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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Real estate agents to handle exco village

Luxurious homes: The Selangor state government will leave it up to real estate agents to find tenants for the 10 homes at the exco village.

The services of real estate agents will be sought to find tenants for the 10 luxury homes at the exco village at Section 7 in Shah Alam.

The Selangor state government made the decision after all of its exco members decided not to stay at the 10 luxury houses which are supposed to serve as government quarters for top officers.

The more than RM20mil village, which also has a clubhouse with a swimming pool, was built three years ago amid controversy.

According to state property and management committee chairman Iskandar Abdul Samad, the exco members feel that engaging real estate agents would be a wise move so that the finding of suitable tenants could be handed professionally.

Iskandar said the exco had not made any decision on the amount for the rental of the houses situated on a hillside of an elite residential area with bungalows and mansions.

“Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim feels that real estate agents are the right people to decide on the rental and to find the suitable tenants,” Iskandar said.

“We will give the agents a free hand to decide on the rentals and tenants,'' he said.

Iskandar said the state government felt that it was unwise to sell the properties since they had become part of the government assets.

He said that with the appreciation on value of the properties in the area, the value of the exco village houses had also appreciated.

“The homes will enable the state to generate income on a monthly basis from their rentals and as well recovering the cost of the project,” Iskandar said.

“We will able to redeem the money spent on the project in the long term as the value would keep appreciating,'' he said.

StarMetro had reported on its front page on Nov 13, 2007, that the exco village has become a deserted place.

It reported that only four of the 10 exco members lived at the five-bedroom houses in the exco village while the rest of the homes were occupied by their family members and relatives.

The report also revealed that a clubhouse with a swimming pool at the village has become a white elephant with hardly anyone using the facilities.

The 10 units of double and triple-storey houses, each measuring 360 sq m, stand on a 2.6ha elevated land.

Former Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Mohamad Khir Toyo was quoted as saying that the houses were built with the intention to promote closer bond among the exco members.

Khir had also claimed that the project was not developed with government money.

By The Star - StarMetro - (Story & photo by Elan Perumal)

SPNB to build 10,000 affordable homes in growth zone

SYARIKAT Perumahan Negara Bhd (SPNB) is targeting to build 10,000 low- to medium-cost houses by 2010, to meet housing needs in the East Coast Economic Region (ECER).

SPNB, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Minister of Finance Incorporated, was set up to provide affordable quality homes for Malaysians in line with the government's national housing objectives.

SPNB managing director Datuk Mohd Amin Mohd Salleh said it will build more affordable homes to cater to the needs of low- and medium-income groups, under its Rumah Mesra Rakyat (RMR) and Rumah Mampu Milik (RMM) schemes.

Applicants with household income below RM1,500 a month are eligible for the RMR schemes while applications under the RMM schemes for affordable low- to medium-cost homes, are subject to guidelines determined by respective states.

Some 52 per cent of the 48,134 families classified as hardcore poor live in the east coast. About half of the families that live in the east coast make less than RM1,500 a month.

"SPNB is planning to build 9,638 units of houses in the ECER under RMM scheme in the next five years,"Mohd Amin said in a statement.

Under RMM, some 3,335 homes will be built in Pahang, while SPNB will build 3,335 homes in Pahang, 3,000 in Terengganu and 3,303 in Kelantan.

"While providing comfortable and practical RMM homes at reasonable prices, our panel of end financiers also offer attractive financial packages," he added.

The RMR scheme is aimed at helping the low-income groups such as fishermen and farmers to own homes with monthly payments as low as RM150, where a third of the development cost of RM60,000 to RM76,000 will be subsidised by the federal government's special fund. For those without fixed income or are self-employed, a Loan Guaranteed Scheme is available.

Mohd Amin said construction has begun on 2,349 RMM homes in Pahang and Kelantan while potential sites for development have been identified in Terengganu.

SPNB has handed over 1,846 RMR homes and is in the midst of building 848 more units in the East Coast.

By New Straits Times

Boustead Properties poised to go private

CONGLOMERATE Boustead Holdings Bhd - which has investments in the financial, plantation, property and shipping sectors - plans to make a buyout offer for its property arm.

Details of the takeover offer for Boustead Properties Bhd will be announced today, the company told Bursa Malaysia Bhd yesterday.

While it is still too early to see how the deal will benefit Boustead, analysts agreed that the buyout makes sense.

"Any buyout could allow Boustead Holdings to gain control of Boustead Properties' cashflow. Boustead Properties has a free cash flow of about RM200 million a year, based on 2007 numbers.

"From the amount, only RM40 million went to Boustead Holdings through dividend. Strategically, it is a good move, but we still need more details to see if it is a good deal," said HLG Securities research manager Ridzuan Mohamed.

Trading in shares of both Boustead and Boustead Properties were suspended yesterday.

Boustead, which holds 63.3 per cent of the property company, may pay at least RM434 million to buy the remaining shares. This is based on Boustead Properties' last traded share price of RM4.64.

"Earnings potential for Boustead Properties is quite good, so it makes sense for them to take it private. But at the end of the day, it all depends on the valuation," said TA Securities analyst James Ratnam.

