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Monday, April 14, 2008

UM Land puts its mark on Bangsar

Reviving an abandoned project and turning it into the suburb's latest residential offering

Suasana Bangsar offers quick access to Bangsar nightlife, a host of facilities and views of either KL, Bangsar, Pantai or MidValley City.

The sign of a smart builder is someone who can short-circuit the lengthy development process so that it can capitalise on the winds of demand blowing in its favour.

That being the case, it’s little wonder that United Malayan Land Bhd (UMLand) jumped on the opportunity in January last year to purchase a partially completed apartment site in one of Kuala Lumpur’s most celebrated suburbs.

Now, slightly over a year later and with the benefit of work already done – which means buyers won’t have to wait for the usual three years till they receive their keys – it is ready to unveil its Suasana Bangsar condominium.

But first, the bad news: Today’s the last day to take advantage of UMLand’s three per cent early bird discount applicable for all the project’s 190 units, so any purchasing decision will have to be made before the sun goes down.

The 25-storey Suasana Bangsar is taking shape at the junction of Jalan Kaloi and Jalan Tanduk, and in front of the existing Bangsar Heights Condominium, putting it near the lively Telawi Strip nightlife, shopping centres such as Bangsar Village, and the Bangsar LRT station.

Available are two-, threeplus- one- and four-plusone- bedroom units in sizes of between 1,112sq ft and 2,147sq ft, as well as six penthouses at the topmost floors. These will accommodate either four-plus-two- or fiveplus- two bedrooms in areas ranging from 3,845sq ft to 4,892sq ft.

Although UMLand has yet to announce the project’s official pricing – the launch proper is expected to be in a month’s time – it has indicated that it would be around RM570psf, implying a starting price of slightly over RM630,000.

It also revealed that the project will accommodate eight units on a typical floor that will be serviced by five lifts, while all units will be specified with European sanitary fittings.

Among its recreational facilities will be a gym, Jacuzzi and swimming pool on the leisure deck, as well as a multi-purpose hall, children’s playground and games room.

The project is accessible from Jalan Bangsar via Jalan Riong and commands views of either Bangsar, Pantai, KL or MidValley City

UMLand purchased the 40,407sq ft site for RM24 million from Vista Genesis Panel Sdn Bhd, and based on its unit prices, it expects Suasana Bangsar to earn a gross development value of RM99 million by the time it is ready in late 2010.

For detail information, please contact: United Malayan Land Bhd (Tel: 603-2142 1611) OR

By New Straits Times (by Chris Prasad)

UMLand plans RM1.5b KL projects

PRESTIGIOUS PROJECT: Yap briefing the media on the Suasana Bangsar Project on Saturday

PROPERTY developer United Malayan Land Bhd (UMLand) plans to launch two new projects worth some RM1.5 billion in Kuala Lumpur in the next 10 months, says its chief.

Group chief executive officer Anthony Yap said the company is expected to launch the first project by the third quarter of 2008, which will comprise 310 units of serviced residences on 0.6ha nestled within the serene enclave of Bukit Ceylon.

The second project, which will be launched by early 2009, is a 50-50 joint venture with Bolton Bhd to build low-density luxury homes on a 1,74ha site in Jalan Mayang, close to the Petronas Twin Towers.

"We are still planning the two developments and getting the necessary approvals. We expect to reap in good margins from these projects," Yap told Business Times after a media preview on Suasana Bangsar in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday.

For the year ended December 31 2007, UMLand posted a net profit of RM46.6 million on revenue of RM396.8 million. Its net profit represented a 16 per cent growth from RM40 million a year ago.

Earlier, Yap said the RM185 million Suasana Bangsar is UMLand's latest prestigious project, which is expected to contribute substantially to earnings for the next three years.

It is a 25-storey tower block with 190 condominium units, which will be completed by early 2011.

Suasana Bangsar is being constructed on a 0.4ha site at Jalan Kaloi, near the New Straits Times (M) Bhd corporate building.

UMLand had acquired the piece of land last year for RM24 million through a receivership sale.

Yap said it bought the land due to its locality and the scarcity of land in Bangsar.

"Suasana Bangsar is our first luxury project for the year. We were scouting for strategic land and when this offer came about, we decided to seal the deal immediately," he said.

While prices of Suasana Bangsar start at RM550 per sq ft, those in other parts of Bangsar have reached RM1,000 per sq ft with One Menerung selling for between RM1,000 per sq ft and RM1,300 per sq ft.

Gaya Bangsar, a development by Uda Holdings Bhd, recently sold its units on leasehold land, adjacent to Menara Maybank, for RM550 per sq ft.

Yap said UMLand has no specific target and hopes to sell its Suasana Bangsar units before its official launch, targeted for June.

"We have sold over 15 per cent since our soft launch a week ago. The selling point is the address which is in a mature and prime location," he said.

Yap said he expects profits from the sale of the units to roll in from this year, but the bulk of it to come at the later part of 2009.

Suasana Bangsar offers a choice of two-, three- and four-bedroom suites with built-up area ranging from 1,112 sq ft to 2,200 sq ft each, priced from RM600,000 onwards.

Penthouses with five- and six-bedrooms range from 3,845 sq ft to 4,892 sq ft and priced between RM2 million and RM3.2 million.

By New Straits Times (by Sharen Kaur)

YTL’s Parkville set to be a runaway success

It is an exclusive phase in the upmarket Lake Edge in Puchong

The completion of Parkville, the latest phase of Lake Edge, in January offers yet another opportunity for those who seek something more than just a place to call home in Puchong.

