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Wednesday, 31 December 2014

(The Star) Positive view on Sunway highway job

SUNWAY BHD

By HLIB Research

Neutral (Maintain)

Target price: RM3.65

SUNWAY Bhd said its wholly-owned subsidiary, Sunway Construction Sdn Bhd, has signed a letter of acceptance issued by SJIC Bina Sdn Bhd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Iskandar Investment Bhd in relation to the proposed design, construction, testing and completion of the Coastal Highway Southern Link, Johor for RM169.3mil.

The proposed project is expected to commence on Jan 7, 2015 with a contract period of 24 months. HLIB Research is positive about the proposed project as it will further increase the group’s outstanding orderbook to RM3.3bil (as at Dec 29). This implies 2.26 times cover over Sunway’s 2013 financial year construction revenue.

The planned project would be the fourth largest order book replenishment after Sunway Velocity 2 Mall, Sunway Iskandar and Sunway Medical Centre 3. The fifth largest project held by Sunway Construction is the Sunway Geo Retail Shops and Flexi Suites at RM153mil.

The Coastal Highway Southern Link is expected to benefit Sunway Iskandar, a major township by Sunway, Khazanah Nasional Bhd and Iskandar Investment Bhd, and other developments in Medini Iskandar.

HLIB Research remains optimistic about the group, especially with the proposed listing of Sunway Construction as it will further enhance shareholders’ value.

(The Star) Full scale upgrading work to start in Feb

JOHOR BARU: Bus and taxi operators currently operating at the Taman Nusa Perintis Terminal in Gelang Patah will be temporarily relocated to the nearby Gelang Patah Sentral to make way for the upgrading works at the terminal.

The Johor Baru Central Municipal Council (MPJBT) president Sallehuddin Hassan said that the operators would have to move to the temporary location by February next year.

He said the partial upgrading work of the terminal had actually started in September this year but the full upgrading work could not take place as some of the operators had yet to vacate the premises.

“The upgrading works at the Taman Nusa Perintis Terminal is estimated to cost RM6mil and we hope the project would be completed by August 2015 and ready for use by the bus and taxi operators,” Sallehuddin told a press conference on Monday.

He said among the new features to be included in the upgrading works are 300 parking lots, pedestrian sidewalks as well as a better traffic control to ensure smooth movement of vehicles entering and exiting the terminal.

Separately, Sallehuddin said MPJBT had appointed Universiti Teknologi Malaysia to conduct a survey to gather feedback from taxpayers within the MPJBT jurisdiction to identify on the services given by the council.

He said 1,044 respondents had been selected randomly from the one million residents in the survey covering housing estates in Masai, Plentong, Ulu Tiram, Johor Jaya, Skudai and Lima Kedai.

The survey covered seven key areas where respondents were required to evaluate the MPJBT staff professionalism, service counters and public facilities as well as infrastructure.

“Overall, there is a 10% increase in customer satisfaction compared to the last survey and this will help us to better improve our delivery system to tax payers,” said Sallehuddin.

(The Star) New pizza chain opens in Kota Kinabalu

KOTA KINABALU: Pizza lovers in the city are in for a treat with the new Pezzo chain outlet now available here.

Pezzo, the first of its franchise opened here, focuses on takeaway services and constructed like a kiosk is situated along Jalan Pantai in the heart of the city.

The international pizza chain from Singapore is also expected to hit customers by the storm with its unique selling method (by slice or a whole pizza), affordable price, and distinctive menus.

Borneo Oil Berhad (BOB) executive director and owner of the Pezzo brand in Sabah Raymond Teo said apart from the menu, pricing and their selling concept, Pezzo is also expected to gain instant “likes” from customers as demand for fast food varieties are increasing by the day.

“Pezzo will complement the existing fast food business strategically by adding a new variety to the rising demand of the customers, and I am confident the unique selling points of Pezzo especially its affordable prices will take the local market by storm,” he said.

Teo explained that due to its small footprint, Pezzo kiosk has its advantage of hassle-free set up and the company had identified a few locations that are deemed suitable to grow the brand next year.

How the pizzas on sale are called are also far from contemporary, with names such as Hot Chick (chicken pizza), Meat Munchers, Pepperoni Party, Cheesy Cheese, Hola Hawaiian, BBQ Bonanza, Italiano Chicken, Big Daddy and Very Veggie.

(The Star) Sarawak State Library has added many state-of-the-art facilities

KUCHING: New and upgraded facilities are now prepared for visitors to the Sarawak State Library.

