Close to two decades after giving Penang a “miss” in property development, the Berjaya group has renewed its interest in the state as an investor.
Berjaya Corp Bhd founder and chairman Tan Sri Vincent Tan yesterday said the company is happy to be back in the state.
“I was unhappy 18 years ago and I had said then that I don’t want to invest in Penang anymore.
“But I am pleased to be back here now as Penang has done well over the last few years,” he said in his speech at the signing ceremony of the sale and purchase agreement between Berjaya Land Development Sdn Bhd (BLand) and Penang Turf Club (PNTC) at the latter’s premises here yesterday.
BLand is buying 22.8ha of freehold prime land within PNTC for RM459 million cash.
BLand is proposing to develop a low-density exclusive guarded and gated housing development comprising bungalows, semi-detached homes and low-rise condominiums with an abundance of landscape and garden areas to complement the serenity and exclusivity of the surrounding areas.
Berjaya’s existing property development investment in Penang is Berjaya Penang Hotel in Pulau Tikus.
In early 1990s, Berjaya had plans for a futuristic theme park on Penang Hill which was aimed at reviving tourist trade.
The proposed project which included a 200-room hotel, a 350-unit condominium complex, omnimax theaters and a cable car at a cost of RM500 million, had met with strong protest from citizens’ groups who feared, among others, ecological damage to the hill.
The project was subsequently scrapped.
Speaking at a press conference later, Tan, without naming names, expressed dissatisfaction with the previous state government, helmed by former chief minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon (it was under Koh’s watch that the Penang Hill project was called off).
“Under the leadership of the late Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu,” noted Tan, “we received very strong support.”
“However, we were not happy with the government after that … but we are now back and looking for more opportunities to invest because we think Penang is an attractive place to grow,” he added.
Tan is not the first local investor to voice unhappiness with the previous government.
In 2005, renowned hotelier and property developer Tan Sri Low Yow Chuan said he had enough of the suffocating red tape and numbing bureaucracy in Penang, and threatened to pull out of ever doing any projects on the island.
Low then cited several plans for projects that had taken years to be approved.
However, one particular incident had made him raise his voice.
He recalled that his group had had approval for a 24-storey condominium block near where the historic E&O Hotel is now sited.
Ten years after obtaining approval and spending millions of ringgit for piling and engineering works to meet the local council requirements, the Penang authorities reverted to him and said he had to scale the building down to eight storeys.
Low was chairman of Asia Pacific Land Bhd from 1984 to 2002.