Saturday, April 21, 2007

Instant Office

Mee Kim, President and owner of CEO SUITE Group, told Chris Hanrahan how renting a serviced office can help a company move smoothly into Jakarta and hit the ground running from day one.

Opening a new office can be a nightmare for any company, whether it's a one-person start-up or a multinational moving into a new market. But much of the aggravation can be avoided if the company moves into a serviced office. Such an "instant" office comes with full secretarial staff support and complete IT infrastructure and meeting facilities.

"A serviced office suite provides a very convenient and cost¬ effective option for new market entrants who are unlikely to know the property market or are uncertain about their future manpower needs," says Mee Kim. "And the greatest advantage of the serviced office option is its flexibility for companies to base their longer¬ term manpower and space requirements on the growth rate of the business."

Mee is the attractive, dynamic and hardworking South Korean founder, President and owner of CEO SUITE Group. Her company's mission is to provide one-stop business solutions for companies requiring operational support and technology solutions without incurring major capital investment and lease commitments. Its client list includes Exxon Mobil, Freeport Indonesia and Etihad Airways.

After marrying Indonesian businessman Joseph Siswanto, Mee founded her company in Jakarta in 1997 and has since expanded into Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai and Beijing. "I am so lucky with my husband," she smiles. "He sets me free to follow my dreams."

In Jakarta, CEO SUITE has a total of about 300 clients (70 per cent of which are foreign companies) at two locations on Sudirman : the 39th floor of Wisma GKBI, from where "on a clear day you can see the sea”, says Mee, and the 17th floor of Tower 2 at the Jakarta Stock Exchange building. Both office locations are of world class standards - immaculate and tastefully appointed with brand new designer furniture - and rents range from US$700 for a small one-person space to $4,000 per month for a space big enough for 20 people.

Services provided include personalised bi-lingual telephonists, call forwarding, copywriting and editing, executive secretarial services and translation. Equipment provided include standard audio-¬visual and presentation facilities to laser color printers, scanners, digital copiers, desktop publishing facilities.

At the Wisma GKBI center, Mee's assistants proudly showcased to PRESTIGE a luxurious boardroom clients use for business meetings, video-conferencing and three- and five-way teleconferencing. Also available: an elegant lounge with panoramic city views, a Zen lounge and stylish cyber cafe, a fitness centre, and even a helipad.

"We set out to provide our foreign clients with an environment where culture shock is non-existent the minute they step into CEO SUITE," says Mee. "We help them set up their business here instantly and without trouble, ensuring an uncomplicated assimilation into the city. Within minutes of walking in, they can organise an office just the way the want it. Why spend days or weeks looking for an office or for efficient staff support?"

Mee admits that serviced offices are expensive in terms of cost per square meter. "But considering that the rent includes management fees, utilities, general office maintenance, full secretarial staff support, complete business and IT infrastructure and meeting facilities, it provides a very convenient and cost-effective option for new market entrants," she points out.

She says it is crucial for companies to be clear about their longer-term strategic goals and business plans, as excessive space commitment or shortage of space in a conventional fixed¬-term commitment can be a limiting factor for future business considerations.

"Among other office planning factors, the strategic ability to identify the right office building, test-fit potential office space, engage a specific design theme for the right corporate identity and space configuration will ensure higher chances of creating a high¬ performance workplace environment," Mee goes on.

"We are the ideal choice for businesses that are looking for flexible lease terms, and our facilities are perfect for representative offices and operations with small staff counts. In mature markets characterised by tight office supply and rising rents, serviced offices provide a realistic option for all considerations in an office move. As a lower-risk, shorter-term commitment, the serviced office suite option enables a firm to hit the ground running from day one."

What should a company be looking for in a serviced office? Mee says location is the most important consideration. “Identifying a serviced office in a Grade A building in a central location in the city’s central business district will ensure overall accessibility, convenience and prestige for your company,” she adds.

It is also important to assess the quality and commitment of the management and support team. “From the receptionists to the secretaries, they will be your extended support team to work with on a daily basis,” notes Mee. “Presentation, qualifications, efficiency: those will be the first impressions your company makes on clients.”

Mee has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Yonsei University, one of the best universities in South Korea, and a Master of Commerce degree from the University of New South Wales in Australia. “My dad is my driving force,” says Mee. “He wanted me to go to the best university and then marry a rich man. But I had my own ideas, and chose to pursue further education in Australia.” She worked for Servcorp, which operates a global network of serviced offices, for six years. She was based first in Thailand, then in Indonesia and Australia before breaking away to start her own company.

Mee describes herself as a hands-on manager who takes special care when choosing her staff. “None of our people is a fresh university graduate,” she says. “Each one is unique in terms of their experience in this industry. Even the receptionist has at least 10 years’ of working experience.” She observes that the serviced office business requires a huge capital investment and is an extremely competitive industry. “I must say, we have worked hard every day for the past nine years to be where we are now.”

In the end, she says, it’s the quality of her management team that counts. “They should have the survivor quality – not forgetting, of course, the tried and tested attributes of hard work, optimism and being an opportunity catcher,” she adds. “But above all, the most important factor is their high level of education, which, combined with their rich experience in dealing with multinational companies from different countries that will make them highly resilient.”

Aside from business, Mee is investing much of her company’s resources to social causes. In association with the World Education organization, CEO SUITE has launched the Learning Farm, an innovative programme specially tailored to provide education and learning opportunities for children and vulnerable youth on the streets. Implemented by the Karang Widya foundation, the programme encourages self-sustenance in an organic farm environment in Puncak. “I am very proud of this programme because it has taken 40 kids off the streets,” says Mee.

Mee plans to add two more centers to CEO SUITE next year, one in Bangkok and the other in Vietnam. “I am confident that we can manage this expansion,” she says. “It’s too much for one person to handle, but I have three good directors to assist me now.”

Concludes Mee: “I can claim two achievements in my life. One is my-eight-year-old boy, Eugene; and the other is CEO SUITE, which to me is like a child I have brought up and nurtured through thick and thin.”

Copyright © CEO SUITE Pte Ltd. All rights reserved
Rent an office on hourly basis, why not?

Where else can you meet clients to discuss a very important business issue, considering your office is located far from the city center?

There emerges a more interesting option for businessmen these days whose requirement is for short-term, temporary office space in the more prestigious buildings right within the city center. And the attraction is, rental at these Instant Office Providers starts from hourly basis.

Indeed, the price may seem more expensive compared to rent at conventional offices on a long term basis. But considering it as an urgent requirement, and if it is a short-term requirement, this option may be worth the consideration.

One of such Instant Office providers is CEO SUITE in the CBD area in Jakarta. According to Nuke Yudaningrat, Center Manager of CEO SUITE (Jakarta Stock Exchange center), there are various options / rental packages for clients to choose from.

For example, CEO SUITE provides meeting and boardroom packages for up to 26 people from US$10 to US$20 per hour depending on final requirements. Video-conferencing sessions are also available for bookings.

Besides meeting packages, CEO SUITE also provides office space / virtual space on a longer-term basis. The virtual space service is known as a Virtual Office, and monthly rates begin from US$60 per month. The Virtual Office is extremely popular with business travelers who require business support (in terms of mail handling, and phone answering services) at a prestigious downtown location whilst traveling.

Other facilities and services provided by CEO SUITE include secretarial & IT support, telecommunication facilities, high-speed internet. “We assure you that your business will be well-handled by our team,” expresses Nuke while promoting CEO SUITE. This service is also well-accepted, and suited to many foreign companies / representative offices.
For a physical space, CEO SUITE offers rates beginning from US$800 upwards to US$3,000 per month, depending on the area of each office.

There remains much potential for this business. Year round, the occupancy level remains at a high 95%.

Copyright © CEO SUITE Pte Ltd. All rights reserved
Open your Jakarta office in 10 minutes!

In the past, the very idea of a business opening its doors in an instant would have been unlikely, but not any more with CEO SUITE.

Now, opening a new office is as easy as ABC thanks to CEO SUITE, a business specializing in instant and virtual offices. This serviced offices company has quick solutions for any company wanting to immediately open an office without the burden of heavy capital investments or renovation costs.

Why spend days looking for office space or staff to train when CEO SUITE offers a wide range of executive office suites at landmark locations, fully facilitated with an extensive variety of office equipment and experienced staff-support? CEO SUITE takes care of all the details involved in setting up an office while you focus on your core business.

Flexibility can be enjoyed not only in terms of office space -- ranging from space for just one person to office space for a large organization -- but also in terms of leasing period, which may range from one hour, for example, to an unlimited length of time.

Besides renting office space, CEO SUITE also provides other services in the shortest time possible. When a bomb exploded outside the Australian Embassy in Jakarta on Sept. 9, 2004, for example, Mee Kim received telephone calls from panicked executives in offices around the embassy building. Overnight, Mee Kim provided space for them and made available telephone connections and computers for Freeport McMoRan mining company and three oil companies in its business-center offices a few blocks away from the bomb explosion site. "The next day they moved to the new locations," she said.

CEO SUITE is quick to provide services to its clients, both companies and individuals. CEO SUITE receives mixed requests from its clients, ranging from just a virtual office, fully equipped offices, boardrooms to video conferencing. The company provides not only standard office services but also services in consultancy, recruitment, accountancy, legal, concierge services, project management, equipment rentals and even disaster recovery.

Since starting her business in 1997, Mee Kim has learned that businesspeople in every country require something different and this is just what CEO strives to give to its clients. "Some places offer a few extras like training room facilities and airport pick-up, but we're different. Our knowledge of the Asian business environment provides a solid foundation for your business," said Mee Kim.

The characteristics of the services that CEO SUITE offers are that they are cost-efficient, practical and flexible. It offers not only ready-to-use standard office facilities but also back offices, ranging from personalized bilingual phone answering and instant call forwarding, copy-writing and editing as well as executive secretarial services and translations. CEO SUITE is able to offer many more services to meet its clients' needs.

