Bright Ruby Resources has won the tender for an en bloc redevelopment site along Singapore’s Orchard Road for a reported S$908 million ($667 million), agreeing to a deal which now becomes the largest collective sale in the city-state so far this year.
After reaching an agreement with the owners of the Far East Shopping Centre commercial complex on the corner of Orchard Road and Angullia Park, the investment firm backed by Chinese billionaire Du Shuanghua now awaits approval from the Strata Titles Board to finalise the sale and redevelop the property, according to market sources who spoke with Mingtiandi on Friday.
If the deal closes at the S$908 million price tag reported by local news site EdgeProp, it will mark the biggest deal this year in a Singapore collective sale market which has been cooled by new levies on residential sales and higher interest rates.
For Bright Ruby, which operates as a personal investment company for one of China’s most controversial billionaires, the deal marks a follow-on from its S$1 billion purchase of the 16 Collyer Quay office tower in Raffles Place from NTUC Income in July of last year.
Bright Ruby’s winning bid positions it to redevelop the five-decade-old strata-titled asset into a mixed-use project measuring up to 290,574 square feet, should it qualify for bonus floor area granted to commercial buildings in the city-state’s urban core which are rebuilt to incorporate residential space.
Michael Tay, head of Singapore capital markets for CBRE, which launched the tender on behalf of the owners in July, said at that time that the buyer can “explore a combination of different land uses such as retail, hotel, office, MICE (meetings, incentive, convention and exhibition) facilities and lifestyle uses.”
The reported price tag, which is about 2 percent below the tender’s reserve price of S$928 million, translates to around S$3,125 per square foot of the maximum buildable area, should the new design qualify for the bonus area available under Singapore’s Strategic Development Incentive (SDI) scheme, which was rolled out in 2019.
Far East Shopping Centre, which occupies a 36,014 square foot (3,346 square metre) 999-year leasehold site on Orchard Road just northwest of Scotts Road is currently home to over 600 stores across its five-storey retail podium and 10 floors of office units.
Orchard Road Revival
To qualify for the SDI program, Bright Ruby will have to engage in a joint redevelopment project with at least one of its neighbors – the Voco Orchard Singapore hotel owned by Ong Beng Seng’s Hotel Properties Ltd (HPL) on one side or Liat Towers owned by SGX-listed Bonvests Holdings on the other.
Singapore’s Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) requires redevelopments to consist of at least two adjoining plots to qualify for the bonus GFA in order to encourage larger scale projects. HPL last month obtained provisional permission from regulators to redevelop Voco Orchard together with the neighbouring Forum mall and HPL House commercial block.
Bright Ruby will also need approval for any redevelopment proposal from the URA before the five-year SDI program ends in 2024.
The URA also has a scheme under its master plan to rejuvenate Orchard Road, traditionally Singapore’s high-end shopping strip, to create a tree-lined green corridor lined with modern commercial projects blended with residential space.
Far East Organization developed Far East Shopping Centre for just S$20 million in 1974 and still owns at least four retail units in the building. When asked for comment, the firm declined to give a statement while CBRE had not responded to inquiries from Mingtiandi by the time of publication.
Collective Sales Stall
Singapore’s collective sale market has stayed quiet this year, with Aurum Land’s S$66.8 million purchase of the Kew Lodge townhouse complex in District 11 in May standing as the only successful tender in the second quarter.
UOL Group and its Singapore Land Group subsidiary had held the lead in the collective sale stakes until this latest agreement with their S$392.2 million purchase of the Meyer Park condo project on the East Coast in February.
Bright Ruby, which is controlled by Du through six layers of entities, is now based in Singapore after the mining magnate testified in 2010 that he had paid bribes to executives of Australian minerals firm Rio Tinto to help accelerate the growth of his empire.
The private investment firm is said to have paid all cash for its purchase of 16 Collyer Quay in July last year.