Friday, September 14, 2007

New Flats Under DBSS To Be Built At Boon Keng

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 14 September 2007

The latest flats under the HDB Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) were unveiled on Friday.

The three 40-storey public housing blocks to be developed will be located at Boon Keng, minutes away by MRT from the Dhoby Ghaut interchange.

The apartments, with a panoramic view of the city, will come with built-in wardrobes, kitchen cabinets, and air-conditioning in the entire house.

Most of the five-room units will also have balconies with plants outside the living and dining area, in line with the "garden in the sky" concept.

The project is expected to be launched next January, but the developers have not determined the pricing of the units.

The DBSS allows private developers to be responsible for the entire flow of the public housing development process.

The project at Boon Keng will be developed by a consortium comprising Hoi Hup Realty, Oriental Worldwide Investments, and Malaysian conglomerate Sunway Concrete Products. - CNA/ms

Greenspan Says Critics 'Mistaken', Defends His Fed Policies

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 14 September 2007

NEW YORK : Former Federal Reserve chief Alan Greenspan says he had few tools to contain the spread of sub-prime mortgages, and dismisses critics who blame the Fed for keeping interest rates too low.

In the text of an interview released on Thursday, Greenspan said he failed to realise the importance of the sub-prime loan problems "until very late in 2005 and 2006," as he was preparing to step down as Fed chairman, but that in any case he could not have stopped them.

Greenspan, in the interview with CBS television, noted that one of the Federal Reserve governors raised a red flag on those lending practices, but that there was little he could do.

"Well, it was nothing to look into particularly because we knew there was a number of such practices going on, but it's very difficult for banking regulators to deal with that," says Greenspan.

Many of the sub-prime loans, often made to people with shaky credit, were made outside the banking system. The high rate of failure of these adjustable-rate loans is blamed for the financial market turmoil and recent squeeze in credit markets.

Greenspan, in his first US media interview since stepping down in January 2006, said his successor Ben Bernanke "is doing an excellent job."

He also took a swipe at critics who argue that his move to slash the federal funds rate to as low as one percent fuelled too much speculation, and contributed to the housing collapse and current economic turmoil.

"They are mistaken," Greenspan said in remarks to be broadcast on the "60 Minutes" programme on Sunday.

"It was our job to unfreeze the American banking system if we wanted the economy to function. This required that we keep rates modestly low."

On Bernanke, Greenspan said he endorsed the current Fed chairman's tougher monetary policy stand, saying the current situation is not the same as when he began cutting rates.

"We were dealing in an environment back there where inflation was easing," he said.

"We could have acted without the fear of stoking inflationary pressures. You can't do that anymore. I'm not certain I would have done anything different" thank Bernanke under the current circumstances. - AFP/de

Annuity Concept Must Be Discussed Before Industry Develops Plans

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 14 September 2007

The concept of an annuity needs to be discussed further before the industry can come up with specific plans, according to the minister in charge of ageing issues, Lim Boon Heng.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of an event this afternoon, Mr Lim said the government is still working on the scheme.

More details on the compulsory annuity will be released when Parliament sits on Monday (17 September).

So far, what is known about the scheme is that it will be compulsory for Singaporeans to buy annuities when they turn 55 and only those with chronic diseases may be excluded. - CNA/vm

Greenspan Didn't See Sub-Prime Storm Brewing

Source : The Business Times, September 14, 2007

The CBS '60 Minutes' interview with Mr Greenspan is scheduled for broadcast on Sunday at 7pm (2300 GMT)

WASHINGTON - Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said he was late to see the storm gathering around US mortgage lending practices and commended his successor Ben Bernanke's handling of the crisis, saying he would likely be responding in a similar fashion.

'I think he is doing an excellent job,' Mr Greenspan said of Mr Bernanke in a television interview scheduled to air on Sunday.

Mr Greenspan was asked if he would lower interest rates as dramatically and quickly now as he did just ahead of, during and in the wake of the 2001 recession, according to excerpts of the CBS '60 Minutes' interview released on Thursday.

'I'm not sure that's true,' he said. 'We were dealing with an environment back then when inflation was easing. We could have acted without the fear of stoking inflationary pressures.'

'You can't do that anymore. ... I'm not sure I would have done anything different (if chairman today),' he added.

The comments from Mr Greenspan, who was tested early in his tenure by the October 1987 stock market crash, come as Mr Bernanke's skills are challenged by rising defaults in the US sub-prime mortgage market, which caters to risky borrowers, and a related global credit squeeze.

Mr Bernanke's Fed has come under fire from some quarters for not acknowledging quickly enough how deeply the current crisis could harm the economy or responding aggressively enough to keep the US expansion on track. Some analysts have speculated that Mr Greenspan would have acted more swiftly.

Mr Bernanke and his colleagues meet on Tuesday. They are widely expected to lower benchmark overnight interest rates, which the Fed has held at 5.25 per cent since June 2006, by at least a quarter-percentage point.

The Greenspan interview - on the No 1 US news program with an average 13.2 million viewers - is the first in a series of public appearances the former Fed chairman is making to publicise his memoir, 'The Age of Turbulence', which is being released on Monday.

The '60 Minutes' interview is scheduled for broadcast on Sunday at 7pm (2300 GMT). -- REUTERS

Bernanke To Testify To House Panel On Sept 20

Source : The Business Times, September 14, 2007

Alphonso Jackson is also slated to take part in the panel titled Legislative and Regulatory Options for Minimising and Mitigating Mortgage Foreclosures

WASHINGTON - Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is scheduled to testify before the US House of Representatives' Financial Services Committee on Sept 20 along with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, the committee announced on Thursday.

The hearing will examine steps President George W Bush proposed in late August intended to help homeowners avoid defaulting on mortgages and 'review other options for assisting homeowners at risk of foreclosure', the committee said in a statement.

Alphonso Jackson, who heads the Department of Housing and Urban Development, is also slated to take part in the panel titled Legislative and Regulatory Options for Minimising and Mitigating Mortgage Foreclosures, according to the announcement.

The hearing will be held at 10am.

The hearing follows by two days a Fed policy-setting meeting at which the central bank is widely expected to lower benchmark US interest rates by at least a quarter-percentage point.

Consumer advocates and industry representatives will also take part in the hearing, according to the committee's announcement. -- REUTERS

Medisave Meant To Meet Medical Needs

Source : The Straits Times, Forum, Sep 14, 2007

I REFER to the letter, 'Allow Medisave payment for DPS annual premium' (ST, Sept8), by Mr David Soh, suggesting that CPF members be allowed to use their Medisave savings to pay annual premiums for the Dependants' Protection Scheme (DPS).

Currently, Central Provident Fund (CPF) members can use savings in their Ordinary Account to pay premiums for the DPS, a term life insurance scheme. Members should not consume their

Medisave savings for this purpose as Medisave is primarily meant to cater to their medical needs, including MediShield and ElderShield.

As Singaporeans live longer and the need for medical expenses is expected to rise as they grow older, it is important that CPF members preserve their Medisave savings to meet this need.

Chang Long Kiat
Director (Housing and Health-care)
CPF Board

CPF Changes Up For Debate In Parliament

Source : The Straits Times, Sep 14, 2007

CHANGES to the Central Provident Fund (CPF) system will be the main topic of debate in Parliament from Monday when Manpower Minister Ng Eng Hen gives details of proposed changes.

Wide-ranging amendments to the Penal Code, which governs most criminal offences here, will also be tabled at next week's sitting, as will a proposed piece of legislation on preventing terrorist bombings.

As these two sets of amendments are only being introduced, or in Parliament parlance, going through their 'first reading', they will be debated only at a later date.

Changes to the CPF to prepare for a greying population were first outlined by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his National Day Rally speech last month.

The CPF measures are meant to ensure that people have enough for old age even as lifespans go up.

Among other things, members will get higher returns of up to one percentage point more on their savings.

