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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Boustead, Khazanah to bring Kidzania to Malaysia

The Boustead Group and Khazanah Nasional Bhd will be bringing the increasingly famous Kidzania theme park to Malaysia.

The two parties are expected to sign an agreement next week to build the indoor theme park in Mutiara Damansara, Petaling Jaya.

Kidzania is a family entertainment centre, typically comprising a child-sized replica of a real city.

The city is managed by children and has buildings, shops, streets and vehicles.

The park is to allow children to learn about the adult world by actually engaging themselves in various professions within the 'city'.

The theme park was first created by theme park innovator, Luis Javier Laresgoiti and is the idea of Mexican businessman Xavier Lopez Ancona.

There are now an increasing number of Kidzania parks around the world, including in Mexico City, Monterrey, Tokyo, Jakarta while others are being planned for Dubai, Lisbon, Barcelona, Santiago and Seoul.

By Business Times (by Mustapha Kamil)

Planning a better city with the people

For cities to thrive and stay relevant, it is important to have in place well thought out and clearly defined vision and master planning. And these need to be communicated to the local population to ensure they participate in the process of city building.

It is imperative for the local administration to engage with the local population and other stakeholders so that they can communicate their needs and ideas on the important aspects that should be included in a city’s planning.

The local dwellers and stakeholders should be invited to contribute their views before decisions on a city’s future are made.

The local government should seek public opinion and consensus by way of public display of draft local and state structure plans. Any concerns should be properly addressed before the plans are gazetted into law.

In many parts of the world, including Australia, residents are invited to sit on the planning committee for their area so that they have a hand in deciding what development can and cannot take place there.

At the end of the day, all stakeholders (including the local population, property owners, business operators and workers) should feel comfortable with the local structure plans and projects, and thus give their blessings.

Most of the time, plans that have consensus support and are for the good of the local community and general population, will work out quite well.

In the case of George Town, although the Local Plan had been completed some time back, it has yet to go on public display although this was initially scheduled for late last year. It is understood that the plan is still being amended and the public has not been consulted yet.

With George Town literally bursting at its seams with perpetual traffic jams, an inefficient public transport system and a dire need for transparent and workable redevelopment plans for the inner city and the peripherals, the sooner the local plan goes on public display, the better it is for the plan to adequately address the people’s concerns and work successfully.

To ensure the successful implementation of the local plan that has been gazetted into law, the local administration should be decisive and proactive in its implementation. It should also define the perimeters of development plans, including density, plot ratio, project type and the maximum height for buildings, among other things.

Indecisiveness or wavering on the part of the local administration will give rise to exploitation by some interest groups and other stakeholders may refuse to take part in the implementation process.

To ensure that this does not happen, the administration should be transparent. It must update people on any changes in the plans and seek their views before going ahead.

As land matters are under the purview of the state governments and the local authorities, the local administration has the full authority to come out with their own vision on how their cities should be developed and this includes housing projects, community amenities and infrastructure projects.

The growing population and rural-to-urban migration are some of the contributory factors that are straining cities around the world, and planners should be clear about where the city is heading.

Cities need a raison d’etre, or reason for being, to know specifically how they can be shaped in the future. Most Malaysian cities have not started out with clearly defined visions and master plans. Instead, they have sprung from the people’s needs and economic activities.

With the rapidly changing environment and lifestyles, it is perhaps time for our cities to re-invent and create niches for themselves to ensure greater comfort for city folks and to attract more visitors. There should be a clear understanding on how the city’s needs can be addressed as the population grows and the people’s requirements shift.

Well-planned infrastructure, especially a well-integrated and complementary public transport system and good real estate projects, will add value to the living environment and quality of life. The participation and cooperation of the private sector is paramount to the success of these initiatives.

By adopting a new paradigm of trust and transparency, coupled with clearly defined vision and direction on the part of the local government, industry players will be encouraged to support and participate in these projects.

As in all things, cities will grow old and decay, and it is important to inject new features and redevelopment plans to revitalise the cities and ensure that they move with the times.

