Thursday, 28 February 2013

(BUSINESS TIMES) UK's University of Reading invests RM980m in Iskandar

JOHOR BARU: Iskandar Malaysia received another boost yesterday when one of the UK's top universities, University of Reading, pumped in RM980 million to build its campus in EduCity.

Its vice-chancellor David Bell said the university's first overseas campus will allow the university to bring its rich heritage in quality education to Malaysia and the Asia-Pacific region.

"This will help promote Malaysia as a key education hub in the region," he said, adding that the university is confident of the growth of Asian markets.

Speaking at a press conference after the groundbreaking ceremony of the university's campus here, Bell said the campus, to be known as the University of Reading Malaysia, will be opened in September 2015. It expects to enrol about 400 students in its first-year of operation.

The university is offering programmes at undergraduate and postgraduate level in three thematic subject areas as requested by the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE), namely business and law, science and pharmacy as well as built environment.

Also present were Iskandar Investment Bhd president and chief executive officer Datuk Syed Mohamed Ibrahim, University of Reading's chancellor John Madejski, University of Reading Malaysia provost and chief executive Professor Tony Downes and MOHE's Private Higher Education Institutions Governance Division director Dr Mohamed Ali Abdul Rahman.

Meanwhile, Bell said the campus will be the latest in a growing band of UK universities in Malaysia, where the students from Malaysia will be able to continue their studies without having to go all the way to UK.

"We are consciously and pro-actively developing this campus to offer the best experience to students, from both the infrastructure side and education delivery."


(BUSINESS TIMES) Malaysia attracts RM162.4b investments

Malaysia attracted RM162.4 billion worth of investments last year, its highest on record in six years.

The record level, against a backdrop of subdued global investment flows, exceeded the official target by 9.1 per cent.

Much of 2012' investments were in new and emerging technologies, particularly within the aerospace, semiconductor, solar, machinery and equipment, biotechnology, petroleum and petrochemical products and medical devices as well as the oil and gas sectors.

The 5.1 per cent increase, through 6,442 projects, could generate 182,841 jobs, mostly in the services industry, said International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed yesterday.

Domestic investments contributed the most in the manufacturing, services and primary sectors with RM127.6 billion (78 per cent).

Selangor received the largest amount in approved investments with RM23.4 billion, followed by Sabah (RM11.6 billion), Kuala Lumpur (RM9.7 billion), Sarawak (RM9.4 billion) and Johor (RM7.4 billion).

The Malaysian Investment Development Authority (Mida) said in 2012, a total of 804 manufacturing projects were approved involving investments of RM41 billion compared with RM56.1 billion for 846 manufacturing projects in 2011.

Foreign investments amounted to RM20.8 billion and accounted for 50.7 per cent of the total investments.

Japan was the major source with RM2.8 billion, Saudi Arabia (RM2.6 billion), Singapore (RM2.2 billion), China (RM2 billion) and South Korea (RM1.6 billion).

New or greenfield investments through 473 projects totalled RM26.8 billion.

Some RM21.2 billion of the manufacturing investments went into the economic corridors located in the north, south and east regions of Peninsular Malaysia and in Sabah and Sarawak.

The Sabah Development Corridor recorded the highest with RM5 billion, the East Coast Economic Region RM4.6 billion, Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy RM4.3 billion, Iskandar Malaysia RM4.2 billion and Northern Corridor Economic Region RM3.1 billion.

The services sector contributed 72 per cent of approved investments last year, with real estate the leading contributor (RM58.8 billion) followed by utility (RM12.6 billion), hotel and tourism (RM8.9 billion), transport (RM6.8 billion) and telecommunications (RM6.6 billion).

The primary sector, which covers agriculture, mining and plantations and commodities, attracted investments worth RM3.8 billion.


(NST) Suites to suit you at Kinta

IPOH: KINTA Riverfront Hotel & Suites at Jalan Lim Bo Seng here unveiled its hotel suites to the media recently.

The suites comprise the Presidential, Honeymoon and Executive priced at RM8,888 ++, RM3,888 and RM750++ (inclusive of breakfast), respectively.

The Presidential suite comes with a king- and queen-sized bed, a sitting and karaoke room, and a mini swimming pool.

As for the Honeymoon suite, it is furnished with a queen-sized bed, and a sitting and karaoke room.

The Executive suite comes with a queen-sized bed and a living hall.

In total, the hotel has 410 rooms, namely the Presidential (1), Honeymoon (1), Executive (12) Standard Twin (55), Standard King (51), Superior King (53), Superior Twin (64), Family (11) and Deluxe (12) rooms, as well as service rooms, namely the Kinta Premier (68) and Kinta Gold (82) service rooms.

All hotel rooms are equipped with a satellite television, electronic safe, Wi-Fi and an electric kettle and sachets to make coffee and tea.

The hotel also offers food and beverage outlets such as a bistro, coffee house and Chinese restaurant.

For gatherings and meetings, it also has a grand ballroom, and a business centre.

For exercise buffs, there is a gym and health fitness centre.

There is also an infinity pool.

For reservations, call 05-245 8888.

