UOA Development holds middle course

28 May 2014 / 05:40 H.

KUALA LUMPUR: UOA Development Bhd, which plans to roll out more than RM2 billion worth of properties this year, sees no slowdown in demand for its developments and will continue to focus on mid-range properties to mitigate the effects of property cooling measures.
Its general manager Eugene Lee (pix) said the focus on the middle-end market is a conscious business strategy because it is less susceptible to speculation.
"I think the cooling measures have definitely had an effect on the property market. However, we (UOA Development) have always been cautious and that is why we emphasise on developing the middle-end market," Lee told SunBiz recently.
In keeping with this, all of UOA Development's launches in Kuala Lumpur this year, namely Sentul, Jalan Ipoh, Old Klang Road, Kepong, Taman Desa and its flagship development at Bangsar South, are priced below RM1 million and targeted at first home buyers and young working adults.
Despite their mid-range mantra, however, UOA Development is an industry leader when its comes to profit margins. The group enjoys about 40% margin for its developments, compared to other developers which traditionally see about 30%.
Lee attributes this to the group's landbanking activities in the periphery of Kuala Lumpur in the last several years.
"Generally our margins are over 40% because our land (acquisition) cost is low. We hope to keep these margins and so we have to be a bit a more prudent when buying land.
He acknowledged however that property would cost more in future but demand for affordable homes would still continue in Greater KL.
"Five years from now we would still be in Greater KL doing what we know best. We will focus in building the right product in the right place together with costruction as well," he said.
Lee is sure that the mid range market namely in apartments and offices will remain as the group's "bread and butter" in future.
Currently, 70% of its sales are from the residential segment and the balance 30% from commercial projects.
"I do see that (portfolio mix) to maintain this year as well," said Lee, adding that its undeveloped landbank would maintain the same ratio as well.
UOA Development has 1,240 acres of undeveloped land located in Kepong, Old Klang Road, Sentul, Jalan Ipoh, Segambut and Bangsar South.
"Based on the current development that we have as well future projects, we have RM18 billion worth of property development that should keep us busy over a span of 7 to10 years," he said.
With RM800 million in net cash as at Dec 31 2014, Lee opined that this should provide the company with flexibility in exploring landbanking opportunities.
"We are a net cash company with marginal gearing. We are prudent with our balance sheet. We are always looking to expand out landbank if and when there is an opportunity that arises," he said.
Lee said that the company's landbank profile scattered around Greater Kuala Lumpur is catered to the mid-market segment and would remain so in future despite burgeoning interest in Johor's Iskandar region and Penang.
When asked if the company is considering jumping on the Iskandar bandwagon, Lee said, "Nothing for now. We have definitely looked at Iskandar. It's a wonderful place but we got so much to do in the Klang Valley alone."
He pointed out that taking up another project outside the Klang Valley would stretch the company's resources since most of its construction, engineering and architecture works are done internally.
"We do our own construction as well. This not only help us come up with the right products and cut delivery time, it also helps make some savings," Lee said.
As at December 31 2013, the developer's unbilled sales stood at RM1.3 billion, with RM3.4 billion GDV properties launched.
The projects include Kenchana Square in Shah Alam (GDV RM1.5 million), Scenario@North Kiara Hills in Segambut (RM600 million), Phase One of Desa Green at Taman Sea (GDV RM600 million), and Phase two of Vertical as well as Block A of South View Residence at Bangsar South (GDV RM350 million and RM300 million respectively).
Its been said that one of the reasons for the strong new sales is UOA Development's ability to adapt to changing market conditions. Even in the office space market where there is a glut, its projects are selling well.
UOA Development saw full-year earnings for the financial year ended Dec 31 2013 climb 20.4% to RM362.8 million from RM310.3 million a year before, as revenue saw a 55% improvement to RM1.25 billion from RM799 million.


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