On this score, Kuala Lumpur and Penang both have some common traits in that they need to revitalise and redevelop the older parts of their inner cities to inject more life and vibrance, especially during after-office hours.

Inner-city living will become trendy again if the local authorities encourage quality residential and commercial projects that blend in with the local environment.

● Deputy news editor Angie Ng hopes to see greener Malaysian cities through tree planting and the opening of parks to allow city folks a reprieve from the rising temperature.

By The Star (by Angie Ng)

Logistics facilities demand a boost

Areas with excellent road network in Klang Valley are hot spots for industrial property sector.

The performance of the industrial property sector will be led by demand for logistics cum warehousing facilities in specific areas in the Klang Valley.

According to CH William Talhar & Wong’s (WTW) first quarter 2009 property market report, these areas include Klang, Shah Alam and more recently, Kota Damansara that have an excellent network of roads and access to major highways – a prerequisite for international logistics providers.

“Some hot spots identified for the industrial property sector include Temasya Industrial Park in Glenmarie, Bandar Sultan Sulaiman Industrial Area in Klang, Port Klang, Section 15, Shah Alam and Selangor Science Park in Kota Damansara,” the report says.

Some notable industrial transactions that took place last year included a 2.6-ha industrial site at Seksyen U8 Shah Alam that was disposed at RM11.15mil and a 9.84-acre industrial site at Bandar Sultan Sulaiman in Klang was acquired at RM27.1mil.

“In 2008, a few manufacturing plants ceased operations including Ford Malaysia’s production and assembly facility in Seksyen 15, Shah Alam, Panasonic’s Sungai Way facility after the operations were moved to Seksyen 16, Shah Alam and the closing of Hitachi Consumer Products’ manufacturing facility in Bangi,” it says.

On its outlook for this year, the report notes that the Malaysian economy is not expected to be fully insulated from the global downturn.

“The full heat of the global crisis is expected to be felt in the second half of 2009 with the market continuing to remain soft. Consumer confidence is not expected to improve with the state of the economic outlook (eg: loss of jobs, pay cuts and reduction in manufacturing output),” it says.

A cautious mood will prevail in the market as property purchasers expect a reduction in prices while developers either opt to postpone, delay or not launch new projects or new phases.

However, with the reduction in interest rates, mortgage payments would be more affordable, it says.

Malaysian Industrial Development Authority in an overview on industrial projects approved from January to March reports a decrease on the number of new projects approved during the period at 128 compared with 548 new projects approved in the same period last year.

The total capital investment from January to March this year for new approved projects is RM4.34bil compared to RM41.99bil it recorded in the same period last year.

National Property Information Centre in its latest Industrial Property Stock Report Q1 2009 says that in the quarter under review, the number of industrial property overhang remains unchanged at 670 units recorded in the previous quarter but the overhang value increased by 2% from RM342.41mil to RM349.1mil.

On a quarter-on-quarter basis, industrial overhang units decreased slightly by 1.3% from 679 units while their value dropped by 0.7% from RM351.42mil.

These units remained unsold in the market for more than 24 months after their initial launch for sale.

Some 40% (269 units) of the overhang indurtrial units are priced between RM250,000 and RM500,000 a unit, while 25.1% (168 units) of them cost RM250,000 and below.

For industrial units that are under construction and remain unsold, the number increased 3.5% from 656 units in the previous quarter to 679 units. Likewise, it said compared to the corresponding quarter of 2008, the number of unsold units increased substantially by 48.9% from 456 units.

In the quarter under review, the number of unsold units that were not under construction remained unchanged at 711 units recorded in the previous quarter.

On the other hand, the quarter-on-quarter analysis shows that the unsold units in this category increased by 57.6% from 451 units.

“Approximately 56.5% (402 units) of the total number of the unsold and not constructed industrial units have been in the market for more than 24 months after their initial launch for sales,” it says.

From the national total, 45.9% of the units (326 units) were priced between RM250,000 to RM500,000 while 39.9% (284 units) were in the RM250,000 and below bracket, the report points out.