(The Star) Duty-free kitchenware shop making it big in Langkawi

<b>Bargains:</b> Idaman Suri thrives on its success that stems from importing quality goods in bulk to sell at low prices, providing its customers value for money.
Bargains: Idaman Suri thrives on its success that stems from importing quality goods in bulk to sell at low prices, providing its customers value for money.
IT IS a rare occasion to come across a company called “Langkawi’s Housewives’ Desires”, or translated to its official name, Langkawi Idaman Suri Sdn Bhd.
While it may allude to taboo thoughts, these desires innocently refer to household products and kitchenware like cutlery, pans and crockery.
When there is such an extensive range of such items sold at inexpensive prices, there would indeed be a deluge of customers coming to buy in bulk.
This is the usual daily bustle at Idaman Suri in Taman Berlian, Langkawi, with customers who include Langkawi residents as well as local tourists from other states.
The company thrives on its success that stems from importing quality goods in bulk to sell at low prices, providing its customers value for money.
The business is the brainchild of director Sunil Maniar who, years before, knew that life would be better if he started his own company.
And so, what started as a small and humble business has today become a leading kitchen and household small and medium enterprise (SME) in Malaysia.
From accounts to the kitchen
While 49-year-old Sunil administers all of Idaman’s operations, his wife and his sister help to oversee the business from the ground up.
Sunil, formerly an auditor with PriceWaterhouse Coopers in Singapore, comes from a family of entrepreneurs and took heed of his father’s advice to venture into starting a business in the 1980s.
“As my parents were entrepreneurs, my father encouraged me to start a business of my own because he believed that it would give me more work satisfaction.
“So, with guidance and help from my parents, we decided to start a retail business in Pulau Langkawi in 1987,” said Sunil, who originally went to school in Kuala Lumpur and graduated in accountancy from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia in 1983.
It appeared that 1987 was a golden year of opportunities as it was then that Langkawi was declared a duty-free port and presented Sunil and his family the chance to develop a duty-free business there.
“At that time, there wasn’t anyone else here who understood the duty-free business, especially when it came to household and kitchenware products.
“There was an untapped market for more affordable and good quality products as other traders were selling these goods at very high prices at that time, compared to the mainland.
“So we were able to grab the opportunity and were also the first to start a duty-free business on the island,” said Sunil, adding that Idaman’s success spurred others to emulate its business model.
Idaman commenced operations as a small shop at 400sq ft in Pokok Asam and continued to trade there for 12 years.
In 1999, the business moved to Langkawi Mall, occupying four shoplots and in 2006, shifted to its current premises.
“We did not expect to hit a profit on our first day but we did, and until today, we are amazed at such an early accomplishment.
“It boiled down to our small space and low overheads which made it easier for us to achieve this,” he said.
<b>Small to big:</b> What started as a small and humble business has today become a leading kitchen and household small and medium enterprise (SME) in Malaysia.
Small to big: What started as a small and humble business has today become a leading kitchen and household small and medium enterprise (SME) in Malaysia.
Overcoming the odds
While his profit before hand was unexpected, Sunil also encountered several hurdles that he had not anticipated in the beginning, especially where logistics were concerned.
“In 1987, Langkawi did not have much infrastructure. There were not many telephone lines, not many buildings and no proper port, so setting up the business in such a place was tough.
“There were no ships to bring in and import goods. We had to persuade ships plying between Singapore and Thailand’s southern province, Satun, to make a stopover in Langkawi to ship in our goods,” said Sunil.
The obstacles did not stop there as he had to tackle more predicaments after Idaman Suri commenced operations.
“As you know, financing is required to start a business and it took a number of years for us to win the banks’ confidence.
“Then there was also the issue of hiring the right employees. Initially, there was no one who could perform management tasks so we had to train the staff to man the shop while we did all the handling ourselves.
“The problem here was that the locals were not accustomed to working in retail shops.
“For example, if it rained, they would not come to work and we had to convince them to do so by going to their homes and picking them up!” said Sunil, who now employs 80 employees.
In 1997, the Asian financial crisis caused several businesses to cease operations permanently and it also marked one of the lowest points in Sunil’s journey as an entrepreneur.
“Business performance fell substantially and we had to reduce overhead expenses by controlling our expenses.
“We were also able to take advantage of our suppliers who were offering goods at discounted prices during the crisis.
“We purchased them at discounts and sold with very nominal profit margins in order to keep the business going,” he said.
As this made Sunil and his business partners learn a painful lesson, he also understood that when nothing is ventured, nothing can be gained.
“One of the biggest risks we took was when we constructed our present premises, which took two years — from 2004 to 2006 — and finally moving here because it is approximately 5km out of town.
“As we were moving away from Kuah town, it was risky as we were unsure if our customers would follow us,” explained Sunil.
But the risk paid off as the business and traffic improved.
“We were able to import and stock more, while providing a larger variety of products to customers.
“So despite being a little far away from the main town of Kuah, we did well,” said Sunil.
A businessman will always want to improve his strategies in order to see it rise to greater heights.
In this regard, Sunil believes that he would constantly have to keep up with his customers and their ever-evolving demands in order to provide for their needs.
“One would also need to have patience and persistence to develop their business as it can take years before you break-even and even longer before you make profit,” he said.
While he said there were abundant opportunities for duty-free goods in Langkawi, the next planned accomplishment for Sunil is to venture into property.
“We have already invested in property development in Langkawi as the island is developing at a progressive rate and the population is increasing, thus the rising demand for property.
“So this would be a good move for the near future,” said Sunil.
Source: The Star

(The Star) Dijaya Q4 profit advances 18%

PETALING JAYA: Dijaya Corp Bhd announced an 18.14% jump in net profit to RM60.2mil and a 48.42% increase in revenue to RM234.06mil on the back of record sales of RM967mil from its flagship projects for its fourth quarter to Dec 31, 2012.
On a full-year basis, net earnings increased 119.7% to RM169.2mil on the back of a 68% jump in revenue to RM630.06mil. Earnings per share almost doubled from 16.89 sen in 2011 to 32.13 sen in 2012. Dijaya also announced a first and final dividend of 6.4 sen less tax for 2012.
Dijaya told Bursa Malaysia that the board had also approved the incorporation of the revaluation surplus, net of deferred tax of approximately RM10.34mil, in the consolidated financial statements for 2012. The revaluation surplus will increase the net assets per share by RM0.01 for 2012.
The group's record sales of approximately RM967mil mainly came from its flagship projects; such as the Tropicana Danga Bay development in Johor Baru, along with Tropicana Avenue and Tropicana Gardens in the Klang Valley.
“In the past two years, Dijaya has grown exponentially in size and has diversified geographically by acquiring premium land banks across Malaysia. We now have more than 364.22ha of land in prime locations, namely, in the Klang Valley, Kuala Lumpur City Centre, Iskandar region in Johor Baru, Penang and Sabah, with a total estimated gross development value of RM50bil.
“These strategic land places us in a good position, helping us focus on our growth and sustainability within these hot spots for the next 10 years.” said group chief executive officer Datuk Yau Kok Seng.
Dijaya will maintain its growth momentum in 2013 with planned launches that include W Kuala Lumpur Hotel and The ResidencesPenang World CityTropicana Gardens in Kota Damansara, Tropicana Metropark in Subang, Tropicana Heights in Kajang, and Tropicana Danga Cove in Johor. As at Dec 31 2012, Dijaya had unbilled sales of RM951mil.
Source: The Star

