Thursday, September 6, 2007

Conservation Shop/Office @ Madras St For Rent

(Pictures : Madras Hotel @ Madras Street)

2 Storeys Conservation Shop/Office for RENT.

Located at Madras St (Behind Tekka Mall, Near Madras Hotel).

Available in October 2007.

Size : Approximately 2500sqft.

Asking : $15000/mth negotiable ($6/psf)

Nearby Little India MRT. Convenient Parking.

Map & Photo Source :
Robert J Steiner (RJS) Pte Ltd

Court Accepts Bad Fengshui As Valid Reason To Sell Property

Source : The Straits Times, Sep 6, 2007

IN WHAT is believed to be the first case in Singapore , the High Court on Thursday ruled that bad fengshui is a legitimate reason for the owners to sell their property, for which they should not be taxed on the profits.

It ruled in favour of a couple who argued that they had been compelled to sell their Waterside apartment they have owned for just over two years on this ground - and not because they had intended it as a trade.

The taxman had taxed the couple on the gains they had made from the sale of the Waterside flat, as well as three other properties, asserting that the couple were engaging in the trading of properties. The sales took place between 1993 and 1996.

However, Justice Judith Prakash ruled against the couple with regards to another property at Watten Close.

She did not accept their argument that they had sold the two-storey house to avoid a legal dispute with their renovation contractor.

Read the full report in Friday's edition of The Straits Times.

Lawyers To Give Free Legal Advice At Two CDCs

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 06 September 2007

Needy Singaporeans and permanent residents can look forward to free legal advice.

The Law Society will be running free legal clinics at North-West and South-East Community Development Councils from next week.

At the same time, the Law Society will open a Pro Bono Services Office on September 10.

Located at the Subordinate Courts, it is an initiative supported by the Ministry of Law and the Singapore Academy of Law.

The office will coordinate and administer all the Law Society's pro bono activities. These are activities that are free or for the public good.

These include schemes to provide free legal services to the needy, charities and other non-profit organisations, as well as a public education initiative aimed at raising awareness of the law.

These free schemes were made possible with each lawyer pledging at least 25 hours of pro bono work every year. - CNA/ir

Economists’ Median Growth Forecast Rises To 7.5%

Source : The Straits Times, 06 Sept 2007

Rosier estimate by 18 analysts is at mid-point of govt’s range of 7% to 8%

FORGET recent stock market woes and weak export numbers.

Projections by private-sector economists for Singapore’s full- year economic growth have turned even rosier over the past three months.

A quarterly survey of economists by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) threw up a median forecast of 7.5 per cent full-year growth, up from the 6 per cent in June’s survey.

This puts the latest consensus view right in the middle of the Government’s official 7 to 8 per cent forecast range.

This month’s findings were drawn from forecasts by 18 economists and analysts.

According to the survey results out yesterday, half of those polled predict that economic expansion this year will come in between 7 per cent and 7.9 per cent.

Over a quarter of them are even more bullish, gunning for at least 8 per cent growth.

For the current quarter, the median forecast is for growth of 7.8 per cent year-on-year.

The upbeat predictions come after second-quarter economic growth strongly beat market forecasts.

Despite disappointing export numbers, economic growth in the April-to-June period came in at 8.6 per cent, when the consensus forecast was 6.1 per cent.

The overall performance was lifted by two star sectors - construction and financial services.

Compared to the previous poll, economists now expect the two sectors to chart significantly stronger growth for the year.

The financial services sector is tipped to expand by a median 13.5 per cent this year, up from 10.2 per cent in the last survey.

Meanwhile, according to market consensus, construction would probably grow by 15 per cent this year, instead of the 10 per cent projected previously.

Predictions for manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, as well as private consumption, also turned more bullish, compared to three months ago.

However, consensus forecasts for non-oil domestic exports and the hotels and restaurants business deteriorated.

Economists’ median expectations for consumer price index (CPI) inflation were raised.
They also forecast a lower jobless rate.

‘The CPI inflation forecast for 2007 rose to a median of 1.5 per cent, from the 1.2 per cent reported in the previous survey, while the outlook for the year-end unemployment rate edged down from 2.6 per cent to 2.5 per cent,’ said the MAS survey report.

