Aquawalk reveals plans for IPO and major expansion of aquarium and indoor theme park formats in Thailand, India and Vietnam.
Aquawalk Sdn. Bhd. which owns and manages state of the art oceanarium Aquaria KLCC in Kuala Lumpur, is planning its expansion ahead of an IPO in 2020. Aquawalk has already met investment banks with an eye to its future listing on Bursa Malaysia.
Aquablu Technologies Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Aquawalk, specialising in the design and construction of aquariums, could be included in the IPO.
“We are exploring an IPO in 2020,” said Datuk Simon Foong, group managing director of Aquawalk, in a recent interview with The Edge Financial Daily.
Aquawalk can seek a listing with just Aquaria KLCC. The attraction opened 13 years ago and is the largest oceanarium in Malaysia, with over 5,000 different exhibits at its Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre space. However Foong prefers to have more than one aquarium when they head for a listing.
Aquaria Phuket, its second aquarium, will be located in an upcoming mall in Phuket, Thailand. It will stretch over a 60,000 by 70,000 square foot space and is slated to open by the first quarter of 2019.
Aquawalk will be the sole owner of the new aquarium. It is investing an estimated US$13 million (RM52.03 million) to US$15 million in the project. Foong says it will not just be a tourist attraction but will also be a working research and breeding centre. “We have tied up with Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok,” he says. “The veterinary department will be doing the research with us on all the fishes and fish breeding,”
Foong hopes the new aquarium will attract at least 400,000 to 500,000 visitors in its first year of operation. Aquaria draws in around 870,000 visitors per year.
With 13 years of experience under its belt, the Aquaria team has also set up Aquablu, which can cover all aspects of design, build, management and transfer. “We hope it will form part of the listed entity,” Foong said. “We are in talks with many who want to open aquariums on their own.”
Further expansion includes plans for Vietnam and India
Foong says that Aquawalk has plans to expand, firstly into Vietnam and then into India. “India is very close and is a very big market,” says Foong. “It’s tough dealing with the market but it is a big market and we are in talks.”
Foong’s Adventuria Sdn Bhd opened a new indoor theme park four months ago. The Rift is based in the Mid Valley Megamall in Kuala Lumpur. The company invested RM18 million in the theme park which offers 20 different attractions and 30 different games.
“We looked at what is growing in the market,” says Foong. “The biggest thing everyone is talking about and where investment is going into is Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR). We wanted to start a platform to showcase what AR and VR are about and showcase them at our flagship store in Mid Valley.”
The Rift is already getting attention and Foong has been receiving enquiries. “People from Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia are talking to us,” he says.
Foong fully expects to close the year with 300,000 to 350,000 visitors. He says the theme park is likely to be EBITDA-positive by year end.
Last summer Foong’s team also opened the Jakarta Aquarium, based in Neo Soho Mall in Central Park, Indonesia. Aquawalk has a 30 percent stake in the attraction, providing the fish and back-of-house work. “There are two aquariums in Jakarta,” says Foong. “It is our first year and we are hitting about 400,000 to 500,000 visitors.” However, the venture will not form part of the planned IPO.