(The Star) Mah Sing 2012 profit advances 37% to RM231mil

PETALING JAYA: Mah Sing Group Bhd delivered another bumper year with its 2012 full-year net profit 37% higher at RM230.6mil while its revenue for the year increased by 13% to RM1.78bil compared to a year ago, supported by its developments in the Klang Valley.
The property group's fourth quarter net profit was up 35% to RM55.4mil and its revenue was RM441.4mil, 4.6% higher compared to the same quarter last year.
In a statement, the group cited Kinrara Residence in Puchong, Garden Residence, Clover @ Garden Residence and Garden Plaza in Cyberjaya, M-Suites and M-City in Jalan Ampang, Icon City in Petaling Jaya, Aman Perdana in Meru - Shah Alam, M Residence in Rawang, One Legenda, Hijauan Residence in Cheras and Icon Residence in Mont' Kiara as the residential projects that contributed to net profit and revenue.
Commercial projects that made an impact on the group's performance were Star Avenue @ D'sara, Southgate Commercial Centre in Sungai Besi, StarParc Point in Setapak and industrial projects i-Parc 1, i-Parc 3 in Bukit Jelutong and i-Parc 2 in Shah Alam. The group said that it intends to roll out at least RM3.7bil worth of launches in 2013 to fulfill their sales target of RM3bil, which is 20% higher than for 2012 but in line with the existing scale of operations of 40 projects.
“Greater KL and Klang Valley will make up the bulk of 2013's sales target at 62%. Penang island is expected to contribute 13%, with 20% from Johor Baru and the balance 5% from Sabah,” group chief executive Tan Sri Leong Hoy Kum said. “We have been spot-on with market demand in terms of our launches, allowing us to deliver commendable double-digit growth in both revenue and profits.”
The group recorded sales above RM2.5bil, compared with RM2.26bil locked in property sales for 2011.
Besides ongoing projects, the group has six new projects which will drive their growth in 2013 - Southville City and M Residence 2 in the Klang Valley, Ferringhi Residence in Penang island, Mah Sing iParc@Tanjung Pelepas and The Meridin@Medini which are located in Iskandar Malaysia and Sutera Avenue in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.
Source: The Star

(The Star) Private investments in Malaysia up a record RM140bil in 2012

KUALA LUMPUR: Total private investments realised by Malaysia surged to a record RM139.5bil in 2012, representing an increase of 24.8% from the RM111.8bil realised in the preceding year.
“As a result of Malaysia's solid investment performance last year, the country exceeded the private investments target of RM127.9bil for 2012 by 9.1%,” International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said at the Investment Performance 2012 conference yesterday.
According to Mustapa, Malaysia can expect to see private investment growth maintained at the present momentum for 2013, as major projects get implemented.
He pointed out, in particular, that investments in Johor were expected “to do extremely well” this year, with projects in Iskandar Malaysia and Pengerang accelerating.
He said there had not been any slowdown in investment flow despite the political uncertainties in the country.
Malaysia had last year recorded the highest-ever total approved investments at RM162.4bil, driven by the services sector, and in spite of the still-uncertain global economic conditions. This is higher compared with the total approved investments of RM154.6bil in 2011 and RM105.6bil in 2010.
Last year, the services sector accounted for 72.4% of total approved investments, followed by the manufacturing sector at 25.3% and primary sectors at 2.3%. The total investments approved in 2012 were in more than 6,000 projects that could generate about 183,000 job opportunities.
And in line with the objective of the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), Mustapa said domestic investments were the main driver of private investments last year, accounting for 78% (RM127.6bil) of the total investments approved in 2012, while the remainder 22% (RM34.8bil) came from foreign investments.
“This trend (of domestic sources driving private investments) will continue. In the longer term, as we said in our ETP, the kind of balance that we hope to achieve is 72% domestic investments and 28% foreign investments,” Mustapa explained.
When asked about his expectations for foreign direct investments (FDI) this year, Mustapa said Malaysia could expect FDI to increase to about US$12bil (RM37bil) from around US$10bil in 2011, as the global economy was expected to pick up.
“This year, we believe there will be some recovery in the world economy, and that could help push FDI somewhat higher,” he pointed out.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has projected the global economy to grow 3.5% this year, compared with 3.2% in 2012. Malaysia's economy, on the other hand, was expected to grow between 4.5% and 5.5% in 2013, after expanding 5.6% last year.
Foreign investments were the driver of private investments in the manufacturing sector, accounting for 50.7%, or RM20.8bil, of the total inflows into the sector last year. Of the total approved FDI in the manufacturing sector last year, 64% came from Asian countries, led by Japan, Singapore, China and South Korea.
Mustapa noted that within the manufacturing sector, there was a significant decline in investments in the electrical and electronics (E&E) sub-sector due to the weak global economic environment.
“E&E did not do well at all last year. But this year, E&E will certainly contribute towards growth in approved investments in the manufacturing sector,” he said.
Mustapa pointed out that Malaysia was no longer appealing as a competitive investment destination for multinational corporations that focused on labour-intensive industries, as the country was going through a transformation process, and moving up the value chain to become a high-income, knowledge-based economy.
“The country's manufacturing sector is going through a period of transformation and restructuring. As low value-added assembly becomes less important, industry players are expected to reduce their investments in low-value sectors and increase their activities in new high value-added activities that will open up new opportunities for growth,” he said.
According to Mustapa, the Government would undertake an “eco-system approach” to promote private investments in both the manufacturing and services sectors.
He pointed out that the Government would focus on mega-trends and the development of technologically advanced target products and applications such as artificial intelligence, robotics, 3D printing and smarter and flexible production technology.
Mustapa conceded that there remained a “gap” in Malaysia between investment inflows and outflows, as Malaysian companies continued to invest abroad.
But he noted that the phenomenon, which had been going on for the past four to five years, was not a totally unwelcome trend, as it only reflected the country's growing economy.
Mustapa said the trend was also reflective of the continuous growth of Malaysian companies, as they sought to further expand their businesses, citing Malaysian banks, national oil company Petroliam Nasional Bhd and Government investment arm Khazanah Nasional Bhd as examples.
“As a growing economy, Malaysian companies have been going out.
“We are encouraging Malaysian companies to invest in Asean. This is a policy we want to achieve in Asean economic integration,” said Mustapa.
Source: The Star

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

(NST) Niche developer targets ‘upgraders’

MORE VALUE: Mutiara Rini’s properties to see capital appreciation

JOHOR BARU: Mutiara Rini Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Boustead Holdings Bhd and Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera (LTAT) group of companies, recently launched 138 units of double-storey terrace houses under Phase 4B of its Rini Heights development in Taman Mutiara Rini, here.

Its property division director, Datuk Ghazali Mohd Ali, said the units are priced between RM484,000 and RM605,000.

"Since the launch of our maiden project in Taman Mutiara Rini and our second project in Kuala Lumpur, both in 1996, we have launched more than 7,000 units of houses," said Ghazali.

"Of these, we have 200 units that are unsold and these are mainly the Bumiputera lots. Once they are released, I am confident they will be quickly snapped up."

He also said that one of the attractions of Taman Mutiara Rini is the urban forest and recreational centre, sprawling 25.8 hectares, which is adorned with palms and eco ponds.

"We have also built a 32km bicycle and jogging track which is not integrated with the road system of the development. Each housebuyer will get a complimentary bicycle because we want to encourage the local community to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

"There are also vernacular primary schools and national secondary schools, as well as kindergartens, a mosque and a police station, among other amenities in the multi-racial township.

