Eco World actively looking to broaden its presence overseas

ECO World International Bhd (EWI) has been keeping to a busy schedule.

In a span of 10 months, EWI has put on sale all three of its projects in Britain, beginning with London City Island which was officially launched in May.

It has also made its debut in Australia with a residential project known as West Village in Parramatta, Sydney’s second central business district and Australia’s fifth largest after Sydney.

Its president and chief executive officer Datuk Teow Leong Seng tells StarBizWeek all four projects are global in nature and have international appeal. While these two aspects are important in any real estate profile, they have become even more so in today’s global volatility and uncertain times.

“By and large, the weak ringgit has certainly impacted buyer sentiment in Malaysia. However, it has not stopped certain quarters from buying.

“They will buy real estate. In recent days, sales seem to have moved up and, hopefully, can be sustained despite fluctuating currencies,” Teow says.

It is because of this, coupled with its international vision, that the company will continue to seek out projects in Britain and Australia, specifically Melbourne and Sydney.

“In the last three years, London’s residential market has been very active. The market went up between 10% and 15% annually,” says Teow. Australia’s property market in major cities like Sydney and Melbourne is also doing well.

The London market, says Teow, will have to go on a more sustainable clip as the market “was out of control” the last three years.

Good demand

The EcoWorld-Ballymore partnership has resulted in three projects, namely London City Island (LCI), Wardian in the Canary Wharf area and Embassy Gardens, which is not far from Battersea Power Station.

The EcoWorld-Ballymore group has launched three blocks in LCI so far. Block A and M were launched in May at £800 per sq ft (psf) and Block B at £900 psf in August.

The three LCI blocks combined are 77% sold. About 40% were bought by UK-based buyers.

Among all three of its projects, LCI belongs to the medium to high-end category. The relocation by the National English Ballet to the peninsula has given a new cultural status to the development.

LCI, says Teow, will house supporting staff from the Canary Wharf area while Wardian will appeal to the senior management and business owners operating in Canary Wharf, Europe’s largest financial centre.

“In LCI, you pay 40% (less) in terms of price point compared to Wardian, which is just minutes away by rail,” says Teow.

Embassy Gardens is a new diplomatic precinct as the US and the Dutch embassies will be moving there.

“So the place-making is already done for us for all three projects,” says Teow.

Embassy Gardens is 39% sold, of which 60% of the interest are UK-based. Wardian, 72% sold, with 65% being UK-based. Not all sales for both the projects have been formalised as both projects were unveiled in the September-October period, says Teow.

Together with its Sydney project, which is 90% sold, the international division has confirmed sales worth £420mil against its targeted £400mil, as at Oct 12 this year. About half of West Village’s 90% sales went to buyers in Australia.

Teow says the fact that locals make up a good proportion of sales is a good sign. The percentages are based on what has been sold, pending the signing of the sales and purchase agreement, as that would take a month to convert, he says.

“It is home country buyers who are taking up most of these developments. They are not worried about the market volatility. People are buying despite the global economic situation,” Teow says.

An update

EWI will begin awarding piling contracts for the first two LCI blocks in early November. Both are estimated to complete in 2017. Block B, which went on sale in August, is estimated to be completed in the first quarter of 2018.

All of its three projects – LCI, Embassy Gardens and Wardian – have water features. LCI is located on the Leamouth Peninsular and is inspired by the colours of Manhattan containers.

Embassy Gardens, estimated to complete in 2017/2018, located south of the Thames, will have a linear garden fronting all three of its blocks 3, 4 and 5. Demolition works have begun and will be completed by the end of the month so that piling works for Embassy Gardens can begin in early November.

Wardian is located next to a body of water and will be connected to Canary Wharf via a pedestrian bridge.

The creativity of the two companies extends to its Wardian project, which features tropical plants and foliage in glass cases.

“We are selling views. With Wardian, we are selling a tropical forest inside the building with wraparound gardens for every unit.

All three are well connected by rail.

Teow says things are moving on schedule. On the Eco World-Ballymore joint venture, with Eco World holding a majority 75% stake, Teow says their partnership will not end at these three projects.

“We share the same vision. When they were here, we showed them what we were doing as well as our previous work. We are in sync in terms of our vision.

“EWI brings to the partnership our global marketing experience and the ability to bring speedy funding to its projects, the latter which is far more difficult for UK-based property developers to attain.

Ballymore pays great attention to detail and design, which is how the team conceptualized things like “Sky Pool” linked between two blocks.

“They are planning for the development to be very water-centric so as to capitalise on the picturesque views.

“Like us, they started out as a construction firm before going into property development,” says Teow.

As for developments in its listing process, Teow says the group has begun its consultative process with the Securities Commission, with an eye for a formal submission in November. - By The Star