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Saturday, January 23, 2010

UEM Land’s aspirations for Iskandar

UEM Land Bhd aims to be Khazanah Nasional Bhd what CapitaLand is to Temasek.

“We aspire to be a global property development outfit like CapitaLand. We hope to one day play a similar role in Khazanah – be what CapitaLand is to Temasek,” says managing director and CEO Wan Abdullah Wan Ibrahim.

Singapore-based CapitaLand Ltd is Southeast Asia’s largest property company in terms of market capitalisation, with sprawling assets and interest throughout the region.

UEM Land, more than 70% owned by UEM Holdings Bhd, is the flagship property developer of the UEM group. The group, in turn, is part of Khazanah’s vast stable of companies in more than 10 sectors.

Says Wan Abdullah: “Our strategy is one of a fast-growing property developer with a large landbank for future development. We recognise that we are a relatively small player compared to the highly diversified property player like CapitaLand.

“However, by focusing on our role in making the Iskandar Malaysia (IM) region a success, and diversifying to other major cities in Malaysia to build new profit centres and develop new income streams, we are taking the necessary steps in the right direction.

“At the same time, we continue to build capacity and capability, so things could only grow from here,” he says.

The company plans to use that vast piece of land to prove its mettle. It is the master developer of Nusajaya, located west of Johor Baru.

With the land covering almost 24,000 acres, UEM Land is building a new city on a greenfield site. The plan is to develop it via eight catalytic developments.

“I am building a city with all the infrastructure that come with it and more. In addition, we are positioning Nusajaya as a city of considerable standing. I therefore need a diverse range of products.

“Any developer will tell you to conserve cash, start from ground zero and build organically. I don’t have that luxury. Our strategy is concurrent development by working in collaboration or partnership with other reputable developers to catalyse Nusajaya’s development. Admittedly, there are projects that have a longer gestation period,” says Wan Abdullah.

“We have, however, put in great consideration in taking up projects that do not tie up our capital excessively. Hence, long gestation projects such as the International Destination Resort and Educity will be undertaken by Khazanah through Iskandar Investment Bhd.”

Today, the company have medium-end housing (Nusa Idaman), high-end (Horizon Hills) and super high-end in East Ledang. It also has a waterfront project – Nusajaya’s Puteri Harbour.

Wan Abdullah says the fact that the company won the Master Plan category in the Fiabci Malaysia Property Awards 2009 for Puteri Harbour means that it is moving in the right direction.

“I need other catalysts and this comes in the form of state administrative buildings. They will move there from JB to Kota Iskandar, the seat of the state government and federal departments.”

UEM Land recently announced plans for a RM970mil rights issue that will give them a mixture of debt and equity funds to finance its development plans for the next four years.

Besides Nusajaya, the company also has interests in Cyberjaya. There is also talk that it may get some of the Government’s landbanks around the Klang Valley.

“We believe that we will be in a good position to be considered to develop government land around the Klang Valley if and when the Government decides to dispose of them or open up such land for development,” he says.

On the pullout of Dubai’s Damac Properties from Nusajaya, Wan Abdullah says there are several interested parties and they are in advanced stages of negotiations for several land plots in Puteri Harbour, including those which were supposed to be sold to Damac.

Besides waiting for suitable investors to come along, the company will do as much as it possibly can.

“We cannot do it alone, we need partners who can lend their skills, expertise and ideas to Nusajaya. But we only want partners who have deep pockets and who can add value to what we are doing,” he says.

By The Star

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