Friday, November 30, 2007

Lawyer Jailed 11 Months For Forgery And Lies

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 30, 2007

He altered stamp duty payable by client and lied about address to get his child into top school.

HE WILL spend the next 11 months in jail but the immediate future of his 10-year-old daughter is less certain.

Lawyer Tan Sok Ling, 40, pleaded guilty last week to lying about his residential address in order to secure his daughter a place at a reputable school in Bukit Timah. He also admitted to altering the stamp duty payable for a property transaction from $8,100 to $13,500.

Yesterday he was sentenced to nine months’ jail for forgery and two months for giving false information. Two other forgery charges and another of giving false information were considered.

As for his daughter’s fate in the school, the Ministry of Education (MOE) said it will consider the court’s ruling in deciding the course of action for the child.
Tan, who was called to the Bar in 1993, is currently under a 12-month suspension for breaching the Solicitors Accounts Rules between 2002 and 2003.

The owner of the now-defunct firm of Tan S.L. & Partners was representing Mr Kwang Siang Jin, 46, a buyer of a Thomson Park house, when he forged the stamp duty certificate in March last year.

Mr Kwang paid $13,500 for stamp duties for the purchase of the property, not knowing that the actual figure was only $8,100.

When he found out three months later, he demanded a refund and Tan complied.

Earlier in 2003, Tan’s family was living in Bedok when he decided to rent a place within the 1km radius of the Bukit Timah school in order to enrol his daughter there.

He managed to find a unit at Maplewoods Condominium and paid a $1,600 monthly rent for 41/2 months from April 2003. He told the property agent that he was not going to live there but wanted to use the address.

After signing the licence agreement, he went to the Siglap Neighbourhood Police Post on July 6 that year to change his address to the Bukit Timah one when he knew that it was false.

His daughter, now 10, was admitted to the school. But he was found out after an MOE official lodged a police report on Dec 19 that year stating that two applicants at the 2003 Primary 1 registration exercise had used the same address.

Mr Peter Cuthbert Low of law firm Colin Ng & Partners said his client cooperated fully with the police, made restitution even before he was charged, and was genuinely remorseful.

Citing aggravating factors in the case, District Judge Liew Thiam Leng said the offence involved fraud and dishonesty as well as premeditation. Tan had abused his position of trust as a lawyer and his conduct undermined public confidence in the legal profession.

Tan could have been jailed for up to seven years for forgery. For giving false information to a public servant, the maximum penalty is six months’ jail or $1,000 fine or both.

Keen Interest At First SLA Auction For Small Plots

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 30, 2007

Sites snapped up by individuals, firms at prices ranging from $1.3m to $12.1m

MORE than 120 eager buyers yesterday crowded into a room at M Hotel hoping for a bargain deal at a first-of-its kind auction of six small plots of land.

The buyers were mostly hoping to buy a plot on which to build their own dream home.

And after some brisk bidding, six of them each left with a 99-year leasehold plot - some with what they saw as bargains.

The plots sold at prices from $1.3 million to $12.1 million, for a total of $30.64 million.

It was the Singapore Land Authority’s (SLA) first auction of residential ‘infill’ sites.

‘Infill’ sites are pockets of state land, located in the midst of an established housing estate, that have been left untouched by nearby developments or were once used for public purposes.

The six sites were mostly hotly contested, reflecting strong interest in the attractively-priced sites.

The bidders included professionals, businessmen, construction firms and niche developers, said SLA in a statement.

Included in an SLA sale for the first time were two good- class bungalow (GCB) parcels, which were sold to individual buyers for up to $12.1 million.

Still, one of the two top-end plots - a 16,689 sq ft site - attracted just one bidder. Fund manager John Foo met with zero competition when he bought the smaller of the two plots at Eng Neo Avenue for $6 million or $359.50 per sq ft (psf).

He reckoned he got a good deal for the site, which is for his own use. ‘Sentosa leasehold plots can be over $1,000 psf while District 10 GCB plots are going for $800 to $1,000 psf.’

The other GCB plot, at 29,201 sq ft in size, attracted more bidders. Bids came in hefty $50,000 increments but bidders did not hesitate long as they fired in a total of 52 bids, driving the price up from $9.5 million to $12.1 million.

The interest is not surprising, given that GCB sites, particularly one as big as 29,201 sq ft, are quite rare, said Ms Mok Sze Sze, Jones Lang LaSalle’s director and head of auction and sales.

The successful buyer, Ms Hu Nan Lee, is a Singaporean who is overseas. Her representative said it is meant for her own use.

Of the six plots, the most popular was one at Somme Road. It attracted a whopping 64 bids before local firm Sarda clinched it at $3.76 million.

Sarda’s price was 52 per cent above the $2.48 million opening bid for the 3,547 sq ft residential site, which comes with commercial use on the first floor.

A 6,971 sq ft site in Jalan Insaf, suitable for a pair of two-storey semi-detached houses or a bungalow, was sold to Lye Holdings for $3.54 million, up from the starting bid of $2.9 million.

Avadh, another firm, paid $1.3 million for a 4,228 sq ft site in Bedok Close, suitable for a two-storey bungalow. The opening bid was $880,000.

Both Sarda and Avadh have a shareholder in common: Mr Shriniwas Rai, the veteran lawyer and former Nominated Member of Parliament.

Another firm, Liverland Investments, bought a 6,293 sq ft Moonbeam Walk site for $3.94 million. Bids for the site, which can be used to build a pair of two-storey semi-detached houses, opened at $3.32 million.

Ms Mok said the strong response shows people are open to buying leasehold plots to build their dream homes.

SLA’s chief executive, Mr Lam Joon Khoi, said: ‘We will consider releasing more infill sites to help meet the current market demand for high quality residential properties.’

New Fund To Invest In Property

Source : TODAY, Friday, November 30, 2007

It will start with two projects in Bangkok and is also eyeing opportunities in S’pore.

A new fund has been set up to invest in prime development projects in Asia, including Singapore, targeting US$400 million ($580 million) of prime real estate acquisitions.

The Asia Real Estate Prime Development Fund (AREPDF) has already attracted US$250 million from institutional investors and is expected to reach the target of US$400 million by the first quarter of next year.

It’s the fourth fund launched by the real estate investment house Pacific Star Group, and earlier funds have bought into Temasek Tower, One George Street and The Adelphi.

“We are looking at all possible opportunities, including in Singapore. If the opportunity makes sense and allows us to achieve our targeted returns, then, we will consider it seriously as we have done with Bangkok as our seed investment,” said Mr Glen Chan, president of Pacific Star Investment and Development, who heads the team of fund managers of AREPDF.

The first investment, he said, would be a 49-per-cent equity stake in two residential development projects in Bangkok.

These condominium projects will be developed by Asian Property Development (APD), which is listed on the stock exchange in Thailand and is one of the largest residential property developers in downtown Bangkok.

“This investment is compelling because of the scarcity of prime freehold residential land parcels in the heart of Bangkok and the robust demand for city centre condominiums near train stations,” Mr Chan said.

This fund will invest about US$20 million via joint venture companies, which will develop two condominiums in Bangkok, targeted at upper-middle income local buyers. The two projects, which will develop 1,507 units, will be completed in three years.

“The investment returns from such condominium developments are attractive, considering that the prime location sites are within Bangkok’s central business district,” said Mr Chan, who added that the project has attracted strong interest from potential buyers.

Pacific Star Sets Up Asian Property Fund

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 30, 2007

SINGAPORE-BASED investment firm Pacific Star has shrugged off concerns about global share markets to launch a fund that banks on Asia’s property prospects.

The company has set up the Asia Real Estate Prime Development Fund and aims to make $400US million ($578S.2 million) worth of real estate investments.

The fund will invest in prime residential apartments, serviced residences and mixed development projects in Singapore, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea and Japan.

Its first deal is under way - the purchase of a 49 per cent stake in two Bangkok freehold residential projects. The developer is Asian Property Development, one of Thailand’s largest listed residential property developers.

Both projects will target local buyers in the upper-middle-income group.

Pacific Star, although one of the newer property fund houses in Asia, is growing fast. It has launched three other funds, including the $580US million Eureka Office Fund, which owns commercial properties such as Temasek Tower, One George Street and The Adelphi.

It was also behind the Macquarie Meag Prime Real Estate Investment Trust, which is listed in Singapore and owns stakes in shopping malls Wisma Atria and Ngee Ann City.

MI-Reit Acquires Office, Warehouse Building For $25m

Source : The Business Times, November 30, 2007

Powermatic will lease back the property for 5 years

MACARTHURCOOK Industrial Reit (MI-Reit) has signed an agreement to acquire an office and warehouse facility in the Tai Seng industrial precinct for $25 million.

Under the agreement, Powermatic Data Systems, which is listed on the Singapore Exchange, will lease back the property at 135 Joo Seng Road for five years with the option to extend for another five years. The lease will commence upon the completion of the acquisition, which is scheduled for February 2008.

The property was transacted at the initial yield of 7.3 per cent, and will be accretive to MI-Reit's distribution per unit following completion, said MacarthurCook Investment Managers (Asia) Ltd (MCKIM), the manager of the Reit.

