Published December 14, 2012

Sembawang EC site draws top bid of $211.9m

JBE Holdings beats 7 rivals with offer of $323.76 psf ppr

By Mindy Tan

A 99-YEAR leasehold executive condominium (EC) site at the junction of Sembawang Crescent and Sembawang Drive has received a top bid of $211.9 million, or $323.76 per square foot per plot ratio (psf ppr).

The top bid came from boutique property developer JBE Holdings, which beat seven other bidders.

Ong Kah Seng, director at R'ST Research, commenting on the bid, said it reflected the developer's confidence in the attractiveness of ECs in far-flung Sembawang, where another EC, 1 Canberra is located.

"EC sites that are bought at higher prices are expected to be well conceptualised and designed, with special themes to garner buyers' interest," he said.

He added: "ECs are, in part, subsidised housing products, so developers are likely to err on the side of caution to reduce controversy by focusing on overall special project themes instead of providing selected luxury units."

This was a reference to "luxury" EC units in the news lately for the prices they commanded, such as the $1.77 million penthouse unit in Heron Bay in Upper Serangoon and the $1.61 million double-storey penthouse in 1 Canberra.

Last month, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan took to his blog "Housing Matters" to remind developers to stay within the spirit of the concept of this class of housing.

SLP International head of research Nicholas Mak noted that the eight bids received for the Sembawang Crescent/Sembawang Drive site reflected "strong demand" for EC development sites.

"This is due to recent robust EC sales. Furthermore, some developers are interested in this site because of a lack of new EC launches in Sembawang, resulting in potential pent-up demand," he said.

He added that the developer could aim to launch the project at between $720 and $730 psf.

Li Hiaw Ho, the executive director in CBRE Research, said: "There are only two other new EC projects in the Yishun-Sembawang area - The Canopy (406 units) is fully sold; 1 Canberra (665 units) is half sold.

"We expect the demand for ECs to be steady, going forward, because they are more affordably priced than private condominiums and eligible buyers are able to enjoy grants from the government."

He noted that up to October this year, some 3,500 EC units in the seven projects launched in the year had been sold. The total volume of EC units sold is expected to hit a record 4,000 by the end of the year.

The second highest bid for the site came from Frasers Centrepoint unit FCL Place and Hytech Builders; it was for $210.1 million, or $321.00 psf ppr.

Chip Eng Seng's CEL Property put up a bid of $201.4 million, or $307.66 psf ppr; Bellevue Properties, a subsidiary of City Developments Limited, offered $193 million, or $294.85 psf ppr.

The lowest bid was from Mezzo Development, at $184.0 million, or $281.10 psf ppr.

The 233,775 sq ft site has maximum gross floor area of 654,569 sq ft and can yield about 650 units.