Lian Beng boosts land bank on strong financial position

Construction firm Lian Beng Group was hit by lower turnover from the building segment and higher finance costs for investments in the first quarter.

However, the firm has rebuilt its land bank with recent en bloc purchases by associate companies, it said yesterday.

In July, an Oxley Holdings-led consortium, which includes Lian Beng Group and others as partners, bought privatised HUDC estate Serangoon Ville in Serangoon North Avenue 1 for $499 million.

In May, Rio Casa, a former HUDC estate in Hougang Avenue 7, was sold for $575 million to a joint venture comprising KSH Development, Oxley Holdings, Lian Beng Group and Apricot Capital.

Lian Beng said its “strong financial position has enabled it to seize the opportunity to acquire properties to increase its land bank for future redevelopment”.

First-quarter net profit fell 29.4 per cent to $8.9 million, while revenue slumped 47.5 per cent to $37.2 million for the three months to Aug 31.

Executive chairman Ong Pang Aik said in a statement: “Our investments in property investment have helped us mitigate the cyclical nature of project-based segments such as construction and property development.

“The returns from property investment have enabled us to sustain our profit level despite the lower contribution from construction and property development segments.”

Mr Ong said: “While our property acquisitions for property investment are mostly for long-term yield, we may sometimes dispose of properties if substantial capital gain presents a good opportunity to take profit of the investment.”

The group maintained a strong balance sheet with a cash level of $146 million as at Aug 31, and that has allowed it to continue to explore local and overseas opportunities to further expand its business.

The firm said it “is cautiously optimistic of the outlook for the construction industry and will continue to tender for projects leveraging on its strong track record and proven expertise”.

Quarterly earnings per share was 1.79 cents, compared with 2.53 cents a year earlier, while net asset value per share was 120.76 cents as of Aug 31, compared with 117.72 cents as of May 31.

Separately, Lian Beng said it is exploring a possible spin-off of its property development business on Catalist and has appointed SAC Capital as the financial adviser. The company is in the process of finalising the terms of the proposed spin-off.

Lian Beng shares closed 1.5 cents up at 69.5 cents yesterday.