Straits Times, November 26, 2007
By Jessica Cheam
MALAYSIAN tycoon Francis Yeoh, who helms YTL Group, one of Malaysia's largest listed companies, is intent on an aggressive expansion in Asia - starting in Singapore.
The Republic is the target of the first part of his grand plan to build a series of world-class marinas and residential clusters in coastal areas around Asia.
He wants Asia to be known as the 'Mediterranean and Caribbean of the East'.
"Real estate has not seen its full glory yet in Asia," Tan Sri Dr Yeoh said in an interview with The Straits Times recently.
"Wealthy Asians are still paying a lot for not very good homes in the West, when they should be able to find beautiful homes in the East."
To address this, YTL is now focused on gaining entry into the top tier of Asia's property markets, starting with Singapore, he said.
YTL, with a combined market worth of about RM28.5 billion (S$12.2 billion), is a conglomerate that spans the construction, property, hotel and utilities industries. It recently teamed up with Malaysian developer LP Worlds to form a joint venture, Genesis-Alliance, which owns two projects at Sentosa Cove.
Genesis-Alliance, in which YTL holds a majority stake, was awarded the 145,442 sq ft, man-made Sandy Island in March for $89.7 million, after it bagged the Lakefront in the northern part of Sentosa Cove for the bargain price of $50.2 million in September last year.
Sentosa will be an important 'mid-point' for yachts cruising in Asia in the future, said Dr Yeoh. Hence, the need for a presence in the Republic.
"Singapore is the centre of the region, like London is the centre of Europe. Its strong infrastructure, private banking sector and cosmopolitan culture makes it an attractive destination."
YTL's strategy is to rope in renowned architects and iconic brands to design quality homes, which will then be sold by invitation only to high net-worth individuals around the world.
It already has high-end properties, shopping malls, hotels and resorts in Malaysia, Dubai, Indonesia, Thailand and Europe, including a six-star hotel in St Tropez, France.
Sandy Island's super-luxurious villas, slated for launch next March, are designed by renowned Armani store designer Claudio Silverstrin.
Each villa, ranging from 6,000 sq ft to 12,000 sq ft and costing more than $12 million apiece, will boast a lush tropical setting, quality interior finishes, a private berth and pool among other exclusive features.
All this is meant to redefine indulgent living in Singapore and Asia. More homes in this style are on the way, he said.
The company is also eyeing Singapore's prime residential districts to build more of its high-end homes and to gain entry into the top-end of the island's property market.
"It's not too late yet," said Dr Yeoh, adding that a slice of the pie is big enough.
"But as a new kid on the block, to survive, we must differentiate ourselves. And this is where YTL comes in - at the very top of the pyramid."
The homes YTL builds will be eco-friendly and minimise the impact on the environment, Dr Yeoh added. "Asia is a beautiful location. In terms of real estate, I'm looking forward to a very exciting decade ahead."