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City&Country: Waz Lian moving into top gear

Ask Waz Lian Group director Ta Shun Dher what the gaming, hospitality and property outfit has been up to of late and chances are the 24-year-old will tell you: “Too many things to keep track of.”

The low-key group has undertaken a string of real estate projects, mostly related to its hospitality business. It  recently completed its first premium low-rise development in Kuala Lumpur’s expatriate enclave of Taman U-Thant, aptly named Gallery @ U-Thant. The project has a gross development value of RM200 million and comprises 50 units of 3,208 to 6,576 sq ft apartments priced from about RM4.2 million to RM8.9 million.

The homes are housed in two 10-storey blocks — the highest in the area where the height of buildings is restricted by Kuala Lumpur City Hall.

The term “blocks”, however, does not adequately describe the building’s sinuous design — from the top, it resembles two large leaves fanning out. The developer hopes the unique design, together with the the building’s height in a neighbourhood of low-rise strata homes, will appeal to prospective buyers.

Under construction in Persiaran Madge is Gamuda Land’s Madge Mansions — condovillas that come with a personalised concierge facility called “At Your Service” that will attend to the needs of residents. Prices for these start at RM1,320 psf.

Just a stone’s throw from Gallery @ U-Thant is Wing Tai Asia’s Nobleton Crest development, a three-block condominium. Other low-rise condominiums in the area are U-Thant Residences, Cinta, 7 U-Thant, Brunsfield Residences and Katana, to name but a few.

Waz Lian had purchased the land for Gallery @ U-Thant 10 years ago. “Back then, the price was still low, less than RM200 psf,” Ta tells City & Country. “We kept it because this area had no high-end condominiums at the time. Originally, my father wanted to build a bungalow for his own use, but then the land was large. It is 1.3 acres and freehold.”

Waz Lian tied up with Prinnaisance Development Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of the then listed Nam Fatt Holdings Bhd, to develop Gallery @ U-Thant. However, it bought over its partner following Nam Fatt’s financial woes which forced the latter to restructure and liquidate its subsidiaries. Nam Fatt was delisted in May this year.

Currently, 40 of the 50 units at Gallery @ U-Thant have been taken up. Only 32 units were released at RM800 psf before construction commenced in 2008 to allow the remaining units to gain value, Ta says. He adds that 24 of the units were taken up by groups of investors even before there were any promotional materials, let alone a show unit. A few more units were bought by his father Tan Sri Ta Kin Yan, who is group chairman.

“The investors were mainly from Singapore, Hong Kong and China, with  few from the UK and one from the US,” Ta says.

Waz Lian has now released the rest of the units at RM1,300 psf and is making the rounds at property fairs, including  Singapore. It hopes to attract Singaporeans who may find the current exchange rate in their favour. As with most properties with premium positioning, the group is touting Gallery @ U-Thant as a good investment opportunity with a catchment of expatriates. There are nine embassies in the neighbourhood, with Sayfol International School nearby.

“The units come with a rental guarantee of RM6 psf for the first two years. The management of the building will undertake the leasing of the units,” says Ta, adding that this will also give the company control over the tenant mix of the condominium. “Even if it takes longer, we will [still] screen, to establish a reputation of exclusivity for Gallery @ U-Thant.”

So far, three of the apartments are occupied while another two have been leased out.

Other projects
Waz Lian is expanding its hospitality segment — one of its core earners — by building two more of its Sentral brand hotels in Kuantan and Penang as well as more beach resorts around Peninsular Malaysia, says Ta.

“We decided to grow our chain because of the good performance of our maiden hotel in Brickfields [KL Sentral Hotel]. My father often had business associates over and he observed a demand for three-star hotels. So he started KL Sentral Hotel.”

Opened three years ago, KL Sentral Hotel has 230 rooms with an average occupancy rate of 90% per month. This has encouraged the group to build another two hotels in Kuantan, Pahang, and Penang by year-end.

The group opened Pudu Sentral in Jalan Pudu, near its headquarters, with little fanfare three months ago. The 168-room, three-star establishment has seen occupancy levels of 80% to 90% so far, says Ta.

In the next two years, the group plans to venture into Danga Bay in Johor and build the first four-star Sentral Hotel there. “It will likely have over 300 rooms and will cost about RM90 million to build. This hotel is aimed at tapping the spillover of visitors to Singapore,” Ta remarks.

Waz Lian also plans to add 50 semi-detached and single chalets to its 120-room Redang Beach Resort off the coast of Terengganu. The new chalets will cost RM7 million to RM8 million and will have separate facilities from the main resort, such as a dining area, despite sharing the same seven-acre site.

In the pipeline is a beach resort in Tok Bali, Pasir Puteh in Kelantan, on part of a 300-acre tract it owns there. Waz Lian is aiming for a four-star rating for the RM35 million resort. “It will be surrounded by lagoons and will feature a banquet hall that can accommodate up to 500 people,” says Ta.

Tok Bali Beach Resort is the first phase of a four-phased mixed-development that will likely include another hotel, resort homes and bungalows, although plans have not been firmed up yet, he adds. The resort is Waz Lian’s move to tap the domestic and foreign tourism markets. “Tok Bali is near Besut. The resort will cater for the kind of tourists who want to take short trips to Pulau Perhentian for snorkelling and diving. We will provide boats to take them to the island,” says Ta.

The group’s other hospitality venture is a homestay village at the Sungai Buaya interchange of the North-South Expressway. The village will comprise 170 homes built in a 170-acre orchard with each home taking up an acre.

According to Ta, Waz Lian is also the white knight for the Malaysia China Light Industrial City in Tanjung Minyak, Melaka. It is reviving the 300-acre mixed-use development, which had been abandoned for 10 years, with local partner Pembinaan Rembang Kota Sdn Bhd. The project comprises a 600-lot industrial park and a residential housing area across the road.

“Reviving the project will entail apportioning the lots, building the infrastructure and ‘cleaning up’ the park before handing it over to buyers who have bought 600 lots in the development,” observes Ta.


This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 868, July 25-July 31, 2011

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