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Monday, May 26, 2008

Generous Symphony Heights by Hua Yang

Chan Ai Cheng with a model of Symphony Heights.

HUA YANG Bhd may be a medium-sized property development company but it is generous when it comes to pampering its purchasers.

This is evident with its latest project, the Symphony Heights serviced apartment in Selayang.

It is offering six practical layouts, quality finishes and condominium facilities such as free-form swimming pool, poolside cafeteria, gymnasium and multi-purpose hall from only RM135,200.

S.K. Brothers Realty (M) Sdn Bhd general manager Chan Ai Cheng said the project had attracted more than 600 registrants, and close to 50 units had been booked just through soft selling and word of mouth.

“We expect good take-up in view of the attractive price and fantastic location after marketing begins shortly,” she said, adding that the preview launch would be July 6 to 8.

S.K. Brothers is the exclusive agent for Symphony Heights that is located off the Batu Caves roundabout, at the Middle Ring Road 2 (MRR2) and Jalan Ipoh interchange.

The leasehold project, with a gross development value of about RM160mil, comprises 946 units of serviced apartment in three blocks of 29, 30, and 33 storeys.

Phase 1 layout will include units of 863 sq ft (two bedrooms), 879 sq ft, 950 sq ft (three bedrooms) and 1,246 sq ft (3+1 bedrooms).

Chan said Symphony Heights was easily accessible to the Kuala Lumpur city centre and other parts of the Klang Valley via Jalan Ipoh and MRR2 connecting to the Damansara-Puchong Highway, Karak Highway, New Klang Valley Expressway, Elevated Highway, North-South Expressway, and Kuala Lumpur-Shah Alam Expressway.

“It is within an established neighbourhood with plenty of amenities such as hypermarkets, shopping centres, hospitals, schools, banks and entertainment and good outlets,” she said.

The project is next to the SRJK (C) Kheow Bin Batu Caves and is behind Hua Yang's earlier project, Medan Selayang (six and eight-storey shop offices) that was completed in 2005 and is almost sold out.

“It's the best value-for-money property at Selayang's finest location,” said Chan, adding that residents of Symphony Heights could also enjoy panoramic views of the Kuala Lumpur city skyline and the Selayang/Templer Hills.

Hua Yang chief operating officer Ho Wen Yan said there would be a 10% “early bird” discount, no legal fee charged for the sale and purchase agreement and RM500 down payment during the promotional period for the first launch of 544 units.

“Symphony Heights is located in a fast-growing area with direct access to the MRR2. We have designed it to cater to end-users,” said Ho, adding that the Phase 1 units had a north-south orientation, modern contemporary design and are rectangular in shape, allowing maximum use of space.

The price of a 1,246-sq-ft unit is about RM216,000 (before 10% rebate).

S.K. Brothers chief executive officer Charlie Chan said people should buy a unit at Symphony Heights, as it is not even 10% of the price of some high-end condominiums in the city centre. “And yet, this project is so accessible to the city,” he said.

Hua Yang, listed on the main board of Bursa Malaysia, was incorporated on Dec 28,

Its other ongoing projects include Taman Pulai Indah in Johor as well as Bandar Universiti Sri Iskandar and Metro Pengkalan in Perak.

Most of its previous projects are in Perak involving terrace houses, shops and light industrial factories. Its Ipoh projects include those at Taman Mewah in Tambun; Taman Tasek Mewah, Taman Pinji Wani, Taman Pinji Seni, Anjung Bercham Megah and Anjung Bercham Elit in Bercham; and some projects in Batu Gajah.

In Selangor, Hua Yang's completed projects include Taman Serdang Raya in Serdang, S.B. Jaya Industrial Park, Taman Setapak Jaya in Kuala Lumpur, and Jalan Connaught Bridge in Klang.

By The Star (by S.C.Cheah)

Need for holistic master plan

A row of houses in Bukit Jelutong township.

DEVELOPERS with projects in the northern corridor of the Klang Valley should take advantage of their sizeable land bank by adopting a holistic master plan approach in their development plans.

As a number of big property and plantation groups such as Sime Darby Property Bhd, Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd (KLK), Asia Pacific Land Bhd (AP Land) and GuocoLand Bhd own large tracts of land in the corridor, it makes sense to have the projects planned well from the very beginning to ensure they grow into vibrant growth centres.

Sime Darby Property has more than 8,000 acres of former plantation land in the corridor converted for property development.

The land bank, located along the 25km Guthrie Corridor Expressway (GCE), has been demarcated for the various property development precincts – Bukit Jelutong, Denai Alam, Lagong Mas, Medan Elmina and Sungai Kapar.

