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Monday, April 7, 2008

JLand to build presence in Mideast

MAJOR PROJECT: Johor Land’s semi-detached units in Bandar Dato Onn, a township which will be developed over 10 to 15 years.

JOHOR Land Bhd (JLand), the property arm of Johor Corp, is keen to develop properties in the Middle East and plans to start by offering its technical expertise, its top official said.

It has been approached by a Saudi Arabian investor who have access to land bank to provide assistance in building residential properties.

The talks, if successful, could see the developer exporting its expertise as early as next year.

"We are keen to do property development in the Middle East. We would like to go as a technical partner first and later into property development if it proves to be financially viable," managing director Shafiqul Hafiz said.

"We have been approached by a Saudi Arabian company and we are in discussions for technical cooperation for residential projects," Shafiqul told Business Times.

Technical cooperation, he said, would entail consultancy ranging from planning to design and marketing.

JLand had in fact announced its move into Bangladesh to build apartments and a factory but the deal was aborted due to the economic conditions there.

Apart from projects abroad, Jland is also looking at venturing into other states in Malaysia.

"We are open about it (acquiring land in other states), but we would prefer to build properties for others who own land," he said.

JLand has some 1,215ha of land in Johor, all of which are located within the Iskandar Development Region (Iskandar).

"There have been many enquiries (to purchase our land) but we have declined as we will develop the land ourselves," he said.

"However we would consider if there is something special that a party can offer, for example, a joint venture which can add value to our Bandar Dato Onn project by bringing in foreign investors to buy our properties," he said.

Bandar Dato Onn is one of the four major property development projects that JLand is currently undertaking in Johor.

"Bandar Dato Onn covers a 607.5 area; 526.5ha in Taman Bukit Tiram, Ulu Tiram, and 162ha in Taman Bukit Dahlia, Pasir Gudang," he said.

The Bandar Dato Onn township, located 10km from Johor Baru, will be developed over 10 to 15 years on freehold land. The project has a gross development value of RM4 billion and will provide JLand with RM1.2 billion in gross profits.

Shafiqul also believes that it will benefit from the launch of Iskandar, which emphasises on growth sectors like tourism, education, healthcare, logistics, creative industries and financial services.

Meanwhile, JLand is confident that the company will perform better in the year ending December 31 2008 compared with 2007 and possibly even better than in 2006. For 2007, it registered RM63.36 million revenue, down from RM77.66 million in 2006. Net profit declined to RM6.69 million from RM17.75 million the year before.

By New Straits Times (by Vasantha Ganesan)

JLand plans RM250m specialist hospital

JOHOR Land Bhd (JLand) will build a 250-bed specialist hospital within Bandar Dato Onn, Johor, that will be managed by sister company KPJ Healthcare Bhd.

To be ready in 2010, the hospital is estimated to cost RM250 million to build and equip. It is positioned to offer the latest facility and be very patient-friendly.

"The hospital will be hassle-free. It is designed that way," JLand's managing director Shafiqul Hafiz told Business Times.

It will be leased to KPJ when ready in 2010.

Shafiqul said that JLand and a yet-to-be-finalised investor will finance the project.

Together with the hospital, a nursing college called Puteri Nursing College and a retirement home will be built in the township.

Both JLand and KPJ Healthcare are majority-owned by Johor Corp. JLand, incorporated in 1972, was listed on Bursa Malaysia in 1996.

Today, JLand has some 1,215ha for development in Johor. In collaboration with Johor Corp, it has delivered over 24,000 residential and 1,300 commercial units.

JLand is also broadening its revenue base with a barter trade terminal project in Sabah.

It is buying 51 per cent of Windsor Trade Holdings Sdn Bhd (WTH), which has an 80 per cent subsidiary, Windsor Trade Sdn Bhd. Windsor Trade has been granted a 30-year concession to operate Sandakan Integrated Trade Exchange Terminal.

"The acquisition will be completed in the second quarter of 2008. It will start to contribute (to the group) in early 2011," he said.

WTH will develop an integrated barter trade terminal complete with various facilities on a 13.6ha area at Batu Sapi, Sandakan. The terminal will cater to traders from Asean countries.

The development cost of the terminal is estimated at RM315 million including land, pre-development cost, construction of infrastructure and buildings and equipment.

By New Straits Times (by Vasantha Ganesan)

PJ Development to launch RM300m high-end project in KL

ICONIC PROJECT: The Swiss-Garden Residences will consist of two apartment tower blocks of more than 30 storeys each - website picture

PJ DEVELOPMENT Holdings Bhd, a property developer, will launch a new RM300 million high-end project in Kuala Lumpur, dubbed the Swiss-Garden Residences this month.

