[UPDATE] Entity linked to Chinese investor buys Casa Sophia en bloc for $29 mil

SINGAPORE (EDGEPROP) - The owners of the 12-unit Casa Sophia have collectively sold their apartment block for $29 million in a private treaty deal, according to a caveat lodged with URA Realis on Boxing Day (Dec 26) of 2019.

The 12-unit Casa Sophia sits on a 12,328 sq ft, freehold site on Sophia Road and has the potential to be redeveloped into a new 34-unit condominium (Photo: ERA)

The 25-year-old, apartment block sits on a 12,328 sq ft, freehold site on Sophia Road in prime District 9. Under the URA Master Plan for 2014, the site is zoned "residential" and has a plot ratio of 2.1. It has the potential to be redeveloped into a new 34-unit condominium, assuming an average size of 753 sq ft for the new units.

Casa Sophia was first put on the market in July 2018 for $36 million ($1,390 psf per plot ratio), with ERA Realty Network as the marketing agent. All the owners had agreed to a collective sale, which means it had obtained 100% consensus. However, the tender was launched less than a week after the announcement of the new property cooling measures on July 5, 2018.

Recognising the change in developers' sentiment following the latest property cooling measures, the owners of Casa Sophia were swift to lower their asking price to $30 million ($1,158 psf ppr), or 16% less. The project was relaunched for sale in March 2019, which was conducted by private treaty.

The owners had received “a couple of offers” during the first collective sale attempt, noted ERA’s representative, Tjhai Citanegara, who was handling the collective sale then.

UPDATE: A Chinese investor by the name of Zhang Zhiming, purchased the property through Singapore-based real estate development company, East Asia Sophia Development, according to a company search .Zhang's wife, Huang Yanhong, is also a director of East Asia Sophia Development and is now a Singapore citizen. Huang's elder brother, Huang Guangyu, was once China's richest man and founder of Hong Kong-listed Gome Electrical Appliances, one of the biggest consumer electrical appliances retailers in China.

The acquisition of Casa Sophia was said to be brokered by another agency, after the appointment of ERA had lapsed. The purchase price for Casa Sophia was $29 million, which translated to about $1,119 psf ppr. It is said to be Zhang's maiden real estate purchase in Singapore.

City Developments submitted the highest of seven bids at the close of the tender for Irwell Bank Road in prime District 9 (Photo: URA) 

“If inventory of prime, condominium units start to run low again, some developers who were first-movers in the last collective sale cycle, may revisit the en bloc market for prime, freehold plots again,” says Bruce Lye, managing partner of SRI.

The recent collective sale of Casa Sophia and the response to the government land sale of a sizeable plot at Irwell Bank Road in prime District 9,  is a testament of developers' interest in prime sites, notes Lye. The tender for the 99-year leasehold plot at Irwell Bank Road was launched last October and closed last week (Jan 9). The highest of seven bids came from City Developments Ltd (CDL), which submitted a bid of $583.89 million ($1,515 psf ppr). CDL is the developer behind a string of high-end and luxury projects in the prime districts that were launched in the past two to three years, namely, Boulevard 88, Gramercy Park, New Futura, Haus on Handy and Nouvel 18.

The second highest bid came from the consortium behind the One Holland Village mixed-use development, namely Far East Organization, Sino Group and Sekisui House. The consortium’s bid was $560.1 million ($1,453 psf ppr).

The bid prices submitted were below analysts' expectations as "developers provisioned a higher margin for the 25% remittable ABSD [additional buyer's stamp duty] should they not be able to build and sell the project within the stipulated timeframe of five years", says Tricia Song, Colliers International head of research for Singapore.

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