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Saturday, 31 August 2013

(The Star) The builder that meets needs

The Binastra Group does not limit itself to only one type of development Property. A word familiar to the ears of the Malaysian public. Whether you’re looking for a room to rent, a house to buy, an office lot to let or just looking for property investment opportunities, the heat on the property market is on. 

Since the property boom in Malaysia last year, a healthy demand for properties has been fast increasing.

This demand is not only contributed by home buyers, but also foreign investors who view Malaysia as a budding real estate player, offering a stable market with good opportunities for opportunistic returns. 

Binastra Group is one of the relatively new developers to break through the scene. 

Binastra Group’s roots traces back to 1979 when Binastra Construction was set up as a sole proprietorship set up by Tan Nge. 

Focusing on quality workmanship, it grew from strength to strength and obtained a class ‘A’ construction licence in 1984. 

The Group’s entry into property development happened by chance, says the company’s property development and investment division the group chief executive officer and executive director Datuk Seri Michael Tan How Yap who is also the son of Tan Nge.

He was approached to help revive an abandoned project that was deserted for 10 years and decided to take it on. The result is the 35unit Seri Titiwangsa condominium in KL that was completed in 2005 after only six months. 

Fast forward eight years later, Binastra has completed eight projects with a good mix of quality houses, apartments, condominium, commercial premises and industrial space within areas of the Klang Valley. 

Completing eight projects in eight years shows just how much Binastra Group is pushing its boundaries. 


When asked about the company’s secret was, Tan laughed and said, “There is no secret.” 

According to Tan, Binastra Group is a property developer with no specific property specialisation as it does not believe in limiting itself to only one type of development. 

“We build according to what is needed,” says Tan. 

Because of this, Binastra is consistently on the lookout for new potential land and project sites in the Klang Valley. 

Tan adds that there may be some plans in the works for Binastra to expand its development projects to Penang and even to Johor Baru in the next five years. 

Today, Tan and his brother Jackson, who is joint group chief executive officer and executive director, run the day-to-day operations of the company. 

Binastra Group is made up of two major divisions; the property development arm managed by Tan and the construction arm managed by Jackson. 

“Being a contractor and a developer at the same time gives us better control and extra assurance in terms of the quality of the property and the delivery time,” he added. 

Over and beyond the completed projects, Binastra has RM1.38bil worth of current and ongoing projects. 

Ongoing projects include The Park @ Bukit Serdang, 32 Avenue Phases 1 and 2 @ Bukit Serdang, Megah 18 Phase 2 @ Bukit Jelutong and Green Terrain @ Cheras 9 2013 to mid2014.  

Some of the group’s projects are slated to be completed and unveiled in 2016.

Cybersquare @ Cyberjaya 

Breathing new life into Cyberjaya’s City Centre, Cybersquare is located within the heart of Cyberjaya where the entire buzz is taking place. 

As Tan aptly puts it, “Location is everything.” 

Easily accessible by the major highways — the KL-Putrajaya Highway, the NorthSouth Expressway, the New Klang Valley Expressway, Lebuhraya Damansara-Puchong — and surrounded by a multitude of MNC’s and universities. 

The location of this RM513mil mixed development is meticulously planned into three sustainable components of residential (SoHo), offices (Biro) and retail spaces (Fiesta). 

The SoHo, that comprises a total of two towers — Apex Tower (37 storeys; 670 units) and Vertex Tower (38 storeys; 754 units) — provide highly adaptable living spaces that can be a home or even a homebased office with two layout choices of 450 sq ft studios and 775 sq ft 1+1 bedroom units. 

Biro, the two signature six-storey office blocks offer a total of about 42,000 sq ft per block, making it the perfect layout for medium and even large-sized companies. 

Units were sold as en-bloc units, giving owners full flexibility to design the space to suit their business needs. 

Fiesta holds 21 exclusive units of two and three-storey shop offices with practical and spacious layouts measuring 22ft by 66ft per floor, making it suitable for a wide array of retail and business operations. 

The project in its entirety is equipped with an array of lifestyle facilities including an Olympic-size glass pool flanked by tropical landscaping and a sky garden dedicated for relaxation and outdoor activities. 

These offerings resonated with homebuyers and when the Cybersquare units started selling in July, 98% were sold in just three weeks. 

All these happened even before a brochure was printed.

The Reach @ Titiwangsa 

Towering majestically at 41 storeys, The Reach is a freehold luxury condominium project located in the highly sought after area of Titiwangsa right in the vibrant city of KL where everything you would need is right within reach. 

Strategically located along Jalan Pahang and the Duke Highway intersection with direct access to Duke, it is also easily accessible via Jalan Pahang, Jalan Tun Razak and Jalan Titiwangsa. 

Only 5km away from Petronas Twin Towers KLCC, The Reach offers a panoramic view of the Titiwangsa Lake and the twin towers from the medium or large sized units ranging from 1,400 to 2,700 sq ft. 

It is set to be launched this October but even then, sales from the private preview alone have already breached 70% of the units. 

Green Residence @ Cheras 

One of Binastra’s upcoming projects that Tan was eager to see completed is a high-rise residential project called Green Residence in Cheras. The project is currently being built on about 10 freehold acres of elevated land along the Grand Saga Highway that links Cheras and Kajang. 

The artist’s impressions show three towers — with Block A featuring 19 storeys of 178 units, Block B – 26 storeys of 192 units and Block C – 30 storeys of 224 units. 

When asked about whether there would be any more revival projects considering the many abandoned sites around the Klang Valley, Tan said as long as legal issues can be resolved and worked through, Binastra would be more than happy to take on more revival projects in the future. 

On whether they have bigger plans in the works, Tan said Binastra would like to venture into property projects in Penang and Johor next. 

Binastra aims to create new projects with a total worth of RM1.5bil in the next two years, a slight increase from the RM1.38bil of projects for this year alone. 

Though much has changed over the years, Tan agrees that after 33 years of experience, Binastra Group still maintains its business philosophy adapted since its inception; “Profitability acquired without sacrificing quality”. 
When asked what quality means to him, his answer was simple, “It is when your workmanship is of a certain standard that gives you no (or less) complaints from customers. Their feedback is the most important.”  

(The Star) Top score for housing scheme

Certification body recognises quality of Penang project

BSG Property’s Raffel Residence 18.18 in Bukit Gambier in Penang is top of the class. It achieved a Construction Quality Assessment System (CONQUAS) score of 85.2 out of 100 points, the highest ever given by the internationally recognised Singapore-based construction quality certification body for a new housing scheme in the state. 

BSG corporate controller Loh Nam Hooi said the CONQUAS certification was given for Raffel Residence’s excellent workmanship, design and quality. 

“The CONQUAS certification will help increase the value of the project which comprises 18 three-storey semi-detached units,” Loh said. 

The Raffel Residence semidetached units were sold at RM2mil in 2011. 

In today’s property market, a semi-detached house in Bukit Gambier is priced at about RM3mil.

Loh said that with the CONQUAS certification, the brand name of BSG Property would be enhanced in the increasingly competitive property market.

Loh said Raffel Residence 18.18, which would obtain its certification of completion and compliance, was part of an unnamed project located on a 147-acre site in Bukit Gambier.

“We are undertaking five projects on the site.

“They comprise 780 low mediumcost (LMC) housing units, 199 threestorey terrace units, and 260 condominium units known as Raffel Tower.

“The LMCs will be completed by the end of the year.

“The terrace units are scheduled for completion in 2014 while the condominiums will be ready by 2015,” he said. 

Loh said the design of the buildings and the landscaping of the five projects were being undertaken by Permata Arkitek which also designed Raffel Residence 18.18. 

BSG Property is also undertaking The Landmark project in Tanjung Tokong/ 

The Landmark comprises corporate and residential suites scheduled for completion in 2017, the Mira Residence comprising 322 condominium units in Tanjung Bungah, and the Permai Gardens @ Permai Village Township in Tanjung Bungah comprising detached and linked homes. 

Possessing one of the largest land banks in Penang, BSG Property, a division of Boon Siew Group, is a household name and renowned for building top-notch quality residential and commercial property in prime locations since 1950s. 

Currently, BSG Property is focused on developing urban township schemes and also fully integrated mixed-use developments. 

As part of its real estate expansion strategies, BSG Property plans to undertake residential and commercial schemes in Johor, Kuala Lumpur, and Malacca, apart from Penang. 

CONQUAS is widely recognised as a benchmarking tool for quality in construction. 

