Malaysian player Gamuda to grow land bank in Singapore

A leading Malaysian infrastructure group is looking to expand its land bank here after it successfully bid for a prime private residential site in Toa Payoh in June.

Gamuda and its partners, Evia Real Estate and Maxdin, clinched the tender for a 99-year leasehold site in Toa Payoh Lorong 6 for $345.86 million.

Gamuda group managing director Lin Yun Ling told The Straits Times last Thursday that the property market may have reached a turning point although it may not pick up quickly. “I remember three, four years ago, we felt it was very ‘toppish’ and not the right time. But we thought in the recent months that it is probably the bottom.”

Private home prices fell 4 per cent last year, compared with an increase of 1.1 per cent in 2013 and a 2.8 per cent increase in 2012.

Gamuda, which is listed in Malaysia with a market capitalisation of US$3 billion (S$4.2 billion), began seeking growth opportunities in Singapore about two years ago.

It mulled over a residential site in Paya Lebar under the Government Land Sales programme earlier this year, but decided against submitting a bid.

Gamuda has revealed little about its plans for the Toa Payoh site, except to say the project will focus on a “lifestyle” concept. It is considering offering incentives such as a temporary golf membership to buyers to play at the 18-hole Horizon Hills township course in Iskandar Malaysia.

Gamuda said the development in Toa Payoh could be soft launched in March at an indicative average price of about $1,400 per square foot.

“It is really just dipping our toes into the water, there will be the next stage after the toes of course, the feet, even if it is not the legs. We will probably approach it that way,” Mr Lin said, referring to the company’s move into Singapore as “logical growth”.

The foray into Singapore will also help boost its non-ringgit revenue, which Mr Lin said has accounted for a lot of the company’s growth. Gamuda has operations in Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Taiwan, India, Australia and Qatar.

Mr Lin, 60, who joined Gamuda in 1977 as a senior project engineer, played an instrumental role in transforming the firm from a sub-contractor to an infrastructure and property conglomerate. He was appointed managing director in 1981, a position he has held since.

Under his watch, the group has jointly built the dual-purpose Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel (Smart), with MMC Corporation, which was completed in 2007 and named the best international project at the British Construction Industry Awards in 2008.

Smart incorporates a double-deck motorway within a stormwater tunnel, helping to alleviate flooding as well as easing traffic congestion in the Southern Gateway of Kuala Lumpur.

The MMC-Gamuda joint venture company is also the project delivery partner in the construction of Line One of the Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit in Kuala Lumpur. Its primary function is to ensure the project is completed within the target cost and date. This includes overseeing design consultants, managing procurement processes and integrating various contractors.

Given its experience in large infrastructure projects, Mr Lin said Gamuda will not rule out taking part in development projects in Singapore. However, the value of these would be an important consideration.

“Right now, we are tendering our Line Two underground (in KL); the package is about RM15 billion (S$5 billion). I will never see a project even half the size in Singapore,” he said, adding that the lack of large projects has crimped growth of Singapore contractors.

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