Country Garden Malaysia cuts close to 400 jobs

KUALA LUMPUR: Country Garden Malaysia, the subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Country Garden Holdings Co Ltd, has laid off hundreds of staff since December 2019.

It is said as a result of the company’s recent restructuring, nearly 400 personnel were given the option to accept a severance package and leave within 48 hours, or leave their jobs and negotiate for compensation with the company’s lawyers later. According to a source, the restructuring or what was called “manpower optimisation exercise” was announced in October 2019 through department meetings.

The company’s flagship development in Malaysia, Forest City, had apparently let go of at least 60% of its staff — Malaysians and China expatriates. More are expected to leave after the Lunar New Year, with another two rounds of downsizing in March and June. As at March 2019, Forest City, in Johor, had 1,078 Malaysians and 296 expatriate staff.

When contacted, an officer in the Johor Baru Labour Department said it has not received any retrenchment notice from Country Garden Malaysia.

According to the Employment Act 1955 (EA) and the Employment (Termination and Lay Off Benefits) Regulations 1980, employers are required to report retrenchments, voluntary separations, temporary lay-offs or employee pay cuts to the nearest Labour Office before any termination action. Failure to do so is an offence under the EA and the employer could be fined not more than RM10,000 for each offence.

“For any job cuts of more than five persons, the company must report to the Labour Office and furnish details such as compensation packages and reasons of retrenchment. If the terms are unfair to employees, we [officers] will step in to protect the employees’ rights,” said the officer.

Internal merging

It is said the job cuts were triggered by the company merging its four subsidiaries undertaking various projects in Malaysia. Sources said former regional president for Malaysia and Singapore Jason Fu’s role changed thereafter, so he resigned, with Jan 15 being his last day.

Fu joined Country Garden Holdings in September 2015 and was the face of Country Garden Malaysia.

He was involved in its Forest City project, which has an estimated gross development value of RM450 billion, and the 80-acre (32.38ha) Lake City @ KL North development, which saw its first residential launch in August 2019.

Other Country Garden Malaysia projects include Country Garden Diamond City in Semenyih, Selangor; Country Garden Central Park in Tampoi and Country Garden Danga Bay, both in Johor Baru.

Su Bai Yuan, taking over Fu, is Country Garden’s Forest City chief executive officer and Country Garden Holdings executive director.

When contacted, Country Garden Malaysia said Fu’s resignation is “to focus on his personal pursuits”.

In a statement to EdgeProp.my, it said the downsizing’s objective is to “cultivate the Malaysian market and have a unified interface within all sectors”.

It explained that it recently carried out a Malaysia-Singapore region integration combining the Malaysian office managing Danga Bay, Central Park, Diamond City and Lake City-KL North, with the Forest City office.

“During the integration, the organisation saw the need to manage overlapping skills and talents. Some of the talents were transferred to other departments that fit their skills, while some were reassigned to other projects.

“For those deciding to leave, their service was recognised with a fair package with a consensual understanding between both parties. The process was executed in accordance with Malaysia’s labour laws,” Country Garden Malaysia said in the statement.

Auctioning of company’s cars

Meanwhile, in a document sighted by EdgeProp.my, 63 cars registered under Country Garden Malaysia subsidiaries have been listed for public auction, slated for February.

The cars include luxury sedans, four-wheel drives, multi purpose and sport utility vehicles and compact cars manufactured between 2011 and 2018. Their reserve prices are between RM1,600 and RM119,200, totalling RM1.92 million.

Country Garden Malaysia described the car auction as part of its asset management where a systematic approach is taken to manage the organisation’s tangible or intangible assets.

“This includes disposing of company vehicles after several years. It is a standard approach taken by any organisation in this country.

“Vehicles exceeding their shelf lives in serving the organisation will first be offered to employees interested to own them at a lower-than-market price [via an auction]. Thereafter, the remaining vehicles will be sold to the public,” the company said.

Economist: RM1,200 minimum wage still below living wage in Klang Valley

KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama): A minimum wage of RM1,200 per month for a single adult living in the Klang Valley is still below the estimated living wage, says economist Professor Dr Yeah Kim Leng.

The academic at Sunway University’s Business School told Bernama it was likely that such individuals would need to have a supplementary income source to make ends meet, either by doing two jobs or deriving income from a side business.

