Thursday, 31 March 2016

(The Star) GDP target on track

Zeti: Malaysia can meet growth forecast of 4%-4.5%

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will be able to meet its gross domestic product (GDP) growth projection this year, based on existing policy measures that have been put in place to counter current global economic challenges, said Bank Negara governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz.

“I believe we are on track to achieve the GDP growth trajectory ... if we were not, you would see more measures being introduced,” she told reporters on the sidelines of the Responsible Finance Summit here yesterday.

Bank Negara last week announced its GDP growth projection of between 4% and 4.5% for Malaysia this year. The central bank’s forecast was in line with the projection issued by the Finance Ministry early this year under the recalibrated Budget 2016.

Noting that the present policy package to support Malaysia’s economy was based on an average oil price estimate of US$35 (RM138.11) to US$40 per barrel on the Brent, Zeti said unless oil prices collapse further, and financial markets become highly or extremely volatile with negative implications, there wouldn’t be other new measures necessary to support the economy.

Separately, Zeti said the implemenation of Goods and Services Tax (GST) had produced tremendous fiscal benefits to the Government.

“So far, it is producing the desired results and households are adjusting to it,” she said.

Zeti: ‘I believe we are on track to achieve the GDP growth trajectory.’
Zeti: ‘I believe we are on track to achieve the GDP growth trajectory

At the inaugural two-day Responsible Finance Summit, which brought together key stakeholders from the conventional responsible and Islamic finance sector, Zeti noted responsible finance was pivotal to ensure countries achieve stronger, more balanced and sustainable growth.

“Responsible finance at its core strives to serve wider objectives that is consistent with, but goes beyond, the predominant objective of enhancing shareholder value. In delivering long-term sustainable value, allocative efficiency is achieved in a manner that promotes stability and prosperity in the broader economy and sustainability of the environment.

“Above all, responsible finance aims to optimise its positive impact on society, economic wellbeing and development,” she said in her keynote address.

Zeti pointed out that the world had made much progress since the eruption of the 2008/09 Global Financial Crisis.

“While having to strike a balance between pursuing financial stability and the potential increased costs to financial intermediation, efforts have been made through the global financial reforms towards more sustainable financial systems,” she said.

“This includes the recalibration of financial regulations to curb tendencies for excessive leveraging, strengthened regulatory and supervisory systems that are forward looking and responsive to risk, as well as provisioning standards that reduce procyclicality and that restrain the build-up of risks,” she explained.

In addition, advancing consumer protection, furthering financial education and literacy as well as improving access to financial services have remained important long term items on the agenda, Zeti added.

(The Edge) Kimlun bags SBG supply contract for some MRT2 packages

Kimlun Corp Bhd
(March 30, RM1.83)
Reiterate buy and with a higher target price (TP) of RM2.13 from RM2.08:
Mass Rapid Transit Corporation SB (MRT Corp) has appointed Kimlun Corp Bhd’s wholly-owned subsidiary SPC Industries SB as the designated supplier of segmental box girders (SBG) to certain packages of the Mass Rapid Transit Line 2 (MRT2) Sungai Buloh-Serdang-Putrajaya project for RM199.9 million.

The SBG supply is expected to spread over 44 months. The announcement comes just weeks after Kimlun’s 30:70 joint-venture with Zecon was awarded by Lebuhraya Borneo Utara SB the RM1.46 billion project to develop and upgrade the Pan Borneo Highway (Sarawak).

Meanwhile, we await the results on the tunnel-lining segments (TLS) supply contract for the MRT2 project.
We assume RM50 million worth of TLS to be supplied by Kimlun. We expect the award to be announced soon.

The company is also aggressively tendering for various infrastructure projects and low-rise developments, which command higher margins. With the SBG supply contract being RM50 million higher than our original expectations, we have accordingly incorporated the latest numbers, which raise our financial year 2016 (FY16)-FY17 estimates by 0.7% to 1.3%. — RHB Research Institute, March 30.