Countries such as the UK and Hong Kong have adapted CONQUAS to their construction industries. CONQUAS is now a registered trademark in Singapore, Malaysia, China, Hong Kong SAR, United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa and India. 

(The Star) Going after the undeserving ones

State government considering legal action to recover affordable housing units.
THE Penang government may take court action to retrieve low medium-cost (LMC) units which were wrongly alloted to those who did not meet the state housing criteria. 

We are considering to file ‘test cases’ in court to take back the units from the owners. — JAGDEEP SINGH DEO

State Housing, Town and Country Planning Committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo said 402 applicants who exceeded the income requirement and 816 applicants who already owned property were allocated such units in the past. 

This was based on the 2010 Auditor-General’s report on Penang. 

Only those whose family’s household income is less than RM2,500 monthly are eligible for the lowcost units. For LMC units, their monthly household income must not exceed RM3,500. 

“We are considering to file ‘test cases’ in court to take back the units from the owners. 

“I believe this action, if it is taken, will be first of its kind in the country,” he said at a press conference in Penang yesterday. 

Jagdeep said the newly formed Selection Process Enhancement Committee (SPEC), of which he is the chairman, was looking into the matter. 

“We are awaiting legal views before proceeding with the court action. There are some legal issues that we want to consider first,” he said. 

Jagdeep Singh said SPEC has decided that the selection of applicants which was previously conducted by three officers in the state Housing Department will now include at least three members of SPEC

.
The membership in SPEC comprises eight elected representatives including Jagdeep Singh. 

They are Jelutong MP Jeff Ooi, Tanjong MP Ng Wei Aik, Bayan Baru MP Sim Tze Tzin, state Exco members Phee Boon Poh, Datuk Abdul Malik Abul Kassim, Dr Afif Bahardin and Bukit Tengah assemblyman Ong Chin Wen. 

(The Star) Tropicana to leave a mark

Mixed project to feature a hotel, suites and retail lots

ANEW high-rise development project along Macalister Road in Penang is poised to become the talk of the town when launched at the end of next month. 

The mixed integrated Tropicana 218 Macalister project, to be developed by Tropicana Corp Bhd (formerly Dijaya Corp Bhd), includes an international brand hotel with 200 rooms. 

According to Tropicana Corp marketing and sales executive director Pam Loh, the project consists of two 33-storey blocks and has a total estimated gross development value of RM300mil. 


Slated for completion in 2017, it will also have 211 designer suites, 88 serviced residences and 20 retail spaces besides the hotel which will be located in one of the blocks called Tower A.

“The project is on a 0.85ha plot in the centre of the George Town business district.

“It is within walking distance of Komtar and nearby are plenty of hawker stalls,” Loh said. 

Residents of Tropicana 218 Macalister will enjoy facilities like an aqua gym and a garden. There will be areas set aside for rock climbing and holding barbeque parties. 

To ensure privacy, there will be separate entrances for residents and hotel guests.

A 24-hour security infrastructure will be put in place, integrating an intercom and three-tier security system with card access, CCTV surveillance and alarm. 

The suites, called Neo Designer Suites, with 140 units in Tower A and 71 units in Tower B, have a built-up area of between 683sq ft and 1,299sq ft each.

The 88 serviced units in Tower B are of similar size range. 

The 20 retail spaces, occupying two storeys in Tower A and facing the main road, are between 378sq ft and 1,312sq ft. 

Another interesting feature of the development will be a refurbished double-storey heritage bungalow that will be turned into a cafe or restaurant. 

A sky lounge atop Tower A will be a relaxing hangout spot offering a breathtaking view of the sea. 

The suites will be sold for RM1,000 per sq ft and the retail spaces for RM2,000 per sq ft. Prices for the residences have yet to be confirmed. 

Home buyers can have their choice of sea view or city view when buying the residential units which come with at least one car park each. 

Eight levels of car parking lots are included for the suites and residences while there will be two dedicated basement parking spaces for the retail outlets and hotel. 

Loh said that only the 71 suites in Tower B, at eight units per floor, will be open for registration under the first phase of the launch. 

She said that 18 of the units, with a built-up area of 1,299sq ft, would have the dual-key concept whereby they come with a smaller attached multi-purpose unit. 

“The smaller unit of 340sq ft can be rented out or used as a SOHO (small office / home office) or turned into an extra bedroom,” she said. 

She added that the completed units would be partly furnished with kitchen cabinets and electrical items. 
For details and registration, contact Tropicana’s Penang sales gallery at 042105888 or visit www.tropicana218macalister.com.my

(The Star) Providing sushi to all Malaysians

Sushi King seeks to widen network and boost membership

The company continues to organise sushimaking classes for the public, a year-round affair since 2005.
- Law Hwee Ching

SUSHI King Sdn Bhd, which operates the Japanese restaurant chain Sushi King, is expanding its operations to reach Malaysians in every state.  

Executive director Law Hwee Ching says the company plans to open its maiden restaurants in Perlis in 2015, Terengganu in 2014 and Kelantan by end of this year. 

“We are everywhere, not just in major towns but also in secondary towns including Batu Pahat, Muar, Kulim and Sungai Petani,” she tells StarBizWeek. 

Apart from physical outlets, this first Japanese restaurant chain in Malaysia has a membership programme where members get a discount on their purchases. It has 150,000 members, most of whom are in the Klang Valley. Law said Sushi King is targetting to raise the number of members to 185,000 in 2014.

With net sales of RM81mil in the first half of this year, which was 19% higher than in the corresponding period in 2012, the company is also taking the membership drive to social media sites. 

“We have about 300,000 fans and we keep our customers updated on the latest happenings. From this database, we establish interactions by inviting our fans to come to our restaurants and we will introduce to them our servings,” she says. 

Sushi King fans will be given the programme for the interaction sessions from the Sushi King social media site, and if they are keen, they can register. 

As part of its efforts to continue growing Malaysians’ interest in the Japanese cuisine, Law says the company continues to organise sushi-making classes for the public, a year-round affair since 2005. 

“About 20,000 people participated annually, with the majority being children as we also work with kindergartens,” she says. The programme also offers kitchen tours for adults.

Sushi King has grown from its first 900-sq-ft premise in a retail mall in 1995 to a chain of 75 outlets, including three in Sabah and five in Sarawak.

The company’s strategy focuses on preparing the best sushi, right from the raw materials.

“We have air-conditioned rooms to ensure that the rice imported from Vietnam remains at 16 degrees Celsius,” she says.

Apart from that, it has two executive chefs from Japan catering for the Malaysian market. “They are involved with sourcing for the raw materials to menu creation which meets Malaysian demand,” she says.

This, according to Law, is to achieve the long-term objective of making Sushi King the preferred choice of Malaysians.

From the branding perspective, Sushi King has changed its tagline three times, from “Love at first bite” in 1995 to “Smiling, served fresh” this year. 

Explaining the rationale of the new tagline, Law says: “We hope Malaysians will come to our outlets daily and enjoy their time here. From our focus group survey, this is the main priority that customers want from a Japanese restaurant. 

“It was chosen for one simple reason, namely that a person who is happy and satisfied will smile. At Sushi King, we truly believe that there’s nothing more important than making our customers smile.” 

Customer service is crucial and Law is aware of the growing competitions from various food and beverage players. Apart from training, she says it is vital that the staff are happy, as this would be reflected in the level of their service to the customers. 

One way to ensure their happiness is by having appropriate remuneration schemes for the approximately 1,600 employees. 

There are no plans to franchise out the restaurants in Malaysia, but Law says the company is looking at the franchise plan overseas. 

“It is a good business model but having it (a franchise system) within Malaysia may also cannibalise with our existing business. If it is overseas, franchisees can benefit from our strong branding and capitalise on the new market,” she said. 

Law is looking forward to win the Star Business Awards (SOBA) after winning another local award for eight years in a row.
 

For her, SOBA is a means to challenge the company to grow further. “We also see it as a means to improve our brand image, as being a winner in an award organised by the leading English daily would also mean prominent coverage for us,” she says. 

(The Star) Marvellous Marvelane Square

Project offers ample parking and distinguished shoplots

Our market survey has shown that there is an oversupply of those typical shoplots and a lack of quality ones in Klang. Marvelane Square is a risk we took that has paid off. 

Ashort drive around shows that three-storey walk-up shoplots are omnipresent in Bandar Klang. Taking the exit off Shapadu Highway onto Jalan Meru, however, one can see a collection of brightly coloured three-storey shoplots that look nothing like their neighbours.

