Plans underway to build Southeast Asia's tallest skyscraper

Romesh NavaratnarajahApril 29, 2016

Merdeka PNB118 resize

Artist’s impression of the Merdeka PNB118 skyscraper. (Source:

Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB), Malaysia’s biggest fund management company, plans to build a 118-storey skyscraper in Kuala Lumpur that will surpass the height of the 88-storey Petronas Twin Towers, reported The Straits Times recently.

Dubbed Merdeka PNB118, the 630m-tall tower is expected to become the tallest building in the country and in Southeast Asia when it is completed by 2020.

In comparison, the 452m-tall twin towers, built during the administration of former PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, was the world’s tallest building when it was finished in 1998.

With a gross development value of RM5 billion, the new skyscraper was unveiled in March 2016 by Prime Minister Najib Razak, who denied rumours that one of the reasons for building the tower was to steal the limelight from his mentor-turned-enemy Dr Mahathir.

The mega project comes at a time when the former leader is attempting to unseat Mr Najib, by accusing him of pocketing millions from 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

In 2010, Dr Mahathir said he hoped the Merdeka PNB118 tower would be built after he’s gone, as he would be sad to see it overshadow the Petronas Twin Towers.

“I would like to retain the Twin Towers as the highest buildings in Malaysia. At that moment, we don’t need any tower higher than that. We should build the 100-storey tower, but maybe a little bit later when I am not around.”

Mr Najib replied that it’s not his objective to lessen the legacy of the former Prime Minister. “That’s a totally frivolous statement. What Tun Mahathir has done is admirable, what we need to do is to build on his success and move on.”

In addition, the upcoming tower will contain around 1.7 million sq ft of office space upon completion, adding to the 4.8 million sq ft of office space coming from other developments that will be ready by 2019.

According to Y. Y. Lau, Country Head of JLL Malaysia, the existing office oversupply in Kuala Lumpur will worsen due to major property projects entering the market in 2019.

Similarly, Malaysia’s central bank has raised concerns about the existing office glut, noting that the massive projects in the capital will increase the annual average supply of office space to 4.9 million sq ft, compared to the historical average of 2.8 million sq feet per annum.

“In other countries, this (office oversupply situation) actually precipitated an economic downturn,” noted its Deputy Governor, Dr Sukhdave Singh, during a conference organised by the Malaysian Economic Association.


Mangalesri Chandrasekaran, Editor at PropertyGuru Malaysia, edited this story. To contact her about this or other stories, email


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