SINGAPORE – Country Garden Pacificview, the Chinese developer behind mega Johor township Forest City, has signed memoranda of understanding with 21 companies in the areas of co-working, medical tourism and telecommunications to further develop the US$100 billion (S$136 billion) project.

Its moves to grow the township in different sectors come amid a more challenging outlook for home sales.

While the project sent shock waves through the Johor property sector last year when it sold 16,000 units during a perceived market downturn, Mr Yu Runze, the firm’s chief strategy officer, told Reuters he expected slower sales this year.

“I think this year will be very challenging to surpass (last year’s sales),” Mr Yu said. “It is very clear that with a slowing down China market, it will be quite challenging to achieve the same number like last year.”

Little wonder then that Country Garden, one of China’s largest developers by sales, is thinking of new ways to grow the township, as the firm announced a myriad of deals spanning several sectors on Friday (Aug 4).

It has signed an agreement to work with Foshan Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which will lead to the establishment of Foshan’s first hospital outside China, and the largest TCM hospital in Malaysia, it said in a press release on Friday.

It added that it will also collaborate with an agency under Malaysia’s Ministry of Health to develop programmes to promote Malaysia as a destination for assisted reproductive-health services.

The other companies it signed deals with include Beijing-based co-working space operator Nashwork, Johor-based bird’s nest company Glyken Group and Singapore-based adventure training firm Focus Adenture.

Nashwork will reportedly set up its regional headquarters in Forest City, according to Country Garden.

The co-working space owner and operator in China is said to serve over 100,000 small and medium enterprises, and was reported to have a network of at least 97 co-working space locations last year.

Country Garden, China’s third-largest home builder by sales, has been the subject of controversy since it announced in 2014 that it would reclaim 20 sq km of land – about the size of three Sentosa islands. Country Garden Pacificview is a joint venture company between Country Garden Holdings Ltd and Esplanade Danga 88 Sdn Bhd, an associate company of Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor (KPRJ).

The four artificial islands – to be built near the Tuas Second Link – are expected to eventually house a population of 700,000.

The project, which is closer to the Tuas Second Link, is one of the most high-profile in the Iskandar Malaysia area.

Mr Yu told Reuters on Friday there had been no reduction in the scope of the massive project.

In fact, development for the township looks to be ramping up, as Country Garden also announced the opening of the world’s largest Industrialised Building System (IBS) factory in Forest City on Friday.

The factory, purportedly the largest based on single factory production volume, will house the entire production base for the construction of Forest City.

IBS is a term commonly used in Malaysia which describes a construction technique in which components are manufactured in a controlled environment.

The developer also said that it would collaborate with the international operating division of Hong Kong Telecom, to “provide an energy-efficient data centre”.

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