The library now features a new e-Newspaper kiosk where visitors can read news and magazines from all over the world in the library archive. The kiosks hold a 32-inch display with touch sensor for easy content browsing.

A digital signage via a 50-inch digital display will allow visitors to locate and know about events that will be held at the state library. Users can also interact with it using motion sensors to select specific information.

Due to high demand of Internet access point, the bandwidth speed has been upgraded to Unifi service with speed of up to 100Mbps. The service can now be used.

Besides books and other reading materials, visitors can enjoy local art collections at the library. The Sarawakiana Portal is an online art collection with summarised write-up and contents on Sarawakian materials, especially visual arts.

The most exciting upgrades are located at the Children Infotheque area. These services aim to expose children to interesting and interactive computer technology. Children will now be able to use various “edutainment” applications on 10 Lenovo tablets instead of computers.

The XBOX360, using motion sensing, fuses games and education to make learning even more fun. Video screening at the Storytelling room will show entertaining and educating videos from the Lincoln Corner collections to children so that they are interested in computer graphics.

Children activities such as storytelling, coloring, reading, crafting and others will be held twice a month and in Miri, every weekend to enhance the children’s learning experience.

The library will be publishing three new books namely Flora and Fauna of Pustaka, Unravelling of private libraries in Sarawakians and Fountain of Knwoledge: Information ripple, knowledge waves and Wisdom tsunami.

Parents and children should take the chance to visit the soon-to-be launched Sensory Garden. The garden consists of two types of plants which can be recognised by touch and smell. It will let visitors to stimulate their senses while experiencing the joy of nature.

This special garden is disabled-friendly, with Braille information boards being installed for the convenience of the disabled and visually impaired people. It also shows instructions for them to walk around without any aid.

The library has recently celebrated its 15th anniversary since it’s opening in the year 2000. Many fun and interesting events have been planned by the state library for the people next year such as the Bookaroo Children’s Literature Festival, Knowledge 2015: Knowledge, The Key to A Better Tomorrow, talks, exhibitions, workshops and conferences.

Visit pustaka-sarawak.com or email to librarian@sarawak.gov.my for details.

(The Star) Attractive packages to boost condo units sale in Bintulu

KUCHING: Naim Holdings Bhd has come up with competitive pricing and attractive product packages to boost the sales of its high-end residential condominium units here and up-market commercial units in Bintulu.

The Sarawak’s top property developer said aggressive marketing had been carried out to improve the take-up rates of these residential and commercial units in its two most ambitious projects — Kuching Paragon and Bintulu Paragon.

Naim said it had experienced slower take-up rates in both projects after several measures implemented by the government, including the increase in real property gain tax (RPGT) of up to 30% and removal of developers interest bearing scheme, last year.

Early this year, Naim launched The Sapphire on the Park @ Kuching Paragon at Jalan Batu Lintang here. It offers for sale 445 units of residential condonimium units in three towers. As part of the Bintulu Paragon project, Naim has launched the development of two of its components - street mall and small office versatile office (SOVO).

“We believe with the demand from SCORE (Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy) projects and continued growth in the current property market in Sarawak would help to sustain demand for these properties,” Naim said in notes accompanying its latest financials.

In the third quarter ended Sept 30, 2014 (3Q-2014), Naim property segment recorded revenue of RM50.6mil,which was 12% lower as compared to RM57.7mil in 2Q-2014. However, the segment profit had surged to RM19.9mil from RM8.9mil in the same period due to the substantial completion of certain high margin existing projects.

On a nine-month basis (9M-2014), the property segment’s revenue stood at RM178.6mil, which was a decline of 14% from RM208.1mil registered in the corresponding period in 2013 due mainly to lower contributions from substantially completed projects. However, the segment’s profit rose marginally to RM55.3mil from RM54.9mil.

Naim said the solid market support for its existing established township in MIri (Permyjaya) as shown by the good take-up rates of new launches had helped to sustain its sales performance.

It said property costs might go up when the GST (goods and services tax) is introduced in April, next year.

During 9M-2014, Naim construction segment returned to the black with a profit of RM12.3mil against a loss of RM28.3mil in 9M-2013 due to higher progress of works from on-going projects, especially those secured last year. The segment’s revenue, however, declined to RM258mil from RM264.7mil. In 3Q-2014,the segment’s turnover was RM93.7mil.

For the group’s quarry and premix operations, Naim said continued efforts would be made to maket and sell the products to achieve economies of scale.

“This includes possible plans to divest non-performing business like plant and machineries in Fiji in order to realise some funds and reduce further losses,” it said.

