Impiana Group is generally known more as an owner of hotels, such as the Impiana KLCC in Kuala Lumpur, Impiana Resort Cherating in Kuantan and several hotels in Thailand, than as a property developer.
However, the group — through its subsidiary, Rimbunan Raya Sdn Bhd — has been active on the property development scene in Ipoh for a number of years. This is probably because the group’s founders have strong ties with the silver state.
The founder of Impiana Group is hotelier Datuk Seri Ismail Farouk Abdullah, who is also CEO of KAB Group. Impiana Sdn Bhd and KAB Group are related companies with common shareholders.
The group is now carving its name in niche residential developments, starting in Ipoh, Perak. Through Rimbunan Raya, the group is currently involved in developing The Enclave, an exclusive residential project in one of Ipoh’s most prestigious residential areas. The development, along Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah, also known as Tiger Lane, started in June, according to Impiana Group executive director Mohd Yusof Muhammad Isahak.
The Enclave, a joint venture with the landowner, has a gross development value (GDV) of RM60 million. The development comprises 16 3-storey semi-detached houses and 29 bungalows. The semidees, with built-ups of 4,500 sq ft, are priced at RM800,000 while the bungalows with built-ups of 5,200 sq ft and 6,200 sq ft, are tagged from RM1.5 million. Each bungalow comes with a swimming pool. The 7.4-acre leasehold tract is located next to the Royal Perak Golf Club and just 10 minutes from the Sultan Azlan Shah Airport.
Lure of Tiger Lane
Mohd Yusof, who is also from Perak, adds that Tiger Lane is a choice location in Ipoh. “It is very serene and highly sought-after. The address is akin to Bangsar in Kuala Lumpur.” He describes the development, including its landscape as “an Australian-inspired design”, with lessons learnt from the group’s current residential development on the Gold Coast in Australia.
“The Ipoh market has accepted our niche lifestyle products very well. What differentiates The Enclave from most developments in Ipoh is the tight security and the emphasis on lifestyle. We offer round-the-clock Gurkha security and CCTV, and this is what buyers are looking for,” says Rimbunan Raya general manager Chee Siew Pin.
Response to the project, soft-launched in April, has been impressive to say the least. Chee says the company sold 80% of the units within three weeks, mainly to local professionals and foreigners. Rimbunan Raya, he adds, is targeting Japanese and South Koreans as there are many factories in Ipoh owned by them, and the golf course next to the development is also seen as an added attraction for them.
The company has also set its sights on Malaysians from Ipoh who have been overseas, like Taiwan, Singapore, China and Hong Kong, to work but have now retired and are looking to purchase properties in Ipoh.
“We find that people prefer to stay in smaller rather than larger, or more dense, areas. It may have been a crazy to do [launching in April], especially during these economic times, but we had no problems selling our houses as we designed them to cater for a niche market,” says Mohd Yusof. Construction works commenced last month and the project is expected to be completed in 20 months.
Most of Rimbunan Raya’s developments are located in Ipoh; its first project was Greentown Square, a commercial development in the heart of Greentown, Ipoh’s most prestigous and vibrant business centre. It is near hotels, malls, colleges and federal government buildings. Rimbunan Raya is one of several developers in the Greentown area, says Chee.
Greentown Square, completed in 2006, comprises 234 shopoffices on a four-acre site and has a GDV of RM57 million. At its launch in 2004, the units were priced at RM900,000 and 85% of the units were snapped up that year. Those who invested in the units appear to have made the right decision as the recent price for similar units on the secondary market are pegged around RM1.6 million, according to Chee.
The company’s current commercial development in Greentown is Greentown Suria, which was launched in 2007. The development fronts Jalan Datuk Seri Ahmad Said and is the last piece of land available in the heart of the business centre.
The joint-venture mixed development, which comprises an 8-storey medical centre, 13 shopoffices, 24 serviced apartments and four office suites, is 75% completed. It is expected to be completed in October this year.
Mohd Yusof tells City & Country that Impiana Group has three core businesses, namely hotels (hospitality), property development and education. Apart from Impiana KLCC and Impiana Resort Cherating, it also owns the Impiana Ipoh Casuarina.
In Thailand, the group owns Impiana Phuket Cabana Resort & Spa and Impiana Samui Resort & Spa on Samui Island. Another exclusive ongoing development is the Impiana Private Villas @ Kata Noi in Phuket.
The group used to manage Ancasa Hotel Kuala Lumpur, located next to Puduraya and owned by UDA Holdings Bhd, which was previously known as Impiana Hotel Kuala Lumpur. “We only managed it for them, we didn’t own it. We now have Impiana KLCC, so we cannot have two hotels within a certain radius,” says Mohd Yusof.
As for its education division, the group has been operating Institut Teknologi Perak in Ipoh for the past 15 years. However, the group considers it to be part of its corporate social responsibility.
While the group’s property development division was established some 20 years ago, Rimbunan Raya has only been around for 10 years. Apart from Ipoh, the company currently has a residential development on the Gold Coast in Australia and villa developments in Phuket, Thailand. It expects to venture into Bali next.
“We also develop hotels for our own use and prefer niche developments. Basically, we are bringing the concept of a hotel lifestyle to residential properties,” says Mohd Yusof.
The Impiana Private Villas @ Kata Noi, just 20 minutes away from the famous Patong Beach in Phuket, will be completed by November this year. The exclusive development will consist of 12 private villas, each facing the Andaman Sea. Rates, though not fixed yet, might be US$1,500 to US$2,000 a night.
“We are very excited about our project in Kata Noi. It is perched 50m above sea level and each villa faces the Andaman Sea,” says Mohd Yusof.
Down Under, in the northern part of the Gold Coast, the developer launched Villina in 1Q2009. Located in the precinct of Harbour Quays, the development comprises 25 townhouse villas. There are two types — Type A units are 258 sq m while Type B are 247 sq m. Chee says the average selling price is A$620,000 (RM1.8 million) and the GDV is A$15.5 million.
Villina is within walking distance of the Harbour Town Shopping Centre and close to schools, AB Patterson College, Helensvale Railways Station, the harbour and numerous golf courses.
Next on the developer’s list are private villas within Impiana Resort Cherating. “We have probably the longest beach in Cherating. It’s very secluded and nice, located next to the turtle sanctuary. We want to incorporate into our resort some 50 to 60 villas,” says Mohd Yusof.
The built-ups are about 3,600 sq ft and priced from RM800,000 to RM1.5 million. With the new Lebuhraya Pantai Timur, it takes slightly more than three hours to get to Cherating from Kuala Lumpur. Previously, it would have taken about five hours to get there.
Besides targeting corporate clients and expatriates working nearby, Chee says the properties are also suitable for Malaysia My Second Home participants, especially those from Japan and South Korea. The villas will be mainly for sale and the GDV is RM60 million.
“Our developments are niche and exclusive. We also want to pay attention to detail,” says Chee. While the project is still at the planning stage, he hopes construction will start by July next year.
The developer is also eyeing a few properties in Bali, Indonesia, including tracts in Nusa Dua, Legian and Ubud. “As we speak, our chairman is in Bali for negotiations and also looking for properties there,” says Mohd Yusof.
The developer’s landbank in Malaysia includes tracts on Pulau Tioman, Pulau Pangkor, in Tanjung Bungah, Penang, and near Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman in Kampar, Perak.
The group is always on the lookout for more property development opportunities. “Currently, we have identified a few plots of land in Ipoh and KL for future development. Unfortunately, we are not able to reveal more as we need to sign the sale agreement first,” says Chee.
This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 766, Aug 3-9, 2009.
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