House of Tan Yeok Nee back on the market

20130528-bt-house-of-tan-yeok-nee-back-on-mkt-pic.jpg THE House of Tan Yeok Nee, a gazetted national monument along Penang Road, is back on the market, a year after it was last transacted.

Its owner, a special purpose vehicle of ERC Holdings, is believed to be looking at a price of over $100 million. It purchased the freehold property at slightly over $60 million last year.

When contacted, ERC chairman Andy Ong said he was selling the asset as it has "reached its investment objective".

"We usually make property investments with a five to seven-year investment horizon. But in this case, we have reached the expected price sooner than expected because of macro-economic factors such as liquidity, and strong investment demand for Singapore commercial property. On top of that, this is a one-of-its-kind property: It is the last remaining traditional Chinese courtyard house in Singapore."

The House of Tan Yeok Nee is named after a wealthy Teochew businessman who built it in the 1880s. It was restored in 2000.

The property sits on land of about 32,000 sq ft and has a strata area of about 58,000 sq ft. Its net lettable area is about 23,000 sq ft, but Jones Lang LaSalle, which is marketing the property, said there is potential to increase this to around 36,000 sq ft through reconfiguration of void areas and use of courtyard space.

Currently the property is fully leased to the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. The lease runs out in 2015.

"Subject to approval from relevant authorities, there is potential for alternative uses including a flagship office building, specialist retail, hospitality or F&B usage," JLL said in its release yesterday.

Anthony Barr, JLL's national director (investments), said: "This is a rare opportunity to acquire an asset for commercial use in a prime location in the Orchard Road precinct. House of Tan Yeok Nee is a unique asset that offers owner occupiers or investors the ability to leverage off the building's prominence and historical significance."

The tender for The House of Tan Yeok Nee will close on July 5.

ERC boss Andy Ong has been in the news over a dispute with Sakae Holdings, where he was formerly non-executive director. Earlier this month, Sakae dropped two legal actions against Mr Ong after it secured rights to jointly control a special bank account holding tens of millions of dollars in proceeds from the sale of Bugis Cube, among other things.

But Sakae said it will continue to pursue a defamation lawsuit against Mr Ong's public relations firm, Financial PR Pte Ltd, and another action against him for breach of his duties.

ERC Holdings through a special purpose vehicle also owns Big Hotel along Middle Road. The hotel began trading earlier this month and last Saturday, all 200 rooms which had been opened by then were fully taken, said Mr Ong.

The 16-storey hotel has 308 rooms with sizes ranging from 11 to 50 sq metres. The average room size is 15 sq metres.

"We're rushing to open the rest of the rooms by the end of next week," said Mr Ong.

The hotel is currently offering a promotional room rate starting from $128 per night. Graduates of ERC's diploma and degree courses in hospitality management are among the hotel's employees.

ERC Holdings is an education, property and hotel group. Mr Ong, its chairman, owns more than 70 per cent of ERC.

When asked if he was willing to sell Big Hotel, Mr Ong replied: "We have received a lot of enquiries. Let's see what happens." In terms of his pricing expectation, Mr Ong said this will be at least at the valuation. The freehold hotel was valued recently at $240 million, which works out to nearly $800,000 per room.

ERC converted Big Hotel from the former Prime Centre, which it bought in late 2010 from Hong Leong Group. It paid $103 million for the building and pumped in another $30 million retrofitting the 16-storey building.

Source: Business Times, 28 May 2013