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A state of fitness: Chan Chee Kian and Jane Leong

Chan Chee Kian
Chief investment officer, Ireka Development Management Sdn Bhd
Ireka Corp Bhd has completed more than RM4 billion worth of projects since early 2000, including those with its associate company Aseana Properties Ltd. About RM2.34 billion worth of projects are in Vietnam. Among the developments undertaken by Ireka are [email protected] Aseana, [email protected] II, Sandakan Harbour Square, SENI Mont'Kiara and Tiffani by i-ZEN. The London-listed Aseana Properties was initiated by Ireka in 2007 for development activities in Malaysia and Vietnam. Ireka's subsidiary, Ireka Development Management Sdn Bhd, is the exclusive development manager.

What type of exercise do you engage in regularly?
I have been an avid runner for the past 1  years. I have run two marathons and will be taking part in my third in a few weeks. Running is probably the easiest and simplest form of exercise. All you need is a pair of running shoes and the proper attire. I like it for its simplicity and convenience in getting a good workout.

What benefits have you received from your exercise regime personally and professionally?
Personally, it has helped me stay in tip-top condition fitness wise. Beyond that, running has taken me to places I probably wouldn't have ventured to otherwise. When I travel, I make it a point to have a run in the city or locale that I'm visiting. That has opened my eyes to the lives of the people there. The most memorable were form peering into the gritty living conditions of camps or tents of construction workers in Gurgaon, New Delhi, witnessing the Vietnamese perform their morning line-dancing routine in parks, and watching surfer dudes and dudettes off the coast of Waikiki.

Running has allowed me to experience the urban landscape of a city from a human scale. For example, in Singapore recently, I had the pleasure of running though the newly completed Gardens by the Bay and across the Marina Barrage. Seeing how Singapore has transformed Marina Bay and the surrounding areas over the years was an interesting insight to me as a developer.

Running has also made me look forward to the annual The Edge-Bursa Malaysia Rat Race. Sport, I believe, transcends generation, class and personalities.

How do you achieve work-life balance?
I'm blessed in that I live really close to where I work so that saves me at least 30 to 45 minutes a day in commuting time. Running doesn't take up much time. I run early in the morning, about 6.30am or so, so that it doesn't interfere with my work and family life during the day.

Describe the health of your company.
It has been a challenging year for us in terms of business conditions. The property market has been soft for a good part of the year as we see a mismatch between actual demand and the credit tightening on the high-end property sector. The construction sector was slow in translating to actual contracts on the ground in the early part of the year. However, we are now pleased to be involved in the construction of a high-end serviced residence in Iskandar Malaysia and with the mass rapid transit (MRT) works in Kajang.

Having said that, 2012 has been a milestone year as we have completed several of our key developments such as the Seni Mont'Kiara luxury residences, Harbour Mall Sandakan and Four Points by Sheraton Sandakan Hotel. This momentum will continue into early next year when we complete the Nu Sentral Office Towers and open the Aloft Kuala Lumpur Sentral Hotel, as well as the City International Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

We have launched the Kasia Greens super-link houses in Nilai and the first release has achieved sales of 71%. That will lead on nicely to future releases in Kasia Greens as well as a new development adjacent to it in 2013. We have also recently unveiled The RuMa Hotel & Residences project at Jalan Kia Peng, KLCC. We have created a unique product that we think will capitalise fully on its prominent location.

With these projects, and others in the pipeline, we look forward to improved times in 2013. Ireka is, and will always be, in the construction and property business for the long run. To run a good long race like a marathon, one needs to have endurance, resilience and adaptability. These traits are the hallmarks of Ireka's track record. We'll continue to put one foot forward at a time and pursue sustainable growth no matter how tough the conditions are.

Describe the health of the Malaysian property market. What is your outlook for 2013?
There has been much talk about the market being frothy with prices having risen significantly in certain sectors and a seemingly abundant supply in the high-end segment. Sure, there are certain segments of the market where supply has exceeded demand, and vice versa, but if you take this over the context of a slower global economy and real increases in costs of property development [land prices, construction costs and compliance costs], these temporary dislocations in market forces are bound to happen. We believe these will be ironed out over time.

