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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Gurney Paragon set to be Penang iconic landmark

The Gurney Paragon, a project by Hunza Properties Bhd, may boost the property value of the Pulau Tikus area on Penang island, its developer said.

Hunza is set to become Penang's first developer to include a heritage building in its development of a shopping mall, swanky condominiums and an office block.

RM1.2 Billion project: Khor with a model Gurney Paragon

"We believe that the success of this project will help us form the next iconic landmark for Penang," executive chairman Datuk Khor Teng Tong told a media briefing in Penang yesterday.

The project, which carries a gross development value of over RM1.2 billion and fronts the island's famed Gurney Drive promenade, also boasts a dual frontage with Jalan Kelawei.

Once completed by 2010, the project is due to create an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 jobs, Khor said.

Hunza is conserving the 92-year-old St Joseph's Novitiate Building and its chapel.

A nearby shrine - known as the National Shrine of the Boy Jesus - found in the grounds of the project site is set to be dismantled, salvaged and rebuilt at a new location within the site, Khor said.

"Hunza has budgeted RM10 million for the purpose of restoring St Joseph's Novitiate," he added, "and it is our plan to open the heritage building as well as the 60,000 sq ft open space fronting the novitiate to the public".

"Our business model," Khor noted, "will be similar to that of Singapore's CHIJmes (Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus) which was previously a school and now a real hot, hopping and happening place."

Universiti Sains Malaysia lecturer and built heritage expert Associate Professor Dr A. Ghafar Ahmad who is advising Hunza on the conservation said a Dilapidation Survey Report on the status of the heritage building was submitted to the Penang Island Municipal Council last year.

"The heritage building is basically in good condition and we intend to retain about 70 per cent of its original materials," he added.

Conservation works will start next year and will take about 18 months to complete.

By New Straits Times (by Marina Emmanuel)

UMLand to launch two more high-end condos

Anthony Yap (right) and Tang Chee Meng with a model of Suasana Bangsar at the launching ceremony.

KUALA LUMPUR; United Malayan Land Bhd (UMLand) will launch two more high-end condominiums in Kuala Lumpur this year following the launch of its Suasana Bangsar condominiums over the weekend. All three projects will have a gross development value of over RM1bil.

Group chief executive officer Anthony Yap said the 34-storey, 310-unit serviced apartment at Persiaran Chulan would be launched in the third quarter while the second project, a joint venture with Bolton Bhd, would be super condominiums to be launched by early 2009.

The super condominiums on 4.3 acres freehold land bordering Jalan Mayang and Jalan Yap Kwan Seng would have two 45-storey towers with low density, he said at the project launch on Saturday.

Yap said it was still “too early” to talk of pricing for the projects but assured that they would come with high quality finishes.

“Very few developers have the opportunity to have a piece of land of about four acres in a very prime location in KL,” he said, adding that the group’s two-pronged strategy was to develop high-end niche products and townships.

UMLand’s township projects are Bandar Seri Alam and Seri Austin (both in Johor), and Bandar Seri Putra in Bangi. It has two other high-end projects, the fully sold and completed Seri Bukit Ceylon, a freehold serviced residence, and the Suasana Sentral Loft in KL Sentral.

Yap said Suasana Sentral Loft, which just obtained the temporary certificate of fitness, was changing hands at RM600 per sq ft compared with the developer’s price of RM425 per sq ft. The Sommerset residences in Seri Bukit Ceylon are being transacted at RM700 per sq ft (original price: RM380 per sq ft).

On Suasana Bangsar, Yap said the 190-unit, freehold condominium project with a choice of two-, three- and four-bedroom suites of 1,100 sq ft (RM600,000) to 4,900 sq ft (RM2.4mil) for the penthouses, looked set to enjoy capital appreciation as prices of condominiums in Bangsar were rising rapidly.

Priced from RM550 per sq ft, Suasana Bangsar’s structure is designed to conform to UBC 1997 (American Uniform Building Code) Zone 1 in reference to seismic forces.

Features include a free form infinity pool, glass-encased gymnasium overlooking the swimming pool, sand pits, private whirlpool and two-storey high grand entrance.

