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Pavilion REIT Chairman Lim reported to be worth RM3bil
Friday November 23, 2012
KUALA LUMPUR: Desmond Lim Siew Choon became a billionaire developing a high-end retail mall and an office tower in Kuala Lumpur, wooing Middle Eastern investors and listing the properties as a real estate investment trust.
The 52-year-old chairman of Pavilion Real Estate Investment Trust, Malaysia's second-biggest property trust by market value, is worth at least US$1bil (RM3.06bil), according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Lim and his wife, Tan Kewi Yong, own 38% of the Kuala Lumpur-based trust, whose shares have outpaced other companies that raised at least US$50mil in an initial public offering (IPO) in Malaysia in the past 12 months.
Rising consumption and increased tourism in Malaysia have bolstered Pavilion REIT, which has surged almost 60% since trading on Dec 7. Malaysia's gross domestic product exceeded 5% for at least a fifth quarter as the Government raised spending and unveiled infrastructure projects before a general election that must be held by early 2013.
“While the general masses have benefited from this wealth effect, I would say that the upper crust would have seen the largest gains from the recent run up,” said William Chan, chief executive officer of Singapore-based family office Stamford Privee. “Connections matter, both locally and globally.”
Lim, who has never appeared on an international wealth ranking, declined to be interviewed as he was travelling for business, said Philip Ho, chief executive officer of Pavilion REIT Management Sdn, which manages the property trust.
Lim majored in finance at the University of Central Oklahoma, and started building houses, condominiums and office towers with developerKhuan Choo Group in the 1980s. As Malaysia prodded banks to merge, Lim took over the listing status of Gadek Capital Bhd after the latter sold its finance business to Hong Leong Bank Bhd in 2000. Lim injected Khuan Choo into Gadek, renamed it Malton Bhd and relisted it in 2002.
The billionaire made the bulk of his fortune from developing the mixed-use Pavilion project a mall, two luxury apartment towers and an office building on the former site of a girls' school in Kuala Lumpur, one of the last pieces of prime real estate in the capital.
Malton was the contractor of the Pavilion, located in the main shopping street of Jalan Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur's version of Fifth Avenue in New York and Orchard Road in Singapore. In the heart of the city's Golden Triangle entertainment and commercial district, the mall, which drives the property trust's earnings, is surrounded by hotels including the Westin Kuala Lumpur and JW Marriott Hotel. Tourists account for more than 30% of Pavilion's shoppers. Malaysia attracted 24.7 million tourists last year, almost double the 12.7 million in 2001.
The mall, which has total net lettable retail area of more than 1.3 million sq ft, houses boutiques including Prada and Hermes alongside luxury-car showrooms offering the latest Jaguar and Bentley models. Other tenants include The Loaf, a Japanese-style gourmet bakery and bistro part-owned by former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, as well as an art gallery promoting the works of American pop artist Robert Indiana and contemporary painters.
According to a newsreport, when Lim embarked on the project around 2002, his entry cost was low with commercial and residential properties in downtown Kuala Lumpur transacting at less than RM500 per sq ft. Prices had risen more than three times to about RM1,800 per sq ft by the time it was completed in 2008.
There is an “increasing scarcity of prime land” in the capital's city centre, particularly in the Golden Triangle area, the research unit of Kuala Lumpur-based Alliance Investment Bank Bhd said in a report dated July 25.
Kuwait Finance House, the Persian Gulf state's biggest Islamic lender, helped to finance the development cost when it took a 49% stake in the Pavilion project in 2006 and bought both the residential towers. Qatar Investment Authority has since bought the stake from Kuwait Finance House and owns about 36% of Pavilion REIT.
Lim and his wife received about RM703mil in cash from selling their stakes in the Pavilion Kuala Lumpur Mall and the office tower to the trust before its initial share sale, according to Bloomberg calculations. They were also paid in equity and are the biggest shareholders in Pavilion REIT, along with Qatar's sovereign wealth fund.
“The turning point for him is through this development project,” said Ang Kok Heng, chief investment officer at Phillip Capital Management Sdn in Kuala Lumpur. “He's been keeping a very low profile; not many people know much about him.”- Bloomberg