Minority retort

Horizon Towers saga revived as opposing owners appeal against sale order

JUST when some prayed it was all over, the owners of Horizon Towers could be in for more sleepless nights – exactly a month after the Strata Titles Board granted the sale order for the contentious $500-million deal.

That decision would have brought a closure to the long-running saga, but for unhappiness among minority owners with the ruling.

On Thursday and Friday, these dissenting owners filed appeals against the board’s decision, just meeting the one-month deadline to do so.

Lawyers representing all three groups of minority owners, who had contested the deal, told Today they had submitted the originating summons to the High Court. But they were tight-lipped about what the grounds of appeal were, as they were preparing the affidavits which have to be submitted in a week’s time.

Today understands, however, that some minority owners were still sore over the price of the deal and what they alleged was a breach of duties on the sale committee’s part in not securing a better deal.

Sale committee chairman Lim Seng Hoo did not relish news of the appeal. “We were unsure if the minority owners would appeal, so we didn’t expect it. But we felt we would cross the bridge when we got there,” he said.

On the prospect of another protracted legal tussle, Mr Lim said: “Litigation is not something anyone is pleased to be involved in but unfortunately, this seems to be the trend for en bloc sales in Singapore.”

The lawyers for consortium Horizon Partners Pte Limited (HPPL), which is buying over the site, declined comment as they had not been served the legal papers.

The en bloc process for Horizon Towers began in May 2006 when a sale committee was formed to collect signatures for the Collective Sale Agreement.

A deal was sealed eight months later but since then, has been fraught with controversies. Some majority owners tried to back out of the sale, after witnessing how neighbouring properties such as Grangeford revised their reserve price upwards to reflect the booming property market.

At the height of the wrangle last year, the majority owners managed to stave off a $1-billion lawsuit HPPL had brought against them for loss of profits, when they successfully appealed against the board’s original decision in August to throw out the deal over technical irregularities.

Back then, the High Court overruled the board and sent the case back to it, which culminated in the approval of the sale order.

Today understands that the minority owners would have to apply for a court injunction to halt the sale which, as things stand, should be completed by the first week of March.

And it remains to be seen if HPPL will revive its lawsuit against the majority owners – it will be withdrawn only upon the completion of the sale.

Whatever the outcome of the latest appeal, the case can still be brought to the Court of Appeal, which will be the final avenue for the condominium’s owners, said lawyer Philip Fong.

Added Mr Fong, who represents some of the minority owners: “There must be a resolution at some point in time.”

Source : Weekend Today – 5 Jan 2008

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