Due to its extensive experience, CEO SUITE has become a top choice for companies wishing to open branch offices, sales offices or companies wanting to start a new business.

"We needed to set up an office in a very short time frame, and CEO has enabled us to move in and have our phone lines and Internet, etc. working -- all within a short time of signing the lease. Besides office space, CEO's facilities such as their meeting rooms have created a good atmosphere for us and our guests. The staff is professional, and is always willing to help and assist in matters ranging from translation to solving problems in IT," said John N. Grant, General Manager, Asia Petroleum, commenting on CEO SUITE's services.

Today, apart from its offices in strategic locations in Jakarta (the Jakarta Stock Exchange and Wisma GKBI), CEO has branch offices in four other cities: Menara Maxis (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), Singapore Land Tower (Singapore), Hong Kong New World Tower (Shanghai, China) and Twin Towers (Beijing, China).

CEO SUITE serves over 700 clients in the region, 90 percent of which are MNCs like ABN Amro, Dell, BMC Software, Coca Cola, Exxon Mobil, etc.

This year, they will open branches in Manila, Bangkok and Seoul. Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong and a third center in Jakarta will follow in 2008.

Copyright © CEO SUITE Pte Ltd. All rights reserved

Newly reorganised developer lays plans

Newly reorganised developer lays plans


HA NOI — Thuy Duong Co Ltd was officially converted to the Thuy Duong Investment Joint Stock Company yesterday, announced company General Director Nguyen Van Luan.

The conversion is inevitable for a sustainable development of the company, Luan said: "It will create a combination of strength of capital, business experience and modern management expertise."

"A sole company will have difficulties to survive in an increasingly competitive market," he added.

The company’s strategic shareholders includes the Prudential Viet Nam Assurance Company, VP Capital-VINA financial investment fund and the Phu Thai Joint Stock Group which specialises in investment and distribution, according to Luan.

The company has an equity of VND195 billion (US$12.19 million), operating in three major fields including real estate, trading-service, and interior decoration and construction material manufacturing.

Real estate is the key field, Luan said, citing the company’s $40 million TD Plaza Hai Phong opened in January in the northern city.

"We plan to start construction of a $30 million plaza in HCM City in the fourth quarter and another valued at $20 million in Nha Trang in early next year."

The company expects to raise its equity to VND600 billion ($37.5 million) in this year, he said. It plans to get listed on the stock exchange in 2008.

Luan stressed the importance of the company’s strategic partners in assuring the quality of goods and services as well as customer base.

These includes Malaysia’s Retailing Group Parkson, Megastar Media Joint Venture (USA-Viet Nam JV), Singapore’s Kinder World Company and USA’s CB Richard Ellis. — VNS
CEO SUITE Expands to Singapore

CEO SUITE, an International service office provider company, will open a new center in Singapore at the beginning of year 2002. The opening is one part of its strategic expansion into Asia.

According to Maya Kandou, General manager CEO SUITE Jakarta, this will be the fourth center opened in East Asia after a center in Kuala Lumpur ( Menara Maxis, 36th Floor) and two centers in Jakarta ( JSX 17th floor and Wisma GKBI 39th floor). The new center will be located in Singapore's most strategic central business district, Raffles Place. "We always choose the best building within the City Business Center as this is our standard. The interior design of the center in Singapore will be similar to our existing centers in other cities; modern minimalism. It will also be Feng Sui oriented, with light colors and functional workspace," said Maya. "CEO SUITE Singapore will be equipped with all the latest technology, and advanced internet and telecommunication systems. The office will be able to accommodate any IT requirement no matter how sophisticated from multinational clients and will be serving as the most advanced business center in the region," she added.

Maya explained that the way CEO Suite operates is like a hotel. The lease term is very flexible depending on what client's requirement. The lease can be yearly, monthly, weekly, daily and even hourly based. "We also provide Virtual Office for those who only need a business address and telephone answering service instead of office space. This would cost less than hiring a personal receptionist while you can enhance your corporate image instantly."

Copyright © CEO SUITE Pte Ltd. All rights reserved
CEO SUITE Expands to Singapore

CEO SUITE, an International service office provider company, will open a new center in Singapore at the beginning of year 2002. The opening is one part of its strategic expansion into Asia.

According to Maya Kandou, General manager CEO SUITE Jakarta, this will be the fourth center opened in East Asia after a center in Kuala Lumpur ( Menara Maxis, 36th Floor) and two centers in Jakarta ( JSX 17th floor and Wisma GKBI 39th floor). The new center will be located in Singapore's most strategic central business district, Raffles Place. "We always choose the best building within the City Business Center as this is our standard. The interior design of the center in Singapore will be similar to our existing centers in other cities; modern minimalism. It will also be Feng Sui oriented, with light colors and functional workspace," said Maya. "CEO SUITE Singapore will be equipped with all the latest technology, and advanced internet and telecommunication systems. The office will be able to accommodate any IT requirement no matter how sophisticated from multinational clients and will be serving as the most advanced business center in the region," she added.

Maya explained that the way CEO Suite operates is like a hotel. The lease term is very flexible depending on what client's requirement. The lease can be yearly, monthly, weekly, daily and even hourly based. "We also provide Virtual Office for those who only need a business address and telephone answering service instead of office space. This would cost less than hiring a personal receptionist while you can enhance your corporate image instantly."

Copyright © CEO SUITE Pte Ltd. All rights reserved
Dot Com Company to JSX

Having an office in the heart of the business center in Jakarta such as Golden Triangle (Gatot Subroto, Sudirman, Thamrin and Kuningan) would increase the company's prestige, image and business opportunities. But the depreciation of Rupiah value has forced many companies to move their operation to suburban area like south Jakarta. Nowadays there is a tendency for dotcom company to rent a small office space in a serviced office which is different from conventional office. Serviced offices offer not only space but also facilities like furniture, internet, receptionist or secretaries and even meeting room.

Image and Facilities

The reason for to choose serviced office was because, "The company is still adapting to the situation of Indonesia," said Arif Hasan, Senior Technical Officer. "The head office in Singapore thought that this serviced office was suitable for Catcha. Another reason was technical, such as Internet line facilities with broad bandwidth, fiber optic, not to mention psychological factor such as creating an impressive and credible image". E-Samsung considers that strategic location, prestigious place and complete facilities are the reason they choose serviced office, while Anto Ritonga Chief Accounting of Arus Nawala admitted that other than location, facilities play important role in competition.

Instant Office and Virtual Office

Since the concept of small-integrated office was found in Europe and U.S. business can be done from only one small room for one person. The concept was brought to Indonesia in 1998 and instant office grew along Gatot Subroto, Sudirman, Thamrin and Kuningan. The largest operator is PT. CEO SUITE, founded by Mee Kim. "With complete facilities, administrative assistants and office equipment, "The tenant can just come and work," said Jenny Tjendana, Director of Sales & Marketing of CEO SUITE . In CEO, SUITE there are many dotcom companies like Catcha, e-Samsung, Boleh net, Skybiz, Lycos Asia and MCI worldcom. Founding and running an instant office during the unstable economic situation at that time took an extraordinary courage but Mee Kim was optimistic. She has a simple philosophy, where there is a danger, there is an opportunity. Now both centers of CEO SUITE enjoy high occupancy rate : on the 39th floor of the prestigious building of GKBI and on the 17th floor of the prominent building of Jakarta Stock. CEO SUITE is undoubtedly the market leader in this instant business office.

Copyright © CEO SUITE Pte Ltd. All rights reserved
Private Office Suites Aided by Feng Shui

Comfortable office is important, but for some people (especially Chinese), Feng Shui is more important. According to President of CEO SUITE, Mee Kim -a company that rents instant offices for investors-, unlike European or American, Asian business people are Feng Shui- minded. That was why she consulted Feng Shui experts from Hong Kong each time she builds her center. Feng Shui is an ancient Chinese belief on how to decorate home, environment, work location, and furniture in order to avoid calamity and maximize wellbeing and fortune. CEO SUITE stops at nothing to maximize the financial success of the tenants.

Part of building that needs serious attention is the corners of the room. This part is believed to bring bad luck. To avoid it, plants or crystals are placed strategically. For her premises, Mee Kim chose part of building facing South and East. Main door is important too. According to Feng Shui, main entrance must face directly to where the guest arrives.

Copyright © CEO SUITE Pte Ltd. All rights reserved
Virtual Offices are here for real

Virtual and instant offices are still relatively new in the country, but there is a growing demand for the service. The Jakarta Post's contributor Rudy Madanir takes a close look at the trend.

Jakarta: Be a guest of Michael Sinjorgo. This means that you will warmly welcomed by two beautiful, smiling receptionists as soon as you step into the reception area. In a minute, you are seated in the spacious hall with a cup of tea or coffee, enjoying the comfort and luxurious atmosphere of an office located in the Jakarta Stock Exchange Building on Jl. Sudirman, a prestigious business address in town.

"Wow, you have a huge office," said Sinjorgo mimicking the frequent comments made by his guests. "They think I am the big boss for the whole place," he said, laughing. To the guest's surprise, Sinjorgo explains that the office is not his, it is only partly rented for the purpose of meeting with his guests.

The white-haired Sinjorgo, 59, a Canadian national , is the president director of an insurance risk management consulting company, PT. Usaha Tepat Guna. He runs his business with only five local staff and his company practically has no need of permanent office space throughout the year. Because of the nature of his company's work, it is more practical for Sinjorgo, who works with large companies, to have office space within his client's offices. "Our staff are very mobile, they can spend four hours in one company and then move to another for another three hours. This means we don't necessarily need our own office space," he said

Sinjorgo is a client of an instant office center that applies a concept of virtual office - "an office when one does not have a physical office." By paying approximately Rp.1 million a month, Sinjorgo has a basic virtual office service, including a dedicated telephone line, a receptionist answering the telephone under his company name, an hour a day of using the office, and most importantly, the use of the instant office center as his business address.

