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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Homebuyer due diligence

A COMMERCIAL transaction normally commences with due diligence being conducted prior to much consideration being put into the written agreement. This measure has two effects – it prevents the parties from sealing a detrimental deal and also time wastage over unfruitful discussions.

Essentially, this is an important process to ensure the parties get what they exactly bargained for. The same is applicable in the purchase of new residential properties from developers.

While there have been incidents of abandoned housing projects all over Malaysia that impacted the homebuyers who spent their hard-earned money but did not get their dream home in return, generally the housing authorities had been successful in protecting the interest of house buyers.

Many of these projects were abandoned by illegal developers who did not possess any valid licences to commence the development in the first place.

The Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry’s website showed there were 82 developers without licence and 116 developers who have abandoned their projects as of June 30, 2014.

The question that remains is how could the homebuying public be so ignorant that they are incapable of doing the basic due diligence when making the biggest life-long investment of buying a dream home.

Under the Housing Development (Control and Licensing) Act 1966 (HDA), any developer who constructs and sells more than four units of housing accommodation comes under the purview of the HDA.

Section 18 of the HDA states that any housing developer who carries out housing development without having been duly licensed shall be guilty of an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine which shall not be less than RM250,000 but not exceeding RM500,000 or jailed not more than five years or both.

Thus, it is compulsory for a developer, prior to developing a housing project, to fulfill the following:

·Obtain the necessary approvals from the relevant authorities such as development order and building plan;

·Apply a developer licence from the Controller of Housing whereby the Controller has the discretion to grant with or without further conditions or to refuse granting the licence;

·Deposit a sum of not less than RM200,000 with the Controller for the grant of the licence which is refundable upon the completion and expiry of the defect liability period of the project (there is an amendment to adjust the deposit sum in line with the gross development cost in 2013 but it has yet to come into force); and

·Apply for a sales and advertisement permit to start selling the units of the development.

Thus, a licensed developer would pass the first stage, with checks by the relevant authorities. A unlicensed development would mean these authorities are out of the picture and that development had not been discovered for breach yet.

As such, the next level of due diligence will be significant: the homebuyer himself.

With the advancement in wireless technology today, we “google” for everything for which we need clarification and information. The same applies for home purchasing. You will be amazed over the amount of information available online: ranging from the developer’s own website, property reviews to forums started by other homebuyers on the same development.

While it is not advisable to believe everything from the world wide web, it serves as a good starting point to know better the product you are buying before signing the sales and purchase agreement.

A minor website checklist is as follow:


·Developer’s website

·News websites

·Ministry of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government

·Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association (Rehda) and

·National House Buyers Association.

In addition to that, you may personally pay a visit to the development itself and make your own observation. If possible, asking around for details would also build up the confidence in buying the right home.

Normally, at the entrance, there will be a white signboard feeding you details of the construction such as the details of the development, landowner, developer, contractor and completion date.

Your lawyer or banker also serve as another filter of due diligence. Before you sign any agreement, it is advisable to ask them on any doubt that you are suspicious about and to be comfortable with what you sign.

Even if you have questions on the credibility of the lawyers, the Bar Council has a website for you to do the checks or even its friendly help desk in its office.

The above due diligence process does not guarantee a 100% smooth property transaction but it minimises the risk of buying a project which could be abandoned. Besides conducting a detailed research, the purchase of a house from reputable developers may diminish your homebuying risk further.

And for any of you who think you might be a victim of unlicensed developer, it is time to call your lawyer and banker for clarification. Owning a house is a lifetime commitment; its protection starts with you.

By The Star

Orando sees healthy sales

NEWLY-LAUNCHED property units are not flying off the booking boards in the showrooms this year, but sales are “at a healthy level”, according to Orando Holdings Sdn Bhd managing director Datuk Eng Wei Chun.

Having entered the property development scene in 2005, Orando has witnessed the peak of the Malaysian property market when launches were sold out within days or even hours as well as the softening of the market as Bank Negara tightened the reins on financing.

But Eng is not fazed.

“The current level of tightening measures to curb price speculation is just nice, any more and the property market could suffocate,” Eng says, donning his trademark accessory – the bowtie.

“If the property industry slows down too much, that would lead to an economic crisis. People have been afraid of a property bubble but the truth is, Malaysia is not small like Singapore or Hong Kong. We have a bigger property market.”

He adds that with a young and growing population, it will not be that easy for the Malaysian property market to suffer a bubble.

