One of Thailand’s biggest developers rolled out its ultra-luxury condo 98 Wireless in overseas road shows recently. CEO Apichart Chutrakul discusses the group’s $108.8 million investment in six global brands across different industries.
Sansiri Public Co, one of the largest real estate developers in Thailand, launched its ultra-luxury project 98 Wireless with a road show in Hong Kong on the weekend of Nov 11 and 12. It will be launched in Singapore on Nov 18 and 19.
98 Wireless contains just 77 apartments in a 25-storey tower with five levels of basement parking. It sits on a 0.8 acre freehold site in Bangkok’s most prestigious address — next to the US ambassador’s residence and the US Embassy, across the road from Plaza Athenee, near Lumphini Park (Bangkok’s biggest park), the Royal Bangkok Sports Club and the RBSC Polo Club.
Sansiri purchased the prime site for US$36.4 million in 2010, which is still the highest land price in Bangkok’s CBD. Valued at $360 million, 98 Wireless was six years in the making and completed in May last year. It boasts Beaux-Arts architecture, spacious apartments with lofty ceilings and interior furnishings designed in collaboration with Ralph Lauren Home. Kitchen appliances include topend brands Gaggenau, Sub-Zero and SieMatic.
Typical condominium units at 98 Wireless range from two-bedroom units of 1,289 sq ft to four-bedroom units of 3,942 sq ft. There are two 5,955 sq ft penthouses and a 10,204 sq ft, super-penthouse dubbed “The One”. The penthouses were among the first to be snapped up before the official launch of 98 Wireless in Bangkok in March. Today, the project is about 70% sold.
Sansiri’s luxury condo 98 Wireless, with interiors by Ralph Lauren Home (Photos: Sansiri)
The 77 apartments and penthouses at 98 Wireless are spacious and have lofty ceilings (Credit: Sansiri)
The 25-storey 98 Wireless has Beaux-Arts architecture (Credit: Sansiri)
While most of the buyers are Thai, there are also buyers from China and Hong Kong. At the weekend road show in Hong Kong, one unit was sold, but several Hong Kong buyers had already purchased units at 98 Wireless prior to that.
“We hope there will be some from Singapore as well,” says Apichart Chutrakul, CEO of Sansiri Public Co. Naturally, 98 Wireless has set a new benchmark for ultra-luxury residences in Bangkok, with average prices at THB650,000 psm compared with THB350,000 psm at most luxury projects in the prime areas of Bangkok.
Prices at 98 Wireless have even surpassed THB750,000 psm, according to Apichart. “This is a trophy property — it’s a one-of-a-kind development with unmatched location,” he says. “It’s rare and will appreciate in value over time.”
At the weekend launch in Singapore, units at 98 Wireless will be available from $3.4 million to $7.8 million, or an average of $2,202 psf. ERA Realty Network is the marketing agent for 98 Wireless at the weekend launch at St Regis Hotel in Singapore.
“This project will appeal to those who are well travelled and already own a portfolio of luxury properties around the world, from London to New York and Australia,” says Doris Ong, co-chief operating officer of ERA Realty Network. “We’ve received a lot of enquiries about the project. These are the well-heeled collectors who want to add this property to their portfolio.”
Recognising the importance of Singapore, Hong Kong and China as a source of international clients, Sansiri has even set up offices in these markets. In 1H2017, foreign buyers accounted for US$115 million ($156.1 million) in sales. The top four foreign buyers are from Hong Kong (39%), China (32%), Singapore (18%) and Taiwan (5%).
Sansiri, which Apichart founded in 1984, was merged with the Lamsam family company in 1994 and listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand in 1996. It now has an extensive portfolio of more than 320 projects across Thailand, including Chiang Mai, Hua Hin, Khon Kaen, Khao Yai and Phuket. In 2012, it also made its first overseas foray into London’s Kensington area.
Sansiri ranks among the three biggest publiclisted property companies on the SET, with a market capitalisation of THB33.52 billion (US$1.02 billion) at the close on Nov 15. This year, it is expected to launch a total of 19 projects, with pre-sales forecast to hit US$1.2 billion, up 25% from US$900 million last year. About 75% of its developments are in the premium and mid-tier segments.
