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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Ipoh condo project among top SEA property award winners

SINGAPORE: A condominium development in Ipoh has been named Malaysia's Best Condominium at a property event here that gathered a host of high-flying professionals and companies from the luxury residential property sector from all over the region.

The Haven Lakeside Residencies development was among four Malaysian entries that shone at the annual South-East Asia Property Awards 2012 here on Friday night.

The project, developed by The Haven Sdn Bhd and launched in January last year, comprises three luxury condominium towers overlooking a natural lake and scenic limestone hills.

An added attraction is a limestone rock said to be 280 million years old and standing about 14 storeys high, according to The Haven Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Peter Chan.

The other Malaysian winners at the awards night were Sunway Bhd (Best Malaysian developer), The Residences, Putra Heights, developed by Sime Darby Property Bhd (Best Malaysian villa) and Savills Rahim & Co (Best Malaysian property consultancy).

More than 370 guests from around the region including Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Cambodia, Indonesia and host Singapore joined the gala dinner which saw 35 awards given out for various categories, including developer, development, real estate service, architecture and interior design.

Jose E.B. Antonio, chief executive officer of Philippines-based Century Properties Group Inc took the coveted Property Report Real Estate Personality of the Year award.

Chan, in his acceptance speech on behalf of The Haven Sdn Bhd, said he was happy to receive the award for Ipoh.

“It shows Ipoh can win prestigious international awards because the city is truly attractive.

“Its potential has not been recognised and has been under-rated for too long.

“We hope with this recognition, the awareness of Ipoh will be awakened that Ipoh can produce a condo development that is recognised as the nation's best,” he said, adding that his company had won seven other awards in the past.

Event organiser Ensign Media CEO Terry Blackburn, in his congratulatory address, said: “We have seen some real world-beating developments awarded here that really represent the full gamut of what South-East Asia real estate has to offer.”

Over 1,400 nominations were received, with over 300 entries in the hotly contested Best Condominium awards for Malaysia and Singapore.

By The Star

Breaking new ground with The Atmosphere

Artist impression of an aerial view of phase 2E or Lava, of The Atmosphere in Seri Kembangan.

The Atmosphere sets a new benchmark for commercial developments in Seri Kembangan, Selangor with its unique hybrid “shopping mall” design for its 20.1-acre commercial centre, says Tempo Properties Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Khoo Boo Hian.

This commercial centre is the second phase of The Atmosphere, which aims to integrate leisure, retail and office elements in a central hub.

“They are shopoffices but the commercial centre looks and feels like a shopping mall. This hybrid design is unique in Malaysia,” says Khoo.

Khoo: ‘The biggest headache for a commercial development is the car park’.

Khoo points out that the unique design of the commercial centre has resulted in “two ground floors”, with an elevated and landscaped boulevard on the second storey.

“With four-storey shopoffice blocks, usually the top two stories don't carry a lot of value. But with our boulevard level, the third level also becomes a ground floor. People come up to the boulevard level using the escalator, and they can patronise the shops.”

Beneath the boulevard level are two levels of covered car park bays, and it was this design element that led to the creation of the “two ground floors” for the centre.

“The biggest headache for a commercial development is the car park. We were toying around with the idea of a dedicated car park block, which is very inconvenient for people. So we spoke to the architects and authorities. We said ... can we have a situation where we do away with the back lane? So, we covered the back lane. That was how the boulevard level was conceptualised.”

Khoo says this also means patrons of the centre benefit from the covered car park and the open courtyard design with space for events.

Highlights of The Atmosphere's commercial centre include a 1.4-acre public park, covered walkways, public toilets, sheltered boulevards, alfresco plazas, open lawns, an open courtyard design for events, and high ceilings for retail outlets, 22 to 28-feet wide shop frontage as well as the spacious 20 to 30 feet wide walkways.

There are 1,600 covered and open-air car park bays. Areas in the commercial centre are inter-linked via covered walkways, escalators and lifts.

“You can walk from one end to the other without getting wet,” says Khoo.

The Atmosphere's commercial centre, with a gross development value (GDV) of RM370mil, was launched in 2009.

Unit prices ranged from RM1mil to RM4.5mil, and the average selling price was RM300 per sq ft.

Khoo says the 136 units in the earlier launches were sold out, and the final launch (phase 2E or Lava) has a 70% take-up rate.

“Investors have benefited in terms of capital appreciation as the units that have been handed over were sold on the secondary market with almost 100% appreciation in price.”

Phase 2E, which will consist of 54 retail and office units, is expected to be completed by end-2013.

Khoo also points out that phase 2E has a “three ground floors” concept with raised courtyard plazas.

The project also won the category of Best Mixed Use Development in the Asia Pacific region (including 5 stars for Malaysia) in the 2011 Asia Pacific Property Awards 2011 (in association with Bloomberg Television).

It is also the first commercial development in the South Klang Valley to be Green Mark certified by Singapore's BCA (Building and Construction Authority).

Khoo says this will translate into lower water and energy bills and maintenance cost, as well as an enhanced work environment.

“To get the Green Mark certification, we have features like heat reflective polycarbonate roofing from Korea to cover the boulevards, water and electricity saving fixtures and fittings, and reflective glass for the shop offices. Together with disabled-friendly features such as wheelchair ramps and tactile tiles, we spent an extra RM1.5mil. But we felt that it was necessary to enhance this development rather than just building another high-density commercial area.”

Khoo says the commercial centre is a strata-title development, “so investors pay some management fees but they get 24-hour security and tip-top maintenance.”

The Atmosphere has three phases of development, with the first phase being a Giant hypermarket on a nine-acre site.

“The Giant Hypermarket chain bought the land in 2008 for about RM30mil. The hypermarket opened two years ago,” says Khoo.

Another 6.1ha remains to be developed as the third phase on the 53-acre site of The Atmosphere, and Khoo says various options are being planned.

“We are looking at close to a GDV of RM1bil eventually for the 53-acre site,” says Khoo.

Khoo also points out that The Atmosphere is strategically located near to areas such as Prima Tropika, Alam Santuary, 16 Sierra, D'Alpinia, Taman Putra Permai and Taman Equine.

“We are in the heart of the Golden Triangle of South Klang Valley with Puchong, Putrajaya and Seri Kembangan forming the axis.” He says Seri Kembangan is a rapidly growing property hotspot, with high demand for commercial zones.

Khoo cites a Spectrum Research Asia report that last year said the residential population of Seri Kembangan within a 20-minute drive time zone was 1.6 million people.

The project is developed by The Atmosphere Sdn Bhd, a joint venture company that is 60% owned by Eksons Corp Bhd, with the remainder owned by Tempo Properties.

Eksons Corp, which is listed on the Main Market of Bursa Malaysia, is one of the largest manufacturers of tropical thin plywood in the Asia Pacific region.

Tempo Properties provides project management support and expertise.

Being different

Khoo says Tempo Properties is a boutique property developer that aims to create a win-win situation for investors, business owners and patrons in commercial developments such as The Atmosphere.

“We aim to provide investors with something that they don't know they want. We think differently.”

He points out that prices for units at The Atmosphere was the highest for commercial developments in the area.

“Our intention was to set ourselves apart, and come up with something that is unique.”

Tempo Properties has its roots in Yoon Hin Sdn Bhd which is a rice wholesaler in Seremban, Negeri Sembilan.

Yoon Hin diversified into property development by setting up Tempo Properties in 1995, and its first project was developing the 48-acre Taman Cenggal Utama near the Seremban International Golf Club in 1997.

Taman Cenggal Utama consisted of 492 units of residential houses and shoplots, and 179 units of low-cost flats.

It was completed at end-2003, and generated sales of RM65mil.

Meanwhile, in the heart of Seremban town, Tempo Properties recently completed the Medan Suria commercial development which consists of 34 units of three and four storey shop offices that generated RM27.5mil in sales revenue.

“With Medan Suria, we became the first developer in Seremban that does not have a back lane for our shops.”

“It took a lot of convincing to get approval from the authorities. Usually, shops have a back lane for rubbish collection. Our reasoning was - in shopping centres, you have food and beverage outlets without any issue. So, why do you need to have a back lane for shops? The project was well taken up, and the authorities were happy with the design.”

It should also be noted that The Atmosphere is adjacent to the 60-acre Taman Prima Tropika residential development, which was Tempo Properties' first foray in Selangor.

Khoo says 470 units of double-storey terrace houses and two-and-a-half storey terrace houses with a GDV of RM180mil have been built in Taman Prima Tropika.

These were launched from 2004 onwards at prices ranging from RM229,000 to RM379,000.

There are 4 ha left for development in Taman Prima Tropika.

Khoo says Eksons Corp and Tempo Properties have another joint venture company, namely Oval Rock Sdn Bhd for property acquisition and development.

Oval Rock is also 60% owned by Eksons Corp, with the balance held by Tempo Properties.

In January this year, Eksons Corp told Bursa Malaysia that Oval Rock had entered into an agreement with Azam Hartamas Sdn Bhd to acquire 22.7ha of leasehold land at Jalan Gombak, Setapak in Selangor for RM17.1mil.

