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Monday, May 12, 2008

I-City draws Mideast, South Korea interest

SMART TECHNOLOGY: An artist’s impression of I-City

I-BERHAD, a household appliance maker, has received offers from the Middle East and South Korean investors to buy some of its properties at the RM2 billion I-City project, a futuristic commercial development in Shah Alam, Selangor.

Chief executive officer Datin Tey Siew Thuan said the offer is for its corporate towers. However, I-Berhad is open to selling other properties in I-City.

"We are talking to the investors and hope to seal the deals for the corporate towers by 2009. We are not sure how many they plan to buy as it would depend on financial arrangements," Tey told Business Times in an interview.

I-City is being developed in three phases on a 28.8ha freehold site in Section 7 of Shah Alam.

The five-year project, which started in mid-2007, is the first venture in Selangor to be approved by the state government as being MSC Cybercentre-ready and was granted the status in February.

Dubbed the "intelligent township", it would feature eight corporate towers, two luxury hotels, two blocks of 24-storey branded residences, three- to five-storey shop offices and retail suites.

It would also house a one million sq ft shopping mall, a data centre and an innovation centre.

I-Berhad has so far sold 44 lots of shop offices, which will start to operate by August.

The company is also in talks with several US-based hotel chains to operate the hotels, which have been earmarked as four- and five-star properties.

It is also talking to international anchor tenants and shopping operators for the mall, which will open in 2011.

"We are in advanced stage of discussions with one of the largest mall operators in Southeast Asia, currently managing more than 100 shopping malls under its belt.

"They have expressed interest to own and operate the mall and we hope to finalise the details by September. We are now doing due diligence," Tey said.

I-Berhad plans to start building the hotels, residences and corporate towers next year.

Currently under construction are 33 units of retail suites which would be ready by March 2009.

"We have built the infrastructure and will set up the data centre by year-end, which would be managed by Kompakar Inc Bhd," said Tey.

I-Berhad has some RM96 million cash in hand and it is using its own funds for the initial stages of development.

It would resort to joint ventures, bond sales and other corporate exercises to fund the second half of the development, said Tey.

By New Straits Times (by Sharen Kaur)

Parkroyal plans aggressive expansion

PARKROYAL Hotels & Resorts Pte Ltd, a subsidiary of Singapore-listed Hotel Plaza Ltd, is looking to buy, partner or manage more hotels in Malaysia.

It is now in talks to buy a piece of land in Kuala Lumpur and to manage hotels for their owners in the country.

"We have a few interested parties talking to us, including for us to purchase land for a Parkroyal hotel or Parkroyal Serviced Residences in Kuala Lumpur," Parkroyal Group executive director Wee Wei Ling told Business Times during a recent visit from Singapore here.

Parkroyal is well known in Australia and New Zealand, but in Malaysia it has been quiet. We were not ready to shout then, but we are now. <<

"There are also hotel (owners) who are asking us if we would like to manage their hotels," she said.

Parkroyal, which operates two hotels in Penang and Kuala Lumpur, is keen on representation in Sabah and Sarawak.

"Our plan is to be more aggressive for Parkroyal to go regional and secure management contracts," Wee said.

"Parkroyal is well known in Australia and New Zealand, but in Malaysia it has been quiet. We were not ready to shout then, but we are now," she added.

Regionally, it wants to expand into Japan, South Korea, China, Bangkok in Thailand and Indonesia.

"We would like to have a few more hotels in Malaysia either to buy, part-own or ideally to manage. We are keen on Sabah and Sarawak, especially Kota Kinabalu and Kuching ... Langkawi is also a possibility," she said.

Last year, its two Malaysian hotels contributed S$41 million (RM96 million) in revenue to the group, up eight per cent from 2006.

Apart from Malaysia, the group has two Parkroyal hotels in Singapore, one in Yangon in Myanmar, a Parkroyal Saigon and a management deal in Chengdu, China.

Positioning itself as a business hotel, Parkroyal will establish its brand in the cities before going into resort development.

However, the group will now expand if it would lead to a compromise in its quality, said Wee.

"We are going for quality rather than quantity. Otherwise (having too many) the product could deteriorate," she said.

