ow can real estate be uniform and customized at the same time, especially across an expanse as vast and diverse as Asia? Seems impossible, but that’s what Singapore-based Ascendas, developer of “future-ready” IT and science parks, industrial developments and office space for the region’s booming population of knowledge workers, is doing. Multinationals that employ these workers, typically in multiple countries in the region, are finding a uniform work space experience in terms of amenities, infrastructure, security and facilities management that facilitates success. When companies can focus on their core mission rather than real estate details they want to take for granted, they will be more successful.
At the same time, companies want space that meets their requirements, meaning flexible, customized environments that enable them to meet their customers’ evolving expectations. As noted in the first part of this Investment Profile, which appears in the September issue, Ascendas develops integrated, sustainable work space for clients seeking to maximize their location investment in any of the nine Asian markets in which it has a presence, including India, China, Malaysia and Singapore.
Ascendas’ newest development is ONE@Changi City, a nine-story, 650,000-sq.-ft. business space tower in Singapore’s Changi City (a 50-50 joint venture with Frasers Centrepoint Ltd.) in the Changi Business Park. When ONE@Changi City opened August 5th, it was already 90-percent occupied by the back-office operations of Credit Suisse, JP Morgan and other global financial services providers. Changi City, occupying 4.7 hectares, illustrates Ascendas’ commitment to developing “live-work-play” environments, not merely work space: It also features the Changi City Point shopping mall, numerous food and beverage outlets, entertainment operations and a hotel. Changi City is located on the eastern part of the island-state, 10 minutes drive to Changi International Airport, giving work space seekers a location away from the central business district but with a full array of amenities, including immediate access to the airport. In 2012, Changi City was recognized as a Highly Commended Mixed-Use Development at the Asia Pacific Property Awards.
Reputation, Reliability Seal the Deal
North Carolina-based Quintiles, the world’s largest provider of biopharmaceutical development and commercial outsourcing services, employs 27,000 people in about 100 countries. So its location experts know what to look for when opening new operations around the globe. Evaluation criteria include availability of talent, quality of space, accessibility, cost, health and safety, maturity of amenities, reputation of the developer and government policies, says Dan Kum, Vice President, Global Real Estate & Facilities, Asia-Pacific. Quintiles and Ascendas operate across similar geographies in Asia, he points out.
“In Singapore and Dalian, China, where our offices are located within Ascendas business parks, the facilities meet our needs by providing safe and convenient work environments for our employees at a reasonable cost, while providing good access to talent, amenities and attractive government incentive policies related to the life science industry,” says Kum. “The reputation of Ascendas as a reliable Singapore developer with sound and professional practices also helped seal the choice to locate in Ascendas developments.”
Quintiles’ Asia-Pacific regional headquarters is in a single facility in the Singapore Science Park. In addition to being home to the company’s Asia-Pacific executive leadership and functional operations, many of its clinical trials are managed from the facility. It’s also home to one of Quintiles’ 10 Central Laboratories located around the world.
Beginning in 2009, Quintiles began consolidating several Singapore locations into the Science Park facility, increasing collaborations and cost-effectiveness.
“Our experience partnering with Ascendas teams in Singapore and Dalian has been positive, professional and proactive,” says Kum. “After the choice of location is made, Ascendas teams dedicated to Quintiles are assigned to manage our account. These teams follow up on our requests for information and provide responses to our queries in a timely and professional manner.”
As Quintiles’ regional headquarters in Asia Pacific, Singapore offers the modern infrastructure needed to coordinate its activities across Asia Pacific — and to be fully integrated within Quintiles’ global network, says Kum. “From our headquarters in Singapore we can meet the growing needs for better health care in Asia Pacific, which faces these challenges: vast populations with untreated or poorly treated diseases; rising health care costs and increasing demand for health care access; and the rise in ‘Western’ diseases, such as diabetes, lung disease, and cancer.”
