The first block of serviced apartments in Azea Properties — a project in the Danga Bay development in Iskandar Malaysia in Johor — saw all 175 units fully booked within a month of the preview. Priced at RM697 psf, the quick take-up of the high-end units seems unusual for the Johor Baru market, but then, so was the marketing strategy.
The buyers come from a pool of property investors from the Azea Property Investment Club, set up under Singapore-based Azea Property Investment Pte Ltd, an investment coaching business founded by Tan Yang Po.
The project marks Tan’s maiden foray into property development in Malaysia via Imperial Marina Pte Ltd, a special-purpose vehicle she established to explore investment opportunities in Iskandar Malaysia.
Imperial Marina had entered into a joint venture (JV) with Danga Bay Sdn Bhd and Pembinaan Sahabatjaya Sdn Bhd at the end of last year to develop a 4.17-acre site in Danga Bay into a mixed-use development, comprising mainly serviced apartments. Imperial Marina will fork out RM150 million for a 30% stake in JV company Para Impiana Sdn Bhd while Danga Bay will pay RM185 million for a 37% stake. Pembinaan Sahabatjaya will take up the rest of Para Impiana for RM165 million.
Located about 7km from the Johor Baru city centre, Danga Bay is a waterfront development on which various mega-projects have been earmarked, including a new financial and commercial hub, hotels, exhibition and convention centres, a marina and high-end residential properties.
Danga Bay — a unit of listed Ekovest Bhd — is the master developer of the 450-acre freehold development, in which the Johor government is a stakeholder as well.
Azea Properties, which has an estimated gross development value of RM500 million, is slated for launch by 3Q2011.
Unity is strength
Tan had set up Azea Personal Coaching and Azea Property Investment, of which she is the CEO, in Singapore in 2008 mainly to give talks and share tips on ways to earn passive income from investing in securities, bonds, gold and property.
Her goal was to help investors take advantage of the 2008 global financial crisis to invest in properties that were being sold well below market prices. A Bachelor of Arts (Economics and Political Science) graduate of the National University of Singapore, she strongly believes that adversity brings opportunity, and began investing in properties during the crisis.
The saying “unity is strength” rings true for the 48-year-old Tan, which led to her setting up the Azea Property Investment Club, with members comprising participants of her seminars. She explains that the club allows them to combine their strength and efforts to create “group power” or a stronger voice when it comes to, for example, price negotiations on potential investments.
Members have so far invested in properties in four countries — Singapore, Malaysia, the UK and the US.
“The investment club is not really a fund. For a fund, you pool people together to invest but for us, it is not necessary ... We collectively invest in a project but most of the time, the properties are held in our own names. For some projects, we work together like a fund where we buy into the same project. We do this so that we are able to negotiate better prices,” says Tan.
Some members of the club — which has a membership of about 1,000 — recently acquired a £3 million 12-unit Victorian-style apartment building in London as well as 200 landed properties in Houston, US. All these transactions were done at way below market prices, says Tan, who found out about the properties from friends, agents and business partners.
Club members also invested in a few units in S P Setia Bhd’s Sky Residence condominium in the KLCC area last year.
“We are looking at Australia now, but we still have not been able to find very good deals there. I’m optimistic about Australia because its economy is very steady and will perform well for the next two years. We are also looking at China ... [cities] like Wuhan and Chengdu. I think the first-tier cities are a bit expensive now and it’s quite hard to find good deals but if people offer a deal, we will definitely look into it,” Tan, a mother of three, says.
She herself owns eight properties, six of which are in Singapore.
Her property seminars expose the participants to actual property deals to help them get a better understanding of property investing. She has conducted seminars in Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam, and is now looking at China and Russia.
“I meet a lot of people who tell me they hardly learn anything from seminars because they don’t know how to apply [what they are told]. For me, I don’t just preach. In my two-day seminars, there are opportunities for you to create passive income.”
Tan has talked to about 2,000 participants so far.
She was Asia-Pacific managing director of Yves Saint Laurent Beaute and had worked with several international luxury brands, including Montblanc and Kenzo, and an e-learning company before striking out on her own.
Two of the four apartment blocks in Azea Properties will be launched by 3Q2011.
Says Tan: “It is a serviced apartment project and we will also have retail to support. There is a small park in front and residents can enjoy not only views of the sea but also greenery. There are four blocks in two phases — the first was fully booked within a month of preview. My students are investors themselves; we offer the units to our members first and the first block was fully booked by them.”
The first block of 175 units, with sizes ranging from 480 to 800 sq ft, was sold at RM697 psf. In view of the positive response, Block 2 will be launched at about RM900 psf.