Henry Butcher Marketing Sdn Bhd chief operating officer Tang Chee Meng said the prices of Bangsar’s high-end condominiums and apartments were now catching up with those in the KLCC area.

“One Menerung (next to Bangsar Shopping Centre) managed to bridge this gap when it hit RM1,300 per sq ft recently while other projects in Bangsar have also breached the RM1,000 per sq ft mark,” he added.

By The Star (by S.C.Cheah)

Launch of London projects in KL today

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian launch of London’s most exclusive riverside developments, St George Wharf and Battersea Reach, will be held at the Hilton Kuala Lumpur today from 7pm to 10pm.

St George Plc, London’s leading mixed-use developer, said in a statement its latest award winning developments would be exclusively launched in Asia this month.

Battersea Reach is a 13-acre riverside development of a brown field site on the south bank of the River Thames next to Wandsworth Bridge SW18.

Under current planning permissions, Battersea Reach when completed will have 1,072 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments and 12 penthouses as well as 282,256 sq ft of commercial space. The current release of Ensign House provides one- and two-bedroom apartments with prices from £384,950 (RM2.4mil)

St George Wharf is London’s most central riverside development, and provides spectacular views of the city skyline, including the London Eye and the Houses of Parliament.

When complete, St George Wharf will have over 1,410 private and 389 affordable homes.

The current release of Kestrel House provides apartment units with prices from £459,950 (RM2.87mil).

By The Star

Le Meridien expects growth to stay

For the past two-and-a-half years, Le Meridien Kuala Lumpur has put in a lot of efforts building its brand and has today emerged as a leading five-star hotel in the capital.

The 420-room hotel, which turns four in October this year, has grown both its average room rate (ARR) and revenue to a level that has put to rest all criticisms and concerns by industry observers on its marketing strategies and performance.

"We ended 2005 at an ARR of RM200 and we expect to close 2008 at an ARR of RM400 ... our revenue was RM40 million in (2005) and we expect RM80 million this year," general manager Martyn Standen said in an interview with Business Times.

"The outlook for the year is good as we know who we are, we know how to work with Hilton (adjoining neighbour), and we know how to take care of our corporate accounts and win new businesses," he said.

Standen said that hotel owner Daito Asia Development Sdn Bhd is in fact enjoying a return on investment, which is higher than a bank's return here.

Daito owns both Le Meridien and Hilton Kuala Lumpur located in KL Sentral.

Standen acknowledged that in the past Le Meridien had to play catch-up with Hilton, which has had a longer history and brand awareness in Malaysia.

"It was like the tortoise and hare (race). Our neighbour (Hilton) was certainly the hare and we were the tortoise. But since then, we have discovered some extra legs," he added.

The changes in management, support from its new owner Starwood and its location which is 28 minutes from the KL International Airport in Sepang, have lent further support in lifting its image.

Le Meridien saw ARR improve to RM350 last year, from RM276 in 2006.

Despite the increase in room rates, the hotel continued to maintain its occupancy at a healthy level of between 72 per cent and 75 per cent.

Some 60 to 65 per cent of its occupants are business guests, 10 per cent leisure and the balance are groups comprising corporate and leisure travellers.

Le Meridien's room to food and beverage revenue is split 62-38 per cent. The latter has improved from a 25 per cent contribution, following a US$2 million (RM6.4 million) investment that involved the introduction of Prime, its steak house and Latest Recipe.

Next year, Le Meridien hopes to grow its ARR by another 25 per cent to touch the RM500 mark.

"We have been increasing at 25 per cent over the last three years and anticipate that going into 2009 we would probably continue to do that," he said.

By New Straits Times - Business Times - (by Vasantha Ganesan)

Bright future for historic city

Bold, new plans aim to propel Malacca to greater heights

It is the birthplace of our country’s urban society. And, just as it did over 600 years ago, Malacca today is still continuing to attract attention from travellers the world over, making it our most endearing tourist magnet.

In three days’ time on April 15, Malacca city will celebrate its 19th anniversary of being declared a “Historical City” by the federal government.

