Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Britain Likely In Recession

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 12, 2008

LONDON - THE Bank of England said on Wednesday that the British economy was probably already in recession as a global financial crisis takes its toll.

'The economy probably entered recession in the second half of 2008 and output is likely to contract further,' said the Bank of England in its latest quarterly report. -- PHOTO: AP

'The economy probably entered recession in the second half of 2008 and output is likely to contract further,' the central bank said in its latest quarterly report.

Britain's economy shrank 0.5 percent in the three months to Sept from the previous quarter, marking the first contraction since 1992, according to recent official data.

The economy had already shown flat performance in the second quarter with zero growth. However, Britain is not officially in recession unless it reports two quarters running of negative economic growth, or contraction.

The BoE statement implies that the central bank believes that the economy is contracting in the current fourth quarter, or three months to the end of Dec. -- AFP

Inflation to fall below 2%: BoE

LONDON - THE Bank of England warned on Wednesday that it expects inflation to fall below the government's target of 2 per cent next year as the economy contracts further, stoking expectations that the Bank will lower its benchmark interest rate - possibly to the lowest level ever.

Inflation rose to 5.2 per cent in Sept, under severe upward pressure from fast-rising food and fuel prices.

But the British economy is now teetering on the brink of a recession, and the Bank of England expects that lower consumer and business spending resulting from the broader economic slowdown will cause prices to stop rising - leading to sharply falling levels of inflation.

'Inflation will fall below targets,' Bank of England governor Mervyn King told journalists at a press conference, 'But we aim to get back there in the medium term.'

The biggest weapon in the Bank of England's arsenal to control inflation is the base interest rate. Cutting interest rates tends to increase inflation by stimulating spending, and lower it to boost growth.

The Bank of England slashed its benchmark interest rate earlier this month by 1.5 percentage points in an attempt to shore up the economy as it sinks into recession, a bold cut that far exceeded economists' expectations.

The cut to a 3 per cent base rate left rates at levels last seen in the 1950s.

Economists are viewing Wednesday's report as evidence that further interest rate cuts are likely to follow soon.

'The report reveals that if interest rates were held at 3.0 per cent, inflation would likely fall close to 0 per cent in 2010,' said Mr Richard Snook, senior economist at the Center for Economics and Business Research.

'This implies that further interest rate cuts, probably to 1 percent by the end of 2009, are certain.'

The record low for the bank's base interest rate is 2 per cent since the bank's founding in 1694 in the reign of William and Mary. -- AP


Source :《联合早报》November 12, 2008




2005年2月,万国地铁站周围的第一批组屋Compassvale Arcadia完工,开始陆续有居民迁入这个当时被很多人认为交通不便的社区,但万国站周围真正发生变化,还是在万国地铁站正式启用之后。


组屋数量不断增加 地铁乘客量翻六番



第一批居民之一的黄彩荭(49岁,经理)和家人三年多前搬入Compassvale Arcadia的新屋,是整座组屋的第二户人家。亲身感受万国站周围的发展和改变,黄彩荭用一句话形容“整个万国活起来啦!”








Sands Says Completing S'pore IR Project No. 1 Priority

Source : The Business Times, November 11, 2008

Completion of an integrated resort project in Singapore remains the top priority of US gaming giant Las Vegas Sands, the firm's chairman said on Tuesday while announcing a halt to some developments in Macau.

'Completing and opening Marina Bay Sands is the number one priority for our company,' Sheldon Adelson, Las Vegas Sands chairman and chief executive, said in a statement.

The Marina Bay Sands development is scheduled to open in Singapore by the end of next year.

'As part of my visit to Singapore last week, I assured the government we were very committed to the success of Marina Bay Sands and would have the funding necessary to complete this development. That is exactly where we stand today,' he said.

Last Friday, Mr Adelson affirmed the company's commitment to its Singapore project after a filing with US regulators sparked doubts about its financial health.

Las Vegas Sands' US-listed share price has plummeted from US$148 last October to around US$8 this month on worries about its debt burden.

But the company said it was 'in the process of' raising an additional US$2 billion in funding commitments.

Las Vegas Sands also said on Tuesday it was halting part of its huge development in the southern Chinese gambling haven of Macau due to trouble accessing credit during the global financial crisis.

The firm, which operates two casinos in Macau including the giant Venetian, said that work on parts of a US$12-billion resort and casino development on a reclaimed strip of land - called the Cotai Strip - would be stopped.

It said it would continue to seek financing that would allow it to complete the project, which includes an 1,800-room Sheraton hotel and three casinos.

Sands posts loss
Sands also reported a narrower third-quarter net loss and said it expects to shortly release details of a US$2 billion bond sale.

