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Monday, January 14, 2008

Tanming fills need for shop offices in Puchong

PETALING JAYA: The shop offices in Tanming Boulevard, the latest commecial hub of Taman Meranti Jaya, are expected to be well received due to a shortage of such properties in that part of Puchong, said Tanming Bhd executive director Chen Lai Chin (pix).

An artist's impression of the shop offi ces in Tanming Boulevard

Chen Lai Chin

“Most of the commercial properties in Puchong are concentrated near IOI Mall, thus creating an oversupply in the area,” she told theSun, adding that Tanming Boulevard meanwhile, enjoys a catchment of 800,000 people from surrounding townships like Taman Puchong Utama, Taman Mas Puchong, Taman Putra Prima, Bandar Bukit Puchong and Bandar Puteri Puchong, to create abundant business opportunities.

The development comprises 82 units of 3-storey shop offices, priced from RM998,000 onwards,
with sizes of 25ft by 60ft for intermediate units and 50ft by 60ft for corner units. The project
comes with 720 parking bays and is linked to a network of busy expressways such as LDP, NKVE and Kesas. It is expected to be ready by the end of next year with a gross development
value (GDV) of RM120 million.

According to Chen, 40% of the units have been taken up prior to its targeted launch in the first quarter this year. “The launch was originally slated for October last year but we felt the response would be better if we launched it after Chinese New Year [this year],” she said. Tanming intends to keep 16 units for recurring income and to maintain the tenant mix.

The developer has also leased out its 2-storey Tanming Mall, which is part of Tanming Boulevard, to supermarket chain Hero Supermarket. With a net lettable area of 70,000 sq ft, the mall comprises 14 units of shops with wide frontages of at least 30 ft as well as 69 units of bazaar stalls.

On Taman Meranti Jaya, Chen said Phase 3A, comprising 2 ½- storey terraced units with builtups of 3,070 sq ft, had been sold out and Phase 3B, which has a similar concept to its
predecessors, had also been well-received.

“About 70% of the units have been taken up since its launch in October last year.

Similar in design and size to the previous phase, we made minor improvements based on feedback from customers, such as attached bathrooms to the bedrooms and upgrades to the finishing,” she said.

The 232-acre freehold township is currently 70% completed with another two phases of residential and commercial properties scheduled for launch this year. It has a total GDV of RM543 million.

For the property outlook in 2008, Chen said as long as the development is located in a good
area, there would always be demand for the properties there.

Puchong, Cheras, and Ampang are some of the areas to look out for in the future,” she noted. Tanming has ongoing residential and commercial projects in those areas as well as in Sungai Long and Balakong.

By theSun (by Yap Yew Jin)

KL commercial properties at upturn of cycle

QCM CEO Chan Say Yeong reveals plans to accelerate the growth of properties in Quill Capita Trust.

STARBIZ: What's the demand for office and retail space in the Klang Valley and major towns in Malaysia? Are they still relatively cheap in terms of valuation, compared with other Asian cities in the region?

Chan Say Yeong

Chan Say Yeong: Generally, properties in Malaysia in strategic locations are still attractive in terms of price, especially in the Klang Valley, and the rental of office space has good upside if managed well. The Kuala Lumpur city centre office rental has been increasing steadily since 2003 with a projection that it will continue to rise till at least 2011 based on a Jones Lang LaSalle survey. The survey also noted that Kuala Lumpur commercial properties, especially offices, are at the early upturn of the property cycle.

How has QCT performed since its listing and is it growing at an expected rate?

As at Sept 3, 2007, OCT's real estate portfolio size has increased by about 78% to RM491mil from RM276mil (on the date of listing). It's a good start. We plan to distribute 6.23 sen per unit for fiscal 2007, from six sen before.

Can we expect more commercial properties in the REIT soon?

Well, we hope so. We are looking at a couple of commercial properties from our sponsors and third parties. We are currently in the process of discussion – working out the timing of injection and planning the valuation exercises.

The two properties recently injected into the REIT are in the city area and not from Cyberjaya. Why the decision to buy properties in a different location?

We want to have a good geographical spread of commercial properties across prime areas in Malaysia to reduce risk. Our long-term plan is to have about 70% to 80% of QCT's portfolio of properties located in the Klang Valley and about 20% to 30% in other states. It's a strategy that applies to our tenants as well. We have tenants from the oil and gas sector, automotive, logistic, banking, electrical and others. We have a well balanced tenant mix.

How can investors know which REIT is good?

Good REITS should have strong sponsors willing to fund and develop property projects so that the trust has a guaranteed pipeline of assets ready to be injected into the REIT when the properties are ready. Quill and CapitaLand have put in place a pipeline of assets to ensure that QCT gets to acquire quality office and retail properties to enhance the value of the REIT.

By The Star - Starbiz

Quill Capita to manage assets worth RM750m

It is embarking on an aggressive plan that would see its real estate portfolio grow substantially in the near to medium term as more properties are injected

QUILL Capita Trust (QCT), a property trust that has been listed on Bursa Malaysia for a year, is going on an expansion trail that is projected to increase its portfolio of assets under management to at least RM750mil by year end.

QCT was listed on Jan 8, 2007, with four properties worth RM276mil under the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT). All the properties are located in Cyberjaya with a combined net lettable area of 493,118 sq ft.