In any market in which it operates, Quintiles requires access to a suitable talent pool, a good regulatory environment for clinical trials and availability and accessibility to potential clinical trial volunteers. A lack of any of these ingredients would limit the industry’s growth and market potential, says Kum. In this regard, Ascendas works with Quintiles in delivering the right space in the right locations.
“Ascendas has been a true partner from the very beginning, from due diligence and understanding the industry to working with the government agencies on approvals and permits.”— Mike Wiluan, CEO, Infinite Studios, Singapore
“Ascendas has several developments that are attractive to the biopharmaceutical industry,” he relates. “This helps strengthen the industry by clustering both competing and collaborating industry players. This increases opportunities for innovation, attracts talent to the clusters and improves the support ecosystem that helps the general growth of the industry. In doing so, Ascendas indirectly helps to influence policies and provides an environment that further bolsters the development of the biopharmaceutical industry.”
Rick Lam manages an extensive portfolio of property holdings in the Asia-Pacific region for Pfizer, which is consolidating operations to help achieve cost-saving goals. Part of that strategy is recalibrating space away from central business districts to decentralized locations, including business and technology parks, which is where Ascendas comes in. “This matches what we need from a cost-savings perspective and from the location standpoint,” says Lam. “Ascendas’ focus on business park development and on delivering high quality office space means we can find the right work space environment.” Ascendas space is not the lowest cost in Pfizer’s markets, but the high quality of the facilities management is worth the premium, says Lam.
Pfizer has operations located within Ascendas properties in the International Tech Park Chennai in India and the Singapore Science Park.
Infinite Creative Potential
How can a market attract and support creative industries if it doesn’t have the necessary facilities, particularly a market prone to high real estate and labor costs? Such was the dilemma facing Mike Wiluan, a creative services and digital production entrepreneur who saw the need in Singapore for an anchor production and animation complex that would be the foundation of a new media ecosystem catering to local and regional creative enterprises, including those in Indonesia and Malaysia. His company, Infinite Studios, had become Singapore’s largest media services company, but much of the production work was being done in Batam, an Indonesian island near Singapore. In due course, similar enterprises around the world learned of Wiluan’s work and expressed interest in what the area had to offer in that arena.
More than just work space dedicated to creative industries, the biggest need was for a production studio. Discussions with the Media Development Authority evolved beyond the need for a film studio to a facility that would cater to the needs of film, television, gaming and technology development together with an office complex that would support those pursuits. The government had zoned an area for media services, called Mediapolis, but would a complex built by the industry for the industry not stand a better chance of attracting investment? Wiluan figured it would, particularly one that caters to the production and lifestyle needs of the industry.
“We needed a partner in Singapore who felt there was a story there of commercial viability, which is always a challenge in the creative industries,” says Wiluan. That’s where Ascendas comes in.
“I pitched them this idea about an ecosystem, that we would come in not just as a partner but also as a beacon to bring in other partners we work with, such as the Discovery Channel and others we have relationships with, to convince them to come with us and start something that has never been done,” he explains. “To Ascendas’ credit, they were very open-minded about it and did lots of due diligence about the industry’s infrastructure and other requirements.”
“Ascendas has been a true partner from the very beginning, from due diligence and understanding the industry to working with the government agencies on approvals and permits. This type of project was new, and there was resistance every step of the way. But there was the sense that Ascendas was going through this with us. We were in it together. We shared our frustrations, and we shared our joys.”
Today, Infinite Studios is the anchor tenant in a 10-story media facility jointly developed by Ascendas and Citramas Group, providing space for companies engaged in digital distribution, satellite teleport services, media technology, production, post-production and audio services.
“This model we have today is being talked about in a lot of places, especially in emerging economies,” says Wiluan. “In Indonesia and India and particularly in China, they are talking about the cluster effect, the ecosystem, and hunting in packs — putting together smaller companies to create something that is much bigger that will help grow the industry. Governments are very keen to showcase a symbol of industry. They like to see an ecosystem that is representative of the entire industry, and that is what we have accomplished here.”
