Groups: Exciting time in first-half


  • Business
  • Wednesday, 22 Jun 2005

GENTING Highlands Resort, the flagship of the Genting Group, will become home to the world's largest hotel with 6,200 rooms by the year-end once the group adds 2,000 new rooms to First World Hotel.  

The Group made a good start early this year by wrapping up several successful ventures locally and abroad, including making a foray into the British gaming industry by buying Maxims Casino Club, an exclusive high-end casino, and raising its stakes in London Clubs International and Stanley Leisure. 

Group chairman and CEO Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, who wishes to see the Group becoming a leading global multinational, sees its success abroad as achievements for Malaysia, too. 

SP Setia Group managing director Datuk Seri Liew Kee Sin sees the property developer's first-half performance as an indication that the company is on course to deliver another set of record results with total sales reaching RM1bil.  

The group's successful completion of its maiden high-end boutique development, Duta Nusantara and the current Duta Tropika - both in Sri Hartamas - has greatly enhanced its profile as a developer of high-end homes. Liew expects many more years of strong growth and earnings from the group's existing projects.  

Kurnia Asia Bhd is exploring different options with regard to regional expansion and has identified potential partners which it is in the midst of evaluating. CEO Datuk Adrian Loh said the group was building win-win long-term partnerships with its panel workshops, loss adjusters and lawyers to expedite the claims process and to make working together a lot smoother, faster and enjoyable.  

The group is mapping out plans and implementing strategies with the aim of streamlining internal operations to pave the way to enhancing sales, garnering a larger market share and better serve its customers. 

TAN SRI LIM KOK THAY 

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer 

Genting Group 

 

STARBIZ: How are your plans to strengthen the business coming along? 

Lim: Our plans are progressing very well indeed. As we approach the half-year, we have already completed several corporate exercises to strengthen our strategic position, both financially and operationally. As regional business competition continues to rise, I remain committed to further develop and expand our existing businesses in Malaysia.  

At our flagship Genting Highlands Resort, we will complete another 1,000 rooms this month at First World Hotel and the remaining 1,000 rooms by the end of this year. Once Tower 2 is complete, First World Hotel will be the world’s largest hotel with about 6,200 rooms – another achievement for Malaysia. 

We have the knowledge and expertise to build and develop successful world-class integrated entertainment resorts and we intend to “export” our skills and knowledge to grow our business regionally. I believe the pie is getting bigger and we aim to increase our market share and capitalise on the growing affluence of the region. I would like to see the Genting Group growing steadily to become a leading global multinational. Our achievements are achievements for Malaysia too. 

StarBiz: Are you reaping the benefits of earlier moves to better position the business? Kindly elaborate. 

Lim: Our early strategies have laid the strong foundation for our business growth. Since the mid 1990s, I have initiated moves to re-invent the leisure business in Genting Highlands Resort and spearheaded the creation and evolution of Star Cruises into a truly global cruise line. Not easy tasks, indeed.  

In our early years, when Genting began as a single hilltop hotel with only 200 rooms, travelling was much more tedious with small and narrow roads. This became the challenge to re-position Genting from a sole hotel operator to a modern integrated resort operator, catering to all – young and old, business or families - with travelling made easier and more convenient. Today, we have designed and developed Genting Highlands Resort to be a modern integrated family friendly entertainment resort, comprising six hotels with over 9,000 rooms (soon-to-be 10,000 rooms), offering over 170 food, beverage and retail outlets, 60 fun rides and endless entertainment – all in one cool location, at 6,000 feet above sea level. Our visitor arrivals have doubled in the last 10 years – we received 17.4 million visitors last year.  

We now have very nice dual carriageways leading to our resort and travelling has become a breeze. We are completing another new road later this year that will further improve the accessibility of our Resort. Customers’ convenience and comfort are our top priorities and we will continuously invest to enhance our facilities and attractions to cater to the needs of customers. Of course, all these efforts will be done with minimal impact to our environment. 

Eleven years ago, leisure cruising was not popular among Asians. Cruising was perceived as an elitist, Western-style of holidaying. Now, with Star Cruises operating in Malaysia and other Asian shores, leisure cruising has grown popular among Asian holidaymakers and even the convention market.  

Our land-based resorts and cruise operations are now significant contributors to the tourism industry and the nation’s economy. So, yes, the seeds of perseverance to change the perception of leisure are now paying off.  

