Property Insight > Cover Story > Father & Son Duo Propels Mah Sing Group Bhd Forward

Father & Son Duo Propels Mah Sing Group Bhd Forward

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Two generations bringing property development in Malaysia to greater heights 

Mah Sing Group Bhd is one of Malaysia’s leading property developers with an impressive portfolio of developments, including high-rises and landed residential developments, commercial centres and niche industrial parks. The diversity of its offerings highlights its skill in planning and developing properties with different components and complexities.

With 46 projects spread throughout Malaysia’s property hotspots, namely the Klang Valley and Greater Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru (Iskandar Malaysia), Penang Island and Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Mah Sing’s success lies in its formidable team. It is their hard work and dedication that has transformed Mah Sing into what it is today.

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THE FAMILY EXPERIENCE

Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Leong Hoy Kum believes that in order to grow exponentially, Mah Sing has to be professionally managed, which is why he has a core team of loyal, skilled and experienced staff.

“As a father, I am very heartened to see that my children are willing to learn and train themselves up to be the leaders in the company. Succession planning is indeed very important as we are here for the long term. We have been around for 22 years and we want to leave behind a good legacy,” he says.

Having given all three of his children the freedom to decide on what they want to do with their careers respectively, Tan Sri Leong mentions, “I am very glad that all three of them decided to join the Mah Sing family. I place the same level of expectations on them as I do on my staff. They know that work is work and personal time for the family is time spent at home. In managing these expectations, I believe that a successful business and a healthy family life can be achieved.”

Lionel Leong Director of Group Strategy and Operations, shares that he found his passion in property development. He was persuaded by the exposure of Mah Sing’s growth plans and the strong foundation that his father has built the company on.

“I lean on the existing learning curves to guide my decision-making. When I joined Mah Sing, I learned that property development was not something that you could learn from the books. Property development is a commercial activity that requires an entrepreneur to entrust field specialists to come together to develop and market the property,” says Lionel.

“At Mah Sing, we go beyond building properties as we strive to create a memorable experience for all our stakeholders – from our business partners, shareholders and buyers,” he adds.

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LIONEL’S JOURNEY

Many developers have taken a rather traditional approach, from the implementation stage to marketing the end product. As a relatively young person in this industry, he says that the biggest challenge is to combine new and old practices into one feasible working methodology in line with Mah Sing’s business strategies.” As the Director Of Group Operations & Strategy, Lionel feels it is important that proper consideration be given to any approaches that would appeal to the right target market. When introducing something new, he says,

“We must have sound reasoning backed by proper market analysis.

Such innovative exploration is evident with Mah Sing’s advertisements having taken a lifestyle approach. Even its exhibition booths are innovatively designed to attract visitors following themes such as the 1950s diner and Monopoly. Lionel believes in an emotionally appealing lifestyle marketing approach to effectively connect with genuine buyers.

Tan Sri Leong says that all his children are very hands-on in all aspects of the business – be it in land acquisition to or designing and marketing the project. He mentions that Lionel in particular, was attracted to join the company as he believes that he can contribute positively and continue to bring Mah Sing to even greater heights.

Lionel himself believes that when it comes to succession planning, the trend is moving towards a more institutionalised framework, which is not so heavily reliant on ‘the key man’ or ‘founder’.

“Business owners should provide strategic direction and make high level decisions while the day-to-day operations should be executed by the team.

“We are very proud that Mah Sing’s entrepreneurial spirit is coupled with professional management. I am very grateful for the guidance given by the core team at Mah Sing. So, even if I had to take over the business one day, I believe any individual who is more capable than I am should be the right person to be empowered to drive the company.”

A TRUE ICON IN DEVELOPMENT AND DELIVERY

Tan Sri Leong believes that the competition among property developers here in Malaysia is very high, and this is a good thing. Through healthy competition, he believes Mah Sing will be able to push itself to be better and grow stronger.

Mah Sing’s Iconic Series developments have indeed transformed the KL Skyline. This series of innovative developments are known for their revolutionary designs and exceptional quality and have enjoyed excellent take-up rates.

There are four Iconic Series developments. The first is Icon Tun Razak: with its dynamic and seamless design flow known as the “wave”, accentuating the overall image of the surrounding area while signifying the forthcoming business opportunities. The second relates to Icon Residence in Mont Kiara with its state-of-the-art architecture, featuring a 3-dimensional lattice of terraces, gardens and living spaces. The third is M City, conceived with thematic hanging gardens spanning over 4 acres, and strategically located at Embassy Row, Jalan Ampang. Last but not least, Icon City in Petaling Jaya is situated at the intersection of LDP and the Federal Highway. It features extraordinary architectures and alluring landscapes, built within a sustainable environment for a healthy life-work-and-leisure balance.

Mah Sing takes pride in producing developments of exceptional quality. Buyers purchasing homes from Mah Sing, will likely stay there for a considerable duration of their lives, opines Tan Sri Leong. He says each development goes through stringent quality assessments as nowadays, quality is no longer an extra consideration but a given.

Lionel agrees saying that the long term sustainability of the Mah Sing brand is achieved when it can deliver “great products at market driven prices over and over again”.

“By going the extra mile, we are willing to spend more time in crafting the right value proposition for our customers at a fair price point to ensure that investors of our properties can make a decent return on their investment,” he affirms.

“We have also intensified our marketing efforts to focus on offering specific and targeted campaigns catered to the demands of the market. We are able to do this as we have current projects at various cycles and pricing points, to suit different buyers”.

“As a premier lifestyle developer, Mah Sing continues its efforts to ensure pleasant and memorable customer experiences at all points of contact – from handing over the unit at the point of Vacant Possession, right down to managing customers’ feedback for continuous improvement in its products and services,” he adds.

