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Monday, December 24, 2007

SGC plans more launches after success of phase one

An artist's impression of SGC's Water Villas

PETALING JAYA: The first phase of the RM3 billion Sepang GoldCoast (SGC) in Bagan Lalang, Sepang has been fully taken-up mostly by foreign buyers. With the good response, the developer, Sepang GoldCoast Sdn Bhd, plans to launch three new products in the development in 2008.

Sepang GoldCoast is a joint venture company formed by Permodalan Negeri Selangor Bhd and Sepang Bay Sdn Bhd. Sepang Bay is the Malaysian arm of Indonesian developer Istana Group.

Sepang GoldCoast president Ho Hock Seng (pix) said the first phase, the 366-unit Golden Palm Tree Water Villas (GPT) was an instant success, especially in the international market with most of the foreign purchasers coming from the United Kingdom (142 units), Dubai (66 units) and Korea (24 units).

“We are planning to launch the Spanish-inspired Condo Resorts by April next year, followed by the Beachfront Townhouses in June and Water Villas in September,” said Ho at the recent SGC Appreciation Night 2007, which was held in conjunction with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s visit to SGC.

The prime minister on a recent tour to SGC

GPT was conceptualised as an eco-friendly hotel with 366 villa units (38 units have been retained for commercial purposes). The development has villas built on stilts 1km from the shoreline. There are four villa types with sizes from 520 to 2,000 sq ft and prices between RM465,600 and RM2.08 million.

Ho said the development of SGC is only the beginning; it has 22 km of beachfront land to be developed. “There are number of modules on the drawing board. Our focus right now, is to integrate the GPT into a landscaped beach garden paradise. The other components, such as the garden theme park, commercial areas, food and beverages outlets, leisure and entertainment facilities and shopping areas, a limited edition beach and pool villa complex are being planned,” he said.

Piling works commenced in early in December 2006 and GPT is slated for completion in 36 months. Among the facilities planned are a spa, gymnasium, two-tiered swimming pool, restaurants, meeting rooms and convention hall.

There will also be water activities such as fishing and water sports. The 4,621-acre leasehold SGC will be a coastal-city comprising various commercial and residential properties to be developed over 15 years.

For more details, visit Sepang Gold Coast (SGC) website or call 012-307 1713/ 03-3141 2960.

By theSun (by Allison Lee)

DBS Bank signs on for new Marina Bay headquarters

DBS Bank will move its headquarters from Shenton Way to the Marina Bay Financial Centre (right) from 2012. The bank has signed an agreement to lease 700,000 sq ft of office space across 22 storeys for 12 years — the largest lease deal to date in Singapore. The new headquarters would allow the bank to consolidate its various customer-facing units, trading operations and its corporate headquarters into one building, said DBS CEO Jackson Tai.

DBS will also relocate various units to a purpose- built ninestorey building at Changi Business Park, near the Expo MRT station. Also, in October, the bank signed a lease with Swire Properties in Hong Kong for more than 220,000 sq ft of office space from early next year at One Island East, a 70-storey building. Tai said the new operations hub at Changi Business Park and the new office in Hong Kong would enable the bank to meet expansion needs as DBS grew its customer franchise in Asia.

By theSun

Negara Properties set to add vibrancy to Melawati

Melawati Urban 2 (MU 2) is expected to add more vibrancy to the town centre of Negara Properties (M) Bhd’s 1,200- acre, freehold, Melawati township, said its chief executive officer Wan Hashimi Albakri Wan Ahmad Amin Jaffri (pix).

The township located northeast of Kuala Lumpur’s city centre is about 70% completed and encompasses Taman Melawati, Desa Melawati and Wangsa Melawati.

“The overall mixed-development concept of MU 2 would meet today’s demand for a more sophisticated lifestyle by providing everything under one roof – facilities and urban ambience within a highly accessible location,” he told PropertyPlus.

