Bridgewater founder Ray Dalio joins billionaires buying up ‘retail properties’ in Singapore

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The family office of Bridgewater Associates founder Ray Dalio has bought two multimillion-dollar “retail properties” in Singapore, as billionaires snap up heritage properties in the city-state.

The Dalio Family Office, which announced its move to the Asian financial hub during the pandemic, bought two retail properties on Club Street for about S$25.5 million (US$18.9 million) in 2021, according to two people with direct knowledge of the deal .

Family offices – private wealth management firms set up for wealthy individuals – have exploded in Singapore from a handful in 2018 to around 1,400 by 2023. They have invested in real estate in Singapore, with retail properties a popular choice. The buildings are sometimes empty or used as offices, residential buildings or business premises.

A development approval issued by the government in late 2023 for the site at 44 and 46 Club Street lists Tan Mae Shen, the Singapore director of the Dalio Family Office, as the developer.

According to the application, the renovation of the buildings should be completed early next year and the company has started hiring people on LinkedIn. The Dalio Family Office is also expanding in Abu Dhabi after the billionaire left his hedge fund.

A spokesperson for Dalio declined to comment. Rawlinson & Hunter, a London-based professional services firm listed on the property documents, also declined to comment.

According to KPMG, Singapore is home to almost 60 percent of family offices in the Asia-Pacific region. The family office of Google co-founder Sergey Brin has also set up a branch in Singapore alongside many wealthy Chinese families.

There are approximately 6,700 retail properties with a conservation status in Singapore. The buildings, whose design was introduced by Chinese immigrants in the 19th century, also served as business premises and living quarters for early merchants in the former colonial outpost.

Zhang Ying, the wife of Alibaba founder Jack Ma, paid about S$45 million for three adjacent retail properties on nearby Duxton Road in January, according to documents filed with the government. Zhang is also a Singaporean citizen.

Retail property sales hit a record $1.9 billion in 2021, with the average property price rising from $5-8 million to $15-20 million over the past decade, according to real estate consultancy Knight Frank. .

The consultancy said the doubling of stamp duty for foreigners to 60 percent last year on residential purchases has fueled interest in commercial retail properties among family offices as the properties can serve as part of their assets and as offices.

However, both retail property sales and the number of new family offices have declined since Singapore’s S$3 billion money laundering investigation last August. Some suspects and their alleged associates were connected to family offices and used the money to purchase retail properties.

In response to the investigation, the Monetary Authority of Singapore tightened controls on family offices late last year, delaying sales of the heritage properties.

In December, 10 retail properties owned by two Chinese nationals allegedly linked to a suspect in the money laundering case were put on the market by DBS bank to recover repayments on its loans.

“Some, but not all, of the properties linked to the money launderers are being sold and the market – especially foreign buyers – is waiting to see what price they fetch and to draw a line under the saga,” said a real estate agent who declined be mentioned.

“But it has in turn affected the shophouse market, so I expect sales to be lower this year.”

Additional reporting by Ortenca Aliaj in London

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