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Sunday, February 10, 2008

PJ Development to expand overseas

PJ DEVELOPMENT Holdings Bhd (PJD) plans to build sizeable properties in Vietnam and Thailand with reputable local partners to further expand its real-estate operations.

"We have a few plans to grow but we will do it carefully to seize the best opportunities. This will be the first time we are going overseas to build properties," chief operating officer Lim Lian Seng told Business Times in an interview.

PJD will also launch new properties in Kuala Lumpur and Johor in the first half of the year, worth RM810 million, Lim said.

The first project it is planning is Swiss-Garden Residences along Jalan Galloway in Kuala Lumpur.

The project, to be launched in April, comprises two blocks of serviced apartments with 478 units.

The units, with built-up areas of 550 to 2,700 sq ft each, have yet to be priced.

Another project to be launched in April is Duta Kingsbury @Sri Hartamas, which consists of 64 units of super-link homes and 203 units of condominiums.

The built-up area for the super-link homes ranges from 3,482 to 7,806 sq ft, packaged in different designs.

In Pulai, Johor, PJD will launch Mont' Callista in May, a gated and guarded community on a (13ha site.

It will include 192 units of three-storey semi-detached houses with built-up area of 3,009 to 4,035 sq ft.

"We expect sales to be encouraging based on previous records, when more than half of the properties at our existing developments were snapped up within a few months of its launch," Lim said.

Last year, PJD launched Putri Hartamas, a new component at its current township in Johor, dubbed Taman Putri Kulai, that is being developed for RM1 billion.

Putri Hartamas comprises 210 units of terrace, bungalow and semi-detached homes. Some 30 per cent of the homes were snapped up within the first two months of its launch in November.

Another project, Impian Meridian in Subang Jaya, comprising three blocks of residential and commercial towers with 569 units launched in early 2007, is 80 per cent sold.

"We are scouting for more land in Kuala Lumpur, Kuantan, Johor Baru and Penang for future launches. This is despite having 1,500 acres (608ha) of undeveloped land in these areas, and in Damai Laut," Lim said.

The property division contributes 50 to 60 per cent to PJD's revenue.

For the 12 months to June 2007, PJD posted a net profit of RM42.4 million and revenue of RM549.4 million.

By New Straits Times (by Sharen Kaur)

Aeon still weighing REIT options

RETAILER Aeon Co (M) Bhd is in no rush to set up its planned real estate investment trust (REIT), comprising seven properties valued at about RM700 million, as it views the local REIT market to be still at its infancy.

"We are still watching and evaluating the industry. We are doing our own study on the REIT," an official from Aeon who declined to be named said.

He added that Aeon, which operates the Jusco department store-cum-supermarket chain, felt that since the Malaysian REIT industry was only about three years old, his company preferred to take the wait-and-see stand.

"We feel the REIT industry is still new," he said.

On whether Aeon would consider listing the trust vehicle elsewhere, the official said: "We will consider all options ... but at this stage it is still too early to say."

Last April, chairman Datuk Abdullah Mohd Yusof said that it was looking at the possibility of spinning a REIT because of the number of properties it has - all of which merit some attention.

Four of the properties are in the Klang Valley, namely, Alpha Angle Shopping Centre in Kuala Lumpur, Jusco Metro Prima Shopping Centre in Kepong, Aeon Cheras Selatan Shopping Centre and Bukit Raja Shopping Centre in Klang.

Two outlets are in Johor - Jusco Taman University Shopping Centre and Aeon Tebrau City Shopping Centre.

The seventh outlet is Jusco Melaka Shopping Centre.

Aeon has a total of 18 Jusco outlets throughout Peninsular Malaysia. It also runs the Max Value supermarket chain, the Jusco Home Centre and Aeon Wellness health and beauty store.

The company has announced plans to open stores in Seberang Prai, Penang, and Ampang in Kuala Lumpur this year.

By New Straits Times (by Vasantha Ganesan)

Committed to saving rivers

MRCB Environment specialises in rehabilitation and conservation

MRCB Environment Sdn Bhd's core activity as an environmental solutions provider has enabled the company to be very involved with the local community and its surroundings.

The company, established in 2003, has undertaken several projects to conserve the environment. It specialises in the rehabilitation and conservation of beaches and rivers in the country.

The idea to set up MRCB Environment, which is a 55% owned subsidiary of Malaysian Resources Corp Bhd (MRCB), first surfaced in 2000, said its director Dr Shaharizuan Shafiei.