The REIT's manager, Quill Capita Management Sdn Bhd (QCM), recently placed two more properties into the trust, making it six properties in its stable.

QCM chief executive officer Chan Say Yeong said the two new additions - Wisma Technip, and the retailing and car park portion of Plaza Mont' Kiara – were acquired for RM125mil and RM90mil respectively, hence expanding QCT's net lettable area to 799,547 sq ft (excluding car park area).

Wisma Technip is one of the latest properties acquired and placed into Quill Capita Trust

Wisma Technip is a 100% occupied office building with a net lettable area of 233,021 sq ft, while the commercial shops are leased to food and beverage and retail tenants.

The car park lots of Plaza Mont'Kiara have a net lettable area of 73,408 sq ft with a 94.9% occupancy. The sale and purchase agreements for both properties were signed on June 8, 2007.

Chan said a placement of 151.44 million new units in QCT was concluded on Sept 3, which raised RM226mil, thus allowing the two properties to be purchased quickly.

Funds from the exercise allowed QCT to lower its gearing from to 0.17 from 0.31 and also gave the option to borrow up to RM400mil from financial institutions, which is preferred over selling more shares to raise funds.

In Malaysia, REITs are restricted to a gearing of 50% under the Securities Commission's guidelines.

Chan said QCT's recent acquisition and injection of two properties was just the start of an accelerated expansion plan to place more properties into the trust.

“Within five months from the date of QCT's listing, we bought two more yield-accretive properties with high occupancy and long-term tenancies,” he said, adding that the acquisition was in line with QCM's strategy to achieve better geographical spread of properties across the country to reduce risk.

Chan said the acquisitions were also in line with QCM's growth strategy to double QCT's asset size to at least RM560mil by end-2007.

“We have achieved this target and the REIT's performance (in terms of share price and investment return) has not disappointed investors,” he said.

QCT's share price closed at RM1.30 last Friday, representing a 54.7% rise its initial public offering price of 84 sen.

“We are now poised to fast track the growth of the trust,” Chan said, adding that there were several properties either from Quill Group of Companies (Quill) and CapitaLand or third party transactions that could potentially be injected into the REIT in the near to medium term.

Quill and CapitaLand are both significant stakeholders of the trust. The latter is one the largest listed real estate companies in Asia headquartered in Singapore.

Chan said other properties from Quill which could potentially be injected into the trust in time were the office tower Lot J at KL Sentral (350,000 sq ft), HSBC headquarters near Masjid Jamek (100,000 sq ft) and an integrated development, Vision City, located at Jalan Sultan Ismail (comprising 300,000 sq ft office space and 700,000 sq ft retail space).

He said Quill also had other properties in Cyberjaya that could be placed into the REIT.

“There's one property project due for completion soon, and also an office building in Petaling Jaya's Section 13 and a logistic centre in Subang that could be sold to the trust,” said Chan.

He added that QCM would be offered the first right of refusal on the commercial properties from Quill.

Moreover, Chan said, QCT could rely on CapitaLand to support the growth of the trust as it had a stake in the REIT.

In March 2007, CapitaLand announced the establishment of the Malaysia Commercial Development Fund with a target fund size of US$270mil.

The objective of the fund was to enable institutional investors (who park their money into the fund) the opportunity to invest in the Malaysian real estate sector.

Some of the properties from CapitaLand that could potentially be placed into the Reit are One Mont' Kiara (170,000 sq ft office space and 250,000 sq ft retail space), a property project in Hartamas area (500,000 office space and retail) and several property projects in Petaling Jaya.
On acquiring overseas property to enhance the REIT, he said it was unlikely.

“We will stay focussed on Malaysian properties because of their attractive valuations and rental, compared with other Asean countries,” he said, adding that foreign investors generally preferred investing in REITS with real estate portfolios that were within a specific country.

On the portfolio of investors in QCT, Chan said: “The trust has an equal balance of foreign and local investors.”

By The Star (stories by Danny Yap)

Tan & Tan expanding niche development

It will launch projects in the Klang Valley with GDV of RM2.5bil

TAN & Tan Developments Bhd, a wholly owned unit of IGB Corp Bhd, is expanding in the niche residential property market with the launch of new lifestyle products in the Kuala Lumpur city centre and the suburbs in the Klang Valley.

Over the next two years, the company will launch 11 upmarket projects in the Klang Valley worth a total gross development value (GDV) of RM2.5bil. These projects will keep the company busy for the next five to six years.

“Our focus will be on key and new growth areas such as the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) vicinity, Ampang Hilir, Wangsa Maju, Desa Pandan, Mid Valley City and Sungai Buloh, where there is a lot of infrastructure development,” Tan & Tan executive director Teh Boon Ghee told StarBiz.

Teh Boon Ghee (left) and Tan & Tan Developments Bhd group marketing general manager Kevin Kuok with a model of the Hampshire Place project.

He said the robust residential property market, especially for high-end residences in the Klang Valley, offered developers with good track records in niche housing projects immense opportunities to further add value to the residential landscape.

Malaysia has emerged as a competitive real estate destination, and there is growing foreign interest in our real estate. The onus is on developers to come out with more well designed and quality products that offer high investment values,” he added.