The traditional design of pastel-coloured rows of shops have always been assumed what Klang people wanted but private developer Marvelane Sdn Bhd wants to challenge this perception with its maiden offering called Marvelane Square.

One stark feature of Marvelane Square is its ample ground for parking and to distinguish one shoplot from another. These are shoplots designed as semi-detached and bungalow units with full-glass frontage, almost reminiscent of the commercial bungalows along Jalan Maarof, Bangsar. 

There are in total 20 semidetached units and two bungalows with freehold individual titles. Only one semi-detached unit is unsold, fetching a current price of RM3.888mil compared with the launching price of RM3.23mil a year ago. Sub-sale prices have climbed as high as RM4.1mil. 


Managing director Ong Choon Hock says there has been an oversupply of traditional shophouses in Klang, with many unable to be sold or rented out.

“Our market survey has shown that there is an oversupply of those typical shoplots and a lack of quality ones in Klang,” he says.

The three-storey shoplot floor plates are a total of 8,200 sq ft for the semi-detached and 10,400 sq ft for the bungalow units, both types come with a versatile rooftop area. 

The units have a high floor to floor height as well, between 12.5 ft and 14.75 ft, with column-free internal layout. 

With the Shapadu Highway hugging the development, Marvelane Square’s visibility is unchallenged. It has also the population catchment of 500,000 people to benefit from in the mature township, besides being easily linked to the New Klang Valley Expressway through Shapadu Highway and a few minutes drive to Setia Alam. 

Currently, the tenant mix include tech-based and industrial companies, with car showrooms and a medical centre on the list. Marketing executive Dede Pong says Klangbased businesses have found Marvelane Square to be a suitable premise to upgrade their image to. 

“Marvelane Square is a risk we took that has paid off,” she says, on account that the project was 50% sold even before its launch. 

Ong says the group benchmarks itself against players like Sunsuria while the design concept of the commercial square was inspired by similar properties in Beijing, China. Garis Architects are behind the design. 

The RM77mil project in gross development value is sited on a 7.44-acre land bought from a private owner for about RM10mil. “It is the last sizeable commerical land in this area, and we wanted it to be something different from what Klang already has,” Ong says when asked why Marvelane did not build more units to lock in a higher return on investment. 

“In traditional shophouse developments, the parking is left to the local authorities but we want to provide each customer private carparks.” 

Marvelane Sdn Bhd is established in 2004 by a group of professional engineers and property investors with experience in engineering, quantity surveying, construction and project management. 

The developer has an ongoing mixed residential project called Marvelane Lake Homes in Putra Heights, Subang Jaya on a 24-acre land. It promises waterfronting features as it sits next to a 16-acre lake. On the commercial side, Marvelane is also looking at a shopping complex development within Klang Valley.  
Ong adds that the group is also looking at Penang for future opportunities. “We are targeting to be the top five developer in terms of profits within the next eight years.” 

(The Star) Investors Club

The situation has been getting worse with the self-glorified “Investors Club” mushrooming in the housing market. They manipulate the property market through en-bloc purchases, say 100 to 200 parcels in stratified properties, with some nearly dominating 50% of housing units and commercial developments. 

The modus operandi of the operators of such a club is to negotiate as block purchasers with cashstrapped developers and bargain for a pre-launch block discount of, say, 25% off the sales price. The operators then circulate amongst their members for a “bargain” early-bird discount of 15%, thus making themselves a 10% clean profit. The members of the Investors Club will subsequently dispose off their “wares” upon delivery of vacant possession at a further profit, especially in this current inflated property market. 

Seminars like “How to become a billionaire” and “Invest in properties without deposits” will trigger young adults into thinking of shortcuts toward great riches. 

Naive and greedy investors get enticed into such antics and are ready to be baited. You need to attend one of these seminars or conventions or whatever to understand more. 

You could also surf the Internet and key in the word “Investors Club” to know their modus operandi and the names of the housing developers they are in alliance with and who participates in their “schemes”. There are instances when one needs to join as members at prices ranging from anything between RM300 and RM5,000 to enjoy a lifetime of free seminars and tips. Some are automatic members without having to pay. 

There are different business models with some pooling their financial resources to buy bulk into a project, exiting together when prices go up and splitting the profits. It makes sense to developers who merely want to sell as many units as possible to attain the prerequisite margin sales imposed by their banks or financial institutions (FIs) prior to the drawing down of their bridging loans. Some banks or FIs impose a mandatory sale of 50% before loans are available for drawdown.

DIBS  


In the developer interest-bearing scheme (DIBS), the developer bears the interest otherwise payable by the purchaser to the purchaser’s bank during the construction period. In other words, the purchaser doesn’t have to pay anything to his bank until construction is completed. The catch here is that the purchaser is committed to buying the house as in any Schedule G or H of the sale and purchase agreement. This is not a build-and-sell scheme although it is often passed off as such. The second catch is that the interest that the developer has been paying has actually been factored into the purchase price. 

On top of this, should the project be abandoned, the purchaser would still be saddled with the purchase loan, the interest on it and an incomplete house. 

In the event the developer cannot settle the loans he has taken, by charging the purchaser’s property, the purchaser’s house will be auctioned off. 

The purchaser will still have to pay the loan he took, pay the interest and will not even have the incomplete house to look at! 

DIBS is popular with speculators as they pay nothing to make a profit. 

Their initial downpayment and deposits are sometimes factored into the purchase price by the participating developers, and some FIs do not even require that the developer collect the deposit that has to be paid by the so-called purchaser. 

This is one of the factors making for “bogus” house buyers, who merely flip the property at the right time.

We hope that Bank Negara will come up with a policy change to curb DIBS. It is worth noting that Singapore had banned DIBS in 2009. 

It has come to our attention that developers are already working on counteracting measures even before Bank Negara moves to implement anything. 

After all, they are always one step ahead of the authorities.

The HBA was invited to present its 10 proposals to curb the escalation of house prices at the following recent forums: Budget Consultation, 2014 in Putrajaya chaired by the Prime Minister; Providing Greater Access to Home Ownership chaired by the Deputy Minister of Finance II Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Mohd Hanadzlah; and Initiatives to Reduce House Prices initiated by the Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister .

The government now seems to be serious about doing something. If it is so, then it has to make several hard decisions. The government must take immediate proactive steps to curb the uncontrolled escalation of property prices. Reducing speculation will translate into lower property prices. 

HBA detailed proposals to raise stamp duties and the RPGT and the mechanism to lower the Loan-toValue Ratio (LVR) as a means to stop price speculation, which has pushed property prices through the roof. 

The three pertinent instruments amongst seven others that can be employed have been summarised in a table in the previous page.

Conclusion 

Considering the deep pockets of property speculators, the effectiveness of these proposals remains to be seen, but, if passed, will make speculation unworthwhile. 

(The Star) Of speculators and bogus

Immediate government measures are needed to tackle issue

Harga Rumah Melampau” – that’s the desperate cry of the rakyat against skyrocketing house prices as headlined by one of the widely-read Bahasa Malaysia newspapers. In English, it translates to “House prices are ridiculous”.

 The National House Buyers Association (HBA) has consistently called for government intervention to prevent a “homeless generation of young adult Malaysians” from emerging, especially in urban and sub-urban areas, who, if not for wild speculation, would be able to buy their own houses.

In time, Malaysia will face a “social crisis” with serious political implications if the majority of the lower and middle-income groups do not have affordable houses.

The matter is of grave urgency because the homeless hail from the lower middle class, usually graduate couples or the self-employed earning reasonable income and expecting to buy a house to commence their family life in a fixed abode.

In the Government’s drive to home ownership, low stamp duties have been imposed to encourage firsttime house buyers to own a house.

But speculators have taken advantage of this to accumulate multiple properties and manipulate property prices with conniving cash-strapped housing developers. There are three types of purchasers, namely: 

> Necessity: Those who buy out of need (owner-occupied),

> Precautionary: Those who buy to hedge against inflation and for long-term investment, and 

> Speculative: Those who buy to “flip” and make money against everyone’s interest except their own.

This is a “ticking time bomb” and immediate government measures are needed. The government needs to take proactive measures to stop the steep rise in property prices due to false demand and excessive speculation fuelled by easy mortgages and the low Real Property Gains Tax or RPGT. 