Chris Calvert, CEO of MCKIM, said: 'We are pleased with the acquisition of 135 Joo Seng Road. The inclusion of SGX-listed Powermatic as one of our tenants further enhances our portfolio, of which approximately 70 per cent is comprised of SGX-ST listed companies or their subsidiaries.

'This acquisition provides unitholders with the twin benefits of medium to long-term income stability and also the opportunity for capital and rental value growth, which will form the steadily increasing demand for quality office accommodation in the Tai Seng industrial precinct.'

The inclusion of the property in MI-Reit's portfolio will further contribute to income stability through enhanced tenancy and property diversification, and reduced exposure to its largest tenant, UE Tech Park Pte Ltd, from 31.6 per cent to 29.4 per cent of portfolio income, MCKIM said.

With the latest acquisition, MI-Reit will have total investments of approximately $642.6 million in 22 properties.

It intends to finance the acquisition wholly with debt but may consider alternative means of funding as appropriate. Assuming 100 per cent debt financing, the acquisition will increase MI-Reit's committed gearing level from 36.7 per cent to 39.5 per cent.

Ho Bee, Banyan Tree Win Mipim Awards

Source : The Business Times, November 30, 2007

HO BEE Group and Banyan Tree Holdings have won two of the seven categories in the inaugural Mipim Asia Awards held in Hong Kong.

The Berth by the Cove: The Mipim Asia Award is the first for the Sentosa development

Mipim, the Marche international des professionnels de l'immobilier, is a real estate and city development fair that also honours innovative and outstanding buildings.

Over 100 projects from 15 different countries across the Asia-Pacific region were submitted to the Mipim Asia Awards.

'The quality of the final projects is a testimony to the high standards in Asian real estate today,' commented Robert Lie, president of the jury and chairman of ING Real Estate Investment Management Asia (Hong Kong).

Ho Bee on Wednesday won in the Residential Developments category with its Sentosa development, The Berth by the Cove, by architects Axis Architects Planners.

This is the first award for The Berth, and Ho Bee general manager of marketing and business development Chong Hock Chang added that it is also 'the first true waterfront housing in Singapore'.

He said: 'The development is designed such that you either face the vast South China Sea or the enchanting waterways within the Cove. Further, it is also the first of its kind to have its own berthing facilities.'

On the efforts of Axis Architects, Mr Chong said: 'They may be a local architect but the team has proven themselves to be able to compete against the best in the region by helping us bag this prestigious award.'

Banyan Tree Holdings won in the Hotels and Tourism Resorts category with its Banyan Tree Lijiang in China by Architrave Design & Planning.

Banyan Tree managing director (Design Services) Ho Kwoncjan explained that each Banyan Tree Resort is designed to blend into its natural surroundings, using indigenous materials as far as possible and reflecting the landscape and architecture of the destination.

'Whether redesigning rustic Tibetan farmhouses as lodges, or visualising a resort within an intimate village setting, we promote the uniqueness of indigenous cultures,' he said.

JTC Awards Two Industrial Sites By Tender

Source : The Business Times, November 30, 2007

JTC Corporation said yesterday it has awarded two industrial sites - one at Commonwealth and the other in Jalan Tepong.

The 120,300 sq ft site at L1 Commonwealth Drive/Lane went to WHB Pte Ltd, which submitted the highest of 14 bids received. WHB paid $51.2 million, or $170 per square foot per plot ratio (psf ppr). The 30-year leasehold site has a 2.5 plot ratio, giving it a maximum floor area of 300,700 sq ft.

The Jalan Tepong site was awarded to EL Development, which is fully owned by Evan Lim & Co Pte Ltd. The company submitted the highest of six bids received. It paid $9.5 million, or $30 psf ppr, for the site. The 23-year leasehold site has a land area of 224,600 sq ft and 1.4 plot ratio, giving it a maximum floor area of 314,500 sq ft.

The tender for the L1 Commonwealth Drive/Lane parcel was launched on Sept 21 and closed on Nov 2. The tender for the Jalan Tepong parcel was launched on Sept 28 and closed on Nov 9.

JTC is Singapore’s biggest industrial landlord.

120人竞标六洋房地段 新加坡一地段经64回合喊价才成交

《联合早报》Nov 30, 2007

新加坡土地管理局推出拍卖的六幅供建造私人洋房的官地,获得超过120人登记竞夺,最受欢迎的是松美路(Somme Road)地段,经过一来一往的64回喊价后,最终由Sarda公司夺得。市场人士认为,六幅地段的标价其实都相当合理。



第一幅地段在没有竞争对手的情况下,由Foo Chee King以600万元标得。这也是昨天唯一一幅没有竞争者“出手”竞夺喊价的地段。











另外三幅地皮——勿洛弄、在碧山地铁站附近的惹兰因萨和位于惹兰勿刹一带松美路地段,虽然由三名律师分别代表三家公司标得,但有消息指,这三名律师有意成立新公司,自己发展这三幅地皮。其中一名喊价的律师,是本地前官委议员莱伊(Shriniwas Rai),他代表Avadh公司标得勿洛弄地段。

月光径(Moonbeam Walk)地段则由一名男士代表Liverland投资公司标得。



Winning Designs On Shaping Marina South Waterfront Garden Homes

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 30, 2007

A LOW-RISE eco-village, active canal streets, a coastal shopping promenade, terraced communal green roofs - these are the winning ideas that will serve as an inspiration and catalyst for the future Marine South residential district, which is set to become the new landmark in Singapore.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has set aside 60ha of land between Gardens at Marina South and the Straits of Singapore, on which will rise some 11,000 homes, with a mix of commercial, hotel and community facilities, that are just minutes away from the city.

To get ideas for this project, the URA and the Singapore Institute of Architects (SIA) held a competition in September.

Open to students and professionals in planning, architecture and landscape, both locally and internationally, it drew 30 entries.

Participants had to illustrate how high-density living can co-exist with a waterfront garden concept, and set a new landmark in residential development.

The URA on Friday announced four winning schemes, which will serve as a starting point to develop Marina South into a distinctive waterfront garden district.

The four winners each won $10,000. Two others, awarded special, will each receive $5,000.

The winning schemes, picked by a five-member panel, are from:

- Compass Studio Limited, Hong Kong,

- Khoo Teik Rong, Singapore

- SKPS - Project, Singapore

- Surbana, Singapore

Special mention went to Chor, of Australia, and ZONG Architects, from Singapore.

Mr Tai Lee Siang, President of the Singapore Institute of Architects who chaired the panel, said of the entries, some of which came from Hong Kong, Australia, Indonesia, India and the United States: 'The submissions show an exciting array of ideas that reads like a lesson on the history of urban planning.

'There is clearly a strong trend towards an integrated approach: one that seeks to present the master plan as a form of land art that combines, planning, architecture, landscape, transportation and sustainability.

'There are many well conceived schemes that are based on tried and tested principles albeit fresh expressions. There are also gems of bold and unconventional ideas that cause the jury to debate passionately.'

Most of all, he said the competition 'draws upon ideas from Singapore and abroad to bring out the best potential for this part of Singapore and truly creating unique experiences that are memorable'.

The competition further opens avenues for greater participation from private sector to take part in the transformation of Singapore's landscape, added Mr Tai.

Ms Fun Siew Leng, Director of Urban Planning & Design, URA , said: 'We are impressed with the numerous interesting and novel ideas garnered from the competition. These will serve as a starting point that stimulates reflection and inspiration to further develop Marina South into an attractive, distinctive waterfront garden district for generations to come.'

As part of the inaugural Singapore Archifest 07, a prize presentation award ceremony was held at the City Hall Chamber on Friday to celebrate the winners. All 30 submissions are exhibited at City Hall, adjacent to the former Supreme Court building, till Dec 8 as part of the Singapore Design Festival 2007.

Top-End Property 'Still Good Value' Despite Higher Prices

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 30, 2007

Cost competitiveness in S'pore unlikely to be hit, says panel in HK to promote sector

THERE is little danger that Singapore's high-end property prices will affect its cost competitiveness, said a panel promoting the country's real estate prospects.

NOT OUTPRICED: While some condo units near Orchard Road (above) now cost twice as much as certain homes near New York's Times Square (next), they are still nowhere near the world's priciest homes, say developers. -- PHOTOS: ST FILE PHOTO, REUTERS

Mr Daryl Ng, the executive director of Sino Group, one of Hong Kong's largest developers, said it was healthy that prices of top-end homes in Singapore have finally caught up with those in other global cities such as New York and London.

'There is good value in Singapore...where prices were a laggard compared with those in other international cities,' he said yesterday at Mipim Asia, a major property conference and exhibition being held in Hong Kong this year.

Mr Ng is the son of Sino Group chairman Robert Ng and the grandson of group founder Ng Teng Fong.

The panel was addressing a question from an audience member on whether Singapore's costly homes would price the city out, especially as some Orchard Road flats now cost twice as much as apartments near New York's Times Square.

The head of property firm Savills Singapore, Mr Michael Ng, noted that while Singapore homes might be getting pricey, they are still nowhere near the world's costliest residences.

There is still some way to go before they hit prices such as $15,000 per sq ft (psf), fetched recently in London, he said.

Mr Richard Johnson, who heads the Istithmar Real Estate fund, added that high prices are simply part of a market cycle. 'We're at the top of the cycle in Singapore. It's just tough luck.'

