Saturday, September 15, 2007

People's Park Centre For Sale

People's Park Centre Office 1012sf (No Window),
Asking $890,000 ($880/psf).
Near Chinatown MRT. Opp Chinatown Point

Map Source :

Chiantown Point Office

Chinatown Point is situated in the cultural and historical Chinatown precinct which boasts of a prime location and easy accessibility, sitting just beside Chinatown Point MRT Station.

The essence of Chinatown Point lies in the distinctive architecture of the building, coupled with an interesting enclave of the old and the new, which exemplify how a fusion of rich culture and urbanity is possible. Chinatown Point houses a wide variety of shops, restaurants, offices as well as a treasure trove of handicraft shops at Podium B, also known as the Singapore Handicraft Centre. It is no doubt a cultural and modern haven for both locals and tourists alike.

Chinatown Point is characterised by its unique mix of traditional and modern merchandising in an exotic ambience that blends contemporary design with Oriental touches. The Singapore Handicraft Centre gives Chinatown Point the distinctive identity of being a shopper's haven for handicrafts.

Address : 133 New Bridge Road Singapore 059413

Developer : City Developments Limited (CDL)
Year of Opening : 30 April 1990
Type/Use : Retail / Office
Net Lettable Area (sq ft): 174,853
No. of Levels : 6 Retail/18 Office
No. of Shops : 283
No. of Carpark Lots : 361

Subject : Office 1055sqft
Rental $6800/mth ($6.50psf)/Sale $1.45m ($1380/psf)

Anchor/Key Tenants :
-McDonald's Restaurant,
-Food Junction,
-Mouth Restaurant,
-Swensen's Restaurant,
-Coffee Bean &
-Tea Leaf. Delifrance

Valley Park Condominium

Valley Park condominium is centrally located at the prestigious district of River Valley Road. It is near to the row of shophouses along River Valley Road consisting of coffee shops, convenience stores, restaurants. There is also Valley Point Shopping Mall beside the development. This condo is within 5 minutes drive from Orchard Road, 10 minutes from Raffles Place.

The popular Great World City Shopping Centre and Zion Road food centre is also close by with a string of other eateries along the main roads. Its facilities are a wow factor to many expats including a clubhouse, gymnasium and a big resort pool.

Address : 473 – 483 River Valley Road

Tenure : 999 years
District : 10
No. of Units : 728
Year of Completion : 1997
Developer : River Valley Properties Pte Ltd

Unit Sizes:-
Studio : 66 – 93 sq m
2 bedrooms : 103 – 123 sq m
3 bedrooms : 116 – 158 sq m
4 bedrooms : 154 – 168 sq m
Penthouse : 238 – 363 sq m

Price : $2.6m (3+1+1 Bdrm 1658sqft Pool View)

-Swimming Pool
-Children's Playground
-Mini Mart
-BBQ Area
-Tennis Court
-Squash Court
-24 Hours Security


300 Tiong Bahru Road Singapore 168731
How Far? 0.79 km

437 Orchard Road Singapore 238878
How Far? 1.28 km

920 Tiong Bahru Road Singapore 158792
How Far? 1.31 km


1 Kim Seng Promenade Singapore 237994
How Far? 0.46 km

302 Tiong Bahru Road Singapore 168732
How Far? 0.77 km

491 River Valley Road Singapore 248371
How Far? 0.02 km


22 Delta Avenue Singapore 169833
How Far? 0.35 km

25 Paterson Road Singapore 238510
How Far? 1.00km

25F Paterson Road Singapore 238515
How Far? 0.72 km

Leonie Gardens @ Leonie Hill

Leonie Gardens is tucked away in a secluded higher ground in the Leonie vicinity. Being generally on higher ground than other apartments, you can enjoy the good view and breeze if you live here.

Leonie Gardens is located near to the Central Business District. It is only 6 minutes walk to the Somerset MRT station, Orchard Road shopping malls, supermarkets, bookstores and restaurants, residents of Leonie Gardens therefore enjoy both the quiet retreat and city life.