"Other upcoming projects include hypermarkets, namely Tesco and Mydin, a McDonald's drive-through and a hotel.

"All these augur well for the township as the houses will have capital appreciation in the future. Normally, we would bring in an anchor to our development but in Johor, there is no such need as the area around Taman Mutiara Rini is already developed," he said.

"To give our development the competitive edge, our focus is on the upgraders. We are a niche developer aiming to be different from our competitors.

"For instance, we have come up with 88 types of houses so far. One of our unique designs is seen in our semi-detached units which are adjoined at the backyards instead of the conventional way of side by side."

Ghazali said that joining the backyards would give housebuyers the feel that they are living in a bungalow, as there will be land on both sides of the house.

"We also have low-cost units in our development. In the past, we unveil between 600 and 700 units of affordable houses a year.

"This year, we have increased the number to 1,200 units of houses with a price range of between RM80,000 and RM220,000."

A check with the State government revealed that so far, there are already 6,000 applicants for both semi-detached houses and apartments.

Taman Mutiara Rini, an integral component of Iskandar Malaysia, was the recipient of The Edge Top Property Developers Awards 2005.

For details or enquiries, call 07-558 6080.

(NST) Pantai Dalam may have 3 MRT stations

FOR THE PEOPLE: If the proposal is approved, over 300,000 residents will benefit from the second MRT line

KUALA LUMPUR: THE soon to be announced Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) circle line 2 is expected to have three stations in Pantai Dalam. Federal Territories and Urban Wellbeing Minister Datuk Raja Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin said if approved, the stations would benefit some 300,000 residents in the area.

"Due to the high number of population and dense development here, I have discussed the matter with Mass Rapid Transit Corporation Sdn Bhd (MRT Corp) on the alignment.

"MRT Corp had principally agreed to this proposal after taking the technical report into consideration. This is based on the projected future population.

The three proposed stations are Pantai Halt, Taman Bukit Angkasa and Pantai Plaza/Abdullah Hukum.

"However, it has yet to be approved by the cabinet and at the economic council level," he said at a press conference after the groundbreaking ceremony of Masjid Al-Khadijah in Pantai Dalam.

Also present were Federal Territory Religious Department director Datuk Che Mat Che Ali and Amona Sdn Bhd group chairman Datuk Othman Ahmad.

Raja Nong Chik said the mosque to be built by Amona as part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) would be able to accommodate up to 3,000 people at one time.

The mosque that would be built on the 3,184 sq m land at a cost of RM15 million would also have facilities, including dressing room and staff quarters.

Amona has also handed over a 0.62ha land there to Jawi as a Muslim cemetery reserve. It was reported that MRT Corp was conducting feasibility studies on the second and third MRT line which was expected to be completed by year-end.

According to the Land Public Transport Commission's Urban Rail Development plan, MRT 2 circle line would link Mid Valley, Mont Kiara, Sentul Timur and Ampang as well as upcoming areas near the Matrade building in Jalan Duta.

The MRT 3 circle line (North-south line) will link areas such as Sungai Buloh, Kepong, Selayang and the east half of the city centre, including Kampung Baru.

It will cover a distance of 36km and have 24 stations built 1.5km apart.

The 51-km Sungai Buloh-Kajang MRT line, which is under construction, will have 31 stations (seven stations built underground) and is expected to be fully operational by July 2017.


(NST) More dialogue needed on Atria's redevelopment

PETALING JAYA: Damansara Jaya residents would like to have more discussions on the redevelopment of the former Atria Shopping Centre.

Rukun Tetangga chairman Chan Kien Fatt said that more discussions should be held with the developer OSK Property Holdings, and the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ).

"We had a discussion with the developer and MBPJ on Feb 7, and the following issues were raised such as the change in building plans by the developer, which include retail stores and cineplexes, as well as traffic congestion issues and additional parking bays," he said.

Chan said the developer did not give a reason why they had decided to have cineplexes.

"Why is it necessary to have a cineplex, when there are cineplexes in 1Utama and Tropicana City Mall."

Chan said that there should be sufficient car park bays to cater for the cineplex.

"They said there will be an increase of 300 car park bays, but they have already taken the bays outside.

"That still doesn't change anything. We are suggesting that the developer include more car park bays for the moviegoers," he said.

Chan also questioned the need to convert Jalan 22/48 into four lanes from the current two.

"The developer should look into the overall traffic situation and come up with a better traffic plan to address the congestion issue."

Chan said the residents are not against development but want the developer to tone down the development.

"We hope they can look into the traffic situation in the area and reduce the number of cineplexes by half," he said.

Chan hopes that they will reach a win-win situation for the benefit of everyone.

(NST) KL to Butterworth in four hours

ELECTRIFIED DOUBLE-TRACKING PROJECT: KTM Bhd will have new coach trains that can travel at 160kph

IPOH: Commuters are in for great news as future train trips from Kuala Lumpur to Butterworth will take only half its usual time -- thanks to KTM Berhad's electrified double-tracking project which will be ready by June next year.

The northern phase of the project between here and Padang Besar serves as the catalyst for KTMB to order 10 new coach trains, capable of travelling up to 160kph, thus, making them the fastest trains in the country.

The New Straits Times travelled with a team comprising KTMB operators, design-and-build contractor MMC-Gamuda Joint Venture Sdn Bhd representatives and project management consultant KSET Konsortium on an inspection tour along the northern line yesterday.

The Ipoh-Padang Besar railway track boasts several architectural acomplishments along its line.

The three new iconic structures include the 3km Bukit Berapit tunnel in Padang Rengas, the 3.5km Bukit Merah marine viaduct which crosses Tasik Merah in Kerian, and a 90m swing-bridge crossing the Prai river in Seberang Prai, Penang.

The new structures were built to accommodate the project requirements as well as to replace the current structures.

It is learnt that the former 3.3km Bukit Berapit railway tunnel, built in 1905, will fall out of use once the new tunnel is operational.

The marine viaduct replaces the normal embankment bridge and benefits the ecosystem of the lake as it takes up less land and expedites the construction progress while the 72.3 degree swing-bridge replaces its 1967 predecessor.

According to KTMB Ipoh-Padang Besar Electrified Double Tracking Project general manager Jeflysham Osman, the main line along here to Padang Besar would have 30 stations, including 23 passenger stations and seven cargo stations.

"We have completed 93 per cent of all works involving the line.

"When the new train service is up and running, we will be able to travel from Kuala Lumpur to Butterworth in four hours compared with nearly eight hours previously," he said.

KTMB is currently embarking on its electrified double-tracking project in west coast from Johor Baru to Padang Besar, which is divided into several phases.