An official from Singapore's Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) noted that while high-end homes have exceeded $5,000 psf, there are still 'good quality, suburban homes available for $500 to $600 psf'.

'What we are seeing now is market segmentation,' said Mr Marc Boey, a deputy director at the Singapore agency.

'Compared with the 1990s, we are now seeing demand not just from Indonesians and Malaysians but also from people in Monaco, London and the Middle East.'

Mr Boey also told The Straits Times that the URA and the Singapore Tourism Board were in Hong Kong to woo hotel developers that have little or no presence in Singapore, ahead of a revised Government Land Sales programme due out in two weeks.

The programme opens sites to developers for bidding.

Many companies have expressed keen interest in building hotels, ranging from smallish ones of about 300 rooms to those with about 500 rooms, said Mr Boey.

Demand For Subsidised HDB Rental Flats Surges

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 30, 2007

Rise - fuelled mainly by soaring open market rents - has doubled waiting time for those in queue

SOARING rents in the open market are forcing more people to opt for subsidised HDB rental flats, but the extra numbers have doubled the waiting period.

Eligible low-income households now must wait five to 11 months to move into a rental HDB flat, compared with two to six months a year ago.

The pressure had been mounting for some time: In the financial year that ended in March, HDB's stock of one- and two-room rental flats dropped slightly, but it had to deal with an 11 per cent increase in applications.

Most of the 3,000 or so applicants in the queue now are unlikely to get a home until the first quarter of next year, when the first batch of recently- refurbished flats comes on stream.

Members of Parliament, who have noticed the longer wait among their needy residents, have cited another factor: People who were unable to sell their flats during the property downturn are now offloading their flats to repay debts but find themselves priced out of the hot market.

An MP for Aljunied GRC, Madam Cynthia Phua, said: 'The alternative is to rent a flat on the open market, but that is increasingly very expensive.'

Rents for HDB flats have shot up in the past year, in some cases by more than 30 per cent.

Families who have recently sold their flats are also caught by a longstanding HDB rule that requires them to wait 30 months after selling their flat before being eligible for subsidised rental homes.

Many turn to their relatives, but Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC MP Charles Chong said: 'In cases where they have no relatives, or have conflict with the rest of their families, some end up sleeping on Changi Beach, at void decks and so on.'

The HDB allocates subsidised rental flats to families earning no more than $1,500 a month. Depending on their income and whether they have had a previous housing subsidy, they pay $26 to $205 a month for a one-room flat, and $44 to $275 for two-room flats.

These rates are far lower than in the open market, where the median monthly rental for a two-room flat in Queenstown in the July to September period was $800.

The squeeze on rental flats is hitting applicants like Ms Jannath, 41, hard. The former cleaner, who has no savings, sold her four-room flat a few months ago to help pay for her unemployed husband's medical bills.

The HDB helped her in June by waiving the 30-month waiting debarment period for a rental flat.

Her family must leave its four-room flat by Dec 5, but the waiting list for rental flats has meant that she has yet to get one.

Ms Jannath told The Straits Times: 'They can give me (a flat) anywhere...I just want a shelter for the three of us.'

In March, the HDB was managing about 42,000 one- and two-room rental flats, with about 95 per cent occupied. More are coming on stream from next year.

The Board is converting three blocks in Boon Lay and Woodlands into 938 rental units expected to be ready early next year. Next year, it will also convert two blocks in Redhill to about 290 rental homes and build 976 units in Choa Chu Kang, Sembawang and Yishun.

The stock is more limited on the open market, with only about 16,000 rented out.

The HDB said: 'HDB rental flats in stock. They are meant for poor and needy households...Those who can afford to buy or rent from the open market, as well as those with family support, should not turn to rental flats...and compete with more needy families.'


'They can give me (a flat) anywhere...I just want a shelter for the three of us.' - MS JANNATH, 41, a former cleaner who sold her four-room flat a few months ago to help pay for her unemployed husband's medical bills. Her family must move out of its home by Dec 5, but the waiting list for rental flats has meant that she has yet to get one.


'Those who can afford to buy or rent from the open market, as well as those with family support, should not turn to rental flats...and compete with more needy families.' - HDB, saying that rental flats are limited in stock and are meant for poor and needy households.

HDB To Put Bishan Site Up For Sale

Source : The Business Times, November 30, 2007

THE Housing Board (HDB) yesterday said that it will release a residential site at Bishan Street 14 for sale by tender.

The 129,200 sq ft site has a 4.9 plot ratio - giving it a gross floor area of 632,900 sq ft. The site has a lease of 99 years.

Analysts said that the site could fetch between $370-$450 per square foot per plot ratio (psf ppr) - which will bring the total price paid by the successful developer to anywhere between $234.2 million and $284.8 million.

Private apartments in the Bishan area are now selling for about $800 psf in the resale market. Construction costs for mass market condos now stand at about $300 psf, contractors told BT. Knight Frank's director for research and consultancy Nicholas Mak expects the site to be popular with developers. 'Even with the current turbulence in the market, developers are still looking out for good sites.'

A residential site in Ang Mo Kio sold by the HDB in September set a new record for suburban land prices, fetching some $601 psf ppr. The site also drew a bullish 14 bids.

But this Bishan site is less plum as it is further from the MRT station, observers said. Market sentiment has dipped since the tender for the Ang Mo Kio site closed two months ago.

The site is being made available under the government's reserve list system.

SLA Auctions Off 6 Infill Sites For $30.6m

Source : The Business Times, November 30, 2007

Some of the 99-year leasehold residential land parcels went for bargain prices

THE Singapore Land Authority (SLA) yesterday auctioned off six 99-year leasehold residential land parcels for some $30.6 million in all - but some of the sites went for bargain prices.

A 16,690 sq ft good class bungalow (GCB) site at Eng Neo Avenue was picked up by a buyer for at the starting auction price of $6 million - which works out to $360 per square foot (psf). The buyer, Foo Chee King John, said that he was lucky to have won the site at such a good price.

'Leasehold land on Sentosa can go for over $1,000 psf,' he pointed out. The land, he said, is for his own private use.

And another GCB plot, also on Eng Neo Avenue, was sold to individual buyer Hu Nan Lee for $12.1 million - significantly above the starting price of $9.5 million. But the 29,200 sq ft site was still considered a good buy as it went for $414 psf.

The auction was SLA's first for infill sites, the government agency said. Over 120 individuals and companies turned up for the auction, including professionals, businessmen, construction companies and niche developers.

Other than the GCB sites, SLA also auctioned off one other site in one of Singapore's prime districts - a 6,290 sq ft semi-detached housing plot Moonbeam Walk, which is in District 10. The site fetched $3.9 million (as compared to the starting bid of $3.3 million), which works out at $626 psf.

The three other sites, at Somme Road, Jalan Insaf and Bedok Close went for $3.8 million, $3.5 million and $1.3 million respectively. The price works out to $353 psf for the Somme Road site, $508 psf for the Jalan Insaf site and $307 psf for the land parcel on Bedok Close.

The Somme Road plot proved to be the most popular of the six land parcels on offer and there were altogether 64 bids before it was awarded to Sarda Pte Ltd.

'We are very encouraged by the strong bids shown at this auction,' said SLA chief executive Lam Joon Khoi. 'We will consider releasing more infill sites to help meet the current market demand for high quality residential properties.'

Asia May Take A Hit In 'Act Two' Of Sub-Prime Crisis

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 30, 2007

Stanchart S-E Asia chief says turmoil will hit export-driven regional economies

A TOP banker just posted to Singapore has warned that 'it's only the end of the beginning' of the global credit crisis.

The world is still reeling from US$50 billion (S$72.3 billion) in losses linked to sub-prime home loans in the United States, Standard Chartered's (Stanchart's) new chief executive (CEO) for South-east Asia, Mr Ray Ferguson, said.

Asian economies, particularly Singapore and Hong Kong, are likely to be hit by the deepening crisis, he said at a luncheon hosted by the British Chamber of Commerce's Professional Services Business Group.

Some analysts believe, on the other hand, that the sub-prime fallout will be limited in Asia. Last week, Henderson Global Investors' director of economics and asset allocation, Mr Tony Dolphin, said while the short- term outlook appears shaky, the Asian stock-market bull run would continue next year.

Several weeks ago, Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong also said Asia had emerged relatively unscathed from the crisis.

Mr Ferguson likened the crisis to a three-act play: 'Act One has just ended, and the level of losses we have seen will look small compared to Act Two.'

He highlighted some analysts' estimates that write-downs for sub-prime loans might eventually hit US$400 billion. He cited US reports suggesting 1.5 million to two million Americans could lose their homes next year.

All this is expected to undermine US consumer and investor confidence and take a toll on export-driven Asian economies still 'very dependent' on US consumption.

Mr Ferguson, who served as Stanchart's US country CEO, rejected an emerging view that Asia's growth has been decoupled from the US.

'Asia will be affected... While the direct exposure of banks in the region to sub-prime loans is relatively limited, Asian debt markets have slowed and credit criteria have been tightened.'

Oil price hikes and a weaker US dollar are set to dent US consumer confidence, so Asia will 'feel the force of a decline in the US economy'.

