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Monday, July 13, 2009

Construction industry building itself up again

Construction workers working on an apartment complex in Kuala Lumpur. CIMB Research says execution is now the order of the day for the construction industry.

PETALING JAYA: More than a year after the local construction industry was hit by deferred projects coupled with high material costs, its prospects appear to be on the mend, say industry players.

“We can definitely look forward to better times, especially with cheaper material prices now,” Malaysian Resources Corp Bhd (MRCB) group managing director Shahril Ridza Ridzuan told StarBiz.

Shahril Ridza Ridzuan ... ‘We can definitely look forward to better times’

Shahril said he believed the Government would be “efficient” in rolling out projects under the 9th Malaysia Plan (9MP) and stimulus packages which were key to the survival of the sector.

MRCB’s ongoing projects were “going well”, he said, adding that the company, largely involved in construction and property, had several projects under tender of which “one or two” fell under the RM67bil stimulus packages. Its current construction order book stands at close to RM3bil.

Last year was a difficult one for the construction industry with the change in government in certain states which subsequently thwarted certain infrastructure plans.

Coupled with the surge in prices of materials like steel, which peaked at RM4,000 per tonne and crude oil which hit a record of US$147 per barrel, many construction companies were struggling to keep margins afloat.

Steel prices have since softened to around RM2,000 per tonne last month while crude oil is about US$60 per barrel now, translating possibly into healthier margins for the players.

A clearer political direction is also apparent under the administration of new Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

“Execution is now the order of the day,” CIMB Research told clients in a recent construction sector update.

Datuk Foo Chu Jong ... urged the Government to be quicker in implementing projects

“We believe things are getting better but we urge the Government to be ‘quicker’ in the implementation of more of the announced projects,” Prinsiptek Corp Bhd managing director Datuk Foo Chu Jong said.

The smallish construction company which has an order book of about RM400mil to RM500mil was “in discussions” with the relevant parties on several infrastructure projects and hoped to secure “some soon”, he said without elaborating.

In its update, CIMB Research identified 12 mega construction projects worth up to RM80bil, of which RM30bil to RM35bil was for the Klang Valley light trail transit extension and upgrade project, also known as the “highlight” project of the government’s pump-priming over the remaining 9MP period.

It identified MRCB, IJM Corp Bhd, Gamuda Bhd, UEM Builders Bhd and WCT Bhd as potential winners of this huge project, citing their cost efficient measures and track record.

The Bakun power transmission project is another mega project to look out for with CIMB saying that the project may take off “sooner than later” as cost had come off from RM14bil to RM9bil on lower steel prices.

MRCB was at the forefront for this project given its experience in undertaking major power transmission in the country, it said.

Najib said early this month that as at June 19, RM9bil worth of projects had been awarded under the Government’s RM67bil stimulus packages to stimulate economic growth. Of this, RM3bil had been disbursed.

By The Star (by Yvonne Tan)

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