The residences will consist of two apartment tower blocks of more than 30 storeys each. Construction will take about three years.

James Chew, its general manager for the property division, said the towers will have a unique feature. They will have hotel rooms up to level 11.

The rooms would be directly connected to the Swiss Garden International Hotel Kuala Lumpur via a bridge. The hotel is also owned by PJD.

"The original plan was to build two towers offering more than 450 apartment units. But since the hotel (Swiss Garden) is always fully occupied we decided to offer some hotel rooms at the residences," Chew told Business Times in an interview.

Chew said under a revised plan, the residences will offer 436 apartment units and 42 hotel rooms and both will complement the Swiss Garden Hotel.

The towers will be built on a 0.7ha site which is directly behind the Swiss Garden Hotel, using internal funds and loans.

Chew said the land was bought two years back for RM20 million.

He said the design of the buildings would be contemporary and modern and earmarked as an iconic building in the Jalan Pudu area.

"We are targeting locals, and buyers from Hong Kong, Singapore and the UK. Potential buyers from these countries are already lining up to buy the properties," Chew said.

"The units, with sizes ranging from 550 sq ft to 2,700 sq ft, are pegged from RM600 per sq ft and onwards. The prices are attractive considering the current market value within the vicinity," he added.

Chew said service apartments in the Klang Valley are still selling like hot cakes as they offer good business opportunities, especially for those who are looking at investments.

"Property prices have increased a lot so as developers we are providing good yields for investors," he said.

According to Chew, PJD is moving away from building medium-priced homes to high-end residences and it has been doing this for three years due to strong demand in the Golden Triangle area.

"PJD prefers to go into niche markets by acquiring smaller parcels of land that have good and immediate potential for development," he added.

For the first half of 2008, PJD expects to launch RM810 million worth of new properties in Kuala Lumpur and Johor.

Besides property development, the company also runs a profitable power cable manufacturing business and owns the Swiss Garden hotel chain.

By New Straits Times (by Sharen Kaur)

WTW sees high demand for Johor properties

Property consultant CH Williams Talhar & Wong (WTW) is upbeat about Johor's property market as the state's economic zone takes shape and companies continue their investments.

This year, the administrative centre in Nusajaya and the customs, immigration and quarantine complex will be completed.

The construction of a road linking Johor Baru to the administrative centre and the coastal highway to Pasir Gudang/Permas Bridge will also start this year.

"With these initiatives in fruition in 2008, the confidence in the property market will create added demand for the industrial sector from foreign direct investors," WTW said in its Property Market Report 2008.

In the first half of 2007, Johor recorded 19,242 property transactions, accounting for 13.4 per cent of total transactions in the country during the period.

In the residential sector, more households are due to upgrade their units due to higher purchasing power. This means opportunities for developers to launch high-end residential units.

"In what was believed to be a primarily Klang Valley-based market, real estate investment trusts entered the Johor market in 2007 through Mapletree, Axis and Atrium REITs interest in industrial properties in Port of Tanjung Pelepas, Senai and Pasir Gudang," it said.

Confidence in the retail market is reflected in the continued expansion by retailers like Tesco, Carrefour, AEON and Ikea.

Tesco entered into a 30-year lease for a 3.88ha site to operate a hypermarket in Pulai, AEON Co (M) Bhd bought a 15.1ha site in Bukit Indah for RM106.97 million to develop a shopping centre, and Swedish furniture retailer Ikea bought a 14.78ha site in Desa Tebrau for RM64.366 million to set up its second outlet in Malaysia.

By New Straits Times (by Hamisah Hamid)

Tangkas plans green factories

A model of Tangkas Arena light industrial area

Tangkas Properties Sdn Bhd, the property development arm of Mudahjuta Industries Sdn Bhd, is planning a new light industrial area in Subang Jaya with factories that have eco-friendly features and innovative facilities.

Managing director Yogi Wong said Tangkas Arena, comprising 17 factory units in the prime UEP Industrial Park, would have a gross development value (GDV) of RM45mil.

To be completed in the next three years, it offers non-conventional factories with sophisticated architecture that breaks away from the stereotypical workshop stigma.

“This will provide a good corporate image that reflects a new generation of entrepreneurs,” Wong told StarBiz.

“Each unit will be equipped with integrated pro-environmental products to pioneer active ecological participation.”

One of the eco-friendly features is the net-metering system. Photovoltaic cells (solar panels) generate power from the sun, which is then fed back into the national supply grid for a net deduction in monthly electricity bills.

