Thailand.


Weida, 2 parties now hold 24.33% in Mutiara Goodyear

KUALA LUMPUR: Weida (M) Bhd and two new parties have emerged as substantial shareholders of Mutiara Goodyear Development with a total 24.33% stake comprising 56.18 million shares in the property developer.

Filings to Bursa Malaysia yesterday showed that Weida acquired 13 million Mutiara shares or 5.63% while British Virgin Islands-registered Dickenscott Investment Ltd bought 23.18 million shares or 10.04% and Laman Arif Sdn Bhd 20 million shares or 8.66% last Friday.

Mutiara also saw a boardroom reshuffle with Laman Arif’s shareholders, Lim Beng Guan and Choong Khoong Liang, appointed executive director and director, respectively.

Lim, 38, who has a direct interest of 3.96 million Mutiara shares, is a director of Viztel Solutions Bhd. Choong, also 38, is a director in Atis Corporation Bhd and Genetec Technology Bhd.

Last Friday, four Mutiara shareholders sold their stakes totalling 30.7% or 70.99 million shares for RM1 apiece, which was a 8% premium to the closing price of 92.5 sen.

Dynamic Reap Sdn Bhd sold 18.24 million shares, Goodyear Management (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd 24.48 million shares, Lucky Kinetic Sdn Bhd 15.21 million shares and WMW Holdings Sdn Bhd 13.06 million shares.

Mutiara also announced the appointment of EP Manufacturing Bhd chairman Hamidon Abdullah, 54, as its deputy chairman. He is also an independent director of Atis. Hamidon has a direct interest of five million Mutiara shares.

Mutiara’s share price closed one sen higher at 87.5 sen yesterday with 1.22 million shares traded.

Mutiara has 735.6 acres of land in Seberang Prai Selatan valued at about RM240.8 million, about 95 acres in Gombak with a net book value of close to RM100 million, and an office building in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, with a net book value of RM32 million.

As at end-July, the company had about RM35 million in cash.

It also had about RM124.8 million in long-term borrowings, and about RM97.2 million in current liabilities.


China-sponsored exhibition to attract 8,000 buyers

KUALA LUMPUR: China's Ministry of Commerce and China Foreign Trade Centre are targeting to attract 8,000 buyers for their fourth ‘Chinese Import and Export Commodities Exhibition and Investment Conference (Malaysia) 2007’ to be held here from Dec 12-16.

Malaysia-China Chamber of Commerce president Datuk Yong Ah Pwi said this year’s exhibition would further promote bilateral economic and trade relation between both countries. He said 200 exhibitors, of which 170 enterprises would be coming from China and the rest from Asean countries, was expected to participate in the exhibition.

“Among these exhibitors, many have participated since it was first held in Malaysia in 2004, while over 100 exhibitors will participate in the exhibition for the first time,” he told reporters at a briefing here yesterday.

Yong said the main products involved machineries and electronics, building and decoration materials, household products and ethnic products, including halal food products.

Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade), East Asia and Asean section director, Mohd Mustafa Abdul Aziz, said China-Malaysia bilateral trade rose 10.4% to US$27.64 billion (RM95.23 billion) in the first 10 months this year from US$24.77 billion a year earlier.

He said export accounted to US$12.41 billion (RM42.77 billion) while import amounted US$15.22 billion (RM52.46 billion) during the period.


M’sian property players unaffected by Vietnam ruling

The Vietnam government’s proposal to impose a real estate transfer tax (RETT) of 25% on gains from property transactions, effective Jan 1, 2009 will not have any significant impact on the Vietnam-based projects of Malaysian developers.

Affin Investment Bank Research said Vietnam’s National Assembly passed a law on Nov 20 to impose the RETT, and the proposal had raised concerns the tax would dampen the current bullish sentiments in the Vietnamese property market.

“We do not expect any significant impact to the launches or demand for the Vietnam-based projects of Malaysian developers such as SP Setia (buy, target price RM10.21), WCT Land (buy, TP RM2.59), Gamuda (add, TP RM4.60), Ireka Corporation (buy, TP RM2.23) and Berjaya Land (Not rated),” it said.

