Singapore

Beauty World Food Centre trustees ask court for the power to sell

Four stall owners oppose move to sell Beauty World Food Centre collectively

The three trustees of the Beauty World Food Centre have gone to court asking for the power to sell the property, after a potential $17.5 million collective sale hit a snag when four stall owners opposed the move.

The High Court application was heard in chambers yesterday but adjourned to Oct 24 for further hearing as the judge wanted more information.

The food centre, which occupies the fourth storey of the strata-titled Beauty World Centre in Bukit Timah, comprises 41 food stalls but the title of the property is contained in a single strata certificate.

Last year, through broker Propnex Realty, a potential buyer expressed interest in purchasing the centre, built in the 1980s, for $17.5 million.

According to court documents seen by The Straits Times, the interested buyer paid the trustees $175,000 for an option to purchase the centre. The option money was then distributed to the stall owners but four of them, who own six different stalls between them, rejected their share because they were against the sale.

As a consensus was not reached, the transaction was put off until the court has decided whether the three trustees have the power to sell the food centre.

The three - Mr Lai Chong Lee, Mr Tan Kock Meng and Mr Tan Han Soong - were appointed by the management committee of the Beauty World Centre Merchants Association in 2009 to replace the original two trustees.

The trust arrangement originated in 1998, when the various food-stall operators wanted to buy over their respective stalls. As there were too many intended buyers, lawyers handling the transaction devised a scheme for two trustees to buy the property on behalf of all the operators.

In a joint affidavit, the trustees, who are also stall operators, said most of the owners are in their late 60s or 70s, and wish to retire from the business.

They said that in the last few years, most of the stall owners have been in favour of a collective sale.

The trustees said they managed to find an interested buyer in February last year, who was prepared to pay for an option to purchase the property despite being aware that not all the stall owners were in favour of the sale.

Through their lawyer, Mr Jimmy Yap, the trustees asked the court to enable them to go ahead with the sale, even though trust documents neither spell out nor imply that they have the power to sell the property.

hawkercourt