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Monday, April 30, 2012

Khazanah plans S$7b project in Singapore

Khazanah Nasional Bhd is launching a prestigious project, estimated to be worth over S$7 billion (RM17.19 billion), at Marina South in Singapore by the end of this year or early 2013.

The yet-to-be-named mixed-use integrated project will be developed by M+S Pte Ltd (MSPL),which is 60 per cent-owned by Khazanah, the government’s investment arm, and 40 per cent by Singapore’s investment arm Temasek Holdings (Private) Ltd.

The project will feature four prominent residential and office towers, as well as a retail podium, and linked to the Marina and Downtown MRT lines, MSPL chairman Datuk Azman Yahya told Business Times.

MSPL had secured funding for the project with eight banks in March.

Azman said that the project, which is designed by Germany-based Ingenhoven Architects, is set to be the gravitational epicentre of Singapore’s new Central Business District.

This is the second development for MSPL in Singapore. The company is developing land parcels at Ophir-Rochor, which is estimated to have a gross development value exceeding S$4 billion (RM9.82 billion).

The two projects are expected to be completed over the next six years.

The project managers for both the Marina South and Ophir-Rochor developments are indirect wholly-owned subsidiaries of UEM Land Holdings Bhd, which is the real estate arm of Khazanah, and Singapore’s Mapletree Investments Pte Ltd and CapitaLand Ltd.

At the recent Asia Pacific Property Awards 2012, the project at Marina South, which will be Green Mark Platinum-rated, won three national awards – high-rise architecture, mixed-use architecture and mixed-use development.

“MSPL has made tremendous headway in bringing our vision to life with this project and the awards recognition is testament to our commitment in creating a superlative landmark development in the
heart of Marina South which sets the standard for international excellence in design and sustainability for integrated living.

“This area has been identified by the Urban Redevelopment Authority as a growth area of Singapore in establishing a global business and financial hub,” said Azman in an interview.

The project’s eminent neighbours will include Marina Bay Sands, Singapore Flyer, Esplanade Theatres on the Bay and the upcoming Gardens by the Bay.

By Business Times

Posco to seal deal with Berjaya Land

Posco will take not more than 20 per cent stake in the development of Berjaya Jeju Resort on a 73.2ha site in Yeraedong in Seogwipo City, southwest of Jeju island.

BERJAYA Land Bhd (BLand), a property and gaming company, is close to inking a partnership agreement with South Korean steelmaker Posco Group on the acquisition of up to 20 per cent in the former's US$3 billion (RM9 billion) project in South Korea.

BLand is developing Berjaya Jeju Resort through its subsidiary, Berjaya Jeju Resort Ltd (BJR), on a 73.2ha site in Yeraedong in Seogwipo City, southwest of Jeju island.

BJR director Tan u-Jiun told Business Times in an interview that it expects to seal the deal with Posco by August or September this year.

"Posco will take not more than 20 per cent stake in the development and they will help to develop it," Tan said.

Posco, which is listed in Seoul, Tokyo, London and New York, is involved in railway development, construction of buildings and infrastructure and steel manufacturing.

This will be the first partnership for Posco in Malaysia and the agreement with BLand is via its unit, Posco Engineering & Construction Co Ltd.

Tan, the younger son of Berjaya group founder Tan Sri Vincent Tan, said the first phase of the project comprising 212 units of luxury villas and market place is slated to be launched by the end of this year or early next year.

"We are awaiting the final approval for the Environmental Impact Assessment on our revised masterplan. We expect it to complete in May," Tan said.

The integrated project will have 1,403 condominium units, villas and bungalows, 935 hotel rooms, a one million sq ft retail mall that will be the largest in Jeju, a medical facility and a market place which will comprise super luxury shops and single-storey residences.

The landmark tower will be a 45-storey hotel, which will be the tallest building on the island. Complementing that is a 505-room casino hotel, which will be South Korea's largest casino complex, Tan said.

"We are launching the villas and market place first to attract higher paying customers to the development. Once the market is guaranteed and it creates an aspirational image, we will release the medium-tier properties," he said.

Tan said BJR hopes to start constructing the villas and market place by August this year.

According to him, BLand has invested close to US$150 million (RM450 million) on infrastructure works for the project, which was completed in December last year. The project will take five to six years to develop.

"We are targeting the Koreans and Europeans. We don't think the European market will be strong because of the eurozone debt crisis but we expect same sales there. We are also targeting China and Japan," Tan said.

Berjaya Jeju Resort recently won an award in the category of mixed- used development for South Korea at the Asia Pacific Property Awards 2012.

By Business Times

Asia's first Legoland theme park opening slated for Sept 15

KUALA LUMPUR: Asia's first Legoland theme park, dedicated to the popular toy bricks, is set to open for business on September 15 this year.

"I am pleased to announce that due to the hardwork of all our contractors, we will be opening the park ahead of schedule by a number of months," Legoland Malaysia general manager Siegfried Boerst said.

In a statement, he said the park is already 75 per cent complete, with most of the rides and infrastructure in place.

Next month, contractors will begin to install the Lego models made out of more than 50 million bricks.

To date, more than 35,000 annual passes had already been sold for the park that features more than 40 roller coasters, race cars and other attractions.

Legoland Malaysia is the sixth Legoland theme park in the world and the first of its kind to be opened in Asia.

By Business Times

Am ARA REIT eyes RM500m Klang Valley properties

Am ARA REIT Managers Sdn Bhd, the manager of AmFIRST Real Estate Investment Trust (AmFIRST REIT), plans to buy properties worth RM500 million in the Klang Valley, following the implementation
of the rights issue for the trust in July this year, said its chief executive officer, Lim Yoon Peng.

Unitholders of AmFIRST REIT today unanimously approved the proposed renounceable rights issue and a proposed increase in fund size at the unitholders' meeting here today.

Lim said based on an illustrative rights issue price of 85 sen per unit, the proposed rights issue is expected to raise gross proceeds of about RM218.79 million.

Of that amount, a total of RM214.74 million will be utilised to pare down the fund's existing borrowings which stood at RM550 million as at its financial year (FY) ended March 31, 2012.

"This will reduce the leverage ratio and provide the trust with sufficient headroom to gear up in future and respond immediately to potential yield accretive and strategic acquisitions," Lim told a press conference.

He said he is looking at office buildings with high capital appreciation potential at strategic locations in the Klang Valley.

"We will focus on commercial offices which are at full occupancy or close to it," he added.

He also expects AmFIRST REIT's net income for the current year to exceed the RM52.19 million recorded for the FY ended March 31, 2012.

"Commercial offices Prima 9 and Prima 10 located in Cyberjaya, and acquired late last year, have accretive yields. Contribution from these properties were recognised only into the four months of the last financial year.

"Going forward, these properties will contribute to the whole of the current financial year," Lim said.

For the financial year ended March 31, 2012, AmFIRST REIT recorded an after-tax realised profit of RM39.9 million, up 10.6 per cent from the RM36 million in the preceding year.

Its asset under management (AUM)registered growth of 15.2 per cent to RM1.18 billion, primarily via new acquisitions of Prima 9 and Prima 10, while net asset value rose from 141.25 sen to 144 sen per unit.

The trust has proposed a final income distribution of 4.83 sen per unit for the six-month period from October 1, 2011 to March 31, 2012.

By Bernama

AmFIRST REIT's unitholders approve rights issue

KUALA LUMPUR: AmFIRST Real Estate Investment Trust has received its unitholders' approval for the proposed renouncable rights issue and a proposed increase in fund size at its EGM on Monday.

"The rights proposal will enable AmFIRST REIT to have a stronger balance sheet to grow its assets under management, increase its market capitalisation and enhance the liquidity of AmFIRST REIT's units," its CEO Lim Yoon Peng said.

To date, AmFIRST REIT owns eight commercial properties worth RM1.189bil. The REIT is managed by its managers Am ARA REIT Managers Sdn Bhd which is 70% owned by AmInvestment Group Bhd and 30% owned by ARA Asset Management (M'sia) Ltd.

AmFIRST REIT recorded an after-tax realised profit of RM39.9mil for the financial year ended March 31, 2012 which is an increase of 10% from RM36mil in the previous year.

By The Star

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Tips for first time housebuyers

BUYING a house will most likely be the biggest single investment in a person's life. But for first-time buyers, going about purchasing a home can be a procedural nightmare, especially without the proper planning or guidance.

The following are some simple tips for first-time buyers to consider before ploughing their money into their “dream home.”

Weighing your options

The first thing to do is to determine what exactly you are looking for.

“Visit a few property showrooms and also attend a few launched to see what's available in the market. If you're a first-time buyer, you're probably looking for something below half-a-million ringgit,” says VPC Alliance (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd director James Wong.

