Prime International Properties founder and managing director Justin Chew says many high net worth Malaysian investors are looking away from traditional markets. PIC BY NURUL SHAFINA JEMENON

AFFLUENT Malaysians are increasingly turning to Thailand and Japan for their overseas property investments, according to consultancy and marketing firm Prime International Properties.

Speaking to NST Business recently, founder and managing director Justin Chew said local high net worth individuals (HNIs) were now branching out from the usual conventional investment markets of Australia, the United Kingdom and Singapore into unconventional markets like Thailand and Japan.

“Bangkok, in particular, is becoming popular for Malaysian HNIs because of the many price - point similarities between the two countries,” said Chew.

“Many of Malaysians are still very interested to invest abroad but given the weak ringgit, the usual places like the UK, Singapore and Australia became challenging, Bangkok is a good investment because property owners who are not using it they could always rent it out as holiday rentals.”

Mastercard Global Destinations Cities Index 2017 (GDCI17) showed that Bangkok was ranked as one of the world’s top cities to visit.

According to GDCI17, Bangkok had 19.41 million visitors as of the end of last year.

Japan is the other unconventional market that is witnessing a rise in popularity for Malaysian HNIs.

“The property prices in Japan at one point were the highest in the world until the bubble and economy crash of the 1990s. This was made worse in 2008 where exports, property and tourism drastically fell, thus weakening the yen even further till 2012, before the rise of Abenomics,” said Chew.

Prime has a presence in eight countries namely Malaysia, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong Singapore, Australia, UK and Singapore.

Chew is currently looking at building a presence in two new unconventional markets. namely Vietnam and Cambodia.

“Vietnam and Cambodia are not really yet on the radar of many, but they would be when the construction of the Kra Canal is completed,” he said.

The Kra Canal has been touted as the Southeast Asia’s equivalent of the Suez or Panama canals.

The proposed project is expected to cost some US$28 billion (RM118.78 billion) and will be mainly funded through China’s multibillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative.

The main beneficiaries of the Kra Canal would be China, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.

“Once this project is completed, it will push property prices up and we want to get in there first while the market is still affordable,” said Chew, who planned to open a Vietnam office in the first half of next year.

Prime is also in the middle of finalising a strategic partnership with Singapore’s largest property agency, Dennis Wee Group.

The partnership, which is expected to be finalised by the end of this year, will give Prime the exclusive right to play intermediary roles for Malaysian HNIs looking to invest in Singapore and vice-versa.

The private holding company last year posted S$7 million (RM21.74 million) in profits, on the back of S$230 million in sales revenue.