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Horizon Towers hearing over, Strata Titles Board yet to rule

PUBLIC hearings on the hotly-disputed $500 million collective sale of Horizon Towers drew to a close at the Strata Titles Board (STB) yesterday.

But it is still unclear if the STB will hand down a result by Dec 11: the sale completion deadline for the 99- year leasehold property. Both sides – those for and against the sale – must file written closing submissions by Nov 23 and a reply by Nov 30. The STB said it will make a decision in due course, after considering the submissions. Sources said a ruling could come as soon as early December.

But even if that happened, the case could drag on if one side decided to appeal against the ruling. Already, this STB hearing is said to be the longest ever. The dispute stems from unhappiness among some owners who feel the $500 million price tag is unfair.

 The case went back to the STB last month after the High Court decided that the STB’s earlier decision to throw out the sale on technical grounds was wrong. The consenting owners had earlier extended the sale deadline to Dec 11 in a bid to avert a lawsuit brought

by developer Hotel Properties and its two partners for alleged breach of contract.

The STB had said during the hearing that it had no legal obligation to rule before the deadline. One of the objectors, Ms J. Tan, is optimistic about the outcome of the hearing. ‘We fought hard for our homes… We are confident that a case of bad faith has been made out.’

 She said the evidence suggests to them that the $500 million deal was inked this year even though the consenting owners would have objected to it, given that the premium had evaporated. After all, the premium was what had induced the consenting owners to sign the collective sale agreement, she said. Two consenting owners – Ms Poonam Harilela, a member of the Harilela family that owns Holiday Inn Park View Singapore, and Mr Mohinder Kalra, employed by the Harilela group for 32 years – gave evidence on that point yesterday.

Mr Kalra, who owns one unit, said that he had signed the agreement because of an expected 80 per cent premium, but that this premium had almost vanished by January. He told the board yesterday: ‘I thought to myself that if this unit has to be sold at $2.3 million, why do we need a collective sale?’ A unit was valued at $2.2 million in February.

 At $500 million, apartment owners would get about $2.3 million each, while penthouse owners would get at least $4 million each. 

Source: The Straits Times 16 Nov 07

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