The less affluent, who constitute the majority of the population, have been marginalised, with those having more than others accumulating property far in excess of their needs. Urban Well Being, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan in his keynote address at the recently concluded 16th Housing and Property 

Summit reiterated: “Of greater concern is the fact that income growth has not been keeping in tandem with the increase in house prices. Data from the Department of Statistics Household Income Survey, 

2012, shows that approximately 80% of Malaysians are earning below RM6,954 per month. Based on the credit line of 30% of the net income for housing loan, at the current Base lending Rate (BLR) of 6.60%, the maximum price of houses which can be afforded by this group (ie, 80% of the population) is only those costing RM300,000 and below.” 

The question is: What are the impediments to the success of a truly affordable housing scheme for  the people? 

PR1MA 

The 1Malaysia Housing Programme or PR1MA is an important targeted government initiative with the promise of an affordable home for every couple that deserves it. The government’s main contribution to ensuring affordability is its land, which is a significant subsidy. It is necessary for the organisation to have a clear criteria on these affordable homes.

Already, there are some disturbing signs that the initiative may be petering out even before implementation. PR1MA has already advertised its products at RM400,000 (from the earlier RM450,000 that I had heard about!). With government land being made available, these prices do not reflect the “subsidy” element and are beyond the reach of the intended income group. 

It’s already priced too high for the majority of genuine house buyers. PR1MA is a noble idea, but is it being properly implemented? Are they building the right product, at the right place, with the right pricing and of the right numbers? 

Even more unsettling is the invitation to private developers to build PRIMA homes and sell them under the PRIMA umbrella. Why? This adds a commercial profit element without any gain to the purchaser.

PR1MA will have to be a comprehensive and discrete regime in all aspects of house purchase; criteria for qualifying; build and sell; types of houses; the exclusion of commercial properties; the grievance redressal regime between purchaser and PR1MA; controls over sub-sale, and of course, appropriate sanctions for dishonesty in dealings with PR1MA. 

(The Star) Popular Lot 10 Hutong goes to China

Outlet opens in Guangzhou and boasts of 19 types of hawker fare

GUANGZHOU: Some of Malaysia’s best-loved hawker food is now available in this southern city of China with the opening of Lot 10 Hutong by the YTL Group. 

Located at the Tsai Lan City of Fusion Foods, within the Fuli Yingxin building, Lot 10 Hutong is the first international extension of the similarly-named hawker centre at the Lot 10 shopping centre in Kuala Lumpur. 

The brainchild of YTL Group managing director Tan Sri Francis Yeoh, the outlet was launched on Thursday to much fanfare with Malaysian actress Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh and international shoe designer Datuk Jimmy Choo in attendance.

Also present were Malaysian Tourism Promotion Board chairman Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen, renowned Asian food writer and critic Chua Lam, celebrity chef and television host Martin Yan and city officials. 

The outlet boasts of 19 types of hawker fare like Pin Qian Klang Bak Kut Teh, Imbi Road Original Pork Noodle, Soong Kee Beef Noodle, Hon Kee Porridge, Kim Lian Kee Hokkien Mee and Campbell Mini Popiah. 

They are among the 30 stalls that have been operating at the Lot 10 Hutong in Kuala Lumpur. 

Francis Yeoh said Lot 10 Hutong represented a full circle in the historical and cultural ties between the communities in China and Malaysia. 

“Many of our grandparents came from southern China, where they settled in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, or what we know as Nanyang. 

“We were brought up on these comfort food, like my grandfather and father, when we were poor and struggling in Nanyang,” he said. 

“So, this food represents to me the Chinese culture of fortitude and perseverance,” Francis Yeoh said. 

“Many of the stall owners now have three to five generations. With this simple fare, they fed millions of struggling Chinese in Nanyang for decades,” he said. 

For that reason, he described the humble food stall owners as “unsung heroes”. 

He added that he hoped to bring the outlet to Chengdu where YTL owned the Renhe Spring Zongbei Department Store before venturing into Beijing, Tokyo, Paris and London. 

(BUSINESS TIMES) MRT Corp: No 'hiccups'



JULY 2017 DEADLINE: Line 1 from Sungai Buloh to Kajang to be completed on time and within budget.

MASS Rapid Transit Corp Sdn Bhd (MRT Corp) is optimistic that the Klang Valley MRT project will be completed without any hiccups.

Chief executive officer Datuk Azhar Abdul Hamid said Line 1 of the MRT project, from Sungai Buloh to Kajang, will be completed as scheduled by July 2017, and within budget.

"Line 1 is currently 24 per cent completed. By Christmas, we expect it to reach 30 per cent, and 50 per cent by the middle of next year," Azhar said in an interview recently.

"The MRT system is an important project for Malaysia. The key challenge will be to effectively manage the interface between the civil and systems contractors. We want to make sure it is well coordinated." 

He said the winning formula has been the awarding of contracts to qualified contractors and suppliers, who have been working round the clock to complete the project as quickly as possible.

"At MRT Corp, we want the best quality work. We do not award contracts to contractors because they are the lowest bidders. We make sure that they have the finances, resources and technical expertise.

"The contractors and suppliers who have won contracts are working on accepted quality, as dictated to them. Safety is the key here," he added.

Azhar said he is upbeat that the MRT project will set new building standards for the local construction industry.

The MRT project is the largest infrastructure development ever undertaken in Malaysia.

In total, the three lines are estimated to cost between RM80 billion and RM90 billion. The overall cost of the project, however, will only be finalised once all the contracts are awarded.

For Line 1, Azhar said the construction cost will not exceed RM30 billion. The amount includes fees for consultants and the project delivery partner.

Line 2 and 3 consist of the Circle Line looping around the Kuala Lumpur city centre and the north-south line from Selayang to Putrajaya. Tenders for both lines may be called by year-end or early 2014.

"Together with the government, we have introduced a performance appraisal system to motivate the contractors.

Contractors who perform well for Line 1, will be given an advantage to work on Line 2 and 3," Azhar said.

Friday, 30 August 2013

( The Star) College reaches out to Perak students with Ipoh recruitment centre

KDU COLLEGE Penang opened a regional recruitment and service centre in Ipoh during a joyful ceremony recently. 

Let the students come: Aznan (left), Dr Chong (middle) and KDU College Penang senior marketing and communications manager Neoh Soon Ken at the opening of KDU College’s Ipoh recruitment centre. 

The ceremony on Aug 19 was attended by the KDU Penang management team, local agent representatives, principals of Ipoh secondary schools and counsellors and representatives of Ipoh colleges. 

State Education Department private and special education division head Aznan Alias commended the college for setting up its first regional office in Jalan Dato’ Tahwil Azar Ipoh.

“A good number of our Perak students are known to move to neighbouring states such as Penang and Selangor for their tertiary education every year. 

“As such, I am pleased to see the arrival of the KDU Education Group into Ipoh with the setting up of its recruitment centre, where they can reach out to potential students and parents,” he said. 

KDU College Penang chief executive officer and principal Dr Chong Beng Keok said the college decided to set up the recruitment centre in conjunction with its 30th anniversary as the KDU Education Group. 

“Throughout the years, a good 15% of our students in the Penang campus have come from Perak, with the majority coming from Ipoh and Taiping. 

“As our brand has always been well received by the public here, we decided the 30th anniversary was a right time to reach out to the Ipoh market further,” he said. 

(The Star) Calling for more tourists

Residents say more needs to be done to promote Lenggong Valley.THE Lenggong Valley archaeology site has not attracted visitors despite receiving the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) World Heritage Site recognition a year ago.
There should be more events where people can browse through a variety of stalls, stay overnight and visit the archaeology sites. — SARIMAH JOHAN It would be difficult for travel agencies to bring in large groups of tourists as it is hard for them to find places to stay. — ASNAN MOHD YUSOFF 
  Still too sleepy: It is business as usual at the Lenggong wet market. Locals say more needs to be done to encourage visitors to the town.

Lenggong town still looks “sleepy”, with only the development of a new health clinic and a land and district office taking place recently. 

Business owners are hoping for the state government and the local council to carry out development plans to bring in more tourists soon. 


Trader Sarimah Johan, 29, said with the recognition, Lenggong has great potential to hold a variety of events, bazaars or carnivals to attract more visitors. 

“There should be more events where people can browse through a variety of stalls, stay over night and visit the archaeology sites. 

“I can see that there is a lot of interest because even schools from Kelantan have organised bus trips to the site and stopped by at the town,” she told The Star. 

Sarimah said well planned programmes could generate a steady stream of visitors all-year long and benefit the local economy. 

The Lenggong Valley had captured the attention and interest of the world’s archaeological community since the discovery of the Perak Man’s skeletal remains, stone tools and other ancient treasures at the area. 

