China Life Insurance, Haitong Securities doing due diligence on One George Street

Its price is expected to exceed S$2,500 psf, or over S$560m assuming a half-stake is offered

ONE George Street, owned by CapitaLand Commercial Trust (CCT), is back in play, and The Business Times understands that two parties are carrying out due diligence on the property - China Life Insurance and Haitong Securities.

Sources told BT that CCT was prepared to consider selling only half its stake in the asset; this would enable its parent, CapitaLand, to continue to collect a fee from managing the asset.

Market watchers said that the pricing would be in excess of S$2,500 per square foot on net lettable area (NLA), or S$1.12 billion for the building. A half-stake would work out to at least S$560 million.

CCT's website puts One George Street's NLA at 447,390 square feet. The 23-storey office building stands on a site with a remaining lease of 85 years.

Market talk is that China Life Insurance and Haitong Securities are interested, and CCT has opened its data room and provided these two potential bidders with information on the asset.

However, there is no ongoing structured sale process such as an expression-of-interest exercise like the one conducted for the property late last year.

That exercise had drawn some interest, though prices were not high enough for CCT to let go of the asset, or even half of it.

At a results briefing in January this year, CCT Management Ltd chief executive Lynette Leong said: "There are a lot of investors still very interested in acquiring good-quality office buildings. Our information is publicly available. The first thing any investor will do is to look at our valuation to see what price they should be paying. Our valuation is actually very conservative. So if they are willing to pay only that, then (the answer is) 'No'.

"So we are open - provided the price is right. If they only follow our valuation, then we don't think the price is right."

Contacted on Friday, a CCT spokeswoman said: "Off and on, we receive unsolicited offers for our properties . . . We adopt an active portfolio-management strategy to evaluate asset plans for our properties in the ordinary course of business. Invariably, some of these plans may involve discussions with third parties that could result in market talk. There is no certainty or assurance of any such plans materialising."

One George Street was valued at S$1.012 billion as at June 30, 2016, a tad higher than the valuation six months before of S$1.010 billion.

The June 2016 valuation works out to S$2,262 psf on NLA.

One George Street generated net property income of S$28.4 million for the first nine months of this year, down from S$30.5 million a year ago.

The building's occupancy stood at 96.6 per cent as at the end of the third quarter.

As at end-Q3, CCT's aggregate leverage stood at 37.8 per cent, following the completion of its acquisition of the remaining 60 per cent of CapitaGreen on Aug 31, 2016.

Commenting on the trust's likely approach on One George Street for now, an industry observer said: "The idea is to provide information to potential buyers and wait for them to make a binding offer."

The website of the Beijing-based China Life Insurance describes it as the biggest commercial insurance group in mainland China and one of the largest institutional investors in China's capital markets.

In Singapore, it has an office in the CCT-owned CapitaGreen in Market Street. China Life holds a life insurer licence in Singapore.

Market watchers reckon that while the insurer could be looking to occupy some space in One George Street if it ends up buying a stake in it, it would also be eyeing the asset as an investment for yield play.

Shanghai-based Haitong Securities also operates in Singapore, at Prudential Tower. It holds a capital markets services licence for dealing in securities, trading in futures contracts, advising on corporate finance, securities financing and providing custodial services for securities.

Analysts reckon that, for CCT, the proceeds from a stake sale in One George Street would come in handy as a possible funding option for the trust's proposed redevelopment of Golden Shoe Car Park. That project is estimated to have a commercial gross floor area of about a million square feet.

Source: Business Times, 12 Nov 2016