Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Marina View Site May Fetch Up To $1.6b

Source : The Business Times, August 1, 2007

At least 60% of GFA must be zoned for office space: URA

A 99-YEAR-LEASEHOLD 'white' site at Marina View, launched for sale yesterday by public tender, could fetch as much as $1.6 billion, analysts reckon.

The site, which can be developed for a range of uses, was released by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) - and could sell for $900-$1,300 per square foot per plot ratio (psf ppr), adding up to $1.1-$1.6 billion.

'Right now, prime office space in the central business district, even that with a 99-year lease, is selling for a high price,' said Donald Han, managing director of Cushman & Wakefield. 'This site can sell for $1,300 psf ppr.'

The tender for the new site - which URA terms parcel B at Marina View - closes on Nov 13. Market watchers expect bidders to take a cue from an adjacent site offered by URA. The tender for that site - parcel A at Marina View - closes on Sept 19. It is expected to fetch about $1,100 psf ppr.

The latest site is expected to attract keen interest as office rents in Singapore look set to keep climbing amid a supply crunch.

'This site could attract four to eight bids from major developers, investment funds and joint ventures of developers and investment funds,' said Knight Frank's director for research & consultancy Nicholas Mak. 'It would also attract foreign property players.'

The site is about 0.9 of a hectare, has a gross plot ratio of 13 and can yield a maximum gross floor area (GFA) of 1.2 million sq ft.

Land that is zoned 'white' can be put to various uses including hotel, retail, office and residential space. But this site comes with a URA requirement that at least 60 per cent of the maximum GFA be office space. URA said this is to help meet demand for prime office space.

The successful developer will also need to set aside at least another 25 per cent of GFA for hotel use, yielding about 550 hotel rooms.

'This is to contribute to the supply of hotel rooms to meet the expected increase in demand arising from the Singapore Tourism Board's target of attracting 17 million visitors by 2015,' URA said.

The remaining 15 per cent of the GFA can be used for any other permitted purpose. If it is used for residential units, the space could yield 190 to 200 apartments and several large penthouses, said MrMak.

URA hopes the project that goes up on the site will help create a critical mass of office space and hotel rooms in the Marina Bay area, so the precinct becomes an international business and financial hub.

The site will be connected to surrounding developments One Raffles Quay, Marina Bay Financial Centre and the future development One Shenton, URA said.

Strong Demand For Ready-Built Facilities

Source : The Business Times, August 1, 2007

JTC's net allocation jumps to 58,200 sq m in Q2 from 6,700 sq m in Q1

NET allocation of JTC's ready-built facilities (RBF) increased 770 per cent in the second quarter of this year to 58,200 sq m, from 6,700 sq m in Q1. And the overall occupancy rate for RBF increased one per cent to 89 per cent.

The segment's performance was supported by increases in net allocation of flatted and standard factory space.

The RBF segment includes business park, technopreneur, flatted factory, standard factory and stack-up factory space.

JTC said the segment's strong performance was supported mainly by increases in net allocation of flatted factory and standard factory space, which contributed 48 per cent and 38 per cent of the total net take-up respectively.

In terms of industries, precision engineering accounted for 19 per cent of demand for flatted factory space, while general manufacturing accounted for 17per cent.

Services, which include wholesale and retail and information / communications, accounted for 50 per cent of the gross allocation of flatted factory space.

Savills Singapore's director of industrial business space Dominic Peters reckoned the spike in allocation could also have been due to the migration of businesses from Alexandra Distripark.

Earlier this year, Mapletree said it would demolish three existing industrial blocks at Alexandra Distripark with a gross floor area of around 1.6 million sq ft and build four new blocks with an estimated 1.96 million sq ft of business park space.

Interestingly, JTC's data reveals that demand and supply for business park space - which is said to benefiting from the spillover from the CBD - remained stable over the quarter, with net allocation at 700sq m.

But Mr Peters pointed out that rents for business park space have increased about 20 per cent on average.

JTC said net allocation of prepared industrial land (PIL) dropped to 64.4 ha in Q2, from 95.7 ha in Q1.

It said the high Q1 figure was due largely to a sizable allocation to a petrochemical company on Jurong Island, which alone accounted for 50 per cent of total gross allocation of PIL.

Key segments that saw significant growth in Q2 included Tuas Biomedical Park and Wafer Fab Park, with net take-up rates of 19.9 ha and 16 ha respectively.

S'pore's Per Capita GDP Is No 2 In Asia-Pac

Source : The Business Times, August 1, 2007

Asian Development Bank ranking based on purchasing power parity

SINGAPORE'S per capita gross domestic product (GDP) in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms was ranked second among 23 countries in the Asia-Pacific.

