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Guocoland dives on options lapse

Business Times – 12 Mar 2008

Shares hit as Kuwaiti-linked fund pulls out of $815m property purchase

SHARES of Guocoland fell victim yesterday to news that a fund company managed by Kuwait Finance House (Malaysia) Berhad (KFHMB) did not exercise options to buy $814.8 million worth of  apartments in Guocoland’s upmarket project here.

Following analysts’ downgrade, the stock dived as much as 19 cents or 5 per cent to an intra-day low of $3.64 before closing at $3.70, down 13 cents or 3.4 per cent. More than 420,000 shares changed hands.

But the reaction from property counters was mixed, with Ho Bee falling two cents to 95 cents and SC Global dipping four cents to $1.50. Keppel Land edged up five cents to $5.35 and CapitaLand gained 18 cents to $5.89.

The fund company managed by KFHMB had purchased options in December last year to buy 97 units at the premier freehold development Goodwood Residence. There are only 210 exclusive units on this 24,845-sq-m estate fronting the expansive Goodwood Hill. KFHMB is the Malaysian unit of Kuwait Finance House (KFH).

Guocoland said on Monday that although the options have lapsed, the parties are still in discussions, with a view to granting fresh options for units in the development.

It is not known why the fund did not exercise the options, but Guocoland said in its Monday announcement that ‘the current private residential property market appears to be cautious in Singapore’. This could have prompted its decision to market Goodwood Residence units selectively at a later date.

But in the stock market yesterday, speculation was rife over reasons for the lapse. Some cited the cautious market sentiment while others cited over-pricing of the units. There was even talk of an unsuccessful marketing campaign for these units by KFH in Dubai. The median price of $3,200 per square feet that the KFHMB fund agreed was earlier seen by some as a possible benchmark pricing for the area.

DBS Vickers yesterday cut its rating on Guocoland to ‘hold’ from ‘buy’ and lowered its target price to $4.14 from $5.60 after revising downwards its average selling price estimates for Guocoland’s high-end and mid-tier projects and ascribing a 15 per cent discount to Guocoland’s revalued net asset value.

‘We believe that the decision by KFHMB to allow these options to lapse is a sign of the weak sentiment in the physical property market currently, particularly in the high-end segment,’ the brokerage said.

But Westcomb Financial Group said it believes that this lapse of options ‘should not be taken as a signal that the Singapore private residential property market has fallen drastically.

‘In fact, the buyer has overpaid their purchases in December 2007, maybe with the view that the market would continue its uptrend in 2008.’



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