The number of companies sharing the same address with Sinjorgo could reach 140, as the center does not only cater to virtual office clients but also serves 40 in-house clients. Occupying a half or a whole floor at some of the newest buildings along Jakarta's main thoroughfares, the centers are now waking to the needs of the business community, providing corporate image and cost efficiency among other services.

Coincident with the recovery of the Indonesian economy, more and more companies are now flocking to centers trying to provide the general and specific needs of each client. Clients cold include a new foreign investor who just arrived, seeking a business opportunity, or it could be another downsizing company that has been forced by the economic crisis to move from the prestigious business district.

A newly arrived multinational corporation can rent a small furnished office within a center with shared secretaries, receptionists and boardroom, before setting up its own office or factory. That way it can focus on its start-up operations without being bothered by the hassle of establishing its own office and recruiting employees. After several months, the company can eave its temporary office to set up of its own, or it may set up a representative office and remain with the center, or if it has not been successful, leave the country.

A downsizing company can still maintain its business image by becoming a client in one of the virtual office centers. Being a client does not mean that the company must rent an office in the center. The company can rent the address of the center including a personalized telephone answering service in its company name. As a result, the company saves the cost of renting office space in the expensive area. And more importantly, it can save its image by not showing its ruko (shophouse) address in Tangerang or Bekasi as its representative office. Be it real (in house) or virtua , the demand for instant offices is growing.

CEO, one of the main instant office operators, has reached its full capacity both for in house and virtual office clients at its center in the Jakarta Stock Exchange building. Consequently, the operator has opened its second center at the GKBI building. By the Semangi cloverleaf

Unlike traditional offices, the centers provide some flexibility to their in-house clients in terms of rent payment, from monthly to hourly, if necessary.

The room sizes in the two center varies from as small as 12 squares meters to 70 square meters. Some rooms are designed for expansion or downsizing with jus a connecting door and partition, as requirements change overnight.

When the Indonesian economy is no longer dominated by big business players, three will be more small and medium companies needing less than 100 square meters of office space because of support from Internet and high technology.

Copyright © CEO SUITE Pte Ltd. All rights reserved

Instant Office Center Banks on Helping out New Investors

Instant Office Center Banks on Helping out New Investors

An increasing number of foreign investors have been eyeing business opportunities in Indonesia, as indicated by the growing demand for instant offices, said Mee Kim, President of PT. Citra Eksekutip Otorita (CEO), a major operator of instant offices

"Instant offices spare businesspeople the problems of finding suitable office space and recruiting English-speaking local employees," Kim said in an interview at CEO's second instant office center at the Wisma GKBI building on the Sudirman thoroughfare, which officially opens on Thursday

She said the concept of the instant office enabled any businesspeople to simply walk in and have a nice office in five minutes and start their own business activities on the same day

Instant office is also quite suitable for mobile businesspeople as the facility enables them to receive every incoming call or message through high-tech telephone system without having to be in the instant office all time.

Kim said her company especially helped foreign investors to fit in with Jakarta by providing them with a functioning office that allowed them to concentrate on their business the very same they arrived here

"We act as an incubator. We reduce the culture shock, so that they can easily fit in," she added. She said unlike traditional offices, CEO Instant Office could offer more flexibility in rent payments, which could range from daily to monthly fees. Kim said the concept of instant offices was already familiar to Western businessmen and had begun to attract Asian companies as well.

She said part of her company's mission was to help foreign businesspeople visiting Indonesia to focus on their businesses without being bothered by the time-consuming preparations of establishing an office. CEO provides furnished offices that include secretaries and receptionists, and a range of other services to allow businessmen establish their own office operations immediately after arriving in Jakarta.

"Foreign companies entering Indonesia prefer this type of service over the hassle of trying to immediately rent a new office and recruit personnel upon arriving in the city," she said. However, she added, the economic crisis, along with the political uncertainties, made it harder to attract clients or even to maintain clients much longer in the country. "But I eventually managed to convince them with an argument that if they pulled out they would lose their contacts and their names would be quickly forgotten,".

Most clients stay between two to six months at CEO's offices, before they settle in their own offices, she said, adding that some, mostly representative offices with only two to three personnel, were permanent tenants at CEO offices. Building a corporate image was another product of a serviced office, since such businesses usually were housed in prestigious, prime-site office buildings with impressive interior designs, she said.

Kim said CEO started with its first instant office center at the Jakarta Stock Exchange Building in 1997 but the growing demand for this service had prompted her company to open its second office center at the GKBI building on the Sudirman thoroughfare. Kim who has been in the instant office business for over 10 years, started CEO in 1997 after having worked for about eight years in an overseas instant office company during when she managed office centers in Singapore and Bangkok before eventually assigned to open another branch in Jakarta. "It was in 1992, we were alone in the market, it was a pretty easy business," she said

She said in order to survive the economic crisis, CEO relied on companies that were downsizing and with only a couple of people left had to move to an instant office.

Unisem buying Batam-based AIT

Unisem buying Batam-based AIT

By Yeow Pooi Ling

KUALA LUMPUR: Chipmaker Unisem Bhd has proposed to buy Advanced Interconnect Technologies Ltd (AIT) for US$70.25mil cash, said chairman and managing director John Chia Sin Tet.

John Chia at the press briefing yesterday.
About a third of the sum will be financed with internal funds and the balance with borrowings. Unisem will also assume net debts of US$6.6mil on completion of the deal.

Chia told a press briefing on the proposal yesterday that since the group had spent only “a fraction” of the RM400mil it raised last year, it could easily use the balance funds. Post-acquisition, the group's gearing would rise to 0.89 from 0.65 time at Dec 31, 2006.

“This deal will transform the group into one of the top 10 semiconductor assembly and test service providers in the world by revenue,” Chia said, adding that the purchase was anticipated to be accretive this year.

AIT, whose main operations are in Batam, Indonesia, provides a full range of package testing and offers fully integrated turnkey services. Its key products include both array and leadframe packages.

For the financial year ended Dec 31, 2006 it made a net profit of US$8.8mil on revenue of US$133.4mil.

For the same fiscal year, Unisem made a net profit of almost RM72mil on sales of RM692.8mil.

The investment was anticipated to break even in four years.

Post-acquisition, the group's revenue base will be widened by its bigger presence in the motor vehicle sector, a higher proportion of revenue from Europe to 29% from 22% previously, and reduced exposure to the US market to 62% from 64% before, as well as from a better product mix.

“AIT's customer base is highly complementary to Unisem's with minimal overlap,” Chia said, adding that there would be cross-selling opportunities, cost savings and technology leverage.

Moreover, he said, the AIT management had agreed to stay in the group, bringing with them significant assembly and test experience.

He also noted that AIT had been performing positively in the past three years with “minimal” capital expenditure (capex).

“Capex going forward mainly would be for maintenance rather than for expansion as AIT's facilities in Batam as well as Unisem's in Ipoh are operating at almost full capacity,” he said.

Expansion would mainly be centred on the group's operations in Chengdu, China, he added.

Unisem's China unit, which owns the packaging and test facility, is expected to break even in the second half this year.

“We have invested about US$40mil in China, of which the bulk is for setting up the plant and the balance for machinery and working capital,” Chia said.

Additional capex would be to buy more equipment to generate immediate revenue but “this depends on how the business develops,” he said.

Unisem executive director Francis Chia Mong Tet said AIT was expected to grow in “low teens” and would contribute between 15% and 20% to Unisem's net profit going forward

Excerpt from Lee Iacocca's just released booktopic posted Today, 7:24 AM by Mike

Excerpt from Lee Iacocca's just released booktopic posted Today, 7:24 AM by Mike

Excerpt from
Where Have All the Leaders Gone?
By Lee Iacocca with Catherine Whitney
published April 2007

Had Enough?

Am I the only guy in this country who's fed up with what's happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We've got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we've got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can't even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, "Stay the course."

Stay the course? You've got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned Titanic. I'll give you a sound bite: Throw the bums out!

You might think I'm getting senile, that I've gone off my rocker, and maybe I have. But someone has to speak up. I hardly recognize this country anymore. The President of the United States is given a free pass to ignore the Constitution, tap our phones, and lead us to war on a pack of lies. Congress responds to record deficits by passing a huge tax cut for the wealthy (thanks, but I don't need it). The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we're fiddling in Iraq, the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving pom-poms instead of asking hard questions. That's not the promise of America my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for. I've had enough. How about you?

I'll go a step further. You can't call yourself a patriot if you're not outraged. This is a fight I'm ready and willing to have.

My friends tell me to calm down. They say, "Lee, you're eighty-two years old. Leave the rage to the young people." I'd love to—as soon as I can pry them away from their iPods for five seconds and get them to pay attention. I'm going to speak up because it's my patriotic duty. I think people will listen to me. They say I have a reputation as a straight shooter. So I'll tell you how I see it, and it's not pretty, but at least it's real. I'm hoping to strike a nerve in those young folks who say they don't vote because they don't trust politicians to represent their interests. Hey, America, wake up. These guys work for us.

Who Are These Guys, Anyway?

Why are we in this mess? How did we end up with this crowd in Washington? Well, we voted for them—or at least some of us did. But I'll tell you what we didn't do. We didn't agree to suspend the Constitution. We didn't agree to stop asking questions or demanding answers. Some of us are sick and tired of people who call free speech treason. Where I come from that's a dictatorship, not a democracy.

And don't tell me it's all the fault of right-wing Republicans or liberal Democrats. That's an intellectually lazy argument, and it's part of the reason we're in this stew. We're not just a nation of factions. We're a people. We share common principles and ideals. And we rise and fall together.

Where are the voices of leaders who can inspire us to action and make us stand taller? What happened to the strong and resolute party of Lincoln? What happened to the courageous, populist party of FDR and Truman? There was a time in this country when the voices of great leaders lifted us up and made us want to do better. Where have all the leaders gone?

