BLand of the rising sun


  • Business
  • Saturday, 19 May 2012

BERJAYA LAND BHD (BLand) wants to enlarge its presence in North Asias property markets and plans to make a debut in Japan within one to two years.

It is in the design stage of commencing a luxury resort and residential development on a prime site in the ancient capital of Kyoto and is also preparing to undertake an integrated resort development in the island of Okinawa.

BLand chief executive officer Datuk Francis Ng says in line with the companys expansion into the region, Japan has been identified as an important investment destination with its resilient economy, technological advancements, developed legal framework, and a strong work as well as business culture.

We believe Japans proximity to China and South Korea would provide potential synergies and value to our two proposed developments in Japan, Ng tells StarBizWeek.

The development in Okinawa would be anchored by a branded luxury resort with a shopping mall, a wellness centre and other commercial component, as well as high-end residences.

According to Ng, BLand is seeking to extend its presence and brand both regionally and internationally, and it has invested some RM1.5bil in property development ventures overseas. The expenses are mostly for cost of infrastructure, land acquisition and planning approvals.

BLand, the property arm of Berjaya Corp Bhd, also has development projects in Hebei in China, Jeju in South Korea, Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi in Vietnam.

Work is underway in these countries and we are focusing on what we are good at; namely resort and integrated residential and commercial developments featuring villas, condominiums, hotels and serviced residences, retail centres and offices, Ng adds.

In Vietnam, BLand has completed and handed over condominium units to the purchasers of its two maiden projects, Amber Court Condo in Ho Chi Minh City and Canal Park Condo in Hanoi.

This is in spite of the uncertainties and volatility of the Vietnam property market over the last few years.

Making a mark

Ng says BLand is probably the first Malaysian developer to have delivered completed units to purchasers in Vietnam.

We are proud to be able to share with our buyers, who are mostly young and hardworking, the joy of living in a planned development complete with beautiful landscapes and parks.

Going forward, he says the launches will be staggered out according to market demand.

In China, BLands 51% owned subsidiary, Berjaya Great Mall of China Co Ltd, is undertaking the development of the Great Mall of China. The balance 49% is owned by Berjaya Group founder Tan Sri Vincent Tan through his private arm, Berjaya Times Square Cayman Ltd.

The mall project in Yanjiau city, Hebei province, has a gross floor area of 18.5 million sq ft and is scheduled for completion in 2017.

Ng shares his enthusiasm for BLands maiden project in South Korea, Berjaya Jeju Resort, which marks the companys entry into that country.

Construction work is set to kick off this October while the sales launch would be in April or May 2013.

The project on the honeymoon island of Jeju will be developed into a world-class integrated tourism and recreational destination.

He says over RM300mil had been spent on site preparation for the sea-front resort-type residential and commercial development. The infrastructure that include roads, bridges and utility support are already in place.

As required by the local authorities, the site has been properly landscaped and the park areas fully fitted out with playground equipment. Given its superb location and Jejus international appeal as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature and awarded the only Triple Crown by Unesco,

Global appeal

Berjaya Jeju Resort is expected to attract substantial interest from Korean buyers as well as those from China and Japan.

The development is undertaken by Berjaya Jeju Resort Ltd, a 71.2:19:9.8 joint venture between BLand, Jeju Free International City Development Centre (JDC) and an American partner, Swan Street Partners LLP.

Ng says the development is a strategic investment to BLand as the geographical location of Jeju made it a well-connected city with a potential market of over 750 million people.

Jejus free international city status coupled with various tax incentives, such as a five-year corporate tax exemption from the first year of profits, and property tax exemption of 15 years for both Korean and foreign investors, are the primary factors why Jeju is seen as a good investment.

The Jeju project is a long term investment for us which will stand us in good stead for other opportunities in South Korea, he adds.

Located on 184 acres in Yerae-dong in Seogwipo City in southwest Jeju, the project has an estimated gross development value (GDV) of US$3.5bil.

Among the components will be 1,282 residences including villas and apartments worth a GDV of US$1.5bil; a casino, two hotels, shopping mall, indoor arena and a valley resort and wellness resort.

BLand senior general manager for properties marketing Mah Siew Wan says there is no restriction on foreign buyers to purchase property in Jeju and the target buyers are the South Koreans, Chinese, Japanese and Taiwanese.

Our immediate target buyers are of course the Koreans, especially those from Seoul. It is said that it is every Koreans dream to own a home on Jeju island, Mah adds.

South Korea has a population of more than 70 million, of which 560,000 are residents in Jeju.

The first phase of the development will comprise the Maision villas and market block. It was initially planned for launch in the first quarter of 2011 but had been delayed because of the global financial crisis and soft property market.

Meeting specific needs

We reassessed the situation and revised the plan and strategies to suit the changing market trend. We are now ready to launch the project, she says.

Meanwhile, Blands hospitality division is also spreading its wings in the international arena, and has 16 properties in Malaysia, London, Singapore, the Philippines, Seychelles, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.

Ng says going offshore offers an ideal opportunity for BLand to market its hospitality and property offerings to a global audience.

In this highly competitive market, developers have to put extra efforts to get the attention of property investors who look for good buys beyond their home markets. Many have gone international, not just in terms of the location of the projects, but also with the buyers they are hoping to attract.

He adds that before venturing overseas, BLand adopts a stringent selection approach which explains why its portfolio of offshore projects comprises only prime and attractive properties that can find ready rental and sales.

Property buyers all over the world are becoming increasingly global in their appetite for investments. The wealthy in Asia such as those from China, Indonesia and Malaysia, have been snapping up properties in Australia, Singapore and London.

We spend time and efforts to study the market, and then plan and design to cater to their needs. The idea is to be familiar with trends and preferences of the property buyers; such as the average sizes of homes, the lifestyles of families, and the typical layouts. We need to learn these specific needs in order to do well in any country, Ng explains.

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