Published April 19, 2007

KL luxury residential project a deal-maker's trophy

OneKL apartments stand to benefit from scrapping of property gains tax


THE name OneKL suggests that this development is one of a kind in Kuala Lumpur. And so it is. As well as the usual communal swimming pool, every one of the 94 apartments comes with its own private pool.

The whole development is presented as not so much a business venture, more a tribute to its begetter, the renowned Malaysian deal-maker Chua Ma Yu.

Mr Chua, educated at Singapore's Nanyang University, is the former stockbroker who co-founded RHB with Rashid Hussain in 1992 and exited after nine years with RM75 million (S$33 million) in his pocket. He then turned to the hospitality trade, building two hotels in the Philippines and another in Labuan, Malaysia.

He has long since sold his Philippines hotels (which had casino operations too) and by all accounts has done even better investing in value deals under his private Waterfront Capital group.

Earlier this year his name cropped up when Macau tycoon Stanley Ho and a group of investors, including Mr Chua, acquired a near 7 per cent stake in Hong Kong listed Star Cruises, which, along with Genting International, had won the bid for the second integrated resort in Singapore. That consortium is now being restructured.

Acknowledged as one of Malaysia's top deal-makers, Mr Chua has a reputation to maintain. Who better than to entrust the building of OneKL to than his 23-year old daughter Carmen? OneKL is on land that has been in the family for many years.

Carmen Chua, the eldest of four Chua offspring, is executive director of One KLCC - the wholly owned subsidiary of Mr Chua's Waterfront Capital group.

She says her taskmaster of a father would not let her compromise on the quality of work or materials that go into OneKL - the sluggish state of KL property prices at that point notwithstanding.

Little was spared to ensure the building fully exploits its enviable location adjacent to the Kuala Lumpur Twin Towers.

An international project team was assembled for the residential project: Singapore's SCDA was picked as OneKL's design architect, Japan's Shimizu Corporation was awarded the design and build contract plus mechanical & electrical works, Arup was selected as curtain-wall consultant, and Australia's DJ Coalition is in charge of designing the lighting.

All the apartments have already been sold off-plan through word of mouth mainly to friends and business associates. Foreigners account for 8 per cent of units sold.

At the time of sale the prices started from RM3.5 million, but on the resale market they are now much higher after real property gains tax was abolished last month. Even at the original prices, buying into OneKL was restricted to Kuala Lumpur's elite set, one of whom is Selangor ruler Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah.

One buyer apparently liked it so much he bought five apartments.

There's little not to like. All the apartments in the 35-storey building are duplex units, each with its own private lift access and 'infinity-edged' swimming pool. Even the car parks are swish, and there is security and CCTV surveillance around the clock, with the private lifts accessible only by fingerprint.

Ceilings are 21 feet high and there are full-height glass walls adding to the feeling of spaciousness. The apartments come fully fitted and furnished, with imported Italian marble and Burmese teak featuring prominently. Miele equipment is standard in the kitchen.

'The landmark building is meant to be his trophy building,'' said Ms Chua of her father. But in an interview with BT, she pointed out OneKL is not solely about him, but also about improving the quality levels of Malaysian buildings so they are closer to the international standards set in Singapore and Hong Kong.

As land costs comprise 30 per cent of total costs, many Malaysian developers could provide better quality materials and still make a decent profit, she said.

The London School of Economics graduate had wanted to retain 30 per cent of OneKL apartments for later sale, but because of strong demand, only managed to retain two units for the family.

She says that apartments on the secondary market are now selling at double the launch price of RM1,000 psf - setting a new price benchmark for Kuala Lumpur real estate.

Ms Chua said she does not intend to build more residential buildings after OneKL - which can only make the 94 apartments even more exclusive.

Construction of OneKL began in December 2005 and it is expected to be completed in February 2009 - when Ms Chua expects the building to be seen as a KL landmark.

The Malaysian capital will see two other high-grade apartment buildings soon, with The Binjai under construction by the listed property arm of Petronas, KLCC Holdings, and Ong Beng Seng's Four Seasons hotel and residential complex to be launched this year with local partner Sultan Sharafuddin.