The Test of a Leader

I've never been Commander in Chief, but I've been a CEO. I understand a few things about leadership at the top. I've figured out nine points—not ten (I don't want people accusing me of thinking I'm Moses). I call them the "Nine Cs of Leadership." They're not fancy or complicated. Just clear, obvious qualities that every true leader should have. We should look at how the current administration stacks up. Like it or not, this crew is going to be around until January 2009. Maybe we can learn something before we go to the polls in 2008. Then let's be sure we use the leadership test to screen the candidates who say they want to run the country. It's up to us to choose wisely.

So, here's my C list:

A leader has to show CURIOSITY. He has to listen to people outside of the "Yes, sir" crowd in his inner circle. He has to read voraciously, because the world is a big, complicated place. George W. Bush brags about never reading a newspaper. "I just scan the headlines," he says. Am I hearing this right? He's the President of the United States and he never reads a newspaper? Thomas Jefferson once said, "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate for a moment to prefer the latter." Bush disagrees. As long as he gets his daily hour in the gym, with Fox News piped through the sound system, he's ready to go.

If a leader never steps outside his comfort zone to hear different ideas, he grows stale. If he doesn't put his beliefs to the test, how does he know he's right? The inability to listen is a form of arrogance. It means either you think you already know it all, or you just don't care. Before the 2006 election, George Bush made a big point of saying he didn't listen to the polls. Yeah, that's what they all say when the polls stink. But maybe he should have listened, because 70 percent of the people were saying he was on the wrong track. It took a "thumping" on election day to wake him up, but even then you got the feeling he wasn't listening so much as he was calculating how to do a better job of convincing everyone he was right.

A leader has to be CREATIVE, go out on a limb, be willing to try something different. You know, think outside the box. George Bush prides himself on never changing, even as the world around him is spinning out of control. God forbid someone should accuse him of flip-flopping. There's a disturbingly messianic fervor to his certainty. Senator Joe Biden recalled a conversation he had with Bush a few months after our troops marched into Baghdad. Joe was in the Oval Office outlining his concerns to the President—the explosive mix of Shiite and Sunni, the disbanded Iraqi army, the problems securing the oil fields. "The President was serene," Joe recalled. "He told me he was sure that we were on the right course and that all would be well. 'Mr. President,' I finally said, 'how can you be so sure when you don't yet know all the facts?'" Bush then reached over and put a steadying hand on Joe's shoulder. "My instincts," he said. "My instincts." Joe was flabbergasted. He told Bush, "Mr. President, your instincts aren't good enough." Joe Biden sure didn't think the matter was settled. And, as we all know now, it wasn't.

Leadership is all about managing change—whether you're leading a company or leading a country. Things change, and you get creative. You adapt. Maybe Bush was absent the day they covered that at Harvard Business School.

A leader has to COMMUNICATE. I'm not talking about running off at the mouth or spouting sound bites. I'm talking about facing reality and telling the truth. Nobody in the current administration seems to know how to talk straight anymore. Instead, they spend most of their time trying to convince us that things are not really as bad as they seem. I don't know if it's denial or dishonesty, but it can start to drive you crazy after a while. Communication has to start with telling the truth, even when it's painful. The war in Iraq has been, among other things, a grand failure of communication. Bush is like the boy who didn't cry wolf when the wolf was at the door. After years of being told that all is well, even as the casualties and chaos mount, we've stopped listening to him.

A leader has to be a person of CHARACTER. That means knowing the difference between right and wrong and having the guts to do the right thing. Abraham Lincoln once said, "If you want to test a man's character, give him power." George Bush has a lot of power. What does it say about his character? Bush has shown a willingness to take bold action on the world stage because he has the power, but he shows little regard for the grievous consequences. He has sent our troops (not to mention hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens) to their deaths—for what? To build our oil reserves? To avenge his daddy because Saddam Hussein once tried to have him killed? To show his daddy he's tougher? The motivations behind the war in Iraq are questionable, and the execution of the war has been a disaster. A man of character does not ask a single soldier to die for a failed policy.

A leader must have COURAGE. I'm talking about balls. (That even goes for female leaders.) Swagger isn't courage. Tough talk isn't courage. George Bush comes from a blue-blooded Connecticut family, but he likes to talk like a cowboy. You know, My gun is bigger than your gun. Courage in the twenty-first century doesn't mean posturing and bravado. Courage is a commitment to sit down at the negotiating table and talk.

If you're a politician, courage means taking a position even when you know it will cost you votes. Bush can't even make a public appearance unless the audience has been handpicked and sanitized. He did a series of so-called town hall meetings last year, in auditoriums packed with his most devoted fans. The questions were all softballs.

To be a leader you've got to have CONVICTION—a fire in your belly. You've got to have passion. You've got to really want to get something done. How do you measure fire in the belly? Bush has set the all-time record for number of vacation days taken by a U.S. President—four hundred and counting. He'd rather clear brush on his ranch than immerse himself in the business of governing. He even told an interviewer that the high point of his presidency so far was catching a seven-and-a-half-pound perch in his hand-stocked lake.

It's no better on Capitol Hill. Congress was in session only ninety-seven days in 2006. That's eleven days less than the record set in 1948, when President Harry Truman coined the term do-nothing Congress. Most people would expect to be fired if they worked so little and had nothing to show for it. But Congress managed to find the time to vote itself a raise. Now, that's not leadership.

A leader should have CHARISMA. I'm not talking about being flashy. Charisma is the quality that makes people want to follow you. It's the ability to inspire. People follow a leader because they trust him. That's my definition of charisma. Maybe George Bush is a great guy to hang out with at a barbecue or a ball game. But put him at a global summit where the future of our planet is at stake, and he doesn't look very presidential. Those frat-boy pranks and the kidding around he enjoys so much don't go over that well with world leaders. Just ask German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who received an unwelcome shoulder massage from our President at a G-8 Summit. When he came up behind her and started squeezing, I thought she was going to go right through the roof.

A leader has to be COMPETENT. That seems obvious, doesn't it? You've got to know what you're doing. More important than that, you've got to surround yourself with people who know what they're doing. Bush brags about being our first MBA President. Does that make him competent? Well, let's see. Thanks to our first MBA President, we've got the largest deficit in history, Social Security is on life support, and we've run up a half-a-trillion-dollar price tag (so far) in Iraq. And that's just for starters. A leader has to be a problem solver, and the biggest problems we face as a nation seem to be on the back burner.

You can't be a leader if you don't have COMMON SENSE. I call this Charlie Beacham's rule. When I was a young guy just starting out in the car business, one of my first jobs was as Ford's zone manager in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. My boss was a guy named Charlie Beacham, who was the East Coast regional manager. Charlie was a big Southerner, with a warm drawl, a huge smile, and a core of steel. Charlie used to tell me, "Remember, Lee, the only thing you've got going for you as a human being is your ability to reason and your common sense. If you don't know a dip of horseshit from a dip of vanilla ice cream, you'll never make it." George Bush doesn't have common sense. He just has a lot of sound bites. You know—Mr.they'll-welcome-us-as-liberators-no-child-left-behind-heck-of-a-job-Brownie-mission-accomplished Bush.

Former President Bill Clinton once said, "I grew up in an alcoholic home. I spent half my childhood trying to get into the reality-based world—and I like it here."

I think our current President should visit the real world once in a while.

The Biggest C is Crisis

Leaders are made, not born. Leadership is forged in times of crisis. It's easy to sit there with your feet up on the desk and talk theory. Or send someone else's kids off to war when you've never seen a battlefield yourself. It's another thing to lead when your world comes tumbling down.

On September 11, 2001, we needed a strong leader more than any other time in our history. We needed a steady hand to guide us out of the ashes. Where was George Bush? He was reading a story about a pet goat to kids in Florida when he heard about the attacks. He kept sitting there for twenty minutes with a baffled look on his face. It's all on tape. You can see it for yourself. Then, instead of taking the quickest route back to Washington and immediately going on the air to reassure the panicked people of this country, he decided it wasn't safe to return to the White House. He basically went into hiding for the day—and he told Vice President Dick Cheney to stay put in his bunker. We were all frozen in front of our TVs, scared out of our wits, waiting for our leaders to tell us that we were going to be okay, and there was nobody home. It took Bush a couple of days to get his bearings and devise the right photo op at Ground Zero.

That was George Bush's moment of truth, and he was paralyzed. And what did he do when he'd regained his composure? He led us down the road to Iraq—a road his own father had considered disastrous when he was President. But Bush didn't listen to Daddy. He listened to a higher father. He prides himself on being faith based, not reality based. If that doesn't scare the crap out of you, I don't know what will.

A Hell of a Mess

So here's where we stand. We're immersed in a bloody war with no plan for winning and no plan for leaving. We're running the biggest deficit in the history of the country. We're losing the manufacturing edge to Asia, while our once-great companies are getting slaughtered by health care costs. Gas prices are skyrocketing, and nobody in power has a coherent energy policy. Our schools are in trouble. Our borders are like sieves. The middle class is being squeezed every which way. These are times that cry out for leadership.

But when you look around, you've got to ask: "Where have all the leaders gone?" Where are the curious, creative communicators? Where are the people of character, courage, conviction, competence, and common sense? I may be a sucker for alliteration, but I think you get the point.

Name me a leader who has a better idea for homeland security than making us take off our shoes in airports and throw away our shampoo? We've spent billions of dollars building a huge new bureaucracy, and all we know how to do is react to things that have already happened.

Name me one leader who emerged from the crisis of Hurricane Katrina. Congress has yet to spend a single day evaluating the response to the hurricane, or demanding accountability for the decisions that were made in the crucial hours after the storm. Everyone's hunkering down, fingers crossed, hoping it doesn't happen again. Now, that's just crazy. Storms happen. Deal with it. Make a plan. Figure out what you're going to do the next time.

Name me an industry leader who is thinking creatively about how we can restore our competitive edge in manufacturing. Who would have believed that there could ever be a time when "the Big Three" referred to Japanese car companies? How did this happen—and more important, what are we going to do about it?

Name me a government leader who can articulate a plan for paying down the debt, or solving the energy crisis, or managing the health care problem. The silence is deafening. But these are the crises that are eating away at our country and milking the middle class dry.

