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Legacy of The Lim Lineage

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Likewise, the building of the LBS Bina Group Berhad (LBS) empire was the result of years of prudent planning, execution and hard work which was started from humble beginnings by Founder and Chairman Dato’ Seri Lim Bock Seng in 1982 as a construction and transportation company.

The elder Lim decided that it was time for his son Tan Sri Lim Hock San JP to head home after graduating with First Class Honours in Civil Engineering from the University of Wales, UK to helm the family business involved in construction works and lorry transportation which later expanded into property development, insurance and tourism.

The younger Lim heeded his father’s call and faithfully tended to the business until he was appointed the Managing Director of the Group in December 2001.

And, as they say, the rest is history.

Now, after 35 years, Hock San has led the group into another level of excellence with his prudent yet practical management style and forward-looking strategies. Testimony to this are the numerous awards and accolades the firm has garnered over the years.

Prominent awards that have added many feathers to LBS’ illustrious cap of achievements include emerging as Property Insight Prestigious Developer Awards (PIPDA) 2017’s Developer of the Year; The BrandLaureate BestBrands Award’s The Most Valuable Brand for Property and the International Academy for International Research (IAIR) Awards’ Best Company for Leadership Property Development Malaysia – Global category (International Academy for Intercultural Research). LBS was also singled out for South East Asia Property Awards Malaysia 2016’s Special Recognition for the Corporate Social Responsibility category and the list goes on.

This philanthropist and active advocate of social and community projects also sits on the board of many charitable organisations in which he plays a key role which include being the President of the Malaysia Chamber of Commerce in China-Guangdong and Honorary President of the Malaysia-China Silk Road Entrepreneurs Association.

He is also the Honorary Life Adviser of The Federation of Chinese Associations Malaysia and Honorary Adviser of the Malaysia-China Chamber of Commerce.

Hock San’s contributions have also resulted in him being conferred with the World Chinese Economic Summit (WCES) Lifetime Achievement Award for his efforts in enhancing bilateral relations between Malaysia and China (Guangdong Province) in 2015.

Early Beginnings

Hock San, 60, has always displayed a consistent and persistent approach in his management style in bringing the company through the two cycles of economic crisis as in the  Asian Financial Crisis of 1997/1998 and the Global Economic Crisis of 2007/2008.

These trying years taught him invaluable lessons which include to always stay focused and never give up. Sharing how he navigated the organisation through these crisis, he says maintaining close contacts with the banks, stakeholders, clients and management team were crucial for its survival during the lean and trying times.

A firm believer in executing the right strategy at the right time, the prudent developer has the advantage of a massive total land bank spanning 4,886 acres as at August 31 earmarked for future developments throughout Malaysia with an estimated gross development value  (GDV) of RM30 billion. Hence, it  is able to balance its launches according to market demand.

Championing affordably priceD properties

In fact, LBS has championed and rolled out several affordably priced housing projects ahead of its time as opposed to the current economic slowdown which has witnessed other developers only launching these initiatives now.

The advantage of its early entry into this segment of the market saw LBS capitalising on competitively priced raw materials and lower construction costs when the company decided to develop its range of projects. The Federal State Government has also lauded LBS’ decision to concentrate on affordable or medium-low costs homes.

“LBS has championed medium-cost homes since the 1990s. During the crisis of 1997/1998, we started developing in Serdang, Seri Kembangan, with support from my brothers Datuk Wira Lim Hock Guan and Major (Hon) Dato’ Sri Lim Hock Sing which turned out to be a successful project,” says Hock San.

He relates how the confidence level overall was sluggish in the various industries with many businesses struggling with the hardship and crisis of the currency downfall.

Despite all these challenges, this public-listed developer stood firm and acquired the purchase of more land by securing loans from banks.

Throughout the years, one of LBS’ strategy is to buy land in strategic areas and hold on to them before launching projects at the right time according to the needs of the market.