Wong said the Malaysia Building Integrated Photovoltaic scheme was promoted by the National Energy Centre (PTM) and supported by the United Nations Development Programme.

“Solar panels are expensive, so if business owners purchase these panels from authorised dealers, they would stand to enjoy a 25% subsidy with a further 27% income tax allowance from PTM,” he said.

Another feature is the clean thermal insulation system with Dow Styrofoam to reduce heat entering the building and subsequently reducing energy consumption in cooling.

Wong said these innovative features would also offer owners and investors alternative resources against the inevitable increase in energy prices.

Tangkas Arena comprises 17 units with carefully planned layout that gives much consideration for factory functions, production flow and internal logistics. The units, priced from RM2.88mil to RM3.3mil, will have 11,000-sq-ft built-up space.

Wong explained that by optimising the land area provided, the three-storey structure offered two production levels with generous ceiling allowances and an uninterrupted clear space of 3,200 sq ft per floor.

“The separate production levels are then synchronised by a spacious two-tonne low-energy good lifts, effectively allowing continuous flow of operations simulating one large factory floor space,” he said.

Giving further considerations to factory workings, Level 1 is able to support working loads of 7.5 kiloNewton per sq metre (kN/m2) while Level 2 has been upgraded to 5kN/m2.

Level 3 is a very versatile space that may serve as a corporate office or further support the light industrial operations below.

“All three levels of floor surfaces are grinded down from solid Grade C30 concrete and treated to provide enhance resistance to abrasion.

“For those who require much higher tolerance or hygienic considerations, this concrete provision allows a further but simple procedure to turn the existing surface into a seamless high-gloss finish,” Wong added.

To maintain incessant working spaces, each unit has a separate service tower with staircase leading up to a tank room where 2,200 effective gallons of water storage is available.

This is in addition to rainwater catchment tanks that are also provided to recycle water. The tower also allows alternative controlled access into each level while serving as a fire escape.

Wong observed that inadequate power supply has quite often been the grouse of industrial factory operators. “Therefore, Tangkas Arena has provided the electrical system and support circuits with the option to upgrade up to 200 Amps upon easy application to Tenaga Nasional.”

Instead of providing an inaccessible back yard, Tangkas Arena decided to incorporate a well-lit 40ft public road in the back lane for further function support.

He added that such features would perfectly suit numerous types of light industrial businesses from food and beverage preparation and distribution, printing plants to studio and production houses and even research laboratories.

By The Star (by Laalitha Hunt)

More shop offices for Shah Alam

The newly completed Jayamas 1 shop offices fronting Jalan Montfort at TTDI Jaya in Shah Alam. There are more and more shop offices coming up in Shah Alam

Many new shop office developments are coming up in Shah Alam.

The surge in supply of shop offices is especially evident over the past one to two years when more than a dozen new shop office projects were launched, and more are in the pipeline.

Like in many other parts of the Klang Valley, shop offices are making a strong comeback to the Shah Alam property scene but with new concepts and designs. Each of these projects has its own unique selling points (USP) to command a premium.

Among the reasons for the rising supply of shop offices in Shah Alam are the fairly good demand for commercial property in new growth areas; the shortage of commercial land in prime areas, particularly in the city; the trend for companies to move away from the congested city centre; lower pricing compared with Kuala Lumpur or Petaling Jaya; and the spill-over effects of Port Klang's bustling business community.

Some parts of Shah Alam, like Sections 7 and 13, are experiencing a commercial property boom. Some of the new shop office projects have moved away from the traditional two-storey designs to three, four and even five-storey types that can cater to larger companies. Most of the older shop offices were built by Selangor State Development Corp to cater to a few hundred houses but today, the scenario has changed with modern-style shop office projects very near to each other.

Several new shop office projects are coming up around the decade-old two-storey shop offices in Tadisma Business Park (near Giant) which are almost fully tenanted, and a few units are being offered for sale for between RM700,000 and RM800,000.

The following are some of the new shop office projects in Shah Alam.

Commerce Galleries @ OnetwoOne D'Kayangan in Section 13: Of the 44 units of four and five-storey shop offices under Phase 11A, there are currently only 26 units left since its launch in late February.

Lebar Daun Development Sdn Bhd sales and marketing manager Arman Putera said another 44 similar units under Phase 11B would be launched soon in view of the good sales.

“We call our shop offices 'commerce galleries' because of their big sizes. The intermediate 26ft x 80ft four-storey units, priced from RM2.09mil, have close to 8,000 sq ft built-up area while the corner 44ft x 80ft five-storey corner units, priced from RM4.1mil (both prices are for bumiputra buyers), have about 15,000 sq ft built-up area,” he said.