Parkroyal's contribution to the group (minus Saigon and China) last year was 38 per cent of the net profit of S$88 million (RM206 million) recorded by Hotel Plaza.

The Parkroyal brand has been in Malaysia since 1989. Hotel Plaza, however, came into the picture in 2002, following the acquisition of both hotels.

Parkroyal Kuala Lumpur has 426 rooms and Parkroyal Penang 330 rooms.

Five other hotels owned by the group but managed by other brands include Sheraton Perth, Crowne Plaza Parramatta and Crowne Plaza Darling Harbour in Australia and Sheraton Suzhou Hotel & Towers, China and Sofitel, Hanoi.

By New Straits Times (by Vasantha Ganesan)

Sky garden concept for 1 Sentul

From left: Chu Bak Teck, Kenneth Lim and John Lam with a model of 1 Sentul.

CL Integrated Resources Sdn Bhd has introduced a “sky garden” concept for its 1 Sentul condominium in Kuala Lumpur.

The “sky garden”, on level 23 of one of the project's two towers, will cover area of 4,500 sq ft. The other tower will have penthouses on its top floor instead.

Managing director Kenneth Lim said the company could have built more penthouses but preferred to give buyers something unique that could also add value to their investment.

Besides the “sky garden”, he said, there would also be a recreational deck with a swimming/wading pool, gymnasium, sauna, nursery, multipurpose hall and children's playground among other facilities. Residents can also enjoy WiFi Internet broadband access at the podium.

“At RM260 to RM290 per sq ft, 1 Sentul's price is about half that of some Mont' Kiara condominiums,” added Lim.

The 284-unit freehold project consists of two layout types: Type A (1,081 sq ft with three-bedroom/two bathroom) and Type B (1,355 sq ft with 3+1 bedroom/two bathroom). Priced from RM257,800 each, every unit is a corner unit. There will be eight units (four of each type) per floor. Each unit will get two parking bays.

Lim said one of the blocks was soft launched in January and about 50% of the 140 units had been sold.

“We have sold all the four penthouses priced at around RM800,000 each. We are also giving away a free clothes dryer, free first two years' maintenance, no interest during construction, and credit card interest-free easy payment scheme for 12 months' instalment,” he added.

CL Integrated Resources has four partners. The other three directors are Chu Bak Teck, John Lam and chairman Datuk Pua Kim An.

Meanwhile, the company plans to launch an RM150mil service apartment cum commercial project called Tree Lodge in SS3, Petaling Jaya late this year. It will have a unique “sky garden” concept where every third floor will have a “green” area.

The units with sizes of about 500 sq ft to 1,300 sq ft will be priced from RM300 to RM330 per sq ft. There will be retail lots on the first two floors.

Its proposed 50-acre leasehold, U10 high-end gated and guarded community project next to Bukit Jelutong in Shah Alam might be launched in three years' time.

The company has been in the property development business since 1994. It has done seven to eight projects and completed over 1,000 mixed housing units.

By The Star (by S.C.Cheah)

Overseas offers to replicate I-City

I-BERHAD, which is developing the I-City intelligent township that is envisaged to be Selangor's knowledge hub and in the league of the Dubai Internet City in the United Arab Emirates, has received offers from China and Vietnam to replicate the RM2 billion development.

Executive director and chief executive officer Datin Tey Siew Thuan said it has plans to redevelop I-City overseas, and possibly also in Penang, in three years.

"I-City is the concept of the future and the (Chinese and Vietnamese) investors are keen to have a similar model in their environment. We are studying the offers currently," Tey said.

I-City is the first technology-driven commercial development in Malaysia.

In uplifting the development, Tey said that I-Berhad will partner Telekom Malaysia Bhd (TM), Maxis Communications Bhd and Time dotCom Bhd to offer high-speed broadband Internet services with uptime of 99.9 per cent, as per MSC requirement.

"We are tying up with established business partners to promote I-City. TM and Maxis are expected to come in by August and Time by 2009," said Tey.

I-City is offering fibre optics and Cisco network at its development. It has enlisted the expertise of Australian-listed ServCorp Ltd in June 2007 to provide the infrastructure and Internet Protocol or IP-based services.

