Thursday, August 2, 2007

Property Firms Split Over Tax From New Accounting Rule

Source : The Business Times, August 2, 2007

(SINGAPORE) A new accounting rule has put frowns on the faces of some property companies here, as it could mean slimmer bottom lines for them from this financial year.

From Jan 1 this year, companies have had to comply with a new accounting standard for their investment properties - broadly defined as properties held to earn rent or capital appreciation or both. But what some don't know is that there is a related tax element that is set to eat into earnings.

Property companies are expected to be the most affected, because they have extensive portfolios of investment property.

The issue stems from this year's adoption of Financial Reporting Standard (FRS) 40. It says that companies who choose the fair value method of accounting for their investment properties will have to take any changes in the fair value of an investment property held to their profit and loss account. This is instead of taking the gain or loss to a revaluation reserve in the balance sheet, as previously allowed. This means, an upward revaluation of investment property will add to the bottom line, while a downward revaluation will whittle down earnings.

Companies are familiar with this new standard, but a debate is now raging about a related tax effect that comes with this new accounting treatment.

Some accountants believe that, according to another standard already in place - FRS 12, on income taxes - companies should account for the tax that is payable on any increase in the fair value of investment property. The logic is that an increase in the fair value of the property represents an expected increase in the future rental stream and/or proceeds from the ultimate disposal of the property.

And with FRS 40 saying that revaluation gains should be taken to the income statement, some are arguing that it is only right that the deferred tax payable is also taken to the income statement.

While there won't be any actual tax paid, the sum will be recognised as an expense in the books from this year on.

The impact could be significant, with property prices soaring as much as they have this year - it will mean substantial revaluation gains for most property firms, and also substantial deferred tax provisions.

But property companies and some accountants don't agree with this treatment. CapitaLand's group chief financial officer, Olivier Lim, says: 'Where there is no expectation of a tax liability payable now or in future, it would be inappropriate to book a liability.'

Some feel that since gains from the sale of properties are not taxed even when the property is sold - because there is no capital gains tax - the deferred tax shouldn't even be reflected in the accounts.

Some accountants - and property companies like City Developments - also worry that the new suggested treatment would distort financial accounts unnaturally.

En Bloc Sales Have Peaked, Says CapitaLand

Source : The Business Times, August 2, 2007

Property owners must be realistic about what is marketable: CEO

(SINGAPORE) CapitaLand Ltd, the biggest buyer of enbloc projects in Singapore in the past year, said that such property sales have 'peaked', as owners ask for record prices for their homes.

The market for existing buildings has hit a high 'in terms of pricing', said Liew Mun Leong, chief executive officer of CapitaLand. The developer, South-east Asia's largest, had 18.3 per cent share of the $13.49 billion of such collective sales from July 2006 to June 2007, according to data from real estate consultant Knight Frank.

A frenzy of redevelopment of prime condos around the main Orchard Road shopping district and the neighbouring prime residential area of Holland Road prompted the government to raise the development charge, which must be paid for enhancing a site's use.

'The problem now is that en bloc owners' expectations are raising the hurdles,' Mr Liew, 61, said in an interview on Tuesday. 'Going forward, en bloc owners must be realistic about what is marketable.'

Developers were buying older homes in the city's prime areas to redevelop and resell at prices that were more than four times higher as demand for luxury apartments pushed some residential units to record prices.

A record of 70 older apartment developments were sold last year for $8.1 billion, according to data from Knight Frank. In the first half of this year, there were 48 transactions amounting to $9.48 billion.

'En bloc sales are about derived demand,' said Nicholas Mak, Knight Frank's research director. 'As long as high-end property demand continues, the en bloc sales would continue.' CapitaLand in June said that it's buying Farrer Court, an existing apartment complex in the Holland Road area, which is a five-minute drive from the shopping district, for a record $1.3 billion.

SC Global Developments, a builder of luxury homes, said earlier in June that it had agreed to buy apartments next to the shopping district for $262 million, or $2,338 a square foot, the highest price for an existing complex.

'There will come a time when the market cannot bear' the prices, CapitaLand's Mr Liew Mun Leong said.

SC Global, which paid $1,064 a square foot for a downtown apartment complex last year, sold new homes on the same site in June for as much as $5,100 a square foot, a record.

CapitaLand's shares fell 15 cents, or 2 per cent, to $7.35 yesterday. The stock has risen 19 per cent this year, compared with the 15 per cent gain in the ST Index.