While details are sketchy, property consultants say the project seems a little high-end for the Johor Baru market. But then there are no similar waterfront developments to make a fair comparison. A property consultant in Johor says a normal apartment without a seafront view is selling at an average of about RM300 psf.
“The pricing could be due to other terms in the agreement that we are not aware of and we don’t know what facilities they are going to offer. Nevertheless, this a prime spot in Danga Bay as it faces the waterfront with no obstruction,” he adds.
Tan says Azea Properties is a niche development that is new to Johor Baru, and that further details will be announced in the next quarter.
The whole project consists of more than 700 mainly residential units that will be developed over three to four years. Phase 1 will be completed in three years and Phase 2 a year later. The commercial/retail podium below the residential blocks will be built in Phase 1. The developer has yet to decide whether to sell or keep the podium, which is planned as a lifestyle commercial centre with restaurants targeting young people and retail outlets like a supermarket and convenience stores.
Azea Properties is the first development project for Tan, who was introduced to the management of Danga Bay by a business partner.
Why did she decide to invest in Johor now and not two years ago?
“I think Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is doing a very good job of attracting foreign investment and a lot of measures he has implemented have helped the economy. He has also opened up to a lot of countries. He focuses on the right aspects, like telecommunications, the Internet and all the basic infrastructure that is very important. If you want a country to move fast, all these are basic yet important elements.
“The Singapore government is also getting more active and involved in investing in Johor Baru. This helps a lot because when the Singapore government gets involved, things move faster ... And of course seafront developments always fetch a premium. This project in Danga Bay is very near the first Causeway and offers Singaporeans easy accessibility,” she says. Precinct F1
Azea Properties is part of a larger site known as Precinct F1, a 36-acre tract allocated for the Danga Bay Integrated Waterfront City.
In the JV agreement, Imperial Marina will market future projects on Precinct F1 and it is pursuing opportunities for further joint ventures to develop the parcel into a flagship development, with a concept akin to that of Marina Bay in Singapore, says Tan.
She reveals that a proposed masterplan is on the drawing board and the development is expected to include a shopping mall, hotel, offices, commercial/retail and residential units targeted at those looking for an upmarket lifestyle as well as retirees.
“We would propose a project targeted at foreigners and Singaporeans who want to retire somewhere cheaper than Singapore or who want to have a holiday home here. It is very convenient to go back to Singapore because it is barely a 10-minute drive to the Johor-Singapore Causeway,” says Tan.
“A lot of Singaporeans also come to Malaysia for shopping or for leisure. If they own a home here, they can relax and have a short holiday before they return. So, we want to offer something convenient for Singaporeans,” she adds.
Malaysian Investment Development Authority (Mida) senior director (investment) Phang Ah Tong was reported as saying last year that Johor would always be the preferred destination for Singaporean investors due to its close proximity to the republic.
Of the total RM14.95 billion invested by Singaporeans in Malaysia up to the middle of last year, RM6.9 billion was in Johor, he added.
Accessibility to Danga Bay will be improved further if the proposed multimode public transport terminal, located within walking distance of Precinct F1, is built. The proposed terminal is still pending approval.
The multimode transport system will comprise different transport networks, and allow users to to move from one network to another.
The developer also plans to emulate the concept of Singapore waterfront development Sentosa Cove, offering a marina-oriented lifestyle with quayside retail, marina and an upmarket residential enclave.
Residents can go yachting and dock their yachts near their homes. The developer expects to get all the details finalised by the year-end so that it can start on the projects at about the same time as other developments, such as Dijaya Corp’s parcel, in the vicinity.
Says Tan: “It will be very exciting when the whole parcel comes up and creates critical mass. With hotel, offices, shopping mall and retail commercial, it will be a self-contained area and everything you want would be here.”
The project is located next to Dijaya’s project as well as a marina with a convention centre. “That whole stretch will be very exciting and buzzing with a lot of activity,” Tan says.
Dijaya made inroads into Danga Bay in August last year when it purchased two parcels of land, totalling 14.97ha, for RM308 million. The land is being acquired by Goldhill Quest Sdn Bhd — a 60:40 joint venture between Nagasari Cerdas Sdn Bhd (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Dijaya Corp) and Global Corporate Development Sdn Bhd, which is 100%-owned by Iskandar Waterfront Sdn Bhd.
Likely to be known as Tropicana @ Danga Bay, after its flagship Tropicana Golf & Country Resort in Petaling Jaya, the parcels will be developed into a project with a total GDV of RM3.8 billion over 12 years, which will include a stand-alone retail mall, four and five-star hotel towers and serviced apartment blocks.
“Danga Bay plans to build a boardwalk — a wooden walkway above the water — along the whole stretch of sea, so you can walk along the shore,” Tan says.
This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 846, Feb 21-27, 2011