Thursday, April 15, 2010

Aussie firm to invest in Johor waterfront project

Senibong Cove homes on freehold land will cost 30% more than rivals’

AUSTRALIA’S Walker Corporation has unveiled a planned RM1.7 billion (S$734 million) waterfront project along Danga Bay to the Lunchoo River, which is expected to spur further investments on the eastern side of Johor.

Front Concept, a joint venture company between Walker and the landowner Iskandar Waterfront Sdn Bhd, would develop Senibong Cove on 208 acres of freehold land, ‘a stone’s throw’ from Singapore’s Safra Beach Club.

Previously mangrove/ marsh land, Front Concept has spent RM50 million on clearing and reclamation works and expects the first phase of 244 houses to be completed by early 2012, Walker Corp executive chairman Lang Walker said at a ground breaking ceremony in Johor yesterday.

Walker Corp holds a majority stake in the project which is to be modelled after the Gold Coast’s Hope Island Resort. Its gross development value upon completion is estimated at RM1.7 billion.

Senibong Cove would have a 100-berth marina, clubhouse, shopping and recreation club as well as homes and apartments and cost about 30 per cent more than conventional residential projects.

Even so, Mr Walker said prices had been kept affordable – an apartment is priced from RM290,000 while bungalows cost from RM1.8 million – and that more than 100 units worth nearly RM100 million had been sold even before the official launch.

‘The main advantage is JB’s proximity to Singapore, which means we can easily tap into an international market which offers enormous possibilities. The sector factor is JB’s huge waterfront area, almost all of which is undeveloped.’

He said he had initially been keen on the waterfront land along Lido Beach, but legal encumbrances on the land put paid to that plan, while Singapore was not an option because of the exorbitant land prices.

Johor chief minister Ghani Othman expressed delight at the ’signature development’ on the eastern side of Iskandar Malaysia, the special economic corridor which the government hopes to transform into a growth engine.

In the past, the focus has been on the western side of Danga Bay to Nusajaya where Middle East investors have come in on many proposed key projects. Dubai’s Limitless, for example, entered into a joint venture with UEM Land at Puteri Harbour to build an exclusive waterfront precinct estimated at over RM1.5 billion in gross development value and which was to be completed in 2013.

Even so, Johoreans say progress is slow, mainly because of the debt crisis which hit the Middle East and Dubai in particular.

But the state has been putting up infrastructure to assist investment flow. Upon completion of the Eastern Dispersal Link in the first quarter of 2012, Senibong Cove can be reached by car in about 15 minutes from JB’s central business district as well as the new CIQ complex.

Other waterfront developments are also in the pipeline. Another mega project along Lido Boulevard by privately held Central Malaysian Properties will be launched in a few months. CMP’s shareholders include Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor, a wholly-owned state agency which also has a stake in Iskandar Waterfront.

Source: Business Times, 15 Apr 2010

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