Also, determine if you're looking for landed property or an apartment.

“You need to weigh your options. An apartments comes with additional running costs, such as service charges - it's part of a communal thing,” Wong points out.

“If you stay on landed property, the advantage is that there is no service charge. Furthermore, you may also have access to a garden of your own,” he adds.

Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents president Nixon Paul concurs that there are certain advantages to owning landed property.

“Landed property would make a better buy as you have control over your own house. With an apartment, the biggest consideration is the management running it. If there is no effective management, it could really go downhill,” he says.


With land getting increasingly scarce, more so within the Klang Valley area, affordability can be an issue. “With land getting more expensive, the chances of getting landed property below RM500,000 close to the city is slim,” says Wong.

He adds that a person's distance from work should be factor to consider when buying property.

“You need to determine what is the commuting time to and from work that you can tolerate everyday,” he says.

Nixon however believes that it's still possible to find property below RM500,000 within the Klang Valley.

“They're available but you just need to look harder. You can find apartments within this price range in places like Kepong, Selayang and Puchong. You just have to go out further (from the city),” he says.

A viable option, says Wong, is to purchase property that will be located “not very far” from the proposed stations that will be built for the light rail transit (LRT) Ampang and Kelana Jaya line-extension and Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) projects.

“Once these lines are up, there will be improved connectivity within the Klang Valley.”

He adds that property along the proposed lines won't necessarily be expensive.

“The lines also go through the outskirts of the city and it would be good to study where the stations will be. If you live within 10-minutes driving distance of the stations, it won't be a problem.”

Wong says a mistake in the past was that there weren't sufficient parking facilities for the LRT lines.

“But I was informed that the future lines will also have parking facilities,” says Wong.

Another way for new housebuyers to around the issue of affordability is to try and apply for the My First Home Scheme.

Launched in March last year, the scheme allows young working adults obtain 100% financing from banking institutions to purchase their first home valued at a maximum of RM220,000 (for single applicants) or a maximum of RM400,000 (for joint applicants of husband and wife with household income below RM6,000 per month cumulatively).

Applications are made to participating banking institutions and upon approval, Cagamas - a national mortgage corporation - would provide a guarantee for the first 10% of the loan.

“It is a good move by the Government to promote home ownership,” says Wong. However, he notes that properties launched under the scheme are not located within the city.

“There were launches in Negri Sembilan and the Puchong area. However, if your workplace is within 5km of these homes, then why not,” he adds.

Inspect the property

If the property you're buying is physically present (such as secondary property), it's best to inspect it to ensure there are no shortcomings or flaws that will incur you additional unwanted costs.

“A house might look beautiful in pictures or from the outside, but you never know for sure until you take a closer look at it yourself,” says property investor Kamarul Ariff.

“It's best to inspect the house inside-out, floor to ceiling. Check to see if the walls and fixtures are in good condition, or if the house is infected with white ants, for instance. Bring along a friend who's a better judge of things like this, as it'll save you a lot of unnecessary cost in the future.

“Also, it doesn't hurt to inspect the property on a rainy day - a good way to find out if you've got leaks!”

Sorting out your finances

A major factor in the home-buying process is the issue of financing. Of course, one needs to have the financial resources first before going house-hunting.

Noteworthy is that effective January 1, Bank Negara has implemented its responsible lending guidelines, whereby loans are now approved based on net income compared with gross income previously.

The new guidelines are intended to help manage the household debt in Malaysia to reasonable levels.

“Currently, banks are tightening on housing loans and potential property buyers may not be able to secure up to 90% financing. Instead, they may only get between 70% and 80%. They now need to have as much as 20% cash or equity, unless its a gift or a loan from your parents,” says Wong.

But Nixon believes that securing a loan is not a problem, especially for young property buyers inspite of the new loan rules.

“From what we've been hearing, it's not the younger generation that's been having problems getting loans, but instead, the older generation.

“This is because the younger generation don't usually have debts - at most it might be a car loan. We find that it's the older generation, those with several ongoing loans or debt that have problems getting their loans approved under the new lending guidelines,” he says.

Bank officer Razlan Hashim says potential property buyers should ensure that their monthly loan payment will not be a burden on their spending. “You need to ensure that the home you're buying is within your means,” he says.

By The Star

Iskandar builders still bullish

The Setia Tropika development in Kempas, Johor Baru over 299ha.

DEVELOPERS in Iskandar Malaysia are still optimistic about the property market this year as it is expected to remain bullish based on the performance in the first quarter of 2012.

SP Setia Bhd executive vice-president (property division) Datuk Chang Khim Wah says demand for its properties in south Johor is still strong in the first three months.

Chang says the property market in Johor will be getting more competitive.

He points to the take-up rate for the company's properties which has been good since day one, and with Iskandar Malaysia progressing well, it was another pull factor for Johor properties.

Chang says Johor is now the company's main revenue earner, contributing about RM1bil in sales for three consecutive years 2009, 2010 and 2011 and SP Setia is confident of Johor maintaining its lead this year.

“Many have given their thumbs-up to Iskandar Malaysia as they can see the landscape of South Johor changing in the last five years,” he tells StarBizWeek.

Chang says Iskandar Malaysia will continue to push up demand for properties in Johor and will help to mitigate the slow growth in Johor's property market this year if there was one.

He feels the company is fortunate as all of its projects in south Johor are strategically located within the flagship development zones of Iskandar Malaysia.

Its ongoing projects in south Johor are Bukit Indah with only 5% land left for development, Setia Eco Gardens and Setia Business Park (383.64ha and 50% sill available for future development).

Others are a new development Setia Business Park II (107.24ha), Setia Tropika (299.46ha and 40%), Setia Indah (359.36ha and 10%) and Setia Eco Cascadia (110.07ha and 70%).

“Confidence in Johor is now at an all-time high especially with the progress made by Iskandar Malaysia. Many were quite sceptical in the early days whether it would take off successfully,” says Chang.

He says road-upgrading and the opening of new highways such as the New Coastal Highway, Eastern Dispersal Link Expressway and Southern Link next year has improved connectivity and accessibility within Iskandar Malaysia.

Chang says foreign investors are gradually turning to Iskandar Malaysia and Johor Baru's close proximity with Singapore has attracted buyers from the republic to look for properties in Iskandar Malaysia.

“With or without Iskandar Malaysia, Singaporeans are always attracted to buying properties in Johor Baru and Iskandar Malaysia helps to make south Johor more attractive to them now,'' he said.

Chang says that going forward, the property market in Johor Baru will be getting more competitive as more and more players from outside Johor are coming here.

He says while there is still large tracts of land available in south Johor for development unlike in Kuala Lumpur or Penang. Getting hold of the land is not as easy as 15 years ago as land owners are now becoming more demanding and sometimes asking prices that are too “exorbitant”.

Soo says Hua Yang is using a different strategy.

Hua Yang Bhd Johor branch manager Soo Kim Hiang says that while Iskandar Malaysia is the main factor that has pushed demand for high-end properties, the company is using a different strategy.

“We are focusing on the middle-income group and first-time house buyers who are neither qualified to buy low-cost houses or high-end properties,” he says.

Soo says the company is banking on the affordability of its residential properties to attract prospective buyers as its strong selling point.

He says although the company's township projects are strategically located within Iskandar Malaysia, its pricing is much lower compared with other ongoing projects in the economic growth corridor.

“On average our residential pro-perties here are priced between RM250,000 and RM400,000,” adds Soo.

The project is Taman Pulai Indah a mixed development of 4,942 residential and commercial units on 193.03ha with a gross development value (GDV) of RM818mil.

About 134.ha has been developed since its first project in Johor was launch in 2000 and the company will take three to five years to fully develop it.

Its second township project, Taman Pulai Hijauan, on 56.65ha was recently launched and comprises 1,400 double-storey link, cluster and semi-detached houses and commercial units.

Both projects are located along the Skudai-Pontian Highway in the Senai-Kulai one of the five flagship development zones in Iskandar Malaysia.

Other flagship development zones in the 2,217 sq km Iskandar Malaysia are the JB City Centre, Nusajaya, Eastern Gate Development and Western Gate Development.

“Taman Pulai Hijauan will keep us busy for the next five to seven years with a GDV of RM380mil,” says Soo.

He says the company's double-storey link terrace houses Alder Residences at Taman Pulai Hijauan was priced from RM250,000 onwards.

The four-bedroom and three-bedroom house with a built up of 1,834 sq ft within a gated and guarded precinct is priced from RM250,000 onwards.

Soo says a similar property with the same floor area in other parts of Iskandar Malaysia, especially in Nusajaya, will be priced from RM450,000 onwards for an intermediate lot.