Earlier this month, Orando launched its sixth project Villa Crystal @ South Desa Park, in Taman Sri Sinar, Segambut, Kuala Lumpur.

The condominium project comprising 414 units on 38 storeys is already 60% sold thus far. Given the current market momentum, Eng estimates the entire project would be sold in another few weeks.

In his promise to provide “Swiss-watch quality” homes, he says the company believes in building responsibly.

“I don’t think we should talk only about returns, as businessmen. We should create something of value for society,” he tells StarBizWeek.

This year, Orando has won three awards – the European Quality Award from the European Business Assemble Oxford, UK; the Five Star Best Residential High Rise Development Award and the Safe Home Award for its Vila Vista project under the Asia Pacific Property Award 2014.

Villa Crystal is sited on 3.5 acres of freehold land a stone’s throw from Desa Park City, Taman Tun Dr Ismail and Kepong. The gross development value is RM310mil.

“There is a link currently being built from Desa Park City to this area. When completed within three years, it would take only five minutes to drive from Desa Park City to Villa Crystal,” he says, adding that the link will lead to the Damansara-Puchong Highway.

Villa Crystal units are going for around RM515 per sq ft, or between RM700,000 and RM1.2mil. The built-up ranges from 1,155 sq ft to 1,614 sq ft. The bigger units come with three parking bays while the smaller ones have two.

“We are selling at the current price, not the future price,” he says.

Its selling points are its high ceiling and a multi-purpose area taking up 10% of floor space in each unit which the home buyer can customise into anything, from a wine cellar to a personal hideout. The area also has its own entrance, therefore homeowners can divide the space for a tenant or the domestic helper.

Small operation, big ambition

Although Orando has a little more than a handful of projects under its brand, it has plans to venture beyond the Klang Valley... into the United Kingdom.

“When we were there to accept our award in April, we met some potential contacts for future ventures. We’re still exploring the idea of London,” he says. Eng has been in talks with a landowner in London and thinks the growth into the British market could be next year, after some feasibility studies.

For now, the company’s strategy is still to hunt for pockets of land in the Klang Valley to develop as soon as possible. Orando does not have any projects or land bank beyond this area, currently.

Eng says the group’s formula is to build one project, launch another and keep a parcel at any one time.

“Of course we would like to keep more land if possible but good land is not easy to find in the Klang Valley,” he says, “So we look for land with great logistics potential.”

Another strategy for the company is to introduce new products into the areas it ventures into, so as to not create unhealthy competition among developers providing similar products.

“When we launched the grand lobby condominiums in Cheras, there was no such development in that area then,” Eng says.

He puts it neatly: People sell apples, I sell oranges.

To come up with fresh ideas that locals of any area would be receptive to, Eng studies the society of that area in order to understand what it demands or lacks.

“You have to look at it through the local’s perspective and see what’s missing,” he says, “Like in Segambut, there is no such high rise that offers multi-purpose, dual-key units.”

He explains that Segambut and Kepong, being 40-year-old townships, have second and third generation dwellers looking to upgrade.

“The younger generation are beginning to settle down. They want to upgrade but don’t want to move too far away from their parents. And there is not many luxury condominiums in these areas,” he says.

Eng says the buyers’ profile for Villa Crystal has been largely people in their late twenties and thirties from Kepong.

Orando’s previous high rise residential projects include Vistaria and Vila Vista in Taman Pertama, Cheras.

By The Star

Friday, July 25, 2014

Plenitude buys Gurney Resort Hotel & Residences in Penang

PETALING JAYA: Plenitude Bhd’s wholly-owned subsidiary Plenitude International Sdn Bhd has entered into a sale and purchase agreement with the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) for the proposed acquisition of a 259-suite hotel, known as the Gurney Resort Hotel & Residences in Penang, for RM160mil.

In a filing with Bursa, Plenitude said Gurney Resort Hotel formed part of Menara Gurney, which is a 37-storey building with one basement level, a hotel along with retail and office components.

The retail units are located on the ground to second floor of the retail podium. The hotel has retail units and 551 car park bays.

The hotel is located approximately 4km to the north-west of the Penang ferry terminal and 3km from the state administrative centre in Kompleks Tun Abdul Razak.

Plenitude said that the price tag of RM160mil was arrived at after taking into consideration the strategic location of the property and the market value of the hotels in the surrounding vicinity.

“The proposed acquisition represents an opportunity for the company to expand its hotel business and operations, where the group currently owns Four Points by Sheraton Penang. It is expected to contribute positively to our future earnings,” said Plenitude.

