Deal could thrust tycoon into the big league

Central to Mr Lim Kang Hoo's success will be his plans for an IPO to raise capital for the Bandar Malaysia development.
Central to Mr Lim Kang Hoo's success will be his plans for an IPO to raise capital for the Bandar Malaysia development.

KUALA LUMPUR • Three years ago, low-key businessman Lim Kang Hoo's gamble to create a township on reclaimed land in Johor Baru's waterfront paid off big time when he shared the same stage with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak for the launch of his 1,620ha coastal city.

Now, Tan Sri Lim intends to bet all those gains from the Iskandar Waterfront development on his latest venture, the massive Bandar Malaysia project. It is a deal that could firmly establish his credentials as one of the country's top Chinese tycoons.

Central to Mr Lim's success will be his plans to list Iskandar Waterfront Holdings (IWH) on the local stock exchange, Bursa Malaysia, to raise working capital for the Bandar Malaysia development.

"That we are going ahead with the IPO (initial public offering) is certain. Only the shape it will take is now being finalised," Mr Lim told The Straits Times.

The 63-year-old businessman is already the government's corporate partner of choice in the property sector.

The Johor state government owns a 40 per cent interest in Mr Lim's flagship property group, IWH, while Malaysia's state-owned strategic investment arm, Khazanah Nasional, has minority equity interests in the group's subsidiaries.

In late 2015, Mr Lim's property flagship won an international tender together with China Railway Engineering Corp for control of 60 per cent of the Bandar Malaysia development. The Malaysian government owns the remainder.

Bankers familiar with the proposed listing said the Malaysian government is considering lumping its equity holdings in Mr Lim's Johor businesses together with its shares in Bandar Malaysia into a new corporate vehicle that will partner IWH ahead of the public listing.

Mr Lim said he is not aware of the government's plans, but would not be opposed to a corporate restructuring prior to listing.

"It will all come down to the valuation. We are businessmen and we are always open," he said.

Leslie Lopez

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 06, 2017, with the headline 'Deal could thrust tycoon into the big league'. Print Edition | Subscribe