Friday, 24 October 2014

(The Star) Fewer launches, lower targets due to tighter measures

KUCHING: Many developers have delayed their new launches and reduced sales targets in view of the softening Sarawak property market, according to a leading property consultant.

CH Williams Talhar Wong & Yeo Sdn Bhd (WTWY) said developers had experienced knee-jerk reaction in sales following the tightening measures implemented by the authorities last year and strict lending policy by banks and financial institutions to curb speculations and soaring property prices.

The tightening measures in Budget 2014 included increase in real property gain tax (RGPT) and abolition of developers interest bearing scheme (DIBS).

“Property players have noticed a market slowdown in sales. The property market for first half 2014 is showing tell-tale signs of a correction with decreased number of units launched and started compared with the same period a year ago as well as slower sales due to most property products having already beed absorbed in the past two years or so,” WTWY said in its newly-released Sarawak Property Market Review for first half 2014.

People are adopting a “wait and see” attitude.

It said property prices had surged by between 30% and 100% in the past few years, and that the good run-up since 2009 had taken a breather, with consolidation set in early this year.

“Performance for the property market for Sarawak can be said to be moderate and consolidating with transactions recorded by NAPiC (National Property Information Centre) declining by 22% in volume and 13.3% in value for the first half. This is true for almost all sub-sectors, notably agriculture by 23% and commercial by 28.8% although value increased by 5.8% and 12.6% for development land and industrial units respectively.

“Of particular interest is the residential sector which decreased by 22.8% and 20.7% respectively in terms of both total transaction value and volume.”

WTWY said despite the softening market and slowdown in sales, property prices in general had not dropped, but instead had continued to rise.

“It is obvious that strata-titled residential development, such as condominiums and apartments and some offerings of townhouses, are really catching on in major towns, especially Kuching, Miri and Bintulu, and increasing at an encouraging rate.

“This has resultantly pushed up prices of such units from less than RM300 psf a year or so ago to as high as RM600 psf in the prime areas.

“Forced by the increase in land costs and smaller-sized development land, developers find it more lucrative to build high (rise properties). This development type offers a more affordable alternative as compared with new landed houses, and is also spurred on by the receptiveness of the new generation of buyers who prefer and appreciate convenience and security.”

WTWY expects property prices to further go up with the impending implementation of the 6% GST in six months.

“Increase in property prices in the primary market due to increase in (building) materials and construction costs have helped to propel the secondary market which is comparatively cheaper. Thus, it is expected that the secondary market would be in good demand,” said the consultant.

According to WTWY, better connectively provided by the new Matang Jaya-Demak Link Road, Batu Kawa-Matang Road and Stutong-Airport Link Road here had boosted sales of residential properties in the newly opened-up areas.

“The houses in these new areas are priced quite competitively, and have seen prices comparable with those in the more established areas. As the population spreads out, new areas are opening up, serving a wider population whilst at the same time spurring further the prices of houses in the built-up areas.”

The consultant said although property players were fairly optimistic of a stronger demand in the second half year, the decline in the property market was expected to continue although new launches were anticipated to pick up.

“The lacklusture performance of the real estate sector is expected to persist as the market looks apprehensive, and more remains to be seen with the introduction and implementation of the GST by April 2015 and the possibility of a further increase in the base lending rate.

“However, some are of the opinion that the impending GST will spur earlier sales in the later part of this year to avoid the tax,” added WTWY.

(The Star) Looking for dream homes

Visitors travel from near and far to check out fair

The Star Property Fair 2014 in Queensbay Mall, Penang, is attracting not only Penangites but also visitors from afar.

Many of those visitors from the other states are teachers.

Among the teachers checking out the properties and offers available was Azmawati Ibrahim, 33, who came with her family for the event all the way from Kelantan.

“Penang is a beautiful place and with so many developers showing off their projects, we are spoilt for choice,” she said.

Also spotted were 45-year-old lecturer N. Sivadev, his wife and four daughters from Ipoh.
“We’re in Penang for the Deepavali break and read about the fair. It’s a great opportunity to be able to check out the choices available in one place.”

An Alor Setar teacher, Chong Chun Hwe, 48, said “I drove here just to check out the choices available as it is not often that I get to see so many developers at the same venue.”