(The Star) Sunway Property not taking over banks’ role

Helping buyers: Cheah says the guaranteed loan is offered on a limited, first-come first-served basis for Sunway’s new residential launches.
Helping buyers: Cheah says the guaranteed loan is offered on a limited, first-come first-served basis for Sunway’s new residential launches.

Its financing plan is alternative option if buyers can’t get loans

PETALING JAYA: Sunway Bhd is not trying to take over the role of a bank, says Sarena Cheah regarding the group’s unique home ownership campaign.

Its managing director, property development division for Malaysia and Singapore, said this came as the group was offering up to 88% financing for home buyers under the Sunway Property Certainty Campaign, which included a guaranteed loan upon project completion, deferred payment and a voluntary exit plan.

“We are definitely not trying to be a bank because we are not in the business. We are lending you a helping hand rather than giving you a scheme,” she told StarBiz yesterday.

Under the newly-introduced scheme that runs until Sept 30 this year, buyers are given the option to apply for loans from commercial banks or from Sunway.

She said that the guaranteed loan was offered on a limited, first-come first-served basis for Sunway’s new residential launches.

Home buyers or investors can apply for the financial assistance where loans will be for a fixed tenure of 15 years, with a fixed interest rate.

Its new launches for the central region include 420 condominium units in Sunway Geo Residences 3, 288 condominium units at Brook Residences, Mont Kiara, and 259 units of serviced apartments at Sunway Gandaria, Bangi.

It is part of the group’s plan to launch properties with a gross development value (GDV) of RM1.6bil in the Klang Valley, Iskandar Malaysia, Ipoh and Penang.

Currently, Sunway has a land bank of 3,304 acres, with a total GDV of RM47.7bil and a development period of up to 15 years.

Sunway is not the first property developer that has come up with such an arrangement, as Eco World Development Group Bhd has also planned to offer business grants to buyers of its commercial property in the Klang Valley, Penang and Iskandar Malaysia this year.

She explained that it was an alternative option if the buyers were unable to get financing from banks. “We are not giving it to everybody. It serves as a safety net if you can’t get a loan for whatever reason. At that point in time, when you can’t get a loan, that’s where we will come in,” she added.

However, she explained that buyers would likely prefer commercial loans because they were cheaper and better. “Ours is more expensive. So, we’re not here to compete with the banks,” she said, adding that money for the loans was from the financial arm under Sunway.

Cheah had mentioned previously that the group could afford to give out loans.

“It is actually very palatable for us overall. The balance sheet of the developer is very important.

“Today, the group is very comfortable and strong, and we know what to look out for and what we can or cannot do. We have had a financing arm in the group for many years,” she said.

Under the campaign, home buyers can pay an initial downpayment of as low as 3%, where buyers can pay the remaining amount after a period of 12 or 24 months.

“We also have put in place the option for purchasers to terminate their sale and purchase agreement if they lose their jobs,” she said.

(The Edge) MRCB-Quill REIT’s next catalyst just around the corner

MRCB-Quill Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) 
(March 30, RM1.16)
Maintain buy with an unchanged target price of RM1.15:
We understand that the acquisition of Menara Shell is still in progress, and injection into MQCB-Quill REIT (MQREIT) could take place in early 2017.

Based on our latest estimates, Menara Shell could raise financial year 2017 (FY17)/FY18 (ending Dec 31) net profit by +39/+38% to RM83.8 million/RM88.1 million (12-month contribution each) assuming: i) an average rate of return of about RM8 per sq ft; ii) a 100% occupancy rate; iii) a 75% net property margin; and iv) 40%:60% debt: equity funding with interest cost of 4.6%.

We also derive a FY17 net property yield of 6.5% — above our estimated funding cost of 5.9%. Our forecasts are unchanged pending the confirmation of the funding structure. We also note that Platinum Sentral, which will contribute about 41% of FY16 to FY18 revenue (before including Menara Shell), has remained 100% occupied as large tenants are on leases of six to 15 years.