Since YTL Land & Development Bhd's wholly owned subsidiary Pakatan Perakbina Sdn Bhd launched the 100-acre Lake Edge development in 2004, it has stirred up quite a buzz and will continue to do so with the newest offering.

Parkville is an exclusive collection of eight semi-detached houses and eight bungalows that line the perimeter of a linear park, which is dotted with elements such as a spice garden, reflexology trails and forest footpath.

YTL Land executive director Datuk Yeoh Seok Kian said Parkville was not officially launched yet. The property developer wanted to publicise it only after the units were completed so that people could appreciate the value of the homes.

Datuk Yeoh Seok Kian showing the completed Parkville bungalows and semi-detached. In the foreground is the landscaped linear park

“Otherwise, people will think that it (Parkville) is just another bungalow and semi-detached project,” he said.

Yeoh stressed that YTL Land was “selling lifestyle, not just house per se,” he added.

Set on the fringe of a lake in Puchong, Lake Edge is a private gated community that is made up of courtyard, terrace and semi-detached homes, and bungalows. These units are surrounded by lush landscapes, garden hideaways and water features and are connected by a series of wide meandering pathways.

Lake Edge takes after the Australian green street concept.

Yeoh said the architecture and design of Parkville homes was inspired by what was found in Australia, especially in cities such as Perth.

“The weather there is almost like ours here and there is a lot of outdoor activities. So why can't we do something similar here, in terms of architecture? We have to break away from the cookie-cutter design,” he added.

Fences between houses are done away with and replaced by greenery and plenty of landscaping, thus creating a pleasant environment. Utility and service cables are buried, while drains are covered.

In the case of Parkville, the bungalows and semi-detached houses are arranged alternately and lined along two rows overlooking the sprawling linear park, with a meandering footpath that leads to the waterfront esplanade.

The alternate arrangement made it different from the usual stereotype, as the developer did not want it to look like terrace houses, said Yeoh.

He pointed out that the Parkville units were targeted at buyers planning to upgrade to bigger units, especially those living in Puchong. Even existing residents in Lake Edge have enquired about the units.

The five-plus-one-room semi-detached has a built-up area of 4,102 sq ft and is priced from RM1.5mil. The bungalow, with six-plus-one-rooms, is valued from RM2mil. The bungalows have two floor plans ranging between 5,187 and 5,194 sq ft. The Parkville homes are enhanced with quality finishing such as Burmese teak wood and Egyptian marble.

The unique features include a sunroom that looks out into a pond, extensive glass windows to create an open and airy interior and bedrooms designed with an open and spacious layout. Every bedroom is en suite but the master bathroom is designed after a spa-like sanctuary with freestanding bathtub, indoor and outdoor rain shower, and double vanity sinks on marble countertops.

After Parkville, YTL Land is set to launch the next phase known as Waterville comprising 50 2½-storey semi-detached homes spread over five acres. The former is deemed as the showcase for Waterville.

The semi-detached units will have a built-up area of 3,800 sq ft with four bedrooms and an additional maid's room. Every Waterville home comes with its own lap pool.

Yeoh said the entire Lake Edge development should be completed in two to three years with a gross development value of RM500mil.

“After Waterville, there will be about 20 acres left to be developed. We have some bungalow land fronting the lake which be developed later. We will pace ourselves and base the future phase on demand from the market,” he said.

Life is truly different at Lake Edge because YTL Land wants to create something unique and never seen before in Puchong, with a concept that appeals to people's lifestyle.

A big portion (40%) of the total acreage is dedicated to landscaping features such as the lake, linear park, curved streets and waterfront esplanade with a roomy children's playground. Residents also enjoy amenities such as swimming pool, tennis and basketball courts at a clubhouse in Lake Edge.

By The Star (by Chan Ching Thut)

Foreign interest in China property

CHINA, a nation of 660 cities, offers immense opportunities for real estate developers and investors to partake in the country's rapid development and growing prominence as a major global power.

Rapid commercialisation and privatisation of China's real estate have contributed to massive development activities and growth in the property sector.

Jason Leow with a model of Raffles City Chengdu.

As the people's income level and standard of living continue to improve, owner-occupier demand will further drive growth in the residential and commercial property sectors.

Although the market is still robust with good upside and yield potential, the Chinese government looks set to adopt further austerity measures to prevent the possibility of an overheated property market.

Measures to curb speculative investment in real estate were introduced in 2005, followed by guidelines to control demand and supply of property in 2006. Last year, various measures to control money supply and interest rates were launched to curb liquidity.

With the tightening measures, developers with deep pockets and strong credentials are looking forward to perform even better in the coming years.

Singapore's CapitaLand Ltd, which is one of the biggest foreign developers in China, continues to see substantial prospects in China.

“The market is very deep, and having developed projects mostly in the gateway cities of Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou, we are now moving into the second- and third-tier cities. CapitaLand has projects on a broad property front - from residential and retail to service residences and integrated commercial projects,” CapitaLand (China) Investment Co Ltd deputy chief executive officer Jason Leow told StarBiz in Shanghai recently.

“China's real estate demand at 200 million sq m a year is humongous by any standard. Although the market will be faced with correction along the way, we are confident that demand for a broad type of property will remain strong over the next five to 10 years,” he added.

Leow said that given the tighter credit environment, foreign capital control and weaker sentiments, the market was currently going through some short-term consolidation.

“However, market fundamentals remained strong with real demand driven by urbanisation, strong economic growth and rising income.

