CDL looks to launch nearly 2,000 units in 4 Singapore projects

Fuji Xerox Towers in Anson Road (above) is being redeveloped into residences, serviced apartments, offices and retail space.

Updated from : The Business Times, 13 Aug 202

CITY Developments (CDL), often seen as the proxy for the Singapore residential property market, has a launch pipeline here of nearly 2,000 housing units for sale in four upcoming launches.

First off will be the 696-unit CanningHill Piers, the residential component of a mixed-use project on the former Liang Court site next to Clarke Quay, which it is developing jointly with CapitaLand. Canning Hill Piers is slated for launch in the fourth quarter of this year.

Next year, CDL has three launches lined up. These are a project in Northumberland Road, near the Farrer Park MRT station, and an executive condo in Tengah Garden Walk. Both are joint-venture developments with MCL Land, a fully owned subsidiary of Hongkong Land.

CDL’s remaining launch expected next year will be the residential component in the Fuji Xerox Towers redevelopment in Anson Road.

All tenanted units in the freehold office building had been vacated as of July 1, and the group is now decommissioning the building in preparation for redevelopment works.

The proposed project will include serviced apartments, offices and retail space.

CDL group chief executive Sherman Kwek revealed at the group’s first-half results briefing on Thursday that CDL is looking at potentially bringing in a financial partner for one or more of the components of the Fuji Xerox Towers redevelopment.

This would help the group to keep its gearing at an optimal level. “It could actually end up being a fund-management initiative,” he added at the virtual event.

The group’s net gearing ratio, after factoring in fair value on investment properties, stood at 65 per cent as at end-June 2021, up from 62 per cent at end-2020.

Over the same period, interest cover ratio fell to 2.5 times from 3.4 times previously.

“We don’t really want to see our gearing increase that much more,” said Mr Kwek.

To this end, the group will also accelerate its capital recycling initiatives to free up more cash for new acquisitions and to lower its gearing to optimal levels.

It is eyeing prospects of restocking its land bank in Singapore’s luxury housing segment, which has been buzzing with deals amid price appreciation; the segment has also been drawing wealthy foreigners.

The en bloc sale market would be a source for buying land catering to this segment.

As for China, where CDL has its problematic investment in Sincere Property Group, and where Beijing recently imposed a slew of regulations on the property, tech and education sectors, Mr Kwek said that CDL would “still need to pay close attention to and deepen our presence” in the world’s most populous nation.

This would entail exploring “new economy assets” such as logistics facilities and data centres, but with a lot of caution – because the prices of these assets have increased significantly and there are also many established players in these fields. Despite the slowdown in the global hotel scene due to pandemic-related travel curbs, the group has been selectively refurbishing its assets.

In the US, the group welcomed its first M Social property in the Big Apple. The former Novotel Times Square, closed since March last year, reopened as the M Social New York in May this year. The property is within walking distance of Broadway, Central Park and Fifth Avenue.

In its first full month of operation in June, the hotel registered a healthy occupancy of 87 per cent.

The group will also introduce its first M Social in Europe. Works are ongoing at the Millennium Opera Paris. The 163-room hotel is expected to reopen next month, rebranded as the M Social Paris Opera. The property is in Boulevard Haussmann in the Opéra district.