He concurs with Chang that the rest of the year will be challenging for most property developers in Johor Baru but is optimistic that the market will be good.

“The only problem is the labour cost which has gone up between 40% and 50%, and developers have no choice but to pass the cost to buyers,” says Soo.

Iskandar Regional Development Authority (Irda) chief executive officer Ismail Ibrahim says there should not be any worries on property overhang in Iskandar Malaysia.

It was recently reported that Iskandar Malaysia was expected to face a property glut in the next few years as many local and foreign developers would be launching their projects here.

“Property has never been identified to be the economic sectors we are promoting in Iskandar Malaysia as we believe that property development and demand will come naturally as investors start flocking here,” he says.

Ismail says if Irda has been promoting the property sector since day one of Iskandar Malaysia, the issue of property overhang is likely to happen.

By The Star

High-rise living and the factors that work for you

In a month or so, a relatively new developer will be officially launching his medium-rise serviced apartment project in Petaling Jaya. This will be his second project, his first being a commercial block in Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur. This developer is building a home for multi-generational families as he and his partner believe that being Asians, there is always that desire for parents to live near or next door to their grown-up children and grandchildren.

In many ways, he is right. The relationship dynamics between parents and children, and between grandparents and grandchildren, are different. There is something about the presence of grandchildren that lifts the spirits of grandparents.

The demise of the extended families where three generations stay together under one roof and keep an eye on each other has led to many social family woes, not to mention the need for domestic helpers.

As more Malaysians opt for high-rise living some for security reasons, others for the facilities it offers the issue of how the elderly cope with condominium living has never really been examined. But it is a very pertinent subject because high-rise living is here to stay, and will become the norm as the country grows and progresses. This is particularly obvious in the Klang Valley.

About 10 years ago, a couple of reputable developers commented that to build a high-rise project with the elderly in mind would pose a huge challenge.

They said that cost, materials, design and layout would have to be carefully thought of and scrutinised. Door frames would have to be wider, steps would have to be done away with to be replaced with ramps. The fittings and shower doors would have to accommodate and suit the elderly. Tiles would have to be non-slip. The list was endless.

Their reasoning was, “why would I want to incur extra cost and accept a lower margin when I can just build a block for a young family and get a higher margin of profit?”

If developers were to take this stand, what will happen to all the people who live in condominiums today?

When a developer considers a project, the customers' profile is usually that of a young family.

Because of this, their focus towards aesthetics and the look and feel of the place become their all-important criteria, with form taking precedence over function.

The first issue is the physical aspects of the place. The second is the cost of maintenance. Even if can afford the monthly maintenance, the physical aspects of the unit may be a deterrent.

Recently, a friend in her 60s left her studio apartment to move into a two-room unit. She wanted the extra space as well as the basement car park that came with the new unit which her previous unit did not have.

Very often, when shopping for a home, there is a tendency to just consider the location and affordability. While these are over-riding considerations, if affordability is not an issue, it may be prudent to consider a project that will grow with you. That means a project that is flexible enough to cater to your needs through the ages.

That may come across as a tall order. But it is food for thought. In other words, it cannot be just a neatly arranged pile of bricks. There has to be some differentiating factors.

Which takes us to the sort of high-rise residentials that are being launched nowadays. Many of today's projects do not have any differentiating factors. That means an over-riding salient feature that sets it apart from the rest.

In the KLCC vicinity, for example, there is only one condominium which sits on a 50-acre park. Although the park is not part of the grounds, residents are able to access the park without having to drive. The same applies to another project in Sentul West, which is adjacent to a golf course-turned-park.

When buying into a high-rise, consider the factors that work for you. It may be an area that is close to your network of friends and family. Or it can be an affordability issue.

Particularly if you are buying to stay, it may be wise to consider what works for you, rather than just opting for a place because it is available.

If low-rise living within a three-minute drive to the KLCC is an important factor, there is something along Jalan Kia Peng. If living near a park and walking your dog is a criteria, then there are quite a number of choices in the Kepong vicinity. If living near some of Petaling Jaya's most popular and upscale amenities is important for you, there are quite a number of condominiums in Bandar Utama and Mutiara Damansara. Whatever these over-riding factors may be, they are personal to each of us.

Having said all that, there is one high-rise living concept that has been overlooked by both home buyers and most developers today a project that will serve as a sanctuary for all seasons, and one that grows together with you.

Assistant news editor Thean Lee Cheng says most of us will have to grow old in our pigeon-hole which makes it all the more important for developers to build with the elderly in mind.

By The Star (by Thean Lee Cheng)

Affordable lifestyle yet enriching Customer comes first, pledges Trinity MD

Neoh says all the elements of the project are crafted to enhance the lives of residents.

TRINITY Group Sdn Bhd wants to promote its brand of lifestyle living at an affordable cost to a broader market in the Klang Valley, Penang and Johor.

Managing director Datuk Neoh Soo Keat says the Klang Vally-based developer's aim is to build property projects that offer lavish high-rise living at affordable prices.

Currently, Trinity's projects are all located in the Klang Valley and Neoh is on the lookout for strategic land in the growth markets of Penang and Johor.

At its Z Residence project in Bukit Jalil, comprising four blocks of 26 and 27 storeys of 1,136 service residences, the units were sold at average prices of RM340 to RM380 per sq ft. The RM500mil project has been fully taken up since its launch last April.

Neoh says despite the affordable pricing, residents can look forward to a combination of recreational and lifestyle facilities that include a floating garden surrounded by water courtyards, a 180-ft infinity pool, and panoramic sky lounges perched at 430 ft above ground level atop every condominium tower.

Up to 50% of the development has been reserved for green lungs and relaxation corners.

“All the elements of the Z Residence's design are crafted to enhance and enrich the lives of residents and the greater community it serves.

“The development aims to introduce a wholesome urban lifestyle to the medium-end housing market. We are dedicated to enriching the lives of our customers as our customers are at the centre of everything we do,” Neoh shares with StarBizWeek.

To achieve the highest quality standard for its project, he says Trinity has recently appointed Putra Perdana Construction Sdn Bhd (PPC), a unit of Putrajaya Perdana Bhd, as the main contractor for Z Residence.

Neoh says PPC is the first construction company in the country to be awarded with the 5-S Certification by SIirim-HK5SA, adding that PPC's competency in construction and high standards of quality and efficiency are in line with Trinity's commitment to deliver up-to-date and high-value products.

The company hopes to record a quantum jump in sales this year to RM640mil against RM230mil achieved in 2011.

Trinity has undeveloped landbank of 23.36 acres and another 12.5 acres that are currently under construction in the Klang Valley.

Its landbank include five acres in Serdang worth a potential gross development value (GDV) of RM300mil; 8.65 acres in Bukit Antarabangsa (RM700mil); three acres in Melawati (RM180mil); three acres in USJ19 (The Latitute@USJ19 worth RM200mil); and 3.71 acres in Seri Kembangan.

The Seri Kembangan land will be developed into The Zeva comprising a mixed development of 446 service apartments, 320 studio units and 12 shop offices. The project, with GDV of RM250mil, will be launched on May 18 for completion in 2015.

The studio units with built-up of 455 sq ft to 638 sq ft are priced from RM200,000; serviced suites of 881 sq ft to 1,205 sq ft are from RM350,000; and shop offices from 5,697 sq ft to 12,221 sq ft are from RM2.8mil.

In keeping with Trinity's trademark of lifestyle living, all the residential blocks will be naturally ventilated with generous corridor and a sky garden at each alternate level.

Neoh says Zeva is set to bring a fresh and dynamic change to the skyline of the gradually aging Seri Kembangan township.

“The project will provide a refreshing break from the mundane and monotonous architectural landscape in this established and matured township.

“Zeva's modern building facade with strong linear lines will complement the development of this place without taking away the charm that this town is associated with. The street mall on the ground floor of the development is envisioned to be vibrant and lively with a good mix of F&B outlets, offices and retail shops that will offer a refreshing lift to this area,” he adds.

By The Star

UEM Land down on uncertainty over property market policies

PETALING JAYA: UEM Land Holdings Bhd’s share price has recently experienced a sudden drop of more than 10%, raising questions among analysts and investors as to what is in the offing for the company.

The property developer’s share price declined 24 sen to a low of RM1.98 on Monday and had been languishing at this level for the rest of the week. It perked one sen to close at RM2 yesterday with 2.15 million shares changing hands.

A local bank-backed research analyst said the company was still fundamentally strong, and noted that other property developers such as Mah Sing Group Bhd and Glomac Bhd had also suffered similar selldowns recently. “According to data provided by the company, UEM Land is still enjoying robust sales, with customers snapping up the company’s products,” he said.

