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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

I-Berhad signs MoU with Thai retail developer to set up i-City Mall

Expansive: A night view of the Central World Mall Bangkok.

TO GIVE the local media an idea of what the new mall in i-City Cybercentre, Shah Alam may be like, I-Berhad held a media visit to two malls in Bangkok recently.

During the visit, which also saw the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Thailand’s largest retail developer, Central Pattana Public Company Limited (CPN) and I-Berhad’s wholly-owned subsidiary — I-City Properties Sdn Bhd, the media were taken on a tour of the Central World Mall Bangkok and the tastefully refurbished Central Plaza.

With over 550,000sq m of retail space, the Central World Mall which is the largest mall in South-East Asia, has 500 different retails including 35 different fashion brand flagship stores and 36 new brands.

It also houses six flagship stores, over 50 restaurants and a 21-screen cinema with an indoor parking facilities with 7,000 parking bays. The mall is also connected to a five-star hotel, the Centara Grand and the Bangkok Convention Centre and an office tower.

Using creative artwork and sculpture as part of the shopping complex’s interior, shoppers would have a fun experience while the clever zoning system with unique design and ambience makes it easy for them.

Although we had limited time at the huge mall, members of the media had a fun time rushing through the various zones. One needs more than an hour or two even to just skim through the floors.

Otherwise, the eight-floor mall has a tasteful combination of retail outlets and an impressive area for restaurants and food.

A tourist whom I had met at the mall described the place as enormous and said that he had never seen so many eateries in one mall before.

“Food is good and I can just spend the whole time here. There are the massages, all in one place and it’s connected to the hotel via the seventh floor carpark — it’s just a walk over,” said the tourist.

It is a workable concept that has been successful even in the Klang Valley with malls like 1Utama Shopping Centre and the Mid Valley Megamall.

Huge project: Chirathivat (left) pointing out to Lim an interesting feature of Central World Mall.

CPN president and chief executive officer Kobchai Chirathivat said the joint venture was the company’s stepping stone to further expand its business in Malaysia.

He said the Malaysian government’s consistent policies on foreign investments, the country’s gross domestic products (GDP) growth and the per capita income of Malaysians were factors that attracted the company to invest in Malaysia.

“We hope to bring the best experience we have in building and managing malls in Thailand and to hopefully be one of the best retail projects in Malaysia.

“As Asians, we have almost similar lifestyles so it will be very compatible to move across the border.

“We are very proud to be part of the Malaysian economic development,” said Chirathivat, adding that the mall was still in its designing stages and it would consider the demography and needs of the market as part of the design and concept.

Present at the MoU signing were I-Berhad executive chairman Tan Sri Lim Kim Hong, I-Berhad chief executive officer Datuk Eu Hong Chew and Central Group chief executive officer Sudhitham Chirathivat.

The event was witnessed by Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim and Selangor state executive councillor Teresa Kok.

The i-City mall with a space of 1.7 million sq ft is expected to open at the i-City Cybercentre in Shah Alam by the end of 2015. Construction will begin early next year.

The project with a budget of RM500mil, will be located within an 7.3ha plot in i-City and is set to complete the RM5bil Cybercentre’s offering as an international business hub by day and lifestyle haven by night.

By The Star

Property sector eyes Budget 2013

As the announcement of Budget 2013 draws near, growing concerns in the past year towards escalating property prices and availability of affordable homes are perceived to pique the interest of industry players and the public on upcoming amended or new policies regarding the property market.

In the second quarter this year (Q2 2012), the federal government was reported to have begun mulling the hike of minimum floor prices for residential property that may be bought by foreigners from RM500,000 to RM1 million, a move which has been strongly supported by the state government of Penang.

"Though Budget 2013 will determine that this floor price increase will be mandatory across the country, the move will not likely affect the affordability of homes for local buyers whether positively or otherwise," said John Paul Sta Maria, Country Manager of PropertyGuru Malaysia.

In a statement today, he said that based on the online portal's Malaysia Property Sentiment Survey Q2 2012, 30 per cent of respondents felt the hike would help improve property affordability for locals, however, a close 29 per cent do not believe there will be any major impact on local prices.

He also revealed that 82 per cent of respondents believed the current residential property prices to be expensive while 74 per cent said all property types in Malaysia are expensive as compared with 65 per cent in Q1 2012.

Some 36 per cent of respondents believed that developers are responsible for pushing the rising construction costs and high land prices, 20 per cent indicated it's the herd mentality of buyers which caused an uptrend in prices while 10 per cent pointed to competition with foreigners as the main reason.

Some 70 per cent felt that property prices with further increase in the next six months.

The perception of escalating property prices is not limited to first-time homeowners or those looking to buy a property.

Compared to Q1, only 25 per cent instead of 33 per cent said they are willing to upgrade their existing property in the 12 months.

Concurring with the findings of PropertyGuru, Chief Executive Officer of Malaysia Property Incorporated (MPI) said: "An increase in house prices is evidenced by results of MPI's research with the National Property Information Centre (NAPIC), which revealed that the average price of houses below RM500,000 had risen by 25.8 per cent between 2004 and 2011.

