Kuala Lumpur property: KSK Land ups the ante with iconic 8 Conlay


 
KSK Group Bhd chairman Tan Sri Kua Sian Kooi with daughter Joanne who is KSK CEO & KSK Land Sdn Bhd MD

Flexibility: 8 Conlay units have the flexibility that allows residents to live their story the way they desire.

Fresh from announcing that its branded residence for Tower A at 8 Conlay project will be sold at a record RM3,200 per sq ft, Kempinski Hotel Kuala Lumpur has now been recognised under the Government’s Economic Transformation Programme.

IF 8 Conlay’s RM3,200 per sq ft (psf)selling price has set tongues wagging for possibly setting a new pricing record in luxury living, here is another development to add to the several “firsts” the project has notched since it was announced some two-and-a-half years ago.

Kempinski Hotel Kuala Lumpur, which is a component of 8 Conlay, has been recognised as an entry point project under the Tourism National Key Economic Area (NKEA) of the ETP – the Government’s initiative to propel the economy into high-income status by 2020.

Kempinski Hotels, Europe’s oldest luxury hotelier, is the hospitality partner of 8 Conlay’s owner and property developer KSK Land Sdn Bhd.

The hotelier will provide services for the project’s branded residence towers as well as manage the hotel tower.

“We got it (the endorsement) recently,” declares a proud Joanne Kua, who is the managing director of KSK Land.

According to the 30-year-old, the recognition is a sign of “quality assurance” that will place 8 Conlay on the global map.

“Even though we are in the ETP because of Kempinski Hotel Kuala Lumpur, Kempinski is also servicing our branded residence.

“This means there is a level of service that we need to adhere to for the entire development. This has always been what we have been reiterating at KSK Land, where every development we undertake has to be of good quality, and the service we provide to customers is always on top of our minds,” Joanne tells StarBizWeek.

“Being the owner of Kempinski Hotel Kuala Lumpur, we are proud to be pushing the boundaries by bringing the Kempinski brand into the Malaysian market because we are one of the few – if not only – fully integrated branded residence developments in the KLCC area.”

Kempinski Hotel Kuala Lumpur is slated to open its doors in 2020, coinciding incidentally with the planned “Visit Malaysia Year” in that same year.

In terms of numbers, Kempinski Hotel Kuala Lumpur is projected to bring in RM19.8mil in gross national income or GNI in the year 2020, which is expected to grow in the following years. Job-wise, the hotel is expected to create some 780 employment opportunities when it opens its doors in January 2020, while committed private investments amount to RM360mil, shares Joanne. This RM360mil is the cost of developing the hotel minus the land cost.

Shedding more light on the ETP recognition, the KSK Group director for corporate strategy and investments Pankaj C Kumar says that these numbers have been audited by the panel of auditors at the Performance Management and Delivery Unit or Pemandu, the driver of the ETP initiative.

“We started engaging with them early last year. Under the ETP’s Tourism NKEA, the Government’s plan is to increase the number of four- and five-star hotels, as well as increase the room rate in Malaysia, which is still relatively lower as compared to the region. They also want to create more vibrancy within the KLCC and Bukit Bintang areas,” says Pankaj.

Kempinski Hotels chief executive officer (CEO) Alejandro Bernabé says the ETP recognition raises the profile of its upcoming hotel in Kuala Lumpur. “For us, this creates even bigger expectations not from the construction point of view, but from the deliverance of (service) expectations. With the opening of the hotel in 2020 coinciding with a planned Visit Malaysia Year, we have to ensure we get it right from day one, as we cannot afford to let the honour of the country down,” he says in the joint interview. Bernabé was in town for the launch of 8 Conlay’s signature sales gallery on Wednesday. During the launch, phase one of 8 Conlay’s branded residence units known as YOO8, serviced by Kempinski, was officially open for sale. A private viewing for a select few of around 200 comprising the who’s who of the corporate circle was held on the same evening of the launch.

With piling works having begun at the four-acre site, it seems to be all systems go despite the expected slowdown seen in the property sector by analysts.

And in what is seen as a “coup of sorts” in positioning and differentiating 8 Conlay, the company has teamed up with the crème de la crème of brand partners like internationally-celebrated design company YOO, local architect Ar Hud Bakar and Bangkok-based landscape design firm TROP other than the world-class hotel management services of Kempinski.

8 Conlay unveiled

8 Conlay owes its name to the auspicious address it sits on in Kuala Lumpur’s Golden Triangle. The development comprises of two YOO-interior designed branded residence towers of 57- and 62-storey blocks that will be connected via two sky bridges on levels 26 and 44. The development is complemented by a 68-storey five-star Kempinski Hotel, serviced suites and a lifestyle retail component.

YOO8 comprises two spectacular towers of 1,062 luxury branded residence, ranging from one to three-bedroom units.

Tower A of YOO8 will feature 564 units covering 700 square feet to 1,308 square feet selling at an average price of a whopping RM3,200 psf.

According to the company, 70% of Tower A has been reserved, with 80% comprising Malaysians.

Meanwhile, Tower B of YOO8 will feature 468 units to be launched some time next year.

Can 8 Conlay usher KSK into the competitive world of property?

8 Conlay’s selling price of RM3.200 psf, which is RM500 psf higher than the indicative RM2,700 psf it was only recently looking at, begs the question of whether it can sell in a soft market. Being the maiden venture for KSK Land, all eyes are on the company and its young and petite head honcho, Joanne. After all, 8 Conlay’s entry into the branded residence space is coming after a hiatus of similar launches in the city.

 

Joanne: ‘Price is reflection of interest.’

Joanne: ‘Price is reflection of interest.’

KSK Land is the property arm of KSK Group Bhd, which has insurance as its other core business. KSK Group was formerly known as Kurnia Asia Bhd that was privatised in 2013.