Arman added that the ground floor “galleries” could accommodate 20 cars for an auto showroom or a banking hall with 20 plus counters!

“People may initially think that our prices are high but our sizes are big. It works out to only about RM250 per square ft which is the most affordable in Section 13. For businesses that require a mere 1,000 sq ft, our studio offices are very affordable,” he said.

This is the first commercial project in Lebar Daun's D'Kayangan development that would have 1,200 residential units when completed in seven to eight years.

USP: Its big ground floor shops are ideal for auto showrooms, banks, furniture shops and businesses that require good visibility. Location is good as this leasehold project is in the 300-acre D'Kayangan new township and about 100 metres from Stadium Shah Alam and Stadium Melawati. It is also near Tesco, Tesco Extra and Giant hypermarkets.

Laman Seri Business Park in Section 13: Soft launched recently, this leasehold development by TTDI Development Sdn Bhd comprises six blocks of four and five-storey shop offices (46 units) that boast modern designs.

The bumiputra price (units facing the main road) is RM2.63mil for the intermediate shop office and RM3.88mil for the corner four-storey shop office.

TTDI Development Sdn Bhd chief operating officer Eng Kim Leng said sales had been very encouraging, adding that the project's proximity to many amenities such as colleges, Giant, apartments and highway linkages were plus factors.

USP: Good location, a 37,000-sq-ft central events piazza for alfresco dining and water features, dual frontage, double-volume office space (front portion only) for 39ft-wide corner units, handicapped-friendly design layout, wide pedestrian thoroughfare and two intermediate shop offices sharing a lift with common lift lobby. Premium corner lots will have their own lifts. Intermediate units will have 26ft-wide frontage and ample parking with 900 bays.

TTDI's fully-sold freehold Jayamas 1 two-storey shop offices (26 units) fronting Jalan Montfort in TTDI Jaya are also poised to benefit from the rapid transformation in the nearby Bukit Jelutong Industrial Park area where a mall is coming up. Another 26 units of shop office called Jayamas 2 were launched recently. There are only a few units left.

MSC-status shop offices in i-City in Section 7: Several shop office projects have been launched in Section 7 but the most advanced in terms of design and concept are those at the proposed RM2bil i-City.

Smart-community developer I-Bhd that was recently awarded the MSC Malaysia Cybercentre Status for its i-City will launch 34 units of three and five-storey shop offices in July or August.

Its first batch of 44 units of three and five-storey shop offices with ultra modern designs have been sold and completed.

With the MSC status, the shop offices that were initially sold for RM1.58mil (three storeys) and RM3.3mil (five storeys) would be increased to RM1.98mil and RM4mil respectively for the new batch.

USP: Nice design, good location and its MSC status which allows owners/tenants to enjoy a host of MSC facilities including power generators, fibre-optic cablings, top security system with CCTVs (alarm system linked to fire stations, hospitals etc) and brighter energy saving lighting.

Alami in Section 7: This leasehold project by Worldwide Holdings Bhd is about 45% completed. The 56 units of three and five-storey shop offices priced from RM1.2mil and RM2.1mil respectively would be ready end of this year.

USP: Good visibility as it fronts the Federal Highway and its “safe environment” concept with CCTVs and security services. About 16 units have been sold.

SpaceU8 in Bukit Jelutong: It will be the first commercial hotspot in Selangor to adopt the SUMO (shop unit mall office) concept that combines business and leisure under one roof. It is located along Jalan Montfort and within the fast-growing Bukit Jelutong Industrial Park.

USP: dual frontage featuring a shop office on the outer frontage with an inner fa├žade for a retail outlet. There will be a 70,000-sq-ft central covered courtyard.

By The Star (by S.C.Cheah)

Perak’s wealth creation

An artist’s impression of a redevelopment project at Jalan 225, Petaling Jaya, by Axis Reit

The Perak state government would issue permanent land titles to about 10,000 holders of temporary occupation licences (TOL) in 134 new villages, its Mentri Besar Mohammed Nizar Jamaluddin said last week.

This will bring about a sea change to these new villages where the residents have been living since just after the Second World War. Although the new villagers will continue to live where they are, land titles will give them ownership of their houses.

That will create a measure of wealth for these 10,000 families. If we assume that ownership represents a value of about RM50,000 per property, a total value of RM500mil will be granted to these families.

In addition, it will produce a major multiplier effect. The new villagers will be more ready to renovate their houses if they have land titles, and they can use their houses as collateral for bank loans, which are important for those who are small businessmen and petty traders.

Such a figure may not amount to much in the Klang Valley, but it would mean a lot to the local economies in Perak.

