Friday, August 24, 2007

One Shenton

One Shenton – This architectural iconic jewel designed by world-renowned architect Carlos Otts comprises 341 apartments and penthouses. Soaring with twin towers at 50 and 42 storeys high, One Shenton will dramatically enhance Singapore’s Skyline, offering residents spectacular unforgettable views of the energetic city, green parks and soothing waters. One Shenton is perfect for those seeking a seamless connection to live, work and play 24/7.

Located in the heart of the new vibrant city, it sits at the edge of Marina Bay, within close proximity to the Integrated Resort, Business Financial Centre, Raffles MRT Station and proposed ‘Landmark’ MRT Station. Inner-city living is set to be dynamically transformed as activities at the new Marina Bay, including a host of convention, leisure, commercial and entertainment facilities at the Integrated Resort, waterfront promenades, Gardens by the Bay will keep you busy around the clock. At One Shenton, you will be at the centre where it all happens.

Location: 1 Shenton Way (District 1)

Tenure: 99 years from Oct 2005
Expected TOP : Sept 2011
Site Area: 40,369sqft
Development: A twin tower residential development with retail space on first storey
Storey Height : Tower 1 (50 Sty), Tower 2 (43 Sty)
Total Car Park Lots : 383
Total Units: 341

Unit Types:
1BR / 1BR + study ~ 517-1,001sqft
2BR ~ 904-1,227sqft
3BR ~ 1,485-1,604sqft
4BR ~ 1,787-2,271sqft
Sky Suite ~ 5,199-6,082sqft
Sky Villa ~ 6,674-9,085sqft

Recreational Facilities:
Lobby Level (Ground Level)

Club Level (Level 8)
-Lap Pool
-Leisure Pool
-Jet Pool
-Wading Pool
-Bridge Lounge
-Landscape Feature Pond
-Social Patio
-Sun Deck, Cabanas
-Function Room
-Entertainment Terrace
-Outdoor Gourmet Cooking
-Theatrette/ Entertainment Room
-Lounge/ Refreshment/ Juice Bar
-Games Rooms
-Outdoor Reading
-Laundry Room

Wellness Level (Level 24 & 25)
-Sky Gym
-Sky Lounge
-Spa Garden
-Spa Lounge
-Outdoor Exercise Terrace
-Relaxation Alcove
-Yoga Terrace

Extending ERP Operational Hours Not Enough To Deter Traffic Jams

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 23 August 2007

SINGAPORE : Extending ERP (Electronic Road Pricing) charging hours and setting up more gantries will not solve traffic jams in the long run, said a transport analyst.

He said the latest road pricing schemes may be aggressive but it's not enough to deter most drivers.

Most drivers said they will try to beat the peak hours or use alternative routes, especially during morning rush hour.

"I will come out earlier. It's now 7am right? So maybe I'll come out at 6am," said one motorist.

"Sometimes we really need to use the road, we have no choice, we still have to go through that road. But if you plan well, you can try to avoid it," said another.

A third motorist said: "It's the shortest way to town, so I'll still pay."

Most drivers are reluctant to let go of the wheel and take public transport simply because they've grown accustomed to the comfort and convenience of driving around in their own cars.

Related Video Link -
Channel NewsAsia Video News, Extending ERP operational hours not enough to deter traffic jams

So even though it's going to be a more expensive ride ahead, they said they are willing to pay the price.

Dr Lee Der-Horng, Associate Professor of Civil Engineering at National University of Singapore said: "Pricing can be effective, so no matter how much you charge, some people may be affected. But I think the motorists or the general public are looking at whether we have a more comprehensive, integrated and overall solution.

"It will be too naive to expect that once you increase the price at this particular (area), the overall traffic congestion there will come down. For the car owners, we cannot just naively expect them to give up driving and switch to public transportation."

One solution offered is a public transport so good that even drivers are willing to give up their wheels.

The other is to charge more till motorists feel the pinch, like what London plans to do.

"People in London, they're paying five pounds... Personally, I think when the situation becomes necessary, the government may take the action to charge a very high ERP rate," said Dr Lee.

New York also has plans to charge motorists about US$10 when the city implements a similar road pricing system soon. - CNA /ls

LTA Announces New ERP Gantries, Operational Hours

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 23 August 2007

SINGAPORE: The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has decided to extend the coverage of Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) at various locations to improve traffic flow.

A slew of changes affecting motorists using the Central Expressway (CTE), Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE) and East Coast Parkway (ECP) were disclosed after a visit to the Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE) tunnel by Transport Minister Raymond Lim on Thursday.

From 1 November, ERP operational hours of south-bound CTE will be extended by 4 hours on weekdays – from 7am to 11am – at the section between Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1 and Braddell Road.

A new gantry with evening ERP on the north-bound CTE will also be installed just before the PIE exit. Motorists will be charged from 5.30pm till 10.30pm on weekdays.

Evening ERP is also moving to the east-bound ECP – from the city towards Changi Airport – with a new gantry just before the Rochor Road exit and another at the Ophir Road slip road.

ERP charges will be implemented between 6pm and 8pm during weekdays.

Related Video Link -
Channel NewsAsia Video News, LTA announces new ERP gantries, operational hours

There will also be a new gantry, with operating hours from 7.30am to 9am just after the Dairy Farm Road exit, before BKE joins Pan Island Expressway (PIE).

Explaining the changes, the Transport Minister said if road usage is not priced, roads will be over-used, resulting in widespread congestion.

While there is no silver bullet solution, Mr Lim said ERP is the only one that directly deals with the congestion problem.

He said: "We sometimes hear criticisms of the ERP system. Some have observed that introducing or raising ERP charges relieve congestion temporarily, but after a while, the congestion comes back.

"Others, especially those using the CTE, have complained that the ERP is unfair. They say that depending on where you join the expressway, some motorists add to the congestion without paying for it. This is feedback that we value. It shows that ERP coverage may need to be more extensive or pricing (has to be) fine-tuned."

Besides trying to come up with a more holistic way of dealing with congestion, LTA will also see if optimal speed ranges, which currently should not fall below 45 kph for expressways and 20 kph for other roads, need to be changed.

LTA is also installing ERP gantries at Toa Payoh Lorong 6, Upper Boon Keng Road, Kallang Bahru Road and Geylang Bahru Road, but will only start charging if traffic conditions worsen. - CNA/so

Market Overstating Risks For Singapore REITs: Analysts

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 24 August 2007

SINGAPORE: Like most other property-related counters, Singapore-listed real estate investment trusts or REITs have been sold down in recent weeks amid the market volatility.

As one analyst puts it, the last time he looked, the buildings were still standing, the offices still occupied and owners still collecting rents in a robust economic environment.

But it appears that investors are not seeing REITS in the same positive light.

According to a Goldman Sachs index, Singapore REITs have fallen by 11.8 percent over the past two months.

That is a better showing than the 15.3 percent drop in its property stock index.

Analysts said a fearful climate has caused the market to under-appreciate the defensive qualities of REITs and overstate their risks.

Tony Darwell, Head of Asian Equity Research at Nomura Singapore, said: "When you look at say the Singapore office market, what we've seen is very, very strong growth in terms of capital value, but that strong growth in capital value has been driven by rents. We've not actually seen yields in the office market compressed."

A case in point is K-REIT.

Its unit price fell by 20 percent over the last one month, while Keppel Land's share price dropped by just 6 percent.

Analysts said they remain positive about Singapore REITs.

"There's definitely risk in terms of outlook in the US, but given the supply demand dynamic over the next 12 to 18 months, given an expectation that rental and rental growth is likely to be relatively robust, some of the REITs in the offering – Guoco Commercial REIT, Macquarie Prime REIT, Capital Commercial Trust – look quite interesting at current valuation," said Mr Darwell.

Analysts said REITs offer a much higher income payout than property stocks – often 100 percent, compared to 20 to 40 percent.

They also believe that Singapore-listed REITs are trading significantly below their current asset valuation. - CNA/so

Buyers of Horizon Towers Start Legal Proceedings Against Sellers

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 23 August 2007

SINGAPORE: The buyers of Horizon Towers have started legal proceedings against the sellers.

Under a deal signed in February, the owners of Horizon Towers agreed to sell their units collectively to a consortium comprising Hotel Properties Limited (HPL), Morgan Stanley Real Estate and Qatar Investment Authority.

The deal was valued at S$550 million.

But the sale was scuppered earlier this month when the Strata Titles Board rejected the deal of the Leonie Hill development due to a technicality.

The consortium has now gone to the High Court.

It is seeking for a declaration that the sellers were in breach of the agreement.

It is also asking that the sellers make effort to obtain a collective sale order from the Strata Titles Board.

It is seeking compensation for the alleged breach of contract.

No financial details were given, but the consortium had earlier threatened to sue for between S$800 million and S$1 billion if owners did not proceed with the sale. - CNA/so

Guocoland Posts 81% Rise In Full-Year Net Profit To S$281.9m

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 24 August 2007

Property developer Guocoland has reported a full-year net profit of S$281.9 million, up by 81 percent compared to a year ago.