On June 30, Unesco recognised the Lenggong Valley in Hulu Perak as a world heritage site, making Malaysia a popular destination for tourists as well as archaeologists. 

The Lenggong Valley is the 953rd site on the World Heritage List and is the fourth site in Malaysia to have earned the recognition after Malacca city, George Town in Penang, Gunung Mulu National Park in Sarawak and Taman Kinabalu in Sabah. 

Mini mart owner K.K. Looi said with so much history in the valley, the town needed a proper tourism information centre. 

“It should provide adequate information on the archaeological sites, Lenggong’s history and other attractions around the district. 

“After its Unesco recognition, we have seen a few foreign tourists walking around the town asking whether there was such a centre.

“They wanted to find out how to get to the archaeology sites and what were the other attractions in the valley. 

“Whenever I encounter such tourists, I would give them the number of a local guide who would make the necessary arrangements for them,” he said. 

Looi said although tourists were still able to visit the sites, this method was inconvenient and did not leave a good impression on them. 

“The authorities need to develop the infrastructure such as improving the access roads leading to the archaeological sites. 

“We are very concerned that the hard earned Unesco recognition would be retracted if no effort is put by the state government and the local authority to conserve and promote the area,” he said. 

Looi said the state government’s tourism body could focus on promoting Lenggong as an attraction point before tourists continued their journey to the Royal Belum State Park. 

“Local tourists also come to the town to enjoy the freshwater fishes and other local delicacies,” he said. 

Entrepreneur Asnan Mohd Yusoff, 51, said the town still lacked sufficient places to stay, as there was only one rest house and several homestays available. 

“It would be difficult for travel agencies to bring in large groups of tourists as it is hard for them to find places to stay. 

“There are talks of setting up a hotel, but I believe it is still in the planning stages,” he said, adding that once there is sufficient places to stay, bringing in more tourists would not be difficult. 

Asnan planned to tap into local demand by setting up a souvenir shop. 

“Apart from meeting local demands, I also plan to create unique Lenggong souvenirs featuring the archaeology sites such as t-shirts and mugs, which tourists like very much. 

“As a local, this is my way of encouraging tourists to come to our town,” he said.

(The Star) Group to start first hotel project

Venture in Juru will also have a hypermarket and leisure area

We are planning to submit the structural plans to the authorities by September. — DATUK KHOR TENG TONG 

HUNZA Properties Berhad Group (HPB Group) will soon embark on its very first hotel project on its existing 14.9ha Juru land in Penang. 

The project is part of an integrated development where 75% of the land is reserved for high-rise residential units and the rest for commercial purposes. 

HPB Group executive chairman Datuk Khor Teng Tong said the four-star hotel would be managed and owned by the group. 

“We are planning to submit the structural plans to the relevant authorities by October and ground work is expected to start on the third quarter of next year,” said Khor in a press conference. 

“Work is expected to be completed within five years.” 

Khor said that under the commercial development, a hypermarket as well as a leisure area would be constructed along with the hotel. 

“We expect to have a few thousand job opportunities available after the project has been completed.”

Meanwhile, HPB Group recorded RM112mil in revenue and RM166mil in net profit after tax and minority interest for this financial year (ended June 30) compared to RM124mil and RM101mil respectively for last year. 

Khor said the increase in net profit was due to gain on revaluation of investment properties. 

“Revenue was higher in the previous financial year due to higher attributable sales contributed mainly by Gurney Paragon Condominiums,” he said. 

The group’s board of directors has declared a special interim dividend of 25 treasury shares for every 1,000 existing ordinary shares of RM1 each held in the company, in respect of the financial year which ended June 30 this year. 

(The Star) Wave hello to elegant city living

Much potential in mixed project EVER dreamt of staying in the best integrated mixed development project in the heart of the city? If yes, then The Wave at Penang Times Square with its 312 residential suites is definitely the answer.
I can safely say that this will be the best integrated mixed development project in George Town. — GOH CHIN HENG 

Its elegant facade will also surely catch the attention of the buyer.

Ivory Properties Group Bhd chief operating officer Goh Chin Heng said owners may be able to enjoy capital appreciation in the value upon completion of the integrated project in 2017. 

“I can safely say that this will be the best integrated mixed development project in George Town. 

“The price is also competitive with each sq ft priced between RM620 and RM680, and very much lower than the RM1,000 per sq ft charged by surrounding projects,” he said in an interview on Tuesday.

Also present was Ivory Properties Group Bhd executive director Datuk Ooi Chin Loo.

The Wave with its suites on 27 floors, sits on 11 storeys of podium for parking, facilities and commercial component for retailing purposes. 

There will be retail outlets, a cineplex, hotels and an entertainment city when completed. 

Available in four configurations, unit sizes range from 1,250sq ft to 2,905sq ft. 

Besides The Wave, Goh said buyers could also invest in shoplots which offer potential for capital appreciation. 

“There are still limited shoplots available at The Peak Residences and The Latitude in Tanjung Tokong. 

“These shoplots are a great investment as they are meant to cater for people in some 1,500 residential units in the Mount Erskine and Hong Seng Estate areas,” he said. 

“Whether the lots are turned into food and beverage outlets, laundries or clinics, the potential is enormous. 

“We are confident that interested buyers can easily enjoy an annual 6% return in investment,” he said. 

Goh said buyers would also enjoy a 5% cash rebate and other promotions during the Merdeka Day roadshow in Gurney Plaza from now till Sunday. 

Just head to the Ivory Properties sales booth (10am to 10pm). 

Birch House in Jalan Datuk Keramat, which currently houses Ivory’s office, will be leased out to McDonald’s as a drive-through outlet by the end of the year. 

For more information, contact Ivory Properties at 04-2108003 or visit www.ivory.com.my

(The Star) Playing a profitable tune

Duo’s efforts lead to the creation of one of the country’s largest musical instrument supply companies sometimes an unexpected diversion can turn out to be not just an enjoyable journey, but a profitable one as well. 

Ray Lee and Eizaz Azhar can attest to that. 

Lee and Eizaz are founders and directors of Guitar Empire, one of the largest musical instrument suppliers in the country. The company also runs a studio and a music school. 

Ironically, both do not have much of a musical background. 

Thirty-six-year old Lee grew up playing the guitar on his own and had frequented functions with his brothers as a group of buskers. He remembers getting kicked out of those functions a lot. 

As an adult, he took up photography, but remained passionate about music. 

He later left his job as a photographer to pursue his passion and started a small music school called Mama Treble Clef Studio.

Eizaz, on the other hand, only took up classical piano at the age of 18 upon his mother’s insistence. The 27-year-old was in the middle of a degree in electronic engineering when he met Lee at his music school. 

They became fast friends and eventually discussed the possibility of starting a music studio. 

Eizaz decided to drop his education, and in 2006, the duo pulled together RM4,000 to start a small rehearsal studio in Endah Parade, Sri Petaling. 

Lee maintained his music school as it was generating enough revenue to sustain their new project. 

“We needed another source of income as the studio was new and it was not really making much. But we were very passionate about the studio and we started having people coming in for jam sessions,” Lee said. 

However, the music school grew its intake and music teachers were scarce. So Eizaz started learning to play more instruments so that he could help teach some classes. Mostly by teaching himself, Eizaz now plays 10 instruments proficiently. 

Moving into retail 

Although the rehearsal studio turned out to be a fun venture, the income from it was minimal at about RM3,000 to RM4,000 a month. Additionally, the duo had to work till the wee hours of morning on a daily basis as customers would turn up late at night to jam in their studio. 

Realising that they couldn’t work from morning to morning in the long run, Eizaz decided to move into retail, which he noted made economic sense as existing students were already asking where they could purchase new instruments and repair old ones. 

Lee and Eizaz pumped in more funds and started a retail arm, Guitar Empire, with capital of RM24,000 in a 900sq ft space a few lots from the studio.

“We had to be versatile. We may have drawn out a plan, but plans change. We were a small rehearsal studio, but we realised that we could grow bigger and have greater influence in the industry. 

“And we started to see that there was a big market for musical instruments,” Eizaz said. 

Guitar Empire started out retailing guitars as well as instruments that were not so common such as the mandolin and piccolo. 

Lee explained that although the market for these uncommon instruments is small, it helps build the Guitar Empire brand as the store has become a reference point for unusual instruments. 

Another selling point for Guitar Empire is that it caters to the low to mid-range customers, which makes up about 70% of its client base. 

“There is a void in the music industry because people tend to think that it is an expensive hobby because you need to buy instruments and pay for regular classes. But we wanted to make it affordable, particularly the instruments,” said Lee.

