Ekovest Berhad is bringing the best of both worlds – construction and property development
Ekovest Berhad is an investment holding company with a presence in construction, civil engineering and infrastructure, property development and toll concession. Founded in 1985 as Ekovest Bina Sdn Bhd, Ekovest went public in 1993 and was subsequently transferred to the Main Board of Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange in 2000. The founder and Executive Chairman of Ekovest Berhad, Tan Sri Dato’ Lim Kang Hoo built the company from a small construction outfit into a reputable infrastructure construction player. Under the present stewardship of Datuk Lim Keng Cheng, Ekovest is being steered to greater heights with strategic developments and acquisitions.
“We started in a place called Lahad Datu. That time, we were doing infrastructure works for FELDA at Kompleks Felda Sahabat. If you follow the news, you will remember there are a lot of pirates attacking our Sabah. During that time, there were many contractors who failed in the FELDA projects. So, we came to the rescue,” according to Datuk Lim.
He said Ekovest was able to save the project because they went there well-prepared and learnt about other people’s mistakes so that Ekovest does not repeat it.
“We were very well-prepared, so that’s why we managed to overcome the challenges. We made the money, and then from there, we started to venture in building construction. Our next project was the Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS). Actually, the entire university is mostly done by us.”
CONSTRUCTION – INNOVATIVE FOR GREATER VALUE
Construction has been Ekovest’s forte, having completed various projects all around Malaysia. Among notable projects which Ekovest had participated as the turnkey contractor include the Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), Universiti Tun Hussein Onn in Batu Pahat, Johor, and the Duta-Ulu Kelang Expressway (DUKE). Ekovest was also involved in the fitting out of the Petronas Twin Towers and in various infrastructure construction projects such as the Labuan Financial Park, Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), Kuala Lumpur Sentral Station and Putrajaya Federal Government offices. Construction has been Ekovest’s main revenue contributor and it is expected to continue to be the company’s mainstay.
“We are not like other property developers who are not in the construction business. Construction is the bread and butter of Ekovest. My father and I are contractors. So from a very young age, I know about construction.”
“As a contractor, Ekovest have the opportunity to design and build the master plan for our development projects. Therefore, we believe we can do better than others. We know how to add value to the development. We know the quality when it is completed. The philosophy is always “value for money”.”
Regarding the DUKE Highway, Datuk Lim said: “A lot of people can see the master plan of what we strive to achieve. But whether or not this can be done – you got experts who know whether this soil is suitable or if this alignment solves traffic dispersion issues or not. You must have knowledge and vision to achieve this. So this is something that not many people have.”
Ekovest’s advantage is to be able to works closely with authorities to know where the infrastructures are going to be built. “We roughly know where the next major infrastructures will be located. So when we invest in landbanks, we will follow the infrastructure planning.” Further, when asked about the current tender book, Datuk Lim replied “Just imagine, if we based on turnover alone, there’s probably more than a total of RM10 billion jobs that we have either completed or currently on-going. But for us to secure the RM10 billion jobs, we probably have to tender a few hundred billion worth of jobs.”
“So within that tender process, we do our homework and gather a lot of information. Even if I don’t get the tender and somebody else secures it, I will look into their implementation and the problems that they faced and how they encounter them. We keep those in mind. So if we identify potential issues in future tender, we will find mitigation measures. When we get a tender, we can foresee the problems and challenges.”
RISE TO THE CHALLENGE
There are always challenges for developers to overcome. During the early days of Ekovest in Lahad Datu, the challenges we faced were financing and reluctance of employees to be relocated to East Malaysia. “The project is very far away from Kuala Lumpur. The staff was reluctant to go and we have to keep convincing them and gave a lot of incentives. Not to mention, we have to assure them of their safety and the pirate issue”.
However, Datuk Lim stated that the particular challenge faced by Ekovest Berhad is during the implementation and construction of the DUKE Highway.
“When we start constructing the DUKE Highway, there are many challenges that we faced. People refuse to move, landowners refuse to be compulsorily acquired, and at the same time, we have actually promised the financiers and authorities on the completion timeline. That’s the biggest challenge.”
He added, “You have to know whats your maximum exposure. For property development, if we do not deliver to people, maybe we will have to pay ascertained damages to owners. But for highway is different. If you do not complete it, then the is a missing link in which the highway cannot be connected. There will be no vehicles using the highway. So that is why there’s a lot of pressure.”
VALUE FOR MONEY
Datuk Lim, assures everyone that if you buy its property, it will be value for money.
“We always manage our property. Because I’m very particular, Ekovest always maintain its property and tries to serve the best for its customers.”
As a matter of fact, he said: “We don’t squeeze into small plots of lands near existing and ready infrastructures. We plan the infrastructure and development concurrently. If we plan a development with thousands of units, we make sure the capacity of the road and drainage can cater for it.”
DUKE – Value Beyond Miles
DUKE Highway spans 18km in the northeast region of Klang Valley, connecting Jalan Duta NKVE intersection and the Middle Ring Road 2 via Gombak and Ampang. The construction of the DUKE Extension (DUKE Phase II) which will connect the existing DUKE with Jalan Tun Razak and Sri Damansara area is underway and is expected to be completed in 2016. In June 2014, Ekovest completed the acquisition of the remaining 30% interest in the DUKE from MRCB bringing in the entire DUKE as its wholly-owned subsidiary.