KLK has a land bank of 2,828ha, of which 92.9ha has been developed into Desa Coalfields mixed residential and commercial development of more than 2,600 units.

Undertaken by KLK's property unit KL-Kepong Property Development Sdn Bhd, Desa Coalfields, located about 2km to the GCE, comprises 2,600 units of mixed residential and commercial properties worth a gross development value (GDV) of RM450mil. Since its launch in 2002, 1,400 property units with GDV of RM330mil have been completed and sold.

Unlocking value

KLK chief executive officer Datuk Seri Lee Oi Hian said to leverage on the company's large land bank in the corridor, plans were underway for KLK Property to emerge as a bigger player.

Datuk Seri Lee Oi Hian

“We are planning a 405ha integrated township opposite our existing project, Desa Coalfields in Sungai Buloh, and will launch it once the approvals are in place. We will maintain our tagline, KLK - Value Homes concept, which assures quality finishes and good value-for-money for our homes.

“This is a step towards unlocking the value of about 2,828ha of plantation land in the vicinity which is envisaged to be developed step by step. This strategy of organic growth will contribute profits as well as enhance the value of our surrounding land bank,” Lee told StarBiz.

The new development will comprise more than 6,000 residential and commercial units worth a total GDV of RM2.5bil.

KLK Property general manager Lim Peng Hong said low-density projects, with emphasis on ample provision of green tracts and open areas to promote good communal integration and facilities, would do well.

“In our next 405ha development, we plan to continue with the same strategy to offer spaciousness, good layout options, better finishes and, most importantly, affordable pricing to cater to the demand of a wider spectrum of the target market,” Lim said.

Meanwhile, AP Land's Bandar Tasik Puteri is an integrated township development spanning over 2,670 acres in Rawang. Since the project kicked off in 1998, 1,000 acres have been developed.

AP Land joint managing director Low Su Ming said Bandar Tasik Puteri was fast emerging as the urban regional centre of the North Klang Valley.

In the past decade, the company has launched close to 10,000 property units with cumulative sales of RM1bil achieved to-date. The township now has a population of 45,000.

According to Bandar Tasik Puteri's blueprint masterplan, 75% of the development will comprise the residential component, 15% commercial and the balance 10% for green lung, infrastructure and facilities.

Holistic planning

Low said instead of focusing merely on price competitiveness to drive sales, developers should adopt a longer term and more holistic vision of value adding to their townships.

“With the rising cost of construction, affordable houses priced from RM145,000 to RM180,000 will prove more difficult to hold in the medium and longer term.”

Besides offering attractive packages for house buyers, Low said, convenience, facilities and accessibility were primary considerations for even the most affordable group of buyers.

“We are planning a combination of good supporting facilities such as schools, colleges, medical services, shopping convenience, communication services, road linkages and transport.

“To enhance the quality of life for the residents, we are also beefing up the security and community events to promote healthy community living here,” she added.

Meanwhile, the third nine holes at Tasik Puteri Golf & Country Club (TPGCC) have just been opened while the clubhouse extension and upgrade would be ready by the third quarter of this year.

Low said the 27-hole championship course would boost the attractiveness of TPGCC as a popular destination for golfing and club facilities.

Lifestyle projects

In Rawang, GuocoLand's Emerald Rawang on 1,029 acres is also making waves and changing the property landscape in the northern corridor.

The gated community development comprises terrace houses, semi-detached units, bungalows, town houses, shop offices and apartments with a GDV of RM1.5bil. The project is scheduled for completion in 2012.

Besides quality housing, trendy commercial projects will also make their debut in the corridor.

Mainstay Development Sdn Bhd is planning a new retail development called space u8 in Bukit Jelutong that will be completed in early 2010.

Chairman Raja Azmi Raja Razali said there was a need for a good lifestyle destination in Bukit Jelutong as residents now had to travel quite a distance for a “friendly” retail environment.

“As residents' demographics change, the type of residential properties and commercial developments will grow to accommodate them. space u8 aims to meet the growing demand for a lifestyle destination in Shah Alam,” he said.

With net lettable area of 574,647.52 sq ft, the project based on the shop unit, mall office (sumo) retail concept will have a covered courtyard of about 70,000 sq ft as its main attraction.

By The Star

SunCity shines on innovative projects

SUNWAY City Bhd (SunCity) has established a strong brand since it started developing Bandar Sunway in Petaling Jaya in the early 1990s.

Today, the group, listed on Bursa Malaysia main board, has spread its wings overseas as well as other parts of the Klang Valley, each time bringing with it a reputation of building quality and innovative homes.