Looking beyond this year, economists’ median prediction for 2008 economic growth came in at 6.5 per cent, an improvement over 5.8 per cent in the previous poll.

Property Transactions With Contract Dates Between Aug 13 and Aug 18, 2007

Lee Hsien Yang To Be F&N Chairman

Source : The Straits Times, Thu, Sep 06, 2007

Today, Mr Lee officially becomes chairman- designate and a non-executive director of F&N.

He will succeed Mr Fam as chairman when the latter retires on Oct 15.

Mr Lee will also be a consultant for F&N's management services unit, drawing an annual fee of $1 million.

Mr Fam, F&N's chairman since 1983, will stay on as an adviser for a limited period to help with the transition.
MOST people knew already but yesterday it was made official - former SingTel group chief executive Lee Hsien Yang is to take over as chairman of conglomerate Fraser & Neave (F&N).

In a move foreshadowed by newspaper reports earlier this week, F&N announced yesterday that Mr Lee, 49, will succeed Mr Michael Fam, 79, who retires on Oct 15.

Today, Mr Lee officially becomes chairman-designate and a non-executive director of F&N, which has interests in the food and beverage, property and publishing sectors.

He said he was excited about his new role at F&N. 'Fraser and Neave is a fascinating food and beverage and property company. It has an Asian and international footprint, strong and deep Singapore roots and a distinguished heritage.'

Mr Lee will also be a consultant for F&N's management services unit F&N (Singapore), drawing an annual fee of $1 million, F&N said in a statement.

He will help with the overall strategic planning for the group, for an initial period of three years, which will be renewed automatically for another three years.

Mr Fam will stay on as an adviser for a limited period to help with the transition. He has been been on the F&N board since 1978 and chairman since 1983. In January last year, he gave up his executive responsibilities.

Mr Lee announced abruptly in July last year that he was stepping down as SingTel group chief executive, prompting speculation over his next move. He left the telco in April.

F&N yesterday suspended trading of its shares ahead of the announcement. In the hour beforehand, its share price rose as high as $5.20, before dropping to $5.10 at the close, up 14 cents on the day.

Mr Lee, the second son of Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and brother of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, had held the top job at SingTel since May 1995.

He chairs the board of governors at Republic Polytechnic. He is also a member of the governing board of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and a director of the Singapore Exchange, The Islamic Bank of Asia and French business school Insead.

Mr Fam said of his successor: 'With his proven track record of growing Singapore's largest listed company into a regional powerhouse, I am confident that he is the right person to take this company into its 125th year and continue to build on the company's achievements.'

Talks To Raise DBS Stake In Thai Bank Fail: Report

Source : The Straits Times, Thu, Sep 06, 2007

TALKS for DBS Bank to buy new shares of troubled Thai lender TMB Bank have reportedly failed.

TMB has instead opened negotiations to sell a stake to Dutch financial services giant ING Group as part of its efforts to raise capital, Reuters reported yesterday, citing unnamed TMB executives.

TMB, which incurred a loss of 12.3 billion baht (S$568.3 million) last year after setting aside more provisions to cover possible bad loans, wants to raise 35 billion baht by selling new shares to existing shareholders.

The bank is seeking to increase its capital adequacy ratio - a measure of its own capital in proportion to its outstanding loans - and clear its bad debts ahead of stricter Bank of Thailand rules next year.

In recent months, DBS had been negotiating with TMB to raise its 16.1 per cent stake, but it recently expressed disappointment over TMB's performance, as it had to book a S$159 million impairment in the value of its stake in TMB.

The Singapore bank has reportedly sought an overhaul of TMB's management, a higher level of equity participation and more control over the way the Thai lender is being run.

This has delayed TMB's recapitalisation plan, which was expected to have been completed in June.

Late last month, Thai newspaper Khao Hun reported that TMB had allowed ING to start due diligence on its financial position, as the Dutch group had agreed to buy a stake of 24.9 per cent.

If this deal goes through, DBS' stake in TMB will be diluted, and it will be replaced by ING as the Thai lender's second-largest shareholder.

