Thursday, August 23, 2007

StanChart May Top Kookmin For S Korean Broker

Source : The Business Times, August 23, 2007

Standard Chartered has been trying to open a brokerage business in South Korea since it acquired former Korea First Bank for US$3.3 billion in 2005.

SEOUL - Standard Chartered is highly likely to beat local lender Kookmin Bank in buying a small South Korean securities firm, a newspaper said on Thursday, a deal that could be worth up to US$260 million.

Standard Chartered has been trying to open a brokerage business in South Korea since it acquired former Korea First Bank for US$3.3 billion in 2005.

The Chosun Ilbo cited an unnamed industry source as saying that SC Korea First Bank, Standard Chartered's wholly owned unit, has been negotiating with the top shareholder of Hannuri Investment and Securities and an agreement is pending.

Previously, a Merrill Lynch analyst had estimated Hannuri might be sold for 200 billion to 250 billion won (US$211.6 million-US$264.6 million) to Kookmin, which had pulled out of an auction for a one-branch brokerage, KGI Securities, in May.

A senior regulatory official said it's not clear where the deal to sell Hannuri Investment stands.

Unlisted Hannuri, established in 1995, is 93 per cent owned by foreign investors, including US-based JDK Investment, the top shareholder.

It earned 10.7 billion won (US$11.32 million) in the fiscal year ended in March, with a paid-in capital of 50 billion won, according to its filing with the Financial Supervisory Service.

It had a 1.7 per cent market share as of March.

Asia-focused Standard Chartered has been trying to open a brokerage business in South Korea since it acquired former Korea First Bank for US$3.3 billion in 2005, a source had told Reuters.

But it failed to win a licence as regulators were worried allowing new entrants to the already-crowded industry.

Banks are on the prowl for small domestic brokerages to move into the country's booming derivatives and fund markets, which are set to benefit from the Capital Markets Integration Act.

The act, which goes into effect from 2009, is designed to give securities houses a bigger role in reshaping the country's financial sector.

Shares in Kookmin rose 0.82 per cent to 73,900 won by 0242 GMT, underperforming the wider market's 2.52 per cent gain. -- REUTERS

Property Transactions With Contract Date Between 30th July - 4th Aug 2007

NUS Plans University Town In Clementi

Source : TODAY, 23 August 2007

Artist Impression of NUS University Town in Clementi

SINGAPORE : It may be facing keener competition as Singapore plans for a fourth - and perhaps fifth - tertiary institution, but the country's oldest university is not standing idly by.

Come 2010, the way undergraduates live and play on the campus of the National University of Singapore (NUS) will change when its new University Town - to be built at the former Warren Golf Course in Clementi - opens its doors.

Think less Kent Ridge living, and more Ivy League colleges.

Put simply, the concept of hostel living will never be the same again, said NUS' vice-provost for education Lily Kong in an interview with TODAY.

There will be no more traditionally small dormitory rooms, as is the case at the six existing hostels at NUS' Kent Ridge campus.

Instead, apartments - complete with living room and kitchen - will accommodate up to eight students per unit.

The idea behind having a minimum of four students living together is to "give them that communal living experience" and let them interact with friends from all over the world, said Prof Kong.

The site - which will house eight new colleges-cum-hostels - will cater to another 6,600 students and faculty within the NUS family.

Currently, about 6,000 out of 32,000 students live on the Kent Ridge campus, which will be untouched by the latest revamp.

To be built at a cost of $500 million to $600 million, the new University Town will feature special themes for each college.

While plans are still being drawn up - the winning consortium to build the 19ha town will only be appointed in December - Prof Kong revealed that four themes being considered are technology and innovation, environment, health and sports and media.

The new Ivy League model throws up another new term: Master.

These masters - who need not be academic staff - will take on a meatier role than traditional hall advisers do in running the colleges.

Going beyond a mentoring role, these eight masters - one for each college - will be more hands-on, in planning college activities, holding after-dinner discussion sessions with students and setting the overall tone and ethos of the college.

A local and global search is now on for suitable candidates.

And if you think hostel living is unconnected with studies, think again.

Undergraduates of each college will need to take up modules that will count towards their general elective requirements.

These modules will take up about 10 per cent of their total course hours.

On how the college courses will be taught, Prof Kong said: "We could have, say, an English language student who has a passion for the environment, or a business student who wants to do a module on technopreneurship to complement his learning. There will be a whole new range of modules for students to pick from."

There will also be informal learning activities planned too, such as "language tables" where groups of interested students from all nationalities try the borscht they have cooked in their kitchens, while learning Russian customs and language over dinner.

But the college is not just for undergraduates - two separate halls meant for graduates will be built too.

The whole idea at the end of the day, she said, is to "give students the freedom to choose the sort of on-campus environment they desire".

"If a student just wants to stay in a hostel, but without the intellectual or academic element included, it's fine. What we want in the Warren colleges is for students to see that what they learn in the classroom is not divorced from other aspects of life. If they have an interest in the environment, they can take courses on that with other like-minded people. It will be exciting," she said.

And to ensure ample local participation at the colleges, NUS plans to impose a 40 per cent cap on foreign students staying at the University Town.

But an Ivy League model of hostel living does not come cheap.

Early estimates suggest that rents will be about two to three times more than what is charged at a Kent Ridge hostel, but Prof Kong (picture) said the final price would depend on the eventual winning bid.

Currently, students pay $60 a week to stay in a single-occupancy room and $40 for a twin-sharing unit.

Explaining the higher rates, Prof Kong said: "The facilities will be quite fantastic. The courses are new, the academic learning will be conducted at the college itself, and it will be done in small groups so the interaction will be intense. We are actively looking to bring in donors for the project too."

She said that no student would be denied the chance to stay at the university town because of financial reasons, and that adequate loans or student aid would be provided.

Secondary 4 student Melissa Chan, 16 - who is likely to be among the first batch of freshmen eligible to apply for a place in the new colleges - was excited when told of these plans.

She said: "It should be quite an experience, to actually be in an apartment setting with new friends, and have professors living nearby too. I might apply to stay at the media-themed college." - TODAY/ra

Consider Big Picture When Looking At CPF Changes: Dr Yaacob

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 22 August 2007

SINGAPORE : Consider the big picture when you're looking at the changes being made to your CPF. This was the appeal made by the Environment and Water Resources Minister, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim.

He said issues related to the CPF are sensitive but the changes have to be implemented for the good of the country.