“The measures taken by the Government in recent years are to ensure sustainable development of China's property market. Opportunities will emerge for well capitalised companies with proven track record and onshore operating platform,” Leow added. Economists and fund managers who participated in a panel discussion at the recent Third Annual Real Estate Investment World China 2008 Conference in Pudong, Shanghai, recently concurred that China's property market would continue to grow and the US sub-prime mortgage woes would not adversely impact China's economy and its property sector.

According to CLSA Asia Pacific Markets chief China strategist, Andy Rothman, China would not encounter a mortgage loan problem like the US “as the Chinese property buyers are well known for paying in cash and there are no fancy loans such as those in the US.”

“In the last five to seven years, the people's rising income and wealth have supported a robust property sector. There has been much wealth creation from the rapid economic growth that has been used for property investment,” he said.

Rothman said that to cushion against a potential hard landing in the event of a recession in the US, the Chinese government had made huge allocation for a social safety net, including social security, education and welfare, for the people.

Citic Ka Wah Bank Hong Kong chief economist and strategist Dr Liao Qun said the biggest challenge for the Chinese government was to cool down the economy and ensure a soft landing should a global slowdown happen.

“China's economy will grow at 8% to 9% this year and 9% to 10% next year. In the absence of any macroeconomic control, the economy will grow at 15% per annum.

“In my opinion, rather than further raising interest rates to curb spending, it is of the utmost importance to manage inflation and adopt measures to raise food supply,” Liao added.

On the long-term outlook for property investors in China and the sustainability of the market boom, Poly Real Estate Group general manager Song Guangju said industry players were optimistic of the future potential of China's market.

“The market is massive and offer substantial opportunities in a broad range of property products. Developers need to spread their projects in the various Tier 1, 2 and 3 cities to balance out any potential risks in the event of a slowdown,” he said.

In the past 17 years, the Hong Kong-based Poly Real Estate has moved its focus to mainland China projects and has completed various projects, including townhouses and villas, and luxury apartments in various cities.

Property analysts said China's office sector would stay as one of the star performers going forward.

The completion of the Shanghai World Financial Centre - one of the world's tallest buildings – by mid-2008 will mark the start of the second office supply boom in Shanghai. The first one was from 1996 to 2001.

Cities across China are trying to copy the Pudong model in creating new central business districts.

ZY Real Estate associate June Wang said that in the medium term, office demand would continue on an upward trend in major Tier 2 commercial hubs such as Ningbo, Hangzhou and Chengdu, as companies eagerly try to tap into China's growing domestic market.

“Good quality office space is recording significant rental premiums and attracting prestigious tenants,” she said.

By The Star (by Angie Ng)

CapitaLand has 30 ongoing projects

CapitaLand’s Summit Residences in Ningbo

CAPITALAND Ltd is expanding its presence in China with 100 ongoing projects in the residential, service apartment, office, shopping mall and integrated commercial property sectors.

Since making its debut in China with its maiden development in Shanghai in 1994, the Singapore-based real estate company today has a total asset value of more than S$6.5bil in the country.

Last year, CapitaLand China recorded S$1bil revenue from the sale of 2,500 residential properties.

CapitaLand (China) Investment Co Ltd deputy chief executive officer Jason Leow said the company expected the number of units sold this year to be significantly higher with contributions from its joint-venture companies in Chengdu and Henan Zhengzhou. CapitaLand's management centres in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu and Zhengzhou are springboards for a pan-China presence in the Bohai Economic Rim, Yangtze River Delta, Pearl River Delta, Southwest China and Central China.

“As a long-term player, CapitaLand sees tremendous potential in China, which is the world's fastest growing real estate market. In the next three to five years, the company will be building more than 35,000 housing units in various cities throughout China,” Leow told Malaysian journalists on a recent trip to Shanghai.

The company's residential projects in China comprise mainly medium to upmarket apartments, with price tags for most developments ranging from 600,000 and 2 million yuan a unit.

Currently, CapitaLand has more than 30 ongoing projects in the various cities that offer residences with built-up areas of between 800 and 2,500 sq ft, priced from 600,000 yuan a unit.

Projects planned for the next one to two years include Summit Residences in Ningbo, I-World in Hangzhou, La Capitale and The Pines in Beijing, The Loft in Chengdu and The Riveria in Foshan.

According to Leow, China's urban populace currently makes up 40% of its total population and by 2030, the urban ratio will increase to 60%.

“This means 15 million new urban residents will be added a year and the number of new housing areas will have to be increased accordingly.

“On a yearly basis, 20 million sq m of houses, which is equivalent to 200,000 homes, are been sold in Shanghai alone. But limited land is available for development within the city centre now, and this explains the severe housing shortage in the city centre,” he added.

In the retail property sector, CapitaLand currently owns 33 retail malls across China.

Under its expansion plan, memorandums of understanding have been signed to acquire another 35 malls in various cities, including Beijing, Guangdong, Sichuan, Shandong and Inner Mongolia.

Since the completion of Raffles City Shanghai in 2003, CapitaLand's Raffles City integrated commercial development will also be making waves in China's gateway cities with three projects ongoing in Beijing, Chengdu and Hangzhou.

He said the commercial projects that had been completed included Raffles City Shanghai and Capital Tower Beijing, with total gross floor area of 241,443 sq m.

Projects under construction, comprising Raffles City Beijing, Raffles City Chengdu, Raffles City Hangzhou, Capital Plaza Ningbo and Shanghai Zhabei 313, will offer gross floor area of 743,908 sq m.“In the service residences sector, CapitaLand is targeting to expand its portfolio to 10,000 residences by 2010 from 4,200 units now.

