West Side Place, Melbourne

Far East Consortium

Well-placed to navigate through COVID-19 & prosper beyond

Influential Asian thought leaders representing a major Asian investor in Australia speak frankly with The Asian Executive about Asia Pacific responses to COVID-19 pandemic, their significant investments in Australia and the importance of Chinese Australians to facilitate goodwill, trade and commerce between China and Australia.

Tan Sri Dato’ David Chiu, B.SC. (Executive Director, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer) (left) and Mr Chris Hoong, B.ENG., ACA (Executive Director And Managing Director) (right)


“I am very proud of our achievement with West Side Place in Melbourne, Australia”

Tan Sri Dato’ David Chiu


 

Far East Consortium (FEC) is the Hong Kongbased publicly listed company behind some of the most ambitious, high profile residential projects in Australia. The company recorded an estimated global gross revenue up to March 2020 of approx. AUD$0.26 billion on total assets in the same accounting period of AUD$1.92 billion. The company was founded in the early seventies by the venerated Chiu family who originated from Shanghai. Its key areas of business activity over time diversified to property development, hotel operations and management, car park operations and facilities management, gaming operations and various other significant activities.

Australia is an essential focus of investment for FEC. Its flagship projects strategically located across Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and the Gold Coast ranks Australia second at 17% behind its global headquarters of Hong Kong at 38% in terms of the distribution of global assets.

The Asian Executive interviews Tan Sri Dato’ David Chiu who is an Executive Director, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer and Mr Chris Hoong, an Executive Director and Managing Director of Far Ear Consortium International Limited (FECIL).

Far East Consortium International Limited (FECIL)
Total Assets Ranked by Location
1. Hong Kong                                 38%
2. Australia                                     17%
3. Treasury & Others                     10%
4. The United Kingdom                   7%
5. Singapore                                    12%
6. Mainland China                          10%
7. Malaysia                                        4%
8. Continental Europe                      2%

TAE: Far East Consortium has been extremely pro- active in reacting to COVID-19 to mitigate against the potential financial fall-out that the pandemic wreaks. Can you describe those measures and also what you have observed in China in terms of the recovery phase?

HOONG: Firstly, FEC has worked diligently, as a company to protect our balance sheet with strategies to neutralize the worst effects of a pandemic. For example, our rationalization programme up to March 2020 netted sustainable annual savings of around AUD$31 mill. The programme focussed on the reduction of overheads, removal of incentive payments and streamlining operations. Secondly, my executive team and I are regularly in and out of China, and we don’t see a lot of major issues in the street or public spaces. People, as a whole, are going about their everyday lives. Even masks are not being worn en masse as they used to be. We have a significant hotel asset in Wuhan, a city with a population of 19 million. We recently leased out a 3,000 sq.m. seventh floor of that building to a significant Wuhanbased retailer on an 18-year lease at a premium rate. This deal tells you that Wuhan is back to normal because no established, experienced business operator would enter into a long-term lease if there were to be any doubt over the business viability of its industry.

Queen's Wharf, Brisbane

CHAIRMAN’S THANKS TO
THE AUSTRALIAN TEAM

“I would like to express my sincerest thanks to our Executive Director, Mr Craig Williams and his team’s extraordinary effort and diligence with bringing to fruition our flagship projects in Australia.

Mr Williams has contributed mightily to FEC for thirty years, and without his supreme efforts, FEC would not be as successful nor have flourished as rapidly without him.”

Tan Sri Dato’ David Chiu
(Nov. 2020)

Major Projects in Australia

BRISBANE
Queens’s Wharf

The project comprises both the integrated resort component and the residential component and encompasses approximately 2,940,000 sq. ft., with approximately 1,290,000 sq. ft. being over land and approximately 1,650,000 sq. ft. being over river, consisting of three residential towers comprising approximately 2,000 apartments, 3 world class hotels, high- end food and commercial outlets and a casino in Brisbane’s prime waterfront district.

Development Address: Queen’s Wharf
District: Central Business District, Brisbane
Property Website: www.destinationbrisbaneconsortium.com.au
Approximate Saleable Floor Area (sq. ft.): 1,582,000
Number of Residential Units:
Towers 4, 5 and 6: approximately 2,000
Number of Hotel Rooms: 3 hotels over 800 rooms
Launch/Expected Launch Time:
Tower 4: FY2020
Towers 5 & 6: Planning
Expected Completion:
Tower 4: FY2024
Towers 5 and 6: Planning
Building Floors (including retail area):
Tower 4: 64 storeys
Tower 5: max. 63 storeys
Tower 6: max. 50 storeys

Mr Craig Grenfell Williams Executive Director Far East Consortium

TAE: The western side of the Melbourne CBD grid was once a derelict, much-maligned part of the city. More than a decade ago, Far East Consortium acquired various sites across the Southern Cross Railway Station intending to build, over time, around 6,000 apartments. The scale of this project is still not standard in Australia. Today, we see the fruits of that decision with modern apartments with an exciting mixed-use retail element. What are your feelings about those early decisions and where Far East Consortium is with the project today?

