Marum Estate: Sir Stamford Raffles Group’s US$300 mil foray in Cambodia

/ EdgeProp Singapore |
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When Phebe Len hands out her business card, most people are intrigued by her company’s name: Sir Stamford Raffles Group (SSRG). “We wanted a name that stands out and represents Singapore’s heritage and quality,” says the founder and group co-CEO of the firm.
SSRG is developing its maiden township project in Cambodia, Marum Estate. The name “Marum” is derived from the Khmer word for the Moringa tree, widely regarded as a “miracle tree” for its nutritional benefits, she adds.
Marum Estate is situated in the south of Kandal province, a 45-minute drive from the business district of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. With a gross development value of US$300 million ($409 million), the 22.6ha (2.43 million sq ft) Marum Estate will be a mixed-use development with 642 houses, 259 shophouses and a community club, with recreational and communal spaces. The development will also include an 80,000 sq ft healthcare facility, which marks a collaboration between Khmer Hospital and Singapore’s Parkway Cancer Centre. It will also have a school for 750 students from kindergarten to primary, built in partnership with the Methodist School of Cambodia. Memoranda of understanding (MOUs) were signed with the various parties in January.
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Len of SSRG: Marum Estate is a low-rise mixed-use development, where the tallest building is the medical centre, which is six storey (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
When Len and SSRG co-founder and group co-CEO Ng Aung San first embarked on a feasibility study of Cambodia, they were shown many sites in both the north and south of Phnom Penh.
Feeling that the market in the north of Phnom Penh was “too overheated”, the duo decided to explore the south instead. They chose the 22.6ha site in Kandal province. Although it was an agricultural plot, it was zoned for commercial and residential development under the master plan.
Being an early investor in Kandal province also meant the developer could buy land at a more affordable price than those who came later. “Investing in Kandal has turned out to be a good move,” says Len.
She points to the proximity of Marum Estate to the upcoming Techo International Airport, a 10-minute drive away. The first phase of the airport is expected to be operational by 2025. Another major infrastructure project is the new Monivong-Hun Sen flyover, which is expected to ease congestion into and out of the city.
Artist’s impression of some of the houses in Marum Estate, where prices of a three-bedroom linked house starts from US$200,000 (Photo: SSRG)

‘Seletar Hills Estate’ in Phnom Penh

Len likens Kandal province to Seletar Hills Estate in Singapore, which had also been predominantly agricultural land before it was redeveloped into a private housing estate in the late 1950s. Seletar Hills Estate is now an affluent private housing estate, with recent private landed developments such as Nim Collection, Pollen Collection, Luxus Hills and Belgravia Collection.
SSRG is developing Marum Estate into an upscale, low-density enclave. “It is a low-rise, mixed-use development, where the tallest building is the medical centre, which is six-storey,” says Len. “Phnom Penh is getting crowded and congested, so it makes sense for people to move into the suburbs to enjoy a quality home in a quiet, verdant neighbourhood.”
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It will have a mix of linked houses, semi-detached and detached houses. Up to 80% of the houses will be detached on single lots. About 25% of the 22.6ha site will be dedicated to greenery. SSRG appointed Singapore-based SCSY Studio as the project architect, given its experience designing luxury residential and hospitality developments such as the Four Seasons, Tianjin; Fairmont Maldives; Banyan Tree Lombok; and Yangshuo Moonhill Boutique Hotel.
The other architectural firm that SSRG appointed is the Cambodia-based Bloom Architecture, which also has a wealth of experience in hospitality and residential projects in the country.
The first phase of Marum Estate was launched in Cambodia at the end of January. Of the total 259 shophouses in the development, 78 are four-storey residential-cum-commercial units, with another 181 four-storey full commercial units. Prices of these shop units start from about US$250,000.
The developer is also offering six different types of houses, priced from US$200,000 for a three-bedroom linked house to US$750,000 for an eight-bedroom villa.
The living area of one of the detached houses with double-volume ceiling height and private plunge pool (Picture: SSRG)