He said the sell-down might also be caused by uncertainties surrounding property market policies, where the Government is said to be considering to raise the minimum floor prices of houses that foreigners are allowed to buy to RM1mil.

The sudden drop in price is not fundamentally driven as uncertainties are abound with investors preferring to stay on the sidelines with the looming general election just around the corner. “It is a high beta stock and it might just be a possibility that some funds are selling out to lock in profit,” he said.

Hong Leong Investment Bank Research said in a report that UEM Land would have the largest impact if the Government raised the minimum floor price for foreigner as its Puteri Harbour project has about 40% foreign buyers.

“The high-end water front properties there are already selling for far more than RM1mil,” it said.

By The Star

Mapex Penang rakes in record RM90m

KUALA LUMPUR: Property developers at the recent Mapex Penang 2012 property exposition clinched a record RM90 million in sales.

Themed "The Most Lau Juak Property Show", the property expo showcased the newest property developments in the market across Malaysia.

"The record expo sales figures are testimony that the appetite for properties remained strong and even far exceed expectations in some cases," Real Estate And Housing Developers' Association (Rehda)-Penang Branch said in a statement.

Mapex Penang was organised by Malaysia on behalf of Rehda Penang.

According to the association, IJM's collection of 'The Light' properties were popular among visitors over the three-day expo, with 12 units sold for over RM15 million.

"Magna Putih's Mansion One development was snapped up totaling over RM11 million, with 19 units sold. Land & General also enjoyed brisk sales with 19 units worth over RM11 million sold," it said.

Visitors to Mapex Penang also had a chance to listen to leading property experts talking about sound property investment decisions during the seminar sessions.

Popular among visitors was a presentation by Richard Oon from ConsulNet Tax Services, on tax implications of property transactions. Another crowd pleasure was a session on benefits of buying property from developers by property investment guru, Milan Doshi.

Those interested in foreign investment were given tips and tricks on property investment in Australia by Ameer Abas from OZ Property Group.

Attractive prizes worth over RM70,000 from Deep Living, Signature Kitchen, KaraBest and Korea Wallpaper were awaiting visitors at the exhibition.

Rehda Penang chairman Datuk Jerry Chan Fook Sing said the association has achieved its aim in helping home buyers find their dream homes during the expo.

"I am proud that, together with our partnership with Malaysia, we have once again contributed to the growth of the industry as we saw participating property developers enjoying brisk sales, while connecting with property hunters in Penang," Rehda Penang chairman Datuk Jerry Chan Fook Sing said.

By Business Times

Rosy outlook for Johor hotels as theme parks spring up

Malaysian Association of Hotels says for this year, the average occupancy rate will increase to 67 per cent with an average room rate of RM170.

KUALA LUMPUR: The opening of several amusement parks in the last quarter of 2012 is expected to augur well for the hotel operators in the southern state of Johor.

Malaysian Association of Hotels’ chairman Tengku Ahmad Faizal said for this year, the average occupancy rate will increase to 67 per cent with an average room rate (ARR) of RM170.

Last year, based on a total room inventory of 15,723, the state filled 54 per cent of its available rooms and garnered an ARR of RM164.

Tengku Ahmad, in a recent interview with Business Times, said the average occupancy and rates were for the three- to five-star class hotels.

“We saw a drop in occupancy in the first 11 months of 2010 but in December, things picked up with the opening of the Johor Premium Outlets,” he said.

In December 2011, occupancy hit 81 per cent from 76 per cent in 2010 while rates rose to RM161 from RM146 in 2010.

Accordingly, Tengku Ahmad feels that the opening of Legoland on September 15 2012 followed by Hello Kitty Town, Little Big Club and LAT themed village at Puteri Harbour will help lift occupancy and rates in Johor.

Legoland is forecasting one million tourists in the first year of operations. This year, some five hotels with a total of 2,003
rooms will be added.

The hotels include KSL Resort (868), Traders Hotel (280), Renaissance Hotel (300), Granada Hotel (198) and Austin Century Hotel (322).

With the exception of KSL Resort, the remaining hotels will be launched towards the end of 2012. Iskandar Malaysia Tourism Steering Committee projected that by 2025, Johor will require
25,000 number of hotel rooms in the three- to five-star class.

Occupancy at hotels in Johor has predominantly been a split of 65 per cent and 35 per cent between business and leisure.

The opening of JPO, Legoland and other parks are expected to see the business-to-leisure guests split equally.

By Business Times

Friday, April 27, 2012

Developer wants to clear the air regarding Bukit Gasing project

Green ambience: Tan displaying the development comprising 70 bungalows near Gasing Hill.

The development in Bukit Gasing, Kuala Lumpur, is being carried out on privately-owned land and not on forest reserve, said Gasing Meridien Sdn Bhd executive director Leo Tan.

Tan said the development had nothing to do with the Bukit Gasing forest reserve in Petaling Jaya or Kuala Lumpur.

He said there were too many inaccurate statements made by certain people.

“I would like to reiterate that our land is privately-owned since the late 1970s. It is located at the southern tip of the Kuala Lumpur side and has never been for recreational or open space.

“We acquired the freehold land in 1994 and have not touched anything that is gazetted as forest reserve.

“We are also all out for protecting the forest reserve but our land is private. We have been having trouble communicating with the people due to inaccurate statements.

“Right now we are building an access road, sewerage system and laying pipes and cables for water and electricity supply.

“We also deserve a fair representation from the media because all the rules, regulations, terms and conditions pertaining to the development have been followed accordingly.

“It presents a difficult situation for us when we have to explain to our buyers that the land is not on forest reserve.

“We have to put in extra effort in getting the right message across to the people and showing that we have complied to all the requirements for the hillside development. Only 3% of the land is unsuitable for development.

“Our development which will be completed by 2015, aims to protect most of the trees on the land,” he said.

He added that people were entitled to their own opinion but it had to be based on facts.

The development, Sanctuary Ridge, comprises 69 bungalows on a 15.4ha site off Jalan 2/132, south of Gasing Hill.

It has been reported the residents had applied for a judicial review in the High Court in 2008 challenging the Kuala Lumpur City Hall’s (DBKL) approval for the development.

The High Court had made its decision on Sept 6, 2010 and the residents were denied the right to be heard.

The residents appealed against the decision in the Court of Appeal on March 6 without success.

Kuala Lumpur mayor Tan Sri Ahmad Fuad Ismail had said even before the inception of Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, the land had already been zoned for housing by the Selangor town and country planning department.

Fuad also said DBKL had 52.6ha of green lung to be gazetted near the area.

Gasing Meridian is a member of the same development group that built Gasing Heights Condominiums in Bukit Gasing. The six high-rise towers — Fraser Towers, Maxwell Towers and Cameron Towers are well-known landmarks.

By The Star

TA Global paying RM275.6mil for 4-star Movenpick Karon in Phuket

PETALING JAYA: TA Global Bhd is buying the hotel and business of Movenpick Karon Beach Resort in Phuket, Thailand for US$90.2mil (RM275.6mil) cash.

The property development and investment group told Bursa Malaysia that its wholly-owned subsidiary, Crystal Caliber Sdn Bhd, had entered into a sale and purchase agreement on Wednesday with Kingdom Hotel Investments regarding the Thai hotel.

The four-star hotel has 175 guestrooms, 163 suites and villas and 30 beachfront two-bedroom apartments which are on a 82,828 sq m freehold site.

TA Global also said the hotel had facilities including eight food and beverage outlets, four swimming pools, a spa with seven therapy rooms, a fitness centre, business centre, kids club and in excess of 1,350 sq m of meeting and banqueting space.

The hotel is located about 15km from Phuket town, and is also within a 10-minute drive from Kata Beach and the Patong Beach district.

TA Global will fund the purchase from internally generated funds and external borrowings.

TA Global said the purchase price took into consideration comparable market evidence of earnings multiples.

No valuation has been conducted on the hotel.

Kingdom Hotel Investments had invested US$69.8mil (RM213.4mil) in the hotel in April 2006.

Based on unaudited financial statements as at Feb 29, 2012, the hotel has net assets of US$67.6mil (RM206.6mil) and an occupancy rate of 93%.

TA Global, which owns two hotels in Australia and one each in Canada, Singapore and China, said the Thai hotel deal would enhance the group's hospitality operations in major cities worldwide.

“This will provide steady revenue stream and enhance the revenue contribution from the hospitality division to the group,” it added.

It was also pointed out that Phuket enjoyed a high volume of international visitors and remained one of the most visited destinations in Thailand.

The Phuket International Airport is expanding and by 2014, it will have an annual capacity of 12.5 million passengers which is almost twice its current capacity level of 6.5 million.

The proposed purchase is expected to increase TA Global's gearing ratio from 0.32 times as at Jan 31, 2011 to 0.42 times.

