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Friday, August 1, 2008

Japan's Orix invests in Tune Hotels

JAPAN'S Orix Corp, a financial group, is investing US$17.2 million (RM56.07 million) for a 10 per cent stake in Tune, an operator of budget hotels.

Tune Hotels will use the money to accelerate its rollout across Southeast Asia, it said in a statement released in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

It now operates two hotels in Malaysia and plans for 28 more across Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. By the end of this year, it hopes to expand its regional hotel presence to 50.

"We welcome our new partner, this investment is a major milestone in the growth of Tune and also the economy hotel investment market in Asia," said Tune Hotels director and co-founder Dennis Melka.

Orix is listed on the Tokyo stock exchange. Its main activities include corporate financial services such as leases and loans as well as automobile operations, rental operations and real estate-related finance.

Orix managing director Hideo Ichida will also become one of Tune Hotels' directors.

AirAsia Bhd group chief executive officer Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes, who is also a co-founder, said Tune Hotels has revolutionised the hospitality industry.

It offers space-efficient rooms with luxury beds and high-pressure showers at rates as low as US$3.00 (RM9.78) per night in the city centre as well as beachfront locations.

"We offer the best hotel rates to travellers by cutting out frills like ballrooms, gyms, meeting rooms and business centres," he said.

By New Straits Times

Orix buys into Tune Hotel

KUALA LUMPUR: Orix Corp, a financial services and investment company headquartered in Tokyo, has agreed to a strategic investment in Tune Ltd.

In a statement, Tune said Orix agreed on July 27 to invest US$17.2mil for a 10% equity stake in the company.

It said Orix managing director Hideo Ichida would join Tune's board of directors effective immediately.

Tune said the proceeds from the share placement would be used to accelerate its rollout across South-East Asia.

“At present, Tune has two hotel properties opened and an additional 28 sites under development across Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.

“Tune is on track to increase its portfolio of sites (opened and under development) to over 50 by year-end and 100 by 2009,” it said.

Meanwhile, Ichida said the exponential growth of low-cost carriers in South-East Asia has created an unprecedented boom in tourism.

“Coupled with rising disposable incomes and increased regional integration in Asean, there is a shortage of quality affordable accommodation.

“Tune is best positioned to meet this surging market demand,” he said.

Tune chief executive officer Mark Lankester said the investment would allow the company to maintain its rapid growth across Asean and eventual leadership position in the Asian economy hotel industry.

By Bernama

Frasers Hospitality enters Malaysia

SINGAPORE: Frasers Hospitality Pte Ltd, the hospitality arm of property group Frasers Centrepoint Ltd, is entering Malaysia and will provide technical and advisory services for YNH Property Bhd’s “Gold-Standard” serviced residence project in Kuala Lumpur.

In a statement on Wednesday, Frasers Hospitality said it had signed agreements to provide the services for Fraser Place Kuala Lumpur, which is slated for completion in a year.

Fraser Place will be part of a mixed development project, which comprises an office tower and a second tower with 217 studios, one-bedroom, two-bedroom and penthouse serviced residences. Fraser Place will be open to guests in the third quarter of 2009.

YNH executive chairman Datuk Dr Yu Kuan Chon said: “We are very happy to work together with Frasers Hospitality which will enhance our property’s value, image and reputation. Frasers Hospitality has built a reputation as one of the best international branded serviced residence management companies in the world.”

Frasers Hospitality chief executive officer Choe Peng Sum said: “Fraser Place offers fully-fitted luxury apartments with five-star-hotel-type service.”

Citing the Asian Development Bank, he said in spite of the economic woes in the US and its spillover to Asia, Malaysia’s real gross domestic product was expected to grow 5.7% in 2008 versus 5.8% in 2007.

Choe said Malaysia’s foreign direct investment (FDI) this year, according to the Malaysian Industrial Development Authority, was expected to surpass the RM33.4 billion recorded in 2007.

He said these indications meant a high number of business travellers on medium-term projects. “More than 80% of our guests are from Fortune 500 companies,” he said. “They come to Fraser because we offer Gold-Standard hotel-type services and ample living space, ideal for stays of a week and longer.”