MQREIT’s occupancy risks are also lowered by the renewals over the past 12 to 24 months, such as on: a) Quill Building 1-DHL1 (QB1-DHL1) and QB4-DHL2 (five-year leases); b) QB3-BMW (10-year); and
c) QB2-HSBC (five-year).

We estimate that gross gearing would remain high at 0.42 times by end-FY16 (unchanged from end FY15’s), which could limit future sizeable acquisitions as MQREIT could only borrow up to about RM274 million (statutory limit: 0.5 times).

Nonetheless, we forecast that the purchase of Menara Shell via debt and new REIT unit issuance have marginal impact on gross gearing. — Maybank Investment Bank Research, March 30

(The Edge) UDA secures RM500m Islamic financing for eight projects

KUALA LUMPUR: UDA Holdings Bhd has signed agreements with financial institutions for a syndicated Islamic financing facility of up to RM500 million to fund its eight projects with an estimated gross development value (GDV) of RM1.62 billion.

The financiers are Affin Islamic Bank Bhd, AmBank Islamic Bhd, RHB Islamic Bank Bhd, Bank Pembangunan Malaysia Bhd and Kuwait Finance House (M) Bhd.

Affin Hwang Investment Bank Bhd, AmInvestment Bank Bhd and RHB Islamic Bank are joint mandated lead arrangers, while Bank Pembangunan Malaysia and Kuwait Finance House are co-arrangers for the syndicated facility.

UDA managing director Datuk Ahmad Abu Bakar said the finance facility would be used to partly fund the construction of the projects nationwide and the rest would be funded by sales.

“This is the first time UDA has taken such financing facility even though our balance sheet is strong. Our cash reserves will be used instead for our capital expenditure moving forward,” he said.

The eight projects comprise commercial and residential developments, which UDA and its wholly-owned units will develop.

Among the projects are Anggun Residences, serviced apartments in Jalan Sultan Ismail, Kuala Lumpur, with an estimated GDV of RM504.3 million; bungalows in Bandar Tun Hussein Onn, Cheras (RM66.5 million GDV); and condominiums and shops in Bandar Tun Hussein Onn (RM145 million GDV). These projects are scheduled to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Ahmad said UDA currently has 404.69ha of land bank strategically located nationwide.

“The group has allocated between RM200 million and RM250 million in capital expenditure per year to buy new land,” he said. — Bernama

(The Edge) What’s hot in Dutamas?

  • Today, we look at price growth and indicative asking rental yields for non-landed homes in Dutamas, Kuala Lumpur. From analysis of transactions by, the average transacted price for these properties on the secondary market was at RM518 per square foot (psf ) in 1Q2015, gaining 6.6% y-o-y.
  • Overall, capital values have grown slightly. Sutramas recorded a 23.1% y-o-y growth in average price to reach RM587 psf in the 12 months to 1Q2015. However, the average price had been skewed upwards by an unusually high sale at RM1,370 psf in October 2014.
  • The highest price growth can be found at Solaris Dutamas, up 15.4% y-o-y to RM969 psf. As part of a successful mixed-development, Solaris Dutamas is unique in Dutamas and is expected to see steady demand. 
  • Other top performers are primarily the existing, mid-end projects. The top gainers are Duta Ria (up 14% y-o-y), Prima Ria (up 12.8% y-o-y) and Sri Putramas 1 (up 12.6% y-o-y).
  • Rental rates as observed in June 2015 from asking rentals vary based on location. Properties along Jalan Dutamas Raya and at the Sri Putramas enclave have rents ranging from RM1.50 psf to RM2.00 psf. Meanwhile Hartamas Regency 1 and 2 have rental rates around RM2.50 psf. In a separate league, rents at Solaris Dutamas average around RM4.00 psf.
  • The highest indicative rental yields can befound at Hartamas Regency 2 (5.8%) and Hartamas Regency 1 (5.6%).