The draw-down age for the Minimum Sum will also be postponed from 62 to 63 in 2012, and gradually raised to 65 by 2018.

The Minimum Sum is the amount people must keep in their Retirement Accounts after withdrawing their CPF at age 55.

CPF members now get a monthly payout from the Minimum Sum at age 62, for up to 20 years.

But the change likely to attract intense scrutiny is some form of compulsory annuity for members now below 50.

MPs say the annuity is perceived negatively at dialogues with residents.

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

Second Batch Of Privately-Built HDB Flats To Be Built at Boon Keng Road

Source : The Straits Times, Sep 14, 2007

THE second batch of HDB flats to be built by private developers will rise 40 storeys high in Boon Keng Road by 2011.

Comprising 714 flats - out of which 474 will be five-room flats - the homes will come with built-in wardrobes, bay windows, as well as air-conditioning in bedrooms and living rooms.

A consortium led by local developer Hoi Hup Realty, Hoi Hup Sunway Development, unveiled the design of the three towers on Friday as the site for the project was officially handed over to it by the Housing Board.

A total of 18 flats on the top floors of the three blocks will have a higher than normal ceilings in their living and dining area. Prices of units have not been determined.

The project is expected to be launched in January.

Circle Line MRT Facing Delays As Costs Increase

Source : The Straits Times, Sep 14, 2007

The LTA would not be pinned down on the exact date of opening nor the eventual cost of the line, but admitted that tougher engineering and design requirements after the Nicoll Highway tragedy will add to cost. -- ST PHOTO: MUGILAN RAJASEGERAN

THE Circle Line MRT project could take up to 2012 to complete, and the escalated
cost of sand and granite will inflate the $6.8 billion budget.

"We have decided to compensate the contractors for 75 per cent of the cost increase in sand and aggregate," Land Transport Authority deputy chief executive Lim Bok Ngam said.

He said he does not expect the higher cost in the two raw materials to push the Circle Line budget beyond a single-digit percentage, as "concrete works make up only 20-30 per cent of total cost".

But Mr Lim said additional costs from more stringent design and engineering requirements after the Nicoll Highway accident in 2004 "have not been worked out".

For instance, the Farrer Road Station being built now has retaining walls that are 1.2m thick - 50 per cent thicker than the failed walls at the Nicoll Highway station.

Even so, it had so many steel struts holding the walls in place that it was impossible to see right to the bottom of the excavation.

The LTA said this is because the station is very close to HDB blocks on one side and a major road (Farrer Road) on the other.

The LTA would not be pinned down on the exact date of opening nor the eventual cost of the line, but admitted that tougher engineering and design requirements after the Nicoll Highway tragedy will add to cost.

But at a progress report on Friday, it indicated that a stretch measuring about 8km - with seven stations between MacPherson and Marymount - was in advance stages of completion.

And the Circle Line's train depot is along this stretch (at Kim Chuan), it is feasible to open it, as early as first-half 2010.

Mr Lim said this stretch should be ready by 2010 Stage 3 - a 5.7km stretch linking Bartley to Marymount.

Related Video Link -
Circle Line completion may take till 2012

Overall works for the Circle Line is on track, and LTA officials say it could take up to 2012 for the line to be ready.

The 2004 Nicoll Highway Collapse, and the recent Indonesian sand ban and increased levies on granite, had slowed down some aspect of the construction of the 33km Circle Line.

And this has also added some costs to the $6.8 billion project.

Melissa Kok takes a trip down to the Botanic Gardens and Farrer Road stations to check out the work in progress.

Greenspan Says He Didn't See Subprime Storm Brewing

Source : The Business Times, Sep 14, 2007

WASHINGTON - FORMER Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said he was late to see the storm gathering around United States mortgage lending practices and commended his successor Ben Bernanke's handling of the crisis, saying he would likely be responding in a similar fashion.

'I think he is doing an excellent job,' Mr Greenspan said of Mr Bernanke in a television interview scheduled to air on Sunday.

Mr Greenspan was asked if he would lower interest rates as dramatically and quickly now as he did just ahead of, during and in the wake of the 2001 recession, according to excerpts of the CBS 60 Minutes interview released on Thursday.

'I'm not sure that's true,' he said. 'We were dealing with an environment back then when inflation was easing. We could have acted without the fear of stoking inflationary pressures.'

'You can't do that anymore. ... I'm not sure I would have done anything different (if chairman today),' he added.

The comments from Mr Greenspan, who was tested early in his tenure by the October 1987 stock market crash, come as Mr Bernanke's skills are challenged by rising defaults in the US subprime mortgage market, which caters to risky borrowers, and a related global credit squeeze.

Mr Bernanke's Fed has come under fire from some quarters for not acknowledging quickly enough how deeply the current crisis could harm the economy or responding aggressively enough to keep the US expansion on track. Some analysts have speculated that Mr Greenspan would have acted more swiftly.

Mr Bernanke and his colleagues meet on Tuesday. They are widely expected to lower benchmark overnight interest rates, which the Fed has held at 5.25 per cent since June 2006, by at least a quarter-percentage point.

Mr Bernanke had justified holding rates at that level despite some clamouring in markets for lower borrowing costs, on the grounds that inflation has remained troublingly high and needed to recede first.

Only in recent weeks, as credit stress mounted in financial markets and it became clear a housing recovery was a long ways off, have Fed officials suggested that worries about growth have supplanted long-standing concerns on inflation. -- REUTERS

Borrowing At Fed's Discount Window Increases

Source : The Straits Times, Sep 14, 2007

WASHINGTON - BANKS increased their borrowing from the Federal Reserve this week, pushing the one-day level to the highest point since the day following the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The Fed reported on Thursday that direct borrowing by commercial banks from the Fed totaled US$7.15 billion (S$10.8 billion) in primary credit on Wednesday.

That was the highest one-day total since the Fed loaned US$45.5 billion on Sept 12, 2001, the day following the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

The daily average borrowing from the Fed for the week ending Wednesday totaled US$2.93 billion, an increase of US$1.83 billion from the average for the previous week.

Both figures were higher than had been expected and indicated that the strains from the credit crisis that hit full-force last month were continuing, analysts said.

'This is a much-higher borrowing total than expected and it is probably a sign that the credit crisis, while it may be moderating slightly, is far from over,' said David Jones, head of DMJ Advisors, a Colorado-based economic forecasting firm.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, meeting with executives of the top US mortgage companies on Wednesday, said that it would take some time before the turbulence that hit financial markets last month is resolved, especially as it relates to subprime mortgages.

But, he said, 'we are already seeing some signs of improvements in a number of markets that have been experiencing stress'.

Mr Paulson did not elaborate, but a separate Fed report on Thursday showed that the amount of short-term borrowing by companies in the form of commercial paper fell by a much smaller amount this week than in the previous four weeks.

The discount window is the way the central bank provides direct loans to banks. The Fed on Aug. 17 announced it was cutting the interest it charges banks to make direct loans by a half-percentage point.

It has been the most dramatic move the central bank has made to signal that it was prepared to do what was necessary to contain the fallout from the credit crisis that began with rising delinquencies in subprime mortgages but has now spread to other types of loans.

Mr Jones said he expected the Fed to go further and begin cutting the more economically important federal funds rate next Tuesday at the Fed's regularly scheduled meeting.

A cut in the funds rate, which has been at 5.25 per c ent for a year, would immediately trigger declines in banks' prime lending rate, the benchmark for millions of consumer and business loans. -- AP

S'pore Housing Market Heads For Correction

Source : The Straits Times, Sep 14, 2007

Private home prices, which have surged to decade highs in the past 40 months, are holding for now, but analysts say the market is increasingly vulnerable to a sudden downturn in sentiment. -- PHOTO: BT

SINGAPORE'S housing market - which has seen prices skyrocket amid frenzied buying - is heading for a correction, as analysts predict a building boom could flood the city-state with new homes by 2009.

