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Singapore firm to pump $120m into Iskandar


SINGAPORE retail and property player Link (THM) Holdings will pump about RM300 million (S$120 million) into developing a mega integrated project in Johor’s Iskandar region.

This is the first time a Singapore privately owned firm has embarked by itself on a large-scale property development project in Medini Iskandar, part of the wider Iskandar development area.

The Media Village project – to be built over four phases on almost 6ha of land – will comprise more than 2,000 small office, home office (Soho) apartments and business suites.

Retail space comprising 1.1 million sq ft will also be 70 per cent filled with food and beverage outlets. The site is next to Pinewood Studios, a 10-minute drive from the Tuas checkpoint.

The total development value of the project is estimated to be RM2.5 billion, Link founder and group chief executive Kenny Tan said, with the land cost coming in at about RM100 million.

He said he approached the investment cautiously at first when the opportunity came up 2 1/2 years ago. But he is now confident about the Iskandar development region in Johor Baru as the government there has shown that it can deliver, with the opening of Legoland in September last year and Pinewood Studios later this year.

And while there are general concerns about the security and sustainability of Malaysian projects, “the infrastructure is very different in Medini and you will be convinced… if you visit”, he said.

Some firms have approached Link to be partners in the project but Mr Tan said the firm “is still very comfortable with our own cash flow and we are very confident that we will be able to pull this off ourselves”.

However, he is open to working with partners who can bring on board new ideas and expertise.

Some foreign institutional funds have also expressed interest in early acquisition of the residential and business suite segments of Media Village, he said. This interest from funds and private investors is a vote of confidence in the project and reduces the firm’s risk, Mr Tan added.

The apartments and business suites are expected to be launched for sale by the end of this year, which will help fund the construction of the project.

Home prices are about RM750 per sq ft (psf) now for non-landed homes in the area and the firm “will not be asking above the market”, he added.

Mr Tan said the project will be launched internationally in countries such as China and the United States as well.

The retail segment will be split into seven cultural themes: Japan, India, Korea, China, Europe, the United States and a Malay kampung.

Each area will be done up to reflect its theme. The US-themed retail area, for example, will have a miniature Rodeo Drive. This will make the project stand out among its competition and make it “sustainable”, with shoppers returning to experience the different themes, Mr Tan said.

The spillover from Singapore’s healthy tourism arrivals is expected to boost Iskandar’s visitor numbers – and, in turn, visitors to Media Village, which will be fully completed in 2018.

Mr Tan estimates that 50 per cent of tourists in Singapore might stop over in Iskandar down the track.

He also revealed that the firm has started talks with bankers and could possibly list on the Singapore Exchange within the next two years.