Teh said the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme had been effective in attracting foreigners to the country.

Last year, 8,000 foreigners participated in the programme, with over 1,700 people making Malaysia their second home.

“With the Government continuing to ease restrictions on foreign ownership of local residential properties, there will be more participation in the MM2H programme.

“The increasing number of foreigners making Malaysia their home will boost demand for high-end and niche developments. Going forward, the market will be seeing more new luxury properties coming on-stream to attract the well-heeled and high net worth investors, both local and abroad,” Teh noted.

He said Tan & Tan would launch more innovative lifestyle products to take advantage of the strong interest for residential properties in robust locations and new growth areas.

The company is also taking steps to strengthen its premium branding through positive customer experience and provide value and security for all its projects in the mid to high-end segments.

Tan & Tan general manager of group marketing Kevin Kuok said one of the more attractive projects, to be launched in March, would be Hampshire Place, comprising service residences and corporate offices-cum-retail space.

The 30-storey block of 186 service residences will feature residences with built-up from 764 to 3,257 sq ft and priced from RM674,000 to RM1.3mil.

Another 30-storey block will accommodate 219,222 sq ft of corporate offices and retail space, worth a GDV of RM188mil.

Besides being one of the leading players in the luxury condominium market, Tan & Tan is also building up its presence in the mid to high-end landed residential sector in good locations in the Klang Valley.

Its portfolio of ongoing projects includes five luxury condominium developments and service residences and a gated community project.

Projects planned for launch in the next two years include three landed villa projects in Sierramas West and Wangsa Maju and two service residences with shop offices.

With the line-up of the upmarket residential projects, Tan & Tan's contribution to IGB group earnings is expected to increase from 30% now.

The company is also making efforts to expand its land bankthrough more joint ventures and new land acquisitions.

Teh said that since the amendment of the Strata Titles Act last year that allowed landed strata title developments, Tan & Tan was looking at building more such projects.

“Landed strata title residences are still a relatively untapped market, and the company has lined up a number of such projects for launch in the next two years.”

He said such developments provided scope for uniformity of the project design for the common interest of the buyers and would ensure greater flexibility in the project planning.

Among the company's upcoming landed strata title projects is Sierramas Mews that will comprise 17 landed villas with a GDV of RM32mil. Other projects will be on 25 acres in Ulu Klang/Dataran Ukay and 37 acres in Melawati.

Teh said the much-awaited plans by the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) to further spruce up the city through infrastructure development would raise the value of developments in the Ampang and Jelatek areas.

“The ongoing infrastructure developments by DBKL, including road projects in Wangsa Maju and improvements in highway connectivity with the Duta-Ulu Klang Expressway (Duke) and the Putrajaya-Kuala Lumpur highways, will offer strategic access points to the company's landbank,” he said.

By The Star (by Angie Ng)

More high-end projects in pipeline in the vicinity of KLCC

HAVING carved a niche in the luxury condominium market in Kuala Lumpur, Tan & Tan Developments Bhd is setting its sights on the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) area.

With its first project in the KLCC vicinity scheduled to roll out next year, the company is already making efforts to expand its landbank to have a bigger presence in the highly sought-after location.

Tan & Tan has a few parcels of land in the vicinity of KLCC and is looking to acquire more land and team up with other landowners for more signature projects in the area.

According to executive director Teh Boon Ghee, the tendering process for some parcels of the KLCC land is now underway.

The first project to kick off will be the 6 Stonor in Jalan Stonor, Kuala Lumpur. The project is slated for launch next year, with completion in three years.

The company has been granted approval for a 30-storey condominium block, and the project design and planning are currently in progress.

Teh said the 106 units of upmarket condominium would have built-up areas of between 2,800 and 8,000 sq ft with a tentative price of RM1,200 per sq ft.

“We want to do something more iconic and different for 6 Stonor to add value to the architecture landscape of the KLCC neighbourhood. The location is also splendid, and it will have Park 7 and Stonor Park as its neighbours,” he added.

Since pioneering the development of the first condominium project in the country (Desa Kudalari) in the early '80s, Tan & Tan has become one of the more well regarded names in the luxury condo market.

“Over the years we have been one of the leading property players in the Kuala Lumpur city area. The company's prime focus will remain within the city, and a number of new developments are in the pipeline for launch this year,” Teh said.

Among its list of successful condominium projects are One Jelatek, U-Thant Residence, Northpoint, Cendana and Hampshire Park.

The interior of the Hamsphire Place

One Jelatek, located close to the KLCC enclave, comprises a 20-storey block of 90 condominiums worth a gross development value of RM62mil.

The residences, with built-up areas of 1,327 sq ft to 1,649 sq ft, are priced from RM595,000 to RM1.7mil.

U-Thant Residence, located within the city's Embassy Row enclave, comprises three blocks of six and 10 storeys with 77 residences. The units of 2,400 to 6,800 sq ft are priced from RM2.1mil to RM4.55mil.

Cendana, along Jalan Sultan Ismail, comprises 152 condominiums of 1,900 to 5,000 sq ft priced from RM1.4mil to RM3.57mil, while the 437 condominiums in Seri Maya, Savanna, are priced from RM291,000 to RM794,000.