Kompakar Inc Bhd has been appointed to manage its data centre, which would house the servers.

"I-City's entire area is connected with a giga-speed fibre-optics network that allows for complete connectivity and mobility, resulting in a true plug-and-play environment," said Tey, adding that it is the only commercial property in Malaysia with a last-mile fibre optics to the units network, and with a capacity up to 1Gbps, making it different from other cybercentres here.

The network supports a wide range of IP-based services and applications and has a super-broadband redundancy where a multi-telco environment exists, enabling owners and tenants of I-City to enjoy continuous uninterrupted broadband connections and simplicity of integrated billing system.

In addition, I-City has all the right components for a second-generation Internet development, known as Web 2.0, and redundant power through a second source of power supply from Klang.

By New Straits Times (by Sharen Kaur)

Zerin excels in being lean and mean

Previndran Singhe showing the Four Seasons hotel room key to commemorate the sale of the resort to Kingdom Hotels Investments.

ZERIN Properties aims to establish a niche as a boutique real estate agency in the hospitality segment, corporate offices, malls, development land, industrial facilities, office leasing and high net worth residential market.

Each year the company chalks up transactions worth about RM400mil and the 19-member team is happy to keep it that way.

“As a boutique real estate agency, we do not go for numbers. Our philosophy is that being small is beautiful,” chief executive officer Previndran Singhe told StarBiz.

“We are keen on building personal relationship with our clients and being able to deliver the results. As such, we are able to focus on our clients. Our value system is very simple – honesty, which is very important in this business, integrity and to deliver.”

Two years after its incorporation in 2002, Zerin established offices in Singapore and Sydney. It also has an affiliate office in New Delhi.

“We are also eager to move into South America and Eastern Europe, especially to tap the bustling hospitality business. The tourism business is booming there, with tourist arrival growth in excess of 10% per annum,” Previndran said.

Among the notable transactions undertaken by Zerin to-date include the asset disposal programme for Faber Hotel chain, sale of Grand Centrepoint Hotel to Tune Hotels, a 4-acre land transaction deal in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, and recently, two hotel deals in Vietnam.

“We are also prominent deal makers in the residential high net worth market, notably in the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) area. Our dedicated website for KLCC residences ( has recorded close to 500,000 hits since its launch in February,” he added.

In the next two years, the company is targeting to secure four local and two international hotel deals, as well as deals involving at least two office buildings, two malls and at least five development land deals.

He said the office market in the KL Golden Triangle area was set to scale new heights in terms of rental rates as the supply of Grade A office space runs thin.

“We do see rentals touching RM9-RM11per sq ft, and capital values reaching RM1,300 to RM1,500 per sq ft.”

On the general property market, he said there was still a shortage of good landed developments.

“Also, I think we need some radical and iconic residential designs in the KLCC and Mont'Kiara vicinities.”

For the high-end residential sector, he said prices of landed properties in traditional locations such as Damansara Heights and Bangsar would continue to rise, while the performance of high-rise development was dependent on product quality and management.

“In the KLCC area, we still see strong growth for selected good developments.”

Previndran said there was good growth potential in the country's hospitality industry and in other parts of the world.

“Hotel investments among local and foreign investors will see an upswing, especially after the sterling performance in the country's tourism sector. For the next year or so, it will be mainly Asia-based funds as the Anglo-Saxon funds are feeling the pinch of the sub-prime crisis. More such investments can be expected from Singapore, the Middle East, the Indian sub-continent, and the rest of Asia,” he added.

There is still a shortage of five-star and limited service hotels in various parts of the country. Average room rates for five-star hotels in the city are hitting close to US$200 a night while the limited service hotels are charging between RM80 and RM150.

In terms of occupancy rate, Previndran said the three- to five-star hotels in Kuala Lumpur were hitting close to 80%, while the budget and limited service hotels were more than 80% occupied.

On new hotel developments in the next two years, he said the industry could look forward to the Four Seasons hotel in the KLCC, Park Hyatt in Kuala Lumpur and The Regent in K Avenue.

“I also see a strong entry of limited service hotels like Tune Hotels. There is talk of a branded boutique hotel –the like of Bulgari Hotel – opening, but we heard it's still in very early stages.

