08 Dec 2013

KLCC Gems; Four Seasons Retail to be Ready by 2015

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Top price, service for Four Seasons Place
BY THEAN LEE CHENG

An artist’s impression of Four Seasons Place Kuala Lumpur hotel lobby

THE branding and what seems to be the unlimited possibilities offered by the property sector has not escaped anyone, literally. This was clearly evident when four friends, known as empat sekawan in Bahasa Malaysia, from diverse and illustrious backgrounds came together to buy a 2.6-acre parcel near the Petronas Twin Towers about a decade ago.

The cultural, geographical and royal divide were no deterrent.

The four are no ordinary Joes. There are Singapore’s hospitality tycoon Datuk Ong Beng Seng, an entrepreneur with 30 years in the property, retail and hospitality industry, royalty Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah of Selangor and entertainment and hospitality mogul Tan Sri Syed Yusof Syed Nasir. Their vehicle is Venus Assets Sdn Bhd, where Syed Yusof is chairman. The fourth shareholder is director Datuk David Ban.

Just as there is only one Petronas Twin Towers, there will be one Four SeasonsPlace Kuala Lumpur. It is this reality that will set Four Seasons first integrated development in Kuala Lumpur apart from all other projects.

Says Syed Yusof: “It will be different from the Four Seasons in Jakarta, Singapore and Langkawi. Four Seasons Place denotes an integrated development with all the different elements – retail, accommodation, serviced apartments/suites and hotel. All these elements are bound together with one single thread – quality service.”

About 60% have been sold since its official launch earlier this year. About half of the purchasers are Malaysians, with the rest from the Middle East, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

“People who buy expensive things like to be pampered and recognised. You are served very good coffee when you go into their shops. These are the added perks. I myself will guide the retail offered in that direction,” says Syed Yusof. He is reluctant to name his retail partners as he is in the midst of negotiations. The mall is scheduled to open in 2015.

Although Ban is an important member of the group, it is the other three whose roots go way back. They have done projects together. Both Syed Yusof and Ong are in the hospitality business and have known each other for about 30 years. Syed Yusof’sConcorde hotels in Kuala Lumpur and Shah Alam are managed by HPL Hotels & Resorts, a subsidiary of Singapore-listed Hotel Properties Ltd, where Ong has a controlling stake. As for the Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, Syed Yusof says they are childhood friends and have shared interest in the property and hospitality sectors.

“It is all about opportunity and if you don’t grab it, it passes you by. The opportunity came with Ong. He called one evening about the availability of a piece of land. And we decided to go ahead. It is not government business. We see the land, we borrow and we build,” says Syed Yusof. It was reported that Venus Assets bought the prime 1.05ha site for RM90mil in 2003 from the estate of the late Khoo Teck Puat, the former major shareholder of Standard Chartered plc. They received permission to build up to 50 storeys but the managed to increase that by another 15 storeys through “very special circumstances” and it was only in the last two years that things actually took off.

As for landing the Four Seasons deal, Syed Yusof says it was purely a business proposition.

“There are many factors. Our location is second to none. The Four Seasons puts a premium on location. We also have the contacts. And there is Ong’s Hotel Properties Ltd. We invited them to work with us,” he says.

With his background in economics and banking, and a deep interest in wide-ranging sectors which include hospitality, entertainment industry and property development, Syed Yusof says his main interest is property development.

His starting point in the sector started when he took over an abandoned project in the 1980s. Since then, his property interests includes Pandan Cahaya and a project in Malacca. The Four Seasons Place KL will be his most ambitious project, what Syed Yusof calls “the spotlight” among all his property developments.

As for his interest in the hospitality sector, besides the two Concorde Hotels, he hasHard Rock Hotel Penang and a couple of resorts. He aims to have a Hard Rock Hotelin Kuala Lumpur and has identified several sites.

Although property, hospitality and entertainment may come across as a melting pot of interests, Syed Yusof considers the hospitality business as his infrastructure upon which he added his entertainment business.

“Because I have the hotel business, I am able to bring in the stars and really do something special. I can get the staff to dress like the stars, for example. His association with the stars helps. He was recently with the late Michael Jackson’s family. “LaToya took me to Michael’s grave and introduced me to Paris Hilton,” he says. The flamboyant businessmen says despite his association and friendship with the stars, bringing them here is an uphill task.

“You have to deal with the stars, government bureaucracy and the show itself,” he says.

Syed Yusof is familiar to all three areas and, in many ways, he is using his skills and expertise to bring about a project with star status, in more ways than one.

The development comprises 204 hotel rooms, 242 units of private residences and 27 units of hotel serviced apartments. The RM2.5bil development will have a net lettable retail space of about 210,000 sq ft.

Officially launched earlier this year, prices on a per sq ft (psf) basis have moved pretty fast from RM2,700 psf depending on height and direction the unit faces to currently hover around RM2,900 psf. Its smaller units of about 1,200 sq ft have been sold. The larger units, duplexes and penthouses remain. Its most highly priced duplex unit is RM20.3mil, at RM2,900 psf. Four Seasons Place Kuala Lumpur is set apart from all other developments – those existing and those that have been proposed – on both price point and quality of its service, Syed Yusof says. There was a time when Binjai On the Park held this title and in a way, it still does because Binjai is on residential title and is located at the KLCC Park and will be the only condominium to have that 50-acre greenery.

While both these projects are in a class of their own, there are other projects coming up in the vicinity that will try to leverage on their proximity with the two.

Syed Yusof says the service will set the brand apart from all other developments and retail in the country and he has also taken cognisance of service-related developments the likes of Banyan Tree and the Harrods hotel. As for the retail, it will compliment Suria KLCC.

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