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Kuala Lumpur Q2 2018

Q2 2018 SNAPSHOT

Malaysia’s GDP growth moderated to 5.4 per cent in Q1 2018. Improved labour market conditions and lower inflation have contributed to stronger consumer confidence. Policy uncertainties are likely to prevail in the short term, amid the unprecedented victory of Pakatan Harapan in the 14th General Election on 9 May 2018 after 61 years of rule under Barisan Nasional.


INVESTMENT

Investment sales increased up to RM709m from RM250m in Q1 2018. The investment market was largely led by hotel property deals.

OFFICE

Average monthly rents remained unchanged at RM5.98 per square foot (psf), with average capital value of RM875 psf.

RETAIL

Occupancy of malls in Kuala Lumpur (KL) remained stable at 86.0 per cent quarter-on-quarter (q-o-q) in Q2 2018.

RESIDENTIAL

Prices for high-end condominiums increased marginally by 4.4 per cent q-o-q to RM784 psf with rents declining by 6.3 per cent q-o-q to RM2.77 psf per month.


THE ECONOMY

Key highlights

  • Malaysia’s economy expanded by 5.4 per cent year-on-year (y-o-y) in Q1 2018 (Q4 2017: 5.9 per cent y-o-y).
  • Unemployment rate decreased marginally to 3.3 per cent in Q1 2018.
  • Headline inflation, measured by the annual change in Consumer Price Index (CPI), trended lower at 1.8 per cent in Q1 2018 (Q4 2017: 3.5 per cent).
  • Consumer Sentiment Index (CSI) rose higher to 91.0 in Q1 2018 from 82.6 in Q4 2017.
  • In Q2, the Ringgit depreciated by 3.0 per cent, to RM3.98 per US dollar.

FIGURE 1
Malaysia’s GDP growth and unemployment

Source: Bank Negara Malaysia, Department of Statistics Malaysia, NTL Research

FIGURE 2
Consumer Sentiment Index (CSI)

Source: Malaysian Institute of Economic Research, NTL Research

FIGURE 3
Malaysian Ringgit exchange rate

Source: Bank Negara Malaysia, NTL Research

Market commentary

Malaysia’s GDP recorded a growth of 5.4 per cent y-o-y in Q1 2018, compared to the 5.9 per cent in Q4 2017 (Figure 1). On a q-o-q seasonally adjusted basis, the economy expanded by 1.4 per cent.

Domestic demand continued to grow, albeit at a slower pace of 4.1 per cent compared to 6.2 per cent in Q4 2017. This was due to the moderate growth in private sector spending and a marginal decline in public expenditure.

On the supply side, growth was driven by the services sector which rose 6.5 per cent y-o-y, followed by the manufacturing (5.3 per cent), construction (4.9 per cent), agriculture (2.8 per cent) and mining (0.1 per cent) sectors.

Headline inflation trended lower at 1.8 per cent. This can be attributed mainly to the lower inflation recorded in the transport sector, as the stronger Ringgit offsets the impact of higher global oil prices in Q1. According to Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM), headline inflation for 2018 is projected at 2.0 to 3.0 per cent, depending on global oil prices.

There was a slight improvement in the labour market in Q1 2018, as net employment gain outweighed the expansion of labour force, resulting in lower unemployment rate of 3.3 per cent from 3.4 per cent in Q4 2017.

The lower inflation and stable labour market have contributed to the rise in consumer confidence, as evidence by the growth in the CSI (Figure 2).

Given the sustained domestic demand, short-term uncertainties are unlikely to derail the long-term growth prospects.

Between 30 March and 31 May 2018, the Ringgit depreciated against the US dollar by 3.0 per cent (Figure 3). While the higher crude oil prices and sustained economy provide upside potential for the Ringgit, its future growth will also be dependent on the economic policies of the newly-elected Pakatan Harapan Government.

Outlook

For 2018, BNM forecasts the GDP to grow by 5.5 to 6.0 per cent. Economic outlook remains positive, despite concerns on policy uncertainties posed by the election results and cutbacks on mega infrastructure projects, announced as well as under review.


INVESTMENT SALES

Key highlights

  • Despite a heated GE14, investment sales rose q-o-q in Q2.
  • The investment market was largely led by hotel property deals.
  • Inevitable short-term pains of fiscal consolidation and project cutbacks given the high public debt, will be felt across businesses.
  • General optimism prevails with expectations that new economic policies and greater transparency will lay the foundation for better and sustainable economic growth.

