SINGAPORE: Penang is vying to become the next hub for Singapore companies’ regional expansion, with the state government open to more opportunities for bilateral partnerships, its Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said on Tuesday (Oct 14).
“We are putting ourselves on the map – that Penang is open for business, and you can set up your plants here at very attractive rates,” said Mr Lim, who was in Singapore to unveil BPO Prime, a S$500 million mixed-use development project led by Singapore investment giant Temasek Holdings and Penang Development Corp (PDC) – the state’s development agency.
“We can complement the role played by Singapore. We have a technology and electronics cluster, and I believe you should use our core competencies in manufacturing to grow your services sector. The key is convergence,” he said.
“Singapore’s investment into Penang jumped from RM61 million (S$23.8 million) to RM622 million between 2012 and 2013. We feel there is room to grow – and what better way to grow than working together? That’s why we have asked Temasek to come in, not just as an investor but also as a player,” he added.
BPO Prime and Penang International Technology Park (PITP), the two Penang projects outlined in a memorandum of understanding that Temasek and PDC signed in May, will have a total development value of about S$4.4 billion.
The developments will be funded via a joint venture that is 49 per cent owned by Temasek.
BPO Prime will break ground in the first half of next year and construction will take two to three years. When completed, it will offer 1.6 million sq ft of residential and commercial space. The commercial element will focus on business process outsourcing.
“Penang’s outsourcing sector saw more than a 20 per cent increase in revenue last year. BPO Prime is a priority project that is part of the state government’s plans to transform Penang into an international outsourcing hub,” Mr Lim said.
Penang can be a sound alternative for Singapore companies to expand in Malaysia at a time when all eyes are on the nearby Iskandar region, said Mr Philip Yeo, chairman of Economic Development Innovations Singapore (EDIS), the project’s master development manager.
“I’m looking for skilled workers, in which case Penang has a better advantage … Iskandar is near enough – but I’ll go where the skill is,” Mr Yeo said, citing his own experience as a chairman of aerospace component manufacturer Accuron, which is planning to grow its workforce of 800 to 1,000 in Penang.
“I believe talent will be a strong selling point for Penang, where spaces such as BPO and PITP will be ideal for high-end activities from Singapore and elsewhere,” he said.