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New drive to curb foreign landgrabbers
Saturday 9 July 2011, 08:21AM
  Foreigners using Thai companies to control land on which they have built their beautiful villas are to come under attack in August when a drive to stop the use of nominees to own land gets into top gear. The nominees, too, will face penalties, somewhat less-than-innocent bystanders as the Land Office begins it drive-by shootings, most probably in Phuket. In a shot across the bows, Land Inspector Sriracha Charoenpanit said Thailand was one of many countries suffering from a similar problem. “Thailand must sort this out by tightening the laws and adding stricter conditions on land ownership by foreigners. This must include penalties, for nominees as well,” he said. In what may be a slightly hyperbolic statement at a seminar, Mr Sriracha claimed that as much of a billion rai – one third of all the land in Thailand – was now controlled by foreigners. This posed serious dangers to Thailand, leaving Thais unable to compete, blocking them off from land ownership and even putting the nation’s food security at hazard. The Land Inspector said Thailand’s friendly people and hospitality attracted foreigners who want to live, work and grab land. To do this they had increasingly been using Thai nominees. New legislation is now being drafted, he said, which should be put into law in August. The new law will be similar to the anti-money-laundering legislation, he explained, and will make it easier to prosecute violators. Thai nominees could face fines of double the current amounts, while land-grabbing foreigners would have the land seized and would then be deported. Whether they will be allowed to take their houses and villas with them was not stated. Phuket is the hotbed for these land-grabbing criminals, he said, with Koh Samui and Koh Chang running close behind, and problems also in Pattaya, Cha-am, Hua Hin and parts of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. In Phuket, he alleged, as much as 90 per cent of prime beachfront land is held illegally by foreigners through Thai nominees. Current Thai law states that partners in Thai companies must be able to show that they have enough funds to be investors in the company, though it does not require them to show that they actually invested. Thailand has been prone to periodic eruptions of anti-foreign sentiment related to land ownership. Most have come to little because of the lack of government personnel to follow through. But if Mr Sriracha has his way, it looks as though west-coast Phuket could be the first area to receive visits from officialdom, with the press invited to take pictures of grim officials pointing fingers at offending land. – MCOT, The Phuket News
Baan Tak-r-Kard raises bar for entry-level homes
Friday 3 June 2011, 05:58AM
  Starter homes in Phuket, aimed mostly at the Thai market, have continued to sell well throughout the global financial crisis, thanks to their low prices and the fact that Thais can get long mortgages. But until now designs for these homes have been depressingly cookie-cutter. Drop a Phuket resident into the middle of any of these estates and he or she would receive no visual clues about which estate it was. Baan Tak-r-Kard raises the bar. The 59-home development in Baan Don, about two kilometres west of Thalang, looks utterly different. Behind it is Living Vis Ltd, formed by Sunchai Nuengsit, whose own company makes construction materials “focused on environmental sustainability”; Sokoun Chanpreda, developer of Bangkok’s iconic Bed Supper and of hotels and resorts across Southeast Asia; and architect Pakhin Aunggulsant, whose AEP Group recently won the BCI Asia Green Leadership Award for its design for Phuket’s Orang Laut Cultural Centre. “Eco-Chic” is the description Living Vis is applying to the development, a reminder that a great deal of thought has gone into the choice of materials to save both space and energy. Mr Pakhin explained, “We are involved in so many other projects that we can buy the materials in large amounts, which reduces the unit cost. Other developers can’t do this.” The result is smart-looking homes – small, yes, but more eco-friendly than the concrete-block homes on offer in Phuket up to now, and with materials inside that simply don’t exist in the competiton – wood-block floors upstairs, for example. All the homes are on two floors, with two- or three-bedroom layouts available. Prices start at B2.6 million.