'Singapore and Hong Kong, being small and export-dependent, will feel far more impact', than other markets, such as India and China.

Still, 'the feel-good factor in Raffles Place is not just based on the US', he said. Singapore's strategy of diversifying its economy away from electronics exports to the financial, biomedical and other sectors will help it to weather market volatility.

'Act One has just ended, and the level of losses we have seen will look small compared to Act Two.'

MR FERGUSON, who likens the crisis to a three-act play

Asia Yet To Feel Full Sub-Prime Impact: Stanchart Exec

Source : The Business Times, November 30, 2007

Asia and the rest of the world have yet to see the full impact of the fallout from the collapse of the US sub-prime mortgage market, the South-east Asia head of Standard Chartered said yesterday.

Ray Ferguson, who was until recently the international banking group's US country head, warned that conditions in the housing market there are likely to worsen as more 'teaser-rate' mortgages - those sold with low initial interest rates - reset to higher interest rates in the coming months.

This is expected to trigger new defaults on home loans and lead to more homes being repossessed, which would in turn further dampen consumer and business spending and cause the US economy to grow at a slower pace or even shrink.

Also, further increases in the already high price of oil and the falling value of the US dollar, potential instability in Iran and the rest of the Middle East region 'will all put downward pressure on the US economy and affect consumer confidence further as we go into next year', he warned.

And while Singapore and Asia generally have seen 'dramatic development' in the decade since the financial crisis of 1997, 'we haven't that decoupled from the US and we will feel the force of any major decline'.

Mr Ferguson was speaking to members of the British Chamber of Commerce here at a lunch talk yesterday.

Despite the estimated US$50 billion worth of losses suffered by major banks and other financial institutions so far as a result of the recent financial turmoil, 'the worst of the sub-prime crisis and the fallout from it will not actually be felt until well into next year', he said.

The reason: 'There are hundreds of billions of dollars of low teaser-rate mortgages that haven't reset to the new higher interest rates yet. That's going to happen as we move through 2008. That's going to cause more defaults and repossessions.'

Banks are likely to report more damage to their bottom lines as they come under pressure from auditors to state the value of their investments in debt securities based on what they would fetch in the current market, rather than based on internal models, he said.

'Marking to market when there is a limited market is going to cause a few institutions to have a huge whack to the capital base. That means they're going to have to raise more money or face having to throw in the towel.'

Standard Chartered, which makes most of its profits from Asia, Africa and the Middle East, has no direct exposure to US sub-prime mortgages, he said.

'It's unclear whether the US is going to slide into recession, but the risk does appear to be increasing and there's a real need for caution. Market volatility will affect us here, and lead quickly to sub-par growth as we move forward.'

In Asia, 'the good news is that we still have strong demand out there and consumer and investment sentiment that's positive,' he said. 'This should partially offset the decline that is inevitably on its way across the Pacific.'

Since When Did Resale Prices Decide Cost Of HDB Flat?

Source : The Business Times, November 30, 2007


I WAS surprised to learn that the new HBD flat prices are to be influenced by resale market prices ('More supply but HDB prices will go up: Mah', BT, Nov 29).

I wonder whether 'new' HDB prices came down during the extremely poor resale period of five or six years ago?

If they did come down, did they ever touch the 'cost plus' level, including the 'value' placed by the government/HDB on state lands upon which the flats are built?

Since when did resale prices decide the cost of building a flat? How much money did HDB make from selling its new flats over the last five years?

The article also reveals that the property market is not a free market but a 'controlled' one as the government controls the supply side. There is thus no need to panic, as Singapore still has plenty of land to build cheap and affordable and high-quality housing for its citizens.

For the expensive and luxurious segments, permanent residents and other new migrants can afford them.

Lu Keehong

Grim US Housing Outlook In 2008

Source : The Business Times, November 29, 2007

(CHICAGO) US homebuilders said the housing market probably will weaken in 2008 as foreclosures rise and banks tighten lending standards.

Demand has deteriorated in many markets, limiting the prospect of a rebound in new home sales, chief executive officers for D R Horton Inc and Beazer Homes USA Inc. said on Tuesday at a JPMorgan Chase & Co conference in Las Vegas.

Next year 'is going to be worse than '07 for us and for the industry in general', said Donald Tomnitz, CEO of Fort Worth, Texas-based D R Horton, the fourth- largest US homebuilder.

The housing slump that began in 2005 has erased about US$36 billion in stock market value for the largest 15 homebuilders this year.

New home sales dropped 23 per cent in the year through September and home delinquencies have reached a five-year high.

The California and Florida housing markets continue to weaken and the Las Vegas market is 'soft', Mr Tomnitz said.

New home sales in Phoenix will probably get worse in 2008, he said.

Stephen Scarborough, Standard Pacific Corp's CEO, said at the conference that his company isn't planning on filing for bankruptcy.

Shares of Standard Pacific have fallen 91 per cent this year on concern the company can't pay back its debt.

'There's no effort on our part and nothing is in process as far as filing for bankruptcy protection,' Mr Scarborough said. 'That is not our present intent. We have a multifaceted approach to conserve cash and generate cash,' he said.

Homebuilders are cutting jobs and trying to reduce their construction costs to boost cash flow to pay off debt. They're also selling land and writing down property values. -- Bloomberg

Keppel Land To Build 140 Viet Waterfront Villas

Source : The Business Times, November 29, 2007

KEPPEL Land will build 140 waterfront villa homes in Ho Chi Minh City, its eighth residential development in Vietnam this year.

In a statement yesterday, Keppel Land said that it had formed a joint venture, through wholly owned subsidiary VN Investment Pte Ltd, with Vietnamese property developer Hung Phu Real Estate Investment Corporation (Hung Phu), to develop a 9.7-hectare site into waterfront landed housing in District 9 of Ho Chi Minh City.

The total investment capital for the project is estimated at US$55.2 million. Upon receiving the investment certificate and obtaining the relevant government approvals, VN Investment will take up a 60 per cent stake in the joint venture company and Hung Phu, the remainder.

Citing reports by The World Bank Group, Keppel Land highlighted that the rate of urbanisation in Vietnam is projected to reach 40 per cent by 2020, up from 23.5 per cent in 2000. This translates into more than 31 million people of the country's population living in urban areas, compared with 19 million in 2000.

Said Keppel Land director of regional investments Ang Wee Gee: 'There is growing demand for luxury homes in Vietnam. We will continue to capitalise on Vietnam's rising property market with premier developments in prime locations.

'Villa developments, in particular, are limited in Ho Chi Minh City, and demand for villas is expected to be very strong.'

The villa homes are expected to be launched in early 2009 and will be targeted at wealthy locals, expatriate communities and overseas Vietnamese (Viet Kieus).

This latest development follows two recently formed joint ventures to develop luxury villas and condominiums, also in Ho Chi Minh City's District 9.

To date, Keppel Land has an existing pipeline of more than 25,000 homes in Vietnam.

Keen Interest At First SLA Auction For Small Plots

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 30, 2007

MORE than 120 eager buyers yesterday crowded into a room at M Hotel hoping for a bargain deal at a first-of-its kind auction of six small plots of land.

The buyers were mostly hoping to buy a plot on which to build their own dream home.

And after some brisk bidding, six of them each left with a 99-year leasehold plot - some with what they saw as bargains.

The plots sold at prices from $1.3 million to $12.1 million, for a total of $30.64 million.

It was the Singapore Land Authority's (SLA) first auction of residential 'infill' sites.

'Infill' sites are pockets of state land, located in the midst of an established housing estate, that have been left untouched by nearby developments or were once used for public purposes.

The six sites were mostly hotly contested, reflecting strong interest in the attractively-priced sites.

The bidders included professionals, businessmen, construction firms and niche developers, said SLA in a statement.

Included in an SLA sale for the first time were two good- class bungalow (GCB) parcels, which were sold to individual buyers for up to $12.1 million.

Still, one of the two top-end plots - a 16,689 sq ft site - attracted just one bidder. Fund manager John Foo met with zero competition when he bought the smaller of the two plots at Eng Neo Avenue for $6 million or $359.50 per sq ft (psf).

He reckoned he got a good deal for the site, which is for his own use. 'Sentosa leasehold plots can be over $1,000 psf while District 10 GCB plots are going for $800 to $1,000 psf.'

The other GCB plot, at 29,201 sq ft in size, attracted more bidders. Bids came in hefty $50,000 increments but bidders did not hesitate long as they fired in a total of 52 bids, driving the price up from $9.5 million to $12.1 million.

The interest is not surprising, given that GCB sites, particularly one as big as 29,201 sq ft, are quite rare, said Ms Mok Sze Sze, Jones Lang LaSalle's director and head of auction and sales.

The successful buyer, Ms Hu Nan Lee, is a Singaporean who is overseas. Her representative said it is meant for her own use.

Of the six plots, the most popular was one at Somme Road. It attracted a whopping 64 bids before local firm Sarda clinched it at $3.76 million.

Sarda's price was 52 per cent above the $2.48 million opening bid for the 3,547 sq ft residential site, which comes with commercial use on the first floor.

A 6,971 sq ft site in Jalan Insaf, suitable for a pair of two-storey semi-detached houses or a bungalow, was sold to Lye Holdings for $3.54 million, up from the starting bid of $2.9 million.

