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Shanda gaming empire co-founder buys GCB

20 Jan, 2017

The Chinese turned Singaporean co-founder of Shanda Group is understood to have picked up a Good Class Bungalow (GCB) along Cable Road for S$23 million.

The price works out to S$1,518 per square foot (psf) based on the freehold land area of 15,148 square feet.

Chrissy Luo, who bought the bungalow in trust, is the wife of Chen Tianqiao. The couple, who now reside in Singapore, in 1999 founded Shanda Interactive Entertainment Limited, which expanded to a big-time online entertainment developer and publisher in China before it became a privately-owned global investment group a few years ago.

Shanda Group is now headquartered in Singapore, with "main offices" in Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong and Menlo Park, according to information on the group's website. It invests across a variety of asset classes, including venture capital (VC), private equity, public securities and real estate, primarily focused on the financial services, technology and healthcare sectors. It is the single largest shareholder of three famous US listed companies - Legg Mason, Lending Club and Community Health Systems.

Shanda's VC portfolio comprises 11 advanced tech companies (eight in the US, two in Israel and one in Iceland), and more than 120 Chinese companies primarily focused on Internet and mobile applications. The group's property arm has operations in China and the US. "We are also one of the largest timberland owners in North America," Shanda said on its website.

Having made their fortune, the Chens are also active in philanthropy. Through the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute, they have been working with leading universities and research institutions in the US and China on fundamental brain research with a particular focus on brain discovery, treatment and development. Last month, the Chens were in the news in the US for a US$115 million donation to the California Institute of Technology or Caltech in Pasadena to set up a neuroscience research centre.

The couple made the donation after viewing a news clip of a Caltech scientist helping a quadriplegic use his thoughts to control a robotic arm so that - for the first time in more than 10 years - he could sip a drink unaided, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Mr Chen is chairman and CEO of Shanda Group and his wife, the vice-chairman.

The Singapore bungalow along Cable Road that Ms Luo bought recently is within the Chatsworth Park GCB Area. Spanning two storeys and with five bedrooms, it was developed in 2005 by The Straits Trading Company, which sold it later in the same year for S$9.2 million to a Japanese family who are Singapore permanent residents (PRs). They held it for 11 years before selling it recently to Ms Luo; the transfer was registered early last month.

Inclusive of this deal, 2016 ended with 37 transactions in GCB Areas totalling S$788 million - an improvement on the 33 deals totalling S$715 million in 2015 and 28 deals amounting to S$626 million in 2014.

Despite the steady improvement in GCB sales volume, last year's showing is way shy of the recent high in 2012, when 54 bungalows totalling S$1.17 billion changed hands in GCB Areas.

Bungalows in GCB Areas are the most prestigious form of landed housing in Singapore, with planning conditions to preserve their exclusivity and low-rise character.

Only Singapore citizens are allowed to buy landed residential properties in GCB Areas under a policy change that took effect in the second half of 2012. Prior to that, Singapore PRs could seek the Singapore Land Authority's approval to acquire such properties provided the land area did not exceed 1,393.5 square metres (around 15,000 sq ft).

Adapted from: The Business Times, 20 January 2017