By Alfean Hardy
Takaful Ikhlas Sdn Bhd, which has invested RM97 million on two tower blocks in Bangsar South, Kuala Lumpur, is targeting similar investments going forward given the long-term sustainability of rental income for revenue generation, its president and chief executive officer Datuk Syed Moheeb Syed Kamarulzaman said.
The Islamic insurance firm used RM87 million of its policy holders’ funds to buy the commercial property and another RM10 million was invested in renovating both towers. The company has more than a million individual and group policy holders to date.
The unit of main boardlisted MNRB Holdings Bhd moved into all of Ikhlas Point Tower 11A and three floors of Ikhlas Point Tower 11 on Feb 1, 2010. Covering a built-up area of 99,286 sq ft in total, some 32,000 plus sq ft in one of the towers have been earmarked for rental/future expansion.
Speaking at a media briefing in Kuala Lumpur last Thursday, Syed Moheeb said, essentially, the buildings were not Takaful Ikhlas’s.
"These buildings were paid by policy holders’ funds coming from our risk fund. So, inevitably, the policy holders are the owners of the buildings, we’re merely renting it from them.
"We chose this strategy because we wanted to ensure rental income to policy holders and, over the last few years, one of the better revenue generating strategies is rental income, which is more sustainable over the long-term," he said.
Going forward, he said Takaful Ikhlas would make use of either shareholders’ funds or policy holders’ funds to purchase buildings and then rent them out to generate rental income.
"By doing this, we will slowly acquire property. Eventually, we also want to house all our branches in our own buildings. We’re not sure yet whether we will use funds from our shareholders or from our policy holders (when we buy these buildings)," he said, adding that Takaful Point was the firm’s first property investment.
Syed Moheeb said Takaful Ikhlas could have ventured into property investment earlier, but he felt that the firm needed to ensure that, whatever it bought, would have made an impact to investment income.
"The fact that (the two towers) have a capital appreciation of more than 20% indicates that this was a good decision.
"Among some of the things that we’re looking at will be rentable office premises and it won’t be anything else at this point in time. Our investment policy has been very cautious and has been more towards capital preservation and, in any thing that we do, we have to make sure that we don’t have to answer to any bad decisions later on," he said.
Syed Moheeb said Takaful Ikhlas was currently looking at housing two new branches in Klang, Selangor, and Kuala Terengganu, Terengganu, by middle of the year in new properties.
"At this point in time we haven’t identified yet any properties yet (for these two new branches). If you look at the 10 branches that we have currently, these are the areas that we would be looking to make investment opportunities," he said.
The Islamic insurer currently has branches in Kota Baru, Johor Baru, Sungai Petani, Ipoh, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu in Kelantan, Johor, Kedah, Perak, Sarawak and Sabah respectively. Asked on how much would be set aside for Takaful Ikhlas’s property buy war chest going forward, Syed Moheeb said the company’s investment strategy was set by the board, which decides how much went into equities, governmentbacked securities and others.
"Where property is concerned, we’re looking at not more than 20%. In the shorter term at least, until our financial year ending Mar 31, 2011, we will cap this at 20%," he said.
(This story appeared in The Malaysian Reserve on 1 March 2010. The Malaysian Reserve is a daily business/finance newspaper published out of Kuala Lumpur, with a sectoral page on Islamic finance on Mondays, edited by Habhajan Singh, at http://islamicfinanceasia.blogspot.com/)