Meriton hits pause on two-thirds of serviced apartments

The Meriton Suites North Ryde. Picture: Meriton.
The Meriton Suites North Ryde. Picture: Meriton.

Billionaire apartment developer Harry Triguboff has taken the tough decision to close two-thirds of his serviced apartment complexes on the eastern seaboard while calling on China to help Australia “fix” the coronavirus.

Triguboff told The Australian that he would probably close 14 of the 20 serviced apartment complexes he owns and operates in Brisbane, the Gold Coast and the Sydney CBD, where he operates five complexes.

Triguboff blames a lack of foreign tourists and the fact that big gatherings had stopped in Sydney and the Gold Coast.

“I do a lot of business with people who work in the city — they are gone. Corporate business was very important to us. There are (also) no more sporting events; we used to accommodate the trainers and the event delegates,” he says.

“Foreigners are scared to come; second, big gatherings are not taking place to the same extent. The employees of many companies are not allowed to travel. This is very unfortunate.”

Triguboff says Meriton’s serviced apartment occupancy has fallen from 90% to just 55%.

Meanwhile, Triguboff’s Meriton Apartments, which is building a record 4200 units on the eastern seaboard, says China should give Australia advice on how to stop COVID-19’s spread.

“China’s problems with the virus suddenly stopped — they need to help us,” says Triguboff, who was born in the Chinese city of Dalian.

“I am sure the Chinese will come and give us the answer … It is in their interests to help us so we have less problems with the virus.”

Triguboff strongly backs the Reserve Bank’s unprecedented rate cut announced last week as well as federal government policies on the containment of the virus. “All of us have to sell the RBA and government story to the people,” he says.

Mr Triguboff said the spread of the virus would reduce the numbers of apartment buyers, adding that the sharemarket was “very bad too”.

“Until now the amount of buyers has not been affected, but I don’t know how long that will continue. Until now residential rents have not been affected, but it does not look the best to me.”

The Meriton founder sys it is crucial that Australia limits the number of coronavirus fatalities because it will make us more attractive to overseas buyers in the long run.

“If we succeed in having few deaths, Australia will be even more desirable for the rest of the world,” Triguboff says in a statement to The Australian.

“We must learn to live with all kinds of hiccups. We should not panic. I am talking about the migrants — if we have few deaths the migrants feel safe.”

Triguboff has just won approval to build a further 1270 apartments at Sydney’s Macquarie Park. All up, he is constructing about 3500 units in Sydney and the Gold Coast.

But construction of Meriton’s ambitious four-tower Macquarie Park project, valued at about $1.5 billion, will not start for at least nine months, given the developer must still win design approval.

Meriton is about to start work on the second part of its Pagewood site in Sydney, building more than 2000 apartments. The developer is also building 1000 apartments in Parramatta and a further 700 units in Surfers Paradise.

Triguboff says he has not had any problems sourcing building products from China.

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