FIGURE 4
Investment sales (RM thousands)

Source: NTL Research

TABLE 1
Investment sales

Development Buyer Vendor Price (RM m)
Thistle Hotel (JB) GuocoLand Hotels Pte Ltd GuocoLand Bhd 152
Thistle Hotel (PD) GuocoLand Hotels Pte Ltd GuocoLand Bhd 136
Impiana KLCC Bio Osmo Bhd Astaka Mekar 93.6
Impiana Hotel, Ipoh Bio Osmo Bhd Impiana Hotel, Ipoh 50
Wisma UOA Pantai CIMB Bank UOA 120
Tanjung Sinar Warehouses Axis REIT Tanjung Sinar Sdn Bhd 87
LB Aluminium LB Aluminium Façade Treatment Engineering 25
Infinity 3 Condo (balance units) Sunglobal Setapak Heights 45.8

Source: NTL Research

Market commentary

Despite a slow start to the year, investment activities picked up in Q2, despite the commotion of a pending and heated general election. Six major deals involving eight assets with a cumulative value of some RM709m were noted, all done by listed entities. This represents a 75.0 per cent increase q-o-q (Figure 4).

Unlike the recent past, only one deal involved REIT, namely AXIS REIT, buying over a warehouse in Shah Alam at a net yield of 7.0 per cent. Hotel property is the theme for the review period, as some hotels changed ownerships. One of these deals is a related party transaction – a sale of assets comprising Thistle Hotel Port Dickson (PD) and Thistle Hotel Johor Bharu (JB) by GuocoLand Malaysia to its sister company registered in Singapore, GuocoLand Hotels Pte Ltd. Other hotel transacted properties are Impiana Hotel Ipoh and Impiana KLCC where the latter price reflects RM901,000 per room for this 4-star asset (Table 1).

A rare major residential en bloc sale involving the balance of 43 unsold apartments at Infinity 3, Wangsa Maju was sold to Sunglobal, a subsidiary of Sunway Bhd at a 30.0 per cent discount from the list price. This is an opportunistic purchase by Setapak Heights, its current joint venture partner for a plot of land located next to the project.

Outlook

With the outcome of the general election, there will continue to be uncertainties as the new administration needs to settle down with the business of governing and many new policies will be expected.

Nevertheless, the short-term pains of fiscal consolidation and project cutbacks are inevitable given the high public debt and will be felt across businesses. There is, however, a general optimism that the nation is experiencing a new beginning with plenty of goodwill for Pakatan Harapan, the new Government.

There will be a review of major Chinese investments and a new Central Bank Governor to manage monetary policy. At the same time, a revamp of the leadership at the Government-linked Companies (GLCs) are ongoing.

The current oversupply market remains a reality that will need time to consolidate. Hopefully with the new economic policies and greater transparency, it will generate new user demand and this can only augur well going forward. Like the voters, the market is looking at better days ahead.


OFFICE

Key highlights

  • There were no new completions in Q2 as the bulk of new completions for 2018 are expected in H2 2018.
  • Capital value and average monthly rental rates remained at RM875 psf and RM5.98 psf respectively (Figure 5).
  • Average occupancy rates remained flat at 80.0 per cent with no major upside in demand as businesses continue to be cautious with emerging external risks such as a trade war (Figure 6).

FIGURE 5
Prime rental indices – KL

Source: NTL Research

FIGURE 6
Office net absorption (sq ft, m)

Source: NTL Research

FIGURE 7
Future pipeline supply (sq ft, m)

Source: NTL Research

Market commentary

In the run up to the 14th GE, less activities were recorded with an unchanged average occupancy rate of 80.0 per cent. Despite having no completions in the quarter, approximately 4m sq ft Net Lettable Area (NLA) of office space is expected to be completed in H2 2018, including Etiqa Bangsar (380,000 sq ft NLA), Equatorial Plaza (460,000 sq ft NLA) and The Exchange 106 (2.6m sq ft NLA) (Figure 7).

In Q2, the average monthly rent for prime office remained unchanged at RM5.98 psf while the average monthly rent for secondary space eased further to RM4.14 psf from RM4.20 psf in the previous quarter. Capital value was stable at RM875 psf, while the yield maintained at 6.25 per cent.

Since the GE on 9 May, the new Pakatan Harapan Government has been reviewing all mega projects, with the possibility that some of the major planned office developments in KL, especially those linked to GLCs, will be affected given public debt level concerns. The controversial TRX project, KL new international financial hub, will continue.

The opening of Alibaba’s first regional Southeast Asia office in KL at Bangsar South could help jumpstart the emerging e-commerce sector in Malaysia in conjunction with the Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ) which is also involved in KLIA.

Businesses are generally adopting a wait-and-see attitude on the back of policy uncertainties.

Outlook

The office market in KL is expected to remain challenging in H2 2018 as there are currently no major catalysts to boost demand in the short-term to meet the new supply of close to 4m sq ft NLA of office space by end 2018. Concerns on policy uncertainties are likely to hold investors in the short-term.

Notwithstanding, rising oil price is leading to more activities and projects in the office market. Hopefully, this can be translated to newer spaces in due course, after the recent spate of consolidation. Confidence in the new Government to boost economic growth and attract foreign direct investments are likely to produce a positive outlook in the medium term.


RETAIL

Key highlights

  • Retail sales recorded a modest growth of 2.6 per cent for Q1 2018.
  • Total retail stock in KL rose to 31.1m sq ft with the opening of Shoppes at the Four Season Place in May. Meanwhile, stock outside KL remained at 31m sq ft (Figure 8).
  • Retail mall occupancy in KL lingered at 86.0 per cent.