I have news for the gang in Congress. We didn't elect you to sit on your asses and do nothing and remain silent while our democracy is being hijacked and our greatness is being replaced with mediocrity. What is everybody so afraid of? That some bobblehead on Fox News will call them a name? Give me a break. Why don't you guys show some spine for a change?

Had Enough?

Hey, I'm not trying to be the voice of gloom and doom here. I'm trying to light a fire. I'm speaking out because I have hope. I believe in America. In my lifetime I've had the privilege of living through some of America's greatest moments. I've also experienced some of our worst crises—the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean War, the Kennedy assassination, the Vietnam War, the 1970s oil crisis, and the struggles of recent years culminating with 9/11. If I've learned one thing, it's this: You don't get anywhere by standing on the sidelines waiting for somebody else to take action. Whether it's building a better car or building a better future for our children, we all have a role to play. That's the challenge I'm raising in this book. It's a call to action for people who, like me, believe in America. It's not too late, but it's getting pretty close. So let's shake off the horseshit and go to work. Let's tell 'em all we've had enough.

Excerpted from Where Have All the Leaders Gone?. Copyright © 2007 by Lee Iacocca. All rights reserved.

Banks to cut home loan rates?

Despite a sharp fall in interbank lending rates this week, banks in Singapore are unlikely to cut their home loan rates drastically anytime soon.

Edmund Koh, head of regional consumer banking at DBS Bank - the biggest player in the local home loans market - said yesterday there is ‘no fundamental reason’ for interbank rates to fall further and no reason to cut lending rates.

‘Our view is that the (interbank) rates will go through a bit of an up-and-down swing, but it’s pretty low as it is,’ he said. ‘The market is flush with liquidity at this moment. But if you look at the number of projects that will consume some of this liquidity, I don’t think the rates will continue to come down.’

On Wednesday, the benchmark three-month Singapore interbank offered rate (Sibor) fell to 2.56 per cent, the lowest since October 2005, prompting speculation banks could start cutting loan rates.

CIMB research head Song Seng Wun said the Sibor fall was a result of ‘too much money’ in the banking system. The latest estimates from the Monetary Authority of Singapore show total deposits grew 25 per cent year on year to $283.9 billion at end-February, while total loans grew just 8 per cent to $198.4 billion.

‘I’ve never seen that kind of deposit growth before,’ Mr Song said. The sharp stock-market correction at the end of February may have caused more liquidity to flow into the banking system as investors fled equities to cash while waiting to re-enter the stock market, he said.

Yesterday, there seemed little appetite for a home loan price war among banks that BT spoke to. All took a cautious stance, saying they will continue to watch rate movements and what their rivals do. An insider said banks are reluctant to start a fresh round of rate cuts, especially since the property market is still rising.

‘We will not cut our rates just to gain market share,’ said Mr Koh at DBS.

Gregory Chan, head of secured lending at OCBC Bank, said it is ‘too soon’ to predict home loan rate trends. Kevin Lam, head of loans at United Overseas Bank, said UOB is ‘monitoring the market situation’.

Citibank business director Tan Chia Seng said: ‘We will continue to review the market and competitive environment . . . we won’t play the market share game.’

Standard Chartered Bank corporate affairs manager Jean Khong said the bank takes a ‘long-term view’ on mortgage rates. The heads of consumer banking at HSBC and Maybank, Wendy Lim and Helen Neo, said their banks will monitor the market closely.

Source: The Business Times, 21 April 2007

The government and the private sector are working hard to create more buzz around Marina Bay so the area is bursting with activity long before major

The government and the private sector are working hard to create more buzz around Marina Bay so the area is bursting with activity long before major projects like the Marina Sands resort and Gardens by the Bay go up.At least eight events to pull in tens of thousands of visitors have been lined up for the remainder of this year - from blockbusters such as the National Day Parade to more light-weight but still heartwarming outings such as Kids’ Dash, a race for children.

‘Over the next two years, Marina Bay will become the area for many new activities,’ says Mark Goh, head of the Marina Bay Development Agency (MBDA), set up in 2004 to help make the area more vibrant.

The idea is to create a buzz and maintain this buzz until most major projects are completed in 2010, says Mr Goh. MBDA wants to change the perception that Marina Bay is ‘just a financial hub’.

The agency, with other government bodies and private sector players, has lined up several events spread over the next eight months.

The biggest will no doubt be the annual National Day Parade. A floating platform being built in the bay to host large events will be ready in time for the parade - its first big show.

BT understands that supporting activities are also planned by the same committee that is organising the parade.

Besides these, the authorities are trying to make Marina Bay a hot spot for sport. Four sporting events - collectively called the Marina Bay Urban Challenge - will be held over the next few months. The first is the Oakley City Duathlon on May 20. An expected 1,500 participants will run and cycle 55km in a city landscape of urban skyscrapers and scenic waters within the larger Marina Bay area.

Next up is a vertical challenge, planned for September, in which about 500 runners will scale stairs in a tall building - possibly One Raffles Quay.

The two other events are the Great Eastern Women 10K on Oct 21 and Kids’ Dash on Nov 11. For the Great Eastern Women 10K, about 6,000 women are expected to run along a route starting at Esplanade Drive and ending at the Padang.

And for Kids’ Dash, about 3,000 children are expected to take part in a variety of activities, including 5km runs and potato sack races.

All four events are organised by private sector company Enterprise Sports Group with government support. The events will add to two previously announced sporting activities in the area: WaterFest by the Bay and an Ironman challenge.

WaterFest by the Bay is a weekend fiesta to showcase water and beach sports such as canoeing, jet-skiing and wakeboarding. The Singapore Sports Council, which is supporting the event, hopes to draw about 15,000 people.

And triathlon-lovers can look forward to the AVIVA Ironman challenge, in which 600 triathletes are expected to compete for 75 slots in the Ford Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Florida.

More events may be announced. A lot of the events are private sector-led and funded, and the authorities will continue to support good ideas, says MBDA’s Mr Goh.

Other than that, discussions are under way to integrate the promenade at Marina Bay with both the Gardens by the Bay and the Marina Bay Sands integrated resort once they are up.

‘With the IR, the floating platform, Collyer Quay, BFC (Business and Financial Centre) and the Gardens, the Marina Bay area is set to be a attractive lifestyle hub,’ Mr Goh says. ‘We are just trying to add to that.’

Source: The Business Times, 21 April 2007

A new space race is up and running, and it is happening in downtown Singapore, with global firms signing ever bigger deals to lock in office

A new space race is up and running, and it is happening in downtown Singapore, with global firms signing ever bigger deals to lock in office real estate in the face of an unprecedented squeeze.

And it is not just buildings under construction, like the Marina Bay Financial Centre (MBFC), but ones that are still little more than glints in developers’ eyes.

It is all a far cry from a few years ago, when rents were tumbling.

The shoe is on the other foot now, with rents for prime space - if any can be found - going through the roof.

Grade A office rents - the most coveted space in prime areas - rose nearly 23 per cent in the first quarter to $11.80 per sq ft (psf), according to data from Jones Lang LaSalle.

Indeed, rents are rising so fast there are concerns they could eventually affect costs to the point that firms limit their expansion here, said a market watcher.

It is also forcing major financial institutions to book ahead to reserve their spots in the limited number of buildings on the drawing board that offer the large, contiguous space they need.

Some are looking at space coming onstream in 2009 and beyond, consultants said.

‘It’s partly a result of Singapore’s positioning itself as a financial centre and partly the result of tight supply,’ said Jones Lang LaSalle’s regional director, head of markets, Mr Chris Archibold.

‘This will continue for the next year or so, for new buildings coming onstream in two to three years’ time,’ he said.

While phase one of the MBFC is not due for completion until early 2010, one third of its 1.62 million sq ft of office space has already been spoken for.

Standard Chartered Bank pulled off a coup this week by tying up 24 floors of phase one in a 12-year lease.

The supply squeeze has prompted market players and the Government to release more space, but much has already been snapped up.

The Merrill Lynch Harbourfront building, which will be ready in 2008, was fully taken up by late last year.

Other financial institutions such as Citigroup and Credit Suisse could all be looking for more space, said market watchers.

On-going redevelopment of several buildings, such as Overseas Union House, Straits Trading Building, 71 Robinson Road and the Asia Chambers Building, has added to the pressure on supply.

But that has not stopped some firms from trying to lock up space when the buildings come back onto the market after 2009.

In 2010, Harbourfront offices will provide more space while Ocean Building - if it is turned into offices - could yield 832,000 sq ft by 2011.

Rental rises will ease as supply lifts over a three- to five-year horizon, said CB Richard Ellis executive director Moray Armstrong.

Hongkong Land, part of the group developing the MBFC, has increased the amount of office space at the centre to meet increased demand.

Mr Robert Garman, its director of commercial property, South Asia, said about 3.5 million sq ft out of the 4.72 million sq ft area of the entire MBFC will be offices, he said.

Mr Garman said talks are on-going with several parties to lease a further 1 million sq ft of space in phase one. The deals are likely to be signed within a year, yet the building will not be completed until 2010.

Phase one of MBFC has two office towers and a fully-sold residential tower.

Source: The Straits Times, 21 April 2007

Green and futuristic, The Lumos redefines luxurious living

Ever wanted a spot of green living — complete with a view from the top?

That may soon be a reality if early impressions from the Koh Brothers and Heeton Land project are anything to go by.

The two companies recently revealed the name and concept of their new freehold luxury development on Leonie Hill — The Lumos.

“With our complementary strengths and the good level of understanding we have developed, I believe we can do something very special with The Lumos and I am truly excited about the potential of this development,” said Mr Danny Low, chief operating officer and executive director of Heeton Holdings.

The Lumos is set to be another addition to the evolving Orchard Road skyline. Though not as towering as the Orchard Residences, the Lumos’ twin 36-storey towers aim to stand out as its iconic architecture stems from the idea of a glittering chandelier.

A central zone of vertical Sky Gardens connects the two towers together, enabling every unit to open up onto a landscaped plot of high-rise greenery.