“We might start a mixed development in Gombak in the third quarter of next year. We are also in discussions with a land owner in Cheras for eight acres,” says Khoo.

By The Star

Stratified developments becoming a way of life

As stratified developments become a way a life, good maintenance and management have become an issue.

EARLIER this year, a new set of property managers replaced the previous one in the condominium that Siti lives. Not having a current account, she paid her quarterly management fees in cash. She was told that the receipt would be put in her postbox. It never came and she soon discovered that the property management company had absconded with the money.

As stratified developments which include condominiums, service apartments and gated and guarded projects become a way of life, good maintenance and management have become an issue.

Good management and maintenance will improve the value of the asset. This applies to all segments of the property market, be it residential, commercial or industrial.

Hence, the third reading of the Strata Management Bill 2012 on Monday is crucial, says Assoc-Prof Ting Kien Hwa, head of Centre for Real Estate Research at Universiti Teknologi Mara.

“Currently, property management is part of a service provided by valuers, who are regulated by the Board of Valuers, Appraisers and Estate Agents.

The work of valuers can be broadly divided into three areas property management, valuation work and real estate agency work.

This means that property management is a regulated profession and delinquents risk having their licence suspended.

For the last five to six years, managing stratified properties has become an issue, he says. As more of us live in gated and guarded developments, and high rise condominium and serviced apartments, property management is evolving to become a lucrative industry.

Ting says the Board of Valuers is in the process of creating a third register to accommodate property managers. Valuers and real estate agents are governed by two registers and the Board of Valuers are working on creating a third one for property managers.

Says Ting: “This is a similar situation as in the early 1980s when there were many illegal real estate agents. They were given a one-year period to register with the board.”

Ting says the duty and responsibilities of property managers go beyond just collecting money and managing a property. The word “managing” covers a whole gamut of expertise and responsibilities. These include insurance valuation, the appropriate rate of service charges to levy on owners, managing service providers like security guards and cleaners, gardeners and managing tenants and rental rates among other duties.

Depending on whether it is a residential or commercial property, some issues may overlap.

To claim that valuers want to monopolise the property management industry is incorrect, Ting says.

“Some parties say they want to liberalise' the profession. Just as engineers and architects are regulated by the Institute of Engineers and Pertubuhan Akitek Malaysia respectively, so property managers are regulated by the Board of Valuers because property management is part of the work of valuers. This is the situation in the United States, Britain and Australia. Shall we then liberalise' the achitecture and engineering profession by allowing more people who are untrained to practise as architects and engineers because architects and engineers are monopolising' the industry?” Ting asks.

Ting says this argument to liberalise the profession and cut out the monopoly does not hold water at all.

He says there are currently 8,000 trained property managers in the country and every year, 450 more graduates enter the job market.

The local public universities provided courses in property management in the late 1960s because they knew there would be a need for this.

Malaysian Institute of Professional Property Managers president Ishak Ismail says: “The Government was visionary enough to foresee a time when stratified housing will become part of the Malaysian property landscape. The first condominium was Desa Kuda Lari in the KLCC area.

“Today about four million people live in stratified projects. About 80% of all the stratified projects are managed by joint management bodies and management committees. About 20% are outsourced and of this about 58% are managed by illegal property managers.”

Ishak said over and above the various issues that fall under property management, two sets of skills are needed the hard skills in managing the property and the soft skills in people management.

He says there is a need to put in the proper regulations to regulate property managers in order to improve the value of our property assets. There must be no conflict of interest because it involves public money, be it house owners or tenants of commercial properties, he says.

By The Star

Global launch of Battersea project in Jan

SHAH ALAM: SP Setia Bhd will kick off the worldwide launch for the first phase of its Battersea Power Station project in January next year, said its top executive.

"It will be a worldwide launch stretching over a six-month period," SP Setia president and chief executive officer Tan Sri Liew Kee Si told pressmen after the company's extraordinary general meeting here yesterday.

The launch series of the iconic development project in London would start in Malaysia followed by Singapore, Hong Kong, Brunei and Indonesia. It would then move to Europe and possibly to the Middle East before returning to Kuala Lumpur once again.

The project's show village and office overlooking the River Thames would be ready by April 2013.

The first phase will consist of 800 apartments above a commercial podium with an estimated gross development value (GDV) of STG1 billion (RM5 billion).

The ground-breaking ceremony for the project is expected to be between July to September next year.

Liew expects a strong take-up rate, given SP Setia's pool of Malaysian and international buyers.

He said the Battersea development will be projected as an international enclave to ensure value appreciation.

According to him, Malaysians would hold not more than 50 per cent of the properties in the project.

"It would not be a kampung Malaysia," he said.

Yesterday, shareholders approved the company's plans to pursue equity funding with a proposed placement of new shares of up to 15 per cent of its share capital to institutional investors, which will be identified via a book-building exercise.

The company could potentially raise about RM1 billion from the placement of new shares.

Liew said the proposed placement would enable the company to raise the necessary funds to part-finance the Battersea Power Station project, as well as be used to fund the development of St Kilda project in Melbourne and the Qinzhou Industrial Park in China.

He also revealed that the company would decide in two months whether to undertake an employees share option scheme or Long Tern Incentive Plan.

By Business Times

Banks should do their part to help aggrieved buyers

It was reported in the news media last month that some house-buyers were conned into buying housing projects that do not exist. If it does not cause revulsion and anger, it must at least be shocking to know that individuals and groups were allowed to sell and build houses without the basic requirement of the law, that is, a developer licence from the Housing and Local Government Ministry.

A slew of professionals from bankers to architects and from lawyers to engineers and the related local councils allowed dozens of unlicensed developers to sell and build houses to the unwary public. At last count, there were 195 abandoned projects undertaken by such “developers” some of whom had built on land which had not been zoned for housing but was still “agriculture” status.

These startling facts were revealed at a high-powered meeting on abandoned housing projects chaired by the then Chief Secretary to the Government, Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan in April this year.

What is more disgusting is that at every step of the way, such a serious breach of the law could have been prevented. Even before the first blade of grass was cut to make way for housing, the flaws were staring in the face of the approving or financing authorities.

Because of the shortcomings of most of them, thousands of innocent and unwary buyers have been left in the lurch. They not only parted with their hard-earned money as downpayment but are also compelled to service their loans for what would have been a roof over their heads.

Lawyers for the deceitful developers prepared those contracts that were not the mandatory sale and purchase agreements regulated by the housing legislation.

Today, they are left in the quandary. Some continue to pay for their rented premises and continue to make monthly payments for their loans with no sight of their dream homes. HBA has been inundated with calls from victims of those ill-fated projects and crying for the Government, Bank Negara and professional boards intervention.

This whole episode yet again reflects the manner in which the laws of the land are not respected and upheld.

Banks and financial institutions (FIs) are so eager for business that they are indifferent to legalities. Their sales and marketing team has a pre-imposed target to meet until loans are disbursed recklessly. The banks implicated should have, as a matter of course, troubled themselves to find out if their transactions are tainted or not.

Saying that only some banks and FIs are involved does not exculpate other member banks and FIs; it is in fact an admission of culpability. Affected banks and FIs should let the public and the affected buyers of unlicensed housing projects know what they propose to do in the dilemma.

Renouncing your security interests in such cases and withdrawing all impending court cases against them would be a good start.

The Association of Bank Malaysia (ABM) should get its members to cooperate with the purchasers to release their security interest on purchaser's property where the purchaser has paid in full. Truth is they don't care that the purchaser has paid if the developer has not with their arguments of “no legal obligations”.

It is surprising that the alarm bells were not triggered when those developers did not produce evidence of the vital Housing Development Project Account (HDA) as required under the law?

It is therefore astonishing to note that those member banks did not do any additional security checks other than to rely on the sales and purchase agreements. Even for projects that are not within the Housing Development Act, the developer must obtain the requisite approvals and licences before being allowed to commence work.

Thus, the banks must surely have their strict criteria to abide by unless the new breed of bankers are not in the know. The issue of breach of fiduciary duty of care (to customer) will surely arise.

Perhaps, the banks should observe a moratorium on interest and instalment owed by nave and innocent victims till the project is revived.

Banks should take a proactive role to make their utmost efforts to revive such projects. Attempts should be made to delist those purchasers/borrowers who are now blacklisted by the banks and may never qualify for another loan! Not even to buy a second hand motor car.

Perhaps, the affected member banks should exercise their corporate social responsibilities (CSR) in this instance far deserving than others. These affected buyers must be assisted in tangible deeds and not merely words.

Chang Kim Loong is the honorary secretary-general of The National House Buyers Association, a non-profit, non-governmental, non-political organisation manned by volunteers. For more information, click or e-mail

By The Star

Zelan's share price falls 8.9pc

KUALA LUMPUR: Builder Zelan Bhd's share price fell by as much as 8.9 per cent a day after it said its contract in the UAE for a RM771 million property project was terminated.

