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Thursday, January 3, 2008

A sanctuary in Penang

PENANG: Prima Prai Group, a Penang-based property developer, has launched the latest phase of The Sanctuary, a luxury bungalow project on the eastern side of Penang, in Batu Uban.

The interior of one of The Sanctuary's show units

Phase 1B comprises 30 units of bungalows ranging from 4,200 sq ft to 6,200 sq ft in size, with prices for the units ranging from RM2.6 million to RM4.3 million. Construction is expected to start early next year.

Prima Prai Group recently entered into an agreement with Kuwait Finance House Bhd (KFH) for a RM74.7 million Mudharabah financing facility for the project.

Prima Prai’s managing director Datuk Mohd Ramzan Ibrahim said all units are designed by renowned Australian architect John Colliere to be spacious and bright, with a touch of modern architecture. The Sanctuary aims to be a tranquil and private retreat as its name suggests, he added.

The three design types in Phase 1B are Magnifique, Glamourette and Vogue. The Magnifique units feature a modern-classic design with a distinct pitched roof, while Glamourette offers a modern and tropical design with a variety of layout configurations.

The view from The Sanctuary

The Vogue units have a comtemporary design with stone-clad walls, distinctive curved roofs, tall ceilings and large, glass panels.

The Sanctuary is located within the Northern Corridor Economic Region, is minutes away from the Penang Bridge, Penang International Airport, Georgetown and is near ammenities such as international schools and shopping centres.

Mohd Ramzan said he is confident of a good take-up rate following the success of Phase 1. Comprising 21 bungalows and 11 semidees, Phase 1 is sold out, with as many as 40% of buyers coming from Taiwan, India and China.

Ramzan said other projects in the pipeline for the company include its flagship development, The Runnymede Centre, in Georgetown comprising super condos and a boutique hotel.

The 5.5-acre tract at the historic Runnymede site along Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah (formerly Northam Road) is expected to be the most exclusive address in the state when launched in mid-2008.

Other projects to be launched next year include a serviced apartment project on 2.03ha in Penang and 103 units of 2 1/2-storey courtyard homes in Prai.

By theSun (by Tim Leonard)

Singapore Q4 growth shrinks versus Q3

More softness in exports expected in next couple of quarters

Singapore: The city-state's economy unexpectedly contracted for the first time in 4 & 1/2 years as factory output slowed, suggesting Asia's export-dependent markets may face increased risks from weaker global growth.

The republic's burgeoning construction industry prevented a wider contraction in the economy last quarter. - Bloomberg

Gross domestic product shrank an annualised 3.2% in the final quarter after adjusting for inflation, from a revised 4.4% expansion in the previous three-month period, the trade ministry said yesterday. Economists had expected a 3.1% gain.

"We definitely should expect to see more softness in exports in the next couple of quarters, and that's bad news for electronics-heavy Asian economies," said Kit Wei Zheng, an economist at Citigroup Inc in Singapore. "That means slower growth for Singapore and the rest of Asia."

Asia is twice as reliant on exports as the rest of the world, with 60% of overseas sales ultimately destined for the United States, Europe and Japan.

Singapore's manufacturing climbed 0.5% in the final three months of 2007 from a year earlier, the smallest increase in 18 quarters.

Output growth slowed from a revised 10.3% in the July-September period.

From a year earlier, the republic's economy grew 6% in the fourth quarter after gaining a revised 9% in the previous three months. Economists were expecting 7.7% growth.

The services industry climbed 8.3% from a year earlier, matching the growth rate of the previous three-month period.

Economists said demand for financial services probably eased as the rout in global credit markets increased risk aversion and the city-state's government implemented measures to cool the property market.

"Singapore's financial services industry has been affected by the shadow of the subprime problem," said Irvin Seah, an economist at DBS Group Holdings Ltd in Singapore. "Investors are more cautious and that has slowed down activity."

The republic's burgeoning construction industry prevented a wider contraction in the economy last quarter as companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp set up new plants and property developers built new office towers and condominiums.

Construction surged 24.4% from a year earlier, after a revised 19.2% gain in the three months ended September.

