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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Arab investors committed to Medini

DUBAI: Khazanah Nasional Bhd’s Arab partners in the development of Medini, a 2,300-acre mixed project in Iskandar Malaysia, remain committed in spite of the global financial turbulence.

“It comes down to fundamentals. If you look at comparable rents (in Johor), they are 20% to 10% of Singapore’s,” John A. Thomas, an executive director of Mubadala, told the media on Monday.

Medini, a greenfield project in Nusajaya, Johor, was officially launched at Cityscape Dubai, an annual property exhibition, by Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman.

Earlier, Ghani told the media that the new state administrative centre, located next to Medini, was almost completed and civil servants would soon be moving into the new offices.

As for the global credit crunch and its impact on property investment, Thomas said: “Medini is a project that spans 10 to 15 years. Looking back later on, this will just be a blip during this period.”

Iskandar Investment Bhd (IIB), an investment arm of Khazanah, coordinates and invests in Iskandar Malaysia.

Its development partners for Medini are Mubadala, Aldar Properties, Millennium Development International and Al-Nibras 2 Ltd, a Labuan-based private fund company managed by Kuwait Finance House (M) Bhd group. Mubadala, Aldar and the Lebanese Saraya group, which owns Millennium, are all very large Middle Eastern property developers and investors.

IIB managing director Arlida Ariff said the company hoped to grow the partnerships and, at the same time, was aiming at drawing the next tier of investors to Iskandar Malaysia.

“We hope to get more participants to develop specific parcels of land in Iskandar Malaysia,” she said, adding that this was one of the aims of IIB’s participation with its booth at Cityscape Dubai.

Iskandar Malaysia was masterplanned into specific parcels of landed projects, such as education and financial centres, so that lead developers did not cannabalise each other’s market, she said.

Millennium’s country manager for Malaysia Richard Polkinghorne said the Saraya group’s objective was to transfer its expertise in the development of cities from greenfield sites to Malaysia.

“There are not many places in the world where you can build a city.

The Middle East has provided the training ground, and now Malaysia has the same vision,” he added.

In building cities, developers had to think of building offices and living space for 200,000 people and how to roll out projects over 10, 15 years, added Polkinghorne.

He remains convinced that Medini will work. “It comes down to location, location and location.

It’s close to Singapore which is running out of space. It’s a unique opportunity,” he said.

Millennium is scouting to invest in another project in Malaysia as well as elsewhere in South-East Asia.

The Aldar group also remains keen on its participation in Medini. “Aldar will bring its development and management expertise to this part of the world. We see Medini as an excellent entry point for us and it represents a salient opportunity to internationalise our operations outside of Abu Dhabi,” said chief operating officer John Bullough.

By The Star

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