The PPP indicates the number of units of a local currency that is required to purchase the same goods and services as a unit of currency in a base country.

The ranking was done as part of a study coordinated by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in 2005, under the International Comparison Programme (ICP) for Asia-Pacific scheme. The findings were published in the report, A Snapshot of Asia in 2005: Purchasing Power Parity.

The report gives Singapore an index of 1,150. Based on the regional average of HK$20,545 (S$3,952), which was set as the base index at 100, Singapore's GDP per capita at PPP is roughly HK$236,268, or nearly 12 times the regional average.

Brunei was the top-ranked country with an index of 1,312. Macau came in third with an index of 1,035, followed by Hong Kong (988) and Taiwan (720).

Singapore also reported a high price level index of 160, based on a regional average of 100. The Singapore Department of Statistics (DOS) explained that as price levels correlate closely with income, high-income economies generally have high price levels. 'In 2005, price levels among countries with high-income economies such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Macau were fairly comparable,' it noted of the ADB report. 'Singapore's price level was close to Macau and about 10 per cent lower than Hong Kong.'

Singapore also ranked high among other indicators. Its per capita household consumption at PPP, which refers to the value of the consumption of goods and services by households, was the third-highest at HK$99,706. This was surpassed only by Hong Kong's HK$125,303 and Taiwan's HK$109,108.

In terms of per capita gross fixed capital formation (GFCF) - which consists of investment in infrastructure and purchases of machinery and equipment - Singapore had the highest figure at HK$52,609. This is about 10 times the regional average.

According to DOS, PPP adjusts for the different price levels across countries and are therefore more meaningful indicators for cross-country comparisons than those aggregates expressed in a common currency (usually the US dollar).

Keppel Land Sells 2 Upmarket Blocks To Overseas Fund

Source : The Business Times, August 1, 2007

Al-Nibras Islamic Real Estate Fund pays $286m for 56 homes

KEPPEL Land has sold two apartment blocks in its upmarket Reflections at Keppel Bay to an overseas fund for about $286 million, the developer said yesterday.

'Reflections at Keppel Bay will definitely attract investors from the Gulf Cooperation Council countries.'
- K Salman Younis, managing director of Kuwait Finance House (Malaysia)

BT understands that the 56 waterfront homes in the two blocks were sold for $2,000-$2,500 per square foot (psf).

The two blocks were sold to the Al-Nibras Islamic Real Estate Fund, which was set up by Kuwait Finance House, an Islamic banking unit in Kuwait, and Amanah Raya Berhad, a Malaysian government-owned entity.

The 56 apartments range from two-bedroom units of an average size of 1,076 sq ft each to 5,000 sq ft penthouse units.

Reflections at Keppel Bay, designed by architect Daniel Libeskind, has 1,129 units, of which 558 have been sold.

The US$200 million Al-Nibras Fund has started to make inroads into Singapore and the rest of the Asean region, the fund and KepLand said in a joint statement.

K Salman Younis, managing director of Kuwait Finance House (Malaysia) Berhad, a unit of Kuwait Finance House, said that the fund sees Reflections at Keppel Bay as an 'ideal investment'.

'A premium waterfront development like Reflections at Keppel Bay will definitely attract investors from the Gulf Cooperation Council countries,' he said.

Developers launching upmarket residential projects in Singapore have of late reported receiving offers from both local and overseas funds to buy entire blocks in their developments.

While some companies have taken up the funds on their offers, others have preferred to sell the apartments to individual buyers instead.

Singapore's private home prices have climbed some 13.5 per cent since the start of the year, boosted by developers selling luxury apartments at record prices.

KepLand's shares lost five cents to end at $8.35 yesterday - after hitting a high of $8.55 earlier in the day. The stock has climbed 21.0 per cent since the start of the year.

CapitaLand Will Use Conservative Gearing Strategy

Source : The Business Times, August 1, 2007

This maintains a war chest, positioning it to be aggressive on sizeable deals

CAPITALAND indicated yesterday it will adopt a conservative gearing strategy to maintain a fat war chest to swoop aggressively on sizeable deals.

The group now has financial capacity exceeding $5 billion based on its end-June 2007 equity of $10.74 billion and net debt of $4.56billion.

The net debt-to-equity ratio of 0.43 at June 30 - down from 0.55 a year earlier - is one of the lowest among listed property companies in Singapore, giving the CapitaLand 'enormous capacity to grow', said group president and CEO Liew Mun Leong.