This came on the back of stronger revenue.

Revenue almost doubled on year to S$702.5 million.

Guocoland says this was driven by higher sales at its property development projects in Singapore and China.

The developer has been aggressively building up its landbank through acquisitions on the enbloc market.

It now has a landbank in Singapore of approximately 2.5 million square feet, in terms of saleable area.

Guocoland says it is positive that demand for private residential properties from both local and foreign homebuyers will remain sustainable in tandem with the economic growth in Singapore and Asian countries.

It plans to launch its upmarket Goodwood Residence within the next twelve months, developed from the Casa Rosita condominium site that it acquired last year.

Apart from Singapore, Guocoland has investments in other Asian countries, including Malaysia, China and Vietnam. - CNA/ms

More Households Qualify For CPF Housing Grant Scheme

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 24 August 2007

SINGAPORE: With effect from Friday, lower-income families will be getting more grants under the Additional CPF Housing Grant Scheme.

The maximum grant has been raised from S$20,000 to S$30,000.

For example, those with an average household income of S$1,500 or less will get a CPF Housing Grant of S$30,000, instead of S$20,000.

The income ceiling for the scheme has also been raised from S$3,000 to S$4,000.

Previously, families earning S$3,001 to S$3,500 would not have qualified for a CPF Housing Grant.

But under the enhanced scheme, they will get S$10,000.

The enhanced scheme is expected to benefit an additional 1,300 first-timer households annually.

This brings the total number of households that benefit from the scheme to about 4,000 per year.

As with the existing scheme, at least one of the flat buyers must have worked continuously for a minimum of two years when they apply to buy a flat.

For enquiries, the public can call the following toll free lines: 1800-8663-066, 1800-8663-070 or 1800-2255-432. - CNA/so

"V Bonus" For S'poreans Who Defer Draw-Down Of CPF Minimum Sum

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 24 August 2007

SINGAPORE : The Government wants to encourage Singaporeans to voluntarily delay the draw-down of their CPF Minimum Sum, so it is throwing in another sweetener.

Singaporeans will get a "V Bonus" - that is "V" for Voluntary - for each year they defer their draw-down.

This was announced by Manpower Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen on Friday.

He also revealed that the Re-employment Law will very likely come into effect before 1 January 2012.

It was also announced that the Workfare Income Supplement increases for those above 55 will kick in immediately, when the scheme starts next year.

Planning for your retirement is now just a click away, with a new CPF portal "Retirement Ready" .

Related Video Link -

"V Bonus" for S'poreans who defer draw-down of CPF Minimum Sum

Speaking at the launch of the portal on Friday, the Manpower Minister brought good news for those who are serious about growing their retirement funds early.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had earlier said that Singaporeans would get a one-off D Bonus, if they defer their CPF Minimum Sum draw-down age, to beyond 62.

The first deferment to age 63 will occur in 2012, and the government will raise the draw-down age to 65 years, only in 2018.

This means there is a lag of a few years, which Dr Ng said would give both workers and employers enough time to adjust to the new reality of working longer.

But the Government wants more people to voluntarily defer their draw-down, even when they are not yet affected.

So a "V Bonus" will be given out for each year of deferment, to help multiply workers' retirement funds.

Dr Ng explained, "For 62, if you decide to defer to 63, or to 64, or to 65, depending on whether you're working..for each year that you defer, there'll be additional bonus. And the general idea is we want to encourage older workers to continue working, and if they can draw-down their Minimum Sum later, that will add many more years to the payout.

"Because the way the sums work, if you defer drawing out one year, because the old sum collects all interests, for subsequent years, if you actually defer for one year, you actually get 2 years of payout."

Furthermore, if one defers for three years, the sum multiplies to seven years of payout.

More details are expected in Parliament next month.

For now, Dr Ng said the 1 percentage point increase in interest rate on the first S$60,000 of CPF members' combined accounts, and a later draw-down will translate into many more years of income after retirement.

An additional 1 percent bonus interest rate means CPF members will get 30 percent more in interest payments.

But Dr Ng acknowledged that the CPF interest rate and returns structure is not something that everybody understands easily.

So the plan is to provide an online calculator, so that people could just log on and find out how they will benefit from all these CPF changes.

On compulsory annuities - dubbed "Longevity Insurance" - to ensure those who live beyond 85 years get a steady income, Dr Ng said industry players would be consulted on how best to stretch its premiums, so that only a small part of the Minimum Sum needs to be set aside.

The minister added that he is heartened that many companies have started to make serious plans on how to re-employ and deploy their older staff.

Such early preparations, he said, are good as the Re-employment Law will take effect at the latest, on 1 January 2012. - CNA/ms

Horizon Towers Owners Sued For Botched Enbloc Sale

Source : AsiaOne News, Fri, Aug 24, 2007

It was a simple technical error on the sale documents that caused the collective sale of Horizon Towers units to fall through.

Intended buyers, Hotel Properties (HPL) and its two partners yesterday filed a suit in the High Court against the 173 majority owners for allegedly breaching the option to purchase agreement for the $500 million enbloc sale of the Leonie Hill property.

Their move comes after the Strata Titles Board (STB) released the grounds for its Aug 3 oral decision to stop the sale application. The sellers had requested a clarification.

The STB said documents that carried the signatures of three majority owners who are sellers were not included in the sale application, but the original committee members representing the sellers had made a statutory declaration that the signed documents were included. They did not realise that the documents were not submitted, The Straits Times reported today.

STB could not allow any changes to be made to the application, as it only convenes to hear a case once documents are declared to be correct and in order.

It added there were concerns over whether it had the power to allow an amendment.

Under the law, the board's role ceases when a sale application is found to be defective.

In another statement, HPL said that proceedings have been started in the High Court against the sellers.

HPL and partners Morgan Stanley Real Estate-managed funds and Qatar Investment Authority said the sellers are in breach of the contract.

This means that the sellers must refile the sale documents and sell their 99-year leasehold estate at the $500 million priced agreed upon in February.

Damages were earlier estimated by the buyers' lawyers, Allen & Gledhill, to be at $800 million to $1 billion

Singapore Inflation Hits 12-Year High In July

Source : AsiaOne News, Aug 23 2007

SINGAPORE (AP) -- Singapore's consumer prices rose at their fastest pace in 12 years in July as soaring rents combined with the impact of a sales tax hike.

The consumer price index rose 2.6 percent from a year earlier after rising 1.3 percent in June, the Department of Statistics said in a statement Thursday.

The rise was the fastest since January 1995 and topped a a 1.8 percent rise forecast by a Dow Jones Newswires poll of economists.

Immediately after the data release, four economists polled by Dow Jones Newswires said they expect full-year inflation to exceed 1.5 percent. The government's inflation forecast for the year is 0.5-1.5 percent.

The increase in the goods and services tax to 7 percent from 5 percent July 1 was widely expected to boost food and transport prices, and July marked the first month that a long-watched surge in real estate prices finally hit headline inflation.

Singapore's housing prices have surged in recent months as a boom in the luxury segment began to filter into the mass market. Private home prices rose 8.3 percent in the second quarter from the first, greater than the 4.8 percent rise in the first quarter, and the fastest since the record 11.8 percent rise posted in the second quarter of 1999.

Food prices increased by 1.4 percent due to costlier cooked items, fresh fish and fruits, the statement said.

Transport costs also rose moderately, mainly as a result of higher gas prices.

The consumer price index increased 1.5 percent from June in seasonally adjusted terms, also exceeding the poll's forecast for a 0.7 percent rise. The index rose 0.3 percent in June from May.

In unadjusted terms, the CPI rose 2.1 percent in July from June.

Vida @ Peck Hay Road

Vida is an exclusive, high-end development with a prestigious address at Peck Hay and Cairnhill Rise, near the shopping paradise of Orchard Road. A freehold development, Vida commands a sleek modernistic design with a water court at its entrance.

Targeted at the young high net-worth individuals and couples, Vida will have beautifully designed homes with a trendy, cosmopolitan influence.

Each home will come complete with quality finishes and branded fittings. Buyers will have various options to customize their home to suit individual tastes and lifestyles.

The name Vida (Life) suggests Rejuvenation. Thus, recreational facilities offer various choices for residents to enjoy and rejuvenate. These include water features, swimming pool with an infinity edge, spa massage pool, hydro-foot reflexology pool, hot tub, BBQ pavilions, indoor gymnasium with fitness equipment.

At Vida, you will also enjoy a personalized concierge service managed by Singapore’s premier five-star service apartments, Orchard Parksuites.