The shares, which sunk to an intra-day low of 30.5 sen, closed 2 sen or six per cent lower than the previous day to 31.5 sen.

Zelan on Thursday said the owner of its Meena Plaza mixed development project in Abu Dhabi - Meena Holdings LLC - had given it 14 days' notice of its plan to end the contract via a letter on November 21.

Zelan, which had secured the project in 2008, is taking legal action to challenge the termination.

Zelan, which has been leveraging successfully on its ability to work as a consortium partner to other international players, also has a significant presence in the infrastructure construction sector in the Gulf region.

The Meena Plaza was to be the third building construction project for Zelan in the region.

By Bernama

Friday, November 23, 2012

Largest Mitsui Outlet Park to be built in KLIA

MALAYSIA Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) and Mitsui Fudosan Co Ltd will build the first upscale Japan factory outlet in Southeast Asia at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang.

To be known as Mitsui Outlet Park KLIA, it will be built on a 20.25ha site, complete with F&B and entertainment facilities as its complementary components are based on strong themed attractions such as Knowledge and Attractions, Prime Time Complex and World Food Expo.

The park, the first Mitsui Outlet Park in Southeast Asia and 14th for Mitsui, will be developed over three phases at an estimated gross development cost of about RM335 million.

It will boast a total lettable area of about 47,000 square meters upon full completion, thus positioning the outlet park as the largest within Mitsui's stable of outlet parks.

The first phase of development is expected to begin within the first quarter of next year and is expected to open its doors to the public by end of 2014.

"The outlet park will offer a wide selection of leading brands including luxury brands, popular select shops, high grade and top Asian fashion, sports and outdoor items, fashion accessories and gifts at prices that are guaranteed to be below their recommended retail prices," MAHB said yesterday.

More than 240 famous international designer brands will be invited based on their presence in existing Mitsui Outlet Parks in Japan and China.

It will also offer top Asian fashion from Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Malaysia, thus setting it apart from the other retail centres in Malaysia in terms of breadth of brand diversity, it added.

Mitsui, a leading real estate developer in Japan, has been established since 1941 with global operations in the US, UK, Singapore and China.

It is mainly engaged in the development of shopping centres, hotels and office complexes.

The two companies signed a memorandum of understanding on the project yetserday.

"One of the most important benefits from this project is the opportunity to further expand our non-aeronautical or commercial revenue base, in line with our '2010-2014 Business Direction: Runway to Success'," MAHB managing director Tan Sri Bashir Ahmad said.

By Business Times

Sunway REIT gets award for excellence

PETALING JAYA: Sunway Real Estate Investment Trust (Sunway REIT) has been awarded the National Annual Corporate Report Awards (NACRA) under the category of Excellence Awards for REITs and Closed-End Funds.

NACRA is a joint effort between Bursa Malaysia Bhd, Malaysian Institute of Accountants and The Malaysian Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

The objective of the award is to promote greater and more effective communication by organisations through the publication of timely, informative, factual, reader-friendly annual reports and promote higher standards of corporate governance.

Sunway REIT Management Sdn Bhd is the manager of Sunway REIT.

Sunway REIT Management chief executive officer Datuk Jeffrey Ng said: “It is Sunway REIT’s management culture to practice high level of transparency reporting and strong corporate governance in communication with stakeholders.

“We recognise that annual report is a powerful platform of communication with stakeholders.

“In view of that, we have made deliberate endeavour to embed strong corporate governance practices and quality disclosure in the annual report for the best interest of all stakeholders.”

By The Star

Property division helps I-Bhd swing to the black

PETALING JAYA: I-Bhd posted a turnaround in net profits in the third quarter ended Sept 30 of RM3.95mil from a net loss of RM1.28mil a year earlier.

In its filing with Bursa Malaysia, the developer of iconic i-City said the vast improvement in profit was due to mainly a higher profit recognition from the property development division.

Revenue for the quarter was 204% higher at RM16.32mil against RM5.36mil previously. The increase in revenue was on profit recognition from on-going projects from the property development division as well as contribution from the new theme park under the leisure division.

To reward its shareholders, I-Bhd is distributing a special share dividend of one treasury share for every 14 shares held.

Executive chairman Tan Sri Lim Kim Hong said: “By giving our shareholders these treasury shares, the total value of their holdings will increase as there is no dilution in share value at all.”

The entitlement for the dividends will be on Dec 12.

Lim added that i-City had now evolved into a RM5bil urban cyber centre township, which has been designed as an “international business hub by day” and “lifestyle haven by night”, with residential, commercial and leisure components.

Moving forward, he said profitability would continue to grow with income streams from the property and leisure divisions.

Earlier in May, the group launched high-rise condominiums i-Residence, which has a gross development value (GDV) of RM232mil. All the 173 units available in the west wing of the development have been sold out.

An equally promising take-up rate was shown by the higher-end units the east wing as well as the 20 villas which opened for sale in August, Lim added.

All 220 small office versatile office units with a GDV of RM64mil have been fully booked at the launch in August.

The company expects to launch the first phase of the 12-acre small office home office development, which consists of 956 units with a GDV of RM317mil in December. The entire projects will be launched in three phases from 2012 to 2014.

By The Star

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Bolton aims to achieve RM1b in sales by 2014

SUBANG JAYA: Property developer Bolton Bhd aims to achieve RM1 billion in sales by 2014 from RM600 million currently, said executive chairman Tan Sri Azman Yahya.

"Currently the company has RM619 million gross development value (GDV) of on-going projects and RM3.5 billion GDV of upcoming sales," he told reporters after signing an agreement to raise RM370 million and seal a joint venture development in Kota Kinabalu with Mobuild Sdn Bhd.

The fund raising agreement comprises RM230 million sukuk, managed by Affin Investment Bank and guaranteed by Danajamin Nasional, and a RM140 million five-year revolving loan by Affin Bank Bhd.

Azman said the money will be used for working capital and to acquire strategic landbanks.

"With this new fund raising exercise, we are now poised to embark on a landbank acquisition exercise to sustain the growth of the company for the next 10 years and beyond," he said.

Meanwhile, the 50:50 partnership with Mobuild will see Bolton entering Sabah to build 500 units of luxury condominiums and landed villas with a GDV of RM480 million in Kota Kinabalu. The project, on a 4.2ha plot, is expected to be launched in the first half of 2013.

Going forward, Azman said Bolton is vying for strategic land deals in Penang and Kota Baru to develop high-rise residentials.

Currently, Bolton's real estate landbank spreads across 404.7ha in the Klang Valley, Kedah and Penang.

By Business Times

UM Land to undertake RM1.4b GDV project

KUALA LUMPUR: Property developer, United Malayan Land Bhd (UM Land) is set to develop a mixed commercial and residential project in Medini, Iskandar Malaysia with a gross development value of RM1.4bil.

The proposed development in the southern development region will include townhouses, apartments, service apartments/small office house office (SOHO), hotels, retail promenade with food and beverages outlets and a specialty retail centre.

“The project is still in planning stage and it is expected to commence in the third or fourth quarter next year,” group CEO Charlie Chia tolf reporters after the signing ceremony for a lease purchase agreement between UM Land and Iskandar Investment Bhd (IIB) here yesterday.

The development will be implemented in four phases and would take six to 10 years to complete, Chia said, adding that the project will be located on the land UM Land acquired from IIB today.

Worth RM83mil, the 5.35 hectare land acquisition was entered through UM Land’ wholly-owned subsidiary, Lextrend Sdn Bhd, and IIB’s wholly-owned subsidiary Medini Development Sdn Bhd.

Also present at today’s event was IIB President and CEO Datuk Syed Mohamed Syed Ibrahim.

By Bernama

UMLand expects foreigners to snap up its Medini units

KUALA LUMPUR: UMLand Bhd is confident that its soon-to-be-launched project in Medini Iskandar will be snapped up by foreign buyers.

Its group chief executive officer, Charlie Chia, said 70 per cent of its boutique service residences known as Somerset Puteri Harbour apartments had been bought by foreigners including Japanese and Singaporeans.

UMLand's subsidiary Lextrend Sdn Bhd signed a lease purchase agreement with Iskandar Investment Bhd yesterday for 5.2ha of prime development land in Zone B of Medini at RM82.49 million.

Strategically located at the junction of the gateway to Medini and near Legoland, the land will be developed into a mixed commercial and residential project comprising business and lifestyle components with an expected gross development value of about RM1.4 billion.

"This real estate jewel is expected to be launched in the second quarter of 2013," Chia said at a media briefing yesterday.

UMLand is also working with UEM Land to develop a mixed development project at its second parcel of land.

"With its strategic location neighbouring Singapore as well as its range of attractive fiscal and non-fiscal incentives, Medini@Iskandar Malaysia is poised to attract a growing influx of foreign and high level corporate investments."

UMLand has projects in four out of five flagship zones of Iskandar Malaysia and they include Bandar Seri Alam, Taman Seri Austin, Somerset Puteri Harbour and the forthcoming JB City Centre.