When fully completed by 2018, it is expected to be the fastest metre-gauge railway line in the world.


Tuesday, 26 February 2013

(The Star) Halal Park in Tambun needs more promotion to ensure success

The Halal Park in Tambun needs to properly market itself and to promote its services in order to reach its intended target market.
State executive councillor Datuk Hamidah Othman said while the park, which was located within the Mara Industrial Area, had good infrastructure with 54 entrepreneurs having set up businesses there, it was sorely lacking in marketing and promotional efforts.
“To ensure the success of the Halal Park, I have instructed the relevant government agencies to look into helping the entrepreneurs in this aspect.
“We need to think out of the box and carry out various initiatives to ensure their business expansion.
“For example, I think setting up a website to promote the Halal Park is a good idea,” she told reporters during her visit last Friday.
Hamidah said relevant agencies such as Sirim had also been instructed to help the Halal Park apply for the Good Manufacturing Practices or GMP certificate.
She said with such accreditation, suppliers and wholesalers would be more confident working with the entrepreneurs.
“The annual production at the park is RM20mil and I am optimistic that with better promotion, the figures can be increased.
“The Halal certification logo in Malaysia is well accepted by other countries and this is an added advantage to us,” she added.
She said there were also plans under the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle to get northern states in the country, including Perak, to collaborate with southern states in Thailand.
“Such cooperation can well benefit our entrepreneurs and we hope to carry out the programme soon,” she said, adding that Thailand’s Halal logo certification was also well received worldwide.
The entrepreneurs’ association chairman Abdullah Sani Shaari said there was a need to have more signboards to promote the area, suggesting that a huge billboard be created at the entrance to the park.
“We also hope that the state government would include us in its overseas trade missions so that we can promote our products more effectively,” he added.

(The Star) MBSA allocates RM2.4mil to boost security in Pekan Subang

Mohd Jaafar (second from right) speaking to residents during his visit to the Pekan Subang.
Mohd Jaafar (second from right) speaking to residents during his visit to the Pekan Subang.
Going out to buy groceries or to work in Pekan Subang can be a challenge for residents as most of them live in fear for their safety.
They sometimes prefer to drive to Shah Alam or Kelana Jaya to avoid having to walk along dark alleys in the area that are filled with foreign workers.
Many of the residents had also written to the Shah Alam City Council (MBSA) to brighten up the area as the crime rate had increased.
After listening to grouses from the community, Shah Alam mayor Datuk Mohd Jaafar Mohd Atan said the council chose to start its inaugural “black spot” campaign in Pekan Subang to give the area a more positive outlook.
“We chose this place not because we want to tell everyone it is a dangerous place, but because we want to improve it.
“Residents cannot fear for their lives all the time. This is their home and they need to be proud of where they come from,” he said.
Mohd Jaafar said the council had sent in a list of three areas — Pekan Subang, Kota Kemuning and Taman Sri Muda — to the Home Ministry before Pekan Subang was picked for the pilot project.
He said the RM2.4mil rehabilitation project, funded by the Federal Government, would take about six months and the council would speak to residents and shopowners to find out what their concerns were.
Traffic in the area is also messy and needs better coordination.
At present, he said, the 13,400 residents share two wet markets and one community hall. There are also 260 commercial lots in the area.
“We have notified all developers in Shah Alam to light up the backlanes.
“It is their corporate social responsibility to make the place brighter,” he said.
During a recent walkabout in the area, Mohd Jaafar also instructed his enforcement officers to conduct checks on illegal workshops and factories.
Other issues noted were illegal banners and stickers, stray dogs and illegal foreign workers.
“We will have a series of meetings with the residents to help them resolve as many issues as possible,” he said.
As a start, the council has installed one CCTV near the open wet market and more are on the way.
There are a total of 24 CCTVs installed in the city with another 50 in the pipeline.

(The Star) Parkson Q2 profit down 30%

The fall is due to delays in consumer spending and losses of new stores
Parkson expects its group performance to remain satisfactory in view of the surge in consumer spending during the Chinese New Year.
Parkson expects its group performance to remain satisfactory in view of the surge in consumer spending during the Chinese New Year.
PETALING JAYA: Parkson Holdings Bhd's net profit fell 30% to RM74.25mil for the second quarter (2Q) of its financial year ending June 30, 2013, from RM105.72mil for the corresponding period in the preceding year due to delays in consumer spending and initial losses of new stores.
The retail operator pointed out in a note to Bursa Malaysia that the late arrival of the Lunar New Year in the current financial year on Feb 10, 2013, compared with Jan 23, 2012, had delayed some consumer spending to the next quarter as opposed to certain festive retail buying captured in the three months ended Dec 31, 2011.
“Together with initial losses of new stores, a lower profit was recorded for the current quarter and financial year-to-date compared with a year ago,” it explained.
Parkson's earnings per share for 2Q13 stood at 6.85 sen, compared with 9.72 sen in 2Q12. Its revenue for the period in review stood at RM930.4mil, an increase of 2.1% from the RM911.18mil registered for 2Q12.
Parkson's net profit stood at RM133.28mil, or 12.29 sen per share, for the first half (1H) to Dec 31, 2012. This represented a drop of 32% from the net profit of RM196.01mil, or 17.99 sen per share, for the corresponding period in the preceding year.
Revenue for the group for 1H13, however, was higher at RM1.77bil, compared with RM1.7bil for 1H12.
Parkson attributed its revenue improvement to new stores' contribution and same store sales growth in Malaysia and Indonesia. However, sales growth in its Parkson China and Parkson Vietnam, it said, had been adversely impacted by the slowed economic growth, resulting in weak consumer spending and negative same store sales growth in its operations in China and Vietnam.
Parkson said it expected its group performance to remain satisfactory in view of the Lunar New Year festive occasion.
“Our retailing operations across China, Malaysia and Vietnam are expected to benefit from the surge in consumer spending during the Chinese New Year festivities,” it said.
Source: The Star

(NST) New route given rousing welcome

KUANTAN: The public has lauded efforts by RapidKuantan to extend its service to Ubai as it will cover heavily-populated areas such as Tanjung Lumpur, Kempadang and Pantai Sepat.

The new service began yesterday, with two buses deployed to serve the 35km route.

Passenger Mohd Zarudi Ramli, 29, said the new route made it easier for him to visit his in-laws in Cherok Paloh.

"RapidKuantan buses are also more comfortable compared with the previous stage buses. The drivers are friendly, too," said Zarudi, who lives in Sungai Lembing.

S. Parawati, 40, said she had been using the RapidKuantan bus service since its introduction in December.

"It is a very reliable service. We should thank the government for providing it for free until April," said the Alam Flora worker, who takes the bus from her home in Bukit Setongkol to work in the town centre.


