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City&Country: Waz Lian on the move

Mention Waz Lian Group and you are likely to get blank stares. That’s not surprising as the company has deliberately kept a low profile although its property arm has been active in the industry for over a decade.
It may call itself a small developer but it has amassed some 1,500 acres of land with some notable parcels in the Klang Valley and Penang. A number of its projects are joint ventures — in some cases, with the group as the landowner and in others, as the builder.

An upcoming project where it is taking on the role of builder is  Jewellery @ Section 7 Shah Alam, a joint venture between its subsidiary Sejagat Emas Sdn Bhd and landowner Perbadanan Kemajuan Negeri Selangor (PKNS).

The development offers 28 exclusive bungalows with six different designs and sizes and has a gross development value (GDV) of RM72 million, says Bong Fean Loo, project manager of Waz Lian Group.

Landbank
The company has been aggressively acquiring land and now has over 1,500 acres in Peninsular Malaysia with a combined current market value of more than RM400 million and GDV of more than RM1 billion. Its biggest landbank is in Selangor with over 600 acres followed by Penang with over 300 acres. It is looking to acquiring more land in the Klang Valley.

“We have been purchasing land on and off over the years. Sometimes, the land is developed on a joint venture basis with other companies as we have a small team and don’t have the capacity to undertake certain developments,” says Bong.

The company has made handsome profits by selling land or developing the parcels via joint ventures. That has made it more confident to undertake projects on its own.

“We are focusing more on property development now as we feel it has very good prospects,” says Bong.
The group has over 100 hectares in Australia and owns the RMB2.3 billion Wenchang Golf Club & Resort in Hainan Island, China. However, the company is not ready to go big overseas. Bong explains that time is needed to study the local guidelines, rules and regulations and culture.

China is an exception as Waz Lian works closely with partners in the country who know the market well, he says.

Waz Lian Group commenced operations in 1987 with club management before venturing into hotel and resorts management and then property development.

Although it has been around for more than 20 years, it can hardly be considered a household name.
Bong explains: “We still consider ourselves a relatively young company especially in property development. It’s one of the reasons we don’t promote ourselves like the other companies. We prefer to keep a low profile — it is our way of doing business.”

Some of its completed projects include the Ipoh City & Country Club with a GDV of RM10 million, a 9-storey office building in Petaling Jaya worth RM30 million, Hotel Sentral in Brickfields, Taman Medang terraced houses in Negeri Sembilan and Redang Beach Resort with a GDV of over RM100 million.
“We have a few other projects in the works. One is a mixed development project in Cheras, which is our biggest project to date,” says Bong.

The 13-acre Cheras Centre Point is located behind Phoenix Plaza. Phase 1 consists of 48 shopoffices, 6-storey showroom and a 10-storey office building, valued at more than RM100 million. Phase 2 includes a shopping mall, a 16-storey office building and 332 units of serviced apartments, with a GDV of over RM400 million.

“We will be launching the project soon. We are in the midst of applying for the development order,” says Bong.

Another noteworthy project is [email protected], which comprises 50 units of luxurious condominiums along Jalan Madge in Kuala Lumpur. The high-end niche market development has a GDV of RM200 million, with the units ranging in size from 3,208 sq ft to 6,576 sq ft and priced between RM4,256,175 and RM8,982,000.

[email protected] is a joint venture with Namfatt Properties. We are the landowner and it is expected to be completed in October 2010. We have sold 80% of the units so far,” says Bong.

Upcoming projects are not restricted to the Klang Valley. “We have just acquired a piece of land in Batu Ferringhi, Penang, which we plan to turn into a resort home development soon,” he says.

The RM200 million project will cover 32 acres, comprising 300 apartments and 136 semi-detached resort homes. The land was acquired for RM29 million.

Waz Lian is also focusing on expanding its hotel and resort development business. It has over 15 years’ experience in hotel management, specialising in budget and mid-range hotels.

“We believe the hotel industry will grow in the next few years. Budget airlines have made it easier for people to travel, and this particular segment of consumers is not going to splash on expensive hotels. That opens a bigger market for budget hotels. So we are looking at developing three to four-star hotels,” says Bong.

Waz Lian currently operates a number of mid-range hotels including Hotel Sentral, Redang Beach Resort and Olympic Sports Hotel. Ongoing hotel projects are the 100-room 4-star Tok Bali Resort in Kelantan and the 300-room Majestic Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, scheduled to be completed in 2011 and 2012 respectively.

The company, says Bong, feels that the time has come to move to a new level in the hotel industry. “We have acquired a few parcels of land in Kuantan, Penang and Kelantan for the purpose of creating a hotel chain. We are a small developer, so we’re going for small parcels of land and small developments,” shares Bong.

Waz Lian also aims to expand its hotel business in Southeast Asia over the next three years.
On his outlook of the property market, Bong says, “Everyone has been saying the market is on the path of recovery in 2010 and I believe so too. The market is more stable now than in the first half of 2009, so we are optimistic about the prospects for the new year.”

This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 796, Mar 8 - 14, 2010

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