We are also fortunate to have a very conducive business environment to expand our businesses. I am proud to say that whenever I travel overseas and meet people who tell me that they associate Genting Highlands Resort with Malaysia, it makes all the efforts very worthwhile. 

In our other areas of business, we have honed our management skills to be one of Malaysia’s most efficient operators in the power generation and plantations businesses and we are looking at opportunities to expand overseas in these areas. We have grown our paper and packaging business to be Malaysia’s leading integrated paper manufacturer.  

Our success in any overseas venture is also a success to the nation as it reflects the high level of professional management expertise that Malaysia can produce and be proud of. 

StarBiz: What are the trends in the industry or economy that are having a positive impact on your business? 

Lim: Our country is led by a very pragmatic Government and under the able leadership of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, we have enjoyed continuous peace, harmony, political stability and steady economic growth.  

The concerted efforts of the Tourism Ministry, Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board and the cooperation from various domestic and international airlines and travel agencies have enabled us to work closely to stimulate tourism activities and deliver the best of Malaysia to the world. The recent Government incentives of a five-day week for civil servants, and the presence of low-fare air travel will augur well for the leisure and tourism industry in Malaysia. 

The advancements in mobile telecommunications, information technology and e-commerce in Malaysia have enabled us to produce innovative marketing and cost-efficient channels for the group. We have developed a unique integrated global reservation system, where customers can access and purchase our leisure products (such as rooms, show tickets, limousines, etc) at any time throughout the year. We believe our www.genting.com.my website has grown to be Malaysia’s highest-grossing hospitality website with online sales of RM13mil in 2004.  

StarBiz: Do you foresee or expect any unfavourable occurrences or events that could have an impact on your business in the near future ? 

Lim: We are operating in a globally competitive environment. Any adverse regional or global events that affect our economy or curb consumer spending will have an impact on us. Rising prices of basic amenities such as crude oil prices will translate into higher operational costs and this is where we need to be constantly innovative in the market and operate in the most efficient manner.  

Competition in our key businesses will intensify with the new leisure attractions coming up in Asia in the future. I view such competition as healthy, and will ultimately bring out the best offerings to the consumers. We had faced and overcome numerous challenges in the past and we are well prepared to face the challenges ahead. 

StarBiz: Moving forward, are you likely to be still expanding your business or the scope of your business ties? 

Lim: Our recent strategic investments and alliances are part of our long-term plans to grow and strengthen the Genting group’s key businesses globally. Our recent equity investments and tie-ups in leisure-related operations in Britain and Singapore, and plantations in Indonesia form part of these plans. You can expect to see more strategic investments from us in future. 

We will continue to expand on our entertainment facilities at Genting Highlands Resorts, with new and exciting theme park rides and other leisure attractions. Our recent partnership with INTI Universal in operating Kolej Antarabangsa Genting INTI offers tertiary and vocational education to the tourism, leisure and hospitality industry in Malaysia. 

Asiatic, our plantations arm will continue to develop its recently acquired land in Sabah. Early this month, Asiatic ventured into Indonesia to expand its land area by 150% to over 164,000ha. These acquisitions will be the long-term growth catalyst for Asiatic and provides the opportunity to broaden our plantation management expertise, locally and overseas. 

For our power business, we continue to look for viable power-related opportunities, locally and overseas. Our venture into two power plants in India has been very good, with the Lanco Kondapalli plant already generating steady dividends. Early this year, our oil and gas business acquired a participating interest in West Salawati PSC and will undertake exploratory activities in the Anambas and the North West Natuna blocks in Indonesia, over the next two years. We will remain pro-active in our efforts to expand our businesses and invest in viable opportunities available in our core business areas. 

StarBiz: On a personal level, what has been the happiest moment for you so far this year as CEO of your company? 

Lim: There have been many very happy moments for me this year and I would rather not single out one as my happiest. One of my greatest joys is to see the Genting group succeed in all of our ventures, domestically and overseas. Our successful venture into the British gaming industry early this year, through the acquisition of Maxims Casino Club, an exclusive high-end casino and our increased stakes in London Clubs International and Stanley Leisure, was a very good start to the year and I look forward to bringing greater achievements to the group and for Malaysia, Genting’s success abroad is Malaysia’s success. 