One may recall how popular The Ritz two-storey link houses in Bandar Sunway were when they were launched in 1990. Priced at RM153,888, The Ritz boasts a large master bedroom of almost 400 sq ft, so big that part of it occupies the top of the car porch! The master bedroom has a large attached bathroom with a long bath.

It also introduced a unique “super link” for its Bandar Sunway Semenyih in 2002. Although not an actual super link house in the true sense of the word as the built-up area is only about 1,600 sq ft, it has an extra-wide frontage but only a length of 51ft.

The group was also one of the first to provide a swimming pool for apartments as in the case of its RM95,000 apartments in Bandar Sunway in 1990.

Ho Hon Sang (left) and Michael Lee with a model of the Villa Manja semi-detached homes.

SunCity takes great pride in its show houses and is among the best in the market. This is evident in its show houses at Sunway Kayangan, D'Villa Bungalows @ Kota Damansara and the more recent ones at Villa Manja at Sunway SPK Damansara.

Over the years, the group has won numerous prestigious awards, including the Superbrands Malaysia Award 2005-2006, The Edge Malaysia Top Property Developers Awards 2003-2007, and Euromoney Real Estate Award 2006 Top 3 Property Developers in Malaysia. It also secured the MS ISO 9001: 2000 Quality Management System certification and was ranked sixth in the Hewitt-Fortune-RBL Top Companies For Leaders 2007 - Asia Pacific.

The group is also known for setting new benchmarks not only in quality, stylish designs but also in pricing. It is one of the few developers that ventured into the very high-end market like its 77 units of Bayrocks garden waterfront villas at the RM3.7bil Sunway South Quay (formerly Sunway Science City) whose prices start from RM4.53mil to RM6.2mil!

The Sunway South Quay, one of the two big former ex-mining lakes in Bandar Sunway (the first lake had been transformed into the Sunway Lagoon Resort more than 15 years ago), is set to be a long-term money-spinner for SunCity.

SunCity has several high-end projects in the exclusive Mont'Kiara/Sri Hartamas neighbourhood in Kuala Lumpur. They are the Kiara Hills, Casa Kiara 1, 2 and 3, Palazzio Sunway and the Sunway Vivaldi, launched in April.

The Sunway Vivaldi at Mont'Kiara comprises of 228 freehold condominium units priced from RM2.6mil to RM6.3mil. The units boast spacious floor layout of up to 4,000 sq ft. Features include a private lift lobby, cascading and meandering water features, Olympic-length swimming pool and a multi-level central eco-park.

Perhaps the most iconic of all is its Palazzio Sunway luxury condominiums in Sri Hartamas where the 160 units in two 20-storey blocks were initially priced from RM850 per sq ft.

The group's latest project is the RM400mil Villa Manja @ Sunway SPK Damansara that is being developed by Sunway SPK Homes Sdn Bhd, a joint venture between Sunway City Bhd and Syarikat Permodalan Kebangsaan Bhd (SPK).

This gated community with security guard house offers only 196 freehold semi-detached homes with a “bungalow-like” design, wide and open spaces, and a green park. Access to this 33-acre residential enclave is via a single entry and exit point, providing further exclusivity and security for residents.

Prices of the Twin Villas start from RM1.97mil each with built-up areas from 3,948 sq ft (45ft x 90ft). There are six bedrooms with five attached bathrooms. The porch can park four cars.

SunCity chief operating officer Ho Hon Sang said about 80% of the 100 units launched last August had been sold.

“We're now opening for sale the balance of the 96 units. This is a single-product development with a low density of only six units per acre. There are no T-junctions and all the houses are placed in a north-south direction,” he said.

The homes come with many extras, including nine units of energy efficient and eco-friendly air-conditioners, security alarm, automatic gate, motion detector light, solar water heater, water booster pump, whirlpool system bathtub for master bedroom, shower screens to all bathrooms (except maid's bath), glass balustrade at staircase and balcony, anti-subterranean termite treatment, and five-year warranty for external painting.

SunCity senior manager (marketing and sales) Michael Lee said all four show houses had been sold. Two of them that are furnished have been sold for RM3.1mil and RM2.7mil.

By The Star (by S.C.Cheah)

Builders, buyers head north to a new corridor

An aerial view of Bandar Tasik Puteri in Rawang.

KLANG Valley's northern corridor, which is still relatively untapped compared with the rapidly developing central and southern corridors, is ripe for more exciting changes and progress, going forward.

The availability of vast land bank and improved infrastructure connectivity have attracted quite a number of developers, including Sime Darby Property Bhd (formerly Guthrie Property Development Holding Bhd), Asia Pacific Land Bhd, KL-Kepong Property Holdings Sdn Bhd (KLK Property) and GuocoLand (M) Bhd (formerly Hong Leong Properties Bhd).