The Thai Ministry of Finance is TMB's largest shareholder with a 31 per cent share.

Reuters yesterday quoted an unnamed TMB executive as saying that if DBS does not exercise its right to subscribe to the TMB issue, 'the bank will allocate new shares instead to ING, which can take as much as 25 per cent'.

TMB chairman Somchainuk Engtrakul also told Reuters that he expected the bank to finish its capital-raising exercise in December.

'What I can confirm is that the bank will complete the fund-raising with a new cash injection ready in December certainly,' he said.

A DBS spokesman declined to comment in response to queries from The Straits Times.

TMB was formed in September 2004 by the merger of Thai Military Bank, DBS Thai Danu Bank and Industrial Finance Corp of Thailand.

Will Peg Be For Better Or Worse?

Source : TODAY, Thursday, September 6, 2007

CPF rate, tied to bonds, may fluctuate with market

Letter from LEONG SZE HIAN

I REFER to media reports that the rates of the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Special, Retirement and Medisave accounts will be modified next year.

Many Singaporeans might be wondering whether the peg to “an appropriate long-term bond rate” may result in a higher or lower average rate, compared to the 4-per-cent fixed rate now.

What is the basis for the statement that “the new rates will be lower initially than the current 4 per cent, but it should do better than 4 per cent over time”?

Bonds fluctuate and are dependent on various factors such as interest rates and default risks. There is no guarantee that in the future, these bonds “should do better” than the present.

Why give 1 per cent more on the first $60,000 in the CPF and then announce two days later, that the 4-per-cent rate for the three accounts will no longer be guaranteed?

Half of all working CPF members have $45,000 or less in their CPF accounts. I would like to know how much of the $45,000 that is allocated to the three accounts are affected by the rate change, compared to the portion that is eligible to earn the extra 1 per cent?

Has any study been done to estimate the net effect on CPF members? Will most Singaporeans be better or worse off?

A Good Thing, But ...

Source : TODAY, Thursday, September 6, 2007

State May Propose Annuity Scheme But Let People Decide


I REFER to the article, “Annuities: It’s risk-sharing among all” by Mr Christopher Tan (Aug 31).

Having an annuity built into the CPF scheme provides one with security during old age and it’s not a bad idea after all. What might make some people unhappy, I believe, is the compulsory nature of the initiative.

CPF monies belong to the people and the Government holding such funds in trust for them must not insist on how they should be spent. The State may propose a CPF-annuity scheme but eventually, people of a democracy must be given the final say.

Just because some Singaporeans do not know how to plan for themselves does not imply that we have to compel the whole nation into accepting a scheme. I see Singaporeans as generally mature and literate individuals who are well able to think, plan and decide things for themselves.

The next obstacle to public acceptance of the proposal is the unrealistic minimum age limit of 85 for one to enjoy the annuity.

Since the present life expectancy of Singaporeans is 80 years, we should fix the annuity payout age at 70, to ensure that all those who participate in the annuity, on the average, enjoy 10 years of relief payment before death.

Finally, the proposed monthly payout, ranging from $250 to $300, is simply inadequate. In 20 to 30 years, as a Singaporean lives towards 80, even $300 per month means that one would have to lead a “dog’s life”, given future living standards and costs.

This is assuming that most medical costs are heavily subsidised by the Government.

Country can play larger role when helping octogenarians

Letter from LIM BOON HEE

I REFER to the letter, “Proposed annuity scheme could benefit you just as much as the next person” (Sept 4).

How many years can one expect to live after 85? Or for that matter, how many will be fortunate enough to see this ripe old age before the compulsory annuity starts to pay out?

Therefore, let’s not bark up the wrong tree because it is not about compassion, cohesiveness or unwillingness to share, but expecting the country to look after me for those two to three years should I live past the age of 85.

We should not be asking for money from the minimum sums of less fortunate short-lived Singaporeans who are forced to contribute to a common pool to feed those with longevity genes. I would rather they keep it for their next-of-kin.

Having toiled and contributed taxes for decades, I do not think it is too much to ask for a hand-out from one’s motherland if one lives past 85 and has no money to live on.