Address : Leonie Hill (Located Between Grange Road & River Valley Road)

Tenure : 99 Years Leasehold
District : 09
No. of Units : 138
Year of Completion : 1993
Developer : Leonie Court Pte Ltd (CapitaLand)

Unit sizes:-
3 bedrooms : 161 – 163 sq m
4 bedrooms : 236 – 336 sq m
Maisonette : 239 – 400 sq m

Price : $4.9m (4+1 Bdrm 2540sqft Tenanted till 2nd Jan'09 @ $6200/mth); Enbloc Potential

-Swimming Pool
-Wading Pool
-Putting Greens
-Squash Court
-Tennis Court
-Children’s Playground
-BBQ Area
-Covered Car Park
-24 Hours Security


437 Orchard Road Singapore 238878
How Far? 0.65 km

1 Somerset Road Singapore 238162
How Far? 0.8km

11 Orchard Road Singapore 238826
How Far? 1.5km


8 Grange Road Singapore 239695
How Far? 0.52 km

391 Orchard Road Singapore 238872
How Far? 0.55 km

1 Kim Seng Promenade Singapore 237994
How Far? 0.6 km


25F Paterson Road Singapore 238515
How Far? 0.35 km

25 Paterson Road Singapore 238510
How Far? 0.45 km

143 Alexandra Road Singapore 159924
How Far? 1.05 km

2 River Valley Green Singapore 237993
How Far? 0.65 km

Punggol Residents Optimistic About Plans For Punggol 21 Plus

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 15 September 2007

Artist impression of Punggol 21+ town centre

Punggol residents say they are optimistic about the plans for Punggol 21 Plus.

And their MP Teo Chee Hean is also confident the government will be able to achieve the critical mass of residents needed to make the plans a success.

Thousands of Punggol residents turned up on Saturday to see just how their neighbourhood will change in the next few years.

But it would not be the first time grand plans were laid out for them.

Punggol 21 was initiated some 10 years ago but was delayed by an economic downturn.

So while the government's latest vision of waterfront living certainly impressed, residents remain cautiously optimistic.

Related Video Link -
Punggol residents optimistic about plans for Punggol 21 Plus

"I was quite disappointed when they first said that it was delayed because of the economic downturn but this time round, hope that it can happen in the very near future," says one resident.

"We feel better now that promise from the Prime Minister that they'll revamp the whole place again, so it boosts up our confidence," says another.

And the government is confident that this time, it can deliver.

Defence Minister and MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, Teo Chee Hean, told reporters that with housing demand in Punggol on the rise, he was confident the critical mass needed to boost the project will be achieved.

Mr Teo said: "Punggol is well served by the MRT system. Also there is a good LRT network in place. We also have the widening of the TPE coming up. That will also join with the KPE which is opening. We expect there'll be very good networks of communications in this area."

But the development of new towns is not just about building shiny new facilities.

Mr Teo said a key ingredient is the fostering of a sense of community, and in this case, grassroots leaders want to recreate the kampong spirit of Punggol's history, through social clubs and neighbourhood watch groups. - CNA/ch

Punggol 21 Plus Masterplan Is A Long-Term One: Grace Fu

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 15 September 2007

Artist impression of Punggol 21+ promenade

The new Punggol 21 Plus is a long-term plan and is thus not expected to be completed in the next five years.

Minister of State for National Development, Grace Fu, says the masterplan, announced recently, will take time to study and develop.

She was responding to a query at a dialogue with residents on Saturday afternoon.

The majority of participants at the dialogue said yes to a new waterway lifestyle at Punggol 21 Plus.

Related Video Link -
Punggol 21 Plus masterplan is a long-term one: Grace Fu

They especially look forward to living just steps away from a man-made river built right in the heart of Punggol.

But some residents were impatient about the estate's development plans.

Desmond Koh, Resident, Mountbatten, says: "Do I have to wait another 10 years later to meet again and give feedback on Punggol? How fast does this development move because I have some friends staying in Punggol. They say the LRT there is not very developed."

Punggol 21 was initiated some 10 years ago in 1996 and was pitted to be the next lively housing estate in Singapore with over 90,000 public and private units.

But then the economic crisis kicked in and demand for new flats dipped and construction slowed down.

Still, the Housing and Development Board (HDB) says new flats and facilities will continue to be built according to demand.

Ms Fu says: "This is a long-term project so do not expect to see this in the next few years. It's something that we're going to work on definitely. It's going to go into the plan but it will take some time. We will build flats across the island but not in a very big way. The major development will be in Punggol, in Sengkang.

"That's really the plan that we have. As to how many flats how many units, we have to adapt those plans according to needs. We do go through economic cycles and people do change their plans. We have cases of lots of people queueing up saying they want to buy new flats, and in a year later, the queue actually disappeared because we went through a downturn."