FIGURE 8
Retail new supply (NLA) in KL (sq ft, m)

Source: NTL Research

TABLE 2
Selected upcoming retail malls in Klang Valley

Development Est area
(NLA, sq ft)
Location Est year of completion
Empire City Damansara 2,500,000 Selangor 2018
Tropicana Gardens Mall 1,000,000 Selangor 2018
Central Plaza @ i-City 1,000,000 Selangor 2018

Source: NTL Research

Market commentary

The CSI surged by 8.4 points to 91 during Q1 2018, backed by stronger than expected GDP growth. Despite staying below the 100 points threshold, the Index in Q1 2018 was the highest since late 2014. The CSI improved in the last three consecutive quarters, signifying a revival of optimism.

Retail sales in Q1 2018 recorded a lower-than-expected growth of 2.6 per cent. Growth declined by more than half of the forecast of 5.4 per cent. With spending to remain cautious during the quarter, the festive Lunar New Year season failed to lift retail sales.

The change in Government is expected to improve consumers' confidence in the economy and in turn lead to higher expenditures. As part of its election manifesto, the new Government has zero-rated Goods and Services Tax (GST) for an interim period of three months, from June to August, en-route to abolish the widely detested levy.

The plan to abolish the GST is expected to positively impact the retail industry. Sales and Services Tax (SST) is being reintroduced and will likely to take effect in September with unforeseen effects.

Zero-rated GST coupled with the biggest festive season of Hari Raya are stepping stones for improved retail sales.

On new completions, the city centre welcomed the opening of Four Seasons Place, located at the heart of Kuala Lumpur. The 65-storey tower comprises hotel, residence, and retail. The retail podium, Shoppes at the Four Seasons Place, comprises 200,000 sq ft of retail space is largely occupied by Robinsons; a department store with presence in both Malaysia and Singapore.

Outlook

Looking ahead, retail sales for Q2 2018 is expected to expand by 6.3 per cent, in anticipation for the festive Eid season. Sales for Q3 and Q4 2018 are expected to grow by 6.8 and 3.5 per cent respectively. Overall, for 2018, a growth of 5.3 per cent is anticipated.


RESIDENTIAL

Key highlights

  • Two developments were completed in Q2 2018, bringing a substantial new supply of 1,168 condominium units into the market. The two developments are The Fennel in Sentul East (916 units) and Dorsett Residences in Bukit Bintang (252 units).
  • Some 5,260 high-end residential units are expected to complete in H2 2018, of which 40 per cent will be in the city centre (Figure 9).
  • The price of high-end condominiums increased by 4.4 per cent q-o-q to RM784 psf (Figure 10).
  • On the other hand, rent eased by 6.3 per cent q-o-q to RM2.77 psf in a competitive market lacking tenant demand.

FIGURE 9
Future supply of high-end condominiums in KL

Source: NTL Research

FIGURE 10
Rental and price indices of high-end condominiums in KL

Source: NTL Research

Market commentary

In its election manifesto, the new Pakatan Harapan Government has pledged to address critical issues pertaining to the local property market. Among its promises is to build one million affordable homes in the first two terms as a Government. The Government has also pledged to introduce a special housing loan scheme to encourage youths to buy their first home. These initiatives will likely increase number of transactions and encourage more affordable housing projects by both public and private sectors.

The zero rating of the GST made effective on 1 June 2018 will lower prices in the medium term and is expected to boost buyers’ confidence and overall market sentiment. The GST implementation required developers to consider the GST on input costs, resulting in an increase on overall development cost that was passed on to the buyers.

In the latest release by the National Property Information Centre (NAPIC), as of Q1 2018, the cumulative unsold completed residential units (including serviced apartments and SOHOs) has increased significantly by 55.7 per cent y-o-y, to 34,532 units worth RM22.26bn as compared to 22,175 units worth RM13.27bn in 2017. Overall, across all price segments of units launched, a third remain unsold, of which properties priced between RM500,000 and RM1.0m had the largest share of launched units.

Weak market sentiments coupled with several factors including stringent financing policies, supply-demand mismatch and locational factors, have attributed to the increase of unsold units.

The new ruling Government is expected to bring more changes that could benefit the overall housing market.

Outlook

Meanwhile, it is still too early to assess the impact of the new Government change toward the overall housing market in Malaysia. Market players are interested to witness how the new Government will realise its pre-election promises. Issues that are critical to the property market such as affordable housing and multi-billion-ringgit infrastructure projects have been featured remarkably in the Government’s manifesto.

The industry is expecting a positive outlook provided that the economy can be managed well. The Government’s decision to scrap the Kuala Lumpur–Singapore high-speed rail (HSR) and the Mass Rapid Transit 3 (MRT3) projects has been praised as one of the best actions to save country from unsustainable debt, although this will impact on property projects served by the proposed lines. With the new Government, more policies relating to housing will likely to be reviewed and this will bring uncertainties to the market in the short term.