L&H project aims for mid-market
Saturday 12 March 2011, 05:01AM
Land & Houses Phuket has begun work on a new mid-range property development on Chao Fa West Rd, in a former rubber plantation opposite the Phuket Provincial Electricity Authority’s transformer station. The project – 88 Land & Houses Phuket – will cover 14.4 rai and contain 48 two-story homes and a row of 15 three-storey home offices. For Land & Houses – which built Land & Houses Park in Chalong 15 years ago, on a 415-rai site containing 900 homes – the new project is relatively small. But all the homes will be completed before any are sold, said LH Muang Mai Managing Director Pittaya Tantipiriyakij. The new project has attractions for believers in Chinese numerology, in which the number 88 is particularly significant; it can signify either “infinity” or “riches”. All the houses will have numbers beginning with 88. The homes are designed in “tropical serenity” style, each with internal space ranging from 144 to 200 square metres. Land plots will range from 60 to 100 square wah. All the homes will have three bedrooms and three bathrooms, and the two largest types will also have an office on the ground floor that can be converted into an extra bedroom. Close to the road, a row of 15 three-story buildings are designed for buyers who want to have their office and home in the same place. Prices range from B5.7 million upwards for the hous­es and B7.35 million upwards for the home offices. All units will be completed by 2012. Mr Pittaya said that the company still has great confidence in Phuket’s property market and is now planning more projects. “From the feedback we’ve been getting from both Thais and foreigners, we can see that Phuket’s real estate is still on an upward trend, so we will continue to quality homes, both in Phuket and in other parts of southern Thailand,” he said. “We own two more parcels of land totalling 1,100 rai which await development. The first is a nice hilly 55-rai plot, also on Chao Fa West Rd, while the other covers 1,060 rai next to Mai Khao beach – it’s a good location that also contains a lake. “The company is now studying ways to develop this site. Once it is finished, we expect that it will be one of the most beautiful projects in Asia,” he added.
Kata Group expanding north of Phuket with beach hotel project
Friday 4 March 2011, 04:34AM
The Kata Group plans to invest more than B1.2 billion building a four-star hotel in Khaolak, Phang Nga. The new 153 room-hotel, Khaolak Cassaway Resort & Spa, will be built on a 67 rai property at Pak Weep beach. The Kata Group already operates three four-star hotels in Phuket, including the Phuket Orchid Resort & Spa, Kata Beach Resort & Spa, Karon Beach Resort & Spa and a four-star hotel in Samui, Surat Thani Province, the Kandaburi Resort & Spa. Its latest project was announced at a signing ceremony involving the Kasikorn Bank (Kbank) and Kata Group at the Kata Beach Resort and Spa. Kbank Executive Vice President Krissada Lamsam and Kata Group Managing Director Pamuke Atchariyachai revealed details of the project. It will comprise of 148 units of duplex bungalows, three units of one bedroom bungalows, and two units of two-bedroom bungalows in a contemporary architecture style combining southern Thai style with modern design. Mr Pamuke said that of the 1.2 billion baht investment, 470 million baht was supported by Kbank. “Our decision to expand our investment to Khaolak is because we have our own land at Pak Weep beach where many five-star hotels are located. “This gives us confidence to that it is a good location where high potential tourists are coming. The project is divided into two phases and they are being constructed about the same time. “Apart from the rooms in villa styles, we will also have a Thai restaurant, a seafood restaurant along the beach, an Italian restaurant, and the spa. “We expect that the first phase of our project can be opened by this coming November, while we are waiting to decide on the style of room style to be constructed for the second phase. “If the villa style is popular we will build 250 villas in phase two,” he said. Mr Pamuke said Kata Group’s main customers are still European and Scandinavian.