“CapitaLand's Ascott, the largest leading international service residence company in China, currently operates 22 properties with about 4,200 units,” Leow said.

By The Star

How to pick our community leaders

Living in the sky can be very pleasant - if everybody works together as a team

Are you inspired by the outcome of the recent general election? Do you too think you have what it takes to “govern” an area, so its people can prosper?

If you live in an apartment or condominium and answered “yes”, you may be just the person your building’s management body needs.

Sure, at times, the work to ensure the smooth running of your community can be perplexing; even bewildering. But if you care for the future of your loved ones and yourself, have determination, and an outlook that you can make the difference, you have the makings of a member.

What the law says
Whether the group running your project is called a Management Corporation (MC), a Joint Management Body (JMB) or a Residents’ Association (RA), it is essentially an assembly of unit (or parcel) owners all looking out for their best interests.

The only thing setting these bodies apart is that an MC comes under a piece of legislation known as the Strata Titles Act, 1985, while a JMB is under the new Building and Common Property (Management and Maintenance) Act, 2007 (BCP Act). As for an RA, it is a voluntary organisation registered as a society.

Your fellow owners and you can form a JMB soon after taking possession of the keys to your units – you don’t have to wait until your developer calls for the first annual general meeting of buyers to have a say on how your project will be managed and maintained.

All too often, however, only a few stratified unit owners turn up or are interested in managing the project. Call it apathy if you wish, but what this means is that the handful of volunteers who are willing to serve will be burnt out after some years of providing their service … and why your project needs you.

Challenging duties
Under the BCP Act, a JMB should be made up of between five and 12 unit owners, while the Strata Titles Act (that comes into the picture as soon as strata titles have been issued) states that an MC should consist of between three and 14 owners.

Sitting in any of these bodies does not attract any financial gain – as mentioned earlier, it’s all voluntary. However, the duties are great as people’s lives as well as the preservation of their investments are at stake.

Following the saying that “behind every successful man is a woman”, it is vital for every good JMB or MC to be headed by a leader with the vision, commitment, knowhow and people skills to drive the team.

He or she must also be somebody who recognises “the right things” and can motivate others to get those things done.

The other attributes should include:

• Ability to accept criticism: Nobody in a position of power can escape criticism, but a good leader knows how to discern criticism and when to accept it.

• An open mind: A leader must be able to approach a problem creatively. Perspective is an invaluable leadership tool. A council or committee that is afraid of change will stagnate.

• Strong communication skills: Some council members might be valuable and productive, but not particularly articulate. A good leader, however, must be able to express ideas clearly and persuasively.

• Decisiveness: Taking a stand involves making mistakes. A good leader takes a stand and if an error is made, acknowledges it and corrects the situation.

• Enthusiasm: This is contagious. With it, council members can be motivated to keep on volunteering. Without it, voluntary work can become a burden.

• Leadership by example: A good leader arrives on time, never shirks responsibilities and demonstrates good work habits. He or she also instils cooperation among volunteers and pitches in alongside them instead of ordering them about.

• Listening to others: A good leader sources for and uses other’s ideas and gives credit when it is due.

• Ability to solve problems: The good leader uses knowledge and experience to help get the job done.

• Sensitivity: A genuinely caring leader inspires confidence in others, which in turn leads to results. Leaders delegate, give and seek constructive feedback, criticise constructively without attacking personalities and know how and when to give praise.

• Providing sound judgment: A good leader has the ability to identify and prioritise issues, and then weigh the alternatives carefully before making decisions.

• Taking responsibility: A good leader never blames others for problems. If you think you possess all these qualities, congratulations! But as the final test before you offer your services, consider these questions:

• Can you understand the functions of the MC and are you familiar with significant events in your community? If not, you might end up being the proverbial stick in the mud, bogging down the MC.

• Are you genuinely interested in your community and its activities? Other members will know if you’ve got a hidden agenda or selfish reason for being part of the MC.

• Do you have time to attend meetings? There’s little point in being part of the team if your work or other commitments cause infrequent participation.

If you now get the feeling that an MC is like a mini government, you’re not far wrong. Your “citizenship” and right to be part of it comes from your ownership, whether you like it or not.

From our experience, we at the National House Buyers Association have noticed three types of owners: Those who make things happen; those who wait for things to happen; and those who ask, “What happened?” Which group do you belong to?

The National House Buyers Association is a voluntary, non-profit, non-political organisation manned by volunteers. For information, email: or surf to

By New Straits Times

Dijaya mulls land sale for RM25m

PROPERTY developer Dijaya Corp Bhd is mulling the sale of its 207ha agricultural land in Perak for some RM25 million to help fund its Tropicana City mixed development in Petaling Jaya.

"We may consider selling the land in Behrang. The money can then be used to top up the working capital for Tropicana City," Dijaya managing director Tong Kien Onn told Business Times in an interview.

SHOPPING CENTRE: Tong with a model of the Tropicana Mall

The company recently took out a RM120 million bridging loan to finance the three-storey shopping centre Tropicana Mall, which is part of the Tropicana City development that includes a 601-unit apartment and a 12-storey office tower.

According to Dijaya's latest annual report, the book value for the 207ha agricultural freehold land in Behrang is RM13 million.

"We bought the land in 1995. Today, its market value should be between RM23 million and RM25 million," Tong said.

Covering 3.6ha, the Tropicana City development is located at the intersection of the Sprint Expressway and Lebuhraya Damansara Puchong. Located in SS2, it borders Section 17, Damansara Kim, Damansara Utama and Damansara Jaya neighbourhoods.