More innovative residential and commercial products that are in the pipeline, including gated residences and lifestyle retail projects, will further spruce up the corridor's landscape.

According to Ho Chin Soon Research Sdn Bhd director Ho Chin Soon, the research company's Locational Centre of Gravity showed there was good growth potential for the various locations in the northern corridor including Selayang, Rawang, Sungei Buloh, Kuang, Guthrie Corridor and Shah Alam North.

“There are large tracts of freehold plantation land in the northern corridor. Besides the Sime Darby group, we have private landowners like Kuala Lumpur Kepong (KLK) group that have sufficient land for development for many, many years to come,” he said.

Ho said since the Klang Valley's growth – including a 5% annual population growth – was continuing unabated, “it would not be wrong to say that the northern corridor would progress more or less in line with Klang Valley's growth.”

“Land prices have not escalated much but we can possibly say there's a 5% per annum increase in values over the last few years.

“Land nearer to the urban areas is priced RM20 to RM25 per sq ft while those in the outskirts is between RM10 and RM15 per sq ft,” Ho said.

Developers are eager to see the implementation of proposed highways, including the Assam-Jawa Latar Expressway linking Rawang to Kuala Selangor and Port Klang and the West Coast Highway that will further enhance the potential of the northern corridor.

New highways

The completion of the 25km Guthrie Corridor Expressway (GCE) that stretches from Bukit Jelutong to Kuang, near Rawang, in 2004 had contributed to the opening up of the northern and western parts of the Klang Valley.

According to Asia Pacific Land Bhd (AP Land) joint managing director Low Su Ming, there has been notable development in the northern corridor in the past decade although the pace was relatively slower compared with the southern and central corridors.

»With escalating prices in other parts of the Klang Valley, demand has begun radiating to the north« LOW SU MING

“With escalating property prices in other parts of the Klang Valley, demand has begun radiating to the north, including Sungai Buloh and Rawang.

“However, there is still a big gap in the prices of properties located here from those in the more developed and sought after areas in the Klang Valley,” Low said.

KL-Kepong Property Development Sdn Bhd (KLK Property) general manager Lim Peng Hong said the GCE and the North-South Expressway had contributed substantially to the success of the various townships in the northern corridor.

This include Sime Darby's Bukit Jelutong, KLK's Desa Coalfields in Sungei Buloh, AP Land's Bandar Tasik Puteri and GuocoLand's Emerald Rawang in Rawang.

The setting up of educational institutions such as Universiti Selangor, Universiti Teknologi Mara II and the new Sungai Buloh Diagnostic Hospital has also attracted property players and investors to the area.

Lower entry cost

“Property projects located within the boundaries of the northern corridor will do well as the scarcity of development land in the Klang Valley and Kuala Lumpur has created the need to build further from the city,” Lim said.

He said escalating costs of construction and scarcity of land, especially in mature areas within the Klang Valley, had contributed to marked increase in property prices of projects with modern living concepts, good facilities and environment.

“The prices of residential properties in the more exclusive addresses in the Klang Valley had made it almost impossible for the average wage earners to acquire them, and they are looking at projects in locations further away from the city.

“With properly planned infrastructure and amenities, projects in the northern corridor will prove to be the next best alternative for many average wage earners,” Lim said.

Although there is still a lot of land available – be it government or privately held, location and accessibility are major considerations that affect the marketability of the projects.

APL's Low said that as land in the central and southern corridors of the Klang Valley was scarce, the price of land in those areas was currently at record highs.

“The lower entry cost of land in the northern corridor is a definite plus. There is certainly potential in the longer term.

“We hope the Government would hasten the approved infrastructure works, which are badly needed in this corridor. When this happens, the growth in this corridor will catch up with the other parts of the Klang Valley.”

She said although places like Rawang and Sungai Buloh had grown substantially, the public transportation system was still lagging and further improvements to the infrastructure network would certainly provide a new growth catalyst for the northern corridor.

“Infrastructure projects, such as the Government’s planned upgrading of certain trunk roads leading into Rawang town and electrified railways under the Ninth Malaysia Plan, will certainly open up more development opportunities and better growth prospects in this corridor,” Low said.

By The Star (by Angie Ng and Leong Hung Yee)

New highway helps push projects

While township developments have mushroomed in prime locations in the Kuala Lumpur city centre, the northern corridor of the Klang Valley is slowly catching up in development activities.

Steadfast Realty principal Lee Wai Kong said the northern corridor had been quite remote previously but developments have started to pick up since the opening of Guthrie Corridor Expressway (GEC).

