Ezra's Lee family puts Sentosa Cove bungalow up for sale for $26m

Singapore - Ezra Holdings' Lee family has put their waterway-fronting Sentosa Cove bungalow on the block, months after they sold a Good Class Bungalow (GCB) along Windsor Park Road last October for a cool S$22 million.

The Business Times understands that the exclusive two-storey five-bedroom property in the South Cove precinct was put on the market after the Chinese New Year festivities. It comes with a price tag of S$26 million, or S$2,258 per square foot on land area, which industry watchers deem "reasonable".

The property is held by Lee Kian Soo, Ezra's founder and chairman and father of Lionel Lee, the offshore marine firm's chief executive and managing director.

Based on a corporate profile search, the Sentosa Cove property is listed as Mr Lionel Lee's address.

The property, which boasts a private berth, has a total floor area of 12,400 sq ft and a land area of 11,515 sq ft. The bungalow is on a site with a balance lease term of about 91 years.

Good Class Bungalow deals in 2016

  • A charming single-storey bungalow on a sprawling site in Queen Astrid Park has changed hands for S$44.5 million. The buyer is understood to be a family member of Goh Hup Jin, son of billionaire paint tycoon Goh Cheng Liang.
  • A house along Kingsmead Road where the late Raffles Institution principal Philip Liau used to reside is being sold for S$29 million.
  • The price works out to S$1,065 per square foot based on the freehold land area of 27,228 sq ft.
  • The buyer is understood to be Darwin Indigo, a nephew of Wilmar executive deputy chairman Martua Sitorus. Mr Indigo, who is in his mid-30s, is deputy country head (Indonesia) at Wilmar International.
  • The S$29 million transaction is the biggest deal in a GCB Area since a S$32 million sale along Queen Astrid Park in July last year.
  • Ezra Holdings' Lee family has put their waterway-fronting Sentosa Cove bungalow on the block. The exclusive 2-storey 5-bedroom property comes with a price tag of S$26 million, or S$2,258 per square foot on land area.
  • The property is held by Lee Kian Soo, Ezra's founder and chairman and father of Lionel Lee, the offshore marine firm's chief executive and managing director.
  • In October last year, Mr Lionel Lee and his mother sold their GCB along Windsor Park Road for $21.8 million.
  • The freehold property at 122 Windsor Park Road, off Upper Thomson Road, has a land size of 20,383 sq ft, which works out to a price of about $1,070 per sq ft (psf).
  • In Jan 2016, a GCB along King Albert Park, which comes with a swimming pool, was sold by upmarket developer Simon Cheong.
  • The property fetched S$25 million, which translates to S$1,493 per square foot (psf) based on the land area of 16,750 square feet. The bungalow's built-up area is said to be around 10,000 sq ft.
  • The buyer, who is expected to occupy the bungalow once the existing lease ends, is Fang Koh Look, founder of Absolute Kinetics Consultancy, an SME that provides workplace safety training and medical services in addition to distributing mobile pre-paid cards.
  • Over at Wilkinson Road, off Tanjong Katong Road, a fully owned unit of Soilbuild recently paid S$19.28 million for an old, two-storey bungalow. The price works out to S$1,203 psf based on the freehold land area of 16,031 sq ft.
  • The bungalow could be easily 40-50 years old, said Lim Chap Huat, executive chairman of Soilbuild, when contacted by The Business Times. "We are buying it from a family."
  • The site is zoned for two-storey bungalow use. Mr Lim said the group plans to redevelop the site into two brand-new bungalows. Work should start around the middle of this year and the new bungalows should be completed in about two years.

The most recent transaction of a villa on Sentosa Cove was in the fourth quarter of last year, when a bungalow along Lakeshore View fronting Serapong Golf Course sold for S$23.8 million or S$2,775 psf. This was the highest price (on psf of land) fetched by a bungalow in the waterfront housing district in more than two years.

In October last year, Mr Lionel Lee and his mother Goh Gaik Choo are said to have sold their Balinese-style GCB located off Upper Thomson Road for S$21.8 million; the price translated to $1,070 psf on the freehold land area of 20,383 sq ft. Completed in 2006, the house has two storeys, a basement carpark and a roof terrace for functions.

These properties are not the only assets that have been shuffled or sold by the family, particularly by Mr Lionel Lee, in recent months.

Last month, the 42-year-old unloaded 20 million shares in Catalist-listed Select Group for S$7.1 million to his mother Ms Goh, cutting his stake from 23 per cent to some 9 per cent in the food caterer.

