The Dream: Abad Naluri’s “cardboard horses” in Batu Kawan
It all seems to be going wrong for Patrick Lim. And not just on the East Coast.
First, his RM25 billion Penang Global City Centre project has all but been killed off as a result of a concerted campaign by Penang civil society groups to save the Turf Club land on the island.
Then, the Penang state government fell to opposition hands with even the Chief Minister soundly defeated. (The last time someone tried to muck around with a treasured landmark in Penang was in the late 1980s, when Vincent Tan’s Berjaya was eyeing Penang Hill. Civil society groups rose up in arms and mobilised the Penang people to oppose the greedy development. Perhaps that contributed to then chief minister Lim Chong Eu’s stunning defeat – and a setback for the Penang BN – in the 1990 general election. Some people never learn from history…)
Now, Patrick Lim’s Equine/Abad Naluri has failed to deliver the new race-course in Batu Kawan on the mainland that it was supposed to build for the Penang Turf Club. In 2004, Abad Naluri entered into an agreement to acquire the Penang Turf Club site in Batu Gantung on the island for RM488 million. As part-payment in kind, it was supposed to build a “state of the art” race-course in Batu Kawan worth about RM375 million and hand it over to the Turf Club by 2007, whereupon Abad Naluri would pay the balance of about RM100 million to the Turf Club. That clearly has not happened.
And the reality: After four years, this is all they have to show
In fact, this is what the Batu Kawan race-course site looked like when I checked it out yesterday. Even the land-filling work, I believe, is being carried out by the Penang Development Corporation (so the purchase price of the land will very likely be a bit higher than that of unfilled land).
Not a living creature in sight. Wait a minute, what’s this….
I looked for horses at the site – but all I could see were… cows!
Apparently, there is a principal agreement for 750 acres of the Batu Kawan land between the PDC and Abad Naluri. This agreement is believed to have a life-span of seven years and was also entered into in 2004; it includes the pricing and covers both the racecourse site and the land for Abad Naluri’s housing projects in Batu Kawan, a source familiar with the deal told me.
It would be interesting to find out what kind of pricing is in the Principal Agreement, because the land in the local area is now said to have gone up to around RM15-16 per square foot. If the proposed second Penang Bridge project nearby goes ahead, the price could well rise further.
Although the terms for the acquisition of the 300-acre racecourse site are said to have been finalised with the PDC, the actual Sale and Purchase Agreement between PDC and Abad Naluri has not yet been signed, from what I hear. The Penang State Government should check on this. If it is true, the PDC should hold back from signing it and instead allow the state government to review its options in the best interest of the people.
This is where the Second Penang Bridge is supposed to start on the mainland. Notice the clearing between the trees in the distance
Actually, Abad Naluri’s race-course site in Batu Kawan sits on prime land. It is just 0.5km away from the site where the proposed Second Bridge is supposed to land on the mainland. (Both sites actually share the same construction dirt track used by lorries and four-wheel-drives. It was a bumpy ride, believe me!) The ground-breaking ceremony of the second bridge site was officiated by Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi in 2006.
On the other side of the Second Bridge site lie Equine/Abad Naluri’s office, show units and more prime land belonging to the firm
Abad Naluri’s land in Batu Kawan really could not get much closer to the site of the proposed second bridge. How was it able to buy land with the proposed bridge set to land right smack in between its new racecourse and property development sites? At what price? Tell me it was all just a happy coincidence…
Meanwhile, back at the ranch…
At the Penang Turf Club, questions are swirling around ahead of an AGM on 7 April.
As Abad Naluri has failed to deliver the new racecourse on time, the principal agreement between Penang Turf Club and Abad Naluri for the sale of the Batu Gantung land has lapsed, according to a source. Even as I write, the source tells me that the Club and Abad Naluri are renegotiating a fresh deal to extend the time frame for handing over the Batu Kawan race-course by three years.
Lots of other questions are also being asked by members of the Turf Club. Has Abad Naluri actually paid the PDC for the Batu Kawan land? How much is due to PDC for the land? Has the ownership title of the Batu Kawan site even been transferred to Abad Naluri?
Have PDC and the state authorities approved the conversion of the Batu Kawan land for use as a race-course? What about the layout plan conversion? Has the planning permission application been submitted?
Obviously, there has been little progress on the Batu Kawan race-course, so there’s no need to ask if the architects have certified the progress of the construction of the new race-course!
One source told me the Turf Club was supposed to have set up a project team to audit the progress of the Batu Kawan race-course construction. If the team has been set up, what are their findings? Is there a penalty clause in the principal agreement (between Abad Naluri and the Penang Turf Club) for late handover of the Batu Kawan racecourse?
Of course, questions are also being raised about the extent to which the proposed – but hopefully aborted – Penang Outer Ring Road project will impact on the Penang Turf Club’s existing site.
If the Turf Club does come up with a new agreement with Abad Naluri, will it take into account the appreciation of the land since 2004, when the land was deemed to be worth RM43psf or RM488 million? The land value is now said to be worth at least RM250psf. Can Abad Naluri afford that?
Penang Turf Club members will surely want to know whether the Club had officially complained to Abad Naluri about the launch of the PGCC by Prime Minister Abdullah last year at a time when the land ownership of the PGCC site had not yet even been handed over to Abad Naluri. What has the Securities Commission got to say about the much-trumpeted launch of the PGCC last year?
Questions, questions…. It should be an interesting Penang Turf Club AGM to say the least!
What is fascinating is that it looks like Abad Naluri has spent very little cash so far on both the existing race-course site and the Batu Kawan new race-course site (if it is true it has not paid the PDC for that). Yet, it has very nearly acquired two vast tracts of prime land on the island and on the mainland! Amazing…
But it looks like it’s “game over” for Patrick – unless the Penang Turf Club inexplicably grants him a three-year extension!
Now we have a God-sent opportunity to stop these deals in their tracks and work towards the creation of a People’s Park in Penang on the existing Turf Club site. Here’s what the new Penang state government should consider:
- In view of Abad Naluri’s failure to deliver the completed racecourse in time, take back the Batu Kawan land, especially if no S & P has been signed.
- Scrutinise the whole deal and find out how Equine/Abad Naluri was able to acquire 750 acres of prime land in Batu Kawan. Who exactly was the driving force behind the deal?
- Re-gazette the Penang Turf Club’s existing land back to permanent recreational status so that no other developer can grab hold of it in future.
- Offer the Batu Kawan land to the Turf Club in exchange for the State taking over the existing Turf Club site on the island. If the Second Bridge does start in Batu Kawan, the mainland race-course will sit on prime land. Even if the Second Bridge is aborted, Batu Kawan remains an upcoming township and land prices there should rise.
- Turn the existing Turf Club land into a People’s Park. And don’t forget to set aside land for a second People’s Park in Batu Kawan as well.