"As seen from last year whereby seven out of 13 states showed double-digit house price increases...the core issue on price increase seems to be state dependent."

However, despite the increase in prices, the market is expected to grow due to increasing demand.

Some 68 per cent of respondents versus 64 per cent in Q1 2012 believed the number of property transactions would increase in the next six months.

"Rural-urban migration is also another factor, and of course people could be buying homes in new locations further from the city instead of urban centres," said Sta Maria.

While the market seemed healthy, all eyes will be fixed on the government and Budget 2013 as to how policymakers will act in response to current market sentiments.

Previously, the budget included the reintroduction of Real Property Gains Tax (RPGT) for properties sold within the first two years of purchase (up to 10 per cent) to curb speculation and the launch of the PR1MA (1Malaysia People's Housing) programme to provide affordable homes.

By Bernama

New incentives for developers proposed

The government should consider giving more attractive incentives for property developers to install solar panels in new homes as a step towards fostering the development of green buildings, a construction industry player said.

ATSA Architects' chief executive officer, AR Azim A Aziz, said the government through the 2013 Budget could introduce new incentives in place of present incentives given to developers for the use of green materials including solar panels that could meet the feed-in-tariff requirement.

"There is a lot more potential in feed-in-tariff, but not many people can afford to put up RM44,000, the initial setup cost, on their roof," he told Bernama in an interview today.

Although the price of solar panels has dropped more than 45 per cent in the last two years, the RM44,000 initial setup cost for 16 solar panels and supporting equipment is still considered high among common people, he said.

He said with Real Estate and Housing Developers' Association estimating 100,000 new houses to be built every year, any incentive to the developers could provide an immediate effect to the country's energy supply.

Azim said the feed-in-tariff, which is managed by Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA), is a good idea to encourage people embracing the green lifestyle.

He said a set of solar panels comprising 16 solar panels could
generate three kilowatt per hour (kWh) of electricity and with SEDA paying RM1.49 per kWh, this will give the owner a passive income of RM600 per month and around five years to break-even the initial cost.

"SEDA is offering a contract of 21 years, which means that the owner can have 16 years of passive income while living a green lifestyle," he said.

Aziz said another way to hasten the acceptance of feed-in-tariff is through banks which can provide the initial capital.

He said banks could provide loan schemes for purchasing solar panels and related equipment, similar to the hire purchase schemes for buying cars.

"Banks have to be readily involved to make sure the people can afford to place the solar panel at their homes," he said.

He said the schemes could be in the form of loans, hire purchase etc.

Aziz said with Malaysia strategically located under the sun belt, one of the best areas in harvesting the sun's energy, the country receives an average of 3.5 hours of sunlight every day making it a suitable place to implement solar-based technology.

Emphasizing on the importance of green lifestyle, he said as a developing nation, the population was growing and this would exert pressure and natural resources would become more scarce.

The population is estimated to double to 57 million people in 2090 when natural resources and even food are expected to be no longer plentiful.

"We cannot go on building as we did in the past or living as how we lived in the past. We must contribute to reducing green house gases and energy consumption over the years," he said.

By Bernama

Affordable homes concept to be out soon

The Federal Territories and Urban Wellbeing Ministry is in the midst of formulating a concept for affordable homes with regards to the middle-income group.

According to Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) deputy director-general (project implementation and maintenance) Mohd Najib Mohd, the formula will be ready within a month.

He said the ministry was aware of the vacuum that exists in the community between the rich and the poor.

“The ministry is working on some of the criteria such as having the homes within the city, controlling the price and having a specific size.

“We hope that if the projects come through, the middle-income group can afford to live in the city by 2014 or 2015. But we won’t be able to see anything until the guidelines are out as we will have to follow them.

“We will have to facilitate the conditions and put it into the development if there are DBKL projects in the pipeline.

“We are willing to be partners with private developers.

He added they did not want people working in the city to travel very far from where they live.

On Sept 15, Kuala Lumpur mayor Datuk Ahmad Phesal Talib announced that DBKL were considering two pilot projects for the middle-income group.

He had said based on the growing demand, there was a need to provide such homes, especially for the younger generation while trying to cap the unit price at below RM400,000.

By The Star

Sites for 10,000 affordable homes in Seremban

KELANA JAYA: 1Malaysia People’s Housing Scheme (PR1MA) has earmarked a few plots of government land as part of its plan to build 10,000 affordable houses in Seremban, Negri Sembilan, within a decade.

PR1MA is also eyeing private andpublic land in Johor, Malacca and Pahang, besides the Klang Valley.

PR1MA is a government unit tasked to build affordable quality homes for the people, with household income of RM3,000 to RM7,500 a month.

“We have identified three plots of federal land in Seremban. Our target is to build about 10,000 PR1MAhouses in Seremban over 10 years,” PR1MA chief executive officer Datuk Abdul Mutalib Alias said.

He did not disclose details of its targeted land.

“Our priorities (in building affordable houses) are urban areas in Johor, Malacca, Pahang and Negeri Sembilan, besides the Klang Valley,” Abdul Mutalib said at a briefing hereyesterday.

