|By Somporn Thapanachai, Bangkok Post, Thailand|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Aug. 2, 2005 - SINGAPORE -- After the successful launch of its top-end condominium project, The Met, in Bangkok, Singapore-based Hotel Properties Ltd (HPL), is looking to strengthen its Hard Rock Hotel brand with two new developments in Phuket and Pattaya.
The company is now looking for suitable sites in the two resort areas, according to executive director Christopher Lim.
HPL owns Le Meridien Hotel in Phuket, where it plans to invest about S$100 million or 2.5 billion baht in a Hard Rock Hotel and villa development.
In Pattaya, where the company already has one Hard Rock Hotel, it is looking for a beachfront site for a second one that would offer more privacy. It may opt to develop a new building on vacant land or buy an existing hotel and renovate it.
"If we have two Hard Rock hotels, we can have a shuttle bus service so guests from the new hotel can use the facilities of the existing hotel," Mr Lim said.
The group also owns Hard Rock Hotels in Pattaya and Bali and will open a new one in Port Dickson, Malaysia.
The company is also looking at a resort development in Hua Hin but it has not yet decided which hotel brand it will operate there.
HPL is well established in its field, having opened its first Hilton Hotel in Singapore 25 years ago. It brought the Four Seasons hotel brand to Asia with the first hotel opened in Singapore in 1994. It now owns six Four Seasons hotels in Singapore, Bali, London and the Maldives. It will open two more Four Seasons hotels in Malaysia and Shanghai within the next year.
"We are now the largest owner of Four Seasons hotels in the world," Mr Lim said.
HPL Group also owns the Metropolitan Hotels in London and Bangkok which cater to celebrities and affluent guests. Altogether, it has interests in 31 hotels with 6,100 rooms in 11 countries.
In property development, the group is the developer of luxury high-rise residential projects in prime central Singapore sites near Orchard Road. Its projects include Four Seasons Park, Scott 28, Cuscaden Residence, Nassim Jade and the new Robertson Blue.
Mr Lim said the company was interested in investing only in freehold land in business districts despite the high development cost as it would be able to command high selling prices.
Its investment strategy has paid off in Singapore, where prices of its properties have appreciated threefold to the equivalent of 325,000 baht per square metre.
In Bangkok, HPL decided to develop the seven-billion-baht Met condo on Sathorn Road on the former site of the United States Information Service. Mr Lim said Bangkok had been identified as a long-term destination for investment in condominium development, in which the company had strong expertise.
The Met will comprise six buildings of 66 storeys each, housing a total of 370 units. The company has already sold 100 units including a penthouse, out of 180 units in its first phase, to both Thai and foreign customers. It plans to raise prices, currently near the very top end of the local range at 120,000 baht per sq m, once it sells 70 percent of the first phase.
HPL will launch The Met brand in Singapore and Hong Kong soon. Mr Lim anticipates many buyers from Singapore due to attractive prices.
"The price of The Met [in Bangkok] is equal to the price of a public housing development so there is the opportunity for people in Singapore to buy the best development in Bangkok," he said.
HPL will join with Citibank to launch the project to platinum cardholders by taking them to visit the show suite at The Met and join a yacht cruise to the Hard Rock Hotel in Pattaya.
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Copyright (c) 2005, Bangkok Post, Thailand
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