Sitting on a 34,516-square-foot plot of land on Leonie Hill, the Lumos houses 53 exclusive residential units that range from 635-sq-ft one-bedroom apartments to the 6,000-sq-ft penthouses that sit atop of each tower.

The penthouses also come with a rooftop garden as well as a private lap pool.

To tie in with its iconic and futuristic design, the apartments will also be home to state-of-the-art interior fittings to suit the tastes of residents in the cosmopolitan development.

Knight Frank and the Dennis Wee Group, the marketing agents for the development, are confident of a positive reception for the Lumos.

“We believe this luxurious freehold apartment will be highly sought after and the partnership of reputable developers like Koh Brothers Group and Heeton Holdings will further inspire confidence in buyers and investors,” said Mr Dennis Wee, chairman of Dennis Wee Group.

“The outlook for luxury developments in prime locations remains very positive and we have seen recent sales of ultra-luxury projects, like the 99-year leasehold Orchard Residences at Orchard Turn, set new benchmarks for top-end homes with price tags of around $4,000 psf.

Added Mr Peter Ow, executive director of Knight Frank: “The Lumos is set to benefit from this pent-up demand for luxury projects in prime locations.”

The futuristic design and the plush interior fittings all come at a price although it remains to be seen whether the freehold Lumos can match the prices set by Orchard Residences.

At this point, property buyers and analysts alike await the announcement of the project’s launch date and, more importantly, the prices.

Source: Weekend Today, 21 April 2007

Singapore’s private property market is on the rise after years in the doldrums.

Singapore’s private property market is on the rise after years in the doldrums.

It looks like the boom times are back for real estate, given strong demand from locals and expatriates alike.

There is talk that it is just speculation behind the frothy market, with reports of investors flipping purchases for hefty profits and anecdotal evidence of wealthy expatriates snapping up a half dozen or so luxury apartments at property launches.

Sellers have not been complaining, with prices of non-landed private properties in the heart of Singapore’s prime area up by 17 per cent last year, while prices outside that area are up between 3 per cent and 4.2 per cent.

New property launches are also giving their older neighbours a boost, with reports that the asking prices of existing developments have jumped by between 10 per cent and 50 per cent in the space of weeks.

Secondary market prices for the Caribbean at Keppel Bay were pegged at around $1,000 per square feet (psf) early this year.

But when the neighbouring Reflections at Keppel Bay launched at $1,900 psf, it sent the asking prices for the Caribbean up to the $1,200 to $1,500 psf range.

The bulk of the price increases have been in the luxury segment, but that is expected to filter down to the rest of the market, with some analysts tipping as much as a 20-per-cent increase in prices this year.

While there may be a speculative element to these price gains, data also suggest there is strong underlying demand for property — and that demand is set to grow in the next few years.

According to the 2003 master plan from the Urban Redevelopment Authority, the country’s land-use planning agency, there are 324,000 homes in what it defines as Central Singapore.

Stripping out public-housing flats from the Housing Development Board in the region — about 196,000 — leaves about 128,000 private condominiums and houses in the Central region.

That is not very many, when you consider there are 55,000 high-net-worth individuals — those with net assets of at least $1.5 million, excluding their primary residence — in Singapore, according to the 2006 Merrill Lynch/Capgemini report.

The current supply of properties looks even smaller given there are about 140,000 households with monthly incomes of above $10,000, according to the Government’s 2005 household survey.

At the very least, this suggests the current supply of private property in the central area should be met by demand.

But there is also demand coming from people who have participated in en bloc sales, from those pocketing windfalls from the booming stock market amid relatively low mortgage rates, and from foreign investors in the property market.

Even more demand can be expected given Singapore’s plans for an eventual population of 6.5 million, from about 4.5 million now. The total population grew about 142,000 or 3 per cent last year, helped by the Government’s efforts to woo skilled foreign workers.

Expatriate workers have already helped push rentals to their highest levels since 1999. Demand from this group will increase — last year Singapore’s non-resident workforce grew about 10 per cent, and there were about 90,000 skilled workers and professionals among them.

Savills Singapore says rents for private homes were up 18.5 per cent in the past year. Citigroup thinks rental rates could rise 30 per cent to 40 per cent this year as occupancy hits record highs.

Recent data show a shortage of supply looming with the number of private residential units due for completion at just 5,000 this year and 7,000 in 2008, according to Citigroup.

Last year, there was demand for 9,000 units, while 10-year average demand is at 8,000.

All told, local and foreign demand for private property in Singapore is set to grow, which, coupled with shortages in supply, put the real estate market on a path for red-hot growth over the next few years.

Source: Weekend Today, 21 April 2007

A local company has come up with a granite replacement and has successfully used it to build roads in Brunei and widen the runways at Changi Airport.

A local company has come up with a granite replacement and has successfully used it to build roads in Brunei and widen the runways at Changi Airport.

Chemilink Technologies developed the method to stabilise and strengthen soil by adding a proprietary chemical concoction it first brewed about 10 years ago, but interest in its products is skyrocketing only now.

This is because its materials now cost half the price of conventional granite. The price of granite has risen from $25 to $70 a tonne since Indonesia halted sand shipments to Singapore in February and detained Singapore-bound granite barges suspected of smuggling sand.

Inventor and company executive director Wu Dong Qing said that his Jurong facility can supply 12,000 tonnes of material in the coming year.

This should be enough to meet the local demand for the construction of new roads and shipyard loading areas, which he estimated to be about 800,000 sqm, an area bigger than 70 football fields.

The 48-year-old naturalised Singaporean said: ‘By treating the soil at the worksite to replace granite, the use of quarry materials can be minimised.’

The company’s products have been tested and found to be harder, more water-resistant and easier to maintain than granite-based tarmac, even in swampy and weak soil areas and reclaimed land.

Now, Chemilink’s technology is being tested in building construction.

China-born Mr Wu, who earned his doctorate in geotechnical engineering at Nanyang Technological University in 1994, also sees great potential in recycling the concrete from demolished buildings.

‘That way, we can minimise construction costs and the impact on the environment and reduce our dependence on foreign suppliers,’ he said.

Source: The Straits Times, 21 April 2007

A prominent site for hotel development at the junction of New Bridge and Cantonment roads has been put on the reserve list of the Government Land Sale

A prominent site for hotel development at the junction of New Bridge and Cantonment roads has been put on the reserve list of the Government Land Sales programme.

It is the first of three new hotel sites to be released by the Urban Redevelopment Authority for the first half of 2007.

The site is 0.45 ha, has a plot ratio of 3.5, and maximum gross floor area of 15,687 square metres.

CBRE Research executive director Li Hiaw Ho reckons a 315-room hotel can be built on it.

Highlighting the proximity to Outram MRT station, and niche hotels like New Majestic Hotel and Hotel 1929, Mr Li believes potential hoteliers will likely develop a mid-tier outlet catering to business travellers who want a reasonably-priced hotel on the fringe of the CBD and tourists who want to be close to Chinatown.

In view of this, and the recent upswing in the hospitality sector, Mr Li believes the site could fetch between $450 and $480 per square feet per plot ratio or between $21.7 million and $23.2 million.

Noting the increasing interest from foreign hoteliers, he pointed out that LaSalle Investment Management and the Park Hotel group have been actively acquiring sites here.

So far this year, LaSalle has bought the Swissotel Merchant Court and a 50 per cent stake in LC Development’s Changi Airport hotel project at Terminal 3.

Source: The Business Times, 20 April 2007

Wimpey creates UK housing giant

Wimpey creates UK housing giant
Shares go through the roof as £6 billion deal between Taylor Woodrow and George Wimpey topples Barratt from the number one slot Steve Hawkes and Dominic Walsh
Shares in Taylor Woodrow and George Wimpey soared today as the two companies announced a £6 billion merger that sees them leapfrog Barratt Developments and become Britain’s biggest housebuilder.

Taylor Woodrow leapt 17 per cent, or 71.5p to 492p to lead the FTSE 250 while Wimpey rose 7 per cent, or 49p to 684p.

They were followed by a number of rival housebuilders as analysts forecast the all-share deal would spark a fresh round of consolidation in the sector.

Redrow, previously a rumoured takeover target for both Taylor Woodrow and Wimpey, surged 8 per cent while shares in Bellway rose nearly 6 per cent.

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Confirmation of the Taylor Woodrow, George Wimpey tie-up follows a weekend of intense speculation.

The new company, to be called Taylor Wimpey, will have combined revenues of combined revenues of nearly £7 billion a year and average annual sales of 22,000 homes in the UK.

But up to 700 of the group’s 14,000 staff could go as the group looks to wring £70 million of cost savings from the deal. The majority of the cuts are expected in the UK.

While Taylor Woodrow shareholders will own 51 per cent of the combined business, to be created through a scheme of arrangement, Wimpey’s management will dominate the boardroom.

Peter Redfern, the Wimpey chief executive, will continue in the same role. Taylor Woodrow chief executive Ian Smith is expected to step down with a golden goodbye of £1.5 million after just three months in charge.

Mr Smith revealed talks between the two sides began six weeks ago, following the announcement of a strategic review at Taylor Woodrow when he joined in January.

“The culmination is the announcment we are talking about today.” he said. “It’s hugely disappointing to be leaving so quickly but I think this merger makes absolute sense and is a good deal for the company.”

Mr Redfern added: “We both feel we have genuinely looked at this as the best way both businesses had for creating shareholder value.

“I have to congratulate Ian and give him a huge amount of credit for behaving in the best interest of shareholders and putting this together as he did.”

In addition to the UK, both groups have a sizeable business in the US with a geographical overlap in Florida, California, Arizona and Texas.

Mr Smith said there were no plans to sell off Taylor Woodrow’s construction business.

Today’s deal follows a round of takeovers in the UK, with Persimmon landing Westbury and Barratt gobbling up Wilson Bowden.

Crest Nicholson recently sold out to a consortium including HBOS and Scottish tycoon Sir Tom Hunter.