Location: Peck Hay Road (District 9)

Map Source :

Tenure : Freehold
Expected TOP : Early 2008
Site Area : 3,409.20 sqm
Total Units : 137 in one 20 storey tower

Units Sizes:
1 BR ~ 517-527 sqft
2 BR ~ 840-861 sqft
1 BR loft ~ 764 sqft
2 BR loft ~ 1,216-1,281 sqft

-Lawn Court
-Rainforest Hydro-Therapy Massage
-Hot Tub
-BBQ Area
-Hydro-Foot Reflexology
-Reflective Pools
-Hanging Gardens
-Indoor Gym
-Two Lap Pools
-Wading Pool with Bubbling Jets
-Pool Deck
-Floating Pool Deck
-Spa Beds
-Lawn Court
-BBQ Pavilion

Fears Grow Over Asian Banks' Sub-Prime Exposure

Source : The Business Times, August 24, 2007

SINGAPORE - Investor uncertainty grew on Friday on concern the US economy could be heading for a recession and as three Asian banks reported multi-billion-dollar exposure to the US sub-prime mortgage crisis.

Asian stocks fell, led by financial firms and exporters, while Japanese government bonds edged up. Sentiment has improved compared with recent weeks but it remains vulnerable to fresh bad news.

Four of Asia’s biggest banks, including state-run giant Bank of China , revealed bigger-than-expected exposure to the US subprime mortgage crisis, sending their shares skidding on Friday.

The news raised fears that Asian banks, generally domestically focused and risk averse following the Asian financial crisis 10 years ago, were not as immune to the sub-prime crisis as investors had thought.

Singapore’s DBS Holdings Group Holdings, meanwhile, told Reuters it had US$1.6 billion in holdings of collateralised debt obligations (CDOs) — nearly double the exposure it initially declared.

Bank of China and its BOC Hong Kong arm reported a combined US$11.25 billion in subprime-related holdings, the largest potential exposure disclosed so far by an Asian company.

Cathay Financial , Taiwan’s largest financial holding firm, said that about T$3.3 billion (US$100 million) of its T$29 billion in CDOs were exposed to the subprime US market, but that it had not incurred any losses thus far.

Shares in Singapore's DBS Group Holdings, South-east Asia's biggest bank, state-controlled Bank of China and its Hong Kong subsidiary, BOC Hong Kong, all skidded on Friday.

Still, financial markets have been calmer and more stable this week after the recent turmoil that shook stocks and sent investors scurrying for the safety of government debt.

MSCI's measure of Asia Pacific stocks, excluding Japan, has rebounded 13 per cent since hitting a five-month low last Friday. -- REUTERS

DBS Says Has More Direct CDO Exposure

Source : The Business Times, August 24, 2007

CLSA reported that DBS may have $2.4 billion (US$1.6 billion) worth of CDO holdings - nearly double the $1.3 billion direct exposure it initially declared

SINGAPORE - DBS Group Holdings, Southeast Asia's biggest bank, said on Friday that it has more direct exposure to collateralised debt obligations than previously declared, sending its shares down over 2 per cent.

Broker CLSA said in a report this week that while Singapore banks have limited exposure to collateralised debt obligations, DBS may have $2.4 billion (US$1.6 billion) worth of CDO holdings - nearly double the $1.3 billion direct exposure it initially declared.

It said DBS may have more direct CDO exposure through a special purpose vehicle that had commercial paper backed by $1.1 billion worth of CDOs, with the paper due for renewal.

'We are comfortable with our exposure to the conduit,' a DBS spokesman said. She confirmed the figures cited in CLSA's report.

DBS bank had previously said that it had distributed US$1.7 billion of structured products involving CDOs that were backed by AA and AAA rated collateral to institutional and private clients. However, it had not said that part of these products were in commercial paper.

Standard & Poor Ratings Services said in early August that it has reviewed the exposure of Singapore banks to the US sub-prime mortgage-related instruments and has determined that their exposure is negligible at this time.

Share prices of banks have slid on worries about further fallout from a global credit squeeze, and two of Singapore's three banks have also taken smaller hits on their books due to their exposure to complex debt-linked securities.

DBS shares were 2.43 per cent down at $20.10 by 0344 GMT, versus a 1.33 per cent fall in Singapore's benchmark Straits Times Index .

Analysts have warned weaker markets may force banks to further mark down their portfolio of credit derivatives, amid looming risk of credit downgrades for these instruments.

CLSA said in its report that if the three banks mark down their entire asset-backed CDOs, the impact on financial year 2007 earnings would be around 11 per cent.

Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp said earlier this month it had marked down its portfolio of CDOs by US$33 million as of end June while the No 2 lender, United Overseas Bank , had made provisions of $34 million at end June.

But most analysts say despite the recent shift in risk appetite there is still growth potential for Singapore banks as resurgent construction and property sector and strong economic growth boost their loan books.

'We continue to believe the sector offers significant long-term potential as the Singapore domestic growth story is still intact and the banks have never been better positioned to benefit from this growth,' CLSA said. -- REUTERS

MAS Monitors Banks' Exposure To CDOs

Source : The Business Times, August 24, 2007

SINGAPORE - Singapore's central bank said on Friday that it would continue to look at financial institutions' exposure to collateralised debt obligations and urged banks to stress test their holdings.

The comments by the Monetary Authority of Singapore come after Singapore's DBS Group Holdings, South-east Asia's biggest bank, said it has more direct exposure to CDOs than previously declared, sending its shares down over 2 per cent.

'MAS continues to monitor the development of the US subprime market and the financial institutions' exposure to this sector as part of our market surveillance process,' the central bank said in an email to Reuters. 'We also continue to remind (financial institutions) to factor in the current environment into their regular stress testing and take appropriate action where necessary.' -- REUTERS

ERP To Cover Three More Stretches Of Expressway

Source : The Business Times, August 24, 2007

Operating hours on CTE to go up; five new gantries to be erected islandwide

Heavy going: Govt will review the vehicle growth rate because the current 3% growth rate cap is based on an ever increasing base, and road growth ahead will shrink, says Transport Minister Raymond Lim

ELECTRONIC road pricing (ERP) will be expanded to three stretches of expressway from Nov 1, while current operating hours on the Central Expressway (CTE) will be extended. In addition, five new gantries will be erected across the island but will remain unactivated unless vehicle speeds fall below the optimal speed range.

Transport Minister Raymond Lim announced this yesterday during a visit to the Kallang/Paya Lebar Expressway Operational Control Centre.

'Over the last two years, traffic levels have been gradually but noticeably building up,' he said. 'More roads are congested, especially during peak hours, including in the evenings.'

As a result, a Land Transport Authority review concluded that morning ERP along the south-bound CTE will be extended. The existing gantry between Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1 and Braddell Road will change its operating hours to 7am-11am on weekdays from 7.30am-9.30am currently.

The review also includes the building of three new gantries. The first is along the north-bound CTE to cover the stretch from Bukit Timah to just before the Pan Island Expressway (PIE). It will operate from 5.30pm-10.30pm on weekdays. Evening ERP already exists farther up the north-bound CTE after the PIE exit. This gantry was erected in August 2005.

Another area of congestion to be addressed is the east-bound East Coast Parkway (PIE). A gantry each will be built at the two accesses into the east-bound ECP from the city and the Ayer Rajah Expressway, that is, before the Rochor Road exit and at the Ophir Road slip road. The pair of gantries will operate from 6pm-8pm on weekdays.

The third new gantry will be for the morning peak period on the south-bound Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE). It will be located after the Dairy Farm exit, before the BKE joins the PIE, and operate from 7.30am-9am on weekdays.

Five other gantries will also be installed on the south-bound Upper Bukit Timah Road and in the Outer Cordon area, namely, Toa Payoh Lorong 6, Upper Boon Keng Road, Kallang Bahru Road and Geylang Bahru Road.

Mr Lim said the ERP system has been effective in keeping Singapore's roads and expressways smooth-flowing - above 45 kmh for expressways and above 20 kmh on arterial roads.

'With the introduction of ERP in 1998, the government has been able to rely more on car usage charges and less on car ownership taxes to manage traffic demand,' he said, adding that vehicle ownership taxes have been reduced and as a result, annual vehicle ownership revenue fell from $3.4 billion in 1997 to $1.7 billion in 2006 compared with about $90 million in annual ERP revenue collected during that period.

'ERP has thus proven to be a more effective approach to managing traffic demand, and it costs motorists much less overall.'

Mr Lim also mentioned that the vehicle growth rate will be reviewed because the current 3 per cent growth rate cap is based on an ever increasing base.

'In 1990, when the 3 per cent cap was introduced, it amounted to 16,000 additional vehicles a year. Today, 3 per cent amounts to 24,000 additional vehicles every year. Against this is the fact that road growth was only one per cent per year in the last 15 years, going down to about 0.5 per cent over the next 15 years.'

BOJ Defers Rate Hike In Wake Of Market Turmoil

Source : The Business Times, August 24, 2007

Fukui's comment seen as signalling hike next month

Mr Fukui: The Bank of Japan will not be influenced by the actions of its counterparts elsewhere in deciding when to raise rates. If the BOJ waits for all the conditions to be right, it could be too late to make a move, he says

THE Bank of Japan held off raising interest rates yesterday in the wake of the turmoil that swept through global financial markets last week. But BOJ governor Toshihiko Fukui showed his frustration at being forced by outside events to stay his hand and declared that 'it may be too late' if the central bank waits much longer to raise rates. Markets took this as a signal that the BOJ will raise rates next month.