Dr Yaacob, who is also the Minister-in-Charge of Muslim Affairs, was speaking at a dialogue session which discussed the announcements made at the National Day Rally speech.

This closed-door dialogue held on Aug 21 is the first of five being held by Malay Members of Parliament for the Muslim community.

The event was attended by over 200 grassroots leaders and representatives from Malay/Muslim organisations in the western parts of Singapore.

A lot of attention was focused on changes to the CPF rates and why the government needs to raise the minimum sum draw-down age progressively from 62 to 65.

"I appeal to them to understand the bigger picture, why it is necessary to do this in view of the challenging problems of the ageing society and the income divide. Perhaps more time will be needed for them to understand the implication, so I also appeal to them to wait for the ministerial statement by (Minister for Manpower) Mr Ng Eng Hen," said Dr Yaacob.

Dr Yaacob said he understands that anything to do with the CPF is sensitive because it affects almost everyone.

For Muslims, many look to their CPF withdrawal so as to use the money to perform their Haj.

Another topic discussed at the dialogue was the inclusion of Muslims in the Human Organ Transplant Act.

Dr Yaacob's assessment is that most participants support the move to have Muslims opt out of the scheme, instead of the current practice of opting in.

To clarify the matter, the minister revealed that the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) will work with the Health Ministry on a campaign that will begin on August 29.

There will be booklets and roadshows to explain to Muslims, in detail, what it means to amend the Act and how this will affect the Muslim community. - CNA /ls

Neighbourhood Schools Get Boost From School-Based Excellence Scheme

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 22 August 2007

Picture : Evergreen Primary School

SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke about having high quality neighbourhood schools all across Singapore to give every child a top-rate education in his National Day Rally speech.

To the government, a school can still be considered excellent even if its students do not score straight As.

That was the message from the Education Ministry two years ago when it launched its programme for school-based excellence – aimed at getting schools to cultivate distinctive strengths outside academic subjects.

The programme was a huge morale boost to neighbourhood schools and there are currently 57 primary and secondary schools under it.

Related Video Link -
Neighbourhood schools get boost from school-based excellence scheme

Under this scheme, primary schools with an identified niche are given up to S$100,000 per year to pay for external instructors or materials.

Secondary schools, on the other hand, get S$30,000 over three years.

There are plans to expand this programme as the government believes the scheme helps to nurture diverse talents.

Evergreen Primary, for example, has been awarded the programme for school-based excellence this year due to its performing arts curriculum.

With more resources, teachers were able to go to Norway and Finland on a study trip and students benefited from the extra funds.

Tan Kah Teo, principal of Evergreen Primary, said: "Many of the students are from the low-income group and they are not able to afford (musical) instruments, which can be quite costly. With this MOE award, we are able to subsidise (the programmes for) some of these needy students."

Students at Evergreen Primary have two hours of performing arts lessons every week.

At Primary Four, all students learn how to play a Chinese orchestra instrument and at Primary Five, the kids go through hip hop classes.

Drama is also used in class.

Nisa Syarafanan, a Primary Five student at Evergreen Primary, said: "Now we have drama class during our English lessons. It helps us to speak more fluently and it also increases our confidence. The scripts in the drama classes are original creations by Primary Six students."

By giving schools such flexibility, it is hoped that they are able to better tailor the education experience to their students' needs. - CNA/so

Temasek Raises Stanchart Stake To 15%

Source : The Straits Times, Aug 23, 2007

SINGAPORE investment company Temasek Holdings has raised its stake in Asia-focused Standard Chartered Bank (Stanchart) to 15.3 per cent, up from 14.1 per cent.

The share purchase, made on the open market last Friday, is estimated to have cost Temasek about £271 million (S$820 million), based on the counter's closing price that day.

Temasek has been increasing its interest in the British bank since last March, one year after it bought an 11.6 per cent stake from the estate of the late tycoon Khoo Teck Puat, according to regulatory statements made by Stanchart.

These investments appear to have cost about £900 million in total, including the latest transaction - adding to an estimated £2.3 billion from the original investment last March.

'We have increased our stake in what we have always considered to be a good investment, the reason we went in, in the first place,' said a Temasek spokesman yesterday.

Financial services are a key investment area for Temasek.

Stakes in more than a dozen banks, including China Construction Bank, Bank of China and Bank Danamon in Indonesia, make up 38 per cent of its $164 billion portfolio.

In the previous year, Temasek's exposure to the sector was 35 per cent of a $129 billion portfolio.

Last month, the Singapore firm bought into a billion-dollar battle royale for Dutch bank ABN Amro, throwing in its weight with Britain's Barclays.

It is paying £975 million for a 2.1 per cent stake in Barclays, which is locked in a takeover competition with a group of banks led by Royal Bank of Scotland.

Stanchart, which makes most of its profits in Asia, reported a 26 per cent jump in half-year earnings to US$1.37 billion (S$2.09 billion) on Aug 7.

The stock has risen 4.7 per cent so far this year, making it the best-performing British bank. In contrast, the nine-member FTSE All-Share Banks Index has fallen 11.1 per cent in the same period.

Temasek's first share purchase for the year was on March 7, when it bought 12.8 million shares. The stock closed at £13.99 that day, after a steep fall from February prices and below the £15.24 close when it bought its major stake from Mr Khoo's estate.

The company appears to have bought more shares during the counter's subsequent run up to an all- time high of £17.265 on June 1, including 4.5 million shares on May 29 when the counter closed at £16.80.

Temasek made another investment on July 27 before the most recent purchase of 17.4 million shares last Friday, when Stanchart closed at £15.60 amid a credit crunch that has rocked world financial markets.

Stanchart shares, as with the rest of the market, have since rebounded and were trading at £15.75 as at 8pm yesterday. This makes Temasek's stake in the bank worth £3.38 billion.

HSBC Introduces 4-Week Credit Break

Source : The Straits Times, Aug 23, 2007

HSBC is offering some clients a four-week payment holiday every time their mortgage hits its 12-month anniversary.

Home buyers with variable rate loans can stop payments for a month once a year.

The deferred amounts will be added on to the outstanding loan balance.

HSBC's head of consumer banking here, Ms Wendy Lim, said: 'This will give customers greater flexibility in managing their finances.'

There is no limit to the number of payment holidays, as long as it is kept to one month per anniversary year.

Observers say those most likely to take up the offer will be borrowers facing short-term financial difficulties.

The innovation is a first in the home loan market here, according to Ms Lim.

The offer is open only to new home loan customers who take out loans with variable rates.