A Partner in New Markets
II-VI Singapore Pte Ltd occupies more than 50,000 square feet of manufacturing space in Singapore, where it makes specialized optics components for commercial infrared applications in the industrial, defense and medical sectors. The Singapore facility, established in 1988, was the Pennsylvania-based company’s first overseas operation. The location was chosen for its English-speaking work force, availability of optical manufacturing skills and incentives made available by the Singapore Economic Development Board at that time, says Dr. Ahmad Md Magad, Group Managing Director. “It was the perfect choice, having considered other locations, including Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong,” he says.
Dr. Magad says the company’s presence in Singapore predates Ascendas — it worked with JTC, Ascendas’ parent and Singapore’s industrial infrastructure developer. “We are very conservative and take space only when we require it,” he notes. “Since Ascendas took over, they have been very responsive and have met all of our needs without any issues whatsoever.”
In the mid-1990s, II-VI had grown to the point where it was importing workers from China. “We thought that rather than continuing to do that, why not open a facility in China?” says Dr. Magad. The Suzhou Industrial park, a joint venture of the Chinese and Singaporean governments, actively recruited the new China project. “It was a natural choice for us, and we chose to work with Ascendas as we prepared to go into what was an alien place for us at the time.” Ascendas manages Ascendas-Xinsu, a development in the heart of Suzhou Industrial Park, which is located within two hours of Shanghai, Nanjing and Hangzhou. Regular expansion of its operation in pre-existing space eventually necessitated construction of its own facility, Dr. Magad relates. “Our experience in Suzhou was phenomenal — from the time we decided to proceed to having our first functional facility, it took just eight weeks. It was unbelievably quick.” The China facility employs about 450, and about 200 work at the Singapore plant.
Dr. Magad says II-VI is weighing additional location options in Vietnam and elsewhere and intends to keep Ascendas in the location equation. “If we go to a location where Ascendas has a presence, there is no doubt that their property would be the first one we would look at due to the strong relationship we have built with them over the years. They have been very responsive in meeting our needs.”
Space for Talent-Driven Growth
Software developer Autodesk occupies approximately 470,000 square feet in 26 cities throughout Asia, including two major R&D centers housing engineers that are creating the next generation of advanced design, simulation and manufacturing software solutions.
“Our business growth is fueled by the talent we bring into the company,” says Roger van Overbeek, director, corporate real estate, at the San Rafael, Calif.-based company. Real estate plays a major role in the company’s ability to attract top talent, he says, and that requires a partner that can deliver the right space in the right locations. “We will continue to expand into different markets in order to meet the needs of our customers and partners.”
“Autodesk values its relationship with Ascendas and looks to our relationship as a true partnership,” he explains. “Ascendas is well known throughout Singapore, China, India and Japan as a premier owner and developer of office parks. Ascendas understands what technology companies like Autodesk are looking for in the workplace. They realize that the workplace extends beyond just the office space for Autodesk, including providing and operating excellent amenities and common areas at their properties.”
Van Overbeek says Ascendas has been particularly helpful in a very challenging office market in Hyderabad. “Our relationship with Ascendas and its management team was a key factor in enabling Autodesk to find great space for its employees in the premier software development park in Hyderabad. With almost no vacancy, Ascendas provided the perfect space for Autodesk’s software development team in Hyderabad, which will enable us to attract and retain top engineering talent and to grow our development in India.” He says the amenities, such as common cafeterias and meeting spaces, landscape and park-like settings in Ascendas office parks and their relationship-oriented approach to completing the real estate transaction are among the best in Asia. “These amenities are important to our employees and the amenities enable us to provide great perks to our employees outside of our office,” says van Overbeek.
Aerospace Projects Gain Altitude
Aerospace is a booming industry sector in Singapore, much of which is clustered at the Seletar Aerospace Park in northeast Singapore, a 320-hectare development that includes Seletar Airport.