"The slight delay in the construction of Tropicana Mall is due to the rising costs in building materials like steel bar and cement," Tong said. The original completion date was June this year, but it has now been pushed to September.

"Accessibility to Tropicana City is a priority and thus we are willing to spend RM15 million on the traffic dispersal flyover. All in, this development will have seven entry points and six exits," he said.

With 390,000 sq ft of net lettable space at the proposed Tropicana Mall, Dijaya has signed on 60 per cent of the retail space with committed tenants at rentals of between RM3 per sq ft and RM20 per sq ft.

Tong also said the company has sold 70 per cent of the 601 apartment units called The Tropics, with built-ups ranging between 600 sq ft and 1,300 sq ft.

"We are seeing good take-up at The Tropics among young professionals because of the convenience and comfort the Tropicana City offers," he said.

On the office tower, Tong said Dijaya had initially planned to sell the units but now finds it is more worthwhile to lease them.

"With 105,000 sq ft of net lettable space, we are looking at RM4.50 per sq ft rental," he said.

By New Straits Times (by Ooi Tee Ching)

JCorp wants three more hotels

JOHOR Corp (JCorp) plans to add at least another three hotels in Johor within the next five years, to ease the current shortage in the state as well as to promote Persada Johor International Convention Centre.

It plans to add one luxury-class hotel and two three-star category hotels to its existing stable of five hotels, four of which are in Johor and it has signed-up to manage one other hotel in Saudi Arabia.

Shafiqul Hafiz, deputy chairman of Puteri Hotels Sdn Bhd (a subsidiary of JCorp), said that JCorp will open a luxury hotel near Persada Johor that will be ready within the next two to three years time. The hotel will be managed by the group's hotel management arm, Puteri Hotels.

"The hotel, which is still in the planning stages, will be located next to Persada and will have between 300 and 350 rooms," Shafiqul told Business Times.

"We are targeting to position it as a luxury-class hotel due to the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) market using Persada," he said.

He expects to see a spillover from Singapore, given the high average room rates and the proposed opening of the two casinos in the island state.

"If plans for the Iskandar Malaysia development take off as planned, we expect to see a change in (guest) profile in Johor Baru," Shafiqul said, adding that a bigger expatriate crowd can be expected in the state.

"Our chairman Tan Sri Muhammad Ali Hashim has a vision to transform the hospitality environment in Johor. He was the one responsible in bringing the first international standard Persada Johor Convention Centre into Johor," he said.

It is learnt that a good luxury hotel in Johor city can cost about RM1 million per room including interior design. This means that this hotel could cost between RM300 million and RM350 million to be built.

Meanwhile, the second hotel will likely be located in the Bandar Dato Onn project, about 10 km from Johor Baru, with the third in a yet-to-be-decided location in Johor Baru city.

Bandar Dato Onn is a township developed by Johor Land Bhd, which is majority owned by JCorp.

"The hotel in Bandar Dato Onn will have about 150-rooms, while the one in town will have about 300 rooms," Shafiqul said.

JCorp and its subsidiaries own or operate the Persada Johor, The Puteri Pacific Johor Baru, Sibu Island Resort, Hotel Selesa Pasir Gudang, Hotel Selesa Johor Baru and Selesa Beach Resort Port Dickson.

The hotel management deal in Saudi Arabia is with Arab Resorts Areas Co (Arac). It is wholly-owned by one of the largest conglomerate from the Middle East - the Taiba Investment and Real Estate Development Corp.

By New Straits Times (by Vasantha Ganesan)

No letup in KLCC price rise

Foreign investors are buying the comparatively cheaper high-end condos

Property prices in the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) area will continue to rise, as more and more foreign investors snap up the country's comparatively cheaper high-end condominiums, said veteran international property consultant Datuk Abdul Rahim Rahman.

Abdul Rahim, who is chairman of Savills Rahim & Co, is confident that KLCC prices would increase further as land and building material prices continue to soar, mainly due to the hike in crude oil prices.

Datuk Abdul Rahim Rahman

He said property prices were rising not only in Malaysia but also elsewhere.

“The bubble will not burst in the KLCC area as it attracts foreign investors. Investors are getting more and more sophisticated. When they go from city to city to invest in property, they want the best location and KLCC has it all,” he told StarBiz, adding that all the developments in the KLCC area (residential and commercial) that had been completed were well sought-after.

Abdul Rahim said there was a time when people were shocked at the high prices of condominiums in and around KLCC but when prices increased rapidly, new benchmark prices were recorded and response from investors, especially from foreigners, remained good.

He said this was because Malaysian property prices were cheaper than many countries in the region, including China, Hong Kong, Singapore and even Indonesia.

Even areas on the fringe of the KLCC have shown a marked increased in prices. For example, he said, two proposed high-end residential projects in the vicinity of Jalan Madge and Jalan U-Thant in Kuala Lumpur would be priced between RM1,000 and RM1,300 per sq ft (psf).

The one at Jalan Madge, called 9Madge, was soft launched by invitation over the weekend. The low-density freehold development of only 23 units will have two- to five-bedroom units of 1,800 sq ft to 8,200 sq ft (average 3,600 sq ft). It will feature exclusive penthouses with rooftop gardens and tropical themed gardens in a gated and guarded community. It will also have state-of-the-art, four-tier security system and is 1.5km from KLCC and the Petronas Twin Towers.

