CapitaLand has announced that it is selling a shopping mall for S$296 million ($217 million) to a Singapore megachurch that generated S$143 million in income last year and is led by one of the world’s richest pastors.
The Singapore-listed developer said that it had agreed to sell the seven-year-old Star Vista mall, which forms the base of the 15-storey New Creation Church’s place of worship and performing arts centre, to the church’s business entity Rock Productions.
The church, which already owns the rest of complex, said it had acquired the mall to protect the interests of the congregation, after hearing that CapitaLand had been in talks with other prospective buyers, according to an account in The Straits Times.
Securing the Mall to Protect Church Interests
Located next to the Buona Vista metro station, the mall has a net leasable area of 162,500 square feet (15,097 square metres) across three floors, mainly tenanted by local retailers, with an occupancy of 95 percent this year.
Church council chairman Deacon Yong Chee Ram is reported to have said that the religious organisation’s immediate objective with the purchase was to ensure that the activities in the performing arts centre, which also serves as the congregation’s place of worship, would not be disturbed by changes that other owners may have made.
Following the sale, the Star Vista will be maintained in accordance with zoning requirements, a church spokesperson said, while CapitaLand has been approached to continue managing and operating the mall.
The church paid S$477 million to develop the complex after purchasing the land for S$189 million in 2007, according to The Business Times, and held its first service in the building in 2012.
Raising Tithes to Fund Construction
With a congregation of around 33,000, the church – under the leadership of millionaire pastor Joseph Prince – had fully funded the S$500 million cost of the building by 2016 entirely through donations.
Pastor Joseph, who is known locally for his pop idol looks and Miracle-Seed Sunday Services that promise financial rewards from God for church donations, has made headlines after managing to drum up single-day donations for the church exceeding $$20 million.
Prince also hosts a TV show that is broadcast across more than 200 countries, as well as YouTube channels and podcasts to transmit his services across the world.
Often seen in a white leather jacket and jeans, the pastor is a composer and a supporter of Christian rock, while the church – through Rock Productions – owns the Star Performing Arts Centre in the building, Christian bookshops, a child development centre and a travel agency that gives Bible-based tours.
New Creation Church revealed four months ago that it had financial reserves of S$633 million, which it had set aside to advance its vision and mission.
Earning a Net Gain
The divestment is estimated to generate net proceeds for CapitaLand of S$145 million and a net gain of S$32 million, with the transaction expected to be completed by the end of 2019.
“Year to date, CapitaLand has divested close to S$5.7 billion worth of assets, exceeding our annual target divestment of S$3 billion,” said CapitaLand Group’s Singapore and international president, Jason Leow.
Leow added that the proceeds from the divestments will give the company greater financial flexibility to seize new growth opportunities.
Following completion of the transaction, CapitaLand will own 19 malls in Singapore, including one under development.