(The Star) Hitches at Amanjaya Terminal

Taking an express bus for the first time from Ipoh to Kuala Lumpur, retired civil servant S. Rajandran was pleased with the state-of-the-art bus terminal in Meru, and glad that he was entitled for the 50% discount on the fare.

However, to his horror, when he returned the same day at 9.20pm after visiting his friend in Kuala Lumpur who was sick, he was caught off guard as the last local bus left the terminal at 9pm.

So the only other option the 60-year-old had was to take a taxi back to his house in Sunway Tambun, about 15km from the Ipoh Integrated Bus Terminal and Complex (Amanjaya Terminal).

But when Rajandran approached a cab driver, he was told to pay an exorbitant fare of RM40.

He said the drivers kept telling the passengers, and also pointing to a notice board, that the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) had given them the green light to charge a minimum fare of RM25.

“That was not all, an older woman who was travelling with two young children wanted to go to Gopeng, and the cab driver told her she has to pay RM80 for that trip.

“Can you imagine charging RM80. That is almost the same price as for a flight to Johor from Ipoh.

“That is the reason most of the other passengers on board the same bus either had someone fetching them, or they had parked their cars at the terminal itself,” the disgruntled man told The Star recently.

Rajandran said after arguing with the cab driver, another passenger who was waiting for his transport, offered to drop him off in the city.

He said he then took a taxi from the city to his house for only RM15.

“However, the poor woman with the two children had no choice but to take the cab to Gopeng for RM80.

“The taxi drivers were also rude, telling her to take the offer or leave it.

“To my surprise, even when I reached the city centre, there were no local buses operating after 9pm,” he added.

(The Star) Water woes driving food court customers away

Whenever it rains, halal food hawkers sited at a temporary area of the Padang Brown food court in Penang will encounter fewer customers.

It appears that the place is low-lying and often faces waterlogged woes when it rains.

The site is provided by the Penang Municipal Council (MPPP) contractor while the popular food court gets a makeover.

Ghani Pasembur Padang Brown owner Mohamad Faridul Shyir Mohamad Fauzi, 28, claimed 12 hawkers at the halal section were affected.

“It floods whenever it rains and customers are not able to eat here,” he said.

Komtar assemblyman Teh Lai Heng said he was concerned with the plight of the hawkers and had raised the matter with MPPP.

“We will see what action can be taken to mitigate the flooding of the temporary hawking site,” Teh said when contacted on Monday.

Teh said the food court’s upgrading work would be completed in March or April.

“Work on the non-halal section is almost completed while 11 stalls have yet to be built at the halal section.

“There are 24 non-halal food stalls and 33 halal stalls. Some traders moved into their new stalls in the non-halal section in October,” he said.

Meanwhile Ah Hai Hokkien Prawn Mee and Loh Mee owner Thniah Cheng Hai, 56, said: “I am really looking forward to the day when I can move into the new place.”

The upgraded food court will see new ame-nities such as toilets for the disabled and bike paths.

(NST) Challenging 2015 seen for property


THE property landscape is expected to remain challenging next year, amid rising costs of doing business, tighter monetary policy and the impact of of a new tax system, said the Real Estate and Housing Developers Association (Rehda).

Its president Datuk Seri FD Iskandar Mansor said these may result in fewer new property project launches by developers and rising property prices.

“Three to five years ago, the cost of doing business was just at three per cent.

“Today, they vary between three and 18 per cent, depending on the states, due to higher premium charges by certain state governments.

“The federal government has put in place various measures to ensure low costs of doing business for developers.

“We are hoping that state governments such as Selangor would look into this as well for the benefit of the public,” he said.

Speaking to reporters at a press conference on “Rehda Cares: Contribution to Malaysian Flood Victims”, here, yesterday, FD Iskandar said property demand may slow down between six and nine months after the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

He said this was the usual scenario in other countries, which have implemented the integrated tax system, mainly due to consumers trying to adjust to the new situation.

Meanwhile, FD Iskandar said Rehda is hoping to get a positive feedback from the government on exempting residential properties from the GST.

He said a proposal on this matter has been submitted to the government and that Rehda is awaiting for response.

“We are seeking a waiver, especially for affordable homes below RM500,000 and first-time buyers,” he said.

In light of the flood situation in the east coast, Rehda has donated RM150,000 to the flood victims while its branches in Kelantan and Terengganu have distributed food and drinking water to relief centres.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

(The Star) Big plans for Kanowit

SIBU: Kanowit District Office and all government agencies including stakeholders like contractors, community leaders and the public, have been told to brace themselves for next year due to the expected massive development that would take place.

