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Saturday, May 15, 2010

New gameplan for YTL Land

An artist's impression of YTL Corp's Sandy Island project at Sentosa Cove in Singapore.

YTL Corp Bhd will inject some of its overseas projects into YTL Land & Development Bhd by the year-end to transform the property unit into an international player.

For a start, the group will place its three projects in Singapore - Sandy Island and Kasara villas in Sentosa Cove, and the redevelopment of Westwood Apartments on Orchard Boulevard - under YTL Land.

Currently, these projects are under YTL Singapore Pte Ltd, a wholly-owned unit of YTL Group.

YTL Corp managing director Tan Sri Francis Yeoh says YTL Land will be busy with more projects as the group focused on expanding its presence in Asia.

It will concentrate on building luxurious residences in highly-sought-after destinations that offer unique culture and lifestyle.

Yeoh says YTL Land can tap into YTL Corp's experience in building properties in Phuket, Pangkor, Bali and Sentosa Cove, Singapore.

YTL Corp has a low-density luxurious villa project in Bali, Indonesia, and a big development in Koh Samui, Thailand.

Its hospitality arm YTL Hotels & Properties Sdn Bhd recently acquired Niseko Village, a prime winter and summer destination in Hokkaido, Japan, for six billion yen (RM224mil).

YTL Hotels is also embarking on some overseas projects such as the Swatch Art Peace Hotel in Shanghai; the MUSE Hotel De Luxe in Saint-Tropez, France; and The Chedi in Phuket, Thailand.

Yeoh believes the next two to three decades will see Asia growing from an emerging market to a global economic powerhouse.

He says the South-East Asian region is also likely to see big growth over the next two decades. “The tourism and related industries in this region can be an incubator for bigger things.

“South-East Asia is actually the Mediterranean and Caribbean of the East, offering lots of opportunities from the real estate perspective,” he tells StarBizWeek in Singapore on Saturday.

Datuk Yeoh Seok Kian ... 'We aim to be a global developer of branded addresses.'

YTL Corp deputy managing director Datuk Yeoh Seok Kian says the group has great plans for YTL Land and these include establishing its footprint through iconic properties and communities worldwide.

“Ultimately, we aim to be a global developer of branded addresses, not because we can do so but because it presents us with a unique opportunity to make a difference in people's lives.

“We are extremely excited about the future of YTL Land. We will consolidate our Singapore properties - Sandy Island, Kasara villas in Sentosa Cove and Westwood Apartments in Orchard Boulevard - with our Malaysian portfolio. This is expected to take place in the last quarter of 2010,” says Seok Kian, who is also YTL Land executive director.

“We are not just building beautiful homes; we are contributing to the well-being of our homeowners, allowing them to lead a more fulfilling life while connecting with their loved ones,” he adds.

Through its projects like The Maple, Sentul Park and Lake Edge, the company has shown how it can enrich the lives of homeowners.

“Seeing kids running around parks or families strolling leisurely along the lake while interacting with their neighbours is a huge satisfaction for us.”

Stressing that Singapore will be a huge market for YTL Land, Seok Kian says the company will bid for land that will be put up for sale by Singapore's national land use planning and conservation agency, the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

YTL Singapore director Kammy Tan says the development of Sandy Island and Kasara villas in Sentosa Cove is underway and the projects are scheduled for completion by 2015.

So far, 15 of the 18 Sandy Island villas priced from S$15mil to S$16mil have been sold. They have built up of 7,000 to 8,000 sq ft.

The 13 Kasara villas of 10,139 to 17,362 sq ft with price tags from S$14mil to S$22mil have all been taken up.

By The Star

I-Bhd expects to draw 80 more firms to i-City

SHAH ALAM: I-Bhd expects 80 more knowledge-based companies to set up offices at i-City, Shah Alam, by the year-end, said chief executive officer Eu Hong Chew.

“They will consist of local and international companies and will add up the more than 60 companies currently operating at the city,” he said after signing a heads of agreement yesterday.