Guitar Empire got a boost in 2009 when a client placed an order for 300 violins for an orchestra. Lee and Eizaz had to meet various manufacturers to ger the specifications right for the order. 

And this opened the doors for them to deal directly with manufacturers, which enabled them to o cut cost and control quality. 

“It was really a door of opportunity and we started to import and nd export instruments on a larger scale as more orders came in. And nd we grew much bigger,” Eizaz said. d. 

He soon found that customers rs were also increasingly asking for customised instruments and thanks to Guitar Empire’s working relationship with manufac- turers, they are able to custom- ise instruments to their own specifications. 

Eizaz’ persistence in the retail segment has certainly proven profitable for the duo as sales of instruments make up the bulk of the group’s annual turnover of RM6.5mil. 

On average, Guitar Empire sells about 600 to 700 guitars a month, its most popular instrument, followed by the ukulele, of which about 200 are sold a month. 

A new tune 
Guitar Empire recent-recently ventured into providing soundproofing for home theatre needs. 

Lee believes this new business segment will also be a boon for the group as it is a growing market that is only in its infancy. 

Guitar Empire currently occupies 17,000sq ft of space on the third floor of Endah Parade in Kuala Lumpur. But Lee and Eizaz hope to grow the outlet large enough to take up the whole floor. 

“In the mid term, we are aiming to turn this whole third floor into a music and instrument hub. And in the long run, hopefully we will be able to fill the whole building,” Eizaz said. 

Lee added that there is potential for the group to grow to such an extent as he points out that there is currently no specific hub for music needs. 

“There are small outlets here aand there, but we want Endah Parade to be like Low Yat Plaza, which is recognised as a go-to place for electronics and IT things,” Lee said. 

The group is also involved with music-related community projects with government ministries, which has opened more doors for Guitar Empire’s growth plans. 

“We are very grateful for the opportunities and we are happy with how we have grown. It is a growing industry and there is so mmuch more to do,” Eizaz said. 

To commemorate the country’s 56 years of independence, Guitar Empire has designed 500 limited edition guitars. 

“Who knows, they will be colllectors’ items one day,” Eizaz said with a smile. 

(The Star) Sale of Seri Austin Residence to be handled by Dynasty View

JOHOR BARU: Dynasty View Sdn Bhd (DVSB) has entered into a marketing agreement with REI Group allowing them to market and sell DVSB’s Seri Austin Residence located at Tebrau here. 

DVSB senior general manager Wong Kuen Kong said the third block of the Seri Austin Residence apartments would be marketed widely to buyers outside the southern region. 

“With the signing of a memorandum of understanding, REI Group will underwrite the entire Tower 3 of Seri Austin Residence Apartments at a gross development value of RM62mil,” he said.

Wong added that the REI Group would focus on selling a total of 140 units to buyers in the Klang Valley, Penang and Sabah. 

“We are confident that the outside market will give good response as the apartments are located at a strategic location. 

“The Customs, Immigration and Quarantine complex and Senai Airport are just 12 minutes and 20 minutes away respectively,” he said. 

He also said that the block consist of 140 units in three different layouts including Type A which has a build-up area of 61.41sq m, Type B (82.50sq m) and Type C (112.23sq m).

“Covering over 10.2 acres of land, the three-block apartment have a total of 420 units and offers a wide range of facilities for its residence. 

“The price of each unit ranges from RM257,000 to RM643,000,” he added. 

Wong said that among the facilities available within the compound are indoor and outdoor gyms, a swimming pool, jogging track, a playground, a basketball court, nursery and games room. 

“The apartment is also equipped with high speed broadband, 24hours patrolling units with smart cards access and closed-circuit television installed,” he said. 

(The Star) Hosting more international events

State tourism department aims to beef up tourist arrivals

JOHOR BARU: Johor Tourism Department wants to add more international events in its calendar and increase the number of tourist arrival in the state.

Director Mohd Hafiz Ahmad said the state has vast experience in organising and hosting several international events in the past. 

He pointed out that with Iskandar Malaysia shaping up, the state had already become a tourism magnate locally and in the international market. 

Hafiz added that the department is working closely with the Tourism Ministry and other relevant agencies with stakeholders to come up with an attractive and aggressive plan that be able to pull in large number of tourists. 

“The next two years is quite an important period for the tourism industry in the state with Visit Malaysia Year in 2014 and Visit Johor Year by 2015. 

“Whatever events that we have done before that, have been proven to be successful. The department is also looking at other events that will be a crowd puller,” he said. 

Hafiz said this when met after launching the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Malaysia championship at Plaza Angsana here. 

He cited that the rally that was held in Johor for the past eight years has elevated Johor in the international arena. 

Hafiz added that holding motor sports events such as the Asia Pacific Rally Malaysia had attracted not only local fans but those from Singapore and Indonesia. 

“Last year, the championship managed to attract over 8,000 fans including those from neighbouring countries and we are confident that the number will increase this year,” he said. 

Meanwhile Wheel Sport Management managing director Raja Nor Mazli Raja Tun Mohar said Johor had always been a favourite stage among the drivers in the championship. 

“There are 34 drivers including those from countries such as Finland, France, Thailand, Japan, India, and local drivers as well. 

“We are very happy that we always get a good response from the crowd when the championship is held in Johor,” she said. 

(The Star)Tide of problems from ri$ing trend

Unlicensed businesses at bungalows on the rise in PJ

THE trend of entrepreneurs preferring to operate at old bungalows and residential units is not only changing the landscape of Petaling Jaya, but also resulting in a rise in the number of illegal businesses.

These unlicensed businesses operating in converted residential units comprise mostly used-car dealers, mechanics and car showrooms. 

“Many illegal businesses are operating in this city and even some licensed ones are not adhering to the guidelines set,” noted Bukit Gasing assemblyman R. Rajiv.

Converted bungalows

Some bungalows have been given limited commercial status by the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ). 

They include those located along Jalan Universiti, Jalan Changgai, Jalan Gasing, Jalan Kemajuan, Jalan Othman and parts of Jalan Templer. 

These are mostly main roads where several old bungalows were given approval for limited commercial purposes. 

According to the Petaling Jaya Local Plan 1, only certain business activities are allowed. 

These include small-scale enterprises that do not have high traffic, like art galleries, old folk’s homes, as well as law and accounting firms. 

Business activities which are not allowed include car workshops, vehicle showrooms, used-car dealers and eateries.

Guidelines not met 

Businesses are required to meet certain building guidelines before getting the green light.

For example, the premises cannot be demolished and rebuilt to be higher than the original building. 

If the owner decides to rebuild, the new building must be of similar height to the original bungalow. 

Two-storey buildings are only allowed if the original building was two levels high. 

MBPJ also requires business owners to provide sufficient parking space within the premises. 

The local plan gives MBPJ the power to revoke or reject applications if residents living nearby oppose the business activity. 

“In Jalan Changgai, there are so many workshops and even used-car dealers. These are clearly illegal and not allowed,” said Rajiv. 

In addition, some businesses are expanding upwards, from the allowed one-storey to two or even three-storeys high.

Higher rental 

Many of these businesses are operating along busy main roads of Petaling Jaya. 

“This may result in traffic congestion due to illegal parking outside the buildings,” said Rajiv. 

He believes that more bungalows are being converted as landlords can fetch a higher rental for businesses compared to residences. 

“I think it is also easier for them to rent it out to business operators as there is demand for commercial space here,” he said. 

When contacted, Petaling Jaya mayor Datin Paduka Alinah Ahmad said the city council had stopped accepting applications to convert residential areas into limited commercial businesses. 

“We are not going to approve new applications. The existing ones will be allowed to continue operations but there will be no more new ones,” she said, adding that pending applications would be put on hold. 

Alinah said action would be taken against the illegal businesses. 

(The Star) Higher power bills likely

KUALA LUMPUR: Electricity bills are likely to go up as the Government is expected to reduce subsidies for natural gas in its bid to improve Malaysia’s fiscal position.

 “The subsidy bill for the power sector has been creeping up … if the Government doesn’t do anything, the subsidy bill would go higher and higher,” MyPower Corp chief executive officer Datuk Abdul Razak Majid said at a media briefing yesterday. 

The last electricity tariff hike took effect in June 2011 when the subsidised gas price was raised to RM13.70 per million metric British thermal unit (mmbtu) from RM10.70 per mmbtu previously. 