In a worst-case scenario, the impact will be minimal for SP Setia and Gamuda, which have more diversified earnings base while WCT Land has not even officially announced its Vietnam projects pending the receipt of investment certificates.

To recap, Affin Research said currently, there was uncertainty whether property transactions fall under the current progressive capital gains tax (CGT) of up to 60%.

As the present tiered structure also complicated the computational and collection system, the research house said it had come to understand that the authorities had simplified and streamlined the CGT for residents to a standard RETT structure.

“While the RETT could curb speculative transactions in the short term, we believe it is unlikely to derail the genuine pent-up demand of new owner-occupiers over the longer term amidst limited residential supply,” it said.

The RETT did not appear to be a reversal of policy by the authorities, which has been encouraging the participation of foreigners in the property market. Media reported that the Hanoi government has allowed the extension of the leases from 50 years to 70 years with further extensions without any payments.

Over the past three years, Vietnam’s GDP growth rates have averaged at an impressive 8.1% annually while investments grew even faster by 18.6% and exports by 25.3%. The country is also rapidly urbanising, especially the industrial areas near Ho Chi Minh, the main retail/commerce/industrial hub and the capital/administrative centre in Hanoi.

Affin Research said new measures were unlikely to derail property demand substantially. Demand for residential units is currently being driven mainly by locals because foreigners are currently allowed to lease but not buy property in Vietnam.

This stems mainly from resident entrepreneurs, business people, government officials and repatriation of money from overseas Vietnamese. While the country’s 2006 per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of US$722 (RM2,440.36) is only 11.8% of Malaysia’s US$6,141, Vietnam’s 2006 growth of 14% outpaces Malaysia’s 5.9%.

It said the proposal had a neutral impact to Malaysian developers. While the new RETT could slow down speculative property transactions, it did not expect it to derail the genuine home-occupier market given the lack of supply.

It said SP Setia’s Vietnam project, a 55:45 JV with Becamex IDC called Eco Lakes @ My Phuoc, had a gross development value (GDV) of RM2 billion (9.5% of the group’s total planned GDV of RM21 billion).

Management expects no changes to the launching of the first phase, carrying a GDV of RM300 million to RM400 million, in 1HFY08 as the investment certificate has been obtained two weeks ago.

The target market was mainly locals who are owner-occupiers in a suburban area which should have minimal speculative appeal.

Affin Research estimated a 6% addition to its FY09 net profit forecast if the first phase can be launched as scheduled.

The research house said WCT Land’s project had not been officially announced yet. The two main Vietnam projects which WCT Land are expected to have a 67% equity stake have not been officially announced yet as investment certificates have not been obtained.

The projects comprised of Gateway Point and Platinum Plaza, of which Gateway Point had a GDV of RM2 billion, located on a 8.4-hectare land near the commercial business centre of Binh Thanh District in Ho Chi Minh City. This project encompassed a five-star hotel, retail shops, office towers and luxury condominiums.

Platinum Plaza, with a GDV of RM1bn, is on a 9ha land in the Binh Chang District in Ho Chi Minh City, about 12km away for the commercial business district.

As for Gamuda, it would proceed with plans on Yenso park development, which has a total GDV of RM8 billion.

Ireka, with its 19.6% stake in Aseana Properties Ltd and its role as the exclusive development manager to Aseana, will soon have a stronger presence in Vietnam. Aseana has been looking at seven property projects in Vietnam with a total GDV of US$1.8 billion.


Soaring property prices spark worries

HO CHI MINH CITY: Vietnam’s “sharp-ly rising” asset prices are a growing concern, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said, citing a surge in property prices in the Southeast
Asian nation’s largest cities.

Rental prices at prime retail locations in Ho Chi Minh City exceed those of Taipei and Beijing, while occupancy rates in Hanoi shopping centres exceed 95 per cent, according to CB Richard Ellis Group Inc’s Vietnam unit. CapitaLand Ltd, Southeast Asia’s largest property developer,
said this week it may start a Vietnam property fund.