HSBC is also launching today home loan packages linked to the Singapore interbank offered rate (Sibor). These will have their interest rates pegged at the three- month Sibor rate plus 0.7 per cent.

The payment holiday offer will not apply to Sibor-linked home loan packages.

Lawyer ‘Flees S’pore With Client’s $68,000′

Source : The Business Times, 23 Aug 2007

IN the first suspected case of a lawyer absconding with a client’s money to emerge since the rules surrounding such crimes were tightened last month, David Khong of Sim & Wong allegedly left town last weekend with $68,000 from the account of a client at a previous firm.

On July 15, rules came into force stipulating that two signatories are needed for cheques for amounts exceeding $30,000 to be drawn from clients’ accounts.

The rules, among other measures, were designed to prevent lawyers from mishandling clients’ money, and were actuated by an incident in June last year when lawyer David Rasif disappeared with over $10 million from clients’ accounts.

According to Peter Sim, a director of Sim & Wong, Mr Khong had closed his sole proprietorship, David Khong & Associates, and joined Sim & Wong only in June.

At his previous firm, Mr Khong had been working on a conveyancing transaction, and the work was transferred to Sim & Wong. However, the buyer’s 4 per cent deposit, worth about $88,000, was left in the old firm’s bank account, Mr Sim said.

When acting on behalf of a seller, a law firm typically holds the buyer’s deposit, which it releases to the seller after the transaction is complete.

Although David Khong & Associates had shut down, the firm’s bank account remained open. This was for administrative reasons, such as to pay ongoing bills, and is considered ‘normal procedure’, Mr Sim told BT.

Further, law firms usually place client money in fixed deposits, rather than current account, to earn higher interest. As the transaction was expected to close within weeks, the money was left at the old firm’s account, he said.

On Aug 20, Mr Khong sent an email message to Wendy Wong, a partner at Sim & Wong. In the email message, Mr Khong said he had absconded with $68,000 of the client’s money and left the country, according to Mr Sim.

The email message also mentioned miscellaneous debts, said Mr Sim. He said he had seen Mr Khong at work the previous Friday and noticed nothing untoward in his behaviour.

Sim & Wong has reported the matter to the Commercial Affairs Department of the Singapore Police Force, as well as the Law Society.

The police told BT yesterday that the report had been lodged, but said it was ‘inappropriate to comment on investigations’ and did not furnish further detail.

Meanwhile, ‘the Council of the Law Society has intervened on 21 August 2007 in the practice and client account of one David Khong Siak Meng as the Council has reason to suspect dishonesty in relation to a sum of about $68,000 on the part of this solicitor’, a spokesperson for the Law Society told BT.

‘The Council has appointed an investigative accountant to look into the matter. The Chief Justice has been informed of the matter. As the matter is currently under police investigation, the Law Society is unable to comment further,’ added the spokesperson, but said the society would issue a press release at a later date when appropriate.

‘We don’t know how or when he (Mr Khong) took out the money. Presumably he only needed one signature to do so,’ said Mr Sim.

Mr Khong’s confession came ‘out of the blue’, said Mr Sim.

MMP Reit Takes Full Control Of Mall In Chengdu

Source : The Business Times, 23 Aug 2007

100% stake represents yield accretion of 3.4% on annualised basis

Win-win deal: The purchase of the 100 per cent stake in Renhe Spring Department Store is seen as benefiting both MMP Reit and the vendor Renhe Spring Group

INSTEAD of acquiring a 50 per cent stake, Macquarie MEAG Prime Real Estate Investment Trust (MMP Reit) is now taking full control of Renhe Spring Department Store in Chengdu, China, for 350 million yuan (S$70.3 million).

MMP Reit had in April this year announced that it would acquire a half stake in the 101,000 sq ft department store owned by Renhe Spring Group for 150 million yuan. The property, valued at 340 million yuan as at Dec 31, 2006, was re-valued at 350 million yuan as at July 31 this year.

On the increased stake, Franklin Heng, chief executive officer of the Reit’s manager, Macquarie Pacific Star, said: ‘This is a win-win arrangement…Not only will the yield accretion of this transaction for MMP Reit now be higher, Renhe Spring Group will also have more financial resources for its expansion and development projects in China, over which MMP Reit will continue to enjoy a first right of refusal.’

Renhe Spring Group’s pipeline of opportunities in China includes two other prime retail properties in Chengdu with combined gross floor area of more than one million sq ft.

The 100 per cent stake in the department store represents a yield accretion of 3.4 per cent on an annualised basis to MMP Reit’s distribution per unit, assuming full debt financing.

Between 2005 and 2006, Renhe Spring Department Store registered about 23 per cent of year-on-year retail sales growth and, for 2006, its sales were 263 million yuan.

The 350 million yuan price tag comprises 310 million yuan in cash and the assumption of an interest-free debt of 40 million yuan owed to Renhe Spring Group and repayable over seven years. Renhe Spring Group will also continue to operate the department store for a fee of 0.8 per cent of the gross turnover.

Renhe Spring Group guarantees annual net distributable profits of 26.4 million yuan, which is secured for two years by the sum of 20 million yuan to be deducted from the consideration and held in escrow.

With the completion of MMP Reit’s acquisitions in Japan in May and assuming the acquisition in China is fully funded by debt, MMP Reit’s gearing will be 31.8 per cent.

MMP Reit comprises eight properties including a 74.23 per cent stake in Wisma Atria, a 27.23 per cent stake in Ngee Ann City, and six properties in Tokyo.

Scotts Road Office Site Draws Strong Interest

Source : The Straits Times, 23 Aug 2007

A SHORT-TERM office site at Scotts Road has attracted keen interest from developers.

With the close of its tender yesterday, 11 bids had come in for the 15-year leasehold site next to Newton MRT Station. The top bid, from Scotts Spazio, was $37 million, or $219.40 per sq ft (psf) of gross floor area. The next highest bid was $31.2 million.

Consultants had predicted that the 1.04ha site would draw top bids of $25 million. Among the bidders yesterday were Sim Lian Land, United Engineers and Soilbuild Group Holdings.

The plot can host a four-storey block with a total floor area of 168,627 sq ft. It was offered by the Government last month as a temporary solution to the current shortage of office space in Singapore.

The Government had said that if the site received a good response, other similar plots could be released.

Mr Li Hiaw Ho, executive director of CB Richard Ellis Research, attributed the popularity of the site to its shape and size as well as the amenities nearby.

