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First a bungalow in sky, then one facing heritage site

29 Jul, 2019

Fresh from his world headline-grabbing purchase of Singapore's priciest and biggest penthouse at Guoco Tower in Tanjong Pagar, billionaire inventor James Dyson is making waves again.

This time, he is set to snap up another of Singapore's most coveted trophy assets - good class bungalows, or GCBs - in an ultra-posh locale in Cluny Road facing the Botanic Gardens, Singapore's first Unesco World Heritage Site, The Straits Times has learnt. Mr Dyson, 72, is believed to have initiated the purchase of his second Singapore property, coming soon after he bought the super penthouse at GuocoLand's Wallich Residence in the central business district for $73.8 million.

The modern bungalow features a cantilevered spiral stairway, landscaped gardens, an infinity pool and an indoor waterfall. A caveat was lodged for 50 Cluny Road on July 3 showing the buyer of the 1,402.8 sqm freehold bungalow to be Mr Dyson, a British citizen and Singapore permanent resident.

Based on documents obtained by The Straits Times, the controller of housing granted approval on July 2 for Mr Dyson to buy the property, after the option to purchase was granted to him on June 3.

Since the second half of 2012, the Government has been more stringent in granting approval to foreigners buying landed homes in a GCB Area. To win approval for this, foreigners including Singapore permanent residents must have made exceptional economic contributions in Singapore. They can use the landed property only for their own occupation.

Just months back, Mr Dyson announced that his technology company - known for its bagless vacuum cleaners and hair dryers - will be moving its headquarters from Britain to Singapore. His upcoming electric car will also be manufactured in Singapore.

As a Singapore PR, Mr Dyson likely has to pay an additional buyer's stamp duty (ABSD) of 5 % on his first property, the penthouse at Wallich Residence, and 15 % for his second in Cluny Road. The purchases give him a "bungalow in the sky" and one on the ground. A foreign buyer who is not a PR is subject to 20 % ABSD.

Documents reveal that the seller is Mr Jason Lee Boon Leng, a director of developer Forte Global. Mr Lee helmed the JForte Group of companies, which ran a popular karaoke chain K Box Entertainment Group before selling it to a Japanese group in March 2014.

Mr Lee is also son-in-law of Madam Mary Chia, founder of the well-known beauty outlets for women. Suki Sushi, the company he runs with his wife, Ms Ho Yow Ping, operates Japanese restaurants in Singapore under various brands including Momiji, Nihon Mura Kaiten and Sakura. When contacted on Thursday, Mr Lee declined to comment. Industry sources say Mr Lee was listing the bungalow at above $3,000 psf or $45 million.

The most expensive GCB in terms of price per sq ft of land area is currently a bungalow in Jervois Hill that sold in June 2018 at $2,729.52 psf, or $41.2 million. It was sold to the daughter of Mr Alan Chong, founder of Wah Loon Engineering. In June this year, another bungalow in Belmont Road sold for $39.8 million or S$2,653 per sq ft, to Ms Angela Loh Moo Cheng, the former wife of Centurion Corporation director David Loh.

Said Mr Samuel Eyo, managing director of Lighthouse Property Consultants: "Based on recent transactions for GCBs in Belmont Road and Jervois Hill, I would not be surprised if the bungalow at 50 Cluny Road fetches the same or even higher psf given that it is sitting on elevated ground with unblocked views of the Botanic Gardens, and is next to Nassim Road." Nassim Road is considered Singapore's top GCB Area because of the scarcity of properties available for sale there.

JLL senior director Carin Puah noted that the land area of 50 Cluny Road is similar to that of the Jervois Hill bungalow. But the Cluny Road property may sell for more than $41 million as its location is "much better than Belmont Road and Jervois Hill, is highly elevated, and within the sought-after GCB cluster at Nassim, Dalvey and White House Park", she said.

Bungalows in the 39 gazetted GCB Areas are the most prestigious form of landed housing in Singapore, with strict planning conditions stipulated by the Urban Redevelopment Authority to preserve their exclusivity and low-rise character.

As of the first quarter this year, the Urban Redevelopment Authority reported that there are 73,105 private landed homes (all types of tenure) in Singapore. Landed housing made up barely 5 % of all housing here.

Adapted From The Straits Times, July 25 2019