End-June 2007 net debt of $4.6 billion was lower than the $5 billion figure a year earlier. The interest cover ratio - earnings before interest tax depreciation and amortisation divided by net interest expense, excluding revaluation gains - improved to 10.4 times in first-half 2007, from 6.8 times in first-half 2006. CapitaLand CFO Olivier Lim said: 'We will be conservative on DE (debt-equity ratio) but aggressive in business posture. I think one helps the other, as opposed to being aggressive on both ends of the scale. That can get us into trouble.

'Maintaining strong financial capacity gives the group a tremendous competitive advantage as it allows us to act fast and with confidence when profitable and sizeable opportunities arise.'

The cost of business opportunities continues to grow in Asia, as seen in CapitaLand's $1.3 billion winning bid for the Farrer Court collective sale site, Mr Lim said.

'Thus, we should never operate continuously at high gearing as it restricts the ability to seize worthwhile opportunities confidently when they present themselves.

'We remain very confident in this up cycle and will continue to invest. But we will also do everything we can to avoid the 'risk of ruin' from 'unknown unknowns'.

'The best way to protect ourselves from these 'Black Swan' events is to maintain financial flexibility and a good margin of safety in respect of our gearing levels.'

S’pore Stocks Rebound

Source : TODAY, Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Property stocks rise after Government announces non-interventionist policy

SINGAPORE stocks rose yesterday after National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan (picture) said the Government will depend on “non-interventionist” measures such as providing more information and increasing supply to keep property prices and rentals in check

Stocks were also boosted after CapitaLand posted a five-fold surge in secondquarter profits.

The Government’s comments “are positive sentiment- wise” for property stocks, said Mr Phillip Yeo, senior portfolio manager at DBS Asset Management, which oversees US$15 billion ($22.7 billion)in assets. “We’re cautiously optimistic as the property market is still in mid-cycle.”

The Straits Times Index gained 0.6 per cent to close at 3,547.66. The measure is little changed for the month. August futures added 1 per cent to 433.9.

Private-home prices rose 8.3 per cent in the second quarter, the fastest in eight years, as economic expansion allowed developers to sell apartments at record prices.

A measure of property stocks is the biggest percentage loser this month among the nine industry groups on the Singapore All Equities Index, following the Government’s July 18 move to raise a tax that realestate companies must pay to develop properties.

CapitaLand shares climbed 3.5 per cent to $7.50, its biggest gain since June 29.

K-Reit Asia and Suntec Real Estate Investment Trust advanced after buying stakes in the same office complex in Singapore’s business district. K-Reit, an office property trust, gained 3.5 per cent to $2.94. Suntec, a real-estate trust controlled by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, climbed 2.2 per cent to $1.90.

Keppel Land and Cheung Kong Holdings sold their one-third stakes in One Raffles Quay to K-Reit and Suntec respectively for $941.5 million each.

SC Global Developments, a builder of luxury homes, climbed 3.4 per cent to $6.10. The real-estate developer won a site in a gated community with a private yacht club on Sentosa with a $268.3-million bid.

Keppel Land Sold Two Waterfront Blocks

Source : TODAY, Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Keppel Land, Singapore’s third-largest developer by assets, sold two waterfront apartment blocks being developed near the city-state’s business district to a unit of Kuwait Finance House.

The two villa apartment blocks in the development known as Reflections at Keppel Bay were sold to the Al Nibras Islamic Real Estate Fund for about $286 million.

Al Nibras is a unit of Kuwait Finance House and AmanahRaya Investment Bank. — BLOOMBERG

Second Prime Marina Site Up For Tender

Source : TODAY, Wednesday, August 1, 2007

THE Urban Redevelopment Authority yesterday offered a 0.9-hectare land parcel at prime site Marina View (picture) for tender.

It estimates that at least 60 per cent of its gross floor area will be developed for office use, 25 per cent for hotels, and 15 per cent for retail, residential or entertainment purposes.

The parcel — the second white site to be offered in Marina View — has a gross plot ratio of 13, yielding a maximum gross floor area of 113,580 sq m.

The land parcel is part of the huge government land sales programme announced last month — indicative of the Government’s determination to contain the hefty rise in property prices.

Analysts expect big developers such as City Development and CapitaLand to bid for the land.

The site enjoys direct frontage onto a public open space linking Marina Boulevard to Straits Boulevard, so that all buildings would have panoramic views of the city skyline and Marina Bay. Also, the area will also be served by an extensive network of covered underground space and other links.

Mr Wallace Chu, DBS Vickers’ property analyst, said timing is important for whoever gets the bid.