Joanne, who is also KSK Group’s CEO, is the daughter of the 62-year-old KSK patriarch and executive chairman Tan Sri Kua Sian Kooi.

While Joanne is playing a bigger role as the face of property in the KSK stable, it is no secret that senior Kua remains the driving force of the group.

KSK had sold its Malaysian insurance business in 2013 and diversified into property in the same year. It still operates insurance businesses in Thailand and Indonesia.

A quick check with property consultants indicate that the Banyan Tree branded residence is being transacted at prices between RM2,500 and RM3,000 psf, while St Regis was approaching the RM3,000 psf mark as at July estimates.

As for Four Season’s Place, a property consultant puts the going figure between RM3,000 and RM3,500 psf. “At RM3,200 psf, 8 Conlay is trying to position itself in the likes of Four Seasons. However, Four Seasons sold its units much earlier and it would be interesting to see if 8 Conlay is able to match Four Seasons, given the current market situation,” says the property consultant.

Joanne, however, remains optimistic that 8 Conlay would do well and prove the sceptics wrong.

“The price is a reflection of interest coming from the market. At the same time, if you were to compare what’s around the KLCC area, the pricing will justify the product.

“In terms of value, our location on Jalan Conlay is a strong point as in the branded residence market, buyers buy for location, which itself is capital preservation,” she says, pointing out that branded residences command a 30% higher value than luxury apartments based on a recent Knight Frank report.

Bernab: ‘Kempinski Hotel Kuala Lumpur in the ETP raises the hotel’s profile.’
Bernabé: ‘Kempinski Hotel Kuala Lumpur in the ETP raises the hotel’s profile.’

The disproportion between local and foreign buyers is due to the lack of marketing so far. “With the launch of the sales gallery, we are only now officially going out to market. We are eyeing all major cities like Singapore, Shanghai, Beijing, Taipei, Korea, Hong Kong, Japan and the Middle East.”

The project is eyeing an equal spread of local and foreign buyers.

Locally, she shares that interest has been coming from surprisingly “young professionals who are well-travelled and know of Kempinski”.

“A branded residence is something one buys for capital appreciation for the long term. The buyers are a discerning lot and yearn to have a certain lifestyle.”

In terms of benchmarking, Joanne says that 8 Conlay is being benchmarked with other similar branded residences around the world and that prices in Malaysia are still relatively on the low side.

“If you look at branded residences in London, they are really about infusing three components. One is a five-star luxury service provider which you cannot deviate from. The second is the design element. When you partner a good name for design, buyers feel “safe” knowing that what is to be given is of a certain quality and level.

“The third is the architecture component, which often tends to be overlooked. But people who buy a branded residence are discerning buyers who look for offerings that are limited and unique.”

A unique proposition

Joanne describes it as providing a seamless experience for buyers all the way from the outside to the inside.

“When the thought process began to develop 8 Conlay, we looked at the branded residence space around the world and asked ourselves what was really available here. This is when we decided that we had to differentiate ourselves from the rest and would be able to do it,“ says Joanne.

This in essence sealed the company’s partnership with Kempinski. “What is unique about Kempinski is that in every hotel in the different cities it operates, there is a combination of its heritage and the owner’s identity, which I think is a strength many hoteliers don’t have. That’s one of the reasons why we like Kempinski because of the flexibility that allows for both parties’ personalities to stand out. That makes a very good hotel,” says Joanne.

She shares that the affinity to Kempinski is not altogether a new idea to KSK.

“The (Kua) family has had experience with staying at different Kempinski Hotels as we travelled a lot. So, when we were looking to partner a hotelier, Kempinski naturally popped into our chairman’s mind fairly quickly,” she says.

At the same time, Kempinski was also scouting for opportunities in Kuala Lumpur as part of its expansion into this part of the region.

Water theme: A unit designed around the ‘water’ element. Upon entering, one is treated to the magnificent view of KL City Centre beyond the foldable doors.
Water theme: A unit designed around the ‘water’ element. Upon entering, one is treated to the magnificent view of KL City Centre beyond the foldable doors.

“Kempinski is quite exclusive. We choose our projects very carefully and make sure we work with partners that share the same common values.

“We are looking for exclusivity and authenticity and benchmark ourselves with the top residences in the world because customers who buy these residences have choices being well-travelled,” adds Kempinski’s Bernabé.

He reckons that having other branded hotel residences around 8 Conlay is not competition, but rather a good thing for the person who lives there because “if you live in a branded residence, you would want your neighbourhood to be of the same calibre”.

Drawing strength from brand partners

Joanne says 8 Conlay’s strength is the diversity of the international brand partners it has teamed up with, which would serve as an advantage as it markets overseas.

“Tower A is designed by Steve Leung and YOO. Steve Leung is akin to the “Andy Lau of design” in Hong Kong and China, while Kempinski has a strong presence in the Middle East and China,” says Joanne.

“For interior design, we have YOO which is not new to the branded residence segment. It knows what it means to take on the little details that people don’t see in space optimisation. This is why we market our residence fully furnished because that is the strength we want to show in one of our brand partners.

“And as far as the Kempinski name for service is concerned, you can only experience it if you have stayed in one of the Kempinski Hotels and understand the service standard it brings to the table.”

Incidentally, for Kempinski, YOO, Steve Leung and TROP, this is their first time in Malaysia. “The good thing about this is that it gives us a fresh pair of eyes, where we can innovate and do something different.”

Joanne says the company is also not strategising to compete with other players for its retail component. “In fact, we like it that Pavilion is close to us because it provides options for our buyers.

“We are not building a mall, we’re building a retail lifestyle quarter. We are going with the design first, as it needs to complement the whole development and be an attractive point on its own,” she says.

Taking a leaf out of its insurance book

Joanne believes that 8 Conlay’s unique concept will pan out as planned.