In conjunction with this, we pay tribute to the country’s oldest settlement by shining the spotlight on its thrust to be a modern force, its endeavour to preserve the past and its goal to be as relevant to the nation and the world today as it was at the height of its glory.

Spearheaded by its Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam, Malacca has, over the past decade, been aggressively moving towards its target of being a fully developed state by 2010.

As a result, it recently recorded the highest growth among all states in the country at 6.1 per cent and managed to increase its tourist arrivals by one million a year.

It’s not resting on its laurels. To keep the economy on the boil and reinforce its appeal as an international destination, the state has put in place several plans. Here are some of them ….

Embracing the influx

Between 2004 and 2006, Malacca’s tourist arrivals increased from four million to 5.09 million and this year, the visitation is envisaged to rise to 6.8 million.

According to the state government, Malacca’s appeal lies in the fact that it offers something for everybody, being a place of history not only for local Malays, Chinese and Indians but also for former colonial powers such as the Portuguese, Dutch and British.

Statistics concur, showing the number of foreign tourists, particularly from Holland and the United Kingdom, to be on a steady rise.

To cope with the influx, many new hotels have mushroomed in recent years in response to the state’s call for its hospitality industry to make a greater impact.

Over the next two years, another 675 rooms are expected to be added to the existing leisure stock of 6,700 rooms.

Among the establishments that have already made their presence felt in the city centre are the five-star Holiday Inn, Legacy, Renaissance and Equatorial hotels, while in districts such as Alor Gajah, resort concepts in the vein of A’Famosa Resort have become pull factors for those wanting to escape back to nature.

Preserving the past

In addition to well-known protected heritage sites such as the old Dutch Square and the Portuguese A’Famosa fortress, the city has recently taken steps to revitalise its ever popular Jonker Street – or Jalan Hang Jebat – by giving it a much-needed facelift.

Dating back to the 17th century, this bazaar of antique shoplots represents one of the oldest (albeit smallest) Chinatowns in the world and is a major tourist attraction for the historical city.

After years of being overlooked which led to its dereliction, the focus to refresh the area’s historical face while giving its infrastructure a new lease of life has brought with it a vibrant energy that makes it more upmarket, cleaner and more appealing to foreign visitors.

Another important ongoing development is the rejuvenation of the Malacca River, which once served as the arterial lifeline of teh city.

The RM320 million beauti- fication project will turn the river into a major tourist draw complete with vibrant riverbank walkways, commercial and retail outlets as well as river boat tours.

The state is also expected to generate RM1 billion from spin off projects that will take place along the historic riverfront.

The modern touch To be as relevant to the future as it was important to the country’s past, Malacca has also acknowledged that it must give itself a modern look. Thus, its ambitious plan to establish an urban mass transport facility serviced by Southeast Asia’s first aerorail system.

By 2012, a suspended track will be added to the Malaccan skyline to allow commuters as well as tourists to smoothly commute in and out of the city centre and visit all its major attractions.

The RM586 million project, to be developed by Pyramid Express Sdn Bhd, has already been hailed for its cost effective concept – compared with the RM160 million per kilometre cost spent on Kuala Lumpur’s LRT system, Malacca’s version will cost RM57.6 million per kilometre.

Work on the 18.3km aerorail line is expected to start sometime next year and involve the development of 10 stations, each attached to a four-star hotel.

In addition to the aerorail, the state is also giving its Batu Berendam Airport a RM120 million upgrade so it can cater to larger aircrafts and more travellers.

Of the cost, 10 per cent or RM12 million is understood to be for land reclamation, 30 per cent or RM35 million for the expansion of the airstrip, 12 per cent or RM14 million for a new control tower and 20 per cent or RM24 million for a new landing terminal and aerobridge.

The state hopes that the improvements will qualify it as an international airport, which would enable the world’s tourists to fly directly into Malacca.

By New Straits Times (by Chris Prasad)

New age cities pave the way

The digital age and pressing environmental issues are shaping the way we will be living

Next year, two Asian cities situated miles apart from each other will showcase to the rest of the world their new epicentres for the 21st century. One will be along the Incheon waterfront in South Korea; the other in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

^The Songdo development has taken the digital route with its high-tech backbone

Masdar City sees the future as requiring green and clean living

In the former, 2,000 residents will soon be moving into homes currently being built on 1,500 acres of reclaimed land overlooking the Yellow Sea.