The true principle of “One People One Nation” does not apply only to Singaporeans helping fellow Singaporeans with CPF money. The State can take on a larger role helping the octogenarians in our midst.

Lee Hsien Yang To Head Fraser & Neave Group

Source : TODAY, Thursday, September 6, 2007

AFTER leaving his mark with a giant telco, former SingTel CEO Lee Hsien Yang has chosen a totally different industry for his new career.

Yesterday, mainboard-listed Fraser & Neave Group — a conglomerate of businesses that include food and beverage, properties, and publishing and printing — announced that it has appointed Mr Lee as its non-executive and chairman-designate with effect from today.

Mr Lee, a President’s Scholar and a Singapore Armed Forces scholar, will take over as non-executive chairman when current chairman Michael Fam retires on Oct 15. But Dr Fam will continue under contract upon retirement, for a limited period as an adviser to facilitate a smooth transition.

“Fraser & Neave is a fascinating food and beverage and property company,” Mr Lee said. “It has an Asian and international footprint, strong and deep Singapore roots and a distinguished heritage. I am excited by this opportunity to work with the company to build its businesses.”

Dr Fam said: “I am delighted that a person of Mr Lee’s stature and wealth of international business experience has agreed to take over the chairmanship of the company.”

He added: “With his proven track record of growing Singapore’s largest listed company into a regional powerhouse, I am confident he is the right person to take this company into its 125th year and continue to build on the company’s achievements.”

Mr Lee has been credited for turning SingTel from a $3-billion Singapore operation into a regional multi-market telecommunication giant.

Fraser & Neave Pte Ltd, a wholly-owned management services subsidiary of the group, has also appointed Mr Lee as a consultant for the strategic planning for the group for three years. The appointment, starting Oct 15, will be automatically renewed for another 3 years, subject to Mr Lee continuing as a director or chairman of the company. Under the agreement, he will be paid a $1-million consultancy fee every year. — JOHNSON CHOO

Forget Sub-Prime Woes, Experts Here Still Upbeat

Source : TODAY, Thursday, September 6, 2007

WITH just four months to go before 2007 draws to a close, private-sector economists have given the economy the thumbs up, predicting that the Republic will power ahead with 7.5-percent growth this year.

This is up from an estimate of 6 per cent in the last Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) survey in June.

And next year, Singapore could enjoy economic growth of 6.5 per cent, up from a previous estimate of 5.8 per cent.

Interestingly, this optimism comes through even though the survey was done amid the stock market volatility last month over the United States’ sub-prime concerns.

The survey was released yesterday, almost a month after the Government raised its GDP targets to between 7 and 8 per cent on the back of a buoyant second-quarter showing.

The 18 economists raised their median growth forecasts for all sectors, except for marginal downgrades for the hotel/restaurant industry and non-oil domestic exports.

Most notably, the construction sector is expected to gain 15 per cent for the year —up from 10 per cent in the previous forecast — overtaking financial services as the main engine of growth.

The MAS distributed the survey on Aug 13, just as global stock markets plummeted from fears of a worldwide credit crunch caused by rising default rates in the US housing market.

Citibank economist Chua Hak Bin attributed the optimism to an exceptionally strong second quarter showing here and the limited impact of the US housing recession.

He said: “One argument is that there are multiple growth drivers, and some of these drivers are actually because of the strong investment rebound. And the investment would continue regardless of what happens to external demand.”

But experts are split on whether the US housing slump — said to be the worst in 16 years — will affect the broader economy and spiral to Asia.

UOB economist Alvin Liew cautioned that the effects of US sub-prime crisis “have yet to unravel”.

Said Mr Liew: “There’s still a lot of uncertainty. But the US Federal Reserve has already shown the commitment to come in to ease liquidity.”

Last month, the Fed cut the rate on direct loans to banks in an effort to increase liquidity as investors shunned assets linked to subprime mortgages.

And last Friday, Fed chairman Ben S Bernanke said the central bank will do what is needed to stop the credit market rout from wrecking the six-year expansion — a move that some experts think will involve the cutting of interest rates, currently at 5.25 per cent, at a highly-anticipated meeting on Sept 18.