Private home prices, which have surged to decade highs in the past 40 months, are holding for now, but analysts say the market is increasingly vulnerable to a sudden downturn in sentiment.

Global property investor LaSalle Investment Management, which has US$6 billion (S$9 billion) of real estate assets in Asia, says Singapore residential property is 'fully priced' and will consolidate before appreciating any further.

'By global standards, Singapore luxury apartments are very expensive. At some point, affordability and common sense have to come in,' said Jack Chandler, LaSalle Investment Asia-Pacific Chief Executive Officer.

Property developers and agents say fewer deals were struck last month, slowing a buying frenzy that saw people queue overnight for some projects and that pushed Singapore real estate price gains past those of regional rivals such as Hong Kong.

'A correction is going to take place. The question is: how severe?' said Winston Liew, analyst at OCBC Investment Research.

Singapore luxury homes fetched an average $16,743 per square metre (psm) in June, up 52 per cent from a year ago, against Hong Kong's 13 per cent rise in capital values to $18,286 psm.

Those who bought property as a sure-fire investment are fretting.

'I'm nervous because I don't expect prices to rise anytime soon. The signals aren't good,' said Charles Wong, who paid S$1.1 million (US$728,000) for a one-bedroom downtown apartment in April.

Excess supply
Housing supply has been tight as developers tore down old developments to replace them with newer properties, pushing thousands of displaced homeowners back to the market.

According to Jones Lang LaSalle, some 3,876 private apartments will be demolished this year - more than the 3,295 new homes expected to come on to the market.

These 'en bloc' deals - where entire housing estates are knocked down - have slowed since the government tightened rules on them. Collective home sales totalled S$11 billion in the first seven months this year but dropped to S$783 million in August.

Property market sentiment has been supported by Singapore's long-term goal to boost the island's population to 6.5 million from 4.5 million, but analysts forecast a glut of new homes from end-2008.

'In terms of actual occupants, there will be excess supply by 2009,' said Jones Lang LaSalle Head of Research Chua Yang Liang.

He estimates there will be 11,975 new private apartments available in 2009 - nearly four times the number expected this year and double the anticipated amount in 2008.

Car garages in the sky
At least four out of five Singaporeans live in state-subsidised high-rise flats, leaving the private home market dependent on upper-income residents and foreigners.

Investment firm Emirates Tarian Capital is betting these foreign investors, who comprise nearly half the buyers in most projects, will focus increasingly on high-end homes.

'Demand is going to be selective and for branded, quality projects where the quantity is limited,' said Kunalan Sivapuniam, managing partner of the firm, which is investing in two high-rises including one 30-storey block equipped with individual lifts to bring owners' cars up to each apartment.

Developers, who usually sell their projects in stages, have held off launching their units for sale in recent weeks.

'If we feel the market is slowing, we're not going to push the project only to have buyers back out later,' Cheng Wai Keung, chairman of luxury home builder Wing Tai Holdings said.

Crunch time
Analysts say a global credit crunch could constrain Singapore property firms' ability to offer liberal repayment schemes that allow buyers to make a 10 to 20 per cent deposit and delay the bulk of payment until the property nears completion.

These 'deferred payment' plans, introduced after a property slump in 2001, have been key to driving market growth, with up to 90 per cent of buyers in some projects opting for them.

In July, the central bank warned that delayed payments plans posed 'additional risks' to developers and their banks because of the possibility of default. Those risks have only grown with the US mortgage crisis.

'If the cost of capital rises, smaller developers will find it harder to offer deferred payment schemes,' said an analyst.

Singapore's biggest developer CapitaLand said it would continue to offer such schemes 'where appropriate'.

CapitaLand, City Developments and Keppel Land have posted strong second-quarter profits, driven by strong contributions from their Singapore businesses.

They should, however, be largely protected against a fall in housing prices as most have diversified into office property and housing developments outside Singapore. CapitaLand, for example, earns up to 80 per cent of its profit overseas.

'Major developers have lower gearing, sufficient cash or unutilised credit lines to prevent a squeeze,' wrote Deutsche Bank strategist Gregory Lui in a recent report. -- REUTERS

Architect Speaks Out : ‘What Are They Doing To My Buildings?’

Source : The Straits Times, 14 Sept 2007

In the redevelopment wave that is sweeping the country, one group has been looking on in horror as its work and a part of Singapore’s identity is slowly being demolished. JEREMY AU YONG talks to three veteran architects, who speak out against what they consider to be the dirtiest of words: ‘EN BLOC’

IT USED to be that Mr Victor Chew could not drive past Cairnhill Circle, Holland Road or Orchard Road without getting hot under the collar.

‘I’d start uttering four-letter words,’ says the 80-year-old architect.

But he was not swearing at traffic. Rather, it was buildings - or what’s left of them - that made him fume.

Mr Chew, who belongs to Singapore’s first generation of architects, believes he did some of his best work in those areas.

In Cairnhill, he designed Hilltops Apartments which, when completed in the 1960s, was a 17-storey residential building at a time when most apartments stopped at four floors.

In Holland Road, he designed the Holland Road Apartments, a block of walk-ups that stood on pillars called pilotis. Built before independence, these were, as Mr Chew describes, ‘the first void decks in Singapore’.

At the top end of Orchard Road, he designed Ming Court Hotel, which in the 1970s was one of the city’s most recognisable hotels.

Today, to Mr Chew’s four-lettered dismay, barely a trace of his work is left.

Ming Court Hotel, later renamed Orchard Parade Hotel, was refurbished in 1998, resulting in a new facade and a new terracotta colour scheme.

The other two - Hilltops Apartments and Holland Road Apartments - had their date with the wrecking ball, thanks to that now all-too-familiar mechanism: the collective sale.

‘When it hurts the most, it’s not because of the beauty of the building. That part is just vanity.

‘It hurts when the building was significant, when it led the way to other buildings in Singapore,’ says Mr Chew.

Yet, by no means is he the only one to have seen his work crumbling into dust in the current property market boom.

In the long-running debate over Singapore’s strategy of redeveloping sites through collective sales, one voice tends to be unheard - that of the architects.

More specifically, the generation of veteran architects who shaped the country’s skyline in the early days, but are now resigned to watch helplessly as their work is wiped out en bloc by en bloc.

While accepting that renewal is inevitable in land-scarce Singapore, they make a call for a rethink of how buildings are redeveloped and the pace of such changes.
The concern is that what is being swept aside is not just a few architects’ legacies, but more significantly, a country’s memories, identity and history.

It is a part of history that architect Timothy Seow calls a ‘Singapore built by Singaporeans’.

He says: ‘Before independence, you had colonial buildings designed and built by the British architects. The formative post-colonial years of the 1960s ushered in an era where a majority of projects were designed by home-bred architects.

‘Following which…there was an influx of foreign architects into the local scene, with the local architects playing the secondary roles.’

It is a view shared by the younger generation of architects.

Says architectural designer Eugene Lim, 28: ‘Of late, you definitely see more foreign architects at the concept stage, with the local ones doing the implementation.

‘I’d like to see local guys given more credit than they are getting.’

Says Dr Seow: ‘It was a short period (when local architects’ work dominated) and it would be a pity if the projects from the 1960s were wiped out. But in a few years, it will be all gone.’

Dr Seow, managing director of CPG-Timothy Seow Studio, is possibly one of the hardest hit, since much of his early work was in condominiums.

Horizon View, Futura, Beverly Mai, Westwood, Maxima, Belle Vue and Oxley Rise are all his projects, and all are either sold or in talks for sale.

Until the sale fell through on a technicality recently, Horizon Towers in Leonie Hill was also on that list.

Of the lot, Beverly Mai ranks among Dr Seow’s favourites. For one, it is widely credited as being the first condominium in Singapore.

It was the first to have shared facilities, first with maisonettes, and the first to have units with no party walls (walls shared by two units).

Ironically, it was also one of the first to be sold.

Architect William Lim, 75, says he has lost count of the number of buildings he designed that have been destroyed.