Contributing to the nation’s development, whether by creating more jobs, stimulating the economy, or giving support to the needy, these are efforts that bring me closer to our people and I really cherish such moments. 

DATUK ADRIAN LOH 

Kurnia Asia Bhd 

Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer 

 

STARBIZ: How are your plans to strengthen the business coming along? 

Loh: Extensive plans have been drawn up and are now in the process of execution. Sweeping strategies have been implemented with the aim of streamlining internal operations, which are vital to strengthening the business.  

From the marketing facet, we are paving the way to enhance sales and garner larger market share. Coupled with our customer relationship management, we aim to improve service quality while simultaneously cross-selling products. 

Another important aspect to consider is that of underwriting and claims control. This is vital to managing our risks and costs. 

We have always stressed that our people are our biggest asset and as such we will continue our human resource development to continuously improve the quality of our staff, thus benefiting our agents, business associates and policyholders. 

StarBiz: Are you reaping the benefits of earlier moves to better position the business? Kindly elaborate. 

Loh: The dynamic management team in Kurnia has had the foresight to implement a wave of initiatives that are now bearing fruit. Our latest scheme, Kurnia Express was introduced in December 2003 and we are confident it will be another avant-garde move in the industry. 

In 2004, we had a massive recruiting drive to hire marketing executives to service our agents, as the management team knows that they are the driving force of the industry. Today, we have a 7,800-strong agency force bringing in about 94% of our business. 

We have also always worked hard to form a synergistic relationship with our panel workshops, loss adjusters and lawyers to expedite the claims process. Having achieved that, we now have a mutual understanding and respect for one another, and this makes working together a lot smoother, faster and more enjoyable. We believe in building win-win long-term partnerships. 

StarBiz: What are the trends in the industry or economy that are having a positive impact on your business? 

Loh: First quarter GDP growth was a healthy increase of 5.7%. Coupled with a massive influx of new cars from various competitively priced foreign manufacturers, this bodes well for our business. Car sales are likely to increase in line with a more affluent society and the availability of choice. Consequently, there will be an increased demand for insurance and Kurnia is well poised to satiate this demand. 

StarBiz: Do you foresee or expect any unfavourable occurrences or events that could have an impact on your business in the near future? 

Loh: Claims due to theft are still high, with the industry making a collective payout of RM557mil in 2004. This is alarming and we now encourage our policyholders to install anti-theft devices with tracking and immobilising capabilities to prevent car theft and aid recovery. This is to avoid the hassle of going through the unfortunate experience of having their vehicles stolen. 

StarBiz: Moving forward, are you likely to be expanding your business or the scope of your business ties? 

Loh: We will continue to strengthen existing relationships and build new ties. Agents will continue to be nurtured with training sessions and supported by our marketing agents to help them achieve their full potential as well as to penetrate the non-motor business. 

Relationships with financial institutions, franchise holders and brokers will also be fostered to realise the latent strengths of these distribution channels. 

In addition, we will also strengthen our partnerships with business associates including our network of panel workshops, loss adjusters and panel lawyers. We aim to become more localised and integrated to better serve our customers. 

We are also exploring different options with regards to regional expansion. We have identified potential partners and are now in the midst of the evaluation process. 

StarBiz: On a personal level, what has been the happiest moment for you so far this year as CEO of your company? 

Loh: It is being part of the team that has helped our company to achieve its public-listed status. Seeing the euphoria when the gong was struck and getting caught up in the whirlwind celebrations were probably the happiest moments this year. 

Another occasion for celebration was the recent inclusion of Kurnia Asia Bhd shares in the MSCI Index (Malaysia) less than six months after our listing. This will certainly increase the visibility of Kurnia Asia shares to foreign investors. 

DATUK SRI LIEW KEE SIN 

Managing Director 

SP Setia Group 

 

STARBIZ: How are your plans to strengthen the business coming along?  

Liew: SP Setia had a good run last year with two new projects - Setia Alam and Duta Tropika - kicking off to good market response. Judging from our performance for the first half of the year, we are on course to deliver another set of record results with total group sales expected to hit RM1bil.  

Another key project that is going strong is the newly unveiled Setia Eco Park. Considered the country’s biggest single development of high-end homes, Setia Eco Park features a show village showcasing 16 resort-inspired bungalows and semi-detached homes in an eco-friendly surrounding.  

