At about three years of age, property developer Capital Trend Asia Sdn Bhd (CTA) may be the new kid on the block, but the partnership between managing director John K H Lim and CEO Tan Gek Choon goes back 23 years. Lim, who was involved in general trading, set up the company in 2007 and later pursuaded his wife Tan, an accountant, to join him.
The young company started small with pocket developments in the Klang Valley. It is completing its first project in December and recently embarked on another. These two projects are worth some RM98 million.
“Marriage needs teamwork, really, and we have things in common including our interest in running a business. We found property to be a good area for us to focus on,” Lim, 51, tells City & Country. Also an accounting graduate, Lim set up his own company after working for several companies, including Kassim Chan & Co and Mechmar Corp (Malaysia) Bhd. Tan meanwhile worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers and Malaysian Assurance Alliance, among others.
“The exposure put me in the right frame of mind to invest in strategic locations with a correct mixture of capital and borrowings and lock in long-term tenancies with multinational tenants for warehouses and factories,” Tan says.
CTA was incorporated as a general trading company called Jelatik Tegas Sdn Bhd in 1997, and changed its name to CTA in early 2007.
“I started off manufacturing porcelain hand formers for the rubber glove industry, supplied medical products to hospitals and did renovations as well. In 2001, I sat for the real estate agent exam with the Board of Valuers, Appraisal and Estate Agents Malaysia. I was later involved in the listing of Atrium Real Estate Investment Trust on Bursa Malaysia. I was the executive director and non-independent director from 2007 and quit in 2009 to concentrate full time on my own property development projects.
“There have been bad times, but I have learnt and become wiser in my business dealings and management. Because of its great potential, I have always been keen on property development and was always looking to get into it. I’ve been lucky to have invested and finally become a full-time developer,” Lim says.
While he does the feasilibility study, project evaluation and development, Tan takes care of the administration and financing, including sales administration.
CTA’s strategy is to continue with boutique developments of three to seven acres for quick turnarounds. “That way, we can design and build to suit a particular piece of land and location. It ensures greater success and we do not have long holding periods like the bigger developments,” he says.
“It feels great to see an empty plot of land being transformed into something that excites buyers. Our focus is currently on the Klang Valley, but we cannot ignore out-of-town business opportunities if they come up,” says Lim.
CTA’s first project was a commercial development called Ukay Boulevard, comprising 21 blocks of 4-storey shopoffices on a 2.5-acre leasehold tract. It was initially a joint venture with the landowner Triumph City Development Sdn Bhd, but eventually CTA became the sole owner of the development as “we managed to pay them off early”. Lim says the RM45 million project saw a 100% take-up within three weeks of its launch in late March last year. As the project is located right next to the Middle Ring Road 2 (MRR2) near Kemensah in Kuala Lumpur, the prices of the homes have appreciated on the secondary market, he adds. The project will be completed in December, “We launched the 4-storey shopoffices at RM2 million to RM2.2 million.
About two months ago, secondary market transactions of the units were at RM2.8 million to RM3 million,” says Lim.
The husband-and-wife team is now on to its second project — D’Impian Tropika in Balakong, Selangor, near the Mines Resort City in Seri Kembangan. D’Impian Tropika is a residential development with a gross development value (GDV) of RM53 million.
D’Impian Tropika sits on a 7.4-acre freehold tract that was previously a rubber plantation acquired in May 2009 for RM10 million.
It comprises 34 terraced houses, eight cluster homes, 28 units of townhouses and three bungalows. The townhouses and bungalows are in the project’s second phase.
Tan says D’Impian Tropika is a gated and guarded property with a soothing ambience and great connectivity. “Our target buyers are people from Cheras and Sungai Long who are looking to upgrade,” she says.
Since the preview in late May, CTA has seen a 70% take-up. The terraced homes, with built-ups of 3,007 to 3,473 sq ft, are priced from RM570,600, while the cluster homes, tagged from RM824,470, are 3,575 sq ft in size. The semidees have built-ups of 3,772 to 4,155 sq ft and are priced from RM898,710. Lim says the development was officially launched in July.
CTA also owns a two-acre freehold tract in Puchong, near IOI Mall, which it acquired in 2006 for a commercial development.
“The previous landowners submitted plans to build 14 showrooms. We then revised the plan to 15 units of 3-storey shops and a 93-room budget hotel with a potential development value of about RM50 million.
“But at the moment, we are discussing compensation with the Petaling land office as the government wants to use the land for a LRT station,” Lim explains.
He says he prefers commercial developments as they are “straightforward and faster”.
What’s next? CTA is also looking into building and managing budget hotels in the Klang Valley. It is finalising development plans for a budget hotel off Tengkat Thong Shin in Kuala Lumpur. Lim says an existing 2-storey shophouse will be transformed into a 6-storey block. The hotel will have 35 rooms and charge about RM125 a night. CTA bought the vacant 2,100 sq ft building early this year for RM2.09 million.
“We see strong demand for budget accommodation in the city centre. We will also be looking at Johor for a bigger hotel project in the near future,” says Lim.
The company is on the lookout for land within the Klang Valley and outside it, provided the location and price are right. It already has plans to tap the potential of Nusajaya, where it recently bought a 24,000 sq ft piece of land in Perling, within easy access of the centre.
This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 818, Aug 9-15, 2010.