THE untapped potential of Cambodia’s property sector has encouraged CB Richard Ellis (CBRE) to push ahead and create a permanent presence in the country, CBRE Cambodia Director Daniel Parkes said Wednesday ahead of the official opening of its new office.
The Los Angeles-based real estate services company had previously handled work in the Cambodian market out of its Vietnam office.
Marc Townsend, CBRE’s managing director for Vietnam, acknowledged that the sector had been hit by a slump that has seen new transactions all but disappear in the past couple of years, but said ongoing development of property assets by local players was an encouraging sign.
“We’re seeing a movement away from dependency on foreign companies,” he said. “If you look at the tallest and the second-tallest buildings in Phnom Penh, they belong to Cambodian companies,” he said, referring to the new headquarters of Canadia Bank and Cambodia Public Bank.
Parkes said there was still a range of profitable opportunities across the country, singling out the infrastructure sector as one that was particularly underexploited.
“Pricing [for infrastructure] is very interesting. Relatively cheaply, a group of investors could buy a strategic infrastructure site in Cambodia that would still be active in 50 years,” he said.
Townsend said CBRE was also taking a strong interest in Cambodia’s seaside resorts. He said similar development on Vietnam’s central coast could provide builders here with models for success.
“At Nam Hai, they built one resort, an exceptional resort, and suddenly everyone was talking about China Beach. Now there are 40 or 50 hotels coming up there,” he said. “Someone’s going to have to do something very special in Kep or Sihanoukville and make that the benchmark.”
CBRE is also banking on the pace of Cambodia’s development and its young demographic translating into a new, fast-growing market for retail properties.
“Kids want the same thing in Cambodia as anywhere else,” said Townsend. “Malling is still in its infancy.”
He added that retail outlets targeting young customers tend to pursue aggressive strategies in Asian countries. “When I got to Vietnam, there were six KFCs. Now there are 65,” Townsend said. “Shoppers here don’t just want one store, they want many outlets around the city. If it doesn’t have 20 stores, it’s not successful.”