He added that I-Bhd had so far invested RM200mil to RM300mil to develop the smart city since 2005.

The heads of agreement will see the company forming a tie-up with the Malaysian-Russian Business Association and Hexagon Solutions Sdn Bhd to set up a joint centre of innovation in i-City.

The Malaysian-Russian Science Centre will develop, showcase and commercialise technologies from Russia while Hexagon will establish a research and development (R&D) centre with its Indian partner Rajesh Global Solutions.

The centre, which will take up 15,000 to 20,000 sq ft of office space in i-City, will also work with local and foreign universities, research institutions and government agencies.

Malaysia-Russian Business Association president Ruslan Israpil said the agreement would lead to greater collaboration between two countries.

“It will be a win-win situation as we are providing expertise to help local scientists and universities through the R&D of Russian technology while the locals will benefit by getting our knowledge,” he said.

By The Star

Wise home improvements

RENOVATING your home is often an aesthetic choice, but if done right, it can enhance both the abode's rental worth as well as its resale value.

Whether it's something minor (such as changing the faucet on your kitchen sink) or a major reconstruction (like adding a new floor to your home), some renovations will help recoup your returns near instantly, while others might be nothing more than an investment disaster.

Know what you want

Before getting started, it's important to decide whether the house you intend to renovate is for keeps.

“If you don't intend to sell or rent, than you're limited only by your imagination,” says KL Interior Design executive designer Robert Lee. “For the investor who's looking to rent or re-sell some day, he should realise that some renovations, though appealing to him, may end up making the house less marketable to a potential buyer or tenant,” he says.

Lee recalls a client many years ago who insisted on having nearly everything in one of the rooms in pink. “It was for his daughter. He wanted pink drapes, a pink carpet, wall, door, everything. Many years later, his daughter moved out of the home and they were looking to rent out the room but had problems finding a tenant.”

Making upgrades or changes to your home can be a costly affair. According to Lee, renovations can cost more and take longer to complete than initially envisaged.

“A lot of people that decide to renovate their home are often taken aback by how much it actually costs. When this happens, they go for relatively unknown contractors who, though cost less, tend to cut corners and give you a cheaper but less durable product,” he says.

Lee recalls a neighbour who wanted to install a new kitchen cabinet and sink but was “not willing to pay beyond a certain amount.”

“She paid RM1,500 but after only three years, the sink was shaking in its place, water was seeping into the cabinet and the wood started rotting. She ended up paying RM3,000 for a new cabinet, which, after five years, is still going strong.

“It's better to fork out a little more for something that lasts a long time. My neighbour could have just paid RM3,000 initially for a good job but because she was thrifty, she ended up paying RM4,500.”

Lee says people who want to renovate their home but are worried about the costs should do thorough research and find the best price.

Home improvements do not have to be expensive to look good and marketable. Home-Deco Art Sdn Bhd director Rachel Tam says the key to efficient spending is to spend wisely.

“The kitchen paint might be peeling but that doesn't mean you have to spend RM20,000 just to make it look good. All it may need is a fresh coat of paint and perhaps some of the appliances may need renewing,” she says.

Tam says that those looking to sell their homes should “know their limits” when it comes to making renovations.

“If you're living in a mid-to-high-end neighbourhood and plan to sell your home, it's best to limit renovations to a certain level,” she says.

“It's pointless to spend RM500,000 on renovations when the market rate for the average home within the area is just RM250,000. You're not going to make your money back when you sell.”

Lee gives an example of a client who installed a swimming pool in the yard of his home, which was located in a mid-income neighbourhood. “This guy was living in a corner single-storey terrace house. With the added space he had, he had a pool built. But when he wanted to sell the house, he had difficulties because nobody wanted to pay more for something which would require added maintenance,” he says.

For those looking to rent, knowing the type of tenant you are targeting is important too. Some tenants are only willing to pay so much.

Says Lee: “If you're living near a college or university and are targeting students as tenants, don't expect them to pay for the high-horsepower air-conditioning you installed in the room you are letting. This might be more appropriate if you are renting out to someone who's working.”

