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Real Estate Asia Awards judge Sok Hiang joins panel of judges this year

Despite the challenges, Drew & Napier’s Director and Co-Head for Real Estate still believe that the industry is and has always been an exciting area to work in.

Sok Hiang is Drew & Napier’s Director and Co-Head of their Real Estate and Corporate Real Estate Practice Group. Her primary areas of practice include all aspects of real estate work, and banking and finance transactions. 

With extensive real estate and real estate financing experience, Sok Hiang has advised major institutional clients on major real estate and real estate financing transactions. She also acts for major developers in the sale, acquisition (including collective acquisition), financing, and leasing of residential, commercial, and industrial properties. This includes executive condominiums and mixed residential and commercial developments, liaising with the various statutory boards and regulatory authorities, such as the Controller of Housing and Development Control within the Urban Redevelopment Authority, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore, the Singapore Land Authority, and Land Transport Authority, where required. 

Moreover, Sok Hiang is experienced in the structuring of real estate transactions, loans, and financial transactions. She represents and advises lessors and lessees on leases of commercial, industrial and residential property, and also advises major local as well as offshore banks and lending syndicates, finance companies, and insurance companies on loan and other debt-related financings. This includes bilateral and syndicated loans and acquisition financings. 

Real Estate Asia recently chatted with Sok Hiang as she shared her ideas about real estate during the pandemic. She also gave her insights about the challenges and opportunities that the crisis brings; the changes in structuring transactions; real estate trends and its future in Asia and the world.

What do you think is the most important factor when judging real estate developments for the Real Estate Asia awards?

In this current climate, the market players’ response to the disruptions and market changes that have been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic would be an important factor. One should also take into account how they maximise efficiency with the adoption of technology, and perhaps consider environmental sustainability and efficiency, since consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) practices/requirements. 

What can the real estate industry learn from the COVID-19 crisis? And for those who have been badly hit, what can owners do to jumpstart their recovery?

We have learnt that we need to be able to respond swiftly to sudden changes and disruptions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic while still ensuring business continuity and continued compliance and performance of our obligations in the midst of a pandemic. 

What are the challenges and opportunities in the real estate industry today?

We must be adaptable and keep up with the legislative and regulatory changes pertaining to the real estate industry, especially during this COVID-19 period. For example, the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act (“COVID-19 Act”) and the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Alternative Arrangements for Meetings for Management Corporations, Subsidiary Management Corporations and Collective Sale Committees) Order 2020 (“COVID-19 Order”) were swiftly passed/issued to provide for alternative arrangements for inter alia meetings of collective sale committees (“CSCs”) and general meetings of Management Corporations. We therefore had to work with the CSCs to ensure that such meetings complied not only with the provisions set out in the Land Titles (Strata) Act and within compressed timelines, but also with the COVID-19 Act and the COVID-19 Order. We also advise our clients on the concessions for deadlines/procedures specified in the legislation which the Minister for Law may grant on a case-by-case basis. 

Which trends will define the real estate industry in the years to come?

Whilst the COVID-19 crisis has brought about disruptions across the real estate industry, it has also brought about accelerated changes in market trends. It appears, for instance, that the e-commerce industry has been growing, leading to increased demand for industrial space for logistics facilities and warehouses, together with an increased need for data centres with the growth of technology in business operations. 

What do you think has changed when it comes to structuring real estate transactions, loans and other financial transactions during the pandemic?

Disruptions to business operations brought about by infectious diseases are no longer a remote possibility and parties have to be prudent in assessing these considerations in managing business and operational disruptions. We do see these factors being taken into consideration in structuring real estate transactions.  

In Drew & Napier, the firm has a dedicated COVID-19 Response Team who stand ready to support clients in any area of the law. We also bring together our experts to share knowledge through our COVID-19 Insights Hub to help clients understand the key issues for their business in order to chart their way forward. 

What do you think is the future of real estate in Asia and the world? 

It is possible that the real estate industry as a whole may experience fundamental and structural changes in the years to come, not just due to this pandemic (which may have accelerated some of the changes), but also with globalisation and digitalisation. 

Real estate has always been an exciting area to work in, and we have always worked in collaboration with our clients and business partners to meet and overcome the challenges which we have faced over the decades of changes and development in the real estate industry. We look forward to a continued working relationship in this regard.

 

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