Interview

David Chu

Executive Chairman of Jesselton Waterfront Holdings

We believe that by working with these world-class teams paired with the right opportunity, we are able to deliver innovative designs and increase our productivity thus creating a trend towards quality designs and competitive growth in the property industry.

Asean Business Leaders: Please give an introduction of Jesselton Waterfront Holdings and can you please give an overview of the Company’s milestones?

David Chu: Jesselton Waterfront Holdings is the property development division under the Jesselton Group which diversifies in property development, investments and resort management. In 2010, we made our defining move to construct our first development in Kota Kinabalu’s prime city centre - Jesselton Residences, a waterfront mixed development of luxury residential condominium with a premium lifestyle mall. In line with our vision to create evolutionary buildings and contribute to the property development of Sabah, we are venturing into the next project to develop the iconic Jesselton Twin Towers, which will be the tallest building in Borneo upon its completion.

Asean Business Leaders: What is Jesselton Waterfront Holdings’ strategy to drive innovation and productivity in your industry, and how does it contribute to your competitive advantages?

David Chu: Quoting Steve Jobs, “Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people” and to quote him further, “we hire people who want to make the best things in the world”. Despite still being a novice in the property industry when we started developing Jesselton Residences in 2010, we strategize to innovate by working together with international and world-class corporations who shared new technologies and business strategies that further elevated our productivity.

One example is the introduction of the double-wall cofferdam system in Sabah for Jesselton Residences, where we hired the world-renowned Oriental Group of Arcelor Mittal conglomerate to implement this double-wall cofferdam system for the sea wall construction which fulfils the environmental condition for a minimal impact and no sea reclamation requirement. Vinci Construction, the French Giant who is also one of the world’s largest contractors was also invited to construct Jesselton Residences.

For the on-going Jesselton Twin Towers project, it is the only super high-rise building in Borneo thus far. The building is designed with one of Malaysia’s first seismic resistant design. For Jesselton Twin Towers, we are in collaboration with China State Construction Engineering Corporation and Meinhardt Group. China State is the largest high-rise builder in
China and also one of the world’s largest contractors, while Meinhardt is an international engineering consultancy firm with many awards and with global recognition.

We believe that by working with these world-class teams paired with the right opportunity, we are able to deliver
innovative designs and increase our productivity, thus creating a trend towards quality designs and competitive growth in the property industry. Through the advancement of our team’s ability and elevated quality of designs, we are able to attract more investors to Sabah from inside and outside of Malaysia.

Asean Business Leaders: What are the current developments in the sector and what are your expectations for Jesselton Waterfront Holdings as a significant player in its industry?

David Chu: As gathered from recent media reporting, the overall residential market is experiencing improvement with the property sector focusing on products that fall within the mid-range category with more affordable prices for local property buyers. Nevertheless, the demand for higher-end residential is still voluminous especially those looking for well-located, well managed and high quality properties.

We have observed that with the current significant increase in numbers of tourist arrivals annually in Sabah and the recovery of the crude oil price, of which Sabah is the major state of crude oil production in Malaysia, we are able to see an increasing demand of high-end properties especially those in prime location and tourism related investment properties.

For Jesselton Waterfront Holdings, we will continue to focus on iconic projects and tourism related properties which will have the ability to attract both local and international investors to cater for the growing demand in these categories, not only in Sabah but also in Peninsular Malaysia.

Asean Business Leaders: How does Jesselton Waterfront Holdings contribute to the development of competitive labour force, and what is the quality of available human capital for any MNC to do business in Malaysia?

David Chu: Unlike in big cities like Kuala Lumpur, we have to acknowledge that to certain extent, Sabah and some other states have a lack of competitiveness and an experienced skilled labour force when it comes to large scale developments. Due to the shortage of skilled labour to meet the demands of these MNC, they have opted to import the required skill workers.

For Jesselton Waterfront Holdings, this is clearly seen in our early collaborations with these MNC and through the employment of these imported skilled workers and professionals, we are able to provide training and knowledge in the specific skills. A competitive working environment was created and the locals are getting out of their comfort zone, improving their skills and knowledge to retain their existence in the industry.

Today we are proud to say that the quality of the human capital in Sabah has improved tremendously, but there is always room for improvement.

Asean Business Leaders: What is your vision on the future of ASEAN economic integration and how this economic block affects your industry?

David Chu: The ASEAN economic integration will undoubtedly boost our business and property sector through its improved regional connectivity that allows for cross border investments, trading and increased mobility of skilled workers.

The ASEAN economic block which attracts foreign direct investment has also turned Sabah into an attractive investment destination. With more capital allocation in the local property industry, we expect a further growth in the sector.

Asean Business Leaders: Is Jesselton Waterfront Holdings open to explore strategic partnerships and to get access to other markets?

David Chu: Yes certainly. We are constantly looking for opportunities to form strategic alliance with partners that share the same vision and corporate goals to gain further access to new resources and explore new markets.

Asean Business Leaders: Message of confidence to the readers of The Economist who are looking to invest in Malaysia or to partner with Malaysian companies.

David Chu: The new Malaysian government’s approach towards good governance, transparency and corruption free practice will create greater stability in the country. Through the abolishment of the burdening Goods & Services Tax (GST), the buying power of consumers have been increased thus creating positive impact on the Malaysian economy with increased demand for goods and services. With the growth of consumer confidence in Malaysia, the wheels of investment are turning and investors are availed with diverse investment opportunities across all sectors.

As an investor looking to venture into the Malaysian property market, it is important to know that the pricing of Malaysian properties, especially luxury seafront properties are extremely affordable as compared to their home or other countries. Many foreign investment incentives are also being introduced.

Asean Business Leaders: Opportunities for Malaysia to enhance its international brand perception under this new historic era.

David Chu: Through the new Malaysian government’s increased effort to attract more foreign investors from the ASEAN region in addition to the Chinese corporations who have been established here, we will be able to rebrand Malaysia as the next investment destination and global economic hub.