Powering to the next level
Joseph Wong 

Bandar Utama developer mulls two new projects even as it constructs the RM1 bil 1Powerhouse and RM180 mil dispersal link

1 Utama Shopping Mall’s entertainment block will be done in stages with RM25 mil spent on the first phase

FEW companies can match See Hoy Chan’s name and rich history in property development. But with increasing competition and a challenging property market, the biggest challenge is to keep up with the legacy and reputation that was forged by its late founder, Datuk Teo Hang Sam.

For third-generation Tan Sri Teo Chiang Kok, 71, it is a task worth continuing and building upon. Like his late father Tan Sri Teo Soo Cheng, he is maintaining property as the group’s core activity, along with its strong reputation as the Bandar Utama developer. Its flagship is See Hoy Chan Holdings Group.

The group is best known for its successful residential and commercial projects like Bandar Utama Damansara, Seri Utama Damansara, Wangsa Jaya, 1 Utama Shopping Centre, Centrepoint, BU 8, 1 First Avenue and Bandar Utama Technology Park.

Since its beginnings in the 1960s, the group has not only set a precedent for other developers to emulate but has drawn a whole new generation of property buyers. It has also embraced the build-then-sell concept.

However, over the years, many of the companies that come under the umbrella of the holding company, See Hoy Chan Holdings Sdn Bhd, have gone quiet. The last two projects were by its First Nationwide Group Sdn Bhd comprising 9 Bukit Utama and Phase One of The Effingham in 2013.


Sleeping giant awakes

However, when the mass rapid transit (MRT) station was completed in 2016 next to 1 Utama Shopping Centre, the sleeping giant awoke from its slumber. It has since launched its RM1 bil 1 Powerhouse project which includes catering to the expected increase in car park capacity for the MRT station’s park and ride. 1 Powerhouse has some 500 parking bays.

The group is also spending RM180 mil on its elevated dispersal link to ease the congested traffic flow in and around 1 Utama Shopping Centre, the low-profile Chiang Kok tells FocusM in a rare interview. There are also plans for two residential developments, 8 Bukit Utama and Phase Two of Effingham but launch dates have not been set.

“We can see that the traffic flow has increased and becoming a problem for the residents and shoppers. That’s why we are spending this money to ease the congestion,” he says of the elevated dispersal link.

The link will connect 1 Powerhouse to the old and new wings of 1 Utama Shopping Centre as well as exits to Dataran Bandar Utama. “This will lessen the traffic at Persiaran Bandar Utama,” he says.

For the four-tower 8 Bukit Utama project, it is a matter of waiting for final approval from the authorities while Phase Two will undergo “a bit of tweaking” to alleviate the flow of traffic for the high-end development, he says, adding that these two projects are parked under First Nationwide Group.

“We are currently concentrating on the development at 1 Utama,” he says, adding that 1 Powerhouse will comprise some 450,000 sq ft of office space in a 31-storey tower while the other block will be the four-star Avante Hotel, hosting 640 rooms.

“We sacrificed the ground floor of the project, which as you know is the prime level for most businesses, to accommodate the traffic flow. Instead of shops, it is to provide for the drop-off and pick-up of MRT riders,” he says.

There will be some retail aspects but mostly for the convenience of MRT users like grocery outlets, delicatessen, food outlets. On the upper podium, there are about 350 sq ft of space targeted at big-box operators, Chiang Kok says of the development which is undertaken by Bandar Utama City Assets Sdn Bhd, one of many companies under See Hoy Chan Holdings.

The third-generation Teo is also confident that the grade A office tower will do well despite the current oversupply of offices. “If the Pakatan Harapan government does the right thing, it will have a positive impact on the economy. In addition, KL has a lot of positive aspects to offer. By all counts, we are more competitive than many Asian countries [like cheaper rental, an educated workforce and conversant in English]. There is no reason why demand for offices will not increase over time,” he adds.