“When we conceptualised the project, our chairman Tan Sri Kua made it clear that he wanted to grow into a conglomerate. It’s not that we woke up one morning and decided that we wanted to go into property. The root of our business is in insurance, which is a long-gestation project. There is no denying that property is also for the long term, so there is no right or wrong time to go into this business.

“In insurance, we come from a base where it is all about customer service. So, when looking at property, we also looked at it from a completely different angle … we put ourselves in the customer’s shoes and decided what we could do differently.

“When we decided which direction we wanted to go into in property, the message was very clear – to make sure we added value to the customer.”

“Creating extraordinary living spaces is what we do. KSK Land is formed on this philosophy and our job here is to create something extraordinary for 8 Conlay.”

On her taking on a mammoth project at a relatively young age, Joanne says she does not see her role from a gender perspective. “Any CEO would face the same challenges as me. The important thing is mutual respect, and in KSK, we are a family. We work together and celebrate together.”

By Gurmeet Kaur The Starbiz

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13 Apr 2014
New kid on the block: Singapore’s ‘shoebox king’ Oxley spices up Kuala Lumpur a record RM3,300 per sq ft. IN just 10 months, Singapore-listed Oxley Holdings Ltd has quietly amassed a gross development value (GDV) of …
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Malaysian property sector still attracting overseas investors


Canadian pension fund invests in JV with Pavilion Group

KUALA LUMPUR: The largest pension fund manager in Canada will invest RM485mil for a 49% interest in its joint venture (JV) with Pavilion Group to develop Pavilion Damansara Heights – a mixed-used property in Kuala Lumpur.

This is Canada Pension Plan Investment Board’s (CPPIB) first direct real estate investment in the region.

“We are pleased to make our first direct real estate investment in South-East Asia through this JV with one of Malaysia’s most well-respected developers, the Pavilion Group.

“This JV fits well with our investment strategy, as it provides us with a great opportunity to work with a smart partner in a high-quality real estate asset that will provide attractive risk-adjusted returns over the long term,” said CPPIB managing director and head of real estate investments Asia Jimmy Phua in a statement.

The Malaysian property market is still attracting strong interest from overseas investors, despite reports suggesting a possible slowdown in demand.

Major property players from China, including Greenland Holdings Group Ltd and Country Garden Holdings Co Ltd, are among big investors in Johor.

Pavilion Damansara Heights is a freehold development integrating corporate towers, luxury residences and a retail galleria.

The development is located in one of the prime and affluent locations in Kuala Lumpur, less than 10km from the Petronas Twin Towers. It is well-connected by a network of highways and strategically served by two upcoming Mass Rapid Transit stations within walking distance to the development.

Pavilion Group is an experienced local developer of commercial and residential projects and is one of the strongest and most well-established Malaysian retail developers. It has developed several prominent retail malls, and office and retail projects in Kuala Lumpur.

“We are looking forward to the opportunity to partner with CPPIB in this exciting development in Kuala Lumpur.

“It is a highly anticipated landmark for Damansara Heights, set within Malaysia’s most affluent neighbourhood, offering a world-class integrated development that is synonymous with the Pavilion Brand,” said Pavillion Group project director Timothy Liew.

Pavilion Group was in the news recently as it had set a record of sorts for pricing its high-rise serviced residential units of its latest project – the Pavilion Suites – along Jalan Bukit Bintang starting from RM3,000 per sq ft.

The high-end property is being built on a half-acre parcel that had created a buzz in the property sector in 2010.

In the same year, Urusharta Cemerlang Sdn Bhd, a company controlled by property magnate Tan Sri Desmond Lim, had purchased the tiny strip of land from Singapore billionaire Kwek Leng Beng for a record price of RM7,209 per sq ft.

Source: Starbiz Asia News Network

Related post:

Property prices in Malaysia to continue to increase, says REHDA


Property prices in Malaysia will continue to increase due to the supply and demand factor as well as the high land cost, according to Real Estate and Housing Developers Association (Rehda) president Datuk Seri FD Iskandar Mansor.

Notably, the average annual housing completion stood at 100,000 compared to the average annual household formation of 140,000, revealed the National Property Information Centre.

According to Iskandar, who also serves as managing director and chief executive officer of Glomac Bhd, the public have the misconception that developers are responsible for the rising property prices.

He explained that it is impossible for developers to maintain or lower the selling price for new launches due to land cost and high conversion premium, which has recently increased by up to 300 percent.

He also noted that the cost of doing business has been expanding each year, and, unlike before, developers no longer enjoy the 30 percent profit margin.

In fact, developers now only make around 15 percent profit margin because of high development and infrastructure charges, compliance cost, stamp duty and quit rent.

Moreover, land is getting scarce and more expensive.

“In early 2007, when Glomac bought land nearby the Petronas Twin Towers, the seller asked for RM1,000 per square feet (psf) but we wanted to pay only RM600 psf. I knew what we wanted to build on it so we paid RM1,000 psf,” said Iskandar.

“Now, that same piece of land is worth RM3,500 psf and the value of the building has risen. Land cost has tripled in the last seven years.”

Source:

 
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New kid on the block: Singapore’s ‘shoebox king’ Oxley spices up Kuala Lumpur a record RM3,300 per sq ft

New kid on the block: Singapore’s ‘shoebox king’ Oxley spices up Kuala Lumpur a record RM3,300 per sq ft


IN just 10 months, Singapore-listed Oxley Holdings Ltd has quietly amassed a gross development value (GDV) of close to RM10bil in Malaysia.

That’s RM1bil for every month since it first bought land in Kuala Lumpur last May – a tough act to follow even for the most seasoned developer.

And it isn’t stopping there.

Known as the “shoebox king” in Singapore, Oxley has hired former Selangor State Development Corp (PKNS) general manager Datuk Othman Omar as CEO of its Malaysian operations, indicating its seriousness in making Malaysia a core market.

