Published June 9, 2009

VTB Building said to have changed hands for $71 million

Buyer is understood to be a JV between Yi Kai Group and Fission Group


VTB Building, an ageing freehold office block on Robinson Road, is said to have been sold for $71 million or about $1,061 per square foot (psf) based on existing net lettable area (NLA).

The price is about 18 per cent higher than the offers of around $60 million that the property had drawn earlier, as reported by BT last month.

The buyer is understood to be a joint venture between Yi Kai Group and Fission Group. The two are jointly developing the Alexis condo near Queenstown MRT station which sold like hot cakes earlier this year.

The sale of VTB Building entails a relatively long completion period of six months, which is when seller VTB Capital, part of VTB group (formerly known as Moscow Narodny Bank), will deliver vacant possession on the property to the buyers. Yi Kai and Fission are said to have bought the 16-storey building with an eye on tearing it down and redeveloping it into a residential project, subject to approval from the authorities to rezone the site, which is currently designated for commercial use.

The long completion period for the transaction gives more options to the buyers. 'They could, among other things, potentially be looking at flipping the property,' a market watcher suggested.

Another possibility would be to retrofit the existing office block and optimising its NLA. That was an option that some of the contenders for the property, which are said to have included overseas players, looked at.

VTB Building is more than 30 years old and has a 9,052 sq ft land area and a gross floor area of just over 91,000 sq ft, which reflects a plot ratio of 10.05. Under Master Plan 2008, the site is zoned for commercial use with an 11.2 + plot ratio and 35-storey maximum height.

The property is close to the Cross Street MRT station, which is scheduled to open around 2012 under Downtown Line 1.

Assuming that Fission and Yi Kai redevelop VTB Building for residential use, their $71 million acquisition price translates to a land cost of about $700 psf per plot ratio (based on an 11.2 plot ratio and assuming no development charge is payable). The breakeven cost for a new residential project could be about $1,100-$1,200 psf.

VTB's existing NLA is said to be 66,888 sq ft and roughly half of this space is currently empty. The remaining occupants, including VTB, will move out by year end. The bank is said to be considering a few locations in the CBD to lease premises, tapping current low office rents.

DTZ is understood to have brokered the VTB Building deal.

This is the third office block to have changed hands over the past month, after Parakou Building and Anson House. Parakou Building, a fairly new freehold property at the Robinson Road/McCallum Street corner, was purchased for $81.38 million or $1,280 psf of NLA by a unit of Cathay Organisation. Anson House changed hands for around $85 million or slightly over $1,100 psf of NLA. It was completed 11 years ago and is on a site with a remaining lease of around 87 years.