Visitors also had fun and excitement taking part in the Spin & Win Contest at the fair’s information counter in the South Zone (in front of The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf).

Participants only have to purchase a copy of The Star newspaper and fill up a simple form to be entitled for a go on the wheel of fortune.

More than RM30,000 worth of prizes are available daily, including three units of Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 and seven RM200 shopping vouchers to be won at the grand draw held at 8pm.

Yeoh Ooi Huat, 46, was all smiles when his spin ended on a ‘star’ which entitled him to a grand prize draw.

“I came prepared with 36 pieces of forms and I’m confident of getting a good prize in the draw,” he said.

The Star’s senior regional manager (operations) David Yeoh said the fair was organised following the success of the exhibition held in July at Gurney Plaza and G Hotel.

“It’s the first time we are holding two property fairs (in Penang) and the first in Queensbay Mall.

“There is a demand for property. We expect a good crowd here,” he said.

Also present during the opening of the fair were state MCA liaison committee secretary Dr Tan Chuan Hong, The Star executive director Tan Sri Kamal Hashim, The Star advertising sales and business development manager Simone Liong and The Star news editor (regional) K. Suthakar.

A total of 17 exhibitors are participating in the fair held on the ground floor of the mall.

They are Asia Green Group, Ideal Property Group, Iconic Land Sdn Bhd, Nusmetro City Sdn Bhd, Relevant City Sdn Bhd, Tropicana Corporation Bhd, Aroma Development Sdn Bhd, Bandar Utama Development Sdn Bhd, Bionic Land Bhd, Golden Agro Plantation Bhd, GSD Land, Lion Group, MPSB Holdings Group, Paramount Property, PJD Group, Plenitude Bhd and Mah Sing Group.

Visitors can also attend the free talks by business, feng shui and property experts such as Master David Koh, Richard Oon, Neoh Chin Wah, Prof Joe Choo, Chris Tan, Master James Tong, Michael Yeoh, Leon Lee and Ishmael Ho.

The talks are held from 2pm to 6pm daily on the ground floor in North Zone (in front of Starbucks Coffee) with topics such as ‘Penang Property in Feng Shui Perspective’, ‘The Future of Penang Property’, ‘Penang Property Outlook and Strategies’ and ‘The Power of Colour’.

Admission to the talks is free. The fair is open daily from 10.30am to 10.30pm and ends on Sunday.

(The Star) Plan to extend Grik airstrip

Dr Zambry says longer runway will bring in more tourists to Hulu Perak

The Perak Government has commissioned state Public Works Department (JKR) and Lands and Mines Office to conduct studies on extending the airstrip in Grik, located some 132km from Ipoh.

Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir said with an allocation of RM15mil from the Federal Government, the studies started in the middle of the year to see if the extension works were feasible.

“With an upgraded airstrip, we can look forward to ushering in more medium-haul flights and accommodating ATR aircraft but not larger aircraft yet.

“Even so, I believe this will cater best to Hulu Perak visitors coming in from the KL International Airport, Subang airport, even Singapore and Indonesia, who wish to visit the Belum-Temenggor rainforest and Lenggong Valley archaeological site,” he told a press conference here recently.

He added that in the event that the extension plans were not achievable, they would have to opt for another area to build a longer airstrip within the Hulu Perak region.

In an unrelated matter, Dr Zambry said the state government had replanted one million trees in the Amanjaya Forest Reserve, thus fulfilling the state Barisan Nasional’s election pledge to do so last year.

“However, we will not stop there. The endeavour to rehabilitate the area will continue, and we hope to make it to two million trees soon,” he said.

All 18,886ha of the Amanjaya Forest Reserve, stretching about 1.5km from either side of the East-West Highway, was gazetted in May last year.

It comprises two forests — the Royal Belum State Park to the north, and the Temenggor Forest Reserve to the south.

(The Star) Prasarana signs RM627mil deal to replace its Ampang LRT fleet

Public transport system provider Prasarana Malaysia Bhd will be replacing its extant fleet of six-car Light Rail Vehicles (LRVs) on its Ampang Line Light Rail Transit (LRT) by next year with Chinese technology.