(BUSINESS TIMES) Five projects to be launched in Kota Seriemas

NILAI: PNB Development Sdn Bhd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Permodalan Nasional Bhd, will be launching five new projects at its Kota Seriemas township between March and December.

The township here is being developed by PNB Development's subsidiary, Seriemas Development Sdn Bhd.

The first project, dubbed Laman Alamanda superlink homes 1, was launched last week.

Laman Alamanda comprises 33 double-storey houses with built-up areas starting from 2,356 square feet to 2,292 sq ft, selling from RM447,888.

From next month, the company will launch Laman Cempaka Villas, a luxury development comprising 33 bungalows with a built-up area of 3,137 sq ft to 3,666 sq ft, and Cempaka Suria 3 @ Laman Cempaka.

Cempaka Suria 3 is the last in a series of three best-selling superlink homes at the Cempaka Suria enclave, and prices are pegged within the affordable range, said a senior management official from Seriemas Development.

Seriemas Development is also launching Cempaka Sari Twin Villas @ Laman Cempaka, which is the final release of urban contemporary secured living lifestyle in the area.

There are 36 units for sale, with sizes starting from 3,078 sq ft and some with private pools, and are priced from RM1 million each.

According to the official, the initial series of the Cempaka Sari Twin Villas saw Kota Seriemas achieving its first RM1 million sale when the project was launched in July 2012.

Other phases which will be launched this year are Terezza Terraces 2 @ Laman Bakawali and Cempaka Seri Town Villas @ Laman Cempaka.

The official said the Terezza Terraces 2 units are designed to enhance the emerging wellness lifestyle of Kota Seriemas, with homes set adjacent to the township's lake park.

Cempaka Seri Town Villas, meanwhile, is the first strata development to be introduced at the township, targeting those seeking a modern living lifestyle, he added.

"Backed by encouraging market acceptance, more medium- to high-end residential property products are in store for Kota Seriemas within the immediate and medium-term," the official told Business Times.

The Kota Seriemas township is slated to be completed by 2033 and will boast a population of 60,000.

Besides the more than 1,000 houses, the township, which started more than 10 years ago, is also home to the main campus of KPJ Healthcare International University College and a Mydin supermarket.

(BUSINESS TIMES) Marina One -- An iconic building in the making

The design of Marina One, an integrated development by the state investment arms of Malaysia and Singapore located in the heart of the republic's new central business district, was unveiled last week.

The project is being undertaken by M+S Pte Ltd, owned 60:40 by Khazanah Nasional Bhd and Temasek Holdings Pte Ltd, respectively.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who jointly unveiled the design with his Singaporean counterpart Lee Hsien Loong, said he was truly excited to see it for himself.

"I think it will have a wonderful design and Marina One will certainly fulfil our expectations as we wanted a landmark and an iconic building.

"Marina One is the beginning of that iconic building. What we see today is only the beginning of an exemplary project," he told a news conference last week.

Lee, meanwhile, described Marina One as very important for both countries as it would be "an iconic project in our new business district for many more years to come".

Earlier, M+S chairman Tan Sri Azman Yahya introduced the development as a coveted business and lifestyle destination, given its strategic location at Marina South district.

The high-rise commercial and residence is designed by Christoph Ingenhoven, who is known for his green and sustainable designs for the European Investment Bank in Luxembourg, Google headquarters in Mountain View, California, and 1 Bligh in Sydney, Australia, which won the International Highrise Award 2012/2013.

Azman said Marina One will mark a brand new chapter in the Marina Bay Masterplan.

"This collaboration between Malaysia and Singapore will position Marina One on an unprecedented scale on the world map as a new financial centre."

In November last year, M+S had unveiled another Khazanah-Temasek development, DUO, in Ophir-Rochor.

The unveiling of Marina One and DUO marks the significant progress made since Najib and Lee witnessed the exchange of the M+S Shareholders' Agreements during the leaders' retreat in Putrajaya on January 5 last year.

When completed in 2017, Marina One will become an exclusive address commanding views of the Marina South district, and will boast proximity to Marina Bay Sands, Singapore Flyer, Esplanade Theatres on the Bay and Gardens by the Bay.

It will also have connectivity to Singapore's largest and most connected mass rapid transit interchange by 2016. Covering a gross floor area of 3.67 million square feet, it will comprise the Marina One project and two towers of 1,042 luxury city residences ranging from one to four-bedroom units, including penthouses.

Marina One Residences will be launched in the second half of this year.

Marina One Offices, the Marina One East Tower and Marina One West Tower will feature 1.88 million-sq ft of prime Grade A net lettable office space.

A statement said the project's crown jewels will be two 100,000 sq ft office floor plates, one of the largest in Asia.

The Heart, a retail podium covering 140,000 sq ft of net lettable space, provides shopping and lifestyle amenities.

The Heart is described as a sanctuary and green space for communities to get away from the hustle and bustle of the central business district.

A "City in a Garden" concept will also be a feature of Marina One, as it incorporates a unique garden ecosystem developed by landscape architect Gustafson Porter, who also designed Singapore's Bay East at the Gardens by the Bay.

Marina One and DUO are two projects undertaken by M+S in a 2010 land-swap deal between Singapore and Malaysia, in which Malaysian railway land in Tanjong Pagar, Kranji, Bukit Timah and Woodlands was returned to Singapore in exchange for four land parcels in Marina South and two in Ophir-Rochor.

All of these projects have a total development value of S$11 billion (RM27 billion).

CapitaLand and UEM Land Holdings are project managers for DUO.

UEM is partnering with Mapletree Investments to manage Marina One.


(BUSINESS TIMES) Making Greater KL 'higher, denser, greener'

KUALA LUMPUR: The Greater KL/Klang Valley, whic is expected to host 10 million people in 2020, will have to have "higher, denser, faster and greener" buildings to accommodate the population.

Federal Territories and Urban Wellbeing Minister Datuk Raja Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin said a better public transportation system, encouragement for groundfield developments with higher plot ratio and greening-the-city projects are part of enhancement efforts to make the city more livable.

He, however, said the emphasis will be to get more people to live in the city to reduce car use.

Raja Nong Chik said among the efforts taken are identifying areas in Kuala Lumpur that are de-generating and regenerating them with higher plot ratio to amortise the land cost and provide cheaper and affordable housing to the people, such as the 1Malaysia People's Housing (PR1MA) programme.

To encourage reduction in car use, he said the ministry plans to build more pedestrian walkways within the city this year. Bernama


Monday, 25 February 2013

(BUSINESS TIMES) UDA targets 19 project launches worth RM1.57b

UDA Holdings Bhd will be launching 19 property projects this year with a gross development value (GDV) of RM1.57 billion.