Unlike the other two men though, his jewel in the crown, Golden Mile Complex in Bras Basah, is still standing.

For now, that is.

Some owners of the mixed development have lobbied for a collective sale, though it is far from a done deal.

The long- time opponent of Singapore’s urban renewal strategy feels Singapore is now at a critical juncture if it is to rescue any of the country’s architectural heritage or, for that matter, its memories.

‘With the aggressive collective sales, Singapore will soon lose most of its post-war buildings. This is our last chance to do anything about it,’ he says.

The Government also appears concerned with the en bloc wave, though perhaps not for the same reasons that upset the architects to whom Insight spoke.

Last month, a raft of changes were introduced in Parliament to legislation that governs collective sales.

They would give home owners more say and make the entire process more transparent.

Real estate analysts also expect the rule changes - when they kick in - to slow down the boom.

As it is, the collective sales market has been pushing on full tilt. According to figures compiled by Credo Real Estate, there were a total of 62 collective sales worth about $11.86 billion in the first seven months of this year.

That works out to an average of nine buildings slated for demolition a month, or more than one a week.

An architect like Mr Chew would, in his lifetime, work on around 30 buildings, most of which are private houses.

‘Take away about a dozen or so houses and in the end I think only four or five have any real significance,’ he says.

At its peak, the en bloc wave could theoretically wipe out the life’s work of two Victor Chews a month.

‘The way things are going now is pure madness,’ he says.

‘I don’t think people understand what they are doing. They see the big money and they sell but they don’t know what they are losing.

‘In Hilltops, no unit looked into another. Now they are going to build twice the number of units. Are people going to get the same thing even if they bought a unit back there?’

Whether the legislation changes will be enough remains to be seen.

Mr William Lim says that the system currently is weighed unfairly in favour of those who want to redevelop a site and home owners who want to sell.

And what has to make way is collective memories.

‘The Red House Bakery in Katong, the National Theatre - these may not be fantastic examples of architecture but they said something to the people,’ he says.

‘But there is no respect for the memories of the invisible public. We even destroy cemeteries. If you ask me, a cemetery is more important than Golden Mile.’

The recent proposed changes to en bloc legislation may make it harder for deals to go through, but the veteran architects are calling for a more formalised structure for conservation.

Says Mr Chew: ‘Right now we seem to be interested in only gazetting buildings built before independence. But that’s not us.

‘It’s like Australia preserving only buildings by the Aborigines.’

What he would like to see is each building being examined to determine its value.

‘And I cannot accept something like Chijmes as a conservation project. You must understand what the building meant to the people before. It’s like turning the old Supreme Court into a food court.’

Mr William Lim would like to see the Preservation of Monuments Board and Singapore Heritage Society play larger roles.

‘I know they have lists of buildings worth preserving. They could make these lists public and maybe the Government can pass a law to say that these buildings should be exempt from collective sale,’ he says.

Dr Seow, in turn, would like the opportunity to upgrade his buildings.

‘Honestly, a lot of my buildings are now 30 to 40 years old. These buildings have set a trend for the present-day condominiums in Singapore…These are well-designed buildings which, if given a chance to be upgraded, would still be able to take on a new look that is relevant to the times.’

Yet for all their impassioned pleas to save buildings, there seems in each one of the three architects a palpable sense of resignation.

‘When someone dear dies, one invariably feels sad but one still has to get on with life. Living in this current climate, one has no choice,’Dr Seow says.

Mr Chew adds: ‘Time marches on and something must give way. What can you do?

‘For creative people, you want to create something timeless. Authors want to be Shakespeare. But can you be Shakespeare in Singapore?

‘I’m retired now and my legacy is in rubble.’

Marina South : New Choice Area For Homes

Source : The Straits Times, Sep 14, 2007

60ha site earmarked for 'waterfront-garden living'; design contest seeks fresh ideas

THE Government yesterday earmarked a giant 60ha site right on the coast at Marina South for what it bills as 'waterfront-garden living' in the heart of the city.

The site, not far from the upcoming Marina Bay Sands integrated resort, is already being touted as Singapore's future No.1 residential hot spot by property analysts.

The Marina South Residential District has spectacular sea views in one direction and lush greenery in the other, as it is right next to the upcoming Garden at Marina South.

Up to 11,000 homes are expected to be built in the district, which will also boast shopping malls, hotels, parks and schools.

The site will have roughly the same number of units as District 11, which covers Newton, Novena and Thomson.

To garner fresh, innovative ideas as inspiration for its development, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and the Singapore Institute of Architects yesterday launched a design competition for the site.

This is a first in the planning for residential districts, said URA yesterday. The competition calls on budding student and professional architects alike - local and foreign - to design a mini-city based on the experience of living in a waterfront garden.

It must also be distinctive, eco-friendly, and promote a strong sense of community.

The institute's president Tai Lee Siang, one of the judges, told The Straits Times that 'now is the perfect time to explore...ideas that have never been seen or tested here before'.

Yesterday's announcement also marks a new chapter for Marina South.

The site is now home to SuperBowl Marina South and Victor's Superbowl, along with seafood restaurants and wide open spaces.

These buildings will eventually have to make way for the new residential district.

Guidelines from the competition brief, available on the institute's website gives the project's gross floor area as 1.5 million sq m and a gross plot ratio of five.

This sets the scene for high-rise, high-density housing, typical of the 50-storey public housing at the Pinnacle@Duxton and the 70-storey apartments at The Sail@Marina Bay, said property analysts.

It will cater to Singaporeans' growing appetite for high-rise apartments with stunning views. Property analysts anticipate that demand for the site will be red-hot, if the economy remains robust.

'This has all the makings to be Singapore's number one residential hot spot,' said Colliers International's director for research and consultancy Tay Huey Ying.

When asked if any public housing will be built in the district, URA said detailed plans have not been finalised - but property consultants said this was very unlikely.

URA added that the project's implementation will be decided when plans are finalised. It expects the district to be developed over a 15- to 20-year period.

The closing date for the competition is Nov 12. Up to 10 of the best ideas will be selected to share a cash prize of $50,000. The winning entries will be announced during the Singapore Design Festival 2007 in November.

Another Dozen Gulf Investors Buy Into IB Asia

Source : The Business Times, September 14, 2007

List of shareholders published by DBS includes prominent people in GCC

DBS Bank said yesterday that another dozen Gulf investors have bought stakes in its subsidiary, the Islamic Bank of Asia (IB Asia), raising its paid-up capital to US$500 million.

DBS also published a list of IB Asia's other shareholders, including prominent individuals, families and industrial groups - mostly privately held - from the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries in the Middle East. About half of them come from Saudi Arabia or Bahrain, and they have interests in a broad range of businesses, including agriculture, construction, steel fabrication and telecommunications.

DBS now holds a majority stake of 50 per cent plus one share in IB Asia, with the remainder shared between 34 GCC investors, none of whom owns more than a 5 per cent stake.

IB Asia chief executive Vince Cook said the bank's 'unique shareholding structure' would give it access to the GCC network and DBS' expertise in Asia.

IB Asia was launched in May as Singapore's first Islamic bank, with an initial capital of US$418 million - US$250 million from DBS and the rest from 22 GCC investors.

At the time, DBS Group chief executive Jackson Tai, who is IB Asia's vice-chairman, said IB Asia would act as a bridge for growing capital flows between Asia and the Middle East.

Related Link -
DBS Group's News Release

Since then, the bank has doubled its manpower and is 'on track' to meet its targeted 50-60 hirings by the end of the year, Mr Cook said.

Among the GCC investors is IB Asia's chairman, Abdulla Hasan Saif, who is also economic affairs adviser to the Prime Minister of Bahrain.

Two others on IB Asia's nine-member board are also linked to its GCC shareholders.

Khalid Abdulla Al-Bassam, one of its directors, is chairman of Bahrain's Al-Bassam Investment Co, another of IB Asia's shareholders. He also sits on the boards of several other companies, including the Bahrain Islamic Bank.

