City&Country: Sima Group banks on ‘sincerity’ to grow

Sima Group of Companies, through its founder and chairman, Gan Seng Biang, completed its first construction project some 30 years ago. It was a 6-storey apartment project in Brickfields in Kuala Lumpur.

The company first started out in 1974 as a construction company. The construction player expanded into property development about 20 years ago, building 60 units of two-storey link homes in Taman Sentul Permai in Kuala Lumpur. Since then it has developed some RM506 million worth of properties mainly in the Klang Valley, Kedah and Pahang.

The projects built by Sima include Tiara Damansara and Astana Damansara condominiums in Section 17, Petaling Jaya, the Ritz Garden Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Bukit Tengku in Shah Alam and Taman Kepong Baru in Kuala Lumpur.

One the company’s most significant projects thus far is Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) in Kedah. “When we took over the [abandoned] project, UUM was only 35% completed and we needed to revive and complete it within four months. Although it was challenging, we managed to complete UUM in slightly under four months,” says Andrea Gan, Seng Biang’s daughter. UUM was completed in September 1990.

Sima is currently involved in several projects, including a commercial project called Parklane in Kelana Jaya, Petaling Jaya, and a mixed development in Bentong, Pahang. The developer currently has a landbank of more than 200 acres around Malaysia, including an 80-acre tract in Kedah, 150 acres in Bentong as well as a total of six acres in Port Dickson and Seremban.

altThe 66-year-old Seng Biang is still actively involved in the company — setting policies and making major decisions. His two children, Andrea, 39, and 45-year-old son Gan Boon Kat help run the family business. Andrea is a director in the company and is involved in the daily operations, running the accounts and finance departments. She describes her father as “someone who is very hardworking and determined. He does not give up easily and will work hard towards what he wants to achieve”.

Boon Kat, also a director of the company, focuses on the real estate aspects, looking out for deals and land, as well as marketing.

“The name Sima is inspired by our father’s name as his Chinese name sounds similar to Sima. My father believes it is most important to be genuine [sincere] in doing business ,all the way from dealing with customers to contractors.

“While he is a low-profile person, my brother and I [the second generation] believe it is now critical to build Sima as a brand name,” Andrea explains. “We want Sima’s name to be synonymous with a good reputation and reliability as a developer.” 

The main focus of the company, she adds, will be the Klang Valley and Bentong.

Since her youth, Andrea has known she would one day be part of the family business. “I just knew from the start that I would surely end up here. When I was still in school, my father would take me to his office and I would hang around and learn,” she says. She holds a Masters in Management as well as a degree in Accounting. She had a short working stint with KPMG while working towards her Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) qualification before going to work in the UK. She came back to Malaysia in 1999 and joined Sima.

Similarly, Boon Kat says he was exposed to the family business from a young age.

Sima launched its commercial project, Parklane, in Kelana Jaya on July 17, a joint venture (JV) with landowner the Football Association of Selangor Foundation (Yayasan FAS). In the JV agreement, aside from other returns, Sima will construct a 3-storey sports complex with two football fields in Section U10 in Shah Alam. Construction of the sports complex is ongoing. Parklane consists of shopoffices, retail units and small office home office (SOHO) suites.

“The JV with Yayasan FAS was signed in 2003. Previously, there was one row of shophouses on the land. Initially we were planning to develop high-rise apartments but after further study, which revealed that commercial properties are more in demand in the area, we decided to lower the density and scale down to only 92 units of shopoffices and retail,” Boon Kat says.

Phases 1 and 2 comprise 92 units of shopoffices while the third phase, which will most probably be offices, is currently under planning and expected to launch in 3Q2011. The whole development sits on a total area of 9.32 acres.

The response to the recent launch was overwhelming and 80% of the units opened for sale have been taken up. Buyers are mainly entrepreneurs, lawyers and restaurant owners from Petaling Jaya as well as other parts of the Klang Valley. 

The shopoffices come in 3-storey, 4½ and 6½-storey units, tagged from RM1.8 million for 3-storey units, with built-ups from 3,000 sq ft.

“Even before the launch, when our hoarding first went up, we were already getting calls from eager purchasers. I believe one of the strong features in Parklane is the individual lifts for each unit. The 4½ and 6½-storey units also come with their own roof gardens,” Boon Kat says.

The nine-acre Parklane has a gross development value (GDV) of RM300 million, excluding its third phase. There will be 20 units of 6½-storey shop offices, 36 units of 4½-storey shop offices and 36 units of 3-storey shop offices, which will take three years to complete.

“The strata-titled shop offices are sold by the block, but the sales and purchase agreements are signed floor by floor. This makes it easier if the owner decides to sell one floor in the future — more flexible.

“SOHO units are very much in demand now,” Andrea says, adding that they may decide to close roads in Parklane and organise a weekend market to bring more traffic to the project depending on the demand.
The location of Parklane may also be attractive to investors as it is within a mature, thriving neighbourhood. It is minutes away from the Damansara-Puchong Expressway (LDP) and North Klang Valley Expressway (NKVE).

Sima has had a presence in Bentong, Pahang — just over an hour’s drive from Kuala Lumpur — for the past 20 years, since Seng Biang acquired about 100 acres of what is now known as Taman Bentong Makmur. The housing estate comprises terraced houses, medium-cost apartments, 2-storey shopoffices and bungalow land.

Seng Biang first bought the land for recreation purposes — he initially planned to build an orchard home and fishing village.  The group has since increased its landbank there to over 150 acres.

For its next project, the developer plans to develop a 52-acre tract near the land office on a joint-venture basis with landowner Restu Angkasa Sdn Bhd.

“The elevated land near the land office overlooks Bentong town. We hope to begin construction there as soon as possible. We are still doing some surveys on the area and there may be plans for a high-end, resort style residential development there,” Andrea says.

The company also plans to build a supermarket and city hotel with a banquet hall suitable for wedding dinners on its own land, a 3.5-acre site located in close to Sekolah Menengah Katolik Bentong fronting Jalan Ketari.

She believes there is demand for hotel rooms in Bentong: “Currently, there are no suitable banquet halls. It’s still in the planning stages, but we hope to begin construction on the hotel early next year. Bentong is only an hour’s drive from Kuala Lumpur and is very near Genting Highlands. There are not many accommodation options for visitors there.”

To date, Sima has completed over 1,000 units including shoplots and homes in Bentong. “We get a high percentage of repeat buyers mainly because our products are delivered on time and are of good quality,” she adds.

Why Bentong? Andrea says the company foresees value appreciation for properties in the town, with a population of 105,000 as at 2002. “Double-storey link homes sold some 10 years ago for RM112,000 are now transacting in the secondary market for RM230,000. Some two-storey link corner units, which were sold for around RM140,000 have recently transacted at about RM300,00,” she says. Buyers, she adds, are locals as well as people from Kuala Lumpur, Raub, Mentakab and Genting Highlands.

Going forward, Andrea says the company will focus on boutique developments and is aggressively sourcing suitable landbanks within Klang valley in locations such as Mont’Kiara, Petaling Jaya, Bangsar, Sentul and Sri Hartamas, either via JV or direct purchase.

This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 824, Sep 20-26, 2010

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