SINGAPORE: Dalian Wanda Group, controlled by China's richest man, has emerged as the frontrunner for the development of the Bandar Malaysia township, following the surprise move last week by Malaysia to boot out a consortium that was to buy a majority stake in the project, Singapore's The Straits Times reported on Tuesday.
Quoting government officials and financial executives close to the matter, the daily said negotiations with Dalian Wanda to take a central role as master developer, has reached an advanced stage and the agreement is awaiting approval from China's financial regulators.
This is because the Wanda group's investment would involve a large outflow of capital, something Beijing is discouraging as part of a wider economic strategy to preserve China''s depleting reserves, the report said.
The report also said Wanda, controlled by billionaire Wang Jianlin, owns the world's largest cinema chain, along with theme parks, football clubs and hotels.
Should the proposed plan receive the green light from the Chinese government, an agreement would be signed during a trip by Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to Beijing this week, the executives were quoted as saying.
Najib will attend the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation on Thursday and Friday.
The Straits Times said details of Wanda's proposed investments in Bandar Malaysia are being ironed out.
It highlighted that Malaysian government officials noted that the new deal would be substantially higher than the previous RM12.3 billion valuation tag for the entire project.
The report said Wanda had proposed to use half the development for tourism and entertainment-related ventures valued at roughly US$8 billion.
Wanda and China's Greenland property group indicated interest in participating in the Bandar Malaysia project when senior executives from these private companies met Najib during his visit to China in November last year, the officials said.
But Wanda Group was always the more aggressive party, it said.
TRX City Sdn Bhd, wholly-owned by the Ministry of Finance, had recently aborted the sale of a 60% stake in Bandar Malaysia Sdn Bhd for RM7.41 billion to IWH CREC Sdn Bhd (ICSB) on grounds that the latter had not met its payment obligations despite being given 12 extensions.
ICSB is a consortium comprising Iskandar Waterfront Holdings Sdn Bhd (IWH) and China Railway Engineering Corp (M) Sdn Bhd (CREC).
Bandar Malaysia is the biggest development site in Malaysia in a key strategic position, and will offer many business, investment and employment opportunities, including the Kuala Lumpur Internet City, the hub for the new Digital Free Trade Zone.
It will also be Malaysia''s transport nucleus, connecting the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail, MRT line, KTM Komuter, Express Rail Link and 12 highways. - Bernama