Iskandar Investment president Datuk Syed Mohamed Syed Ibrahim said the Lextrend projects will be implemented in four phases and are scheduled for completion in the next three to five years.

Iskandar Malaysia wants to create an eco-system of a modern metropolis and a liveable city but its ultimate objective is to nudge capital appreciation for the real estate properties in Johor.

By Business Times

Reorganisation will unlock value of WCT Land, says group executive director

Goh (left) says WCT intends to increase the operating profit contribution of property development. With him is chairman Datuk Capt Ahmad Sufian

PETALING JAYA: WCT Bhd, which has proposed an internal reorganisation to separate its construction and property divisions, is aiming to grow its property business to be as signficant as its mainstay construction arm within five years.

The group's executive director Choe Kai Keong told StarBiz that post-reorganisation, shareholders and warrant holders of WCT would benefit in terms of efficiency, as the move would unlock the value of subsidiary WCT Land.

“This move is to streamline the business, and also to unlock the value of WCT Land. We are in a very exciting time for the property business, which will be as big as our construction arm in the next five years,” Choe said.

Choe pointed out that there were plans for two more malls, located in the Overseas Union Garden (OUG) area in Kuala Lumpur and Johor Baru, to be completed by mid-2015.

They are in addition to the group's Gateway @ Klia2, due to be opened in May 2013, as well as Aeon Bukit Tinggi Shopping Centre in Klang, and Paradigm Mall in Petaling Jaya.

Choe said except for the Aeon Bukit Tinggi Shopping Centre, which is leased to retailer Aeon Co Bhd, the other malls were managed by WCT.

The five malls would have a combined net lettable area (NLA) of 3.8 million sq ft.

There are also plans for four-star hotels and serviced apartments to be built at the mall sites in the OUG area, Johor Baru and Paradigm Mall in Petaling Jaya.

WCT currently owns and operates the four-star, 250-room Premiere Hotel in Klang South.

“So, five malls and four hotels with a combined 1,430 rooms within the next five years, as well as serviced apartments in mixed commercial developments. This is the direction we are heading in,” Choe said.

Last month, WCT had proposed an internal restructuring where a new investment holding company WCT Holdings Bhd, will assume the listed status of WCT.

The exercise will also include the transfer of WCT's entire shareholding in WCT Land Sdn Bhd, the group's property development arm, to WCT Holdings.

The effective holding of WCT shareholders would be unchanged before and after the proposals.

The proposed internal restructuring is expected to be completed by the second quarter of 2013.

Meanwhile, the group is on track to hit its property sales target of RM700mil this year, after achieving RM500mil as at end-October.

WCT Land general manager of sales and marketing Stewart Tew said that the 1Medini condominium in Johor had contributed about RM300mil in sales this year, with the balance coming from property launches in Bandar Bukit Tinggi townships in Klang.

“We have sold about 90% of the 644 units at 1Medini, which has a gross development value (GDV) of RM400mil,”

Tew also said the 1Medini strong sales was helped by the completion of the catalytic projects such as Legoland, Newcastle University of Medicine, Family Indoor Theme Park and the Medini area's exemption from restrictions for foreign buyers, such as the minimum floor price of RM500,000 for a residential property bought by foreigners.

“About 40% of 1Medini buyers are from countries such as Singapore, Japan and Indonesia.”

Tew said the recent launch of The Landmark retail offices (GDV RM180mil), which is next to the Aeon Bukit Tinggi Shopping Centre in Klang, would also drive WCT's property sales this year.

On WCT's construction arm, Choe said year-to-date, WCT's engineering and construction arm had clinched RM1.9bil of new contracts.

They incuded a RM1bil deal in Oman to build the Batinah Expressway (package two), in a joint venture with Oman Roads Engineering Co LLC., WCT has a 80% stake in the venture.

“Our outstanding order book is RM4.1bil, which will keep us busy for the next three years. About half of this is in Oman and Qatar.”

Choe also said the company had tendered for RM3bil projects, consisting of close to RM2bil in Malaysia, and the balance in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, at an EGM yesterday, deputy managing director Goh Chin Liong said WCT intended to increase its recurring income from property development and investments.

“In our five-year business development plan, we intend to increase the operating profit contribution of the property development segment to 30% (in 2016) from 21% (in 2011),” he said.

In 2016, WCT hopes to increase its operating profit contribution from property investment to 25% and that from construction reduced to about 45%.

As of 2011, the earnings base of the construction segment stood at 64%. The property development segment contributes 21% to operating profit, and the investment and management segment contributes 15%.

At the EGM, WCT shareholders approved the proposed bonus issue and free warrants.

WCT has proposed to give three bonus shares for every 20 shares held, which will involve the issuance of up to 180.26 million new shares. Shareholders will also receive one free warrant for every five WCT shares held. Up to 240.34 million warrants would be issued.

The bonus issue will increase WCT's authorised capital to a minimum of RM1.1bil, comprising two billion ordinary shares of 50 sen each and one billion preference shares of 10 sen each. WCT's current authorised capital is RM800mil.

For the third quarter ended Sept 30, WCT posted a marginally higher net profit of RM40.3mil, or 4.91 sen per share, against RM39.2mil, or 4.87 sen per share, a year earlier. Revenue for the quarter stood at RM441.7mil.

For the first nine months to Sept 30, WCT's net profit rose to RM119.8mil on revenue of RM1.18bil.

By The Star

State aims to revive abandoned low-cost project in Kg Sungai Yu

It May be an end to a long wait for buyers of a low-cost housing project in Taman Sungai Yu Indah, Kampung Sungai Yu, Tanjong Karang, as the project will be revived and expected to be completed in March 2014.

State Housing, Building Development and Squatters Committee chairman Iskandar Abdul Samad said there were around 300 units of low-cost houses.

“It was a joint venture between Permodalan Negeri Selangor Bhd (PNSB) and a private company.

“I have received many complaints from buyers. They have to pay their loans to the bank and rent a house while waiting for the project to be completed and it is a burden to them,” he said.

Iskandar was responding to a question by Sulaiman Abdul Razak (BN - Permatang) who asked for the latest updates of the progress and when could the buyers move in.

Iskandar added that he had raised the issue several times at the state assembly meetings.

“I was told by the Kuala Selangor District Council that the project was to be revived and completed by 2010. But till now, it is still an abandoned project,” he said.

Iskandar said that one of the ways to revive the project was to convert it partially to medium-cost houses.

“One of the reasons that the project was abandoned is because the developers did not have the approval from the Selangor Land and Mineral Department,” he said.

Sulaiman said this was not a valid reason as the department was under the state government.

“How can it be converted to medium-cost houses when the structures have been built?” he asked.

Islander clarified that only some, of the structures were built, hence the remaining ones will be converted to medium-cost houses.

“It is up to PNSB to decide how many will be converted,” he said.

Lee Kim Sin (PR-Kajang) asked what action would be taken against developers that fail to deliver on time.

Iskandar replied that directors of those companies would be black-listed.

“It is insufficient to just blacklist the companies as each project is undertaken by different companies.

“Even then, some people use proxies and register the company under their spouse’s name,” he said.

By The Star

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Paramount in Cyberjaya

Artist impression of the RM800mil Sejati Residences project that will be developed by Paramount on 50 acres.

Paramount Property Development Sdn Bhd has launched its most up-market residential development in Cyberjaya, Selangor, last month to kick off its move up the value chain and rebranding exercise.

Known as Sejati Residences, the 50-acre development is located in mukim of Dengkil, Sepang.

Says its managing director Datuk Ricque Liew: “We want to rebrand ourselves with this project.”

A total of 40 acres will house 249 landed units comprising superlink terraced housing, three-storey semi-detached homes and bungalows.

The three-storey bungalows will come with lifts. Its three-storey superlinks will have built-up area of about 3,800 sq ft, semi-detached units between 4,300 and 4,900 sq ft and three-storey bungalows from 5,700 to 5,900 sq ft.

Liew: ‘We want to rebrand ourselves with this project.’

The bungalows will come with lifts, which will mean convenience, at a cost. Liew says Paramount's objective is to build multi-generation homes. Seventy-eight units of landed units were launched late last month.

The remaining 10 acres will be reserved for a condominium project, with the first phase having 414 units. There will be three phases.

The project will have a gross development value of about RM800mil and will be the most high-end project ever undertaken by Paramount.

Considering the scarcity of land in the Klang Valley and the size of land which seems to be getting smaller today, Liew says the company has to move up the value chain and go into the high end of the property market.

The freehold project will come with a 11,000-sq-ft clubhouse and facilities like function hall, surau and pool.

Liew says there will also be an 8km jogging track in the former oil palm plantation land. Adjacent to it is Symphony Hills by UEM Land Holdings Bhd, that was launched last year.

Liew says growth in Cyberjaya will be organic while Putrajaya will remain the administrative centre with a large civil service force and there will be demand for landed units as the city grows.

Conceptualised 15 years ago to complement Putrajaya, currently, most of the residential units in Cyberjaya are high-rise condominiums and apartments.

