Wednesday, 30 November 2016

(The Star) Government to develop state into top tourism destination

KUCHING: With a budget allocation of RM48mil, the state government wants to develop Sarawak as a top tourism destination in the region.
Action plans for next year will focus on culture, adventure and nature infrastructure, facilities, events and festivals as well as product development and enhancement.
For a start, facilities in Bako National Park, Kuching Wetlands National Park, Semenggoh Wildlife Centre, Wind Cave, Fairy Cave and Niah Cave will be given a facelift incorporativity tourist-friendly elements, Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said.
“Upgrading works include repair and replacement of jetties, plank walks and trails, signage, parking spaces, toilets, information centres and souvenir shops.
“The privatisation of several tourist services will also be carried out in our effort to improve their quality and standard,” he said in winding up matters related to the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry.
National parks were the most preferred destinations in the state among local and international visitors, attracting 423,333 tourists who generated RM4.53mil in revenue from January to September this year.
Overall, Sarawak received 3.8 million arrivals from January to October this year, an increase of 1% compared to the same period last year, bringing in estimated tourism receipts of RM7.5bil.
Based on previous trends, 4.7 million visitor arrivals are expected this year, an increase from 4.5 million last year.
Next year, the state is targetting five million arrivals and RM10.68bil in tourism receipts.
Abang Johari said other plans include transforming the Kuching Waterfront into a vibrant weekend pedestrian zone, constructing the Santubong Archaeological Park which will incorporate the Wallace Centre and converting the old state assembly building into a performing arts centre.
He said five of the state’s old forts would be conserved and upgraded into regional museums, with work on three to start next year and the remaining two to commence in 2018.
To address Sarawak’s air connectivity challenge, Abang Johari said the state was pursuing a charter flight approach from selected destinations, starting with the signing of an agreement with Hong Kong Airlines in May to fly the Kuching-Hong Kong route.
“The inaugural flight took off on May 28. As of August, the twice-weekly flight ferried 2,899 foreign passport holders into Sarawak.
The average seat capacity carried by the airline into Sarawak for the period stood at 73%,” he said.
Abang Johari added that a memorandum of understanding (MoU) had been signed with Taiwan-based See Mark Travel Services to mount one charter flight in February and 19 flights from June to August next year, which are expected to bring in 3,200 visitors and RM10.4mil in tourism receipts.

A similar MoU was signed with a travel agent in Hebei, China, to expand joint collaboration for movement of tourists and tourism-related business between Hebei province and Sarawak.

(The Star) Sarawak second expressway in the pipeline

KUCHING: The Infrastructure Development and Transportation Ministry has proposed the building of a second Sarawak expressway that will cut travelling distance between Kuching and Sibu by 200km.
Its minister Tan Sri James Masing said the second trunk road would run between the state’s coastal road and the Pan-Borneo Highway near the West Kalimantan border.
“The second trunk road or Sarawak Expressway, whatever we shall call it, will run between the current coastal road that hugs the coast and the Pan-Borneo Highway.
“The distance from Sibu to Kuching via Pan-Borneo Highway is about 400km. This second trunk road will reduce travelling distance by 200km. It means that you and I can save at least two hours our travelling from Kuching to Sibu and vice-versa,” Masing said.
The deputy chief minister added that his ministry had also proposed the construction of another main highway – at a distance of 85km – spanning from Sebuyau to Sri Aman and connecting the Pan-Borneo Highway at Betong.
“This is not the end of the ministry’s vision of creating major road networks in Sarawak. We are now planning for another highway that would run towards northeast from Betong along the border with Kalimantan, Indonesia.
“This interior highway with a distance of about 300km will end at Ulu Sg Baleh, where the Baleh hydro dam is located. Apart from opening the land in the interior of Sarawak from Ulu Sg Layar, Pakan, Julau, Kanowit, Song and Kapit, this will also allow for quick accessibility to the border regions with Indonesia,” he continued.
Masing said the proposed projects was in view of the land corridor between Pan-Borneo Higway and the coastal areas, where 63% of the state’s 2.6 million populations are residing.
These lands, where two-thirds of the people live in, were devoid of good access road and hence lacking development, he added.
On other matters, the government is looking to adopt the “multimodal transportation” system to cater the requirements of the state’s economic activities in view of the geographical terrains and budget constraints.
Masing said the system provides transportation chains where deliveries of goods and commuting are made possible by connecting different modes of transports.
The state government will cooperate with its Federal counterpart to implement a stage bus service pilot project in Kuching to ease traffic congestion and improve efficiency of public transport.
He added that the network operator, bus routes, schedule and frequencies had been finalised. Masing said the Federal Government had approved the dredging of Sungai Sarawak, commencing next year.