Some apartment developments in the city's downtown districts are having a harder time with en bloc sales. Pacific Mansions, a 10-minute walk from the shopping district, had an asking price of $1.18 billion, or $2,400 a square foot, its marketing agent Savills Singapore said in June.

The Straits Times reported on Tuesday that the owners didn't get bids that met their asking price and are negotiating with possible buyers to achieve their reserve or minimum price, which is 10 to 20 per cent lower than the asking price.

'We are seeing vendors adapting to be more accommodating,' said Donald Han, managing director of Cushman & Wakefield.

'Instead of expecting record price after record price, there is some price stabilisation, which will be good for the market.' - Bloomberg

One Raffles Quay: A Good Deal For Buyers

Source : The Business Times, August 2, 2007

KEPPEL Land and Cheung Kong (Holdings)' sales of their respective one-third stake in One Raffles Quay (ORQ) to K-Reit Asia and Suntec Reit have generated much interest in the property market, with many seasoned observers saying the deals are underpriced.

KepLand and Cheung Kong are each selling their one-third stake for a headline figure of $941.5 million. In addition, the vendors are providing 'income support' to the respective buyers of up to $103.4 million through 2011 in the case of K-Reit Asia's purchase, and $103.48 million spread over 54 months for Suntec Reit's acquisition.

The acquisition price works out to $2,109 per square foot of net lettable area based on the headline price of $941.5 million. Stripping out the $103.4 million income support provided by the vendors reflects a lower net purchase price of $1,877 psf.

Office industry players generally regard this price as low. 1 Finlayson Green was transacted recently at over $2,600 psf. No doubt it is freehold but the 99-year leasehold ORQ, completed last year, is considered a superior property, with bigger floor plates and a top-grade tenant list including UBS, Credit Suisse, ABN Amro and Deutsche Bank.

Talk is rife that a deal is close to being struck for Chevron House (formerly Caltex House), a much older 99-year leasehold property, for $2,700 psf. The buyer is not expected to be a Reit.

Based on this, market watchers say such a non-Reit buyer would have offered at least the same price as Chevron House, if not around 10 per cent higher, or nearly $3,000 psf, for a new Grade A office property like ORQ.

By selling their stakes in ORQ to Singapore Reits (S-Reits), KepLand and Cheung Kong are getting a much lower price.

Reits (real estate investment trusts) need any acquisition to be immediately yield-accretive. Otherwise, there is a risk of the unit price on the stock market falling. This limits the price that a Reit can pay for a property - all other factors being equal.

However, non-Reit buyers, including foreign private equity and unlisted funds, can bid more aggressively. They are prepared to look beyond poor initial yields, on expectation that Singapore office rentals and capital values will continue to increass leases are renewed at higher market rents, and there is also a possibility of selling the asset a few years down the road, to crystallise capital appreciation.

Based on a $2,700 psf price, Keppel Land could have sold its one-third stake in ORQ for $1.2 billion. Assuming a higher $3,000 psf, its divestment could have been for $1.34 billion.

Why did Keppel Land feel compelled to sell its stake for a much lower price to its 40.7 per cent- owned associate K-Reit Asia, which is also listed on the Singapore Exchange?

Of course, there are some merits to the deal from KepLand's perspective. As UBS Investment Research notes: 'Selling the asset to K-Reit allows Keppel Land to control the asset in a more tax-efficient structure.' Reits do not pay corporate tax at the vehicle level if they distribute all their income to unit holders.

But even after factoring the tax saving, KepLand will book a smaller contribution from ORQ following the divestment of its stake to K-Reit.

Of course, many KepLand shareholders may still hold units in K-Reit. The trust was not listed through an initial public offering; instead, KepLand shareholders were given 200 K-Reit units for every 1,000 KepLand shares they held, as at April 18 last year.

At the time that K-Reit was introduced to the Singapore Exchange last year, around 60 per cent of the total number of units went to KepLand shareholders, with KepLand itself holding the remaining 40 per cent stake.

Of course, there may be some KepLand shareholders who do not own any K-Reit units, because they sold them or they bought their KepLand shares after last year's distribution-in-specie of the K-Reit units.

From their perspective, the argument that KepLand could have fetched a much higher price for its ORQ stake had it sold it to a non-Reit buyer, is even stronger.

The situation is even more complex for Cheung Kong's sale of its ORQ stake to Suntec Reit. Cheung Kong itself does not hold a stake in Suntec Reit but its ultimate controlling shareholder Li Ka-shing owns some units in Suntec Reit. However, Cheung Kong has a 30 per cent interest in the entity that manages Suntec Reit and, through this, would get a share of the acquisition fee for the deal, usually 1 per cent.