“In Langkawi, we hope to see the Ritz Carlton coming soon. With rising energy and labour costs, we do see a pinch on profitability but this will be eased with better technology and higher room rates,” he said.

By The Star (by Angie Ng)

Sale of Four Seasons Resort landmark in industry

PREVINDRAN Singhe's passion for hospitality real estate has moulded his real estate agency, Zerin Properties, into a hotel specialist with a number of interesting hotel transactions in the past four years.

“In our business, we have something new to look forward to every year. There have been many transactions that we have undertaken but the most interesting by far involved the sale of Four Seasons Resort, Langkawi,” the 38-year-old chief executive officer said.

The sale of the Four Seasons Resort to Kingdom Hotels Investment last April has landed Zerin with an award by RFP Magazine under the “Real Estate Investment” category.

Tagged one of the landmark hospitality transactions of 2007,it marked Kingdom Hotel Investments’ entry into the Asian tourism market.

Tracing the transaction which took a total of three years, Previndran said the hotel's former owner, Malaysia Airlines, had been under pressure to attain its price objectives.

“By structuring the deal as a win-win proposition, a US$129mil (RM435mil) price was achieved with the buyers able to leverage on the value of the proposed private villas on the property. The transaction not only broke records for Malaysia Airlines, but also marked one of the biggest forays by a high profile international investor into Malaysia,” he added.

Kingdom Hotels Investment is listed on the Dubai and London stock exchanges and has a portfolio of 34 hotels in 21 countries. These hotels are under the Four Seasons, Fairmont or Raffles and Movenpick brands.

According to the panel of judges for the RFP award, “the hotel sale has the capability to change the scope of economic development in the region. It necessitated a certain vision, comprehension and sustained efforts to convince an investor to foray into a new market.”

Previndran said the inaugural award by the Hong Kong-based RFP Magazine and the quality of the shortlisted nominees underscored the level of competitiveness involved.

“To win it was a superb feeling for Malaysia as it proves that, firstly, we are ready to make Malaysia an international real estate destination with quality projects and properties and, secondly, we have quality people, like my team of 18 staff, and the know-how to conduct transactions of this nature.”

The award ceremony will be held in Hong Kong on June 12.

According to RFP Magazine co-publisher Claire Saeki, the awards are the first in the region to recognise the professionals who build, design and manage the buildings in which “we work, live and play.”

“There are many architectural and design awards, but all too often exceptional individual contributions are overlooked in the rush to award the buildings themselves. By rewarding those who go above and beyond in the pursuit of professional excellence, we hope to raise the bar for the industry in Asia,” she said.

A judging a panel of senior industry experts selected 12 winners from a shortlist of 50 nominees who were considered based on various factors, including their individual and team contribution, the significance of their projects, sustainability, effectiveness, project size, innovation, difficulties overcome and budget-control exercised.

By The Star

Magna Prima’s first tower units sold out in a week

SHAH ALAM: Magna Prima Bhd has within a week sold all 205 units in the first residential tower of its RM135mil mixed development, U1 Shah Alam.

Lim: "The integrated development was the first of its kind in Shah Alam."

Executive director and chief executive officer Lim Ching Choy said this was the fastest take-up for the company's projects to date, most probably because the integrated development was the first of its kind in Shah Alam.

“Following this record sales, we target to sell all 173 units in the second residential tower within the next two months,” he said at the official launch of the residential towers last week.

The company plans to launch the office tower next month.

The project spans 4.78 acres in Shah Alam's Section U1 located at the intersection of the Federal Highway, North-South Expressway and the Batu Tiga Shah Alam bypass.

Construction will begin next week for completion by mid-2011.

Lim said Magna Prima also planned to launch its RM730mil mid- to high-range retail, commercial, office and residential development at Jalan Kuching, Kuala Lumpur, in July.

“This five-in-one project on 10.23 acres includes serviced apartments, a boutique hotel and a retail mall. The serviced apartments are open for buyer registration next month,” Lim said.

Magna Prima also has three ongoing projects in the Klang Valley – The Avare, a luxury condominium in the KL City Centre; Magnaville condominium in Selayang and Dataran Otomobil commercial development in Shah Alam.