The deal was expected to be completed by the second quarter of the financial year ending Jan 31, 2013, the group said.

By The Star

Malton to dispose of Austin Heights shares

Malton Bhd has proposed to dispose of its 20 per cent entire equity interest in Austin Heights Sdn Bhd (AHSB)to Southcon Builders Sdn Bhd for RM34 million.

In a filing to Bursa Malaysia, Malton said the disposal would enable it to realise its shared profits in the investment in AHSB.

"Furthermore, the disposal will enhance the cash flow position of the group and support the core business of property development and construction," it added.

It said the proceeds from the proposed disposal would be utilised to finance the working capital requirements of Malton within 12 months from the receipt of the disposal consideration.

"The disposal will not have any material impact on the net assets and net earnings per share for the financial year ending June 30, 2012.

"Nevertheless, upon completion of the disposal, Malton will make an estimated gain on disposal of RM12,730,000 and RM3,927,000 at the company and group level respectively, based on the latest available unaudited financial statement of AHSB as at Dec 31, 2011," it added.

The disposal is expected to be completed within the financial year ending June 2013.

By Bernama

iProperty appoints new general manager

iProperty Group Ltd, owner of Asia's No. 1 network of property portal website, today announced the appointment of Edward Sutton as general manager, developer for iProperty Group.

In a statement, iProperty said Sutton's role would be to work with property developers across the region in providing marketing solutions via the network of market leading iProperty portals.

iProperty chief executive officer Shaun Di Gregorio said Sutton was highly regarded in the property developer business across the group.

"His business acumen combined with his understanding of the developer market is the perfect fit for the business.

"This appointment further delivers on our strategic goal of deepening our engagement with the property developer industry," he added.

By Bernama

Thursday, April 26, 2012

SP Setia plans rail hub in KL Eco City

SP Setia Bhd, one of the country's biggest developers, is investing up to RM30 million to set up an integrated rail transport hub at its RM6 billion KL Eco City mixed development in Kuala Lumpur.

The company is building a KTM commuter station, which will be integrated with the existing Abdullah Hukum light rail transit (LRT) station at the project location by 2013.

Executive vice president Richard Ong said SP Setia is finalising the design proposals for the KTM station with the rail authorities.

"Subject to the authorities' requirements, the KTM station is estimated to cost around RM30 million," Ong told Business Times.

SP Setia, via its unit KL Eco City Sdn Bhd (KLEC), is developing KL Eco City on the former Kampung Haji Abdullah Hukum site at the end of Jalan Bangsar. The 10-year development will comprise several residential towers, offices and a 5.7 million sq ft retail podium.

Ong said KLEC has began preliminary site works such as earthworks, tests piles and relocation of existing utility services, including realignment of Sungai Pantai (river diversion works).

Substructure works such as piling and foundation are expected to commence in two months, said Ong, who is also KLEC project director.

Ong said these are part of the construction works for Phase One of the project, comprising 12 blocks of boutique offices, a strata office and a corporate office tower on a four-storey retail podium, worth almost RM2 billion.

SP Setia will construct a pedestrian bridge linking KL Eco City and The Gardens at Mid Valley City to enhance the development.

Meanwhile, SP Setia will invest RM150 million to link KL Eco City to the Federal Highway via two dedicated ramps.

The ramps will enable traffic heading towards Petaling Jaya and Kuala Lumpur to gain direct access into KL Eco City and to exit the development directly onto the Federal Highway.

There will also be linkages to Jalan Maarof in Bangsar via Lingkaran Syed Putra. KL Eco City will also have direct access to and from the New Pantai Expressway (NPE) via the existing Jalan Pantai Baru and Jalan Bangsar interchange.

Ong said SP Setia has procured all the necessary approvals from the relevant authorities on the design proposals for the ramps and the linkages.

"Tenders have been called and the evaluation process and award is expected to be completed in the next two to three months," he said.

By Business Times

CapitaMalls to build US$365m Beijing mall

HONG KONG: Singapore-based shopping centre developer CapitaMalls Asia said yesterday it would spend US$365 million (RM1.12 billion)to develop a mall in southern Beijing, buying the land from a subsidiary of the Poly Real Estate Group.

The development will feature a seven-storey, 122,000-square-metre mall, representing a total cost of around 19,190 yuan per square metre (RM9,319) for construction and land, the company stated. The project is due for completion in 2015.

CapitaMalls Asia, 65 per cent owned by Temasek, is one of the most active international property developers in China.

This will be its 57th mall in the country.

By Reuters

TA Global acquires Movenpick’s Phuket property

KUALA LUMPUR: TA Global Bhd, the property arm of stockbroker TA Enterprise Bhd, has entered into a sale and purchase agreement with Kingdom Hotel Investments to acquire Movenpick Karon Beach Resort in Phuket, Thailand for RM276.93 million.

TA Global's board of directors said in an announcement to Bursa Malaysia that the freehold property comprises a four-star hotel with 175 guestrooms, 163 suites and villas and 30 beachfront two-bedroom apartments on 20.46 acres.

They said the acquisition would further enhance the company's hospitality operations in major cities around the world and expand the existing portfolio of hospitality properties into Thailand.

They added that the acquisition would provide steady revenue stream and enhance the revenue contribution from the hospitality division.

By The Star

Medan Kidd to be redeveloped to improve public transport system

Almost complete: The RM38mil terminal is about 90% complete and is expected to be operational in mid-June.

A PLAN is in the pipeline to redevelop Medan Kidd in Ipoh to improve the public transportation system.

Perak Transit executive chairman Mohamad Mat Isa said the area around the rundown Medan Kidd bus station and the Ipoh railway station would be redeveloped, to ensure better service for locals and tourists.

“We are planning to build covered walkways between the bus station and railway station.

Mohamad added that the Medan Kidd bus station would be demolished to make way for a new structure under the whole project themed “Ipoh Central”.

“Everything is still at the early stages,” he said, adding that the cost for the whole project has yet to be determined.

“We will also build shophouses for food and souvenir traders,” he said after visiting the new RM38mil Ipoh Integrated Bus Terminal and Complex with state executive councillor Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon in Bandar Meru Raya, recently.

Dr Mah said the inter-city Ipoh Integrated Bus Terminal and Complex was now 90% complete.

“It is expected to be completed ahead of schedule and operational by mid-June,” Dr Mah added.

The three-storey terminal and complex by Combined Bus Services Sdn Bhd (CBSB) is built on a 3.4ha plot of land.

The project, which began in 2010, consists of a business centre, food court, basement car park and petrol kiosk.

It would serve as an inter-city bus terminal to connect the Ipoh central bus station via shuttle bus service.

“The complex can accommodate between 8,000 and 10,000 people in full capacity,” he said, adding that it was surrounded by the Mydin hypermarket, Taipan City project and other shops.

Spacious: Dr Mah checking out the terminal’s interior during his visit.

Dr Mah added the complex could house around 60 buses.

On concerns that the complex was situated far away from the city centre, Dr Mah said there would be feeder buses and taxi services to ferry passengers to and fro.

“As for Medan Kidd station, it will be a hub for inter-town transit, complementing the complex,” he said.

On Medan Gopeng’s status with the opening of the complex, Dr Mah said a letter had been submitted to the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) to determine its fate.

“It will be convenient and practical for Ipoh to just have one inter-city bus terminal and we hope all bus companies will cooperate with us,” he said.

By The Star

MCT plans to invest in Medini Iskandar

PETALING JAYA: Iskandar Investment Bhd (IIB) has entered into a collaborative agreement with MCT Consortium Bhd to discuss the latter's proposed investment in Medini Iskandar, Nusajaya.

IIB said in a statement that the agreement would be on developing small-offices-home-offices (SoHos) or studio units, a hotel and a boutique retail gallery.

Details on MCT's investment in Medini have yet to be finalised.

IIB president and chief executive officer Datuk Syed Mohamed Syed Ibrahim said MCT's presence would complement efforts in the transformation of Medini Iskandar into the central business district of Nusajaya, which lies in the heart of Iskandar Malaysia.

MCT group founder Datuk Sri Barry Goh said: “We are excited about this project. Nusajaya is not only strategically located in the heart of Iskandar Malaysia for business convenience, waterfront lifestyles and international connectivity but also stands on strong pillars of catalytic, entry-point projects such as EduCity, Medini Iskandar and Legoland Malaysia, in addition to Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios and Gleneagles Medini, etc.

“These catalytic projects are themselves attractive features and offer unique value propositions for us to plan our mixed development and garner positive market response.”

By The Star

MIDF upgrades Sunway Reit to 'buy'

MIDF Research upgraded Sunway Real Estate Investment Trust (Reit) to "buy" after the latter’s latest earnings result exceeded market expectations.