An economic growth rate that reached 8.2 per cent year-on-year through the first three quarters is driving growth in personal incomes, boosting demand for houses and retail shopping space, while surging foreign investment is driving the need for corporate office space.

“Inflation and sharply rising asset prices have become an increasing concer n,” IMF’s Shogo Ishii, assistant director in the Asia and Pacific department, said in remarks prepared today for the so-called Consultative Group meeting in Hanoi, a two-day gathering of countries and agencies, which provide Vietnam with grants and low-interest loans.

Vietnam’s consumer inflation rate reached 10 per cent year-on-year in November, the highest since October 2004.

While the IMF today repeated comments made in a report released last month that higher food and commodity prices reflecting “supply factors and global market conditions” are driving the acceleration in inflation, the agency added a new comment on higher asset prices.

The version of the so-called Article IV Consultation posted on the IMF website made no reference to asset prices or property.

“The underlying inflation trend is well above the average of emerging markets in the region,” the IMF said.

“On asset prices, the steps taken by the authorities appear to have reined in the emerging bubble in the stock market, but property prices are reported rising sharply.”

The Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange’s VN Index reached a record high in March. Since then, the measure has declined 17 per cent, leaving the index up 30 per cent for the year to date.

“A revival of property speculation in Ho Chi Minh City helped to divert the attention of retail investors away from the equity market,” the UK-listed fund Vietnam Holding Ltd said in its latest monthly report.

Vincom Joint-Stock Co, a Hanoibased property developer that listed its shares this year and is now the ninth-biggest company by market value on the Ho Chi Minh City exchange, has jumped 26 per cent since it began trading on the bourse in September, while Ba Ria-Vung Tau Housing Development Joint-Stock Co has climbed 38 per cent since listing in October.

“Before, you had a limited number of people speculating in the property market and now you have a large number of people speculating in the property market,” said Brett Ashton, Ho Chi Minh City-based managing director of the Vietnam unit of the UK’s Savills plc.

“But fundamentally, the current level of high prices is driven by lack of supply, ” Ashton said in a phone interview yesterday.

By Bloomberg

Rahim & Co forges alliance with Savills

KUALA LUMPUR: Rahim & Co Chartered Surveyors Sdn Bhd, one of the largest real estate consultancy firms in the country, expects to establish its presence in the global market via a strategic alliance with Savills Plc.

Rahim & Co executive chairman Datuk Abdul Rahim Rahman said the partners aimed to strengthen their presence in growth markets such as the Middle East, China, Hong Kong and Singapore with the strategic alliance to be known as Savills Rahim & Co.

“We are proud to be associated with such a prestigious name such as Savills and we hope to draw on their broad range of experience and expertise to put Rahim & Co on the world map as an international real estate player,” Rahim told reporters after the signing of the agreement with Savills group chief executive Aubrey Adams.

From left: Datuk Abdul Rahim Rahman, Datuk Dr Awang Adek Hussin and Aubrey Adams

As a leading international property services group, Savills covers markets in Europe, the Asia-Pacific, Australasia and Africa. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange and has more than 180 offices and associates worldwide.

According to Savills Asia Pacific chief executive officer Robert Mckellar, Savills chose to enter into a partnership with Rahim & Co as the latter has a good working knowledge of the local market and strong contacts at all levels.

“We need a strong local partner as we have clients from the Middle East, South Korea, Japan as well as the US who are interested in the Malaysian property market,” he said.

According to Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Dr Awang Adek Hussin, the strategic alliance was timely as the Government plans to establish Malaysia as a regional centre for professional services as well as a property hub with various ongoing initiatives.

By The Star

Rahim & Co forges alliance with UK's Savills

Property consultant Rahim & Co Chartered Surveyors Sdn Bhd expects to increase local property sales to foreigners through its alliance with UK property services provider Savills plc.