The company posted a net loss of US$32.2 million compared with a net loss of US$48.5 million in the year-earlier quarter.

Sands attributed the smaller loss to increases in operating income and an income tax gain, partially offset by an increase in interest expense and a decrease in other income.

After adjusting for one-time items, Sands said it earned 2 cents a share in the quarter, well short of the 11 cents a share expected by analysts, as compiled by Reuters Estimates.

The company said net revenue rose 67 per cent to US$1.11 billion, close to the US$1.16 billion expected by analysts. -- AFP, REUTERS

Sands Skimps On Macau, Bets On S'pore

Source : The Business Times, November 12, 2008

Casino operator will scale back Cotai Strip development to focus on integrated resort here

With its resources curtailed by the downturn, Las Vegas Sands (LVS) has been forced to weigh and choose - and it has decided to bet big on the construction at the Marina Bay Sands (MBS) and put its Macau expansion on the backburner for now.

Downtime: Las Vegas Sands will suspend development on Sites 5 and 6 of the Cotai Strip in Macau. The sites include the Shangri-La/Traders hotel tower and the Sheraton hotel, which are said to be already half built.

As such, LVS expects to invest an additional US$500 million in equity in MBS through the targeted opening of the property in late 2009. This, after saying it could increase the number of gaming tables to a maximum of 1,000, up from 600 previously.

Making the announcement yesterday, LVS president and COO William Weidner said: 'Given current conditions in the capital markets and the global economy and their impact on the company's ongoing operations, the company has chosen to temporarily or indefinitely suspend portions of its development projects and will focus its development efforts on those projects with the highest rates of expected return on invested capital given the liquidity and capital resources available to the company today.'

Mr Weidner said it will 'focus its development activities and available capital principally on the timely completion of both Marina Bay Sands, in Singapore, and Sands Bethlehem, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania'.

Consequently, LVS has decided to 'significantly slow the pace of our development activities on the Cotai Strip'.

In a separate statement, LVS chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson added: 'Completing and opening Marina Bay Sands is the No 1 priority for our company.'

The company went on to give an operating profit guidance for 2012, including an annual operating profit of US$1.26 billion out of Singapore. Quizzed by a sceptical analyst, Mr Adelson said the numbers were 'extraordinarily conservative'.

Speculation about delays had intensified last week after LVS made a regulatory filing that it was unlikely to meet the maximum leverage ratio covenant, triggering defaults on loans needed to complete projects.

'Any rumour or speculation about our ability to complete this project has now been put to rest,' said Mr Adelson, adding: 'As part of my visit to Singapore last week, I assured the government we were very committed to the success of Marina Bay Sands and would have the funding necessary to complete this development. That is exactly where we stand today.'

LVS also announced that it is in the process of raising approximately US$2 billion in capital.

Mr Adelson added that this ensures adequate liquidity at the parent-company level, which will be used for the Singapore development.

As at Sept 30, total debt outstanding for LVS was US$10.35 billion. But LVS said that its S$5.44 billion credit facility to support the development of Marina Bay Sands in Singapore is in place.

To date, it has invested about US$1.81 billion in construction costs in the project, including land, and has contributed approximately US$616 million in equity. Its current estimated cost to complete the construction of the project is approximately US$2.7 billion, and it expects to fund 75-80 per cent of future construction costs through proceeds from its Singapore credit facility, of which approximately US$2 billion is available.

Jonathan Galaviz, a partner at Globalysis, a leisure sector strategy consultancy also saw positives in the Singapore market, while Macau's hands were tied by visa restrictions on mainland Chinese visitors.

'As financial pressure is exerted on Macau's casino gaming operators, the operators of Singapore's integrated resorts (IRs) should do well due to the fact that Singapore's tax on gross gaming revenue is over 50 per cent less than that of Macau's,' he said.

LVS will suspend development on Sites 5 and 6 of the Cotai Strip, and JPMorgan Securities (Hong Kong) analyst Billy Ng said he is not surprised. 'They had no choice. The market had expected this, or something even worse, to happen,' he added.

Sites 5 and 6 include the Shangri-La/Traders hotel tower and the Sheraton hotel. These, Mr Ng, are already 'half built'.

Yesterday, Macau's Chief Executive Edmund Ho said his government was aware of LVS's funding difficulties but had no plans to throw in financial assistance.

'Because of its overleveraged borrowing in the US and around the world, it's normal and expected that it has to suspend some of its projects,' Mr Ho was reported as saying.

Asked about reports that a Chinese bank would extend a significant loan to LVS, he said the Macau government was not in a position to intervene.