(The Star) Sibu gets RM25m to upgrade roads

SIBU: A total of 46 roads in residential and commercial areas will be upgraded in the next three months at a cost of RM25mil.
Sibu Municipal Council deputy chairman Datuk Andrew Wong told a press conference yesterday that the money was a special allocation from the state government.
In 2014, the council spent RM15mil to upgrade 120 roads and RM25mil for 200 roads in 2015.
Wong said by the end of this year the council would have upgraded about 90% of the more than 500 roads in its jurisdiction.
Separately, council chairman Datuk Tiong Thai King warned political parties not to use public places without permit for their activities.
He said a group was using the Taman Muhibbah food court on March 18 for their event without permission.
“Taman Muhibbah is for hawkers and not a place for political activities,” he said before the council meeting yesterday.
Tiong also urged shop owners, particularly those in the central business district, to prepare for Visit Sibu Year by cleaning up their place.
On traffic jams and slow movement of traffic along Jalan Channel, Jalan Maju and Jalan Khoo Peng Loong due to the operation of the Urban Transformation Centre, he wanted truck operators to load and unload their goods either early in the mornings or late afternoons.
“For the general public, they could visit the centre after office hours or during the weekend.
“With this kind of cooperation, I believed we could minimise the problem of traffic congestion in the area,” he said.
Tiong also presented gifts to retiring council staff.

(The Star) Mobile vehicle inspection service areas widened

Puspakom is set to widen the coverage of its Mobile Inspection Unit (MIU) to the northern and southern region of the country beginning April 1.
The service, which was established in 1998, will be stationed at Mak Mandin Puspakom centre in Penang and Johor Bahru Puspakom Centre in Johor.
Interested parties can call 1-800-222-210 to set an appointment with the unit which will then go to their location to perform vehicle inspections.
The MIU, fondly called “The Transformer” by the team that runs it, is a trailer and truck transformed into a mobile Puspakom inspection centre for companies with fleets of vehicles.
The mobile unit offers of services such as the compulsory inspection for vehicles whose road tax has expired for more than a year, inspections of new or used imported vehicles, change of registration number plates, transfer of ownership, and routine and auction inspections.
Premier Services Operations Head Mohd Yuza Mohd Yusof said the service is hassle-free and fleet operators don’t need to travel to Puspakom centres to have inspections performed.
“Imagine bringing 40 odd lorries to the centre. It is time-consuming and expensive too. With the MIU, we will come to your factory and do the inspection. Even if there is any problem during the inspection, you can bring your own mechanic to repair the vehicle and do the inspection again,” he said in the media briefing.
The service was first introduced in Padang Jawa, Selangor, and the response to it was good so it was extended to Kuantan.
Puspakom’s Liaison and Advisory Department Operations Head Datuk Ooi Win Juat said many businesses in Penang requested for the MIU to be set in the northern region and hopes to see a good response in Perak, Penang, Kedah and Perlis.
The unit has the capability of handling 45 to 80 vehicles per visit. Each vehicle will be charged RM60 excluding inspection fees of between RM55 to RM75.
However, since it caters for fleet operators, Mohd Yuza said they encourage companies to bring at least 40 vehicles for the inspection.
“The minimum service charge is RM2,400. So we encourage companies to bring out at least 40 vehicles for the inspection.
Ooi said, last year, almost 45,000 vehicles were checked by the MIU. So far this year, 12, 800 vehicles have been checked.
“The service is at your doorstep compared to making visits to Puspakom branches. This will cut down queues, time, transportation costs and other hidden costs,”
“With this expansion, we hope to see a 20% increase in the usage of the unit. I am sure companies in the northern region will benefit from this service,” said Ooi.

(NST) 8Kia Peng gaining traction

KUALA LUMPUR: I-Bhd has enjoyed a surge of buyers interest in its luxury residence project, 8Kia Peng, in the heart of the city, since it was launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak on March 14. 

I-Bhd Executive Chairman Tan Sri Lim Kim Hong said that the high profile launch by Najib has seen numerous bulk purchase enquiries for the project, ranging from a 20-unit purchase interest as well as a 30-unit bulk purchase interest from local and international investors. 

The 8Kia Peng project, also called King of the Hill, has a GDV of RM1 billion and is being developed from internally-generated funds by the company. 