Said Citibank’s Dr Chua: “Once the Federal Reserve cuts interest rates, I think the market will probably stabilise.”

He also pointed out that the US consumer market was not as heavily hit this time, compared to the previous US housing recessions that took place at both ends of the 1980s, when both the mortgage rate and unemployment figures hit double digits.

Still, any slowdown in the US will also be buffered by the rosy economies elsewhere, particularly in China, said Mr David Cohen, director of Asian economics forecasting at Action Economics.

He added: “The fact that the rest of the world is pretty healthy right now is helping to boost US exports.”

Which is why economists are predicting a smooth end to the year, with continued growth in all the sectors — even as the US sub-prime woes loom large.

As Mr Liew put it: “We already have three quarters of growth in the bag. I don’t see how we can drop off to below 7-per-cent growth.”

En Bloc Sales Slow To A Trickle, May Pick Up Later

Source : The Business Times, September 6, 2007

Just one sale sealed in August, but some say lull presents a chance to buy

(SINGAPORE) After the breathless rush earlier in the year, there was just a single collective sale in August - that of Margate Mansion at a modest $58 million.

In contrast, the first seven months of 2007 saw a total of 62 collective sale transactions worth about $11.86 billion, based on industry figures compiled by Credo Real Estate. This reflects an average of around nine deals each month, worth almost $1.7 billion between them. The impact of the sub-prime mortgage woes in the US and the stock market rout that followed was obvious.

Credo managing director Karamjit Singh observed that the Singapore property market usually tends to take a breather in the third quarter.

But he expects the pace of collective sale transactions to pick up again in Q4 - assuming that the sub-prime crisis does not escalate further. Still, he does not expect activity to be as intense as in the first seven months of this year, before the current lull set in. 'Any recovery in land buying would be resuming from a high base. Some developers have already bought sites, so their appetites are satiated and they would need to offload some new projects before they replenish their landbanks,' Mr Singh added.

CB Richard Ellis executive director Jeremy Lake expects the number of collective sale transactions to average about two to three per month for the rest of the year. Contributing to this trend are high asking prices on part of the owners and upcoming changes to the en bloc legislation that could lengthen the gestation period before sites can be launched for tender.

Both Mr Lake and Mr Singh believe that benchmark prices may still be achieved for residential land in the months ahead. 'The critical factor will be how the end-product market fares. If developers see strong home buying at their launches, they will keep replenishing their landbanks. If not, developers may be more selective about their land acquisitions,' Mr Lake says.

DTZ Debenham Tie Leung director (investment advisory services) Shaun Poh reckons that over the next couple of months one is unlikely to see any benchmark residential land prices being achieved through en bloc sales. He felt that deals were likely to be in the $50 million to $100 million range and the buyers were likely to be smaller developers and contractors.

On a more positive note, Cushman & Wakefield managing director Donald Han felt that the current lull in the collective sales market presented buying opportunities. 'For investors who've missed out on the action earlier, especially international funds, because the pace of transactions was too quick for them to do due diligence, this is the best time to come in and negotiate - on their (buyers') terms,' Mr Han added.

Credo's Mr Singh noted that fundamentals in the property market were still very strong. 'There's still an undersupply situation, created by strong home buying since 2005 and exacerbated by the strong wave of en bloc sales which will cause a temporary withdrawal of supply as sites sold through collective sales are redeveloped. International funds are still prepared to invest in Singapore property because this place seems to have some exciting years ahead,' he said.

Economists Hike Growth Forecasts To Median Of 7.5%

Source : The Business Times, September 6, 2007

Distribution of forecasts skewed towards higher end of official 7-8% prediction

(SINGAPORE) Taking a cue from the government, private-sector economists have bumped up their forecasts of Singapore's 2007 economic growth to a median of 7.5 per cent, with the most optimistic gunning for 8.1 per cent.

The 7.5 per cent forecast from 18 respondents to the Monetary Authority of Singapore's quarterly survey of professional forecasters last month is 1.5 percentage points higher than the May poll's results - and smack in the middle of the latest revised 7-8 per cent official growth forecast.

The 2007 growth forecasts from the latest MAS poll - which range from 6.7 to 8.1 per cent - are heavily skewed towards the high end.

