Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Jurong Reptile Park put on the block again

Fourth floor of Heartland Mall also up for auction next week

Business Times

JURONG Reptile Park is back on the auction block, this time as a liquidator’s sale. Also in the line-up for DTZ Debenham Tie Leung’s auction on March 29 is the fourth floor of Heartland Mall near Kovan MRT Station.

The strongest contender for Heartland Mall’s fourth level would be a Lend Lease managed fund-Guthrie tie-up.
DTZ said the indicative price for Jurong Reptile Park - which is on a 206,304 sq ft site with a remaining lease of about nine years - is about $2 million to $2.2 million. The attraction, formerly known as Jurong Crocodile Paradise, is a two-storey property.

Jurong Bird Park, which is understood to have been interested in the property when it went under the hammer five years ago, could be interested again, say market watchers.

After all, the two parks are just a stone’s throw away from each other, and even share a car park, allowing Jurong Bird Park to tap synergies from the two properties.

The site is zoned for ‘Sports & Recreation’ use, according to DTZ. The property is being put up for sale by liquidator Stone Forest Corporate Advisory Pte Ltd. It was formerly owned by ‘Geylang King’ Eric Tan, before mortgagee United Overseas Bank took over the asset. UOB tried in vain to sell the property during a 2002 auction.

The park was once famous for its crocodiles, but today the only reptiles there are some iguanas and snakes. Existing tenants - which include a KTV lounge, eateries and a beer garden - pay a total rental of almost $27,000 a month, not much more than the monthly ground rent of about $20,000 payable to JTC Corp.

‘Clearly, potential bidders will be looking at a major revamp, to make their investment profitable,’ says DTZ auctioneer and director Shaun Poh.

Over in Hougang, the strongest contender for Heartland Mall’s fourth level, market watchers reckon, would be the tie-up between a Lend Lease managed fund and Guthrie that owns the lower three floors of the mall, which stands on a site with a remaining lease of 76 years.

The fourth level space is being sold by owner Wang Lei Investment, understood to be linked to the company that owns karaoke chain Kbox.

The space comprises six units adding up to 21,131 sq ft of lettable area. Five of the units are currently leased to private schools. The sixth is vacant.

Wang Lei bought the six units for $6.8 million from mortgagee Maybank last year. It is understood to have upped rents of the tenants and extended their leases to August 2012. The monthly rental collection for the five leased units is about $67,200. The properties are being sold with existing tenancies.

The $9.5-9.8 million asking price reflects a property yield of about 7.4-7.6 per cent.

DTZ’s auction will begin at 2.30 pm next Thursday at Amara Hotel.

Meanwhile, the former factory building of Asia Pulp & Paper at 118, Pioneer Road was withdrawn from a Knight Frank auction yesterday after the company settled outstanding property tax owed to the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore.

Monday, January 1, 2007

The Malaysian paper chase

Oon Yeoh - The Malaysian paper chase

Posted by ProMahathir

(TodayOnline) AN interesting thing is happening in the newspapers scene in Malaysia. While two leading Malay-language dailies are seeking consolidation, there is an attempt to break up a monopolistic situation in the Chinese-language media.

It has always been known that leading Malay-language newspapers are controlled by the United Malays National Organisation (Umno), the leading component of the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition government.

The party formally controls the Utusan Melayu group with an around 50 per cent equity stake in the company. Umno took over Utusan after a battle with the newspaper's editors and journalists in the early 1960s.

Although the New Straits Times group (NSTP) is not formally owned by Umno it has always been understood that it was indirectly under the party's control (through nominee business groups such as Media Prima, with a 43 per cent stake in NSTP).

Umno's de facto control was something that former Premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad alluded to a few months ago, when he lamented the fact that the group editor of the New Straits Times was a non-Malay.

According to news reports, the two public-listed newspaper companies will be de-listed and then grouped under a yet-to-be named entity. If this merger goes through, it will make Umno's control over the NSTP formal and give the party ownership of the country's largest media conglomerate (Media Prima also owns all the local private TV stations).

This consolidation exercise will allow the Umno-controlled papers to better challenge the other media powerhouse, Star Publications — controlled by the Malaysian Chinese Association, Umno's ally in the Barisan Nasional. Star Publications owns the leading English-language newspaper The Star, various magazines and a couple of radio stations.

From an editorial standpoint, there will probably be no discernible difference. Firstly, the editorial operations of the two companies will remain distinct even after the merger. This is a point that Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has stressed.

Secondly, although media watchdog agencies such as the Kuala Lumpur-based Centre for Independent Journalism and the Bangkok-based South East Asian Press Alliance have all criticised the proposed merger as a bad move for press freedom, the reality is that the government has always had editorial control of both the Utusan and NSTP groups. For example, group editors have always been regarded as political appointments, requiring the blessing of the prime minister himself.

In an interesting unrelated development, while the Umno-controlled media are looking at consolidation, there are moves to break up a monopolistic situation in the Chinese dailies. The four leading Chinese-language newspapers in the country are currently controlled by Sarawakian timber tycoon Tiong Hiew King through his company, Ezywood Option.

Mr Tiong is a former senator and former treasurer of the Sarawak United People's Party, a mainly Chinese component of Barisan Nasional.

Unlike the situation with the Malay newspapers, the concentration of ownership of Chinese dailies in the hands of a pro-government group has been fiercely opposed by the Chinese community.

This has prompted another Sarawakian business tycoon, Lau Swee Nguong, to make a monopoly-breaking offer to buy Mr Tiong's shares of Nanyang Press Holdings, which publishes Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press. The other group Mr Tiong controls is Sin Chew Media Group, which publishes Sin Chew Daily and Guanming Daily.

Said Mr Lau last week: "I shall accept and purchase all shares owned by Tiong, split the shares and re-sell these to any corporation, society or individual from the Chinese community, (provided that) no such corporation, society or individual shall own more than 5 per cent of the entire paid-up capital of Nanyang Press."

He added: "The Chinese community has reacted with great dismay to the unveiling of the Tiong family's controlling stake in Nanyang Press. The general consensus is that a monopoly of the Chinese media is inevitable ... effectively stifling opinions."

Mr Lau has also extended his offer to other shareholders including MCA, which controls 20 per cent of Nanyang Press shares, and has promised to raise RM5 million to be donated to the Chinese community to help them purchase Nanyang shares.

Whether Mr Tiong or MCA takes up Mr Lau's offer is yet to be seen, but there is considerable pressure from the Chinese community for this to happen. The Chinese media has traditionally been more independent than its Malay counterpart when it comes to political coverage and commentary, although industry observers say that this situation has been eroded considerably over the years as government political parties exert increasing editorial control over the dailies they own.