THE High Court will rule today on whether there is a chance the en bloc sale of Horizon Towers can still go through.
With the high-profile case having attracted huge interest amid Singapore’s en bloc fever, all eyes will be on Justice Choo Han Teck as he announces his verdict on a decision by the Strata Titles Board (STB) in August to dismiss Horizon Towers’ application for a collective-sale order.
If Justice Choo decides the board was right in its dismissal, it will spell the end of the collective sale. But if he rules that the board erred, the application will go back to STB to be heard again.
Justice Choo has had to decide whether STB was right to throw out Horizon Towers’ application - before hearing its merits - because the collective-sale agreement appended to it was missing three signature pages.
The majority owners who consented to the en bloc sale have argued that the omission was a technical ‘oversight’ that can easily be amended. The minority sellers who object to the sale say the omission is significant and one of many.
Justice Choo’s decision will affect some 270 owners in the Leonie Hill development, and the reaction in the public gallery today is expected to be considerable whichever way he rules.
While some owners are against the collective sale, others want it to proceed. ‘I agreed to the sale and I want it to go through - not get stuck on some technicality - so I can move on,’ one owner told BT last week.
Justice Choo’s ruling will also determine whether a lawsuit hanging over the heads of the majority owners will go ahead. The buyers of Horizon Towers - Hotel Properties (HPL) and its partners - will move to sue the owners for up to $1 billion in damages if the sale falls through.
HPL and its partners allege that the majority sellers failed to do their part to honour the sale agreement - that is, do their utmost to submit a proper application to STB. HPL is also angered by what it believes are attempts by some majority sellers to scupper the deal after it was signed.
In an affidavit submitted to court in support of its claim against the sellers, HPL alleges that anonymous letters were circulated among Horizon Towers owners asking them to rescind the sale agreement because neighbouring properties were starting to fetch better prices.
HPL and its partners agreed in February to buy Horizon Towers for $500 million. But nearby developments such as The Grangeford subsequently started going for double the per square foot amount.
After STB threw out Horizon Towers’ application, HPL and its partners fought a very public battle with the majority sellers as it sought to convince them to extend the sale completion deadline. The sellers eventually agreed to extend the deadline to Dec 11, which buys the parties enough time to complete the deal if the High Court decides today to overrule STB’s decision.
HPL and its partners have halted legal proceedings against the majority sellers but say that they will restart them should the sale fall through.
The outcome of the sale will remain uncertain even if the High Court decides today to send the application back to STB. STB’s schedule is believed to be full, which could affect chances for Horizon Towers’ application to be heard in time.
STB will also need to hear the application all over again - including its merits - as well as objections by the minority.
Source : Business Times - 11 Oct 2007