Walton International closes local ops

PETALING JAYA: Walton International Property Group (M) Sdn Bhd (WIPG), which attracted controversy when it was raided and probed by Bank Negara three years ago, has closed down its offices here.

WIPG’s parent company, the Walton International Group, informed its agents and investors in Malaysia of the decision last Monday citing “restructuring of its Asia operations” as the reason for it, a statement dated June 24 that went unnoticed said. The statement said that Malaysian investors would now be serviced out of Walton’s Singapore office. It also assured investors that their investments were sound.

Walton is a Canada-based real estate investment firm that is involved in pre-development land investing. It buys huge landbank in major urban growth areas in North America and divides the land into smaller units, enabling retail investors to participate in institutional-style investments in pre-development lands. The local unit, WIPG, was set up in 2002 and has 12,000 Malaysian investors.

It has been reported that the minimum investment for each unit, which is less than 0.1ha, is US$10,000 (RM32,000). Assuming that each local investor would have committed to this minimum investment, local investors collectively would have at the very least invested some RM384mil in the land-banking scheme. Industry observers, however, reckoned that Malaysians would have invested far higher than this.

WIPG made news in 2010 when its offices in Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching were raided under the Exchange Control Act 1953 by Bank Negara, after complaints from the public on land-banking schemes promoted by it. The company was subsequently fined RM385,000 for dealing with foreign currency without the permission of the regulators.

A Walton International spokesperson when contacted said the move to close down the Malaysian offices followed a decision to revamp its Asia operations in Singapore and Hong Kong. “Walton’s Singapore office will serve clients in South-East Asia countries while the Hong Kong office will serve clients in North Asia,” she said, adding that between 2008 and 2009, Walton had also reduced its number of offices in Canada from seven to two. In 2011, it closed down its Tokyo office with Japanese clients now served out of Hong Kong.

Walton currently manages over C$3.7bil (RM11.1bil) in assets. Last year it returned over C$1bil (RM3bil) in distributions to its clients, the statement said.

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