Executive chairman Datuk Abdul Rahim Rahman said that the cooperation with Savills last year contributed more than RM150 million in sales.

"Just one transaction done through the help of Savills resulted in RM160 million worth of properties sold," said Rahim & Co's agency managing director Robert Ang after the strategic alliance signing ceremony in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

"This strategic alliance has given us access to MNCs (multinational companies) operating here in Malaysia and foreign investors," he said.

The agency business, better known as Rahim & Co Real Estate Agents Sdn Bhd, will trade under the name of Savills Rahim & Co after receiving approval from the Board of Valuers, Appraisers and Estate Agents Malaysia in mid-December.

Rahim said the Malaysian property market has attracted investors from the Middle East, China, Europe, Singapore and Hong Kong via Savills' extensive network.

"There is huge demand for real-estate investment in Asia, including Malaysia," said Savills Asia Pacific Ltd chief executive officer Robert McKeller.

He said many of Savills clients found it difficult investing in China's real-estate market due to tax and legal issues.

Such clients have shifted their focus to emerging markets that could be considered risker but provided higher yields such as Vietnam, Jakarta in Indonesia and Phnom Penh in Cambodia.

"What we are seeing is that a general weight of cash- chasing real-estate investments," he said.

"We have received interests from Koreans, Japanese, Australian and even some US funds. When we get a good development, there will be 10 to 15 bidders who want to put their money in such a development," he said.

By New Straits Times (by Jeeva Arulampalam)

Sime to build model townships

Sime Darby Bhd plans to develop model townships of affordable housing for low- and middle-income earners in several states.

In a statement yesterday, Sime said this would address the pent-up demand for affordable housing.

The company said under the Bandar Gemilang Sime Darby programme, it would turn slivers of its plantation land in several states into townships with apartments, link houses, semi-detached houses, libraries, schools, sports fields, police stations and places of worship for the major religions.

The states are Labu, Negeri Sembilan, Gurun in Kedah and Vision City in Selangor.

Sime said the size of the apartments and houses would be larger than the typical low- and medium-cost apartments and houses.

“While the standard size of a low-cost link house is about 600 sq ft, the low-rise apartments in Bandar Gemilang will be bigger, averaging at about 900 sq feet.

“In addition, some of the residential units will be flexible and can be extended or expanded according to the needs of the house owners,” it said.

Sime chairman Tun Musa Hitam outlined the plan at the launch of Sime Darby Convention Centre yesterday by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

He said phase one of the programme would be in Labu, Negri Sembilan, where 240 hectares of plantation land would be turned into a model township.

“The next scheme will be Gurun, Kedah, followed by the Vision City in Selangor,” he said.

Musa said the number of units which would be built at each of the three initial sites would depend on the demand from potential home owners.

“Sime aims to create sustainable communities and is confident that the Bandar Gemilang programme will be well-received by the rakyat.

“Houses under the programme will be energy-efficient, will benefit from a water recycling system and will be surrounded by lush greenery.

“Efforts will also be made to encourage sustainable initiatives such as waste recycling, utilising of recyclable building materials and harnessing of rainwater for irrigation purposes,” he said.

By Bernama

Sime Darby to build model townships

Sime Darby Berhad president and group chief executive Datuk Seri Ahmad Zubir Murshid (left) and Sime Darby Berhad chairman Tun Musa Hitam (right) showing Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi a model of the Bandar Gemilang township last night.

: A dream home within budget is what low and middle-income earners will soon be able to look forward to. Set to be competitively priced, the first phase will be built in Labu in Negri Sembilan, followed later in Gurun, Kedah, and the Vision City in Selangor, benefiting thousands of would be home-owners.

The Sime Darby Bhd initiative was launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi last night.

Under the "Bandar Gemilang Sime Darby" programme, the multinational will turn slivers of its vast tracts of its plantation land in the three areas into model townships.