In this wealth creation process, not a square foot of land is created, but it makes a big difference in transferring latent state land to a large number of “squatters”.

This is the model advocated by Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto who has advised many governments. His line of reasoning was that the poor who “squat” on state land in Third World countries had houses to live in or farms to work on, but did not own them – land titles would enable them to sell the property or use them as collateral for bank loans.

Such a programme would unlock the values of squatters' land, which to de Soto's estimate, total more than US$9 trillion worldwide. This creation of capital for “squatters” is of crucial consequence in a capitalist system.

It would also narrow the disparity in income and assets between poor “squatters” and those in the towns and suburbs, an important endeavour in any economic policy.

De Soto's model is applicable, of course, only where state land, and not privately owned land, is involved and where the “squatters” have lived or worked the land for many years or decades.

Thailand, under former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, implemented a Capital Creation Scheme in 2003, following de Soto's advice. Bill Clinton had told Thaksin about de Soto's views when the former US president visited Thailand in 2002, according to Internet reports. The effects of the scheme in Thailand are not known.

Civil affluence
Amid the uncertainties over the strength of consumer demand, one sector that still has drive in demand is the civil servants' group.

One indicator of this is Bank Kerjasama Rakyat Malaysia Bhd's target to achieve a pre-tax profit of RM1bil this year from RM829mil last year. These are large profit figures, bigger than those of even the mid-sized commercial banks.

It shows the strength of demand in the Government sector as Bank Rakyat mainly gives personal loans to civil servants.

RCE Capital Bhd, which is engaged in the same business, is also tapping that demand. Its loans receivables grew to RM565mil at the end of last year from RM418mil six months ago and RM349mil a year ago.

Thus the company's earnings are secure for the next few years in view of this sizeable loan book. The level of non-performing loans is very low as repayment from borrowers is made by deductions against their salaries.

Developers have also reported brisk demand from the civil service sector. In Glomac Bhd, for instance, one of the biggest portions of unbilled sales in its books was contributed by its Bandar Saujana Utama project in Sungai Buloh, Selangor.

Those who do not even know where that township is located would wonder if houses there would sell. Although that's far out in the suburbs, it is understood that Saujana Utama is selling well, with many of its buyers being civil servants.

RB Land Holdings Bhd is also understood to have found firm demand from civil servants for its houses in its Shah Alam 2 township.

The upbeat demand in this sector would have arisen from the hefty pay rise for civil servants in July last year.

REITs on the rise
Prices of real estate investment trusts (REITs) have declined everywhere, including those on Bursa Malaysia. The effect is that dividend yields have risen as unit prices of the trusts declined.

In some cases, yields have increased to over 8%, and as the business model of REITs is to purchase properties with yields above its own yield, it has become much more difficult for the trusts to expand.

REITs can also purchase properties with yields above that of borrowing costs, but some of the REITs have borrowed up to the regulated maximum of 50% their equity.

Axis REIT adopted a good approach to continue on its expansion path. It created 50 million new units, which it placed out at RM1.80 each in January. That raised RM90mil cash and expanded its capital base and borrowing capacity.

A day after the placement, Axis announced the purchase of two properties in Johor for a total of RM27mil, and last week, it proposed to buy another two buildings in Johor, also for a total of RM27mil. All these properties offer a yield higher than Axis' borrowing cost.

After the share placement in January, Axis' net gearing is about 35%, which gives it space to finance further purchases with debt.

AmFirst REIT announced last week it completed its purchase of Summit Subang USJ, a combination of a retail mall, office tower and hotel. The acquisition will raise its dividend per unit (DPU) by 2 sen, giving a forecast total DPU of 9.3 sen, AmFirst said in a statement.

AmFirst offers a yield of 10.6% on that forecast yield, which is unusually high for any asset class. That also shows the market fear of an economic slowdown.

By The Star (by C.S.Tan)

Penang as outsourcing and training hub

The new Penang state government wants to develop the state into an outsourcing and training centre for new industries.

Lim Guan Eng says Penang state government will continue leveraging on its core competencies in the manufacturing and electronic sectors.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng told StarBiz that the animation business was one of the industries being explored.

“An animation valley should preferably be located on the island. It should comprise private schools and animation companies.

“The schools can provide the training while the companies can receive jobs outsourced from overseas countries,” he said.

Lim said the idea was to model the centre after the Hamburger University owned by fast-food chain McDonald's. “Students trained at the university are then sent to the different outlets of the group worldwide.

“Similarly students trained by the schools can obtain employment from the companies at the centre. This would help Penang to become an animation hub in the Asean region,” he said.