Its chairman Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed said the projects will be launched in Johor, Penang, Pahang and Kuala Lumpur.

"More than 1,000 units of properties will be offered to buyers," he told a press conference following the launch of UDA Holdings' property carnival at Sutera Mall, here, on Saturday.

He said UDA Holdings was also hoping for a capital boost from the government so that it could implement the housing projects based on the "build then sell" concept.

UDA, which is a government agency under the Finance Ministry, has already been selected by the government to carry out housing projects based on the "build first, then sell" system.

"Without the capital help from the government, we are concerned that if we carry out the development under the 'build then sell' system, it would affect the cash flow of UDA Holdings," he said.

Nur Jazlan, who is also member of parliament for Pulai, said although UDA Holdings comes fully under the Finance Ministry, it does not receive grants from the government.

On the plans for Perumahan Rak-yat 1Malaysia (PR1MA) to build more than 10,000 affordable homes in the Tampoi area, which comes under the Pulai parliamentary constituency, Nur Jazlan welcomed it, saying that it would greatly reduce the burden of those in the middle class in owning houses.

Asked whether the land for the 10,000 PR1MA homes in Tampoi was owned by UDA Holdings, he said he was yet to be sure of the location for the PR1MA homes in Tampoi.

Meanwhile, Bernama has reported that the PR1MA project in Tampoi will be built on land owned by UDA Holdings and that negotiations between the two parties have already started.


(BUSINESS TIMES) UK tourist arrivals may hit 450,000 this year

Malaysia is projecting 450,000 tourist arrivals from Britain this year, surpassing 2010's 429,900 arrivals.

However, over the past two years, tourist arrivals from Britain have declined slightly due to the discouraging economic conditions in the country and the European Union.

Last year, there were 402,207 tourists from Britain while in 2011, there were 403,140 arrivals. Despite that, for both years, the UK was still among the top 10 tourist generating markets for Malaysia.

Malaysian High Commissioner to Britain Datuk Seri Zakaria Sulong said despite Britain's lacklustre economic growth, its currency is still very strong.

"The British can stretch the pound by visiting Malaysia," he said.

Zakaria said this year's growth in tourist arrivals is expected to be driven by Malaysia Airlines' (MAS) A380 aircraft, exciting tour packages offered by private operators, as well as the ongoing promotions by Tourism Malaysia.

"The deployment of the A380 aircraft for the 12-hour non-stop flight between KL and London will contribute to more tourists visiting Malaysia.

"This is because for long-haul flights, passengers prefer comfort. MAS is the only non-stop direct flight from London to KL," he said when met in London recently.

MAS started two A380 flights a day for the KL-London-KL route from November 24 last year.

The superjumbo passenger jet, which can carry 494 passengers, has higher fuel efficiency, the lowest environmental impact and a more comfortable cabin.

Zakaria said tour operators play an important role in attracting tourists to Malaysia, citing the honeymoon packages initiated by the private sector.

He said the media from the UK are also brought to Malaysia to familiarise themselves with new tourism products.

"We also promote luxury holidays in Malaysia, weddings and homestay programmes," he said, adding that the Malaysia My Second Home scheme has also been successful in attracting the British people to live in Malaysia.

He noted that the quality of life in Malaysia, which is at par with Britain, the good exchange rate, excellent infrastructure and all-year-round sunny weather are among factors that have attracted British citizens to Malaysia under the scheme.

"The upmarket hotels in Malaysia are popular with the British people. We had a lot of repeat visitors. We also target military veterans and retired civil servants who've done their service in Malaya. They usually come with their families," he added.

Various events held in the UK by Tourism Malaysia and Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation have also helped to promote Malaysia to people in the UK. These include the Malaysia Kitchen Programme, Malaysia Night and Malaysian Spice Kitchen.


(NST) Gurney Paragon mall attracts big tenants

GEORGE TOWN: The Gurney Paragon Mall developed by Hunza Properties Bhd on Persiaran Gurney here is expecting some big tenants when it opens later this year.

British retailer Debenhams will be opening its first flagship store in the northern region in the mall in the third quarter of this year.

Leading luxury retail group Valiram Group has also confirmed 10 retail stores at the mall, bringing in big names like Michael Kors, Swiss Watch Gallery, Victoria's Secret, Tumi, Godiva, Charles and Keith, and Pedro.

Homegrown Malaysian fashion brand Padini is also set to open its largest store which measures about 4,600sq m at the mall.

TGV Cinemas, Hokkaido Ichiba and an upmarket grocery store have also signed up as tenants.

Hunza executive chairman Datuk Khor Teng Tong said the project's construction is progressing smoothly and the mall is expected to be open for business in July.

With big names coming in, the mall would be a hot and happening place in the city, he said.

"We believe that Gurney Paragon Mall will help to boost the state tourism sector. We are bringing in some established shops and operators that have no existing outlets in Penang now.

"When tourists think of shopping and entertainment in Penang, they will think of Persiaran Gurney," he said at the recent Gurney Paragon topping-out ceremony here.


(NST) More PR1MA houses planned

HUGELY POPULAR: Govt may consider second or third phase of affordable homes project, says Muhyiddin

LABUAN: Boatman Awang Ehsan Ahmad was one of the thousands of people who made their way to Kampung Ganggarak here to apply for an affordable home over the weekend.

The 28-year-old father of one hoped that he would get a unit once the project was completed because houses were not cheap here on the island.

"I am staying with my parents, but there are too many of us under one roof now.

"The house is starting to feel 'smaller'," said Awang of his family's home at Kampung Patau-Patau.

Some 6,000 application forms were snapped up during the groundbreaking at the 16ha site for the project on Saturday.

The event was attended by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

This prompted Muhyiddin to say that the government may even consider a second or third phase to build more affordable homes through the project.

The houses are expected to be ready in three years.

The project involved the Federal Territories and Wellbeing Ministry, Labuan Corporation, National Housing Department and Syarikat Perumahan Negara Berhad (SPNB).

SPNB will be offering 171 units of medium-cost two-storey terrace houses and 768 apartments. while the National Housing Department will offer 500 walk-up apartments under the People's Housing Programme (PR1MA).

Muhyiddin said the affordable homes project was his commitment to the people.

He said when he visited the island in October last year, he was told by many villagers there that they did not own houses and found it difficult to afford them.

"This is the government's promise delivered to you," he said, adding that providing affordable homes was one of six high-impact initiatives that was implemented for the people.

The other initiatives were the price uniformity programme, reduction of traffic congestion, turning the island into a tourist destination, public amenities development as well as focusing on becoming an international oil and gas hub.

