A New party has emerged in the race for Jurong Point mall.
The Business Times has learnt that Mercatus Co-operative - an NTUC social enterprise that owns and manages suburban malls - is now the front runner for Jurong Point.
Its bid is understood to be about S$2.2 billion, which would translate to S$3,343 per square foot based on the 658,000 square feet of commercial net lettable area owned by an equal joint venture between Lee Kim Tah Holdings and Guthrie GTS in Jurong Point.
When contacted, Mercatus declined to comment.
In early January, BT had reported that Blackstone, Frasers Centrepoint and Macquarie had been shortlisted to buy Guthrie and Lee Kim Tah's space in Jurong Point.
They were among nine parties that made submissions during an expressions of interest exercise that closed last November.
The trio were shortlisted for due diligence before final bids submission, which is understood to have been a fortnight ago.
Now, it looks like they may be trumped by Mercatus, which owns AMK Hub (next to Ang Mo Kio MRT Station) and One Marina Boulevard, and 50 per cent of Nex mall above the Serangoon Circle Line MRT Station.
Given the sheer size of the Jurong Point deal, it would not be surprising if Mercatus ropes in joint venture partners for the acquisition, said market watchers.
According to information on the Mercatus website, its vision is to "own and manage strategically-located shopping malls in the heartlands of Singapore to provide NTUC (National Trades Union Congress) social enterprises with retail space to serve the daily needs of working families".
"Through its investments, Mercatus also aims to generate sustainable long-term returns for the Labour Movement."
In recent years, some of the properties held by other NTUC social enterprises have been transferred to Mercatus.
However, insurance co-op NTUC Income continues to own its portfolio of investment properties such as Income at Raffles, Income at Tampines Point, Income at Tampines Junction, Eastpoint Mall and a half-stake in Capital Square.
Earlier this year, some strata space in Jurong Point's basement and on the first level of Coronation Shopping Plaza held by retailer NTUC FairPrice was sold to a vehicle of Mercatus for a combined sum of S$52.08 million.
The Jurong Point space that FairPrice divested is occupied by a FairPrice supermarket and was part of the 59,000 sq ft under three retail lots that Lee Kim Tah and Guthrie sold about two decades ago to Golden Village, FairPrice and POSB.
This 59,000 sq ft is not part of the 702,000 sq ft total NLA put on the market last year by Guthrie and Lee Kim Tah.
The 702,000 sq ft includes 44,000 sq ft of space under the government's Community/Sports Facilities Scheme (CSFS), which is being used by occupiers such as NTUC First Campus Co-operative's My First Skool and voluntary welfare organisations.
Market watchers say that acquiring Jurong Point would fit in with Mercatus' strategy, noting among other things that FairPrice Xtra is an anchor tenant in the mall.
Singapore's biggest suburban shopping centre, Jurong Point is connected seamlessly to the Boon Lay MRT Station and Bus Interchange.
Jurong Point stands on two sites; one has a balance lease term of about 76 years and the other, 88.5 years.
Their combined land area is 557,288 sq ft.
Mercatus also owns One Marina Boulevard, a 32-storey office tower in the CBD that houses NTUC Headquarters.
The building's facilities include meeting rooms and training rooms in addition to a 600-seat auditorium.
Microsoft and Allen & Gledhill are among the major office tenants in the building, which also has retail and F&B tenants.
This article was first published on February 22, 2017.
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