SINGAPORE — The construction of the Forest City mixed development project in Johor is on schedule and the first group of homeowners can expect to move in by the end of this year, said developer Country Garden PacificView (CGPV).

Responding to a query from TODAY on the project’s status, CGPV’s chief strategy officer, Dr Yu Runze, said that construction is “on track as planned”. “While the first island is still undergoing reclamation works, Commercial Street, with its retail and food-and-beverage outlets, as well as (the four-star) Phoenix Hotel, began operations (on the first island) last December,” he added.

He said the first-phase residential project will be ready by the end of the year and buyers can begin to move in.

Dr Yu added that CGPV has gone global in its sales and marketing strategies, with Forest City showrooms to be set up in Asian countries such as India, Vietnam, and Thailand, as well as the Middle East.

“We have been talking to multinational companies such as retail and hospitality brands, investors, and property companies to drive the eight economic pillars in Forest City, including education, e-commerce, foreign investment, tourism … and financial services,” Dr Yu said. “So far, we have seen encouraging response from the property roadshows, industry conferences and networking sessions that we have organised in the Middle East and Asean regions.”

The move to diversify its client base came after China — whose nationals make up 70 per cent of Forest City buyers — imposed capital controls to tighten its grip on funds moving out of the country after the yuan plummeted to more than eight-year lows.

Country Garden last month also shut some mainland China sales centres for renovations amid the capital controls.

Dr Yu said last week that the capital controls will have an impact on Forest City, adding it was an “opportunity to shift our sales strategy to be more international”.

Mr Colin Tan, director of research consultancy at Suntec Real Estate Consultants said that the new strategy adopted by CGPV is a logical one. “Going international is probably the only way to save the project,” he said.

“However, it does not have a reputation amongst foreign buyers, so there’s more work to do to convince people to be interested,” he added.

Analysts say it is too early to determine how much of an impact China’s capital controls will affect the Forest City development.

“At this juncture, it is hard to predict if the project will stall because the developer may have approved lines of credit that they can tap to carry on with construction,” said Mr Alan Cheong, senior director of research and consultancy at real estate service provider Savills Singapore.

He added that if necessary, the developer can tweak some of the land use plans on the massive project.

“One thing’s for sure: Never underestimate the resolve of a new China. There are so many permutations on how this project can move ahead that it’s unwise to write it off prematurely,” he said.