Saturday February 16, 2013

From steward to property developer

Datuk Mohamad Salim Fateh Din is the man that is set to change the fortunes of Malaysian Resources Corp Bhd (MRCB) with his vast landbank. He is not just going to inject his landbank into MRCB but also plan and manage all the development and that will keep MRCB busy for many years to come as it sees KL Sentral reaching completion soon. He met up with StarBizWeek this week and here are the excerpts of the interview:

What drove you to quit your job as a flight steward and be a property broker?

I always wanted to do business and you can’t do two things at one time. I had to make a choice and I chose business. I left in 1985 and a year later was doing property deals.

Why property?

Because it is related to running a petrol station. I tried (going into) selling petrol to industry players but then found that property offered better margins.

Which deal gave you your first break?

I managed to sell a piece of land to Exxon Malaysia and the deal was worth RM1.5mil. It is not so much the money but the knowledge I gained in terms of land transactions and property deals.

That was in 1989 and this deal came after three years of my entry into the world of business. It has been 25 years since I have been selling, buying and being involved in the development of property. In those days, even RM100,000 is big money and that’s where I made my million ringgit.

Name three notable deals that you have transacted?

It was the 348 Sentral which is the Shell headquarters and Ascott serviced apartments. The land was mine, but I got to build for them, so I entered into a 60:40 joint venture with MRCB (Gapurna 60%, MRCB 40%) in 2006 to undertake the project. The other deal was the building of a big mall for Giant in Kota Damansara.

Any big deals that got away?

I never soured for deals and I never regret about losing a deal because I am very simple in my belief. If it is not your rezeki you will not get it. I don’t gripe about it or over it, I just move on.


I entered a joint venture with them in 2006 and that was the test of my working relationship with it. I found it a good and reliable partner and it had good branding. I won the tender to build Shell corporate office with MRCB. MRCB has good urban regeneration branding and it has a good management team led by Datuk Shahril Ridza Ridzuan (who is now the deputy CEO of EPF). He is a good partner to work with.

You have about 40 acres of land after injecting 33 acres into MRCB. It is all prime land. How did you get the land?

The land is always there. It is urban land and I started buying land at a very early stage and I kept on buying. As towns expand, so does the land needs and the value also goes up. I bought the PJ Sentral land in 2007 at market prices.

Nusa Gapurna is my new vehicle and all the land at PJ Sentral, Subang and Old Klang Road is parked there.

Did you really have to go with MRCB when you could have listed Gapurna by itself?

For me, I just wanted a vehicle and I believe that MRCB has a good name in urban lifestyle development. I also want fast growth and it has what I need.

Did EPF ask you to merge?

No. It is me, I am putting my assets into MRCB. It is me who wants to go in and use the MRCB brand to develop because I simply believe in the brand. How sure are you things will work out for you now (upon completion of the deal)?

It is already proven and because I have worked with it on the Shell and Ascott projects. The gross development value of Shell building and Ascott is RM1.1bil. We are already working on big deals. I believe I can grow with MRCB, and that’s why I pumped my assets into it.

You really think there will be buyers for the units at PJ Sentral as there seems a glut of commercial and high-end residency buildings?

I engage with multinational companies. I go out and source multinationals to come to this country and build their corporate offices here. My idea is to pitch and get them to move to this part of the world because we have good infrastructure and the units are reasonably priced compared to other capital cities in this region. What multinationals want is a good bargain. We will provide that and also give them eco-friendly buildings. There will not be an issue of takeup as we will talk to the tenants first and build according to their specifications.

Related Stories:
Touch of Salim fortune for MRCB
Will PJ Sentral be as successful as KL Sentral?

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