Singapore-based Frasers Centrepoint is a wholly owned subsidiary of Fraser and Neave Ltd.

By The EDGE Malaysia

CapitaLand profit falls 44%, positive on outlook

SINGAPORE: CapitaLand, Southeast Asia's biggest property developer by market value, posted a 44% drop in quarterly net profit as property sales slowed and it had no big one-off gains, but it said the outlook was positive.

"Despite the cautious market sentiments, we have a positive outlook as our business units are competitively positioned and geographically diversified," CEO Liew Mun Leong said in a statement.

CapitaLand, 40%-owned by Singapore sovereign fund Temasek, earned S$515.2 million (US$376.9 million or RM1.23 billion) in April-June, down from S$912.6 million a year ago, when earnings were boosted by unrealised fair value gains in its assets. Excluding one-offs, net profit for the 2007 second quarter was S$267.2 million.

The economic gloom has triggered a steep drop in the number of home sales, with some analysts predicting house prices will fall by up to 40% over the next three years.

"In such a challenging time, when many companies in the countries we operate in are unable to raise funds, we continue to be able to access the capital markets in view of the group's strong reputation and good financial standing," Chairman Richard Hu said in the statement.

CapitaLand said it was on track in preparing its first Malaysian retail real estate investment trust (REIT) for launch this year, bringing the number of its listed REITs to six.

CapitaLand earlier this month borrowed US$1.5 billion to fund a residential project in Singapore that it plans to launch for sale in the first half of 2009, in a joint venture with Morgan Stanley Real Estate, Wachovia, and Singapore's Hotel Properties.

For 2008, CapitaLand is expected to post a 64% drop in earnings to S$1.02 billion from S$2.8 billion in 2007, according to the average of 16 analysts polled by Reuters. The 2007 results had included S$1.1 billion in revaluation gains. CapitaLand earned 61% of its income from Singapore in 2007, while Australia and New Zealand contributed 12% and China added 23%. But analysts are expecting weaker contributions from its Australia and China businesses this year.

AustraLand, 54%-owned by CapitaLand, earlier this week reported a 79% fall in earnings and announced a rights issue to raise up to A$557 million (RM1.7 billion).

CapitaLand has commited to subscribe to A$302 million in the issue, which could boost its stake in AustraLand to 70%.

Shares of CapitaLand have fallen 9% this year, slightly outperforming a 15% drop in the Straits Times Index. Rival developer KepLand lost a third of its value, while City Developments lost 19%.

By Reuters

Contractors feeling the pinch

PETALING JAYA: Master Builders Association Malaysia (MBAM) affiliate members are feeling the pinch of the escalating costs of essential building materials, including cement and steel bars as well as the recent shortage of sand.

This has led to delayed and abandoned projects in various states. Construction players said the situation had entered a critical stage particularly in Johor, Kedah, Melaka and Negri Sembilan.

MBAM president Ng Kee Leen said the association had urged the government to provide soft loans to small and medium-sized contractors and requested the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) to waive the levy on the contract sum of 0.125%, towards aiding its members through these difficult times.

"The local industry is still having problems after the liberalisation process of steel bars," he said at an MBAM dialogue with affiliate members on Aug 1. Ng also hoped that the ban on the import of steel bars would be lifted.

Ng expected more contractors to close shop if the prices of steel bars and cement do not stabilise soon.

Malacca Building Contractor's Association chairman Liw Chong Liong said so far, three major federal government projects in that state had been halted.

Another MBAM affiliate member from Johor said the state was facing a shortage of sand due to the export of the material to Singapore.

National Ready-Mixed Concrete Association of Malaysia (NRMCA) president Chris Landry said sand was an issue, particularly in Selangor and the shortage was due to the government's reluctance to allow sand permits to be handed out.

"Now there is only one sand pit opened for trade which drastically reduces the amount of natural sand available in the market," he said.

Sand is a major component of ready-mixed concrete, and if natural sand does not become more available in the short period, Landry predicted the shortage of ready-mixed concrete would drastically affect the building industry.

Landry said effective Aug 1, sand price had increased by RM7-15 per cubic metre. He added that he had no choice but to increase the prices of concrete as well.

By The EDGE Malaysia (by Julie Chong)