Oxley now has on its plate 15 projects outside of Singapore – one in the UK, four in Cambodia, two in China and eight in Malaysia.

Only a month into the job, Othman already has his hands full with enquiries from landowners for joint-ventures, as well as expressions of interest for properties that Oxley Malaysia is yet to launch.

“Oxley has the brand name and database of buyers. However, we have to careful with whom we work with,” he tells StarBizWeek.

“You’ll be surprised at how many land pockets there are in Kuala Lumpur. We must be selective with not just the location, but also the business model.”

Othman, who studied civil engineering in Tasmania, had helmed PKNS for five years until his contract expired on Jan 31, injecting a much-needed private sector efficiency into the state-owned unit.

Under his watch it even achieved a record profit in 2011 of RM420mil.

He had had a stellar run in PKNS at least until the end of his term, when it became clear that he and Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim could no longer see eye-to-eye.

Before his contract expired, Othman was removed as general manager and transferred to the state secretariat to facilitate an investigation over the controversial sacking of Parti Keadilan Rakyat deputy president Azmin Ali as a PKNS board member.

But all that is water under the bridge now for Othman. He looks eager to have work for his hands again, after taking a short break in February to perform the umrah.

While he hesitates to delve into project details due to the sensitivity of ongoing negotiations, property sources say Oxley Malaysia’s landbank includes parcels on Jalan Ampang worth RM2.5bil-RM3bil, Jalan Hang Tuah (RM3bil), Section 16, Petaling Jaya (RM900mil), Beverly Heights in Ampang (RM900mil), Seputeh (RM120mil), Medini in Johor’s Iskandar Malaysia (RM1bil) and Fettes Road, Penang (RM1.5bil).

More JVs with landowners are understood to be in the pipeline.

Quick turnaround

According to Othman, Oxley favours integrated developments and a “quick turnaround”.

“The margins may not be as high (if turnaround is fast), but the banks love us because of our cashflow. That kind of velocity also reduces our finance and holding cost, and we don’t need to wait for years to realise the profits.

“We are aiming for affordability – build it fast and sell it cheap.”

Oxley made headlines here in November when it acquired a prized stretch of land along Jalan Ampang in Kuala Lumpur from the Loke Wan Yat estate for some RM450mil, or a record RM3,300 per sq ft.


The project – which will comprise a mall, two luxury hotels, serviced residences, offices and a theme park – is a stone’s throw from KLCC and opposite from Corus Hotel.


Big name investors such as Lembaga Tabung Haji, BlackRock, five-star hotel chains Jumeirah and Waldorf Astoria, and theme park operator Sanderson are speculated to have shown an interest in the development, industry executives say.

On Jalan Hang Tuah, Oxley Malaysia is planning residences and a three- or four-star hotel with 350 rooms and retail space.

The land, acquired by a local company in a government tender, is across the road from the Hang Tuah monorail and LRT stations.

Oxley’s plot in Section 16 near the Phileo Damansara commercial complex could feature residences starting from RM650 per sq ft and some retail space to serve a proposed three- or four-star business hotel.

Othman says he may delay sales for Robson Heights, an 80-unit premium dwelling in Seputeh in the vicinity of Mid Valley Megamall, given the current soft market conditions.

Depending on the market, Oxley Malaysia could roll out the Jalan Ampang, Jalan Hang Tuah and Section 16 properties this year, he adds.

“We’re already seeing strong interest in the Hang Tuah project from en bloc buyers. Some have offered to take up 50%. But we need to make sure they aren’t speculators,” Othman quips.

This is a lot to handle for the new kid on the block. Can Othman take the heat?

“Our competition is not the other developers,” he replies coolly. “It’s what we don’t know yet.”

Former PKNS chief Othman now CEO of Oxley”

PETALING JAYA: Barely a month after leaving the Selangor State Development Corp (PKNS), Datuk Othman Omar (pic) has been tapped by Singapore-listed developer Oxley Holdings Ltd to head its Malaysian operations as CEO, overseeing eight projects worth almost RM10bil in gross development value (GDV).

According to a stock exchange filing last Friday, Othman, 54, was appointed CEO of Oxley’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Oxley Holdings (M) Sdn Bhd, on March 1.

Othman, a civil engineer by training, had previously served as general manager of PKNS for five years until his contract expired on Jan 31.

Oxley, which has a market capitalisation of S$2bil (RM5.22bil), was listed on Singapore’s Catalist Market in Oct 2010 before transferring to the Mainboard in February last year.

Oxley Tower KL

Oxley Tower KL Sky scraperThe firm, better known for its shoebox apartments in Singapore, made headlines here in November when it bought a highly-coveted piece of land along Jalan Ampang from the Loke Wan Yat estate for some RM450mil, or a record RM3,300 per sq ft.

Images for KLCC Wisma Central, Restaurant Chef Choi …

The prime freehold land, down the road from KLCC and sandwiched between Wisma Central and a Chinese temple, is currently occupied by Restaurant Chef Choi, Nasi Kandar Pelita and four bungalows.

Property sources told StarBiz that Oxley’s estimated RM9bil-RM10bil portfolio in Malaysia included the Jalan Ampang project with a GDV of RM2.5bil, developments in Jalan Hang Tuah and Medini Iskandar worth RM3bil and RM1bil, respectively, and others in Selangor and Penang.

Under Othman’s watch, PKNS implemented a full open tender system in 2010, which resulted in savings of RM100mil a year.

He had also inked integrity pacts with PKNS’ vendors and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, even as he sought to inject private-sector efficiency into the otherwise staid government-linked corporation (GLC).

But towards the end of his term, Othman fell out with Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim over the running of PKNS.

Before his contract expired, Othman was also removed as general manager and transferred to the state secretariat to facilitate an investigation over the controversial sacking of Parti Keadilan Rakyat deputy president Azmin Ali as a PKNS board member.

Still, sources close to Othman claim he had not been short on job offers from other GLCs and listed firms in Singapore and Malaysia.

