Asia’s mini-Monaco by 2015?

By the time the Sentosa Cove land parcels are fully sold by the year-end, slices of Singapore’s Southern Islands could be up for sale to the world’s richest men looking for a mini-Monaco in Asia.

According to documents obtained by Today from a Singapore Tourism Board (STB) presentation, the tourism body is planning to launch a Request For Concepts (RFC) for the cluster of seven islands by the first quarter of this year, and a Request For Proposals by the second quarter of the year.

The Southern Islands resort and residential development should be completed by 2015, in line with Singapore’s tourism vision to develop the southern waterfront into a lifestyle resort attraction.

Said a property analyst familiar with the process: “If the net worth of Sentosa Cove residents is between $50 million and $100 million, the net worth of the Southern Island residents will be into the billions.”

The desired outcome of the process is to develop the currently rustic Southern Islands — Kusu, Sister’s, Lazarus, St John’s, Tekukor, Kias and Rengat — into an “aspirational getaway destination” that will enhance Singapore’s reputation as a premium destination for leisure and business visitors, said an industry source.

The Government is willing to consider the development of up to 400 units on the 115.6 ha site, with 100 of these in an exclusive resort, and the remaining 300 as residential plots, he added.

A draft of the RFC obtained by Today stated the resort — which should offer services such as spas, fine dining and health and fitness facilities — will probably be situated on the reclaimed areas of Rengat, Kias and northern Lazarus Islands. These three islands have already been connected by landfills as early as three years ago.

However, the probability of having a third integrated resort with casino on the Southern Island looks slim.

Merrill Lynch gaming analyst Sean Monaghan cited accessibility as one key obstacle to the building of an IR on the Southern Islands.

“It would be a lot easier to expand the existing IRs 10 years from now than to build a new one where accessibility is so limited. And while you may be targeting the high-end market for the Southern Islands, it would be hard to top the multi-billion dollar investments at Marina Bay and Sentosa, which would also have exclusive facilities for high rollers,” he said.

Noted one gaming analyst: “There are only so many high rollers in the world. Only in Europe do you see casinos catering solely to the super rich.”

According to another source, the Government had studied the feasibility of developing the Southern Islands around five years ago. The Southern Islands had originally been set aside by the Government together with Sentosa to be developed into an integrated resort — but feedback from the ground then was that developers were not so keen on developing Sentosa together with the Southern Islands.

However, with the strong signs of growth in the high-end market here — and the possibility of hosting international events such as the F1 races — analysts think that there will be strong interest from resort developers for the Southern Islands.

CapitaLand — which had taken part in both integrated resort bids — said that it is “interested in the integrated leisure, entertainment and conventions business in China, India and other Asian countries”.

“Should Singapore present a good opportunity, we will study it,” said the spokesperson.

But Mr Mark Advent, chairman of Sentosa IR hopeful Eighth Wonder, said: “I have already told the STB that if a third IR licence becomes available for the Southern Islands, we would be interested in bidding. But not if there is no gaming opportunity.”

The eventual developer of the Southern Island will have to run their own transportation to the Southern Islands for visitors. While the uber rich can sail there in their private yachts, the island-hopping masses will probably have to take a ferry from a new jetty that Sentosa Leisure Group is looking to develop between Siloso and Palawan beaches.

One Degree 15 Marina Club chairman Arthur Tay told Today that as of the third quarter of this year, there will be a Customs, Immigration and Quarantine facility at the yacht facility to process yachts entering and leaving Singapore.

Helicopter transfers are also under consideration. The developer will also have to be mindful of the islands’ ecosystems, and maintain public access to the foreshores of the islands, except where there are private waterways. They will also be encouraged to integrate the religious structures on Kusu Island — such as a Chinese temple and a Malay shrine — with the rest of the development.

Other challenges that the developer will have to contend with include the islands’ proximity to international shipping lanes.

One observer said: “These islands are not set in the Pacific Ocean with unobstructed sea views. Developers will really have to come up with some brilliant idea to make the development unique and worthwhile.”

Source: TODAY, 19 January 2007

Join The Discussion

Compare listings