KKR, Ascendas-Singbridge and Perennial Real Estate are among the finalists competing to acquire S$1.9 billion ($1.3 billion) Singapore property group United Engineers Ltd, according to a recent report by Bloomberg. The bids for the company were confirmed in a notice to the Singapore stock exchange.
The US private equity firm and the pair of Singaporean developers are said to be joined on the shortlist of bidders beginning due diligence on the 105-year-old firm by Malaysia’s Samling Group and a holding firm controlled by controversial Malaysian corporate raider Lee Ming Tee.
OCBC Family Sells After Chairman’s Death
United Engineers, which has a portfolio of commercial, residential and hospitality projects in Singapore, as well as a range of residential projects in mainland China and Malaysia, first announced a potential sale in September 2016 and began sending out information to potential bidders for the company in December. At least 10 companies having placed bids by the beginning of the year. Offers for the property firm, which also is involved in construction, property management and manufacturing, were due by the end of January.
The impending sale comes just over a year after the death of former OCBC bank chairman Lee Seng Wee. OCBC, its insurance subsidiary Great Eastern and the Lee family together control 30 percent of United Engineers. Investment bank Credit Suisse Group is advising United Engineers shareholders on the potential sale.
Singaporean Portfolio Put on the Block
In Singapore the property firm owns office projects including Orchard Gateway, UE BizHub City and UE BizHub East in Changi Business Park. Also in United Engineers portfolio are a number of shopping malls, including Rochester Mall, The Seletar Mall and UE Square Shopping Mall.
KKR, which pioneered leveraged buyouts in the US has lately been turning more of its attention to Asia’s property sector. The private equity heavyweight brought over former Blackstone executive Rob Yang to head its Greater China real estate team in June last year, and in January KKR invested $46 million in a Mumbai residential project.