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Saturday, July 25, 2009

UOA keeps Kuala Lumpur as staple market

David Khor showing the integrated mixed development of Bangsar South

UOA Holdings Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Australian Stock Exchange-listed UOA Ltd, aims to bring more positive changes to the local property market by focusing on niche projects that will add value to the living and working environment.

Built on small parcels of land, its residential and commercial projects combine modern and contemporary elements with focus on good landscaping, natural lighting and spacious designs.

Although UOA has often been mistaken as a unit of life and general insurer, United Oriental Assurance Bhd, the “perceived association” with the financial services group has come in handy during its initial early years when it was etching out a mark in the industry.

Since its debut in the local property scene two decades ago, the company has completed a number of impressive and innovative residential and commercial projects in various parts of the city.

It has to-date completed more than 3,000 residential and commercial properties worth a gross development value of close to RM2.5bil.

In an interview with StarBizWeek, UOA general manager David Khor says the company’s projects have established UOA as a strategic and niche developer of quality projects in well sought after locations.

“Although most of our projects are located on small parcels of an acre to 30 acres, they are in highly visible and strategic locations, and these factors have contributed to the projects’ success,” Khor says.

Since starting out in Kuala Lumpur in 1989, UOA has not ventured out of prime real estate and well sought after locations – a hallmark of all its projects. Having such highly visible projects have also helped to establish UOA as a formidable name in Kuala Lumpur’s property scene.

Most of its projects have quick turnaround time of between 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 years from land purchase to project launch and sales.

“We do not want to overly extend ourselves by having too large a landbank that will incur very high holding cost. But we believe that it is good to have land in strategic locations such as around the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) as prices have came off quite a bit due to the global financial crisis and should be on a recovery mode in the coming months,” Khor points out.

Presently, it has a land bank of around 100 acres in various locations including Kepong, Taman Desa, Segambut and Bangsar.

The company is keeping busy with its 60-acre Bangsar South integrated mixed development, located on the former Kerinchi squatter colony, off the Federal Highway.

Khor says the company’s healthy financial position allows it to undertake projects under the build-then-sell (BTS) system with three residential projects – The Happy Garden, Villa Yarl and Halimahton projects, all located off Jalan Klang Lama – completed before they were launched for sale about two years ago. Its first boutique projects comprise Villa Mont’Kiara in Mont’Kiara and One Desa Residence in Taman Desa, off Jalan Klang Lama, that were completed five years ago, have further raised UOA’s profile in the local market.

The company has also made a major foray in commercial properties, four of which have been injected into the UOA Real Estate Investment Trust (UOA REIT) that was listed on Bursa Malaysia in 2005.

UOA Holdings and its subsidiary companies own 71% of UOA REIT.

The REIT contributes approximately RM20mil to the UOA group’s bottomline annually.

Khor says the performance of the REIT has been good. Since its listing three years ago, the trust’s assets have grown by over 50% to RM481mil through a combination of asset revaluation and acquisitions. Its asset portfolio comprise commercial parcels in UOA Centre (or UOA I) and UOA II, both located along Jalan Pinang and adjacent to the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC); UOA Damansara and UOA Pantai.

Ong says the company’s commercial properties will be made available to UOA REIT for right of first refusal.

The company’s other recently completed commercial projects include Menara UOA Bangsar and Wisma UOA Damansara II.

A strong proponent of light structures and use of glass and stainless steel to create an elegant and spacious effect in its office buildings, Khor says UOA believes in adding value to its developments by giving more than the features specified in its project agreement with buyers.

With its focused business plans and strategies, the company has enjoyed uninterrupted profit since 1991 and an annual average growth rate of 20%.

“We are proud of all our development projects as they each have their own unique design themes and features that cater to their particular location and target buyers,” Khor notes.

He says UOA is continuously seeking growth opportunities in its staple market of Kuala Lumpur and in other potential markets in other parts of the world.

“In fact the group has been looking for overseas ventures over the past decade and we have concluded that Malaysia is still the most conducive and preferred market for our businesses at this juncture,” Khor adds.

On whether UOA is seeking to list its property development outfit on Bursa Malaysia, he says: “The company has the intention to seek a listing on the local bourse pending the right timing. At the moment, the value of listed property companies are under performing in relation to their net asset value and we are not pursuing the listing initiative at this juncture.”

By The Star (by Angie Ng)

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