Avadh, another firm, paid $1.3 million for a 4,228 sq ft site in Bedok Close, suitable for a two-storey bungalow. The opening bid was $880,000.

Both Sarda and Avadh have a shareholder in common: Mr Shriniwas Rai, the veteran lawyer and former Nominated Member of Parliament.

Another firm, Liverland Investments, bought a 6,293 sq ft Moonbeam Walk site for $3.94 million. Bids for the site, which can be used to build a pair of two-storey semi-detached houses, opened at $3.32 million.

Ms Mok said the strong response shows people are open to buying leasehold plots to build their dream homes.

SLA's chief executive, Mr Lam Joon Khoi, said: 'We will consider releasing more infill sites to help meet the current market demand for high quality residential properties.'

Lawyer Jailed For Forgery, Giving False Information

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 29, 2007

LAWYER Tan Sok Ling was sentenced to a total of 11 months on Thursday for forgery and giving false information to the police.

The 40-year-old, who has been suspended from practice since March this year for breaching the Solicitors Accounts Rules, had admitted to forging a stamp duty certificate for the sale and purchase of a property by fraudulently altering the amount of stamp duty from $8,100 to $13,500, to cheat Mr Kwang Siang Jin, the buyer of a Thomson Park house, on Mar 6 last year.

Three years earlier, he lied to a police officer that he had changed his address to Bukit Timah Road when this was false.

He did this to prove that he was living within 1km from Methodist Girls' School in Blackmore Drive where he wanted to enrol his daughter. She was a Primary 4 student this year.

The court was told that he rented a place within the 1km-radius and paid a monthly rent of $1,600 for 4-1/2 months between April and August 2003.

The offence came to light when a staff of the school found out in December that year that two applicants had used the same address in the 2003 Primary 1 registration exercise.

In the forgery case, the court heard that Mr Kwang, 47, found out that he had overpaid Tan for his stamp fees after inquiring from Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore on June 7 last year.

He contacted Tan who refunded him the excess $5,400 the same day.

Three other charges - two of forgery and one of giving false information - were taken into consideration during sentencing.

Citing aggravating factors, District Judge Liew Thiam Leng said the offence involved fraud and dishonesty and there was pre-meditation.

He said Tan had abused his position of trust and his conduct undermined public trust in the legal profession, and the sentence had to deter other like-minded lawyers.

Tan could have been jailed for up to seven years and fined for forgery.

For giving false information the maximum penalty is a jail term of up to six months or a fine of up to $1,000, or both.

Prime Plots Going, Going ...

Source : TODAY, Friday November 30, 2007

Six residential sites fetch $31m at first SLA auction

THE Singapore Land Authority's (SLA) first auction of six 99-year leasehold residential sites yesterday fetched $30.64 million — another sign that the local property market is still bubbling.

More than 120 individuals — comprising professionals, businessmen and niche developers — as well as several private companies turned up at M Hotel to bid for six infill sites, or pockets of State land located in the midst of prime residential housing estates.

Previous bids for sites were through open tender, but the SLA said yesterday's auction would "help meet the current market demand for high quality residential properties and allow wider participation by individuals to build their own dream homes".

Included in the sale were two large parcels — 1,550.5 and 2,712.9 sq m respectively — at Eng Neo Avenue, a 585.7-sq-m plot at Moonbeam Walk off Holland Road, another at Jalan Insaf in Bishan measuring 647.6 sq m, a 392.8-sq-m plot at Bedok Close as well as a 329.5-sq-m tract at Somme Road, off Jalan Besar.

For more than two hours, the hotel meeting room was filled with eager punters eyeing the best deals. The Somme Road site received the most bids — 64 in all — and was eventually went to Sarda Pte Ltd for $3.76 million.

The Eng Neo Avenue sites fetched the highest bids at $6 million and $12.1 million respectively, with both lots earmarked for good class bungalows, going to private investors.

The Bedok Close plot went for $1.3 million to Avadh, while the Jalan Insaf parcel in Bishan fetched $3.54 million from Lye Holdings. The plot at Moonbeam Walk went to Liverland Investments for $3.94 million.

Encouraged by the strong bids, SLA chief executive Mr Lam Joon Khoi said the authority would consider releasing more infill sites to help meet the current market demand for high quality residential properties.

The auction proved that there are still eager buyers looking for opportunities in the landed property market, said Mr Donald Han, managing director of property consultants Cushman and Wakefield.

"There are a lot of new entrants and smaller developers coming into the market and taking the 99-year lease route, which is quite encouraging considering the market has been fairly quiet over the last three months," he said.

But things have been picking up: Last week, the 30-year-old Westwood Apartments at Orchard Boulevard was sold to Malaysia's YTL Corporation for $435 million, or $2,525 psf, making it the most expensive site to be sold by collective sale to date.

For one of yesterday's buyers, securing the 1,550.5-sq-m plot at Eng Neo Avenue for $6 million was anything but extravagant.

"Land prices will be firm because it is limited in supply here," said a 40-something financer who declined to be named.

"I had no problems buying a 99-year lease because it's an opportunity. A freehold piece of bungalow would have cost me more than double.

"I've seen the plot and it has potential and it's in District 10. This auction has saved me a lot of money."

政府未来半年 供应万间组屋

《联合早报》Nov 29, 2007



两个预购项目是武吉班让的“Segar Meadows”和盛港的“Compassvale Beacon”,将分别建412间组屋和750间组屋。Segar Meadows坐落在武吉班让环路,将有90间三房式和322间四房式优质组屋单位。Compassvale Beacon位于盛港东道、榜鹅路及康埔桦通道交界处,将建60间二房式、150间三房式和540间四房式标准组屋单位。



三个执行共管公寓地段位于义顺、裕廊西和盛港,将于明年2月、3月和4 月通过政府售地计划的备售名单出售,总共可建1300个单位。



申请四次没抽中 将获更多优先权








建屋局未来半年建屋计划公布 - 市场分析员:组屋转售市场会降温 现金溢价也将降低

《联合早报》Nov 29, 2007








不过,莱坊(Knight Frank)研究部主管麦俊荣说,由于新推出的组屋预计将在两三年后才会建成,因此对于那些急着购屋的人来说,这项措施不会有太大的影响。

盛港的预购组屋“Compassvale Beacon”位于盛港东道、榜鹅路及康埔桦通道交界处,将建60间二房式、150间三房式和540间四房式标准组屋。(建屋局设计图)








转售市场稳健成长 新组屋价格将上涨



坐落在武吉班让的“Segar Meadows”将有90间三房式和322间四房式优质组屋。(建屋局设计图)





Property Transactions With Contract Dates Between Nov 5th - 10th, 2007d

Thursday, November 29, 2007

6 SLA Residential Infill Sites Sold For S$31m

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 29 November 2007

There has been strong response at an auction of six residential infill sites by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA).

The sites fetched a combined S$31 million.

They were launched for sale last month on 99-year leases.

Infill sites are small, and usually have adjacent buildings on either side.

The most popular plot is located at Somme Road, and it received 64 bids. The site was finally sold to a company called Sarda for S$3.8 million.

This works out to about S$3,800 per square metre per plot ratio.

Two Good Class Bungalow sites in Eng Neo Avenue also saw good response. One was sold for S$6 million and the other for S$12 million.

The SLA said it will consider releasing more infill sites to meet demand. - yb

HDB Launches Mobile Bidding Service "M-bid"

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 29 November 2007

HDB is launching a new mobile bidding service called "M-bid" on Thursday.

With better mobile capabilities powered by 3G networks and wireless@SG programme, mobile users can now register, search for properties, bid and track the results at

A wide range of properties such as factories, shops, offices and child care centres are available for bidding.

The mobile service is similar to the HDB internet website,, where industrial and commercial premises are posted for viewing and open bidding in real time.

The facility will be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Businessmen who are looking for a business premises to rent can source for them anytime, anywhere. - CNA/ch

1.4m US Home Foreclosures Expected Next Year

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 29, 2007

DETROIT - AN ESCALATING mortgage crisis will push another 1.4 million US homes into foreclosure and drive nationwide property values lower by 7 per cent next year, according to a report by a group representing city mayors.

The report, released on Tuesday by the US Conference of Mayors, predicted that states and cities will be left scrambling to make up for lost property tax revenue, particularly in markets such as California and Florida, where home values had soared.

The forecast, prepared by economic consulting firm Global Insight, was released as the non-partisan mayors group began a special meeting here intended to address the foreclosure crisis and its connection to problems such as neighbourhood blight and crime.

It forecasted that US home owners will see property values fall by US$1.2 trillion (S$1.73 trillion) next year, with almost half of those overall losses coming in California.

California property values are expected to drop by 16 per cent next year, the report said, costing the most populous state almost US$3 billion in property taxes.

The report said the weakening US property market would have knocked some US$676 billion from home values.

Another US$519 billion in losses could be tied directly to the financial problems facing borrowers who are unable to meet escalating monthly mortgage payments, it said.

During the property boom of 2004 and 2005, thousands of borrowers with riskier, or sub-prime, credit took out adjustable rate mortgages that had very low 'teaser' interest rates for the initial two years before resetting at much higher rates.