“They want to build it as soon as they can, to catch as much of the demand as they can,” he said, adding that financial institutions will probably snap up the space.

Bidders will likely take the cue from Mapletree Investments’ recent $391.9-million offer of an Anson Road site.

The tender closes in November

Priced Out Of CBD, Firms Snap Up JTC Factory Space

Source : TODAY • Wednesday • August 1, 2007

EDB poll also shows manufacturers are wary about H2 business climate

JTC has benefited from the office sector crunch as businesses priced out of the traditional corporate space seek out new locations to house their operations.

According to JTC’s latest quarterly figures released yesterday, demand for JTC flatted factory space grew 2.5 per cent to 1.11 million square metres (sq m) in the second quarter of the year. Supply was unchanged at 1.417 million sq m, pushing occupancy rate 2 percentage points up to 78 per cent over the first three months of 2007.

The data also showed that occupancy of technopreneur space — or facilities specially designed for technology-based activities — reached a high of 85 per cent during the same period, a 14-percentage-point rise from the quarter before.

“There is high demand coming from the office sector, where backroom operations are being moved towards lower cost facilities away from the business districts,” said Mr Dominic Peters, director of industrial, Savills Singapore.

Mr Donald Han, managing director of Cushman & Wakefield, agreed: “Tenants who cannot afford the office rentals are moving to fringe areas like Kallang and Henderson. The main beneficiaries are the business parks and industrial properties.”

For the second quarter, JTC’s net allocation of ready-built facilities, including flatted factories and business parks, climbed to 58,200 sq m, up from 6,700 sqm in the first quarter.

Yet Mr Han said: “Occupancy levels are higher for most centralised industrial space like those in Henderson and the Lower Delta areas (where) we’re seeing 90- to 93-per-cent occupancy.”

Technopreneur@Bukit Merah reached full occupancy and business park space on the whole enjoyed a high 93-per-cent occupancy rate, JTC said.

Meanwhile, the Economic Development Board said its second quarter business confidence survey showed manufacturers were less optimistic about business conditions for the second half of this year.

The EDB surveyed 381 manufacturing companies for their business expectations. A net-weighted 22 per cent forecasted better conditions in coming months — a slight decline from the 26 per cent in the previous quarter.

This easing of sentiment is apparent in a couple of manufacturing clusters. Electronics companies’ positive sentiment moderated from 38 per cent a quarter ago to 34 per cent, while precision engineering firms slid from 24 per cent to 12 per cent.

For manufacturers in the transport engineering,chemical and biomedical manufacturing clusters, expectations remained largely at the same level.

The general manufacturing industries, especially the food, beverages and tobacco, and miscellaneous industries, displayed stronger sentiments as consumer spending and the construction sector performance stays strong.

More than half the firms surveyed said there are no limiting factors affecting their ability to get more export orders. Of the 43 per cent that felt otherwise, 28 per cent cited price competition from overseas competitors as the biggest factor. Other limiting factors cited included raw material and hiring constraints.

For A Third time, Mozzies Found Breeding At Site

Source : TODAY, Wednesday, August 1, 2007

THE Varsity Park construction site opposite the National University of Singapore has become the second most active dengue cluster here with 33 dengue cases. And it appears that the construction company responsible for the site is no stranger to censure.

According to the National Environment Agency (NEA), an inspection on July 6 found more than 550 mosquito larvae breeding in three areas within the site, the third time the company, Woh Hup, has run afoul of the law. It was fined $2,000 in April last year and $4,000 in March this year for mosquito breeding offences.

This time around, the contractor was issued a week-long “stop work order” on July 7 and fined $5,000.

According to the NEA, “proper” housekeeping, checks for water stagnation and the isolation of sick workers, have since improved the conditions at the site.

“Profuse breeding” and the close living and working conditions of some 750 workers could have “accelerated” the build-up of cases, said the NEA. All the patients, except for one, are foreign workers.

Last week, 322 dengue cases were reported — fewer than the 363 cases the week before. — SHERALYN TAY

High On Economic Well-Being

Source : TODAY, Wednesday, August 1, 2007

S’pore placed third among economies in Asia-Pacific

SINGAPORE may be the second-largest economy after Brunei in the Asia-Pacific region. But when it comes to economic wellbeing, the Republic lags behind Hong Kong and Taiwan, according to a recent study by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), based on 2005 figures.

In a poll of 23 economies, the Republic was ranked third, at HK$99,706 ($19,262) per capita — behind Hong Kong (HK$125,303) and Taiwan (HK$109,108) based on the “actual final consumption of households” (AFCH).