Once completed, bigger vessels including cruise ships would be able to berth at Senari Port and Pending Terminal.

(The Star) New housing policy unveiled

KUCHING: Sarawak has introduced a new housing policy to address the prevailing issue of housing affordability and exert some control over house prices.
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg (pic) said housing affordability was “quite acute” in major urban centres such as Kuching and Bintulu, where the maximum price of a double-storey terrace house was RM550,000 and RM655,000, respectively.
He said 64% of the state’s population could only afford to purchase houses priced below RM340,000.
“What this means is that we need to address the affordability issue for both the low- and middle-income groups,” he said in his winding-up speech.
As such, Abang Johari said the new policy aimed to increase the supply of affordable housing through mandatory private sector participation, cater for the housing needs of the lower- and middle-income groups and improve the minimum specifications of affordable houses towards meeting higher expectations and requirements of house buyers.
Under the policy, private housing developers are required to build affordable houses comprising up to 30% of their total development, preferably terraced houses if the land being developed is 4ha and above.
Affordable houses are divided into Spektra (Skim Perumahan Khas Rakyat) Lite and Spektra Medium categories, priced from RM100,000 to RM168,000 for terrace houses and RM120,000 for flats.
Abang Johari said Spektra Lite houses were for those with a monthly household income of RM4,000 and below, whereas for Spektra Medium it was RM5,000 and below.
“Existing low-cost house owners are also allowed to purchase Spektra Medium if they intend to own a better and larger unit, provided they meet the Spektra eligibility criteria,” he said.
He also said the state government had revised the density for residential development in Kuching, Sibu, Miri and Bintulu from eight to 10 units per 0.4ha for normal housing and from 24 to 30 units per 0.4ha for high-rise flats, apartments and townhouses.
“This is to ensure more optimum usage of land and mitigate its scarcity in urban centres, which has led to escalation of land prices.

“The increase in density will allow more affordable housing units to be built while helping to partially mitigate an unwarranted hike in house prices,” he said.

(NST) MRCB set for positive 2016 close after proposals approved at EGM

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Resources Corporation Bhd (MRCB) expects to close the year with a bang now that both its proposals at the Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) earlier today have unanimously been approved by the shareholders. 

The first proposal approved was the disposal of Menara Shell to real estate investment trust (REIT), MRCB-Quill REIT (MQ REIT) to the tune of RM640 million. 

The second approval was for MRCB's wholly-owned subsidiary, MRCB Builders Sdn Bhd to become the project delivery partner (PDP) for the upcoming Kwasa Damansara Township, with a provisional fee of RM112.3 million. 

"We are hopeful that both of these deals could be finalised by end of December this year so that it could translate positively into our 2016 financial year results," said chief corporate officer, Amarjit Chhina at the conclusion of EGM this afternoon. 

Amarjit revealed that the firm has already exceeded its property division sales target for 2016 as of November 2016.

"We have set a target of RM1 billion in property sales target for 2016, and I am happy to say that we have already reached RM1.3 billion in sales as of November 2016," he said. 

"We are now targeting RM1.5 billion in sales for 2017 and we are also confident in achieving this given our existing business model that is different from other players in this segment." 

Amarjit explained that MRCB's property division is mostly driven by its commercial side rather than residential, and as such have not been strongly impacted by the ongoing market downturn. 

MRCB will be launching its Sentral Suites project in early next year. The project which has been touted as the "final residential postcode" within KL Sentral area has an estimated gross development value (GDV) of RM1.6 billion. 