The 50-storey tower is a freehold development and comprises 442 luxury residential units which measure from 716 sq ft to 987 sq ft each in size. 

Lim was speaking at the launch of The King of the Hill (8Kia Peng) Sales Gallery in Berjaya Central Park here today.

(The Star) Funds for flood mitigation

MALACCA: The state government is seeking a RM63.8mil allocation from the Federal Government for flood mitigation projects in an effort to reduce floods at low-lying and downstream areas in the state.
State Housing, Local Government and Environment committee chairman Datuk Ismail Othman said at the state assembly that the allocation applied for through the state’s Irrigation and Drainage Department was also for the purpose of enlarging and building water retention ponds, especially in Alor Gajah.
“The floods in the state, as what happened in Taman Merdeka on Feb 5, are usually due to heavy rainfall which cause a vast quantity of water to flow from the upper reaches of Sungai Melaka, resulting in floods at the settlements along the river, especially the downstream areas.
“As such, the government took measures to channel the water from the overflow into the nearest river and sea, adhering to standard operation procedures,’’ he said when replying to an oral question from Khoo Poay Tiong (DAP-Ayer Keroh) who enquired on flood mitigation project status in Malacca.
Replying to a supplementary question from Goh Leong San (Independent-Duyong) who enquired on the construction of a man-made river to prevent floodings, Ismail said the government was also planning to build the river as an alternative measure to curb floodings in the state.
He said as most of the site or route of the river to be built passes through the settlement areas, a detailed study was required before it could be implemented.
Meanwhile, when replying to an oral question from Datuk Amiruddin Yusof (BN-Ayer Limau) who enquired on tahfiz schools in the state, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron said the government was constantly monitoring tahfiz schools in Malacca to ensure the school's curriculum followed the set guidelines.
He said the religious schools must comply with the strict requirements set by the government for approval to operate in the state.
“We take this matter very seriously as we do not want students from these religious schools in the state to be led astray,” he said.
He said so far the government runs a tahfiz school in Pulau Besar with a staff strength of 20 and student population of 146 while there were 29 private tahfiz schools in the state.
Out of the 29 schools, he said only nine had obtained approval to operate in the state while 12 others were still in the registration process and eight had not registered.
When met by reporters outside the sitting, Idris said all religious schools operating in the state must be based on the teachings of Ahli Sunnah Wal Jamaah.
He said such efforts was to discourage religious educators who were influenced by various elements or negative teachings that could give a bad image to Islam and the state.
“Religious schools that are not registered are categorised as illegal and we have set two options for these school owners to register them with the government in accordance with the terms and conditions, failing which they will be ordered to be closed,” he said.
He also urged the assemblymen to conduct inspections to detect the setting up of unregistered religious schools in their constituencies and to take the appropriate action against them. – Bernama

(The Star) UTM and Universitas Riau to share expertise to develop SMIs for economic growth

JOHOR BARU: Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) and Indonesia’s Universitas Riau will be collaborating to share expertise and develop the Small and Medium Industry (SMI).
UTM deputy vice-chancellor Prof Dr Azlan Abdul Rahman said that representatives from the two universities would source for commonalities of SMIs in Riau and Johor besides exchanging knowledge and expertise on the matter.
“Johor and Riau have a close history and this collaboration will further expand our relationship while we study the potential growth of SMIs in both places,” he said at the Johor-Riau SMI International seminar here on Tuesday.
Prof Azlan said that it was encouraging to see an increasing interest in SMI entrepreneurship, as businesses in the industry contributed to the country’s economy growth.
“In general, the development of SMI is to better the unemployment rate, increase growth of income, to lay out a more balanced income as well as to increase economy stability.
“Based on this mission, the development of SMI has become among top priority and a revamp is much needed for these SMI businesses to make it more competitive,” he added.
He noted that SMIs should look into major changes in terms of marketing, packaging, branding and presentation and customer services to expand their businesses further.
“On that note, this seminar will serve as a platform to discuss the necessary revamp, sharing of management skills as well as to expose the participants to success stories of local SMI entrepreneurs,” he explained.
Prof Azlan also said that UTM has engaged with the Rumah Seri Kenangan Johor Baru, a home for the elderly under the Welfare Department, to help increase the sales of their handicraft to generate income for its occupants.
“Experts from the Management Faculty will conduct ground training to educate the occupants on packaging, labelling and branding for better quality products.
“Eventually, we are aiming to expand the training to other old folks homes with such programmes for the benefit of more,” he added.
During the seminar, UTM and Universitas Riau also signed a memorandum of understanding for collaboration between the two institutes such as teaching and learning student mobility and lecturer exchange programmes.