MU 2 is second part of the Melawati Urban Renewal Project (MURP), following the successful full take up and handing over of Melawati Urban 1 (MU 1) in the middle of this year. The project is designed to satisfy the increasing needs of the township’s residents. It involves the development of commercial areas, enhancement of the built environment and rearrangement of the traffic circulation of the area.

“The MURP is carried out via a land swapping exercise between the Selangor state government and Negara Properties’ wholly owned subsidiary Melawati Development Sdn Bhd. The land swapping proposal had been submitted to the local authority in May and the privatisation proposal has been tabled to the state government with the decision still pending,” Wan Hashimi said, adding that the project has a gross development cost of RM125.3 million.

He said, whilst MU 1 is designated solely for commercial purposes, MU 2 is an integrated development, which consists of retail and office suites. “Being a first-of its kind integrated project within Ulu Kelang, it will bring a new pace of life (to the area), while enhancing the value of the other surrounding properties there,” he added.

Two 4-storey blocks comprising 30 units of strata retail and business suites with lift facilities were launched at the end of November, to a lot of interest.

The retail units have built-ups of between 1,747 sq ft and 2,075 sq ft with prices starting from RM751,210, while the business suites, priced at RM416,150 onwards, have builtups from 1,435 sq ft to 4,040 sq ft. It is scheduled to be completed in early 2011 with a gross development value (GDV) of RM23 million.

Wan Hashimi says the units are targeted at lifestyle retailers like bookshops, coffee shops, convenience stores, fitness centres and specialty salons, professional firms such as medical consultants, architecture firms and media promotions specialists as well as financial institutions.

“To attract potential buyers, we are offering special packages that include free legal fees for SPA, free air-conditioner unit as well as WIFI connectivity,” he said, adding that the units enjoy wider frontage and corridor space.

The development is located 13 km from KL’s city centre and is accessible via the Ampang Elevated Highway, Middle Ring Road 2 (MRR2), and the upcoming DUKE Highway. “In addition to the convenient accessibility, the development is surrounded by established neighbourhoods, including Wangsa Maju, Bukit Antarabangsa, Taman Negara Properties set to add vibrancy to Melawati Melati, Ukay Perdana and Ampang, which have a ready catchment of 250,000 within a 8 km radius,” he said.

MU 2 has another five phases yet to be launched with a total GDV of more than RM100 million when completed. MU 1, which comprises 24 units of commercial units with built-ups of 4,856 sq ft priced from RM1.6 million to RM5.5 million, has a GDV of RM67 million.

Meanwhile, Wan Hashimi said, “While there is a mixed sentiment on the property market in 2008 due to the escalating cost of materials, fuel, as well as various uncertainties in this year’s market, we are still confident the market will flourish, underpinned by interest from foreigners
and increased domestic demand, especially in niche to high-end residential and commercial developments, particularly those in strategic locations.” He added that spillover projects from the Ninth Malaysia plan, low unemployment and high saving rates would also contribute to the market’s positive run.

He said Negara Properties would continue to meet the expectations of homeowners looking for the right combination of price, locality and design by launching distinctive lifestyle residential and commercial properties in their ongoing Melawati, Saujana Impian and Nilai Impian developments.

“We believe the excellent location, combined with innovative marketing campaigns and attractive financing packages, will create a robust demand for these units,” he added.

By theSun (by Yap Yew Jin)

London-listed firm may launch REIT here

Millennium & Copthorne Hotels plc (M&C), a London-listed firm which operates more than 112 hotels in over 18 countries, may launch a billion-ringgit property trust in Malaysia comprising local and foreign properties.

M&C may also consider launching the REIT in Singapore or other Asian countries but this will depend on opportunities in the markets, chief operating officer Michael Sengol said.

"A listing in Malaysia is also possible. Options are open and it's a long-term plan. There is nothing concrete yet," Sengol told Business Times in an interview in Kuala Lumpur recently.

M&C, a unit of Singapore's City Developments Ltd (CDL), which is part of billionaire Kwek Leng Beng's Hong Leong group, is one of the largest owned and managed hotel groups in the world.

In Malaysia, it owns the newly refurbished Grand Millennium Hotel (formerly The Regent KL), and Grand Millennium Penang.