An indicator of a population’s state of economic well-being, the AFCH calculates what households actually consume, including what they buy and what they are supplied by their governments, such as healthcare and education.

Rounding up the list of top five cities in the survey are Brunei and Macau. At the bottom, are Nepal, Bangladesh, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Upcoming powerhouses China and India came in 15th and 17th. respectively, even though together, they account for 64 per cent of the total real gross domestic product (GDP) of the respondents.

Singapore was found to be the fourth-costliest place to live in the region, based on the ratio of the purchasing power parities to the exchange rate. Topping the list were the Fiji islands, Hong Kong and Macau, with Taiwan coming in fifth after Singapore.

The cheapest places were Laos, Vietnam, Iran, Cambodia and Nepal, the study reported.

Singapore also emerged as the region’s second- richest economy, in real GDP per capita terms.

The study estimated that it would take China almost 30 years to catch up with Brunei — the region’s richest economy — based on an annual per capita growth rate of 9.2 per cent.

And India would need nearly 50 years to catch up with Brunei, if the former continues to grow at an annual per capita rate of 6.5 per cent.

This study — the International Comparison Programme for Asia-Pacific — was part of an international effort managed by the ADB to draw up a cross-country comparison of key macro-economic indicators across economies in the region.

Mr Francois Bourguignon, senior vice-president and chief economist at the World Bank, described this undertaking as “particularly important in our developing member countries, where reliable information base for poverty alleviation and economic development policies is badly needed”.

Beware The 3 Bears, Goldilocks

Source : TODAY, Wednesday, August 1, 2007

GIC ready for possible dark clouds despite economy’s present bright outlook

IT IS a Goldilocks global economy now —not too hot, not too cold, but just right — according to some economists, and the bears have not come home. Yet.

Yesterday, Dr Tony Tan (picture) named three dark clouds — or bears — on the horizon that have caught the attention of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC).

First, the economy might get hot if the price of oil, now $70 per barrel, reachs
$100 per barrel as some have predicted. “What this will do to inflation is a worry,” said Dr Tan, who is the GIC deputy chairman and executive director.

Secondly, the economy could cool if a tightening of credit is caused by the crisis in the United States sub-prime market, where up to 2.2 million people are at risk of forfeiting their homes.

“If that’s the case, the sea of liquidity, which is a rising tide lifting up the prices of all assets, may be dampened,” said Dr Tan, speaking to reporters after a GIC event.

The third risk is that of an external shock, such as a large terrorist attack or an avian flu epidemic. “The prices which people are buying assets (at) can only be justified if things continue to do well, earnings continue to increase. But if the world is hit by an exogenous shock ... then prices can decline as quickly as they’ve risen, as we’ve seen in 2003 (when Sars struck),” he said.

The Dow Jones industrials dropping almost 500 points last week, affecting other markets, is an example of the slight “turmoil” that is “of concern to everyone”, he added.

For its part, the GIC, “a conservative investor”, has taken “necessary precautions” against any kind of risk. “If banks start to tighten up, this will cause difficulties for all investors. GIC is always on the watch for this and to take steps,” Dr Tan said.

The GIC, which manages more than US$100 billion ($151.1 billion) of Singapore’s foreign reserves, has earned an 8.2 per cent annual return in Singapore dollars since its inception in 1981.

As a sovereign wealth fund, there is a developing issue GIC also must consider: The increasing number of countries establishing similar funds. “If it were only a few countries — Singapore, Abu Dhabi — who have sovereign wealth funds, we would not be particularly worried,” said Dr Tan.

But with more of these funds, the impact on the global financial system and international fund flows is an issue that requires “a lot of thought and discussion”.

He added: “Singapore has a stake in having an open global system, where funds can flow freely. Other governments, I’m sure, will want the same. The last thing we want is protectionism developing in another form.”

Last week’s £5.4-billion ($16.5-billion) investment in Britain’s Barclays by Temasek Holdings and the state-owned China Development Bank sparked concerns in some quarters about the level of transparency that sovereign investors exercise.

Yesterday, Dr Tan also announced the establishment of a GIC school that will provide a coherent structure for training and development of its staff in portfolio management. The GIC also welcomed 17 graduates from Singapore, Canada, China, India and the United Kingdom, who have completed its inaugural one-year foundational portfolio management programme and will now be assigned to various investment areas.

Settlements In Hand And Out Of Court

Source : TODAY, Wednesday, August 1, 2007

PERHAPS your home renovations have gone wrong, or you have a dispute with your landlord. Or maybe, your employer has breached your employment contract.

How can you resolve this without going to court?