‘Developers seemed undaunted by the short tenure of only 15 years for this parcel,’ he noted. ‘The strong showing and level of bids submitted reflect developers’ general optimism in the light of the current tight supply of offices in prime locations.’

Mr Li said the break-even cost of the site is likely to be about $500 psf per plot ratio, given a 12 per cent yield based on a gross monthly rent of $6.50 psf.

CapitaLand Unveils Another Viet Project

Source : The Business Times, 23 Aug 2007

CAPITALAND has signed a conditional joint venture (JV) agreement with Azure City Co to develop a 1,200-unit high-rise condominium project in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

This brings CapitaLand’s pipeline of residential units in Vietnam to 2,800 homes, after venturing there in 2006.

CapitaLand will take a 75 per cent stake in the JV for $48.8 million.

Azure City Co, a local Vietnamese company involved in infrastructure and property, will hold the remaining 25 per cent.

The site is located in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 9 and CapitaLand said it will develop the project over the next three to four years.

CapitaLand Residential CEO Lui Chong Chee said: ‘With the country’s strong economic growth fuelling rapid urbanisation, we see demand for well-built and well-designed homes rising in both metropolitan cities like Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, as well as the other major cities in the country.’

This will be CapitaLand’s fourth residential development in Vietnam.

All four are in Ho Chi Minh City. The first is the 750-unit Vista in District 2 and CapitaLand says that the first phase, which was launched in June, has been fully taken up.

A 600-unit development in District 7 will be launched by end-2007.

CapitaLand also announced earlier this month that it will develop a 300-unit landed-housing develop with Azure City Co.

HSBC Offers Home Loans With Payment Holiday

Source : The Business Times, 23 Aug 2007

New borrowers with HSBC’s variable rate home loans are to be allowed to defer their repayments for a month each year, six months after taking out a loan.

The bank, which announced the new ‘payment holiday’ feature this week, said each deferred monthly instalment will be added to the outstanding balance on the loan, which means customers who choose to defer a payment will need to pay higher subsequent monthly instalments.

Wendy Lim, the bank’s head of consumer banking in Singapore, said the option of a payment holiday would give customers greater flexibility in managing their finances.

A customer can take a one-month payment holiday for each anniversary year of the loan, but the first deferment can be made only after six months. The monthly instalments will be revised after each payment holiday.

The bank has also launched new home loan packages directly linked to the three-month Singapore interbank offered rate or Sibor, a common benchmark for banks’ loans to businesses here.

Interest rates charged on these home loan packages will be the published three-month Sibor on the first business day of each month, plus 0.7 of a percentage point, a bank spokesman said. In recent months, other banks here have also introduced mortgages based on publicly available benchmark rates.

Sulian Tan-Wijaya Leaves STB Joins HK Sino Land

Source : TODAY, Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Singapore Tourism Board’s (STB) high-profile director of service quality Sulian Tan-Wijaya is leaving the statutory board.

She will be joining Hong Kong-based property developer Sino Land as its general manager to develop a new precinct in the Fullerton area.

The new development will cover the Boathouse, Fullerton Hotel, One Fullerton, Clifford Pier, a new waterfront boutique hotel and the old Customs House.

At the STB, Ms Tan-Wijaya also held a stint as director of tourism shopping and is a familiar figure on the local social circuit.

Ms Tan-Wijaya told TODAY: “I was enticed by the opportunity to work with this beautiful waterfront development, which is a unique blend of colonial heritage charm and cuttingedge modern architecture.”

Ms Tan-Wijaya will start her new job on Sept 6. When contacted, the STB declined to comment on who would be replacing Ms Tan-Wijaya at the statutory board.

STB's Tan-Wijaya To Be GM Of Sino Land's Waterfront Properties

Source : The Strait Times, 23 August 2007

THE new woman appointed to take charge of a string of premium commercial properties along the Fullerton waterfront is Ms Sulian Tan-Wijaya.

Ms Tan-Wijaya, 42, is leaving the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) after 31/2 years to join Sino Land, the Hong Kong-based sister company of property giant Far East Organization.

She will take on the role of general manager for the Fullerton waterfront properties owned by Sino Land.

This is the latest indicator of Sino Land's plans for the corridor, which starts at the Fullerton Waterboat House at one end. It also comprises The Fullerton Hotel, One Fullerton and the recently acquired Collyer Quay site, where a major makeover is in the works.

Among the new plans for Collyer Quay are a 120-room luxury hotel, a floating public plaza, a discotheque and six floating 'pods' that will act as function rooms, shops or restaurants.

A maritime gallery will also be set up in the former Customs Harbour Branch Building.

Sino Land, controlled by the family of property magnate Ng Teng Fong, has said that it may create an integrated waterfront development that will link all these landmark buildings seamlessly.

Ms Tan-Wijaya's last day at STB, where she is currently director of the service quality division, is Sept 5. She will start work at Sino Land the next day.

The mother of two told The Straits Times yesterday that she was looking forward to this new opportunity.

'It was an attractive offer because it's not only something that I've always enjoyed doing, but I'm also very excited about this whole development,' she said over the phone.

The Straits Times understands that Ms Tan-Wijaya will act as Sino Land's representative for the waterfront properties in Singapore, covering areas such as project management, marketing, leasing and public relations.

Ms Tan-Wijaya is a regular on the party circuit here and is frequently featured in society magazine Tatler.

She joined STB in February 2004 as director of the tourism shopping division. In 2005, she was made director of service quality. Before joining STB, she was at property management firm Pacific Star, where she handled corporate communications and managed the Wisma Atria and Capital Square properties.

Ms Tan-Wijaya has also had 16 years of experience in corporate banking and commercial properties, according to an STB annual report.

Boustead Bags $300m Libyan Township Project

Source : The Business Times, 23 August 2007

MAINBOARD-LISTED specialist engineering services and construction specialist Boustead Singapore has clinched a $300 million contract to design and build a new township in Al Marj, east of Libya's capital, Tripoli.

To give an indication of the project size, its value is just below Boustead's full-year revenue of $345 million for the year ended March 2007.

This contract also effectively doubles Boustead's order book to some $650 million, with earnings from the project flowing in over the next two financial years.

Boustead will undertake the project in partnership with Libyan-government construction giant, General Construction & Building Company (GCBC), with the Singapore company controlling a 65 per cent stake.

The deal calls for the consortium to design and build the township with 1,164 single storey semi-detached houses and supporting infrastructure on a 465-hectare site in the municipality of Al Marj.