According to Sengol, the hotel in Penang may be redeveloped or refurbished in the near future to cater to the lifestyle of travellers.

Next month, M&C will launch Millennium Residence, a 57-storey five-star serviced condominium in Kuala Lumpur, its first in Malaysia.

"We have not stopped venturing here. We are still exploring. Malaysia now contributes a small percentage to group revenue. With further expansions here, we hope contribution would be significant in the near future," Sengol said.

Meanwhile, M&C is planning to develop its no-frills hotel operating business in Malaysia and Asia through Tune Hospitality Investments Dubai, a US$50 million (RM168 million) joint-venture property fund.

Hong Kong-listed City e-Solutions (CES) Ltd, a unit of CDL, and Istithmar PSJC, the investment arm of state-owned Dubai World, will each have a 40 per cent stake in the venture.

The rest will be held by Tune, Malaysia's first no-frills hotel operator.

The fund will be used to develop and own a portfolio of 30 "no-frills" hotels in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines.

By New Straits Times (by Sharen Kaur)

Sepang Gold Coast project to yield returns in 2 years

Sepang Gold Coast Sdn Bhd (SGC) expects to start seeing some returns from its ambitious RM3 billion Sepang Gold Coast project within the next two years.

SGC president Ho Hok Seng said the project has started to take shape with the first phase, comprising 361 Golden Palm Tree Water Villas, currently under construction and is scheduled to be completed by mid-2009.

"Once the water villas are completed, we expect to immediately see a guaranteed return of at least eight per cent in the first two years and between 7.5 per cent to 12 per cent in the subsequent years for our investors," he told Business Times at Bagan Lalang beach in Sepang recently.

He said about 90 per cent of the water villas has been sold with foreign investors making up more than 80 per cent of the total sales.

The foreign buyers include those from the UK, Europe, Middle East, Korea and Japan.

"The water villas are based on a sale and leaseback basis where SGC will lease it back and turn the units into a resort which will be run by Swiss-belHotel International," Ho said, noting that the firm is spending RM400 million for construction of the project.

He noted that the Golden Palm Tree Villas were sold out within five months and is conceptualised as a palm-shaped eco-friendly hotel.

"There are four types of villas, ranging from 520 to 2,000 sq ft in size, and from RM488,880 to RM2.19 million a unit," he said.

All the water villas are being built on stilts, about one kilometre from the shoreline.

The developer will be retaining 32 units of the villas to be converted into commercial outlets.

Apart from that, Ho said SGC is planning to build the second Golden Palm Tree villas but with less units as part of efforts to make it more exclusive for buyers.

"We hope to launch the second villas by middle of next year but we are unable to give further details just yet," he said.

He said the 1,848.4ha leasehold Sepang Gold Coast which stretches over 22 km will be a coastal city comprising various commercial and residential projects to be developed over 15 years.

"The development will include four boutique resort hotels, three traditional or ethnic resort, a waterside township, a marina, an aquarium, open zoo, theme park, ecotourism areas and an institute of oceanography," Ho said.

Sepang Gold Coast is being developed by SGC, which is a 70:30 joint venture between Permodalan Negeri Selangor Bhd and Sepang Bay Sdn Bhd, the Malaysian unit of Indonesian-based developer Istana Group, the same people behind multi-level marketing firm CNI International.

By New Straits Times (by Azlan Abu Bakar)

Shoppers spend record RM2b at Suria KLCC

SURIA KLCC saw a total of 46 million people spending some RM2 billion worth at the mall this past year.

This is the highest level of retail sales registered by the retailers within Suria KLCC which numbers 330 and occupies a total of 1.04 million sq ft of net lettable area.

"Sales were up by 15 per cent (compared with a year ago). We are very happy that for the first time (at the end of November 2007) our retailers have hit RM2 billion in sales," Suria KLCC Sdn Bhd's chief executive officer Andrew Brien said.

He added that the number of shoppers grew from 43 million a year ago, representing an increase of 6.5 per cent.

