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Monday, July 19, 2010

1Malaysia Development picks project partners

KUALA LUMPUR: 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), the agency tasked to develop most of the government land, is identifying partners to draw up a masterplan for its Bandar Malaysia and Kuala Lumpur International Financial District (KLIFD) projects in the city.

Shahrol Halmi ... ‘Those selected should have credible track records, be transparent and bring international experience.’

Among the international architects and designers being considered are Forsters & Partners as well Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM).

“We have been talking to them for the past few months,’’ 1MDB CEO Shahrol Halmi told StarBiz. “Those selected, including project directors and engineers, should have credible track records, be transparent and bring their international experience to enhance our local expectations.’’

The masterplan for both projects will be based on the same approach especially in terms of financial modelling, parcelling and tenders.

Complementing each other will be the Islamic financial hub on 80 acres at the Dataran Imbi area and the mixed development on 460 acres at the Sg Besi old airport.

“We target to unroll the vision and plan for the two projects in a year’s time,’’ he said, adding that momentum of work was essential to keep the young team on their toes while the public would also want to see some progress.

“Construction in phases will probably commence in three to four years,’’ he said. “It is going to be a long journey and we have to get it right, for example, by making sure that we do not flood the market with retail space.’’

Its potential partners, which may also bring in equity, include the Qatar Investment Authority (which has proposed to invest US$5bil in Malaysia) as well as parties from Abu Dhabi and China.

Reports have indicated that the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Co (Masdar), which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Development Co, may be an interested party while 1MDB is in contact with the CITIC group of China.

Among 1MDB’s board of advisors are Khaldoon Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of Abu Dhabi Executive Affairs Authority, CEO & MD of the Mubadala Development Co and Chang Zhenming, vice-chairman and president of the CITIC group.

“We are in a fortunate position where we have interesting projects for foreigners and locals to take part in,’’ he said.

The two developments at Imbi and Sg Besi will be connected via public transportation and feature a balanced approach where the gross development value will make commercial sense as well as ensure future sustainability.

“It should be attractive to investors and tenants while at the same time, offer affordable housing especially to the younger people as in the way that Singapore has provided apartments that are accessible via public transportation.

“Young people should be attracted to live in the city, infuse it with vibrancy and revive it to the next level,’’ he said.

The KLIFD that will promote Islamic finance, will likely comprise a cluster of financial services related groups such as banks, legal firms, IT consultancies and others. The idea is for a hub where there are world-class facilities for working, dining and relaxing in a safe environment.

“We are in discussion with the authorities,’’ said Shahrol. “It needs a concerted approach from eight to nine parties to make it happen. There are energetic and passionate people in the civil service.’’

Among other things, removal of redtape, provision of incentives and tax breaks, salary structures and types of businesses are being looked into, with a view to attracting talent back into the country.

For 1MDB, the plan for Bandar Malaysia represents a new opportunity for a green and energy efficient development. “A big park of 80 acres, in the likes of Hyde Park in London, will differentiate this part of Kuala Lumpur from some neighbouring cities. It will make people feel they can breathe and that they are part of the society that cares about nature,’’ he said.

There may be a place for big events and people’s forums, a university for the leading edge in technology in partnership with world-class firms, a library where there are also shows, book signing and activities for the young and old. “Besides the construction costs, we have to factor in the cost for long-term sustainable maintenance,’’ he said.

By The Star

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