Horizon Towers is a condominium with over 200 housing units, and according to the property website, around 65% of the occupants are tenants. Among these, Singaporeans constitute just around 15%.
The site is on a 99-yr lease. Owners of this property initiated a signature gathering process in November 2017 to try and sell collectively, but it seems they have encountered a hitch with no solution in sight.
The apartments are big with the four-bedroom ones ranging in size from 214 – 243 square metres, and the penthouses ranging in size from 448 – 492 square meters.
These would have been sold en bloc in 2007 when there was a raging en bloc wave, but unfortunately, the owners’ sales attempt was thwarted by a dissenting minority who alleged the selling price was too low at S$500 million. That price amounted to about S$850 per square foot.
Had the sale succeeded, it would have set a record as the highest ever, at that time, for a collective sale in the country. The prospective buyer was a consortium that had Hotel Properties as their lead partner.
With a dissenting minority, the case was heard by the Strata Titles Board but no solution was found. It was then heard before the High Court with the same outcome. Finally it reached the Court of Appeal, which made a ruling in 2009 that the collective sales committee had not done a good job of securing the owners of Horizon Towers the best price. As such, there was, effectively, no sale.
Subsequently, five people who constituted the dissenting minority – Maryani Sadeli, her nephew, Rudy Darmawan, his wife, Widia Seteono, and Then Khek Koon and his wife, Jasmine Tan – sued Arjun Samtani who had served as chairman of the sales committee, as well as Tan Kah Gee who was a committee member. They demanded that they compensate them legal and administrative costs totalling S$1 million.
Consequently, Horizon Towers remained embroiled in court battle. This tussle lasted till October 2013, when the High Court dismissed the claim and set Horizon Towers and members of the sales committee free.
The suing minority owners had engaged the services of prominent lawyers, who included Senior Counsels KS Rajah, K Shanmugam, who is now a Minister for Home Affairs and Law, Michael Hwang, and Chelva Rajah.
Despite two months having elapsed since the signature gathering process began, the current sales committee is still far from attaining the minimum 80%.
There is another en bloc wave that could see Horizon Towers attracting decent bids from serious developers, but the unit owners who have consented to the en bloc sale constitute just a little over 55%.
The sales committee minutes of Jan 24 that were signed by Richard Wong, committee chairman, and which indicate the committee and the property marketing agent, JLL, had contacted 211-unit owners, also indicate that only owners of 116 housing units, representing 54.88% of total shareholding and 55.38% in strata area, had appended their signatures to the relevant document to show consent.
And on Jan 30 when there was a one-hour long signing session, only one more person signed. This shows the Leonie Hill condo might take a long time, if at all, to get sold en bloc.
According to the Jan 24 minutes, a good number of those who had not offered their signatures appeared to be supportive but had some reasons holding them back.
Nevertheless, the minutes read, both the committee and the marketing agent pledged to continue to communicate with property owners and to make any necessary clarifications.
One of the members present during the Jan 30 signing said attaining the 80% signature mark would be an uphill task because unit owners at the property are very wealthy, and a couple of million dollars would not make a big impact to their financial status; hence the disinterest.
He also cited the long-drawn battle – 2007 to 2013 – as having caused en bloc fatigue among owners of the property.
However, according to analysts, some owners could be waiting for a time when the property would attract an extremely good offer.
Nicholas Mak, group executive director at ZACD, is of the opinion some property owners will only be wooed by attractive price that can enable them acquire another property of an equivalent size within the same prime area.
Chris Koh International’s property director, Chris Koh, has another opinion. He suspects the condominium owners might comprise a big percentage of foreigners, which may explain why it is not easy for them to let go.
At the same time, he says, proprietors who have released their units for rental may not be eager to sell, and might wish to wait till all other unit owners have consented to the en bloc sale before they jump in.