City&Country: Cover Story-- Wing Tai to build iconic project in KLCC next year

Wing Tai Malaysia Bhd’s property division is embarking on a series of launches worth more than RM1 billion in gross development value (GDV) and branding activities over the coming months.

Wing Tai is a subsidiary of Singapore developer Wing Tai Holdings Ltd and is involved in property development, apparel retailing, garment manufacturing and property investment. The brands it carries include Uniqlo, Topshop, Topman, Dorothy Perkins, Warehouse, Diva and Pumpkin Patch.
Formerly known as DNP Holdings Bhd, Wing Tai’s property division has been rather quiet lately. Its last high-end condo launch in Kuala Lumpur was Verticas Residensi in Bukit Ceylon more than two years ago.

The developer is now moving up a gear with its upcoming projects, says its executive director (property division) Wong Weng Peng. Also present at the interview were head of marketing and sales Lim Hooi Yen and general manager of finance Loi Kok Mun.

One is Nobleton Crest, for which Wing Tai held a special preview on Sept 8 for its existing customers. The project that occupies amost an acre along Jalan U-Thant near KLCC, which is almost completed and has a GDV of RM110 million, comprises 25 units of low-rise serviced apartments in three 5-storey blocks. An official launch will be held when the facilities have been completed.

Wing Tai has been accumulating land and developing mostly high-end products in and around KL city centre. Its first landed project in KL was Sering Ukay in Ampang, a mixed-use development that spans 125 acres. Launched about three years ago, it is almost completed, except for the last phase of 40 acres, which is currently awaiting approvals from the authorities.

The developer’s most recent acquisition was a 2.13-acre freehold tract in Jalan Langgak Golf, KL, for RM75 million last year. The former site of an embassy, it will be developed into an exclusive low-density condominium.

Wing Tai’s completed high-end projects in the city centre include serviced residences Kondominium No 8 Ampang Hilir and Ambassador Row Serviced Suites and The Meritz condominium, which was completed in 2007.

Nobleton Crest
The units at Nobleton Crest have an average built-up of 3,500 sq ft and are priced at about RM3.8 million, or an average of RM1,200 psf. There are various configurations available — single floor units, duplexes and penthouses, which come with an entertainment deck on the rooftop, including a private pool.

Nobleton Crest is all about the address, Lim tells City & Country. “Our project is located within an established diplomatic enclave and our buyers will appreciate this kind of location — a low-rise project in a quiet and private location. The architecture of the building is meant to be simple as we want to maximise the internal space. In between each block, there is a water feature — a creative interplay of water and natural light. The pricing is also competitive with the surrounding properties,” she says, adding that the units are expected to be handed over in May next year.

“Facilities are minimal, such as a swimming pool, a gymnasium and an outdoor entertainment terrace. Why keep them minimal? Because many people living here are already members of the Royal Selangor Golf Club (less than 1km away) or prefer to entertain at KLCC or Bukit Bintang. This will be more of a private space for them,” she explains.

Le Nouvel
Wing Tai is also working on Le Nouvel condominium, located directly opposite Suria KLCC in Jalan Ampang. This is the developer’s trophy project, says Wong. It comprises two towers, of 49 and 43 storeys, with a total of 197 units. The project’s indicative GDV is RM800 million, with built-ups of between 1,810 and 2,832 sq ft.

“Le Nouvel is designed by world-renowned French architect Jean Nouvel. We have completed the piling and substructure works and the podium block for the car park. Last November, we awarded the main building works to Ssangyong Engineering & Construction,” says Wong. The South Korean company also built the Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore.

He says the developer is taking its time with Le Nouvel. “It is a long process and we’re dealing with a foreign architect and consultants. The architect has introduced a lot of out-of-the-box architectural treatments and we need specialists to look into them. A lot of time and resources are being spent on this project.”

The developer considers Le Nouvel an iconic project for many reasons, including the fact that it is being designed by a renowned architect. Nouvel is a winner of the Pritzker Prize, one of the most prestigious architectural awards in the world. His notable projects include the French Embassy in Berlin, the Arab World Institute in France and the Quai Branly Museum in Paris.

On the possible oversupply of highrise condo units with big built-ups in the KLCC and surrounding areas, Lim says trends come and go. “The current trend is smaller units. We also try to meet market demand. As a responsible developer, we always plan liveable spaces that are also practical. Frankly, is it practical to live in a 400 sq ft apartment?

“We still have land in Malaysia and we do not need to squeeze. We take note of the market needs and try to design something that is practical. And 1,810 to 2,832 sq ft is suitable for families ... it is not oversized or too small,” she says, adding that prime land may be scarce.

Township developments
The developer is looking for more suitable development land, Loi tells City & Country. “Today, if you look at our portfolio in the Klang Valley, Wing Tai Malaysia is very much present in established areas, such as KLCC and the city centre. Going forward, we want to consider other suburban areas and may also go into small township developments. So our mid to long-term strategy is to look into and maybe diversify into mass housing or township developments in the suburban Klang Valley.