Meanwhile, projects in the pipeline include:

  • 20 Ampang Hilir - a 10-storey low density luxury condominium project worth a GDV of RM80mil

  • 3 Desa Pandan - an upper-medium service residences of 218 units overlooking KLCC and Royal Selangor Golf Club

  • and the proposed Mid Valley phase three comprising two 50-storey residential skyscrapers in Mid Valley City.

By The Star (by Angie Ng)

Locked-in profits

At this time of uncertainly in the global economy, a number of developers have locked in en bloc sales of sizeable properties that will be constructed over the next one or two years. They offer good visibility of revenue and earnings for some time.

There was renewed interest from investors in property stocks last week, enthusiasm not seen since a sell-off of these stocks in the region when the subprime loan crisis erupted in the US in October last year.

One of the factors for this re-discovered interest is the trend of en bloc sales of commercial and condominium properties projects to institutional investors.

These en bloc sales enable the developers to instantly sell 100% of the units in these properties.

The impact of these transactions on the revenue and earnings of these developers is significant over the next two years, as the sums involved are large.

Furthermore, pre-tax profit margins from these sales are lucrative, typically about 30%, as they comprise high-end properties being developed.

Mah Sing Group Bhd's sale of The Icon@Mont Kiara and the East Wing of The Icon@Tun Razak late last year, for instance, produced revenue to be booked of about RM540mil. This is equivalent to the revenue of half of a RM1bil township that generally takes at least a few years to develop.

Other developers that have made en bloc sales include Glomac Bhd which, through a 51% owned subsidiary, sold its Glomac Tower for RM576.9mil late last year.

This year opened with two exciting en bloc sales. Bandar Raya Developments Bhd announced last week that a 70%-owned subsidiary would sell Office Tower Two of its Capital Square complex in Kuala Lumpur for RM439.3mil cash that would be received progressively.

This is an encouraging turn of events as the sale price will enable the group to resume construction of Office Tower Two, which was suspended since 1997, some 10 years ago. In addition, the cash will also enable the group to develop the rest of the Capital Square complex.

Interestingly, the buyer is a German real estate investment management company, which shows it's not just Middle Eastern investors that are keen on high-end properties in this country.

Just a day after Bandar Raya's announcement, Sunway City Bhd said Block B of its Palazzio condominium was sold to a company called Radiant Splendour Sdn Bhd, which is reportedly linked to Middle Eastern investors.

En bloc sales represent unbilled sales which will progressively be recognised as revenue.

With such sales, there are now several developers with unbilled sales totalling over RM1bil.

Anchoring sales

In other industries, there are also business models to lock in revenue, especially when business is booming.

In the oil and gas (O&G) industry, revenue from vessel chartering is viewed as secure in the sense that vessels are chartered out over a period of a year or more.

For this reason, price/earnings ratios (PE) of vessel chartering companies are around 15 times their current year earnings.

In contrast, the revenue of vessel builders is considered less consistent because it is dependent on orders received and vessels delivered. Hence, a builder like Coastal Contracts Bhd is valued at a lower PE of about 10 times.

However, Coastal has an order book of RM787mil, which will keep its shipyard busy till 2010. Hence its revenue over the next few years is as secured as those of the vessel charterers. In terms of size, Coastal is steadily expanding, and building larger vessels. An order from a Singaporean group late last year, for instance, was for four offshore support vessels for a total of RM365mil, or about RM90mil each. These vessels, to be delivered in 2009 and 2010, will be the biggest that Coastal has ever built.

For comparison, Coastal's revenue was RM72mil in its third quarter (Q3) ended Sept 30, 2007.

That means that delivery of a single large support vessel next year would produce higher revenue than that of Q3 last year. In that quarter last year, Coastal delivered 12 vessels.

As Coastal builds a range of tugs and boats as well as RM90mil vessels, its revenue would swell to over RM100mil in some of the quarters in 2009 and 2010.

In recent years, Coastal's high earnings growth has transformed its balance sheet into a conservative one, which reflects the character and disposition of management.

The group's borrowings were about 40% of its shareholders funds in 2005. That is estimated to have changed to net cash of about 20% of shareholders funds at the end of last year.

Coastal, in fact, has a superior balance sheet (net cash), net profit margin (24% last year), earnings growth (37% this year) and return on equity (22%) than many of the other O&G companies favoured by brokers.

JP Morgan forecast Coastal to turn in a net profit of about RM110mil next year, which makes it a mid-cap stock that could eventually interest fund managers who generally shun small cap stocks.

Oil fields

Going by the oversubscription for IOI Corp Bhd's exchangeable bonds, demand for palm oil stocks continues to be very strong.

IOI announced last week that its exchangeable bonds, also known as convertible bonds (CBs), were snapped up within 1½ hours after the book opened. The offering attracted bids for US$3bil (RM9.8bil), an oversubscription six times the planned issue size of US$500mil (RM1.6bil).

As a result of the strong demand from global investors, the issue size was expanded to US$600mil (RM1.9bil), the company said.

The demand was huge in spite of the exchange price of RM11.00, which was a premium of 30.2% over IOI Corp's share price of RM8.45 on Jan 8.

The investors obviously believe IOI Corp shares price would grow to well as RM11.00 each, which would be their only payoff because the yield-to-maturity is just 1.25%.