The agreement to procure another 30 LRVs from Chinese train manufacturer CSR Zuzhou Electric Locomotive Co. Ltd (CSR ZELC), was signed by Prasarana group managing director Datuk Seri Shahril Mokhtar and CSR ZELC deputy general manager Luo Chongfu, in the presence of Prasarana chairman Tan Sri Ismail Adam and CSR ZELC general manager Zhou Qinghe.

CSR ZELC is already contracted to provide 20 LRVs for the Ampang route’s Line Extension Project (LEP), bringing the total number of LRVs to 50.

“The 30 new sets we just signed for are worth about RM627mil,” said Shahril, explaining that CSR Zuzhou had offered to take back the old rolling stock, thus lowering the price for the new equipment.

CSR ZELC’s facility in Batu Gajah, Perak, which is expected to be completed by the end of this year, will produce 30%, or nine LRVs as part of the contract.

Previously, CSR ZELC had already announced its intention to set up the RM400mil facility in Perak back in 2012.

“We are already looking at employing locals to staff the production facility, which is built not only to supply Malaysia, but the rest of the South-East Asian region as well,” said Zhou.

Deliveries for the new rolling stock will begin by May 2015, although Shahril explained that the new cars will need to undergo some slight adjustments before being put into operation.

The new LRVs will run on Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) signalling, and have enhanced safety features such as CCTVs, smoke and fire detection and emergency breakable windows.

For a better commuter experience, the new LRVs will include more space for wheelchair-bound commuters, interactive destination displays and infotainment screens.

(NST) 16.1m tourist arrivals in H1

MALAYSIA welcomed 16.1 million tourists for the first half of the year, an increase of 9.7 per cent from 14.7 million tourists for the same period last year.

The top 10 tourist generating markets to Malaysia from January to July 2014 was Singapore, Indonesia, China, Brunei, Thailand, India, Australia, Philippines, Japan and Taiwan.

According to the Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board, the increase in the number of tourists from the top 10 countries were due to various promotional programmes on Visit Malaysia, school holidays in those countries as well as low fares promotion for flights to Malaysia.

“Besides the school holidays in Vietnam and Indonesia in July, low fares promotion from the Philippines to Malaysia offered by Cebu Pacific Air, AirAsia Zest, and AirAsia Indonesia also contributed to on upsurge of arrivals from these Asean countries,

“The increase in arrivals from the Philippines was also contributed by the “Luv U Malaysia” and “Juan For Fun Backpackers Challenge” programme, beamed on TV stations in the Philippines, which provided great publicity to Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.”

For the month of July alone, tourist arrivals clocked at 2.23 million, with the Asean region contributing a 74 per cent share, or 1.7 million.

Among Asean countries, Vietnam registered the highest growth of 40 per cent, followed by Indonesia at 23.3 per cent, Brunei at 10 per cent, Cambodia at 10 per cent, the Philippines (8.5 per cent) and Thailand (3.6 per cent).

The medium-haul markets contributed 19 per cent to Malaysia’s total tourist arrivals in July.

Tourists from the Middle Eastern countries showed tremendous increase in the month of July due to the arrival of summer season in their homeland and most of the local travel agencies took the opportunity to sell tour packages at attractive prices.

During this period, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Iraq registered an increase of 379.2 per cent, 77.4 per cent and 69 per cent, respectively.

Countries that registered double-digit growth in July were Japan, an increase of 28.1 per cent, New Zealand with 23 per cent increase, Australia (17.6 per cent), India (16.2 per cent) and South Korea (12.8 per cent).

The increase of tourists from South Korea were due to the additional Asiana Airlines flights from Incheon to Kota Kinabalu, and new AirAsia flights from Incheon to Kuala Lumpur, whereas the promotion of edu-tourism like “Manaberu (Learning) Travel Malaysia” in Japan enticed families to send their children to join the packages.

A total of 155,984 tourists or seven per cent of Malaysia’s total arrivals were contributed by the long-haul markets in July.

The markets that posted double-digit growth were Spain, with an increase of 47.8 per cent, France (45.8 per cent), the Netherlands (45.2 per cent), Italy (28.7 per cent), Sweden (27 per cent), Germany (22.7 per cent), the United Kingdom (19.7 per cent), Russia (16.3 per cent), and the United States (11.5 per cent).

