• Nna/kyodo


East Japan Railway Co. will open retail spaces in Singapore metro stations as part of its overseas business expansion, aiming to cash in on purchasing power in Southeast Asia’s richest economy.

Japan’s largest passenger train line operator, known as JR East, said Tuesday it will open the shopping areas at 27 of the 32 stations on the Thomson-East Coast Line, which will commence partial operation by the end of this year.

The Tokyo-based company said it is the first Japanese railway operator to develop commercial facilities at stations in foreign countries.

It initially plans to open retail spaces at three stations near the border with Malaysia on the north-south line — Woodlands North, Woodlands and Woodlands South — in December, said Toshio Omiyama, managing director of JR East Business Development SEA Pte. Ltd., JR East’s wholly owned Singapore unit.

JR East won a retail operation contract for the train line for 24 million Singapore dollars (about ¥1.8 billion; $17.3 million) with SMRT Experience Pte. Ltd., a subsidiary of public transport operator SMRT Corp., and Alphaplus Investments Pte. Ltd., a subsidiary of major supermarket and convenience store chain operator NTUC FairPrice Co-Operative, on Aug. 27.

The three allies will establish Stellar Singapore-Japan Retail Pte. Ltd. in October to operate the retail spaces, with JR East Business Development SEA holding a 35 percent stake. They did not elaborate further on the joint venture.

The new operator will rent total floor space of 5,000 square meters from Singapore’s Land Transport Authority for 16 years starting from the end of 2019, JR East said in a statement.

The largest shopping area will be at Woodlands Station at 1,570 square-meters, it said.

NTUC FairPrice intends to open Cheers convenience stores in the retail spaces, according to Omiyama.

The shopping malls may house some Japanese tenants that also operate shops in malls in Japan run by JR East, said Akiko Takamura, manager for new business development at JR East, while declining to comment on shop categories.

The Thomson-East Coast Line will be developed in five phases to June 2024 to extend eastward near Changi Airport, becoming the third-longest line in the city-state.

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