The economy advanced 7.5% in 2007, easing from a 7.9% rate of expansion the year before. The government expects growth to be between 4.5% and 6.5% in 2008.

By Bloomberg

UEM: Nusajaya poised to ‘come alive’ by 2011

KUALA LUMPUR: The Nusajaya regional city in Johor, boosted by a substantial population of 100,000 now, is on track to “come alive” with commercial activities by 2011 and further development via partnerships, said UEM Group.

UEM World Bhd’s subsidiary UEM Land Sdn Bhd’s chief executive officer Wan Abdullah Wan Ibrahim said the development in Nusajaya would be boosted by the completion of the Johor state administrative centre, which was due for occupation in the first quarter of 2008.

“By 2011, the ongoing developments (in Nusajaya) would be generating new demand and it will propel a step further, driven by its own energy,” he told The Edge Financial Daily recently.

“All these projects would take time to develop and we believe by 2011, would achieve its target of ‘coming alive’ so to speak,” Wan Abdullah said.

He said other development centres include those such as the industrial and logistics cluster, the industrial development for advance technology corporations, which the company began selling this year and its three residential developments.

According to reports, the residential projects in NusajayaHorizon Hills, Nusa Idaman and Puteri Harbour — have a gross development value (GDV) of RM4.55 billion. Horizon Hills has a GDV of RM2.6 billion, Nusa Idaman RM450 million and Residential North precinct of Puteri Harbour RM1.5 billion.

Wan Abdullah said Nusa Indaman, which comprise medium cost housing, had been completed.

“So by 2011, these types of properties would be at a mature stage and achieve its tipping point. And then there are other projects like the international resort that would house the theme park and medical city,” he added.

Meanwhile, Khazanah Nasional Bhd managing director Datuk Azman Mokhtar told The Edge Financial Daily that the Iskandar Development Region (IDR), which requires an investment of US$105 billion (RM351.75 billion) over a 20-year period, would see more activities beginning 2008.

He said: “2008 will be when we are clearing and building the roads (and) some of the new investments will be coming in the first half. There will be greater visibility.”

Azman said so far there were already three Gulf-based investors pumping in US$12 billion for land and basic infrastructure in the IDR.

“These investors are committed, they are the bluest of blue chips from the Gulf. We are also working on various other key catalyst developments, including a proposed theme park and investors from other key countries, including China and India,” he said.

Azman said there were progress in the development of the IDR region this year, particularly between the Malaysian and Singaporean governments in identifying mutually beneficial areas of development, which include the Smartcard, a common Custom Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) and potential MRT and transportation links, among others.

Asked how close is the IDR to achieving the first three benefits, he said: “It is quite encouraging; considerable progress has been made in the last one year.”


Genting Highlands Resort named world’s top casino resort

KUALA LUMPUR: Genting Highlands Resort defeated many a familiar name in the casino business to win the prestigious International Travel Award — The 2007 World Travel Award for the World’s Leading Casino Resort at the 14th Annual World Travel Awards Gala ceremony.

The local resort was nominated along with world renowned Ceasars Palace Las Vegas (USA), D’oreale Grande, Emperor Palace (South Africa), MGM Grand Hotel & Casino, Vegas (USA), Park Hyatt Mendoza (Argentina), Star City Hotel & Casino, Sydney (Australia) and The Venetian (Macau).

“We have always striven to provide the best products and services to our valued customers,” said Resorts World Bhd executive vice president Alan Teo who accepted the award on behalf of the group.

Held at the Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort & Spa on the Carribean island of Providenciales last month, the event was attended by 330 travel trade representitives from around the world.

The award, touted as the Oscar of the travel and tourism industry, acknowledges industry excellence, Resorts World said in a statement.

Genting Highlands Resorts emerged winner of the award after an industry poll of 167,000 travel agencies, tour and transport companies and tourism organisations in over 160 countries.