“If there is a good opportunity to acquire land, we will do so. We are interested in parcels of 20 to 100 acres for landed developments, but we also need to be comfortable with the area and the market that we will be putting our products into.

“For our Penang property, we will continue to develop in the Bukit Mertajam area. Currently, we are the largest developer there. As for the Klang Valley, we will continue to maintain our stand on high-end products.”

Loi adds that Wing Tai still has substantial landbank to be developed over the next three to five years.

On its Verticas Residensi project in Bukit Ceylon, Lim says the development has seen a take-up of almost 80%. The remaining units will be launched on Sept 20 as two new show units will be ready by then.

Verticas Residensi, comprising 423 units within three high-rise towers and one low-rise block, has a GDV of RM800 million. The typical built-ups for the serviced apartments are between 1,500 and 2,200 sq ft. The units are priced at an average of RM1,200 psf.

“It was a deliberate move, a corporate strategy, to hold back about 40% of the units and wait for it to be almost completed so we can go out there and market Verticas Residensi,” says Loi, adding that there was not much of a price difference from the earlier launches, but the units held back were bigger at 2,000 sq ft and above.

Lim says the units in the first tower were mainly taken up by local purchasers. “It is natural for any project to see the first phase snapped up by locals and buyers who live in the same area. As we move forward, we will bring the project overseas, so later we will have more foreign buyers.”
The developer expects Verticas Residensi to be ready in 4Q2012. Lim says it will also work on enhancing the brand of Wing Tai Malaysia as it completes this project.

In an earlier City & Country article on the previous launches of Verticas Residensi in 2010, Tower A units were sold at RM900 to RM1,300 psf, mainly to local buyers, while Tower B offered 2-bedroom and 4-bedroom units of 1,400 to 2,400 sq ft that were priced at RM1,100 to RM1,300 psf.

Wing Tai owns a 10-acre tract in Bandar Sunway, with plans for 73 semi-detached houses with built-ups of 4,070 sq ft. The indicative price of these homes is RM2.5 million. The project has an indicative GDV of RM185 million and is expected to be launched next year.

Rising interest in local property market
Although the property market here is less bullish this year than in 2009 and 2010, Lim feels there is still genuine interest in the segment. Due to the uncertainties in the global economy, property remains a favourite asset class to invest in and is a good way to diversify wealth and hedge against inflation.

“For Asians, property investment is second nature. We don’t quite believe in the sophisticated paper or investment products. We still prefer properties, and the excess wealth created after the last global financial crisis will naturally find its way into property.

“In the last two years, governments in Singapore, Hong Kong and China, for example, introduced quite a lot of cooling measures. The property markets in those cities may have slowed down slightly, but the money has flowed out. Malaysia is one of the countries to have benefited from this trend, actually.”

Lim believes the hike in regional property prices as well as the cooling measures have turned investors’ attention to Malaysia. “There are also the changes in immigration policies. Singapore, for example, is not entertaining any foreign investments below S$10 million (RM25 million). Canada and Australia have tightened their immigration policies too. I have been informed that all these factors have caused people to look at Malaysia as their second home. They are even prepared to bring their children to study here or as a retirement place. I have seen interest from China, for instance.”

Loi agrees and adds that the Malaysian property market is still mainly a local market. “There are many Malaysians looking to upgrade or buy properties as an investment. Malaysia is very much a resource-based country and a lot of people’s wealth is tied to these resources. I think when these commodities are at their all-time highs, they will either upgrade or invest in properties. In fact, 90% [of the units] in the first tower of Verticas Residensi were bought by local buyers.”

Projects up north

Wing Tai Malaysia’s projects in Penang are carried out under the DNP Land name as the brand is very established in the market there, says its executive director (property division) Wong Weng Peng. It is also the price leader in the Bukit Mertajam area.

“We currently have three big projects in Penang, the most significant of which is Jesselton Hills in Bukit Mertajam. The name is inspired by Jesselton Heights in Penang, which is like the Kenny Hills of Penang,” says Wong.

Jesselton Hills, on a 120-acre parcel, is a mixed township with a GDV of RM60 million. The first phase comprises 143 semidees that was launched at the end of last year and have been 50% taken-up. The 2 and 2½-storey semidees have built-ups of 2,478 sq ft and 2,960 sq ft and are priced at RM588,000 and RM788,000 respectively.

The developer has sold out the homes at its 45-acre Taman Seri Impian in Bukit Mertajam. It is currently developing 114 commercial shoplots and office units in Impiana Commercial Hub, which is located in Taman Seri Impian. Some 70% of these units have been sold.

The first two phases of Taman Bukit Minyak Utama in Bukit Mertajam are sold out, while the third phase is over 60% sold. The project comprises 138 units of 2 and 3-storey link homes with built-ups of 1,760 and 2,500 sq ft. It has a GDV of RM60 million with units starting from RM450,000.

This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 928, Sep 17-23, 2012

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