A number of developers have projects there. They include Emkay group, Mah Sing Group Bhd and OSK group. Mah Sing also offers landed residentials there.

Sixteen major developers are expected to invest up to RM20bil in Cyberjaya over the next five years. They include SP Setia Bhd, Mah Sing, Nadayu Bhd, UEM Land, Glomac Bhd, OSK Property Bhd and MCT Consortium.

The move out to Cyberjaya and other locations outside Kuala Lumpur is a natural progression. As the Klang Valley becomes crowded and prices of landed residentials become more prohibitive, there will be demand for landed units in new locations like Cyberjaya, agents who are marketing projects there say.

Added to this fact is the requirement by house buyers today for security.

While there is a certain amount of security in condominiums, there will be a group of high-end buyers who would want to stay in secured landed units with a greater preference for semi-detached and bungalow units.

It is this group of buyers that developers like Paramount, UEM Land, Mah Sing group and Suntrack Development Sdn Bhd are targeting.

Suntrack's SummerGlades fronts the Putrajaya Lake and commercial retail project but only has superlink terraces.

Symphony Hills and Sejati Residences offer three types of landed units but do not have the commercial retail element. Both developers will be offering contemporary designs with linear parks and landscaped gardens.

As Liew puts it: “House buyers in the high-end segment, besides the security element, will want to return home to a community with lush greenery and loads of nature.”

There is a national-type school near Sejati Residences and Symphony Hills. In that respect, the competition will be between Symphony Hills and Sejati Residences for now.

Depending on the design and type, the first phase of Symphony Hills was launched at about RM370 per sq ft last year versus Sejati Residences' superlink at RM368 per sq ft last month.

The smallest built-up at Symphony Hills is more than 3,200 sq ft. Prices on a per sq ft basis may exceed RM500 in some cases for the larger units.

Sejati Residences' land size of about 50 acres is about half of Symphony Hills' 98 acres. While Paramount has reserved 40 acres out of 50 acres to cater for 250 landed residentials and carved out 10 acres for its condominium project, UEM Land has also reserved nine acres for its condominium project which will comprise two blocks of 44 and 45 storeys each to house more than 800 units.

Sejati Residences will also have its condominium project of 700 units.

Liew says Sejati Residences' condominium will have separate entrance and exit from the landed units. It will also have its own clubhouse.

That means the density ratio for its landed units will be six to an acre. Over at Symphony Hills, its condominium project will be located on the northern fringe but will share the same internal roads, entrance and exit as the landed units.

The differentiating factors will be the reputation of the developers, the density of the project and the mix of high-rise units with landed residentials, landscaping and facilities provided and the details.

At the moment, the maintenance charges at Sejati Residences is fixed with indicative monthly fee set at RM280 per unit for superlinks, RM390 for the semi-detached units and RM550 for the bungalows.

Its neighbouring project is based on 15 sen per sq ft for superlinks and semi-detached units. Symphony Hills has yet to launch its bungalows.

The master developer for Cyberjaya, Setia Haruman Sdn Bhd, was reported to be setting aside RM2.5bil over the next five years to develop four projects and build additional infrastructure for the area.

It was also reported that one of the main issues brought up by developers there is the lack of public transport.

Although there are major highways linking Cyberjaya to Kuala Lumpur, the perception of distance and connectivity is very real.

By The Star

F&N plans RM1.6b mixed project in PJ

The seven-year project is part of the company's effort to unlock existing land value, which will start in the second half of next year

KUALA LUMPUR: Fraser & Neave Holdings Bhd (F&N) plans to undertake a mixed development project with a gross development value of RM1.6 billion in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, its chief executive officer Datuk Ng Jui Sia says.

The seven-year project is part of the company's effort to unlock existing land value, which will start in the second half of next year, he said at an analyst and media briefing on F&N's results for fiscal year ended September 30 2012 here yesterday.

"The first phase of the project is still at the application stage and will cost RM500 million for the construction of apartment units," Ng said.

F&N posted revenue of RM3.24 billion in its 2012 financial year, a 17 per cent drop from the number recorded in the corresponding year.

The lower revenue was mainly attributed to the cessation of the Coca-Cola business, flood disruption in Thailand and absence of property sales.

Ng said F&N will launch the new 100Plus Edge in the next two weeks and dairy products next year to maintain the growth momentum of the segment.

By Business Times

Fix the leak and the rest will flow

An article that I read recently reminded me of the importance of always identifying and solving the root cause of a problem in order to achieve the desired result. It was about a country which had faced water shortages for years despite the fact that the country gets ample amount of rain.

More and more water reservoirs were planned but the desired result was not achieved. Upon close scrutiny, the root cause of the water shortages was due to leakages from faulty pipe lines. In some areas, water lost through leakages was as high as 40%.

Imagine if the problem of water leakages could be addressed as a top priority instead of building more reservoirs, the water shortages that had plight the country would have been reduced very affordably and significantly.

The article reminded me of the issue of affordable homes in Malaysia. Based on recently published statistics from National Property Information Centre (NAPIC), the total residential homes in Malaysia as at the second quarter of 2012 was 4.58 million. Low-cost houses and flats account for 23% (1.05 million) or nearly one in four of the total residential units. About the same percentage also applies as well in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor.

The debate still goes on whether the number of low cost houses and flats is sufficient but there is no doubt that there is a huge demand in the market for such units. Many qualified applicants have commented that it is difficult to find a low cost housing unit to rent.

According to a recent report in The Star, thousands of government housing units in Kuala Lumpur were being sub-let to third parties by irresponsible tenants at five times above the control rental price. The same report also stated that the number of applicants for low-cost units in Kuala Lumpur had reached 26,000 and many of them had been on the waiting list for over a decade.

Questions are being raised. Are these low-cost units occupied by the right group of people? Why are the owners or tenants renting out their units? Does it mean that they own or rent other such units as well? Should we focus on repairing the allocation system before building more homes if there is so much leakage?

For a long time, I have heard that many quarters have been sceptical about the process involved in the allocation of low-cost units. Now that the Government is scaling up its effort to build more affordable homes, this is a good time to immediately carry out an exercise to review and ascertain whether or not the allocation and implementation system has any leakages. Building additional units will never be sufficient to meet the demand if these leakages continue to exist.

To ensure that the review is carried out without interruptions or biases, the review panel should consist of both the authorities and NGOs. The process of receiving and filtering the applications, the filtering criteria and the final determination of the allocation would be the specific areas to review meticulously to ensure controls are in place and no abuses creep in.

Based on the principle that low-cost housing units are meant to provide shelter to low income earners, it is essential to ensure that there is a transparent and comprehensive mechanism to determine qualified owners as well as to ensure that no one can own more than one low-cost house.

As part of the review, some commendable practices in other countries should be considered for adoption. For example, the Singapore HDB (Housing and Development Board) flat owners-to-be are not allowed to own any other properties in Singapore or in any other parts of the world. For HDB flat owners who wish to sublet their flats, they must meet the minimum occupation period (depending on purchase mode and flat type) and obtain HDB's approval before they can sublet their units.

In Hong Kong, to qualify for a Housing Board flat, one must not already own a house or flat, and it must only be for own use. In London, the right to buy a council home comes with several conditions. For example, the applicants have to hold a public sector tenancy for five years, and the property that they wish to purchase must be their only home and is for owner occupation.

To implement a more effective housing allocation system, we may want to consider applying similar measures to deter owners or tenants from the blatant abuse of public and low cost housing units for rental yields.

Low cost housing is a significant subset of affordable housing. If the review confirms that there are leakages within the allocation system that have allowed “abusers” to choke the market for low cost units, the government and relevant stakeholders ought to immediately work out a solution to fix these leakages.

Water and homes are the key basic necessities of life for everyone. Imagine yourself living in an environment where it is difficult to get these necessities and then to find out later that if proper diagnosis had been made, the problem would have been reduced tremendously. The key is: “Do it once, do it right”. The solution can be as easy as fixing the water leakages rather than building more reservoirs.

FIABCI Asia-Pacific regional secretariat chairman Datuk Alan Tong has over 50 years of experience in property development. He is also the group chairman of Bukit Kiara Properties. For feedback, please email

By The Star

Is it a good time to prepare a war chest?

The next six months ...

In such volatile times, what should people invest in? What will the next six months, or one year, hold?

The last couple of weeks, two developers suggested it may be a good time, or a good idea, to prepare a war chest. That means, liquidate some assets and get ready some cash. There may be something worthwhile to pick up in the next six months, they said.

Soon after that conversation, a real estate professional help to put the pieces of puzzle together.

Consider the following:

Barack Obama has retained his presidency. That means status quo in the United States, recovery will be fragile.

Spain may need a bailout. Eurozone may plummet further.

In October, Hong Kong joined Singapore in efforts to cool soaring property prices by targeting non-residents. The Singapore and Hong Kong property markets are two of the most robust in Asia. Foreign funds like both these markets.