Plenitude added that the acquisition would be financed by a mix of internally generated funds and bank borrowings

Plenitude was down four sen to RM3 on volume of 510,200 shares.

The company is in a financially strong position with no debt. Its cash and cash equivalents amounted to RM386.9mil as at March 31, 2014. For the third quarter to March 31, 2014, Plenitude’s net profit was up 89.3% to RM23.14mil on the back of a 80.58% increase in revenue to RM72.7mil.

By The Star

Boustead buying London's Hyde Park Hotel

KUALA LUMPUR: Boustead Holdings Bhd has agreed to buy the Hyde Park Hotel from Pastel Estate Ltd (PEL) for RM138.98mil.

The property, which comprises the 68-room hotel as well as freehold titles, is strategically located in the Bayswater area of London and has good accessibility to major shopping and tourist attractions as well as public transportation and amenities.

“This is a strategic acquisition, with a view towards strengthening our property portfolio of investments. It also provides our hospitality business with an opportunity to branch out beyond Malaysian shores,” Boustead deputy chairman and group managing director Tan Sri Lodin Wok Kamaruddin said in a statement.

“Given its prime location in central London, the Hyde Park Hotel represents a viable opportunity for the group to capitalise on the growing hotel market and hospitality industry in London. Over the years, we have grown our portfolio of properties locally and today we have an exceptionally strong stable of investments with our Royale Bintang and Royale Chulan chain of hotels.”

He added that the acquisition would bring significant synergies to the group for its property investments and hotel business.

The Hyde Park Hotel is currently leased to an operator and would be purchased with the lease.

As at March 31, 2014, Boustead had a paid-up capital of RM517mil while its shareholders’ funds stood at RM5.2bil. Its market capitalisation is currently more than RM5.6bil.

By The Star

MRCB to buy 51pc of Penang Sentral for RM50.75m

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Resources Corp Bhd (MRCB) is buying the 51 per cent stake held by Pelaburan Hartanah Bhd in Penang Sentral Sdn Bhd for RM50.75 million.

Penang Sentral is a joint-venture company set up to implement the Penang Sentral project.

After the payment, Penang Sentral will become a wholly-owned unit of MRCB.

The acquisition will enable MRCB to better manage the operations and fast-track Penang Sentral project and improve the efficiency through single management structure.

MRCB group managing director Tan Sri Mohamad Salim said this initiative will create a clearer way for MRCB with regards to the Penang Sentral project.

“The project will also benefit in terms of the fast-tracking works that MRCB can now implement, especially in project management and coming up with a definite timeline and completion period,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Penang Sentral is an urban development with mixed components built around the largest integrated transportation hub in Malaysia’s northern region. This mixed development is poised to transform Butterworth into a modern metropolis and will house retail, commercial and residential components.

Penang Sentral is a phased development and is expected to be fully completed by 2030.

By Business Times

Boustead buys Hyde Park Hotel in London for RM139m

KUALA LUMPUR: Boustead Holdings Bhd has expanded its properties abroad with the acquisition of Hyde Park Hotel in London for RM138.98 million.

BHB sealed a sale and purchase agreement with Pastel Estate Ltd yesterday to buy the property, which comprises a 68-room hotel as well as freehold titles.

Strategically located in the Bayswater area of London, the property has good accessibility to major shopping and tourist attractions as well as public transportation and amenities, the group said in a statement.

“This is a strategic acquisition with a view to strengthen our property portfolio. Coupled with this, it provides our hospitality business with an opportunity to branch out beyond Malaysian shores,” group deputy chairman and managing director Tan Sri Lodin Wok Kamaruddin said.

“Given its prime location in Central London, the Hyde Park Hotel represents a viable opportunity for the group to capitalise on the growing hotel market and hospitality industry in London. Over the years, we have grown our portfolio of properties locally, and today, we have an exceptionally strong stable of investments with our Royale Bintang and Royale Chulan chain of hotels,” he added.

The Hyde Park Hotel is now leased to an operator and will be purchased with the lease.

By Business Times

Thursday, July 24, 2014

UEM Sunrise names Anwar Syahrin as new MD and CEO

KUALA LUMPUR: UEM Sunrise Bhd has picked MMC Corporation Bhd's Anwar Syahrin Abdul Ajib as its new managing director and chief executive officer with effect from Sept 1, 2014.

It said on Thursday Anwar, 41, was formerly group chief financial Officer and group head, ports & logistics Division at MMC Corp -- a position which he had assumed in 2008.