The Law Society hopes a new scheme, to be unveiled today, will provide a quick and
cost-effective way to resolve civil and commercial disputes. Instead of litigation, it is proposing arbitration to expedite the resolution of less complex claims.

The Law Society Arbitration Scheme (LSAS) allows parties to have their disputes decided by an arbitrator. The process will be kept private and the decision legally binding.

Claimants and respondents can also expect greater certainty about time and costs. For example, for tenancy and renovation disputes worth less than $20,000, the society
has set a arbitrator’s fee of $3,000. The rates are fixed depending on the sum in dispute.

Anyone who files for an arbitration claim with the Law Society can also expect to have the dispute heard and an award published in 120 days. “This is probably faster than the completion of trials in court, where proceedings have to follow the rules of court. And it compares favourably to other kinds of arbitration which do not impose tight deadlines,” Mr Chan Leng Sun, chairman of the Law Society’s alternative dispute resolution committee, told TODAY.

The LSAS does away with some formalities and abbreviates the process, for example, in the time given to file statements of claims or to respond. This speed is key to the scheme. “Eliminating certain steps means less work done and cuts out legal fees traditionally incurred,” said Mr Lawrence Teh, who chaired the sub-committee that drafted the rules of the scheme.

It took two years for the Law Society to finalise the scheme, during which time it
considered having different sets of arbitration rules for different types of claims as it looked at schemes such as the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law.

“But we thought different sub-sets might get unwieldy. So, we’ve kept it simple,” said Mr Tay. He anticipates mostly domestic disputes, but transnational claims can also be arbitrated.

The Subordinate Courts have been receptive to the LSAS, as the courts do not encourage parties to prolong disputes. The Law Society had embarked on the scheme as it saw a growing demand for alternative dispute resolutions. In the construction industry, for example, where cash flow is king, an adjudication process was introduced a few years ago to resolve disputes more quickly.

With Singapore aspiring to be an arbitration hub, the Law Society hopes its new scheme will build up legal expertise. Currently, there is a panel of 54 arbitrators, a number it hopes to grow — that the Law Society president can appoint to hear disputes, if parties are unable to agree on their own arbitrator within seven days.

Currently, only experienced lawyers who have written an arbitration award, are fellows of a recognised arbitral institute or have passed a recognised award-writing exam can be on the panel. These lawyers have agreed to help understudies gain expertise. Among those in the panel are former judges L P Thean and G P Selvam, and Senior Counsels K S Rajah, Goh Phai Cheng and Engelin Teh.

CapitaLand Hopeful On Beach Road Site Tender

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 31 July 2007

A man walks past a CapitaLand advert in Singapore

SINGAPORE: CapitaLand has its sights set on winning the tender for the land parcel at Beach Road, which consists of the former SAF Non-Commissioned Officers (NCO) Club and Blocks 1, 9 and 14 of the former Beach Road Camp.

It is one of seven bidders for the site.

In an interview with Channel NewsAsia, CapitaLand CEO Liew Mun Leong revealed that the company has made "a very aggressive bid" as it sees great potential in the Beach Road site, which offers opportunities for all of its business segments.

Mr Liew said: "Beach Road is a very unique opportunity. It is the only site in Singapore, I believe, that could be developed for all the sectors. It has office, shopping, hotels and residential space. It is a very strategic site in the Marina area. We believe that all the sectors we are in – homes, hotels or malls – can be done at that site."

The developer declined to reveal how much it has bid for the site, but according to some market watchers, the bids were as high as S$2 billion.

Mr Liew said: "We have really put a lot of effort in. We have engaged a world-class architect to cross the first envelope because the first round is to win the design. And we believe we have come up with an outstanding, iconic building design.

"The second envelope is on pricing and I believe we have bid very richly for the project. We have made a very aggressive bid."

The government is currently evaluating the various bids.

In recent years, CapitaLand had lost out in high-profile bids for both the Marina Bay and Sentosa integrated resort sites as well as the site for the new Business and Financial Centre.

- CNA/so

CityDev Says Customers Appreciate Its Efforts To Protect Environment

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 31 July 2007

Artist's impression of City Square Mall

SINGAPORE: City Developments – a leading property developer that is making eco-friendly features a standard part of its buildings – is one of the prominent local businesses that are going green.

For every new building that it puts up, CityDev sets aside up to 5 percent of the construction costs towards green features and facilities, which include motion sensor lighting controls, waste-water recycling and landscaping that helps to beat the heat.

Despite the higher costs, CityDev sees this as a way to offset the harmful impact new buildings have on the environment.

Chia Ngiang Hong, Group General Manager of CityDev, said: "The building industry actually has a lot of impact on the environment such as the depletion of natural resources, global warming and a host of other related issues.

