Interview

Azizan Bin Jaafar

Group CEO of Gabungan AQRS Berhad (GBG)

We are a strong organisation known for delivering quality and value. This is the DNA that we want to carry into our property division.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: GBG was listed on the Bursa Malaysian in 2012, with its core business in construction, property development and strategic investments in Sabah. Can you introduce the Company?

AZIZAN: The Group is principally engaged in construction and property development activities within Malaysia. In 2012, Gabungan AQRS Berhad was listed on the Main Board of Bursa Malaysia. The listing cemented GBG’s strong financial standing and gave it the leverage it needed to participate more actively in capacity building for the country, and to grow and expand its property development business. I consider that “GBG” has contributed so significant to nation building with projects such as the Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit Line 1, Sungai Besi – Ulu Kelang (SUKE) Highway, Light Rail Transit 3 (LRT3) and Pusat Pentadbiran Sultan Ahmad Shah, the new Pahang State Government and State Assembly Complex.

“GBG” has expanded from its core business in construction into property development. Although we are a relatively young player in the property development sector in Malaysia, we are shaping ourselves to be trusted property player and we will do it at our own progress, at a stable rate where we will not disrupt our cash flows.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: GBG offers a plethora of premium real estate in mature metropolises and emerging economic hotspots in Johor, Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur and Selangor. Can you please elaborate a bit on “GBG”’s property division and who are your target audience?

AZIZAN: Basically, our development approach is based on facts and research, because we believe in building what homebuyers really want, and what will really benefit them. This is most clearly seen in the DNA of all of our projects. We target both home seekers and investors, so we want to build proper homes for our purchasers to live in with their families, with good price appreciation prospects. At the same time, they fulfil the national goal of creating wealth for the people, which property ownership is a step towards.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: Mr Azizan, you have held several positions in GBG since 2011 and were subsequently promoted as Group CEO in 2016. What is your vision for GBG?

AZIZAN: When I decided to lead this group in April 2016, the company had reported a loss of RM9.67mil for the financial year ended Dec 31, 2015 (FY15). It had stemmed from construction jobs that were not executed well and sales cancellation of property projects. Not surprisingly, the company was not on investors' radar and there wasn't any analyst coverage. As of today, the company has managed to significantly institutionalise its shareholding, moving it up from a negligible percentage to a massive 45% based on our shareholding list. The increase was mostly due to earnings from our construction outfit. Moreover, apart from increasing our order book, we have restructured and improved Gabungan's corporate governance by bringing more independent directors on board. We embarked on that move to have more independent directors even before the Securities Commission issued the guidelines to do so. All of our efforts to make a change in the company was recognized as our group won the Merit Award for Most Improved Corporate Governance Disclosure by Minority Shareholders’ Watch Group (MSWG) for 2018.

And with regards to my vision for the company is clear, trying in putting the company back on track to ensure that it will be able to secure and execute impactful projects, for both its property and construction divisions. Thus, 2020 will be an exciting year because we will be launching some of our iconic projects. Furthermore, our property arm is expected to bring in almost RM3 billion (US$715 million) worth of gross development value (GDV) over the next five years.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: Which are those projects that you consider will bring certain value to the Malaysia’s property landscape?

AZIZAN: One of them is “The Peak” in Johor Bahru, another one would be “Contours” in Melawati Heights located at the heart of Kuala Lumpur and one of my dream development would be “One Jesselton Waterfront” mixed development in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, which is slated to be the group’s flagship development with the potential to contribute a sizeable chunk of recurring income from the mall and hotel operations in the future.

• The Peak (freehold) is the only residential property in Johor Bahru that the thresholds for foreigners to purchase is RM500,000 (US$119,000); most of the other properties have threshold sitting above RM1 million. Situated 30 minutes away from Singapore, the condominium is also a freehold development – this is a great opportunity for foreign investors.

• Contours (freehold) in Melawati Heights is a low-density development of 40 spacious villas with build-ups ranging from 5,688 to 8,051 square feet. The gated and guarded premium neighbourhood overlooks a breathtaking quart ridge, and is equipped with clubhouse facilities including swimming pool, playground, barbeque area, gymnasium and a multi-purpose hall.

• One Jesselton Waterfront is a project for those in the market for idyllic living in the midst of urban convenience at Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. One Jesselton Waterfront would comprise of luxury condominiums, serviced residences, a premier lifestyle mall, 4-star hotel and spa and office spaces. The development would have seamless connectivity to the currently operating Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal and the International Cruise Terminal, which handles more than 800,000 passengers every year.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: Bringing the trust and confidence for “GBG” in the market must be an important challenge to achieve with so many developers in Malaysia. Moreover, the need of differentiation is crucial for companies. How important do you consider is to create brand awareness for the group?

AZIZAN: Our motto is “Sustainability is like our promise towards a fruitful ending for all”. We would continue to refine our expertise and grow, in line with the country’s infrastructure development, which continues to be enhanced as the country moves to be a fully-developed nation.

Finally, I must say that everyone has got strengths and weaknesses, but most importantly, our team has the drive to learn and grow as one. That is the true value of our company, and the reason why we have gained the trust and support of our stakeholders, clients, subcontractors, and suppliers. And that is what the company pursuit to be recognized not only in Malaysia but also internationally.