As those interest rates have started to reset, home foreclosure rates have jumped, especially in once-hot real estate markets such as Nevada, California and Florida.

The report forecasted that the US economy will grow by just 1.9 per cent next year, with hiring and consumer spending both curtailed.

Representatives of the US Conference of Mayors were expected this week to join calls for mortgage investors and loan servicing companies to make a collective effort to work out new payment terms with borrowers to try to contain the number of foreclosures.

The Conference of Mayors represents more than 1,100 cities in the United States with a population of 30,000 or more. - REUTERS

KSH Wins $118m Deals From Ho Bee

Source : The Business Times, 29 November 2007

CONSTRUCTION company KSH Holdings has secured two contracts from the Ho Bee Group worth more than $118 million to build high-end residences at Sentosa Cove and Orange Grove.

The deals take the value of construction contracts secured by KSH this year to $512.8 million. The company's order book now stands at a record $498 million.

One of the new contracts, worth about $64.8 million, is for Ho Bee's Turquoise @ Sentosa Cove condominium and showflat. Work will start in February 2008 and be completed within 26 months.

The contract takes the total value of KSH's projects at Sentosa Cove to more than $292.8 million. Besides Turquoise @ Sentosa Cove, it is building Ho Bee's The Coast @ Sentosa Cove.

The other contract announced yesterday is for The Orange Grove in Stevens Road. The contract value is about $53.2 million.

The development will have 72 units with attics. Work is scheduled to start this month and be completed in 28 months.

Related link:
KSH's news release

KSH chairman and managing director Choo Chee Onn said that his company has had a strong working relationship with Ho Bee since November 2000.

'With our solid track record of high-profile construction projects, we are confident of benefiting from the construction boom and achieving even greater heights,' he said.

KSH was listed on the Singapore Exchange in February at 36 cents a share but its stock closed at 94 cents yesterday - a jump of about 160 per cent.

On Tuesday, the company proposed a one-into-two stock split to improve the liquidity of the shares and enhance their affordability.

Stamford Land In A$220m Sydney Project

Source : The Business Times, 29 November 2007

SINGAPORE-LISTED Stamford Land, the hotel and property arm of shipping tycoon Ow Chio Kiat, is planning to build some of Australia's most expensive homes on the site of two old demolished warehouses and a heritage building.

Mr Ow bought the 99-year leasehold site on Sydney's The Rocks area fronting Gloucester Street and Cumberland Street for A$22 million in June 2004 and is developing a 30-storey building with 122 apartments, five luxury terraces and commercial and retail space, at a total cost of some A$220 million (S$279 million).

Even before the official launch, 55 per cent of the project is said to have been sold, at an average price of just over A$1,000 per square foot (psf).

The 427 square metre penthouse at The Stamford Residences and The Reynell Terraces is expected to fetch A$14 million, which, according to The Daily Telegraph, will beat the A$12 million paid for another apartment at The Bennelong. This would be just short of the record A$16.5 million paid for three adjoining apartments formerly owned by one of Australia's richest men, John Symond, who founded lending giant Aussie Home Loans and who in 2004 had a fortune estimated at A$365 million.

The cheapest apartment, a 62 sq m one-bedroom unit, is expected to go for A$645,000, or about S$1,200 psf - high, but way below the $4,000 psf apartments at Singapore's Orchard Turn are fetching.

A brochure for the project says: 'This unique development will create history as the last grand residential tower permitted in The Rocks - Sydney's first neighbourhood.'

According to The Daily Telegraph, The Stamford Residences is the final tower to be approved under the Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority Planning Scheme. The scheme allowed for a single tower to be built in each of the six blocks south of the Cahill Expressway as a way to provide funding to upgrade other heritage buildings in The Rocks area.

In the past 25 years, the scheme has resulted in the Four Seasons Hotel, Grosvenor Tower, Quay West Apartments, the Shangri-la Hotel and the Cove Apartments.

The Telegraph quoted National Trust of Australia conservation director Graham Quint as saying: 'We warm to the idea that this is the last large development of this scale and size. You wouldn't want this encroaching further into the heart of The Rocks . . . This sort of thing is the trade-off to protect the rest of The Rocks . . . The area is becoming glitzier and glitzier but people and tourists don't want to see something they can in their own country. You don't want to lose all that character.'

Stamford Land, with a market capitalisation of about $500 million, owns seven of Australia's best hotels and one in New Zealand. It has also gone into the development of high-end property in the two territories, having developed three luxury residential projects in Sydney - Stamford on Kent, 187 Kent, and Stamford Marque.

Besides The Rocks, it has two other residential projects - The Stamford Residences in Auckland and The Stamford Cosmopolitan in Double Bay - and an office tower in Perth under development.

Mr Ow, Stamford Land's executive chairman, told BT: 'Stamford will continue to make its residential developments synonymous with its five-star luxury hotel brand. We are committed to focus on the upmarket end of the housing market throughout the region.'

Life Can Go On, With Or Without A Home Of Your Own

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 29, 2007

MARKETING manager Eva Chia accepted her boyfriend’s proposal in the middle of this year, but their joy was short- lived when the hunt for a marital home turned up nothing for months on end.

Their combined income busted the ceiling for subsidised housing but they baulked at the prices of resale Housing Board (HDB) flats and private apartments.

Up until Tuesday, when they finally found a flat, they were prepared to postpone their marriage.

‘What’s the point in getting married when you have to stay in separate homes?’ said Eva, 27, in an e-mail.

The housing crunch has hit operations officer Mohammed Samsudin, 29, and his wife in a different way, but their distress has a similar ring.

They qualify for subsidised housing but fear they will miss out on a new HDB flat because of the immense demand. The couple, who live in a rented room in an HDB flat, are adamant about not having a child until they get a home of their own.

‘Definitely not in a rented room. Only in my own house,’ said Mr Mohammed.

In the minds of these and many other couples, married life - or family life - cannot start without a home of their own.

As the booming market puts some properties out of reach, couples who fail to get new flats in the HDB’s regular ballots argue that the Government is not doing enough to curb speculation.

Some nurse conspiracy theories about rogue housing agents trying to boost the sale of resale flats - and their income - by bumping up demand for new HDB flats with fake applications. Others point the fingers at foreign money, which they say is fuelling runaway home prices.

But others, like Ms Jenny Yap, who wrote to The Straits Times Forum recently charging that these couples are simply being choosy, think otherwise. They want the best home, in the best location, at the best price and gripe when they have to compromise, she said.

Harsher critics label such couples as being spoilt, pointing out that not too long ago, 10-member, three-generation families lived in three-room flats, and were none the worse for it.

While it may be true that some couples are too finicky for their own good, many cannot fathom married life without owning a home simply because they have been conditioned along these lines.

Singapore’s housing policy is overwhelmingly weighted towards home ownership, which in turn is heavily hinged on marriage. Married couples are entitled to subsidised home loans, a new HDB flat or a slew of housing grants, as well as the chance to buy condominium-style housing that could be 30 per cent cheaper than private homes.

Married couples are also encouraged to own, instead of rent, through generous aid schemes that help low-income tenants buy their first flat.

Only about 48,000 - or 5 per cent - of the 880,000 HDB flats islandwide are rental units for low-income families. As at September, about 16,000 HDB flats were rented out on the open market.

An even more striking fact is that nine in 10 Singaporeans own their homes, compared with less than 10 per cent 40 years ago.

Home ownership is so deeply rooted in the national psyche that some propose marriage by way of asking the other party to apply for an HDB flat together.

Along with this comes a deep sense of entitlement that a new HDB flat - and the chance of trading up for a bigger one a few years down the road - should come along with marriage.

It is an entitlement the Government takes seriously, judging by the reassurances given yesterday by National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan, who announced plans for 7,000 new flats to be launched for sale by ballot in the next seven months.

National Institute of Education professor Ooi Giok Ling says that while Asians tend to place relatively more value on home ownership, the link between marriage and home ownership seems even more prevalent in Singapore.

The contrast is more apparent when attitudes here are compared with those in Europe, Australia or North America, where young people commonly leave home when they go to university or start working.

Many get used to the idea of renting early in life while some with higher incomes buy a modest home on their own.

Prof Ooi said: ‘When they decide to get married, homes and home ownership might not be such a major factor to consider.’

But Singaporeans’ love affair with property is so entrenched that many couples feel their life together cannot start without a mortgage.

To be fair, having your own home does have its upside: You do not have to worry about your landlord raising your rent or throwing you out, and it does provide a more stable environment in which to bring up children. It could also work out to be cheaper too, on a monthly basis.

But danger arises when we start hinging major life decisions on the vagaries of the property market. What does it say about us as a society? What does it say about what we value?

Perhaps it is time to take a step back and get a sense of perspective about what really matters to us. Life can go on, with or without a home of our own.


Owning a home is so much a part of the national psyche that some propose marriage by asking to apply for an HDB flat.

Allco Reit Calls Off Plans To Raise $150m

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 29, 2007

ALLCO Commercial Real Estate Investment Trust (Reit), which owns commercial buildings in Singapore, Australia and Japan, has cancelled a plan to raise up to $150 million, citing market conditions.

The trust said it was not proceeding with its plan to raise capital by offering up to 175.2 million new units to existing unit holders.