MyPower, a special-purpose agency set up to drive reforms in the Malaysian electricity supply industry, said subsidies for the country’s power sector alone cost the Government around RM8bil to RM12bil per year, depending on the prevailing input fuel prices. 

Naturalgas, which currently accounts for about 50% of the power-generation fuel mix in Peninsular Malaysia, is sold to the local power sector at a subsidised rate of RM13.70 per mmbtu, although the market price of fuel has already tripled. 

“The Government’s plan is to move towards market-based prices. But it is also conscious of how this move is going to impact customers, so the key decision is whether to slow down the process or move at a faster pace,” Abdul Razak said. 

He noted that higher gas prices had made subsidies unsustainable and that the prospects of having to import liquefied natural gas at market rates to alleviate the country’s energy supply challenges had only added to the woes. 

According to MyPower, if fuel subsidies were to be gradually removed, then the true cost of power would exceed 40 sen per kilowatt-hour (kwh), compared with the current rate of 33.54 sen/kwh. 

While gas is supplied at subsidised prices, coal, which accounts for about 40% of the power-generation fuel mix in Peninsular Malaysia, is procured at market rates. Any change in the two fuels will have a direct impact on the cost of electricity.

On that note, Abdul Razak said the principles of the fuel-cost pass through mechanism had already been worked out. Under this mechanism, fuel cost would be reviewed every six months and any changes (upward or downward) in the cost due to fluctuations in fuel prices (gas, coal and oil) would be passed through in the end-user tariff. 

The fuel-cost pass through mechanism is a significant component under the proposed Incentive-Based Regulation tariff framework.

According to Abdul Razak, the framework must be implemented first before the fuel-cost pass through mechanism can take effect. 

He revealed that there were plans by the Energy Commission and Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) to do a pilot run for the Incentive-Based Regulation tariff framework from next month to identify issues or discrepancies that need to be ironed out. 

“Hopefully, after one year of the pilot run, they can launch the programme proper,” Abdul Razak said. 

Under the framework, TNB’s transmission and distribution network’s yearly performance will be benchmarked against a set of performance targets. The electricity tariffs, and hence, TNB’s returns, will then be adjusted based on achieving those performance targets. 

(The Star) Bumi companies to get contracts worth Rm4.2bil

Najib announces opportunities for firms in four mega projects
PUTRAJAYA: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has announced an additional RM4.2bil worth of opportunities for Bumiputera companies in four mega projects. 

The projects are the Menara Warisan Merdeka, Bukit Bintang City Centre, development of the Rubber Research Institute (RRI) land in Sungai Buloh and Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade) exhibition centre.

He said the opportunities were via the carve-out and compete special allocation.

“The opportunities is 40% of the total value of the projects.

“The rest would be distributed via open tenders,” he said after chairing the Bumiputera Agenda Action Council meeting here yesterday.

Najib added that the four projects had varied timelines but were expected to be implemented over the next five years.

He also said the Bumiputera Agenda Coordinating Unit (Teraju) has created RM18.2bil worth of business opportunities, financing and human capital development for Bumiputera companies through strategic collaboration with various government agencies and private firms.

“To date, Teraju has approved facilitation grants totalling RM412.2mil for 87 projects implemented by Bumiputera companies from diverse sectors, with private investments amounting to RM3.7bil. 

“This initiative has helped create about 13,000 job opportunities,” he said. 

Najib also said the participation of Bumiputera companies in the High Performing Bumiputera Companies Programme (Teras) has increased to 450 companies. 

On another matter, Najib said the government is still studying the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) including its impact on local businesses and was looking into the input given by various parties. 

“It is being studied, including by Teraju, on its impact on Bumiputera participation,” said Najib. 

The controversial agreement received resistance from many parties including the Malay Economic Action Council (MTEM) which has submitted a 75-point resolution to the Government aimed at ensuring a better deal for Malaysia. 

The resolution was handed to Najib on Wednesday which, among others, contained concern over the agreement’s impact on small and medium enterprises, government procurement, intellectual property, financial services, telecommunications and public health. 

The TPPA is an international trade pact being negotiated among Pacific Rim countries Malaysia, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam to deal with current trade issues. 

(The Edge) ‘Higher RPGT does not work’

KUALA LUMPUR: Imposing higher real property gains tax (RPGT) will not be effective in arresting rising property prices, say industry players.

Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan said on Tuesday that his ministry is studying the imposition of a higher RPGT next year to stabilise housing prices.

Currently, an RPGT of 15% is imposed on properties sold within two years of ownership and 10% if sold within three to five years. Properties sold after five years are exempt.

“Politically, the government needs to be seen as doing something about property prices. The RPGT is a good hint to speculators that the government plans to cool the property market without affecting genuine homeowners,” said DTZ Malaysia director Eddy Wong.

“Singapore has so far imposed eight rounds of cooling measures. It can mean that the previous seven rounds did not quite achieve the intended effect and that’s why there is an eighth round. But this time, the Real Estate Development Association of Singapore is saying the Singapore property market is approaching ‘inflexion point’, so perhaps this time it will work?

“Two of the fundamental drivers of property prices are a growing young population who are setting up their own households and income growth. Some people may speculate but so long as these drivers are there, prices will go up,” he said.

CH Williams Talhar & Wong Sdn Bhd managing director Foo Gee Jen proposed some changes to the existing RPGT structure and additional measures to curb rising prices.

“The government may want to consider raising the RPGT quantum and period, and impose a stamp duty on property sellers who have a lot of transactions in a certain timeframe,” he told The Edge Financial Daily.

“I am in favour of a further 5% increase in the RPGT and stretch the disposal period from two years to three years. For example, the RPGT on disposals made during the first three years is raised to 20%.

“Most speculative transactions happen around the second and third year. The third year is when most properties are completed. So this longer period will cover a wider basket of speculators,” Foo explained.

On the imposition of stamp duty on sellers, he said: “For example, you can impose a 3% stamp duty on sellers who have sold more than four properties in the last five years.”

Foo urged the government to monitor other trends in the primary market. These are bulk purchases, group discounts, rebates and freebies such as waiving legal fees and offering partially furnished units, which are usually included into the price tag.

“I think there is a need to make sure property prices are sustainable and affordable. If prices are sustainable, in line with the income of the rakyat, there is no need to reduce prices,” Foo said.

Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association national treasurer Datuk NK Tong said raising the RPGT may work in the short term but will backfire.

“To introduce cooling off measures, including raising RPGT, at a time like this will slow down the construction of houses. While this will stabilise prices in the short run, the shortage of supply will further drive up prices in the medium to long run,” he said.

Tong said cities in Australia — Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney and Perth — are ranked among the top 10 most livable cities in the EIU Global Livability Survey 2012. Kuala Lumpur ranked 77 out of 140.

Australia has 22 million people living in 9.1 million homes in the city, while Malaysia has 20 million people living in only 4.8 million homes in urban areas.

“If we are to be a truly developed nation, Malaysia needs more houses.

“There will be a higher number of people per household, which could also be due to multi-generational homes rather than married couples moving out,” Tong said.

Assuming no further population growth, he estimated that Malaysia would need 8.3 million homes or a new supply of 100,000 homes per annum over 35 years for the 20 million urbanites in Malaysia for the country to be as livable as Australia.

“Everywhere in the world, the need for affordable housing has been one of the key responsibilities of the government. Malaysia tried to address this through many agencies in the past but the numbers are still way behind. Hopefully with the advent of PR1MA [1 Malaysia Housing Programme], it can finally catch up with the demand of the people.

“Governments are also challenged to find ways to increase the incomes of people in order to keep up with inflation. Artificial price controls are not sustainable in the long run. What should be done is to address the need for us to move ahead to be a high-income nation, and this is in line with Malaysia’s aspiration to be a truly developed nation,” said Tong.

(The Edge) Tanco engages Impiana to manage Splash Park Suites


KUALA LUMPUR: Tanco Holdings Bhd has engaged Impiana Hotels and Resorts Management Sdn Bhd to manage and operate Splash Park Suites, its first resort in Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan.

Splash Park Suites is the resort component of a proposed mixed commercial development called Splash Park located within Tanco’s Palm Springs Resort City in Port Dickson. It comprises 830 fully furnished serviced units with built-ups of between 340 sq ft and 685 sq ft. The units are sold at RM800 per sq ft.

The 23-acre (9.2ha) Splash Park has three phases and a gross development value (GDV) of RM600 million. It is developed by Splash Park Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Tanco. Phase 1 comprises an eight-acre water park, restaurants, entertainment and retail stores with a 250-room hotel complete with MICE, meeting, incentive, conference and exhibition facilities.