By The Star (by Edy Sarif)

Workplace solution for small businesses

WHITE Space Sdn Bhd, an all-in-one workplace solution provider, plans to expand its boutique business centre service beyond the Klang Valley next year, given the rising number of micro-businesses being set up nationwide.

Leslie Jeyam (left) and Jason Chow at White Space office at Solaris Mont Kiara.

Executive director and co-founder Jason Chow says more young entrepreneurs are running businesses at home or in rented offices.

However, the high office rentals in strategic locations in city areas are always the main concern for such business operators.

“We aim to help them reduce their operating costs by providing the services of a fully equipped business centre,” he tells StarBizWeek.

“It is a good opportunity for us to expand during the economic downturn as business owners are looking seriously at cost cutting.”

Established in March, White Space provides a dedicated business address, streamlined call and fax forwarding, meeting room and conferencing facilities, business support services as well as IT telecommunications infrastructure.

Chow’s partner and company executive director Leslie Jeyam says they invested about RM1mil in infrastructure, IT and interior design for its first outlet at Solaris Mont Kiara, Kuala Lumpur.

“We chose Mont Kiara because office rental is expensive in this area, so our potential clients will be able to see better cost savings,” Chow says.

He adds that the company is looking to expand to Penang, Johor Baru, Seremban, Kuala Terengganu, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching.

“Within the Klang Valley, we plan to open four more outlets this year. However, the locations must be in vibrant residential areas,” he says.

Therefore, he says residential areas near business districts such as Subang and Ampang will be the potential places for White Space’s new centres.

He adds that the company wants to strengthen its strong footing in the country first before entering overseas markets like Thailand and Singapore.

Facilities at the 2,000-sq-ft White Space outlet include four meeting rooms, a waiting hall and reception service, says Jeyam.

Its one-stop service package starts from RM99 per month.

“We want to bring a new business concept to customers,” Jeyam says, adding that White Space will continue to improve and upgrade its services.

“We are looking to have more than 200 clients by year-end,” he says.

Potential clients include companies that want full office facilities without the fixed cost of having a permanent office away from their headquarters, he adds.

Chow sees a bright future for all-in-one business centres as long as there are companies that do not want high overhead costs and those who need temporary office facilities.

“We see our annual equity return at 30% and above and we are looking at a business growth rate of 50%,” he says, declining to disclose revenue projections.

By The Star (by Rachael Kam)

SP Setia shares down 12.3pc on lower Q2 profit

Shares of SP Setia Bhd, the country's biggest property developer, slid 12.3 per cent yesterday after its second quarter net profit came in below market expectations.

It fell 54 sen to RM3.84, making it the second biggest loser in the stock market.

Its net profit for the quarter ended April 30 fell by 16 per cent to RM40.5 million because of lower profit margins as the price of building materials rose.

"It is on track to meet its RM1.1 billion sales target (this year) but at the expense of profit margins," analyst Ong Chee Ting of Maybank Investment Bank said in a report yesterday.

He retained a "sell" call on the company but raised his target price to RM2.90 from RM2 given recent market liquidity and good sales achieved.

Credit Suisse downgraded the stock to "underperform" from "neutral", saying that despite strong property sales, its profit margins are under pressure.

By Business Times

IJM-LFE joint venture secures Abu Dhabi job

The joint venture between IJM Corp Bhd and LFE Corp Bhd has received a AED318.38 million (AED100 = RM99.28) contract from Tamouh Investments LLC of United Arab Emirates for reinforced concrete substructure and superstructure works.

The project, under the first phase of Plot 1, Zone E2 hotel development at Al Reem Island, Abu Dhabi, is expected to be completed on February 28 next year.

The joint-venture company is 70 per cent owned by IJM Corp’s wholly-owned subsidiary, IJM Construction Sdn Bhd (Abu Dhabi Branch), and 30-per cent owned by LFE Corp's wholly owned subsidiary, LFE Engineering Sdn Bhd (Abu Dhabi Branch).

By Business Times