Singapore's 'shoebox king' Oxley spices up M'sian real estate


  • Business
  • Saturday, 12 Apr 2014

IN just 10 months, Singapore-listed property firm 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 make a comeback, 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 in GDV, 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 and 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 complement 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.”

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