"We feel that as a responsible developer, it is our responsibility to make sure that we go towards sustainable development. That means we're doing the business and at the same time, ensuring the environment is sustainable."

CityDev made history earlier this year when it became the first private developer to be given the Green Mark Platinum grade by the government for its environmentally friendly buildings.

Past winners were all from the public sectors that include schools and hospital buildings.

The platinum grade was given for CityDev's City Square Mall and The Oceanfront@Sentosa Cove developments.

Mr Chia said: "At the moment, buyers still stick to quite traditional factors when they are considering buying a home – such as location, quality and reputation of the developer. But having said that, if they say they are evaluating two projects – one with and one without green features – I'm quite sure that they will pick the one with green features."

At City Square Mall, tenants can make use of a special twin-chute pneumatic waste system that helps split food and dry waste, making it easier for them to recycle.

And the effort at going green starts from the construction process, where workers treat and re-use silty water to clean their equipment.

CityDev believes that customers will increasingly appreciate its efforts to help protect the environment.

Mr Chia said: "I cannot quantify how much weightage the buyer puts on it, but having had experience with potential buyers, we feel green features really help us in the marketing and also in the reputation of the developer.

"I believe that as more Singaporeans become conscious of the need to conserve and ensure sustainability in the development, there will be a change of mindsets in the long run."

CityDev started including green features for its buildings about ten years ago. - CNA/so

CapitaLand Income Soars To $913m In Second Quarter

Source : The Straits Times, Wed, Aug 01, 2007

RISING property values and sizzling home sales in Singapore and in China sent second-quarter net profits at CapitaLand soaring nearly fivefold to a record $912.6 million.

Net profits in the second quarter lifted CapitaLand's first-half earnings to $1.52 billion - already surpassing the firm's record full-year profit last year of $1.02 billion.

Almost half of this first-half gain came from an upward revaluation of CapitaLand's portfolio, an exercise the developer will now undertake every six months.

The revaluation, mostly for office properties, amounted to a $647.4 million gain. Excluding this, profit for the first half would have been $873.3 million - still three times more than the $157.2 million recorded in the same period last year.

Revenue for the three months to June 30 rose 21.2 per cent to $935.6 million. The first-half figure, meanwhile, rose 9.9 per cent to $1.57 billion.

Much of these gains came from strong home sales, specially in China, said CapitaLand. The company has sold 1,130 homes there worth $550 million this year.

For the first half, overseas revenue made up 69.7 per cent of the group's overall revenue, CapitaLand said yesterday.

CapitaLand's Singapore residential unit also did well, recording a 146 per cent rise in pre-tax earnings. The developer has sold 1,260 homes in Singapore worth $2.87 billion so far this year.

These include 123 out of 175 units at The Orchard Residences, where prices have hit a high of $5,500 per sq ft (psf) for a penthouse unit, CapitaLand said.

Its other project in Singapore - The Seafront on Meyer in Katong - had 252 units sold out of 327 in all. Prices range from $1,400 psf to $2,000 psf.

The rest of CapitaLand's other segments also turned in good performances.

In particular, pre-tax earnings for its commercial division jumped 10 times to $1.1 billion in the first half, partly due to asset revaluation and the sale of Temasek Tower.

For its retail unit, pre-tax earnings more than trebled to $144.2 million on the back of higher fee income and contributions from Clarke Quay, and portfolio revaluations.

CapitaLand president and chief executive Liew Mun Leong said yesterday that all of the company's units have done 'exceptionally well' across different countries.

'More importantly, they have put in place future growth plans,' he said.

These include 'having a pipeline of assets to grow their portfolio', such as for the office and retail segments. CapitaLand also has more than five million sq ft of landbank for residential development in Singapore.

One of the sites to be launched this year is Latitude in Jalan Mutiara, on the former Dragon View Park estate.

Earnings per share for the second quarter jumped nearly six times to 32.6 cents, from 5.7 cents a year earlier.

Group net asset value per share rose to $3.12 as at June 30, from a restated $2.65 as at Dec 31.

Property Market Less Jittery For Now But Uncertainty Lingers

Source : The Straits Times, Aug 1, 2007

Despite Govt's reassurance, sector still wary about steps it might take

THE Government's assurances on Monday that it is not inclined to cool the property sector for now has gone some way to soothe market jitters.
But it has not eliminated the uncertainty in the air over eventual government action, say industry watchers.

In fact, some add that the latest comments may be seen as mixed signals that could lead to confusion and volatility in the market.