For the six months to Dec 31, 2013, Oxley saw its net profit surge 15 times to S$275.9mil (RM720.1mil) from S$18mil (RM46.98mil) in the same period a year ago, while revenue jumped 709% to S$888.2mil (RM2.32bil) from S$109.8mil (RM286.84mil) on progress billings for various developments in Singapore.

Contributed by John Loh The Star/Asia News Network

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OXLEY TOWERS

An artist’s impression of the Oxley Tower in Kuala Lumpur. The average launch price for its serviced apartments are expected to be around RM3,000 per sq ft.

More images for KLCC Wisma Central, Restaurant Chef Choi, four bungalows

Your Rights: Objections to Kuala Lumpur City Hall Proposed New Assessment Rate Hike!


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Rising assessment rates and your rights

Zero engagement, public relations exercise non-existent

THE simple, routine exercise of a property revaluation in the city of Kuala Lumpur has somehow turned controversial due to the lack of apparent justification, given the magnitude of the increase and scarcity of explanation.

Perhaps, the people in Government think there is no need for some form of elementary public relations and that having power is enough. There was practically no public engagement, consultation or attempt to seek feedback from stakeholders.

If such a simple task as revaluing the properties in Kuala Lumpur cannot be carried out diligently and in a responsible manner, I am concerned with the impending introduction of the more complex goods and services tax (GST). Will the levy and collection of the GST be properly handled?

The National House Buyers Association (HBA) is dismayed with the unilateral and arbitrary proposal by the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) to increase the revaluation of properties in Kuala Lumpur for both private and commercial properties. It is not that DBKL cannot exercise the process of revaluation under the Local Government Act, but the issue is that it is “simply doing it”, literally speaking. The media has widely reported that the increase could range between 70% and 300% in certain areas.

The reasons given by DBKL for the increase as reported in the media are as follows:

(i) the last increase was more than 20 years ago; and

(ii)property prices have increased in value.

HBA would like to highlight certain pertinent issues which should be taken into consideration.

(i) Most private properties are owner-occupied

A majority of private homes in Kuala Lumpur are owner occupied, and many are retirees and pensioners.

Based on this logic, regardless of the increase in the market value of the said property, the owner does not reap any benefit as he is still living in the said property. It would, thus, be unfair to penalise the owner for the increase in property prices when he has not enjoyed any such benefit arising from the continuous ownership.

The owner would only be able to enjoy any increase in property prices when he decides to sell the said property to a third party. To say that property owners should be thankful to DBKL for affixing a high valuation on the property because property owners would be able to sell their property at a higher market value is preposterous. Assessment is based on market rental and not vice versa.

(ii) Many private homes are long-term investments

Many individuals use private homes as long-term investment to fund post-retirement needs or their children’s education expenses. It would be very burdensome to these people who have managed to save enough to acquire a second private home as a long-term investment as the returns from such an investment are just barely enough to cover expenses of the property itself such as this savage increase of rates proposed by DBKL.

(iii) An increase in assessment rates does not translate into better services

Would such a revision commensurate with the quality of services to be provided by DBKL in justifying such an increment? Currently, it would seem that there is no discernible improvement in either service or facility. It is only reasonable to expect a 300% increase in the level of service quality if DBKL is going to increase the assessment rates by up to 300%.

For DBKL to increase assessment rates without promising an equal increase in the level of service quality is morally wrong and akin to snatching candy from a baby; the culprit merely snatches the candy away knowing that the baby cannot fight back.

(iv) Poor planning and indiscriminate approvals

Poor planning and indiscriminate approvals granted by DBKL to new developments without indepth studies on the impact to the surrounding environment, especially existing housing estates, have overloaded the existing infrastructure. The servicing highways, byways and main carriageways today have excessive volume of traffic that was not catered for originally. This has resulted in long crawls at peak hours in many places.

In certain neighbourhoods, the communities are plagued by haphazard parking along the road reserves due to lack of enforcement.

(v) Against the Government’s aspiration to help the rakyat

Our honourable Prime Minister has decided to lower the personal income tax rates to lighten the burden of the rakyat in view of the impending GST. DBKL’s move to increase the assessment rates by such a high rate will be burdensome to the rakyat and goes against the very grain of our PM’s wishes to lighten the rakyat’s burden.

HBA does recognise the fact that there are speculators who may have amassed multiple properties. However, an increase in assessment rates will only penalise the majority of private home-owners who only own one or perhaps two properties. HBA had in the past proposed a higher real property gains tax (RPGT) and stamp duty for the transfer of properties to be imposed on such speculators who had amassed numerous properties. The measures announced in Budget 2014 by our Prime Minister and the recent strict lending guidelines imposed by Bank Negara have, to a certain degree, curbed and muted such unhealthy manipulation of property prices. The effects can be seen in the recent announcement by the National Property Information Centre or Napic under the Valuation & Property Services Department data “that the property market is expected to see slower growth this year (2013), as there will be an adjustment in terms of prices, which is expected to moderate”.

This, in turn, brings us to the question: “Does this mean that DBKL will undertake another round of revaluation for a subsequent corresponding reduction following the announcement?”

Advice to taxpayers

HBA urges DBKL to reconsider its decision to increase assessment rates for private homes in Kuala Lumpur based on the above-mentioned points. If DBKL wishes to increase the assessment rates for private homes and commercial properties to cover the increase in operating costs, then HBA proposes an increase of not more than 10% of the current tax.

Although the Mayor and Federal Territory Minister have assured the people of a possible reduction as they understood the taxpayers’ plight and hardship, the ‘Notice of Revision of the Valuation List’ under Section 141 of the Local Government Act, 1976 (LGA) was sent out. Why is this so?

