DFI sells Jelita Shopping Centre for S$91.68 million to former precision engineering entrepreneur

Deal entails long leaseback of ground level to ensure DFI’s continued supermarket operations

Nov 20, 2023

DFI RETAIL Group (DFI) has sold Jelita Shopping Centre for S$91.68 million to a low-profile property investor, Peter Koh Pang An, and his wife. The couple are Singapore citizens.

A rags-to-riches entrepreneur who used to be active in the Singapore precision engineering scene, Koh owns Platinum 28, a freehold industrial building at 28 Genting Lane, which he acquired from Ho Bee in 2011. He also owns suburban malls in Australia and New Zealand.

The transacted price for the 999-year leasehold Jelita Shopping Centre, at the corner of Holland Road and Jalan Jelita, is higher than the S$85 million guide price JLL went to the market with in June.

The exclusive marketing agent for the two-storey mall conducted an expression of interest exercise, which is said to have garnered more than 20 offers when it closed on Jul 18. This was followed by two rounds of shortlisting, one later in the same month and the other in August.

Jelita Shopping Centre’s price reflects about S$2,727 per square foot (sq ft) on the existing net lettable area of 33,621 sq ft.

Seller DFI has entered into a long leaseback arrangement with the buyer for the ground level of the mall, which is fully occupied by DFI’s Cold Storage supermarket brand. The outlet spans about 20,000 sq ft.

DFI will lease back this space for an initial 10-year term, with options to renew the lease for four subsequent terms of five years each, resulting in a maximum of up to 30 years.

Tenants on the second floor include Starbucks, Delifrance, Guardian and Times Bookstore.

Koh plans to refurbish Jelita Shopping Centre in tandem with DFI’s plans to upgrade and rebrand the current Cold Storage supermarket in the mall as a CS Fresh outlet next year.

Jelita Shopping Centre has 57 car parking spaces in its basement.

The mall, which opened in January 1981, sits on 46,616 sq ft of land. The site is zoned for commercial and residential use under the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s latest Master Plan.

The building’s existing gross floor area (GFA) of 46,427 sq ft is less than half the 102,555 sq ft maximum GFA allowed for the site, based on the 2.2 plot ratio for the site in the latest Master Plan. This points to significant redevelopment potential for the property.

JLL Singapore’s senior director of capital markets Terry Wong, who brokered the sale of Jelita Shopping Centre, noted, “Amid the elevated interest rate environment, we received overwhelming interest for the asset and the outcome was very encouraging.

“In a sale-and-leaseback arrangement, finding the right partner is vital. For Jelita Shopping Centre, we are pleased to be able to match a buyer experienced in the operations of this asset-type overseas and with a long-term rejuvenation vision for the property, with a vendor that wishes to continue serving its loyal customer base in the locale.”

Kampong boy made good

Koh, who is in his late-60s, resides in Singapore. He grew up on a farm in Bukit Timah and had to stop schooling when he was 12 as his parents were financially stretched raising 10 children.

The youngster soon found his calling. Koh began his career as an apprentice in a machining workshop. In 1982, when he was in his mid-20s, Koh set up his own business with his entire savings of S$6,000, he said in an interview with The Sunday Times in 2001.

He decided to name his enterprise Norelco as it sounded like an American name to him; he soon achieved his vision of building up a clientele of multinational companies. In 1999, under an Economic Development Board initiative, Koh’s company Norelco Precision Engineering merged with Centrelines Engineering and became Norelco Centreline.

In 2001, Norelco Centreline Holdings was incorporated and listed on Sesdaq. The company was upgraded to the mainboard of the Singapore Exchange (SGX) in 2003. In the following year, it acquired privately held UMS Semiconductor, a front-end semicon equipment maker, in an all-share deal worth S$271 million. Based on earlier media reports, by late-2004, Koh had sold most of his stake in the merged group, which is now known as UMS Holdings.

DFI Retail Group was formerly known as Dairy Farm International until its name change last year. The company, a member of the Jardine Matheson Group, has a secondary listing on the SGX.