For IOI Corp, it has raised a lot of cash at a very low cost, which could be used for a very sizeable acquisition.

By The Star (by C.S.Tan)

YTL boutique offices enjoy brisk sales

YTL Land & Development Bhd's latest boutique offices at its Sentul West & Sentul East project in Kuala Lumpur was 90 per cent sold by the end of the first preview day last week.

The company expects demand for the 80-unit boutique offices, called d6, to follow that of d7, which is Sentul's first commercial project that was sold out when it was launched four months ago.

NEW GENRE: An artist's impression of the d6 office units, which are priced from RM450 per sq ft, with sizes ranging from 1,091 sq ft to 3,758 sq ft.

YTL Land executive director Datuk Yeoh Seok Kian attributed the strong demand to the importance placed by buyers for having a reputable address with a new genre of offices to reflect their products and services.

"As a result, in spite of a 20 per cent price increase from d7, we have continued to sustain the interest of the market with d6, proving the underlying strength of Sentul as Kuala Lumpur's next thriving commercial hub," he said in a statement.

The d6 office units are priced from RM450 per sq ft, with sizes ranging from 1,091 sq ft to 3,758 sq ft.

The RM100 million freehold d6 development features three office layouts - Sky Offices, which are duplex units with glass skylights and an internal courtyard; Garden Offices with a landscaped garden terrace; and Office Suites with its own pantry, store and a spacious interior.

The office-building will be fully broadband-enabled, equipped with 24-hour state-of-the-art security systems and accompanied by retail and food and beverages outlets.

"Together with d7, the d6 boutique offices are set to bring a new lease of energy into Sentul East's stylish cosmopolitan environment, as both developments are interlinked through a sky bridge that stretches over Jalan Sentul," YTL Land said.

By New Straits Times

Magna Prima on lookout for high-yielding land

Lim: Our aim is to go for hot spots, where land is ready for development

Property developer Magna Prima Bhd said it plans to continue buying high-yielding land in the Klang Valley and Selangor, to maintain its profitability.

It is also banking on its four existing projects in Kepong, Selayang and at the Kuala Lumpur City Centre area, and two new launches this year, all worth RM2 billion, to achieve better margins over the next few years, its chief executive officer Lim Ching Choy said.

The company recorded a net profit of RM93,000 in 2006 against a net loss of RM10.95 million in 2005.

For the nine months to September 30 2007, it posted a net profit of RM14.8 million.

"We will be able to churn in a higher profit for the last quarter as we registered better sales last year," Lim told reporters after its recent shareholders' meeting.

Magna has unbilled sales in excess of RM300 million, which will last the company for two years, he said.

"Our aim is to go for hot spots, where land is ready for development and there is fast turnaround, while increasing unbilled sales," Lim said.

Lim ruled out plans to buy land in Penang and Johor, or expanding overseas in the near future.

The company, in which Tan Sri Chua Hock Chin, the former executive vice-chairman of Road Builder (M) Holdings Bhd has a 6.25 per cent interest, is now targeting to launch new commercial and residential properties in Batu 3, Shah Alam, and Jalan Kuching, Kuala Lumpur, by March and June respectively.

For its Jalan Kuching property, it plans to build 20 units of three-storey shops, 200 units of signature offices, a 15-storey hotel/office block, a retail mall, and two blocks of service apartments comprising 800-units sprawled over 10.93 acres.

Magna is planning to sell these properties, which will be completed by July 2011, while retaining the shopping mall for recurring rental income.

"The acquisition of this land for RM57.93 million is in line with the company's business model that is to buy land with development order for fast project turnaround," Lim said.

In Shah Alam, the company plans to build residential and commercial units by 2010, targeting the medium class segment.

Meanwhile, Lim said that Magna is considering acquiring small firms to expand its property and construction activities, and plans to migrate to the main board of Bursa Malaysia in three years to enhance shareholders' value.

He said the company will also issue one fifth of its profit for 2007 as dividend to shareholders by the middle of this year.

By New Straits Times (by Sharen Kaur)

Recently upgraded Pangkor Laut Resort has much to offer

Having done quite a bit of globetrotting for most of 2007, I ended the year with a three-day visit last month to one of the best resorts in Malaysia, Pangkor Laut Resort.

This multiple award-winning resort is a privately owned island and the gem in the crown of the YTL group. The late Luciano Pavarotti sang there and there is a suite named after him.

The large koi pond in the courtyard with small pavilions for private dining at the resort

It is about a four-hour drive from Petaling Jaya, Selangor. You need to take an hour's ferry ride to the island itself. The first 1½ hours via the North-South Expressway is smooth but the remaining two hours or so from Bidor (after exiting the highway) to Lumut (110km) is along some narrow, winding road that takes you to Teluk Intan and Sitiawan.

It can be a boring drive until you reach Manjung where you can spot several “swift hotels” created from renovated shop offices and stand-alone buildings. My children were intrigued when I pointed to the holes on the walls of these shop offices built to meet the booming demand for birds’ nests.

“Well, you are going to see lots of birds, including peacocks, at Pangkor Laut Resort,” I said, reminding them of our previous visit there three years ago.

Since last September, the resort has been reinvigorated after 10 months of upgrading work that included a yacht marina fronting the reception area.

