A hundred year legacy. Endurance, resilience and success. These are the qualities evoked by the historical name The Ayer Hitam Planting Syndicate Berhad.
The company's long title stems from its origins as a rubber plantation incorporated in Malaya, then a British colony. The Ayer Hitam Planting Syndicate Limited was founded on March 15, 1907 under the Companies Enactment of 1897 with an authorised share capital of $500,000. Its first directors were RW Harrison, John Gibson, GH Day and PW Parkinson.
One century, two world wars and many economic downturns later, the company has transformed itself into a thriving property development and oil palm plantations business. It was listed on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange on March 28, 1961, and changed its suffix from 'Limited' to' Berhad' in 1966.
Hence it was with no surprise, but a fair measure of pride, that Ayer Hitam Planting received due recognition from the Registrar of Companies in 1998 as one of the oldest active companies in the country.
That Ayer Hitam Planting continues to run, and run well, is testament of its endurance, prudence and resilience. Its success is also rooted in the efforts of its owners, the Lim family. Lim Yee Teck, Lee Yee Hoh and Lim Yee Bee were registered as major shareholders in 1965, after the company bought the Gali Estate in Raub, Pahang by issuing them 950,000 shares as payment. At that time, the company's paid up capital was RM2.3 million. Today, the second generation of the Lims sits on the board of directors and oversees a business worth over RM380 million in net assets.
Even plunging natural rubber prices in the 1970s failed to halt the Group's march forward. With great resilience, it was during that time that Ayer Hitam Planting, like many local rubber companies then, began diversifying into oil palm and in the later years into property development.
In 1992, the Group leveraged on its land holdings and ventured into property development, via The Ayer Hitam Development Sdn Bhd, its wholly-owned subsidiary, and through Bukit Hitam Development Sdn Bhd, a 50:50 joint venture with Selangor state development agency, Perbadanan Kemajuan Negeri Selangor (PKNS). Bukit Hitam Development is now a wholly-owned subsidiary after the Group bought PKNS's 50% stake for RM104 million in January 2006. The Group's prime projects include the Bandar Bukit Puchong township and Bandar Puchong Utama commercial centre in Selangor. Today, property development is the main income-earner for the Group.
As at 1993, the Company's paid up share capital was RM24.9 million. Six years later, the company's paid-up share capital tripled to RM74.8 million through a bonus issue of RM49.9 million shares declared in 1999. In the last three years, Ayer Hitam Planting grew by leaps and bounds. In 2006, the revenue, at RM48.9 million and net profit at RM66.7 million, was ten times their levels in 2002.
Growth has not been limited to its financials. Ayer Hitam Planting has also widened its range of activities. Not contented to rest on its achievements in property development, the Group has pushed forward into construction, property management and high end hotel resorts.
In 2003, it acquired Cendana Maju Construction Sdn Bhd (Cendana), a construction works company. Cendana specializes in pre-cast construction, using its prefabricated concrete panel system. In November 2006, Cendana was awarded a special award in the Malaysian Construction Industry Excellence Award in the Industrialised Building System category.
In November 2006, Bukit Hitam Development set up BBP Management Services Sdn Bhd to provide property management services. Another business arm was added in December 2006. Ayer Hitam Resorts Sdn Bhd was acquired. This subsidiary will develop and operate hotels, resorts, villas and spas. A luxury boutique hotel resort in Cherating, Pahang is being planned.
These recent forays display another key characteristic of the Group - its adaptability in the face of changing and challenging times. It is little wonder then that this low-profile company has endured a century and emerged bigger, stronger and more dynamic.
Having conquered a hundred years, Ayer Hitam Planting's new challenge is to weather another hundred more. With its long history, solid foundation and formidable knowledge, the company is well prepared for greater success.
Text reproduced from Annual Report 2007