Future of the Singapore Flyer still up in the air, almost one year later

Uncertainty of ownership leaves some tenants in a spin; others stay hopeful

A Seafood Paradise employee standing outside the restaurant near the Singapore Flyer during lunch hour last Friday. Some tenants say business has been slow.
A Seafood Paradise employee standing outside the restaurant near the Singapore Flyer during lunch hour last Friday. Some tenants say business has been slow. PHOTO: DESMOND LUI FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES

Almost a year after the financial woes of the Singapore Flyer came to light, there is still no buyer for the $240 million ferris wheel.

Yet while some tenants are worried about its future, others trust that the iconic attraction, which opened in 2008, will be able to find its feet again.

In May last year, the company behind the Singapore Flyer - the world's tallest at 165m until the 167m High Roller observation wheel opened in Las Vegas in March - went bankrupt and was placed under receivership.

Further uncertainty was stoked when it was reported last week that the British company behind the 135m London Eye wheel, Merlin Entertainments Group, said it was no longer in talks to purchase the Flyer.

However, the Flyer's receiver - corporate recovery firm Ferrier Hodgson - told The Sunday Times last Friday that Merlin was just one of many interested buyers. Mr Tim Reid, a partner at Ferrier Hodgson, added that an announcement "will be made shortly".

Some tenants at the Flyer have complained about the uncertainty. Mr Parmod Kumar Verma, regional general manager for food and beverage firm SSP, said: "The receiver doesn't take decisions to extend our lease. When we ask them something, there are hardly any replies.

"I don't think we will want to stay on, unless a buyer comes in and tells us what the Flyer's future is and what they are going to do."

SSP runs O'Learys Sports Bar & Grill, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and Robert's Coffee.

Mr Verma also said business from last October to April this year at Popeyes and Robert's at the Flyer fell about 20 per cent, from a year ago.

But Mr Ali Abbas, director for sales and marketing for Royal Palm and Bayview Tandoor, said business at his two dining outlets has been stable for the past year. "The Flyer and its venue has a lot of potential," he said, pointing out that many couples looking for wedding venues like the view of the city skyline, which the Flyer offers.

Mr Satish Krishnan, executive director of the XD Theater motion simulation ride, is similarly upbeat even though business fell 20 to 25 per cent from last year.

"The Flyer is an iconic structure in Singapore. It's on postcards. I believe in it," Mr Krishnan said, adding that receiver Ferrier Hodgson has been very transparent.

A sales executive from local retailer Nankai said that while sales at its Flyer store - which sells exotic leather bags and accessories - may have dipped 40 per cent from a year ago, the shop is staying put. "We are proud of the Flyer," she said.

Singaporean Wang Jia Lin, a finance executive who was having lunch at the Flyer's food court last Friday, liked the area as the environment was nice and queues for food were short.

But the 33-year-old said he did not have much incentive to take a ride on the Flyer for a third time. "It's the same experience, and there's nothing new."


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