It has also ventured outside Malaysia and made its presence felt in Vietnam, Australia, Singapore and even Britain.
The man at the helm of SP Setia is 52-year-old Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin, a down-to-earth bank officer-turned-developer.
Some would even say SP Setia is Liew Kee Sin and Liew Kee Sin is SP Setia.
Fiercely proud of his humble beginnings in Johor – his father was a lorry driver – the Universiti Malaya graduate wanted to study law but was offered economics instead.
SP Setia started off as a construction company – a syarikat pembinaan as conveyed in its initials SP.
Liew turned it into a big-time property developer when he injected two projects – Pusat Bandar Puchong and Bukit Indah Ampang – into the company in 1996.
Liew has faced many challenges but he is now looking at the biggest fight of his career – one that is heavily staked against him.
Permodalan Nasional Bhd (PNB), the country’s largest asset manager and owner of 33% of SP Setia, is making a bid to take over the company.
On Friday, PNB bought an additional 23.5 million shares in the open market for RM3.868 a share, just 3.2 sen shy of its proposed takeover price of RM3.90.
PNB, with a RM150bil cash chest, is seeking to raise its stake to over 50% with its RM3.90 offer, which is about an 11% premium over the closing price before the announcement of its notice of takeover.
Such a takeover bid is not unusual in the corporate world, and more so when Liew only has an 11.3% stake in the company.
Other major shareholders of SP Setia include the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) with 13.4%, Kumpulan Wang Amanah Persaraan with 5% and over 40% are in the hands of minority shareholders.
But the manner in which it was done has led to much unhappiness.
Despite having two PNB directors on the board, there was no courtesy of a verbal notification prior to the takeover move.
The general offer notice only reached the company on Wednesday at 8.30am, just before the market opened.
Some may argue that the element of surprise was for strategic reasons but there was still no call even after news broke out of the takeover bid.
In a nutshell, relations have been strained.
PNB has issued a statement saying it wishes to maintain the management team, which is known to be fiercely loyal to Liew, but no one is sure how events will unfold in the coming days.
However, questions have been raised as to why PNB is wanting to take over a company that is being run competently instead of remaining as a passive investor that is satisfied with good investment returns.
If the Government is actively pushing for the private sector to be the engine of growth, we have the right to ask why the GLCs are competing with the private sector.
Widening its shareholding base is one thing but controlling private companies will lead to speculation over its agenda, cause unnecessary concerns as well as send the wrong signals.
The whole exercise will cost PNB RM3bil, which is chicken feed to them, but there are political and economic ramifications that the country’s leaders should take note of.
It may not be such a grand scheme in the end for PNB if Liew decides to leave SP Setia and set up his own venture, and gets his senior management team to join him.
PNB may then find itself in a spot even after gaining control of the company.
No one would believe that there would not be interference from PNB, so let’s not kid Malaysian investors.
Civil servants who manage public funds should leave the business of running businesses and making money to the real businessmen.