The 25km-long GCE connects Bukit Jelutong in Shah Alam to Kuang, near Rawang, and complements the North-South Expressway and New Klang Valley Expressway.

Lee believes that traffic on the highway would eventually pick up although it is quite slow at present.

“There is no doubt that the GCE has brought positive effect around the area but new developments are not as rapid as developments in the Kuala Lumpur city centre,” he noted.

“Although developments along the highway have picked up, we do not expect an immediate intense development in these areas. It will probably take another five to 10 years before we can see a property boom in these areas.”

Lee pointed out that property prices in these areas had also been going up steadily since the opening of GCE.

“Locations closer to Petaling Jaya or Shah Alam can command a better pricing although rental yields are still relatively low.

“Exclusive developments are a different story altogether. They could see better appreciation in value but not in yield. Therefore, locations like Rawang and Selayang might not seem so attractive,” he added.

He said Rawang was just another suburb and the housing demand would be fuelled by locals. He said it would be tougher for Rawang to capture the spillover from Kuala Lumpur.

“I think the development in Selayang will be much faster than in Rawang because of the connectivity. Selayang, which links to north Kuala Lumpur, can command better pricing as well,” he said.

Far no more

Meanwhile, Axis REIT Managers chief operating officer and executive director Stewart LaBrooy said land prices in Jelutong had been rising.

“Jelutong and Shah Alam have become more popular and generated a lot more interest today. A lot of new developments have started since the highway was opened,” he said.

He pointed out that there was a time when people were saying Kota Damansara was far, but people did not mind the distance now as the infrastructure was in place.

“The distances start to appear shorter, thanks to a reduction in travelling time,” he said, adding that Jelutong had good connectivity to the rest of the Klang Valley via major highways.

LaBrooy said more people were moving away from KL.

He said some property owners were “trading up” their current property. Some property owners sell their properties in KL at a high premium and buy a semi-detached or bigger property in the suburb.

He agreed with Lee that Rawang was a “local play”. “Personally, Rawang is just Rawang. The property prices are increasing but at a slower rate,” he said.

LaBrooy said Rawang did offer some good properties but some property buyers were “buying into the address” of the property. Buyers were willing to pay for a prestigious address, he added.

He expected more activities in these areas, going forward, but hoped the new developments would not cause a property overhang.

Developers attracted

Ho Chin Soon Research Sdn Bhd director and master mapmaker Ho Chin Soon opined that the GCE was constructed in such a way that it benefited Sime Darby Property Bhd.

“There is not much increase in property prices in this area but properties here will rise in tandem eventually with the Klang Valley,” he said.

Developments have started to pick up since the opening of the 25km-long Guthrie Corridor Expressway in 2005

The growing attractiveness of the northern corridor of the Klang Valley has not gone unnoticed. More and more developers have bought land in these areas.

Analysts said that the corridor, being strategically located at the confluence of major highways in the Klang Valley, had encouraged homebuyers to move there.

“GCE brings about the development of Bukit Jelutong, Bukit Subang and neighbouring housing areas,” an analyst said, adding that the highway had also helped properties nearby to appreciate in value.

An analyst with a local brokerage said property prices were moving up in the neighbouring areas of Kuala Lumpur and at the Sungai Buloh boundary.

“With soaring property prices in prime areas like Damansara, it makes sense for people to invest in Sungai Buloh, which is bordering Damansara. Therefore, newly developed properties in Sungai Buloh can be an option for investment,” he said.

He added that property prices were expected to pick up eventually.

Rawang, which is further north, was not exactly a development hotbed, said another analyst. He said that although the area had been growing at a steady pace, it was never a first priority for homebuyers. This is despite property prices there being cheaper.

“A homebuyer could probably get a semi-detached house in Rawang at the price of a link house in Mont'Kiara,” he said.

Setia Eco Park in Shah Alam is one of the developments that have benefited from Guthrie Corridor Expressway

“Developments that are doing well due to their locations near a major highway include Setia Alam, Setia Eco-Park and Alam Perdana that are connected by the Setia-Meru Link, as well as Sierramas and Valencia, which are accessible via the Sungai Buloh Interchange,” an analyst said.

He added that it was very important for any development to have a dedicated link to a highway so that residents would not need to travel far by going through another development.

By The Star

RM200mil nursing college to take shape in Bandar Sri Sendayan

PROPERTY developer BSS Development Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Matrix Concepts Holdings Bhd, expects anchor investor International University College of Nursing (IUCN) to boost the economic development in its new township, Bandar Sri Sendayan in Seremban.

