Big plans for Zhuhai circuit

MALAYSIA's LBS Bina Group Bhd has entered into a potentially lucrative RM5 billion joint venture to build a golf course, motor racing circuit, and other properties in Zhuhai, China.

Managing director Datuk Lim Hock San said LBS Bina will jointly develop the project with a Zhuhai City Government-owned company.

The Chinese partner will provide the land while LBS Bina will pump in the capital, Lim told a group of Malaysian journalists at the Lakewood Golf Club South Mountain in Jing Ting, Zhuhai, recently.

The Zhuhai City Government has approved the construction of condominium, high-end apartments, commercial and residential properties on a 80.8ha of land surrounding the golf course.

"When the approval was given, we realised that the land for property development was scattered around the golf course. We proposed to them that we relocate one of the 18-hole courses to the mountain area and convert the site for property development," he added.

Lim said approval was given last year and the tender has been called for the development. Six companies submitted bids and have been shortlisted to two.

"We will first relocate the 18-hole course by the end of this year before embarking on the property development," said Lim.

LBS Bina took over the J. Michael Poellot-designed Lakewood golf course in 2002, and spent RM380 million to turn it into one of China's most difficult and unique golf courses.

The two 18-hole courses attract golfers from as far as Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Lim is optimistic about the club's prospects, citing China's 1.3 billion population, rising affluence, and a government freeze on new licences for golf course development.

Future plans include increasing membership from 700 now to 4,000 within five years, night golfing, and a new club house with 300 rooms and a conference hall to be completed by August.

"To me, a golf course is a long-term investment, and I make money every year. I expect at least a 30 per cent increase in revenue per year," he said.

LBS Bina had also taken over the Zhuhai International Circuit (ZIC), the first permanent motor racing circuit built in China. The 4.3km ZIC was completed in November 1996.

The circuit is now host to many local, regional and international races, including the Pan Delta Super Racing festival, Asian Festival of Speed, FIA GT (China Round) and American Champ Car (China Round).

More recently, it won the rights to be the promoter and organiser of the first ever China Superbike championship.

Lim said the project is strategically located with an inter-city light rail system, which will be ready in 2008, that will pass a nearby terminal built beside the golf course.

In addition, a bridge linking Hong Kong, Zhuhai and Macau has also been approved for development, which will cut travelling time between Hong Kong and Zhuhai to 30 minutes.

"All these will make the economy and property market boom in Zhuhai," said Lim.

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