Corporate figures team up for property project in M'sia

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Kuala Lumpur (The Star/ANN) - In an unusual move, four prominent local and foreign corporate figures have teamed up to jointly undertake a property development project in Iskandar Malaysia.

Property developer and master developer UEM Land Holdings Bhd (ULHB) sold two plots of land 29 acre and 14.7 acre for 211.1 million ringgit (U$69.88 million) and 189.6 million ringgit respectively to Liberty Bridge Sdn Bhd. ULHB is a Khazanah Nasional Bhd-controlled company.

The corporate figures who have equal stakes in Liberty Bridge are Thai national Surin Upatkoon, Malaysian planter Tan Sri Lee Oi Hian, Tan Sri Wan Azmi Wan Hamzah, and chairman and managing director of UOB-Kay Hian Holdings Ltd Wee Ee Chao.

They have teamed up to buy the freehold land located within Puteri Harbour, Iskandar Malaysia around the Commercial South and Private Marina precincts. Iskandar Malaysia is three times the size of Singapore.

They have plans to build serviced apartments in the fastest developing corridor in Malaysia.

A property consultant said the private personal investment in the project was "loose change" for the businessmen.

Wan Azmi, an active corporate player in the 1990s, has kept a low profile since the collapse of his property development company Land & General Bhd, a casualty of the 1997/98 Asian financial crisis.

He was in the limelight in 2011 as one of of three key parties involved in one of the biggest property deals when Sime Darby Bhd paid a 60 per cent premium when it acquired Eastern & Oriental Bhd, a property, hospitality and investment outfit.

Wee, who heads Singapore's largest securities firm UOB-Kay Hian, is also chief executive officer of Kheng Leong Co (Pte) Ltd, an investment group with interests in property development and real estate investment.

He is the son of Singapore's billionaire banker Cho Yaw.

Lee is the CEO of Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd, one of Malaysia's largest oil palm plantation companies. He is also former chairman of Malaysian Palm Oil Promotion Council, now known as the Malaysian Palm Oil Council.

Sun Upatkoon, or Lau Kim Khoon, is the managing director of gaming firm Multi-Purpose Holdings Bhd. In 2007, he emerged as an indirect shareholder in Shin Corp, the leading Thai mobile telecommunications company that used to be controlled by the ousted prime minister of Thailand Thaksin Shinawatra.

Sources said property prices in Iskandar have increased considerably, putting them on the same level as Klang Valley properties.

A source said: "The corporate world is very small and the four, being friends for a while... had all been interested in doing property projects in the area.

"So instead of each haphazardly undertaking smaller developments here and there, they have decided to come together to do a project with some scale and to enhance the Puteri Harbour area."

A property consultant said developers generally wanted a footprint there because of its proximity to Singapore.

"Singapore is squeezing people out with self-imposed regulations," he said.

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