Rolls Royce has built a state-of-the-art plant for manufacturing its next generation of commercial aircraft engines and operates a regional training center and Advanced Technology Center at the park. ST Aerospace, a leading global MRO player, has a major presence at the park, as do Jet Aviation, Hawker Pacific and Fokker Services, all MRO providers. And Eurocopter established its South East Asian regional headquarters at the site, as well as a 9,200-sq.-m. R&D facility and MRO operations.
Ascendas’ first aerospace project in Singapore was a plant custom built for the Hamilton Sundstrand division of United Technologies Corp. (UTC) in Changi North about 10 years ago — a project completed in just nine months. Ascendas built, owns and manages the facility and leases it to Hamilton Sundstrand, an arrangement that allowed the aerospace company to focus on its core business rather than on managing a major construction project. Ascendas also built a component repair facility for Pratt & Whitney, another UTC subsidiary, and is working with the aircraft engine manufacturer on a third project in Singapore.
“If we go to a location where Ascendas has a presence, there is no doubt that their property would be the first one we would look at due to the strong relationship we have built with them over the years.”— Dr. Ahmad Md Magad, Group Managing Director, II-VI Singapore PTE Ltd
This relationship, too, is increasingly multinational, as other UTC divisions bring Ascendas personnel onto their Asian facility expansion teams. Mr. Bala Nadarajah, President, South East Asia, United Technologies, characterizes the partnership this way: “Working with Ascendas showed both companies shared a high regard for quality standards and business ethics. More importantly, the Ascendas team proved in several instances to be attentive to detail and were sensitive to UTC’s development needs. They demonstrated highly professional standards and on a few occasions went beyond obligation to offer suggestions that could make the facility better and more efficient while staying on budget. Attention given by Ascendas was not just limited to the working team but also from their management who assured they stayed relevant to UTC’s needs during the project.
“Building on that close collaboration,” Nadarajah continues, “UTC was able to offer Ascendas its solutions to complement Ascendas’ products. The Information Tech Park Bangalore by Ascendas is one example of how UTC expanded the relationship with Ascendas in India when UTC divisions, Otis and Carrier, were awarded with the installations of new elevators and air conditioned chillers in 1998 and again in 2013 with UTC’s G-2 clean elevators for the modernization program in India.”
In Singapore, Ascendas is also developing a new project in the heart of Fusionopolis in one-north. A joint venture development with Mitsui & Co Ltd, the project, named Galaxis, will be the first to introduce the “Work Office Home Office” (WOHO) concept, which merges ready-made facilities with flexible spaces that cater to office, living and lifestyle functions.
The 67,490-square-meter Galaxis comprises a 17-story building providing approximately 59,300 square meters of quality business space, a separate five-story office block featuring the WOHO concept by Ascendas, and 5,500 square meters of retail space, offering refreshing F&B concepts, lifestyle options and amenities to the one-north community.
Nadarajah gives Ascendas high marks for keeping projects on deadline, as the new Singapore facilities illustrate: “Schedules for projects were ambitious. In the Hamilton Sundstrand project, the customized building was completed in a record nine months. For the Pratt & Whitney customized project, groundbreaking took place in January 2012 and occupancy was projected in March 2013. Ascendas exercised close supervision over its main contractor and re-allocated and increased resources as required to successfully meet the project deadline. Together with an interior design/build specialty firm retained by Pratt & Whitney for the office fit-out and furnishings (which was outside the scope of the Ascendas contract) and through its project management oversight, Ascendas assured the coordination of the various works to achieve a successful result with minimal issues.”
This Investment Profile was prepared under the auspices of Ascendas Pte Ltd. For more information contact Aylwin Tan via email at email@example.com, or visit www.ascendas.com. Part 1 of this Investment Profile appears in the September 2013 issue of Site Selection