Persimmon, which last year swallowed Westbury, is being tipped as a contender to gatecrash today’s merger by bidding for one of the companies. However, it may be put off by their exposure to the slowing American housing market.

One source said: “Both Taylor Woodrow and Wimpey have US businesses, which makes them a natural fit. By joining forces, they will be able to cut their costs in America. If Persimmon bids for one of them, it would probably have to spin the US business off.”

After today’s share price rise, the combined group’s market capitalisation is £5.6 billion. Including net debt, the enterprise value of the merged company would be about £6.4 billion.


—Taylor Woodrow was founded in 1921 when 16-year-old Frank Taylor borrowed £100 to build two working-class homes in Blackpool. As he was too young to form his own company, his uncle Jack Woodrow lent his name to the business. It has operated in North America since 1936

—In 1880 George Wimpey established a stone-working business in Hammersmith, West London. In 1919 G. W. Mitchell purchased the company and expanded from road contracting into housebuilding. It acquired Morrison Homes in America in 1984

Buoyant market fuels Bellway record

Buoyant market fuels Bellway record
Housebuilder cites fierce competition among first-time buyers in London for homes priced under £250,000Steve Hawkes
One of Britain’s biggest housebuilders today reflected the strength of the property market by revealing record half-year profits and reiterating there was no sign of a slowdown.

Bellway, seen as a potential takeover target after a series of mega-mergers in the sector, said there was fierce competition among buyers for homes below £250,000, particularly in London and the Thames Gateway.

Pre-tax profits for the six months to January 31 rose nearly 15 per cent to £100.8 million with average selling prices up 4 per cent at £173,000.

Turnover climbed 14 per cent to £576.5 million.

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Howard Dawe, chairman, said the housing market was “stable but competitive”.

The strong results will add to speculation that another interest rate rise is almost certain next month.

The cost of borrowing has shot to 5.25 per cent but government figures yesterday revealed house prices were still rising at four times the rate of inflation.

Economists fear inflation figures for April out later this morning will reveal another rise in the cost of living, forcing the Bank of England to act.

Bellway, which builds about two-thirds of its homes on brownfield or former industrial sites, said that despite higher interest rates its forward order book was at £732 million - “the strongest ever”.

As a result the Newcastle-based group has already achieved 95 per cent of this year’s target for completions.

At the half-year stage, Bellway had sold 3,264 homes, up 10.3 per cent on the same six months a year ago.

Shares in Bellway, which have more than tripled in the past five years, eased 10p to 1666p today.

The group is seen as one of a handful of takeover targets, alongside Redrow and Bovis Homes, following Taylor Woodrow’s £5 billion tie-up with George Wimpey last month.

The deal saw Taylor Wimpey leapfrog Barratt to become Britain’s biggest housebuilder. Barratt bought Wilson Bowden in February. Persimmon snapped up Westbury in November.

Persimmon targets near-18,000 home sales

Persimmon targets near-18,000 home sales
Britain's largest housebuilder is planning to increase the number of homes sold this year to more than 17,500James Rossiter
Persimmon, Britain's largest housebuilder, is expanding its sales outlets to take the number of homes sold this year past the 17,500 mark.

John White, Persimmon chairman, told investors at today's annual general meeting that sales revenue during the first quarter of this year had reached about £1.8 billion, "which is at a similar level to the record sales we had achieved at the same date in 2006".

Focus will now be on opening new developments "to ensure that sales volumes are maintained at suitable levels throughout the summer months".

Persimmon was operating from 465 sales outlets at the start of January and had aspirations, subject to planning, to be selling off 500 sites by June.

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Kate Moy, building analyst at Teather & Greenwood, is forecasting an 6 per cent rise in completions this year to 17,700 homes.

Mr White said average selling prices had only moved ahead "moderately" however, likely to be a result of more sales of the group's upmarket Charles Church homes.

Analysts at both Teather & Greenwood and Shore Capital maintain their buy rating on Persimmon stock, which fell 28p in early morning trading to 1402p.

Shares in housebuilders have come off sharply this week over fears that a half percentage rise in interest rates is on the cards, which could dampen demand for new homes.

Earlier this week Howard Dawe, chairman of Bellway, the housbuilder on course to build about 6,500 homes this year, told investors that "the market remains competitive and incentives are required to conclude most transactions”, outside booming Thames Gateway, North London, North East England and Scotland.

Alistair Leitch, finance director of Bellway, said that incentives had “risen last year from an average of £3,000 per completion to about £4,000 spent on carpets, stamp duty or legal fees."

But Mr Leitch played down fears about rising interest rates affecting the new homes market. “Not enough credit is given to how astute the British public is. If they are going to buy they will buy. The situation is people at the moment are buying out of need and necessity and that will continue.”

HSBC set to open its Docklands door to £1bn buyerJames Rossiter, Property Correspondent

HSBC set to open its Docklands door to £1bn buyerJames Rossiter, Property Correspondent
HSBC is expected to announce an overseas buyer for its £1 billion Canary Wharf headquarters within a week. The bank has whittled down the suitors for the 46-storey building to a shortlist of two in an auction arranged by property agents CB Richard Ellis.

Only four bidders progressed to the second round this week. They are thought to have been GIC Real Estate, the Government of Singapore’s property arm; the Abu Dhabi royal family via Lancer Asset Management; Three Delta, the company owned by the foreign minister of Qatar; and Quinlan Private, the investment vehicle of Dublin tycoon Derek Quinlan.

However, property sources are not ruling out a late pitch from Istithmar, the property arm of Dubai’s ruling Maktoum family. HSBC is keen on a long-term investor as its landlord because the bank plans to stay on-site and lease the building for £43 million a year.

One source said: “This has been a relatively quick process, with interest from all the usual list of big players. We are down to the last two, and a decision can be expected in a week.”

HSBC could make a profit of £500 million from the sale of the building, which it agreed to buy in 1998 but only completed on in April 2002.

According to a well-placed property source, the bank spent about £500 million in so-called milestone payments for possession of 8 Canada Square, triggering a £169.5 million profit for the original owner, the Canary Wharf Group.

HSBC wants to sell the building on a 15-year leaseback, with two options to extend the terms, each of five years.

The initial annual rent is expected to be £43 million. A sale price of £1 billion will mean a net initial yield of about 4.25 per cent.

Earlier this year, the Swiss Re building, known as the Gherkin, was sold for £600 million — £630 million including acquisition costs — on a yield of 4.5 per cent. City offices were selling on yields of more than 5 per cent 18 months ago.

Prospects of rent rises in Docklands and the City are encouraging buyers to purchase at record low yields.

Letting agents at CB Richard Ellis report that rents in Canary Wharf estate have risen by 20 per cent in the past year to about £50 per square foot. Vacancy rates in the 14 million square foot of Docklands offices have fallen from 12 per cent to 3 per cent.

This week, Barclays Capital took another 300,000 square feet at 40 Bank Street, while Bear Stearns has just taken another floor at level 31 of One Canada Square covering 30,000 square foot.

JPMorgan is in talks to have built a 1.8 million square foot headquarters site in the Wharf or move to a new City headquarters on London Wall.

I-Bhd makes history of sort

I-Bhd makes history of sort

THE Selangor Government's recent endorsement of the proposed RM1.5bil i-City in Shah Alam as the first Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) Cybercentre in Selangor is a milestone in the history of I-Bhd as well as that of Selangor.

It also shows the serious commitment by the state government to push forward the ICT (information and communication technology) revolution in Malaysia.

Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Mohamad Khir Toyo, made the important announcement at the signing ceremony between leading network company Cisco Systems (M) Sdn Bhd and I-City Properties Sdn Bhd (a subsidiary of I-Bhd) on March 30.

He said the state government would work with bodies such as the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) and interested ICT service providers to create the best ICT-enabled infrastructure in Selangor.

“Towards this end, the state government will support and act as a full partner in the Klang Valley broadband push spearheaded by the MCMC.

“This plan targets to increase broadband penetration among households in the Klang Valley to 90% by 2010 from the current penetration of just 14.4% in Selangor and 27.9% in Kuala Lumpur,” he said.

He also said that the pilot project in Selangor would begin in areas under the Shah Alam City Council, Petaling Jaya City Council and Subang Jaya Municipal Council before moving to other areas in the state.

What has an ICT revolution to do with real estate or property development? Enormous.

Over the past 10 to 15 years, we have seen rapid changes in how people live and work. Today people expect more than just a roof over their heads. They expect a balanced healthy lifestyle that includes good security, concept homes and the conveniences of urban living and enough green space for recreation.

Developers who fail to meet the expectations of today's breed of discerning purchasers may lose out to rivals in a very competitive property market.

It is not enough just providing a “green street” concept or gated and guarded communities. Providing lots of landscaping and other extras like workout stations in parks, meditation/sauna centres for the more high-end developments has become the norm nowadays.

Purchasers expect to have high-speed broadband and other Net-centric society applications. This is especially important for businesses where meetings are conducted via teleconferencing and products are ordered online.

Although some of the business parks and office buildings as well as residential developments in Malaysia have gone broadband in recent years, we are still behind the more advanced and developed countries.

As Mohamad Khir said, Malaysia's survival as an economy and our future prosperity depend on our success to move up the value chain; and this is where a progressive ICT industry could make Selangor a leading investment location for local and foreign ICT companies.

In this respect, i-City as a private sector initiative by I-Bhd is leading the way not only to add value to one's property investment but would also provide the “ICT highway” for investors to do business in Selangor.

I-City is being developed as an MSC investment location, offering world standard infrastructure and services and providing an enabling environment for the knowledge workers to work, live and play in one location.

Hence the tie-up with Cisco is another feather in the cap for I-Bhd that had entered into strategic partnerships with Intel, Telekom Malaysia and UNISEL for the development of i-City.

“I-City is in a great position not just for Selangor but for Malaysia as a flourishing centre for ICT, and for ICT to be used as an energiser for other industries and important segments such as small and medium enterprises (SMEs),” said Cisco Malaysia managing director Kumaran Singaram.

