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Finally, Horizon Towers en bloc sale gets go-ahead

Strata Titles Board rejects objections from minority owners, who have a month to appeal

AFTER months of sometimes bitter wrangling, the collective sale of Horizon Towers looks set to go ahead.

The latest chapter of the saga drew to a close yesterday when the Strata Titles Board (STB) granted an order for the $500 million sale to proceed.

This is in time for the sale of the 99-year leasehold Leonie Hill estate to be wrapped up before a Dec 11 deadline.

The buyers are Hotel Properties (HPL) and partners Morgan Stanley Real Estate and Qatar Investment Authority.

The minority owners objecting to the sale have one month to appeal against the decision. They have yet to indicate if they will do so.

The Horizon Towers saga started earlier this year because several owners were unhappy with the sale price given that prices had surged by the time the HPL-led consortium bought the site at the $500 million reserve price.

The buyers, who had earlier filed a lawsuit against the majority owners for alleged breach of contract, are maintaining their right to sue until the sale is complete.

HPL director Christopher Lim yesterday said: ‘We are pleased that the STB has allowed the collective sale and rejected the objectors’ case, including their allegations of bad faith.’

More than 60 people turned up for the STB decision. The STB tribunal’s chairman Philip Chan announced that the application had been granted. The grounds of decision will be out in due course.

He said the board rejected various points put forward in opposition to the sale. One, a constitutional point, involved a few objectors arguing that en bloc rules infringed fundamental rights.

Other points involved whether the requisite 80 per cent minimum approval level had been obtained and procedural requirements met.

The STB tribunal said it had been guided by the Phoenix Court case. The collective sale of the St Thomas Walk pro- perty was approved. An objecting couple appealed against the STB decision, but the High Court upheld the STB order on Nov 9.

Another point dealt with whether the deal was done in good faith, including the sale price and proposed method of distribution of funds.

The tribunal said one key issue was the purpose of the en bloc rules – to facilitate such sales.

An industry observer said: ‘Generally, there has been a paradigm shift in the approach to interpreting collective sale rules, from a literal manner to a purposive way.’

Mr K Shanmugam of Allen & Gledhill, representing the buyers, said: ‘Our client entered into the transaction in good faith and paid what was then a record price for the property.’

‘The application should therefore have proceeded smoothly, but the market changed. As a result, the case went through a number of critical junctures,’ he said.

They are, however, happy with the end result, he added.

The consortium bought Horizon Towers back in January. The sale application was thrown out by the same STB tribunal in early August because of three missing pages.

The buyers then took out the lawsuit, filed an appeal with the High Court and had the sale deadline extended by four months to Dec 11, as allowed by the contract.

In October, the High Court sent the case back to STB.

Recently, two collective sale applications were rejected by the STB – Airview Towers in St Thomas Walk and Finland Gardens in East Coast Terrace and Avenue.

 

Source: The Straits Times 8 Dec 07

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