Billionaire Li Ka-shing’s Singapore property joint venture may seek more land in the city’s downtown to replicate its latest development that attracted global banks including Standard Chartered Plc and Macquarie Group Ltd.
The venture, made up of Li’s Cheung Kong Holdings Ltd., Hongkong Land Holdings Ltd. and Keppel Land Ltd., developed the Marina Bay Financial Centre for about S$4.5 billion ($3.6 billion), it said. The shareholders may be interested in projects close to the existing development, said Warren Bishop, chief executive officer of Raffles Quay Asset Management Pte, which is owned by and manages the venture’s Singapore properties.
“Given the right space, the developers will probably be keen to bid on some of those spaces,” Bishop said in an interview at its Marina Bay Financial Centre in Singapore yesterday. “The current perspective of the developers is to be central business district-based, if possible grow on this development here, so adjacent sites within this vicinity would be the most attractive.”
The development is part of Singapore’s effort to build a new downtown extension to boost its offering of office space and draw the world’s biggest financial services companies. The property has also attracted tenants including Barclays Plc and Nomura Holdings Inc. as more global banks relocated regional and global functions to Singapore.
Singapore’s move to open up its financial sector after the 1997 Asian financial crisis helped boost demand for office space, especially in the business district, CBRE Group Inc. said.
The area known as Marina Bay is a 360-hectare (890-acre) development area created from reclaiming land off the sea fronting the banking district, and now includes Las Vegas Sands Corp.’s Marina Bay Sands casino-resort with a convention center that’s able to accommodate 45,000 delegates. Land reclamation played a prominent role in the growth of Singapore’s central business district, according to CBRE.
Monthly prime office rents averaged S$10.60 a square foot over the past five years, according to the property consulting company, lower than the peak of S$18.80 in mid-2008.
European companies account for 51 percent of the space occupied in the Marina Bay area, followed by 22 percent from Asia and 20 percent from North America, according to CBRE’s data.
Rents in Marina Bay have declined about 10 percent to S$10 a square foot from a year earlier, Moray Armstrong, executive director of office services at CBRE in Singapore, said in an interview. The European debt crisis may affect the office market over the next six to nine months, he said.
“The Marina Bay area will ride the cycles both up and down,” Armstrong said. “The key challenge right now is that the banks are out of the market and I think that could persist for a reasonable period of time.”
Raffles Quay Asset Management was set up to manage One Raffles Quay and the Marina Bay Financial Centre, which together account for 4.5 million square feet (418,000 square meters) of prime office and retail space in the new business district.
Bishop, who took over as CEO of Raffles Quay Asset Management in April and was previously based in Hong Kong, is focusing his efforts on leasing the remaining office space at Marina Bay Financial Centre and selling luxury apartment units at its Marina Bay Suites.
Marina Bay Financial Centre signed Clifford Capital, backed by Temasek Holdings Pte, and international law firm Clyde & Co. as new tenants, Bishop said. Raffles Quay Asset Management has leased more than 70 percent, or 890,000 square feet, of its third office tower at the development.
“People here are focusing on Asia for growth and Singapore is very much centered as the Southeast Asian regional financial, legal, commodities hub,” Bishop said. “Everyone is acknowledging the effects of the Eurozone, but the fact is Asia is still in growth, which is a key factor. Other economies in the region are not suffering like Europe and America are.”