Muhyiddin, during the closing of the month-long Federal Territory Day celebration here, had also said that the wellbeing of the people was high on the Barisan Nasional government's agenda.

"To maintain economic growth here, the government, under the 10th Malaysia Plan, has allocated development funds totalling RM390.72 million.

"Under its third rolling plan, RM145.22 million has been distributed.

"These initiatives will create a conducive surrounding for people here to run their business operations. This, in turn, can contribute to them living more comfortably and in better conditions."


(The Star) Family bookshop keeps its collection attractive and competitively priced

<b>Targeting families:</b> Bookalicious occupies a 600sq ft premises located at Lot G35, Ground Floor, The Summit Subang USJ, Subang Jaya.
Targeting families: Bookalicious occupies a 600sq ft premises located at Lot G35, Ground Floor, The Summit Subang USJ, Subang Jaya.
WOULD you trust the recommendation of an avid bibliophile and bookstore owner, and get him to pick out books for you based on a pre-determined budget?
That was exactly what a customer did, when he gave Bookalicious proprietor Leon Ngai a free hand to select RM200 worth of books for his reading pleasure.
Ngai, 40, later posted on the Bookalicious Facebook page: “As a bookseller, it was truly an honour to be entrusted with this task and we jokingly asked if we could swap places”.
Located in the Summit Subang USJ, Subang Jaya, Bookalicious is a family business run by husband-and-wife pair Ngai and Wendy Chow.
They invested RM500,000 as initial capital for stocks and fixed assets, and to renovate their 600sq ft store that commenced operations in April 2010.
“Bookalicious is a boutique bookshop, selling great books at competitive prices,” said Ngai.
“We get the stocks directly from the publishers and keep our operational costs low so that we are able to pass the savings on to our customers,” he said, adding that customers would be able to save between 10% and 30% on average, compared to buying books at the standard retail price.
“We get our supplies from the US, the UK, China, Australia, Italy, India, Singapore, Germany and of course, locally,” Ngai said.
Besides books from a wide variety of genres, including those from the bestsellers’ list, Bookalicious also offers boxed sets and collectibles like figurines, stuffed toys, headphones, posters and other book-themed memorabilia.
Bookalicious presently has some 20,000 books in stock, comprising some 15,000 titles.
“We sell 3,000 books of various categories per month,” said Ngai.
“The young adult category, which caters not only to teenagers but also adults, is the most popular among our customers. Other popular categories include fiction, Malay novels and childrens’ books,” he added.
On Bookalicious’ location, he said: “Subang Jaya is a good catchment area where many families and people from all walks of life come frequently to shop, catch a movie or enjoy promotional events.”
Bookalicious takes in an annual revenue of around RM750,000.
An avid reader himself, Ngai started the business to share his interest after having gained some experience while working with a book retailer.
It also serves as homage to Ngai’s three favourite books — To Kill a MockingbirdCatcher in the Rye and The Great Gatsby, and their authors Harper Lee, JD Salinger and F. Scott Fitzgerald, respectively.
“I’m indebted to these authors for instilling and motivating my interest in reading,” said Ngai, who cites lawyer and father Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird as his role model.
“I love these three books so much that I would buy vintage and new versions of the books, and even give them away to customers who are fans of these books too.”
<b>Local appeal:</b> Cookbooks are among the more popular categories at Bookalicious.
Local appeal: Cookbooks are among the more popular categories at Bookalicious.
Whenever he goes overseas for business or on holiday, Ngai makes it a point to visit bookstores to browse for new stock and look out for current trends, as well as scour second-hand book markets to hunt for pre-loved books and titles that are not in production anymore.
“I have to keep myself up-to-date on the bestsellers’ list and what customers are looking for. Customers these days are very smart due to the abundant information that is available on the Internet,” said Ngai, whose previous job gave him an insight into the ins and outs of the book industry, including its structure and the reading habits of Malaysians.
“We observed that Malaysians, in general, are not reading enough. There are too many distractions nowadays, like the Internet, cable TV, online games and whatnot.
“However, we do see a lot of youngsters picking up the reading habit. This is good and we are pleased to be a partner in their pursuit for good books.
“It’s nice to see children using their ang pow (red packet) money to buy books.”
On current reading trends, Ngai said: “Teenagers are moving into young adult series with social messages like the dystopian society depicted inThe Hunger Games.
“Children enjoy reading the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and books by Roald Dahl, while romance and general fiction themes are popular among adults.”
As the Bookalicious Facebook page is updated as often as five times a week, regulars would know how to view and decide ahead on what they want, while new customers would walk in and browse, or ask for recommendations.
“We also make online orders. Customers will enquire about the books they require via Facebook or email, and we will advise them on our stock availability, price, pos-tage fee and payment arrangements.
“It takes between one and two months for online orders to be delivered from overseas,” said Ngai.
These orders include new books, out-of-print books (sourced as second-hand copies) and collectibles.
Ngai does not foresee e-books to strongly affect the conventional book industry.
“The impact won’t be strong enough to shake the retailing of books. You may utilise an e-book to read a novel or a business book, but not a childrens’ book or a coffee table book,” he said.
“While we are not e-book supporters, we see the advantage of not packing six books in your luggage for a vacation. Therefore, we feel books will always be here to stay.”
<b>Book heaven:</b> Bookalicious offers books from a wide variety of genre, including those from the bestsellers’ list, boxed sets and collectibles.
Book heaven: Bookalicious offers books from a wide variety of genre, including those from the bestsellers’ list, boxed sets and collectibles.
On how Bookalicious would fare against competitors, Ngai said: “We are an independent bookstore catering to a niche market.
“Our emphasis is on range and variety, plus our prices are lower. We do not compete with other book retailers.
“We are able to provide book recommendations, and you will find titles you don’t usually find in other bookshops.”
The personalised service and interaction with customers, some of whom become friends, is what draws a loyal following to Bookalicious.
Its popularity is also spread through word-of-mouth recommendations, which includes referrals from the Subang Jaya Book Exchange Programme.
Another element that adds a cute factor to Bookalicious is its mascot — Theo(dore) the cow, who is accompanied by Mimi the dog.
“Mimi was a character inspired by my poodle,” said Chow.
“I didn’t intend to create a mascot. I was doodling on my computer one day and that resulted in a sketch of Theo, which we thought would make a cute mascot.”
Theo and Mimi are featured in the Bookalicious Facebook page, promotional materials and bookmarks that are given away to customers.
Though Ngai does not rule out operating from a bigger shop within the Subang Jaya vicinity, or opening a second shop, he intends to keep it a family business.
“Our focus now is to improve Bookalicious’ products and services for its target market. We may perhaps go into e-commerce too,” he said.
Source: The Star