Blue Valley in South Africa, developed by a Malaysian company, has set a new trend in the country....
By Stephen Ng
Exclusive for Malaysian Business magazine
The Asian financial crisis in 1997 turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Malaysian public listed company, Mitrajaya Holdings Berhad.
While most developers were badly hit by the crisis and some never made it back into the black, Mitrajaya’s policy of looking into the largely untapped property market of the African continent has helped the company to stay afloat.
For them, it was a case of go or no go, and do or die scenario. That was back in the dark times of our economic crisis.
But today, Mitrajaya’s success story with the Blue Valley Golf and Country Estate in South Africa is a testimony to the company’s resilience in the worst of crises experienced by Malaysian companies in the late 90s.
Its prudence and wise decision to explore new property markets, and being one of the first, has paid off handsomely. The property at Blue Valley is well sought after.
In the words of Major (Retired) Amin Chua Abdullah, managing director of Mitrajaya Development South Africa (Pty) Ltd, the gated community featuring Gary Player-designed 18-hole golf course, is “indeed a pot of gold” in the whole province of Gauteng (pronounced ‘hau-teng’, which literally means City of Gold).
Gauteng was once known for its gold mines, for which much of South Africa’s great riches are derived from, apart from diamonds and other precious stones and jewels. South Africa is also one of the richest nations on the whole continent, where the city of Johannesburg is nearly on par with Kuala Lumpur.
Gold and Golf
Located just north of Johannesburg, midway between Sandton and Pretoria, the only difference between the valley and its location, apart from its historic past is the last alphabet in the two words – Golf and Gold; which seems to suggest that with Blue Valley Golf and Country Estate, Mitrajaya had indeed struck Africa’s pot of gold.
Back in 1998, South Africa had barely turned from apartheid to become a democratic nation. The future of the White community in South Africa was largely unknown, for fear of reprisal by the Black community, as happened in Zimbabwe during Robert Mugabe’s takeover of White farmlands.
“In those days, there was a lot of uncertainty, but we were bold enough to go ahead with the project, with initial capital outlay and logistical support (mobilization of construction plant, machinery and equipment) from the holding company,” said Major Amin..
“Compared to when we first started in October 1998, property prices have indeed appreciated many fold over the last 10 years,” said the former major with the Malaysian Army Royal Corp of Engineers, who also serves as the Chairman of Blue Valley Homeowners Association.
“It was only a barren piece of land, but today all 800 stands under Phase One – each measuring between 500 square metres to 1200 square metres – are already sold out, fetching prices from anywhere between R300K for non-fairway stands to RM600K for fairway stands.”
Apart from having one of the top rated golf courses in Gauteng, the Blue Valley has also attracted a number of discerning local and expatriate home owners who prefer to live in a golf estate gated community for life style and peace of mind.
“The well-to-do population in this country value safety and peace of mind more than anything,” explained Major Amin. “We have very tight security. All visitors will have to be screened and verified by the security guards with respective home owners, before entry and exit codes can be given, without which the visitor will never be allowed access into the estate.”
Security is not negotiable and must not be compromised, he continued. When we visited the Blue Valley to meet with our host, we were given an access code which we forgot totally. As a result, we were denied access into the housing estate, despite us claiming that we were guests of Major Amin, the “Big Chief” of Blue Valley himself. The security guards in a polite manner refused us entry. Such was the vigilance practised by the security guards at the gate house entrance into Blue Valley.
“People pay for the peace of mind and we are serious when it comes to the business of providing such security services,” added Major Amin. “We have 24 hours round the clock static, mobile and foot patrols, with direct communication with the local police. Touchwood, we have not had any major crimes in our housing estate.”
With good security and very attractive prices, Blue Valley properties are now high in demand. In total, some 500 homes – all conforming to Tuscany architectural design guidelines – have been completed, with a further 100 homes currently under construction. “The current market value of these homes ranges from RM 1 to 3 million (One Ringgit = Rands 2.388), depending on its built-up area and location” he said.
When completed, there will be a total of approximately 1500 Freehold Residential Stands and approximately 12 hectares of Business and Office Parks,” he said.
As a premier gated community, the whole valley spans 300 hectares and boasts a 18-hole semi-links international championship Gary Player signature design, par 72.
Gary Player visited the Blue Valley in June 2006. After reviewing his signature course, Gary Player left the place with a positive impression: “Blue Valley is like five years of marriage – you know you have a good wife, and after 20 years of marriage suddenly realise that you have got a fantastic wife … that’s Blue Valley to me.”
