Development projects must submit social, environmental assessment reports
It is compulsory for all development projects after Jan 16 this year to prepare and submit the Social Impact Assessment (SIA) and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports as a condition for approval of the projects. Previously, developers only needed to prepare the EIA report where the SIA aspect was part of the report. The SIA report was important to ensure that the social aspect was taken into account in planning and development carried out by the government and private sector. The Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry has also been rebranded as the Town and Country Planning Department to PLANMalaysia. (Malay Mail Online)

Johor sultan to launch affordable housing scheme for 59th birthday
Johor’s Sultan Ibrahim will unveil a special surprise for Johoreans over an affordable housing scheme to mark his 59th birthday celebration, which falls on Thursday, saying that the gift for his subjects would be in Bandar Dato Onn, Johor Bahru. The freehold project, under the Sultan Ibrahim Foundation and in collaboration with Bank Rakyat, would see different concepts for residential and commercial units. Successful applicants would only need to pay a deposit of RM1 for a full loan with an easy repayment scheme for bungalows and semi-detached houses priced below RM100,000 per unit. The offer would be opened to all Bangsa Johor but the selection process would be stringent. (AsiaOne)

number of properties for auctionAuction properties fall for third consecutive year
The number of properties that went under the hammer fell for the third consecutive year in 2016, despite the prolonged slowdown, thanks to the earlier property boom that had lifted prices. According to a local auction website, the auction market has seen a decline in listings over the years, with the total number of listings down 8% in 2016. The appreciation of property prices has enabled financially stressed owners to sell their houses or apartments at a profit, instead of putting it up for auction by the banks. Furthermore, banks are more willing to restructure mortgages that have been defaulted when the property value has gone up. Transactions are active for cheaper properties, especially those priced below RM400,000, but auctioneers noted there were more high-valued properties going under the hammer in 2016 due to oversupply and tighter lending conditions. (The Edge Markets)

Stocks rally as foreign funds buy into construction, property
Construction and property stocks rallied in a market that saw foreign funds becoming net buyers. Companies deemed to be beneficiaries of large construction projects saw some action. WCT Holdings Bhd, Malton Bhd, Gamuda Bhd, Fajarbaru Bhd and WZ Satu Bhd were among the top gainers last week. Speculation is rife that large government projects will be farmed out soon. For the week ended March 16, foreign investors bought RM939.9mil worth of Malaysian equities compared with local institutions who remained net sellers at RM837.8mil. (The Star Online)

NSTP printing plant for sale at RM25mil
The New Straits Times Press (NSTP) media group is selling one of its printing plants for RM25 million, according to an advertisement carried by the New Straits Times (NST). The property, measuring 58,000 sq m with a built-up area of 9,000 sq m, is located at the Ajil Industrial Area in Hulu Terengganu, Terengganu. The site was among two printing plants — the other in Senai, Johor — that the newspaper was reported to have decided to shut down last year, believed to be due to dwindling revenues from newspaper sales and advertising. (Free Malaysia Today)

CIMB bags ‘Best Retail Bank in Malaysia’ award
CIMB Bank Bhd has won “Best Retail Bank in Malaysia” at the International Excellence in Retail Financial Services Awards Programme 2017 by The Asian Banker. CIMB group consumer banking chief executive officer Samir Gupta said the best retail bank award was reflective of its continuous efforts to deliver great customer experience, in line with today’s consumer expectations and also preference for online and mobile banking. CIMB’s Enhanced Virtual Assistant (EVA), the first chat-bot banking application in Asean, also won “Internet Banking Product of the Year” recently at a ceremony held in Tokyo. (The Star Online)

IJM investing 74% stake in Indian highway concessionaire
IJM Corp Bhd has established a private vehicle — IJM Dewas (Mauritius) Ltd — to invest up to 74% stake in Dewas Bypass Tollway Pte Ltd, a highway concessionaire in India. The concessionaire is involved in the widening and upgrading of the 19.8km Dewas Bypass Road in Madhya Pradesh, India, to a four- and six-lane highway. The works are to be done on a design, build, operate and transfer basis, IJM said. It was reported that a sum of 2.86 billion rupees (RM194 million) is to be spent by the state-owned Madhya Pradesh Road Development Corp Ltd on the road. (The Edge Markets)