I-City Properties also intends to implement Cisco Connected Real Estate (CCRE) solutions in i-City.

CCRE is a framework that uses the power of the network to reduce capital and operating expenditures for key stakeholders over the lifecycle of a building to create a more productive and flexible work place. It also enhances the health, safety and security of the building's occupants.

I-Bhd managing director Eu Hong Chew said i-City's first phase would focus on the SMEs. With many of the manufacturing industries and their supporting SMEs being located in Shah Alam, i-City would be a catalyst for greater adoption of ICT among these companies.

Eu said i-City would also focus on setting up a research and development cluster for the SMEs in Shah Alam.

He said the first phase of 44 units of landed shop offices target at SMEs would be completed at the end of this year while work on the strata suites and corporate offices targeted at mid-sized multinational companies is scheduled to start by the middle of this year.

SPK-Sentosa subsidiary in Miri project

SPK-Sentosa subsidiary in Miri project

KUALA LUMPUR: SPK-Sentosa Corp Bhd said its subsidiary Rekayasa Industri Malaysia Sdn Bhd was part of a consortium that accepted a RM146mil contract from Petronas Carigali Sdn Bhd.

In a filing with Bursa Malaysia, SPK-Sentosa said the contract was for the procurement, construction and commissioning of the Miri crude oil terminal rejuvenation project phase 2. The other member of the consortium was Simfoni Temasek Sdn Bhd, it said.

The project is to start this month for completion within 21 months.

SPK-Sentosa expects the contract to contribute positively to its earnings for the financial year ending Dec 31, 2007. – Bernama

The Maple by YTL Land a winner

The Maple by YTL Land a winner

YTL Land & Development Bhd's first residential project in Sentul West, The Maple, is a stunner!

The two slender 30-storey towers that rise above the old Sentul area in Kuala Lumpur have been turning heads since they were completed in July last year.

However, it is more than just two tall handsome buildings that have attracted the city folk. The magic in this entire development is of course the 35-acre lush green park that is the icing on the Sentul West “cake”.

Imagine you are oblivious of your surroundings and your blindfolds are removed. Hey presto! You are standing on a tranquil park with three-lined trails, moats, aerial walkways and a mini forest that are so lovely and surreal.

“Am I in St James Park or Hyde Park?” You may wonder as you spot a gaggle of white, fat ducks waddling on a pond towards a pontoon with a boat tied to it. Willow trees droop low on the water's edge while your eyes feast on the rolling greens with sculptures like a metal “crane” or wooden “deer” dotting the landscape.

Except for a row of “skeletal” concrete pillars that look like a war relic and seems to contradict the park’s 18th century English gardens charm, everything is near perfect.

The cool breeze brushes your cheek and you wake up realising these were no dreams. This was how I felt when YTL Group deputy managing director Datuk Yeoh Seok Kian recently showed me around The Maple, the park and the koi centre. Colourful koi fishes, some two feet long, swam in a pond at a Japanese Restaurant as well as in 36 tanks.

Yeoh, who fed the ducks with pieces of bread, said the ducks, birds and the peaceful environment reminded him of his childhood days when everything was so carefree.

Indeed, Yeoh’s pride in the Sentul project is understandable, as the YTL Group has put in so much effort into it.

Through the freehold Sentul West and Sentul East development, it is setting a new benchmark in city living by creating an exclusive green haven for the resident. These include expatriates, shoe couturier Datuk Jimmy Choo, a renowned CNN International anchorwoman, international celebrities and some members of royalty.

Sentul West, with 186 acres, celebrates the outdoors with exclusive residences, offices and shops amidst pristine lakes bordering the park (formerly a golf course) while Sentul East, with 108 acres, will be more vibrant and attuned to the young.

YTL has transformed an old railway workshop in Sentul West’s Festival Plaza into the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPac). Many concerts, music festivals, theatrical shows and art exhibitions have been held at the KLPac since it was opened on May 25, 2005.

Yeoh said another old railway yard would be turned into an art exhibition area.

Meanwhile, the 318-unit Maple is a 3.2-acre sanctuary boasting of four themed gardens: a maze (cut out figures of animals peeping out from the maze), spice garden (herbs and spices), water garden and a meditative garden (for Taichi/yoga) reminiscent of Kyoto’s famed Ryoanji Temple with a mass of white stones (islands) surrounded by a “sea” of pebbles.

One of The Maple’s highlights is the 25-metre infinity edge cantilevered lap pool where, from afar, it looks like the water meets the sky above a canopy of trees.

This pool is furnished with outdoor beds and special “floating decks”.

The bottom of the infinity edge of the pool is made of glass. People below can see the swimmer above.

Other outdoor amenities include a lie-down jacuzzi, barbecue area with open lawn, two squash courts, two tennis courts, a basketball court, gymnasium and clubhouse. There are three swimming pools. The recreational deck (sitting above the car park) is huge.

Buyers have started moving into their luxury 3+1 room apartments. With only six corner units on each floor, the three standard types of 1,535 sq ft, 1,569 sq ft and 1,707 sq ft were priced from RM547,000 to RM1.4mil, comparable to properties in Mont’ Kiara.

The recent completion of the Sentul Link and the Duta-Segambut Link has boosted The Maple’s appeal with easier connectivity to various parts of the Klang Valley.

I was told that the latest sale of The Maple had hit RM400 psf, almost double that of the initial price!

If you are fed up of living in a concrete jungle, then you should move to The Maple (there are about 20 units left unsold) where you currently share the park with residents of the Sang Suria apartments (an uncompleted project revived by YTL) next door.

However, Sentul West will have about 4,000 luxury condo units and about 20,000 residents. The park may be quite crowded then.

More overseas jobs in sight

More overseas jobs in sight


BINA Puri Holdings Bhd wants to make a bigger foray overseas by leveraging on its well-established track record of having completed landmark construction projects in various countries.

Contribution from the offshore division to Bina Puri's bottomline is expected to increase to 40% next year from 30% this year.

Bina Puri’s order book of RM2.2bil will keep the group busy for the next three years.

Some of the notable completed projects overseas include three road infrastructure projects in India worth more than RM500mil, the Hyatt Hotel in Kathmandu, Nepal (RM39mil), the Malaysian Embassy building and residence in Beijing (more than RM70mil), and access road to the new Bangkok International Airport (more than RM183mil).

Bina Puri is the only Malaysian group to be involved in projects for Bangkok's second international airport, Suvarnabhumi Airport, to construct at-grade roads and access bridges.

According to group managing director Tan Sri Tee Hock Seng, going abroad has proven to be an effective way to diversify the group’s earnings base.

“Instead of just relying on the Malaysian market, we have successfully made a name for ourselves overseas. This has provided a cushion for us and countered the negative growth during the down cycle from 2003 to 2006 when a lot of Malaysian contractors have to either fold up their business or venture overseas,” Tee told StarBiz in Bangkok recently.

He said although the Ninth Malaysia Plan projects would provide a respite from the soft construction market, “we must always be prepared for another down cycle.”

Bina Puri’s ongoing projects in Malaysia include the Dewan Undangan Negeri Sarawak worth RM229mil, a road project in Pahang (RM172mil), Capital Square condominiums, a retail centre and signature offices (RM203mil) and the Sipitang-Tenom road project in Sabah (RM227mil).

Tee said Bina Puri was also eyeing other overseas construction projects to beef up its order book.

“The overseas projects are very important to the group as they provide us with an international standing. In the past decade, we have completed projects in Cambodia, India, Nepal, China and Thailand.

“It also differentiates us from the other contractors in Malaysia. There are more than 70,000 contractors registered with the Construction Industry Development Board of Malaysia. From this, less than 1% have gone abroad,” he said.

Tee said Bina Puri was looking to expand its market to Libya, Kazakhstan, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates.

“We are looking to clinch the contract for the Malaysian Embassy in Moscow and hopefully the project can get off the ground this year,” he added.

Thailand’s proximity to Malaysia and strong growth potential make the country a priority in Bina Puri’s overseas ambitions.

Bangkok is less than two hours away by flight, making it easily accessible and manageable.

Of the group’s current order book of RM2.2bil, 46% comprises projects in Thailand.

“With more than RM800mil worth of unbuilt order book in Thailand, we expect the Thailand business to contribute 30% and 40% to group earnings within the next two years,” Tee said.

In less than four years, Bina Puri has secured a number of important projects and positioned itself as a new competitive foreign player in the country’s construction sector.

The projects comprise nine low cost housing projects worth RM933mil awarded by the National Housing Authority of Thailand and a high-end apartment project by a listed property developer, Areeya Property, worth RM66mil.

Tee said the opening of the group’s regional office in Bangkok recently underscored the immense opportunities for Bina Puri in Thailand.

For the financial year ended Dec 31, 2006, Thailand contributed 22% or RM6mil to group net profit and the share is expected to increase to 30% this year

Bina Puri’s offshore success has contributed to a greater Malaysian presence in the overseas construction sector.

“We believe in awarding contracts for main contractors and sub-contractors to Malaysian companies and this has prompted more local companies to venture overseas. In Thailand alone, we have six such partners,” Tee said.

If the group's plan to venture into India, Thailand, the Middle East and Pakistan is successful, more Malaysian contractors will soon be heading into those countries as well.

On its financial outlook, Tee said Bina Puri hoped to turn in at least a 20% growth in earnings each year.

For the financial year ended Dec 31, 2006, the group recorded a 30% jump in net profit to RM6mil and 6% growth in revenue to RM430mil.

“We also hope to see higher growth in our polyol division, which contributes only 3% to group revenue and 5% to pre-tax profit in 2006. We hope the contribution from the division will double this year,” Tee said.

The company uses state-of-the art technology in the manufacture of palm oil-based natural oil polyol for the domestic and export market.

The product, which is environmental friendly, is vastly used in construction projects, refrigeration systems, automotive engineering and furniture manufacturing.

The group hopes to maintain an annual dividend payout of 5% to shareholders.