Phase 2 will have more serviced units and phase 3 will house a hotel.

The serviced suites are being offered on a sale and leaseback basis with a guaranteed rental return of up to 9% per annum over nine years.

Tanco executive director Chan Chee Meng said the arrangement with Impiana is a strategic move.

“Impiana has the extensive experience and expertise in managing and operating resort hotels in Malaysia and the region. Moreover, Impiana is an award-winning four-star luxury hospitality brand that is highly rated for its guest experiences by international travellers,” he said.

Foundation work has started for Splash Park and is expected to be completed at end-2017 or early 2018.

The 400-acre Palm Springs Resort City has a GDV of RM5 billion. Further components in the pipeline will include an international destination-based spa, retirement village, international hotel and serviced residences, a wellness zone, marina and duty-free shopping outlets.

Currently, Tanco has 170 acres of land in Lake Kenyir and two acres in Kuantan, Pahang. It has plans to develop these parcels into tourism-related products. 

(BUSINESS TIMES) Emerald Green offers a real buy


CONSTRUCTIVE: LBS Bina Group Bhd launches housing project to help meet call for affordable homes for Malaysians

JOHOR BAHRU: PROPERTY developer LBS Bina Group Bhd (LBS Bina), recently launched Emerald Garden in Batu Pahat.

The project, due for completion in June 2015, is in line with its target to provide 2,300 units of affordable homes this year in support of the government's call to increase home ownership among Malaysians.

Emerald Garden offers 166 units of single-storey terrace homes in the developing township of Bandar Putera Indah.

Each unit has a gross built-up area of 141 sq m (1,519 sq ft) with a comfortable four-bedroom, two-bathroom layout. With prices starting at RM216,750 (after 15 per cent Bumiputera discount), Emerald Garden is a value-for-money option for first-time homebuyers and young families.

"We are confident that our affordable offerings in Johor will receive a positive response. Affordability and convenience are the two key factors incorporated in our 'Living the Life with our campaign launched earlier this year.

"Johor homebuyers can be assured that Emerald Garden embodies both these factors," said LBS Bina managing director Datuk Lim Hock San.

The single-storey terrace homes offer high ceilings, a fully-covered roof over the tiled porch area, and large main gates that create ample parking space for two cars.

The 2.1m (7ft) of additional land at the rear of each house may be converted into outdoor storage space or a garden.

The location gives residents convenient access to nearby amenities such as mini markets, eateries, clinics, the post office, motor and auto service centres, schools, a police station, petrol station and mosque increased convenience.

Spanning over 6 hectares (14.908 acres), Emerald Garden has a development value of RM42 million.

Attractive incentives, including a RM20,000 rebate, a 15 per cent Bumiputra discount and waiver of legal and disbursement fees for the sale and purchase agreement, await purchasers.

SOURCE: http://www.nst.com.my/streets/johor/emerald-green-offers-a-real-buy-1.345849?cache=03%2F7.274944#ixzz2dPP1FqIV

(NST) Hotel soon for Sri Utara



TARGETING BUSINESS TRAVELLERSOURISTS: KIP Group of Companies enters hospitality industry

KUALA LUMPUR: BUSINESSMEN and tourists in bustling Sri Utara near Batu Caves, here, will soon have a decent hotel to stay, thanks to the KIP Group of Companies.

The property developer known for its shopping malls is now venturing into the hotel industry.

KIP Group director Valerie Ong said the upcoming KIP Hotel Kuala Lumpur, a three-star hotel, would be offering four-star hotel services at three-star prices.

"There are many businessmen who come to this area for work. Tourists from all around the world also come here to to visit Batu Caves, Bukit Tinggi and Genting Highlands, so this hotel will serve as a great base for them.

"There are fewer than five hotels in the area and these are just boutique hotels. Guests can expect a really comfortable stay at our hotel as we have the facilities of a four-star establishment despite offering three-star rates. Our 199 rooms comprise the deluxe, superior and suite categories," she said.

"Normal three-star hotels don't offer the kind of premium facilities that we will be able to offer our guests. The 12-storey hotel will boast a minimalist modern design and house a fitness centre, an infinity pool, a children's pool and playground, banquet hall, hospitality lounge, business centre, conference facilities, show kitchen cafe and rooftop bar."

Work on the new hotel located near Menara KIP began recently after the groundbreaking ceremony. The hotel is scheduled to be completed in the second quarter of 2015.

"When our hotel is ready, we will offer guests a special promotional rate for all rooms from RM180 per night," said Ong. "We haven't finalised our prices, but guests will pay about RM180++ for a deluxe room, anything between RM220 and RM230 for a superior room and RM280 and above for a suite. The hotel will be managed by the Lexis Hotel Group."

The KIP Group currently operates five malls in Johor Baru, one in Seremban and another scheduled to open in Malacca soon.

Ong said the new KIP Hotel KL could expect an occupancy rate of 70 per cent due to high demand for good quality hotels in the area from tourists and businessmen.

"As the hotel is so strategically located, guests at our hotel will be able to appreciate the stunning view of Batu Caves and Genting Highlands as well as view the KL city skyline.

"There will be 200 car park bays for hotel guests and event guests," she said.

(NST) High-speed train services between KL and JB by 2018



REMBAU: The southbound train services connecting cities between Kuala Lumpur and Johor Baru are expected to take off by 2018.

Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) chairman Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar said the project was conceived with the intention to spur domestic tourism and encourage the public to travel by train.

"There are people who like to travel the 'old school way'.

"This will create a niche market for KTM to generate revenue," said Syed Hamid.

"In foreign countries, many business operations are centred around railway stations, making them a lively place with people using train services for all their activities."

Syed Hamid added that "the southbound train project, with a capacity of 60,000 passengers daily, is designed to last in terms of technology".

"There are two main stations in this project, namely Gemas and Pulau Sebang/Tampin stations.

"A double-tracking project from Seremban to Gemas will be carried out soon," he said while visiting the Pulau Sebang/Tampin station yesterday.

Syed Hamid, who took a train to the station from KL Sentral, was accompanied by KTM, SPAD and media personnel.

He said he was satisfied with the progress of the southbound train project. With a central station in Nusajaya, there will be high-speed electric train services between Kuala Lumpur and Johor Baru.

Syed Hamid also made a stop at the Rembau Komuter station.

He said the services would allow more people to visit tourist sites in the state.

In conjunction with Merdeka celebrations tomorrow, KTM trains will be operating 24 hours beginning today until Sunday.

The public is also invited to participate in its Merdeka eve celebration.

Those interested can go to KL Sentral by 9pm to experience a patriotic train ride. There will be dining and karaoke singing during the journey to Ipoh and back to Kuala Lumpur.

(NST) 1,200 PPA1M apartments allotted in Putrajaya

1ST PHASE: Another 9,318 units to be completed in five years for civil servants

KUALA LUMPUR: More than 1,200 civil servants will become homeowners after the first phase of the 1Malaysia Civil Servants Housing Programme (PPA1M) ended yesterday.

Those chosen will be able to purchase PPA1M apartments in Presint 17 and Presint 11 in Putrajaya. Their construction was completed by Perbadanan Putrajaya (PPj) and Putrajaya Holdings Sdn Bhd recently.

The units come with a floor area of 1,000 sq ft, 1,200 sq ft and 1,500 sq ft and priced between RM150,000 and RM300,000.

Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor said the government had wished to offer government servants the opportunity to own affordable property in Putrajaya, as it was a sophisticated township.

He said the project would enable those staying in government quarters to stay in their own homes.

"We hope successful applicants will take this opportunity to turn Putrajaya into a thriving city and support the various activities organised by the government.

"The government pledges to fine-tune the mechanism for owning homes and will ensure house prices are controlled so that more civil servants will be able to enjoy affordable housing," he said after a balloting ceremony for the apartment units in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

Adnan, who is also Putrajaya member of parliament, said the remaining 9,318 PPA1M housing units would be completed within the next four to five years.

He said PPA1M Putrajaya would serve as a model for future development planned for the city here and Labuan.

"PPj is looking for more locations in Putrajaya to develop PPA1M."

Adnan said the first phase would give priority to applicants residing and working in Putrajaya.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak launched the first phase of the project in April, with a target of 10,000 PPA1M homes to be built in Putrajaya.

PPj opened registration for the housing units from April 18 to May 18. It received more than 13,000 applications.

To be eligible, applicants should have a monthly household income of not more than RM8,000 and must be employed in the civil service or a statutory body.