EcoWorld Malaysia chairman Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin (pic) said the group, after an evaluation of the deal by its board of directors, decided not to pursue the proposed merger following discussions with UEMS this month. PETALING JAYA: The proposed merger between Eco World Development Group Bhd (EcoWorld Malaysia) and UEM Sunrise Bhd (UEMS) is off the table, with EcoWorld Malaysia open to corporate proposals that may be more complementary to its growth plans and strategies. EcoWorld Malaysia chairman Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin said the group, after an evaluation of the deal by its board of directors, decided not to pursue the proposed merger following discussions with UEMS this month. The decision was made also after evaluating EcoWorld Malaysia’s own business plans and the current challenging environment with the re-implementation of the movement control order (MCO). Liew thanked UEM Group Bhd for its invitation to consider the proposed merger, and said, “We certainly remain open to the possibility of future collaborations with UEMS, should another opportunity arise.”An analyst said the merger presented an opportunity for EcoWorld Malaysia to grow its size but was not a severe need for the company, given the improvements seen in its financial results over recent quarters. With the merger cancelled, analysts said there would have been integration issues to deal with and it would have raised questions as the property market is currently soft due to the economic uncertainties as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. “Also, the merger does not make sense – both companies may not be synergistic. “The integration would be challenging due to the corporate culture differences – one is entrepreneur-run while the other is a government-linked company (GLC), ” said the analyst. Another property analyst opined that calling off the proposed merger was better for UEMS, as the company would not be facing integration challenges and will be more nimble, moving forward.Liew said the Eco World group is presently focusing on its business plans for the financial year ending Oct 31,2021 (FY21), which includes a sales target of RM2.875bil for EcoWorld Malaysia, that is 25% higher than the actual RM2.3bil sales recorded in FY20. He pointed out that RM500mil in sales had been achieved in the first two months of FY21. “This is a very encouraging result, given that November and December are typically quiet months for the property sector, ” said Liew. Had the merger between EcoWorld Malaysia and UEMS materialised, it would have created the largest property company in the country that will be controlled by Khazanah Nasional Bhd. UEM Group had said the merger was an opportunity for the GLC to be in partnership with the private sector to create one of the largest property developers in Malaysia, with a projected gross development value (GDV) of RM173.2bil and a total landbank of more than 17,000 acres locally. On Oct 5,2020, the UEM Group, which is the unlisted wholly owned unit of Khazanah, had proposed that its subsidiary, UEMS, and EcoWorld Malaysia consider a merger via a share and warrant swap. Kenanga Research had said in October 2020 that the benefits of the deal were tilted slightly in favour of UEMS. It added that UEMS stood to gain from tapping into EcoWorld Malaysia’s marketing prowess and world-class township planning that will help boost sales. “Also, with a larger domestic earnings base, this will help reduce earnings volatility from UEM’s lumpy overseas contribution. “As for EcoWorld Malaysia, we think a potentially strong reason in favour of the merger is that its key shareholders may be worried that the property sector and economy would remain in the doldrums for the foreseeable future, which would cap their ability to convert bookings to sales and impede their ability to repay existing bank loans (worth RM3.4bil as of July 2020). “In such a situation, we reckon EcoWorld Malaysia would prefer the backing of a stronger shareholder like Khazanah (through UEM), should equity fund-raising be required, ” the brokerage had said. MIDF Research had said the proposed merger would allow UEMS to leverage on EcoWorld Malaysia’s expertise in marketing and branding, which may help unlock the value of its huge landbank in Iskandar Malaysia. UEMS has a remaining landbank of 3,707.73ha in Iskandar Malaysia with a remaining GDV of RM80.9bil. “One of the benefits of the proposed merger would be the stronger financial muscle of an enlarged entity for overseas and local projects expansion.”
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