By The Star

Tempo Properties building up to Bursa listing

TEMPO Properties Sdn Bhd, a Seremban-based boutique property developer, is aiming for a listing on Bursa Malaysia by 2011.

Its chief executive officer Khoo Boo Hian said the company has been working towards fulfilling the profit requirements for a listing on the main board of the stock exchange.

Tempo Properties has been enjoying 40 per cent revenue growth every year for the last few years.

It posted RM60.5 million revenue last year.

Khoo said that Tempo Properties intends to boost its new image as a vibrant and niche developer.

"We need to do something different to compete with the big boys like SP Setia Bhd," he said.

Last month, the company launched a rebranding exercise to reflect its switch of focus to developments with medium-high pricing, emphasising design and security.

Its next commercial development in the Klang Valley, reflecting its new focus, is set to be launched in the third quarter of this year.

"In today's competitive market, you cannot just develop a mass product and expect people to buy. People now want to know who is behind a development. They want a brand to associate with," Khoo said.

Tempo Properties started out in Seremban in 1995, building mixed developments.

Its shareholders are Zenith Joy Sdn Bhd, which has 47.06 per cent stake, and Sterling World Sdn Bhd (52.94 per cent).

Sterling World is owned by a group of brothers who manage a rice wholesale business in Seremban.

By New Straits Times (by Presenna Nambiar)

Developers: Rebrand KL as Islamic finance leader

PROPERTY developers said Malaysia should rebrand itself not just as a pioneer, but as a leader in Islamic finance in building the local property market.

"We should market and position Kuala Lumpur and establish it as the international Islamic financial hub. The city must also be "live-able"," said Glomac Bhd group managing director, Datuk Fateh Iskandar Mohamed Mansor at The Edge Investment Forum on Real Estate 2008 in Petaling Jaya on Saturday.

Fateh: We should attract global investors, issuers and high net-worth individuals

"We should focus our efforts and attention as the preferred destination to attract global investors, issuers and high net-worth individuals to take advantage of their surplus private and sovereign funds. With them coming in, demand for residences would increase," he said.

Other speakers at the forum were Glomac group executive vice-chairman Datuk Richard Fong, Bandar Raya Developments Bhd (BRDB) chief executive officer (CEO) Datuk Jagan Sabapathy, Beneton Properties Group executive chairman Datuk Chan Sau Lai, Zerin Properties Sdn Bhd CEO Previndran Singhe, Hall Chadwick Asia Sdn Bhd chairman Kumar Tharmalingam, and Ho Chin Soon Research Sdn Bhd director Ho Chin Soon.

Fateh suggested that the private sector work with the government to promote Malaysia, adding that Malaysian My Second Home (MM2H) should be placed under the Prime Minister's Department to ensure efficiency, speedier approvals and seamless inter-ministry coordination instead of Tourism Malaysia.

On prices of condominiums in Kuala Lumpur, Fateh said a shortage of land would drive the prices higher, adding that properties have gone above RM2,000 per sq ft in the Golden Triangle.

"(For instance,) when we launched Suria Stonor in 2004, we sold the units at RM650 per sq ft. Now they are going for RM1,600 per sq ft.

"(In addition,) YTL Corp Bhd recently paid a record RM2,000 per sq ft for a piece of land in Jalan Stonor, Kuala Lumpur," he added.

Jagan concurs.

He said the company's The Troika condominium project in KLCC, which started at an average price of RM950 per sq ft, is now selling at RM2,500 per sq ft.

Meanwhile, Chan cautioned investors who buy properties in the KLCC area for yield or capital gains, to consider the state of the rental market.

"We are targeting expatriates with housing allowance of RM8,000 to RM16,000 per month for the properties but there's only a small group here.

"But now we have buyers who work in Kuala Lumpur moving into the city to avoid traffic congestions," said Chan.

By New Straits Times (by Sharen Kaur)

More projects from Metro Kajang

Datuk Alex Chen viewing a model of some of the company's projects in Kajang

METRO Kajang Holdings Bhd is set to consolidate its position as the biggest property developer in Kajang and Semenyih with the recent acquisition of a 270-acre prime freehold land in Kajang.

