Plans for new Iskandar project unveiled (Amended)

Co-developed by firm linked to Charles & Keith owner, Senibong Hills will have over 55 landed homes, with more units being planned

Published Mon, Mar 9, 2015 · 09:50 PM
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AUSTRALIAN developer Walker Corporation and an investment firm linked to the Wong family behind popular footwear retailer Charles & Keith have unveiled their plans for their first joint project - Senibong Hills in Permas Jaya, the Eastern region of Iskandar.

Jointly developed by Walker Corporation and Wang & Wong Pte Ltd, Senibong Hills is expected to comprise 55 landed homes, with another 65 terraces and 1,800 high-rise apartments being planned, as well as a 2,300 square metre club house.

Wang & Wong Pte Ltd is equally held by the family of Charles & Keith CEO Charles Wong and JMD Investment Pte Ltd, the investment arm of the Wang family, the paternal relatives of the Wong family.

This 16-hectare site sits right next to Walker's mega residential project Senibong Cove, which has launched and sold residential units in phases since 2010.

During a recent soft launch for Senibong Hills, 15 out of 33 landed homes eligible for non-bumiputra purchase are sold at RM1.88-2.3 million (S$700,000-860,000), or an average of RM480 per square foot (psf). This is below current resale prices of landed homes launched earlier in Senibong Cove, which have jumped over 100 per cent from their initial launch prices.

Quay Chew Keong, project director of Walker's wholly-owned Malaysian unit Front Concept Sdn Bhd, told BT on Monday that "the perception of over-supply" in Iskandar remains the biggest risk facing the project as competing developers launch thousands of units at high-density condo projects over a short span of time.

Hence, the strategy for Senibong Hills is to push out landed homes first before getting the high-rise apartments launch-ready over the next six months, Mr Quay said. These high-rise units are likely to start from RM550 psf. Units at a competing project Country Garden Danga Bay are reportedly selling for RM700 psf.

"Buyers are very savvy now. Because they are buying for owner-occupation, they go around the whole of Johor before they settle down for a unit," Mr Quay said. "We are catering from RM500,000 to RM1 million, so that those who cannot afford to buy landed properties but they want to live here because of what we are offering in terms of amenities and design can opt for an apartment."

Senibong Cove is a 220-acre (89 ha) gated project with a marina and a 20,000 sq m boutique mall. It is estimated to yield over 8,500 residential units comprising landed homes and high-rise apartments upon completion. So far, overseas buyers make up 40 per cent of sales at Senibong Cove.

Mr Quay pointed out that speculative fervour has subsided in Iskandar. While foreign buyers are cautious due to Malaysia's cooling measures such as a levy on foreign buyers and concerns of sheer oversupply, other favourable factors have emerged.

For one thing, weakness in the ringgit is making it cheaper to snap up Malaysian properties now, Mr Quay said. "This year, because of the Goods & Service Tax (GST) coming up, we start to see sales slowing down, so there's a lot of uncertainty in the market. But we believe that in the long-run, over the next six months and next year onwards, the market will be more favourable," he added, citing the proposed Rapid Transit System link between Singapore and Johor.

Eyeing future upside, Walker Corporation and Wang & Wong Pte Ltd actually walked away from an offer by a Chinese developer last year to acquire the Senibong Hills site for RM180 psf, much higher than the RM43 psf that Wang & Wong Pte Ltd paid for the land, Mr Quay disclosed.

Desmond Wang, executive director of JMD, said that the family investment firm decided on the Senibong Hills site after scouting around in Iskandar. He is a paternal cousin of Mr Wong.

JMD Investment is no novice in the real estate sector, having invested in several projects in Singapore, including a substantial equity investment in 50 Scotts Road. It jointly acquired The Adelphi with Sun Venture in 2011 and sold all the office and retail units. JMD was also part of the consortium consisting of Sun Venture, Guthrie and Low Keng Huat in developing the commercial development Paya Lebar Square.

It is now exploring other key cities in Malaysia such as Kuala Lumpur and Penang, Mr Wang said. "We are always looking for good deals or properties worth investing."

In the original story, we incorrectly mentioned that Senibong Hills was located in Danga Bay. It is actually located in Permas Jaya, the Eastern region of Iskandar.

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