During the trying period and also in better times, Hock San says that although the group’s profit margin is not as lucrative or profitable as compared to other developers launching high-end properties, considering LBS rolls out affordably priced properties, nevertheless, the satisfaction in completing the projects on time and delivering good quality to benefit purchasers is reward in itself.

LBS’ sterling performance record of never failing to complete all of its projects on time speaks volumes about the developer walking its talk. Not surprisingly, Hock San believes a good developer is one who never fails to deliver completed projects on time.

Overcoming Challenges

Challenges are part and parcel of the business but being able to be versatile in carrying out changes within a short span of time can help with turnarounds as was the case in 2007 when construction costs escalated to an all time high.

He shares that in order to manage this huge challenge, LBS decided to establish its own in-house construction arm in MITC Engineering (MITCE).

Eventually, it incorporated MITCE into a larger company called ML Global Bhd to take over the construction business in order to beef up and handle quality control.

This wise strategy employed since 2007 has seen LBS not only raking in sizeable profits but continuing to grow in stature.

Already, LBS is confident that it will achieve its projected RM1.5 billion sales target for 2017 even as the company plans to launch concurrent projects worth more than RM1.9 billion this year.

In fact, early this year when the whole industry was anticipating challenging times given the negative property outlook and the market being slow to recover, Hock San was on the other hand, optimistic and predicted the country would achieve at least a gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 5 per cent. Proving him right and more, the country’s GDP went ahead to achieve a record of 5.6 per cent.

Hock San asserts, “When the country’s economic growth remains consistent, the property market should perform well moving forward. The China Government’s initiatives concerning the One Belt One Road will attract foreign investors into the country and give breathing space for more plans to materialise.”

Believe-Become-Behold

LBS continues to push ahead more affordable homes projects. Moving forward, Hock San doesn’t discount the possibility of launching more high-end developments if the market calls for it.

In 2011, he introduced a rebranding exercise and restrategised LBS’ business model to upmarket its medium to low development projects.

LBS’ slogan of Believe-Become-Behold has indeed set a benchmark for the company to build high quality developments banking on ongoing commitments to ensure long term sustainability.

Hock San admits that looking back at the early years, he regrets having to sell off certain really prime and strategic land banks in order to stay lean and afloat during trying times.

“We adapted by adopting fast decisions to sell as opposed to the original plan to develop these land banks. In the case of Bandar Saujana Putra, we originally planned to build double-storey units which we anticipated would be slow to sell. Hence, we decided to convert this development into single-storey houses with selling prices of between RM150,000 and RM180,000,” he shares.

This strategy proved wise and in line with the company’s stand to never solely depend on merely developing one project at a time. Networking among industry players Hock San says, gives him added leverage and knowledge needed to navigate and execute his marketing strategies according to the dictates of the market in line with local and global occurrences.

Latest Launches

LBS recently acquired M3 Shopping Mall, a shopping mall which has a gross floor and net lettable areas of 587,572 sq ft and 182,609 sq ft respectively.

The project purchased at RM105 million is now valued at RM107 million. Currently 83 per cent tenanted, the M3 Shopping Mall is considered another strategic commercial investment identified by LBS.

Counted among the newly launched projects this year is LBS’ high-rise lakeside development known as LBS SkyLake Residence. The development comprises two blocks of serviced apartment units totalling 746 with built-up areas starting from 545 sq ft priced from RM331,900 as well as one shoplot unit.

There are also 112 affordable homes under LBS SkyLake Residence with built-up areas ranging from 545 sq ft to 1,063 sq ft which are priced from RM250,000.

LBS SkyLake Residence with an overall GDV of RM372 million boasts easy accessibility via Lebuhraya Damansara-Puchong (LDP) and the North-South Expressway Central Link (Elite). It is only a 15 minutes’ drive away from Bandar Putri Puchong and 25 minutes to Sunway, Petaling Jaya, Bukit Jalil and about 30 minutes to Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). The total acreage for this project is 5.079 acres.

