SPH unit submits joint bid to manage S'pore Expo

Sphere Exhibits, Unusual Development said to have offered $60m for 10-year contract

A unit of Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) has thrown its hat into the ring for a government tender to become the managers of Singapore Expo for 10 years from next year.

This puts it in a three-cornered fight involving incumbent SingEx Venues and a unit of Singapore entrepreneur Ron Sim's V3 Group.

It is understood that SPH's wholly owned events arm Sphere Exhibits and concert organiser Unusual Development jointly submitted a $60 million proposal for the 10-year contract for Singapore's largest exhibition venue.

In another corner is the $60 million bid by Futuristic Store Fixtures, of which Mr Sim acquired a majority stake last year as part of his V3 Group, which also owns brands such as Osim and TWG.

According to industry sources, sports and entertainment company AEG has partnered Futuristic, and that other Singapore brands such as Razer could be on board.

Mr Sim declined to comment on this.

US-headquartered AEG owns arenas globally, such as O2, and has a festival and exhibition arm called AEG Live. It has promoted shows here, such as the Ed Sheeran concert.

  • SINGAPORE EXPO

  • 10 Number of exhibition halls at the Singapore Expo.

    600

    Number of events held there each year.

    6m

    Average number of visitors each year.

They are up against incumbent SingEx Venues and its $50 million proposal. It is a unit of Temasek Holdings, and its 20-year contract to manage Singapore Expo expires at the end of this year.

Mr Sim told The Business Times that he has been mulling over such a bid for at least a couple of years, prompted by his years of attending expos in Europe and Japan.

"An expo shouldn't just be a leasing space; it should be engaging, entertaining and experiential," he said.

He believes that his entrepreneurial chops can give him the fresh eyes to elevate Singapore Expo's global standing.

He declined to answer more questions about the specifics of the tender or his proposal due to a non-disclosure agreement signed by all bidders.

Unusual Development declined comment, while SingEx said: "We look forward to the results of the tender."

SPH also declined comment.

The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) is currently evaluating proposals for the tender, which closed on Feb 14.

The appointed party will operate and manage Singapore Expo between 2019 and 2028, said Mr Chew Tiong Heng, executive director for infrastructure planning and management at STB.

"We are looking for an operator that is able to market and operate the Expo at a high standard, comparable with other leading international meetings, incentives, conferencing, exhibitions venues, and be a critical player in the next phase of growth in Singapore's exhibitions and conferences sector," he said.

Experts believe this could herald a new direction for Singapore Expo, which has 108,000 sq m of indoor space.

The venuecomprises 10 exhibition halls and hosts around 600 events and an average of six million visitors each year.

Opened in 1999, it was designed as a space for mega trade shows.

But Singapore has since come up against competition from venues in China, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, said Mr Edward Liu, group managing director of Conference and Exhibition Management Services.

The business travel and meetings, incentive travel, conventions and exhibition visitor arrivals slipped 5 per cent to 1.75 million visitors in the first three quarters of last year.

"The landscape is changing rather fast, and if Singapore is to remain a key player, we may have to reinvent ourselves," said Mr Liu.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 25, 2018, with the headline 'SPH unit submits joint bid to manage S'pore Expo'. Print Edition | Subscribe