‘There is no pressing need for Allco Reit to be raising capital at this time,’ said Mr Nicholas McGrath, the chief executive of Allco Reit’s manager.

The Reit had meant to use capital raised from the offering to pay off some of the debt taken on when it bought properties in Singapore and Japan.

‘However, given current market conditions, the manager has concluded that it is not prudent to raise equity at this time,’ the Reit said in a statement.

Earlier this month, Saizen Reit - which owns properties in Japan - saw the price of its units plunge 13 per cent on its debut.

As well, APL Japan Trust - which has a portfolio of residential buildings in 12 Japanese cities - postponed its initial public offering.

It said that it was concerned about post-listing weakness amid poor market sentiment.

Singapore’s Economic Policy Posers

Source : The Business Times, 29 November 2007

OCCASIONALLY, it’s apparent that the economic indicators don’t quite square with the reality on the ground. The Singapore economy’s robust GDP figures do reflect the buoyant conditions at hand, but it’s also one instance when the numbers don’t quite tell the whole story.

With GDP growth expected at between 7.5 and 8 per cent for 2007 - well surpassing early official estimates of 4-6 per cent at the start of the year - it should, by all accounts, go down as another banner year, one more notch in Singapore’s growth record. And indeed, the strong economic performance will translate into a fatter bonus for civil servants at year-end, and presumably for many private sector employees as well, if their companies had a great ride of the economic boom. It’s the fourth year in a row, after all, that the economy has grown above its trend potential.

In any case, sub-8 per cent growth is smashing good growth for an economy that’s no fledgling. But inevitably perhaps, the remarkably charmed co-existence of high growth and low inflation that Singapore has enjoyed in recent years is finally fizzling out. While almost a pedestrian rate by world standards, Singapore’s 3.6 per cent October inflation rate, a 16-year high, amounts to something like a return of inflation with a vengeance, driven by a mix of domestic and imported factors.

The recent spike in inflation has led to calls for measures to - almost ironically, one would think - curtail demand and growth in an over-stretched economy. Much as the government has maintained that the economy is not overheating, it has moved quickly enough to snuff out bubbling price pressures - it scrapped a key deferred payments scheme for property purchases, it postponed several major construction projects, it allowed the Singapore dollar to appreciate by a bit more than usual in a bid to contain imported inflation, and it is now further relaxing the foreign worker quotas.

The question is: Will a further strengthening of the Singapore dollar next April (as is widely expected) suffice to deal with the mounting inflationary pressures, or are additional cooling measures needed? Notably, for all the buzz in the economy, business sentiment has weakened of late, with companies less upbeat about the next six months, and even emerging signs of a slowdown in activity, a BT-UniSIM survey found. Similar official surveys also found cautious optimism among manufacturers, and some dampened spirits in the service sectors.

Among workers, amid a tight labour market and big pay jumps, the problem of a skills mismatch and structural unemployment among older, low-educated Singaporeans hasn’t entirely disappeared overnight. So, are cooling measures in order? A US recession, or even a sharp slowdown, if it happens, will probably take care of any runaway growth in Singapore.

Then again, minus other measures, how far can exporters and the economy stomach a strengthening Singapore dollar, which could erode the economy’s competitive edge? There are quite some policy posers in these seeming rollicking good times.

Popular’s Property Ventures Not A Sure Winner

Source : The Business Times, 29 November 2007

POPULAR Holdings is best known for its bookstores and schoolbooks, but there is now more to it than meets the eye. For the household name has been making big bets on real estate in Singapore, and its fortunes going forward are likely to be driven more by property than by publishing.

It’s a shift that started just last year but has since picked up dramatically enough to alter the complexion of the group.

Last week alone, the group announced two new property investments. It purchased all the strata units at View Point at Jalan Datoh for $16.5 million and at Shiba Apartments at Jalan Raja Udang for $15.5 million.

Earlier in May this year, Popular bought 10 residential units at 18 Shelford Road for $27.2 million for redevelopment.

Its first major property foray was back in May last year, when the group bought eight residential units with a total land area of 15,070 sq ft at Robin Road, at a cost of $12.5 million. The company plans to sell the units once development is completed.

So in just over a year, the group has invested almost $72 million in the property business.

In sharp contrast, Popular’s investments in publishing-related businesses have been less eye-catching. It has made only two recent publishing-related announcements. This month, the group, through its subsidiaries in Hong Kong, raised the paid-up capital of eNet Digital Pacific Ltd from $2HK.00 to $10HK,000. In September, Popular acquired two ordinary shares of RM1 each in the capital of Seashore Publishing (M) Sdn Bhd, which is in the business of publishing and distributing books, articles and other printed materials.

Property, clearly, has become an area of major focus for Popular. In its announcements, the group had tended to characterise its property forays as opportunistic. ‘While retail, distribution and publishing will remain the group’s main business focus, property development will be a potential area of growth that the group is looking into, to capitalise on the potential and promising returns of the current property market,’ it said while making one of its property investments.

But it is clearly more than that. In its latest annual report, chairman Chou Cheng Ngok told shareholders that Popular is entering into a new business segment, property, through a new unit, Popular Land Pte Ltd. And its ambitions span beyond residential property. ‘We are also looking into commercial property business opportunities as well as for potential future self-use,’ Mr Chou said. ‘We will give the same passion for property development as we have shown for our book and publishing businesses. This ‘diversification’ will enhance our shareholders’ value in the long term.’

The question, of course, is whether this will really be the case. While one-off projects could well give a short-term fillip to earnings, going into property on the basis that Popular is thinking of entails more risks. The lessons from the past show clearly that it is very difficult for non-property players to play the real estate game well. Many will recall how many non-property companies all rushed into property during the property bull run in the mid-1990s, and got their fingers burnt when the bubble was pricked in 1996/97. While the current state of the property market is still bullish, several factors, such as overstretched valuations in some segments, the threat of more government intervention to cool prices, and concerns about the impact of a potential US recession on local sentiment, will make it challenging for property players.

So it is by no means certain, despite the company’s optimism, that Popular’s property ventures would achieve the results it is hoping for. It is also debatable if going the property route is the best way for Popular to increase shareholders’ value - it could have invested its surplus cash in its core business, or return it to shareholders if there are no suitable investments. What has clearly changed is that Popular is no longer just the stable, if rather staid, publisher and retailer of education staples. If the potential returns from property development are high, so will be the risks.

Stephen Riady: Man With A Vision

Source : The Business Times, 29 November 2007

CHOW PENN NEE speaks to Lippo Group’s Stephen Riady whose business acumen has led the firm make several strategic property investments.

THE Lippo Group should be familiar to Singaporeans by now, with its brand name plastered on more than a dozen property developments across the island, and less obviously, behind the ownership of retailers Robinsons and River Island.

At the helm of Indonesian conglomerate Lippo’s business empire in Singapore is Stephen Riady, whose entrepreneurial spirit is well known.

Mr Riady, executive director of Auric Pacific Group, clinched the Strategic Investment Entrepreneur of the Year award in Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year Awards for Singapore this year. Among the criteria for the award are traits like strong financial performance, personal integrity and entrepreneurial spirit.

His group’s move into property has been strategic, given current, sky-high property prices, and the fact that he went into the market much earlier on.

‘We started off with the purchase of Lippo Centre on Shenton Way at the end of 2004,’ Mr Riady told BT in an earlier interview. ‘You think people come to us asking us to buy? No. We went out, and at that time, there were no bidders,’ he recounted.’ Wise investors are those who have a vision, they are the ones who see something that other people have not seen … Then they start taking action, instead of just waiting there.’- Stephen Riady, Auric Pacific Group executive director

The building has since been sold for $350 million - or more than double the $151 million purchase price - earlier this year. ‘There were signs that the Singapore economy was in good shape in 2005 and 2006, so we continued buying,’ he said.

Citing the hallmarks of a good entrepreneur, he said one must have the ability to understand timing and be willing to invest and take risks. ‘We should be willing to go outside our comfort zone.’

Recounting how he started investing in Singapore, he said: ‘When the Singapore government talked about plans to remake this place, lots of people heard about it. But we believed in it and took action early.’ And that, he says differentiates the wise investors from the foolish ones.

‘Wise investors are those who have a vision, they are the ones who see something that other people have not seen,’ he says. ‘Then they start taking action, instead of just waiting.’

Foolish investors, on the other hand, wait for opportunities to come but they still don’t take it, he said. ‘The opportunity leaves and then they say they regret not having taken it.’ The Lippo group has so far amassed nine residential developments, five commercial properties and two retail brands, with a total value of $4 billion in Singapore.

The Lippo group has so far amassed nine residential developments, five commercial properties and two retail brands in Singapore, with a total value of $4 billion.

Mr Riady hopes to go further, increasing the value of the group’s portfolio from $7US billion in assets at present to $20US billion within five years.

The group’s retail arm is also expanding aggressively. The business includes Auric Pacific - a distributor of fast-moving consumer food and non-food products, Robinsons, and various clothing stores.

‘The plan for our retailing business is to grow turnover from the present $2US billion to $5US billion in five years’ time,’ said Mr Riady.

His entrepreneurial instincts showed up early. Every school holiday, Mr Riady would return to the family business - set up by his father Mochtar Riady - to learn the ropes. The elder Riady started the Lippo business with a bank and has since built up a vast conglomerate spanning property, banking, and retail.

