CapitaLand and CDL poised to buy Liang Court mall at S$400m

Tue, Mar 19, 2019


THE decades-old Liang Court mall - famous at its peak as a Japanese expat haunt and for the Daimaru department store and supermarket - is expected to be sold to new owners for S$400 million.

The Business Times understands that a put-and-call option agreement has been entered into between the owner, an entity linked to PGIM Real Estate, and CapitaLand and City Developments Ltd (CDL).

CapitaLand's listed unit Ascott Residence Trust already owns serviced residence the Somerset Liang Court Singapore; CDL's indirect subsidiary CDL Hospitality Trusts (CDLHT) owns the Novotel Singapore Clarke Quay - both of which, along with the mall, are part of the Liang Court complex.

Speculation has swirled over the past few years that the three parties have been exploring the possibility of jointly redeveloping the mixed-development complex, which was completed more than three decades ago.

A sale of the mall to the CDL and CapitaLand groups will reduce control of the complex from three parties to two and facilitate a redevelopment, market watchers say.

The complex is located beside the Clarke Quay riverside area and is next to the Fort Canning station on the Downtown Line. It is also a short distance from the Clarke Quay station on the North-East Line.

Under the Urban Redevelopment Authority's Master Plan 2014, the site is zoned for commercial and residential use with a 7.6 plot ratio (ratio of maximum gross floor area to land area).

The site has a leasehold tenure of about 97 years from April 1980, leaving 58 years on its lease.

In the early 1980s, tycoon Goh Cheng Liang's Wuthelam Group developed the complex, comprising Liang Court Shopping Centre, luxury apartments and Hotel New Otani, it was reported.

In 1992, Wuthelam floated Liang Court Holdings, owning two out of three components of the namesake complex: the Regency apartments and the mall.

In 1999, Wuthelam sold a 58.9 per cent stake in Liang Court Holdings to Pidemco Land, which was part of the Singapore Technologies (ST) stable. Following that, the company was renamed as Somerset Holdings.

In 2000, Pidemco's Somerset Holdings was merged with DBS Land's Ascott.

In 2006, The Ascott Group, as the merged entity was known, sold the six-storey Liang Court mall to Asian Retail Mall Fund II.

This today sits as part of the PGIM Real Estate Asia Retail Fund, an open-end private investment vehicle managed by PGIM Real Estate, the property investment business of PGIM, Inc, which in turn is the global investment management business of US-based Prudential Financial, Inc.

Also in 2006, Ascott spun off Ascott Residence Trust; with one of the assets being the serviced apartment tower in the Liang Court complex.

As for Hotel New Otani, Wuthelam sold it in 2004 to a Lehman Brothers entity, which subsequently appointed French hotel chain Accor to manage the property under the Novotel brand.

CDLHT acquired the hotel in 2007 for S$219.8 million or about S$552,000 per room.

CDLHT is an associate of CDL's London-listed hotel arm Millennium & Copthorne Hotels.