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YTL to develop 2 Marriott hotels each in Malaysia, Japan

Move comes amid Malaysia's halt on luxury home, commercial property development

KUALA LUMPUR (Nikkei Markets) -- YTL, a Malaysian construction-to-utilities conglomerate, said Tuesday it has agreed to develop two new luxury hotels in Malaysia with American hospitality firm Marriott International.

The company also signed memorandum of understanding with Marriott to build another two hotels in Japan, YTL said in a statement. YTL currently has 11 hotels under Marriott's brands in its portfolio of 32 hospitality assets.

"Our 20-year relationship has been pivotal to the growth of YTL Hotels in Malaysia, Asia, and in the U.K.," said YTL Managing Director Francis Yeoh.

Both of the proposed hotels in Japan will be located in the Niseko Village of Hokkaido. In Malaysia, the second JW Marriott hotel will be located in transit hub Kuala Lumpur Sentral, while the first EDITION-branded hotel will be located in the Kuala Lumpur City Center.

The design for both properties in Malaysia have yet to be finalized, YTL Executive Director Mark Yeoh told reporters. "We plan to apply for approvals in 12 to 18 months" for the hotels, he said.

YTL derives most of its earnings from its utilities business in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia and the U.K. that collectively accounted for about half of its pre-tax profit in 2017. Hotel operations make up a tad under 6% of its pre-tax profit.

The proposed development in Malaysia comes at a time when government approvals for luxury property developments have been frozen nationwide amid concerns of oversupply and a shortage of affordable housing.

Developments of shopping malls, offices, commercial complexes and condominiums priced above one million ringgit ($240,645.02) a unit have also been halted indefinitely. A freeze on hotel licenses in Kuala Lumpur was lifted in November 2016.

"I would say there's competition but the outlook is still stable" for the hotel sector in Kuala Lumpur, said Affin Hwang Investment Bank's analyst Ng Chi Hoong. "We will have to wait until the hotel opens and see the occupancy rate."

Shares of YTL fell 0.9% to 1.15 ringgit on Tuesday, while the benchmark FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI ended 0.7% higher.

--Alexander Winifred

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