The other project at Jalan Penggawa (also bearing the exclusive Taman U-Thant address) is slated for launch in August. Interestingly, South Korean companies are involved in the two projects, which goes to show the amount of interest shown by foreign developers in high-end Malaysian properties.

Abdul Rahim said secondary transactions in the Jalan Madge and Jalan U-Thant areas had risen to as much as RM1,500 psf.

His advice for investors is to buy at the right location and at the right time. “You will not go wrong if the location of your property is good,” he said, adding that there were also insufficient high-end offices in the KLCC area. “Supply (of offices) cannot meet demand. In fact, there is hardly any new Grade A office building in the KLCC area. I know one but cannot reveal it as yet,” he said.

(The latest was the en bloc sale of a 50-storey office tower called Menara Felda in the newly launched RM3.5bil Platinum Park in KLCC for RM640.7mil or about RM930 psf.)

He said a Grade A office tower in the KLCC could fetch over RM1,000 psf and there was good demand for such buildings not just from foreign companies but also foreign funds.

“The rental of Menara Uni.Asia (where his company is) in Jalan Sultan Ismail was about RM2.50 psf five years ago when we moved in, but it has since gone up to RM5 psf and it is fully occupied,” he added.

Abdul Rahim, executive chairman of Rahim & Co Chartered Surveyors Sdn Bhd which he founded in 1976, has four children – a boy and three girls. Two of his children are working with him.

He was president of the International Real Estate Federation (FIABCI) Malaysian Chapter (1982-1986), president of Asia Pacific Real Estate Federation (APREF from 1985 to 1988), and FIABCI deputy world president (1990-1992).

Abdul Rahim was also president of the Institution of Surveyors, Malaysia (1986-1987) and Association of Valuers & Property Consultants in Private Practice, Malaysia (1990-1994).

He is also active in politics, being the current Umno Pasir Mas division chairman and Kelantan Umno treasurer.

By The Star (by S.C.Cheah)

The designer’s dilemma

Ideas may be aplenty, but creating a great interior is best approached by looking through the eyes of the owner

I have been asked many times in my profession as an interior design consultant what is it exactly that I do.

One word that sums it up is “advise” – on all matters pertaining to interior planning and design improvement from concept to implementation.

From the onset, designers can let their imagination go into overdrive and come out with a great deal of ideas … but only the one that best suits a particular client should be the style chosen.

I’m often reminded of the saying “One man’s meat is another man’s poison”, and don’t believe in forcing design ideas down my clients’ throats.

Thus, understanding an individual’s needs and lifestyle is vital, especially if the design project involves a private residence. For commercial jobs, my preference would be to focus on a specific theme or image that the business is striving to portray.

In this modern day and age, we often hear “fashionable” words such as “Zen”, “avantgarde”, “Balinese” and so on being used. While these flowery words can depict trends, they are quite meaningless if the people who will be using the space cannot appreciate their benefits.

A concept is only as good as its ability to create an environment that can bring out the best in people, and it shouldn’t be applied just because it makes for good conversation when the occasional visitor drops by. This is because when the last guest leaves and the lights are dimmed, design just for design’s sake can make for a very uncomfortable experience.

Having said that, coming out with good design that can suit a user can be difficult, especially when the client is fickle or hard to understand.

I vividly remember one who, for some reason or other, loves halogen lighting. Even the lighting specialist I brought in failed to convince her of the drawbacks of installing them in her living room. And today, her home turns into a sauna whenever she entertains guests at night.

Her air-conditioning system doesn’t stand a chance against the number of lights she wanted and I’m sure the electric company has her on its preferred customer list.

As a consultant, it pains me whenever advice I impart is not heeded. It pains me even more knowing that because of this disregard, the user has to settle for a less than ideal environment and in all probability, is wasting money.

So, what is it again that I do for a living?

By New Straits Times (by Ian Lam)

Ian Lam is a freelance interior design consultant with over 20 years of experience. He shares his views out of his love for the art and science of his profession. For inquires, email him at maxfiver@

Quill Capita Trust plans to expand real estate size

The strong commercial property market in Malaysia augurs well for real estate investment trusts (REITs) to expand their asset portfolio and increase their yield potential.

Quill Capita Trust (QCT), which was listed on the main board of Bursa Malaysia in January last year, has proven to be one of the fastest growing REITs in the country through proactive asset acquisition strategies.

Managed by Quill Capita Management Sdn Bhd, the trust looks set to continue its acquisition trail and expand its real estate size to RM750mil by the end of this year from RM549mil as at last December.

Quill Capita Management is 40% owned by Singapore's CapitaLand Financial Ltd through wholly owned unit CapitaLand RECM Pte Ltd, with Quill Resources Holding Sdn Bhd and Coast Capital Sdn Bhd each holding a 30% stake.

QCT is the first REIT listed outside of Singapore by CapitaLand Ltd.

CapitaLand has listed CapitaMall Trust, CapitaCommercial Trust and CapitaRetail China Trust on the Singapore Exchange Securities Trading Ltd.

According to Quill Capita Management chief executive officer Chan Say Yeong, QCT is confident of expanding its asset portfolio through the pipeline of projects by its sponsors, the Quill Group of Companies and CapitaLand, as well as through acquisitions from third parties.

Chan Say Yeong

“We have a strong pipeline of projects going forward and QCT is on track to hit an asset size of RM750mil by year-end under a plan to expand the number and geographical spread of local properties under its umbrella.

“Quill and CapitaLand have undertaken to grant a right of first refusal to the trust for any commercial building to be disposed or purchased by them. If they want to sell, they have to give the first right to QCT. And we won't stop at RM750mil. Quill and CapitaLand have a strong pipeline of assets and are currently developing some prime projects,” Chan added.