Deputy Resident of Sibu, Dr Zufar Yadi Brendan Abdullah in speaking at a year-end gathering of Kanowit District Office which was organised by its social and recreation club recently said with bigger allocation from the Federal Government next year under its transformation programme, Kanowit District would also benefit from the programme.

“Next year will be a busy year with various types of development projects that will be implemented. So as a unit of the Sibu Resident Office, those under its administration will need to work more effectively.

The contractors for projects will also be busy. The District Office can’t do the work by itself. They need all the stakeholders to “Bergulai Sejalai” (work together) with them,” he added.

He cited the Drainage and Irrigation Department and Public Works Department as some of these stakeholders.

Dr Zufar said Kanowit District would see a threefold increase in development projects in 2015. He however, did not reveal what these projects are.

As for community leaders, he wanted them to disseminate factual information on development to the people so that they would be properly updated on the actual happening.

“You need also to focus on social development of the people. It is easier to carry out physical development with the ready available of fund but not with social development as you require more effort which involve the handling of people.

Thus all those in the public sector in Kanowit must synergise and communicate well with the district office to carry out social development projects,” he concluded.

Kanowit District Officer, Katis Noel Nyabong also spoke at the function.

(The Star) Slower consumer sector seen next year on goods and services tax

PETALING JAYA: A slower 2015 is expected for the consumer sector as the subsidy rationalisation programme continues and with the implementation of the goods and services tax (GST) on April 1, RHB Research Institute said.

Said its analyst Fong Kah Yan: “Rising inflationary pressure from the implementation of the tax and the higher living costs from the rationalisation of subsidies could weigh on spending.

“Historically, we note that this momentum will reverse post-GST. We expect consumption trends to gradually normalise over the course of 2015.”

Fong said the research house’s economists were projecting consumption spending to grow at a slower 5.2% year-on-year next year.

Fong said that based on past experiences in other countries, consumption typically spiked ahead of the implementation of GST. It then declines in the subsequent months.

This would apply to discretionary retail products that are not currently taxed and that could see higher prices from the GST.

“However, we note that many essential consumer products are now exempted or zero-rated. This could lessen the volatility in consumer spending patterns.

“While it is difficult to decipher consumer behaviour in this situation, we expect spending trends to gradually normalise over the course of 2015,” the research house said.

Food and beverage (F&B) operators and staples players are expected to see favourable impact from the GST as most of their products are now zero-rated.

As consumers need not pay an explicit GST sum on the goods, sales volume is not expected to be hit because businesses are allowed to claim credit on their input tax.

“We prefer F&B stocks such as Nestle and QL Resources as the F&B sub-segment would not be as affected as discretionary goods,” Kenanga Research analyst Soong Wei Siang said.

Overall, the research house expects prudence in consumer spending, particularly on discretionary items, amid rising inflationary pressure.

“Hence, we believe F&B companies will be relatively unaffected while retailers like Padini, Parkson and Aeon Co may experience further margins squeeze from more aggressive promotions and discounts,” Fong said.

As for the sin sub-sector comprising alcoholic beverages and cigarettes, which are currently subject to 5% sales and service tax, the GST would translate into a 1% increase in tax paid.

According to Fong, the sector is likely to absorb that.

However, like other manufacturers, this sub-sector is now eligible for a 6% refund for most of its raw materials as claims for input costs.

(The Star) Ekovest on course to complete DUKE highway extension by 2016

PETALING JAYA: Ekovest Bhd is on track to complete the extension to the Duta-Ulu Kelang Expressway (DUKE) project by the end of 2016.

Managing director Datuk Lim Keng Cheng told the media after the company’s AGM yesterday that about a quarter of the construction of the RM1.2bil DUKE extension (or DUKE Phase 2) had already been completed.

The construction of the DUKE Phase 2 was first proposed to the Government in November last year.

The company is also expected to recognise a revenue of RM100mil from DUKE in its financial year ending June 30, 2015 (FY15) after completing the acquisition of the remaining 30% stake in the highway from Malaysian Resources Corp Bhd (MRCB) earlier this year.

Konsortium Lebuhraya Utara-Timur (KL) Sdn Bhd (Kesturi) is the concession holder of DUKE, that is now a wholly owned unit of Ekovest.

The company said it was expecting steady growth in traffic volume for DUKE as it is an attractive alternative and in some cases a primary access for the upcoming developments in the Northern Klang Valley and would be a major east-west link in the northern corridor.

In its recent first-quarter results for FY15, Ekovest saw its revenue rising 48.15% year-on-year (y-o-y) to RM88.9mil while net profit leapt 132.7% to RM1.44mil mainly due to recognition of property development activities.