Shares of Boustead have taken a beating this year, falling some 19 per cent, which is worse than the market's 11 per cent drop during the same period.

Boustead Properties is also one of Boustead Holdings' most valuable unit as it is rich in assets. Its shares also offer a dividend yield of over six per cent.

It developed the fast-growing Mutiara Damansara project; owns commercial properties like Wisma Boustead, Menara Boustead, Menara Affin, The Curve and Cineleisure Damansara (50 per cent owned).

It also has a 25 per cent stake in Al-Hadharah Boustead REIT, which in turn has 10,500ha of mature plantation land. It also owns and manages the Royal Bintang hotels.

The property developer is expected to make more money from its Mutiara Damansara township as prices reach RM380 per sq ft. It was barely RM150 per sq ft five years ago.

It is launching 470 units of condominiums in Mutiara Damansara, worth some RM200 million.

Boustead Properties will also launch a RM2 billion mixed-development project on a 280ha site in Bukit Raja, Klang, by mid-2009. It plans to sell the land now and to build the township next year.

By New Straits Times (by Goh Thean Eu)

Commitment to Art

Some of Jolly Koh's oil and acrylic on canvas works at the Seni gallery. The space will be expanded to 2,000sq ft when the condominium project is completed.

Property developer Lai Voon Hon has always prided himself on his sense of aesthetics especially when it comes to art, architecture and contemporary design.

As a former architect who practised in Hong Kong, the president and chief executive officer of Ireka Development Management Sdn Bhd is concerned that the various condominium developments undertaken by his companies must project and deliver a certain standard of quality and finesse.

In projecting the upmarket image of his latest development Seni Mont’ Kiara, Lai has allocated space for a permanent art gallery aimed at supporting the Malaysian art scene.

This luxury condominium project, comprising 605 units set on 3.57 hectares (8.83 acres) is undertaken by Aseana Properties Ltd (19.6% owned by Ireka Corp Bhd) together with OCBC via Amatir Resources Sdn Bhd.

A guest at the launch shows Jolly Koh (centre) and Lai Voon Hon (right), one of the works featured in the book.

At the recent launch of the art book Jolly Koh at the Seni Art Gallery, Lai remarked that his companies have always strived to infuse each project with a sense of life enriching element, which he called “soul”.

“For Ireka and Aseana Properties, supporting art development and increasing aesthetic awareness have always been our corporate commitments.

"This is especially significant as the art infra-structure in Malaysia today is still lacking,” explained Lai.

“In keeping with our commitment to ensure fine arts become part of Seni’s heart and soul, we have commissioned and purchased exceptional art pieces from well-known Malaysian artists and sculptors.

"One such artist is Jolly Koh.

“It gives us great honour to support the first coffee-table book on the art of Jolly Koh which documents his achievements as one of Malaysia’s finest artists.”

Works from Jolly Koh's "Distant Mountains" series (left) and "Wild Flowers" series (right) at the Seni gallery.

The 272-page hard-cover book features significant paintings and major works done by Koh from 1955 to 2008.

Most of the 210 selected drawings and paintings were sourced from private collections and institutions in Malaysia and abroad.

Namely, the Singapore Art Museum; National Art Gallery, Malaysia; National Art Gallery, Victoria, Australia; Bank Negara Malaysia; Galeri Petronas, Malaysia and the J.D. Rockefeller III Collection in New York, among others.

*The book Jolly Koh is priced at RM180 and is available from Silverfish Books, 67-1 Jalan Telawi Tiga, Bangsar Baru, KL. Tel: 603-22844837

By The Star

IJM expects 9MP projects to go on despite review

KUALA LUMPUR: IJM Corp Bhd is confident that the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP) projects would proceed amidst a mid-term review of these ventures.

Chief executive officer and managing director Datuk Krishnan Tan said: “I think the general impression is that the Government will continue with the projects that have already been identified.”

He added: “At this point of time, because of the increase in building material costs, projects costs will rise ... so there would be some rationalisation but I generally think they (the projects) will proceed because there is a need for them.”

Tan said this after the signing of a sale and purchase agreement between Quill Capita Management and IJM Properties Sdn Bhd yesterday.

IJM Properties is the property arm of IJM Corp.

Meanwhile, Tan said IJM as a group “did not prefer” to hold on to its properties.

“Our intention is to develop and nurture the properties. If we can sell, we will sell them straightaway,” he said.

On another note, Tan welcomed the Government’s recent move to liberalise the domestic steel industry.

Last week, the Government decided to remove the domestic ceiling price for steel bars and billets and allow importers to be exempted from import licensing and paying import duty.

By The Star

Quill Capita buys Tesco building in Penang

QUILL Capita Trust has bought a Tesco building in Jelutong, Penang, from property developer IJM Properties Sdn Bhd for RM132 million, bringing its total asset size to RM796 million.

Chief executive officer of the trust's manager Chan Say Yeong said the purchase is expected to provide an initial net property yield of 6.3 per cent when the deal is completed by the fourth quarter of this year.

