Robert Kuok’s daughter buying bungalow in Belmont Park GCB Area

Kuok Hui Kwong, chairman of Shangri-La Asia and daughter of Malaysian tycoon Robert Kuok, is buying a bungalow in Belmont Road for S$43.5 million.

This works out to S$1,430 per square foot, based on the freehold land area of 30,420 sq ft in the Belmont Park Good Class Bungalow (GCB) Area.

Ms Kuok, who is about 40, is understood to be a Malaysian citizen and Singapore permanent resident (PR).

When contacted, Singapore Land Authority (SLA) said that in the past six years, five permanent residents have been granted approval to buy a landed residential property in a GCB Area because of their “exceptional economic contributions” in Singapore.

Of these five cases, two involved properties more than 15,000 sq ft in land area.

The five PRs account for 2.7 per cent of the total of 185 of bungalow deals in GCBAs sealed since July 1, 2012, based on an analysis of URA Realis caveat data by List Sotheby’s International Realty’s (List SIR).

Bungalows in the 39 gazetted GCB Areas are the most prestigious form of landed housing in Singapore, with strict planning conditions stipulated by the Urban Redevelopment Authority to preserve their exclusivity and low-rise character.

Since the second half of 2012, the government has generally not granted approval to foreigners to buy a landed home in a GCB Area. SLA’s spokesman said that landed residential properties in Singapore “are generally the primary preserve of Singapore citizens”.

“A foreign person who wishes to purchase a landed residential property is required to seek approval under the Residential Property Act.”

On mainland Singapore, the minimum criterion is that he or she must be a PR. In addition, each applicant is assessed on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration factors such as his or her economic contribution in Singapore.

“In general, on mainland Singapore, PRs are allowed to buy only landed residential properties which do not exceed 15,000 sq ft in land area, and which are not within a GCB Area,” said SLA.

An applicant wishing to buy a landed property within a GCB Area and/or exceeding 15,000 sq ft in land area will have to meet more exacting qualifying criteria, including that of having made “exceptional economic contributions” in Singapore.

Sentosa Cove remains the only place in Singapore where a non-PR foreigner may buy a landed home, although this is still subject to government approval. The waterfront housing precinct is an exception as it was developed specially to attract influential and high-net-worth individuals to plant a stake in Singapore.

Any foreigner granted approval to purchase a landed home, whether on mainland Singapore or on Sentosa Cove, can use the property for owner-occupation only.

And foreigners may own only one landed residential property in Singapore.

Ms Kuok took over the chairmanship of Hong Kong-listed Shangri-La Asia in 2017 from Beau Kuok, her brother, who is Mr Robert Kuok’s eldest son. Ms Kuok is also an executive director in the group.

Based on information on the company website, she was formerly managing director and chief executive of SCMP Group (now known as Great Wall Pan Asia Holdings). She has a Bachelor’s degree in East Asian Studies from Harvard University.

Shangri-La Asia owns the Shangri-La Hotel along Orange Grove Road, which is the venue each year for the International Institute of Strategic Studies’ Shangri-La Dialogue, the world’s most high-profile defence and security meeting. It is the only hotel in Singapore with a presidential suite that meets all the security requirements of the president of the United States of America. President Donald Trump stayed there during his recent summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The group also owns the nearby Shangri-La Apartments and Shangri-La Residences, as well as Shangri-La’s Rasa Sentosa Resort & Spa, Singapore; the group also has stakes in Hotel Jen Tanglin Singapore, Tanglin Mall and Tanglin Place.

The house that Ms Kuok is buying in Belmont Road is understood to be more than than 15 years old; market watchers said they would not be surprised if she redevelops the house. List SIR’s analysis of URA Realis caveats data as of Friday showed that in the first seven months of this year, there have been 20 bungalow transactions in GCB Areas totalling S$494.1 million, compared with S$888.55 million in the whole of last year.

Newsman Realty managing director K H Tan said that interest in the GCB market seems to have been reignited; there had been a lull immediately following the July 5 announcement of the measures to cool the property market.

Mr Tan said: “”In the past week, we are starting to see requests for viewings again. And we even have some potential buyers making pretty reasonable offers.”

Leong Boon Hoe, chief operating officer of List SIR Singapore, said 17 caveats were lodged from January to June 2018, and three in July 2018. “Based on current sentiments, the total number of GCBs sold in second half of 2018 is unlikely to match the number for the first half. For H2 2018, the volume is likely to remain thin, satisfying fundamental demand.

“We could see a widening of price expectations between buyers and sellers, which needs to be bridged for deals to be struck.”

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