In Johor Baru, equally exciting developments are unfolding. We are busy preparing for the launch of our Setia Tropika project near the Kempas Interchange off the North South Highway. Planned as a mixed development township, it will include selected gated and guarded precincts of high-end properties to cater to the rising demand for such homes.  

StarBiz: Are your reaping the benefits of earlier moves to better position the business? Kindly elaborate. 

Liew: Barely two years ago, SP Setia’s main developments were only in Johor Baru, following the completion of our matured projects such as Pusat Bandar Puchong and Bukit Indah Ampang in the Klang Valley. The successful launch of Setia Alam in Shah Alam last year has re-established SP Setia as a multi-market developer with significant presence in the key Klang Valley and Johor Baru markets.  

We are also keen to enter the Penang market, another hot property spot to broaden our geographical reach. Having earned a solid reputation in the mass market over the years, we are now focused on capturing a bigger share of the high-end market.  

The successful completion of our maiden high-end boutique development, Duta Nusantara and the current Duta Tropika both in Sri Hartamas, have greatly enhanced our profile as a reputable developer of high-end homes. We will continue to invest in innovative measures to become the market leader in every segment of the property market.  

StarBiz: What are the trends in the industry or economy that are having a positive impact on your businesses

Liew: We are banking on the upgrader market to drive sales this year. This trend among house buyers is fast catching on, as many people are keen to move away from densely populated and congested areas.  

We have observed that quite a few of our customers are residents owning homes in more established addresses within the Klang Valley. They are opting to sell their properties, which have appreciated in value, for a tidy sum in order to move to newer and bigger homes in well-planned townships like Setia Alam and Setia Eco Park.  

In this regard, our products are also competitively priced to cater to the interest of the upgraders. For example, our semi-detached houses and bungalows at Setia Eco Park are priced from RM600,000 and RM900,000 respectively, which are considered very appealing to buyers who are currently staying in link houses.  

StarBiz: Do you foresee or expect any unfavourable occurrences or events that could have an impact on your business in the near future? 

Liew: While we acknowledge there are concerns over slowing demand, we believe that the still positive consumer sentiments and favourable macroeconomic framework will keep interest for residential properties firm. We are in a good position to weather oncoming challenges based on our customer-centric marketing approach and the choice locations of our projects.  

Our strategy to develop sellable properties with customer-focused layouts and designs through feedback gathered from our show villages, our willingness to pump in money to provide comprehensive infrastructure upfront and to impose strict quality standards on our products, have been our ingredients for success.  

We also strive to provide a valued-added lifestyle experience for our residents through award-winning landscaping and practical security features. We take customer service seriously and train our staff to have the right attitude and mindset to ensure satisfied customers. Great care is taken to be responsive to customers’ feedback and complaints to stay ahead of the stiff competition.  

StarBiz: Moving forward, are you likely to be still expanding your business or the scope of your business ties? 

Liew: Following our capital repayment exercise, we have achieved an optimal capital structure that still allows us the flexibility to fully exploit any new business opportunities that come along. While we do have a sizeable and well-spread land bank of about 4,662 acres, which will sustain our expansion over the next 10 years, we are constantly on the lookout for new land with good development potential in other growth corridors.  

Furthermore, given that the bulk of our projects are still at the infancy stage, we are expecting many more years of strong growth and earnings to come from these existing projects. Accordingly, we are confident that we will be able to continue to grow our market share and enhance shareholder value. 

StarBiz: On a personal level, what has been the happiest moment for you so far this year as CEO of your company? 

Liew: Personally, being voted the 3rd Best Employer in Malaysia 2005 has made me happiest CEO this year. The survey, conducted by Hewitt Associates in conjunction with the Asian Strategy & Leadership Institute, the Malaysian Employers Federation and The Edge Malaysia, covered 36 companies and over 10,000 employees. It was indeed a pleasant surprise and vast improvement from our ninth position in 2003.  

The award is made all the more meaningful as it is voted by our staff. It is gratifying to know that our employees are happy and satisfied working here and they are appreciative of the opportunities and benefits provided. Most importantly, it is a vote of confidence towards management’s capability to lead the group to greater heights. This win is definitely a morale booster and will serve to enhance teamwork and productivity. 

 KURASIA :  [Stock Watch]  [NewsGENTING :  [Stock Watch]  [NewsSPSETIA-O :  [Stock Watch]

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