Wednesday 31 May 2023
By /
main news image

This article first appeared in City & Country, The Edge Malaysia Weekly on November 14, 2022 - November 20, 2022

UOA Development general manager of projects Stephanie Kong (centre) with (from left) The Edge Malaysia editor-in-chief Kathy Fong, The Edge Media Group publisher and group CEO Datuk Ho Kay Tat, The Edge Malaysia editor emeritus Au Foong Yee and City & Country editor E Jacqui Chan. (Picture by Mohd Izwan Mohd Nazam/The Edge)

No. 3 | UOA Development Bhd + Best in Quantitative Attributes

  2022 2021
Overall 3 1
Quantitative 1 1
Qualitative 5 6

We meet the candid and affable managing director of UOA Development Bhd, C S Kong, at the resplendently landscaped Bamboo Hills in Jalan Ipoh, one of the latest dining enclaves in town as well as a new addition to the company’s property portfolio.

“I was told Bamboo Hills is the talk of the town,” he chuckles.

“At Bamboo Hills, we have created the environment first and we have spent quite a lot of money [about RM60 million] to do this. We believe in creating the environment first so people will be proud to live here,” he adds.

Besides Bamboo Hills, UOA Development has also completed several other developments this year, namely Komune Living & Wellness in Cheras, The Goodwood Residence in Bangsar South and Aster Green Residence in Sri Petaling.

As for FY2021 ended Dec 31, Kong shares that it was a challenging and uncertain year brought forth by the effects of the Covid-19 global pandemic. “UOA recorded lower revenue and profit amid unfavourable market conditions, coupled with high inflation and bottlenecks in the global supply chain.

“This is why we have slowed down in terms of development and there were no new project launches in FY2021. We have to be very selective and will only consider a development if the location is good,” he explains.

While the group recorded lower revenue of RM547.5 million for FY2021, down from RM844.6 million the year before, its cash and cash equivalents remained robust at RM1.79 billion. It has also kept its gearing low, as its borrowings were substantially paid off in FY2020.

In FY2021, the group registered property sales of RM341.2 million, contributed by The Goodwood Residence, Sentul Point Suite Apartments in Sentul, United Point Residence in Segambut and Aster Green Residence.

Under Kong’s experienced and prudent stewardship, UOA Development has consistently ranked among the top property developers at The Edge Malaysia Property Excellence Awards over the years. The company also scored the highest in the Best in Quantitative Attributes category, which evaluates companies based on their shareholders’ funds, turnover, profitability and cash holding or gearing.

UOA Development was also recently recognised at The Edge Billion Ringgit Club 2022 corporate awards for the highest return on equity over three years and the highest returns to shareholders over three years under the property (RM3 billion and above market capitalisation) category.

Here is an excerpt from an interview with Kong as he shares his plans and direction for the company.

(Picture by low yen yeing/The Edge)

City & Country: What has the company been busy with over the past 12 months?

C S Kong: We completed Komune Living & Wellness, the largest co-living and wellness hub in Southeast Asia, in May. It comprises a co-living hotel, senior care facilities and a medical wellness centre located next to the largest park in Cheras and a short distance away from downtown Kuala Lumpur. This development offers health, wellness and care services for its community.

We completed the retail component of Bamboo Hills in Jalan Ipoh in August. This development features a unique dining concept that is centred on lush bamboo landscapes, dining pavilions and vast outdoor spaces covering 16 acres, just minutes from the city centre.

Aster Green Residence was completed in September. Launched in October 2019, this project is Phase 1 of our Sri Petaling development. It comprises a total of 440 units with selling prices of RM550 to RM600 psf and is fully taken up.

We also completed The Goodwood Residence, comprising 678 units with an average selling price of RM870 psf, in July 2022. This 40-storey property features a multigenerational living concept and sits in a prime location in our flagship integrated Bangsar South development, surrounded by transport links, commercial offices, leisure, healthcare and hospitality services.

Meanwhile, we launched Laurel Residence in December last year. This is the latest addition at Bangsar South, which offers 1,260 units at an average selling price of RM842 psf. The development, which comprises two 42-storey towers, will be strategically located and seamlessly linked to everyday conveniences.

What are some of the challenges the business has encountered and what are your strategies?

The property industry was impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and global inflationary pressures amid rising food and energy prices and disrupted supply chains.

To ensure long-term business sustainability, we will focus on improving cost and operating efficiencies, maintaining a positive operating cash flow, responding to market needs, ensuring sufficient land bank for present and future developments, diversifying our project locations for better risk management and delivering value-added properties with hallmark quality.