The third director from the GCC on IB Asia's board, Khalid Abdullah Al-Zamil, is a director and partner of the Zamil Group in Saudi Arabia, which also has a stake in IB Asia. He is one of 12 brothers who make up the board of Zamil Group, which has industrial and commercial interests in more than 55 countries.

Other prominent names among the GCC investors are Michael Patrick Lee, the CEO of Bahrain's Ithmaar Bank; and Prince Talal bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud & Sons Group Holding Co, which is controlled by the Saudi royal family.

From the United Arab Emirates (UAE), there is Dubai Investments, a public-listed investment company with more than 250,000 shareholders, including the Dubai government and the National Bank of Dubai.

From Kuwait, there is M A Al-Kharafi & Sons, a family-owned conglomerate whose interests include construction, real estate, and food. The Kharafi family was ranked No 52 on this year's Forbes list of the world's richest people, with an estimated net worth of US$11.5 billion.

And from Oman, there is the Suhail Bahwan Group, another conglomerate with diverse business interests, which has more than 10,000 employees.

Singapore To Be Lippo's Springboard To Asia

Source : The Business Times, September 14, 2007

Group in expansion mode to make Republic its international HQ

A red-letter day: Mr Riady, seen here with Ms Ho , was made an honorary Doctor of Letters by La Trobe University for contributions to education

(SINGAPORE) The Lippo Group will use Singapore as its international headquarters as it grows its presence in Asia, Chief Executive Mr James Riady told BT in an interview.

Right now, about 70 per cent of the group's assets are in Indonesia, but the figure could fall to around 50 per cent in a few years' time as the group expands in the rest of Asia, Mr Riady said. Mr Riady was in Singapore on Wednesday to receive an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Australia-based La Trobe University, which held one of its graduation ceremonies here.

'I think our perspective is now more Asian, and Singapore provides a good base for us to open up in markets across Asia,' he said.

He identified China as a big market for the group going forward. In South-east Asia, Lippo is looking at Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, he said.

But going forward, the bulk of Lippo's economic base will continue to be in Indonesia, Mr Riady said. Right now, the group has about 70 per cent of its assets in Indonesia, while Singapore accounts for another 15 per cent.

In Singapore, Lippo will continue to grow its property, retail and food businesses, he said. Lippo bought a stake in historic Singapore retailer Robinson last year and also has a majority stake in Auric Pacific, a Singapore-listed food and property company.

Opportunities for property investments are going to be harder to come by in future compared to the past few years, said Mr Riady.

'I suspect that while the opportunities will still come up, they will not be as many, as the supply (of sites) will not be as much as during the last three years,' he said.

Lippo will therefore not 'expand for the sake of expanding', instead, it will 'intensify' what businesses it already has here. For one, the company will look to build up its brand name in Singapore, he added.

Mr Riady received his honorary degree from La Trobe for his accomplishments as a global business leader and education advocate. As chairman of the Pelita Harapan Educational Foundation in Indonesia, Mr Riady has helped set up 18 schools and three universities in Indonesia.

Also, the foundation set up a teacher training college to produce qualified teachers four years ago. And every year, it gives out 500 full scholarships to teachers for the college. The first batch of 500 teachers will graduate in May next year.

As the 'education centre' of South-east Asia, it is Singapore's duty to raise awareness of the importance of education, Mr Riady said.

At Wednesday's ceremony, close to 100 La Trobe students graduated. Present at the event were Temasek Holdings Executive Director Ms Ho Ching, who was the guest-of-honour, the university's vice-chancellor Paul Johnson and Murli Thadani, director of La Trobe's international arm.

When Central Banks Blink In A Crisis

Source : The Business Times, September 14, 2007

The right number of banks that should fail when a credit bubble bursts may not be zero

'A FURTHER important cause for alarm was the danger that the troubles, if not solved, would be transmitted through a domino effect to the many other secondary banks which, with much vulnerable short-term borrowing and many assets tied up in the increasingly troubled property industry, were themselves showing signs of being at risk in the harsher new economic environment.'

Eyes on central banks: The European Central Bank (above) has kept monetary policy on hold last week. Traders and investors are betting the Fed will also blanch, with futures and options prices suggesting almost a 90 per cent chance of a US rate cut next week.

Sounds like an apt, if somewhat wordy, description of the current money-market crisis prompted by the collapse of the US sub-prime mortgage market, doesn't it?

Instead, the passage is lifted from The Secondary Banking Crisis, 1973-75 by Margaret Reid. The book describes how the collapse of a UK mortgage lender called Cedar Holdings triggered a crisis of confidence in the banking system, requiring a Bank of England bailout.

Many of the similarities between today's financial environment and the one prevailing more than three decades ago are striking - except for the part where the central bank rides to the rescue by strong-arming a posse into action.

Banking is essentially a confidence trick. Depositors have to be confident they can draw freely from their accounts. Retailers have to be confident swiping a rectangle of plastic in exchange for goods and services will produce a balance transfer in their favour. And the banks themselves have to be confident they and their peers have sufficient assets to meet their liabilities.

For now, that confidence has evaporated as hedge funds and structured investment vehicles and conduits - spawned while the credit-market party was hopping - come knocking at the door for handouts because the music has stopped.

And thus, the banking community wants the central banks to soothe its hangover and refill the punchbowl by cutting official interest rates.

It's far from certain that lower central-bank rates would unfreeze the money markets. Moreover, central bankers are probably willing to sacrifice smaller lenders so the pain is enough to make financiers more cautious about future investments, provided there's no threat to general stability.

The US Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank (ECB) have held special auctions to grease the wheels of commerce with extra cash. They have succeeded in driving the overnight rate for dollars down to about 5.18 per cent from as high as 5.96 per cent, and its euro counterpart to 4.15 per cent from 4.69 per cent.

Three-month rates, though, are stuck at a seven-year high of 5.7 per cent for dollars and a six-year high of 4.82 per cent for euros.

The Bank of England, by contrast, has been adamant that it won't rescue the money markets by accepting low-grade collateral, or by offering three-month cash.

Indeed, the Fed and the ECB were rebuked, albeit obliquely, by UK central bank governor Mervyn King for bailing out commercial banks.

'The provision of such liquidity support undermines the efficient pricing of risk by providing ex post insurance for risky behaviour,' Mr King said in a copy of testimony he plans to deliver to the UK Parliament's Treasury Committee on Sept 20. 'That encourages excessive risk-taking, and sows the seeds of a future financial crisis.'

Victoria Mortgage Funding Ltd, a UK company that lent about £pounds;300 million (S$918 million) in sub-prime mortgages to British borrowers, was placed into administration earlier this week, the UK equivalent of Chapter 11. Victoria couldn't secure enough funding to stay in business.

Current contagion

That's what should befall financial institutions that ignore the risk of a funding deficit and 'have borrowed short to lend long', as Mr King put it in his testimony. A central bank chief, though, would never be allowed to voice that axiom.

Mr King sounds determined to take advantage of the current contagion to try to extinguish the notion of a 'Greenspan put' or 'Bernanke put', the idea that central banks will always ride to the rescue.

The UK central-bank chief said helping commercial banks salvage their 'risky or reckless lending' is especially dangerous, because it 'encourages the view that as long as a bank takes the same sort of risks that other banks are taking then it is more likely that their liquidity problems will be insured ex post by the central bank'.

The ECB has already blinked, by keeping monetary policy on hold last week. Traders and investors are betting the Fed will also blanch, with futures and options prices suggesting almost a 90 per cent chance of a US rate cut next week.

The Bank of England's approach may be informed by its experience in underwriting the salvage operation that kept the UK financial system afloat more than 30 years ago.

In her 1982 book on the crisis, Ms Reid cites an unidentified commercial banker suggesting the big institutions did too much.