The company's acquisition is a major achievement as it is not easy to acquire such a big piece of land near the town centre and also considering that it paid RM80mil for the land which would be turned into a high-end integrated township with a gross development value (GDV) of RM1.5bil.

The township will have 3,500 units of bungalow, semi-detached house, three-storey super-link house, apartment, commercial unit and private school.

Executive chairman Datuk Alex Chen said Kajang was ready for such high-end development. “We are very positive on the potential response when it is launched next year,” he told StarBiz.

He said the group's move from affordable housing to high-end development was to make it an “all rounder” and to cater to market needs effectively.

The group is a household name in Kajang, having built over 1,000 units of mixed properties there over the past 20 years.

Metro Kajang has three new projects with a combined GDV of RM162mil on 24.4 acres near its head office at Wisma Metro Kajang in Jalan Semenyih.

It also has three new projects with a combined GDV of RM162mil on 24.4 acres near its head office at Wisma Metro Kajang in Jalan Semenyih.

They are Metro Avenue (30 units of three-storey shop office), Sentosa Villas (three-storey link houses) and Sentosa Avenue (shop offices). It has sold all the 19 shop office units that were launched in Sentosa Avenue.

Chen said the group was always striving to offer Kajang folk better leisure and entertainment facilities. Its Plaza Metro Kajang, with Giant and Parkson Ria as anchor tenants, and Metro Point Complex's drive-in KFC Restaurant are examples of this effort.

Other upcoming projects are:

  • Desa Melawati: Metro Kajang bought a 2.65-acre land beside the Middle Ring Road 2 and it plans to build 523 units of serviced apartment. The project, to be launched in the fourth quarter of this year, will have a GDV of RM140mil.
  • Bandar Teknologi Kajang: It is developing 118 acres of land into a gated and guarded community comprising 500 units of bungalows, semi-detached houses, apartments and a clubhouse. To be launched end of this year, it will have a GDV of RM182mil.

Metro Kajang has also entered into a 60:40 joint venture with Amona Permodalan Sdn Bhd to develop a 5.3-acre land next to Pantai Hillpark condominium near Bangsar in Kuala Lumpur. It plans to build 404 units of condominiums and 20 three-storey villas. Slated for launch by 2009, the project will have a GDV of RM168mil.

Its other ongoing projects include Rimbunan Avenue in Kepong (all units sold), the 295-acre Pelangi Semenyih (Phases 7, 8, and 9), Taman Bukit Mewah (Phase 10), Saville Residence (75% of the service apartments sold) and the high-end Cheras Zen Park (all sold).

It has also sold 95% of the serviced apartments in Pelangi Damansara Sentral, which is within the vicinity of 1 Utama shopping centre, Tesco, Ikea and The Curve.

“We are always seeking opportunities to enhance shareholders' returns and to provide long-term sustainable earnings,” Chen said.

The group recently expanded its business in oil palm plantation via the acquisition of a 100% equity interest in SJL Utama Pte Ltd that in turn owns 94.99% in PT Khaleda Agroprima Malindo.

The latter has been issued “Hak Guna Usaha” land title for 35 years for 15,942ha (39,395 acres) of land in East Kalimantan, Indonesia, for the development of oil palm plantation. The land is 75km from Samarinda.

This represents a major earnings diversification move.

“There is a need for a more resilient earnings base in order to sustain our profits as well as for future long-term growth,” Chen said, adding that vital ingredients to make a project successful included the right timing, a strategic location and catering to market needs.

“We are always doing market research like what house buyers want, their lifestyle, educational background and what they can afford. We believe each generation has different needs and expectations, and our designs and concepts must cater to them.”

Chen said the group had absorbed the rising construction costs well and, despite thinner margins, was still able to deliver on time, thanks to its strong working relationship with contractors and its trading house, which allowed it to enjoy cost benefits from purchase of building materials.

By The Star (by S.C.Cheah)

Patience and persistence pay off for Kajang King

When you want something badly, you must have the patience and tenacity to get it. It is like chasing after a fair lady. You wait, take action, and wait again.