The project will include amenities such as municipal water supply and sewage systems, education institutes and recreational facilities. Using Boustead's advanced pre-cast system and propless framework system for construction, the new township project is expected to be completed within 24 months.

Boustead-GCBC will appoint Surbana International Consultants Pte Ltd as the main consultant, marking Surbana's first foray into Libya. Surbana, formerly known as HDB Corporation, has vast expertise in new-township planning, having designed and developed 26 townships in Singapore which house 85 per cent of Singaporeans.

Wong Fong Fui, chairman and group CEO of Boustead, said his company was excited with the prospect of developing a brand new township in Libya in partnership with GCBC.

'Libya is a market where we have traditionally enjoyed great success and the award of the record $300 million contract affirms this,' he said. 'The contract is set to nearly double our current group order book. GCBC will enhance this new township project with its complementary capabilities in civil engineering as the largest government construction company in Libya. As for Boustead, this new township project is an extension of our strong set of infrastructure engineering capabilities, which we are able to offer to developing nations.'

The deal was welcomed by IE Singapore, whose CEO Chong Lit Cheong, applauded Boustead's breakthrough in the mega project.

'We are especially heartened by Boustead's efforts to work with other Singapore companies such as Surbana, to participate in this mega project, which will lead to the transfer of Singapore's software and experience in urban infrastructure and urban water management to Libya,' he said.

The new township project deal was inked following an IE-organised business mission to Libya led by Foreign Minister George Yeo in May 2007.

Boustead's Mr Wong envisions the Al Marj project marking the beginning of a pipeline of similar projects in Libya, and possibly, the rest of the region.

'This new township project is part of the government's long-term national plans to construct 400,000 houses in the country over the next decade,' he said. 'We foresee further participation in this sector in the future.'

Boustead said the latest contract would have 'a positive material impact on the profitability, earnings per share and net asset value per share' in its current financial year ending March 2008, and next financial year ending March 2009.

URA May Release More Transitional Office Sites

Source : The Business Times, 23 August 2007

The first such tender for a 15-yr leasehold Newton plot attracts 11 bids

(SINGAPORE) The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is expected to release more transitional office sites after the maiden tender yesterday for a plot on a 15-year lease next to Newton MRT Station attracted a whopping 11 bids.

The highest offer of $37 million or $219 per square foot of potential gross floor area came from Scotts Spazio, a joint venture between Hwa Hong Corporation unit Singapore Warehouse and KOP Capital.

Hwa Hong and KOP are believed to be weighing their options, but some observers suggest they may have placed their bid - which was 19 per cent more than the next highest offer from a unit of Sin Soon Lee Realty - with a view to developing the site into offices for lease to a single tenant, possibly in the insurance business.

Some market watchers tip the potential tenant as Prudential, which has been looking for space to expand.

The 1.04-hectare site can be built up to 168,627 sq ft of gross floor area, yielding about 140,000 sq ft net lettable area of offices.

'Based on the highest bid submitted, the breakeven cost for a new project on the site is likely to be around $500 psf per plot ratio, and this would provide the successful bidder with a decent yield of around 12 per cent for the 15-year leasehold site, based on a gross monthly rent of about $6.50 psf,' said CB Richard Ellis executive director Li Hiaw Ho.

'This sort of rental level is roughly half what a tenant would pay for similar size office space in the CBD.'

Interestingly, KOP Capital has a tie-up with a unit of Emirates Investment Group to develop a condo on the Hotel Asia site further down Scotts Road.

The other parties that bid in yesterday's tender include Sim Lian Land; MV Land, controlled by Lim Kim Hong and Lim Huixing; Hersing Corporation; United Engineers; Sino Holdings; Newton Centre, owned by Ho Kiau Seng, Phua Seng Hua Paul and Lau Kau Chin; and Khai Wah Development, part of Ho Lee Group.

Wing Tai and Soilbuild Group placed the lowest bids, of $74 psf ppr and $61 psf ppr respectively.

Market watchers expect URA to release more transitional office sites soon, given the strong demand in yesterday's tender.

URA extended the lease period for the Scotts Road plot from an initial 10 years to 15 years after market feedback that most investors wanted a longer lease period to recoup their outlay and cater to potential tenants' requirements.

Transitional office sites are one of the government's initiatives to provide short-term relief from the office space crunch. In addition, URA has stepped up mid and longer-term office supply by offering more 99-year leasehold plots that can be developed into offices in the CBD.

These include two commercial plots in Anson Road, as well as several sites with minimum stipulated office components - two 'white' sites at Marina View near One Shenton, the former Beach Road camp, and a 'white' site above Outram Park MRT Station.

The tender for a plot in Anson Road closed last month and the site was awarded to a Mapletree Investments unit at $1,021 psf per plot ratio. The Beach Road tender closed last month and is being evaluated under a dual-envelope system under which the concepts proposed by tenderers will have to be acceptable before their price envelopes are opened.

The tender for the second plot in Anson Road closes on Aug 28 and that for the first plot at Marina View closes on Sept 19. The tender for the plot nearby is slated to close on Nov 13.

CapitaLand Eyes Full Control Of 1 George Street: Sources

Source : The Business Times, 23 August 2007

Ergo's 50% stake in office building may be priced at $2,500 psf or more

Pretty buy: One George Street has won awards for its architecture and landscaping. Its owners recently rejected a tenancy offer for a 4,000 sq ft space at $16.50 psf a month as they are probably expecting higher rents

(SINGAPORE) CapitaLand will gain full ownership of One George Street if negotiations to buy German insurer Ergo's 50 per cent stake in the 23-storey award-winning office building are successful.

BT understands that the Singapore-listed property company is in talks to buy Ergo's half-stake for about $2,500 per square foot of net lettable area - or higher.

At $2,500 psf, the building would be priced at just over $1.1 billion and the half-share CapitaLand would buy from Ergo would be worth about $560 million.

CapitaLand and Ergo, a member of Munich Re Group, own roughly equal stakes in the property through their equally owned Eureka Office Fund.

One George Street, completed in late 2004, was a redevelopment of the former Pidemco Centre in South Bridge Road.

It was one of three assets that CapitaLand pumped into the $875 million Eureka Office Fund in 2001. The other two were stakes in The Adelphi and Temasek Tower.

Earlier this year, CapitaLand and Eureka sold their stakes in Temasek Tower to Macquarie Global Property Advisors Group for $1.04 billion or $1,550 psf.

Temasek Tower is on a site with about 74 years of the original 99-year lease remaining.

