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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

E&O expects to launch wellness-based township in Iskandar early next year

Eastern & Oriental Bhd deputy managing director Eric Chan

PETALING JAYA: Despite the unending controversies that have beleaguered Eastern & Oriental Bhd (E&O) since last year, the niche property developer is forging ahead with its next flagship development in Iskandar Malaysia.

The Penang-based company is looking southwards to Johor's new growth region to build a wellness-themed township called Medini Integrated Wellness Capital.

Deputy managing director Eric Chan told StarBiz that the project, which is still in its early stages, could be launched as early as next year.

The Wellness Capital, with a gross development value of RM3bil, will occupy 210 acres in Medini, one of the clusters in Iskandar. The land was bought for RM350mil in mid-2011.

Chan said this would be E&O's maiden foray into Johor, and the first of its kind wellness-based township in the region.

“We believe the market is moving in this direction,” he said of the rationale for the focus on wellness, adding that the idea was first mooted by Khazanah Nasional Bhd.

According to Chan, this was not an entirely new concept as there have been similar developments in Canada and other countries.

The project will be undertaken by Nuri Merdu Sdn Bhd, which is a 50:50 joint-venture (JV) between Galaxy Prestige Sdn Bhd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of E&O, and Pulau Indah Ventures Sdn Bhd.

Pulau Indah Ventures is a 50:50 JV between Teluk Rubiah Ventures Sdn Bhd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Khazanah Nasional, and Aneto Investments Pte Ltd, an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of Temasek Holdings (Pte) Ltd.

E&O is responsible for the overall project management as well as sales and marketing.

As its partners are the sovereign wealth funds of both Malaysia and Singapore, a working model of the project was presented to the respective countries' Prime Ministers during their leaders retreat in Putrajaya in January.

The Wellness Capital will comprise two main portions the Medini Estate, which is the overall development, and the Medini Sanctuary, its 12.5 acre core. The township is fringed by a natural mangrove forest.

Chan said an operator would be brought in to run the Sanctuary by the end of the year.

“It is too early to throw out their names. We have not identified anyone yet but a few names have come forward. We will do the rounds to visit their facilities after Chinese New Year.

“Of course, Khanazah and Temasek can use their network to help us get the best team on board,” he said.

He added that the residential side would comprise 96 bungalows, 68 semi-detached homes, 445 terrace houses, 1,415 condominium units and one block of serviced apartments. Some 18 acres have been earmarked for commercial property.

However, this was a work-in-progress and the final numbers were subject to change, he pointed out.

In keeping with the wellness theme, Chan said the township might allocate 20 acres for food planting and fish farming.

On its target customers, Chan explained that they would be locals and foreigners above 40 years of age and from the middle-income group.

“Why 40 and above? Because they have typically acquired some capital by that age and can understand the need to spend money to prolong one's quality and active years,” he said.

He stressed that the development would not cater specifically for the “super-rich” and would be affordable to regular wage-earners.

In terms of returns, Chan said the development was expected to generate a 20% to 25% profit margin in two or three years, similar to E&O's previous projects, and begin contributing to earnings two years after its launch.

By The Star

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