But on a more positive note the deals are attractive to K-Reit and Suntec. They may not have found such attractive acquisitions elsewhere in Singapore.

The Majestic Expected To Fetch In Excess Of $43m

Source: The Business Times, August 2, 2007

Five adjoining projects in Mergui/ Thomson area up for collective sale

CATHAY Realty has put The Majestic in the Chinatown area up for sale. And marketing agent Knight Franks expects to receive offers in excess of $43 million for the three-storey restored freehold conservation building.

The Majestic: It is being marketed through a tender that closes on Sept 13. The property has a gross floor area of 42,181 sq ft and a site area of 15,666 sq ft. It is suitable for use as shops and food outlets.

Over in the Mergui/Thomson road area, Credo Real Estate is marketing five adjoining freehold projects for joint collective sale. The properties are Norfolk Court, Mergui Lodge, Northern Mansion, Mergui Court and The Mergui.

'The developments have land areas ranging from 10,061 sq ft to 18,524 sq ft,' said Credo Real Estate executive director Yong Choon Fah. 'But upon amalgamation with one another, along with some remnant state land (of about 20,000 sq ft) in between and adjoining them, the developer could potentially build on an aggregate land area of 93,355 sq ft.'

Under Master Plan 2003, the site is zoned for residential development with a 2.8 plot ratio. Based on the height control for the site, the developer should be able to build up to 30 storeys, Credo reckons.

'The indicative price range for the five plots combined is between $115 million and $125 million,' Credo's Ms Yong said. 'Some $474,000 is payable as development charges (DC). Including DC and land premium for the state land, if an approval is granted for their alienation, the indicative price range reflects $488 psf per plot ratio to $526 psf ppr.

Based on this range, the developer should be able to break even at about $800 psf to $850 psf (for a new project on the site).'

Norfolk Court comprises 20 units, Mergui Lodge nine units, Northern Mansion 18 units, Mergui Court 23 units and The Mergui 18 units. More than 80 per cent of the owners by share value in four of the five projects have agreed to the sale. At the last project, consent from two more owners is needed to cross the 80 per cent mark, said Credo.

As a result, marketing is by way of an expression-of-interest exercise that closes on Sept 3.

The Majestic is being marketed through a tender that closes on Sept 13. The property has a gross floor area of 42,181 sq ft and a site area of 15,666 sq ft. It is suitable for use as shops and food outlets.

The Majestic's rich and colourful history dates back to the 1920s. Eu Tong Sen, a wealthy tin miner and rubber planter from Perak, built it in 1927 on a whim for his wife, an opera fan.

'Then known as Tin Yin Moh Toi or Tin Yin Dance Stage, it attracted glamorous opera stars from China, who performed to capacity audiences,' said Knight Frank. 'Some of them came especially to perform and raise money for China's war against Japan.'

Staff Served By Managers At Phoenix's Farewell

Source : The Straits Times, Aug 2, 2007

POIGNANT MOMENT: Mr Hawkes brings out the 'Closed' sign after the farewell party, with bell captain George Chia one of the few to witness the ending. -- ST PHOTOS: JOYCE FANG

IT IS believed that the tears of a phoenix can heal wounds.

So when the teary-eyed Hotel Phoenix staff members bid the 35-year-old Orchard Road landmark goodbye yesterday, it soothed their pain.

'It's hard to let go. There's a strong affiliation to the hotel after all these years,' said kitchen helper Low Chui Peh, who has been working at the 392-room hotel for 22 years.

About 150 staff members gathered for a farewell party yesterday.

In a mark of respect for their service, Singapore's longest-serving hotel general manager Noel Hawkes and his senior managers turned the tables, and waited on their staff instead.

Mr Hawkes said: 'These are my brothers, my sisters, my extended family. We've been through the last 20 years together.'

OCBC Bank, the owners of Hotel Phoenix and the adjoining Specialist Shopping Centre, decided to close the hotel for a 'major refurbishment'.

The building will not be demolished, but it remains uncertain if a new hotel will re-emerge even as two multi-million- dollar malls are springing up on either side of it.

Throughout the week, staff have been exchanging phone numbers and taking photos - all scrambling furiously for a keepsake of their time there.

'I took some photos so I can hold on to my memories,' said 37-year-old Mastura Abdul Rahman, who has been in room service for 19 years.

