En bloc success not yet in sight for Horizon Towers
SINGAPORE — Despite the ongoing collective sale frenzy, owners of Horizon Towers who are seeking to revive a en bloc attempt could be in for another long slog.
The 212-unit, 99-year leasehold condominium on Leonie Hill Road was embroiled in a lengthy legal tussle between 2007 and 2009, with an en bloc deal eventually thrown out by the courts, which found that the sales committee had not properly handled the sale.
In the latest attempt, the process to gather signatures started in November last year, TODAY understands. The sales committee is giving itself until June to garner the requisite 80 per cent approval.
More than two months in, however, the progress has been tepid — with slightly over 55 per cent of the owners agreeing, and only one additional signature garnered during a one-hour signing session on Tuesday evening (Jan 30).
According to minutes of a sales committee meeting held last Wednesday (Jan 24), owners of 116 units — representing 54.88 per cent in share value and 55.38 per cent in strata area — had signed the collective sales agreement as of that day.
The minutes, signed off by committee chairman Richard Wong and posted on notice boards in the development, noted that the committee and marketing agent JLL Singapore had reached out to all 211 subsidiary proprietors.
A “significant portion” of them are “noted to be supportive but are hesitating for various reasons”, it wrote, appealing for owners to pledge their support by signing the agreement.
“Meanwhile, the (committee) and JLL will continue to engage owners to explain or clarify any matters regarding the collective sales exercise that they may have,” it added.
One of those present at the signing session on Tuesday told TODAY that hitting the 80 per cent mark may be a tall order, as property owners in the development are “very rich”.
“Getting an additional S$1 million or 2 million (from the en bloc sale) may not make much of a difference to them… The progress of signing has also been slow because many owners are based overseas,” said the man, who declined to be named.
Some may also have “en bloc fatigue” from the long-drawn legal battle years ago, he said.
Property analysts felt the owners may be waiting for a more “enticing” price before letting go of their units.
“The price probably has to go higher as owners are also looking at replacement value. They will only agree if what they are getting can buy a property of the same size not far from where they are, in this prime district,” said ZACD Group executive director Nicholas Mak.
Mr Chris Koh, director of property firm Chris Koh International, added: “I suspect that a number of units in Horizon Towers could be owned by foreigners and therefore it is difficult to get their signatures… Some owners who have rented out their units could also not be in a hurry to sell and are waiting for others to sign first.”
According to Horizon Towers’ website, about 65 per cent of residents are tenants and only about 15 per cent are Singaporeans, but it is not known if the information is up-to-date.
Apartments with four bedrooms range from 214 to 243 square metres, while penthouses range from 448 to 492 square metres.
At the height of the collective sale fever in 2007, Horizon Towers was on the verge of being sold for S$500 million (slightly below S$850 per square foot) to a consortium led by Hotel Properties — at that time the highest price ever offered for an en bloc sale in Singapore.
A group of minority owners contested the sale, saying the price was too low. The lengthy and bitter wrangle went before the Strata Titles Board, High Court and, eventually, the Court of Appeal.
In a landmark ruling in April 2009, the apex court overturned the sale, finding that the sales committee had not fulfilled its duty because it did not secure the best price obtainable for the property.
After that, the minority owners — Mr Then Khek Koon, his wife Jasmine Tan, Mr Rudy Darmawan, his wife Widia Seteono and Mr Darmawan’s aunt Maryani Sadeli — filed a claim against former sales committee chairman Arjun Samtani and member Tan Kah Gee, seeking S$1 million in legal and administrative costs.
The legal tussle continued into October 2013, when the High Court dismissed the minority owners’ claims for compensation.
Among the prominent lawyers involved in the long-drawn case were Senior Counsels KS Rajah, Chelva Rajah, Michael Hwang and K Shanmugam, who is currently Minister for Home Affairs and Law.