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Thursday, October 21, 2010

PNB to start 10-year Warisan Merdeka project with 100-storey tower

Tan Sri Hamad Kama Piah Che Othman pointing to the site of Warisan Merdeka development during the press conference pn Wednesday.

KUALA LUMPUR: Permodalan Nasional Bhd (PNB) will be undertaking the Warisan Merdeka development over three phases in 10 years starting with the 100-storey tower next year.

At a press conference yesterday to explain PNB’s plans for the project, president and group chief executive Tan Sri Hamad Kama Piah Che Othman said the development costing RM5bil would also have a shopping complex and condominiums.

The 100-storey tower – touted to be the country’s tallest – will cost RM2.5bil to RM3bil and will have gross floor space of 3 million sq ft and 2.2 million sq ft of net floor space .

“It will be a five-star green building. We are confident its completion in 2015 will create some excitement and spill-over benefits for the development as a whole,” Hamad added.

PNB has set up wholly-owned unit PNB Merdeka Ventures Sdn Bhd to undertake the project. The company is headed by Tengku Abdul Aziz Tengku Mahmud who was from Guthrie Property Development Holding Bhd and Sime Darby Property Bhd. He came on board early this year.

“We are now finalising the project design and concept, and may invite professionals, both local and foreign, to submit their ideas for the project.

“PNB’s existing headquarters, Menara PNB will be 30 years old by the time the new tower is completed. We are looking for strategic positioning for the future and will need new office space for the expanding PNB group of companies. The Warisan Merdeka tower will become the new PNB headquarters while Menara PNB will be upgraded and leased out for recurring income,” Hamad added.

He said PNB had the capability to finance the project through internally generated funds but he did not discount resorting to borrowings “if the interest rates are attractive.”

On the rationale for PNB’s decision to undertake the project, Hamad explained: “We have been planning to develop the land since 2004 after acquiring it in 2000. After holding the land for so long, we decided it is now the right time to move ahead with the project. As an investment house, our intention is to optimise returns from the development.”

He said the project was expected to yield reasonable returns of between 8% and 10%.

“For the past few years, we have revisited the plan every year. Now with Tengku Abdul Aziz helming PNB Merdeka Ventures, we are more focused on the project and are ready to move ahead with it. The Government is also promoting this type of development.”

PNB paid RM310mil or RM220 per sq ft to buy the 36-acre land from Pengurusan Danaharta Nasional Bhd in 2000. Hamad said the market value of the land was estimated at RM800 per sq ft today.

Of the 36 acres, around 17 acres are occupied by Stadium Merdeka and Stadium Negara, which have been identified as a national heritage site. Conservation works have been undertaken to restore their heritage characteristics and the two stadiums are now being managed by the National Heritage Trust.

The overall Warisan Merdeka development on 19 acres would have to complement and blend with the heritage theme, and together with the restored stadiums, the site was set to be another major landmark in Kuala Lumpur, he said.

Hamad said although the project was scheduled to take 10 years, it may be expedited if market conditions warranted it.

“As a long-term player, we would prefer to own the Warisan Merdeka property and leased it out for recurring profit but we may also consider unlocking the value if the situation warrants it.”

He said PNB had been expanding its portfolio of property assets from mainly investing in equities previously. It had been purchasing commercial properties that offered competitive returns and potential for capital appreciation at reasonable prices.

Today, its property portfolio includes Menara PNB, PNB Darby Park, Kenanga International Building, Bangunan MAS in Kuala Lumpur, Hotel Perdana in Kota Baru and PNB Ilham Resort in Port Dickson. Its first offshore property, Santos Place in Brisbane, Australia, a six-star Green Star building, was acquired in August for A$287mil.

Hamad said PNB was also active in property development through its strategic holdings in a number of companies, including the merged entity of Island & Peninsular Bhd, Petaling Garden Bhd and Pelangi Bhd.

By The Star

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