CapitaLand Group CEO Liew Mun Leong revealed later that the group's listed CapitaCommercial Trust (CCT) made an offer for Temasek Tower but it was less than Macquarie's.

As for CapitaLand's decision to buy the rest of One George Street, a market watcher said: 'Maybe they see greater upside there because it was developed on a fresh 99-year lease, boasts big floor plates of about 30,000 sq ft and is closer to the Raffles Place area.'

Analysts reckon CapitaLand may be seeking full ownership of One George Street with a view to injecting it into CCT when it generates sufficient yields as leases are renewed at higher rates.

Agreeing, another industry observer said One George Street recently received a tenancy offer for a 4,000 sq ft space at a whopping $16.50 psf a month, but this was rejected by the owners, who may be eyeing even more.

'When the present leases at One George Street were signed, the office market was weak,' an analyst said. But there is upside now as leases are renewed and new leases signed, given the surge in office rents over the past two years.

Major tenants at One George Street include the Royal Bank of Scotland, Legg Mason, hedge fund manager Tudor, Man Financial and Lloyds.

At CapitaLand's recent Q2 results briefing, Mr Liew said 'the Singapore office sector will remain a core holding' for the group but that it will reconstitute its portfolio by selling some office assets and investing in new developments.

One George Street has almost 450,000 sq ft of net lettable area and has won awards for its architecture and landscaping.

It has four skyrise gardens, the biggest of which is on the fifth floor and accessible to the public.

As for The Adelphi in the City Hall area, the Eureka fund initially had full ownership of the 999-year leasehold property but later sold some units, leaving it with 62 per cent of share values, according to a report in February this year.

There are plans for a collective sale of The Adelphi, which will provide Eureka an exit. The fund is expected to be wound up once the last of its three assets has been divested.

It's A MIRACLE We Are All Alive

Source : The New Paper, August 23, 2007

Family cooks, sleeps for two weeks in condo unit with leaking gas pipe

The punctured pipe was near an open window and so the gas didn't have time to accumulate. -- Picture:GAVIN FOO

FOR two weeks this family danced with danger and survived.

The punctured pipe was near an open window and so the gas didn't have time to accumulate. -- Picture:GAVIN FOO
Madam M Chen, 51, smelt gas but didn't know that it was coming from her unit.

And all this while the family continued to cook.

Madam Chen and her family had moved into their new condominium unit at Mirage Tower in Kim Seng Road just two weeks ago.

But unknown to them, a concealed gas pipe was leaking. It turned out that their sub-contractor had accidentally drilled into it while renovating the place.

Last Saturday, the smell got worse when they closed the windows and switched on the air-conditioner in the living room.

Madam Chen, a housewife, told The New Paper: 'My children were uncomfortable. Their tuition teacher also complained about the smell.'

Her children are aged 7 and 10.

Thinking that it was the air-conditioner 'leaking some kind of gas', she contacted the technician. But he told her that it was not the case and advised her to contact Citigas - which supplies gas to her condo.

The same day, a technician from Citigas visited her house and confirmed that a gas pipe in the kitchen was leaking.


Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), can be ignited if there's a certain percentage of it in the air.

LPG, which can build up very rapidly in poorly ventilated areas, can cause death if one inhales too much of it.

Pointing to the window beneath the false ceiling where the gas pipe was punctured, she said: 'Thank goodness the ventilation here is very good. We always leave the window open in the day and would close it only at night.'

Citigas has since cut off the gas supply to her unit.

Madam Chen said she had installed the false ceiling to conceal the water pipes.

She was still upset when The New Paper visited her yesterday.

She said it was a miracle that nothing had happened despite the fact that they had been cooking all the while.

She contacted her contractor from the same day Citigas told her about the punctured pipe.

The contractor was recommended by her property agent and the renovations had cost her about $50,000.

When contacted, manager of Lynn Liew said her company had sub-contracted the work to Wen Yi Plastering Decor.

Ms Liew also said that it was the first time she was working with this sub-contractor.

Mr Eric Tan, 36, owner of Wen Yi Plastering Decor, said he had visited Madam Chen's unit with his worker last Monday to assess the damage.

He said the pipe was concealed behind a wall and that before the renovations were carried out, they were not told of the gas pipe there.

He said he was unsure if his workers had done any checks as he was not around to supervise.

'It is standard procedure that when we do any renovation work, the main switch to the gas would be turned off. That is why we did not detect any leak during the renovation,' he said.

The pipe was punctured when his workers drilled holes in the wall to secure metal mounts that support the false ceiling.

'We were just unlucky to drill into the pipe,' he said.

Madam Chen said she had asked Citigas to repair the pipe tomorrow.

Mr Tan said he would bear the cost of the repair.

He said he will also fix and repaint the ceiling for her at no extra cost.

Don't Be Afraid Of Looking Ahead

Source : The New Paper, August 23, 2007

AS a 19-year-old I once scoffed at an architectural model of Singapore's new downtown area.

The model showed a gorgeous bay, futuristic buildings, expressways and stunning architectural structures.

It was reminiscent of a Joe Shuster depiction of Metropolis in a Superman comic book.

'Yeah right,' I thought, as I stood in front of the model at the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) six years ago.

I was then an intern with The Business Times, and had been sent to view the model as part of an assignment.

It was difficult to imagine that Marina Bay could look anything like that model.

After all, back then, the area consisted of nothing more than a few steamboat restaurants, a park, a couple of bowling alleys - and swamp land.

That's probably why I was momentarily unconvinced when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong presented a sneak peek at the future Punggol town in his National Day rally speech on Sunday.

With its pretty canals and waterfront homes, the housing area, as depicted on the slide show, looked too good to be true.

But should you be as sceptical towards Punggol as I was towards plans for Marina Bay's new downtown?

The new downtown I saw in the URA model is quickly taking shape before my eyes. I just haven't been paying much attention to the changes around me.

New structures are mushrooming in the Marina Bay area, the most prominent being the Esplanade, in all its spiky, glistening glory.

Then there's the Singapore Flyer, our giant ferris wheel on the Marina waterfront.

And, of course, we've seen the artist's impression of the Marina Integrated Resort, now a work in progress. The drawing promises a bold addition to our landscape unlike anything we've ever seen before.

In the blink of an eye, the construction sites at Marina Bay will be replaced by architectural works of creative genius. There will be new malls, bigger and more luxe than ever.

When that happens, I will have to take back all my flippant comments.

The changes in our landscape are happening so quickly that we forget, all too easily, what came before.

And that's where we allow scepticism to blind us to the possibility of things to come.