The increase in tourist arrivals from most of the European countries and the United States were mainly due to the beginning of summer holidays in these countries and widespread publicity via social media such as Twitter and Facebook that made a positive impact on long-haul markets.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

(The Star) New hospital in Pasir Gudang

PASIR GUDANG: Residents in Pasir Gudang can look forward to get medical treatment and related services in the district with the opening of a hospital here.

Pasir Gudang MP Normala Abd Samad said the project had received approval from the Federal Government under the 11th Malaysia Plan and is expected to start early 2016.

She said a 20.23ha land in Jalan Gunung in Bandar Seri Alam township here has been identified as the site for the Pasir Gudang public hospital.

“We expect the hospital to be completed within three years after the project kicks off,” Normala said when met at the “Program Wanita Industri 1Malaysia” here on Sunday.

The event was attended by Deputy Women, Family and Commuity Development Minister Datuk Azizah Mohd Dun and Deputy Human Resources Minister Datuk Ismail Abdul Muttalib.

She said under phase one of the project, the facility would be a full-fledged district hospital with 100 beds costing between RM100mil and RM150mil.

Normala said the number of beds would be increased to 300 under its future expansion and also related facilities to cater for the surge of population here and the surrounding areas.

“This is good news for many Pasir Gudang residents who have been waiting to have a public hospital in the area for many years,” she said.

Normala said the hospital would cater to the medical needs of about 350,000 residents from Pasir Gudang and nearby areas such as Masai, Plentong and Kong Kong.

Presently, Pasir Gudang residents seeking treatment at public hospitals would have to go to the Sultan Ismail Hospital in Panda or the Sultanah Aminah Hospital in Johor Baru.

Separately, she said a secondary school would be built in Taman Scientex, Pasai and could accommodate about 2,000 students.

Normala said the school project would start next year and expected to be completed after two years, it would help to reduce over-crowding at existing secondary schools in Masai.

(The Star) Govts urged to find funds for RM27bil Pan Borneo Highway

SIBU: The Federal and State Governments have been urged to find ways to finance the construction of the proposed RM27bil Pan Borneo Highway.

Sibu MP Oscar Ling told at a press conference yesterday that though Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had in unveiling Budget 2015 on Oct 10 announced that the Federal Government had agreed to start work on the much-awaited project next year, the project itself was not listed as among the items in the Budget 2015 Book.

He said as no fund was made available for the project, the minister in charge of infrastructure development had also openly said the government would privatise it.

Of the RM27bil, a total of RM13.5bil is needed for work on the project on the Sarawak side.

“Already there have been saying in Sabah that once privatised, motorists will have to pay toll for using the highway so as to pay for the cost of the project. We are against the collection of toll as it will burden the people and also result in inflation when prices of goods will go up due to higher transportation charge,” he said.

The people in the state, he said, should not be asked to pay toll if toll collection is really implemented.

This is because the state has been contributing a total of RM30 to RM40bil from its oil and gas to the Federal coffer for the past 51 years after helping to form Malaysia.

Ling said he, however, was not against the privatisation of the project but that an open tender for the job must be called so that there is transparency on the matter.

“I am not against privatisation but that privatisation need to be well managed and that the cost should not be bored by the people through the paying of toll,” he added.

(The Star) Green recreation area coming up

The Seberang Prai Municipal Council will embark on a landscape beautification project in Taman Kimsar, Prai near Butterworth, Penang.

The plan is to convert a vacant plot into a recreation area with a cost of RM467,134.

Council president Datuk Maimunah Mohd Shariff said at the launch that a walking track, gazebo and outdoor gym would be built along with benches, playground equipment and public toilets.

She said the corporate social responsibility programme was a 4P (public, private and people partnership) mechanism to foster closer ties between the public and council.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng launched the project.

(NST) Track alignment for high-speed link finalised

JOHOR BARU: Johor has finalised the track alignment of the high-speed rail link project connecting Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

State Public Works, Rural and Regional Development Committee chairman Datuk Hasni Mohammad told the New Straits Times that the track would run on the western side of the North-South Expressway whereas KTM Berhad’s track would run on
the eastern side of the expressway.