(The Star) Tower Reit selling office parcels, carpark bays at Menara ING for RM132mil

PETALING JAYA: Tower Real Estate Investment Trust (Reit) is selling all its 19 office parcels and 190 carpark bays at Menara ING to Goldstone Kuala Lumpur Sdn Bhd for RM132.3mil cash.

The agreement on the proposed disposal was done through the manager of the trust, GLM REIT Management Sdn Bhd.

According to its filing with the exchange yesterday, the disposal consideration was arrived at on a willing buyer, willing seller basis after taking into consideration the potential development value of the land on which the property was sited.

“The proposed disposal will not have any effect on the issued and paid-up unit capital and substantial unitholders’ holdings of the trust but it will have a favourable impact on the net gearing of the Tower Reit,” it said.

Based on the net asset value (NAV) per unit of the trust as at Sept 30 of RM1.79, the proposed disposal is expected to result in an increase in the NAV per unit by approximately 5%.

Tower Reit said the proposed disposal was expected to result in a total realised gain of approximately RM40.4mil, of which RM15mil had been recognised as fair value gains in the prior years.

The disposal will contribute positively to the earnings of the trust for the next financial year,” it said.

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the proposed disposal is expected to be completed by the first half of next year.

Menara ING is sited in Jalan Raja Chulan, an established office address, and a major road connecting the city centre to Jalan Sultan Ismail and the Bukit Bintang retail precincts and the Kuala Lumpur city centre.

The other two properties under Tower Reit’s portfolio are commercial offices within Menara HLA amd HP Towers valued at RM325mil and RM216mil respectively as at Dec 31, 2013.

(The Star) Sunway Construction gets RM170mil Johor highway job

The Singapore Immigrations and Customs checkpoint at Tuas Second Link, as seen from Johor, Malaysia.

PETALING JAYA: Sunway Bhd has secured a contract worth RM169.86mil from Iskandar Investment Bhd to design and build the Coastal Highway Southern Link (CHSL) in Johor.

According to a filing with Bursa Malaysia, the conglomerate said its wholly-owned subsidiary Sunway Construction Sdn Bhd (SunCon) has signed a letter of acceptance with SJIC Bina, a unit of Iskandar Investment for the highway project.

Sunway is expected to commence work on Jan 7 next year, with a contract period of two years.

The CHSL is expected to provide direct access to Sunway Iskandar. It will shorten travelling time to the Singapore Second Link Bridge (pic).

The proposed project was expected to contribute positively to the earnings of Sunway Group from the financial year ending Dec 31, 2015 onwards, Sunway said.

“The project is expected benefit Sunway Iskandar, Khazanah Nasional Bhd, Iskandar Investment, Medini developments among others,” it added.

Sunway plans to re-list its construction unit Sunway Construction Group Bhd (SCG) in the second quarter of next year.

The proposal entails the injection of SunCon to SCG, via a proposed distribution by way of dividend-in-specie of at least 13.3% of SCG shares to existing Sunway shareholders.

Sunway share price rose one sen or 0.3% to close at RM3.30 with 1.25 million shares traded yesterday, bringing it to a market capitalisation of RM5.66bil.

(The Star) Plans to give visitors a chance to experience life on Pangkor island

The state wants to turn Pangkor island into a “living museum” in its bid to turn the island into its main tourist attraction.

Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir said the concept was one of many ideas that came about during a discussion with the Economic Planning Unit (EPU).

“The living museum concept is one where visitors can see and experience for themselves the lifestyle of the people on the island.

“Pangkor has a fishing industry and there are many fishing villages there,” he said during his working visit to the island recently.

“When visitors come, they might want to experience the lifestyle at these villages and we want to develop village-style areas that are based on these fishing villages to welcome the tourists,” he added.

Dr Zambry said he has instructed the Manjung Municipal Council, the district office and all relevant agencies to be involved in discussions on the idea.

“The discussions must focus on the conceptualisation and imagination on how to turn Pangkor into the living museum for visitors.

Dr Zambry said the state has also thought about restructuring all the villages on the island as one of its initial phase to turn Pangkor into a top tourist destination.

“We want to properly plan out the island to welcome tourists,” he said.

(The Star) Phang makes it his mission to compile Gopeng’s history

A wise man once said, “one person with passion is better than forty people merely interested,” and such is the case when one comes to know museum curator Phang See Kong’s love for the history of his hometown.

He has spent the last five years penning down his compilation of Gopeng’s history since the 1850s into 239 pages.

