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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Record mall deals in Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur: The country's fascination with shopping malls have turned these properties into highly sought-after assets.

So far this year, the number of deals involving malls or retail assets has reached a record and there is a possibility that more could be announced this year, industry experts say.

At least nine deals valued at over RM2 billion have been reported in the first nine months of the year, stretching from the northern state of Penang to Johor in the south and from the west of Klang Valley to the eastern state of Pahang.

Improved consumer spending and liberalisation of the market has helped spur interest in retail assets.

As the global economic recovery continues to be shaky, Malaysia has turned to domestic demand to boost its economy, chief economist at Bank Islam Azrul Azwar Ahmad Tajudin said.

"Malaysian consumers have proven to be rather resilient even during times of crisis. During the 2009 recession, the economy contracted by 1.7 per cent but private consumption was still in positive territory," he added.

In year 2000, private consumption or consumer spending accounted for 43.8 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) while in 2010 the number surged to 53.3 per cent of GDP.

Azrul reckons private consumption will grow further to 54 per cent in 2011 and 54.6 per cent in 2012.

Malaysia Retailers Association has projected retail sales to grow 6 per cent this year, probably faster than the broader economic expansion seen at 5-6 per cent.

CB Richard Ellis (CBRE) Malaysia's managing director Allan Soo expects a few more deals this year.

"REITs (real estate investment trusts) tend to look for both yield accretion and steady income streams. Retail assets here have a great accretion opportunity at the moment.

"Passing yields at acquisitions are mostly at 7 per cent but for trophy assets this may be pressured down to below 6 per cent. The pressure on yields results in higher valuations, so on a per sq ft basis, malls are now seeing better valuation than about five years ago," Soo said.

At the same time, higher valuations have triggered previously less willing owners to part with their assets.

Another major factor was Malaysia's decision to scrap a rule that required foreign investors to have a 30 per cent Bumiputera partner.

In addition, the Securities Commission's endorsement of REITs as an investment alternative have also helped.

In January this year, CapitaMalls Malaysia Trusts (CMMT) said it would be buying The Gurney Plaza extension in Penang for RM215 million and in June it announced that it would be buying East Coast Mall for RM310 million.

In May, ARA Asia Dragon Fund won the bid for three shopping complexes - Klang Parade in Selangor, Ipoh Parade in Perak and Seremban Parade in Negri Sembilan. It paid some RM450 million to TMW Asia Property Fund, which had bought the malls for RM340 million in 2005.

Meanwhile, Adzman Shah Mohd Ariffin, founder of Hektar Property Services Sdn Bhd agreed that for some owners, a sale is actually part of their exit strategy to cash out.

"At the same time, foreign purchasers have found that the land/ownership law is more straightforward and properties in Malaysia are still cheaper than in other countries although at lower returns at times," he said.

This week, we also received news that Bandar Raya Developments Bhd (BRDB)'s major shareholder Ambang Sehati Sdn Bhd, controlled by its chairman Datuk Mohamed Moiz Jabir Mohamed Ali Moiz, had offered to buy three retail assets belonging to BRDB.

The properties are The Bangsar Shopping Centre (BSC), CapSquare Retail Centre in Kuala Lumpur, and Permas Jusco Mall in Johor.

BRDB is believed to have received many offers for its trophy asset - BSC.

By Business Times

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