The making of a global developer

Ching Chiat Kwong, chief executive officer of Oxley.
Oxley

OXLEY has come a long way since its roots as a Singapore-based property developer. Incorporated in 2010, it now has a presence in 10 markets across Asia, Australia and the UK, and most recently, made a foray into the hospitality business.

The company's chief executive officer Ching Chiat Kwong tells The Business Times: "Oxley has undergone a marvellous transformation from a Singapore-based developer to a global developer."

Today, it boasts property development projects in Singapore, the UK, Cambodia, Malaysia, Ireland, Indonesia and China, and investment projects in Singapore, Cambodia, Malaysia and Japan. The group also provides project management and consultancy services in Myanmar.

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Mr Ching says: "Overseas business has become increasingly important in Oxley's business portfolio."

As at Dec 31, 2016, the majority of Oxley's unbilled contract value (S$2.6 billion) will come from overseas projects (S$2.1 billion) in the next few years, a testament to Oxley's overseas success.

This desire for geographical expansion and diversification stems from wanting to mitigate single-country risk, generate more growth opportunities, enhance revenue streams and improve Oxley's financial position.

Singapore's property cooling measures as well as market saturation were additional reasons behind Oxley's push to go international. Mr Ching has said that it was the group's quickness to boldly expand abroad once it spotted home-ground weakness that helped it escape the effects of the domestic property market slowdown.

Oxley also recently ventured into hotels, investing in Novotel Singapore on Stevens/Ibis Singapore on Stevens. This 18,477 square metre development at 30 Stevens Road comprises two hotels with 254 and 528 rooms respectively and marks Oxley's maiden venture into the Singapore hospitality business.

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Mr Ching says: "Oxley is always looking out for business opportunities. As there is an under-supply of four-star hotels in the Orchard Road belt, there will be significant demand for this."

He adds that Oxley will leverage the Novotel and Ibis brands, and their operational expertise in hotel management, to move into the sophisticated, competitive hospitality space.

Outside of Singapore, the group has invested in Jumeirah Kuala Lumpur Hotel and So Sofitel Kuala Lumpur Hotel in Malaysia, and in Shangri-La Hotel in Cambodia.

Notably, Oxley was among the first developers to bank on "shoebox" condominiums (units smaller than 500 sq ft) - starting with the 48-unit Tyrwhitt 139 project which sold within three hours - even when the concept was initially dismissed by local property veterans.

Looking ahead, Mr Ching says that Oxley's growth strategies include adopting an asset- light model, expanding its global footprint and diversifying its business model.

In adopting an asset-light model, Oxley will enter into partnerships with local landowners or government bodies. The latter will provide the land bank and in return receive a share of profit in the development.

For instance, for Project Wave (a commercial development in Dublin), the Irish government is providing the land parcel and in return will get a 20 per cent stake in the development.

In Cambodia, Oxley has formed a 50-50 joint venture with Cambodia-based Worldbridge Land to develop The Bridge, a freehold, mixed residential and commercial development.

Moreover, the group will focus on securing new projects and prospecting business opportunities globally, particularly in Europe.

Mr Ching says: "Oxley takes a prudent approach when entering a new market and selecting business partners. It does not do this in a rush, or just for the sake of establishing a presence in a certain market. The opportunity has to make economic sense to Oxley."

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In January, the group reported a nearly threefold increase in net profit to S$123.75 million for the second quarter ended Dec 31, 2016.

This was in line with higher revenue, due mainly to recognition of revenue from Singapore's Oxley Tower upon its completion in December last year and the handover of certain plots in London's Royal Wharf (Phase 1A).

Revenue was also recognised on sold units in three mixed residential projects in Singapore - Floraville/Floraview/Floravista, KAP and KAP Residences and The Rise @ Oxley-Residences - due to progress made in the construction of these developments.

Other notable projects by the group include Robinson Square (a 20-storey freehold strata-titled development at Tanjong Pagar), Loft @ Stevens (a 41-unit residential development at Stevens Road) and Eco-Tech @ Sunview (a nine-storey light industrial development at Sunview Road).

Oxley was first listed on the Catalist board of the Singapore Exchange (SGX) in October 2010. It transferred to the SGX Mainboard in February 2013.

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This article was first published on Mar 13, 2017.
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