Asia General looking to sell two properties

8 Jun 06

Value of Hotel Asia, White House Park estimated at $150m

(SINGAPORE) Singapore insurer Asia General Holdings, in which a Japanese group bought a stake earlier this year, is said to be looking for buyers for two of its properties - White House Park Apartments along Stevens Road and Hotel Asia on Scotts Road, said to be together worth nearly $150 million.

Hotel Asia is said to have an indicative valuation of about $125 million, including development charges (DC) for redeveloping the 35,880 sq ft freehold site into a residential project.

This works out to about $830 psf of potential gross floor area including DC, which is estimated at around $23 million.

Sources say the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has approved redeveloping the site into a 30-storey residential project with a 4.2 plot ratio (ratio of potential gross floor area to land area). This would allow a condominium to be built on the site with about 75 units averaging 2,000 sq ft, suggest property market watchers.

Under Master Plan 2003, the site is zoned for hotel use with a 4.2 plot ratio.

White House Park Apartments, a low-rise development with dual frontage to Stevens Road and White House Road, has a freehold land area of nearly 43,000 sq ft. The site now has 14 apartments and five townhouses with a total strata area of around 33,800 sq ft.

Property market watchers reckon the best deal for potential investors would probably be to buy the property and spruce it up.

Based on this scheme, analysts estimate the development could fetch about $600 psf of strata area, or slightly over $20 million.

For investors looking to redevelop the site, the only option would be to build Good Class Bungalows (GCBs) as the site is zoned for that use.

The land area is big enough for just two GCBs. Assuming the site fetches about $400 psf, working out to $17.2 million, the land cost per bungalow would be around $8.5 million, resulting in a breakeven cost of around $11.5 million per bungalow, a property consultant estimated.

'The group is selling some of its non-core property assets, which makes sense, given that the property market has gone up a fair bit,' said a source close to the group.

Market watchers also expect the insurance group to be open to selling its other properties like Asia Insurance Building at Finalyson Green and Asia Chambers, at the corner of Cecil and McCallum streets.

Last year, URA approved the group's proposal to redevelop Asia Chambers into apartments, with commercial use on the ground floor.

The group also owns Cree Court, a four-storey freehold apartment block with a land area of 65,416 sq ft in the GCB area of Dalvey Road. 'I think they'll probably stagger the sale of their properties,' a property consultant suggested.

In April, Japan's Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance agreed to buy 14.74 per cent of Asia General Holdings and entered into an option agreement to buy a further 39 per cent.

One of Singapore's largest private companies, Asia General Holdings (AGH) is the holding company of The Asia Life Assurance Society, The Asia Insurance Company, Asia Life (M) Bhd and Asia Insurance (Malaysia) Bhd. The AGH group has established networks, distribution and coverage of the Singapore and Malaysian life and general insurance markets.

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