There is also an extended beachfront stretching from the Sea Villas to the rocky outcrop and a nicely designed walkway to the reception area where guests are greeted with Roselle drinks and a cooling face towel.

Room interiors have also been upgraded and outdoor furnishings have been refreshed, bathroom surfaces refined, and living spaces made subtly larger through intelligent design. Guests can also surf the Internet from five computer stations. Four small pavilions furnished with silk cushion and bolsters offer a cosy environment for a lazy afternoon nap.

Pangkor Laut has also created a variety of serenely landscaped pavilions within an intimate courtyard setting, offering an ideal venue for weddings, ceremonies or an intimate diner with friends. There are also two smaller self-contained pavilions with its own barbeque area and private butler service and surrounded by lush greenery and overlooking a large koi pond.

What do I like best about this 22-year-old resort? It's not so much the white sandy beaches, spa village or chalets on stilts or villas in the gardens and hillside set amidst a two million year old rainforest. Rather it's the food! Yes, its culinary delights and gourmet experience!

The delightful new addition introduced since last September is the Feast Village. The concept is borrowed from the Feast Village at YTL's Starhill Gallery in Kuala Lumpur. It offers its own unique feast village or culinary experiences, replacing the previous Palm Grove cafe and Samudra restaurant.

This integrated dining concept allows guests to embark on a culinary tour of the world in one multi-faceted environment.

There are six different dining offerings, including a Japanese pavilion serving sushi and teppanyaki, a western grill pavilion, a middle-eastern pavilion, and a Chinese, Malay and Indian pavilion.

There is also a bakery, cafe and wine cellar where guests can select wines of their choice for consumption at the restaurant or to take home as a memento.

Like its Fisherman's Cove (with its signature fusion cuisine) fine-dining restaurant, the Feast Village also boasts not one but several open show kitchens, preparation areas and a display kitchen where chefs can mount displays of specific preparations and cooking skills. It can seat 170 people.

We tried out the different restaurants (except the Straits Restaurant, a new restaurant set against the rocks by the beach and serving some of the finest Straits cuisine) including Uncle Lim's, a Chinese-style restaurant serving traditional Hockchew and Nyonya dishes at Royal Bay and the Fisherman's Cove next door. The food and ambience are just great!

With a staff strength of 350 to 150 rooms, it's a ratio of two staff members to a room, a higher ratio than a hotel. It has 40 gardeners compared to three in a city hotel.

“We have 45 chefs in the seven restaurants. We need this number of chefs to provide the wide variety of buffet spread that you see at the Feast Village. We have a world-class product here,” said resort manager Jeffrey Mong.

A skimmer boat was acquired two years ago to clean up any debris floating in the nearby sea and this has helped to maintain the pristine condition of its beaches such as Emerald Bay.

By The Star (by S.C.Cheah)

Property uptrend expected to continue

BUILDING OPPORTUNITY: Ong (right) and Soma at the openning of Marec 2008

Malaysia's real estate sector is expected to remain on the upside for the next few years, backed by positive interest in the market.

Malaysian Annual Real Estate Convention 2008 (Marec) organising chairman Siva Shankar said the scenario is likely to continue despite the escalating prices of houses in the country, especially in prime locations.

"We believe the property market will remain bullish and the uptrend will continue for the next two to three years," he told reporters after the opening of Marec 2008 in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday.

There are more than 3.9 million residential units, 320,570 shops, over 8.12 million sq ft retail space offered by 596 complexes and 14.7 million sq ft office space still unsold in the country.

Marec 2008 was officiated by Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting. Also present was Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents president K. Soma Sundram.

Siva noted that since January last year, demand for properties has shifted to the high-end and this has helped increase their value by 30-40 per cent.

"High-end properties within the vicinity of the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC), Mont'Kiara, Bangsar and Damansara are doing well.

"In the KLCC area, for instance, some properties there were transacted for a premium of some 30 to 40 per cent higher," he said, noting that the properties were usually priced from RM1 million and above.

Meanwhile, Soma urged Malaysian real estate agents to form smart partnerships with their foreign counterparts to tap the regional property scene.

"Instead of focusing only on the local market, real estate agents should take the opportunity to tap other regional markets and form strategic alliances with them (foreign real estate agents), thus creating a 'regional brand'," he said.

"Take Vietnam and Cambodia, for instance. They need good real estate agents. We can go and set up operations there and market the properties for them to both local and foreign buyers. At the same time, we could lend our expertise in the field to the real estate agents there."

Soma said that Vietnam's real estate sector was experiencing a property bubble, partly because of the rapid economic growth it had been experiencing for the past few years.

By New Straits Times (by Azlan Abu Bakar)

Bandar Raya to reconsider disposal of Mieco

Bandar Raya Developments Bhd (BDRB) shareholders may again be presented with a proposal for distributing Mieco Chipboard Bhd shares.

BDRB chief executive officer Datuk Jagan Sabapathy said the group was still mulling over the disposal of its manufacturing business – a 56.8% stake in Mieco, the second largest chipboard maker in Asia-Pacific.

“The board still wants to spin off the manufacturing business because we want to focus on the property development business,” Jagan told StarBiz. “It is hard to manage a company that has complex businesses.”