Holding a photocopy version of his handwritten book’s draft with pride, regarding it as his “precious baby”, he explained that since he is computer illiterate, he could only use a pen and paper to achieve his dream of having the book published.

Although his birthplace is in Pusing, he grew up in the tin mining town, located roughly 20km away from Ipoh, in the late 1940s.

Phang’s passion for the rich history of Gopeng started during his schooling days when he was deeply fascinated with the life story of Eu Tong Sen, a leading businessman during the late 19th and early 20th century.

“This is the man who extended his family business of the traditional Chinese medicine manufacturing company Eu Yan Sang into Hong Kong, originating from the very first outlet in Gopeng opened by his father Eu Kong.

“He did all that, and was able to marry 10 women, who gave birth to 14 sons and 11 daughters in total,” he said, as he could not contain his excitement in relating the story of how it all started for him.

Even as he left school at the age of 15 to begin his career as a schoolteacher, he tirelessly collected information and photographs along the way.

Now at the ripe old age of 75, Phang has made it his life’s mission to put together the historical origins of Gopeng into a book.

“It is a lifelong wish of mine to leave behind a legacy for the younger generation, so that they understand what our forefathers went through to develop this town.

“It is impossible to find any trace of a small town’s background in our history textbooks, and I think it is truly a waste if the story of this heritage town is not passed down to our children.

“They deserve to know how the pioneers of Gopeng, which are the Semais, the Rawas, the Mandailings, the Chinese and Indians, had worked together to develop this town in 1850,” he said.

However, he said the information collecting process was a difficult task as the sources were scattered around town.

“In 1984, I carried a tiny recorder with me, and went around town to meet with many elderly folk from different clans to learn about their life stories.

“Many could not give me the accurate details, as they were afraid that what they knew might not be the truth.

“This went on for a quite awhile, and I decided to give up because I was dismayed by the lack of data,” he said.

After abandoning the project, Phang was hired as the personal assistant to then Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Dr Ting Chew Peh in 1991.

“I may have given up, but it was hard to quit entirely because my passion was still there.

“I still made it a point to collect anything related to Gopeng as I went about doing my new job,” he said.

Dr Ting, who was also the Gopeng MP, served from 1987 to 2008, and Phang left his job shortly after Dr Ting’s last working year, and once again found himself yearning to continue working on his sole passion.

“I brushed off layers of dust from the old books I had kept under my bed, and I was determined to pick up from where I had left off because if I did not, who would?

“Realising the dearth of information, I was desperate to buy all sorts of books related to Gopeng, even if it only contained a minor portion of it.

“As long as the word Gopeng was in the book, I must have it,” he said.

Phang even related that he once spent RM140 on a book just because it contained a rare bird’s eye view picture of the town in the olden days.

Every piece of information obtained was akin to treasure, and he painstakingly laminated and organised his information in at least 38 files, all of which were meticulously kept in his quaint little office.

Phang also explained that due to the difficulty of the process, there were times when he was under pressure to ensure that all the information he put into his book was accurate.

“I had to verify all the information and quote my sources correctly to eliminate doubt.

“Otherwise, should I make a mistake, this mistake would continue on in the future and I might even be labelled as a dishonest author,” he said.

As if aware of his plight, Phang was approached by a professor in Chinese studies from Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (Utar) Wong Voon Peng three years ago, who expressed interest in working together for the university’s community conservation programme.

“For three years, students from Utar and Taiwan’s National University of Tsing Hua have played a major role in assisting me to collect information on Gopeng from the local community.

“They interviewed the various associations in Gopeng on their origins, conducted studies on the multi-religious and cultural conservation here, and carried out research on the locale and residents,” he said, adding that without their help, his quest to complete his book would have been unending.

When he is not busy with his book, Phang is a loving husband and father to four children.

“My wife and I recently celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary, and she has been very supportive of my efforts.

“My two sons and two daughters, although already married and have their own families, have been my pillar of strength throughout the years,” he said.

Phang’s eldest daughter and eldest son, aged 49 and 46, are currently residing in New Zealand and the United States respectively, while his second son, 43, owns a business in Ipoh. His youngest daughter, 38, is a beautician living in Ipoh as well.

He is also one of the four founders of the Gopeng Museum, along with his friends Bernard Yaw Ban Yew, Wong Kuan Cheong, and Tan Yoke Chun.

The museum was established in 2009.

Phang’s book, titled “History Revisited: The Glorious Past of Gopeng’s Chinese Community” in Chinese, is slated to be published in 2016.

It will have over 300 pages, including about 250 pictures.