High-end homes

The six- and eight-bedroom villas have full en suite bedrooms, double-volume ceilings, and resort-style living with a private plunge pool. The developer is also providing marble flooring, walk-in wardrobe, quality parquet flooring, fitted kitchens and bathrooms. “A lot of care and attention has been put into the materials and finishing, as this is our maiden project,” says Len.
Construction costs have increased significantly due to the rise in the number of construction projects, the higher cost of imported materials due to the Russia-Ukraine War, and Cambodian workers seeking higher-paying jobs in neighbouring countries. “It used to cost US$250 psm for building just four cement walls pre-Covid,” says Len. “But our construction cost is close to US$1,000 psm because of the quality of materials and level of finish we are providing.”
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She believes the target audience for the properties at Marum Estate will be primarily local Cambodians — “the burgeoning mass affluent”. Hence, prices are capped below US$1 million. To entice home buyers, the developer is also offering a selection of furniture and furnishing packages.
“We are looking at the nuclear, double-income families and young couples just starting out,” says Len. “These are mainly the millennials.” She also expects interest from multi-generational families. “In Cambodia, they have a strong family culture and prefer to stay near each other.”
Foreigners interested in buying a freehold house in Marum Estate will need to purchase through a trustee structure. SSRG has signed an MOU with Phillip Bank, a subsidiary of PhillipCapital in Singapore. “The freehold land title and the home are held under the Cambodian trust structure,” according to Len. “The foreigner will be the ultimate beneficial owner and the settlor of the trust.”
In the future, if the foreign buyer wishes to sell the property, the trust will release the asset to the next buyer. “It’s basically buying and selling a property using a trust structure,” she adds.
Residents' recreational facilities include a swimming pool (Picture: SSRG)

Cabin crew to bespoke insurance broker

Len has come a long way from her two-year stint as a cabin crew with Singapore Airlines to being a property developer of a US$300 million development in Cambodia. “I have always been ambitious in my career,” she says.
After graduation, she worked for Seagate Technology in the account servicing and marketing communications department. “I was bitten by the travel bug, and I thought it would be nice to have a paid holiday,” she relates. That was when she decided to join Singapore Airlines as a cabin crew. She stayed for just two years. “It was like taking a sabbatical,” she adds.
Being a cabin crew was an eye-opener. “It was a way to experience the finer things in life and to move well beyond Singapore’s horizons,” she relates. However, she had no intention of making it her career and quit after two years.
She decided to join the financial sector and spent the next 10 years with Charles Monat Associates, an international life insurance brokerage firm offering advisory and brokerage services to high-net-worth individuals. Services focused on insurance but included legacy planning and wealth preservation. “That was when I encountered many high net-worth individuals and listened to their business ventures — both the successes and failures. I was inspired and looked forward to the day I would have my own business,” relates Len.
Commercial shophouses that open out to communal spaces and plazas for residents to enjoy (PIcture: SSRG)

Hospitality venture

After leaving Charles Monat Associates, Len got married and started a family. One day, while catching up with friends, they discussed business opportunities and decided to venture into the hospitality business. Len was in her mid-30s then.
It led to the founding of White Oak Investments in 2012. White Oak is a hospitality business that operates two boutique hotels in heritage shophouses within the Chinatown and Little India conservation areas under the Park 22 brand. The first hotel was at Teck Lim Road in Chinatown, and the second hotel was in Little India.
SSRG co-founder and group co-CEO Ng Aung San was also a co-founder of White Oak. After the company was sold, Len and Ng both felt that there were more opportunities in real estate development. That led to their foray into Cambodia. At first, the duo were considering operating an upmarket town club or private members’ club in Phnom Penh. “At that time, the market wasn’t ready for such a product,” says Len.
They were then shown property development sites, which led to SSRG purchasing the plot for Marum Estate in 2018. Earthworks and infrastructural works have begun on the site. SSRG intends to complete the project in phases, says Len. The first phase is targeted for completion sometime in 2026, with the entire development to be completed by 2030.

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