'If we had from the outset allowed two or three of the least respected names to collapse in a flurry of publicity with losses to their depositors, it would have served them right and would have acted like a quick piece of surgery on the City, cutting out the canker and enabling the rest of us to continue the more easily with our normal business,' the banker said.

The correct number of banks to fail when a credit bubble bursts is not zero. If the best way to avoid the mispricing of risk in future is to sacrifice some of the less-prudent lenders on the altar of liquidity, then let the culling commence.

That is especially the case if it erases the perception that central banks will always act as lenders of last resort, even to institutions that don't deserve to survive.

The writer is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are his own

Home Loan Crisis Will Have LImited Impact : IMF Economist

Source : TODAY, Friday, September 14, 2007

The home loan crisis will cause just a modest slowdown of the United States economy and have a limited impact on the rest of the world, the International Monetary Fund’s chief economist said on Wednesday.

“It’s an important wake-up call for all of us,” said Simon Johnson.

But he reiterated that the economic fundamentals remained good and that the effects of the sub-prime crisis on the real economy remained limited.

Islamic Bank Gets Fresh Capital

Source : TODAY, Friday, September 14, 2007

The Islamic Bank of Asia has boosted its capital to US$500 million ($755 million) from the current US$418 million.

With the capital increase, DBS Group Holdings now owns 50 per cent of the bank, down from 60 per cent previously.

DBS contributed US$250 million out of the first capital injection into the Islamic bank.

With the second closing, 12 investors have joined the current 22 Gulf-based families and companies that invested in the bank.

The Islamic Bank conducts its business according to Shariah, or Islamic law, and is seeking to establish itself as a bank that can bridge the needs of Asia and Gulfbased investors and borrowers.

CapitaLand Working With Partners To Develop Land In Japan

Source : TODAY, Friday, September 14, 2007

AS JAPANESE property prices edge up, CapitaLand may start developing real estate in the country.

Disclosing this yesterday, Mr Tan Lai Seng, director of CapitaLand Japan, pointed out: “The property market now is positive since the last 15 years of decline.”

“This year, it has increased substantially and the trend will improve for the subsequent year.

“We would like to move into development and hold some assets, because we think that in the long term, asset values in Japan would increase,” added Mr Tan,who is based in Japan.

He was in Singapore to speak at a seminar for investors organised by IE Singapore and the Japan External Trade Organisation.

CapitaLand, he said, is working with local partners to realise this vision. “We will probably target major cities for development like Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka, first.”

“In these major cities, land is difficult to secure and very competitive, so we are working with good partners to try and start these developments,” he explained. “Real estate is a long-term business and we are very bullish about Japan.”

So far, the tie-ups include Samty, an Osaka-based residential developer that develops properties with CapitaLand’s fund. CapitaLand also has a 5-per-cent stake in Samty valued at $21 million.

South-east Asia’s biggest developer by assets set up an office in Japan seven years ago. Since then, it has launched two private equity funds in 2005 worth $2.5 billion to invest in rental and retail property in Japan.

Is 85 A Practical Withdrawal Age?

Source : TODAY, Friday, September 14, 2007

Many may not live long enough to receive annuities


THE Government’s proposal to introduce compulsory annuity for all Central Provident Fund (CPF) members below the age of 55 is sound and good in principle.

I should know, because I currently get $306 a month from NTUC Income, having bought a $50,000 annuity six years ago, immediately after retirement.

The insurer will pay me a monthly sum plus a small yearly bonus until I die, which makes me feel secure and comfortable.

However, one drawback of the CPF’s compulsory annuity is the withdrawal age of 85. The average life expectancy of Singaporeans is now 80.

The Government expects that this will go up.

In spite of advances in medical science, I believe that many Singaporeans are still not convinced.

First, there is no research to show that the average life span will go up.

Second, we are living in a stressful society. With globalisation, the stress level will surely go up.

And stress could be a killer.

In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that 80 per cent of all illnesses are directly or indirectly caused by stress.

Third, the increasing pollution of air and contamination of food with excessive chemicals and preservatives are some of a number of factors which could affect our health and shorten our lives.

The recently-concluded Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit gave no avowed commitment to stop the growth of global greenhouse gas emissions; just a non-binding “aspirational” goal.

China’s manufacturing and exporting of contaminated fresh and preserved food, vegetables, herbs, toothpastes and toys et cetera are also a serious source of concern to our health.

Last but not least, the threat of unknown infectious diseases and the constant mutation of viruses which could inflict death and misery can, with one strike, end our lives.

It is a fact that we are living in an ever dangerous and risky world, not to mention death caused by accidents and natural disasters.

Under such circumstances, it is difficult to believe that we can live up to an average of 85 years and above.

For the Government’s proposal to be meaningful, the withdrawal age for CPF annuitants should be lowered to about 75 years old.

Why Should NUS Impose Its Own ‘ERP’?

Source : TODAY, Friday, September 14, 2007

THE National University of Singapore’s (NUS)Bukit Timah campus has imposed a $1 charge for vehicles entering the campus through Kheam Hock Road and exiting at Cluny Road.

The charge applies from Monday to Friday, 8am to 9am, and there is no grace period. NUS signs (pictures) on site state that the charge is to help regulate traffic.

Motorists have been using that route for a long time, even when the Singapore Management University occupied the premises.

There was no charge for through traffic until NUS took over. Why is the regulation of traffic on that route any of its concern? Although there are times when the route can get busy, the vehicles are unlikely to cause any disruption to NUS’ operations.

Motorists who use the route are used to queueing patiently to get onto Cluny Road. And classes do not even start until 9am.

I find it objectionable that NUS is allowed to impose its own little “ERP”. I would like to know on what basis it purports to impose the charge and to whom the revenue goes.

‘Gillman Application Should Be Dismissed’

Source : TODAY, Friday, September 14, 2007

Objectors try to sink deal before STB hearing

Minority owners question STB's jurisdiction on Gillman en bloc deal

BEFORE the Strata Titles Board (STB) can decide the fate of the $548-million Gillman Heights (picture) en bloc deal, two minority owners have questioned the Board’s jurisdiction to hear the application.

They applied this week to the STB to vacate the hearing due to start in two weeks’ time, when objections from minority owners were supposed to be heard.

But lawyer Eddee Ng of Tan Kok Quan Partnership said his clients felt there was no basis for the hearing to take place at all. “We have raised a number of legal grounds as to why we say the (sale order) application should be dismissed.”

An issue as simple as the age of the estate is one of the biggest points of contention. The former HUDC estate was built in 1984, but privatised in 2002, when the Building and Construction Authority issued the Certificate of Statutory Completion after work on additional facilities was completed.

Depending on which year is used, the majority consent needed by the sale committee would differ. Under current laws, a 90-per-cent approval is required for developments less than 10 years, while older developments only need 80 per cent.

At Gillman Heights, the consent level was 87.5 per cent of its 608 units.

The Law Ministry’s latest proposals to amend the legislation, to be debated next week in Parliament, will address such issues. One change is to make it possible to take the completion date of a privatised HUDC estate as that certified by the Housing and Development Board.

This comes too late for Gillman Heights. And mediation, which took place in June, had also failed to soothe the grievances, Mr Ng told TODAY.

Several issues have dogged the sale since a deal was struck with CapitaLand in February. For example, the Collective Sale Agreement (CSA), inked in June last year, had expired, and there was no valid extension in the supplemental CSA, Mr Ng said.

“Since the CSA is in fact over, the sale committee is not authorised to represent the subsidiary proprietors in making the sale order application,” he said. The sale committee lawyers, from Lee & Lee, could not be reached for comment.

Gillman Heights is one of a series of high-profile en bloc deals gone ugly. And a lawyer, who declined to be named, felt that even with the new regulations expected to kick in early next month, such messy tussles would be here to stay amid a property boom.

“The new laws would reduce the complaints over the transparency of the process,” he said. “But why are people unhappy? Because they can’t buy a replacement with the money (they’re getting).”

The End Of The Tang Dynasty?