Speaking in Kuala Lumpur yesterday, he said the purchase will be funded mostly with debts and a small portion of internal funds. A bridging loan has been secured, he said, but the bank loan will be refinanced later with bonds to lock in fixed rate and long-term funding.

Quill Capita is already ahead of its own target of a RM750 million fund size by year-end, Chan said, and whether another purchase will come this year may depend on the performance of the stock market.

A stronger market will allow the fund to place out new units to raise money for future buys.

Chan said both of the trust's sponsors, the Quill Group and CapitaLand, have strong asset line-ups for the fund, with values ranging from RM100 million to RM400 million each.

"But before buying any big chunky assets, we will first need to raise the equity ratio so as not to breach the gearing limit. The market is weak now," Chan explained.

The trust's gearing is set to rise to about 38 per cent after the Tesco Penang deal, from 25 per cent at present. Gearing of a property trust is capped at 50 per cent under Securities Commission's rules.

It is Quill Capita's aim to keep its gearing level at around 35 to 40 per cent over the long term so that it can react faster when the right acquisitions come by, Chan said.

IJM Corp Bhd chief executive officer Datuk Krishnan Tan Boon Seng said after the Menara CIMB and the Tesco building, the firm may sell some of its purposed-built commercial assets. A few prospective sales may come from Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya, he said.

As an infrastructure and property developer, the group has no plans to hold investment properties.

"We don't want to be there collecting rents. We want to move on and build," he said. The property trust market has provided it a ready exit for properties that it has nurtured, he said.

The sale of Tesco Penang will let IJM raise money to focus on other bigger project such as the 61-hectare waterfront city development opposite the Tesco Penang called The Light.

Built on a freehold land with a net lettable area of 275,020 sq ft and 1,050 car park bays, the Tesco building is located in the district of Jelutong which is undergoing significant urban redevelopment.

By New Straits Times (by Chong Pooi Koon)

Carrefour to spend RM1.6b on new hypermarts

CARREFOUR will invest an estimated RM1.6 billion in Malaysia to open another 16 hypermarkets by end-2012, its top official said.

The amount includes the possibility of the retailer having its own land and building, building on leased land, or leasing the building, said managing director Shafie Shamsuddin.

SHAFIE: French retailer is on target to achieve its projected 20pc growth

"We hope to have 30 stores by 2012," Shafie said.

Two Carrefour hypermarkets have opened this year - one each in Malacca and Kuantan. Other openings scheduled for the year include Tropicana City, Petaling Jaya and another in Johor.

Shafie said Carrefour is on target to achieve its projected 20 per cent growth. Based on its December 31 2007 results of RM1.32 million, the retailer could make as much as RM1.58 billion in sales this year.

Carrefour expects that its staff strength in 2012 to be around 8,000. The French retailer currently employs a total of 4,000 employees at its headquarters and 14 hypermarkets nationwide.

Shafie was speaking to reporters yesterday following its announcement to employ more disabled persons at its organisation.

The retailer now has 21 physically-challenged employees in various positions, including at director level to graphic artists and those working at the bakery and call centres.

"Carrefour has an ambition to increase the appointment of OKU (orang kurang upaya/physically challenged) to five per cent of total employees which will be about 300 to 400 in 2012," he said.

"We do not hire people because of their disability but we hire them because of their ability," Shafie said.

He said since transporting the disabled from home to work and back was not as as easy as offering them a job, it will be setting up The Carrefour Foundation. It hopes to rope in the government for assistance.

Through the foundation, which Carrefour plans to place a minimum of RM1 million to RM2 million annually, it hopes to be able to purchase vans to help transport the disabled employees from home to work and back.

Carrefour in Malaysia is operated by Magnificent Diagraph Sdn Bhd, which is 30 per cent owned by Syarikat Pesaka Antah. Syarikat Pesaka Antah is controlled by the Negeri Sembilan Royalty.

By New Straits Times (by Vasantha Ganesan)

Southern Steel surges to decade high

SOUTHERN Steel rose to the highest in more than 10 years amid speculation higher steel prices and the Malaysian government’s plan to remove price controls will boost earnings.

Southern Steel yesterday surged 56 sen, or 18 per cent, to close at RM3.76, the highest since November 1997. Its rivals also climbed. Ann Joo Resources rose 18 sen, or 4.6 per cent, to RM4.06.

Malaysia’s government on Monday scrapped the ceiling price of steel bars and billets and eased import and export restrictions to help curb a supply shortage.

Southern Steel also said last week first-quarter profit jumped sevenfold to RM96.4 million (US$30 million) on higher prices.

“That has spurred interest in the stock,” said Azida Nor-Azizi, an analyst at DBS Vickers in Kuala Lumpur with a “buy” rating on the shares. “It’s backed by the good set of results.”

Southern shares also rose amid speculation steel demand may surge because of reconstruction work after China was hit by its strongest earthquake in 58 years. The magnitude-7.9 earthquake struck Sichuan province Monday, killing more than 10,000 people after 500,000 buildings collapsed.

By Bloomberg