The view from across the river

The view from across the river

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Alex Yasumoto stands on the roof of Bellevue, in Phnom Penh. Photograph: Rupert Winchester/Phnom Penh Post

One of the biggest Japanese investors in Cambodia says he finds the Kingdom a wonderfully easy place to work, and looks forward to doing more projects here in the future.

With more than 40 years’ experience in property investment and development in Japan, Hong Kong and Australia, Alex Yasumoto is a highly successful international property expert and philanthropist, who has received numerous international accolades for his contributions to education and culture.

He is currently overseeing the finishing touches on his $30 million Bellevue serviced apartments, on the Chroy Changvar peninsula, his first project in Cambodia. He says he has been interested in Phnom Penh for a number of years.

“More than 10 years ago I came here for the first time, with a Japanese friend who is a lawyer, who was working to help the Cambodian legal system. At that time I helped him by donating some money for translating legal textbooks into Khmer. I got to know some of the local people; Cambodian people are similar to the Japanese in their character. In some other countries people work only for money, but here they aren’t so concerned about money – they love to work, hard.”

Yasumoto says he thinks Cambodia is an easy place to do business.

“The government is very free – it’s very easy to get things done: there aren’t so many rules and regulations slowing things down. In Australia at the moment it’s very difficult, very slow and very detailed,” he says.

“I’m working on a big project in Australia at the moment, but it’s taking a long time. We actually started both projects at the same time, that one and this one, but we still haven’t got all the necessary permissions there. But this building should see its first guest move in in late November.”

Gazing out across the river at Phnom Penh from the grassed roof of Bellevue, Yasumoto says the unfinished hulks of the Korean-financed DeCastle Royal and Gold Tower 42 buildings are a mystery to him.

“I don’t know what other investors, like the Koreans, got wrong, why the buildings stopped. I have no idea. The global financial crisis, I suppose.”

He says that the influx of experienced Japanese investors to Phnom Penh is a good thing for the country. “When I came three or four years ago, there were no Japanese here at all. The Japanese ambassador here told me that I’m the biggest Japanese investor here now. But I hear there are others on the way.”

Why did he choose to go into serviced apartments as his first foray into Cambodian property?

“We decided to do serviced apartments because a friend here recommended this location, and we looked at what would be suitable for the location, and we thought about all types of buildings, but serviced apartments seemed like the most suitable idea.”

Yasumoto says he has been impressed with the people who he employs.

“I like working with Cambodian people. And the quality of their work is excellent. At the beginning I thought I’d have to do a lot of hands-on managing, but no, they do it all. At he beginning they were quite inexperienced, but they picked things up very quickly. I’ve been pleasantly surprised.”

His experience in Cambodia so far has convinced him that it is a good place to do business.

“I’m very optimistic about Cambodia. The government is very stable, and the laws for foreigners are both free and protective, certainly compared with China or Vietnam. The government also listens to what foreigners have to say, which they wouldn’t in China or Vietnam. So it’s very good here. Maybe I’ll do more in the future here. I’ve made myself some very good friends here, so why not?”

To contact the reporter on this story: Rupert Winchester at [email protected]

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