The issue has become critical because trillions of yen worth of speculative 'carry trades' involving the shorting of the yen against other currencies have already been unwound since last week, adding to volatile swings in global exchange rates. A further hike in rates next month by the BOJ could set off a further round of turbulence as yields on the yen rise, some analysts believe.

For the moment, markets have calmed down as central banks pour liquidity into the system to stave off another credit crunch of the kind that hit markets last week, threatening to topple shaky financial institutions and to cause payments systems to seize up. The BOJ wants to raise rates just when other leading central banks are looking to lower them, in a continuing effort to calm markets.

After the BOJ's nine-member Policy Board decided yesterday on an 8-to-1 majority to preserve the bank's overnight lending rate at 0.5 per cent for now, Mr Fukui insisted at a briefing that the central bank would not be influenced by the actions of its counterparts elsewhere in deciding when to raise rates. If the BOJ waits for all the conditions to be right it could be too late to make a move, he protested.

Tokyo stock prices soared after the BOJ's decision yesterday, with the benchmark Nikkei 225 average rising by 415.68 points or 2.6 per cent to 16,316.32, while the broader Topix index jumped by 3 per cent to 1,591.81. The market was relieved that a rate rise, which could have sent the yen higher, thus damaging Japan's export prospects and corporate profitability, had been delayed.

Foreign exchange market dealers, meanwhile, detected some evidence of carry trade activity resuming as the yen declined by 0.5 per cent against the dollar to 115.94, and also eased against the euro and other major currencies. Central bank liquidity injections may be masking further problems in the international financial system and lulling carry trade investors into a false sense of security, some analysts suggested.

'There are apparently moves among some overseas players that seem to be a slight rebuilding of yen carry trades,' Yuji Matsuura, joint general manager for Aozora Bank's foreign exchange and derivatives trading group in Tokyo, told Reuters. 'But it is not as if conditions have recovered completely,' he added.

Adding to Mr Fukui's frustration at having to hold rates steady for six months was the fact that the central bank had appeared finally free this month of political pressure from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party to avoid raising rates in the run-up to last month's upper house parliamentary election (in which the LDP lost heavily).

Markets had expected to see a further 0.25 per cent hike in the BOJ's policy lending rate this month - until last week's financial crisis. Central banks, including the BOJ, were forced to make fresh liquidity injections, but Mr Fukui warned yesterday that continued monetary laxity could over-stimulate the economy and the nation's financial system.

The Bank of Japan, meanwhile, left its assessment of the economy unchanged in a monthly report issued yesterday, saying that it was expanding moderately.

Fed Seen Staving Off A Rate Cut Until Its Sept 18 Meeting

Source : The Business Times, August 24, 2007

Meanwhile, it is gathering anecdotes from district banks, say Fed watchers

(WASHINGTON) Federal Reserve policy makers' uncertainty over the credit crunch's toll on US growth is making them increasingly unlikely to cut interest rates before their Sept 18 meeting.

Fed officials are gathering anecdotes from the dozen district banks to assess economic conditions, Fed watchers say.

The effort is needed because policymakers expect to learn little from government reports for July, such as durable-goods orders and new home sales, which will reflect conditions before a collapse in securities backed by sub-prime mortgages prompted a crisis of confidence in global markets.

Stocks rose on Wednesday as credit conditions eased, and yields on short-term Treasury notes fell as traders pared bets on an imminent reduction in borrowing costs. The four largest American banks each borrowed US$500 million from the central bank's discount window, a sign that Fed chairman Ben S Bernanke's strategy to provide liquidity without easing monetary policy is starting to work.

'They don't want to cut rates if they can avoid it,' said Joe Lavorgna, chief US economist at Deutsche Bank Securities Inc in New York. 'Things are moving in the right direction. Will it be enough? Maybe.'

By waiting until the September meeting, the Federal Open Market Committee will be able to review a new forecast. All five members of the Board of Governors will be present, along with the district bank presidents, research staff and New York Fed market analysts.

In the meantime, policymakers are focusing on such scraps of information as the availability of jumbo mortgages - those exceeding US$417,000 - for borrowers in specific cities.

'You man the phones,' said J Alfred Broaddus Jr, former president of the Richmond Fed, who was a policymaker during the 1998 global market rout. 'Anecdotal information is particularly important in these kinds of situations.'

New York Fed president Timothy Geithner, the central bank's chief liaison with Wall Street, holds a daily conference call with the board of governors and district bank presidents to brief them on developments. At a video conference on Aug 16, they decided to reduce the discount rate, the cost of direct loans to banks from the central bank, by half a percentage point to 5.75 per cent.

There are still signs of distress and the Fed's patience depends on markets settling down, Fed watchers say.

Investors demanded the highest yields in seven years to buy asset-backed commercial paper after H&R Block Inc, the biggest US tax preparer, said that a unit tapped credit lines because it couldn't sell short-term debt. Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc on Wednesday shut its sub-prime lending unit and said that it would fire 1,200 employees. HSBC Holdings plc closed a US mortgage office.

'They will use as much anecdotal information as they can get their hands on,' said former Fed governor Lyle Gramley, senior economic adviser at the Stanford Group in Washington. 'My judgment is that the Fed will cut the funds rate by 25 basis points on Sept 18, not before that unless markets require it.'

Fed officials acknowledged that the 'downside risks to growth have increased appreciably' as a result of financial turmoil in their Aug 17 statement, which updated their Aug 7 outlook.

Mr Bernanke has the ability to change the federal funds rate between meetings in consultation with the FOMC without calling a vote, a tool his predecessor Alan Greenspan exercised in 1998.

The current chairman has stressed that he wants authority to reside in the FOMC, not solely the office of the chairman.

That difference in approach suggests a preference for waiting until formal meetings before adjusting interest rates, Fed watchers say. -- Bloomberg

CapLand Finalising Buy Of Eureka Office Fund Stake

Source : The Business Times, August 24, 2007

CAPITALAND said yesterday it is finalising the purchase of its partner's 50 per cent stake in Eureka Office Fund, which owns One George Street and 163 strata-titled units in The Adelphi.

CapitaLand and Eureka GmbH, part of Munich Re Group, have equal stakes in the fund.

CapitaLand, which was responding to a BT report yesterday saying it was eyeing full control of One George Street, did not give further information. But it is widely known in property circles that a collective sale of The Adelphi, a 999-year leasehold property in the City Hall area, is being explored.

When Eureka Office Fund was created in 2001, it controlled 100 per cent of the offices and 38 per cent of the retail units in The Adelphi, had a 19.92 per cent stake in Temasek Tower and 100 per cent of Pidemco Centre in South Bridge Road.

The Pidemco Centre was later redeveloped into One George Street.

Earlier this year, the fund and CapitaLand sold their entire stakes in Temasek Tower for $1.04 billion.

DBS Role In Thai Bank May Shrink

Source : The Business Times, August 24, 2007

Dutch bank ING could replace it as TMB's second largest shareholder

DUTCH bank ING is set to replace Singapore's DBS Group as the second-largest shareholder in TMB Bank, Thai media reported yesterday.

ING, which has for several years been looking to acquire a Thai banking asset, has agreed to buy a 24.9 per cent stake in TMB, Thailand's sixth-largest commercial bank in terms of asset size, according to a Khao Hun news report.

The report helped push the share price of TMB higher as investors have become more optimistic about the nearly US$1 billion of recapitalisation at the bank, which is seeking to clear up its bad loans ahead of stricter Bank of Thailand rules coming in next year.

Khao Hun, which cited sources in the Ministry of Finance, said that on Aug 17, senior management of TMB took representatives of ING to meet Finance Minister Chalongphob Sussangkarn, introducing them as potential shareholders.

The paper said that ING's planned 24.9 per cent share in TMB would make it a bigger shareholder than Singapore's DBS, which currently holds 16 per cent and is the second-largest shareholder after the Ministry of Finance itself, which has 31 per cent.

TMB has been trying to raise close to 35 billion baht (S$1.65 billion) in new capital to meet its bad loan provisioning requirements - but DBS is said to want a change in management before it would inject more funds.

Reports have suggested that DBS, Singapore's biggest bank, said that it was reviewing whether to take part in the recapitalisation plan.

'We share with others the disappointment in the results of TMB,' DBS vice-chairman and chief executive officer Jackson Tai was quoted as saying.

TMB on its part expects its loan book to be reduced by 40 billion baht this year as a result of loan write-offs and distressed asset sales.

Subhak Siwaraksa, TMB chief executive officer and president, has said that outstanding loans fell by over 10 per cent in the first half as a result of loan repayments by corporate customers and small businesses as well as bad debt write-offs.

TMB's outstanding loans stood at 448 billion baht at the end of May, down by 12.45 per cent from the beginning of the year. Non-performing loans as at March stood at 30.88 billion baht, or 6 per cent of total loans.