Where the Esplanade and Singapore Flyer used to be, there was only a quiet waterfront park. The parks, bowling alleys and restaurants in Marina South will soon, too, be a distant memory.

Six years ago, I was probably a little too hasty in writing off the possibility that our landscape could change so dramatically in such a short time.

This time, I won't be so quick to pooh-pooh the promises of what our future housing estates could look like.

Till they're ready, I'll be waiting with bated breath.

Ready For Change : Don't Be Afraid Of Big O

THE Big O for many is old age. And we'd rather not think about it now.

So instead we dream of laying our hands on our CPF savings and sailing away into the sunset.

But the twilight might be longer than we expect. And what if our retirement yacht runs out of fuel? Will we be stranded in the open sea?

That's why it helps to understand the issues raised in the Prime Minister's National Day Rally speech - ageing, working longer, and using CPF savings.

It all boils down to two simple points:

We have to work longer, because we are living longer.

Our savings will also work harder, earning more interest so they are less likely to run out.

Now look at how the sums work out:

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong outlined different scenarios if people worked longer (62, 63 or 65).

He calculated the money you would get under different CPF rates of returns (just one per cent's difference would get you $20,000 more).

He worked out the Workfare ($200 instead of $100).

He spoke of new re-employment laws, longer life spans and the need to buy annuities.

Yesterday, Manpower Minister Ng Eng Hen spent about 11/2 hours with reporters, explaining the changes.

One thing he said stuck in my mind: When the CPF scheme started in 1960, there were 23 young people supporting one old person. Now there are only nine young people to every old person.

In future (2020), there will be only five carrying the burden. It goes down to three in 2030.

This brought it together for me.

As a young person, I am not looking forward to carrying a third of the tax burden of an elderly stranger who has frittered away his savings.

As an older person, you should not want to have to depend so heavily on the young.

Dr Ng's message to future grey heads: 'Save for your own retirement. It is a safer option, a more rational one.'

So, depend on yourself.

This sounds sensible. Depending on yourself means spending your money wisely and planning ahead.

Never mind the trip to Korea. That can wait. Think first of making your savings last or buying products like annuities, or staying employed for as long as possible.

If you do this yourself, it's financial independence.

What if the Government does it for you? Is that like Big Daddy interfering with your life?

But someone has to do it. If no one does anything, we'll have a lot of old people with no money to support themselves.

Some people complain.

'Why can't the Government give us our money earlier?'

'How can they force us to buy annuities?'

'Why change policies?'

Dr Ng himself admitted: 'We never expected people to come and thank us.'

The policy changes are, in part, unpopular, difficult to understand; in other parts, still unformed.

But politics is the art of the possible.

In his speech, PM Lee quoted Du Fu, a Tang poet: 'A good rain knows its season... Silent and soft, it permeates everything.'

Changes are needed now and it must permeate everything, I feel.

Otherwise our money will dry up and we'll wind up with dust in our rice bow

Markets Stabilise As Fed Gains More Trust

Source : TODAY, Thursday, August 23, 2007

A MEASURE of stability seeped into Asia’s stock markets yesterday as investors grew more confident that the United States Federal Reserve will manage to defuse a crisis in credit markets.

Confidence to step back into financial markets grew after Mr Ben Bernanke agreed to use “all of the tools at his disposal” to restore stability to markets roiled by mortgage defaults this month, Senate Banking chairman Christopher Dodd said on Tuesday after meeting the Fed chairman.

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index rose 2.9 per cent to close at 3,321.50. The benchmark has dropped 9.4 per cent since its July 24 record high. “There’s a feeling that the Fed is trying its best to help,” said Mr Jay Moghe, who oversees US$150 million ($229 million) at Opes Prime Asset Management in Singapore. “You’ll see continued volatility but investors who are prepared to take a medium-term horizon should stick to their guns and pick up value stocks.”

AmFraser’s Najeeb Jarhom said the STI’s intraday moves suggest the index is heading higher. “If the STI can reach and overcome 3400, it is unlikely to test 2962 again, and strong support will come around 3100 to 3150 in the event of another selling wave,” he said.

Mr Joseph Tan, a Singapore-based strategist at Fortis Bank, urged caution as “not everybody is entirely convinced that the worst is behind us”. Trading volumes will likely drop while investors await Fed action and its assessment of the US economy, he said. The Fed is expected to cut its overnight lending rate between banks by its Sept 18 meeting.

“I would say the market is now in a situation where they are hoping for the best and preparing for the worst,” he said.

Mr Marshall Gittler at Deutsche Bank said the credit crunch “has not been solved by any stretch of the imagination. The equity markets may be saying that it’s over, but the fixed income markets certainly are not”.

Singapore’s banks led the rebound, with DBS closing up 1.5 per cent at $20.50, UOB rising 2 per cent to $20.50 and OCBC gaining 3 per cent to $8.55.

Rating agency Fitch praised the three for being the most transparent banks in Asia regarding their exposure to the US sub-prime mortgage market.

Siblings Should Share The Burden - Annuities

Source : TODAY, Thursday, August 23, 2007

They could jointly pay their parents’ annuity premiums

ANNUITIES can be a good way to save for retirement.

But senior citizens, who have seen a delay of their CPF “First Prize”, as well as housing prices and the cost of living rocketing, are perhaps averse to this new idea.

This group of people no longer expects the “promised return”. Older workers only want to hold on to their precious CPF.

The annuities scheme is attractive for the current working population to “fulfil their ageing needs”. But the premium amount must be acceptable to all.

Perhaps it is fair that a certain percentage be directed to an annuity fund every year for every $2,000 in one’s Special Account (SA).

Since the use of the SA is restricted, an annuity is a good form of investment if purchased early.

In addition, we should modify the Dependent Protection Scheme. We can convert the coverage to an annuity premium once the dependent starts to contribute to his or her own CPF.

Children or siblings should also be required to contribute jointly to their parents’ Special Account for the annuity premium either as a small percentage or capped at a maximum per parent account.

This family-centric support framework could sway couples to have more children. Siblings sharing the burden of supporting their parents definitely makes more sense than the heavy responsibility one person has to bear.

Curbing liberal use of CPF is best way to save for old age


THE buzzwords about town over the last few days are “CPF” and “annuity”, following the Prime Minister’s National Day Rally speech on how to manage the financial needs of retirees.

The rationale of the proposed changes appear to be that people are not saving enough in their CPF accounts early in their working lives.