Seremban is poised to host PR1MA’s first housing scheme since the PR1MA Act was gazetted in January this year.

The scheme, to be launched on Saturday by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, will involve 1,200 units of double-storey houses under the first phase.

The three-phase project is sited on some 162ha in the northern part of Seremban, which is being bought gradually from private owners, Abdul Mutalib said.

PR1MA had decided to carry out the project there because there was demand for it, he added.

PR1MA is also finalising plans to launch several projects in Kuala Lumpur. These include a high-rise development at Bandar Tun Razak.

Abdul Mutalib said PR1MA will implement the Industrialised Building System (IBS) mechanism to speed up construction work.

IBS may be costlier than the conventional way but over time, it will be offset by the high volume of units built, he added.

“Of course, initially not all PR1MA projects will use IBS. It will be hybrid-IBS,” he remarked.

Industry observers said IBS would speed up the construction of housing projects by half the time compared with the conventional way, while needing only a third of workers.

The mechanism, however, would see a cost increase of between 10 per cent and 15 per cent.

Abdul Mutalib said PR1MA will ask private property developers to set aside part of their projects to build affordable PR1MA houses.

In return, the developers will be provided with the government’s facilitation fund supervised by the Public Private Partnership Unit.

Abdul Mutalib reiterated that originally, when PR1MA was announced last year, the scheme was only open to a narrow joint-salary band of RM3,000 to RM6,000.

This had created a sandwich group, and hence, the move to broaden the income eligibility to between RM3,000 and RM7,500 a month.

He also reiterated that PR1MA prices will be below market price, and will be the same for everyone, without quotas or discounts of any kind.

There will be a mix of PR1MA landed and medium-rise properties.

By Business Times

Malaysia mulls rail link with Asean, Chinese cities

HIGH-SPEED TRAINS: Several options currently being explored for Kuala-Singapore route

MALAYSIA is studying the possibility of linking the high-speed rail (HSR) system from Kuala Lumpur to Thailand, and to other Southeast Asian countries, says Transport Minister Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha.

“We want to provide connectivity beyond Thailand. But to do this, you would need government to government understanding and we have not come to that yet,” Kong said.

“High-speed trains today are more convenient and is a faster mode of transportation, from city to city , than flying,” he said yesterday, at the signing of a memorandum of arrangement (MOA) between the Ministry of Transport and China’s CSR Group.

It is learnt the government is mulling providing rail connectivity from Kuala Lumpur to Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and several cities in China.

The Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) is currently doing a study on the HSR to link Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. The study is expected to be completed by the end of the year. If found feasible, SPAD will call for pre-qualification bids by mid-2013.

Kong said several options and alignments are being explored for the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore route.

“The train could either runnon-stop from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore, or start from KL Sentral and have stops at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Seremban and beyond that,” he said.

Asked whether the government was eyeing the use of the magnetic levitation (maglev) technology, Kong said no decision has been made.

The MOA involves the building of a RM400 million CSR Rail Centre in Batu Gajah, Perak by CSR Zhuzhou Electric Locomotive
Co Ltd. It was witnessed by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, Kong, China’s Ambassador to Malaysia Chai Xi and CSR vice-president Fu Jianguo.

Meanwhile, Kong said participants at the recent Innotransconvention, the world’s biggest rail industry event in Berlin, Germany have expressed interest to work on railway projects in Malaysia.

Kong, who was at the conference, said Malaysia was also invited
by several European and Asian companies to use their technology.

The companies included Bombardier, Rotem, Alstom, CAF, Ansaldo, Hitachi and CSR.

“There are many things happening in the railway sector here. We have the MRT, the LRT extension, ongoing double tracking works, with the possibility of the HSR being implemented.

“There is also the rapid transit system from Johor Bahru to Singapore.

So there is a lot of potential for rail technology and suppliers,” Kong said.

By Business Times

MAAKL: No tie-up with Listari Marina

PETALING JAYA: MAAKL Mutual Bhd says it has no tie-up with developer Listari Marina (M) Sdn Bhd in a property project or sale of unit trusts.

Referring to the StarBiz article last Friday on Listari Marina’s recent event to publicise a mixed development project in Malacca, MAAKL said a unit trust consultant who had been at the event was never authorised to attend the ceremony on MAAKL’s behalf.

The consultant was not authorised to receive any pledge or mock cheque or to make any commitment for and on behalf of MAAKL, it said in a statement.

It added that it had not received any investment pledge, mock cheque or actual payment from Listari Marina.

“Prospective investors are advised to note that MAAKL is not permitted at law and do not and will not issue any free unit trust.

“All sales of unit trust are and will only be done for valuable consideration, in accordance with our prospectus and the relevant laws and regulations,” it added.

On Friday, StarBiz reported that little-known property developer Listari Marina was building a mixed development at Klebang, Malacca, with a gross development value of RM183mil.

In collaboration with MAAKL, it was reported that Listari Marina would offer purchasers free mutual fund units equal to about 8% to 10% of the property purchase price and also free MAAKL life plus Insurance policy to eligible and qualified purchasers and investors.

By The Star