Mr Subhak said that the bank's current capital adequacy level of 10 per cent of risk assets was sufficient to cover business activities through the end of the year.

TMB needs to further increase its capital after posting a loss of 12.3 billion baht in 2006, as it sets aside more provisions to cover possible bad loans.

TMB was formed by the merger of Thai Military Bank, DBS Thai Danu Bank and Industrial Finance Corp of Thailand in September 2004. The merged entity overestimated asset quality and was not strict enough on bad loan policies, Sorasit Soontornkes, a senior director at the Bank of Thailand, said in a recent interview.

DBS bought Thai Danu in 1997 at the beginning of a regional acquisition spree aimed at making it South-east Asia's premier lender. DBS put aside $1.06 billion in 1999 for bad loans, with almost three-quarters of that amount for the Thai bank.

Will Market Jitters Slow Down Spending In Asia?

Source : The Business Times, August 24, 2007

Major risk comes from prospect of US downturn, says Credit Suisse

(SINGAPORE) Amidst the brouhaha about the economic boom, one puzzle has been why consumer spending in Singapore has not quite kept pace with the buoyant economy.

And now, there is the risk that private consumption across Asia - as well as overall GDP growth - could well be hit if the recent financial market turmoil intensifies, and especially if the US economy takes a sharp downturn.

While the Singapore economy grew a strong 7.9 per cent last year, growth in private consumption expenditure averaged a weak 2.5 per cent in the five quarters through Q1 2007. Things started looking up in Q2, as growth in private consumer spending more than doubled to 5.8 per cent, although there was no pick-up in spending on household goods and furnishings, communications products, and even food and beverages.

Then came the recent bout of global financial market volatility, which saw a rout on the stock markets.

Investment bank Credit Suisse's economists reckon the wealth effects of the recent sell-off are, for now, 'too modest' to have a big impact on consumption.

'To the extent the equity market sell-off intensifies in the months ahead, the wealth effects on consumer spending and growth would presumably be felt most where large numbers of retail investors participate in the equity market, including in Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan,' the bank says in an Emerging Markets Economics Research report this week.

But, pockets of banking and financial market risk notwithstanding, Asia's biggest risk exposure is to a sharp slowdown in the US economy, it says.

Emerging Asia's growth outlook is exposed to the recent market volatility mainly through US growth, it maintains.

While the region is gradually 'decoupling' from the United States and intra-regional trade is expanding, Asia remains linked and exposed to the US economy, still the biggest market for its exports.

The US share of Asia's exports has fallen since 2000, but this has been offset by commensurate increases in Asian exports of intermediate goods to China, which in turn are exported to the US as final goods, the Credit Suisse report notes.

Hence Asia's exports still closely track US manufacturing new orders and its GDP growth has remained correlated with US growth.

'A sharp slowdown in the US is thus bound to affect Asia's growth outlook negatively, although governments in the region generally have the flexibility to pursue counter-cyclical policies to cushion the impact,' the bank says.

Credit Suisse's economists have pared their forecasts of US economic growth for Q4 (to 1.7 per cent from 2.8 per cent) and for 2008 (to 2.6 per cent from 3 per cent) and 'the balance of risks is on the downside'.

Ng Teng Fong Tops Singapore Rich List

Source : The Business Times, August 24, 2007

Elite group gets wealthier; 12 new members break into top 40

(SINGAPORE) The property boom, while churning out millionaires by the dozen, has also sprinkled its gold-dust on the billionaires driving the market.

Riding the wave, property tycoon Ng Teng Fong, with an estimated net worth of US$6.7 billion, has topped the Forbes Asia 2007 Singapore Rich List, nudging the Khoo family down to second place.

The Khoo family's fortune swelled 14 per cent to US$5.7 billion, but this was nowhere near enough to keep pace with Mr Ng, who controls Far East Organization and Yeo Hiap Seng. From an estimated wealth of US$4.9 billion last year, his fortune grew a staggering 36 per cent, placing him firmly at the top of the table.

United Overseas Bank's Wee Cho Yaw and his family came in third with an estimated wealth of US$3.3 billion - a drop from last year's US$3.4 billion. Occupying fourth spot was China-born property developer Zhong Sheng Jian - now a Singapore citizen - whose wealth was estimated at US$2.5 billion.

Kwek Leng Beng of Hong Leong Group is at number five since Forbes Asia divided up his extended family's holdings - an exercise that enabled his cousins Kwek Leng Kee and Kwek Leng Peck, who also have stakes in the group, to make this year's list.

The collective net worth of Singapore's 40 wealthiest increased about 14 per cent to US$32 billion. The top 10 on the list alone have a combined worth of nearly US$23 billion, constituting an impressive 72 per cent of the US$32 billion that the wealthiest 40 are said to possess. According to Forbes Asia, the net collective wealth of Singapore's 40 richest could easily dwarf that of their other South-east Asian counterparts.

The 2007 list was dominated by those in real estate, shipping and palm oil - a clear reflection of Singapore's booming industries - while those in the banking sector saw a slight decrease in fortune in the wake of the recent worldwide downturn in mortgages.

The list also boasted a significant number of entrepreneurs. 'If you read through the list, you'll see there are a lot of very highly qualified and successful entrepreneurs here. All these individuals have been very entrepreneurial in finding ways to make money in different industries,' said Mr Justin Doebele, contributing editor of Forbes Asia and project editor, Forbes Asia Rich Lists.

Some 19 of the top 40 saw a growth in their net worth this year, while eight saw a dip in fortunes and one was unchanged. Twelve on the list were newcomers. Among them is fourth-placed Mr Zhong, who has a 71.4 per cent stake in Yanlord Land Group. He attributed his substantial fortune to being able to 'understand the phase that the economy is in at any particular time'.

Founder and CEO of main-board listed Chemoil Corporation, an established supplier of marine bunker fuels, Robert Chandran has a net worth of US$490 million, which placed him at number 14. The Mumbai native, who pursued his masters degree in Manila and made his first fortune in the United States, moved to Singapore recently where he opted for citizenship. He, too, was not on the list last year.

Another new addition to the list, at number 36, is Christina Ong, wife of Malaysian tycoon Ong Beng Seng. Ms Ong is the managing director of Club 21, which owns Ishop and a share in luxury brand Mulberry.

The two other women on the list are Olivia Lum, founder of water treatment firm Hyflux, and Margaret Lien, who inherited wealth from late banker husband Lien Ying Chow.

Forbes calculated various fortunes using stock prices and exchange rates as at August 10, 2007. Privately-held wealth was 'estimated'. Mr Doebele said that the spillover effects of the sub-prime mortgage crisis in the US wouldn't change the order of the listings. 'We're looking over a 12-month period so if they drop 10 per cent less over two weeks, that's not going to wipe out the entire gains they've made,' he said.

The cut off for the 2007 list was also upped to US$100 million, nearly double last year's minimum net worth of US$55 million. Still, number 40, chairman and CEO of Creative Technology Sim Wong Hoo, whose wealth was estimated at US$105 million, made the cut with a cool US$5 million to spare.

Profits, Prospects Start To Dim As Party Winds Down

Source : The Business Times, August 24, 2007

Businesses in S'pore still did well in Q2, but the pace has flagged, BT-UniSIM survey shows

(SINGAPORE) After a sizzling run that lasted more than a year, business profits and sentiments have weakened slightly in the second quarter of 2007, according to the latest BT-UniSIM Business Climate survey.

The numbers are still positive and healthy, but this could be more than just another blip. It probably means that the Singapore economy is close to the peak of the business cycle and 'an economic slowdown looks imminent,' said survey director Chow Kit Boey.

And while she thinks that the 'sub-prime fiasco could actualise the downturn,' Ms Chow is confident about the future. She says that the slowdown is not likely to last for more than two quarters.

The survey, which is now into its 12th year, polled some 125 local and foreign firms from a wide range of industries on their sales, profits, new orders and business prospects.

It found that profit net balance - the difference between the percentage of companies that reported better profit and those that reported weaker profit - fell 6 points quarter-on- quarter in Q2 2007 to 27 per cent.

A breakdown of the results indicates that some 30 per cent of firms reported no change in profits - higher than the 17 per cent seen in Q1 2007.

Also, the percentage of firms with profit increases of up to 10 per cent dropped from 38 per cent in Q1 2007 to 29 per cent in Q2 2007.

Similarly, the business prospects net balance - the difference between the percentage of companies that expect better times and those that expect things to turn for the worse in the coming six months - fell 2 points to 56 per cent in Q2 compared with the first quarter of 2007.

Local firms are clearly more optimistic, with their net balance rising by a sequential 4 points to 64 per cent in Q2.

In contrast, confidence level about the future dipped among their foreign counterparts to a net balance of 31 per cent - from 46 per cent three months earlier.

Sales net balance rose by a marginal 4 points quarter-on-quarter to 41 per cent, while overall net balance in orders/new business gained one point to 40 per cent during the period.