It is named “Blue Valley”, by virtue of its magnificent valley location in the Blue Hills province, under the clear blue skies of South Africa, and the serenity of its surroundings. “Our master plan took into consideration the beauty of Mother Nature,” he said. “In modern housing development, the concept now is to preserve the ecosystem as much as possible. We do not tamper with the beauty of its natural features; instead we enhance the site, replacing crude hazard markers with bunkers and water features, which provide strategic and aesthetic value.”
Overlooking a variety of water features such as lakes and rocky streams is an exquisite majestic Tuscan-styled clubhouse, which was officially opened by The Honourable Malaysian Prime Minister on 25 July 2005, in conjunction with his state visit to South Africa.
Private functions are also held at the clubhouse. When we visited the clubhouse, a group of local Indians – otherwise known as the “coloured” people within South African context -- were enjoying themselves to a karaoke session.
For bigger functions, Major Amin said, they have a full conference and banquet facilities to cater for 200 people in a banquet seating style. “The clubhouse also has a Beauty & Health Spa with Steam Rooms that is available for use by the residents,” he said. “Currently under construction is an additional office block complete with gymnasium and conferencing facilities. So far, we have been very successful in meeting our buyers’ expectations.”
On its golf course, Major Amin said, golf enthusiasts would be keen to learn that the Blue Valley is rated within the top 100 out of a total of almost 600 golf courses in South Africa. “The championship course is complete with chipping greens, a driving range and the Muss Gammon Golf Academy,” said Major Amin. “We are capable of hosting major golf tournaments on our golf course.” The next major golf tournament to be held at Blue Valley will be the South African Open for the Senior Professionals in October 2008
Blue Valley – A Success Story
According to Malaysia’s trade commissioner, Mansor Shah Wahid, the example set by Mitrajaya Holdings in South Africa is inspiring and worth emulating. “So far, the Blue Valley has been a very successful Malaysian project in South Africa,” he said. “We want to encourage more developers from Malaysia to explore the business opportunities here in South Africa and the neighbouring countries under the Southern African Development Community (SADC).”
Malaysia is one of the first few countries to invest in South Africa after the Apartheid Regime was removed. “We believe being one of the early birds, Malaysia has built a strong rapport with the South African government and its business community,” he said.
Mansor urged more developers to invest in South Africa, especially in the low cost housing for the poorer community, who have to live in old shacks and often in poor sanitary condition. “There are funds from the World Bank and other non-governmental organisations as well as funding from foreign governments to help alleviate the poverty issue in South Africa. This is where our Malaysian expertise is required,” he added.
Besides, with a growing economy boasting a Gross Domestic Product of five per cent, Mansor said there is an increase in the number of “Black Diamonds” who would need better housing facilities such as the ones at Blue Valley.
He said Malaysian Trade Commission (MATRADE) in Johannesburg has been making efforts to open doors of opportunity to Malaysian companies and promoting Malaysian products and services through trade fairs in South Africa and Southern Africa countries. In the month of May 2008, a general marketing mission will be organised to target Botswana, Zambia and Rwanda. During the mission, business meetings will be arranged between Malaysian companies and business people from these countries.
In January this year, Mansor said that MATRADE Johannesburg has also arranged briefing to the South African business community in cities like Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town on new growth areas, such as “halal” products and services.
“We were able to send one company producing pies in South Africa as an exhibitor and 52 representatives from 36 companies from South Africa and Mauritius who visited MIHAS 2008 in their capacity as buyers,” he said.
In one sentence, Mansor assured, MATRADE Johannesburg will “continue to work with government agencies, chambers of commerce and industry, as well as trade and business associations in promoting bilateral trade and investment in both countries.”
MATRADE is always willing to assist any investors seeking to conduct market research and eventually invest into the property market. “They only need to contact us before they arrive in Johannesburg,” he said. “We will try to assist in whatever way we can to make the Malaysian investment in South Africa a success. The pie is there – if only Malaysian companies continue to explore and share a piece of the pie.”
Whether there will be another major success story by another Malaysian company, Mansor, who has taken over the position as Trade Commissioner recently, said he hopes to see it happening during his term of office. “With this,” he asked, “Who’s Next?”
The Blue Valley project is a wholly owned subsidiary, developed and managed by Malaysian giant Mitrajaya Holdings Berhad. Its website is www.bluevalley.co.za. Malaysia Trade Centre (Matrade) is located at Ground Floor, Building 5, Commerce Square Office Park, 39 Rivonia Road, Sandton 2196 Johannesburg, RSA (Tel:+27 (0)11 2682380/1 Fax:+27 (0)11 2682382). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
To check out about investment opportunities in South Africa, read "Investment and Business Opportunities in South Africa".