Having a well-diversified business has paid off for Singapore-listed conglomerate Thakral Corp. Its businesses range from real estate development and GemLife retirement resorts in Australia; to commercial buildings and hotels in Japan; marketing and distribution of at-home beauty devices in China and Asia; as well as distribution of tech toys such as DJI drones in China and Insta360 cameras in South Asia.
The group posted earnings of $6.5 million for FY2020, down 28% from the previous year, and full-year revenue of $90.1 million, down 16% y-o-y. “The strategy we selected turned out to be in our favor at this particular time,” says Inderbethal Singh Thakral, the group’s CEO and executive director, who has been living in Shanghai since 2005 but whose corporate headquarters remains in Singapore.
The business that has done particularly well over the past year is GemLife, Thakral Corp’s 50:50 joint venture with the Puljich family, which has an established track record of more than three decades in the construction and management of retirement resorts in Australia. The joint venture was struck in 2015, and the maiden retirement resorts that the partners collaborated on were GemLife Bribie Island, with 404 homes on a 24.9ha site with a 9.5ha lake; and GemLife Highfields, with 233 homes on a 9ha site. Both resorts are located in Queensland.
Last year, GemLife acquired four new resort sites and additional land to expand its resort portfolio to over 2,400 homes. It has also taken new options to acquire more sites that will take its pipeline to 4,500 homes. Today, the group has 10 “live projects”, says Kevin Charles Barry, joint managing director of Thakral Capital Australia. “GemLife’s business has grown significantly over the last 12 to 18 months.”
Of the 10 projects, six are under construction. The remaining four projects are coming on stream later this year, namely, GemLife Tweed Waters and GemLife Gold Coast in Queensland, as well as GemLife Rainbow Beach at Lake Cathie and GemLife Lennox Head, in New South Wales.
Greggory John Piercy, joint managing director of Thakral Capital Australia, says that Covid had been “a catalyst” for GemLife’s business. He attributes the growth to “our lifestyle locations and great real estate”. It was partly driven by people’s desire to move from city centers to beach or country locations — as observed across major global cities since the pandemic struck.
Covid has accelerated the decisions of those who had hesitated on their plans to downsize or make lifestyle changes in moving to places such as Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, or Port Macquarie, notes Piercy. Another catalyst has been the returning expatriates from the rest of the world. “We’re getting the talent back,” he says. “They normally have money, and want to buy a home, and that is driving housing demand in the general market.”