“Our forecast had underestimated the growth of the hospitality segment which had surprisingly registered commendable growth in a challenging economic environment,” the broker said in a research note on Thursday.

MIDF raised its target price for Sunway Reit to RM1.39 per share from RM1.36 previously, while it lifted the Reit’s earnings forecast for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012 by 6 percent.

By 10am , Sunway Reit shares rose 2.42 percent, outperforming the Malaysia’s benchmark stock index that climbed 0.08 percent.

By Reuters

Sunway REIT issues RM850mil commercial papers

KUALA LUMPUR: Sunway Real Estate Investment Trust's (SunREIT) unit SunREIT Capital Bhd has issued RM850mil in nominal value of commercial papers (CPs).

It said on Thursday the CPs were accorded a short a short term rating of P1(s) by RAM Rating Services Bhd.

The RM200mil CPs, will be under a competitive tender, have a tenure of three months and will mature on July 25.

The other RM300mil in CPs would have a one-month tenure and will be placed out while the RM350mil CPs, which would also be placed out, would have a tenure of three months.

By The Star

Sunway REIT income up 22%

PETALING JAYA: Sunway Real Estate Investment Trust (Sunway REIT) net property income (NPI) rose 21.9% year-on-year (y-o-y)to RM74.3mil in the third quarter ended March 31, 2012, on stronger assets contribution.

Sunway REIT's NPI for its initial portfolio of eight assets expanded by 9.6% y-o-y with Sunway Pyramid Shopping Mall's NPI grew 12.3% for the quarter under review compared with the previous corresponding period, it said in a statement.

Distribution income rose 10.4% y-o-y to RM50.4mil, translating into quarterly distribution per unit (DPU) of 1.87 sen. For the nine months period, it declared DPU of 5.61 sen translating into annualised distribution yield of 6.0% based on Sunway REIT's unit closing price of RM1.25 as at March 31.

By The Star 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

40 hotels set for opening in Johor

Of the numbers, almost half are expected to be built within the next five years, prompting concerns of an oversupply.

A whopping 40 new hotels, predominantly within the three- and five-star categories, are slated for opening in Johor.

Of the numbers, almost half are expected to be built within the next five years, prompting concerns of an oversupply.

Chairman of the Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) Johor Chapter, Tengku Ahmad Faizal, said a right balance could be achieved if these openings are done in phases.

As Johor transforms itself into the amusement and theme park capital of Malaysia, there is a requirement for additional supply of hotel rooms.

Nevertheless, there is also a need for lower star-category hotels.

“Should all the hotels open according to schedule, with the opening of Legoland, followed by Hello Kitty Town, Little Big Club and LAT theme parks, room supply should be just nice.

“Looking at up to 2015, there will be sufficient rooms to cater to the expected increase in tourists,” Tengku Ahmad said.

It was reported that Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman said by 2014 alone, Johor will have an additional supply of 3,000 new rooms.

“But what we need is all categories of accommodation.
We need lower-category rooms, below the three-star category to cater to the middle- and lower middle-income groups.

Serviced apartments for families are required as well,” he said.
Tengku Ahmad pointed out that all of these openings may not work in favour of the hotel operators if the rooms are not filled.

“With 40 hotel openings, and possibly more, everyone has to play their part in order to create awareness about Johor and to get the tourists to the state.

"We will surely need more international direct flights into the Senai International Airport. Otherwise, the perception that Johor is not easy to reach will remain," he said.

He added that Johor is always a difficult destination to sell, but with the new developments taking place, he hopes more travel agents will start promoting the state.

With the opening of international hotel brands like Traders Hotel, Sheraton and Aman, Tengku Ahmad expects Johor's visibility in the international scene will increase further.

However, he also said that while the hotel plans will create more jobs in the state, filling the openings and retaining staff can pose a challenge.

This is because hotel staff are easily persuaded to move to Singapore, or even from one hotel to another hotel for just an additional RM50 a month.

If there are insufficient numbers of arrivals to fill the available capacity, it will not be unusual for hotels to begin a rate war just so they can survive.

By Business Times

TTDI Grove Kajang to launch three-storey shop offices

TTDI Grove Square 2, the newly anticipated commercial development in TTDI Grove Kajang will be launched this weekend from 10am-6pm in the new TTDI Grove Sales Gallery in Kajang, Selangor.

Developed by Naza TTDI Sdn Bhd, this freehold commercial development is a three-storey dual frontage shop office. With a built-up of 473.5-912.1sq m (5,097-9817sq ft) and a lot size of 22' x 80', 29 units of this modern concept designed shop offices will be on sale this Saturday onwards. Fronting the Persiaran Kajang-Semenyih Bypass, the offices also has ample parking spaces.

In conjunction with the launch, there will also be attractive launch packages such as the special early bird rebate, free legal fee on Sale and Purchase Agreement (SPA) as well as a free stamp duty on the Memorandum of Transfer (MOT).

The development is 15 minutes away from Kajang town and has easy access to major highways such as the Kajang SILK Highway, LEKAS Highway, Kuala Lumpur (North) and Seremban (South) via Kajang-Semenyih Bypass. Added with mature residential communities and convenient amenities, TTDI Grove Kajang is set to be the new prime area in Kajang.

The TTDI Grove township is a freehold mixed development in Kajang. Spanning over 45.7ha (113 acres), it comprises double storey link houses, apartments as well as commercial properties. While all launched phases of the residential properties within Grove West have limited number of units left, commercial lots at TTDI Grove Square 1 are almost completely acquired.

Grove East, whereby Grove Square 2 is located, is a development that resides entirely on premium elevated ground. Differentiating itself from the other phases, Grove East has lower density and larger built-ups. As the road frontage units at Grove Square 1 were popular among buyers, TTDI Grove Square 2 is another opportunity for investors.

Those interested in attending the launch can come on April 28 & 29 (Saturday and Sunday) from 10am-6pm at TTDI Grove Sales Gallery, via Kajang-Semenyih Bypass, Persiaran TTDI Grove, Taman TTDI Grove, 43000 Kajang, Selangor. GPS coordinates: 2ᵒ 59’ 43.14’’ N 101ᵒ 48’ 57.34’’ E. For more information, log on to or call 03-2787 7921.

Also on the launch day, Acacia, the two-storey premium link homes will be opened for registration. This freehold residential property has a built-up from 232.1-314.4sq m (2,498-3,384sq ft) and a land area from 22’ x 75’. This phase of terrace homes in Grove East is due to be launched next month.

By The Star

Iskandar: 30 projects in Selangor without proper licences

STATE Housing, Building Management and Squatters committee chairman Iskandar Abdul Samad said there are at least 30 projects in Selangor that do not have proper building approvals or licences.

He said the cases were prevalent in Klang and Kuala Langat and that the state was in the midst of reviewing the projects.

“We are discussing whether these projects are viable or some modification are needed but with licensing, the onus is on the Housing and Local Government Ministry, who have the authority.

“Although the call by Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan to have a more efficient model in approving construction permits is good, the one stop centre is already a simplified step.

“Many people find it difficult to get money for abandoned projects, especially when the ministry blacklists them, so when the developer wants to sell them, they can’t.

“We started with 141 abandon ed projects and later we discovered more but they cannot be resolved because there is no more money in the bank.

“Only 30% of the projects had white knights coming into the picture,” he said.

When asked about the effectiveness of the amendments to the Housing and Development (Control and Licensing) Act 1966 with regards to the Tribunal Court, Iskandar says it is a mere toothless tiger.

“Many people find it difficult to get money from the developer after it has gone to the Tribunal Court because there is a lack of enforcement or it is too limited.

“We are pushing for strata title type buildings to go to court but there only a few cases that do so.

“As far as the amendments to the Housing and Development (Control and Licensing) Act 1966 is concerned, it is good on paper but we will only be able to see it truly functioning once there is implementation.

“They say we can take the developers to jail. Well, we will have to wait and see it happen,” he said.

It was reported recently that the Housing and Local Government Ministry will revive 35 abandoned projects, involving 12,000 housing units, throughout the country this year.

Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Chor Chee Heung had said that their main Key Performance Index would focus on reviving the projects which mainly involved low-cost homes.

He said the Government had revived 84 abandoned housing projects since 2009 to help the lower income group own houses.

The HDA was initially known as the Housing Developers Act, which has seen several amendments over the years.

The last amendment was in 2011.

According to the ministry website, as of December last year, there were 235 problematic and delayed projects in Peninsular Malaysia, with Selangor leading the way with 86 and 15 projects respectively under the private housing sector.

In Kuala Lumpur, there were eight delayed and 11 problematic projects. As of February there were 16 abandoned housing projects identified for revival with new developers while 51 project were under revival either by the developer, rescuers or Syarikat Perumahan Negara Berhad.