According to a Citigroup report, while Macau gaming revenues are estimated to be 8.9 billion Macau patacas (S$1.69 billion) for October - a 26 per cent increase over September - it still represents a 3 per cent decline compared to a year ago. Citigroup analyst Anil Daswani does not forecast a relaxation in visa restrictions until the second half of next year.

In Singapore, CIMB analyst Kenneth Ng said: 'Toning down development in Macau will be positive for Singapore.' CIMB had earlier said it expected the Singapore government to take a stake in MBS if LVS should fail. Mr Ng said: 'We have to wait and see.'

The prospects for MBS and LVS do look brighter now though.

LVS, which announced its third-quarter result yesterday, reported a net loss of US$32.2 million compared to a net loss of US$48.5 million a year ago.

Net revenue for the quarter increased 67.2 per cent to US$1.11 billion, compared to US$661 million a year ago. This was largely boosted by the net revenue contribution of US$522.4 million from Venetian Macao.

Mr Weidner added: 'At an appropriate time in the future, to the extent capital becomes available on acceptable terms, we plan to resume the development of Sites 5 and 6 on the Cotai Strip.'

No Bids For Punggol EC Site

Source : AsiaOne, Tue, Nov 11, 2008

No bid was received for an executive condominium housing site in Punggol Field/Punggol Road at a sale launched by HDB on September 17, 2008.

The site, with a land area of 22,497.3 sq m and a maximum allowable gross floor area (GFA) of 67,491.9 sq m, has a lease term of 99 years.

The tender closed at 12 noon today

How To Buy A House (Or Tips To Escape Your Family)

Source : The Electric New Paper, 10 November 2008

(This column will make use of many abbreviations without explanation. It is the author's opinion that if you don't know what CPF or O$P$ means, you have no business buying a house in Singapore.)

IF you are a young couple, you might be looking for a place of your own.

But you may not know how to begin.

As someone who just got his own home, let me help you.

Since most of us aren't filthy rich, we will be looking for an HDB flat, which is subsidised. That means it will take you only one lifetime to pay it off, not several.

If you are not over 35, the first thing you have to do is get married.

Often this begins with a proposal.

This can be very complicated, if you (the guy) decide to take the romantic route.

I don't recommend this.

You can also do it the simple way, which is how I did it, and how thousands of happily married Singaporeans did it.

First, turn to her and say: 'Let's buy HDB together.'

Girls love surprises, so you want to do it where she least expects it, such as in a hawker centre.

She might say, as my own wife did: 'Was that a proposal?'

Look her in the eye now if you haven't already and reply, loudly: 'Yes!'

You can start the ROM application, right after she stops crying.

Now you're on the way to being married, it's time to check your CPF account.

Since you can't use the funds there right now, it's not really money, is it?

The next step is to work out what your budget is and compare it with how much the flat you want costs.

At this point, resist the urge to flee to some place with cheaper homes, like Malaysia or Europe.

Now, you can apply for a new flat, a built-to-order (BTO) flat, or a resale flat.

There are pros and cons for all of them.

A. New flat

Pros: Cheap. Fast to get.

Cons: Much depends on your getting a good number in the lucky draw. Hundreds of flats, thousands of applicants, all desperate like you and willing to kill.


Pros: Relatively cheap.

Cons: Takes a lot of time. You may have to live with your family for many more years until your 'dream home' is built.

C. Resale

Pros: Fast. Versatile.

Cons: Expensive. Crazy people.

Decided? Now, apply for a loan.

Next, lie in bed all weekend wondering when you'll ever pay it off. Make plans to flee to Malaysia/Europe.

Personally, I did resale, because (A) required luck I didn't have and I'd rather deal with crazy people (C) than live with them (B).

You need to understand that some home-sellers and housing agents are insane and/or money-grubbing weasels.

On the phone: 'We are looking at $300,000.'

When you meet: 'We are looking at $350,000.'

When you do agree: 'Sure, let's sign on Monday.'

On Monday: 'Oh, I can't sign right now. Uh... My brother, the co-owner, left the country. Yesterday.'

As for how to pick the right home, it really depends on each individual.

The rule of thumb is, if someone spraypainted the address with O$P$, or the neighbour is a strange old man who looks oddly like Gary Glitter - avoid.

Also, ensure your home is not within walking distance of your in-laws, for the same reason as O$P$.

Once the sale is agreed upon, you will have a cooling-off period of one week before you need to sign anything else. Then there is the first meeting, the loan approval and so on.

It can be depressing, with the realisation that until you pay off your debt, the bank/HDB owns you.

But perk up! Because you are now a homeowner! Congratulations!