Source : TODAY, Friday, September 14, 2007

Theme park’s rescue hope in rubble; razing set for Jan

THE forlorn silence at the Tang Dynasty City in Jurong could, come January, be replaced by the rumblings of bulldozers.

Just months after it seemed the former tourist draw might be given a new lease of life as a Shaolin attraction, hope of a rescue now seems extinguished, as a call went out for consultants for the demolition works.

On Tuesday, landlord JTC Corporation called for an expression of interest from those keen to provide civil and structural consultancy services for the project.

In the document posted on GeBiz, the Government’s e-procurement portal, JTC said the consultant is to provide a scope of services.

The project schedule states that the tender for demolition works will be launched in December, with the tearing-down to start next January and expected to be completed
“not later than March 2009”.

Built at a cost of $100 million and opened in 1992, the 12ha theme park — the size of 18 football fields — was a re-creation of the Tang dynasty capital, Chang-An.

But high admission charges, lacklustre attractions and the 1997 Asian financial crisis, which saw tourist arrivals plunge, contributed to its closure in 1999.

Efforts to revive the theme park fell through in 2001. Then in April this year, talk emerged of a possible new breath of life.

Three Singapore companies signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to bring the 1,500-year-old Shaolin Temple legacy and culture, and its famed warrior monks, here in the form of a new tourist attraction. The Tang Dynasty City was cited as a possible site for the proposed “holistic lifestyle holiday retreat”.

When contacted yesterday, Mr Poh Choon Ann, chairman of Poh Tiong Choon Logistics, one of the three local companies, declined comment. The spokesman for Straco Corporation, another company involved, said there had been “no developments” since the MOU was signed in April.

Property analyst Donald Han said the land has been gazetted for entertainment use. The managing director of Cushman & Wake- Field pointed out that JTC could be looking at readapting the use of the site — located in the middle of the Jurong industrial estate — for “more productive purposes”.

Mr Han said: “The Tang Dynasty City has been dormant for a very long time. It is of better consideration for the Government to convert it to other uses than to leave it for entertainment use on its current basis.”

The Tang Dynasty City today seems a pale shadow of its once-majestic self. When TODAY visited, the theme park’s 3-m-high wall was unscrubbed, and barricades put up across its gates to stop trespassers had fallen apart. Inside, broken glass and pieces of furniture littered the floor.

While the gates no longer allow visitors in, the car park has become a favourite for heavy vehicles and Malaysian buses. The parking attendant, who has worked there a-year-and-a-half, said she had seen groups of students entering the Tang Dynasty City. A fence put up around the walls was also cut open last month, she added.

Ms Cindy Lim, who works as a supermarket cashier nearby, said: “It’s good that the authorities are finally doing something to it. “The area is quite big and it seems a waste of land if nothing is done.”

Horizon Sellers Miss Deadline; Hearing Expected In 2 Weeks

Source : The Business Times, September 14, 2007

Majority sellers still trying to form sales committee; some keen to contest suit

THE majority sellers of Horizon Towers missed a deadline to extend the completion date for the collective sale of the development.

The enormous personal liability has splintered the sellers as a group.

And the buyers are now set to make good on their threat to haul each and every one of the sellers to court and sue them for millions of dollars.

The buyers of the Leonie Hill property - Hotel Properties Ltd (HPL), Morgan Stanley Real Estate-managed funds and Qatar Investment Authority - had given the majority sellers until Tuesday this week, Sept 11, to meet their demands for an extension of the completion date.

The deadline was set after repeated requests earlier for an extension were ignored. BT understands the sellers did not respond to the latest deadline or extend the completion date.

It is understood that a High Court hearing is set for Sept 27. At the hearing, the buyers will ask the court to declare the majority sellers in breach of a collective sale agreement signed by both sides in February.

They will also ask the court to award them damages of between $800 million and $1 billion, as well as interest and costs.

This means the 270 owners - of 173 units - who signed off on the en bloc sale are now personally liable for $3.7 million each, or $5.78 million per unit. It is believed that the enormity of the personal liability has splintered the sellers as a group. Some owners have indicated they want to extend the deadline, while others are keen to contest the lawsuit.

This has driven several owners to seek their own legal representation - apart from group representation in the form of law firm Tan Rajah & Cheah.

The Horizon Towers sales committee disintegrated last week. The last three members resigned on Friday, after four other members quit in the days before.

The majority sellers are now scrambling to assemble a new sales committee so there will be some sort of representation for the entire group, to manage the en bloc saga going forward.

The en bloc sale collapsed in August after the Strata Titles Board (STB) refused to grant a collective sale order on the grounds that Horizon Towers filed a defective application.

STB's decision, just days before the sale completion deadline, meant there was no time to file a fresh en bloc application.

The buyers wanted the majority sellers to extend the sale completion deadline by four months, appeal against STB's decision and file a fresh application if needed.

The sellers have appealed against STB's decision but have not extended the deadline. Nor have they indicated whether they intend to file a fresh application with STB.

It has been reported that the majority sellers regretted their decision to sell Horizon Towers for $500 million to HPL and its partners after neighbouring developments began fetching much higher prices in the months that followed.

HPL and its partners allege that the sellers have not done everything in their power to file a proper application to STB - a condition of the sale agreement - and are suing them on this basis.

HDB Upgraders Are Back In Force

Source : The Business Times, September 14, 2007

Big hike in secondary market deals shows genuine demand: analysts

(SINGAPORE) The broad-based recovery in the property sector is gathering pace with data showing a spike in the number of property transactions by Housing and Development Board (HDB) upgraders.

Looking at data which captures transactions made by buyers with registered HDB addresses - traditionally considered HDB upgraders - Citigroup noted that, in Q2 2007, HDB upgraders made about 1,750 transactions in the secondary market, an increase of 75 per cent from the previous quarter when around 1,000 transactions were recorded.

On the significance of secondary market transactions, Citigroup analyst Wendy Koh said that these represented 'genuine demand as full payment is required for completed developments'.

Although there is always some level of speculation in a rising market, the mass market appears to be safe for now, with Citigroup noting that subsales in the mass market segment stood at about 9 per cent of total sales compared to 27 per cent at the peak of 1995/1996.

DTZ Debenham Tie Leung executive director Ong Choon Fah also believes buyers in this segment are genuine. 'Most speculation still takes place in the prime districts because price increases (in the mass market) are still not as significant,' she said

Mrs Ong added that the recovery of prices for the HDB resale segment has also boosted the number of upgraders and noted that about 70 per cent of resale flats transacted at above valuation in Q2.

DTZ's figures show that combined primary and secondary market transactions by upgraders increased by about 50 per cent in Q2 over the previous quarter. Popular new developments among upgraders were The Quartz near Buangkok MRT Station, Northwood in Sembawang and Ferraria Park Condo in Pasir Ris. Upgraders made up 80 per cent, 58 per cent and 54 per cent of the buyers respectively.

'There is also now more urgency to buy because there is the belief that prices seen in the prime areas will filter out into the suburban districts,' she added.

Upgraders have also bought into more upscale developments.

A spokesman for UOL said that they formed about 16 per cent of the buyers for Pavilion 11 at Minbu Road while Frasers Centrepoint said a similar 16 per cent have bought into The Soleil at Novena. Even at the more expensive The Seafront on Meyer, CapitaLand said that just under 5 per cent are buyers with HDB addresses.

HDB upgraders are still, however, price sensitive and Mrs Ong attributed the spike in secondary market transactions to this as the secondary market offers lower-cost private residential alternatives.

Speculation could, of course, raise prices. A recent report by Credit Bureau (Singapore) revealed that people living in the heartlands of Serangoon Gardens, Hougang and Punggol recorded the highest number of borrowers with multiple property loans, suggesting that they owned homes for reasons other than to live in.

