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Friday, September 28, 2007

Horizon Towers Saga

Business Times, September 28, 2007

All eyes on appeal against STB decision
Meanwhile, HPL suit against sellers is officially stayed


(SINGAPORE) The twists and turns in the Horizon Towers saga never seem to end: even as one legal showdown was averted yesterday, another dramatic court session is set to take place.

Today's session is expected to be a dramatic one, with HPL and its partners having applied to intervene - that is, participate - at this hearing.

Legal proceedings against the majority sellers of Horizon Towers were officially stayed yesterday - when the High Court granted an application to adjourn the hearing of a lawsuit which Hotel Properties Ltd (HPL) and its partners brought against the sellers.

HPL, Morgan Stanley Real Estate-managed funds and Qatar Investment Authority had sued former members of the development's sales committee for millions of dollars - and asked that all 272 owners who signed the deal also be bound by any judgement that may be made.

The buyers blamed the sellers for the en bloc sale not going through. The Strata Titles Board had, in August, rejected the application filed by Horizon Towers for a collective sale order - on the grounds that it was defective.

The STB's decision came just days before the sale completion deadline, which meant there was no time to appeal the decision or file a fresh appeal.

The majority sellers finally agreed last week to meet the buyers' demands to extend the sale completion deadline - and HPL and its partners reciprocated by applying for an adjournment of the legal proceedings against the sellers.

However, with the suit not withdrawn, the threat of legal action still hangs over the majority sellers. No date has yet been fixed for the next hearing.

All eyes are now on the next major court session: this morning's hearing of the appeal against the STB's decision, in the High Court before Justice Choo Han Teck.

The appeal will be between the majority sellers - represented by Tan Rajah & Cheah - and the minority sellers, who didn't agree to the en bloc sale.

The majority sellers say STB was 'wrong in law' to have dismissed their application. The board had rejected the application, without considering its merits, because it had three incomplete or missing pages.

But the majority sellers say these three missing pages were around at the time of the application, but were later not submitted due to a clerical error.

Today's session is expected to be a dramatic one, with HPL and its partners having applied to intervene - that is, participate - at this hearing. The buyers will be represented by Allen & Gledhill.

Another group of 13 Horizon Towers owners - who form part of the majority who agreed to the collective sale - have also applied to be parties to the appeal, on the grounds that they 'have an interest in the outcome of these proceedings'.

This group of 13 owners, which includes local singer Ho Yeow Sun and her husband Kong Hee - are represented by Rajah & Tann.

Judge Choo will hear the two applications to intervene first, before hearing the appeal against the STB's decision.