MACC uncovers Johor land scam
Anti-graft officers from MACC have uncovered the plot of a massive land scandal in Johor involving tens of millions of ringgit, which started in 2013, after sifting through stacks of documents seized from state government and developers. The modus operandi was simple – convert bumiputra housing lots to non-bumiputra lots, which can fetch much higher prices. Hundreds of houses were converted this way, with one of the six suspects rounded up in a swoop on Friday said to be the “chief broker”. It was found that many of these bumiputra lots were kept using the name of the developers’ workers under the quota system, then converted to non-bumiputra lots after a certain time with the reason that there were no interested buyers. A total of 45 bank accounts with RM15.5mil belonging to the six suspects has been frozen. (The Star Online)

Developers holding back on land banking
The slowdown in the property market will see plenty of developers holding back plans to purchase new land bank this year. According to Kenanga Investment Bank Bhd equity research head Sarah Lim, 2017 will likely see the bigger developers such as SP Setia and Eco World acquiring new land. Land prices have stabilised but developers are still waiting for bargains to emerge. Lower land cost is essential as demand is largely for affordable housing or townships. Most developers are cautious about overloading their books with land as sales may remain lacklustre while they concentrate on cashflow and keeping their balance sheets light. (The Star Online)

Meda Inc cancels plan for RM882mil property project in KL
Meda Inc Bhd has cancelled the purchase of a 4.18-acre site in Chan Sow Lin industrial estate of Kuala Lumpur, where it had planned to undertake a GDV RM882 million mixed development project. The property developer, which is also involved in hotel operations and palm oil cultivation, said that taking into account the current property market outlook, it and the land’s vendors had mutually decided to cancel the deal. Meda had proposed to develop serviced apartments and commercial properties on the land, with development to begin end of 2015. (The Star Online)

UK student accommodation remains top investment asset for Malaysians
UK student accommodation remains the top property investment choice for Malaysian property investors, with the number increasing. According to CSI Properties, a real estate consultancy marketing foreign property in Malaysia, there was a significant increase in the number of Malaysian investors interested in UK student accommodation in 2016. The market is staying resilient through Brexit because of the ongoing demand for UK higher education, in addition to the weaker pound being more attractive to overseas students. (Malay Mail Online)

sp setia corporate headquartersSP Setia plans to develop projects worth RM5.41bil
Property developer SP Setia Bhd is targeting multiple launches with a potential GDV of RM5.41bil, and has set a RM4 billion sales target for the current financial year. More than three-quarters of sales are expected to come from local projects. It also expects to see a rise in overseas sales to 20% for 2017, up from 8% last year. For this year, it will launch more mid-priced landed properties and affordable homes. The mid-priced landed properties consist of terraced units ranging from RM600,000 to RM800,000. Demand for property in the Klang Valley was still strong, while in Johor, there is rising demand for double-storey landed homes. (The Star Online)

Most abandoned private housing projects revived
According to the National Housing Department, there were 253 abandoned private housing projects in Peninsular Malaysia between 2009 and February 2017, involving more than 64,000 housing units. Out of the 253 projects, about 186 have either been revived and completed, or are in the stage of negotiations for resumption of construction. Out of 186 projects, 31 have been rehabilitated, with the allocation spent amounting to almost RM205 million. Financial problems faced by private developers were among the reasons why housing projects stalled. (New Straits Times Online)

Hilton boost for i-City development
Property developer I-Bhd, best known for its 72-acre i-City development in Shah Alam, has a number of projects in the pipeline for its freehold ultrapolis. Among them is its DoubleTree by Hilton i-City Hotel, a four-star, 300-room hotel with GDV of RM250mil. The hotel is slated to be opened in 2019, and will be the second international hotel chain within i-City after Best Western. The Hilton is set to be a game changer and is expected to set a benchmark for luxury hotels and transform the Mice (meeting, incentive, convention and exhibition) sector in Malaysia. It will feature the first 360-degree LED digital canvas in its grand ballroom, supported by state-of-the-art light and sound systems. (The Star Online)

SP Setia to launch RM1.55bil Melbourne towers by 2H17
SP Setia Bhd is planning to launch its two-tower development in Melbourne with a GDV of RM1.55 billion by the second half of this year. It has submitted the planning and hopes to get approval by mid-year, and is also targeted to launch a RM140mil project in Prahan, Melbourne this year, comprising 100 units of low-rise apartments for local buyers. Meanwhile, the group’s Battersea Power Station development in the UK witnessed the staggered completion and handover of Phase 1 units. As of December 2016, two of the 12 blocks had been completed and delivered to purchasers. (The Edge Markets)