In a recent interview with Business Times, Brien said that the RM2 billion sales derived by its retailers are a 51 per cent increase since 2004, with no new additional retail space.

"We have just remixed (the retailers) and driven the sales up," he said.

On what is in store in 2008, he said: "Next year is difficult to tell. Sales growth in Malaysia has been extraordinary compared with the five per cent growth in the UK, 3.5 per cent in the US and five per cent in Australia. We are in double digits now. (But) how long can this go on is the question."

"We are conservative. We think we will still be in double digits next year, probably not as high (as 15 per cent). This is about the retail cycle. We have been on the bullish cycle for two to two-and-a-half years. That (growth) doesn't last forever," he said.

For the financial year ended March 31 2007, Suria KLCC, a 60-40 partnership between KLCC Property Holdings Bhd and ING Real Estate, posted RM214.7 million in revenue, up eight per cent from a year ago.

When asked about its performance in the current year, Brien said: "We expect to perform at least as well as in last year."

On the impact due to the additional 2.9 million sq ft retail space following the opening of Pavilion, The Gardens Mid Valley and Sunway Pyramid, Brien said: "Retail space will have an impact on us although we have today noticed zero impact".

"The inherent strength is in the total development of KLCC which is unsurpassed in the region. We have the best integrated development," Brien added.

Thanks to its strategic location and its link to the iconic Twin Towers, Suria KLCC also enjoys a huge share of the tourist market.

Of the 46 million this year, up to a fifth of its visitors are

tourists. This compares to about three years ago when tourists made up between eight per cent and 12 per cent of its crowd.

Brien said that while the foreign tourists numbers may be small compared to the domestic crowd, the former spends more.

"Tourists account for 30 per cent of the retailers sales. They have a higher propensity to spend," he said.

In 2010, Suria will have additional 140,000 sq ft of nett lettable area. The space will come with the construction of an office tower between Suria KLCC and Mandarin Oriental Hotel, where the bottom of the tower will be linked seamlessly with the existing Suria KLCC.

Brien said that he expects Suria KLCC to remain an iconic structure, always generating more market share.

"We have elements that cannot be matched elsewhere. No one has a park, the Twin Towers, 5,400 parking bays and two hotels. I am not being arrogant but the planning of the structure was very well thought of and gives us a good positioning for a long time," he said.

By New Straits Times (by Vasantha Ganesan)

Stockwatch shares show their prowess

The shares of most companies highlighted as stocks to look out for in StarBiz's Stockwatch column, which appears every Monday, have done quite well. The companies have generally shown a marked improvement in their financial performance and have received global recognition, thus pushing up their share prices further. Below is a run down of some of the players across sectors, why they were chosen and how they had progressed this year locally and globally.

A scale model of the Resorts World displayed at the ground breaking ceremony of Genting International's second casino and entertainment resort on Sentosa Island in Singapore. – AFP


Proton Holdings Bhd was highlighted due to the possibility of the national car manufacturer obtaining a foreign partner. However, its shares were sold down after investors' were disappointed when the Government decided to call off negotiations with Volkswagen on Nov 20.

YTD Proton shares fell RM2.90 (43.9%) to close at RM3.70 last Friday.

Nevertheless, Proton's financials have been steadily improving – it reported its first profit - RM3.51mil in the second quarter ended September 30, 2007 - after five consecutive quarters of net losses, citing improved sales especially since the launch of the Persona and better cost management.

Another stock selected in the sector was MBM Resources Bhd mainly due to the strong contribution from associate Perodua. Net profit has been on the up-trend rising 33.6% to RM38.5mil in the third quarter ended September 30, 2007.

Building materials

The building materials sector has bright prospects going forward boosted by a rise in construction activities from the implementation of the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP) projects.

Cement players Lafarge Malayan Cement Bhd and Cement Industries of Malaysia Bhd were two of our stocks to watch as potential beneficiaries of the 9MP.

The sector also received a boost when the Government adjusted the ceiling price of cement last December. In addition, the automated pricing mechanism to take effect from Jan 1 is expected to provide further upside to cement prices.