(The Star) Green light for transport plan

Penangites have generally given the thumbs up for the proposed RM27bil Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) and the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) projects, according to a state exco member.
State Local Government Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said the state government had received an overall positive response after nearly nine months of proactively reaching out torelevant stakeholders for feedback on the two projects.
He said that from the 14briefings held todate, 13 garnered resounding support for theprojects.
He said the engagement sessions were conducted at severallocations across the state,involving audiences fromgovernment agencies, business associations, professional bodies, non-governmental organisations, the media and members of the public.
“Based on the overall positive response, Penangites welcome the implementation of the projects which are expected to mitigate the worsening traffic congestion in Penang, provide more affordable housing and create sustainable economic growth.
“However, the fishermencommunity in the south coast remain concerned on the proposed reclamation as they are worried it could impact their income,” Chow told a press conference in Komtar on Friday.
Among the components of the PTMP are trams, monorail, light rail transit lines, e-bus, bus rapid transit, a pan-island expressway, a catamaran system and a RM100mil highway interchange upgrading project.
Three islands, of 930ha, 566ha and 323ha in size, are proposed to be created off the south of Penang island under the PSR to fund the PTMP.
Chow said project consultants appointed to carry out the Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIA), Heritage Impact Assessment and Fisheries Impact Assessment studies had also concurrently carried out focus group discussions and case interviews with stakeholders along the Bayan Lepas LRT and Pan Island Link (PIL) 1 Highway alignments and the affected fishing villages.
“So far, a total of 44 groupdiscussions and case interviews were held and the overall response has been favourable.
“Complementing theengagement efforts, the appointed Project Delivery Partner (PDP) of the PTMP, SRS Consortium, had also been actively engaging various stakeholders on behalf of the state government.
“The PDP has todate conducted 220 engagement briefings involving different audiences for the PTMP, PSR and the fishing community,” Chow said.
He said measures proposed to help the fishing community include building four new fisherman wharves and jetties at Permatang Damar Laut, Teluk Kumbar, Sungai Batu and Gertak Sanggul, and setting up of a one-stop service centre withamenities to cater for boat repairs, among other functions.
“One of the main objectives in engaging the fishing community is to understand the concerns of the fishermen, and to develop appropriate measures to minimise theprojects’ impact on them.
“While more engagement and briefingsessions will be held in the coming months, job registration forms were shared with local fishermen and residents from affectedvillages who will be prioritised for suitable job openings when the projects commence.
“Some fishermen have expressed interest, and we hope more will register soon as some of the works start as early as 2017. This is one way to ensure stable income for the fishermen in the coming years,” Chow said.
He said SRS Consortium was exploring collaboration avenues with a vocational college to provide relevant courses catered for the respective job openings for fishermen who require training and skills enhancement.
“Those who complete their courses will be certified by the college and will be able to work either for the Bayan Lepas LRT, PIL 1 Highway or PSR project.
“In line with the state’s commitment to provide a highly livable environment and quality housing for the entire income spectrum, a total of 24,000 units of affordable homes will be built on the future reclaimed lands.
“The proposed reclaimed land under the PSR project will offer affordable housing for lower income groups, including eligiblefishermen. The PDP will submit the railway scheme for the Bayan Lepas LRT by next month to the Land Public Transport Commission, with conditional approval expected by June,” he added.
Chow also said the DEIA study for the Bayan Lepas LRT was expected to becompleted and submitted to the Department of Environment by mid-2016, after which a three-month public display process willfollow.
“Those who did not manage to attend previous engagements will be able to share their views and comments during this period.
“More engagements with business groups, NGOs, the media and local residents will be held in the coming months.
“The state government will be launching the official PTMP website by the end of the month which would serve as a one-stop information source and to assist the public to obtain latest updates on the transport master plan,” he added.