(The Star) Rewarding loyal customers

The exclusive GSD Land (M) Sdn Bhd Christmas party was a memorable one for their customers as they welcomed the yuletide season with food and entertainment.

They feasted and partied to jolly Christmas carols while enjoying a delectable array of dishes from the buffet line at the company’s elaborately decorated premises in Relau, Penang.

Lady luck also smiled on Teoh Koon Sun, 65, who walked away with one of the lucky draw gifts. She attended the party with his daughter who had purchased a unit at the Skycube Residence.

GSD Land managing director Phuah Cheng Peng said this was the time of the season to remember friends and clients.

“We took the opportunity to show our customers the Venti show units. A special incentive campaign to reward our customers and their friends with extra GSD membership points with any new purchase from selected projects was also organised.”

With only 20 units left, the Venti@Skycube Residence is a gated haven with resort-style facilities such as a beach-inspired swimming pool, a waterfront gymnasium, designer landscaped playground, a children’s waterpark pool, sauna, a recreational garden and other indulgences.

Each 2,952sq ft semi-detached unit provides a spacious three-storey layout complemented with two frontages, one for the car porch and the other right in front of the living room with their own private garden.

(The Star) Local links can lift tourism

A year before George Town received Unesco’s World Heritage Site status in 2007, a friend came up with the idea of investing in a travel agency specialising in local tours. The plan was to educate and familiarise tour guides about local history.

It’s an exciting proposition because George Town, and the state as a whole, has a lot of intriguing tales to tell but few know them.

The agency will also promote tours to neighbouring towns such as Nibong Tebal, Bukit Tambun and Taiping which are rich in history and known for their food fare.

These tours will really be tracing Penang’s heritage trail, one that is littered with anecdotes, legends and charismatic historical personalities from the Larut War and the Penang Riots of 1867.

However, 2007 marked the start of the sub-prime crisis and my friend had difficulty raising funds to start the business. No one has adopted his idea since.

Perhaps it’s time the state government or the private sector looks into this business plan to boost heritage tourism activities.

We must realise that merely promoting the conservation of heritage buildings is not enough to enhance tourism. Only a trained tour guide can entertainingly narrate the intriguing tales from the past.

Establishing such a tour agency will create more value-added employment opportunities in the services sector in the form of heritage guides.

From my travels, I realise that well-informed tour guides are most sought after by tourists.

A tour business that interconnects George Town, Nibong Tebal, Bukit Tambun and Taiping offers enormous commercial growth potential. All these places have historical attractions and famous delicacies.

Nibong Tebal and Bukit Tambun are known for steamed vegetable dumpling (chai-koay in Hokkien), seafood porridge and curry prawns, while Taiping serves char koay teow with fish balls, chee cheong fun with steamed radish cake and chicken rice.

A local tour agency specialising in heritage tourism can offer value-for-money day trips to these towns which could appeal to visitors from Asean countries.

International tourist arrivals from January to November 2014 numbered 651,981 – an increase of 8.32% from 601,920 in the same period last year.

The top three arrivals were from Indonesia (268,408) followed by Singapore (127,390) and China (63,385).

I’m sure these tourists will not hesitate to hop on such local tours if given the choice.

Since the state government is aggressively promoting heritage tourism, it should put up a concerted effort with the private sector to conserve the seven endangered buildings in the state highlighted by the Penang Heritage Trust (PHT).

The endangered sites are the governor’s bungalow at Sepoy Lines, Khaw Loh Hup and Khaw Boo Aun’s townhouse in Bukit Tambun, Chung Thye Phin Villa in Relau, the Udini House in Gelugor, Shih Chung School in Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah, Tanjung Tokong Malay Village and the Runnymede in Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah.

According to PHT, there hasn’t been any effort to conserve these sites.

(The Star) Modern look for market

Traders, mainly fishmongers, have moved into the newly upgraded Chowrasta Market in George Town.

Most of them are happy with the new environment that comes with bright lighting and ceiling fan for better ventilation after moving in on Sunday.

Fishmonger Mohd Noor Abdullah, 36, said the “new market looks nice and gives a good image to shoppers”.

“My father has been selling fish, prawn, squid and other seafood here for over 30 years and I have been helping him for 22 years,” he said at his stall yesterday.

Cockle seller Sim Hock Seong, 48, said he had no complaint on the upgrading work.

“It looks like a brand new market and I’m very satisfied with this place.

“My customers also like the new look of the market too,” he said.

They are part of the 27 traders who had moved into the back portion of the market while the front portion is undergoing the second phase of upgrading work.

