Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Horizon Towers saga

If there’s one thing that has characterised the Horizon Towers saga, it’s the number of twists and turns that have emerged - and yesterday’s hearing before the Strata Titles Board (STB) was no exception.

The session marked the start of the resumption of a previous hearing, which had stalled on Aug 3 when STB decided Horizon Towers’ application for a collective sale order was defective. The High Court subsequently overturned the board’s decision and sent the application back to STB.

Yesterday’s sitting, however, was anything but a straightforward continuation of that earlier session.

Instead, it saw one majority owner, Susanna Rusli - represented by Cheong Yuen Hee from JS Yeh - raising fresh objections and saying she did not wish to be represented alongside the other majority owners, whose legal counsel are Tan Rajah & Cheah.

Mr Cheong, on behalf of his client, questioned the validity of Horizon Towers’ collective sale application after it was thrown out by STB on Aug 3.

He also argued that the sale & purchase (S&P) agreement - signed between Horizon Towers’ majority owners and the buyers, Hotel Properties and its partners - had expired, as it was not extended before the deadline.

After STB threw out their collective sale application, the majority owners did not extend the Aug 11 deadline for the S&P agreement - despite repeated requests by the buyers to do so - until Sept 24. Mr Cheong is arguing that this invalidates the S&P agreement.

It’s also a point taken up by some of the minority owners who are objecting to the sale. Tan Kok Quan Partnership - which represents one group of minorities - is arguing that STB does not have the jurisdiction to hear the application as a consequence of the majority owners’ failure to extend the S&P agreement.

BT understands the other minority owners objecting to the sale also intend to take up this argument.

Such a move will, however, run counter to what transpired in the High Court earlier this month - when the majority sellers appealed against STB’s dismissal of their application. In that session, the buyers’ lawyers - Allen & Gledhill (A&G) - argued that the appeal could be heard only if the S&P agreement was still in existence and the deadline extension was not disputed.

A&G Senior Counsel K Shanmugam asked the various parties to state before the court if they were challenging the existence of the contract, adding that they could not then go back to STB after the appeal and say the contract had expired. No one challenged the existence of the contract then.

Yesterday’s session before STB also saw the minorities raising queries over the role played by the sales agent for the en bloc deal, Alvin Er. They argued that Mr Er’s decision to accept a sales commission from the buyers for the deal posed a conflict of interest - in that he could have been motivated by the commission rather than the need to secure the best offer for Horizon Towers.

STB has asked the various parties to submit these applications over the next few days. The hearing will resume next Tuesday.

Source : Business Times - 31 Oct 2007

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