The Star, 27th February 2016:
Stories by THEAN LEE CHENG
As the international media spotlight on beleaguered 1Malaysia Development Bhd 1MDB), TRX City Sdn Bhd CEO Datuk
Azmar Talib (pic) is finding himself in a hot seat.
Azmar, a valuer, would have preferred a sanguine and peaceful start to a new year. But the former CEO of several Permodalan Nasional Bhd property companies discovered that he has traded the relatively peaceful life in a government-linked corporation (GLC) for a high profile position at another.
To be sure, there have been a lot of twists and turns at 1MDB, the parent company level. At the subsidiary level, TRX City (formerly 1MDB Real Estate Sdn Bhd), has been affected although.
Azmar is shying away from a direct answer. “View TRX from a broader perspective. It is not
just any other project but a government economic enabler.
“It is not about me, nor TRX City Sdn Bhd nor 1MDB but Kuala Lumpur as a financial centre,” he says.
Notwithstanding the noise and din around him, Azmar has decided that TRX has to move on.
TRX has been government land from the start. 1MDB was created to go into energy and real estate business with TRX City Sdn Bhd, being the owner of two of Kuala Lumpur’s most high-pro file, strategic and largest real estate gems.
Before it came under 1MDB, a Finance Ministry (MoF) entity, the 70 acres was parked under another MoF entity, namely Pelaburan Hartanah Bumiputra Bhd, which was established to increase bumiputra participation and ownership in major urban business locations.
According to its website, it has accumulated prime commercial real estates in major cities around Malaysia to the tune of more than RM3.5bil. 1MDB bought the land, then known as Dataran Perdana, at less than RM70 per sq ft, or for RM194.1mil in 2010 and renamed it.Kuala Lumpur International Financial District.
“It is not about me. nor TRX City Sdn Bhd nor 1MDB but Kuala Lumpur as a financial centre”
– Datuk Azmar Talib
The plan was to build a financial district much like London’s Square Mile where financial comapanies and banks were located, but with an Islamic financing slant with Middle Eastern funding.
On March 19, 2013, a subsidiary of 1MDB, 1MDB Global Investments Limited, issued private debt securities amounting to US$3bil, according to the company’s 2014 financial statement.
The net proceeds from the private debt securities were intended as seed capital for investment in Abu Dhabi Malaysia Investment Company Ltd, a proposed 50:50 joint venture between 1MDB and Aabar Investments PJS.
The aim was to develop TRX, according to the financial statement.
In a series of questions given to TRX City Sdn Bhd after the interview, Azmar declined com ment and instead referred StarBizWeek to the parent company level. 1MDB’S corporate communications department did not respond to text or phone calls.
Azmar’s point of view
Azmar avoided a direct “yes” answer or no when asked if TRX City Sdn Bhd has been impacted by the different issues swirling above it.
Instead, he says he is ”very clear” about his mandate.
He says: ‘We have overcome a lot of challenges.”
‘We did not have anything to show at the start but people (the investors) believed in the vision and the promise and they were willing to pay that sort of price (for the different parcels),”he says, referring to land prices forked out by some investors which sometimes exceeded Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) land prices.
“Now I have to deliver the infrastructure,” he says.
Azmar says more than 70% of its developable land under its first phase have been commercialised or are under negotiation. “Whatever we have commercialised/under negotiations so far will give us the critical mass needed for the operational sustainability and development of the overall phase 1,” says Azmar. Hence, his focus on the infrastructure, an investment of RM3bil.
“I have already set aside the money (for that),”he says.
When completed, TRX will have a total built up space of 21 million sq ft. The breakdown includes two million sq ft of retail, one million sq ft of hotel space, 10 million sq ft of offices. The rest will be residential and open space.
Itwill one of the best addresses in the city without taking away the status enjoyed by KLCC. TRX will leverage on the proximity, he says.
”If we can complete the critical elements, attract the right businesses and tenants, TRX will
Financial centre development likely to follow the city-witt
WHEN news filtered out a year ago that the land at Tun Razak Exchange (TRX) was priced at RM3,000 or more on a per sq ft basis, some real estate professionals bulked.
How can TRX land be higher than those in Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC)?
TRX proponents say the land is sold on a net basis (or per plot ratio basis), and buyers need not surrender any portion of the land they had purchased for infrastructure. On the other hand, land deals around KLCC were done on a gross basis, and 15% to 20% of it would be surrendered for infrastructure purposes, like drainage or road access. TRX proponents also likened TRX to KLCC. Just as KLCC, about 100 acres, was developed with the vision of a city-within-a-city, TRX will follow a similar route.
The 70-acre TRX was to be an extension of the city centre with the Petronas Twin Towers as the nucleus.
There were also comments that as a master developer, TRX City Sdn Bhd, formerly 1MDB Real Estate Sdn Bhd, would lose control because it was carving out land for sale, while KLCC Property Holdings Bhd developed the land them selves. Because TRX City needed to monetise the land quickly; it did take a different route. It