Cook Andrew Ng, 57, said moving on was difficult. 'I thought I would be working here till I retire. It's hard to work at another hotel after 28 years here.'

The hotel's closing was also an emotional moment for its guests. Some flew in specially for that one last stay.

Mr Christian Ion was Hotel Phoenix's very last and final guest. The Frenchman, a regular at the hotel since 1990, choked back tears as he said: 'In life, a lot of things change. But I haven't changed hotels for the last 17 years.

'Somehow, a slice of life will be left here,' said the businessman.

Mr Shah Yee, 65, a regular since the late 1970s, flew in from Australia to stay at the hotel for a final night.

He explained: 'Sure, there are bigger hotels that are better equipped and with nicer decor.

'But at the Phoenix, it is warm and friendly. There is a personal relationship between staff and guests. And that is what counts for me,' said the director of a property development and investments company.

Ironically, Mr Hawkes reported that the hotel had its best July in its history last month, with revenues pipping previous July records and occupancy hitting 96 per cent.

When the doors finally closed at 5pm yesterday, only a few staff who had lingered on after the farewell party were there to witness the moment.

Bell captain George Chia was one of them. The 55-year-old has been at Hotel Phoenix since it first spread its wings in 1972.

He said he was hoping for Hotel Phoenix to one day rise from the ashes. 'I'm looking forward to the day when I can come back. This is my second home.'

Hotel Phoenix says goodbye for the last time

150 staff from the 35-year-old Hotel Phoenix gathered on the hotel's final day today to have a final meal together and reminisce.

Besides getting retrenchment packages, at least 80 per cent of them have already found work, many with other hotels.

Despite its impending closure, the four-star hotel boasted an occupancy rate of 95.5 per cent in July.

The hotel has been repossessed by its owners, OCBC Bank, and will be refurbished as part of long-term plans to rejuvenate the Orchard Road shopping district.

Video Link :-

Hotel that's like a second home

WHEN Mr James Phenix first checked into the Hotel Phoenix seven years ago, he told its front desk with a straight face: 'Hi, I'm checking into my hotel.'
Asked about the difference in spelling of his name, he shot back: 'Oh, Daddy was lazy, so he dropped the 'o'.' That set the tone for his ties to the hotel, where personal service always made him feel at home.

The 65-year-old American, a Malaysian permanent resident, drives to Singapore at least once a month. He is always greeted by name, and a room and parking lot are always made available for him.

Another regular is property development and investments company director Shah Yee and his wife Adeline.

It's like a second home to these Malaysia-born Australians, who reckon they have spent at least 800 nights there since the late 1970s. When they learnt that the hotel was to be no more, they flew in from Sydney on Monday for one final stay.

The Yees are so fond of the hotel that two of their company's developments in Sydney bear the Phoenix name. Mrs Yee lamented: 'No hotel can compare to the Phoenix. I'll miss the late check-outs.'

'And the afternoon tea,' quipped Mr Yee.

Five Freehold Projects In Bid To Sell As Single Lot

Source : The Straits Times, Aug 2, 2007

OWNERS of five fairly small adjoining freehold residential developments in Mergui Road have banded together to sell the properties as one medium-sized lot for up to $125 million.

The properties - Norfolk Court, Mergui Lodge, Northern Mansion, Mergui Court and The Mergui - are located near Rangoon Road and Moulmein Road.

They are single apartment blocks and sit on relatively small plots of land.

But when combined, along with small pieces of state land in between, they will form a land area of about 93,355 sq ft.

This would allow the buyer to build a medium-scale condominium of up to 30 storeys and about 200 units, said Credo Real Estate.

The company yesterday put the properties up for sale through an expression of interest exercise, with an indicative price range of $115 million to $125 million.

This works out to between $488 per sq ft (psf) and $526 psf of potential gross floor area, including development charges of about $474,000 and a premium for the state land.

At this price, the buyer should be able to break even at about $800 psf to $850 psf, said Credo Real Estate's executive director, Ms Yong Choon Fah.

In Mergui Road, Fragrance Properties' new 60-unit freehold development Pristine Heights is selling well, with the 37 units sold in June achieving a median price of $981 psf.

Of the five developments, only Mergui Lodge does not yet have the required approval level of 80 per cent by share value to go ahead with a sale.

Mergui Lodge has only nine units, Northern Mansion and The Mergui have 18 units each, Norfolk Court has 20 units, while Mergui Court has 23 units.