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Thursday, 26 July 2018

(NST) Lee focused on growing CHHB


Tan Sri Lee Kim Yew, one of the biggest names in real estate development, says his net worth will be raised if he decides to sell off all his private businesses and also Country Heights Holdings Bhd (CHHB), a company he founded in 1980s.

“I will easily walk away with about RM5 billion cash, but why should I do it? I am very focused on growing CHHB and also my personal assets. If our Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammad can look after the whole country, why can’t I look after CHHB and my personal businesses?

“There is so much that I can do to grow the business. CHHB’s current assets alone are valued at RM2.9 billion. But if the assets are re-valued, they can easily be worth about RM4 billion,” he told NST Property.

Lee said in the next five to eight years, CHHB would launch up to RM10 billion worth of projects.

The projects include the four new business ventures that CHHB announced recently in Seri Kembangan and Melaka.

They are restrategising the group’s hospitality and resorts segment, developing the Grand Wellness hub and Mines Car City Centre (MCCC) in the Mines Resort City, and setting up the Cheng Ho Islamic Trade and Financial Centre in Melaka.

CHHB has pockets of land in other areas in the Klang Valley and Melaka, as well as Port Dickson and Sabah, which would be developed in due course, he said.

Lee said he was talking to several investors to fund the developments.

“They can either take a direct stake in the project or develop it in a joint venture with CHHB. If they want, I can also issue preference shares to them. There are so many funding options that we can look at,” he said.

Lee said it was about time that CHHB had a breath of fresh air after being “suffocated” for so many years, as bankers were not “supportive” of the group’s business ventures.

“I, too, was suffocated. People say that I am a crony of Dr Mahathir, but I want to clear my name and come out and say openly that it is not true. CHHB and I would not have suffered so much since the Asian financial crisis if I had been a a crony of Dr Mahathir.

“We met many top bankers and they were very unfriendly to us. Bankers have to understand that they need us more than we need them as we have various other funding options.

“Before the Asian financial crisis when CHHB was making profits and expanding rapidly, many bankers were knocking on our doors. But years later that changed.

“We did have RM2.2 billion borrowings, but all that amount have been paid. We are no longer a high geared company. There are top developers in Malaysia who are very high geared currently, where their borrowings exceed RM10 billion to more than RM20 billion, but bankers are still lending to them.

“My company began to suffer as we did not have the financing to continue all our big developments. We started losing money. But all that are in the past now. Our strength today is the business ideas that we have and our assets. We want to quickly repair this group,” said Lee.