Palaces For The People
Tuesday, October 07, 2003
Japanese property tycoon to expand business in Asia

TOKYO--Japanese property tycoon Minoru Mori, the man responsible for transforming the Tokyo skyline, is confident about the property market here and is seeking to expand his business to other Asian countries including China, Thailand and the Philippines.

Family-owned Mori Building Co. Ltd. sees great opportunities in densely populated China, Mori said in a speech at the Foreign Correspondent Club of Japan on Tuesday.

"China is such a big project to undertake," he said, showing on big white screens the blueprint for the 492-meter-high Shanghai World Financial Center, which Mori said would become the world's tallest building, excluding antennas, when completed at the end of 2007.

"For our distant future, I think it is better to minimize and diversify risks by (expanding in Asia)," the soft-spoken Mori told AFP after the speech.

"We are consulting on various projects in other countries, including Thailand and the Philippines," he said.

Forest Overseas Co. Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Mori Building, is currently focused on the Shanghai project but plans to expand elsewhere in Asia, Forest senior managing director Akio Yoshimura told AFP in an interview.

"Asia is posting remarkable economic growth and we wish to provide comfortable offices for Japanese companies moving to the rest of Asia," Yoshimura said.

Forest has consulted on projects in Hanoi, Taipei, Beijing, Bangkok and Manila "but these are not our own projects," he said. The company has developed towers in the Chinese city of Dalian, Ho Chi Min Cith in Vietnam and Houston, Texas.

Mori told the audience that he was confident about flooding the central part of Tokyo with rows of high rises -- just like in Manhattan -- without incurring losses or suffering declines in occupancy rates.

"In order to utilize land efficiently, we must change the structure of the city," Mori said.

"Day after day, I feel more confident about Roppongi Hills," he said, referring to his flagship project, a complex of office and residential towers bordering on Tokyo's prime entertainment district and some of its most expensive housing areas.

Quoting booming numbers of renters, and visitors of the multi-functional complex, which he calls a "themepark", Mori said: "People talk about recession but I'd say, 'what recession?'"

Japan has been mired in deflation, when prices of goods and assets fall in absolute terms, and which is considered responsible for depressing corporate profit margins and discouraging consumers from spending.

Although land costs in Tokyo have remained steady, Mori claimed that prices around Roppongi Hill, where he himself now lives, had doubled since the project was initiated.

Under his master plan, Mori wishes to create "a city within a city" by concentrating work, housing, recreational and educational spaces in skyscrapers in downtown Tokyo.

His models are New York and Paris, where more people live near where they work, unlike residents in Tokyo and surrounding cities who spend an average 70 minutes commuting each way, Mori explained.

Manhattan has 1.48 million all-time residents versus its daytime population of 3.38 million, while Paris sees 2.15 million residents forming the bulk of its daytime population of 2.93 million, according to Mori Building data.

Central Tokyo, on a similar 6,000 hectare (14,820 acres) area, hosts 3.13 million people during the day but the population drops to 560,000 after work, data showed.

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