Risky Business: Bangkok’s Tallest Gamble Is Ready to Open

Risky Business: Bangkok’s Tallest Gamble Is Ready to Open
Risky Business: Bangkok’s Tallest Gamble Is Ready to Open

Announcing plans for Bangkok’s tallest building in the depths of a financial crisis, targeting wealthy foreigners who would pay millions for an apartment lead to people thinking Sorapoj Techakraisri was crazy. That he was only in his 30’s added to the skepticism.

But the 77-story MahaNakhon tower is finally nearing completion, and in September its first residents will be moving in. Located in the upmarket Silom/Sathorn district, the tower boasts a pixilated facade that shimmers like a glass curtain and twists like a spiral–effects that are created by virtue of every floor being different. It has already collected a bevy of awards and a spot on maps of the world’s most notable architectural sites. By far the largest skyscraper on the skyline, MahaNakhon will contain 209 Ritz-Carlton Residences, ranging in price from $1.4 million to $10 million; a five-star Edition Hotel by Marriott International; and flashy boutiques and restaurants.

Techakraisri’s company, PACE Development, is also catering to this predicted new class of expats with the MahaSamutr, a country club and villa development in Hua Hin. “What we are doing is very different from the rest of the market here,” he says. “Before these projects, this level of superluxury did not exist in Thailand. Now it does.” Says Andrew Gulbrandson at Jones Lang LaSalle, “No other developer had shot that high before.” In fact, he thinks, PACE will cement its position as Bangkok’s leading luxury developer once owners begin to move into MahaNakhon. Indeed, the superluxury segment of Bangkok’s property market appears to be booming. Several competitors – including Four Seasons, Sansiri, Mandarin Oriental and St. Regis – are following PACE’s lead with condos in broadly the same price range of $8,400 to $9,900 a square metre. Property agents estimate that 2,400 superluxury units will hit the Bangkok market by 2019. PACE has now sold 70% of MahaNakhon– one-third to locals and the remainder to buyers from Singapore, Hong Kong, Europe and, to a lesser extent, the Middle East, North America and Taiwan. The company says it’s holding back the remainder until the building is finished so it can fetch higher prices. (PACE is also building two superluxury condo developments and a resort in Hokkaido, Japan.)

“A record ratio of MahaNakhon buyers are foreigners,” says Bastien Forzy, whose Sense Property Group brokers deals for foreign investors. “Some of our clients were first spooked by MahaNakhon’s high prices, but now they are coming back to it as one of their first choices,” he says, noting that Asian buyers often pay big premiums for new freehold condos. Bolstered by his twin wins and undeterred by red ink, Techakraisri forged ahead. In 2014 he bought a U.S. chain of food shops called Dean & DeLuca. It seemed like another reckless move as the chain’s costs soon spiraled beyond projections. PACE was a very small company doing larger-than-life projects. But then Techakraisri was encouraged by the launch last December of the ASEAN Economic Community, which might eventually unite a market of 600 million consumers and allow the free movement of goods, services, workers and capital among the ten countries in ASEAN.

He expects Bangkok to become the gateway to the community, the home base for a wave of senior executive expats with business in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. Once the doors open at MahaNakhon and prospective buyers can see the finished product, says Techakraisri, they can expect a higher price tag. “It becomes an emotional sale. When they see the view, d the residence, the sky bar, and the hotel; hey will just want it.” – Forbes