Based on the survey's findings, the report concluded: 'This implies that the economy is still growing but at slower rates and the current expansion phase is longer in duration than the average of past cycles.'

During the first six months of this year, the economy grew 7.6 per cent, but a number of economists have projected a second-half slowdown in Singapore's economic growth, though it may still meet the official forecast of 7 to 8 per cent full-year growth in 2007.

A comparison of overall and overseas sales, orders and business prospects indicates that business activities in Singapore were stronger than those overseas in Q2 2007.

Generally, the net balances were lower than in the previous quarter. Future business environment could thus become more challenging and performance may weaken.

During the quarter, large firms took the highest net balance in sales - at 44 per cent. This implies that large local firms again performed very well in Q2 2007.

'Small firms did not fare too badly with all net balances in the positive territory. The net balances in sales and profits rose, reflecting the expansion of higher sales and profits to more small firms,' the report added.

In Q2 2007, manufacturing was the star performer in sales, and together with financial & business services took the top spot for orders/new business.

The star performer in profits was financial & business services while the construction sector held the best business prospects for six straight quarters.

Construction was perceived as the best business prospects sector irrespective of size and ownership of firms. It was also the best performer for large firms across all four indicators.

Why Asia Was Spared In This Credit Crisis

Source : The Business Times, August 24, 2007

WHILE it was the steep slide in global equities which hogged headlines over the past week, Asia appears to have been more insulated from something else afflicting Western money markets.

True, stocks in this region did suffer their share of the bleeding, with some key Asian indices sliding as much as 20 per cent from the year's July peaks. But in private, there must have been Asian central banks who were pleased that some of the unhealthy froth had at last been removed from their bourses and - with that - some of the persistent upside pressures on their currencies as well.

And it's worth pointing out that the ongoing credit crunch in international financial markets has had far more consequences for Western central banks than Asian ones. Compared to the massive liquidity injections we've witnessed from Europe to the United States and Canada over the past week, Asian central banks (except for Japan's) appear to have been relatively insulated.

In the West, injections of hundreds of billions proved less than effective in calming lending fears in their domestic money market systems - until those short-term infusions were augmented by the Fed's decision to reduce its discount rate for banks' borrowings by half a percentage point to 5.75 per cent last Friday.

Over and above that, the big discussion among Fed watchers these days is not if, but when, the US central bank will follow that move with reductions in its key Fed funds money market rate as well - which, so far at least, has been left unchanged at 5.25 per cent.

At one point earlier this week, we were told that the TED spread - or the difference between government Treasury bill yields and straight deposits for the three month tenor - in the domestic money markets of the eurozone, the UK and the US had widened more than it did during the US stock market crash of 1987 or the Long Term Capital Management debacle of 1998.

In the US, the paranoia over hedge fund losses, doubtful credits and the failure of one prominent money market fund caused the TED spread to widen at one point on Monday to more than 3 per cent - compared to a more 'normal' gap of something like 0.7 per cent.

Safe refuge appeal caused the one-month US T-bill rate to fall even more sharply, to a low of 1.34 per cent - almost four percentage points lower than the US central bank's Fed funds rate of 5.25 per cent.

In Asia, by contrast, strong growth and price pressures at home obliged the People's Bank of China to announce its fourth hike in benchmark one-year deposit and lending rates for the Chinese economy on Tuesday this week.

It's almost as if less developed Asian financial markets were spared this time around precisely because they had not yet developed the complicated financial structures, investment funds or derivative instruments which are causing so much stress in the more sophisticated financial centres of the West.

Most Asian Stocks Fall On US Slowdown Fears

Source : The Straits Times, Aug 24, 2007

MOST Asian stock markets slipped back in early trade on Friday as players locked in recent gains, with concerns re-emerging over the US mortgage sector.

Regional trade was subdued as players took a wait-and-see approach to further developments in the US, in particular the release later on Friday of US new home sales data.

The Chinese market provided a silver lining, however, as the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index put on another robust performance in the morning on strong corporate earnings growth.

'Thin trading underlines investor doubts that we will fall much further from here,' said Hiroichi Nishi, equities manager at Nikko Cordial Securities in Tokyo.

'But bargain-hunting is expected to keep shares well supported, as some investors take the view that the worst of the fallout from the US subprime loans problem is over,' he said.

Hong Kong share prices closed 0.2 per cent weaker but well off the session's lows, as investors exercised caution ahead of the weekend amid renewed concerns over the fallout of US subprime mortgage sector troubles, dealers said.

They noted comments by the chief executive officer of troubled US mortgage lender Countrywide Financial Corp that the US housing sector slump could tip the economy into a recession.

China banks were hit after some big mainland lenders confirmed exposure to US subprime loans-backed securities, although the banks assured that such investments made up only a small portion of their overall portfolios.

Profit-taking pressure also arose following first-half results announcements from several blue chips.

But the market still managed to end the week with a solid gain of 12.43 per cent after hefty gains in the last four days, following China's decision to allow mainland individuals to invest directly in Hong Kong-listed securities under a trial program.

The Hang Seng Index closed down 45.08 points at 22,921.89, off a low of 22,629.49 and a high of 22,933.80. For the week, the index is up 2,534 points or 12.43 per cent.

Japanese share prices fell 0.33 per cent in morning trade on Friday after Wall Street slumped overnight on renewed fears of a credit crunch, dealers said.

But the Japanese market contained more extensive losses, with investors buying on dips the day after Tokyo's key share index soared 2.61 per cent.

The Tokyo Stock Exchange's benchmark Nikkei-225 index of leading shares was down 53.51 points at 16,262.81 at the lunch break.

The broader Topix index of all first-section shares was down 6.56 points or 0.41 per cent at 1,585.25.

Malaysian share prices closed 0.8 per cent lower on profit taking amid low trading volumes as investors remained cautious over the impact of US subprime credit fears, dealers said.

The Kuala Lumpur Composite Index lost 10.10 points to 1,273.52.

China's main stock index surged more than 1 per cent to a fresh record high on Friday, boosted by banking stocks after two of the nation's biggest banks reported slightly better-than-expected earnings.

The market was also buoyed by generally positive coverage in the official Chinese media of the index's rise above 5,000 points for the first time on Thursday.

The Shanghai Composite Index ended the morning 1.35 per cent higher at 5,100.480 points, off an intra-day high of 5,125.359.

Rising Shanghai stocks outnumbered losers by 447 to 390 while turnover in Shanghai A shares was 84.3 billion yuan (S$17.1 billion), similar to Thursday morning's level.

For the first time this week, the average premium of A shares over Hong Kong-listed H shares (HSCAHPI) rose, to 70 per cent from 66 per cent on Thursday. -- REUTERS, AFP

Caution Seen To Dominate Singapore Trading Next Week

Source : The Straits Times, Aug 24, 2007

SINGAPORE shares are expected to trade cautiously next week on persistent concerns that the effects of a crisis in US subprime credits are far from over, dealers said.
Shares regained their bearings following sharp falls last week, but analysts cautioned volatility will remain.

For the week ending August 24, the Straits Times Index soared 238.74 points, or 7.63 per cent, to finish at 3,369.45 on Friday.

Average daily volume totalled 2.19 billion shares valued at $2.54 billion, compared with 2.67 billion shares worth $2.79 billion last week.

Caution is likely to dominate after the head of Countrywide Financial, the biggest mortgage lender in the United States, said problems in the US housing market are far from over and could tip the world's biggest economy into a recession.

'The risk of a US recession is always there,' CIMB GK Research regional economist Song Seng Wun said.

'We won't be immune to the effects of an economic slowdown in the US but we (in Asia) are able to absorb it a bit better now.'

US credit risk evaluator Standard and Poor's said Asian economies should weather any fallout from the current turmoil in global financial and stock markets sparked by the US subprime credit problems.

Most regional economies appear to have learned their lessons from the Asian financial crisis in 1997 and 1998, it said.

'Asian economies have improved their banking systems, reined in fiscal deficits, brought down external debts, built up foreign exchange reserves and improved their current account balances,' said Standard and Poor's credit analyst Ping Chew.

'Any significant and prolonged decline in asset and market valuations could also sap confidence, but while economic activity and confidence remain robust, the Asian economies are likely to suffer minor setbacks but not major reversals.' -- AFP

BoJ Drains Funds For First Time In Seven Days

Source : The Straits Times, Aug 24, 2007

TOKYO - JAPAN'S central bank said on Friday it was draining funds from the banking system for the first time in seven days in the wake of recent market turmoil.

The Bank of Japan (BoJ) move contrasts with the US Federal Reserve, which injected US$17.25 billion (S$26.3 billion) into the financial system on Thursday, one factor cited by dealers in driving Wall Street lower overnight.

The Bank of Japan said it was siphoning off US$2.6 billion, a relatively small amount for a central bank, to mop up excess liquidity.

Analysts had expected the BoJ to skip market operations on Friday.

Overnight call rates 'were hovering lower and we decided on the fund drainage to make them close to our target' of 0.5 per cent, said a BoJ official who declined to be named.