We selected UEM World Bhd due to the huge potential it provided as the master developer for Nusajaya, a 9,712 hectares future metropolis in the Iskandar Development Region launched early this year.

Land prices in Nusajaya may double in the next two years, making UEM World a direct beneficiary.

It is also involved in the construction of the RM3bil second Penang Bridge to be completed by 2010.

WCT Engineering Bhd proved our confidence in it was not unfounded as it continues to clinch contracts locally and abroad. It secured some of the largest contracts from the Middle East this year including the Meydan Racecourse Dubai valued at RM4.6bil with partner Arabtec Construction. It is also in a joint venture to construct the RM1.3bil Abu Dhabi F1 Circuit.


Shangri-La Hotels (Malaysia) Bhd was chosen as it is well positioned to take advantage of increasing tourist arrivals Visit Malaysia 2007 due to its strategic location in these geographical areas.

Recently, Standard Chartered Private Equity Ltd bought a 19.55% stake in the hotel group. As an equity investor, the fund's involvement could be a catalyst for faster growth or strategic acquisitions.

Information Technology

We looked at VADS Bhd an excellent small-cap IT due to its exemplary earnings and solid execution.

VADS' share price has been rising sharply, outperforming the benchmark KL Composite Index over the past year. In addition to securing local contracts, VADS has begun to receive global recognition by securing two offshore contracts this year.


Malaysian Bulk Carriers Bhd was one of our stocks to watch among transport companies.

The company has been benefiting from surging dry bulk rates this year. It has also been paying decent dividends.

This coupled with the higher average shipping rates expected for 2008 has made the company an ideal stock to look at during volatile periods.


The RHB group has seen its fair share of action in terms of mergers and acquisitions this year. The latest news in the RHB saga is Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank's interest to buy a 25% stake in RHB Capital Bhd from the Employees Provident Fund.

This will help RHB Capital's aim to turn subsidiary RHB Bank into one of the top three banking groups in South-East Asia and expand its presence to China and the Middle East.


Malaysia Airlines was selected as a good turnaround story. It achieved its business turnaround plan a year ahead of schedule and plans to introduce its business transformation plan next month.

It posted a record net profit of RM363.94mil for the third quarter ended Sept 30, its fifth consecutive profitable quarter and best ever earnings.

However, MAS' earnings is expected to be affected by the limited opening of the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore route to AirAsia Bhd.

It has been a phenomenal year for AirAsia Bhd, which has been reaping good profits as business continues to boom. It also launched its long-haul budget carrier AirAsia X this year and gain approval to have two flights plying the lucrative Kuala Lumpur-Singapore route recently.


Crude palm oil prices hit new highs this year with palm oil futures on Bursa Derivatives reaching a record RM3,068 on Nov 26. As a result, major palm oil firms such as IOI Corp recorded substantial profits.

IOI Corp Bhd is currently the best and one of the biggest of the breed. In the palm oil sector, it is the most profitable company, with one of the highest yields and lowest costs. High crude palm oil prices have caused net profit to surge 76.6% to RM451.5mil for the first quarter ended September 30, 2007.

The IOI is a favourite plantation stock among investors due to its consistent earnings delivery and liquidity in the trading of the stock especially after its share split earlier in the year.


Genting Bhd has seen its fair share of action this year.

Early this year, it announced that it had bought a 75% stake in a casino project to be operated by Macau magnate Stanley Ho for RM1.57bil.

More recently, it appears that it has set its sights on the British gaming industry when its subsidiary Genting International plc bought a 9.38% stake in Rank Group plc – the second biggest casino operator in Britain.

Genting International is also in the midst of building its S$5.75bil Sentosa integrated resort in Singapore.

DiGi.Com Bhd was selected because it is one of the most successful growth stories in the telecommunications industry. Its share price has grown by leaps and bounds. Moreover, DiGi declared RM1.685 per share in gross dividends to date.

DiGi is cash rich and its balance sheet is stronger, it has RM1bil in its coffers and debts of only RM300mil.