To the taxpayers, let’s comply with the law and its due process by filing our ‘Notis Bantahan’ (NOT LATER than Dec 17) pursuant to Section 142 of the LGA rather than be caught in a situation of ‘by default’ or Mr Mayor and Mr Minister using the usual “there were only a handful of official written objections” rhetoric. The objection letters are absolutely necessary.

We have prepared three templates as a guide to object against the proposed hike, which can be uploaded from our website at www.hba.org.my. The templates are merely guidelines to facilitate the process. You are at the liberty to improvise the drafts as well as seek independent professional advice if in doubt.

An excerpt of Section 142 of the Local Government Act, 1976 (LGA) has been reproduced below for taxpayers to understand:

Section 142: Objections.

·Any person aggrieved on any  of the following grounds:

(a) that any holding for which he is rateable is valued beyond its rateable value;

(b) that any holding valued is not rateable;

(c) that any person who, or any holding which, ought to be included in the Valuation List is omitted there from;

(d) that any holding is valued below its rateable value; or

(e) that any holding, or holdings, which have been jointly or separately valued ought to be valued otherwise, may make an objection in writing to the local authority at any time not less than fourteen days before the time fixed for the revision of the Valuation List.

·All objections shall be enquired into and the persons making them shall at such enquiry be allowed an opportunity to be heard either in person or by an authorised agent.

I would like to come clean and declare that I am a rate-payer and have a vested interest in challenging the proposed rate hike by DBKL.

Go ahead, flood DBKL with letters of objection.

Questioning DBKL’s move on KLites

Justifying the proposed assessment rate hike

THE media has reported that two former mayors – Tan Sri Ahmad Fuad Ismail and Tan Sri Elyas Omar – have questioned the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) on its proposed assessment rate hike.

Ahmad Fuad, predecessor to the current mayor Datuk Seri Ahmad Phesal Talib, pointed out that he had raised reserves amounting to RM3bil prior to retiring last year.

This means Ahmad Phesal inherited RM3bil when he took over.

Ahmad Fuad reportedly said that DBKL must provide a detailed budget for 2014, with a breakdown of how much money was needed and how it would be spent.

Elyas, meanwhile, noted that DBKL had “bigger revenue compared to what it had 30 years ago”, adding that there was no need to increase rates “even by 10%”.

DBKL must be selective and make a distinction between residential and commercial properties. Perhaps that should be done first before it imposes new rates on new commercial, residential and mixed development projects. After all, pricing is reflective of current valuations and there are so many new developments: stratified and landed, high-end residential condo, commercial retail blocks, office blocks, shopping complexes, SoFo, SoHo, condotel, hotels, serviced apartments and boutique buildings.

The issue of not having enough money should not arise. As plot ratios and density have been increased for developers in KL, more revenue in terms of development charges levied and assessment revenue would be collected. DBKL has also been collecting Caruman ISF or the Infrastructure Service Fund in the millions from developers for the development of infrastructure in KL and millions in lieu of the non-availability of car park bays. The host of projects under way driven by the Economic Transformation Programme, namely, the Tun Razak Exchange, Menara Warisan Merdeka (a 100-storey building next to Stadium Negara), the Kuala Lumpur Metropolis, KL Eco City, the Bukit Bintang Commercial Centre and Bandar Malaysia, the MRT and all the other abbreviations that I cannot remember are, therefore, a boon to it.

The excuse by DBKL that “the last increase was more than 20 years ago” does not hold water because some “newly” completed properties delivered four to five years ago had suffered the fate of a revision with an increase of 100%-200%, as though the properties had doubled in value within that short span of time.

Some owners in Cheras have received notices of revision that translate into a 200% hike in rates. Did DBKL take into consideration that the leasehold land upon which the property is erected expires in 60 years? The property value on resale would obviously fetch a lower price based on the diminishing lease period.

A rebate should instead be offered to those living in stratified properties like flats, apartments and condominiums, as they are already paying maintenance fees to their joint management bodies (JMBs) and management committees (MCs) for the upkeep of their infrastructure and playgrounds, maintenance of trees and grass-cutting, sweeping, cleaning (internal roads and drains) and rubbish disposal within their perimeters. The JMBs and MCs maintain the building, playground, parking lots and other facilities, while DBKL’s role is limited to cleaning the drains and maintaining roads outside the perimeters.

Previously, DBKL’s duties covered sewerage services, but today taxpayers have to make separate payments to Indah Water Konsortium. Shouldn’t this issue be taken into consideration for a reduction? While writing this article, my fellow National House Buyers Association (HBA) volunteers are scrutinising the past Auditor-General’s Report on the alleged excesses and wastages of DBKL.

DBKL’s sources of non-rate revenue

DBKL does not depend on assessment collection alone for revenue. There are other major sources of revenue, which we term as non-rate revenue which inter-alia are:
1. Licensing and permits from:

  •         Engineering Department
  •         Department of Buildings
  •         Licensing Department
  •         Department of Health
  •         Department of Environment
  •         Department of Enforcement

2.        Sales proceeds from DBKL properties;
3.        Interest on fixed deposits;
4.        Rent proceeds from council homes;
5.        Dividends from investments;
6.        Returns on investments;
7.        Compound and fine collection;
8.        Infrastructure contributions;
9.        Remittance from federal agencies;
10.        Privatisation of buildings;
11.        Parking collections;
12.        Sales of plans;
13.     Billboard erection fees and rent proceeds;
14.        Joint-venture (JV) housing projects, and many more.

It seems that there is more than RM300mil of “collectables” that DBKL has not collected from defaulting taxpayers. This, in turn, brings us to the questions: Why not?

DBKL must only venture into value-for-money projects. There were even a few JVs with private developers for housing and commercial developments that were abandoned, with buyers being left in the lurch for years. Does DBKL practise an open tender policy for all its projects and procurements?