UEM Group Bhd group managing director and CEO Datuk Izzaddin Idris said Anwar Syahrin's selection came after a comprehensive review and assessment of internal and external candidates led by a special committee set up by the board of UEM Sunrise.

Izzaddin will be redesignated a non-independent non-executive director of UEM Sunrise on Sept 1. However, in his capacity as group managing director and CEO of UEM Group, he will continue to advise and support the management team of UEM Sunrise on key strategic matters.

UEM Group has a 66% equity stake in UEM Sunrise.

Izzaddin said at a time when UEM Sunrise is facing both challenges and opportunities, Anwar will provide a unique and different perspective to the Company's operations as well as the energy to propel UEM Sunrise and its employees to future success.

Anwar has a Bachelor of Engineering degree in mechanical engineering from Imperial College, London.

He is also a qualified chartered accountant and a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) as well as a member of the Malaysian Institute of Accountants (MIA). He also holds an MBA from University of Salford, United Kingdom.

Anwar was previously employed with Arthur Andersen and Ernst & Young in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Manchester in the UK.

He was formerly the chief financial officer of Port of Tanjung Pelepas and a co-owner and managing director of Business Associates Consulting Sdn Bhd, a boutique strategy and management consulting firm based in Kuala Lumpur.

Anwar started his career with Shell Malaysia Trading Sdn Bhd as a transport executive.

By The Star

Moody's: Malaysia housing market may be peaking

KUALA LUMPUR: Moody's Investors Service expects an uptick in non-performing loans (NPLs), particularly in the household segment, in the South-East Asian banking system.

Moody's assistant vice president and analyst Simon Chen said on Thursday that in Asean, the Malaysian and Thai banking systems were the most exposed to increased asset-quality pressure in the household segment when rates rise.

"This is primarily because the ability of households in these countries to service their debt in a rising interest-rate environment will be negatively affected by consumers' high leverage at a time when the housing market in Malaysia may be peaking and Thailand faces elevated political risk," he said in reference to Moody's just-released report "Rising household leverage poses risks to Asean banks as the economic cycle shifts".

Moody's said the long positive credit cycle that has benefited banks in Asean might be on the verge of peaking. These would pose challenges for the lenders as pockets of asset-quality risk emerge due to tighter global monetary conditions.

"Our central scenario is that banking systems in Asean will be broadly resilient to the financial impact of a shift in interest rates, but we expect an uptick in NPLs, particularly in the household segment," said Chen.

Moody's report showed household debt has risen significantly in Asean in the past several years, with growth in bank loans to households outpacing loan growth to other borrowers.

Household leverage as a percentage of GDP was at historically high levels in Malaysia (A3 positive) (87% at end-2013) and Thailand (Baa1 stable) (82% at end-2013), and close to its five-year high in Singapore (Aaa stable) (75% at end-2013).

Although household debt has also risen significantly in Indonesia (Baa3 stable) and the Philippines (Baa3 positive), the growth in these countries was from a low base.

However, the report pointed out Asean bank asset-quality risk from residential property price corrections was mitigated by legal frameworks that support bank creditors.

Unlike in the US, banks in Asean have legal recourse to the borrowers on their debt obligations, beyond the underlying property assets mortgaged to the banks.

This feature provides greater creditor protection to banks, removes the incentive for borrowers to default on their mortgage obligations, and alleviates risks that housing NPLs will spike when property prices fall significantly.

Additionally, Moody's report notes that Asean banks have responded to regulatory measures aimed at curbing further increases in excessive household leverage.

Banks in Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore had tightened their underwriting standards on household loans, which was positive for banks' asset quality over the longer term.

The banks also have strong buffers to withstand asset-quality shocks in the household segment, Moody’s said.

By The Star

Anwar to head UEM Sunrise

KUALA LUMPUR: UEM Sunrise Bhd has named Anwar Syahrin Abdul Ajib as its new managing director and chief executive officer (CEO), effective September 1.

Anwar was formerly MMC Corp Bhd’s chief financial officer and group head of ports and logistics, a position he assumed in 2008.

UEM Group Bhd managing director and CEO Datuk Izzaddin Idris said Anwar will provide a unique and different perspective to UEM Sunrise’s operations as well as the energy to propel UEM Sunrise and its employees to future success.

“He has the qualities we were looking for in our search and is certainly qualified to lead UEM Sunrise,” Izzaddin said in a statement.

He added that Anwar’s selection came after a comprehensive review and assessment of internal and external candidates led by a special committee set-up by the board of UEM Sunrise.

By Business Times