Tay Kim Poh, CEO, HDB, says: "We're building about 2,000 to 3,000 flats a year (in Punggol). Today we have about close to 19,000 flats completed or under construction on the ground. Within the next few years, we're going to see a lot more flats coming up. Most of them will be located near the town centre. That will give us enough catchment to proceed with the developments of the town centre."

Punggol 21 Plus is part of the HDB "Remaking The Heartlands" plan.

And so far the plans have been seen by over 33,000 people at exhibitions in Toa Payoh, Tampines and Punggol

While many welcome the new flat designs, a majority of them were concerned about costs, and hope that the new flat units will not come with too high a premium.

But according to feedback to HDB, 81 percent of residents said they were willing to pay more for service and conservancy to enjoy the new flat designs.

About half of them said they were willing to pay above S$10 more than the usual rates. - CNA/ch

Punggol Waterway Raises Questions At Dialogue

Source : The Straits Times, Sep 15, 2007

When completed by 2013, the 5.5-km waterway linking two reservoirs will be the centrepiece of Punggol, by which new homes will be built. -- HDB

THE proposed 5.5-km waterway cutting across Punggol town drew enthusiastic discussion on Saturday at a dialogue on the Housing Board's future plans for its estates.

While there were concerns over its safety from the 500-strong audience - made up of residents, potential flat-buyers and grassroots leaders - there were also calls for less rules on how the future waterway can be used.

The ambitious project in Punggol involves the building of a roughly 4.4-m deep waterway linking two reservoirs that would be created after Sungei Punggol and Sungei Serangoon are dammed up.

When completed by 2013, it will be the centrepiece of Punggol, by which new homes and its future town centre will be built.

The proposal was unveiled about a week ago through the HDB's 'Remaking Our Heartland' exhibition which showcases its future plans for public housing estates.

Saturday's dialogue was meant to cull feedback on the plans and was chaired by Minister of State for National Development, Grace Fu.

Preliminary results of an HDB survey on the visitors to its exhibition showed 94 per cent of the 2,800 respondents liked the waterway running through Punggol.

Read the full report in The Sunday Times.

Circle Line Progress On Track: LTA

Source : The Business Times, September 15, 2007

CONSTRUCTION of the Circle Line (CCL) is on track for completion from 2010 onwards, despite the run-up in costs. According to Land Transport Authority, while the project may bust its original cost, the increase is unlikely to be more than 10 per cent of the planned $6.8 billion budget.

Already, some 14 of the 29 stations along the CCL have their structures completed, while architectural, electrical and mechanical works are now in progress.

Also, reporters were told that tunnelling has been done on some 25 km of the line, with the remaining tunnelling work expected to be completed by 2008. This came as the CCL projects have been besieged by cost over-run since the Nicoll Highway collapse in 2004.

The problem was exacerbated when Indonesia banned land sand exports to Singapore early this year.

However, LTA deputy chief executive Lim Bok Ngam is satisfied that overall progress is on track for completion from 2010 even though 'in all mega projects, there will inevitably be some areas of works that are ahead of schedule and some slightly behind'.

Earlier, the government said that it would bear up to 75 per cent of construction cost increases arising from Indonesia's ban.

To date, 12 of the 40 trains for the project have arrived, and are delivered to Kim Chuan Depot. LTA has tested nine trains and they are now undergoing integration testing with other systems.

A Hundred New Rooms On A Fifth Less Energy

Source : The Business Times, September 15, 2007

Naturally bright: Changi Village Hotel taps natural lighting with large glass panels

THE Changi Village Hotel was managed by Le Meridien up until 2001, when its owner, the Far East Organization, decided to take it back under active control and undertake a major revamp. In 2004, the hotel emerged with a hundred extra new rooms and a new, naturally-lit look.

The hotel took the chance to replace its old diesel boiler and chiller systems - which would not have kept up with the increased load - with 'reverse refrigerant cycle' equipment that effectively produces hot water and cold air at the same time.

It thus improved energy intensity by 20 per cent to a current 372 KWh per square metre of gross floor area, according to Chia Swee Cheng, assistant director of the Central Engineering & Operations Department at Far East.