They won’t be “ordinary” homes – not at their price of US$500,000 (RM1.62 million). Instead, they will be “smart” and wired to facilities such as a medical station that can measure the vital health signs of the residents. And if residents so desire, their blood pressures and pulse rates can be transmitted securely to the Seoul National University Hospital, where doctors can provide personalised recommendations for daily exercise and diet.

That’s not all: Residents will also be able to receive traffic reports via their computers on what alternative roads to take should there be congestion in the city.

Digital city
Parents in this South Korean community can also monitor their children’s whereabouts via a mobile device, while teachers will be able to know if a student has completed an assignment via smart-card readers.

When the US$30 billion (RM96 billion) Songdo International Business District (Songdo IBD) ultimately becomes home to 65,000 residents (as well as another 300,000 made up of daily commuters, business people and visitors), it will be among the world’s most environmentally sustainable and technologically advanced cities.

Songdo IBD, South Korea

Its developer, New Songdo International City Development, LLC (NSIC) – a joint venture formed by Korean-based Posco E&C and United States-based Gale International – envisions Songdo to be the ideal 21st century city.

Master-planned as a “U” city (which is the abbreviation for “ubiquitous”, the local term for a digital city), it will boast the most advanced digital infrastructure imaginable, from blanket wireless Internet coverage and automated recycling to universal smart cards that can pay bills, access medical records and open doors.

The U-lifestyle
The city, designated a Free Economic Zone, will consist of some 50 million square feet of commercial space, 35 million square feet of residential accommodation, 15 million square feet of retail lots as well as hotels and schools.

To give room to breathe, 40 per cent of its space will be open, within which will be a 100-acre Central Park.

In Songdo’s business district, its architectural centrepiece will be the 65-storey, 1.3 million square feet Northeast Asia Trade Tower (NEATT) that will be annexed to a 400,000sq ft Convention Centre and 1.25 million square feet Retail Mall.

All the offices and residential units in the development will incorporate computers that will collect data from swipe cards and sensors and channel them to its “U-life” management centre, a facility to be operated by Songdo U-Life LLC, a joint venture between Gale International and LG Electronics’ subsidiary LGCNS – the creator of the city’s digital backbone.

Despite all the intelligence, NSIC is counting on success to come from Songdo’s location 20 minutes drive from Seoul’s international airport at Incheon.

Currently ranked number one in Asia and the world, this gateway to South Korea and indeed, Northeast Asia, is just a three-hour flight time from 60 of Asia’s largest cities and in a region holding 35 per cent of the world’s population with a combined gross domestic product worth an estimated US$1.3 trillion (RM4.2 trillion).

Carbon-neutral city
With Songdo aiming to be Northeast Asia’s financial and economic hub and Singapore and Hong Kong already anchoring Southeast Asia, it seems only obvious that either Dubai or Abu Dhabi in the Middle East be the hub for Northwest Asia.

Come 2009, Abu Dhabi, the world’s fourth largest oil exporter, will have a new “Green Community” development covering six square kilometres called Masdar City.

The brainchild of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed Zayed Al Nahyan, it is part of the US$15 billion (RM48 billion) “Masdar Initiative” programme that seeks to position the capital as the global leader in clean energy and sustainable development.

Masdar City, which will be slightly larger than Songdo, has been master-planned by British architectural firm Foster & Partners to initially accommodate 50,000 people though the eventual population will be double.

In keeping with its green theme, it will be a carbonneutral city leveraging on the most modern innovations in energy efficiency, sustainable practices, resource recycling, biodiversity, transportation and green building standards.

Entirely self-sustaining
Even before it is completed, Masdar City will be a green development with a large photovoltaic power plant powering its construction. Later in its life, the land surrounding it will be used as wind and photovoltaic farms, research fields and plantations to ensure self-sustainability.

To encourage walking, it will also be car free and have a compact network of shaded pedestrian-friendly streets, where the maximum distance to the nearest transport link and amenities will be only 200m.