The third-generation spectrum (3G), which DiGi is in the process of acquiring, is expected to boost the telecommunication company's average revenue per user (ARPU).

Government-linked companies

Tenaga Nasional Bhd is said to be one of the cheapest utility stocks in the region. Its share price fell in the past few months which analysts attributed mainly to the recent pullback by foreign investors due to concerns over electricity demand growth, rising fuel costs, and contracting global liquidity.

However, hope that Tenaga could revise electricity tariff in the event of a cut in gas subsidy propelled its share price upwards to RM10 earlier this month. The counter closed at RM9.55 on Friday.

Malayan Banking Bhd is one of the more defensive stocks in the banking sector, which boasts superior dividend yields.

Maybank made a positive move when despite its usual slower first quarter results (financial year-end June 30, 2008), it surprised most people with a quarter dividend trend going forward plus a one-for-four bonus issue.

Moreover, it has been granted approval-in-principle to start an Islamic subsidiary recently.

But there were some negative news about its insurance business though - a possible joint venture partnership with PT Panin Life Tbk has hit a snag due to Indonesia's banking regulations.

Oil and gas

As studies indicate robust demand for oil from Asia, local oil and gasrelated companies have been busy stepping up their brown field and marine services locally and abroad.

Many oil and gas stocks were highlighted this year. One of the more exceptional ones was Muhibbah Engineering (M) Bhd. The construction and engineering group has been in the limelight this year securing contract after contract totalling a whopping RM1.8bil so far. Its outstanding order book is at a record high of RM4.45bil, which will boost future earnings.

Another gem in the industry was KNM Group Bhd. In just two years, the share price of KNM Group rose tremendously to reach RM7.20 last Friday, from 58.3 sen seen on December 21, 2005. This means investors who put their funds into the stock would have made huge gains.

By The Star Newspaper (by Elaine Ang)

Bullish Asian property market

Early morning traffic in Shanghai. The roaring economy of China is expected to continue fuelling growth of the property sector in this region – AFP

The property scene across Asia is heating up, thanks to cash-rich investors looking for higher returns.

The roaring economies of China and India as well as Japan, which is recovering from more than a decade of economic sluggishness is expected to continue to fuel growth in the property sector in this region.

As Japan's economy recovers, office buildings have greatly increased in demand, sending capital values soaring in Tokyo. Because of tight supply, analysts see Tokyo office rents rising another 60% to 70% to a cyclical peak around 2010, Reuters reported recently.

Singapore's property business is also enjoying brisk business as with China and India where an influx of people and rising incomes are fuelling demand.

Thailand’s property segment however, has been slow - given its weak consumer confidence after recent slower economic growth.

Back home, residential properties, led by high-end condominiums, are experiencing increasing sales because of strong foreign demand, with Asian and Middle East buyers on top of the list.

For foreign buyers, high-end Malaysian properties are still considered a bargain with prices about seven times cheaper than Singapore properties.

The increase in crude oil prices this year turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the Malaysian economy as it led to increases in export value of crude petroleum and related products.

As demand for the commodity continues to increase, oil and gas firms and related outfits stand to benefit tremendously.

Already this year, share prices of oil and gas and related firms have been reflective of this.

Recent studies have indicated continue and robust demand for oil from Asia with experts saying the region required some 25 million barrels per day, which is 29% of the world's consumption of 86 million barrels per day.

Realising this, local oil and gas-related companies such as Petra Perdana Bhd and Scomi Group Bhd have been busy stepping up their brown field and marine services - locally and abroad.

Regionally, Singapore's Keppel Corp and SembCorp Group have also been aggressive in their set-ups of yards in major oil and gas production centres globally.

Meanwhile, industry observes are of the opinion that competition among energy players would be come more intense.

Major energy players such as China's China National Petroleum Corp and India's Oil and Natural Gas Corp are going heavy on acquisitions to remain competitive.

Likewise, Malaysia's Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) has been involved in global exploration activities since early 1990s.