Dr Shaharizuan Shafiei showing the Kuala Sungai Pahang river mouth area where MRCB Environment will build a breakwater system.

MRCB is traditionally well known in the “brick-and-mortar” businesses such as construction of roads, buildings, highways and power generation plant.

Shaharizuan, who is also vice-president and infrastructure and environment division head of MRCB, said there was concern that certain businesses of MRCB might be on the decline at the beginning of 2000.

“We decided to go into an area that, while we generated income, we would also be doing something for the public which makes us feel good. So, what is better than working on projects related to the environment?”

At the same time, environmental awareness among Malaysians was just picking up, but no one really spoke about beach conservation and restoration, river rehabilitation and maintenance of the water quality.

In a way, MRCB saw the potential in its environmental activities not only as a business venture but also something in line with its corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives to promote eco-friendly environments and encourage domestic tourism.

MRCB Environment's pilot project was the Teluk Cempedak beach rehabilitation in Pahang, which was awarded by the Department of Irrigation and Drainage (DID) in 2003. The beach was suffering from erosion due to loss of sand.

Shaharizuan said the company employed the pressure equalisation module (PEM) system, combined with sand nourishment, to rehabilitate the coastline of Teluk Cempedak.

“The water table will be reduced, hence making the sand on the beach drier. Erosion at beaches happens because the sand is wet and saturated,” he explained.

PEM pipes were installed under the seabed to assist the pressure from the ground water level and stimulate sand sedimentation. The beach was sand nourished to achieve a wider beach profile, after which additional PEM pipes were installed under the new beach to reduce erosion.

The project was completed in 2004 and the sand nourishment had increased the beachfront of Teluk Cempedak by 80m to 100m.

Shaharizuan said after that, the company was given a small contract by DID to maintain the beach for three years.

MRCB Environment also deployed a similar solution when it received an interim award from DID in 2005 to conserve 3km of beach at Teluk Tekek, Tioman Island.

The project involved construction of a sea wall, which together with the PEM system, was expected to minimise erosion and enhance its recreational value for tourism-related activities.

Besides that, a study was initiated to look into the pollution in various rivers in Teluk Tekek, drainage problems and mooring facilities.

The company also carried out an awareness programme to protect the rivers from further pollution, said Shaharizuan.

“Besides completing the project, the key thing is to create awareness among the village folk to not discharge kitchen effluents directly into the river. It ought to be treated first.

“DID introduced the grease trap, also known as simpack, at selected villages, and they were installed in food outlets on the island,” he explained.

Shaharizuan said the education provided was not only on the installation of the grease trap but proper maintenance.

“We continue to visit the owners of food outlets and explain to them that the Government has spent millions to restore the beach and they can play their role by using the grease traps provided by the local authority,” he added.

Another project undertaken by MRCB Environment, which also gave it the opportunity to improve the lives of a local community, was the protection of Kuala Sungai Pahang river mouth.

The company received an interim award worth about RM60mil in mid-2006 to improve the river mouth on a design and build basis.

The interim works included immediate dredging and design of breakwater at the river mouth.

Once completed, the project will provide safer navigation channels for fishermen surrounding the area, especially during the monsoon season, and mitigate flooding in the area.

Shaharizuan said that with the implementation of the breakwater system as well as dike retention pond and pump in the towns such as Pekan located further up the river, losses due to flood could be reduced by 30%.

MRCB Environment has received an interim letter of award to rehabilitate Sungai Prai, Penang, and a letter of intent to rehabilitate Sungai Kuantan, Pahang. It had also submitted proposals for work on three rivers in Johor and Sungai Juru, Penang.

The company worked with various parties, including foreign universities and local consultants, on some of its projects.

Shaharizuan lamented the lack of environmental engineers in the country.

On plans to enlarge the pool of talent, he said: “It is quite difficult, but our key strength is our people. We source them from everywhere; we take in ex-DID staff and employ civil engineer who are keen on this area and train them. We hope to churn out very good environmental engineers in the future.”

MRCB Environment's revenue contribution to MRCB is not significant at present, but the potential in this area of work is enormous. Shaharizuan said there was a lot of work to be done in Malaysia.

“If we concentrate here alone, it should be more than enough to sustain us for many years,” he added.

On the possibility of seeking out projects abroad, Shaharizuan said: “We are an expert in Malaysia but there are a lot of companies already doing this overseas. If we go to other countries, we have to be competitive in terms of pricing.”

The company also plans to venture into other projects related to the environment such as garbage disposal, mangrove restoration and erosion control.

By The Star (by Chan Ching Thut)