'We inject funds when the rates are high and drain funds when the rates are low. It's as simple as that,' he said, declining to comment further on the bank's intentions.

Some US dealers had said the Federal Reserve's three actions on Thursday had renewed fears of a global credit squeeze due to problems in the US subprime sector of housing loans to high-risk borrowers.

The BoJ's fund withdrawal came a day after the bank left its super-low interest rates unchanged for a sixth straight month.

Until recently markets had been betting on an Aug rate hike but plunges in global share prices and a sharp appreciation of the yen prompted analysts to push back their forecasts for when Japanese interest rates will next go up. -- AFP

Cruise Down KPE From Oct 26

Source : The Straits Times Video News 24 Aug 2007

It's not all systems go yet, but motorists can start driving down a part of the 12km Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE) from Oct 26.

This 3km stretch starts from the south side of the ECP and ends at the PIE, near Kallang Way.

Take a road trip with Melissa Kok as she explains some of the safety measures built into this groundbreaking tunnel.

Related Video Link -
Cruise down KPE from Oct 26

Others Related Video Link -
Channel NewsAsia Video News, Features within KPE tunnel ensure safety of motorists

Other Related Video Link -
KPE discovery tour focuses on engineering challenges, tunnel safety

ERP Extended To More Roads

Source : The Straits Times, Aug 24, 2007

New gantries coming up, with changes effective on Oct 26 and Nov 1

MORE Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) gantries are coming up, and they might well become a familiar sight in the HDB heartland if traffic congestion does not ease.

One new gantry will start operating in the mornings at the first stretch of the new Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway when it opens on Oct 26, while another four will be activated from Nov 1.

Seven more will be erected, including four in the heartlands of Toa Payoh, Upper Boon Keng, Kallang Bahru and Geylang Bahru, by early next year.

But they will not be activated unless traffic crawls at speeds of below 20kmh.

The 12 new gantries bring the total number to 62. And there might be more roads which motorists will have to pay to drive on.

The Land Transport Authority is monitoring speeds along six other stretches of road, from Holland Village to Telok Blangah, to see if gantries need to go up there too.

Related Video Link -
ERP 'In Operation' - more gantries, more hours

Motorists - brace yourself to pay more to use the roads, with more ERP points and longer operational hours in the offing.

Adding to the existing 50 ERP gantries across the island will be nine new ones - four to be activated by November, the rest on standby until traffic speeds fall below the optimal range.

It is also hoping to ease the ever-present chokepoint at the southbound Central Expressway (CTE) before Braddell Road by extending ERP operating hours - from 7am to 11am, up from 7.30am to 9.30am.

Transport Minister Raymond Lim yesterday acknowledged that electronic road pricing is not popular with motorists.

'But I think Singaporeans understand that if you want smooth-going roads, car ownership growth, then this is the trade-off.'

He spelt out the plus points of the ERP system, which is being adopted in some form by cities such as London, Stockholm and New York.

By controlling usage, more cars can go on the road. Vehicle registration taxes have also come down in the past decade, he noted.

The Government collected $1.7 billion worth of vehicle taxes last year, down from $3.4 billion in 1997, the year before ERP was introduced.

And from next month, road taxes will fall by 8 per cent.

On the other hand, annual ERP revenue amounts to about $90 million, indicating that motorists are paying less overall.

'ERP is meant to be a congestion and not a revenue measure, so if motorists drive less and the roads are smooth-flowing, the Government will be happy to collect less,' he said after a tour of the Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway yesterday morning.

Besides ERP, the Government will be taking a big picture view, looking at all aspects of land transport to arrive at a 'holistic' game plan in its ongoing review.

As far as cars go, the balance between vehicle growth rates, usage charges and ownership taxes will be scrutinised. The definition of 'optimal speed' will also be looked at.

Findings of the review will be made known early next year. But the minister hinted yesterday that 'significant changes' will have to be made to keep our city 'liveable'.

The Government had already indicated that it will be revising the 3 per cent annual allowable vehicle growth rate, introduced in 1990. The new rate - which motor industry observers reckon will be lower - will take effect from 2009.

Mr Lim pointed out that roads already take up 12 per cent of land space - the same as housing - and the expansion of the network will be halved to 0.5 per cent a year over the next 15 years.

'As long as we want more cars on the roads, ERP coverage will invariably get more extensive and charges higher over time,' Mr Lim said.

Motorist Chong Gim Huat, 45, chief executive of a telecoms company, does not think the changes will help. 'It won't solve the problem. They already have so many gantries on the CTE and it's still jammed.'

But Automobile Association of Singapore president Bernard Tay welcomes the more comprehensive ERP coverage.

'It's good. It means more people can own cars, hopefully,' he said.

The Annuity Premium, Is $8k Okay?

Source : The New Paper, August 24, 2007

THE magic figure we need for a perpetual income stream could be just $8,000.

If that's the figure, it will be just a tiny bite of the minimum sum of your CPF account - but it could give you $400 for the rest of your life after 85.


The Government has said that it wants to make some form of annuity compulsory because Singaporeans are living longer.

Annuities are financial products that pay out a sum of money for as long as you live, in exchange for a fixed sum upfront.

The Government is introducing them to make sure that retirees have enough to go by, and will not outlive their savings.

Currently, the minimum sum does not ensure a stream of income past the age of 85.

Manpower Minister Ng Eng Hen said that the annuity premium would be a 'small portion' of the minimum sum.

(The minimum sum is the amount that must be kept in the CPF accounts of members after they withdraw their money at 55. They can begin to draw down on this sum when they hit the drawdown age - now put at 62.)

The full plan has not been released. 'It is not that I am keeping something back... but we are consulting widely,' Mr Ng explained at a media briefing on Tuesday.

He did give the assurance that most of the minimum sum will still be meant for members to withdraw when they reach the draw-down age of 62.

Dr Ng is making a ministerial statement next month, where he is expected to give more details.

But from the rough calculations of former NTUC Income chief and actuary Tan Kin Lian, the amount needed to be set aside could be between $6,000 to $8,000.

Mr Tan is not a fortune teller. But when it comes to collective futures, it becomes the science of insurance - and that's second nature to him.

We told him the two things we knew:

The sum is supposed to protect against 'extreme longevity'.

And it is payable only, possibly, after the person hits 85.

His reply: 'My guess is to provide $300 a month payable from age 85 for a lifetime, it will probably cost $5,000 to $8,000 (payable) at age 65.

'This annuity can increase by 1 per cent to 2 per cent per year. So, in 20 years time, $300 will probably grow to $400.'

To get a better figure, he said, he would need firmer numbers. For example, what is the proportion of people who live to 85, and what is the expected lifespan from there?

Such detailed empirical data can only be provided by the Government.

The private sector will put it into their cauldron of mathematical odds and business risk. We should hear their best guess soon.

Region’s Markets Get A Boost

Source : TODAY, Friday, August 24, 2007

News of Bank of America’s $3b equity investment in US encourages trading in Asia

SINGAPORE shares, like their Asian counterparts,gained as concerns eased that a credit crisis triggered by losses on United States home loans would derail global economic growth.

Markets were encouraged by news of Bank of America Corp making an equity investment of US$2 billion ($3 billion) in Countrywide Financial Corp.

Last week, analysts fretted whether America’s largest mortgage lender would have to declare bankruptcy because it was unable to tap additional funding sources.

The Straits Times Index (STI) closed up 1.5 per cent at 3,370.91, with gainers outnumbering losers 763 to 193.

Yesterday’s trading volume was a moderate 2.8 billion shares, but was still higher than Wednesday’s 1.9 billion.

Despite the generally positive market tone yesterday, market participants continued to urge caution, especially with the weekend looming which could inspire profit-taking today.

Also, some pointed to the performance of bank shares yesterday.

Although bank shares rose, they lagged the broad market and are still well off the highs reached before the recent sub-prime crisis struck.

Then, there was the dismal debut of Parkway Life Real Estate Investment Trust.

DBS finished 0.5 per cent higher at $20.60.

UOB rose 1 per cent to $20.70, while OCBC gained 0.6 per cent to end at $8.60.

“I think the storm is not over, although we saw the worst last Friday and the beginning of the week,” said Ms Daphne Roth, vice-president of equity research at ABN Amro Private Banking.

“The market could still be volatile,” she cautioned.

Investors may be returning to Asian stocks because of strong fundamentals, but DMG and Partners dealing director Gabriel Yap warned, “we’ve had eight major corrections in the last five years and such corrections typically lasted six to eight weeks. We are in the fifth week of correction.”

Markets may also be setting themselves up for disappointment should the US Federal Reserve not cut its funds rate as has been widely speculated.

ABN Amro’s Ms Roth said that “the expectations of a rate cut are overdone…The market is still very fragile so any negative news will cause a pull-back”.

She expects the STI rising a bit more to around 3,400 points, although market valuations are not “extremely cheap” at a price-to-earnings ratio of 16 times currently and 14.95 times for next year.

