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Thread: Tribunal to hear Horizon Towers collective sale row

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    Default Horizon Towers dispute goes before strata board for mediation today

    Published May 29, 2007

    [SIZE="5"][B]Horizon Towers dispute goes before strata board for mediation today[/B][/SIZE]

    [B]Some owners want to remove sales committee[/B]


    (SINGAPORE) A mediation hearing before the Strata Titles Board opens today, with the task of trying to bring together warring neighbours who have sold their apartments at Horizon Towers on Leonie Hill en bloc for $500 million.

    [SIZE="1"]A condo divided: The dispute goes back to January when enough owners agreed to sell the building (shown at left in photo) for $500 million[/SIZE]

    Far from coming together, the various sides have hired top-notch lawyers to fight for them. The mediation is set to last for two days, and if there is no agreement possible, the case will go for a full hearing before the Strata Titles Board.

    The dispute goes back to January, when almost 84 per cent of owners signed the agreement to sell Horizon Towers to Hotel Properties and two foreign funds for $500 million. That meets the legal requirement of more than 80 per cent of owners assenting to a sale in the case of properties more than 10 years old.

    It means each owner of the condo's 199 units will get about $2.3 million, and the 11 penthouse owners will receive sums of at least $4 million, rising to $6.28 million for the largest unit, of 890 sq m.

    A group of 42 unhappy owners who had consented to the sale has called for an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) to remove the sales committee which negotiated and finalised the collective sale. The 42 are calling for a new sales committee to be elected, and they have hired the Wong Partnership law firm to advise them.

    A Wong Partnership spokesman confirmed to BT that 'it is advising some of the subsidiary owners who would like the sales committee changed'.

    The 42 say they are not satisfied with the sales committee's performance, and complain about the committee not canvassing the views of the rest of the owners prior to the sale, despite the improved market conditions. The unhappy group members pointed out that nine months had passed from the time the sales committee had been elected to negotiate the sale and its eventual agreement.

    'Before signing the option, it would be in their (sales committee) interests as well, and since there was a window of opportunity, they could have held a meeting with the owners again and see if we could have concluded a better agreement,' said one of the 42 owners.

    But law firm Drew & Napier, which is handling the collective sale of Horizon Towers, has written a letter to advise the owners that an EGM would not have the power to remove the current sales committee.

    And even if a new sales committee is appointed, nothing significant can be or needs to be done by the new sales committee which will have a bearing on the proceedings before the Strata Title Board, the lawyers' letter said.

    Jimmy Yim, senior counsel at Drew & Napier, told BT that in his opinion, an EGM does not have the power to remove the sales committee and since it is now at an advanced stage, there is 'little more the sales committee can do'.

    It is not these two sides alone which need mediation. There are those who have always stood out against the sale, and three of them, including one penthouse owner, have hired Tan Kok Quan Partnership to represent them at the hearing.

    Another penthouse owner, Wong Siew Fang, who has been bitterly opposed to the sale from the very beginning, is doing without lawyers and will be presenting her own case at the hearing.

    Ms Wong said she will argue that the apportionment of the sales proceeds was not equitable.

    'When you buy property, you pay according to area,' said Ms Wong who bought her home in 1983. She will get $4 million for her 493 sq m penthouse while those owning 220 sq m will get $2.3 million.

    Many of the penthouse owners are resigned to their plight being disregarded just because they are seen as millionaires.

    But one question has been answered already. One bit of legal advice sought was whether going against an en bloc sale would somehow be construed as being 'anti Singapore' which could in some way see some of those involved lose their permanent residence status.

    They have been instructed that in Singapore, 'you're entitled to exercise your commercial rights'.

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    Default Tribunal to hear Horizon Towers collective sale row

    June 12, 2007


    [SIZE="5"][B]Tribunal to hear Horizon Towers collective sale row[/B][/SIZE]

    [B]Also, many owners who had agreed to sale want a review now for a better deal[/B]

    By K.C. Vijayan

    WARRING owners of Horizon Towers - already pledged to be sold en bloc for $500 million - failed to square their differences on Saturday, and a formal tribunal hearing is expected next month.

    Many owners who originally agreed to the sale are now piqued over the huge difference from a neighbouring condominium's asking price for collective sale. A move is being sought to review the sale - to get a better deal.

    There is also a minority group which had objected to the sale and which is now seeking redress before the Strata Titles Board (STB).

    The STB had first tried to convene a mediation session on May 29 but this was adjourned to last Saturday, to give the sides more time to reconsider the options.

    A formal STB tribunal will now be convened. Representatives of the disputing parties are expected to appear before the STB registrar on Friday to obtain directions in the run-up to the tribunal hearing next month.

    Horizon Towers, in Leonie Hill, was sold en bloc at $800 per sq ft (psf) in January. But neighbouring Grangeford Apartments, which is five years older, is understood to be currently going en bloc for an asking price of more than $2,000 psf of total floor area.

    Under the collective sale price of $500 million agreed by 84 per cent of owners, each owner of Horizon Towers' 199 units stands to get about $2.3 million, with the 11 penthouse owners bagging at least $4 million each, rising to $6.28 million for the largest unit.

    Since then, however, property prices, especially in prime areas, have surged. Based on current values, Horizon Towers' joint buyers - Hotel Properties and two other foreign fund participants including Qatar Investments - stand to make a paper profit of at least $500 million.

    The gap between Horizon Towers' $800 psf and Grangeford Apartments' asking price of over $2,000 psf triggered an anonymous letter by an unhappy resident earlier this year.

    The Straits Times understands that eight unit owners had not agreed to the original sale. Three are represented by lawyers.

    The issue here is not about the collective sale per se. More than 80 per cent of unit owners must agree to such sales in the case of properties more than 10 years old. That is satisfied in this collective sale.

    While there is a gag order on what took place on Saturday, the mediation breakdown was not unexpected - as any extra claim to be given to the minority group will have to come from the share of the majority of owners who are now upset with the collective sale price, due to be effected by August.

    They will likely be less inclined to yield to such claims.

    As it is, 39 owners have petitioned for an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) on June18. On the agenda is a move to remove the current nine-member sales committee that brokered and finalised the collective sale.

    According to a copy of the EGM notice obtained by The Straits Times, they want to elect a new nine-member committee to review the sale.

    But law firm Drew & Napier, which is handling the collective sale, has previously indicated that owners have no legal grounds to back out of the sale.

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