Let us come back to our local property market. Two real estate professionals say the secondary property market, which one buys from owners and not from developers, has been slow the last six months.

Some say it is good that the market is taking a breather. Others say it is a sign of the times.

The valuer says a weak secondary mortgage market is an indication that there are weaknesses in the overall property market. The new launches, however, remain attractive partly because of the various freebies and developer's interest-bearing schemes.

The primary market, where one buys from the developer, remains strong because under the interest-bearing schemes other than a 10% downpayment, they do not need to pay until the project is complete, she reasons. Under construction properties have higher risk than completed ones.

Hong Kong and Singapore have put in place measures to deter purchases by non-residents because the third round of quantitative easing (QE3) by the US has induced a flight to risky assets and he considers property as one of them.

That seems to go against the grain of what many think today. The last couple of years, one of the reasons for the rise in property prices was because real estate was considered as “safe” and a good hedge against inflation.

The safe assets, he says, are inflation indexed bonds, treasury bonds and government securities. The flight to the East to risky assets and to properties is a signal for all of us to take note. This was confirmed by an economist who says when the flight reverses, the situation will be severe.

Malaysia seems to be chugging along well. Will Malaysia be able to withstand the onslaught, notwithstanding “the good news”, “feel good” factors today?

Properties look attractive because of the economic conditions around the world and because of the threat of looming inflation on the horizon. Property being a good hedge is a perception, the property professional says.

This flight to Hong Kong and Singapore may happen in a bigger scale in the next six months to one year, he says. That is what both Singapore and Hong Kong governments are trying to stem out. This flight to the East may create, grow and burst bubbles. Some of that money have slipped into Malaysia and it is up to regulators to keep an eye on the situation.

The solution is to create investment avenues. This is not easy for governments to do and it takes time.

Why create that war chest then if there is so much risk and volatility floating around? The days of long-term investments are over. To be wise in today's volatile times, one may have to be a trader, or a sort of trader. Have a basket of goods, and hopefully one balances out the other.

The holiday season is around the corner. A new year is about to begin. The investing template, like the investment climate, has changed.

Deputy editor Thean Lee Cheng wonders if our finanacial planning professionals are reading the signals.

By The Star (by Thean Lee Cheng)

IGB Corp inks 2 joint venture agreements

KUALA LUMPUR: IGB Corp Bhd has entered into two conditional shareholders agreements with Selia Pantai Sdn Bhd for the establishment of two joint ventures through equity participation of 70:30 basis each in Southkey Megamall Sdn Bhd and Dimensi Magnitud Sdn Bhd.

In a statement to Bursa Malaysia yesterday, it said that the JV was to acquire and develop the three vacant parcels of leasehold land situated in Plentong, Johor into a retail mall and/or mixed development as may be approved by the authorities.

By Business Times

Friday, November 9, 2012

Distinctive in RM1.5bil property project

Distinctive job: Iskandar Investment president and CEO Datuk Syed Mohamed Syed Ibrahim (left) exchanging documents with Distinctive Group chairman Datuk Dr David Koh after signing an agreement for the latter to develop a parcel of land in Iskandar Malaysia called 18@Medini for a gross development value of RM1.5bil.

PETALING JAYA: Iskandar Investment Bhd has signed a lease purchase agreement with Distinctive Ace Sdn Bhd, a member of Distinctive Group, for the latter to develop a parcel of land in zone A of Medini into a mixed commercial development project with a gross development value (GDV) of RM1.5bil.

The 99-year lease purchase agreement between the two involved the purchase of a gross floor area 2.75 million sq ft over 18.05 acres of land at a consideration price of RM99.9mil.

Distinctive Group chairman Datuk Dr David Koh said the entire project would be undertaken in four phases over the next five years.

“The first phase, comprising shop office and service apartments, would be launched in the second quarter of next year. The first phase will involve the development of a gross floor area of 957,000 sq ft with a GDV of RM500mil.

“However the registration of interests is welcome with immediate effect,” he told the press after the signing agreement ceremony yesterday.

Koh further elaborated that the development, dubbed the 18@Medini, which would be close proximity to Legoland, would be at the very soul of Medini Iskandar with its colourful and diverse offerings to include retail spaces, small office home office, small office versatile office, corporate offices, show rooms, food and beverages outlets, business and entertainment centres, an indoor sports and exhibition centre, service apartments and hotels.

Iskandar Investment president and chief executive officer Datuk Syed Mohamed Syed Ibrahim said together with Distinctive Group, they had synergised their capabilities to give form and function to real estate landscape for the development of 18@Medini.

“This development will serve to make and complement Nusajaya into a cohesive eco-system that befits what we have envisioned,” he said.

Koh said actual construction work for 18@Medini would start sometime next year.

18@Medini is the third project of Distinctive Group in Iskandar Malaysia. Its first 1 Tebrau on Jalan Tebrau was a modern lifestyles mixed commercial project in Johor.

Distinctive Group's second project there involved a joint venture with Medini Land Sdn Bhd to luanch Iskandar Residences two towers of 39-storey and 28-storey luxury apartments over 6.31 acres in the heart of Medini.

By The Star

Distinctive Group buys land in Iskandar Malaysia for RM99.9m

KUALA LUMPUR: Distinctive Group, a real-estate developer, has purchased a 7.22ha land for RM99.92 million in Iskandar Malaysia, Johor, with a plan to develop the area into a mixed commercial project, comprising business and lifestyle components.

The project is expected to have a gross development value (GDV) of about RM1.5 billion.

Called 18@Medini, Distinctive Group chairman Datuk Dr David Koh said this project is the company's third in Iskandar Malaysia after the first on Jalan Tebrau and the second known as Iskandar Residences.

"We look forward to jumpstart our third project in Iskandar Malaysia, which I am confident will be the pulse of Medini Iskandar upon its successful completion in about five years," he said in his welcoming remarks at the signing of a leasing agreement for the land between Distinctive Ace Sdn Bhd, a member of the Distinctive Group and Medini Land Sdn Bhd of Iskandar Investment Board (IIB) here yesterday.

Koh said the entire project is scheduled to be undertaken in four phases over the next five years, with the first phase, comprising shop offices and service apartments, to be launched in the second quarter of 2013.

"We are confident that 18@Medini will be a viable proposition for both local and regional investors, with an assurance of positive returns," he said.

He said 18@Medini will be the very soul of Medini Iskandar with its colourful and diverse offerings to include retail spaces, small office home office, small office versatile office, corporate offices, showrooms, food and beverage outlets, business and entertainment centre, indoor sports and exhibition centre, service apartments and hotels.

Speaking to reporters later, Distinctive Group chief executive officer Lim Ech Chan said the first phase of the project, which is expected to commence sometime next year, will cover some 88,908sq m of retail spaces and service apartments, with an expected GDV of about RM500 million.

Commenting on the 18@Medini project, IIB president and chief executive officer Datuk Syed Mohamed Syed Ibrahim said this proposed development is well-poised to capitalise on its proximity to EduCity, Puteri Harbour and many others, with an easy accessibility to the coastal highway leading to the city centre.

"It is also strategically located at the confluence of Lebuh Kota Iskandar and the spine road leading to Legoland Malaysia and the Mall of Medini," he said.

Distinctive Group's maiden foray into Johor, in particular Iskandar Malaysia, is the commercial development on Jalan Tebrau, Johor Baru, called 1 Tebrau.

Next in the pipeline and the group's second foray into Johor is Iskandar Residences, a luxury condominium project in Medini, Iskandar. This project by Distinctive Resources Sdn Bhd is a 20:80 joint venture between Medini Land Sdn Bhd, a wholly owned subsdiary of IIB and Dsitinctive Group.

By Business Times

Proposed developments near Highland Towers have residents worried over their safety

In need of assurance: The site of one of the proposed developments is located a few hundred metres from Highland Towers.

PROPOSED developments that will be constructed not far from Highland Towers and Bukit Antarabangsa, areas known for landslide tragedies in the past, have made some of the neighbourhood residents jittery. They are determined to ensure that these do not undermine their safety.

Some 100 residents attended a peaceful protest organised by the Taman Sri Ukay & Taman Hillview Special Action Committee yesterday.

The residents had submitted their objection against the two proposed developments, including one that will take place a few hundred metres from Highland Towers itself.

The latter involves the construction of five 17-storey blocks comprising 70 duplex condominium units.

The other development will be constructed near Taman Hillview entrance, comprising three 40-storey blocks of 1,000 serviced apartment units.

“We are extremely concerned that our interests are not being safeguarded by the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council (MPAJ), after finding inconsistencies in the information provided by the developers,” Special Action Committee spokesman Lee Joo Khim said.

She said the residents had attended a briefing with both developers on Oct 3 and had requested for certain documents including geotechnical reports and layout plans. The briefing was organised by MPAJ.

“In the bigger project, we found a discrepancy in the land title as it states a land size before the Government acquired part of the land to build the Middle Ring Road II.

“That will affect the plot ratio calculation,” she said.

She added that the worried residents had not received a reply from MPAJ — whether the documents were the same as the ones submitted to the council or not.

