* Analysts links move as a precursor to premier blue chip’s plans to undertake country’s biggest private sector mixed development project costing $ 500 m
Premier blue chip John Keells Holdings (JKH) has recently acquired 60 perches of land adjoining its head office in Glennie Street in Colombo 2 at a cost of Rs. 5 million per perch in a deal worth Rs. 300 million.
The price paid for the latest acquisition to further expand its land base of around 10 acres is in line with the FY12 valuation of Ceylon Cold Stores land in Colombo 2. The value in the previous year was Rs. 3.5 million per perch.
JKH holds the estimated 10 acre land base mostly free-hold and a few on lease within the Glennie Street Head office complex. This block of 60 perches is behind Cold Stores premises and next to cleared area which houses a temporary visitor car park.
Analysts viewed the acquisition as a precursor to plans by JKH to launch what is billed as the biggest ever private sector mixed development project costing at least $ 500 m.
To date JKH has been tight lipped about the details of the much speculated venture which according to some would include a new hotel, apartment complex, office complex, convention centre, shopping mall etc., a smaller version of an integrated resort similar to those successful ones in Singapore.
In JKH’s 2011/12 Annual Report Chairman Susantha Ratnayake only disclosed: “The Property group has initiated plans to embark on the development of multiple commercial and residential properties to capitalise on the growth opportunities in the property business.”
Several stock brokers have hinted some details though none have been confirmed by JKH. For example CT Smith said JKH has plans to enter into a mixed development project comprising two star-class hotels, two apartment complexes and a shopping mall within Colombo, on unutilised group land.
TKS Securities said the proposed mega mixed development project of 1,000 hotel rooms, a shopping complex, a commercial complex and a serviced apartment complex in the current head office premises. Capital Alliance noted plans for an integrated city/project.
JKH identifies itself as owning a significant land bank in prime areas of Colombo and the Property industry group is one of the largest private sector proprietors of real estate in Colombo.
In the 201/12 Annual Report JKH said despite the short term pressure on account of the currency depreciation and interest rate hikes, the Property group is positive about the future and is working towards the successful completion of the projects in the pipeline.
“Property is continuously striving towards identifying and executing projects which yield superior returns and also taking necessary steps towards realising a ‘first mover’ advantage, a critical component in acquiring lands with strategic development potential,” JKH said.
Property will also develop and expand opportunities in the retail shopping space in the growing suburbs of Colombo, making use of the favourable shifts in socio-cultural behaviours of the fast growing urban population. The cornerstone of these developments will be the continuous focus on driving efficiencies and managing costs.
Considering the growth in the rental market, population growth, changing lifestyles and affordability, the housing market is shifting towards a rapid growth phase. Therefore, the Property Development sector will continue to work on revenue maximisation by way of optimising space utilisation and effective pricing to capitalise on these market dynamics.
At present the JKH Property Development sector concentrates primarily on development and sale of residential apartments such as the ongoing ‘OnThree20’ project. This sector includes Asian Hotels and
Properties PLC – the developers of ‘The Crescat Residencies’, ‘The Monarch’, the newly completed 35-story luxury apartment complex ‘The Emperor’ and the up-market shopping mall ‘The Crescat Boulevard’.
In 2012/12 the Property Development sector also commenced the development of a 140,000 square foot retail mall in Ja-ela, a densely populated suburb of Colombo. For this it bought a 6 acre land in Ja-Ela for Rs. 522 million.
JKH’s property industry group witnessed significant growth during the year with revenues growing by 52% to Rs. 3.79 billion [2010/11: Rs. 2.49 billion], primarily due to the revenue recognition of both ‘The Emperor’ and ‘OnThree20’ projects. EBIT increased by 19% to Rs. 1.01 billion [2010/11: Rs. 851 million] due to the revenue recognition cycles.