(The Star) Eight acres of rustic charm

Located in a secluded area in the middle of a sea of oil palm trees in Raub, Pahang, Eight Acres is an eco-resort built based on strong green principles and aims to spread this awareness to all who pass through its doors.
The resort is the jewel in the crown of D Jungle Group Sdn Bhd, and is designed, built and run under its subsidiary, D Jungle Resorts.
Chief executive officer John Kam said the idea of building a little boutique resort had always been on their minds.
“As a company, we strive to create things that make a difference, and every decision we make has to align with our three core pillars, which is People, Environment and Profitability,” he said.
“We have always wanted to create a place to call our own and not get too caught up in the trappings of the corporate world. We were also conscious that we had to do something to walk the talk,” he said.
Kam said they strived to be trailblazers in the building and running of an eco-resort.
“We scoured the whole country, but it was really hard to find an ideal place for a resort. And any piece of land is no more than just that – it needs someone with an eye for the potential of turning it around,” he said.
And that person is his brother Paul, the company’s managing director, who came across an old orchard land amidst a palm tree plantation in Raub, Pahang.
The eight-acre land was only accessible with a four-wheel drive back then, which gives a very good idea of how remote this little gem was. The access road has improved since, and you can now drive there with a normal passenger vehicle.
“It was a challenge and steep learning curve. But we received lots of support, and many loved the idea. Judging by our visitor reviews, we are still on the right track,” Kam said.
The three key factors they focus on at Eight Acres are ensuring the three basic needs of food, water and shelter are met.
The resort consists of various different buildings. The first and main building is the Brick House, consisting of six rooms, each with a different decor theme. Another three separate buildings dotting the “hill” within the resort houses between two and three rooms each.
Eight Acres supervisor Zakry Md Said explained that some rooms featured a dorm concept and shared bathrooms, a welcome concept for the corporate training and team-building events they organise there.
He also highlighted the Java House, a century-old, Balinese-style house brought over from Java and reassembled in the resort.
“It has two rooms at the top floor with an open sitting area and balcony. People can choose to book the entire space or just one room. The highlight of this house is that it was built entirely without any nails. This house is a skilled work of art,” he said.
Components used for the buildings include recycled material, sourced from all over the country.
“For example, we have a small building where we organise games, and its roof tiles are from an old colonial house. You can even see the year it was made on the underside,” Zakry said.
Kam also pointed out that they had planted more than 800 trees and plants around the resort, most of which had little commercial value, but were fast disappearing from our natural environment.
“We wanted a place that would attract wild animals. Right now, we have chickens, ducks and even a pony. They roam free and go where they please,” he said, adding that they had also started a small nest of stingless bees for honey and pollination purposes.
The resort is partially run using self-generated electricity using a 5kW hydroelectricity system set up at the river that runs through the land.
Most of the guests who stay at Eight Acres have a green mindset.
“They enjoy a rustic kind of lifestyle that brings them closer to nature. But we think some convenient comforts are still good such as showers,” Kam said with a smile.
Air-conditioning, however, is not one of these comforts. But the resort is surrounded by trees and is quite cool anyway.
Guests of all ages have enjoyed staying at the resort for various reasons.
“The older guests feel nostalgic while urban parents are just eager and happy to have their children experience a part of what it was like when they were growing up themselves,” he said.
Beyond the novelty factor of the resort, Kam said the education factor helped to drive curiosity and create awareness on green living.
There are teachings tours and some simple systems such as guests needing to bring their own towels and even washing their own plates after meals.
“We’re not looking to change everyone’s minds, but even if just five out of 100 people change their habits after staying with us, that’s better than nothing. They, in turn, will create awareness among their own circles and a ripple effect will follow,” he concluded.