According to Lim, many local students trained in the animation field at public vocational schools have to go to other countries such as Singapore to find work.

“With such a centre here, they can stay back in Penang instead,” he said. Lim envisions the centre as a private and public initiative. “The state government would look into giving appropriate incentives for the private sector to take part in the project,” he said.

Lim said the state government would continue leveraging on its core competencies in the manufacturing and electronic sectors.

“We will also carry on looking for new investments that can offer highpaying jobs,” he added.

On the housing sector, Lim said the Malaysia My Second Home Programme (MM2H) was an important source of revenue for the state.

“The bulk of investment for MM2H comes to Penang, amounting to about RM500mil per annum.

“We will take immediate steps to clean up the beaches, beef up security and introduce new tourism products to attract more investments into Penang for second homes,” he said.

Lim said the state government was also exploring the setting up of an international exposition centre at the current Pesta site in Sungai Nibong.

“Besides the Penang International Sports Arena (PISA), we need to have another centre for exhibition purposes.

“The plan is also to have a food and beverage complex to showcase the well-known local delicacies,” he said.

By The Star

Asian property offers attractive returns

SINGAPORE: Asian property offers attractive returns even as the US housing market enters what may be a prolonged slump, Hong Kong-based Intellectual Property Global Ltd said.

US foreclosures rose 60 per cent in February after surging to a record in the fourth quarter of 2007, and that could worsen a decline that started last year, said Tim Murphy, managing director of IP Global, a real estate advisory firm. Assets in emerging markets such as Asia offer a safer bet, Murphy said last Thursday in an interview in Hong Kong.

"I think the majority of Asia sits very well," Murphy said. "Wage inflation is still pretty good and interest rates are not too scary."

Sales of existing homes in the US fell from a record annual pace of 7.08 million in 2005 to 5.65 million last year, according to Fannie Mae, the largest US mortgage buyer. Median home prices could extend declines as the number of unsold properties builds up and prospective buyers stay away.

"I think it's here to stay now," Murphy said of the US housing decline.

Vietnam is his favourite market in Asia, he said. Only 5 per cent of the population is taking out a mortgage, meaning there is large potential for growth.

By Bloomberg

Taiwan real estate market set to boom: Analysts

TAIPEI: The property market in Taiwan is set for a boom if president-elect Ma Ying-jeou can improve relations with mainland China and stimulate the island's sluggish economy, analysts say.

Market-watchers expect a rise of 20 per cent or more by the end of 2008 if Ma keeps his pledge to liberalise economic exchanges with China - and some say there are already signs of soaring prices since his election last month.

"Luxury residential property prices in certain districts of Taipei jumped one-third right after Ma's victory," said Chang Hsin-ming, a marketing consultant with US-based ERA Real Estate.

He said site visits by potential homebuyers were up 30-40 per cent in recent weeks, with many believing that the tense political rivalry with China will ease under Ma's leadership.

Ma, who takes office on May 20, campaigned on a vow to help create a "commom market" with China across the Strait, improving trade and tourism by lifting barriers to the free flow of goods and people between Taiwan and the mainland.

Since the early 1990s, Taiwanese investors have channelled an estimated US$150 billion (US$1 = RM3.19) to China, which has become the island's largest trading partner and biggest export market.

Doing away with trade barriers would increase the flow of money in the other direction, and allow Taiwan to take better advantage of the vast new wealth being created in China today, say analysts.

A survey by North Rehouse, a Taipei property firm, found that 67 per cent of mainland investors were willing to buy real estate in Taiwan once restrictions are eased - and predicted prices would go up 30-50 per cent by year's end.

Despite the decades of official hostility, there are many Taiwanese based on the mainland - and they will also be looking to channel funds back to the island, Chang said.

"A more relaxed China policy will encourage Taiwan investors on the mainland to repatriate their profits back home without controls," he said.

"Such fund inflows, no doubt, will benefit the local property market."

Andrew Liu, managing director for real estate firm Colliers International Taiwan, said he was "cautiously optimistic" about the outlook for the local market - particularly for commercial property.

"Taking expanded cross-Strait economic exchanges into account, rental in Taipei office spaces may rise some 10 per cent a year by 2011," he said, up from previous industry estimates of a 5-7 per cent annual increase.


India's Parsvnath to invest US$5b in realty projects

CHANDIGARH (India): Real estate firm Parsvnath Developers Ltd plans to invest about US$5 billion (US$1 = RM3.19) in the next three to five years on different realty projects in India and to increase the land area it will develop, a top official said.