The waiting game was more or less the same for the Metro Kajang group, except that when it involves a sizeable land deal with complex issues, it takes a lot more effort.

Finally, on May 5, the property development company dubbed the “Kajang King” got its prize: all 273 acres of prime freehold land (Paradise Estate), which is 2.5km from the Kajang town centre and is accessible via the SILK Highway and Jalan Reko.

It's a long story but suffice to say, Metro Kajang Holdings Bhd executive chairman Datuk Alex Chen is happy to see the deal finally sealed. The last 96% of undivided share of 12 parcels of the freehold land was sold for RM77.94mil. The group had bought the first 4% of the undivided share for RM2mil more than five years ago.

Metro Kajang was not the only company eyeing this piece of land, said to be the largest single piece of land near the town centre. There were plenty of suitors, mainly public-listed companies and also big-time developers.

The crux of the problem, as Chen recalled, was the difficulty in getting all the parcel owners to agree to sell and it also involved family disputes.

“This piece of land is in a very strategic location and it is even more worthwhile for us to buy as there are no more such a big piece so near the Kajang town centre,” said Chen, adding that there was a shortage of prime land in Kajang as much of the surrounding areas had been developed.

The break came when a very old parcel owner who is also Chen's friend finally agreed to sell his 4% stake for about RM220,000 per acre. Although Chen could not do anything with that small “interest,” it was, in his own words, like “using a string to tie up the elephant.”

The strategy worked as other suitors left. The next 86% of the undivided share was sold for RM280,000 per acre and the remaining 10% at the market price of RM400,000 per acre.

Obviously, the last few parcel owners made the most but it was still a price the group was prepared to pay, as the returns would be worth all the money and hardship.

Chen wants to build 3,500 units of high-end homes (semi-detached houses, bungalows, super links) as well as commercial properties on the land to be turned into a gated and guarded, integrated township, tentatively called Kajang 2.

Indeed, with so much competition especially in the Kajang area, the latest land acquisition would not only beef up the public-listed company's land bank but also enable it to create its niche high-end development and compete more effectively.

Being an established player in Kajang and having an 8% per annum population growth in Kajang (it has one of the highest population growth in the country) the new project could count on ready demand.

Although the town centre is still quite congested, many people have made Kajang their home. There are also nine universities and about five golf courses in the area. It is also within 10km from Putrajaya and Cyberjaya.

Having launched high-end projects like the Zen Park gated and guarded community project in Cheras and Phase 10 in Taman Bukit Mewah, Kajang, it is shedding its traditional image of a mere township developer and gaining a reputation as a niche, lifestyle player.

In fact, Metro Kajang, as the biggest developer in Kajang and Semenyih, had built over 1,000 residential and commercial units in Kajang over the past 20 years.

Its 295-acre Pelangi Semenyih, a major integrated township has achieved over 90% sales. Most of the residential properties there are in the affordable price range of below RM180,000 each.

Thus, going into more high-end projects would make Metro Kajang an “all rounder” so that it is not dependent on any single market.

“We are constantly looking for land at reasonable prices but we do not rush in to buy at just any prices. We will conduct thorough studies to ensure the viability of the land and its costs,” added Chen.

By The Star (by S.C.Cheah)

Property market outlook seen remaining positive

The outlook for property market this year remains positive due to strong domestic consumption, high market liquidity and loans being reasonably cheaper, according to Zerin Properties Sdn Bhd’s chief executive officer Previndran Singhe.

He said another factor was the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) withdrawals for housing loans, which helped to boost the property market.

“Our property prices are relatively cheaper compared to those in the region,” Previndran said.

“Last year was a sterling year for Malaysia with a total of RM77.14 billion in transactions,” he said at the sidelines of the Edge Investment Forum on Real Estate 2008 here today.

Earlier, Previndran presented a paper on “Outlook of the Malaysian Property Market — Time to Exit”.

He said foreign buying is still on the increase, particularly from the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, South Korea, Japan and China.

According to him, the Klang Valley, Johor and Penang remain the top growth areas in the country.

Sabah is also in the list, he said.

Meanwhile, Ho Chin Soon Research Sdn Bhd’s director Ho Chin Soon said the Klang Valley is expected to remain the country’s top growth region for many years in line with global urbanisation trends.