One thing is for sure: Demand for oil is set to remain firm and oil and gas firms and related companies will continue to benefit for a long time to come.

Besides oil and gas firms, many regional plantation companies also delivered good financial results and share price performance this year.

Crude palm oil (CPO) prices hit new highs this year with palm oil futures on Bursa Derivatives reaching a record RM3,068 on Nov 26.

Malaysian major palm oil firms such as IOI Corp Bhd and Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd (KLK) recorded substantial profits as a result.

Meanwhile, Indonesia's economy has been expanding at the fastest pace since the regional financial crisis of 1997/98, thanks to soaring prices for palm oil.

India and China, the two largest global buyers of palm oil, have helped push up prices and earnings of Indonesian producers of the vegetable oil.

A wire report third-quarter profit at PT Astra Agro Lestari - Indonesia's biggest publicly traded agricultural company, had almost tripled to a record 603.34 billion rupiah on higher palm oil prices.

South-East Asia's biggest budget airline AirAsia Bhd created waves this year, launching its long-haul flight services and obtaining landing rights for the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore route.

Competition, however, is fast becoming the buzzword in the industry.

AirAsia and Indonesia's PT Lion Mentari have over 100 planes on order each even as economic growth and liberalisation boost air travel.

Tiger Airways Pte, the budget airline owned partly by Singapore Airlines Ltd this month ordered 20 Airbus planes in line with its expansion in Australia, Malaysia and India.

Asia's budget airlines, according to recent reports would have a combined fleet of 1,300 single-aisle aircraft by 2025, compared with 236 planes currently.

Asia-Pacific passenger traffic is expected to outpace the global average, Bloomberg said.

Malaysia's construction industry has been particularly robust this year with the steady rollout of Ninth Malaysia Plan projects amidst the government's push for higher economic growth.

The local construction industry is forecast to expand an average 3.5% a year over the next four to five years, compared with 0.5% in the period 2001 to 2005.

According to industry experts, growth would be spurred by spending on low-cost housing, roads, airports and railroad projects.

Testament to this is the recent Gamuda Bhd and MMC Corp Bhd 50:50 joint venture that was awarded the RM12.5bil electrified double tracking Ipoh-Padang Besar project.

Elsewhere, the industry has also experienced generally healthy growth. The construction sector in Singapore grew the most in a decade with analysts saying that the growth momentum in the city-state would continue to be underpinned by the construction and its related sectors.

By The Star (by Yvonne Tan)

Pentridge banks on location

A sample of the homes already developed on Pentridge Village.

West Homes Australia Pty Ltd is offering Malaysian buyers and investors an opportunity to purchase homes in its latest housing project - Pentridge Village Centrale in Melbourne, Australia.

The homes, which are part of the Australian builder’s long-term Pentridge Village project, were launched on Oct 31 and is being marketed in Malaysia through local marketing arm Asia Pacific Assets (KL) Sdn Bhd.

West Homes Australia director Leigh Chiavaroli was in Malaysia recently to promote Pentridge Village Centrale as part of its plan to focus more on the Asian market.

Chiavaroli told StarBiz that Centrale's strategic location was one of the reasons why the project would appeal to local buyers and investors.

“Pentridge Village is only 7km from Melbourne's central business district. You have trams, trains and busses practically at your doorstep.”

“It's also close to both Melbourne and La Trobe University, which is great for students,” Chiavaroli said.

Pentridge Village is only 7km from Melbourne's central business district.

Another added bonus is that West Homes Australia will be working on expanding the Pentridge Village area for at least another decade, said W. Brace & Associates Pty Ltd director Mario Butera.

“The company's presence will give comfort to buyers as the builders will be around when homes are completed,” said Butera.

W. Brace & Associates is the Australian-based estate agent for Pentridge Village.

Mario Butera (left) and Leigh Chiavaroli at AP Assets (KL) Sdn Bhd office recently.

“Another added incentive for potential buyers is that homes in Australia generally double in value over a span of seven to eight years,” Butera said.

