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Apple Vacations going for IPO,says Datuk Seri Desmond Lee.

Apple Vacations set for IPO
Group posts healthy profit and revenue
PETALING JAYA: Apple Vacations Group of Companies, which has been in the outbound travel trade for 20 years, is all geared up to go for initial public offering (IPO) within the next six to seven months, according to executive chairman Datuk Seri Lee Ee Hoe.

Apple reported a net profit of RM12.5mil and revenue of about RM250mil in the last financial year ended July 31, 2016. Both net profit and revenue rose 30% over the previous financial year.

“We have met with the Securities Commission twice to inform them of our plan and we are now in the midst of preparing listing documents for submission by July 2017,” said Lee, who co-founded Apple with group managing director Datuk Koh Yock Heng.

Hailing from Yong Peng in Johor, both were passionate tour guides who had studied in Japanese universities before they started the company with a capital of RM15,000 in 1996.

“Although we have a track record of profit-making and is qualified to go for Main Market listing, we will go for Ace Market first. We will start from kindergarten, later to the Main Market,” said Lee, who still leads outbound gourmet tours for Malaysia’s rich and famous with Hong Kong’s leading food connoisseur Chua Lam.

“Since the main intention of our listing is to seek recognition rather than raising money, we will go for Ace Market now. This listing route could be faster, our consultants say,” he added.

In the travel industry, Apple has established itself as a market leader for Japan tours. In 2013, Apple became the first tour company outside Japan to receive the prestigious “Japan Tourism Agency Commissioner’s Commendation Award”.

For his huge contribution to popularise Japan as a tourist destination for Malaysians, Lee was conferred the “The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays” by the Japanese Emperor in June 2014. This was the highest honour ever bestowed on a foreigner and Lee was the first recipient.

Lee, with Lee San as Japanese name, said Apple is in the midst of deciding which merchant banker to hire for its reorganisation. Before listing, the group will comprise three core profitable divisions: travel and tours, hotels and properties.

“We intend to raise a total of RM200mil after listing. The first fund-raising will be in the order of RM40mil. My ultimate dream is to own a resort hotel with hot spring in Japan,” said Lee at his office at Wisma Apple in Bukit Bintang.

The future of Apple appears exciting as Lee has laid down plans to increase its revenue and profit.

According to Lee, Apple is entering the local inbound travel market, as tourists from China are expected to see an exponential rise due to the use of Alibaba’s platform to promote Malaysia’s tourism and close Malaysia-China ties. Last week, Apple brought in 2,000 Chinese tourists.

But most importantly for Apple, it must fulfil its commitment to sell 300,000 tickets annually for Impression Melaka shows. This could only be done if it has a strong inbound travel unit.

If sales target could be achieved, Apple could possibly net a yearly income of over RM25m from this segment, as there is advice from China’s show consultants to fix price per ticket at over RM200 and give commission of 50% to tour agents.

Impression Melaka – a spectacular theatre show depicting the history of Malacca – will be the first “Impression” show series outside China. It promises to turn the Straits of Malacca into a night theatre and cultural extravaganza come 2018.

“Impression Liu Sanjie” staged in Yangshuo, Guanxi Province, is making an annual net profit of over RM60mil.

Impression Melaka is a project under Yong Tai Bhd, a mainly property company in which Lee currently holds a 10.56% stake.

To expand Apple’s outbound trade, Lee is looking at the Muslim market. Apple may buy a company or entering joint venture with a successful firm.

“This market of 20 million Muslim people in Malaysia is very big. Many travel companies dealing with Muslim tours are doing very well. The revenue of one firm is RM500mil a year.”

Despite the current economic slowdown, Apple’s business is roaring. Lee said: “I am shy to say that we are doing well during bad times. I believe many Malaysians are treating travel as a lifestyle and can afford to ignore the slowdown.”

For this month alone, Apple is organising 110 tours to Japan catering for 4,000 tourists. Together with outbound tours to other countries, Apple is handling 9,300 customers this month – more than 30% compared to the number in December 2015.

Published on 13 Dec 2016, Business News, The Star
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