“The Golden Triangle and Mont’ Kiara are the hotspots in the Klang Valley,” he said.

By Bernama

The business centre solution

William Willems (left) and area director for Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia Ard Verloop

The Regus Group, a leading international provider of workplace solutions, offers companies of all sizes the ideal hedge in times of uncertainty.

William Willems, The Regus Group country general manager for South East Asia, said that working from business centres reduced the burden of property ownership and management and allowed individuals and businesses to work however and whenever they wanted to work.

With property constituting more than 40% of the total assets of many of the world’s leading corporations, these businesses were increasingly looking at office space requirements as a strategic component of their business plan, he said.

“Thus Regus enables companies to maintain that needed flexibility by helping them minimise their second largest cost of doing business: the expenses associated with leasing, equipping and staffing their office space,” he told StarBiz in an interview.

Each Regus business centre location includes offices, meeting rooms and common areas and is located at premier addresses in city centres. Clients will be able to utilise Regus's business services such as network access and information technology, video conferencing and administrative support.

Willems said that workplace outsourcing also enabled companies to rapidly seize new market opportunities because the office infrastructure was already in place,

“It is particularly beneficial when businesses are setting up offices in emerging markets,” he said. “When you have a good idea, you do not put it in the market in six months' time. You need to go quickly to the market and make sure you are there before the competition,” he said.

Regus also supports the growing trend of mobile and home working. According to The Bureau of Labour and Statistics, by 2014 there will be a 9% decline in prime-age workers nationwide. This demographic shift will make companies focus on recruiting more aggressively across wider geographic regions and offer more flexible workplace arrangements for an increasingly decentralised workforce.

The company now operates from 950 centres across 70 countries, with 100 centres in Asia-Pacific and three business centres in Kuala Lumpur, located in Central Plaza, the Petronas Twin Towers and 1 Sentral (newly opened centre).

At present, it has 300 clients in Malaysia, which include blue chips such as Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch and Nokia.

As Malaysia is one of Asia's prime emerging property markets, Willems said, expansion in Malaysia would be part of Regus' growth strategy in Asia-Pacific.

As foreign investment continued to trickle in especially from China, the US and Japan, it had brought with it a high demand for quality commercial and residential real estate lettings to service a growing expatriate community in the country, Willems said.

With occupancy rates reaching almost 80% in all its three centres, the company plans to open more centres in Malaysia over the next 12 months. It has targeted locations in Kuala Lumpur, Damansara, Penang, Johor, and East Malaysia.

Thus far, the company has invested some RM8mil on its three centres in Malaysia and Willems said key factors that are facilitating the expansion into Malaysia was the positive attitude of the Government and a conducive business environment.

He said the group targeted to increase the number of business centres in Asia-Pacific from 100 to 150 by end of this year.

Despite a challenging economy and falling business confidence, he said it was not affecting the company's performance.

“The number of enquiries on Regus continues to rise, and despite the current credit tightening environment, Regus sales are increasing,” he said.

The Regus Group is traded on the London Stock Exchange.

By The Star - StarBiz - (by Eileen Hee)

Builders laud move to abolish steel ceiling price

The Master Builders Association Malaysia (MBAM) on Saturday lauded the abolishment of the ceiling price for steel, citing it as another proof of improvement in the delivery system.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi last Friday announced that the ceiling price on steel will be abolished effective today.

In a statement, MBAM said it had long been vocal in urging the government to abolish price control and to allow market forces to decide on prices of steel.

"The association strongly supports and welcome the government's decision to abolish the ceiling price of steel. May 12 will be an important milestone for the construction industry as currently contractors have been facing t difficulties in obtaining steel bars at the ceiling price," said MBAM president Patrick Wong.

However, the association hopes that the government will reconsider its position on cement pricing which is said to be moving towards an automated pricing mechanism (APM) as mentioned by International Trade and Industry Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Mohd Yassin.

According to Wong, the association had mentioned previously that APM means guaranteed profit margins and zero risk for cement manufacturers.

He said MBAM will continue to champion fair trade practices and the association hopes that the cement market will be liberalised as well.

By Bernama