Renovations that pay

Freelance real-estate agent cum property investor Kamarul Ariff reckons that renovations made to the kitchen and bathroom are great ways to enhance the resale value of a property.

“Nowadays, people are finding more ways to beautify their kitchens and bathrooms. It's also what a lot of people look at first before buying a home.”

Ariff says renovation works can range from upgrading appliances, changing the flooring or a total make-over.

“Compared to renovating the living area or a master bedroom, the kitchen or bathroom is generally smaller and tend to cost lesser - making it easier and faster to recoup your cost,” he says.

He also says building a new room or an extension, though costly, can provide good, long-term returns. “It costs a lot but then you'll be able to rent it out. You'll be recover your money in no time,” he says.

By The Star

Basic shelter versus investment instrument

The strong rebound in property markets of various Asian cities like Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur from one of the worst modern-day financial crisis shows that property has multi-functions as a basic shelter over one's head and an investment instrument.

A person's address is also increasingly becoming a gauge of one's financial capability and social status.

That's why luxurious houses in highly-sought-after addresses are still selling like hot cakes in the region despite the prevailing uncertainties in the global economy.

It shows there is much liquidity in the system and property investment is probably mopping up quite a big chunk of the surplus cash.

Asians are well known to be big savers and it is not surprising that the region is now leading the global economic recovery.

In Singapore, there has been a hike in demand since late last year and even mass housing are fetching prices of S$800 to S$1,000 per sq ft while the luxurious range are from S$2,000 to S$4,000 per sq ft.

Despite the rising prices, both Singaporeans and foreigners are snapping up properties which further fuelled price increases and caused worries over a potential asset bubble.

One of the reasons for the huge appetite could be the city-state's growing status as a global city and the rising number of high net-worth foreigners making Singapore their home.

What they find palatable include Singapore's personal safety and security, cleanliness, good governance, ease of travel through its smooth and integrated public transport system, and a tolerant and enterprising society.

As a Malaysian investor with a growing presence in the island-state, YTL Corp Bhd managing director Tan Sri Francis Yeoh said in his speech at the YTL Concert of Celebration at the Singapore Botanic Gardens last Saturday: “The world loves doing business in Singapore because it upholds the rule of law, welcomes talents and skills, and excels in acceptance and tolerance.”

To prevent a rush for landed houses in Singapore, foreigners are only allowed to buy such properties in Sentosa Cove and not in other parts of the country.

There is no restriction on the purchase of condominiums and apartments by foreigners, although only permanent residents can buy public housing.

Likewise, in its effort to promote itself as a real estate destination for foreigners, Malaysia should look at the holistic and integrated approach to the whole exercise.

The efforts will be more effective if prompt actions are taken to improve the quality of life for the local people and these include security and safety, good governance, integrity, and a well-balanced and tolerant society.

Of course, the other important factors include efficiency of the public transport, overall cleanliness and general well-being.

Foreigners are usually attracted to destinations that have rich natural living cultures and practices, and that is why places like Bali and Phuket are havens for them.

It is fine to promote a growing appetite for property investment among the people but it should not be at the expense of sky-rocketing prices that will affect the average people.

Bank Negara's move on Thursday to raise the overnight policy rate by another 25 basis points shows that the Government is concerned that a rising leverage on speculative activities could cause a financial imbalance in the banking system.

Obviously, the Government fears that the active mortgage market will fuel an asset bubble.

This is because a prolonged cheap mortgage environment will tend to enhance speculative activities in the property market. Right now, the upper-middle customers are buying mainly for investment purposes.

And with the intense competition among banks to use up their high liquidity, lending activities for property purchase is bound to continue.

Perhaps the next increase should be by at least 50 basis points to bring it closer to the normal pre-crisis rates.

Deputy news editor Angie Ng hopes the growing population of borderless citizens who have homes in different parts of the world will promote greater understanding and respect among people of all races.

By The Star (by Angie Ng)