With decades of experience, CBRE’s vision of professional evaluation and research has been helping to grow the Cambodian real estate sector for many years.
Ann Sothida, associate director of CBRE Cambodia, spoke to Moeun Nhean, Special Reports Editor at The Phnom Penh Post, about her vision and achievements.
1. Could you tell me when CBRE Cambodia was established?
Sohtida: CBRE Cambodia is an international real estate company. We provide strategies for sales and leasing in office, residential, industrial and retail property, property management, marketing research and consultancy, and valuation. We started our business in Cambodia in 1993. We have performed acquisition work for foreign embassies, valuations for multinational corporations and research consultancy for major developers.
Due to the strong growth of the market, we established a permanent office in 2008. From starting with a small number of staff at that time, we now have a team of 15. CBRE Cambodia is one of Cambodia’s international independent market leaders in real estate services.
2. Why did you choose Cambodia as your market place? What do you consider is important for your company and for your Cambodian employees?
Sohtida: Cambodia is an exciting market, one showing particularly strong signs of growth. Cambodia also has strong demographics that are attracting a number of international investors into the market. CBRE has positioned itself in the market to assist with clients looking to enter the market, should it be for office leasing or development purposes.
CBRE has a strong regional presence, which has benefited us with a lot of the investment in Cambodia coming from neighbouring countries and all over the world. CBRE has a strong commitment to developing our local staff. A number of foreign nationals work at the company passing on experience and international knowledge to our local staff. We also have structured training programs in place to make sure our local staff benefit from working for an international company with regular training courses abroad.
3. Could you tell us briefly about CBRE achievements in Cambodia since 2011?
Sohtida: Since moving into the Cambodian market permanently, CBRE has seen consistent revenue growth year-on-year and has as a consequence rapidly expanded our professional team. In terms of property management, CBRE has a strong track record – we have managed two serviced apartment buildings in the market. Both projects have boosted revenue and occupancy levels from CBRE’s input.
CBRE has also been the property managers of Hyundai Ammco’s Phnom Penh Tower from day one. Phnom Penh Tower is the highest grade of office space currently available in the market, and this is partly down to CBRE offering international property management within the building. We have also been appointed a sole office leasing agent for the Vattanac Capital tower, a 38-storey building project that will be finished early next year.
While CBRE does offer property management to international standards using resources from outside the country, it is not our main line of work. CBRE is largely a real estate agent and have been involved in a number of high-profile projects in Cambodia, such as the Australian Embassy, Phnom Penh Tower, Hongkong Land, Vattanac Capital and Song Saa Island Resort – one of the most luxurious resorts in the heart of the emerald coastal of the Kingdom of Cambodia.
4. CBRE was successful as the sole agent of Song Saa Island Resort, a prime destination for a truly private vacation in a beautiful, unspoiled tropical island location. What other projects does CBRE have in the luxury resort sector and could you tell us about them?
Sohtida: Our next step is the project located on Koh Russey, or Bamboo Island, about 10 kilometres from Sihanoukville town. It will be a high luxury resort to be developed over 25 hectares on the island.
The development is comprised of 230 plots and there are 152 units for a five-star hotel, which is branded and managed by Alila group. The developer is Citystar. We plan to launch the project by the end of the year and an exhibition will take place in Hong Kong.
5. How does CBRE use its regional presence to assist its clients in Cambodia?
Sohtida: CBRE does not directly invest in or acquire projects in the market; we are a service provider using our experience and regional support to provide our clients with the soundest advice when they are looking to invest in the market. One of our main areas of work is in research to advise developers and investors on whether it is the right time to enter the market, often performing feasibility studies for the client to see if their project is viable.
We also use our experience to provide a consultancy service. One of our main links regionally is to CBRE Thailand. People often say Phnom Penh is like Bangkok was 20 years ago. We have found it extremely helpful telling our clients of projects that worked or failed in the Thai market as a direct comparison to Cambodia. Our Thailand office has just celebrated 25 years in the Thai market. This milestone is a key indicator of the regional experience and support CBRE Cambodia has.
6. What do you think the Cambodian government should do to help real estate businesses in Cambodia?
Sohtida: The Cambodian government need to implement and enforce legislation related to the property market. Specifically related to agencies from rogue agents. The condominium law is vague and leaves room for interpretation and can be misunderstood.
A strong condominium ownership law and the law regarding co-ownership would inspire confidence in the market and the number of investments from foreigners would increase, bringing added prosperity to the market.
In relation to valuation, regulation in terms of valuation standards as well as requisite qualifications for sanctioned valuers would inspire further confidence from investors, lending institutions and developers alike and would help Cambodia become an easier investment country now and in the future with ASEAN integration.
We have noted that some government ministries are working with foreign associations such as the IBC and Eurocham to improve rules and regulations, and in the meantime CBRE is happy to provide international experience to help and improve this area.