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CDL’s Kwek Leng Beng looking for property bargains post-Brexit

The hotelier also announced rebranding of The South Beach to JW Marriot Hotel Singapore South Beach.

Despite the turmoil post-Brexit, hotelier and property mogul Kwek Leng Beng is confident of the UK market in the medium term and ready to snap up property deals.

The executive chairman of City Developments (CDL) and Hong Leong Group told press on Wednesday: “My exposure there is very limited. We have good cash flow in terms of pound sterling so it doesn’t matter. When people panic and start to sell hotels, I will come into the picture. In fact, I am looking. We have a lot of firepower. Hopefully I can pick up something cheap.

“Overall I’m confident that the UK will be good in the medium term. Temporarily, it will face a lot of issues negotiating with EU. More importantly, the political leadership must be forthcoming.”

According to The Straits Times, CDL’s investment in the UK to date totals £448.4 million (S$815 million) in nine development properties in the UK to date. Britain accounts for 12 per cent of CDL’s revenue, 11 per cent of its assets and about 12 per cent of debt.

(Related: 3 CEOs on how Brexit will affect the Singapore economy.)

“I’m not worried about the hospitality sector. We’ve always faced different situations, whether it is the Lehman Brothers crisis, SARS or the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. And we survive. It is most important not to over-leverage. I think for the time being, the biggest fear for hotels is actually terrorist attacks.”

Kwek was speaking at a press conference, which announced the rebranding of The South Beach to JW Marriott Hotel Singapore South Beach. The 634-room luxury property, which is designed by Philippe Starck, is currently going through modifications that will see its lobby expanded and the addition of nine restaurants, including one by Korean-American celebrity chef Akira Back. Works are slated to be completed in October.

Kwek Leng Beng

(From left) Mr Craig Smith, Asia-Pacific president and managing director of Marriott International, Kwek Leng Beng, executive chairman of Hong Leong Group and City Developments, and Tan Sri Dato’ Lee Shin Cheng, executive chairman of IOI Group

In addition, Marriott and Granmil Holdings (a joint venture by Hong Leong Holdings, CDL and Lea Investments) announced the introduction of The Singapore Edition. The 190-room hotel, which is aimed at a younger crowd, will be located on the former Boulevard Hotel site on Orchard Boulevard and Cuscaden Road.

(Related: CDL’s M Social designed to attract millennials.)

Following a fierce bidding war, Marriott is finalising its acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts. When the US$13 billion (S$17 billion) deal is completed, Marriott will add 10 brands, including Westin, W Hotels, St. Regis, and Aloft to its current 19 brands that include Bulgari, Renaissance, AC Hotels and The Ritz-Carlton.