Over the years, rules have been changed to allow freer use of CPF monies for housing, investment,education and medical purposes.

People take advantage of these changes and the result is that they do not have enough retirement funds. Worse, those who use CPF for investments may also lose substantial amounts of money.

A simple solution to overcome the situation and ensure Singaporeans have adequate retirement savings would be to tighten the current liberal use of CPF savings.

In addition to the current minimum sum rule, other measures could include curbing the use of CPF for investment and speculation in properties, shares or medical expenses.

11 Bids For Scotts Rd Transitional Office Site

Source : TODAY, Thursday , August 23, 2007

THE Government’s first transitional office site at Scotts Road has attracted a strong response from 11 bidders — with a top bid of $37 million — as its tender draws to a close yesterday.

The 15-year leasehold site, which is located next to Newton MRT Station, was the first site released by the Government to help ease the severe shortage of office space.

Buildings can go up to four stories in height for this site, which has a gross floor area of 15,666 sq m.

The top bid for the 1.04ha plot of land came from Scotts Spazio, which submitted a tender of $37 million — or $2,361.81psm. This is more than three times the lowest bid, which was $10.2 million.

Analysts had expected just “four to eight bids” initially.

“This reflects that there is still a strong sense of confidence in the market among office property players, despite the stock market turbulence,” said Knight Frank director of research and consultancy Nicholas Mak.

The original lease of 10 years was extended by another five last month, after the Urban Redevelopment Authority said that interested investors wanted a longer lease period to enable them to recoup their investments and cater to tenants’ needs.

“Developers seemed undaunted by the short tenure of only 15 years for this parcel. The strong showing and level of bids submitted reflects developers’ general optimism in light of the current tight supply of offices in prime locations,” said CBRE executive director of consultancy Li Hiaw Ho.

The popularity of this parcel could be attributed to its regular and sizable plot as well as its proximity to amenities such as food centres, shopping facilities and the MRT, he added.

Based on the highest bid submitted, the breakeven costs for the site is “likely to be around $500psf per plot ratio, this would provide the successful bidder with a decent yield of around 12 per cent for the 15-year leasehold site, based on a gross rent of about $6.50psf per month,” Mr Li said

CapitaLand To Build Condo Bloc In Ho Chi Minh

Source : The Business Times, August 22, 2007

SINGAPORE - Singapore's CapitaLand said on Wednesday it will build a condominium bloc in Ho Chi Minh City under a joint venture agreement with a Vietnamese partner.

CapitaLand, which signed the venture agreement through its subsidiary, will invest US$32.25 million into the project for a majority 75 per cent stake, the Singapore developer said in a statement.

Its partner, Azure City, will hold the remaining 25 per cent, CapitaLand said.

The project, which is CapitaLand's fourth residential site in the city, will comprise of 1,200 apartments. The first phase of development is slated for launch at the end of 2008.

Singapore companies have stepped up investments in Vietnam, which is one of the fastest growing economies in Asia with expected growth of 8.5 per cent this year.

On Tuesday, Singapore's Keppel Land said a subsidiary and its local partner have secured a licence to build a residential apartment bloc also in Ho Chi Minh City. -- AFP

Fitch Sees Limited Impact On Asian Banks From Sub-Prime Exposure

Source : The Business Times, August 22, 2007

HONG KONG - Fitch Ratings said on Wednesday most of the Asian banks have a low direct exposure to US sub-prime-backed securities as they only amount to just a few per cent of the investing bank's equity capital.

'Losses on such investments will put a dent in annual earnings but do not pose a systemic risk as they are not a serious threat to the soundness of the banks we have surveyed,' said David Marshall, head of Fitch's Financial Institutions Group in Asia.

Banks in Japan and Australia sponsor and provide liquidity facilities to conduits but the key issue is the need for them to provide liquidity, rather than adding materially to their sub-prime exposures, he said.

The ratings agency said it expects the banks to be able to meet these commitments given the modest size of the conduits relative to their own balance sheets.

Given the volatility in credit markets though, there are risks to Asian banks beyond their sub-prime exposures, Fitch said.

They may have to book accounting losses on marking to market other structured products, whose market values may be depressed by poor market sentiment and low liquidity.

However, if they continue to hold the securities, these accounting losses should eventually be reversed.

It added the banks should incur significant economic losses only if there is a material change in the default and loss rates on asset classes, other than on securities backed by US sub-prime mortgage exposures. -- AFP

KepLand Plans To Launch Vietnam Condo In Q4

Source : The Business Times, August 22, 2007

Ho Chi Minh City joint project with 1,500 units could fetch $185-215 psf

Green light: (from left) Mr Wong, Mr Vo Sy Nhan, deputy director general of Tien Phuoc; Mr Lim Thuan Kuan, S'pore Ambassador to Vietnam and Dr Phan Huu Thang, director, Foreign Investment Agency, Ministry of Investment and Planning, Vietnam

KEPPEL Land will launch its high-end condominium The Estella in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The project will have about 1,500 units with a potential gross floor area of 280,000 sq m. The sales launch of the first phase is planned for the final quarter of this year.

Based on current prices, the units could sell for US$1,300-1,500 psm (S$185-215 per square foot).

The announcement was made yesterday after Keppel Land was awarded the investment licence by Vietnam's Ministry of Planning and Investments to proceed with the development of The Estella.

The licence was presented in Ho Chi Minh City in a ceremony just before a Vietnam-Singapore Friendship Concert sponsored by the Keppel Group.

At the ceremony, Kevin Wong, managing director of Keppel Land, said: 'With a pipeline of more than 20,000 homes in the country, we are on track to develop and deliver benchmark quality homes to fulfil rising home ownership aspirations resulting from Vietnam's rapid growth.'

The total investment capital for The Estella is estimated at US$106 million. A Keppel Land subsidiary will take up a 55 per cent stake amounting to US$17.6 million of the total registered capital of US$32 million in the joint venture company while Vietnamese property developer Tien Phuoc will subscribe for the remaining interest.

The Estella is situated along the Hanoi Highway and is 6.5 km away from the Central Business District and a 15-minute drive to the city centre.

Recently Keppel Land announced other residential and township developments in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Dong Nai Province. These include two waterfront residential developments fronting the Saigon River on a 1.7 ha Binh Thanh District site and a 8.5 ha Ca Cam River site in Ho Chi Minh City.

Keppel Land will also develop a waterfront residential township on a 509 ha site in Dong Nai District.

Two Memorandums of Understanding have also been signed with local joint venture partners to develop residential townships in Hanoi.