CHIU: Our company’s first project in Australia was in Melbourne with our project, West Side Place is one of my proudest achievements for several reasons. The challenge of the location required that we create from nothing a brand-new destination lifestyle to a scale previously unprecedented in Melbourne. I recall some years ago speaking to your state premier at the time about our objective to build a few thousand units in one location – an undertaking considered normal in China. He responded by saying we were quite ambitious. I can say today that we achieved our first-phase target of 3000 apartments. Our second phase will be completed in two years with a similar target. The crowning glory of our project is the Ritz Carlton hotel located on the eightieth floor. By the end of this multi-stage project, our company’s total investment will exceed HKD$11 billion. Our success has been motivated by the desirability of overseas families wanting to move to Australia and being attracted by the concept of Australian-style city living. This business model has been enormously successful, and I think Australia has benefitted by the hundreds of construction jobs created and the crucial foreign capital brought into the country.

Elizabeth Quay, Perth

TAE: What is your idea about Australian city-living that contrasts with the Asian experience?

CHIU: I recall a conversation two years ago with my Executive Director of our Australian developmentprojects, Mr Craig Williams on this very topic after our first phase. We had contented residents who were enjoying outdoor parties and Aussie barbecues in temperate weather on our one-acre Australian native garden rooftop setting. I was also told about our incredibly popular coffee shop experience within our complex. Overseas visitors savour Melbourne barista-made coffee. And like what you see pioneered in Asia, we have integrated our supermarket, restaurants and other day-to-day services which adds to the convenience of city living. 

The Ritz-Carlton, Perth

TAE: Ultimately, how do your Australian projectsperform for its purchasers?

CHIU: An investor in that project receives one of the highest rental returns in Melbourne, which underpins the long-term investment of the project. As the Chairman of this company, I am very proud of this project.

TAE: Earlier this year, FEC formally launched its Queens Wharf project in Brisbane. With nearly 700 apartments involved, we saw a considerable uptake with the majority of the apartments now sold. Given the scale of the project, economic commentators would have expected a project of this size would take much longer to sell-down. How do you account for the success of your campaign?

HOONG: I was personally involved with the project marketing of the project, and I can speak for the unique selling points that have made it such a successful campaign. Firstly, Queens Wharf is located within the

Brisbane CBD – it’s a central and easy-toreach location is close to the parliament and university. Secondly, the project is designed as a significant, fully integrated resortthemed development – not just a stand-alone residential tower with minimal amenities. Can you imagine the excitement of one location with three hotels, a casino and entertainment complex that is designed to our international standards? Crucially, the lead-up to the official launch was important. The project garnered a sense of tense anticipation from our domestic and international clients, so much so that two months before the actual launch date, we had already sold 80% of the residential apartments. Construction is now well underway and, despite COVID-19, is on schedule primarily because the reduced city traffic congestion has worked to the project’s advantage.

TAE: FEC has enjoyed above-average returns and healthy growth, concentrating on some particular sectors for over three decades. Is there a view that other emerging asset classes may have some attraction by your Board for future acquisition?

CHIU: This is a good question. Our focus from inception has been to be a disciplined and focussed worldclass developer of major mixed-use and resort-style projects. About 80% of all our projects have a residential component. A significant income stream for the company comes from the ownership and operation of over 100,000 car parks across the Asia Pacific region of which Australia is a significant part. When one achieves success in specific sectors and desires to venture into other sectors, I am reminded about a lesson that has greatly influenced my way of thinking. When I was a young business executive about thirty years ago, I was seated next to the CEO of Coca Cola Amatil on a flight from Japan to Hong Kong. He said with some conviction that his company would know exactly how to set up and operate a complex manufacturing and bottling plant in Outer Mongolia. But if tasked with opening a Chinese restaurant on the ground floor of their headquarters in Atlantic City, USA, it would fail dismally. His point is about staying in business sectors where you have a competitive advantage. Our company has pursued a “Dual-Engine” development strategy for nearly three decades.