Today, state government agency Menteri Besar Inc of Negeri Sembilan will sign a deal to sell 200 acres in Bandar Sri Sendayan to Run Education Sdn Bhd, the owner and manager of IUCN.

Run Education will invest about RM200mil to build IUCN, Malaysia's first international nursing school.

BSS, in a joint venture with Menteri Besar Inc of Negeri Sembilan, is developing the 5,235-acre Bandar Sri Sendayan, which has a gross development value of RM3bil.

“We believe that the new IUCN campus will accelerate the growth of Bandar Sri Sendayan as well as stir up the local economic activities in Seremban,” Menteri Besar Inc of Negeri Sembilan chief executive officer Datuk Mohd Hasiah Mohd told StarBiz.

He said Menteri Besar Inc is confident of attracting students from neighbouring countries, as IUCN would have a competitive advantage in terms of location, being only 20km from the KL International Airport.

IUCN had a target of 60:40 ratio between international and local students, he added.

BSS managing director Datuk Lee Tian Hock said IUCN expected the first intake of 5,000 students in September next year and hoped to accommodate 20,000 students by 2011.

“We hope IUCN would attract foreign and local students to pursue nursing qualifications in Seremban as the cost of living is relatively lower than the Kuala Lumpur city centre,” he said.

Located in the middle of Bandar Sri Sendayan, the IUCN campus would be developed in two phases and construction was scheduled to start next month, said Lee.

According to him, Bandar Sri Sendayan is expected to have a population of 60,000 when it is fully developed in 15 years.

Meanwhile, BSS and the Negri Sembilan state government agency are currently in talks with a foreign party to sell 1,000 acres for over US$1bil for an integrated tourism-related project.

The deal was expected to be finalised next month, said Mohd Hasiah.

By The Star - StarBiz

Selangor Dredging on expansion drive

SELANGOR Dredging Bhd (SDB), a high-end property developer, is on the lookout for opportunities to expand at home and in the region this year, its top official said.

The group last year ventured into Singapore - its first and only overseas market so far - where it expects to fetch RM400 million in sales from the launch of two developments later in the year, managing director Teh Lip Kim said.

"With regard to regional business activities, we will concentrate on this at the moment. However, we are open to venturing into other countries within the region, should the opportunity arise," she told Business Times in a recent interview.

The group is not engaged in any discussions to buy land at the moment, she added.

Besides property development, the main board-listed company is also involved in property management and leasing.

It operates the Hotel Maya, a boutique hotel in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.

"We hope to launch three developments this year - two in Singapore and one in Kuala Lumpur - with a total gross sales value of about RM550 million. This is an increase from last year, where we launched two developments, Ameera Residences in SS2 Petaling Jaya and 20Trees in Melawati," she said.

These new projects are expected to contribute to the group's current fiscal year ending March 31 2009.

In Singapore, the two projects it will launch are seven-storey condominium in Wilkey Road, just off the popular Orchard Road and 38-storey apartment near Newton Circus, just off Scotts Road.

In Kuala Lumpur, it is launching a 10-storey apartment in Jalan Ampang.

Last year, the group registered a fourfold increase in net profit to RM97.1 million. Teh is "cautiously optimistic" that it will continue to do well this year despite an increase in the cost of materials and the bearish global economic sentiment.

Recently, the group spent RM24.6 million to buy three parcels of beach-front land in Batu Feringgi, Penang - located between the Lone Pine and Casuarina hotels - where it plans to develop a "good, villa-type resort development" sometime in late 2009 or 2010, Teh said.

SDB is also the developer of the controversial "Damansara 21" project in Damansara Heights, where it plans to build 21 luxury bungalows on a hillslope, which has drawn a lot of flak from nearby residents.

Its other projects include Aman Sari in Puchong and Park Seven at Kuala Lumpur City Centre.

Yeonzon Yeow, head of research at Kenanga Investment Bank, has a "buy" call on SDB's stock, saying the group's strength lies in its cutting-edge products and its good property management.

While some view SDB as a small cap stock that doesn't perform as well as other property stocks, he said the developer was able to achieve strong sales with high benchmark prices.

"Take the Ameera condominium, it is the most expensive condominium in SS2 and there was strong take-up," he remarked.

He has a target price of RM1.84 on the stock, which suggests a 161 per cent upside from its last Friday's closing of 70.5 sen.

By New Straits Times

Damansara project hangs in balance

SELANGOR Dredging Bhd (SDB)'s plan to build 21 luxury bungalows in Damansara Heights hangs in the balance as nearby residents go all out to stop the hillside development, citing safety concerns.

The project, known as Damansara 21 and with a gross development value of up to RM250 million, is not the group's biggest but it has been grabbing newspaper headlines of late because of protests by concerned residents.

