Neerja Jetley, Contributor
Not a single brick has been laid and the ground has yet to be broken on Singapore billionaire Peter Lim’s real estate venture in Malaysia’s Iskandar project. But it has already added around $95 million to his net worth on the basis of 29.9% shareholding of his investment vehicle Rowsley. Shares of the company are up around 370% since the real estate venture was announced.
Lim is converting Rowsley into a real estate player through a reverse takeover (RTO). It will acquire a 9.23- hectare vacant tract of land in Malaysia’s Iskandar region, just across the causeway from Singapore, by issuing 2.4 billion Rowsley shares at a price of $0.12 each, valuing it at about $280 million. It will also acquire Singapore’s largest design firm, RSP Architects Planners & Engineers, by issuing another 1.25 billion shares at $0.12 each. Together, the two deals are valued at $428 million.
Since the deal was announced, shares of Rowsley have been on a tear. Lim already owns the vacant tract of land that Rowsley is now buying in a 70:30 joint venture with the Crown Prince of Johor (Malaysia’s royal principality adjoining Iskandar). The deal helps him monetize the land and raise $428 million in Rowsley for construction of the waterfront township planned. His friend Albert Hong, Principal and largest shareholder at RSP would emerge as 12.21% owner of Rowsley without having to go through the lengthy and complex process of an Initial Public Offering (IPO). Besides, he gets a ready pipeline of projects outside Singapore.
Lim’s followers (yes, there’s an unofficial website tracking him: www.remisierking.blogspot.sg), investors, traders and speculators are gung ho on the RTO, too, for good reason:
First, it gives them a play in the region’s most vibrant property play, the Iskandar region. In the past two years, it’s been attracting the attentions of no less than Malaysia’s richest man Robert Kuok and Australian billionaire Lang Walker along with Singapore’s Temasak Holdings, all investing top dollar into Iskandar.
Second, if property is about location, location, location, the tract of land Rowsley is acquiring happens to be less than a mile from the Singapore-Malaysia causeway. It has a plot ratio higher than others nearby, allowing for a high intensity of land use. And it’s also close to the rail link that will join the two countries by 2018.
Third, Rowsley provides investors a low-risk option compared to a pure property play in Iskandar, especially given Malaysia’s flip-flop policies on foreign ownership of property, it’s relatively high crime rate and cyclical vagaries in the property rental market. Investors are also betting that he’ll bring the motorsports city and the medical hub he is building next door under Rowsley.
And last but not the least, the Rowsley takeover deal includes two free bonus warrants for every existing share at a pre-set exercise price of $0.14. With the fair value of the shares being placed at $0.53 to $0.67 by local bank OCBC, investors would make a more than 300% return on the investment even if they were to buy at Rowsley’s current price of $0.40. Lim, of course, would make a killing as he emerges with 38.73% of Rowsley–even before work begins on the project!
Now if that is not making money from thin air, what is?