Friday, October 26, 2012

PERSONALITY Building a global business

From constructing townships in India to a listing in Australia, Tan Yang Po is leading Azea Properties into unchartered territory
04:45 AM Oct 26, 2012

In Azea Properties, Ms Tan Yang Po combined her twin passions for business and real estate.

"I've always been interested in architecture and design. It has always been my dream to build a home," she said.

The twist is that Ms Tan realised her dreams by building homes for others, while she is perfectly contented staying with her husband in their executive condominium in Simei. She also owns a unit at The Sail at Marina Bay and The Bayshore at Bayshore Park.

After a stint working at luxury brands like Yves Saint Laurent and Montblanc, she started a business conducting seminars on property investment, having been an investor herself since she was in her '20s. She then leveraged her seminars to pool together interested investors to collectively buy overseas properties.

"There is no minimum sum if you want to invest. In fact, you can come in for no money if you have an investment idea."

Building that dream home ...for someone else
One of property investor Tan Yang Po's best deals was a condominium unit in River Valley, which she flipped for a S$60,000 profit over 20 years ago.

That success was an early sign that the chief executive of real estate investment and development firm Azea Properties had a knack for spotting a good opportunity. Three years ago, she saw a once-in-a-generation chance to profit from buying into distressed real estate in the United States and Europe that had been battered by the financial crisis.

But rather than doing it alone, she started Azea Properties to pool funds from a group of investors to buy a block of 12 units in a 150-year-old Victorian building in the heart of London.

"There is only so much I can do on my own, but with a group of investors, you have better bargaining power," Ms Tan, 49, told TODAY in a recent interview. She managed to get a 30 per cent discount off the price for the London deal that was already depressed due to the crisis.

That simple strength-in-numbers philosophy has seen her company experience tremendous growth, having transacted and developed more than S$250 million worth of properties in Malaysia, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States and India. Azea Properties' turnover is expected to more than double to S$12 million this year, and the company is looking to list in Australia next year with a target market capitalisation of S$100 million.

The listing will take the form of a stapled fund, a vehicle that combines both the investment and development aspects of the company.

Going forward, Azea Properties will focus its efforts on property developments that yield better returns, revealed Ms Tan. The company's first development project, four blocks of high-end apartments in Danga Bay, Johor, is due to launch in the first quarter of next year.

"Development is fun because you are creating something. It's like LEGO, you build what you want. But it is also very challenging, there are a lot of details you have to attend to," she said.

But the entrepreneur is most excited about the prospects of the Indian market, where her company is building with partners a residential development and a much bigger township project in the city of Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh.

The first project in India comprises 12 blocks of residential units sitting on over 200,000 square feet of land that is expected to be completed in two years. Azea Properties is in the process of buying a second piece of land measuring almost 1 million square feet that will house a township. The township will take about four to five years to build.

"India right now is like China 12 years ago. It is in the midst of a transformation. So if you missed the China boom, go for India," said Ms Tan. Despite a cooling market, she believes that prices in top-tier Chinese cities are still high.

With her track record for spotting bargains, Ms Tan is understandably indifferent to Singapore real estate, where home prices are hovering at record highs. But she concedes that investing in the premium end of the market could be profitable.

"If you have the muscle to hold, the prime areas like Orchard Road or Bukit Timah could be a good investment, because the gap between the premium and the mass markets has closed."

Martin Koh | 86666 944 | R020968Z
Sherry Tang | 9844 4400 | R020241C
Senior Sales Director
DTZ Debenham Tie Leung (SEA) Pte Ltd (L3006301G)

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1 comment:

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