The resort, with it famous tagline “City of Entertainment”, has won a string of other awards, including the Hospitality Asia Platinum Awards 2007/2008, TTG Travel Awards 2007, Malaysia’s Most Valuable Brands 2007, Brand Laureate Award 2007, Malaysia Spa & Wellness Awards 2007 and FIABCI Malaysia Property Award 2007.

Resorts World said it is continously upgrading and introducing new attractions and services at the resort.


Builders cast wary eye on prices of building materials

KUALA LUMPUR: The abundance of 9MP and economic corridor projects will not distract the local construction industry players from casting a wary look on building material prices, partly due to the introduction this month of the hotly contested automated pricing mechanism (APM).

Industry observers are expecting steel and cement prices to spike in the wake of the APM, pinching the margins of construction players already burdened with rising fuel prices. Escalating building material prices will put a dent in margins of smaller players rather than the big boys, analysts said.

“On the ground, there is already word that prices will go up in January 2008. We hope the rumours on price increase are not true as any attempt to further increase the price of cement will definitely affect project costs.

“Inevitably, this will result in an upward revision of prices for new housing and property launches,” Real Estate and Housing Developers Association (Rehda) and Master Builders Associaton of Malaysia (MBAM) said in a joint statement recently.

“The supply of construction jobs is not a concern but we hope the pricing of raw materials can be resolved,” Putrajaya Perdana Bhd chief executive Wie Hock Kiong said.

“Smaller players will be affected, the bigger construction players are paying market prices,” said MBAM president Patrick Wong.

This rings true for players who have secured projects on an open tender basis that bring in lower margins. “Companies with a steady order book have more margins. Some of them are mitigating by variation of price clause in contracts,” Osk Research’s Kenny Goh said.

Unsurprisingly, steel and cement players have plenty to celebrate with burgeoning demand for these materials. Lafarge Malayan Cement Bhd, YTL Cement Bhd, Kinsteel Bhd and Ann Joo Resources Bhd will be the main beneficiaries, analysts said.

Also of concern is the shortage of manpower, particularly technically skilled staff in the construction sector, which is experiencing an outflow of local talent to the Middle East and other Asian countries, Wie said.


Muhibbah gets RM196m job in Syria

Construction group Muhibbah Engineering (M) Bhd clinched a RM196 million contract in Syria, its third job in the Middle East, and the company expects more to come.

The latest deal is to upgrade the existing passenger terminal building, road, car parks and parking apron at the Damascus International Airport.

"This is our third win in the Middle East. The region will be our biggest growth area going forward," Muhibbah group chief financial controller Shirleen Lee told Business Times in a telephone interview.

Muhibbah, which also builds ships and cranes, will bid for more jobs in the cash-rich Gulf countries.

"We are eyeing all types of infrastructure construction works in the cash-rich region. With the oil price surging, the respective governments are investing in infrastructure projects," she said.

Muhibbah is due to start work on the Syrian project immediately after signing the agreement with the government in the current quarter.

Lee said it will take Muhibbah a year to complete the project, which will be funded by Malaysia's Exim Bank.

She also said that the project will contribute positively to the group's earnings in the current financial year ending December 31 2008.

Muhibbah has orders worth RM4.7 billion now.

By New Straits Times - Business Times(by Sharen Kaur)

Official nod for Gamuda to develop Vietnam project

Gamuda Bhd has received an investment certificate that officially allows it to develop Vietnam's Yen So Park project, worth almost RM10 billion.

Its wholly-owned unit Gamuda Land Vietnam LLC was awarded the certificate from the Hanoi City People's Committee (HPC).

Gamuda will design and build a RM1.5 billion sewerage treatment plant, which will be the biggest in Vietnam.

The plant will cater to half of Hanoi's sewage needs. It will also develop Vietnam's largest public park. The plant and the park is due to be ready in 2010.

"Gamuda will also be developing a new urban centre and residential townships at the location, which are expected to generate a gross development value of RM8 billion over the next eight to 10 years," the company said in the statement.

According to Gamuda, construction works on the project has started after the ground-breaking ceremony held last month.

"The project is expected to start contributing strongly to the Gamuda group's earnings beginning from the financial year ending July 31 2008," the company said.

By New Straits Times