SDB's managing director Teh Lip Kim, however, says the protests are unfair as the group has taken pains to ensure that it has gone through all the necessary legal and regulatory processes.

It has also committed to spending RM34 million on infrastructure work to strengthen the slope and increase safety.

Despite going by all the rules, residents are still protesting, she said.

"As a developer and an investor in the country, when all this is called into question, it really puts the investment sentiment of the country at risk," she said in an interview.

SDB's subsidiary, SDB Properties Sdn Bhd, will this week apply to City Hall to lift a stop-work order that it was issued last month for failing to comply with certain safety standards, she said.

It expects to have complied with all the safety standards by then, she said. The group has twice held dialogues with residents and is willing to address any other concerns on safety going forward as well, she said.

Asked if she expects to be given the go-ahead from City Hall given the rising pressure from residents, she said: "The authorities are basically doing what's right, but somehow with all this pressure, they are feeling it. But, I think one has to review whether some of these pressures are reasonable or not. At the end day, the investment climate has to be there for the country to move forward," she said.

She noted that SDB's is not an isolated case as there have also been other developers facing similar issues in the country.

SDB had bought the 5.78 acres of land in Jalan Setia Bistari for RM50 million in 2005.

Michael Yam, deputy president of Real Estate and Housing Developers' Association Malaysia said hill slope developments are common especially in countries such as Hong Kong.

By New Straits Times

Marriott Putrajaya to get RM30m facelift

YEOW: For this year and next our focus will be on local and International Businesses

PUTRAJAYA Marriott Hotel plans to undergo a RM30 million renovation and refurbishment to win a bigger share of the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) market.

It is a substantial investment because typically, hotel owners upgrade their hotels every 10 years. Marriott just turned six on May 15 this year.

The one-and-a-half-year upgrade will cater to an anticipated influx of people with the development in Putrajaya as well as the upcoming shopping complex planned to be built next to the hotel, its general manager Yeow Hock Siew said.

Yeow, who has helmed this five-star 488-room hotel for the past four years, said that in the past the hotel was busy trying to fill its rooms.

"Over the past year, we have started to focus on the right segment, the MICE market. We have an area ideal for MICE," Yeow said.

"We have progressed upwards since. For the fiscal year ended June 2007, we had an average occupancy of 40 per cent and an average room rate (ARR) of RM215. In June 2008, (we should finish) at an average occupancy of 58 per cent and an ARR of RM227," he added.

He said that unlike city hotels, Marriott Putrajaya neither has a night entertainment nor a shopping zone, which poses a challenge.

"For this year and next our focus will be on local and international businesses," Yeow said, adding that its target includes the Indian, Chinese and Indonesian market.

To this end, it is adding on a RM15 million ballroom called the Garden Ballroom which is capable of accommodating 300 people for dinners and 600 people for meetings.

This adds to its existing facility which allows for 2,300 guests in a standing cocktail and 1,500 for seating.

Other planned upgrades includes the refurbishment of over 100 over rooms at RM75,000 per room, its restaurants and the inclusion of an exclusive VIP lounge.

Not included in its current budget is the renovation and addition of villas to accommodate a Martha Tilaar Spa.

With all these in place, Yeow expects that by June 2009, its average occupancy will improve to 65 per cent and ARR to touch RM240.

Some 85 per cent of its guests are business travellers while the rest are leisure travellers.

The hotel, built by the IOI group at RM200 million, currently enjoys a gross operating profit of 38 per cent.

By New Straits Times (by Vasantha Ganesan)

Boston Prop buys New York buildings for US$3.95b

CHICAGO: Boston Properties Inc said on Saturday it reached a deal to buy the General Motors Building in Manhattan, along with three other buildings, from New York developer Harry Macklowe for about US$3.95 billion (RM12.68 billion).

Boston Properties, which owns and operates office buildings, said it would acquire the properties through joint ventures with unidentified partners.

The company said it would pay about US$1.47 billion (RM4.72 billion) in cash and US$10 million (RM32.10 million) of common units of limited partnership interest. The company also agreed to take on about US$2.47 billion (RM7.92 billion) in debt.

The company said in a statement it would also buy three other New York properties: 540 Madison Avenue, 125 West 55th Street and Two Grand Central Tower.

The GM Building is seen as one of the most successful real estate redevelopments and arguably the most coveted office building in Manhattan.

Macklowe Properties bought the building, previously half-owned by Donald Trump, in 2003 for a then-record US$1.4 billion (RM4.49 billion).

