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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Karambunai in the limelight after budget

PETALING JAYA: Sabah-based Karambunai Corp seems to have received more than its fair share of attention in the past month.

More recently, it hit the limelight when recently-revealed Budget 2011 stated that Nexus Karambunai – a renowned resort in Sabah – had committed to develop an integrated RM3bil eco-nature resort.

Under the Karambunai integrated resort plan, there are plans to develop a 150ha eco-nature resort at Karambunai alongside a mangrove centre, water theme park and waterfront properties to push for higher return on investments. It is understood that the RM3bil investment will be privately funded, although there are yet to be any concrete details on how this funding will be raised and by whom.

The budget stated that the project would commence next year. In the same paragraph on the Karambunai initiative, the budget proposed that “to support the tourism industry, the Government will allocate RM100mil.” However, it is not clear if this means that the Government will actually invest that money directly into the Karambunai project.

The major shareholder of Karambunai is its president, Tan Sri Chen Lip Keong, who owns 43.9% stake in the company. The 62-year old also owns gaming company NagaCorp, which is listed in Hong Kong and operates a casino in Cambodia.

Having long languished as a penny stock, Karambunai Corp’s shares have been on an uptrend in recent weeks, recording its 52-week high yesterday at 26.5 sen. This stands in stark contrast to four months ago, when the stock price was hovering at a meagre 5 sen.

Still, scepticism abounds on Karambunai’s ability to execute this grand plan, not least because of its weak financial status. The company has been in the red for the past three financial years.

For the quarter ended June 2010, the company continued to remain in poor financial health, suffering losses of RM14.39mil from a previous loss of RM14.62mil. Revenue was up 7.78% to RM24.03mil. As of the period, the company had cash amounting to RM7.29mil. In addition, it has piled on huge debts with short-term borrowings of RM192.07mil and long-term borrowings of RM283.77mil.

This is not the first time the counter has witnessed such exuberance in the absence of any fundamental development. A month ago, the company made headlines when it was speculated that it would start a casino operation in Sabah.

The speculation came about from a proposal of the 500-acre “eco-nature” resort in Sabah by the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) at the Economic Transformation Plan (ETP) open day a month ago.

This piece of speculation drove the share price from 5.5 sen on Sept 21 to 18 sen in a matter of three days.

On Sept 24, Karambunai informed the stock exchange that it has not submitted any official proposal to the Government, nor had it penned any written documents with any other third parties in respect of any plan to build a casino in Karambunai.

So for now, the company has yet to come up with any concrete plans for the eco-nature resort.

Again this week, on Monday, the company had to clarify to Bursa that it had not signed any understating or agreement with any parties and does not have any corporate developments which merit public disclosure.

The company said its controlling shareholder, in his private capacity, had acted as a promoter to invite interested parties to invest in Karambunai.

Karambunai said its property was included in the Budget 2011 speech after its Nexus Karambunai Hotel general manager attended the Performance Management and Delivery Unit-driven national key economic areas tourism lab together with other members of the private and public sectors.

Incorporated in 1965 as Electrical and Allied Industries Ltd, Karambunai Corp is mainly in leisure and tourism, infrastructure and property development

In 1984, the company announced that it would go into the leisure and tourism market as well as property and construction, manufacturing, trading, infrastructure development, and even aerospace and information technology.

On Sept 13, 1993, the company changed its name to FACB Bhd and later to FACB Resorts Bhd on Sept 30, 1999.

It assumed its present name of Karambunai on Sept 30, 2004. It is now mainly in leisure and tourism, infrastructure and property development

Currently, Karambunai owns about 1,500 acres in Karambunai, a peninsula which lies some 27km north of Kota Kinabalu airport.

Its flagship asset is the Nexus Resort & Spa Karambunai, a luxury 5-star 485 room international-class resort hotel with a world-class 18-hole golf course, combining elements of modern architecture with Borneo design and style.

Its latest development in the area are the beachfront Nexus Residences Karambunai (NRK), which features upmarket beachfront resort villas and will comprise about 2,000 units when completed.

By The Star

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