(The Star) Department store chain opens its 75th outlet

The Store Group has opened its 75th outlet at M3 Mall, Setapak to offer the neighbourhood a wide range of merchandise at great value.
Strategically located in Wangsa Maju, the store occupies a total of 5,574sq m trading space with the supermarket located on the ground floor, and department store on the first and second floors.
“We’re constantly looking for strategic locations to serve the community. The community in Setapak is growing and we think there’s a great opportunity for business growth here,” said The Store group operations senior general manager Winky Pek.
“Many people are spending smart because of the current economic situation, and no doubt, the retail line is experiencing a slow period too.
“To help customers save money, we are offering them the best deals and bargains,” Pek added.
Besides providing fresh produce, groceries, electrical products and a range of household items, the department store also sells branded clothes and leather goods with discounts up to 80%, and free gifts on selected items and purchases.
Also present at the launch were The Store Group’s top management team and its ambassador Adibah Noor.
In celebration of the new store’s opening, guests enjoyed the various activities held, including a dance performance and lion dance performance, as well as a walkabout tour of the store and free product samples.
To kick things up a notch, the first 200 customers were entitled to a mystery gift when they spent at least RM30 in a single receipt while The Store Card members were entitled to an extra gift with purchases of RM50 and above.
“We will open two more stores, one in Selayang and another in Pahang, by the end of 2016 to serve more communities and neighbourhoods,” added Pek.

(The Star) A little bit of Ipoh in bustling Uptown

Food is a powerful link to our past.
This is well illustrated by the animated filmRatatouille where the crotchety food critic was hit by a flood of childhood memories upon the first bite of the traditional titular dish.
For me, it was chee cheong fun, Ipoh style.
This means the flat and smooth rice flour strips served either in light curry and topped with deep-fried pork skin or doused in watery mushroom sauce.
The hunt took me quite some time but I finally located a coffeeshop in Petaling Jaya that sells this childhood favourite of mine.
The first time, I visited after the lunch-hour rush and found the place – Annie1 in Damansara Uptown – surprisingly still crowded.
Considering the fairly long chase, my anticipation was high.
Alas, the dish did not quite meet my lofty expectations.
But everyone deserves a second chance, right?
So I grabbed a few friends and dropped in again, this time at the peak of lunchtime. It was packed to the brim.
I ordered the same item, and it turned out to be better this time.
The curry was slightly thicker and more flavourful than before.
The pork skin was springier and all-round nicer texture.
Annie1’s menu is skewed towards Perak fare, generally with a home-cooked flair.
My husband, a true-blue Ipoh native, had previously tried the mushroom gravy variety.
His verdict? “It’s alright.”
Agreed. But there was something amiss that I only realised more than halfway through finishing my plate. What I was missing were dried shrimps.
On my second visit, the other orders around my table included curry laksawantannoodles (which seem to be a popular choice judging by the plates carried past us) and mak chuk (a sweet wheat porridge as dessert).
My friends liked their dessert and the laksa with siew yoke (grilled pork).
The one grouse here was that the curry was not spicy enough.
But, I suppose, to each his or her own.
One of my lunch buddies returned on a weekend with her daughters and the young fussy eaters loved their dry wantan noodles.
So that is saying a lot.
She also has high praises for the caramel custard that are famed at the coffeeshops in Ipoh.
The adequately chilled pudding was uber-smooth and – more importantly for me – had just the right sweetness.
This particular double-lot coffeeshop seems to have struck on the right formula with reasonably priced food (considering its prime location), clean premises and sought-after Ipoh offerings.
That last factor is a powerful draw to the many transplanted Perak-born like me who crave a nostalgic indulgence.
ANNIE1, 20, Jalan SS21/58, Damansara Utama, Petaling Jaya (Tel: 016-660 8816) Business hours: 7.30am to 9.30pm (Mon-Fri), 8am to 3.30pm (Sat-Sun). Non halal.
This is the writer’s personal observation and not an endorsement by StarMetro.