The survey respondents put a near-50 per cent chance on the economy growing 7 to 7.9 per cent this year and a 23 per cent probability that growth will be in the 8 to 8.9 per cent range.

The economy grew 7.6 per cent in the first six months of 2007, and the forecasters expect the pace to continue in the second half.

The economists see third-quarter growth at a median 7.8 per cent, and fourth quarter at 7.6 per cent. Growth this year is expected to be driven by two resurgent sectors in particular - financial services and construction.

The forecasters see financial services growing a median 12.2 per cent in Q3 and 13.5 per cent year-round.

For construction, the estimates are a median 15 per cent growth, for both Q3 and year-round. The sector grew 17.6 in Q2, when overall GDP expanded a blistering 8.6 per cent.

Among other key indicators, the economists forecast inflation to come in at 1.5 per cent this year and the jobless rate to edge down to 2.5 per cent by year-end.

Next year, GDP growth is projected to moderate to 6.5 per cent. This too has been raised from an earlier estimate of 5.8 per cent in the previous survey. The economists reckoned that the Singapore economy will most likely grow between 6 and 6.9 per cent.

Hind's New Boutique Hotel To Up Luxury Ante

Source : The Business Times, September 6, 2007

Naumi, the latest name in boutique hotels, opens in Singapore next week, with room rates ranging from $390 to $1,200.

Hip hangout: The 40-room Naumi which is opening next week will provide 'highly personalised' service

Located next to Raffles Hotel in Seah Street, the 40-room Naumi will offer mostly deluxe suites costing $500 a night - about the same as a room at a five-star hotel. But Naumi is a different proposition. Owned by the Hind Group, its managing director Surya Jhunjhnuwala says that the hotel will provide 'highly personalised' service.

The initial staff-to-guest ratio is one to one - and Mr Jhunjhnuwala still expects this to increase. His family owned the Imperial Hotel off River Valley Road between 1977 and 1999 before selling it. 'We have always been keen to get back into the hospitality business,' he says.

This time, Hind Group wants to focus on the boutique segment. Mr Jhunjhnuwala says that the target is to have hotels with a total of 1,000 rooms within three years, with the ideal size for a Naumi hotel being 30-70 rooms.

The group will look for opportunities in China, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Thailand and is still looking in Singapore. But it is not likely to find anything for $18 million - the price it paid for the Metropole Hotel in April 2006, which was converted into Naumi in eight months.

Indeed, it could sell the hotel now and make a tidy profit. But Mr Jhunjhnuwala says that although there is 'a price for everything', selling Naumi is not the plan at present. The old Metropole Hotel was gutted and given a hip makeover by award-winning local firm Eco-id Architecture and Design at a cost of more than $10 million or an estimated $250,000 a room.

Naumi is by no means Singapore's first boutique hotel. Establishments such as The Scarlet, Hotel 1929 and the New Majestic Hotel are already popular with the fashion-conscious crowd.

But Mr Jhunjhnuwala says Naumi is less 'thematic'. He is confident it will provide at least a 5 per cent return on investment.

'Goldman Fund Buying Chevron House'

Source : The Business Times, Thu, September 6, 2007

Acquisition would be second major Singapore office deal for group

(SINGAPORE) A Goldman Sachs-linked fund is believed to be the buyer of Chevron House (formerly Caltex House) whose sale by CapitaLand and its partners was announced last week. The deal values the leasehold Raffles Place office block at $730 million or a record $2,780 per square foot (psf) of net lettable area. CapitaLand last week declined to identify the buyer.

Market watchers noted that Chevron House will be Goldman Sachs' second major acquisition of an office property in Singapore. A Goldman Sachs real estate fund bought DBS Towers 1 and 2 on Shenton Way in November 2005 for $690 million, or around $800 psf of net lettable area.

'They could reap a nice profit if they decide to sell DBS Towers 1 and 2 today, given that they bought the asset during the early days of the office market upcycle,' an industry observer noted.

Industry watchers said that capital values of offices in Singapore today are around two-and-a-half times what they were in the final quarter of 2005 so based on that, DBS Towers 1 and 2 should be able to command around $2,000 psf or possibly even more, given the shortage of offices.