However, Sansiri wants to be more than just one of Thailand’s biggest real estate companies. On Nov 8, the group announced that it had made a series of global investments totalling about US$80 million in six international companies.
Apichart: 98 Wireless is a trophy property — it’s a one-of-a-kind development with unmatched location (Credit: Sansiri)
“We want to establish our presence as a global lifestyle company, not just a real estate player,” says Apichart. “The world has moved on. People are becoming more well travelled — be it physical or virtual — and you can find anything on the internet. If we don’t change, we will be left behind.”
What the companies have in common is that they are in fast-growth industries. One of the investments is in JustCo, Singapore’s biggest co-working space provider. “In Bangkok, everybody says they have a co-working space, even someone who runs a coffee shop,” says Apichart. “It doesn’t work that way.” (See accompanying story.)
Another investment that Sansiri made recently was in Farmshelf, a Brooklyn-based start-up that builds indoor hydroponic growing units, with growth and flavour optimised according to clients’ requirements using artificial intelligence.
Sansiri’s Apichart believes this is a great solution for bringing greenery indoors. He sees the possibility of introducing Farmshelf to Sansiri’s future developments. “These days, condos and houses are getting smaller,” he says. “Whether you’re in Bangkok, Singapore or travelling elsewhere, Farmshelf has the expertise to control the growth of your plants and monitor its growth for you while you’re away from home.”
Sansiri also invested US$58 million in a 35% stake in New York-based hotel operator Standard International, which operates five hotels in West Hollywood, downtown Los Angeles, New York and Miami, and will be looking at launching its first outside the US — in London. The Standard’s first hotel in West Hollywood was opened in 1999 by legendary hotelier André Balazs. Initial investors in the hotel included Hollywood stars such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz and Benicio del Toro.
“We wanted to invest in Standard International, as The Standard on Sunset Strip is one of the most iconic hotels in Hollywood,” says Apichart. He believes there are opportunities to bring the hotel brand to Asia.
Having a stake in Standard International also means Sansiri will also have a stake in Bunkhouse, a portfolio of boutique hotels that started in Texas and is popular among the artistic crowd, as well as a stake in the mobile booking app One Night by Standard International, which caters to those who want to book a night’s stay after 3pm on the same day.
Tapping the sharing economy
Sansiri was one of the major investors in London- based Hostmaker in its Series B funding that raised US$15 million. Founded by Nakul Sharma, Hostmaker is a hospitality management service provider for Airbnb hosts. It helps homeowners manage the short-term rentals of their properties.
“Hostmaker piggybacks on Airbnb,” says Apichart. “In the future, our clients can also rent out their house or condos on Airbnb, with Hostmaker to help them manage their properties in Bangkok or elsewhere in Thailand or London. Everyone benefits.”
While cities such as Paris, New York and even Singapore are trying to curb illegal shortterm rents, Airbnb website listings continue to flourish. Apichart is a proponent of the sharing economy and Airbnb. “For those who say ‘no’, they will eventually be left behind in a world that’s changing rapidly,” he notes.
Leveraging lifestyle brand
Sansiri also invested US$6 million in media company Monocle, founded by its chairman, former war correspondent Tyler Brûlé. He has become a tastemaker for the global elite with the Monocle lifestyle, travel and design magazines, books, radio and films. It has expanded into Monocle shops and cafés in London, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Singapore.
Sansiri’s investment translates into a 12.5% stake in Monocle. Plans are underway for the launch of a Monocle-branded mixed-use development with residences in Bangkok next year. “We think the partnership is good for us because we’re moving into lifestyle,” says Apichart. “We can collaborate with Tyler on shops, cafés and condos.”
There are plans to introduce privileges for Sansiri’s clients, tapping the new partnerships the group has formed through its investments.
Based on Sansiri’s forecast revenue of US$1 billion this year, about US$800 million still comes from property development, but that could change in the future. “We’re no longer just a Thai real estate company,” says Apichart. “We’re a Thai-listed company that owns stakes in international companies and our investments allow us to leapfrog onto the global platform.”
This article, written by Cecilia Chow, appeared in EdgeProp Pullout, Issue 806 (Nov 20, 2017).
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