The company intends to have 350 million sq ft of commercial area by the end of this fiscal year from 209 million sq ft now, its chairman Pradeep Jain said last Saturday while inaugurating a township in Chandigarh.

The investments will be in different ventures including residential projects, integrated townships, special economic zones, hotels and retail business.

The company also plans to venture into the hospitality sector, with an investment of US$1.5 billion in this segment in the next three to five years, he said.

"We propose to build about 100 hotels in different categories which will have 10,000 rooms," Pradeep said.

It has a joint venture with ITC's subsidiary Fortune Park Hotels Ltd and Royal Orchid Hotels Ltd to manage hotels across India, he added.

Of the total planned investment, about US$2 billion would be spent on projects in north India. It has two special economic zones coming up, a residential colony, an integrated township and a 200-room five-star hotel.

The company expects to realise about US$1 billion from Prideasia, the project it inaugurated, the land for which it acquired for 8.2 billion rupees (100 rupees = RM8.34).

The Parsvnath group is also exploring possibilities for a foreign collaboration to move into the retail business.

"Discussions are on to have a tie-up with a foreign company to set up hypermarkets in India, but I can't comment further," Jain said.

By Reuters

Resort trends to watch

The world's changing climate is causing an unprecedented period of innovation and reinvention

Building a mega resort development has never been more challenging than it is today. Besides having to worry about the question, “If we build it, will they come?”, developers also need to consider the extent global warming will have on their resorts.

For instance, ski resorts could be literally finished if, by the time they are completed, the weather is not cold enough to produce snow – they can’t depend on the artificial powder alternative forever!

In 2006, Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) predicted that by the year 2050, over one-third of Europe’s top ski resorts would disappear because their low-lying slopes would succumb to higher temperatures.

While many leisure industry experts think the finding is unduly pessimistic, many established winter resort operators are not ignoring it.

Eco-friendly operations
In Aspen, Colorado, one of the most famous mountain resorts in the United States, the Aspen Skiing Company decided to purchase renewable energy certificates from wind farms to offset all of its electricity use – about 21,000 megawatt hours.

To reduce pollution, it also uses biodiesel to fuel its snow-grooming equipment, while the heating and cooling for its Snowmass Golf Clubhouse come from watersource pumps located in a pond.

In Europe, the threat of climate change has made many new and refurbished Alpine resorts look beyond eco-friendly strategies to ensure continued revenue attraction. This includes expanding on their menu of winter-based sports with activities that can be enjoyed during three or four seasons, such as golf, tennis, rafting, canoeing and hiking.

Eco-resorts pave the way
Despite the growing importance of eco-resorts – projects focused on environmental sustainability – they have so far largely been built on a small-scale by local individuals or companies.

One of them is Whitepod near Aigle in Switzerland. As a result of its commitment to provide a holiday experience with zero impact on the environment, it uses furniture produced locally from sustainable wood and water from a rainwater recuperation system.

In Lungau, Austria, St. Martin Chalets is Europe’s first energy self-sufficient resort that uses materials such as local larch and pine insulated with sheep’s wool for its main structure.

Near Llangollen in rural Wales, the Whitewater Country Park – touted as the United Kingdom’s first ecoresort – is built of solid log, while in Poprad in south-west Slovakia, the Aqua City spa resort has been designed to draw 80 per cent of its electricity from geothermal water, solar power and wind turbines. By the end of this year, it hopes to be completely self-sufficient in energy generation.

Greener development strategies
In Tahoe, California, the Village at Northstar resort features an extensive trail system complemented by a shuttle service and bicycle tracks to get its guests out of their cars.

To minimise disruption to the environment and keep the cars out of sight, its parking is tucked underground, beneath the buildings.

So far, three buildings with 100 ski-in, ski-out condominiums, a commercial precinct, a fitness facility and a slopeside owner’s club, have been completed. The structures have been strategically placed to maximise natural daylight penetration, while over 50 per cent of waste caused by its construction have been recycled by the contractors.

Warm-weather resorts too are tackling climate change issues by rethinking their approach to land use, traffic management, building design and sustainable development.

With their guests becoming more sophisticated and increasingly rejecting created environments, they are seeing this strategy of adopting green development techniques as providing a win-win solution.

Carbon-neutral resort
In Bulgaria, an emerging resort destination that does not have a history of international tourism, architectural practice Foster & Partners recently put together a masterplan for a carbon-neutral resort located on the Black Sea coast.

The development, known as Black Sea Gardens, comprises a series of automobilefree hill towns set amidst oak forests, meadows and river gorges.

Its residential clusters will accommodate some 15,400 residents in a layout that will follow the contours of the landscape so much of the site can be preserved as virgin terrain.