QCT currently has nine buildings in Cyberjaya, the Kuala Lumpur city centre, Mont' Kiara and other areas in Klang Valley after completing the acquisition of three more buildings from the Quill Group of Companies last month.

“Our assets have grown by another 17% to RM643mil from RM549mil as at Dec 31, 2007, and our asset base has diversified to other parts of the Klang Valley like Glenmarie and Petaling Jaya. This makes us more well spread geographically.

“We are also talking to some third-party vendors and, if we realise the acquisitions, we are quite comfortable of achieving RM750mil,” Chan said.

He said another potential pipeline for QCT's asset expansion programme was via Malaysia Commercial Development Fund (MCDF), a private equity fund with a fund size of US$270mil managed by CapitaLand.

“The fund can build up to RM2bil to RM3bil worth of assets over the next three to five years, and we have first right of refusal to those buildings,” he added.

MCDF, which was closed last March, has six ongoing projects in Kuala Lumpur worth a total gross development value of more than RM3bil. Upon their completion in the next three years, the projects will most likely be injected into QCT.

Since its listing, QCT has outperformed its forecast distribution per unit (DPU) and delivered total returns of 62% as at Dec 31, 2007.

One of QCT’s substantial unitholders is CapitaCommercial Trust, which owns a 30% stake. CapitaCommercial Trust chief executive officer Lynette Leong said QCT had been a successful platform for CapitaCommercial Trust to grow its investment in Malaysia.

“The strong distribution growth and above average total returns have been achieved through the implementation of its acquisition growth strategy, pro-active asset management and prudent capital management,” Leong said.

She said Malaysia's REIT market, which was still relatively untapped, had room to grow.

“The Kuala Lumpur office market exhibits continued strength, with limited supply and businesses still expanding,” Leong said.

By The Star

REITs may debut in China in one to two years

Real estate investment trusts (REITs) may make its debut in China in the next one to two years if efforts by the Chinese government and industry players to promote the new investment instrument bear fruit.

Being the world's fastest growing real estate market with substantial commercial property assets that are of investment grade, China has the potential to be a huge “REIT phenomenon” if the legislation for a REIT market is put in place.

In fact, REIT has become the latest investment fad to catch on in a big way in the global real estate arena with countries around the world rushing to establish REIT markets.

“REIT is now the hottest new asset class in Asia after having proven its worth in other parts of the world, especially in the US, Australia and Singapore. It augurs well for industry players as it will add depth and promote greater professionalism and growth of the real estate industry,” a foreign fund manager said.

He said REITs offered property owners a means to realise their capital investment and to hold their investments in a more liquid form.

“Real estate is an illiquid asset. By dividing the ownership of the asset into smaller units, they are turned into liquid assets and the owners can unlock their investment to venture into other business opportunities, including building more good investment-grade properties,” the fund manager added.

Meanwhile, unit holders get a chance to invest in a professionally managed portfolio of investment-grade real estate properties and receive stable annual yields in the form of dividends.

For a REIT investment to be viable, investors will be looking at net yields of at least 6% to 8% per annum.

CapitaLand, which has an extensive exposure in China's real estate market, is one of the industry players eager to see a China REITs market taking off.

According to CapitaLand (China) Investment Co Ltd deputy chief executive officer Jason Leow, there has been a lot of discussion on the subject and the Chinese authorities have shown great interest and gone on study trips in successful REIT markets, including Singapore.

“REITs will provide an excellent alternative investment product for the Chinese public, who have until now been limited to just real estate and equity.

“The general public are familiar with the residential sector but as China grows, there is an increasing demand for retail and commercial spaces. REITs allow the general public to enjoy the growth in the various property sectors without having to physically own and manage these assets,” Leow said.

CapitaLand's rapid expansion in China has led to the listing of CapitaRetail China Trust (CRCT) on the Singapore Exchange Securities Trading Ltd in December 2006.

The first pure-play China retail REIT in Singapore has seven malls in five cities across China that are anchored by Wal-Mart, Carrefour and Beijing Hualian Group.

As at Feb 29, CRCT's market capitalisation was about S$1.01bil, with a total asset size of S$1.1bil.

Since its initial public offering, CRCT's unit price has risen 90.3%.

Besides the REIT, CapitaLand has also set up private real estate funds for its expanding operations in China.

It now has six private equity funds worth US$2.4bil in China: CapitaLand China Residential Fund, CapitaLand China Development Fund, CapitaRetail China Development Fund, CapitaRetail China Incubator Fund, CapitaRetail China Development Fund II and Ascott Serviced Residence (China) Fund.

By The Star

Keen interest in The Chicago Sphires

Savills Rahim & Co manages to close a few sales at the launch

The guest list at the Kuala Lumpur launch of The Chicago Spire at the Mandarin Oriental on April 2 comprised the who's who in Malaysia, with members of the royal family, corporate bigwigs and politicians eager to know more about the world's tallest exclusively-residential building.

Selling agents Savills Rahim & Co which hosted the launch closed a few sales that day. “We're confident of having five buyers, possibly more soon. This (number) is quite big to be sold in KL for such a high-end property,” said Savills Rahim & Co chairman Datuk Abdul Rahim Rahman.

Indeed, at a lofty height of 150 floors and soaring 2,000 ft (609.6m), The Chicago Spire is higher than the current world's tallest building, the Taipeh 101. It is also taller than the Petronas Twin Towers, at one time the tallest buildings in the world. The Burj Dubai at 2,500 ft currently under construction will take the crown. Penang Hill is 2,723ft above sea level.