DBKL has ventured into various projects with private developers to generate income in Wangsa Maju. The roads, drainage system, sewerage system, water pipe lines and electric and telephones cables in the area were all done without DBKL spending a single sen. Therefore, there are other ways to obtain funds rather than placing the burden on KLites with this assessment rate hike.

Development expenditure is largely funded by the Federal Government. For 2013, from what I understand, DBKL expects to receive RM414.7mil worth of Federal Government funding, RM300.5mil of Federal Government allocation under the 10th Malaysia Plan and RM114.2mil from government grants.

Declaration by DBKL 

DBKL’s upper management must come clean to declare that they have not been selective and biased in their choice of property location revaluations. The upper management, the Federal Territories (FT) Minister, mayor and the entire City Hall advisory board members must declare that their annual rent rates too have been revalued in the current exercise. They must declare their respective quantums of increase based on two premises:

(i) the last increase was more than 20 years ago; and
(ii) property prices have increased in value.

What was the methodology used to compute the new rates? Show us how DBKL’s current revenue is insufficient to meet its expenses, when the mayor had stated in his budget speech in December 2012 that “DBKL is already operating on an estimated surplus of RM217.7mil”. Among the aspects of success is the increase in total revenue of RM241mil to RM1.69bil from the previous year. It should also show why its non-rate revenue is insufficient and why its reserves are insufficient. If DBKL cannot do that, then it simply cannot increase the rates revenue by a revaluation of annual rental. If the revaluation exercise is adopted, it is irrational to impose the same percentage of levy, ie, 6% for residential, 10% for land and 12% for commercial premises. It cannot apply the same percentage across the board.

There must be a policy change by reducing the chargeable rates to, say, 2% for residential, 3% for land and 4% for commercial.

This does not mean that DBKL need not revisit their valuation exercise that has been found wanting by taxpayers.

The astronomical valuation based on valued rent, amount and quantum are simply preposterous.

In fact, the FT Minister’s statement “that the assessment is based on property value” is wrong. Property assessment is based on rental value. A hypothetical rental value is placed on the property and this is “multiplied by 12” to obtain the annual value. What if there is no rent? What if the yearly rental collected is not what DBKL had estimated? Has a concise survey on annual rent collected by the taxpayer been matched with a declaration of income collected from rent in the taxpayer’s declaration to Lembaga Hasil Dalam Negeri vide the stamping duty on tenancy agreements? What if there is no contract of tenancy and the premises are rented out on a weekly basis? Perhaps, there should only be a revaluation of properties that are converted from housing to commercial and those which have undergone major renovation from single-storey to double-storey units or the like, thus increasing their build-up and useable areas.

By the way, isn’t the Federal Territory of Putrajaya due to undergo a revaluation?

Complaints galore

The proposed assessment rate hike by DBKL has understandably irked the city’s dwellers, as the list of complaints against the standard of service being delivered by it is rather long. Among the grievances are roads riddled with potholes, untrimmed trees, unkempt and unsightly public parks, undergrowth on road reserves, inconsistent rubbish collection, broken drains, poor upkeep of playgrounds, flooding, parking woes, uneven roads, a spike in dengue fever, illegal dump sites, infestation of rats, illegals and beggarsillegal buntings and billboards, poor or lack of enforcement, failure to collect rent from Council Home defaulters, lack of maintenance of public lightings … and the list goes on and on.

By the way, has the KL Draft Local Structure Plan that was flooded with voluminous objections from land proprietors, occupiers and vested parties been finalised and gazetted?

Taking the legal option

“Sue them” is what the lawyers would advise. As a last resort, that seems to be the proper thing to do.

Perhaps, we should galvanise a group of ‘pro bono’ lawyers (lawyers doing public good without fees) to commence a Public Interest Litigation in the Courts against the Mayor, DBKL and the entire City Council Board: http://www.dbkl.gov.my/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=41&Itemid=724&lang=en for the sake of transparency and accountability. Let’s also organise a group of experts to conduct a forensic audit on DBKL with regards to its operating expenditures and efficiency, emoluments and overtime expenses. Lets’ unearth how DBKL, assisted by its Board of Advisors, has spent taxpayers’ money for the past 10 years and its vision (how they intend to use our money) for the next 10 years. DBKL should open up its budget to public scrutiny to justify how additional money derived from the rates will be used to provide better services to KLites. Don’t tell me that the very people who pay taxes to DBKL are not able to scrutunise DBKL’s spending?

I would like to highlight the following:

“Councils spend public money. The money comes from national and local taxes – as well as charges to users of services. Councils have a special responsibility to tell local residents and taxpayers how they spend your money. They do that by publishing yearly accounts and details of their spending.

“Council accounts are the financial statements that most organisations have to produce at the end of the year – a balance sheet and summary of income and expenditure. But the term also covers all related documents used to make up the council’s accounts and any report by the external auditor about how the council organises itself to conduct its business.

“As a local resident, or interested party, you have legal rights which let you inspect your council’s accounts and related documents, ask questions about the accounts, and object to them.”

– Preamble in Council accounts: A guide to your rights published by the UK Audit Commission

Contributed by Chang Kim Loong, AMN, is the honorary secretary-general of the National House Buyers Association (HBA): www.hba.org.my

Advice to Taxpayers
P/S: For those who have not lodged their ‘Notice Bantahan’ pursuant to Section 142 of the Local Government Act, 1976, please do so, not later than Dec 17, as otherwise, you may be deemed as having accepted the revaluation ‘by default’.

You may choose to adopt any of the three templates as a guide for objections against the DBKL hike, which can be uploaded from our website at: www.hba.org.my.

Malaysia needs to produce more houses to achieve 20/20 by 2020


liability Index

KL to rank 20th Most Competitive and 20th Most Livable City by 2020

AS I walked the streets in Melbourne, people are either taking pleasure in their daily activities or catching up with their friends. More importantly, they are enjoying an abundance of economic and lifestyle opportunities, supported by their affordable housing prices and convenient transportation. It comes as no surprise that the city has been ranked as the world most livable city by The Economist for years.

