China-based Greenland enters into RM2.4b land transaction with Malaysia's IWCB


PETALING JAYA: At a time when there is an increased level of cautiousness in the Johor property scene, a Chinese developer has inked an RM2.4bil deal with Iskandar Waterfront City Bhd (IWCB) to acquire 128 acres of land, a value that underscores one of the highest land transactions in the Iskandar region to-date.

A subsidiary of Shanghai-based state developer Greenland Holdings Group Ltd has established a joint venture (JV) with IWCB unit Southern Crest Development Sdn Bhd (SCD) to buy the land, which is mostly submerged, from IWCB for a sum of RM2.4bil.

The RM2.4bil deal works out to about RM430 per sq ft, which property consultants said set the benchmark for property prices in that area as there had not been any transaction of that size in that area previously. Most previous transactions were at Danga Bay, which is at the Causeway and near the Second Link.

The agreement is to acquire property and undertake the development and construction of a mixed development comprising commercial and residential components in Plentong, Johor Baru, via a special-purpose vehicle, Greenland Tebrau Sdn Bhd (GTSB).

Together, Greenland and Johor state government-linked company IWCB will develop an RM3bil new waterfront city on the land in Tebrau Bay.

The transaction comes amidst an environment where there are concerns of an oversupply of high-end condominiums in Johor. This has been evidenced by a lacklustre response from buyers for property launches in the Puteri Harbour area in the Iskandar Development region.

Iskandar Development is the authority overseeing the development of an area measuring 200,000ha in South Johor.

There are several companies undertaking the development, with UEM Sunrise Bhd being a key player. However, the recent poor take-up rate for the high-end condominium market was seen in a project at Tanjung Puteri Cove.

Apart from a vast hinterland waiting to be developed, more land is being reclaimed on the Straits of Johor near the Second Link, adding more supply of land for development.

This is particularly from the approval given to a JV between Country Garden Holdings Ltd and Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor (KPRJ) to reclaim and develop 1,368ha of land on the Straits of Johor to develop what is termed as the Forest City project that will be carried out on four man-made islands over a 30-year period.

In IWCB’s filing yesterday, it said its unit SCD would hold a 20% equity interest in GTSB, while Greenland Malaysia Real Estate Operator Sdn Bhd (GL) would hold the remaining 80%.

GL is a wholly owned subsidiary of Greenland Hong Kong Investment Group Ltd, which, in turn, is a 60%-owned subsidiary of the Greenland group.

KGV International Property Consultant executive director Samuel Tan said while more details were needed to determine if the deal was fair, it sent a strong signal to the investment market that Iskandar Malaysia was still a destination for property development in the long run.

“Development by foreign players is not confined to the usual Danga Bay, Medini Iskandar Malaysia and Nusajaya. This is good, as it will result in a more balanced geographical growth within Iskandar Malaysia,” he added.

It is learnt that IWCB chose the Greenland group, which is one of China’s biggest developers, because of its experience in building a city over a long term.

Already, some 13 local and foreign companies are actively involved in developing Iskandar Waterfront City in Danga Bay with a cumulative gross development value of RM125bil on the western corridor, which stretches from Johor Baru to Nusajaya.

“I now want to develop the Eastern Corridor of Johor Baru, stretching from Tebrau Bay to Pasir Gudang,” said Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin in a statement.

Khaled envisions the Eastern Corridor to be South-East Asia’s new lifestyle destination, much like Australia’s Gold Coast.

The urban development of Tebrau Waterfront City will span a 15-year period and will feature a snow world theme park, an opera house, a hospital specialising in Chinese traditional medicine and a school.

“I welcome their long-term strategic interest to jointly transform Johor Baru into a modern international waterfront city and destination,” Khaled said.

IWCB is a listed entity which is 47%-owned by Johor-based Iskandar Waterfront Holdings Sdn Bhd (IWH). The Johor Government, via state investment arm KPRJ, has 40%.

The JV would enable IWH to leverage on its Chinese partner’s strength in mixed commercial development, including high-end hotels and residential towers, to reshape its waterfront land in Danga Bay and Tebrau Bay.

“We’ve undertaken urban development in over 80 cities throughout China. We’re keen to share the experience with IWH as our long-term JV partner and help transform Iskandar Malaysia into an international destination,” said Greenland group executive vice-chairman Xu Jing.

This is Greenland’s second investment in Iskandar Malaysia.

In April 2014, Greenland signed an agreement with IWH to jointly develop 13.6 acres in Danga Bay for RM600mil, comprising an RM2.2bil integrated mixed-property project, which includes the recently launched Jade Palace luxury condominiums.