By The Star

Legoland Malaysia to open on Sept 15

NUSAJAYA: Asia's first Legoland is set to open for business on Sept 15.

Legoland Malaysia General Manager Siegfried Boerst said the RM700 million theme park on a 76-acre land in Iskandar Malaysia, Johor, was 75 per cent complete.

He said that last month, the contractors began work on theming the park, and next month they would begin installing the 50 million Lego bricks and models.

"I'm pleased to announce that due to the hardwork of all our contractors, we will now be opening the park ahead of schedule by a number of months," he told reporters here today.

Legoland Malaysia here is the sixth Legoland theme park in the world and the first in Asia.

The park, with seven special themes namely Lego kingdom, imagination, land of adventure, lego technic, the beginning, lego city and miniland, is especially designed for families with children from two to 12 years of age.

Boerst said over 35,000 annual passes had been sold and 60 per cent of the buyers were Malaysians. The annual passes, priced at RM195 per adult and RM150 per child, are valid until end of 2013.

"The official park single-day tickets will go on sale online later this month and these tickets will be priced at a special introductory offer of RM96 for adults and RM70 for kids," he said.

Legoland Malaysia expects to attract one million visitors in its first year of operation.

Tickets are available online through the AirAsia RedTix and Legoland Malaysia websites.

Boerst said Legoland Malaysia was in talks with local tour operators to provide packages for visitors from the Klang Valley.

"We hope to provide more transportation for our visitors here and there are plans to set a up new route with the local authority for buses to be here," he said.

On accommodation, he said, Merlin Entertainments Group had signed a management agreement with LL Themed Hotel Sdn Bhd to develop and build the Legoland Hotel. The Legoland Hotel is expected to be ready in 2014.

Meantime, Legoland Malaysia is in talks with hotel operators in Johor to provide shuttle buses from their hotels to the park.

"We are in discussion with the hoteliers and we hope they can work together with us," he said.

Legoland Malaysia will feature more than 40 interactive rides, shows and attractions when it opens.

Other Legoland theme parks across the world are in Denmark, the United Kingdom, Germany and Florida and California in the USA.

It is the second after Legoland Billund park, Denmark, to house the Observation Tower, where visitors are lifted up 41 metres for an excellent view of the Legoland theme park as the tower revolves to make a complete circle in 50 seconds.

By Bernama

Legoland Hotel to open in Johor

KUALA LUMPUR: Asia's first Legoland Hotel is to open in Malaysia in 2014 next to a theme park dedicated to the popular children's building bricks, the developers said.

Groundwork for the hotel in southern Johor state the world's fourth Legoland hotel began last month, developer Merlin Entertainments Groups and LL Themed Hotel said in a statement yesterday.

The 31ha park, which will offer 40 rides, shows and displays featuring the Danish toy bricks, will be one of the main attractions of Iskandar Malaysia.


Developers eyeing former Unilever plant site in Bangsar

PETALING JAYA: A number of developers are said to have submitted their bids to undertake the development of a 8.09ha in Bangsar that used to house Unilever Malaysia's soap and margarine manufacturing plant. It has been left unoccupied since Unilever Malaysia moved out in 2003.

Among the interested bidders are Mah Sing Group Bhd and UEM Land Holdings Bhd.

Located at the intersection of Jalan Bangsar and Jalan Maarof in Kuala Lumpur, the land initially belonged to Perbadanan Aset Keretapi but has since changed hands to new owner Pelaburan Hartanah Bhd (PHB).

PHB is a subsidiary of Yayasan Amanah Hartanah Bumiputera, created under Budget 2006 with an initial capital of RM2bil, to promote bumiputra ownership of prime real estate.

An industry source said PHB had last year invited bids for the development of the land into an integrated high-end mixed commercial and residential development.

“The candidates have so far made two rounds of presentation on their proposed development plans to the PHB board and independent consultants.

“The criteria will be based on potential yields, project concept and design and traffic dispersal system, among others,” he added.

The successful candidate is expected to be announced in the first half of this year but a source said this might be postponed to after the general elections.

A property valuer said the land's location was very strategic and would be ideal for an integrated commercial cum residential development.

He said some 30% to 40% of the development ratio was likely to comprise residential units, and the rest would be office blocks, a hotel, shopping mall, and shop lots.

“The plot ratio will be between six and eight times, and the project is expected to generate a gross development value of RM4bil to RM5bil,” he said.

With regard the leasehold status of the land, the valuer said PHB would have to apply to the Federal Territory Land Office to have the land lease renewed to up to 99 years.

“The Valuation Department will decide on the additional premium to be paid for the lease to be extended,” he added.

By The Star

Katong project preserves landmark facade

SINGAPORE: Home buyers in a new Katong project will find it easy to direct taxi drivers and friends to where they live.

The development includes a famous landmark a fire-engine-red two-storey shophouse that once housed the well-known Katong Red House Bakery.

The East Coast Road project, which will be launched soon, has 42 residential units, shops, a heritage gallery and a bakery.

Developer Warees Investments, property arm of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis), will not say for now if the bakery will take up the same space occupied by Katong Bakery. The latter, set up in 1931, was known as the Red House Bakery due to the building's distinctive facade.

That stand-out exterior is preserved in the new 99-year leasehold project, which also incorporates five shophouses adjacent to the Red House.

A residential block will be built behind the shophouses, with indicative prices from property agency HSR International Realtors starting from S$600,000 for a 448 sq ft one-bedroom apartment.

Katong Bakery's days of selling Swiss rolls and curry puffs ended in 2003 when the building was deemed unsafe and in need of repair. The tenants said they could not afford the post-renovation rent of S$15,000 a month, up from the old rent of just S$2,000. Rentals had been kept low by controls that were lifted in 2001.

The six shophouses are wakaf properties or religious bequests by Muslims, and managed by Muis.

They were put in trust in 1957 by Sherrifa Zain Alsharoff Mohamed Alsagoff, whose great-grandmother Hajjah Fatimah built Hajjah Fatimah Mosque in Beach Road.

She wanted rental income to be used to provide free medicine to people of all races and religions but rent controls meant there was not enough money to do so.

In its new form, the Red House should bring in more income. But SLP International Property Consultants research head Nicholas Mak cautions that the property's value would depend on how well conservation was carried out.

“Does it help the aesthetics of the building or does it hinder redevelopment?” he asked.

Warees Investments stresses that the project would be in keeping with the historic character of Katong. Designed for “heritage investors”, it would have the bakery as its main feature, said the developer's general manager (corporate) Muhd Haifan Usalli.

Along with its facade, the Red House's traditional floor tiles and pillars will be preserved.

By The Straits Times/Asia News Network

S’pore urban planners building reputations abroad

SINGAPORE: He started as an urban planner with the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) in 1991. But Leow Kim Guan, 49, had designs on more than Singapore. He now has his own booming company, building whole cities in China.

Leow, who set up SCP Consultants as a one-man company in 2004, now has 40 employees in its Singapore office and 230 in China, and has notched up 307 urban-planning projects.

He enthuses: “There are many developing countries looking to have properly planned cities or towns. The market for urban planners is so big.”

His is one of a number of Singaporean companies making their mark building cities abroad. Foreign governments and companies from South America to Russia, on the lookout for skilled urban planners, are beating a path to their doors.

It turns out that modern Singapore, with its 46 years of building a gleaming, efficient and eminently liveable city-state, with industrial and business parks and carefully planned suburban neighbourhoods, has been an ideal environment for urban planners to take that know-how and vision to the world.

Some urban planners, such as Leow, started out in their own backyard in Singapore working for government agencies such as the URA and Housing Board, planning suburban neighbourhoods. Others began in the planning units of private companies whose main business was in a related field.

Now, their achievements are being celebrated in an exhibition at the URA Centre in Maxwell Road until June 1.

Images and photographic panels of overseas projects by six local urban planning companies, including SCP Consultants, DP Architects and Jurong Consultants, are on display.

Djoko Prihanto, senior vice-president at Surbana Urban Planning Group, also one of the six companies, said having the Singapore stamp gave local companies an advantage on the international playing field.

He said: “Companies and governments who have come here see for themselves how the city is planned. They have strong confidence that we can pull it off successfully.”

Nina Yang, an executive director at CPG Consultants and the master planner for the eastern catchment of Singapore and the media park in one-north, said Singapore was a “textbook example” for other countries to see how their cities or towns could look like.

“For most of the planning work that we do overseas, Singapore offers wonderful built examples for study.”

She added that this made for a powerful selling tool that helped clients make informed decisions.

And with five billion people expected to live in cities by 2030, the need for urban planners particularly those with the coveted Singapore “branding” can only increase.