Ekovest’s enthusiasm to deliver innovation and break boundaries has also lead to our DUKE Phase II being the pioneer to provide direct access to park and ride facilities under the proposed Segambut toll plaza. To support this concept and to ensure that the facility remains vibrant and provides a safe environment for users, Ekovest also encouraged providing and promoting commercial activities within the area. The concept is part of the entire masterplan to integrate transportation system within Klang Valley which includes linking of various expressways with public transportation system.
“Because I am involved in highways, naturally, public transportation is my competitor. However, when I develop my DUKE Phase III, I plan for a transportation system and we integrate the public and private transport system,” explained Datuk Lim.
The proposed alignment of DUKE Phase III, measuring approximately 35km, will traverse north to south of Kuala Lumpur and will serve areas such as Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman, Wangsa Maju, Setiawangsa, Ampang, the Tun Razak Exchange & Bandar Malaysia development corridor and Kerinchi. The DUKE Phase III is expected to provide an alternative route for road users with improved and more efficient traffic dispersal system in and around Kuala Lumpur city centre to complement and relief peak hour congestion on existing arterial roads and expressways along its proposed alignment. The DUKE Phase III is also expected to improve connectivity with existing expressways and public rail transportation system such as the KTM Komuter, LRT and MRT lines, providing a holistic land transport system to support the development and modernisation of Greater Kuala Lumpur.
Ekovest has received a letter from the Public Private Partnership Unit, Prime Minister’s Department approving in principle the Proposed Privatisation of the DUKE Phase III on 14 January 2015.
EKOTITIWANGSA – REJUVENATING NORTHERN KUALA LUMPUR
The next development project slated to be launched in June 2015 is the EkoTitiwangsa mixed development project located along Jalan Pahang, Kuala Lumpur. EkoTitiwangsa will consist of commercial space and serviced apartments with an estimated gross development value of RM560 million. Together with its other developments, namely EkoPArk Place, EkoQuay, EkoAvenue, and its flagship EkoGateway, it will provide a holistic development plan to transform and modernise northern Kuala Lumpur city centre. Its ultimate vision is to create a new world class riverfront development along the Gombak River to deliver some of the most vibrant commercial and residential development in this area. Ekovest’s entire land bank in northern Kuala Lumpur is expected to deliver an estimated gross development value of RM3.2 billion over the next 10 years.
EkoTitiwangsa is designed in line with the “River of Life” (RoL) concept. The RoL is a project marked as an Entry Point Project under the Economic Transformation Programme and entails the cleaning up of a 110km stretch of Klang River, beautification of the corridors along the Klang and Gombak rovers up to the confluence, as well as the development of areas adjoining the river corridors under a master plan to spur economic investment. Ekovest-MRCB JV Sdn Bhd will have the opportunity to participate in the beautification works and will be able to participate in the development works via the Swiss Challenge method. For river cleaning works, it has submitted various alternative design proposals to the Government which has been accepted. These alternative designs are expected to allow the Government to save as much as RM300 million and this is again testament of the strength and expertise in value engineering that the team possess.
Datuk Lim developed the idea of RoL from his personal experience. “Before I moved, I stayed at Heritage Condominium, in Jalan Pahang next to the Gombak river. My unit was facing the river and I looked at the river, it’s so dirty. If we can deliver this, [RoL] then how nice will it be?”
Ekovest again took the challenge and keep on convincing stakeholders about riverfront development and lifestyle. With expertise in construction and the team he has behind him, Datuk Lim is confident that Ekovest will be able to make this dream come true.
He furthered his point by saying “It’s a double decker river system. The floodwater will flow underneath. This is similar to the San Antonio river project. This will also be the first one in Malaysia where we will build highway through development projects. And what we want is for people to come here and enjoy the beautiful lifestyle it offers.”
“I took the San Antonio model for me to compare, but we have done it better. They are using a tunnel to channel the floodwater. On the other hand, we identified the river stretch that has suitable gradient to allow for gravity flow and don’t need to use a pump. This will help us in our goals to ensure sustainability and to save energy consumption. When I travel, I not only take what has been done correctly, but I see things that can be improved on so we don’t make the same mistakes” said Datuk Lim.
Apart from that, we also strive to promote the green building concept. “In Malaysia, when it’s green on top [roof] – then this is really a green building. You need greenery on the roof to absorb the heat. In a building, lighting only consumes 10% of total energy while air-con consumes the other 90%. This is something that not many people understand. Glass is not green in Malaysia. The green roof is actually green here. We want to save energy, not so much to let natural light in, which in colder climates, do help in keeping the building warm.”
EKOVEST – BUYING DIRECT
“We are not like other developers – they have a lot of middlemen and agents. We keep it to the very minimum. When you buy our property, it’s like buying things direct from factory. So that’s why people like our product,” he expressed.
The name Ekovest itself stands for Ekonomic Investment. Therefore, its projects always keep to the promise to be affordable, serving the people, as well as returning the value of money.
He opined: “I think we should thank our Prime Minister for being bold to construct the MRT and all other huge infrastructures. The trend for future development is that all these property players will follow where the alignment and stations are located. This is also the trend of purchasers. They want better and more secure environment for them to stay. Gated, with the facilities nearby and either close to highways or where public transport is available for easy connectivity.”
Datuk Lim concluded by saying, “Of course, we hope we can double our size [Ekovest Berhad]” in years to come.
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