Thursday, February 5, 2009

Gillman Heights: Final Bid By 10 Owners To End Transaction

Source : The Straits Times, Feb 4, 2009

A LAST-DITCH attempt by 10 minority owners of units in former HUDC estate Gillman Heights to stop its collective sale was heard by the Court of Appeal yesterday.

Gillman Heights owners stand to reap about $870,000 to $950,000 per unit from the sale. -- PHOTO: CAPITALAND

This appeal is the last recourse for the owners who have fought the $548 million sale at every turn since it was approved by the Strata Titles Board (STB) in 2007. Some owners had appealed against STB's decision previously in the High Court, but this was dismissed by Justice Choo Han Teck last June.

The fate of the 607-unit, 99-year leasehold estate at Alexandra Road will be sealed today, as the judges are due to make a ruling at 4.30pm.

Senior Counsel Michael Hwang, engaged by law firm Tan Chin Hoe & Co to act for the 10 minority owners, argued yesterday that collective sale laws introduced in 1999 by Parliament had not been intended to cover HUDC estates.

Another point of contention at the hearing was the date used to calculate the age of the development. This determines if the estate needed an 80 or 90 per cent level of consent to be sold en bloc.

Currently, 80 per cent is needed if the development is more than 10 years old, 90 per cent if it is less than that.

Mr Hwang argued in the packed courtroom that because Gillman Heights obtained its certificate of statutory completion only in 2002, it needed 90 per cent. Currently, about 87.54 per cent of owners have signed the collective sale agreement.

Representing the majority owners, Mr Quek Mong Hua of Lee & Lee said, however, that it was an 'indisputable fact' that Gillman Heights was completed in 1984, making it more than 22 years old in 2007.

Senior Counsel Andre Yeap of Rajah & Tann, acting for the purchasers - CapitaLand, Hotel Properties and two private funds - argued that as homes in HUDC estates, upon privatisation, become strata-titled units, they are covered by the 1999 laws on collective sales.

Analysts that The Straits Times spoke to said the $548 million price tag is 'more attractive now than before' given the current market situation.

Owners stand to reap about $870,000 to $950,000 per unit from the sale. Chesterton Suntec International's Mr Colin Tan said that the current market favours the sellers, while buyers CapitaLand might have to put redevelopment plans on hold.

For some owners at the estate, however, it was never a question of money. One said at the earlier High Court hearing: 'The price was never our problem...You can't find another place like this.'

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