With the business of designing cities hitting new heights, Leow, for one, was hoping to expand his company.

The snag? He is having trouble finding Singaporean planners to join his team. “I want my planners to be familiar with Singapore's practices. But the planners' pool here is already so small that even if I want to expand, I may not be able to find the right person.”

Even a successful city has its limits, it seems.

By The Straits Times/Asia News Network

S’poreans forfeit option fee on mass market units as cold feet take over

SINGAPORE: Buyers of 107 new private homes had a change of heart last month and returned their units to developers.

The numbers, contained in a report from Goldman Sachs, show that even in a hot market, some people get cold feet. The same report also stated that 100 homes were returned the month before.

That means these buyers have paid an option fee but have chosen not to exercise the option and go ahead to complete the purchase.

When someone buys a new condominium, they put down an initial option fee of 5% to “reserve” the unit.

After that fee is paid, the developer of the project has 14 days or more to issue the sales and purchase documents as well as the title deed. From then, the buyer has three weeks to exercise the option to purchase the unit. In some cases, this whole process could take up to eight to nine weeks.

If the buyer chooses to back out, he forfeits a quarter of the option fee, or 1.25% of the purchase price.That could mean forfeiting S$12,500 on a S$1mil unit, or a S$75,000 for a high-end one costing S$6mil.

The 107 units returned in March could have been bought in either January or February.

Analysts were not surprised by the high number of options lapsing, as the number of options lapsing tends to correlate to the number of sales made. Buyers bought 4,289 units in the first two months of the year.

In March, most of the returned units came from the mass market, but this could be because more projects were launched in the sector.

The Straits Times looked at a sample of 15 upcoming projects and found, for instance, 11 units were returned at the 689-unit Parc Rosewood in Woodlands.

Apartments at the 99-year condominium were sold for a median per sq ft price of S$994.

Watertown, a 992-unit mixed-use development in Punggol, had 17 units returned. Units were sold for a median per sq ft of S$1,341.

Bartley Residences, with average prices of S$1,240 per sq ft after discounts, and The Hillier, priced at about S$1,289 per sq ft, both had nine units returned.

The luxury homes sector, which is in the doldrums, also saw some units being returned.

For example, Skyline@Orchard Boulevard, where an apartment recently went for S$4,442 per sq ft, had one unit returned.

Prices there could easily exceed S$6.5mil, as the smallest unit is 1,744 sq ft in size.

The Scotts Tower also faced one cancellation. Earlier this year, a unit there fetched S$3,567 per sq ft.

Likewise, PropNex chief executive Mohamed Ismail noted that no new cooling measures had been introduced in the market since last December, which meant many buyers could be pulling out because of personal reasons.

“It's a glaring number but there's nothing to worry about. It's common to have a handful of units being returned every month of each project,” he said.

Nicholas Mak, head of research at SLP International Property Consultancy, also noted that the projects with the most units returned Watertown, The Hillier and Parc Rosewood included shoebox units.

“Sometimes, people are under peer pressure' at crowded showflats... They go home and speak to more people and decide not to buy it. They'd rather forfeit the 1.25% than regret buying it,” he said.

Ong Kah Seng, director at R'ST Research, shared similar sentiments, adding that some may have bought in haste.

By The Straits Times/Asia News Network

Firms to discuss Medini Iskandar investment

The developer of catalytic projects in Iskandar Malaysia, Iskandar Investment Bhd, has entered into a collaboration agreement with the MCT Group, to discuss the latter's proposed investment into Medini Iskandar, Nusajaya.

Medini Iskandar is a urban development project located within the Nusajaya development zone.

Under the agreement, MCT intends to develop buildings comprising SOHO/studio units, a hotel and a boutique retail gallery.

Iskandar Investment President and Chief Executive Officer, Datuk Syed Mohamed Syed Ibrahim said MCT's presence would complement efforts in the transformation of Medini Iskandar into the central business district of Nusajaya.

"The projects and lifestyle developments proposed by MCT within Nusajaya will play a role in influencing the developments in Iskandar Malaysia," he said in a statement today.

MCT, a major local property developer, is involved in businesses related to power substations, transmission, distribution and engineering services.

By Bernama

UK property brings global prospects for E&O

PETALING JAYA: The acquisition of Princes House in Central London by Eastern & Oriental Bhd (E&O) is an ideal opportunity for the Penang developer to market its hospitality and property offerings in Malaysia to a global audience.

E&O managing director Datuk Terry Tham Ka Hon said the company was considering plans to set up E&O's first London office at Princes House, and the acquisition might bring new prospects in the form of Malaysia My Second Home residents, hotel guests or other forms of investment flows, to Penang.

Tham says the acquisition of Princes House represents a low-risk entry into the prime Central London property sector.

“Our greater ambition for the E&O group has always been made known, that of extending E&O's presence and brand further afield, both regionally and internationally,” he told StarBiz via e-mail.

Tham said E&O was fortunate to have been considered in the purchase for Princes House. “E&O was not alone in our interest to own this very prime and attractive property,” he said.

On Monday, E&O had announced that it had agreed to acquire Princes House as its first major overseas property, which is a prime freehold office-cum-retail building in Central London, for £20.25mil or about RM100.91mil.

The vendor for Princes House is the Strathclyde Pension Fund.

Tham said the purchase price was arrived at after taking into consideration the independent market valuation report by Jones Lang LaSalle.

Princes House commands a prime position on the west side of Kingsway in the heart of London's Midtown.

Constructed in the early 1920s, the Princes House is a mixed-use building comprising about 46,087 sq ft of office and retail space.

Tham had said Princes House would continue to be let for office use but it also had redevelopment potential, subject to planning permission.

“This may include E&O-branded serviced suites or residential apartments which would find a ready rental and sale market, given its proximity to the University of London, London School of Economics as well as the Inns of Court where student accommodation and legal offices are always in demand,” he said.

Princes House London

Tham also pointed out that Princes House represented a low-risk entry into the prime Central London property sector, which provided an immediate avenue for leasing to generate rental income given its established location.

The purchase will be funded by internal funds and bank borrowings.

“This is by no means a burden to the balance sheet given that office rental income from Princes House is immediately forthcoming, and the potential for future conversion has ready demand in both rental and sale markets in this part of London that sees capital appreciation consistently outperforming all United Kingdom property indices,” said Tham.

According to Tham, based on the current mixed-used office and retail profile of the building, it would be reasonable to expect a yield of around 5.5% for the West End area where Princes House is located.

The ground floor of Princes House is currently occupied by leading British fashion designer Paul Smith on a lease expiring in 2017.

The upper first to eighth floor of the building is presently vacant, as the previous owner did not renew the tenant lease due to its intention to dispose of the property.

Tham reiterated that Princes House was located in the much sought-after London borough of Westminster.

“The London property market, particularly in the prestigious boroughs of Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster, being the most expensive in that order, shows a resilience that is supported by its international appeal.”

According to London-based broker Knight Frank LLP, luxury home prices in Central London rose the most in 10 months in March 2012.

Tham said London still led the world in financial services, “and it is where international elites and celebrities flock to buy homes, where middle-class parents aspire to send their children for top-rated education, and if affordability permits, to buy a more humble base, where tourists save to holiday and experience those instantly recognisable London icons, whether it is at the steps of Big Ben or Trafalgar Square, in the British Museum or Tate Gallery, catch a musical in the West End or shopping at Harrods. The lure of London is like no other.”

He highlighted a Jones Lang LaSalle report last week, where it was noted that buyers from China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore accounted for 51% of new property purchases in Central London neighbourhoods that the broker handled, up from 47% a year ago.

“This puts E&O at a definite advantage, with our established brand recognised in Malaysia and increasingly across Asia, and our database, many of whom are repeat buyers, who fit the profile of those who would be keen to own a unit at Princes House once converted into residential apartments or serviced suites.”

According to the Jones Lang LaSalle Property Predictions 2012, the UK's gross domestic product is expected to rise 0.4% in 2012, a nascent recovery that will be led by the Central London economy due to its strong international links and its attractions as a safe haven.

The rebound in all-property capital values in the UK recorded since 2009 was supported by the office sector in Central London, which experienced appreciation of about 38%.

The recovery of the UK economy will in turn benefit commercial properties, particularly quality buildings in prime locations.

Meanwhile, Tham pointed out that the company's Seri Tanjung Pinang Phase II development in Penang was progressing on track at the stage of environmental and technical impact assessments as well as masterplan conceptualisation.

“Given that it represents the last sizeable prime tract in land-scarce George Town, and based on our very successful track record in transforming an abandoned area into what is now the vibrant community of Seri Tanjung Pinang Phase I, we are confident that future reclamation and development will attract the necessary partners and funding, from sources both locally and overseas,” he said.

By The Star