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SPH to build upmarket condo in Thomson Rd - Sep 02, 2006 (ST)

BackSep 02, 2006

The Straits Times / The Business Times News On SPH

SPH to build upmarket condo in Thomson Rd

Property on prime freehold site could set benchmark for prices in the area.

By Bryan Lee
Sep 02, 2006
The Straits Times

SINGAPORE Press Holdings (SPH) is developing an upmarket condominium in Thomson Road that analysts say could set a new benchmark for prices in the area.

The property - to be built on a prime freehold site that currently houses SPH's Times Industrial Building - will be the first residential development for the media company.

The move, which has surprised some market watchers, is expected to yield higher profits than an outright sale of the plot, SPH said in a statement yesterday, and it will better enhance shareholder value.

'This is an opportunistic project in view of the sustained recovery in the property market and our prior experience in redeveloping The Paragon,' said SPH chairman Tony Tan.

'The current market sentiment bodes well for this project, and we are confident that there will be strong demand for the units at this development.'

The project is planned to be an upmarket 43-storey condominium with a gross floor area exceeding 660,000 sq ft. It will be launched next year and built on a relatively large site of about 240,000 sq ft.

It will consist of four-bedroom units, all offering panoramic views of the city and MacRitchie Reservoir, said Mr Peter Ow, executive director of Knight Frank, the project's marketing agent.

'Pricing won't be cheap because of the quality of furnishing that will be fitted,' said Mr Ow.

'I expect it to set a new benchmark for prices for the area.'

Property prices in the nearby Novena area have risen between 5 and 10 per cent in the past year, in line with a general recovery of Singapore's property market. Freehold apartments there now go for about $800 to $1,000 per sq ft, and analysts say prices will continue to rise next year.

Mrs Ong Choon Fah, executive director of property consultancy DTZ Debenham Tie Leung, said the project will probably be the tallest in the area. The nearby Thomson 800 is just 20 storeys.

'It's a good location that is convenient and near many amenities, including Novena Square and the Toa Payoh town centre,' she said.

Dr Tan said: 'The development will be in a class of its own, catering to the needs of affluent home buyers who value the fantastic view, surrounding greenery, lush landscaping and top-notch design.'

Made earlier this year, the decision to develop the Thomson site surprised some given SPH's previous sale of its landmark Times House site three years ago.

Also, until last December, the company was still considering offers for the site, which topped a list of non-core property assets it was looking to sell.

An SPH spokesman said the recovery of the property market is now much firmer than in 2003, when the company sold the Kim Seng Road plot to Marco Polo Developments.

The new development is a one-off project and the company, which has no other residential sites, is not planning to buy any more.

The Times Industrial Building was built in the 1960s and used to house the company's magazines business, which has since moved to a Genting Lane facility.

To build the condominium, SPH has incorporated a new unit called Times Development which will be chaired by director Sum Soon Lim.