Jagan said the group would be “actively looking for buyers.”

“We will also look at various option ... we may revisit the idea of distributing shares back to shareholders,” he added.

In August 2005, BDRB proposed a capital repayment which would be satisfied by the distribution of up to 119.1 million shares in Mieco on the basis of one Mieco share for every four BRDB share.

However, Mieco’s share price tumbled after the proposal was made due to its deteriorating profitability caused by the supply glut and rising raw material costs.

BDRB shareholders rejected the proposal at the EGM in February 2006 because Mieco shares were worth less after the big drop.

The gloomy earnings prospect has dragged down Mieco's share price since the second half of 2005 despite the current bull run on Bursa Malaysia. The stock fell to 75 sen last Friday from the RM2 level in August 2005. Mieco does not seem to be out of the woods yet.

The company incurred a net loss of RM2.6mil or loss per share of 1.26 sen for the nine months ended Sept 30, 2007.

Jagan admitted that the chipboard manufacturing industry was undergoing a tough time.

“There is an oversupply in the industry due to capacity expansion in the last two years. There is also cost pressure because of rising raw material prices,” he said.

But Jagan stressed that BDRB's plan to dispose off its stake in Mieco had “nothing to do with the chipboard maker's performance.”

He believes Mieco would bounce back to the levels of its heydays. “The glut in the industry will subside when the supply of hardwood gets scarce,” he said. Also, he pointed out that the increasing environmental awareness would lead to a growing demand for chipboard, which is more environment-friendly.

By The Star (by Kathy Fong & Yvonne Tan)

Bandar Raya expands land bank

Bandar Raya Developments Bhd (BRDB) has expanded its land bank in the Klang Valley with the acquisition of 10.1ha of freehold land fronting the Federal Highway in Subang Jaya.

In a statement, BRDB said the RM125.86mil purchase signalled a more aggressive approach by the group to acquire land for development in prime areas.

Chief executive officer Datuk Jagan Sabapathy said the company planned integrated development comprising retail, street retail, designer suites, office suites and apartment blocks.

“The project is expected a total gross development value in excess of RM1.5bil,” he said.

By Bernama


For those who believe in "Feng Shui", the Year of Earth Rat may bring a bumper harvest for industries that include the stock market, entertainment, mining, jewellery, real estate and construction.

However, it will be difficult for the shipping, banking and transport sectors, while stiff competition in agriculture, plantation and publishing industries will allow only the best to survive, according to well-known Feng Shui guru, Lillian Too.

"This is a year of unbalanced elements with 'metal' and 'fire' sorely lacking. But it is also a year blessed with wealth and victory luck, and the key to getting the most out of the year is simply to get the timing right," Too told a packed audience at a full-day Feng Shui talk in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

The year has plenty of wealth potential, and is a year to think big. All animal signs, except for horse, could benefit from taking risks and being brave, she said.

"It is a year when being big-hearted reaps dividends. Your attention should be focused on spotting opportunities that bring long-term benefits."

Too said the missing fire element is making the financial market look very unstable this year, suggesting that the uncertainties resulting from the US subprime problem may not be ending yet.

Nevertheless, she said the second half of the year will be better and that investors may accumulate shares when prices fall and take the pickings later in the year.

Too also told investors to bet on real estate this year.

"Earth is wealth, so buy property. But make sure they are landed property. You must be able to feel the earth and feel the wealth."

She added that 2008 will be a great year for those born under the Chinese sign of rabbit.

Generally, people should wear more red and yellow gold to attract positive energy that will bring wealth and prosperity.

Overall, the missing 'fire' and 'metal' means the lack of creativity, intelligence and power.

"There will be not-so-smart people being thrown into the spotlight, making stupid mistakes," Too said.

She said the clash of "water" and "earth" indicates political and international conflicts in the global arena. However, the Rat Year will bring new beginnings, new international relations and new government.

By New Straits Times (by Chong Pooi Koon)

Deyaar to build twin-tower in Dubai

DEYAAR Development, Dubai’s second-largest publicly traded developer, will construct a twin-tower residential and commercial project in the emirate at a cost of 1.5 billion dirhams (US$408 million). The Bristol Towers will be built on an area of 623,680 square feet, the company said today in an e-mailed statement

By Bloomberg

Building on a strong foundation

What goes on behind the scenes of award-winning projects? We quiz the brains behind a construction company with the Midas touch

Aseasoned hand well versed with the ins and outs of the construction of a diverse range of projects. That would best describe Wong Kok Meng, director of construction firm Preserver Bina Sdn Bhd, say his friends and associates.

Wong himself can relate tales of meeting tight deadlines and how the firm managed to overcome difficulties ranging from demanding project requirements to ever-changing requests from clients.

"We are at the bottom of the food chain and we have to make sure the end-result functions," he said, tonguein- cheek, as he highlighted the different needs of various jobs ranging from show units and residential bungalows to commercial and retail buildings, factories, industrial buildings and warehouses.

"The challenge of building show units means delivering quality work on time," he explained, adding that the turnaround time for such a task is between four and six months.

"Purchasers look at quality of finishes and workmanship when they view a show unit, as it represents the benchmark of the actual units that will be built," he pointed out.