“LBS prefers looking for bigger townships now to develop them faster and reduce their holding costs. Now, LBS is capable of buying lands to develop townships within a span of six months to a year,” affirms Hock San.

LBS, with its different land banks in varying locations with multiple product offerings, continues to ride on its excellent reputation.

As such, banks are willing to facilitate loans to LBS which has a sterling reputation for developing townships such as in the case of its affordably priced Bandar Saujana Putra (BSP) which was developed in various stages comprising serviced apartments, single-storey link houses, double-storey semi-detached homes, townhouses as well as commercial units.

Being part of the gargantuan development is BSP Skypark, a duly completed project comprising serviced residences with 689 units priced from RM591,900. The built-up areas for the unit start from 1,004 sq ft.

The BSP township project spanning 850 acres was established in 2003 and is the first township developed by LBS.

The recent hot selling project in this township is BSP21. The development comprises a total of 2,602 serviced residences and 28 shoplots. The built-up area for the serviced residences range between 610 sq ft and 1,711 sq ft with the units being priced from RM312,387.

The project has a GDV worth RM1.4 billion. As of September, about 89 per cent of the units have been sold. With over 70 facilities available within the development, BSP21 has proven that affordability and lifestyle can go hand in hand.

The upcoming launch of BSP6 comprises 684 units of serviced residences with built-ups starting from 1,049 sq ft. The project has a GDV of RM387 million.

Meanwhile, BSP Village is part of a 56-acre commercial development which comprises 164 units with built-up areas starting from 2,761 sq ft for a two-storey unit and 4,425 sq ft for a three-storey unit.

LBS is also developing the affordable Rumah Selangorku homes at Alam Perdana situated near Ijok in Selangor which is targeted for launch in October.

The development spanning a 470-acre plot comprises 980 units of double-storey landed townhouses and 673 units of double-storey terraces which have recorded positive registration to date.

The double-storey townhouses with built-up areas starting from 969 sq ft are priced from RM368,000. Meanwhile, the terraced units with built-up areas from 1,200 sq ft are priced from RM469,900. In all, LBS Alam Perdana’s total GDV is RM627 million.

PPA1M Mercu Jalil  is another affordable housing development launched for Government staff spanning 5.43 acres of land located in Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur. This project with built-up areas of its units ranging between 1,000 sq ft and 1,200 sq ft are priced from RM245,000.  The development with a GDV of RM353 million comprises two blocks of 47-storey apartments. It is expected to be completed in September 2020.

On the northern side of Brinchang in Cameron Highlands, LBS’ Cameron Centrum project represents its largest commercial offerings with its range of malls, hotels, plazas, residences, galleries, recreational facilities and more.

Precinct 1 of the Cameron Centrum project spanning 5.66 acres comprises a total of 58 units ranging in built-up areas of between 2,185 sq ft and 9,214 sq ft. The project with a GDV of RM185.21 million was launched this year and is expected to be completed by 2021. The units are priced between RM1.45 million and RM5.55 million.

In the pipelines in Kulai, Johor is another of LBS’ land bank which will be developed into a township.

Property Market Outlook

Hock San says, “On the economic front, it is common for investors to watch and wait. Nevertheless, although commercial products offerings are slightly on a low take-up rate generally speaking, Cameron Centrum is picking up and charting good progress. Thus, I believe the slowdown is temporary.”

He opines that LBS will continue to acquire land banks in strategic locations and will design products according to market demand. A study done to access market requirements for homes would form part of LBS’ ongoing mission to deliver fitting products, as the younger generation would prefer to buy condominiums with extensive facilities.

Hock San believes that the current economic situation would pick up in the next three years. He anticipates changes in market demand. Hence, developers he says, need to be sensitive and quick to respond to these changes by adapting their product offerings accordingly.

Hock San has planned LBS’ future strategies in line with it achieving higher profit margins to reinforce the confidence level of stakeholders and investors alike.

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