Perth Hub

The Star Residences- Epsilon, Gold Coast

West Side Place, Melbourne

Our cash flow derives from both carefully scheduled completion of our projects and recurring incomes from the management and ownership of hotels and car parks. In all, we sustain an average gross margin over assets of around 25% to 30%, which is acceptable by industry standards. To answer your question, retirement homes have become big, profitable businesses – more so in China than in Australia. Australia’s market is quite mature yet comparatively small by China’s standards. I see potential in adopting some of Australia’s management and technology prowess to bring into China’s massive ageing population market. This observation is not an official company position but certainly one, I think personally, is worth taking into consideration.

TAE: Mr Chui, you are known to be passionate about the Chinese diaspora and the role it can play in building bridges between China and the West. This position would appear counterintuitive in our current geopolitical situation. Can you comment on this?

CHIU: I have spent my working life in Hong Kong, but I travel and lecture extensively around the world about China and the Chinese diaspora. If I may speak frankly to your readers. I have met and discussed China issues with many Australian leaders. Australia is one country that should not set out to be perceived to be cold and unfriendly towards China.

The Star Residences- Epsilon, Gold Coast

Admiral Zheng He (郑和) at the behest of Emperor Yongle (永樂帝) travelled on hazardous ocean voyages in search of trade and commerce with foreign lands

Australia is geographically located in Asia and has a relatively large population of Asian residents. When I am in Australia, I meet many successful people of Chinese descent. Australia benefits from Chinese students and the businesses that their families invest in and set up there. China purchases most of Australia’s raw materials. With my life’s experience working with and in China, the Chinese mentality is entrepreneurial with a strong focus on health, family and mutual prosperity. It is not in the Chinese way of thinking to dominate and take from others. The classic example of China’s historic outreach to the world were that of the Ming China’s treasure fleet which set out on long voyages between 1405 and 1433. Admiral Zheng He under the tutelage of Emperor Yongle completed seven expeditions around the South China Sea, the Indian ocean and beyond and in the process, China became a world maritime power. The point of the voyages was that China sought to engage with other territories simply for mutually beneficial trade and commerce. In my humble opinion, the same attitude and goals apply in our modern age.

Queen's Wharf, Brisbane

West Side Place, Melbourne

FEC has grown a diverse portfolio of quality residences, around the world, by combining regional expertise with the localised knowledge of in-country teams. Across key Asia-Pacific cities, and the United Kingdom, we have developed, built and launched multiple large-scale, mixeduse developments alongside residential properties.

West Side Place Melbourne

The Far East Consortium Project that has revitalized Melbourne’s once-derelict western precinct

With its massive site coverage dominating the western precinct of the Melbourne CBD, the site is a veritable suburb in its own right.

West Side Place is only one of FEC’s many projects across its Asia Pacific portfolio. The West Side Place site was purchased in 2008, and the Australian team of FEC acted with flair and imagination to project manage its staged towers while conserving the historical elements of the site as well as to instil rigorous sustainability practices.

To date, an Australian record of 3,000 apartments has been sold with astonishing swiftness. There is another 3,000 apartments from 2021 onwards.

640 Bourke Street, Melbourne

West Side Place, Melbourne

Major Projects in Australia

MELBOURNE

Bourke Street Development

640 Bourke Site is bounded by Little Bourke Street to the north, Bourke Street to the south and existing multi-level developments to the east and west.
Address: 640 Bourke Street
District: Bourke Street, Melbourne
Approximate Saleable Floor Area (sq.ft.): 590,000
Number of Residential Units: 857
Expected Launch Time: FY2021
Expected Completion: FY2025
Building Floors: 70
Building Floors (Include Retail Area): 30

Major Projects in Australia

MELBOURNE
West Side Place
• The property represents a two-stage development known as “West Side Place”, a major mixed-use development that will comprise four towers across the overall site;
• The site has main frontages with Spencer Street and Lonsdale Street and Little Londsale Street and Merriman Lane;
• The site is in immediate proximity to Southern Cross Train Station and Spencer Street Shopping Town; and
• The property is located within the Melbourne CBD Grid.

Development Address: 250 Spencer Street
District: Central Business District, Melbourne
Property Website: www.westsideplace.com.au
Approximate Saleable Floor Area (sq. ft.): 2,217,000
Approximate Net Lettable Floor Area (sq. ft.): 116,000
Number of Hotel Rooms:
257 rooms (Ritz–Carlton hotel)
316 rooms (Dorsett hotel)
Number of Residential Units: 2,895
Expected Completion:
Towers 1 and 2: FY2020
Tower 3: FY2023
Tower 4: FY2023
Building Floors (including retail area and roof)
Tower 1: 81 Floors
Tower 2: 64 Floors
Tower 3: 69 Floors
Tower 4: 71 Floors