If you are the proud owner of The Chicago Spire, you may feel that your “castle in the sky” deserves the accolade of the world's most prestigious residential address. In fact, it is already hailed as the world's “most significant residential development.”

With the rest of the world literally at one's feet, it may be difficult for the lucky owners to suppress that “high and mighty” feeling, as their residences spiral over bustling Chicago that is bidding to host the 2016 Olympics. The city has the 19th largest economy in the world with a GDP of US$423bil in 2005.

Although The Chicago Spire commands a premium price over other condominiums in Chicago, the price from US$800,000 for a suite or from US$1.35mil for a one-bedroom apartment is not an issue with astute investors who know a good investment property when they see one. A two-bedroom apartment is priced from US$1.65mil while a penthouse at US$40mil!

Units range in size from 534 sq ft (49.61sm) to 10,293 sq ft (956.25sm) for a duplex penthouse with 360-degree views.

Situated on a 2.2-acre site where the Chicago River meets Lake Michigan, The Chicago Spire is developed by Ireland's Shelbourne Development Group.

Construction began in June 2007. When completed in the fourth quarter of 2011, it will have 1,194 residences where no two apartments are alike. Each suite, gallery and one to four bedroom residences and penthouse will offer a unique floor plan and outstanding city or lakefront views, each designed by Spain's renowned architect Santiago Calatrava. His projects include the Turning Torso Tower in Sweden, Olympic Complex in Greece and the City of Arts and Sciences in Spain.

The Chicago Spire will boast many firsts. Besides being the tallest condominium in the world, it is also the tallest building in North America and the western world. It will also be the most slender super-tall building in the world and will have the world's longest elevator run at 1,864 ft (568.14m). Elevators will transport all residents from the ground floor directly to their floor with average waiting time of 30 to 32.5 seconds.

Since the first sales launch in Chicago on Jan 14 this year, the project had been on a global road show. More than 800 investors attended the recent launch in Singapore and Savills Singapore managing director Michael Ng had reported that “very strong sales were coming from both Singaporeans and expatriates.”

With the US in recession and the credit crunch, will The Chicago Spire fetch an early capital appreciation?

Savills & Co's Abdul Rahim believes that the US economy would recover after the presidential election in November and the subprime mortgage crisis would have tailed off by then.

“Business is booming in Malaysia. We have a growing wealthy middle and upper class, many of them have children studying in North America and many of them have spread their investments over international markets. We are confident the iconic and futuristic nature of the Chicago Spire will have a special appeal to our purchasers and the potential return on investment is very competitive,” he said.

Purchasers, he said, needed only pay a US$20,000 booking fee followed by a 10% deposit after 14 days and another 5% within six months and there would be no more progress payments until the project's completion. “There is a very high probability of purchasers enjoying capital appreciation when the project is completed,” he said, adding that buyers would enjoy a 7.5% guaranteed return for two years.

Shelbourne Development Ltd executive chairman Garrett Kelleher in an e-mail interview said historically, Chicago had not been subjected to the highs and lows of more volatile markets and it had seen sustained growth over 10 years.

He said interest outside the United States had been strong with international investors recognising the opportunities offered in investing in one of the world's major iconic projects.

“We have been overwhelmed by the interest in the project and we are currently on target with our sales. Located on the last available prime spot on the lake, The Chicago Spire's position offers a unique opportunity for buyers,” he said, adding that at US$40mil, the penthouse would be the most expensive apartment in Chicago.

By The Star - Property Talk - (by S.C.Cheah)

Merrill, CLSA raising big Asian property funds

BOAO (China): US investment bank Merrill Lynch and Asian brokerage CLSA are separately raising investment funds focused on Asian property, indicating continued confidence in the region's economies, executives from the two companies said at the weekend.

Merrill Lynch is raising a Pacific Rim real estate fund worth around US$2.5-US$3 billion, (US$1 = RM3.15) Damian Chunilal, Merrill's head of Pacific Rim origination,said yesterday.

It will invest in a variety of types of property across the Pacific Rim, including in India, Australia, Japan and the rest of Asia, he said.

CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets is raising a new roughly US$1 billion pan-Asia property fund that will focus on China, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore, chairman Rob Morrison said.

Both executives were speaking on the sidelines of the Boao Forum for Asia, being held on the southern Chinese island province of Hainan.

The launch of the funds comes at a time when many investors are looking to Asia as a safe haven in the wake of the credit crunch set off by US subprime woes, as others shop for deals in the US and Europe.

Merrill's fund is part of an increasing push by the largest US brokerage to build up third-party funds to do principal investing, Chunilal said.

"That's very much going to be a model that's repeated in the future with different types of funds," he said. "That's something we are very actively exploring at the moment."

The firm is also currently raising a European real estate fund, Chunilal said, without providing details. He added that other new funds could focus on private equity and possibly infrastructure.

Morrison said CLSA's fund would look to invest about 20-30 per cent of its cash in China. CLSA is the Asia-focused brokerage and investment banking arm of French bank Credit Agricole.

Other global investment banks are also planning to launch funds for Asian property. UBS recently said it plans to launch a roughly US$1 billion fund for investing in China.

Morgan Stanley and global investment firm Blackstone Group are also active in real estate in the region.

While European and US property markets are waning in the wake of the global credit crunch, Asia still shows signs of strength, recording a 26 per cent jump in direct property investment to US$121 billion in 2007, according to consultant Jones Lang LaSalle.

By Reuters