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CDL sees opportunities for more overseas expansion as it marks 60 years in business

SINGAPORE - Property giant City Developments Limited (CDL) has marked its 60th anniversary by unveiling plans to expand its portfolio of homes, offices and hotels to include new asset classes and to tackle more overseas markets.

Executive chairman Kwek Leng Beng told 600 guests at a dinner celebration at the Orchard Hotel Singapore on Tuesday: “In the years to come, I would like CDL to have a presence in many parts of the world. I think there are opportunities.”

Chief executive Sherman Kwek said at the event that expanding across geographies is crucial for the company, which now runs hotels and real estate projects in Australia, China, Japan, Britain and Vietnam.

“We need to further expand our overseas portfolio so that if there are any market specific disruptions, we won’t be overly concentrated in one geography,” Mr Kwek noted.

He added that CDL is also expanding into new asset classes, such as rental apartments, student accommodation and workers dormitories, to grow its core business of developing residential and mixed-use developments as well as hospitality and commercial asset management.

“These asset classes are also defensive in nature and recession-proof,” Mr Kwek said.

CDL is also developing its first integrated commercial and residential project in Suzhou despite an ill-fated investment in now-bankrupt Chinese property developer Sincere Property Group.

This led to a $1.78 billion impairment on the investment in 2020, resulting in CDL booking a net loss of $1.9 billion for the year. The company sold its stake in Sincere Property Group for US$1 (S$1.35) in September 2021. 

Mr Kwek said 2020 to 2022 was the most trying period for CDL, noting that the fallout from its sizeable investment in Sincere Property Group made dealing with the impact of Covid-19 on its commercial and hospitality businesses more challenging.

Still, CDL has also made moves that have added value for shareholders, such as the 2019 delisting and privatisation of Millennium & Copthorne Hotels from the London Stock Exchange in a deal that valued the hotel chain at £2.23 billion (S$3.8 billion).

The firm reported earnings of $66.5 million for the six months ended June 30, 94.1 per cent down on the same period a year earlier. This was mainly due to the absence of significant divestment gains, as well as greater financing costs and impairment losses on its British investment properties.

Revenue for the period grew 83.6 per cent year on year to $2.7 billion.

The company declared a special interim dividend of four cents a share.

CDL shares closed down 0.74 per cent at $6.71 on Wednesday.