Woodlands executive condominium site draws top bid of $216m

A CLOSELY-WATCHED tender for an executive condominium (EC) site in Woodlands attracted an unexpectedly high bid of $216 million yesterday, in a seven- way tussle among developers.

This is the first EC tender to close since cooling measures were unveiled in January. They include restrictions on ECs, a public-private housing hybrid.

Since then, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan has given hints that he may relook ECs, which have been achieving far bigger resale gains than Housing Board flats.

On Sunday, Mr Khaw said his bugbear is that EC owners still receive government subsidies despite making huge profits. ECs start as public housing but become fully private after 10 years.

The top bid for the latest site, at Woodlands Avenues 5 and 6, came from China-based Qingjian Realty (South Pacific) Group and works out to $341.2 per sq ft per plot ratio (psf ppr). The 2.1ha plot is expected to yield 590 homes.

Analysts said the tender results signalled developers' confidence in the Woodlands area and in ECs, which were reintroduced to the market in October 2010.

"Developers are still placing their bets on the... future potential of Woodlands Regional Centre," said CBRE Research associate director Desmond Sim.

The top bid came in at the high end of market expectations of between $300 psf ppr and $340 psf ppr.

It was 9 per cent higher than the next bid of $198 million, or $312.8 psf ppr, from Bellevue Properties, a unit of property giant City Developments.

The lowest bid was $158.89 million, or $251 psf ppr, from Chip Eng Seng unit CEL EC Development.

Qingjian's bid was also above the top bids for two adjacent plots.

The first, now Forestville, sold for $318 psf ppr last May and has yet to be launched. The second, now Twin Fountains, sold for $302 psf ppr last October and was launched last month.

Woodlands has more than 59,000 dwelling units. It is larger than either Punggol or Sengkang where more EC sites have been sold and developed, Jones Lang LaSalle Singapore research director Ong Teck Hui noted.

After this, Woodlands will have four ECs including La Casa, where units were resold at a median price of $778 psf this year.

Analysts had earlier expected restrictions imposed on ECs as part of the January cooling measures to dampen demand. These included capping unit sizes and requiring developers to wait at least 15 months before they are allowed to launch the EC project.

The Woodlands EC site is expected to have a selling price of $780 psf to $830 psf.