Beyond profitability, crafting value is the next measure of success for UOL and Kheng Leong

/ EdgeProp Singapore |
James Chan, general manager, Kheng Leong Co (left), and Liam Wee Sin, group CEO, UOL Group, receiving the Top Developer award from Bernard Tong, CEO of EdgeProp Singapore. (Picture: Albert Chua/The Edge Singapore)
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EDGEPROP (SINGAPORE) - As a mark of their successful track record in delivering unique and innovative housing projects, and for having a keen sense of prevailing consumer preferences, mainboard-listed property developer UOL Group and its partner Kheng Leong Company were honoured with the Top Developer Award at the EdgeProp Singapore Excellence Awards 2022 (EPEA) on Oct 21.
This is the third time UOL Group has taken home this distinction which is annually conferred to a select group of leading real estate developers in Singapore.
This year, UOL Group and Kheng Leong Co also took home awards for MeyerHouse, which won Top Luxury Development and Top Boutique Development, and The Watergardens at Canberra, which swept up the Innovation, Landscape and Sustainability Excellence Awards.
The EPEA 2022 comes as the real estate market in Singapore rebounds from Covid-inflicted challenges over the past three years. According to Liam Wee Sin, group CEO of UOL Group, companies that merely attempted to weather the storm until a return to normalcy would have missed a vital opportunity to thrive.
Watergardens at Canberra scale model - EDGEPROP SINGAPORE
As leading developers, UOL and Kheng Leong strive to promote long-term inclusivity and sustainability in all their projects, including the award-winning Watergardens at Canberra. (Picture: Samuel Isaac Chua/The Edge Singapore)
“The winning formula is to adopt a continuous process of adapting in a volatile and uncertain environment,” says Liam. This is the bedrock of the developer’s ability to craft well-aligned projects that consistently resonate with homebuyers and investors, he says.

A preeminent developer

UOL Group continues to be one of the most active and prolific property developers in Singapore. Its recent clutch of development projects includes AMO Residence, The Watergardens at Canberra, MeyerHouse, Clavon, Avenue South Residence and The Tre Ver.
All these projects were met with strong buying interest during their respective sales launches and went on to see steady sales momentum over the subsequent months. For example, based on developer sales data, Clavon, launched in December 2020, was fully sold by September. Avenue South Residence, which was launched in September 2019, was also sold out by September. Meanwhile, The Tre Ver, launched in August 2018, was fully sold by December 2020.
UOL Group and Kheng Leong Co were part of a consortium of developers behind one of the most successful new launches this year — AMO Residence in Ang Mo Kio. The other member of the consortium was Singapore Land Group, a subsidiary of UOL Group.
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AMO Residence scale model - EDGEPROP SINGAPORE
AMO Residence is one of the most successful new launches this year, selling out 98% of the project in a day. (Picture: Samuel Isaac Chua/The Edge Singapore)
Launched for sale in July, 98% of the total 372 units at AMO Residence have been sold. The development also managed to command an average selling price of about $2,100 psf, setting a new benchmark price for future new projects in the Outside Central Region (OCR).

Empowering innovation and good design

Last year, UOL, along with joint venture partners Kheng Leong and Singapore Land, launched The Watergardens at Canberra. At the time, it was the first condominium launch in the developing Canberra estate in Sembawang in six years.
The project achieved strong sales after its initial launch over the Aug 28–29 weekend, moving 271 (60%) of the total 448 units in the development. The development was also able to command a strong average selling price of nearly $1,500 psf at the time.
The Watergardens at Canberra was shortlisted by the judges of this year’s EPEA 2022 and subsequently claimed three awards. The project impressed the panel of judges with its slew of innovative designs that reflected the needs and aspirational lifestyle of its future residents.
“As a developer we often play the curatorial role, empowering innovation and good design, delivering leadership in the execution, and pushing for collaboration in all that we set out to do,” says Liam.
He adds that the development teams also have a finger on the pulse of the market and homeowners’ sensibilities. “We must address the changing demographics, shifting demand, growing aspirations as well as environmental and social sustainability. We must improve quality of life and promote long-term inclusivity and sustainability,” says Liam.
Developers like UOL and Kheng Leong play an important curatorial role, empowering innovation and good design in every project, says Liam. (Picture: UOL, Kheng Leong)
At the Watergardens for example, the architecture takes into consideration the naturally undulating terrain which has been utilised to create residential blocks at different levels and paired with tiered pools and layered gardens. The design of each residential block encourages natural cross-ventilation and daylight, and evenly spaced pools and water features around the site encourage evaporative cooling during the day.
This was all planned and designed while working in tandem with a variety of project partners such as the architects P&T Consultants, landscape designer STX Landscape Architects, and interior design firm Index Design.
“I hold the view that there is always more than one solution, more than one way to meet the needs and aspirations of our customers. We must have a growth mindset and as such, we see bridges where others see holes. To do that, teamwork amongst the various stakeholders is an essential ingredient and there is every reason to collaborate,” says Liam.