A living wage is defined as the minimum income necessary for a worker to meet his basic needs including food, housing and other essential needs, while a minimum wage is an amount set by the authorities with the aim of protecting workers against unduly low pay.

In this connection, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, when tabling Budget 2020 on Oct 11, recommended that the minimum wage be increased to RM1,200 a month in major cities, effective next year.

Quoting a Bank Negara Malaysia study in 2018, Yeah said that the living wage for a single adult in Kuala Lumpur stood at RM2,700 per month, RM4,500 per month for a couple without children, and RM6,500 per month for a couple with two children.

He also noted that the monthly income of RM5,344 for B40 households (bottom 40% of income earners) in Kuala Lumpur in 2016, as reported by the Statistics Department, would make it challenging for such families to afford a home, car and other consumer durables.

“They can perhaps get by with basic necessities and other less costly essentials such as mobile phones and computers,” he said.

The economist added that it was difficult to determine the the absolute and relative poverty rates in Kuala Lumpur without a further breakdown of the B40 income profile – existing data merely indicates that out of the 2.8 million B40 households across the country, there are 55,600 such households in Kuala Lumpur.

Apart from Kuala Lumpur, the high cost of living is also felt by Selangor residents although they enjoy an average income that is higher compared to people in other states, notes economic analyst Dr Ahmed Razman Abdul Latiff from the Putra Business School at Universiti Putra Malaysia.

He told Bernama this was because they had house payments that were higher, while the cost of goods and services was also more expensive in the state, which was one of six whose combined contributions to the country’s gross domestic product in 2018 totalled 72.1%, according to data published by the Statistics Department in 2018.

The average household income in the state stands at about RM4,307 for B40 households, RM8,790 for M40 households (or middle 40% of income earners) and RM21,125 for T20 households (or top 20% of income earners).

Ahmed Razman called on the Selangor government to monitor the concerns of families, especially B40 households, to ensure they were not left behind in efforts to develop the state. – Bernama

Klang Valley’s property supply to rise in 2020

KLANG Valley property market is poised to gather more developments in 2020 despite the oversupply situation witnessed in 2019.

New projects include 11 high-end condominiums, seven office towers and six shopping centres.

The Real Estate Highlights for the second half of 2019 (2H19) by Knight Frank Malaysia noted that the 11 high-end condominium projects in Kuala Lumpur (KL), will add 6,151 units to the cumulative stock in the 1H20.

“Those are Tower 2 @ Star Residences (482 units), 8 Kia Peng (442), Sky Suites (986), The Manor (212), Novo Ampang (421), 18 Madge (50), The Estate (328), Agile Mont Kiara (813), Arte Mont Kiara (1,707), TWY Mont Kiara (484) and One Kiara (226),” the report read.

The cumulative supply of high-end condominiums in the Klang Valley amounted to 59,358 units for the first six months of 2019, following the completion of five projects that delivered another 2,572 units.

The five projects were Tower 1 @ Star Residences (557 units), Aria KL City Centre (KLCC) (598) and Stonor 3 (400), Novum Bangsar (729) and Sunway Mont Residences (288).

Four notable projects were also introduced in 2H19, including Alix Residences, Agile Embassy Garden Conlay and Core Residence @ Tun Razak Exchange (TRX).

Knight Frank Malaysia said the overall outlook for the KL highend residential market remains challenging amid the supply and demand imbalance.

However, aggressive marketing push for high-end residential products abroad, coupled with various available initiatives and incentives, would stimulate sales in the property market in 2020.

Office Market

Knight Frank Malaysia said two office buildings in the KL city namely TS Law Tower and Legasi Kampung Bharu with a combined net lettable area (NLA) of around 510,000 sq ft (47,380 sq m) are scheduled for completion in 2H20.

Meanwhile, in Selangor, five buildings to be completed by the second quarter are Block G @ Empire City, Block J @ Empire City (HCK Tower), Q Tower @ twentyfive.7, Tower 5 of PJ Sentral Garden City and i-Bhd Corporate Tower. The NLA was not stated.

“The growing availability of good grade space at competitive rentals in city fringe and decentralised office locations heightens competition in the tenant-led office market.

“Well-connected office locations supported by improved road and rail infrastructure, as well as a wide array of amenities, continue to garner strong demand,” Knight Frank Malaysia said.

