CDL's Aloysius Lee gears up for next challenge after steering S$3 billion project in Singapore

Aloysius Lee has been busy promoting the South Beach integrated development in Singapore, but is now readying for his next challenge as headof CDL's Millennium & Copthorne Hotels arm

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 January, 2015, 6:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 January, 2015, 6:46pm

Five years ago, Aloysius Lee Tse-sang returned to Singapore from Hong Kong after serving as chief executive of South Beach Consortium, a joint venture formed by City Developments Ltd (CDL) and other parties to head a S$3 billion (HK$17.3 billion) hotel-office-residential-retail development project.

From March, he will be the group's next chief executive in the London-listed hotel arm Millennium & Copthorne Hotels to oversee a portfolio of 120 hotels worldwide. Before joining CDL, Lee (pictured) was the managing director of Shui On Land and also held other senior positions at PCCW, Star Cruises and Singapore Airlines. He was the former chairman of Abacus Hong Kong, the Innovation Marketing Task Force-Singapore Tourism Board, Hong Kong Association of Travel Agents, as well as deputy chairman of the Travel Industry Council, Hong Kong.

The market has been saying that Nan Fung group was once involved in the South Beach development in Singapore. Is that true?

Nan Fung was the finance provider for the project at one point during the global financial crisis in late 2008 and 2009.

What are the other investors behind the mega development?

In 2007, a consortium of CDL, Dubai World's Istithmar Beach Road FZE and Elad Singapore Group won the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Singapore's tender for the 3.5 hectare site at Beach Road, which is close to the Orchard Road tourist hot spot, for S$1.68 billion. During the financial crisis in 2008, the development was held back as the two partners wished to exit their investment. So, Nan Fung was brought in to provide financing. A year or two later, the Malaysian IOI group bought out the shares from the two previous partners. Through a restructuring, the Nan Fung loan was paid off. CDL currently holds 50.1 per cent in the project, while IOI owns the remainder.

Will CDL seek further cooperation with Nan Fung?

It was the first time we had a business relationship with Nan Fung. Nan Fung is very active in Singapore and it has a few property projects there. Yes, we are still looking for opportunities for further cooperation.

South Beach development will also include the restoration of four conservation buildings. What are they?

Apart from the construction of two 34 and 45-storey towers, four heritage buildings will be restored and turned into usable space within the contemporary office, retail entertainment, hotel and residential complex being built on the 39,959 square metre site. The four conservation buildings consist of three 1930s army blocks and the former non-commissioned officers' club built in 1952.

Besides the hotel, will the group offer the Grade A office and residential units for lease or sale in Hong Kong?

The 500,000 square feet Grade A office was the first to be offered for leasing last year. Nearly 90 per cent of the space has been leased to multinational corporations.

What are the rental rates? Are there any tenants from Hong Kong and the mainland?

In Singapore, overall rental for Grade A office is S$9 to S$12 per square foot per month. There are no tenants from Hong Kong or from the mainland.

When will the 190 residential units be released on the market?

After the launch of the office space, we are now focusing in marketing the hotel. The launch date for the residential units has not yet been finalised.

How does South Beach hotel distinguish itself from other hotels in Singapore?

It is a contemporary-inspired hotel designed by Philippe Starck. We have lots of different designer rooms and suites. For instance, we have a dedicated ladies' floor designed for female guests seeking exclusivity and luxury, with specially tailored amenities. We also have a No-Frills ballroom. Our guests who reserves the ballroom can name it whatever they like.

After Hong Kong, will you continue doing the road show for South Beach in other countries?

We will continue to India and Australia to meet agents to promote the hotel.

As you will be the next chief executive of Millennium & Copthorne Hotels, what is the company doing?

Millennium & Copthorne Hotels is a hospitality and hotel ownership group with 120 hotels in 80 destinations in countries such as France, Italy, the United States, China and New Zealand.

You previously worked for Hong Kong-listed developer Shui On Land. What are the differences between a Singapore and a Hong Kong developer?

Shui On Land is a Hong Kong company but it focuses its investment in mainland cities, where developers are going for mega-sized projects. But for a Singaporean developer, they are more focused on the details and design of projects due to the scale, which is relatively small when compared with China.