"We have already receive very strong interest in this project and as such expects some 30 per cent or RM500 million take up within 2017 first quarter itself," said Amarjit while noting that it will take a total of 54 months for the project to be fully completed. 

"We are also launching our Petaling Jaya-based Menara Celcom, with an indicative GDV of RM500 million in mid-2017." 

Also present at the media briefing were MRCB chief operating officer Kwan Joon Hoe and chief financial officer Ann Wan Tee.

(NST) Penang airport set to handle 6.4m passengers

PENANG: Penang International Airport expects to handle more travellers this year than it had earlier expected, saying the potential traffic growth is now “beyond its target”. 

Its operator Malaysia Airports Sdn Bhd (MASB) said Penang airport would likely handle 6.4 million passengers this year, up 6.5 per cent over last year, with international passengers forecast to grow at 12 per cent and domestic at three per cent. 

MASB general manager Mohammad Suhaimi Abdul Mubin said Penang airport’s initial target for this year was a two to five per cent growth in terms of passenger traffic. 

“But the growth is now beyond our target. Next year we forecast that Penang airport will handle 6.5 million passengers,” he told Business Times in an exclusive interview, here, last week. 

MASB is a subsidiary of Malaysia’s largest airport operator, Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB). 

MAHB manages, operates and maintain 37 airports in the country, excluding Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) and Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (klia2). Penang airport, the oldest airport in Malaysia, is stepping up its game to become one of the main transit hubs after KLIA in Sepang. 

Malaysia-based carriers such as Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAS) and AirAsia Bhd are ramping up their services by adding more direct flights between Penang and domestic as well as international destinations, especially to China. 

At the same time, foreign airlines have also started operating direct flights from various destinations to Penang. 

“We hope that when more airlines fly to Penang airport, there would be more international destination connectivity and that will make Penang airport a popular airport for transit. We want Penang airport to be another transit hub in Malaysia besides KLIA,” said Suhaimi. 

Currently, two other Malaysia-based airlines are operating out of Penang airport — MAS subsidiary FireFly and Malindo Airways. 

There are 12 international airlines operating out of the same airport, including China Southern Airlines, Jetstar Asia, Tiger Airways and Thai AirAsia. 

For outbound flights, Suhaimi said there were eight domestic destinations and 16 international destinations, mostly to Southeast Asian and Chinese cities. 

Maybank Investment Bank Bhd aviation analyst Mohshin Aziz said Penang was more suitable as a destination airport rather than a transit hub. 

“People go to Penang mostly for leisure or work. The airport has no criteria to be a transit hub because it needs bigger terminal capacity, bigger concourse and more food and beverage outlets. It’s not really a place where you want to hang out for long,” he said. 

Mohshin added that it was also more expansive for airlines to fuel their aircraft at Penang airport compared to KLIA due to the airport’s location, which was far from most fuel refineries. 

The fuel at Penang airport would usually be transported via tanker ships while at KLIA, the fuel was usually transported via an underground pipeline from the Malacca refinery. 

With the increasing number of flights and passengers, Penang airport’s terminal was extended to 53,000 sqm from 24, 000 sqm in June 2013 to cater up to 6.5 million passengers per annum. 

With the capacity reaching near maximum this year, Suhaimi said there were plans to expand the terminal in the future. 

He did not share MAHB’s plans for Penang airport but said a proposal had been submmited to the Transport Ministry, adding that discussions were ongoing between the airport operator, the ministry and the federal government. 

But Suhaimi said Penang airport could actually handle up to seven million passengers a year. 

“We can fully utilise the terminal and manage the flight slots. Right now, there are not many flights coming in around lunch hour but we can discuss with new airlines that are coming to fly in during the non-peak hours,” he said, adding that it could take about three to four years for the passenger number to reach seven million. 

Although the passenger traffic was increasing in Penang, Suhaimi said the island did not need a dedicated low-cost carrier terminal for budget carriers. 

He said the traffic that were brought in by low-cost carriers and full-service carriers could be handled in one integrated terminal for the comfort and convenience of passengers, especially transit passengers. 

