Sim Lim Square, otherwise referred to as SLS, is a six-storey mall within Central Singapore, which also has two basement floors. It is fully commercial, mainly offering electronic goods and related services, and now its owners want to sell it collectively especially because, as observers reckon, business has been on a downward trend.
Their target price is S$1.1 billion, a figure that more than 50% of them deem suitable.
The SLS property, a 492-unit development seated on a 78,146 sq ft site, is located along Rochor Canal Road, and it is on a 99-yr lease.
Its gross floor area (GFA) is 236,881 sq ft, and its construction was completed in 1987. This is the first-time owners of SLS are trying to sell it collectively.
A good number of SLS property owners are interested in selling to capitalize on the vibrant property market.
The owner of Second Chance Properties, for example, who was once a presidential hopeful, Salleh Marican, is hopeful the en bloc sale will succeed. If it does, he anticipates he will pocket a clean S$30 million from his 12 commercial units.
He expressed his confidence saying as owners they would garner 80% signatures. Nevertheless, he was not certain there is going to be a developer willing to part with S$1.1 billion.
Still, opinion is divided, as is clear from sentiments expressed by Calvin Ho, a sales committee member who is also a unit owner at SLS.
He says there is currently stiff competition in the property market, and he cites People’s Park Complex, People’s Park Centre, Golden Mile Complex as well as Golden Mile Tower as properties in the process of selling en bloc.
Besides, Ho emphasizes, the SLS en bloc sales offer is the very first one for a commercial property within the prime city area. He explained it has only been 7 months since SLS owners began collection of signatures, yet they are ahead of the other properties’ owners.
He noted that during the extraordinary meeting held on Mar 12, 2018, 97% of owners in attendance favoured selling the property en bloc, and only 87% of them preferred the apportionment method of sale.
Those present constituted 60% of all owners by share value. The committee’s statement indicated a general inclination by members to pursue the en bloc sale.
Although some property owners, like 67-yr old Song Teck Kee, are not in favour of the sale feeling the deal would not be in their favour, Mr. Ho says the largest units at the mall could fetch as much as S$60 million, while the tiny ones could still reach S$1 million.
Mr. Kee’s daughter, Kristy Song, does not like the sale either. She owns an audio store at the mall, Zeppelin and Co, and she does not see another fit mall where she would transfer her business if SLS were to be sold.
However, Mr. Salleh Marican highlighted the owners’ general concern, which was the failure of their businesses to pick up as they had hoped after nearby MRT stations were opened.
The appointed marketing agent for the commercial property near the Rochor and Jalan Besar MRT stations is SLP Scotia, which is part of SLP International Property Consultants.
Besides the fact that SLS is a well-known location, there are many reasons why many developers may wish to acquire it. Here are some of the reasons:
Excellent Connectivity. SLS is surrounded by 5 MRT Stations name Rochor, Little India, Jalan Besar, Bugis and Bencoolen. All these are minutes’ walk to SLS and also there are many bus stops around in the area, thus getting there is very easy.
Huge Human Traffic. Sim Lim Square is very near to Bugis Junction & Bugis Village where there are endless crowds going to and fro. Thus, human traffic is never a problem. This is very important for Retail Mall and Business.
SLS is close to Paya Lebar MRT station that is along the East West Line, and which also serves the Circle Line, an underground transport system.
SLS is easily accessible, especially since it is located within Central Singapore, its specific location being 1 Rochor Canal Road.
Infrastructure is generally developed, with Serangoon and Selegie Roads being close by.
SLS is in close proximity to favourite historic sites, including the district of Little India where Indian immigrants were first settled by the British colonialists.
SLS is also in close proximity to many other tourist attractions, among them the Deck Art Gallery, Tools of Old Singapore, the Indian Heritage Centre, and Malay Heritage Centre.
It is also very easy to access tour operators from SLS, who include SIA Hop-on, Great World Travel, and Singapore Footprints.
Religious centres are also close by, including the Abdul Gafoor Mosque, Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, Sri Krishnan Temple and Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple.
There are education institutions nearby such as Losalle College of the Arts.
Medical services are easily accessible, with institutions such as Wan Lin Health Centre being close by.
Shopping and food outlets are close by, including the Albert Mall, Burlington Square, Bugis Street, Bugis Junction and Bugis Village, Albert Court Village Hotel Lobby Lounge, Wok ‘n’ Stroll, and The Verge Shopping Mall.
There are recreation facilities nearby, and they include Xcape Singapore, Lost Sg, Hana Body Wellness, The Theatre Practice, and even the National Library of Singapore.
All the advantages associated with Sim Liam Square notwithstanding, the sellers have to contend with the bad reputation the retail complex received in 2014.
Not only was a bad transaction at SLS said to cause Mr. Ooi Tze Liang, a Malaysian swimming gold medallist, to perform poorly in that year’s Singapore Fina Diving Grand Prix finals, but brawls also erupted on other occasions between sellers and buyers apparently due to sellers’ unscrupulous behaviour.
In the case of Mr. Tze Liang who was 20yrs old at the time, and whose case was reported by different media across the country, it was said he bought two iphones at Sim Lim Square but was overcharged by a hefty margin of over $2,000.
Not surprisingly, this developed into a dispute that greatly upset the athlete. According to Tze Liang’s coaches, it is the negative effect of that dispute that caused him to take the fifth position the following day in the 3m springboard diving race.
Obviously, an unsavoury headline like the one relating to a famous athlete being swindled at SLS could not have done the retail complex any good.
Consequently, many potential customers have become weary of being cheated by unscrupulous sellers within SLS, and, as industry observers have noted, it has led to a drastic drop in sales.
Even the executive director of the fund management company, ZACD, Nicholas Mak, has noted that SLS is not doing very well.
However, he has a different take on why SLS is ripe for sale. He observes that many of the malls are between 20 and 30 years old, and hence no longer appealing to the eye.
He also reckons many of SLS’ commercial systems are obsolete in this era when e-commerce is on the rise, and so the customer base for SLS merchants is, inevitably, shrinking.
Needless to say, when the inflow of customers slows down, profits go on a decline; exactly what has happened at SLS. As a result, many good sellers have chosen to relocate to more reputable and modern locations, causing a drastic drop in rentals at SLS.
Probably these factors will influence property owners at SLS into accepting the proposed en bloc sale, making the work of the collective sales committee easy.
With merchants leaving and rental income falling, it is unlikely there will be dissent as far as the decision to sell goes, and little rigidity, if any, when it comes to agreeing on the sales price.
This means Mr. Gupta, in league with his team, could be on the same wavelength with every one of the owners of SLS’s 500 units, making for an easy and quick sales process.
Salleh Marican, whose company, Second Chance Properties, is listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange, and who wished to run as president of Singapore in 2017, is one of the property owners at SLS.
He owns 12 of SLS’ units, and he is all for the en bloc sale. With the support of such a stakeholder who is not just prominent but a successful businessperson, it appears the sale has great goodwill from the start.
His advice is that the property owners should not set a price that is too high, considering there are other malls around that are newer, and online retail is thriving.
This advice is quite timely, taking into account the fear expressed by Nicholas Mak, of the difficulty that is likely to arise when an en bloc sale involves different sets of property owners – owners of apartments and owners of commercial units.
Edmund Tie & Company’s head of research, Dr. Lee Nai Jia, thinks the recent sale of Beach Road, a commercial site, for around $1.6 billion may have tempted SLS owners to go for a sale as well.
Moreover, another property comprising 450 units, City Plaza Singapore, is set to form its en bloc sales committee on November 1st.