The newly upgraded portion is also housing four pork sellers while five bean sprout, tofu and bean curd sellers are also temporarily housed there.

Upgrading works on the three-storey market built in 1890 by the George Town City Council started in May 2013 and were divided into two phases.

They include tearing down existing shops and stalls, replacing them with new ones as well as building two extra levels on the back portion of the market as part of the multi-storey car park for 123 lots.

Komtar assemblyman Teh Lai Heng said that upon completion, the market would have 295 stalls and shops as well as 56 stalls selling dry goods along Jalan Chowrasta.

He said the Phase 2 project would include building the car park ramp.

“We expect work to start in the middle of January and be completed in July,” he said.

Another feature of the market makeover includes an entrance from Jalan Kuala Kang-sar.

“This entrance is convenient for both traders and customers.

“We also hope the traders could maintain a dry environment.

“That is why we have a drainage system for each of the stalls,” he said.

State Local Government and Traffic Ma-nagement Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow hoped the owners would ensure the cleanliness of their new stalls.

“The Penang Municipal Council personnel will monitor the condition closely,” he said.

(NST) Cititel opens fourth branch in Ipoh


IPOH: BUSINESS hotel Cititel Express Hotel is spreading its wings here, next month.

Operated by IGB Corporation Berhad (IGB), the hotel is located in Jalan S.P. Seenivasagam.

Cititel in Ipoh is the fourth hotel under the Cititel banner in the nation. There are also Cititel hotels in Kuala Lumpur, George Town and Kota Kinabalu.

The hotel boasts 210 modern deluxe twin, triple and quadruple rooms.

With the understanding of how important it is for guests to stay connected with family, friends and associates, Cititel offers free high speed Wi-Fi throughout the hotel.

Each room is also equipped with Wi-Fi service, a 40-inch LED television and a mini bar.

There are also two meeting rooms, able to seat 100 persons each, as well as a trendy café which serves artisan coffee, tasty meals and pastries.

As an added service for guests, the hotel will provide free shuttle services from the hotel to Ipoh Railway Station, major shopping malls and tourist spots.

Its central location will also be an added bonus to guests as they have easy access to hawker stalls, cafés, shopping and tourist spots. All these amenities are also within walking distance.

IGB manages a wide variety of accommodations ranging from three to five star hotels which include St Giles, Cititel, Cititel Express and MiCasa.

The group continues to grow its hotel portfolio with several new additions this year including The Wembley — St Giles Premier Hotel, Penang; The Tank Stream — St Giles Premier Hotel, Sydney; and Cititel Express Penang.

(NST) Ekovest expects RM100m revenue from Duke


KUALA LUMPUR: Ekovest Bhd expects to realise RM100 million revenue from the Duta-Ulu Klang Expressway (Duke) for its financial year ending June 30 2015.

“The construction of the Duke extension, or Phase II, which will connect the existing Duke with Jalan Tun Razak and Sri Damansara area is under way and it is expected to be completed in 2016,” Ekovest managing director Datuk Lim Keng Cheng said after the group’s annual general meeting, here, yesterday.

Ekovest had earlier this year bought the remaining 30 per cent stake in Duke from Malaysian Resources Corp Bhd (MRCB) for RM228 million. It now has full ownership of the 59-year concession up to 2059.

In its first quarter ended September 30, the group reported RM88.9 million revenue. In its previous financial year ended June 30 2014, Ekovest chalked up RM229.13 million.

Lim said 40 per cent of the company’s revenue is contributed by its construction division, 30 per cent from property development and 40 per cent from infrastructure,

Commenting on the group’s property development, he said EkoCheras had recorded a take-up rate of 87 per cent.

The eco-friendly mixed development commercial hub is expected to be fully completed by the fourth quarter of 2017. 

The group has obtained approval from Kuala Lumpur City Hall to convert the commercial portion of the project into a shopping centre and it plans to build a four-star hotel within the development. 

The next development project slated to be launched is the EkoTitiwangsa mixed development project alongside Jalan Pahang, which will consist of commercial space and serviced apartments, with an estimated gross development value (GDV) of RM560 million in 2018.

“Our entire landbank in northern Kuala Lumpur is expected to deliver an estimated GDV of RM3.2 billion over the next 10 years,” said Lim. 

Ekovest has also signed on a project that has been marked as an Entry Point Project under the Economic Transformation Programme.

The project, called “River of Life” (RoL), will have MRCB as the project delivery partner.

Lim said the company had submitted various alternative design proposals for the river cleaning works on RoL, which entails the cleaning up of a 110km stretch of Klang River.