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EPF wants to turn Wisma KFC into luxury-class hotel

PETALING JAYA (Nov 16): The Employees Provident Fund (EPF) has sought approval from City Hall to convert Wisma KFC, its long-vacant office building in Kuala Lumpur into a 430-room luxury-class hotel, the Edge reported today.

The business weekly said it saw a document showing that EPF’s Private Markets Department had requested planning permission from Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur on Nov 1. The document also indicated that it was acting on behalf of a company called Expert Rewards Sdn Bhd.

A search on the Companies Commission of Malaysia (SSM) website revealed that the shareholders of Expert Rewards are Royal Group Capital Pte Ltd (50%), Wasimah Bashir Ahmed Osmanbhoy (30%) and NMM Pte Ltd (20%). It is understood that Wasimah is possibly the company’s 30% bumiputera shareholder.

The directors of the company are listed as Naraindas Gangaram and Asok Kumar Naraindas, who are both from Singapore. Forbes listed the latter as Singapore’s 17th richest individual with a net worth of US$1.9 billion. There is one other director, Phang Lee Kah.

In February, The Edge reported that Wisma KFC had been sold to Singapore’s Royal Group for RM130 million. The parties in the deal did not confirm or deny the article.

The business weekly quoted the opinion of VPC Alliance Sdn Bhd managing director James Wong, a property valuer and real estate agent on the subject: “This sale is not reflected in National Information Property Centre sales data. Hence, it appears that the sale reported [in an article] in early 2019 is a conditional sale subject to an approval to change the building status from office to a luxurious 430-room hotel ... The intention of the Royal Group is to retrofit the building into a luxurious 430-room hotel.”

Wong added: “In our opinion, the reported sale of the ex-Wisma KFC at RM130 million to the Royal Group, reflecting RM750 psf based on its gross floor area of 342,145 sq ft, is fair market value, comparing this property with Menara Prudential, with a 78% occupancy rate and sold in 2016 for RM125 million. On the other hand, Wisma KFC had been vacant and unoccupied for many years. However, the site of the ex-Wisma KFC is in a very prime location, close to the busy intersection of Jalan Sultan Ismail and Jalan P Ramlee.”

EPF did not respond to questions sent by The Edge. Royal Group co-chairman Bobby Hiranandani also did not respond to a WhatsApp message sent to him.

The business weekly citing industry observers said it could be easier for a government-liked investment company like EPF to obtain the development order.

Built in the 1990s, the 22-storey building has four basement floors and 268 parking bays, a gross floor area of 342,145 sq ft and a net floor area of 175,292 sq ft. The building sits on a 0.5 acre freehold plot.

Wisma KFC was once known as Wisma Idris and was the former headquarters of Kentucky Fried Chicken Holdings (M) Bhd (KFCH). The EPF bought the building from KFCH for RM90 million in 2004.

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