This is despite the leasehold tenure of the property. The older 49-storey Tower 1 was completed in 1974, while the 34-storey Tower 2 was completed 13 years ago. The property has parking for about 400 cars.

Goldman Sachs bought the property from DBS, which leased back the office space it then occupied in the two towers for an initial eight-year term, with an option to renew the lease for two three-year periods, according to an earlier news report.

As for Chevron House, the change of ownership is taking place through shares in Savu Properties Ltd. Basically, CapitaLand, IP Property Fund Asia and NTUC Income Insurance Co-operative are selling their respective stakes - of 50 per cent, 25 per cent and 25 per cent - in Savu, which owns Chevron House, which stands on a site with a remaining lease of about 81 years.

CapitaLand said in its release last week that the completion date for the deal is Sept 24, and that upon completion, it will recognise in its group consolidated accounts a gain of about $150.8 million.

CapitaLand also owns a 50 per cent stake in neighbouring Hitachi Tower, where an exclusivity period has been granted to a potential buyer to conduct due diligence after discussions with the previous top bidder hit some snags, BT understands.

If the latest negotiations for the 999-year leasehold Hitachi Tower succeed, a new benchmark price is expected to be achieved for a Singapore office block.

Annuity Scheme Must Factor In Inflation

Source : The Straits Times, Forum, Sep 6, 2007

Initially I considered the compulsory annuity scheme beyond the age of 85 to be very unfair. But I have begun to understand and appreciate the need to do something for those who run out of money after reaching 85.

The way the longevity risk sinks in an annuity is the opposite of a term life insurance policy. Both offer risk reduction - one against loss of income for the family when someone dies, the other against loss of income when one lives and runs out of money.

The idea of compulsory annuity with a small sum deducted from the CPF accounts is to form a collective pool of funds against longevity risks.

This is fair because it covers all members, on top of other insurance policies. The benefits are for those who live longest, which could be any of us. We need to create the pool first for our ageing population.

But I wonder what we will be able to buy with $300 if we reach the ages of 85, 90 or beyond.

Will $300 have the same purchasing power it does now in 2038?

What if a bowl of wanton noodle were to cost $10, rice $3.50 a kilogram and a short bus fare $5 by then?

After all, in the early 1950s, a bowl of wanton mee cost 30 cents, rice cost 30c and a short bus fare, 5c - compared to $3, $1.50 and 60c respectively today.

Moreover, will the proposed $300 quantum be enough for old folks with illnesses three decades down the road?

If the annuity scheme is run as a non-profit independent statutory board and not as a commercial outfit, the funds will snowball year by year to enhance the payout to meet inflationary factors.

Then those who live beyond 85 in the 2040s can then look forward to celebrating their golden years in comfort and security.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi

Consider Making CPF Annuity An Opt-In Plan

Source : The Straits Times, Forum, Sep 6, 2007

I AM happy the Government is looking beyond our current needs when it proposed the idea of a CPF annuity. While the intention is good, the execution can be further improved.

Rather than make it compulsory, the authorities may want to consider the following suggestions:

Adopt an opt-in scheme for Singaporeans. For each dollar Singaporeans put into the annuity scheme, the Government will fork out an equivalent amount (or a certain percentage) which is contributed to the annuity.

When the individual dies, the balance of the annuity paid by the individual goes automatically to his next of kin. For those who are single or do not have children, the balance is channelled into a common pool. Those who are better off can opt in to channel the balance of their annuity to the common pool as well. The portion contributed by the Government also goes into the common pool to be shared.

In this way, Singaporeans can be rewarded for their hard-earned contribution to the country's reserves. We all accept that our reserves are meant for a rainy day as Singapore has no natural resources. We also note that when our reserves are invested for growth, it may mean some unexpected loss.

Another way to invest our reserves is to carve out part as an expense to jump-start a worthy cause - a caring scheme for those who have contributed to the progress of Singapore.

I believe this scheme will help the masses. I hope the authorities will consider it as a win-win solution to further this worthy cause.

Yeo Kim Gek (Ms)