Properties in Malaysia, in general, have never disappointed buyers as a wealth creator over the long term - the keyword here being 'long term'. As such, we applaud the government's initiative in addressing the issues of affordability, directly by setting up PR1MA and indirectly by addressing the nation's 'middle-income trap'. This ensures sustainable growth of the property sector and country over the long term. However, we hope that the government will not, in the short term, 'punish' sensible investment decisions by tightening the credit market further or ratcheting up the RPGT or stamp duties. Short-term vibrancy in the market is needed to attract investments, particularly from abroad.

We are also excited with the prospect of the MRT service in Klang Valley, which we believe is going to bring growth to parts of the city that have been underserved in the past. There is already talk of MRT 2 and 3 and this will bring areas like Mont Kiara and Bangsar to a whole new level.

In the coming years, we think there will be room for well-crafted, high-end hospitality and residential development in Kuala Lumpur. Leading this trend was the opening of The Grand Hyatt recently with others like Banyan Tree, St Regis Hotel & Residences and W Hotel & Residences in the pipeline. Ireka's The RuMa Hotel & Residences is also pegged at this level. We believe these new developments are set to push the property and hospitality sectors to a whole new level. Success will depend on Malaysia attracting investment and tourist dollars over the coming decade.

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Jane Leong
Deputy general manager, business development & investment, Mah Sing Group Bhd
Incorporated in 1991, public-listed Mah Sing Group Bhd currently has about 40 projects under its belt throughout Malaysia. Its projects include The Icon on Jalan Tun Razak in Kuala Lumpur, Southbay City in Batu Maung in Penang, One Legenda in Cheras, Star Avenue in Sungai Buloh, Southgate in Kuala Lumpur, M City on Embassy Row in Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur and Icon City in Petaling Jaya. Apart from the core business, the group is also involved in plastic manufacturing and trading in Malaysia and Indonesia.

What type of exercise do you engage in regularly?
If I'm strapped for time, I run on a treadmill or use the exercise bike, but I also attend group classes for body combat or body attack. These are high-intensity exercises that burn more calories than usual gym routines. They also improve overall co-ordination and build core strength. Besides that, I also swim and take dance classes. Exercising should not be a chore. I'm less likely to skip my workouts when I enjoy the exercise.

What benefits have you received from your exercise regime?
Regular exercise helps me maintain a healthier and leaner body. It doesn't only tone my body but also increases my strength and endurance, which helps me keep up with my busy work schedule. I usually attend classes and exercise with my friends, so it also provides a platform to spend some quality time with them.

How do you achieve work-life balance?
I tend to plan my schedule ahead in order to make sure that I have time for work, family, friends and myself. I live by the motto "live life to the fullest". It will be hard to achieve work-life balance if you don't plan ahead and make a point to get what you want out of work.

Describe the health of your company.
Mah Sing has done well in 2012 as, for the second year running, our sales have breached the RM2 billion mark. As at Nov 15, we had achieved 90% or RM2.2 billion of our sales target of RM2.5 billion. We had unbilled sales of about RM2.95 billion as at Sept 30, or 2.2 times the revenue recognised from the property division in 2011, giving us comfortable and significant earnings visibility.

In terms of financial performance, we achieved RM175.2 million profit after tax and minority interest (PATMI) for the first nine months of 2012, a 37% improvement on 2011. We have also been actively landbanking this year, with four deals which can yield a total gross development value of RM5.88 billion. This means that we have exceeded our 2012 landbanking target of RM5 billion by 18%.

Describe the health of the Malaysian property market. What is your outlook for 2013?
Property has traditionally been the preferred value protection and investment option in Malaysia and we see demand in certain niche segments. We have to zero in to what the buyers want and offer them something that they need and which matches their lifestyles and aspirations.

We have firmed up our 2013 sales target at RM3 billion and approximately 77% of this is expected to come from landed residential projects and niche high-rise projects, as demand is still strong in these segments.

This story first appeared in The Edge weekly edition of Dec 24-31, 2012.

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