Trustees of Beauty World Food Centre ask court for power to proceed with $17.5m collective sale

Beauty World Food Centre consists of 41 food stalls but the title of the property is contained in a single strata certificate.
Beauty World Food Centre consists of 41 food stalls but the title of the property is contained in a single strata certificate.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The three trustees of the Beauty World Food Centre have gone to court asking to be given the power to sell the property, after a potential $17.5 million collective sale hit a snag with four stall owners opposing the move.

Their High Court application was heard in chambers on Tuesday (Oct 10) but adjourned for further hearing on Oct 24 as the judge wanted more information about the transaction.

The food centre, which occupies the fourth floor of the strata-titled Beauty World Centre in Bukit Timah, comprises 41 food stalls but the title of the property is contained in a single strata certificate.

Last year, through broker Propnex Realty, a potential buyer expressed interest to purchase the centre, built in the 1980s, for $17.5 million.

According to court documents seen by The Straits Times, the option fee of $175,000 was distributed to the stall owners but four of them, who own six different stalls between them, rejected the money because they were against the sale.

As consensus was not reached, the transaction was put off until the court has decided whether the three trustees have the power to sell the food centre.

The three - Mr Lai Chong Lee, Mr Tan Kock Meng and Mr Tan Han Soong - were appointed by the management committee of the Beauty World Centre Merchants Association in 2009 to replace the original two trustees.

The trust arrangement originated in 1998, when the various foodstall operators wanted to buy over their respective stalls.

As there were too many intended buyers, lawyers handling the transaction devised a scheme for two trustees to buy the property on behalf of all the operators.

The intention then was for the centre to be subdivided into 41 lots, but this was eventually aborted for technical reasons.

In a joint affidavit, the trustees, who are also stall operators, said most of the owners are in their late 60s or 70s, and wish to retire from the business, which is getting increasingly stressful.

They said that in the last few years, most of the stall owners are in favour of a collective sale, as the only financially feasible way to retire is by converting their investment into cash.

The trustees said they managed to find an interested buyer in February last year, who was prepared to pay for an option to purchase the property despite being aware that not all the stall owners were in favour of the sale.

Through their lawyer, Mr Jimmy Yap, the trustees asked the court to enable them to go ahead with the intended sale, even though trust documents neither spell out nor imply that they have the power to sell the property.