As for the other project, Lee said the developer had not given them any of the requested documents, citing legal reasons.

“They had organised a presentation on Oct 23, which was attended by the Residents’ Association Committee.

“The Special Action Committee did not attend this presentation as we felt it was pointless, seeing that we would have no way of verifying the information they presented,” said Lee.

She said the residents just wanted to know the proper procedures, guidelines and rules and that developments carried out should be within reasonable limits.

MPAJ Town Planning Department director Nizam Sahari said both development proposals had been sent to the state Environmentally Sensitive Areas Development Technical Committee for endorsement.

“This is part of the process for any slope development application. Both projects have to follow all the guidelines and laws that guide these developments,” he said, adding that the projects would be built at the foot of a slope that was privately owned.

“A properly engineered and maintained slope is safer compared to one that is left on its own,” said Nizam, adding that the estimated cost to engineer the slope was RM12mil.

Nizam also said that both projects essentially met the guidelines and legal requirements for such development, although neither had yet to be approved at this point.

By The Star

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Bangsar residents want details on condo project

RESIDENTS of Bukit Bandaraya, Kuala Lumpur, are concerned over a proposal to develop a plot of land in Jalan Kapas.

The residents were called for a hearing with Kuala Lumpur mayor Datuk Ahmad Phesal Talib recently to give their views on the project.

Residents sighed with relief last year when the application, to develop a plot of land with an unstable slope in Lot 40441, in Jalan Kapas in Bukit Bandaraya, Bangsar, was rejected.

Now, the same problem has resurfaced with a fresh application for a bigger project that is being considered by the local authority.

Bukit Bandaraya Residents Association president Mumtaz Ali said if the proposal was given the go ahead, mitigating factors should be there to safeguard the surrounding residents.

“We want to know details of the project as it would affect the density, safety and security of residents in the area.

“We want to ensure that the proposed development complies with the regulations,” he said.

“We are not against development but this is a hillslope development, which is why we are concerned,” he added.

The residents were alerted about the proposed project after Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) put up an objection notice at the slope in question recently.

In the notice, the development application involves increasing the population density from 30 people per acre to 83 through the construction of two 14-storey condominium blocks with a total of 20 units with two levels of basement carpark.

The project is being developed through a joint venture agreement between the owners of the two lots, an individual and Goldhill Achiever Sdn Bhd, which is partially owned by PJX Property Sdn Bhd and is a subsidiary of SBC Corporation Bhd.

Last year, StarMetro highlighted the proposed development on Lot 40441, comprising a single 10- storey condominium block with nine units and four basement levels that would increase the area’s population density from 30 to 79 people per acre.

It was also reported that the slope had failed once in 1982 when a rubble wall collapsed while recent incidents included a landslip and water gushing out along the surface in March and May 2010 respectively.

Residents living near the plot of land and the local residents’ association are raising the same objections to the current proposed project as they did for the previous one.

Meanwhile, on the reversal in decision made by DBKL pertaining to conversion of residential premises for commercial use in the area, Ali said it would make matters worse if the premises were allowed to be converted for commercial use.

“If the premises are converted to commercial, parking will become even worse with more customers parking all over the place and in the neighbouring roads as what is happening now. So there is no justification with the indirect creeping in of commercial activities in the residential housing estate,” Ali said.

Ali added that the residents did not see the rationale in the argument put forward by parties who claim that there was a need to go commercial as DBKL had issued summonses for illegal parking when people came for prayers.

“In other words, does that mean when the residential premises have been converted for commercial use, one can go ahead and make illegal parking and summonses will not be issued?” he asked.

A group of residents who claimed that DBKL had allowed 20 houses near the Bangsar Shopping Complex (BSC) to be commercialised has caught residents in Bukit Bandaraya by surprise.

The residents want DBKL to explain why they were kept in the dark on the decision to go against their previous agreement made at the One-Stop Centre meeting recently.

By The Star

Analysts: Boustead land deal ‘positive’

KUALA LUMPUR: Boustead Holdings Bhd's (BHB) deal to buy 12.84 acres of freehold land in Jalan Cochrane, Kuala Lumpur, for RM106.7mil from the Malaysian Armed Forces Superannuation Fund (LTAT) is positive for the former, say research analysts.

The deal is a related party transaction, as LTAT is the major shareholder of Boustead with a 59.7% stake.

About eight acres of the land is categorised for residential usage, with the balance for commercial.

In a report, HwangDBS Vickers Research said this was part of the 60-acre site in Jalan Cochrane, which would benefit from the presence of a My Rapid Transit (MRT) station.

“We think there will be subsequent land sales from LTAT to Boustead for this piece of land, taking into consideration that LTAT has sold land to Swedish home furnishings retailer Ikea, which will also have a 50:50 joint venture with Boustead in the 1.2 million sq ft mall,” said the research unit.

HwangDBS Vickers Research said the price of RM191 per sq ft appeared to be cheap when compared with other land within the vicinity, its own scenario analysis assumption of RM300 per sq ft and also the stronger pricing power once the MRT station was completed.

The research unit opined that given Boustead's track record, it could be expected to successfully replicate its flagship Mutiara Damansara township.

“Based on our scenario analysis, Jalan Cochrane could add 93 sen per share to our sum-of-parts value based on RM900 per sq ft average sales price (possibly higher with MRT) and eight times plot ratio, we are not adjusting our numbers now as the first official launch (offices and residential) may only happen in 2014,” said HwangDBS Vickers Research.

Hong Leong Investment Bank's (HLIB) research unit said the purchase price for the Jalan Cochrane land was believed to be fair as it was an asset injection by LTAT.

“Moreover, Boustead is LTAT's only flagship listed entity for property development.”

HLIB Research also said the scenario was an extension of a joint venture with the Ikano group (which owns Ikea) whereby Ikea would catalyse the development.

“Although there are concerns about oversupply in the office segment and a general slowdown in the property market, we believe an Ikea-anchored mall would act as an attraction for potential buyers and enhance the success rate of the whole development over the longer term.”

However, HLIB Research pointed out that it was premature to determine the impact of the deal, due to the lack of details on gross development value development period, concept and timing of property launches.

It was also noted that the deal would increase Boustead's gearing from 99.8% to 102.2%, but HLIB Research said this was sustainable given that most of the debt at the group level could be attributed to the high initial debt at Boustead Naval Shipyard and Boustead Heavy Industries Corp Bhd to initiate the contract to build the RM9bil offshore patrol vessels from the Royal Malaysian Navy.

By The Star

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Boustead unit buys land from LTAT

KUALA LUMPUR: Boustead Holdings Bhd (BHB) unit Mutiara Rini Sdn Bhd (MRSB) has proposed to acquire three parcels of land totalling 5.2 ha in Kuala Lumpur from Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera (LTAT) worth RM106.69mil.

In a filing with Bursa Malaysia yesterday, BHB said the acqusition would allow MRSB to expand its existing land bank and provides oportunities for property development activities for the company in the Kuala Lumpur city centre location.

“BHB is optimistic on the prospects of the properties considering their strategic location in the city centre with good accessibility to major highways and close proximity to public amenities.

“The properties are also expected to benefit from the Mass Rapid Transit station at Cochrane which will create demand for both commercial and residential properties in this location,” it added.

BHB said the purchase price will be funded through a combination of bank borowings and internally generated funds.

“Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the proposed acquisition is expected to be completed before the end of this year,” it said.

By Bernama

Tong quits UEM board to ‘focus on family, business’

PETALING JAYA: Datuk Tong Kooi Ong, synonymous with the Sunrise property brand, will not have a role in UEM Land Holdings Bhd from the beginning of next year when his resignation from the board takes effect.

According to a stock exchange filing by the company, Tong, 53, is quitting his position as a director “to focus more time on his family and own business.” He was appointed to the board in late February 2011.

He was formerly the single-largest shareholder in Sunrise Bhd, but sold his 25% stake in the property developer synomymous with the Mont'Kiara neighbourhood in late December 2010 via a deal in which he received 2.8 redeemable convertible preference shares (RCPS) for every Sunrise share.

UEM Land had made an RM1.39bil offer for Sunrise in November 2010 at RM2.80 per share via a share swap or by the issuance of the RCPS.

The RCPS can be converted into UEM Land shares at any time within two years of the issue date at RM2.30 per share. The RCPS mature on Jan 4 next year but, at present, nobody knows for sure whether Tong has converted his RCPS.

UEM Land shares closed one sen up at RM2.12. Year-to-date, the share price has fallen 10.92%.

An equity research head of a local investment bank told StarBiz that Tong's departure from the company would have some implications. “While not unexpected, this will have some negative implications as UEM Land will not have the benefit of his expertise,” he pointed out.

Assuming that Tong has converted his RCPS into shares, another analyst said there was no urgency for him to dump his shares as some in the market had speculated.

“There's no urgency for him to sell his shares since UEM Land still has some 8,000 acres undeveloped in Nusajaya. These assets aren't going anywhere,” he argued.