Melbourne tops the list as the most livable location, according to a survey of 140 cities conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

For Malaysians, the good news is, Kuala Lumpur ranked second in South-East Asia after Singapore on the same list, while the challenging part is we were at No. 77 in the world ranking, according to the survey last year.

In terms of competitiveness, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has ranked Malaysia as the 24th most competitive nation among 148 countries in its Global Competitiveness Report 2013-2014. Under the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), the Government aspires to elevate Kuala Lumpur to be the top 20 most economically dynamic cities and top 20 most livable cities by 2020.

To realise these goals, we need to gear up our efforts in building both the hard and soft infrastructure of the country. And if we are to be a truly developed nation, one of the most critical criteria is to have more homes, as the nation’s housing needs must first be addressed to ensure quality living.

Let’s take a look at how developed nations house their people. Take Australia as an example, where four of its cities, i.e. Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney and Perth, ranked in the top 10 most livable cities as measured by the Global Liveability Survey in 2012. Australia has a population of around 22 million living in 9.1 million homes, according to its census in 2011, which means their average person per household is 2.5.

Another developed nation in Europe, United Kingdom, has a population of 62.7 million people and number of homes is approximately 25 million, which also works out to have an average of 2.5 persons per household.

In Malaysia, while our population is about 28 million, we only have about 4.6 million homes, according to National Property Information Centre. This is equal to 6.08 persons per household. For us to catch up with Australia and United Kingdom which have an average of 2.5 persons in a household, we would require a total of 11.3 million homes in our country, which is a 250% increase from what we have currently!

However, at our current housing production of about 100,000 homes a year, it would take us 67 years to catch up with the benchmark displayed by these developed nations, assuming there is no additional increase in population.

The statistic above paints a picture of the fundamental required for a developed nation. As a developing nation, the Government and the relevant private sectors need to find ways to grow the number of homes in Malaysia. We are in need of more housing especially when the Government aims to move our country towards developed nation, and to grow the population of Greater KL from 6 million people to 10 million by the year 2020, which would put further pressure on the housing market in urban areas.

Currently, production has not been able to keep up with demand and this has pushed up housing prices. Having ample supply is the only long-term sustainable way to keep housing affordable. The Government needs to streamline the delivery system to increase the number of homes built every year, instead of stifling the supply which also include the cooling off measures which may eventually lead to higher prices due to inadequate supply.

Imagine if we are having 11.6 million houses today instead of 4.6 million, our house prices would be more affordable due to ample supply. The bottom line is we need more houses, especially affordable houses. It will help in the long run if the authorities can find ways to encourage housing supply, and this include putting off cooling measures on the property industry which only work in the short run as shared in my last article “Cooling Off Measures Choke Supply”.

More production of houses will make prices more affordable. And, if the Government can further support the housing needs with infrastructure including having a good public transportation system, the aspirations of making Kuala Lumpur the top 20 most livable and most competitive cities in the world can become a reality by 2020.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT BY ALAN HONG KOK MAU
FIABCI Asia Pacific chairman DATUK ALAN TONG has over 50 years of experience in property development. He was FIABCI World president in 2005/06 and was named Property Man of The Year 2010. He is also the group chairman of Bukit Kiara Properties.

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Malaysia’s property market still growing strongly


malaysia-property-news
KENNY TanMalaysia’s property market still has much room to grow and will benefit from the high property prices in Singapore, said founder and principal trainer of Singapore-based School of Infinite Potential, Kenny Tan (pix).

“Malaysia(‘s property market) still has much growth. The market here is exciting and there is a lot of potential and resources. Malaysia can become a really solid country with its hardworking people,” he told SunBiz in an interview.

Tan, who is also ERA Realty Network Pte Ltd group division director and a practising real estate agent, said property prices in Singapore have driven buyers to Malaysia due to its closeness in terms of proximity and culture.

“A lot of Singaporeans buy their second home or investment properties here. There is a lot of interest here, especially in Iskandar Malaysia (Johor). There is a lot of interest from Singaporeans, but we always advise them to do research prior to investing,” he said.

Tan said while Singapore’s property market has gone through a few rounds of corrections, property prices in Kuala Lumpur have been constantly rising since 2004.

Although the issues in Europe and the US have resulted in expatriates pulling out and weakening the rental market, there has been a good influx of foreign interest from South Korea and Japan.

“There is still a lot of opportunities for real estate agents in this segment,” he added.

Meanwhile, the cooling measures introduced by the Singapore government has also helped attract interest to Malaysia, with Malaysian property developers taking the opportunity to ramp up their marketing efforts in Singapore.

However, there is still strong demand in Singapore’s properties despite the cooling measures, especially from Chinese investors, said Tan.

“(It’s just that Singaporean) investors are now taking their time to buy instead of rushing in and chasing prices. There are still transactions (in Singapore properties),” he added.

On property buying trends in Malaysia, Tan said it is moving towards online buying, selling and marketing.

“Technology provides convenience and productivity, one can search for properties online at any time and anywhere. This is already happening in Singapore and we foresee that happening in Kuala Lumpur over the next two to three years.

“There is an evident trend that Malaysia is moving towards that direction with the various online forums and property portals,” he said.

Tan said going online means buyers can do research before viewing properties or meeting up with agents, saving time and money. At the same time, real estate agents know the calls they get are more likely to be hot leads rather than cold calls.

“However, there is still a segment of buyers who still use newspapers to search for properties. For example, the older generation and those who are less internet-savvy.

“In Singapore, buyers who want to buy landed properties do not search online. There is still a certain type of buyer who like traditional media thus it is important to have both (mediums),” he added.

By Eva Yeong  sunbiz@thesundaily.com

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Kuala Lumpur property market gains stronger Momentum

Property investments: good Infrastructure a way to huge profits and success  

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