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Imperial Land in development drive

Imperial Land Group plans to invest more than Bt6 billion in building hotels and shopping malls in Bangkok and the provinces, and aims to be listed in the stock market within two years.

Speaking at the launch of his I'm Park Chula community-mall project in downtown Bangkok yesterday, managing director Suwan Lertpunyaroj said Imperial Land Group - which has decades of experience in developing more than 1,000 residential properties in and around the capital - was now tilting more towards retail and hotel projects.

The reasoning is that these types of property will offer more consistent growth and income to the group over the long run as it plans to float shares on the Stock Exchange of Thailand within the next two years.

The I'm Park Chula complex, for which the company won a fierce bidding contest against many big-name developers to get the long-term leasing right from Chulalongkorn University, is the group's second retail project.

The first such project, the One@Bobae wholesale mall, lies in the heart of the famous wholesale clothing market of Bangkok.

The group is also opening its first hotel/serviced apartments building, called Imperial Ocean Palms, at Phuket's Bangtao Beach in the next three months.

Suwan said Imperial Land Group had also secured a 3-rai (half-hectare) prime plot of land in Bangkok's Yaowarat area, where it will spend Bt2 billion developing a four-star hotel and shopping complex called the Station One China Town project, which is scheduled for completion within three years.

It also has two plots in Hua Hin, where it will build a four-star beachfront hotel.

Meanwhile, the group is negotiating with the landowner to construct a hotel on New Phetchaburi Road in Bangkok, and is seeking a location in South Pattaya for building a community mall with an investment of around Bt1 billion.

The overall investment sum for the planned hotel projects amounts to Bt5 billion.

Imperial Land Group currently has annual sales revenue of about Bt500 million. Within the next few years, its goal is for retail income to be generating half of overall revenue, followed by low-rise residential properties that will contribute 30 per cent, and hotels, the rest, Suwan said.

The group plans to develop one new hotel and community-mall project in city-centre areas every year. Most hotel projects will incorporate retail development areas.

"Our strong point is in finding truly prime areas for development," he added.

Suwan said Imperial Land Group was one of only a handful of property developers that had survived the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

Until recently, the group had mainly focused on developing low-rise housing projects in the eastern areas of Bangkok.

Housing projects under development include the Imperial Park (Ring Road-Pracha Uthit) project and the Imperial Laguna project in Bang Bua Thong.

The group also has a 25-per-cent stake in an ethanol-plant joint venture with listed company Siam Gas and Petrochemicals.

It was also a partner of Ua Withya, a publicly traded company, in a commercial/residential project on Charoen Krung Road, and a new beachfront shopping mall in Hua Hin.

Suwan said 95 per cent of the 20,000 square metres of retail space at the I'm Park Chula project had already been booked.

Half of the target customers of the newly opened community mall - which is situated on Chula Soi 5 - are students, while public and private employers account for 15 per cent apiece, and tourists, 15 per cent.


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