OPPORTUNITIES EMERGING

Malaysia 2017 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dato' Kamaruzzaman Abu Kassim, President & Chief Executive of Johor Corporation (JCorp), on managing a wide portfolio, the new Ibrahim International Business District, and the role of China in the region.

Dato’ Kamaruzzaman Abu Kassim
BIOGRAPHY
Dato’ Kamaruzzaman Abu Kassim is the President and Chief Executive of Johor Corporation (JCorp), a leading state-linked conglomerate with more than 250 subsidiaries employing more than 50,000 employees group-wide. He graduated with a bachelor of commerce degree majoring in accountancy from the University of Wollongong, Australia. Currently, Dato’ Kamaruzzaman is the Chairman of Kulim (Malaysia) Berhad, KPJ Healthcare Berhad, Johor Land Berhad, QSR Brands (M) Holdings Sdn Bhd, Damansara REIT Managers Sdn Bhd (Manager for Al-`Aqar & Al-Salam REITs), and Waqaf An-Nur Corporation Berhad.

Your business portfolio ranges from palm oil, healthcare, hospitality, and property development to oil and gas. How do you manage such disparate operations?

JCorp focuses on three core activities—business, economic development, and CSR. New policies and initiatives are introduced to enable innovation to catalyze new wealth generation and attain sustainability. In carrying out business activities, we are mainly focused on several key business areas such as palm oil plantation, property development, specialist healthcare, quick service restaurants, and offshore support in the oil and gas industry. Three of our companies are listed on Bursa Malaysia, namely KPJ Healthcare, EA Technique, and Al-'Aqar and Al-Salam REITs, with several others currently in the pipeline. Apart from revenue generation, these key business clusters provide substantial employment opportunities and help to generate domestic internal liquidity through their robust business undertakings. For the economic development role, JCorp is currently developing the Tanjung Langsat Port as an alternative gateway into Johor and Malaysia, as well as the development and management of industrial parks. We also develop suburban and rural areas in Johor, often as a result of our industrial activities, for instance generating employment in the furniture industry in Muar. In addition, the government has identified Pengerang as a new hub for the oil and gas industry, where the construction of the Pengerang Integrated Petroleum Complex (PIPC), spearheaded by PETRONAS, is underway. JCorp is tasked with catalyzing and providing strategic support in the development of the Pengerang area and we are looking at several avenues to achieve this.

How do you envision shaping economic growth via the new Ibrahim International Business District (IIBD)?

The recent IIBD brand launch is a key milestone in the development journey and we worked with Bangsa Johor to create the master plan for this international business district. The project was first envisioned by HRH the Sultan of Johor Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar. IIBD is envisaged not only as an international focal point for investment, commercial, and corporate pursuits, but also as a launch pad for enterprises. As an emerging opportunity and market for investors, IIBD is ripe for development as part of the greater Iskandar region. It encapsulates the state government's aspirations for IIBD to shape economic growth by attracting talent and investment and encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship. JCorp will serve as the key enabler for the development of IIBD, and we are currently setting up an entity to operate as master developer, after which we will manage, promote, and market IIBD to the global investment community. We are also working closely with the state and federal governments to structure and benchmark financial and tax incentives, which will make IIBD a compelling business case. JCorp also endeavors to ensure a balance and good mix of foreign investment interests and local ownership. By prioritizing the co-creation process of IIBD with Bangsa Johor, we seek to ensure that the rising generation of talent and entrepreneurs are empowered for wealth creation and have equal opportunities to reap the benefits that will come with the accelerated investment in the state.

How do you see the trend of China driving economic growth in the region?

For Johor, there has been an upsurge in Chinese investments in the last two years, especially in mega property developments like Country Garden and Greenland. This trend can be attributed to China's “going out” policy, which has encouraged Chinese investors to acquire assets and businesses overseas. The recent China-ASEAN FTA has further boosted this trend. For the manufacturing sector, based on figures released by MITI, Johor registered the highest investment for the past three years, from MYR21.2 billion in 2014 to MYR31.1 billion in 2015. There has been growing interest from Chinese manufacturers to set up facilities in Johor. In fact, JCorp itself has received investments of over MYR300 million from China in 2014 to 2015 and we are confident that this will increase to MYR1.5 billion by the end of 2017. This confirms that Johor remains an attractive investment destination in the region, especially in the manufacturing sector. JCorp offers strategic industrial locations supported by complete infrastructure facilities and connectivity with enablers such as port facilities, a skilled workforce and training institutions, and bonded facilities to facilitate manufacturers. Our proximity to Singapore further boosts its advantage over other states. There has been a continuous effort by the government of Johor to attract Chinese manufacturers, with several recent trade missions. Our target market is to attract investments in chemical, machinery, petrochemical, and offshore as well as engineering support services. With Chinese manufacturing investments set to expand, we expect our services and tourism sectors to grow as well.