SURGING AHEAD IN 2016

Tan Sri Leong, being a seasoned industry veteran acknowledges that “property is a cyclical industry”.

“We support the market’s needs for affordable housing with our attractive pricing, with 50% of this year’s planned residential launches priced below RM500,000. Overall, 89% of our planned residential launches are priced below RM1 million, with 68% priced below RM700,000.

“We are committed towards supporting the nation’s initiative in building more acquirable homes for the rakyat. One of our affordable housing projects is Rumah Selangorku at M Residence 2@Rawang which comprise two blocks, featuring 488 units with built-ups starting from 850 sq ft. The units, offering 3 bedrooms with two car park bays, are priced from RM170,000.”

Back by further plans to intensify efforts, Mah Sing is well-positioned to reach its sales target of RM2.3 billion from its upcoming launches in 2H2016 by exploring different marketing approaches. The focus will be on offering specific and targeted campaigns catered to the demands of the market. As of 30 June 2016, the Group‘s cash and bank balances amounted to RM895.3 million. Mah Sing also recorded a net gearing ratio of approximately 0.06 times this quarter, which is well below the internal target of 0.5 times.

The Group’s RM31.7 billion remaining gross development value (GDV) and unbilled sales is expected to support eight to nine years of revenue growth. (with RM27.5 billion in remaining GDV and approximately RM4.2billion in unbilled sales). The Group will continue to adhere to its prudent financial policy of maintaining a healthy net gearing ratio and ample liquidity. This will ensure it remains flexible to respond to land acquisition and investment opportunities as they arise.

Lionel believes there will always be a genuine demand for homes as the population grows. However, the market today he notes, is getting more selective in their selection.

“At Mah Sing, we will continue to work towards being a preferred developer of choice as we do our very best to deliver great products that improve the quality of life.

“Lifestyle, accessibility and emotional values are key drivers in capturing the young demographics today who look for properties that will offer them a lifestyle they are comfortable with. The younger generation is also more receptive towards brand novelty as reflected in the products they buy.”

Despite the challenging sentiments, the market is still confident in Mah Sing as Macquarie’s top 10 picks for Malaysia, according to the cited report:-

“Mah Sing is our top pick in the Malaysian property sector. Mah Sing has placed itself well in the market to capture the first home buyers and upgrades at affordable pricing points. Not only is Mah Sing pricing it right, it is also hugely exposed in the Central Region.”

By ensuring that their biggest asset, which is their staffs, distinguished as the cream of the crop, they are provided with ample training and development opportunities. Mah Sing was awarded Malaysia’s Best Employer Brand Awards 2016 for two consecutive years; HR Asia for Best Companies to Work For In Asia 2013; the Asia Responsible Entrepreneurship Awards 2015 – Investment in People; and the Asia HRD Awards 2014 for Contribution to the Society.

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WHAT’S NEW AROUND THE NEIGHBORHOOD?

This year, Mah Sing will be completing various developments including M City, Icon City’s residential towers, SoVo, Gourmet Street, 30 Jewels and MSC Tower in the Central Region. It will also complete its developments in Southbay Plaza in Penang island, and Block A of Sutera Avenue’s Lifestyle Shop-Offices in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.

Affordable homes still sees strong demand, evidenced by the 100% take up of 404 units of Cerrado Residential Suites Tower A with a starting price of RM357,000. The recent launch of Tower B of Cerrado also saw overwhelming response. The group plans to launch Tower C and D of Cerrado Residential Suites towards the end of the year.

D’sara Sentral, Sungai Buloh representing the launch of its final serviced apartment block will feature a total of 197 units with built-ups ranging from 781 sq ft onwards. Units are indicatively priced from RM603,000. The Group also saw a high take up rate of 92% during the launch of 120 units of Lakeville Residence’s final tower in Taman Wahyu. Meanwhile Caspia, M Residence 2@Rawang launched 2-storey Linked Semi-Detached with built up size from 2,205sq ft. While Ferringhi Residence 2 saw a 84% take up from 120 units launched.

To encourage ownerships of affordable homes, Mah Sing teamed up with Bank Simpanan Nasional (BSN) under the Youth Housing Scheme for Cerrado Residential Suites and Greenway@Meridin East. The scheme offers young married couples 100% loans for property priced below RM500,000, and an additional 5% of Mortgage Reducing Term Assurance (MRTA) or Mortgage Reducing Term Takaful (MRTT). Buyers will also be given a RM200 per month government disbursements for 2 years and 50% stamp duty exemptions. Greenway link homes in Meridin East Johor saw an 85% take up from 492 units launched. 

WORK LIFE FAMILY BALANCE

When he is not thinking about work,

Tan Sri Leong says he thinks of his family.

“Although work is a big part of my life, I believe in a balanced work lifestyle and spending quality time with my family. This is how I balance my lifestyle. I love to travel, to experience what the world has to offer and to learn from it.

“My travels are also my inspiration and I especially love to travel with my family. I tend to favour travelling to countries where I can view architectural marvels, both historical and modern. Santorini in the Mediterranean inspired one of our projects, – Icon Residence.”

Lionel mentions he sees his father from time to time in the office, but the conversation they have in the office is strictly work-related.

“We have to set a good example for the rest of the team. Even though we are a family, professionalism is something we cannot compromise regardless of the background we are from.

“The company is only able to progress when the people who are managing the business are very serious about displaying a high level of work ethics in the company. There is only so much time we can be productive in any given working day,” says Lionel.

Having said that, Lionel jokes that although lunch hour during weekdays is used “for family bonding”, they still talk about work whenever they can.

The dynamism between father and son, prompted with strong work ethics and innovative strategies to stay ahead of the competition, is also infused with passion to build quality living for the masses. These are the qualities that will continue to catapult Mah Sing to greater heights many years to come.

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