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Monday, June 21, 2010

AmFIRST to build up assets

AmFIRST Real Estate Investment Trust aims to acquire a few assets in the Klang Valley to increase its asset size of more than RM1 billion

AmFIRST Real Estate Investment Trust (AmFIRST REIT), Malaysia's second biggest property trust by assets, is out to increase its asset size of more than RM1 billion and expects a deal to be done in the current financial year.

Its performance will also be driven by the expansion of major tenant AmBank Group and progressive upgrading of existing buildings to attract new tenants.

Am ARA REIT Managers Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Lim Yoon Peng said the trust manager also aimed to acquire a few assets in the Klang Valley.

"For every asset we acquire, we look at its returns or yield and potential capital appreciation," he said in an interview with Business Times in Kuala Lumpur.
The new acquisitions will be funded with cash after which AmFIRST REIT will issue new units to raise funds and cut its borrowings.

In Malaysia, REITs are allowed to borrow up to half of total assets.

Am ARA is fully owned by Am ARA REIT Holdings Sdn Bhd, which in turn is 70 per cent owned by AmInvestment Group Bhd and 30 per cent by ARA Asset Management (M) Ltd. ARA Asset Management is fully owned by the Singapore-based ARA AmFIRST (Singapore) Pte Ltd.

Lim said ARA Asset Management was actively looking at property acquisitions in Malaysia via its private real estate funds.

"Should the fund dispose of these assets in future and the yields are attractive, AmFIRST REIT has the option to acquire them.

"This will serve as a pipeline of properties to boost AmFIRST REIT's investment portfolio."

As of March 31 this year, AmFIRST REIT is the second largest REIT in the country, after Starhill REIT, in terms of assets under management of RM1.008 billion. Its portfolio comprises office (63 per cent), hotel (13 per cent) and retail (24 per cent) assets.

Bursa Malaysia-listed AmFIRST REIT has six properties: Bangunan AmBank Group, Menara AmBank Group and AmBank Group Leadership Centre in Kuala Lumpur; Menara Merais in Petaling Jaya, Kelana Brem Tower in Kelana Jaya and The Summit Subang USJ in Subang Jaya, Selangor.

AmFIRST REIT fully owns the properties, except for The Summit, a mixed development. AmFIRST REIT owns the Summit Hotel, nearly 70 per cent of retail space in the mall, and 12 out of 13 floors of the office tower.

AmFIRST REIT is repositioning the Summit mall and intends to buy retail lots that fit into its plans.

The upgrading works will cost about RM25 million, of which AmFIRST REIT's share will be 70 per cent based on its ownership of the stratified retail mall.

"This will be carried out in stages until the end of 2011," Lim said.

It will also spend RM3 million to refurbish the Summit Hotel, which will generate additional annual rental of RM200,000.

In the financial year to March 31 2010, AmFIRST REIT reported after-tax realised income of RM41.9 million, up 12 per cent from the previous year's. The increase was attributed to new lettings and higher rentals upon renewals.

During that period, rental revenue increased 5.5 per cent to RM98.2 million.

The property trust has declared an income distribution of 9.75 sen per unit, up 11.4 per cent from the previous year's.

Its unit price increased to RM1.10 from 85 sen, a dividend yield of 8.86 per cent.

AmFIRST REIT expects to maintain its performance for the financial year ending March 31 2011.

"We hope that we can fill up the buildings that have low occupancy. Secondly, as we reposition the buildings, we hope to get more tenants."

Lim said the outlook for commercial buildings had become more challenging with the greater supply of new offices in the central business district (CBD).

Commercial office rentals may soften when supply outstrips demand given that about 4.2 million sq ft of new office space will be available in future. The annual take-up is around 2.5 million sq ft.

However, it is unlikely to hurt AmFIRST REIT as three of its buildings in the CBD are tenanted mainly by AmBank Group, which occupies 78 per cent of the total net lettable area.

The buildings - Bangunan Ambank Group, AmBank Group Leadership Centre and Menara Ambank - also represent 34.6 per cent of AmFIRST REIT's portfolio.

"The average occupancy of these three buildings is 98.2 per cent and, with AmBank Group looking to expand, we should be looking at 100 per cent occupancy soon," Lim said.

As at March 31 this year, AmFIRST REIT's borrowing was RM413 million, which is 39.6 per cent of its total assets.

AmFIRST REIT, listed on Bursa Malaysia on December 21 2006, has an approved fund size of 429 million units. Its market capitalisation is RM471.9 million based on RM1.10 per unit as at March 31 this year.

By Business Times

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