Optimism abounds at EWI; warrants hit limit-up

Sound of success: Eco World International Bhd executive vice chairman Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin (third from left) hitting the gong at the listing ceremony of the company. Joining him is chairman Tan Sri Azlan Mohd Zainol (second from right). Looking on are Bursa Malaysia CEO Datuk Tajuddin Atan (left) and Teow (right).

KUALA LUMPUR: Eco World International Bhd (EWI) is confident of maintaining its sales trajectory in the face of uncertainties in the property markets of Australia and the United Kingdom.

Following the listing of the group’s shares on the Main Market yesterday – which also happens to be the biggest initial public offering (IPO) in the local market in almost two years – EWI can now focus on making its mark as a prominent overseas developer, said president and CEO Datuk Teow Leong Seng.

“We are achieving strong sales numbers in the UK. Between November last year and January, we did £145mil in sales in London. Despite what happened in the country with Brexit, our sales have not really slowed down.

“The long-term resilience of London as a property market will always be there,” he told reporters following EWI’s listing ceremony here yesterday.

EWI is currently developing three projects in London and one in Sydney with a total estimated gross development value of RM12.98bil. As at Jan 31, the total contracted sales from the four projects were about £1.2bil (RM6.65bil).

EWI’s shares closed at RM1.29 on their first trading day yesterday, representing a nine-sen premium over their IPO price of RM1.20 per share. Its warrants closed at 30.5 sen per share after hitting limit-up during the early morning trading session.

The UK is entering a critical period in terms of its economic and political future. Last week, Prime Minister Theresa May triggered a part of a European law called Article 50, which formally marks the country’s exit from the European Union no later than April 2019.

The group’s three projects in the UK are Embassy Gardens in Nine Elms, London City Island in Leamouth Peninsula and Wardian London in Canary Wharf.

While Brexit has certainly impacted the pound sterling, Teow pointed out that this was working in EWI’s favour.

“The weaker currency has helped, as half of our our buyers in London come from abroad. From an economical standpoint, the city is doing very well, so the weak sterling could be an impetus for more foreign investments to come in,” he said.

As for Australia, where the nation’s top banking regulator has hinted at lending restrictions to curb rapidly rising prices, Teow said that this would not impact the strong underlying demand by buyers.

The group is in the midst of developing the West Village project in Parramatta, which is a suburb and major business district in Sydney’s metropolitan area.

“It is a wise move by the Government to slow down the price growth. The local demand is driven by the strong Aussie dollar and low interest rates, while at the same time, Sydney and Melbourne continue to be growth markets,” he said.

On its growth plans, Teow did not rule out new landbanking activities, which had to be put on hiatus when the group underwent the listing process back in February 2016.

“Our focus is still very much on London. We would also like to do more deals in Sydney and Melbourne, so we will concentrate on the two countries where we already have a presence,” he said.

At the same time, Teow confirmed that the group was exploring a strategic partnership with Singapore’s GuocoLand Ltd, which may potentially include the redevelopment of the Guoco Group’s hotel properties in London.

However, he refused to provide a concrete timeline as to when the discussions would be concluded, citing the lengthy nature of the planning process. GuocoLand is a strategic investor in EWI with a 27% stake.

“The intention is to explore whether they can be redeveloped into multi-use properties. We can retain the hotels and have residential and retail components, for example,” he said, adding that while the discussions are made with GuocoLand, the assets are currently held within the Guoco Group.

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