YTL’s uncanny timing

The Edge, December 15, 2018

By Cecilia Chow and Charlene Chin

December is not commonly a choice month in which to roll out a luxury project. But a burst of interest from foreign buyers on holiday has prompted the Malaysian-listed conglomerate to launch 3 Orchard By-The-Park.

Most property developers are winding down their activities as the year draws to a close. Not Malaysian- listed YTL Corp, controlled by the Yeoh family and ranked 11th-richest in Malaysia by Forbes, though. The group’s subsidiary, YTL Land & Development, launched its luxury condo 3 Orchard By-The-Park in Singapore on Dec 1. “It felt as though the market had rebounded,” says Joseph Yeoh, 32, vice-president of YTL Land & Development and YTL Hotels, in an interview with EdgeProp Singapore.

According to Jasmine Gwee, YTL Land & Development’s sales and marketing director, the decision to launch was prompted by a surge in enquiries from prospective buyers primarily from China, Hong Kong and Indonesia. “We decided to launch because we saw that many of them who are here on holiday are also using it as an opportunity to view property,” she says. “The luxury market is very resilient. It’s not so much about affordability. It’s what they want to buy.”

The property cooling measures in July may have slowed activity elsewhere in the residential market, but there has been a spurt of buying in the luxury segment. “If you compare with prices in Hong Kong and Shanghai, Singapore is still very attractive even with the new cooling measures in place,” adds Yeoh.

Yeoh needed to look no further than 3 Orchard By-The-Park to prove his point. The project is a redevelopment of the former Westwood Apartments, which YTL had purchased en bloc at end-November 2007 for $435 million. The purchase price for the freehold site on prime Orchard Boulevard translated into a record land rate of $2,525 psf per plot ratio (ppr).

‘Long-term view’

Given the transacted land prices achieved in the vicinity of 3 Orchard By-The-Park earlier this year (see “Boulevard of tycoons”), Yeoh says, “we’re quite blessed to have moved in 10 years ago; and we’re very happy that our vision to invest earlier has been justified. We’ve always taken a long-term view in buying property”.

On Dec 1, YTL officially launched 3 Orchard By-The-Park at prices starting from $3,400 psf. A total of five units has been sold so far. Two units were sold recently, although caveats have yet to be lodged. Three units were sold at private previews in July and September. One was a 1,152 sq ft, two-bedroom unit on the fourth level that fetched $4.25 million ($3,686 psf). Two others are 2,260 sq ft, four-bedroom units — one on the 22nd level that was sold for $8.54 million ($3,778 psf) and another directly above on the 23rd level that went for $8.6 million ($3,805 psf). “We are in talks for a few more units,” says Gwee. “We have seen quite a few return viewers, many of whom are from Hong Kong.”

Yeoh says: “There’s still the prospect of an upside in capital values. We never had a doubt that prices would hit $4,000 psf or even $5,000 psf, which have already been achieved along the Orchard Road belt.”

He plans to purchase a unit at 3 Orchard By-The-Park. “We’re a family-run business, a 63-year-old company,” he says. “As a result, the board of directors are brothers and sisters, and with the quality of our developments, not just in Singapore but also in Malaysia, it’s not uncommon for them to invest in some units themselves. We put our money where our mouth is.”

Family-run, global empire

Yeoh’s father is Francis Yeoh, the eldest son of the founder of YTL Group, Yeoh Tiong Lay, who passed away in October 2017, aged 88. Francis, 64, succeeded his father as YTL Corp’s executive chairman. The listed entity has a market capitalisation of RM11.4 billion ($3.7 billion).

The business empire spans the globe — from the UK to Australia — and ranges from construction and infrastructure to utilities, property development and investments in hotels, shopping malls and resort properties. Its Starhill Global REIT portfolio includes Starhill Gallery and Lot 10 in Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur; Ngee Ann City and Wisma Atria on prime Orchard Road in Singapore; as well as Myer Centre in Adelaide and David Jones Building in the Perth CBD in Australia.