Malaysians bid for London property

PETALING JAYA, Malaysia - Malaysian investors are emerging as the biggest challengers to Russian billionaire and Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich in the fight for a prized piece of property in central London.

The fight for the Battersea Power Station land has intensified as the bidding process begins in what has been described as the United Kingdom's longest property development saga.

Prominently mentioned in the fray is the Employees Provident Fund, which is reported to have been approached by parties interested in the bidding.

EPF public relations general manager Nik Affendi Jaafar confirmed that EPF had been approached but said: "We have made no commitments.

"We are at present not bidding for the Battersea site," he added.

The state pension fund described as "inaccurate" a news report that it would buy the property in a tie-up with SP Setia, one of Malaysia's biggest property developers, and Deutsche Bank's property investment arm RREEF.

The report, from the property researcher CoStar Group, said EPF was set to pledge 100% of the equity in an all-cash buy offer worth RM1.8bil (S$750mil).

It said EPF wanted to modify the redevelopment project, worth RM6.9bil, to include "more residential uses and less commercial space".

CoStar added that SP Setia was expected to become development manager and advised by RREEF.

It said the terms to buy the Battersea Power Station had been agreed and the deal was expected to be completed in about three months.

SP Setia had placed two bids worth RM1.2bil and RM1.5bil for the land last year but they were rejected.

CoStar described Abramovich's bid, tabled last month, as "significantly less" than that of EPF and SP Setia.

The billionaire was reported to be planning to build a 60,000-seat stadium for Chelsea there.

The Financial Times meanwhile said EPF was in "pole position" and "poised to seal" the acquisition deal, and was expected to join forces with SP Setia and RREEF.

It said EPF was in late-stage negotiations with Ernst & Young and Knight Frank, which are running the sale.

However, it added that no exclusivity agreement was thought to have been signed yet.

The iconic Battersea Power Sta­tion, located on the south bank of River Thames, was used as cover shots on Pink Floyd's 1977 album Animals and The Beatles' 1965 movie Help!

It comprises two individual coal-fired power stations built in the 1930s and 1950s, and was closed in 1983.

Its cultural influence has led the British government to list it as a Grade II status building, meaning "particularly important buildings of more than special interest".

A Malaysian analyst said he would not be surprised if Malaysian investors made a joint bid for the land.

"It is a massively costly piece of land but there is guaranteed returns on investment, as with all properties in London. It will appreciate for sure."

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