Living examples
Within the walled city will be a Special Free Zone (SFZ), an economic area with a minimum carbon footprint where 1,500 companies will enjoy special incentives such as onestop access to government services, full foreign ownership, no taxes and intellectual property protection.

Supporting the SFZ will be facilities and services such as the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, the Research Network, light industries, laboratories and selected international tenants.

Both South Korea’s Songdo and Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City are two innovative initiatives responding to today’s most pressing issues: Energy crisis, environmental threats and the sustainability of developments.

Both carry the mission of being living examples of the urban conurbations of the future and the hope that one day, all cities in the world will be built like them.

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.

Commercial assets still the rage

Office buildings continue to be the darling among global investors, but the scene could be changing

Last year might have marked the time when global investors first began feeling bearish about future prospects. But still, their appetite for commercial real estate remained healthy.

According to the Global Capital Trends survey conducted by United Statesbased research firm Real Capital Analytics (RCA), over US$1 trillion (RM3.2 trillion) worth of commercial properties in 75 countries were traded in 2007.

Of these, an astounding 32,000 assets went for at least US$10 million (RM32 million) a piece!

RCA also found that office buildings accounted for 42 per cent or US$434 billion (RM1.39 trillion) of total sales, while retail complexes came second, with 17 per cent or US$173 billion (RM554 billion).

The firm’s description of “commercial real estate” includes industrial parks, hotels, commercial development sites and apartment projects.

Despite “2007 (being) a year when the long bull market came to an end” as a result of the ongoing credit crunch in developed markets, it said investors were still making record cross-border investments in property.

The trend was particularly noticeable in Asia where “strong urban growth continues to overcome the disruption in the world’s credit markets”, said RCA, pointing out that four Asian countries are among the world’s top 12 nations that lured 90 per cent of total global property sales.

Leading the Asian pack was China, which accounted for US$59.6 billion (RM190.7 billion) or 40 per cent of all acquisitions made in the region. Of the amount, 84 per cent involved land for commercial development.

Other top Asian countries were Japan with US$38.1 billion (RM121.9 billion); Singapore US$18.6 billion (RM59.5 billion); and Hong Kong US$14.4 billion (RM46.1 billion).

Malaysia, which sold about US$2 billion (RM6.4 billion) worth of commercial stock, was ranked eighth on the Asian list.

RCA also found that office buildings in Singapore were sold at an average of US$1,000 (RM3,200) per square foot, putting them slightly ahead of those in the United Kingdom, which averaged US$979 (RM3,133) per square foot. However, it said London’s buildings were the world’s priciest at US$1,257 (RM4,023) per square foot.

In terms of yields, the research firm found that the office buildings in the 12 nations that enjoyed the most trades averaged six per cent, but in Asia, it was below five per cent.

Sale and leaseback deals also increased last year to US$56 billion (RM179.2 billion), and made up about 10 per cent of the trades done in Europe, Asia and Africa. To encourage greater

volumes of cross-border investments in the future, RCA advised that countries wanting to continue attracting commercial property investors to their shores should strive for higher levels of transparency.

By New Straits Times (by P Rajan)

Sunway International to run luxury hotel in Hanoi

SUNWAY International Hotels & Resorts (SIHR) has added to its regional portfolio another hotel management contract.

The Malaysian-based hospitality group recently signed an agreement with Vietnam Investment Promotion Company (VIPTOUR) in Hanoi to engage SIHR to operate and manage an international five star luxury hotel at No. 281 Doi Can Street, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi.

The luxury hotel is scheduled to be completed in 2010 to commemorate the Great 1000 year Anniversary of Hanoi city.

“We are looking forward to our partnership with SIHR as we are assured of the value they will bring with their reputation and experience in the hotel management industry,” Dr Nguyen Quoc Hung, VIPTOUR’s general director said in a statement yesterday.

The Malaysian-based hospitality group owns and manages almost 20 hotels and resorts under two hotel brand names, namely Sunway Hotels & Resorts and Allson Hotels & Resorts in Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam.

