Making Marina Bay shine for businesses

PHOTO: Making Marina Bay shine for businesses

Company logos at the tops of glittering skyscrapers are just part of the scenery in the Central Business District (CBD), but few people think of the effort involved in getting them up there.

"It takes a lot of organisation. You have to block the road to have a crane hoist the sign up, and you have to control the traffic. You have to plan it a long time ahead," said Raffles Quay Asset Management (RQAM) chief executive Warren Bishop.

He also recalled hoisting six to eight giant brass drums up 33 floors to the Marina Bay Financial Centre (MBFC) Tower One premises of microbrewery Level33, which uses the drums to brew beer on the spot.

That may sound like a herculean task but it is par for the course for RQAM, which manages One Raffles Quay and MBFC.

MBFC officially opens on Wednesday.

RQAM employs more than 160 people, most of whom are in facilities management and in charge of maintaining the buildings and infrastructure.

Set up in 2001, the company is a joint venture between Singapore's Keppel Land and Hong Kong's Cheung Kong Holdings and Hongkong Land.

A consortium of these three developers built both One Raffles Quay and MBFC.

Both these office developments are mostly leased by firms in the financial industry. One Raffles Quay and MBFC Towers One and Two were 100 per cent pre-let before opening.

"There was a lot of pent-up demand for a higher grade of office space. If you look at the older CBD, most of the buildings there were built in the 1980s and 1990s... but we can benchmark MBFC and One Raffles Quay against anywhere in the world these days," Mr Bishop said.

Major tenants at MBFC include Standard Chartered, which takes up more than 500,000 sq ft of space in Tower One, and Nomura, occupying nearly 200,000 sq ft in Tower Two.

Tower Three opened mid-last year and was about 85 per cent occupied as at last month, with anchor tenant DBS taking up more than half of the building.

"We've been very successful with legal and commodities sector firms in Tower Three," added Mr Bishop, a Hong Kong permanent resident who took over the reins at RQAM in April last year.

He previously helmed Tradeport, Hongkong Land's joint venture logistics centre at the Hong Kong International Airport.

Law firms that have leased space in Tower Three include WongPartnership and Clifford Chance.

Commodities giant Rio Tinto has leased 70,000 sq ft of space for its regional headquarters.

Other tenants include Lego, baby food firm Mead Johnson and consumer goods maker Kimberly- Clark.

Mr Bishop said RQAM was still looking for more tenants for Tower Three, particularly those from the financial, legal and commodities sectors.

"Those are the ones that look for the specifications that we have here and understand that we command the premium within the market based on our specifications, location and connectivity."

These specifications include large column-free floorplates, which make it easier for banks to set up trading floors and install backup power generators.

RQAM also aims to attract companies that want to set up their South-east Asia regional headquarters in Singapore.

Mr Bishop declined to name potential tenants, but said Tower Three's occupancy rate has risen by more than 5 per cent since the start of the year.

Alongside its commercial portfolio, RQAM also manages two residential projects: Marina Bay Residences and Marina Bay Suites.

The 428-unit Marina Bay Residences, launched in December 2006, was sold out in three days. Most of its units are one- or two- bedders and launch prices ranged from $1,385 to $3,312 per sq ft (psf). It received its Temporary Occupation Permit (TOP) in 2010.

Marina Bay Suites sold 194 units out of 221 as at March 31

and is expected to receive its TOP this week. Its prices average $2,700 to $2,800 psf but the most expensive sale was at $3,313 psf in March.

All the suites are over 1,600 sq ft and are mostly three- to four- bedders, starting at $3 million to $4 million.

The unsold units are over 2,000 sq ft, located on upper floors and cost at least around $6 million, Mr Bishop said.

"We only have four-bedders left, and two penthouses. These are the more prestigious apartments. We specifically held them back to make sure they were the last to be sold."

Around half of the buyers are local, though a majority of the sales last year were made to foreign buyers.

Buyer interest was dampened after the sixth and seventh rounds of government cooling measures.

"But we're confident that the market will return and we will sell those remaining apartments in due course," Mr Bishop said.

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.