In late January, he forked out S$60,200 to scoop up one million Ezra shares, barely two weeks after a forced sale of 11.5 million Ezra shares which were held by his private vehicle.

The forced sale of S$913,341 worth of Ezra shares on Jan 12 was triggered by the sharp fall in the counter which had caused covenants of a banking facility to be breached. It was reported that the shares were pledged for a loan facility for a company unrelated to Ezra.

Despite its recent pick-up, Ezra's stock price has suffered a hammering, having lost over 20 per cent of its value this year - it's down over 75 per cent from a year ago - amid a slumping oil and gas market with pundits expecting more pain ahead before things look up.

The oil rout - there have been hopeful intervals of higher prices - has led to spending cuts, layoffs and less contracts to dish out, all of which have hit industry players hard. The Lees' flagship firm Ezra and its other listed subsidiaries have not been spared.

The gloomy backdrop has led to a complete turnabout in the company's fortunes with Ezra reporting its first ever quarterly loss of US$55 million over the quarter ended Nov 2015.

Ezra's other divisions, subsea services provider EMAS offshore suffered a similar fate over the period while its fabrication arm Triyards held up relatively better although profits dived 25 per cent largely owing to the absence of a one-off gain reported a year back.

The company has also seen a string of board and management changes over the past year.

The elder Mr Lee, a corporate veteran, assumed the post of Ezra chairman - again - in February after Koh Poh Tiong stepped down from the position he held for three years; Mr Lee, the founding chairman had earlier held this position till late 2012.

In late January, its chief financial officer Eugene Cheng stepped down citing "personal and family reasons" and in place, Triyards chief executive Chan Eng Yew was appointed interim CFO - he holds both positions concurrently.

26 Good Class Bungalows sold for $588 million

  • A GCB at 65 Holland Park, sold for $30 million in Nov.
  • A GCB at 27 Ridout Road, which went for $35 million in July.
  • Demand for homes in Singapore may have fallen steeply this year but business has been humming in the GCB market.
  • An analysis by CBRE showed that 26 GCBs have been sold this year with a total value of $587.75 million, comparable with last year’s 29 deals worth $682 million.
  • Even so, it is a hefty drop from 2012, when 54 GCBs changed hands for $1.17 billion – and a far cry from a record 133 deals at $2.38 billion in 2010.
  • GCBs typically have a land size of 1,400 sq m, or about 15,069 sq ft.
  • But when GCB areas were gazetted in the 1980s, they included some smaller existing sites that are still considered GCBs as they would be bound by other GCB planning rules if redeveloped.
  • There are about 2,700 GCBs here in 39 designated estates.
  • Transactions have fallen in recent times owing to the imposition of the total debt servicing ratio and additional buyers' stamp duty, experts say.
  • "Most GCB buyers already have a property and are unwilling to pay ABSD if they are buying for investment. This could be quite hefty given the high quantum," said Mr K. H. Tan, managing director of Newsman Realty.
  • But prices appear to have held up this year.
  • The average price of GCBs this year is $1,454 per sq ft (psf) based on transactions so far this year, 9 per cent higher than $1,388 psf last year, said Mr Douglas Wong, CBRE head of luxury homes.
  • However, the average price is only a ballpark indicator of GCB prices and does not fully account for factors including location, size, age, design, terrain and frontage, he added.
  • "GCBs are expected to perform at a similar level next year as current sentiments will likely spill over... About 20 to 30 GCBs will probably be sold for the whole of 2015," said Mr Wong.
  • GCB areas which saw more deals this year were Belmont Park, Chatsworth Park, Chestnut Avenue, Dalvey Estate, Raffles Park and White House Park.
  • In terms of total price, the most expensive was 27 Ridout Road, which went for $35 million or $1,039 psf in July.
  • The costliest on a psf basis was 22 Margoliouth Road which sold for $14.8 million or $2,051 psf in October.
  • Also notable was 65 Holland Park, which Frasers Centrepoint sold for $30 million or $1,991 psf last month.
  • All are freehold properties.
  • Neighbouring 67 Holland Park, also freehold, is for sale with a negotiable asking price of $35 million, the company said.
  • While cooling measures have dampened volume and prices, the outlook for GCBs remains positive.
  • They are expected to offer strong capital preservation given their rarity, said Dr Chua Yang Liang, head of South-east Asia research at JLL.

This article was first published on March 3, 2016.
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