July 3, 2008

Key player in Jade saga reaps huge profit from home sale

Anthony Soh plans to use proceeds to pay off his mortgage and step up legal fight to clear his name

By Lee Su Shyan, Assistant Money Editor

Bought for $7.95m last year
Sold for $11.8m this year -- ST FILE PHOTO

THE businessman at the centre of the bungled Jade Technologies buyout is cashed up for his legal battles in Singapore and Australia after pocketing a huge profit from the sale of his lavish home.

Dr Anthony Soh had to take a big cut from his asking price of $13.88 million for the Windsor Park Road bungalow, but the dramatic rise in property prices over the past year still meant he could walk away well ahead.

He bought the 21,800 sq ft house in January last year for $7.95 million and spent $400,000 on renovations but sold it for $11.8 million - a profit of $3.85 million.

Dr Soh told The Straits Times in May that he wanted to sell the house to pay off his mortgage with OCBC Bank, and raise cash for legal fees he expected to incur in his fight to clear his name following the Jade buyout.

He has instigated legal actions in Australia against failed Melbourne broker Opes Prime and investment bank Merrill Lynch over the seizure of millions of Jade shares.

The profitable sale of his house will allow him to step up his legal fight.

'I now have extra funds to hire two Queen's Counsel to fight Merrill and others who took my shares,' said Dr Soh last night.

He pledged the Jade shares to Opes to secure a loan. When the broker went belly up in March, however, Merrill, an Opes creditor, seized the stock.

This left Dr Soh with insufficient funds, forcing him to abort the Jade buyout. He contends that Merrill had no right to sell what he considers to be still his shares. This contention is at the heart of the legal action he has started in Australia against the investment bank and Opes.

The debacle had also resulted in a number of inquiries being launched into Dr Soh's role in the events that left many investors in the red after their Jade shares plunged in value.

Funds from the house sale will also likely be used to fund legal costs on this front.

The buyer was businessman Jonathan Lim Keng Hock, who moved fast after reading about the property in The Straits Times on May 28.

Sources close to Mr Lim, 47, said he promptly made an appointment that day to view the lavish bungalow, which boasts a swimming pool and a badminton court.

Mr Lim, who had been looking for a place for months, signed the option agreement the following day.

Property agents said the $11.8 million price was a fair one, given the subdued state of the market and considering that the house, while a good class bungalow, is not in the prime Bukit Timah district.

Dr Soh told The Straits Times last night: 'I am pleased that the buyer of the house is happy with the deal. He likes the house and got it at his price.'

Mr Lim is the main investor and chairman of electronics firm SNF Corporation. His stake of 26.99 per cent is worth about $3.68 million

He is also the founder and managing director of Romar Positioning Equipment International, a private firm that makes automation equipment for handling and welding in the energy and transportation industries.

The firm has more than 180 staff, a turnover exceeding $90 million and estimated profits of about $11 million. It was acquired by a European multinational corporation earlier this year.

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