Never mind gold, forget property... It would seem unique licence plates are the premium commodity to invest in. Urban Paradigm’s Khoo Boo Soon, who operates a digital platform for the buying and selling of licence plates, explains the draw to DAVID TAN.
INVESTING in special car number plates is now a growing new investment trend in the country, and is even catching up with traditional investments in gold and property.
Khoo Boo Soon of Urban Paradigm reveals that every month sees more than RM100mil’s worth of tenders for unique car licence plates being traded in the country.
This includes tenders for newly released special plates from the Road Transport Department (RTD) and those in the sub-sales market. Urban Paradigm provides — via plates.my — a real-time bidding platform for owners of special car number plates to obtain bids. The benefits to the seller is a high-profile way of marketing their plates and an opportunity to get the optimal price for the numbers, according to Khoo.
He says there are even investors who view investments in special car number plates as being more secure than gold or property.
“For them, gold and properties are assets that can depreciate, if the supply offsets the demand. As for number plates, they come in limited edition, which are likely to impact positively on the value.
“For example, there can only be one PATRIOT 1 licence plate, which in 2015 was sold for RM1.308mil to an undisclosed bidder,” Khoo says.
Malaysians have always shown an interest in unique car number plates.
“But the trend really kicked off when the Transport Ministry released the NAM car plates in conjunction with the Non-Aligned Movement Summit in 2003.
“That was when companies appeared to buy special new numbers from the RTD and used them for motorcycles first. After a year, the companies would then resell the number plates — at a price usually at 30% higher,” he says.
Some Malaysians buy special car number plates because they are into numerology, the ancient belief that numbers can influence relationships and business opportunities.
Some invest because the numbers coincide with their birth dates, says Khoo.
The most recent expensive car licence plate sale (F1) was to the Sultan of Johor for RM836,660.
“The second most expensive plate (F2) was sold to an individual for RM514,800. The total value of the top 10 F-series licence plates that have been sold is about RM3.6mil.
“Badminton icon Datuk Lee Chong Wei owns the BMW 6 car plate, which was bought for RM99,777,” Khoo says.
He notes that the Perlis ‘RM’ number plates, released in Feb 2015, has some 6,272 number of bidders.
“There are 1,507 winning bids for the ‘RM’ plates with a value of over RM7mil — the highest ever received by RTD.
“The bidding for the RM series started on Feb 23 and ended on March 10. The largest bid was RM297,000 for ‘RM 8’ by a company outside Perlis,” Khoo says.
The craze over the special car number plates is not confined only to Malaysia.
“In Qatar, the most expensive car number plate — 333355 — was sold for RM55mil last year. In India, the most recent expensive transaction was RM37mil for the plate ‘D5’,” reveals Khoo.
To tap into the growing market of special car licence plate, Urban Paradigm invested RM2.2mil four years ago to develop a customised software to provide private and corporate sellers with a platform to sell their number plates.
“The platform is designed to allow open interfaces for publication of content. It’s built with premier heavyweight server-side technologies that guarantee infinite scalability, robust performance and premium security.
“The buyer benefits by having access to a wide range of plates that can match their preferences.
“The advantage is that the seller gets to see all the bidding prices in real time. Currently you are not able to do that, as you have to deal with the buyers one by one,” he says.
Sellers using Urban Paradigm’s platform need only to register at the portal to start the bid.
“There is no registration fee. Using our user-friendly platform, the seller can set a reserved price for the buyer to bid and a closing date for the tender.
“The highest bidder will pay the price of the plate to a law firm appointed by Urban Paradigm,” explains Khoo.
“Once the payment is received, the seller will initiate the transfer,” Khoo says.
Currently, for new number plates, the buyer buys directly from the RTD. They have to deposit 50% of their bid value with RTD.
“Winners are required to pay the remaining 50% of their bid values within a month.
“Those who fail in their bids will have their money refunded,” Khoo says.
Khoo says since the launch of plates.my two months ago, the company has received about RM2mil’s worth of tenders for special car licence plates.
“We expect the bids to close by the end of 2016,” he adds.