"I am delighted and pleased by the uniqueness of such a development project. I believe it holds great promise in providing affordable homes for the people, at the same time raising the quality of life as well as enhancing their economic prospects," Abdullah said at the launch. These townships will consist of a mix of apartments, link-houses, semi-detached houses, libraries, schools, sports fields, police stations and places of worship for major religions.

Abdullah said that this was done by Sime Darby with the aim of creating a township that would become a model for multi-racial living.

An interesting feature is the size of apartments and houses, which will be comparatively larger. For example, a low-rise apartment in Bandar Gemilang could measure up to 900 square feet, Sime Darby said in a statement.

Another interesting feature of which Abdullah was particularly delighted with is that the houses not only will be surrounded by greenery, but also will be energy efficient and benefit from a water recycling system.

"The houses will have the concept of 'green houses' - they will be environment-friendly," he said.

He urged the crowd in the packed hall to visit the exhibition centre downstairs which carried models of the townships.

"Take a look before you go home tonight. I believe this will be a project of very high quality," he added.

Abdullah also said that the measure of a nation's progress and development was signified not just by the level of economic growth, but also by the quality of life enjoyed by its people.

Sime Darby chairman Tun Musa Hitam in his speech said the number of units to be built at the three initial sites would depend on the demand.

"Efforts will also be made to encourage sustainable initiatives such as waste recycling, utilising recyclable building materials and harnessing rainwater for irrigation purposes," he said.

He added that for the programme to be a success, various government agencies needed to play their part to fast-track approval and concessions.

Musa also said the multinational was also in the process of putting together their many corporate social responsibility projects from all the different units and companies that make up Sime Darby so as to be able to announce soon the newly-founded Sime Darby Foundation.

The Sime Darby Foundation, said Musa, would cater to the needs of society in education, sports as well as social and cultural exchange.

By New Straits Times (by Shamini Darshni and Nisha Sabanayagam)

YTL, Lehman in Thai resort venture

MALAYSIA'S biggest builder, YTL Corp Bhd, and Lehman Brothers Investments Pte Ltd (LBI) yesterday agreed to jointly develop a RM270 million luxury resort in Thailand's Koh Samui island.

The two may team up again for more such projects across Southeast Asia, YTL managing director Tan Sri Francis Yeoh said.

He said YTL is looking for properties in Vietnam, Cambodia and the Philippines. In Malaysia, it is keen on Sabah, Sarawak and Pahang.

Lehman Brothers Investments Pte Ltd, meanwhile, which has a strong property portfolio in Thailand, hopes to announce some investments in Malaysia in the coming months, said Charles Rubin, Lehman Brothers' head of global real estate group in SEA.

Lehman Brothers Investments Pte Ltd is also interested in getting into Indonesia, he added.

"We're looking forward to more joint ventures with Lehman. Independently, we're both moving in the same direction," Yeoh remarked.

He strongly believes that real estate in Asia has yet to realise its full potential.

"Whilst the Mediterranean and the Caribbean took 25 years to develop to realise their full potential - and property prices did indeed appreciate by 15,000 per cent over the period - I foresee Southeast Asia will take only 10 to 15 years to realise its potential," he told reporters after the signing the agreement with Lehman Brothers Investments Pte Ltd in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

Yeoh expects property prices in Singapore - where it recently made its third investment, buying high-end apartments at a record price of S$435 million (RM1 billion) - to gain in the second half of 2008.

The agreement to develop the five-star deluxe hotel and residential villas in Koh Samui was inked between YTL's hospitality unit, YTL Hotels & Properties Sdn Bhd, and Lehman Brothers Investments Pte Ltd - a unit of global investment bank Lehman Brothers.

The project, located on the island's north-east coast, will comprise an 80-room hotel, 26 villas and 90 apartments.

It will be built in about three years after finalising designs and obtaining approvals, which could take about a year.

YTL Construction (Thailand) Ltd will undertake the design and construction of the project.

Aside from Malaysia, YTL has luxury hotels in regional tourist top spots such as Phuket and Bali in Thailand and Indonesia respectively.

By New Straits Times (by Adeline Paul Raj)