Great Eagle revives plan for spin-off
Two years after aborting an attempt to spin off its commercial property arm, Great Eagle Holdings has renewed plans to seek a separate Hong Kong listing of its office and commercial projects.
The move comes as the Hong Kong office market is seen to be bottoming out and follows property arm spin-offs by other leading property developers.
Great Eagle has submitted its application to the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong.
The company would retain a majority stake in the enlarged office subsidiary after the listing, deputy chairman and managing director K.S. Lo said.
The funds raised through the spin-off are expected to be used to help finance the 1.8 million-square-foot Mongkok Urban Renewal Project, a joint venture with the Land Development Corporation.
Construction of the much-delayed project is expected to start soon.
The company first announced its plan to spin off the office and related commercial properties in December 1993.
In June 1994, the company put the plan on hold because of the volatile stock market.
Office properties have been a major income generator for Great Eagle, accounting for 60 per cent of its property portfolio by value, according to Merrill Lynch.
The American investment bank estimated that about 88 per cent of Great Eagle's 1996 rental income would come from the Hong Kong office market. The office sector had bottomed out, with supply receding and take-up recovering.
The company's money-spinner in the office sector is Citibank Plaza in Central where it owns about 880,000 sq ft of space after selling 66,200 sq ft to the Government.
The Grade A office plaza accounted for 74 per cent of the company's rental income and 47 per cent of its properties, Merrill Lynch said.
It was the main contributor to Great Eagle's rental income growth of 61 per cent in 1993, 134 per cent in 1994, and 12 per cent in 1995.
The company reported a 29.7 per cent rise in profits to $637.1 million in the six months to March 31.
In June, it said rents for Grade A commercial offices seemed to have bottomed out and stabilised, and vacancy rates of offices have been kept at low levels.
It said all of the restaurant and shopping arcade and about 96 per cent of the 968,000 sq ft of office space in Citibank Plaza held by the group's 69.5-per cent subsidiaries had been let.
About 93 per cent of the 50,000 sq ft of office space wholly owned by the group had been leased.
The spin-off of the office arm means the company can focus more on efforts to build up its hotel portfolio.
It recently spent GBP100 million (about HK$1.19 billion) to acquire the five-star Langham Hilton hotel in London.
Great Eagle, which owns the five-star Renaissance Hotel and the four-star Eaton Hotel, and is extending the 392-room Eaton by 80 rooms, has said it will continue to look for hotels in Hong Kong, China, and the United States.