Savills Singapore director (marketing and business development) Ku Swee Yong, who also believes speculation has yet to hit the mass market, reckoned that the increase in the number of borrowers with multiple loans could be due to the fact that several developments in the area, including Kovan Melody and Tangerine Grove, have obtained temporary occupation permits (TOP), requiring existing homeowners who opted for deferred payment schemes to apply for loans.

He also noted that some collective sale beneficiaries have had to apply for housing loans because more banks are refusing to give bridging loans.

CB Richard Ellis executive director Li Hiaw Ho does believe that speculation is increasing in new suburban projects like One Rochester and Sky@Eleven. Although Mr Li said that it is still 'quite minimal', he believed that it will impact overall prices, and that mass market projects will not be spared. 'You just have to look at the recent land sales price at Ang Mo Kio,' he added. The site in question sold for about $600 per square foot per plot ratio and is expected to sell for over $1,000 psf.

Coming Up In Marina South - 'Next Generation' Housing

Source : The Buiness Times, Sep 13, 2007

A giant 60-hectre site has been earmarked for the landmark residential district which will enjoy 'water-garden living'.

THE development of Singapore's 'next-generation' housing has begun.

The government today announced a giant 60-hectare site at Marina South earmarked for a landmark residential district - what it calls 'waterfront-garden living' in the heart of the city.

As many as 11,000 apartments are expected to be built in the midst of other commercial, hotel and community facilities.

This marks a new chapter for Marina South - known for its bowling alleys, seafood restaurants and wide open spaces. The existing buildings on the site will now make way for the new residential district.

To garner fresh ideas and designs for the development, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and the Singapore Institute of Architects (SIA) have launched a design competition for the site, located between the Garden at Marina South and the Straits of Singapore, near the existing Marina South Pier and upcoming Marina Barrage.

The winning ideas may be included into URA's 2008 Master Plan for Marina South.

Up to 10 winning designs will be selected, and a cash prize of $50,000 will be shared among the winners.

The designs must focus on achieving the experience of living in a waterfront garden, and emphasise environemntal sustainability and a strong community feel.

Budding student and professional architects alike - local and foreign - are invited to participate and the winners will be announced during the Singapore Design Festival 2007 in November.

A URA spokesman said details of the launch date will be announced later.

Waterfront-Garden Living by the Bay

Marina Bay is the centrepiece of Singapore's urban transformation into a vibrant, global city.

Several prime sites have already been earmarked for exciting new developments, including the Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort and the 100-ha Gardens By the Bay.

Ciity living with magnificent views of the waterfront or greenery is the lifestyle choice of many Singaporeans.

It is in line with the Concept Plan 2001- URA's long term plan that guides Singapore's development over the next 40 to 50 years - which called for more city living options for Singaporeans.

Related Link -
URA News Release - Waterfront-Garden Living Planned at Marina South

New Seafront Site Released

Source : TODAY, Friday, September 14, 2007

Site at Marina South to feature mixed facilities, 11,000 residential units

SENTOSA Cove could soon lose its monopoly on luxury seafront living in Singapore, after the authorities unveiled yesterday a 60-ha site at Marina South for a similar development.

Located next to the upcoming Garden at Marina South and the Marina Barrage a stone's throw away, the waterfront site is slated to host about 11,000 residential units, likely to be private housing.

Many developers who went into Sentosa Cove on a first-mover basis have made a lot of money.- Cushman and Wakefield MD Donald Han

But, in contrast to the secluded Sentosa Cove, urban planners have in mind a mix of facilities — such as retail, food-and-beverage, offices, hotels, even schools — for residents and the public to enjoy at the proposed Marina South residential district.

The plot is next to Marina South Pier, which some expect to make way for a new international passenger cruise terminal.

The project is being touted as "a landmark residential district" offering residents the best of both worlds: Waterfront living in a lush, green setting by the Garden at Marina South, according to a news release by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and Singapore Institute of Architects.

Demand for an alternative city lifestyle at Marina South will be high, judging by the record-breaking prices set for Sentosa Cove, predicted Cushman and Wakefield's managing director Donald Han.

"It is more of an extension of — rather than competition for — Sentosa Cove, which is smaller and has a limited number of residences.

"This is a residential enclave with a dual premium view of the sea and lush gardens. It also offers close access to the business and financial district."

Interest would be keen, especially from developers well-versed in high-end projects, he told Today. "A lot of the developers who went into Sentosa Cove on a first-mover basis have made money."

The Marina Bay area has been a work-in-progress in recent years, due to the authorities' rejuvenation efforts. In the works are the Marina Barrage, the Marina Bay Sands integrated resort and the 101-ha Gardens by the Bay.

A competition was launch-ed yesterday to gather ideas for the Marina South residential district. Participants have to submit their take on high-density city living in a waterfront garden environment, with environmental sustainability and community bonding among factors to be taken into account.

Up to 10 ideas will be awarded a shared prize of $50,000. These may be incorporated in the URA Master Plan next year. The competition closes Nov 12. More details are at or

Source : Singapore Institute of Architects (

Singapore's City Centre

Developments Around Marina Bay

Water Activities At The Bay

Gardens By The Bay

Gardens And Sea To Frame New Marina South Homes

Source : The Business Times, September 14, 2007

60 hectares set aside for 11,000 units in latest makeover move

(SINGAPORE) A landmark residential district - with lush gardens by its side, a spectacular view of the sea and the Sands Integrated Resort a mere stone's throw away - will rise over the next few years to add further gloss to the Marina Bay area.

Some 60 hectares of land, on which 11,000 homes will be built, has been set aside for the project. The Marina South Residential District (MSRD) will also have 1.6 million sq ft set aside for hotel use, another 678,000 sq ft of commercial space and even a primary and a secondary school. There will also be community facilities for all to enjoy, the government announced yesterday.

The entire project will be developed over a 15 to 20-year period once the supporting infrastructure has been put in place, said the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

URA also said given the size of the area, it is likely that the land parcels will be released in phases.

The government agency is master planning the project as the next stage of development for the Marina Bay area.

Marina Bay, which is touted as the centrepiece of Singapore's urban transformation into a vibrant, global city, is already home to several upcoming prime projects - including the Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort and the 100-ha Gardens By the Bay.

This residential site is located between the upcoming Garden at Marina South and the Straits of Singapore. URA hopes that MSRD will offer its residents the best of both worlds - a rare opportunity to experience waterfront living together with the lush greenery provided by the garden.

'Obviously, it is a choice location - right between the garden and the sea,' said Knight Frank managing director Tan Tiong Cheng. 'The view will be even better than that from the Marina Bay integrated resort.'

Said Colliers International's director for research and consultancy Tay Huey Ying: 'The area will provide a very wholesome residential environment.'

The bid to develop MSRD is in line with the government's 2001 Concept Plan - a long term plan that guides Singapore's development over the next 40 to 50 years - which called for more city living options for Singaporeans.

Then, URA said that those who like the downtown buzz can look forward to having 90,000 more units to choose from, mostly in the New Downtown at Marina South.

Experts expect that homes in MSRD will be popular, especially with foreigners.

'It is possible that the primary and secondary schools could be foreign schools,' said Colin Tan, Chesterton International's head of research and consultancy.

However, market watchers mostly said that even when boosted by this latest news, home prices in the Marina Bay area are not likely to reach those fetched by luxury projects in the Orchard Road vicinity anytime soon.

'I don't think the development will overtake Orchard Road in terms of prices and appeal to foreigners,' said Ms Tay. Facilities catering to foreign residents, such as foreign schools and embassies, are now located in the Orchard Road vicinity, she said.

Knight Frank's Mr Tan agreed: 'At the end of the day, Marina South is a new district; it is not tested.'

In addition, concerns exist about the infrastructure in the area. For one, the road network in the Marina Bay area will have to be improved, analysts said.

Right now, URA is looking to garner new and innovative ideas to distinguish MSRD.

Together with the Singapore Institute of Architects, it is organising a competition, which will close on November 12, for design ideas for the district. A sum of $50,000 has been set aside to be awarded for up to 10 best ideas.