VIPTOUR was first established in 1950 under the management of Vietnam’s Governmental Minister Office. In 1993, it was re-established under the management of National Administration of Tourism along with state owned companies with core businesses, included tourism services, transportation, hospitality, property management and event management.

By Bernama

Fewer IJM property launches seen

IJM Corp Bhd, the country's second biggest builder, may cut down on planned property launches due to weak demand, CreditSuisse said in a report.

The report comes barely a month after IJM managing director Datuk Krishnan Tan Boon Seng said some projects in Selangor and Penang might be delayed as new state governments take charge.

Already the Selangor state government is considering scrapping some property joint ventures where companies linked to IJM, such as Talam Corp Bhd and Kumpulan Europlus (Keuro) Bhd, have been active participants.

IJM owns a quarter of Keuro, which in turn is the single largest stakeholder, owning some 42 per cent of Talam, once the country's biggest builder of low-cost houses.

Selangor Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim said last week that some of the ventures don't have terms favourable to the state.

Business Times understands that Talam has several outstanding issues with Kumpulan Darul Ehsan Bhd's listed units, and is in talks to offset some claims on land in Kuala Langat and nearby areas.

Meanwhile, CreditSuisse expects IJM to halve the value of fresh property launches per annum.

"We are comfortable with our domestic sales assumptions of between RM500 million and RM700 million worth of property launches per annum," analyst Danny Goh wrote in a report based on a meeting with IJM's management.

However, IJM will still boost its order book to RM8 billion as it is in advance negotiations for some RM1.4 billion worth of projects abroad.

Locally, it is eyeing the RM500 million National Centre Institute project and some RM500 million worth of sub-contract work to help build a double tracking line.

IJM, which has seen a steep decline in foreign ownership to 47 per cent from a peak of 64 per cent, may also sell some of its mature property assets to keep its earnings momentum.

For the year ended March 31 2007, IJM posted a net profit of RM194.3 million versus RM160.4 million in the same period a year ago.

By New Straits Times - Business Times - (by Francis Fernandez)

IJM venture wins RM840m UAE deal

IJM Corp Bhd said its joint venture unit has won an RM840 million contract to build a hotel in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Tamouh Investments gave the letter of intent for the job to a venture between IJM and LFE Corp Bhd. IJM holds 70 per cent of the venture while LFE holds the rest, IJM said in a statement to Bursa Malaysia yesterday.

The job is for the first phase of Plot 1 Zone E2 Hotel Development on Al Reem Island, Abu Dhabi.

The venture must start foundation and basement works on today, pending agreement on the terms of the contract.

By New Straits Times

Private sector must bear bullet train risk: Najib

ANY risk concerning the proposed Kuala Lumpur-Singapore bullet train project should be borne by the private sector and not have strong government funding, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said today.

“There is a proposal (on the project). But it has got to be a private sector initiative, it cannot be a project that has strong government funding.

"The risk has got to be carried out by the private sector,” he told reporters after attending a meeting with the Barisan Nasional members of the Dewan Negara, Dewan Rakyat and State Legislative Assemblies at Putra World Trade Centre.

He said this when asked to comment on the viability of the RM8 billion bullet train proposed by conglomerate YTL Corporation, which is expected to cut travelling time between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore to just 90 minutes.

Yesterday, Second Finance Minister Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop said the government has not reached a decision on the project.

Asked if the bullet train project should stop at Iskandar Malaysia and not proceed to Singapore, Najib said: “We have to wait until the government decides.

"The government has not made any formal decision yet.”

He said this type of project usually goes through the Economic Planning Unit to have its viability assessed and also to determine on the socio-economic benefits.

Asked if the government will decide soon on the project, he added: “I don’t know. It depends on whether the proposal is ready to be considered by the government.”

By Bernama

LBI Capital acquires site in Puchong

LBI Capital Bhd, a property developer, is buying land in Taman Mutiara, Puchong, for RM14.5 million to expand its business.

It signed a deal to buy the land, comprising 142 commercial lots of 20ft by 65ft each, from Pembinaan Amal Cekap Sdn Bhd.

LBI plans to develop the land into 142 units of two- to three-storey shop offices over two to three years, it said in a statement to Bursa Malaysia yesterday.

By New Straits Times