West Homes Australia is currently building homes, shops, offices, restaurants and community heritage facilities on 30.35 hectares of freehold land in Pentridge Village Centrale.

The project comprises of apartment suites, multi-level terraces (with private lifts) and houses with land packages.

Prices range from A$364,000 to A$1.5mil.

A consortium leads the Pentridge Village project with West Homes Australia having a 70% stake in the project.

By The Star (by Eugene Mahalingam)

RM 1bil ‘Venice of the East’ project for Malacca

MALACCA: The state government has approved the reclamation of a 72ha site off the Portuguese Settlement for mixed development, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam said.

He said a private company, Bumi Tabah Sdn Bhd, which is undertaking the reclamation would create six man-made islands that would have hotels, shopping malls and high-end residential apartments.

“Malacca can be called Venice of the East once again after completion of the six islands, expected within five years,” Mohd Ali told reporters after presenting presents to children at Portuguese Settlement.

He said there would be road links from the commercial area of Taman Melaka Raya to Tengkera, adding that the state also planned to construct a coastal highway connecting Melaka Raya, Padang Temu, Pertam and the Air Keroh-Merlimau-Jasin highway.

The Chief Minister gave his assurance that the fishermen along the coast would not be affected by the projects, as a new jetty would be built at Klebang beach soon.

"The new jetty would serve as a centre for all fishing boats to land their catches," he said.

Bumi Tabah director Joseph Sta Maria said the project would complement the coastal corridor development planned by the state government.

"We are investing RM1 bil for the reclamation which is expected to be completed within 18 months together with the creation of the six islands," he said.

Sta Maria said the project would be marketed in Dubai, Australia, Singapore and China next year.

By The Star

Study: Hotel, leisure investments in Middle East total US$3.6 trillion

TOURIST DRAW: The study covers 13 Middle Eastern countries and is to be published at the Hotel Show 2008, which will take place at the Dubai International Exhibition Centre from 8-10 next year.
- AFP picture

A massive US$3.63 trillion (US$1 = RM3.35) is being invested in hotels, leisure projects, aviation developments, cruise lines, tourism promotion and supporting infrastructure, across the Middle East, according to preliminary results of a research programme.

The study covers 13 Middle Eastern countries for the period to 2020 and is to be published at the Hotel Show 2008, the Middle East's leading supplies exhibition catering to the region's hospitality sector, which will take place at the Dubai International Exhibition Centre from June 8-10 next year.

According to a statement, the Middle East Industry Outlook 2020 is an update of a ground-breaking research study by Fast Future and Global Futures and Foresight on the Future of Travel and Tourism in the Middle East and is sponsored by the Hotel Show, Siraj Capital, Nakheel and Silverjet.

The study's strategic partners are the Pacific Asia Travel Association and IMEX Frankfurt.

"This study takes a future perspective on key trends and drivers shaping the region's travel and tourism sector to 2020 and beyond and is an invaluable tool to all in the hospitality industry," said Maggie Moore, exhibition director of the Hotel Show 2008.

The show is organised by DMG World Media, one of the leading exhibition companies in the region.

The research identifies plans to invest at least US$580 billion in over 900 hotels across the region from Syria to Oman and found projected construction costs for the most recent announcements from over 72 developers, investors and operators vary from US$10,000 to US$5.71 million per room.

The 19 largest airlines in the region are expected to spend at least US$143 billion adding 876 planes to their fleets with the largest buyers in terms of aircraft purchased and total investment expected to be Emirates - buying 245 aircraft at US$60 billion - and Qatar Airways purchasing 150 planes for US$52 billion.

The two largest spenders were Dubai World Central (Al Maktoum International) at US$8.2 billion and Saudi Arabia's King Abdulaziz International at Jeddah, which is investing US$8 billion.

The research programme will culminate with a major report to be published in June 2008 in time for release at "The Hotel Show".

The report highlights six critical factors that could cause turbulence and confusion and have an adverse economic impact in the coming years namely, the global economic outlook, environmental challenges, human resources, safety and security, infrastructure and information availability and reliability.

By Bernama