Nevertheless, the research head said with the departure of Tong, UEM Land might find some of the pressure to achieve certain goals easing off, which might not be to the advantage of the company.

“He is known for imposing pressure to achieve quite high targets. Now it will depend on how much of the Sunrise culture has grafted itself on the company,” he added.

He said Tong could be credited with Gerbang Nusajaya, an RM18bil, 4,500-acre project envisioned as the gateway to Iskandar Malaysia for those entering from Singapore.

Recently, UEM Land partnered Ascendas Land International Pte Ltd to develop an RM3.7bil, 210-acre integrated eco-friendly tech park in Gerbang Nusajaya.

“This project will accelerate development in Nusajaya because it will bring in more people and activity, which is what the region needs,” he said.

Tong, a stockbroker turned banker, emerged as the second-largest shareholder in Singapore-listed paper product manufacturer UPP Holdings Ltd in early March.

The latest filings shows he has a direct 26.90% stake in the company. Tong was appointed to the board and became chief executive officer in May.

There has been speculation that UPP would be used as an investment vehicle in the South-East Asia and particularly Myanmar.

Tong also helms the board of Toronto-listed Taiga Building Products Ltd and owns media company The Edge Communications Sdn Bhd as well as The Edge Publishing Pte Ltd in Singapore.

By The Star

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Jaycorp buys properties in Johor for RM8.05m

KUALA LUMPUR: Jaycorp Bhd's wholly-owned unit, Jaycorp Vantage Sdn Bhd, has signed two agreements -- sale and purchase and assets sale -- with Mensilin Holdings Sdn Bhd.

In a filing to Bursa Malaysia, Jaycorp said the agreements involved the acquisition of a piece of industrial leasehold land in Johor and plant and machinery worth a total of RM8.05 million.

"The acquisition is to cater to future expansion and extension of business activities and will be used as part of Jaycorp's and its units' operations," it said.

It said the purchase consideration will be financed partly by cash from internally-generated funds and bank borrowings.

By Bernama

Boustead unit to buy 5.2ha LTAT land

KUALA LUMPUR: Boustead Holdings Bhd (BHB) unit Mutiara Rini Sdn Bhd (MRSB) has proposed to acquire three parcels of land totalling 5.2 ha in Kuala Lumpur from Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera (LTAT) worth RM106.69 million.

In a filing to Bursa Malaysia today, BHB said the acqusition would allow MRSB to expand its existing land bank and provides oportunities for property development activities for the company in the Kuala Lumpur city centre location.

"BHB is optimistic on the prospects of the properties considering their strategic location in the city centre with good accessibility to major highways and close proximity to public amenities.

"The properties are also expected to benefit from the Mass Rapid Transit station at Cochrane which will create demand for both commercial and residential properties in this location," it added.

BHB said the purchase price will be funded through a combination of bank borowings and internally generated funds.

"Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the proposed acquisition is expected to be completed before the end of this year," it said.

By Bernama

AmFIRST REIT net income grows to RM21.9m

KUALA LUMPUR: AmFIRST Real Estate Investment Trust (AmFIRST REIT) achieved a net income of RM21.9 million for the first half year ended Sept 30, 2012, compared to RM18.9 million in the preceding year.

Gross revenue rose to RM53.4 million from RM 46.2 million, whilst net property income grew from RM31.3 million to RM 35.8 million, as compared to the previous corresponding period.

Am ARA REIT Managers Sdn Bhd(Am ARA) is the manager of AmFIRST REIT.

In a statement today, Am ARA’s Chief Executive Officer Lim Yoon Peng said: "The improved results are attributed to the additional contribution from the newly acquired Prima 9 and Prima 10 properties completed on Nov 30 last year, plus improved occupancies across the investment portfolio."

He said for the six-month period ended Sept 30, 2012, the trust would distribute approximately 100 per cent of its realised earnings of RM 21.7 million.

This is equivalent to an income distribution of 3.16 sen per unit based on the enlarged unit holdings of 686.4 million units in circulation.

This rights issue exercise has brought gearing down to 28.7 per cent and the net asset value per unit has been adjusted to RM1.20, he added.

Am ARA said on Nov 1, the trust announced the completion of the acquisition of Kompleks Tun Sri Lanang which would contribute an additional income of approximately 0.13 sen per unit for the next five months, till the financial year ending March 31, 2013.

By Bernama

HK feels property price squeeze

HONG KONG: In a cramped space on the fifth floor of an old industrial building in Hong Kong, Huang Shaochang and his wife live in some of the priciest real estate per square foot in the world - a 35 sq ft room with a bunk bed and small TV.

Sky-high property prices forced them into these squalid conditions and prompted the Hong Kong government last month to impose measures to rein in residential home prices, which jumped 20 percent in the first nine months of this year even as the economy contracted 0.1 percent in the second quarter.

In October, Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying singled out the re-emergence of cage homes - wire mesh hutches stacked on top of each other - and cubicle apartments such as Huang's as issues that highlighted the gravity of poverty that existed alongside one of Asia's glittering financial centres.

More than 1.1 million people, or 17 percent of Hong Kong's population, lived below the poverty line in 2011, earning less than HK$3,500 ($450) per month, according to the Hong Kong Council of Social Services. It defined poverty as earning less than half of the average monthly income.

Huang, a part-time laborer who moved to Hong Kong from Shanghai two decades ago, pays HK$1,400 a month, or around HK$40 per sq ft, for his tiny room, compared with average rents for second-hand homes of around HK$21 per sq ft.

"I never expected the situation would be like this in Hong Kong. I cried every day when I first came. I just wanted to go back to China," said his wife, Li Rong, who arrived two years ago after leaving their now eight-year-old son behind.


The former British colony's yawning wealth gap and protests over soaring property prices have brought Leung, who took over as chief executive on July 1, head-to-head with some of the city's billionaire property developers, who some analysts say could turn on the leader.

"Hong Kong is still monopolized by property developers and if they can't stand it anymore, they will go to Beijing to complain," said political commentator Chip Tsao.

"He has to be careful not to undermine China's interests. There are so many rich Chinese and high-ranking Chinese officials holding top-class properties in Hong Kong and these were bought at very high prices."

Octogenarian tycoon Li Ka-shing, who controls property giant Cheung Kong (Holdings) Ltd <0001 .hk=".hk">, stood by Leung's main rival and early front-runner, Henry Tang, in the leadership poll in March even after Beijing signaled that it favored Leung.

Although Leung was chosen by a 1,200 member election committee, central government leaders in Beijing had said they wanted a candidate with broad popular support. Tang, who was perceived by many in Hong Kong as in the pocket of tycoons, floundered after a series of scandals.


A sub-index of Hong Kong-listed property stocks <.HSNP> that includes bellwethers Cheung Kong and Sun Hung Kai Properties <0016 .hk=".hk">, Asia's No. 2 property developer by market value, lost as much as 4 percent from its close on October 26, after the latest measures to rein in home prices were announced, although it has since mostly recovered.

Leung has said he cannot rule out further steps and some market watchers say the latest curbs, including a 15 percent tax on non-resident buyers, may only temporarily deter cash-rich mainland Chinese, who many in Hong Kong blame for pushing up prices.

Mainland buyers accounted for 21 percent of new homes in the small and mid-sized house sector in the third quarter of 2012, according to a report by Centaline Property agency.

Real estate prices are now 107 percent higher than their trough in 2008 and 26 percent above the previous peak hit in 1997, and it's not just the city's poor who are feeling the squeeze.

A managing director at a large U.S. bank, who has lived in the city for more than a decade, said a joke now often repeated in industry circles quips that: "The only place where a rich banker feels extremely poor is Hong Kong."

Compounding the grumbles stirred by record property prices, the generous housing allowances that were once the norm for expatriate staff in the financial industry have been phased out, so professionals in the business are facing steep jumps in housing costs once their rental contract lapses.

"Most people in my group are beginning significant downgrades - like 50 percent down," he said.


In Yuen Long district, a former farming area about an hour's commute from the heart of the financial district, home prices have also surged, buoyed by growing demand from mainland parents eager to educate their children in the city.

"I think about 30-40 percent of mainland (buyers in Yuen Long) bring their children to the schools," said David Tang at Midland Realty in the New Territories district, adding that prices there have risen about 20 percent in the past two years.

In Tuen Mun, near the prestigious Harrow International School that opened this year, prices have jumped 50 percent over the past two years, according to Centaline Property agency.

As soaring property prices squeeze people on both ends, Leung will have his work cut out to satisfy everyone.

"I believe executive Leung is a hard-working and trust-worthy leader. But I hope he can do more for minorities like us," said Huang, sitting on the lower bunk with his wife.

Another tenant in a similar-sized room on the same floor, which is about 900 sq ft (84 sq metres) in total and home to nearly 30 others, doesn't hold out much hope.

Unemployed Xie Wingjie, 39, originally from Hong Kong but who grew up in the United States, said he has few options.

"I just go with the flow and see what happens. There is no future here. How simple is that?"

By Reuters