Continuous pipeline of projects

Throughout its more than 50-year history as a leading property developer, UOL Group has showcased a consistent ability in crafting and delivering high-quality projects across its business ventures. This includes the management of its hospitality arm through hotel subsidiary Pan Pacific Hotels Group, which owns notable brands such as namesake Pan Pacific, PARKROYAL COLLECTION, and PARKROYAL.
UOL’s current landbank of upcoming residential developments in Singapore comprises two prime location sites.
In October 2021, the group, along with joint venture partner Singapore Land, acquired Watten Estate Condominium in the prime Bukit Timah area for $550.8 million via a collective sale. The price translates to a land rate of $1,723 psf per plot ratio (ppr), which includes the 8% bonus gross floor area and the corresponding development charge.
UOL has indicated that it plans to launch the redeveloped freehold site next year into a luxury residential development with more than 200 units.
Watten Estate Condominium - EDGEPROP SINGAPORE
Next year, UOL aims to launch the redeveloped former Watten Estate Condominium, turning it into a new luxury project. (Picture: Samuel Isaac Chua/The Edge Singapore)
The new development is next to a three-storey mixed landed housing estate and other low-rise residential developments. It also commands a highly desirable prime District 11 address and is close to Raffles Girls Primary School, Hwa Chong Institution, Nanyang Girls High School and National Junior College.
Another site in UOL’s pipeline of upcoming residential projects in Singapore is a 242,561 sq ft government land sale (GLS) site named Pine Grove (Parcel A) near the Mount Sinai neighbourhood. The top bid of $671,500,800 was submitted by an 80:20 joint venture comprising UOL Group and Singapore Land. This translates to a land rate of $1,318 psf ppr.
UOL says they plan to redevelop the site into a 520-unit residential project, tapping on demand from upgraders and homeowners keen to move into the Mount Sinai neighbourhood. At the time, industry watchers expected that the new development might see launch prices of $2,300–$2,400 psf, based on the winning bid price.

Adding value is the yardstick of success

When asked how he evaluates UOL’s success as a property developer, group CEO Liam Wee Sin says that the yardstick of success is measured in the company’s ability to seek and create value across the whole value chain.
“This is achieved by tapping into the deep domain knowledge and collaborative strength of the entire team, including industry partners such as consultants and contractors, to push innovation and design boundaries,” he says.
He adds that the group will always look towards profitability. “However, the yardstick of success as a leading developer is to always go beyond our boundaries, meaning to say beyond profitability, to add value.”
Liam: We have witnessed people stepping up and making positive impact across our industry. We hope we will not soon forget the lessons and collaborations forged by the pandemic. (Picture: Samuel Isaac Chua/The Edge Singapore)
As a key stakeholder and prominent shaper of the built environment and urban landscape of Singapore, property developers have an important agenda of designing and constructing the entire built environment which impacts how people live, work, and play now and into the future, says Liam.
“For that, we have to push the envelope to be more human-centric, to be more green, to add value to the precinct and to enhance the public realm,” he says.
Liam also says that as the industry emerges from facing down Covid-19 related challenges, all industry players can learn to thrive and pick themselves up by leaning into its human resources. “Crises have a way of bringing people together,” he says. “We have witnessed people stepping up and making a positive impact across our industry. We hope we will not soon forget the lessons and collaborations forged by the pandemic.”
He credits UOL’s third consecutive win of the Top Developer award to the “support, hard work, and resilience of the UOL and Kheng Leong team and all our stakeholders in the industry. I would also like to thank all our customers who have believed and journeyed with us,” says Liam.
He adds: “As we emerge from the pandemic, we must continue to adopt the spirit of a growth mindset, the spirit of collaboration and to always productively innovate”.

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