‘My dad didn’t say that I had to join the business, but since we already had it, somehow in university you just naturally major in business. You don’t think about it.’

He considers working in a family business advantageous as there is a ‘consultative environment in which both timeliness and calculated risk-taking strategies can be explored, discussed and implemented’.

‘To any entrepreneur, these two elements are key to the success of a business,’ he said.

At 46, the businessman is at the top of his game, and continually trying to improve. ‘A lot of people have mid-life crises because they get stuck and they are not inclined to grow or learn anymore,’ he said.

‘I really believe in growing because without growth, we will have crises and problems. We must train ourselves to learn.’

More Supply But HDB Prices Will Go Up: Mah

Source : The Business Times, 29 November 2007

Board may offer another 6,000 units through build to order scheme.

The Housing and Development Board will continue to monitor demand and could offer another 6,000 units through its build-to-order (BTO) system. However, prices are also likely to go up.

Saying that he did not want to ‘fudge the issue’, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said: ‘Prices will go up as a result of resale prices going up.’ Mr Mah was speaking at the launch of two new housing projects under the BTO system.

The projects, Segar Meadows in Bukit Panjang town and Compassvale Beacon in Sengkang town comprise a total of 1,162 flats.

Three- and four-room flats (68 sq m-93 sq m) at Segar Meadows will cost between $116,000 and $231,000, while two- to four-room (48 sq m to 97 sq m) flats at Compassvale Beacon will cost between $69,000 and $233,000.

Although the precise formula for fixing prices was not revealed, Mr Mah explained that it would be based on average resale prices rather than the ’spectacular prices’ reported for some flats recently.

Mr Mah also let on that he had received a few letters and e-mails from constituents saying that they had not been successful in getting flats through the BTO system.

But he reiterated that the government was committed to providing a variety of affordable public housing to meet the ‘aspirations’ of first-time buyers and young couples.

To this end, he revealed that 4,800 units have been launched through BTO this year, twice the number compared to 2006.

On affordability, Mr Mah said that the majority of households spent a manageable 20-25 per cent of their monthly household income servicing loans for their flats. He also added that since the implementation of the Additional Housing Grant scheme in March 2006, 4,100 eligible households have benefited from grants amounting to about $50 million.

And demand from first time buyers has been strong. According to HDB, about 92 per cent of those who applied for the 4-room flats for the two BTO launches in August and September and were successfully short-listed within the first 100 per cent flat supply were first timers.

Mr Mah also had this advice for those looking to buy a flat now: ‘If you cannot afford a big flat, then buy a smaller flat. If you can’t get a new flat, then get a resale flat. In life, we make trade-offs all the time.’

To meet the needs of the ’sandwiched class’, Mr Mah revealed that HDB will be making more sites for executive condominiums (ECs) and the Design, Build and Sell scheme (DBSS) available in the first half of 2008.

Up to three EC sites with a total of 1,300 units, and four DBSS sites with a total of 1,900 units are set to go on the reserve list of Government Land Sales Programme for H1 2008.

Knight Frank director (research and consultancy) Nicholas Mak said that the supply of more public housing flats could cool resale flat prices but the impact will be felt next year. ‘It could be a signal that the government will release more sites to control runaway prices in the resale market,’ he added.

Managing new supply and demand will be a tricky job for HDB because it does not want to be stuck with a surplus of flats.

A tight hold on supply could, however, push up prices.

But demand seems stable. Mr Mak points out that so far, demand as measured by the number of applications received for new flats between 2000 and 2007 has ranged from 7,900 to 13,800. This pales in comparison to the 60,000 to 70,000 applications received in the mid-1990’s, he said.

Mr Mak also added that he expects the impact on the private property market to be minimal.

Where High Finance Meets High Living

Source : The Business Times, 29 November 2007

The new downtown will boast a casino, a financial hub, condos and retail areas

TIRED of Orchard Road? Jaded by Clarke Quay? Finding Robertson Walk just a trifle same-old, same-old? For the Singapore consumer - probably among the most avid in the world - Marina Bay may be the next big thing.

The next big thing: An artist's impression of what Marina Bay may look like in the near future. Events being held in and around the public areas like the Chingay street parade and the upcoming Grand Prix F1 race, will help to pull in the crowds

The new downtown will be home to a casino, a financial centre and several sparkling condominiums, so not surprisingly, shops and restaurants are eager for a presence there.

‘The Marina Bay area presents many exciting opportunities for both the business and leisure market,’ said Sulian Tan-Wijaya, general manager of The Fullerton Heritage, which is developing a string of commercial properties along the waterfront.

‘Our development is at the heart of the Central Business District, the Marina Bay Sands casino, the Esplanade theatres, new high-end residences like The Sail and The Clift, and the nearby Civic District,’ she said.

Edgar Huang, manager of marketing services for Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay, said the arts-performance centre expects to see ‘even more buzz in the area, with more people coming to work and live and play here’. The theatres, open since 2002 and famous for their domes that have been likened to durians, are also adjacent to a shopping mall.

David Martin, general manager of Marina Bay Financial Centre (MBFC), which will consist of high-rise office towers as well as retail space, estimates there will be 50,000 people living and working in the ‘immediate vicinity’ of the financial hub from 2011.

Along with the visitors who are sure to flock to the adjacent Sands, ‘we believe this creates a compelling offer to potential retail tenants, and this is also the feedback we are getting from the market’, he said.

Events being held in and around the public areas of Marina Bay will also help draw in the crowds, said the Esplanade’s MrHuang.

‘Marina Bay is also currently host to many celebrations like National Day, the Fireworks Festival and the New Year’s Day celebrations,’ he said.

Upcoming events like the Chingay street parade and the Grand Prix Formula One race, which Singapore will host in September next year, will also attract visitors, he added.

To entice what promises to be a diverse range of consumers, each developer is adopting a slightly different marketing tack.

The Fullerton development, for example, is aiming to be high-end and historical.

‘In addition to the Fullerton Hotel and a new waterfront 100-room luxury hotel, the Fullerton Heritage Precinct will offer a range of chic, trendy and elegant retail and dining experiences,’ said Ms Tan-Wijaya.

‘These include conservation buildings such as The Fullerton Waterboat House, Clifford Pier and Customs House, as well as One Fullerton,’ she said.

One Fullerton will revamp its second floor and offer even more food and beverage outlets, which should attract tourists who visit the nearby Merlion Park, she said.

The Esplanade is pitching itself as a kind of natural retail extension for the arts lover. ‘It’s a lifestyle experience pegged to the arts,’ said Mr Huang.

‘Besides coming here for a show, you can start or end your evening with drinks and food,’ he added. ‘There are many shops closely related to the arts for art lovers, and those unfamiliar with the arts won’t feel out of place either.’

Mr Huang said that business at the Esplanade has been bustling since its inception.

‘It’s been positive here at Esplanade Mall,’ he said. ‘The Esplanade also presents over 70 per cent of our artistic programmes free, which means visitors will always have something to look forward to after a meal or a visit to the shops.’

He said that some of the main attractions of the mall are the food centre Makansutra Gluttons Bay, award-winning restaurant My Humble House and library@esplanade, Singapore’s first performing-arts library.

Not forgetting the small but unusual Tatami Shop - ‘the world’s first tatami furnishings retailer outside Japan’, said Mr Huang.

Suntec City Mall, which welcomed its first customers in 1997, says its retail concept is ‘a little something for everyone’. The shopping centre’s larger tenants include hypermarket Carrefour and fashion retailers Mango, La Senza and Lacoste. It also boasts the gigantic Fountain of Wealth, which attracts visitors from all over the world.

‘Also, Suntec City Mall houses the embarkation point for the many tourists going for the Duck Tours and Hippo tours,’ said Marilyn Tan, investor relations manager at ARA Trust Management (Suntec).

As for the MBFC, Mr Martin said the financial hub aims to be ‘a vibrant and prestigious, yet convenient, shopping and dining precinct for the internationally-minded’.

Retail in the MBFC would address a ‘market gap’ in the central business district for serving the needs of higher-income earners and residents, he said. ‘This group of customers wants much more than what a conventional mixed-use centre offers. MBFC is designed as a place where residents, the office population and visitors can satisfy their everyday needs without leaving the business and financial district.’

Of the development’s 160,000 sq ft of underground retail space, about half will be for shops and the other half for food and beverage, he said. In addition, there will be a restaurant on the 33rd floor of the Tower One office block.

‘MBFC is in talks with a number of leading retail interests to be located within the centre,’ he said. The development will offer dining and entertainment options for ‘a spectrum of tastes’.

Then, of course, there is Marina Bay Sands, which will open in 2009. Its developers, Las Vegas Sands, declined to comment at this stage on the specifics of upcoming shops and restaurants.

Besides the casino, the entire integrated resort, as it is called, will feature three 50-storey hotel towers, linked by a two-acre Sky Garden. Not to mention an Arts and Sciences Museum shaped like a welcoming gesture, and one-million square feet of ‘integrated waterside promenade and shopping arcade’, according to its website.

Clearly, there will be loads of shopping and dining opportunities there. So hang on to your hats, Singapore consumer - if not your purses.