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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

'Malaysia will still attract Middle East investments'

MALAYSIA, particularly Johor's Iskandar project, will still be able to attract investments from the Middle East despite the current Dubai debt crisis, experts say.

Arlida Ariff, president and chief executive officer of Iskandar Investment Bhd (IIB), believes that there are still investors from that region looking for long-term prospects here.

Selective companies from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the city of Abu Dhabi continue to be strong despite what's happening in Dubai, she said.

"There's still a lot of liquidity from the Middle East that was in the past focused on the 'wrong' areas, which will now look for more sensible, long-term prospects. And I think our investment opportunities in Malaysia offer that for the Middle East," she told Business Times yesterday, on the sideline of the second day of the Malaysia-Arab Business Forum in Kuala Lumpur.
Dubai recently triggered a global stock market sell-off when it revealed that its investment companies needed more time to pay off a staggering US$60 billion (RM203.40 billion) debt.

IIB is the catalytic developer of Iskandar Malaysia, a project that has managed to draw some RM50.5 billion in investments since its inception in late 2006. This includes investments from the Middle East such as Mubadala Development Co and Aldar Properties (from Abu Dhabi), Kuwait Finance House and Limitless Holdings (Dubai).

Arlida said she doesn't expect these investments to be affected by debt fallout in Dubai.

"We remain confident that the projects that we have in partnership with our Middle Eastern partners will continue," she said.

She expects to be able to make announcements on some new investments at Iskandar over the next three to six months.

Datuk Richard Fong, chairman of Malaysia Property Inc (MPI), doesn't see the local property market being hurt by the latest developments in Dubai as Middle Eastern investors have generally not been big buyers since the global financial crisis started late last year.

"As far as the Malaysian property (market) is concerned, the biggest foreign purchasers are Singaporeans. The Middle East ranks ninth or 10th, so it doesn't really affect us much," he remarked.

MPI is a government-private entity, tasked with attracting foreign direct investments into the local property market.

Datuk Michael Yeoh, chief executive officer of the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute, said that the flow of investments from the Middle East into Malaysia "won't be too badly affected" given that oil-rich countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia are not affected by Dubai's problems.

By Business Times (by Adeline Paul Raj)

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