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Monday, June 6, 2011

Noor Arfa keen to set foot in property sector

KUALA LUMPUR: Noor Arfa Holdings Sdn Bhd, a pioneer in the batik industry in Malaysia, is planning to venture into property development and hotel management in the near future.

Its founder, Wan Mohamed Ariffin Wan Long, said that the move is necessary as its core business - manufacturing batik and selling handicrafts - has seen a sharp fall in recent years due to the shortfall in tourist arrivals.

"We are looking for a suitable investor or developers to join us to build a three-star hotel and several chalets around the area at our main showroom in Chendering, Kuala Terengganu," he told Business Times in an interview recently.

Wan Mohamed said the company has over two acres of empty land, which would be ideal for such development. However, it is having a tough time finding the right developer to partake in the project.

"We plan to jointly develop the area with the developer, and the breakdown on how we plan to do this will be finalised once we find the right developer to work on this project," he said, adding that a RM20 million investment would suffice for a start.

Although there are many three- and four-star hotels around the area where Wan Mohamed plans to build his own hotel, he is confident that it would be a hit because of the tourism activities that his place has to offer.

"My place is right next to a river bank (which leads to the South China Sea), there is a nice restaurant here where tourists can do all sort of activities like weaving songket, chanting batik and also shopping for handicrafts (at the showroom). The other hotels don't have that sort of facilities," he said.

Wan Mohamed said his son had approached the Tune Group for a joint venture only to be turned down by the latter as they only set up hotels next to airports.

Wan Mohamed, who started Noor Arfa along with his wife Noor Hijerah Hanafiah in the 1980s, said a lot has changed since the yesteryears as today, not many Malaysians put on the importance of donning the batik. This, he said, is slowly eating into his profits.

"These days, even the civil servants are not following the Thursday rule of wearing batik to work like they once used to," he lamented.

He said the lack of tourism activities or big events like "Visit Year" in Terengganu and the country is also affecting the sales of his batik goods.

"Even the East Coast Economic Region has failed to bring in any sort of development or tourism activities in this area," he said.

Wan Mohamed has two showrooms located in Kuala Terengganu and Malacca, and few other stand-alone shops in Kuala Lumpur.

"Now, many travel agents fly the tourists to the islands and completely bypass Kuala Terengganu. This was not the practice before," he said, adding that Singaporean tourists used to be the biggest spenders back in the good old days.

Asked whether his company plans to be listed on the local bourse, he said that there are many things that need to be ironed out internally before such a plan could take place.

"We did plan to go for listing in year 2000 but at that time, our sales were clocking in at RM16 million a year. Last year, we only made RM10 million in sales and the year before that (2009), it was around RM12 million. I am afraid that this year will be even worse that last year's performance," he said.

By Business Times

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