Suhaimi also said Penang airport could handle more aircraft with its current terminal size. There are a total of 15 aircraft parking bays at the airport, of which only seven is being utilised during peak hours. 

However, the airport is currently facing limited car park space due to the rising number of visitors and passengers. 

MASB recognised the challenge, said Suhaimi, and the company planned to build a new nine-storey car park with 3,000 bays, up from 800 currently. 

He said the new car park would be built on the existing car park area. The project is targeted to start in the third quarter of next year and completed by 2018. 

“The multi-storey car park is part of Penang airport’s expansion plan. We recognise the need for more parking bays. There would be temporary inconveniences during the construction period but once it’s done, it will provide long-term convenience to everyone,” he said. 

MASB is also building a second on-site detection tank near the baggage handling area as part of its ongoing flood mitigation plan. 

The first tank located underneath the kerbside of Penang airport can handle up to 150mm rain fall.

(The Edge) Sime Darby Property eyes RM2.5b sales target for FY17

KUALA LUMPUR: Sime Darby Property Bhd, the property division of Sime Darby Bhd, has raised its sales target for the current financial year ending June 30, 2017 (FY17) by 25% to RM2.5 billion, as it plans to launch more projects.

The company achieved RM2 billion in property sales in FY16.

Sime Darby Property managing director Datuk Jauhari Hamidi said it had so far launched 11 projects in the first quarter of FY17.

“We are targeting 20 to 30 new launches in FY17. Overall, Sime Darby Property has a take-up rate of about 70%,” he told reporters after a signing ceremony between Sime Darby Property and Turner International for the delivery of several of Sime Darby Property’s three high-rise development projects, yesterday.

Nevertheless, Jauhari said the upcoming launches will depend on the readiness of the product and whether the market is ready.

He noted that the bulk of these new launches will be affordable homes.

“Our affordable home category ranges from RM200,000 to RM600,000. Some of these homes are part of our social obligation to the Selangor state government,” said Jauhari.

On Sime Darby Property’s outlook on the current market, Jauhari believes the market condition is reflective of the number of launches the company has had.

“While the market is quite soft, demand from the general market with the right product, right pricing and right location is still there. We believe the current market condition will prevail for the next one-and-a-half years,” he said.

Turner International will provide dvisory and consultancy roles for Sime Darby Property’s Cantara Residences in Ara Damansara, Selangor, an integrated development of 888 serviced apartment units and 13 commercial units with an iconic link bridge connecting its four apartment blocks; and Quarza Residence, an integrated development of two residential towers with 254 units each and 607,519 sq ft (56,440 sq m) of retail space.

Turner International will also be integral to the development of Jendela, an upcoming integrated development of serviced apartments and retail space at ALYA Kuala Lumpur, with a planned launch in the second quarter of 2017.

“Turner International will be responsible for the project management services, including design and engineering management, construction management, safety, quality, planning and controls as well as project close-out,” said Jauhari.

(The Edge) Putrajaya Perdana bags RM408m job

KUALA LUMPUR: Putrajaya Perdana Bhd’s wholly-owned unit Putra Perdana Construction Sdn Bhd has been awarded an RM408 million contract to build Sime Darby Ara Damansara Development Sdn Bhd’s Cantara Residences.

The contract entails the construction of a 17-floor building comprising 756 units of serviced apartments and another nine floors of 108 units built above the podium.

It also includes the construction of two floors of office units and shop-lots, car parks and common facilities. The development is expected to take 30 months with completion targeted in May 2019.

“With this RM408 million contract, we are confident that with our current order book in hand, we can maintain a positive performance for the group in the coming financial years,” said Putra Perdana chief executive officer Goh Ceah Chuang.

With the addition of the latest contract win, the group has secured RM765 million worth of projects year-to-date. Its order book and tender book stood at RM1.25 billion and RM1.93 billion respectively as at Oct 31. It is also submitting tenders for RM6 billion worth of contracts.

To date, Putra Perdana has completed and delivered more than RM10 billion worth of projects.