Anchored by a 220-berth marina and with a lakeside spa, activity centre, sports park, restaurants and shops, these hill towns are themed according to the nature of their immediate surroundings, such as “Sky Village”, “Wilderness Village”, “Meadow Village”, “Cape Village” and “Sea Village”.

To create a calm, pollution- free environment, the roads leading to this leisure destination will be inland and away from the seafront. Residents will also be required to leave their cars in an underground car-park at the entrance to each village and commute either by foot, electric shuttle bus, electric pool car or bicycles.

The resort industry is entering an unprecedented period of innovation and reinvention that is likely to accelerate in years to come, with the push coming primarily from the growing recognition of the need to protect our fragile environment.

As is the case for most businesses, the winners will be those that can successfully create places and experiences that will continue to be authentic 20 to 30 years after they are built.

By New Straits Times (by Lim Lay Ying)

Lim Lay Ying is managing director of Research Inc (Asia) a company specialising in market research and consultancy for all facets of real estate development.

The natural upgrade

Mah Sing's Hijauan Residence aims to satisfy the growing demand among home improvers to rediscover nature

If you’re looking to move up the home ownership ladder because you believe it’s “greener on the other side”, here’s one place that actually lives up to the adage.

Situated on 42 acres of freehold land on the periphery of the Klang Valley’s Hulu Langat Forest Reserve is Hijauan Residence, an eco-themed gated-andguarded enclave that will exclusively comprise semi-dees and bungalows.

Adding to its appeal is the fact that the project is in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur, which is fast becoming a sought-after address due to the area’s improved infrastructure and amenities in recent years.

Developed by Mah Sing Group Bhd (MSG) subsidiary, Loyal Sierra Development Sdn Bhd, Hijauan Residence has proven to be popular among buyers looking to reconnect with nature, with all the semi-dees and link semi-dees offered in its first phase almost sold out.

Winning them over, said the developer, is the project’s green hilly backdrop, fresh and cool surroundings, eyecatching entrance statement, promise of extensive landscaping, and the “green street” concept that promotes a safer as well as more contemporary environment.

In terms of security, MSG pointed out that each phase will have individual guardhouses and 24-hour surveillance.

To encourage a healthy community, Hijauan Residence will also feature a resort-themed clubhouse equipped with facilities such as a swimming pool, gym and other amenities.

For those who missed out on the first opportunity, the good news is that the second phase is poised for launch and is now open for registration.

This time, the offer comprises 30 houses that will come in a variety of types ranging from double-storey semi-dees to large three-storey bungalows.

With the bungalows going for under RM1 million, Hijauan Residence represents a value buy, since simillar units in the area are pricier.

The second phase units will be styled with the “three-generation” home concept, and come with high ceilings, large windows that allow plenty of natural lighting inside, an outdoor shower in the master bedroom, a smart home alarm system and a porch that can fit three cars.

To give prospective buyers a clearer insight into the lifestyle proposition Hijauan Residence is offering, Mah Sing has built a show house on site.

The project's location at the periphery of the forest reserve, just minutes from the city, offers the best of both convenient and healthy living

By New Straits Times (by Chris Prasad)

Shah Alam gets new 'big-name' attraction

Those seeking a business address in Selangor’s capital of Shah Alam can now consider Commerce Galleries@One Two One. This mouthful-of-a-name project is being developed by Lebar Daun Development Sdn Bhd (LDD), and is slated for completion by 2010.

LDD executive director Noorazhar Muhd Nurdin said, “The galleries will be a unique commercial centre, where similar businesses will be placed together at specific parts.

“For example, there will be a financial street for banks and financial institutions.”

Located adjacent to the Federal Highway and Jalan Batu Tiga, and part of LDD’s D’Kayangan development, the centre will have 121 Grade A commercial lots that will collectively have a gross development value of RM350 million.

To be completed in three phases, the project will comprise four blocks with corner lots coming in dimensions of 44ft by 80ft, and intermediate units of 26ft by 80ft.

Prices range from RM209,999 for a stratified studio unit to RM4 million for a corner unit.

“We are confident that the remaining 30 of the 38 units (in the first phase) will be snapped up within the next three months,” Noorazhar said, adding that the second and third phases are expected to be open in July and December this year.

LDD also plans to launch its RM600 million Shah Alam Triple Tower integrated commercial project soon.

The company has a landbank of more than 1,482 acres in Selangor and Pahang, of which 494 acres have been developed.

Its past ventures include D’Kayangan and Bukit Bandaraya in Shah Alam, as well as Taman Dato’ Kemang in Seri Kembangan also in Selangor.

By New Straits Times