He said in Johor, the transit stations would be located between Sungai Mati and Bukit Pasir in Muar, Ayer Hitam in Batu Pahat and Nusajaya in Iskandar Malaysia before running across the Johor Straits through the Second Link to Singapore.

The Nusajaya stop, Hasni added, was quite close to the Second Link Expressway in Tanjung Kupang, enabling the track to run parallel with the Second Link when crossing over the straits into the city-state.

“The track alignment is expected to be the main agenda to be discussed during the 11th Malaysia-Singapore Joint Ministerial Committee meeting to be held next month.”

Hasni said the Transport Ministry had already completed its final stage of discussion with stakeholders in Johor, such as the land office, local authorities and district offices, as well as non-governmental organisations.

“One will notice that the track will avoid passing by big cities in Johor. However, all stations would have feeder buses to the nearest cities or towns.

“We will try to avoid passing by private land to minimise land acquisitions.

“At the Nusajaya station, it will be linked to the central business district in Johor Baru and vice versa by transit coaches and existing public transport.”

Hasni said it had not been decided whether there would be direct service between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong jointly announced the 330km project in February last year, which is set to change the land transportation landscape between the two capital cities.

According to transport industry players, the project is expected to affect the shuttle flight service between Changi Airport and the Kuala Lumpur International Airport or Klia2, depending on its fare structure.

This is in view that it may be faster to travel between the two cities by high-speed rail, taking into consideration the time it takes to travel to the airport, the wait before the flight, as well as flight times.

(NST) KL-S’pore high-speed rail work to start in 2015

TOKYO: THE construction of the high-speed rail (HSR) link between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore is expected to start at the end of next year.

Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) chairman Tan Sri Dr Syed Hamid Albar said the project’s feasibility study, carried out by the commission, had been submitted to the Malaysian and Singaporean governments and a meeting between the two governments would be held early next year to finalise the details.

“We have been given the timeline (to complete the project) by 2020 and our target is for the construction to begin next year.

“Construction will likely begin in the third quarter of next year,” he said after attending the International High-Speed Rail Conference: High-Speed Rail Accelerating Toward the Future here yesterday.

Syed Hamid said the exact date would depend on the outcome of the meeting between the two governments.

He said both governments were expected to ink an agreement on the project, reportedly to cost RM38.4 billion, which includes the purchase of locomotives and high-speed bullet trains.

“Two committees — Technical Committee and the Joint-Ministerial Committee — have been established to oversee the project.”

Syed Hamid said seven stations in Malaysia had been identified: Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Seremban, Ayer Keroh, Muar, Batu Pahat and Nusajaya.

“We have informed the state governments through the Economic Planning Unit and have received their approvals,” he said, adding 
that the state governments had 
given their feedback and SPAD would ensure that adjustments were made.

On the link’s system, he said both governments had yet to decide whether to adopt the European or the Japanese HSR system.

“We have been approached by several countries, including China, Japan, Spain, France, Germany and South Korea.”

The project is one of the entry point projects listed under the Economic Transformation Programme aimed at improving the economic dynamism of Malaysia’s capital city and liveability ranking relative to other global cities.

The goal of the HSR is to reduce the travel time between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore to 90 minutes.

At present, it takes up to eight hours by train between the two cities, around five hours by bus and car, and 45 minutes by flight.

The link is expected to benefit both countries economically and ease traffic congestion at the intercity rail network.

Current demand on the Causeway exceeds capacity by 33 per cent.

In February last year, Malaysia and Singapore reportedly agreed, in principle, to build the HSR link between the two countries, with a target completion date of 2020.

In April, Malaysian and Singaporean Prime Ministers Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Lee Hsien Loong reiterated that the project would be completed in 2020.

It was reported that several Malaysian and foreign firms had started talks to form consortiums to bid for the project.

They include MMC Corp Bhd, which may team up with Gamuda Bhd and Chinese and European system integrators, and YTL Corp Bhd, which partners Spanish bullet train maker Talgo or CAF.

Other firms are UEM Group Bhd, which is working with Ara Group to form a consortium with European companies that may include Talgo, and Global Rail Sdn Bhd, which is talking to Canada’s Bombardier Inc and Chinese firm China Railway Group.