Chiang Kok also points out that 1 Utama’s entertainment blocks will be an added attraction for the development. So far RM25 mil has been spent on Phase One of the first block of 1 Utama E, which includes the Air Rider and Flow Rider. 1 Utama E, with its tagline – Excite, Entertain and Exhilarate – is targeted to be a multisport and entertainment venue.

One thing is definite about this branch of Hang Sam’s lineage. There are a host of companies under its See Hoy Chan Holding’s umbrella. The other two prominent Teos are Paramount Corporation Bhd’s Datuk Teo Chiang Quan who is into property and education, and See Hoy Chan Sdn Bhd executive director Teo Chiang Khai who is, among others, known for his development of Damansara Uptown and Starling Mall in Petaling Jaya.

The older generation might remember but younger members of the public are largely unaware that the company started out selling rice and eggs. The enterprise was so successful that it earned Hang Sam the title of “Rice King of Malaysia”.

That the company was able to transition from rice to property is commendable although on hindsight, it is hardly surprising considering the wealth of land it had accumulated.

In a way, the name well reflects the company as See Hoy Chan translates to “warehouse of wealth from the four seas” which was Hang Sam’s dream.

The founder had transplanted himself and his family in Malaya from Guangdong province in China, beginning with a sundry shop in Kuala Lumpur. It was his rice business that propelled him forward with his three sons - the same three who would later expand the family business.

In the 1960s, Hang Sam ventured into rubber plantations and then later diversified into property development, a venture that would eventually make the family’s fortunes, and businesses that would span the future generations of Teos.


Difference in education

Observers note that from the third generation onwards, the Teos have higher education, which is in sharp contrast to the first two generations who had limited formal education. Soo Cheng, for instance, was 12 when he migrated to Malaya and had only two years of education in China, says a source close to the Teos.

“They worked and learned the skills of their trade through their work experience,” the source says.

Hang Sam flourished in the 1940s, supplying eggs to hotels and army camps. After World War II, he expanded his business of import and distribution of rice, sugar, flour and other household staples to Burma (now Myanmar), Thailand and Singapore.

From the third generation, the Teos are highly educated. They are mostly degree holders and their management styles are different from their predecessors’ “Chinaman approach” to business.

But that’s only to be expected as the companies have grown amidst the growth in the nation’s economy and the changing business environment.

Hang Sam and his sons, Soo Chuan, Soo Cheng and Soo Pin, were more hands-on but that was exactly the style needed for their companies when they were starting out. Most start-ups require energy, drive and quick decision-making to get things moving and the first- and second-generation Teos had all those qualities in abundance.

Chiang Kok, as the third-generation Teo to head See Hoy Chan Holdings Group, has the arduous task of balancing family and business.

Being part of an extended family that has a share in many of the See Hoy Chan-related companies, he and his family members must see eye-to-eye or at least have the majority consensus as he decides on the companies’ many paths.

Moreover, he also has to guide the next generation and most importantly, identify an heir.


Fourth generation

“We are proud that those from the fourth generation who have graduated are challenging their entrepreneurial spirit by establishing various start-up enterprises,” says Chiang Kok.

However, he is reluctant to reveal too much on who the fourth generation are but many of them are said to have reached the age where they can play their roles in the respective companies.

For instance, Paramount’s Chiang Quan’s son Benjamin Teo is currently holding a managerial position in the listed company, Paramount Corp, and is the founder and director of co-working company Co-Labs.

It is also interesting to note that experts outside of the Teo family are being inducted into leading positions such as Paramount Corp’s group CEO Jeffrey Chew, something that might not have happened during the first two generations.

As for See Hoy Chan Holdings, no heir-apparent has yet been identified although Chiang Kok has children who have grown into adulthood. Could one of them be a possible heir?

And what of the many fourth-generation Teos who have taken up roles in the companies that have been perpetuated by this clan? Can one of them be the next head taking the company forward?

There is also the possibility of engaging an experienced and professional leader. The possibilities are there but Chiang Kok is keeping mum on the matter for now. FocusM

“We are proud that those from the fourth generation who have graduated are challenging their entrepreneur spirit by establishing various start-up enterprises.” – Tan Sri Teo Chiang Kok

This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 298.