Macklowe turned the 50-storey structure into a hot property, luring hedge funds and private equity firms as tenants and commanding some of the highest rents - more than US$150 (RM481.50) per sq ft - in the US.

Macklowe spent about US$7 billion (RM22.47 billion) last year for seven Manhattan buildings previously owned by Equity Office Properties Trust.

He has since struggled to refinance those loans and has reached extension agreements with his chief lenders, Fortress Investment Group LLC and Deutsche Bank AG.

Proceeds from the GM Building will be used to repay Macklowe's lenders.

Last year, Deutsche Bank headed a group that provided US$5.8 billion (RM18.62 billion) in short-term loans for the buildings.

Those loans and a US$1.2 billion (RM3.85 billion) equity loan from Fortress Investment were to be replaced by longer-term loans.

But the tightening credit markets wiped out Macklowe's ability to secure new funding. In February, he defaulted on the loans.

Macklowe's troubles became emblematic of those of large borrowers who relied on temporary financing to foot the bill for huge acquisitions, only to have the credit crunch crush plans.

Borrowing terms have become less generous and more expensive.

By Reuters

Malaysia Building Society's Q1 net soars

MALAYSIA Building Society Bhd, a housing loan provider, said its first quarter net profit quadrupled as it sets aside less money to cover potential bad loans.

In addition, it made more in net interest income as well as from Islamic banking income.

MBSB expects to remain profitable for the second quarter of fiscal 2008 that ends on December 31, it said in a statement to Bursa Malaysia.

"The group will continue to focus on its core mortgage and related retail businesses whilst emphasising on fee-based income and corporate loans recovery," it said.

MBSB made a net profit of RM19.6 million for the quarter to March 31 2008 against RM4.9 million in the same period a year ago.

Revenue was up by a third to RM106.3 million.

MBSB, a subsidiary of the Employees Provident Fund, has been in the limelight as it has lured interest from local and foreign suitors.

In April, MBSB said a due diligence was being done on the group. It was responding to reports that said three Abu Dhabi government-linked companies are eyeing EPF's stake in MBSB.

The reports also said that the main objective of the sale is to develop some of MBSB's strategic landbank without using EPF money.

By New Straits Times

Parkson plans more outlets

DEPARTMENT store operator Parkson Corp Sdn Bhd aims to open two to three new stores in Malaysia each year and an average of four new stores in Vietnam.

This will add to the 34 Parkson outlets in Malaysia and five in Vietnam, that the retailer will have by end-2008.

Investments into one Parkson in Malaysia is about RM15 million, while in Vietnam it's between US$3 million and US$4 million (RM9.63 million and RM12.84 million), half of which is borne by suppliers who fit their counters in the store.

Parkson, a subsidiary of Parkson Holdings Bhd, also plans for a maiden venture into Cambodia in 2010. Its first store there will be in Phnom Penh and it plans to look for more sites to expand.

Parkson's chief operating officer Toh Peng Koon said Parkson continued to see ample opportunities for growth in Malaysia, where the market is mature and the brand is well established.

"There is still opportunity to grow in Malaysia, in places like Johor, Alor Star (Kedah), Taiping (Perak), Sabah and Sarawak and even within the Klang Valley like in Shah Alam," Toh told Business Times in an interview.

A total of five new outlets were planned for 2008, three of which have begun operations - The Spring, Kuching, Parkson Melaka Mall and Parkson East Coast Mall, Kuantan. Two new openings will be the Parkson Bunga Raya Mall in Kuala Terengganu by end-July and Parkson KBTC (Kota Baru Trade Centre) by year-end.

This will bring its total retail space in Malaysia to 3.5 million sq ft by the end of the year.

New stores in 2009/2010 include KK Times Square in Sabah and Parkson on Jalan Genting Klang, a mall that will be owned and operated by the group.

Parkson Malaysia makes up about a quarter of Parkson Holdings' gross sales.

In Vietnam, where retail development is at its infancy, Parkson has the first mover advantage. It introduced the department store concept in Vietnam three years ago and enjoys a handsome level of growth each year.

Parkson will add its fifth store in Ho Chi Minh City this July. Its first store was also opened here.

"In Vietnam, our stores are enjoying very strong growth. Same store growth is about 30 per cent," he said.

According to Toh, even prior to Parkson's opening in Hanoi last month, Parkson was quoted as the most popular brand there. Its four existing stores are located in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Hai Phong.

Parkson has also entered into a joint venture to build a mall in Vietnam. The shopping centre, with a net floor area of 11,222 sq m, forms part of a property development project comprising a hotel and office blocks with a gross development value of US$88.9 million (RM285.37 million). The project is expected to be completed in 2011.

By New Straits Times (by Vasantha Ganesan)