The company added that it sees a growing trend of old office buildings being repurposed for new, or alternative usage depending on the location and neighbourhood.

The completion of the 1 Powerhouse Building and Tropicana Gardens Office Tower in 2H19 has brought the cumulative supply purpose-built office space in Klang Valley to about 108.07 million sq ft.

Retail Market

Six shopping centres, or supporting retail components within integrated developments, with a collective retail space of about 2.23 million sq ft are scheduled for completion or opening in 1H20, Knight Frank Malaysia said.

The retail spaces include Tropicana Gardens Mall, Pacific Star retail podium, retail components at The Exchange 106 @ TRX and Lot 91 @ KLCC, KL East Mall and Queensville Lifestyle Shopping Mall.

The firm said amid heightened competition and increased challenges in the retail market, selected existing shopping centres have embarked on asset enhancement initiatives to cater to the current trend.

“To survive in this digital age, shopping centres will need to re-invent themselves as retail spending continues to shift online.

“In the short-to-medium term, we expect to see more operators and retail players embracing technological changes, as well as interactive and experiential engagements to drive footfalls and boost sales as the country’s e-commerce market, which reportedly tripled in size since 2015, continues its strong growth momentum,” Knight Frank Malaysia noted.

The cumulative supply of retail space in the Klang Valley remained at 60.48 million sq ft as of 2H19, as new malls were delaying their opening to 2020.

Malaysian residential real estate prices to climb in 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s residential real estate prices, rents, and sales numbers will increase significantly next year and in 2021, according to a survey of 386 Malaysian real estate agents.

Juwai.com executive chairman Georg Chmiel said Malaysia is attracting companies and operations that otherwise might have gone to China.

“The lower price threshold for foreign buyer purchasing will also help absorb some of the unsold inventory that has been weighing on the market.

“While the price thresholds are only being lowered for one year, hopefully that will give foreign investors enough time to purchase,” he said.

For the market to be healthy, developers need to sell those unwanted units so they can build more projects that are suitable for local buyers.

The survey was conducted in November 2019 by Juwai IQI, one of the largest real estate groups in Southeast Asia with more than 7,000 agents.

Juwai IQI group executive director Kashif Ansari said the survey is the first large-scale effort to quantify and forecast trends in the Malaysian real estate industry by asking industry experts.

“We share the positive outlook reported in the survey, within rational bounds. Agents have a very strong, positive outlook on the future of the residential real estate sector over the next 12 and 24 months,” he said in a statement.

On Malaysia, Kashif said the survey findings showed the states with the most robust price-growth outlook are Kuantan and Ipoh.

He said respondents predicted prices in Kuantan will grow 9.4 per cent over the next 12 months.

Prices in Ipoh are meanwhile pegged to grow 7.6 per cent over 12 months, he added.

Kashif however said the states with the weakest outlook for price growth are Penang, with 2.1 per cent forecast growth, and Sarawak with forecast growth of 3.4 per cent.

Rehda’s Soam: A property market crash will lead to wealth destruction

The property sector has “multiplier effects” on more than 140 industries in the country, and any property market crash will lead to wealth destruction for the peopleReal Estate and Housing Developers’ Association Malaysia (Rehda) president Datuk Soam Heng Choon said in a report by The Edge Malaysia this week. Continue reading “Rehda’s Soam: A property market crash will lead to wealth destruction”

Give developers of TOD projects option to reduce car park bays: Transport Minister

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Transport Minister Anthony Loke (pictured) has proposed that transit-oriented development (TOD) projects be given relaxation to reduce the number of car park bays as a measure to lower the prices of houses.

He said the proposal will also encourage residents to use public transport and indirectly reduce traffic congestion while buyers can choose not to have a car park bay. Continue reading “Give developers of TOD projects option to reduce car park bays: Transport Minister”

Lower property price threshold for foreigners: It could attract Singaporeans

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There could be “some positive reaction from Singaporeans” when the foreign property price threshold reduction from RM1 million to RM600,000 kicks in, a property expert told Free Malaysia Today (FMT).

“There may be a fair number of Singaporeans who may see it as an investment opportunity,” Rahim and Co International CEO Siva Shanker (pictured) told the news portal. Continue reading “Lower property price threshold for foreigners: It could attract Singaporeans”