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Billionaire Wee Cho Yaw’s UOL To Buy Singapore Residential Site For $400 Million Amid Robust Demand

A joint venture between UOL Group and Singapore Land—both controlled by billionaire banker and developer Wee Cho Yaw—won the auction for a residential condominium in the prime Bukit Timah district in western Singapore with a bid of S$550.80 million ($408 million).

UOL said it plans to build 200 spacious residential units on the site of the freehold Watten Estate Condominium, which current has 104 townhouse and apartment units that were built in 1983. The property, which sits on 220,241 square feet (20,461 square meters) elevated land, is strategically located near prestigious schools such as Nanyang Primary and Raffles Girls’ Primary, it said.

“The acquisition is a timely replenishment for UOL Group as most of our projects are substantially sold,” Jesline Goh, chief investment and asset officer at UOL, said in a statement.

UOL holds an 80% stake in United Venture Development, which will redevelop Watten Estate, while Singapore Land—partly owned by Philippine billionaire Lance Gokongwei’s JG Summit—owns the remaining 20% stake. Residential development is one bright sport for UOL, with sales rising 81% to S$687.5 million in the first half of the year, bolstered by progressive revenue recognition from its projects.

With robust residential sales, UOL has been actively replenishing its land bank. In April, the company won a state land auction when it submitted the highest bid of S$381.4 million for a 99-year leasehold residential site in the northern Singapore town of Ang Mo Kio. The property right next to the Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park was hotly contested, drawing a total of 15 bids.

The strong demand for new residential sites isn’t surprising considering the buoyant demand for housing in the city-state even as Singapore continues to battle the pandemic amid a recent flare-up in Covid-19 infections. Developers sold over 4,200 housing units in the three months ended September, up 23% from the previous quarter, as prices climbed to record level, government data showed.

One the biggest property developers in Singapore, UOL is controlled by veteran banker Wee Cho Yaw, 92, chairman emeritus of United Overseas Bank, the nation’s third-largest bank by assets. The bank was founded by his father Wee Khiang Cheng in 1935 as United Chinese Bank. With a net worth of $6.8 billion, Wee ranked No. 9 on the list of Singapore’s 50 Richest that was published in August.

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