The chiller system now uses no more than 0.7 KWh of electricity per tonne of chilled water, a vast improvement over the 1.2 KWh/tonne it used before. A significant part of the energy savings came from switching to hydrocarbon-based refrigerants, said Mr Chia.

Hydrocarbons are naturally occurring gases that were used as early refrigerants in the 1930s but abandoned when found to be flammable. The industry switched to non-flammable fluorine gases, but had to find alternatives yet again when these were found to damage the ozone layer in the 1970s. Unfortunately, these non-ozone depleting alternatives have been found to cause global warming, which has led the industry back to finding ways to safely use hydrocarbons.

Another improvement is a building management system to control the chiller system, which was previously manually operated.

However, since the revamp in 2004, Changi Village has not attempted other energy efficiency initiatives, as it had planned to operate the hotel for a 'testing period' of two to three years to observe the building's performance, said Mr Chia. But he said it targets an energy intensity of 334 KWh/m2 (a 10 per cent reduction) within three years.

Mr Chia's department, formed in 2000, drives efficiency initiatives across the Far East group. 'Our corporate electricity bill across all properties in Singapore was $33 million; imagine if we can cut that by 10 per cent,' - said Mr Chia Swee Cheng, assistant director of the Central Engineering & Operations Department at Far East

To this end, the hotel - and the group at a broader level - is looking to further improve chiller efficiency, such as by using a German 'ball clearing system' that unclogs condenser tubes. It will also experiment with waterless flushing systems, or using NEWater for cooling purposes.

'Green' Shangri-La Saves Energy With Improved Work Processes

Source : The Business Times, September 15, 2007

Luxury hotel's next target is its dated diesel boiler system

Greener swimming: The hotel's poolside and gardens are now illuminated with energy-saving lighting

EFFICIENCY is a matter of managing work processes and mindset, says Shangri-La's area director of engineering Seow Tin Hwee.

'You can put in $20 million to replace equipment and will straightaway see savings. But if you don't keep watch on how that equipment is used, returns will drop within 2-3 years,' he says.

Shangri-La must be one of the few hotels where, despite not having replaced the 36-year-old diesel boiler system used to heat water, energy intensity is still a relatively low 378 KWh/m2, within the top 25th percentile of Singapore's four- and five-star hotels, according to an NUS study. And when the boiler is replaced within the year - the hotel has budgeted nearly $1 million to replace it with a heat recovery system by this year-end - it could slash the figure significantly.

The hotel improved energy use by over 10 per cent by reorganising the way it works, says Mr Seow. For example, it is looking at redesigning its kitchen. Instead of keeping a large oven that is fired all day to cook and reheat food (which leads to wasted heating capacity during restaurants' quiet hours between meal-times), the hotel can save energy by using smaller ovens to prepare food when needed.

Other tricks include: double or triple insulating hot and cold water pipes so that heat is not lost or gained while the water is transmitted; landscaping paths and corridors so they are cooler; and using low- wattage lamps to light up the hotel's gardens in the evening. Mr Seow reckons the hotel has spent over $1 million on landscaping and lighting alone - though presumably not all the benefits of this go towards efficiency.

The hotel could cut energy use by another 5 per cent by calibrating its cooling system to react more quickly to slight changes in temperature, Mr Seow says. Currently, the temperature sensors of its Building Management System (BMS) can tell if there is a 0.5 degree Celsius change in temperature. He is upgrading the sensors to respond to a 0.1 degree change - which means the chillers (which use 0.65 KWh per tonne of chilled water) won't run so hard when it's already too cold, thus saving energy.

The chillers themselves were installed when Shangri-La also replaced its old system with non-CFC-generating equipment eight years ago. The hotel installed a system that was efficient then; an audit in 1999 reported electricity bill savings of over $1 million a year.

The environmental programme at Shangri-La is part of a corporate social responsibility drive by its corporate office in Hong Kong. Under the programme, any project with a payback period of six months or less automatically gets the green light; others are taken on a case-by-case basis, and the hotel budgets about $1-3 million a year for efficiency measures.

Mr Seow's personal goal? To cut total energy use by 12 per cent and electricity use by at least 3 per cent this year.

Allco's New Japan Buys To Be Yield- Accretive Straightaway

Source : The Business Times, September 15, 2007

ALLCO Reit is buying three freehold properties in Japan for just over $153 million, which will be immediately yield-accretive to distribution per unit, it said yesterday.

