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CP ventures Down Under while strengthening Eastin

PETALING JAYA (July 9): CP Group, a family-owned developer synonymous with its homegrown Eastin Hotel brand, plans to venture into Australia developing a project in Melbourne with a gross development value (GDV) of A$95 million (RM307.88 million) , said executive director Datin Jane Yeo.

The project will be a joint venture with an Australian developer to build 207 condominium units with retail shops below. This is the group’s latest overseas venture after it divested projects and properties in China and Cambodia many years ago to focus on the Queensbay Mall project in Penang.

The mall, which was the group’s biggest property, was opened in 2006 but subsequently sold to Singapore’s CapitaLand group in 2011 for over RM650 million.

Other than Australia, other upcoming developments of the group include the Queensbay Waterfront Residence, a prestigious beachfront condominium of more than 300 units with an expected GDV of RM650 million located in the Queensbay township in Penang, and another condominium project with a RM250 million GDV in Pantai Dalam, near Mid Valley Megamall and Putra LRT Universiti station in Kuala Lumpur. These projects are currently awaiting approval from the relevant authorities.

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Yeo says Eastin PJ's occupancy has increased to about 70% from 60% after last year's renovations.

In terms of assets, the unlisted group currently owns the remaining 20 acres (8ha) of undeveloped land beside Queensbay Mall and the Eastin hotels in Petaling Jaya (PJ) and Penang. The two hotels, with a combined turnover of about RM80 million, are now the biggest properties within the group after it sold Queensbay Mall.

The Eastin assets remained in the group despite its divestments of other assets, probably due to the sentimental value they hold for the group’s founder. The 18-storey, 388-room Eastin in Phileo Damansara, PJ was completed in 1997 and opened in June 1998.

It was conceptualised by CP Group chairman Datuk Tan Chew Piau, who identified the shortage of good four-star business class hotels in PJ. “We were the only hotel in this area 14 years ago and Eastin PJ actually opened during the financial crisis. It was very difficult, and we were one of only two hotels to open [in Kuala Lumpur and PJ] during the crisis, after Mandarin Oriental,” said Yeo, adding that the hotel has since made a name for itself in the region as a reputable four-star business class hotel of international standards.

Eastin PJ went through a major renovation costing RM30 million last year. “After last year’s renovations, its occupancy has increased to about 70% from 60%” said Yeo. Riding on the success of Eastin PJ, the group built a 328-room Eastin in Penang in 2009.

Although the Penang hotel has been in operation for less than three years, its lobby is now being renovated again at a cost of RM1 million.

Compared with 14 years ago where Eastin PJ was the only choice for business travellers in PJ/KL, it now sees more competition with the mushrooming of new hotels like One World and Le Meridien over the past few years. A new four-star Premiere hotel is also being built in Kelana Jaya by WCT Bhd. “It has never been easy in the hospitality industry.

Competition is always healthy and I strongly believe that as long as you look after your guests and provide them with the service that dazzles and delights I don’t think you really need to fear competition. But it keeps everyone on their toes so the best hotel wins,” said Eastin PJ general manager Jane Suppiah.

“As you can see, the facilities we have now are comparable to five-star hotels and yet we’re charging four-star rates. The services we’re offering are equivalent to five-star so it’s really value for money,” Yeo said.

This article appeared in The Edge Financial Daily July 9, 2012.

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