"This becomes all the more demanding in the context of a show unit as it also has to be built speedily."

Among the projects he has handled are Bandar Raya Development Bhd's high-end Troika and One Menerung condos, and Selangor Dredging Bhd's Ameera Residences.

Having worked with a number of award-winning architectural firms, including GDP Architects, Fosters and Partners and BEP Architects, Wong said most of his clients today are "regulars".

"When working with international architects who require detailing, precision and coordination are of utmost importance.

"The work is exacting as research and prototypes are usually required before construction of a show unit can begin."

The fundamental ingredients to succeed are flexibility, commitment and the ability to be creative, Wong said.

"We also have to be very positive and open to ideas." Building bungalows, on the other hand, requires a different set of skills as very often, variations and changes to original plans are made, which can stretch a project's handover time.

"As for conventional industrial buildings, speed is of essence because again, we're talking about commitment to finish on time," said Wong.

"Working with structural steel for chemical and power plants is relatively straightforward for us, and we are now working with international clients, including Italians, Koreans and Japanese in this area."

The secret of Preserver Bina's success, he disclosed, stems from the fact that though the company has been in the business for close to five years, all its partners come from engineering backgrounds and have a wealth of experience.

"We all enjoy doing challenging jobs," he said, adding in the same breath that the "forever learning process" from working with "reputable, established firms and architects" has enabled Preserver Bina to improve and offer that "extra edge over others".

Likening his job to a hobby that makes him look forward to coming to work every day, Wong's greatest satisfaction comes when the clients show appreciation for his firm's work and commitment.

Passion, he said, goes a long way and he believes it is this ingredient that sets the company apart in terms of being in the upper echelon of the construction industry.

Wong can't help but laugh when recollecting some of his past projects, such as installing a 20ft sliding door the weight of a Perodua Kancil for a bungalow to fitting a RM40,000 door brought all the way from China.

In one bungalow project in the upmarket suburb of Damansara Heights in Kuala Lumpur, he recounted that the owner wanted an unusual staircase structure that had never been built before.

The architect insisted it could not be built - until it was brought to Wong's attention. The successful result was subsequently featured in an Italian architectural publication.

"We don't like to undertake conventional jobs - instead, we prefer to tackle unusual projects as we are inspired by the challenge and the creativity.

"Currently, we are constructing two power plants with Japanese contractors in Port Dickson, using steel.

"We are also doing jobs overseas, from as near as Singapore to as far away as the Caribbean," he said.

By New Straits Times (by Yvonne Yoong)

Amaya Saujana makes the cut

All units will have either semi-detached or bungalow layouts and include three air-conditioners.

Sharp is the investor who can spot a "must-buy" at first glance. While he - or she - doesn't need to have rapier-sharp senses, a bluntas- butter acumen also won't cut it.

With the Amaya Saujana residential project, though, signals that it has the makings of a rewarding investment are fairly obvious, even to novices out to improve their wealth through real estate.

The bedrooms have been designed with ensuite bathrooms

The first sign is its location just off the Subang Airport Highway in Selangor and near the interchange leading to the Saujana Golf and Country Resort and the up-and-coming Ara Damansara township.

This corridor stretching from the Federal Highway to the proposed Malaysia International Aerospace Centre at the former Subang Airport is destined to burgeon into an upmarket residential and commercial precinct with a resort flavour, and is already drawing a stream of upgraders and high society folk.

The developer promises a high ratio of green to building in its recreational deck

Then there's Amaya Saujana's immediate neighbours: The Kuala Lumpur Japanese School, the Peremba Square office complex and the Saujana Golf and Country Club, which can provide the expatriate rental pool that investors need to ensure their purchases can yield lucrative returns.

Within the project's 6.02 freehold acres, signs that it will become a highly soughtafter address when completed in three years time are more evident.

From its resort-like setting and clubhouse facilities to its four-tier security system and internal floor layouts, developer Khuan Choo Development Sdn Bhd (KCD), a subsidiary of public-listed Malton Bhd, has crafted a host of magnets to draw purchasers.

Amaya Saujana's Gross Development Value of RM265.8 million will be derived through the sale of 378 residential suites housed in three blocks, each 13 storeys high.

Inside a typical block will be three-plus-one- and fourplus- one bedroom units of 1,569sq ft to 1,895sq ft styled with semi-detached and bungalow layouts.

At prices ranging from RM501,000 to RM891,000, purchasers can expect their units to be broadband ready and include ensuite bathrooms, three air-conditioners, premium finishes and two car-parking bays.

To obtain a yield of eight per cent per annum, purchasers would be looking at monthly rentals in the region of RM4,000 to RM5,000.

When Amaya Saujana is officially launched after Chinese New Year, the developer is expected to increase prices by up to 20 per cent, which should be enough reason for interested investors to move from the sidelines now.

Should more be needed, though, KCD is currently also offering a two-per cent early bird discount as well as an interest-free financing scheme during the construction period.

Since the project was discreetly unveiled some two months ago, half of the units in one block have already been spoken for, indicating the perceptive nature of investors.

A show unit has been completed at the site. Besides the Federal Highway, it is accessible from the North Klang Valley Expressway, North-South Central Link and Lebuhraya Damansara Puchong.

By New Straits Times (by Andrew Wong)