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Blackstone to buy Star Wars 'Sandcrawler' building in Singapore

Sandcrawler building - GOOGLE MAPS.JPG
The Sandcrawler building has eight storeys of office space, retail areas, lush gardens and dense foliage, as well as a 100-seat theatre.

US private equity giant Blackstone Group is planning to buy Lucas Real Estate Singapore's iconic facility, The Sandcrawler, at an indicative price of nearly S$175.8 million, The Business Times (BT) has learnt.

The sale process is ongoing and is subject to approval from JTC Corporation. BT understands that CBRE brokered the deal.

The design of the futuristic-looking, horseshoe-shaped building was inspired by the Star Wars franchise's giant fictional vehicles with the same name. These imposing mobile fortresses were used for transportation and shelter in the films.

Located within the Fusionopolis cluster in Buona Vista, the state-of-the-art complex houses Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Lucasfilm's visual effects and animation studio, and serves as Lucasfilm Singapore's regional headquarters.

Its occupancy rate is said to be in the high-90 per cent range. Market watchers said the indicative price tag of about S$175.8 million reflects a net yield of about 4 per cent based on the existing rental income from the building.

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The Sandcrawler sits on a site with a 30-year leasehold tenure, which started from September 2010, with an option to renew for a further 30 years, BT understands.

The 22,500 square metre campus was designed by Aedas' Andrew Bromberg and features a metallic external facade made of low-iron insulated glass.

It has eight storeys of office space, retail areas, lush gardens and dense foliage, as well as a 100-seat theatre with an exterior resembling Darth Vader's signature helmet. The building premises are adorned with movie posters and memorabilia such as Stormtrooper helmets and a Yoda fountain.

Attendees at the building's official opening in January 2014 included Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Lucasfilm founder and Star Wars director George Lucas, and the company's president, Kathleen Kennedy.

Besides ILM Singapore, other companies that took up office space on The Sandcrawler campus were Lucasfilm's parent firm The Walt Disney Company, as well as sports cable TV network ESPN Asia-Pacific.

ILM Singapore was the company's first international studio beyond its San Francisco headquarters. The Singapore studio delivers complete shots and sequences on Hollywood movies and regional projects, and its work includes asset development, digital matte painting and lighting. Its animators have contributed to blockbusters such as Transformers and Avengers.

Lucasfilm's decision to cement its presence in Singapore with the building was then said to be a reflection of the city-state's development as a digital media hub. CNBC reported in 2014 that Mr Lucas himself invested in the Singapore facility, although Lucasfilm declined to provide details on the size of its investment.

BT has reached out to Disney and ILM Singapore for comment on the sale of the property.

Foreign investors and big tech firms have been snapping up properties in Singapore. In particular, Chinese tech giants such as Tencent Holdings and Bytedance are eyeing the Republic as a base to expand into the South-east Asian region.

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