Housing developer shows confidence
Friday 4 March 2011, 04:22AM
Phang-nga puts the brakes on ‘Greater Phuket’
Friday 4 March 2011, 04:11AM
Phang-nga Province has introduced stringent zoning aimed at curbing what locals there see as out-of-control development in Phuket, a Bangkok-based lawyer told a seminar organised by the American Chamber of Commerce in Phuket on Friday. Anurag Ramanat, a partner in the South Asia Law Co, explained, “Phang-nga people think they don't want Phang-nga to be ‘spoiled’ like Phuket.” Already, for several years, developers have been moving into “Greater Phuket” – southern Phang-nga – in search of beachfront plots or cheaper land. “Whatever happens in Phuket will move to Phang-nga,” said Mr Anurag, and much of the new zoning regulations appear to be aimed at containing this. For a start, about 70 per cent of Phang-nga is now branded for “rural or agriculture” use. This is broken into smaller areas, in each of which only 20 per cent may be occupied by structures. No home of less than 400 square metres may be built, and 40 per cent of any land parcel must be given over to green area, landscaped or otherwise. Row houses, townhouses, condominiums and apartment buildings are effectively barred, as are shopping complexes – only shops of less than 400 square metres may be built. Along the much coveted beaches, the first 30 metres from the shoreline is designated as “recreational or conservation” area. It may be landscaped, but that’s all, and building heights and built-up areas behind that strip are strictly limited. “There are many restrictions [across the province] in terms of development,” Mr Anurag said. “It’s limiting for hotels, though housing is easier, albeit with a lot of green area.” Two other lawyers, Sorachong Boonsong and Kammalard Urapeepatanapong from Baker & McKenzie reviewed recent changes to zoning regulations as they apply to Phuket. A complex system imposed seven months ago, they explained, stipulate buildings heights and green space for nine different types of zone, and stricter regulations for building on slopes. Mr Sorachong noted that the biggest impact is on outlying islands, which are almost all designated Zone 1. Here, structures may now be no more than six metres high and must be set back at least 20 metres from the mean high tide mark. In addition, 75 per cent of any plot in Zone 1 must be given over to green area. He also highlighted two areas of vagueness that will inevitably result in local “interpretation”: the definition of “Sino-Portuguese” structures in Zone 4 (Phuket Town). The required green area around such buildings is smaller than for other buildings in the zone. Slope regulations stipulate that mandatory free space must be planted with “local trees” but what kind of trees these may be is not defined in the regulations. Mr Kammalard noted that developments that already have local authority contsruction permits are not subject to the new regulations, but warned that developers must ensure that their permitdoes not expire. An approved environmental impact assessment is not enough, nor is a “39bis permit”, even though this allows construction work to begin. Finally, he noted that Phuket’s current town planning law will expire soon, and a new one may be introduced any day.  
Laguna Beach Resort sold
Thursday 24 February 2011, 05:52AM
  The Laguna Beach Resort (LBR) has become the second property in the Laguna complex to be sold as Laguna Resorts & Hotels Plc (LRH) continues to adjust its property and resort management portfolio. Reports that LBR was up for sale emerged months ago, but LRH – citing Stock Exchange of Thailand regulations – consistently declined to comment until the sale went through. Today’s announcement reveals that the buyer is Laguna Phuket Club Co (LPC), a Thai company controlled by Real Estate Equity Partners (RECAP), an Asia-focused real estate private equity fund, which has agreed to buy LRH’s share in the hotel for B723.6 million. Laguna’s joint venture partner in the hotel has agreed to sell the remaining shares to LPC, giving it full ownership of the 252-room beachfront resort. Completion of the deal is expected in May. RECAP, headed by Suchad Chiaranussati, has a high-profile presence in Thailand’s real estate market. It acquired the Jungceylon shopping complex in 2006 and has also invested in Bangkok’s prestigious four-tower Millennium Residence development. The change in Laguna Beach Resort’s ownership comes six months after Laguna sold another hotel, the Dusit Thani Laguna Phuket, to Dusit Thani Plc for B2.62 billion. A statement by LRH said, “Both transactions are in line with Laguna’s publicly disclosed strategy of divesting part of its interests in Thailand, enabling [it to] focus on emerging opportunities elsewhere in Asia.” Michael Ayling, managing director of LRH, commented: “These recent developments all reflect our commitment to developing our business in Phuket and elsewhere in the region.”