Nusmetro eyeing the higher end

GEORGE TOWN: Nusmetro Ventures (P) Sdn Bhd is forging ahead to rebrand itself from building only mass market housing projects to higher-end property development both in Penang and in the Klang Valley.

Nusmetro executive director Thomas Chan said aside from building mass market contemporary homes, the other two categories are signature and the art series boutique homes.

The company, which mostly carries out joint venture development projects with the federal government and landowners, has its beginnings in Penang.

Chan and two others, Au Chee Fai and Gary Ho, started the company in 1999 with their first project in Jelutong — Mutiara Heights, Mutiara Idaman 1 and 2  just off the Jelutong expressway — a joint venture project with the bumiputera steering committee JKP Sdn Bhd that was involved the controversial relocation of 500 squatters from Kampung Buah Pala.

With a gross development value (GDV) of RM300 million, the Jelutong project comprised 2,300 units. It opened the pathway for more joint venture projects with the federal government, including housing projects in Sabah and Terengganu.

The Kampung Buah Pala project called the Oasis and Pulse is on eight acres (3.2ha) of land with 850 units each priced between RM200,000 and RM600,000.

To date, Nusmetro has completed about RM1.8 billion worth of  residential and mixed development projects while ongoing projects have a GDV of about RM1 billion.

"We are going to launch another project in Kuchai Lama in Kuala Lumpur while a nixed development project in Gelugor, Penang, is in the pipeline on a 15-acre site.

"We do not want to continue just building mass market homes but we want to reinvent our products with new categories.

"For the art series, we bring sculptures by renowned sculptors into projects and branded lighting from Italy, making our development more of a boutique and specialised one.

"We do not rely on architects to create masterpieces, we give directions as to what we want from conceptualisation, and our ideas cannot be replicated," Chan said.

He said the company's projects now focus on facilities which form an extension of the homes.

"For instance, we have facilities like posh lounges and jacuzzi decks, fitting 50 to 100 people, where gatherings can be held even though the units might not be able to cater for such large crowds," he added.

Nusmetro is looking at acquiring more land in Penang but has been unsuccessful so far due to exorbitant land prices. Chan said the asking rate is currently RM600 psf, with even hill land in Batu Maung which mostly cannot be developed going for RM75 psf.

"We are hoping that various measures taken by Bank Negara Malaysia will soften the market as landowners now think they are sitting on gold mines and are not being realistic at all," he said.

Chan said Nusmetro on its own does not have much landbank and depends on its privatisation and joint venture projects.

The book value of projects in the Klang Valley which have yet to be launched total RM800 million with RM200 million to be launched this year and RM600 million by 1Q12.

Chan said these projects will be concentrated in the Ampang and Kuchai Lama areas. Nusmetro has also been recently been invited by the federal government to tender for several major mixed development projects in the country.

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