National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said on Monday that the Government would not intervene in the sector and would 'let market forces work' instead.

'We will try to avoid interfering...if we can,' he said.

Some property consultants see this as a guarantee that the Government will not step in to calm the market, at least for the time being.

'I think we are safe for now until the next set of Urban Redevelopment Authority price statistics comes out in October,' said Mr Nicholas Mak, director of research and consultancy at Knight Frank.

Indeed, property stocks rallied yesterday after Mr Mah's comments. City Developments gained 60 cents to close at $15.20, while United Overseas Land and GuocoLand were up 10 cents each at $5.40 and $5.15 respectively.

But not all property experts were convinced that the Government's words should be taken at face value.

'It did say it would lay off cooling measures for now but I think in reality it is leaving the door open,' said Citigroup economist Chua Hak Bin. 'I think the measures aren't so far away.'

Some analysts noted there had been little warning before the Government raised development charges (DC) two weeks ago, a move that caught the market by surprise and sent investors into a tizzy.

Although the actual impact of the hikes was minimal, the market pulled back as it tried feverishly to guess the Government's next step.

But one analyst, who declined to be named, suggested that the pullback was actually good for the market.

'After the DC hikes, the market sat up and started to worry, which generally meant people moderated their expectations,' he said.

'That was good because we need moderate, sustainable growth.'

He added that 'just the perception of potential intervention itself is a very strong soft measure. That's what we need now'.

Mr Mah also said on Monday that the current tightness of home and office space is a short-term problem, and the Government would not 'use long-term solutions to try to solve short-term problems'.

But analysts found it difficult to determine what exactly 'short-term' and 'long- term' solutions might translate into.

On the one hand, most short-term steps, such as transitional sites and temporary homes for lease, have already been used and may impact only certain segments of the market, they said.

Yet long-term solutions such as changing the masterplan to intensify land use will have little immediate effect.

The measures that most concern market watchers fall somewhere in between. They include changes to deferred payment schemes for homes and capital gains taxes - both could apply immediately and have long-term consequences, making it hard to decide which category they fall into.

'When it comes down to it, anything that can be introduced immediately and removed the next day can be seen as a short-term solution,' noted CIMB-GK economist Song Seng Wun.

Tony Tan Warns Of Dark Clouds On Horizon For Markets

Source : The Straits Times, Aug 1, 2007

US sub-prime woes, oil prices pose risks, but GIC has taken 'necessary caution'

THERE are 'dark clouds on the horizon' for financial markets that ought to be acknowledged and heeded, said Dr Tony Tan, deputy chairman of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC).

These risks include tightening credit due to the United States sub-prime mortgage crisis, he said, adding that GIC has 'taken necessary caution'.

Dr Tan, who is also GIC's executive director, was speaking yesterday after announcing the establishment of the GIC School, a formalised entity which will run its staff training and development programmes.

GIC manages Singapore's reserves, with funds of more than US$100 billion (S$150.5 billion).

Dr Tan, noting how the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 500 points last week, said: 'Major economies like the US and Europe are doing well, and we have the ingredients for growth and good financial markets.

'But there are dark clouds on the horizon we must pay good attention to.'

Dr Tan, who is also chairman of Singapore Press Holdings, cited three risks. One is the crisis in the sub-prime mortgage market in the US, which may lead to credit tightening, 'reversing the sea of liquidity in the past'.

The second is the rise in oil prices.

And then there is the danger that some asset markets seem to be priced to perfection, where prices already take into account a very rosy scenario for the world economy.

There are also 'exogenous' risks such as terrorist attacks, avian flu and Sars, he noted.

'We must be able to strike a balance - not to take a pessimistic view but to exercise caution, and be a conservative investor aware of the risks. This is an example of how nothing is ever static in a financial world.'

Asked whether GIC is concerned about its investments amid the sub-prime mortgage problems in the US, Dr Tan said: 'GIC has taken necessary caution, and the last few years have been exceptional for investors including GIC.'

He cited some economists calling the past few years a 'Goldilocks' situation - not too hot or too cold, but perfect.

'But we must be prepared for what defence analysts call 'unknown unknowns'', he cautioned.

'For example, if markets start to reprice risk and risk premiums rise and liquidity tightens, it will be difficult for all investors.'

Asked if GIC was worried about a possible backlash against government investments, Dr Tan said that with an increase in the number of sovereign wealth funds, there will be concerns.

'If it's just Singapore, Abu Dhabi which have sovereign wealth funds, people would not be so worried.

'But now other countries are starting such funds. These funds will be investing and taking stakes in the developed markets. The last thing we would want is protectionism developing,' he said.