“I told my clients: Take the chance to do some portfolio cleaning. Focus on stocks that have really good earnings visibility and are defensive,” said Ms Roth.

“We still like the offshore and marine sectors as they are really backed by order books all the way to 2010. It’s just a matter of execution and both Keppel and Sembcorp Marine have good track records. That’s why you can see their prices have come back.”

Rush Hour Takes Its Toll

Source : TODAY, Friday, August 24, 2007

Longer ERP hours, more gantries to ease congestion, as roads get more crowded

THE patients’ arteries are becoming clogged.

In the last two years, congestion levels have been building up with more thorough-fares jammed especially during peak hours.

The number of cars on the streets rose to 800,000 last year, up from 680,000 in 1998. And going by the shrinking costs of owning one — with lower road taxes and Certificates of Entitlement for smaller cars down by half in the latest bidding exercise — the road ahead looks destined to be even more crowded.

That’s not even taking into account the rapidly growing population, or the influx of city-bound traffic, once new developments in the Marina area come on line.

So, before the life-flow in the country’s arteries comes to a standstill, the Government is prescribing a booster dose of its favourite medicine, albeit one that has proved bitter to swallow in the past. And this time looks to be no different.

Yesterday, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced the extension of Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) hours at two gantries on the Central Expressway (CTE).

In addition, come Nov 1, four new ERP gantries will begin operation on the CTE, Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE) and East Coast Parkway (ECP) (see graphic).

Another five gantries will go up at Upper Bukit Road between Hume Ave and Old Jurong Road, Toa Payoh Lorong 6, Upper Boon Keng Road, Kallang Bahru Road and Geylang Bahru Road — to be activated only when traffic speed falls below 20kmh.

It’s a matter in which the authorities have “no choice”, said Transport Minister Raymond Lim after a visit to the new Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway Phase 1 Tunnel.

“ERP is not popular, we know that, but... Singaporeans understand that if you want smooth-flowing roads and (a certain amount of) car growth, then there has to be some form of trade-off,” he said.

The new additions will bring the total number of ERP gantries islandwide to 62. Said Mr Lim: “Of all the different measures to deal with congestion, ERP is the only one that deals directly with the problem by requiring individuals to take into account the costs of congestion caused by their driving to others”.

And this method of hitting drivers in the pocket has proven effective since the ERP was launched in 1998. Average travel speeds between 8.30am and 9am on the ECP have risen from 36kmh to more than 55kmh today.

Along Orchard Road, average speeds on weekday evenings and Saturday afternoons have increased from 17kmh to 23kmh since road pricing was implemented in October 2005.

So, the ERP is the most direct medicine— but is it the best or only one?

Drivers such as deliveryman Yeo Kim Hock believe the extended ERP hours and extra gantries will not work in the long run. He uses the CTE to deliver laundry every day from Ang Mo Kio to the CBD and other parts of Singapore.

“I’ve been on the roads for more than 10 years and every time there are ERP price hikes, they would only work for a short while, then the congestion would come back again as people get used to the price,” he told TODAY.

“Pricing can be effective,” Dr Lee Der-Horng, an Associate Professor of Civil Engineering at the National University of Singapore, told Channel NewsAsia.

“But I think motorists or the general public are looking at whether we have a more comprehensive, integrated and overall solution.

“It will be too naive to expect that once you increase the price at this particular (area), the overall traffic congestion will come down. We cannot just expect car-owners to give up driving and switch to public transportation.”

On such criticisms, Mr Lim gave the assurance that the LTA was constantly looking at how to upgrade ERP technology for a more effective system. One such possibility includes using Global Positioning System technology.

The LTA will also see if optimal speed ranges need to be changed. And meanwhile, the Government will continue building new roads and expressways — it spent some $3.4 billion on this in the last decade. But here, there are constraints. Said

Mr Lim: “Our limited land resources have to be shared with other critical uses such as building homes for our people, industries to drive our economy and schools for our children.”

And as land gets scarcer and road building costs increase, the LTA expects road growth to drop from 1 per cent a year over the last 15 years, to about half that rate over the next 15 years. Also to be reviewed: The annual 3-per-cent cap on vehicle growth.

One other solution looked at is developing a public transport system so efficient that drivers could be persuaded to give up their wheels. Last year, the Transport Ministry announced a comprehensive review of the land transport system — after noticing that between 1997 and 2004, there was a 23-per-cent jump in daily car trips, despite only a 10-per-cent growth in the car population.

But for now, the road pricing antidote is the most immediate fix — and not just for Singapore. New York has plans to charge motorists about US$8 ($12) when the city implements such a system soon, while Stockholm introduced congestion charging last month.

Putting one other misconception to rest, Mr Lim said the ERP was not a revenue generating mechanism. Were the roads smooth-flowing, “the Government would be happy to collect less”, he said. Annual ERP revenue collected is some $90 million

Sim Lian Net Profit Jumps 72%

Source : The Business Times, 24 August 2007

PROPERTY and construction group Sim Lian yesterday posted a 71.6 per cent year-on-year jump in net profit for the year ended June 30, 2007, to $33.2 million, and plans to launch four projects in the current financial year. These are at Surrey Road, Lorong K Telok Kurau, Keng Lee Road and Bishan Street 22.

Related links -
Sim Lian Group's financial statement

Related Links -
Consolidated corporate results table (MS Excel Format)

Revenue rose 118.2 per cent to $318.9 million. Revenue from property development increased by 152.5 per cent to $208.5 million due chiefly to contribution from the Viz at Holland, Bleu @ East Coast, The Premiere @ Tampines, and Carabelle projects. Revenue generated by the construction division rose 86.8 per cent to $95.5 million.

For the current year, Viz at Holland, The Premiere @ Tampines and Carabelle projects are expected to continue to contribute positively to performance.

Sim Lian expects construction costs to rise in line with market trends, and remains selective in tenders to ensure reasonable prices and margins.

Sim Lian declared an unchanged first and final dividend of 1.5 cents per share. In FY2006, it also paid a special dividend of 0.5 cents per share. FY2007 earnings per share rose from 3.74 cents to 6.27 cents. Net asset value per share stood at 26.57 cents as at June 30, 2007, down from 36.52 cents a year earlier.

Horizon Towers Sellers Sued For Botched Collective Sale

Source : The Straits Times, 24 Aug 2007

$500m deal scuppered by simple technical error of missing signatures on the sale application

A LEGAL battle looms for the sellers of Horizon Towers units, after it was disclosed yesterday that a simple technical error on sale documents had derailed the estate’s collective sale.

The intended buyers - Hotel Properties (HPL) and its two partners - are taking the 173 majority owners to the High Court over their failure to go through with the $500 million sale.

Their move comes after the Strata Titles Board (STB) released the grounds for its Aug 3 oral decision to halt the sale application of the Leonie Hill property. The sellers had requested the clarification.

The STB said documents carrying the signatures of three majority owners - who are sellers - were not included in the sale application.

The original committee members representing the sellers had made a statutory declaration that the signed documents were included, without realising that they were not.

And the STB - which only convenes to hear a case once documents are declared to be correct and in order - could not allow any changes to be made to the application.

The STB said there were concerns over whether it had the power to allow an amendment.

But under the law, once a sale application is found to be defective, the board’s role ceases.

The STB’s clarification, coincidentally, was followed by a statement from HPL, which said that proceedings have been started in the High Court against the sellers.

HPL and its partners Morgan Stanley Real Estate-managed funds and Qatar Investment Authority said the sellers are in breach of the sales contract and are ordering them to ‘do everything in their power’ to obtain a collective sale order from the STB.
That will result in the sellers having to refile the sale documents, which also means that they must sell their 99-year leasehold estate at the $500 million price inked in February.

This rankles with many owners - those who backed the sale and some who did not - as property prices have rocketed since then. The Grangeford estate nearby has sold for more than double the Horizon Towers price, on a per sq ft basis.

If they do not go ahead with the sale, HPL and partners said they will sue for damages for breach of contract.

But even if a sale order is obtained, the HPL consortium said they can still sue for other damages.

Any damages will be assessed by the court but the buyers - represented by Allen & Gledhill - have earlier put lost profits at $800 million to $1 billion.

The 173 majority owners of Horizon Towers, including the sales committee, will be liable.

The majority owners were originally represented by Drew & Napier, and subsequently replaced by Tan Rajah & Cheah.

Yesterday’s developments - just the latest in a saga stretching back to the contentious sale in February - puts the ball back into the sellers’ court.

Because the STB’s oral decision was made solely because the documents were defective, and not on the merits of the case, it said the sellers can refile a fresh set of documents.

The case has been made even more complicated by the fact that the sellers had an Aug 11 sale deadline written into their contract with the buyers.

When the STB killed off the sale on Aug 3, it left the owners just eight days to devise a strategy.

HPL and partners asked the sellers to extend the deadline by four months from Aug 11 and file a new sale application or appeal to the High Court to reconsider STB’s decision.

The sellers rejected this option.