We must be well prepared, so when the time is right, we will be ready to launch.

UOA is known for its prudent and conservative approach. Will this continue to be the direction moving forward?

Well, if it has been proven successful, why not?

Having prudent capital management and strong corporate governance has helped our company amid market uncertainty and the economic downturn. This includes having a low risk of insolvency and less urgency to launch a project when the optimal value is unattainable.

We remain committed to further strengthening our prudent and conservative approach in ensuring the long-term sustainability of our business.

Also, I think having knowledge, good teamwork and experience are very important.

Komune Living & Wellness, the largest co-living and wellness hub in Southeast Asia, was completed in May. (Pictures by UOA Development)

What is your outlook for the property market next year and what will your focus be?

We are cautiously optimistic about the property market outlook with the resumption of economic activities and the gravitation towards an endemic status.

We will continue to focus on the affordable housing segment as we see significant demand for reasonably priced properties in strategic locations with good connectivity. For example, our project Aster Green Residence in Sri Petaling, saw encouraging take-ups.

The key is to build something convenient. Take Bangsar South, for example. Properties there were priced at RM300 psf when we started. Now, they are over RM700 psf. This is due to the convenience we have created.

When we want to build something, we must be sure that it will be convenient for people. We don’t build in places with no transport. For us, we want to be very sure that there is no risk and that there is demand. Even when the market is bad and people still need to buy a place, we believe they will choose something that is convenient and affordable.

Improving cost and operating efficiencies are also important to us as they are key to our business continuity plans to mitigate the lingering effects of the pandemic. We will also continue to explore new opportunities for future investments that meet our company’s objectives.

Please share updates on your ongoing properties and tell us more about your upcoming projects.

Our ongoing Laurel Residence in Bangsar South is currently 42% taken up and slated to be completed by 2025.

We are planning to launch Aster Hills or Phase 2 of our Sri Petaling development in 2023. Sri Petaling is a mature location with good catchment, comprising predominantly the Chinese population. Over the last few years, the projects launched in that location seem to have garnered a good response, so we think there is still demand.

We are also planning to launch a residential component within a mixed-use development at our Jalan Ipoh development, which has a GDV (gross development value) of RM6 billion. This will be a very conducive development due to the DUKE Highway and MRT connectivity.

We are also looking at a new medical building in Bangsar South, but this is still in the planning stage. Although there already is LifeCare [Diagnostic Medical Centre], we think there is still a need for more medical facilities due to the large population there.

Launched in December last year, Laurel Residence is the latest addition in Bangsar South
Bamboo Hills in Jalan Ipoh, one of the latest dining enclaves in town

What are UOA’s sustainability plans in the short, medium and long terms, and how will they be achieved?

We have been integrating sustainability into our business strategy, processes and decision-making and are proactively identifying areas for improvement to further strengthen our efforts in developing a long-term sustainability strategy that not only supports our business goals and reduces our environmental footprint but also contributes positively to the communities in which we operate.

Our sustainability plans include improving cost and operating efficiencies by greening supply chains and energy use, reducing material usage and wastage, using recycled products wherever possible, and implementing process automation initiatives such as going paperless as part of our digitalisation plan to improve our business processes and increase productivity.

In terms of our products, we have been implementing constructive methods to develop smart and green buildings through sustainable design, construction and operations to reduce carbon emissions, energy [usage] and waste; conserve water; introduce safer materials; and lower exposure to toxins. We also aim to enhance existing assets by introducing AI (artificial intelligence) to provide actionable insights and steps to improve our buildings’ energy efficiency.

We are also cultivating a responsible and sustainable supply chain by introducing sustainability as a criteria to our panel of contractors, suppliers and consultants, and implementing procurement policies that prioritise materials that are eco-friendly and reusable.

To ensure a healthy, safe and hygienic working environment for our employees and contractors and prevent workplace accidents, we have adopted best practises by adhering to the Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series (OHSAS) certification.

We continue to nurture and grow a dynamic workforce by adopting a people-centric human resources approach to retain and recruit personnel, and introducing robust job-specific upskilling and credentialing programmes to equip employees with new skills and provide opportunities for them to move into bigger roles in the organisation.

We also work closely with the communities where our developments are located, on community programmes such as the distribution of essential items to families in need, literacy programmes for underserved children and skill and knowledge development programmes for single mothers.

Save by subscribing to us for your print and/or digital copy.

P/S: The Edge is also available on Apple's AppStore and Androids' Google Play.

      Text Size