After setting Singapore price records with its purchases of an office tower and a five-star hotel along Robinson Road, Viva Land is seeking to unload both assets for around S$670 million ($506.7 million), according to market sources.
The urgent sale offers potential buyers a nearly 10 percent discount shortly after the founder of a Vietnamese firm linked to the SIngapore entity was arrested for fraud. Industry sources told Mingtiandi Thursday evening that Viva Land has appointed CBRE and JLL to market the Robinson Point office tower at 39 Robinson Road with an indicative price of S$470 million, or around six percent less than the S$500 million it paid for the asset in 2020.
At the corner of Robinson Road and Boon Tat Street, adjacent to the freehold office block, the controversial real estate firm is asking S$200 million for the 134-key Hotel Telegraph which it purchased six months ago for a record-breaking S$240 million. The two assets were launched for sale earlier this month with the tender likely to close in early February, according to the source.
Viva Land’s rushed offering of its CBD trophies was launched around three months after the arrest of Truong My Lan, a Vietnamese billionaire who has been identified by Vietnamese official media as the head of Ho Chi Minh City-based Viva Land Management & Development JSC, which shares management with Viva Land in Singapore. Representatives of Viva Land in Singapore have previously denied any links between the two companies.
With the expression of interest exercise slated for conclusion next month, Viva Land’s attempt at a rapid disposal may struggle as potential buyers dig through questions concerning the ultimate ownership of the property, in addition to issues of pricing and financing challenges, according to investors familiar with the offer who spoke with Mingtiandi.
Viva Land is pushing to conclude a sale of the properties by the end of March, according to sources familiar with the offer, which is said to face questions concerning the potential for investigations by Vietnamese or Singaporean authorities, as well as regarding the ultimate beneficial ownership of Viva Land and the ability of the Singapore entity’s directors to authorise sales of the properties.
The discounted offering reflects even greater urgency than Viva Land’s purchases, with the company having purchased Robinson Point for a 34 percent premium over the freehold property’s valuation in 2020.
Viva Land is looking to exit the 21-storey tower at a price equivalent to S$2,781 per square foot of the building’s gross floor area of 168,993 square feet (15,700 square metres) based on Mingtiandi’s calculations.
That asking price has been trimmed by 6 percent from the S$2,958 per square foot it paid two years ago when the firm snapped up the asset from SGX-listed Tuan Sing Holdings.
Located between Raffles Place and Tanjong Pagar, Robinson Point was 55 percent occupied as of 1 December yielding gross rents in the range of S$7.50 to S$8.50 per square foot per month.
The 1997-vintage asset, which has retail units on the first floor and 57 parking spaces, can also be redeveloped into a bigger project since it qualifies to the CBD Incentive Scheme of Singapore’s Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) – which grants developers 25 percent additional GFA when older office buildings in the financial district are redeveloped with residential or hotel space added to the mix.
JLL representatives declined to comment when contacted by Mingtiandi.
Early Check Out
Formerly known as the So/ Singapore, Viva Land is offering to sell the Hotel Telegraph for around S$1.5 million per key after paying a record S$1.8 million per room to purchase the leasehold property opposite the Lau Pa Sat food centre from local developer Royal Group in May last year.
With its 60-year leasehold tenure set to expire in 2071, and with the structure incorporating a protected heritage building, buyers are said to be skeptical regarding the potential to add value to the property. The latest data available shows the hotel hit 91.7 percent occupancy in 2019 at an average room rate of S$304 before the pandemic derailed the hospitality industry.
A source familiar with the hotel opportunity said prospective buyers have the option to either form partnerships with a known hotel brand or operate the asset independently.
The Robinson Point and Hotel Telegraph plots can also be combined for development of a larger, mixed-use commercial complex.
Sudden Death Deals
Despite public records and news reports showing that Viva Land Singapore shares management with Viva Land Management & Development JSC and other links to Truong My Lan, Viva Land has denied any links to the Vietnamese entity and its now-jailed management.
In October, Vietnamese police accused Truong and three associates from her Van Thinh Phat Group of illegally issuing financial instruments and fraudulently collecting funds from investors from 2018 through 2019. On 19 December a senior Vietnamese police official said that 27 individuals have already been prosecuted in the Van Thinh Phat case.
Viva Land in Singapore and Viva Land Management & Development JSC of Ho Chi Minh City share former CapitaLand executive Lian Pang Chen as their chairman and sole director, respectively.
After earlier declaring its purchase of the Robinson Road properties, as well as an office development in Hanoi in written statements, Viva Land Management & Development JSC now denies any involvement in those transactions, which it attributes to the Singapore entity.
Since it was founded two years ago, HCMC-based Viva Land has purchased two major projects from Van Thinh Phat.
Citing social media accounts, overseas Vietnamese press have reported that three people linked to Truong’s Van Thinh Phat Group have died suddenly since the government investigation began, with Nguyen Ngoc Dung, director of the group’s Saigon Peninsula Group jumping to his death in October. Truong’s assistant, Nguyen Phuong Hong, who was arrested together with her boss, is reported to have died in prison.