The Galleria Otemae Building, ACO Azabu Aco Building and Ebara Techno-Service Headquarters Building are commercial developments in prominent locations in Osaka and Tokyo.

The buildings have a total net lettable area of 17,078 square metres and a weighted yield of 4.68 per cent for the first 12 months.

Allco said the purchase price is a 1.6 per cent discount to valuation and the deal is expected to be completed by Sept 26.

Allco will then own four commercial property assets in Japan, representing 16.4 per cent of its total property investments.

The Reit's portfolio will be worth more than $1.45 billion, with 42 per cent in Singapore properties and about 41 per cent in Australian properties.

The Galleria building in Osaka has 12 levels of office space and basement retail space. The Aco building in Tokyo has three levels of office space plus office/studio space. The Ebara building in Tokyo has five levels of office space.

The acquisitions will be funded by debt, with the weighted average cost of funding expected to be 2.09 per cent.

Allco's leverage will rise from 25.1 per cent to 33.5 per cent, which is well within its gearing limit of 60 per cent.

I Was Late To See Sub-Prime Storm Brewing: Greenspan

Source : The Business Times, September 15, 2007

(WASHINGTON) Former US 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 tomorrow.

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).'

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 will meet on Sept 18. 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. The Greenspan interview - on the No. 1 US news programme 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.

Mr Greenspan, who stepped down from the helm of the US central bank in January 2006, said that as Fed chief he knew about questionable lending practices that were leaving sub-prime borrowers with adjustable rate loans vulnerable to harm from rising interest rates, but did not recognise those loans would trigger broader problems until fairly recently, CBS said. 'While I was aware a lot of these practices were going on, I had no notion of how significant they had become until very late,' Mr Greenspan said. 'I really didn't get it until very late in 2005 and 2006.'

Mr Greenspan, 81, has received credit for leading the economy to its longest-ever expansion in the 1990s and many economists have praised his handling of a sequence of crises.

Indeed, some have hailed him as the greatest central banker in US history. However, others criticise him for sowing the seeds of successive asset bubbles, first in US stock markets and later in housing.

He has also come under fire for suggesting during his Fed tenure that adjustable rate mortgages could be a cost-saving financing option for many borrowers, just shortly before the Fed embarked on a long push to move rates higher.

In the interview, Mr Greenspan defended the Fed's decision under his leadership to hold interest rates at or near lows not seen in four decades between December 2001 and June 2004, a period in which the economy was enjoying only a lacklustre recovery from recession. The interview is scheduled for broadcast at 2300 GMT tomorrow. -- Reuters

DBS Won't Inject Fresh Funds Into TMB Bank

Source : The Business Times, September 15, 2007

It says it hasn't got adequate assurance on its role in the Thai lender's future

Committed shareholder: DBS says it expects its current 16.1 per cent stake in TMB to be diluted but it 'remains committed as a significant shareholder' of Thailand's fifth-largest commercial bank

DBS Bank has confirmed it will not inject new funds into Thailand's TMB Bank, after failing to get sufficient management control of the ailing lender.

In a statement last night, DBS, which owns 16.1 per cent of TMB, said it had not received 'adequate assurance' on its role in the bank's future.

This was despite 'several months of extensive discussions' with TMB's management and board, and the bank's largest shareholder, the Thai Finance Ministry, which owns a 31 per cent stake.

As a result, 'DBS does not intend to participate in the proposed recapitalisation plan of TMB'.

TMB has been trying to raise some 35 billion baht (S$1.66 billion) in new capital from existing and new investors for bad loan provisioning.

DBS said it expects its current 16.1 per cent stake in TMB to be diluted but added that it 'remains committed as a significant shareholder of TMB'.

DBS chief financial officer Jeanette Wong said: 'Our decision was not an easy one as we spent many months exploring ways in which DBS could help TMB.

'Unfortunately we did not receive adequate assurance that we would have sufficient management control to effect the business and operational changes necessary to improve TMB's performance.'

In July, DBS took a $159 million charge against its second-quarter net earnings to reflect a fall of more than 30 per cent in the market value of its stake in TMB since late 2004.

DBS chief executive Jackson Tai said at the time he was disappointed with TMB's results.

That same month, TMB had turned in a quarterly net loss of 6.13 billion baht caused by massive bad loan provisions, reversing a net profit of 1.2 billion baht a year earlier and 220 million baht in the first quarter.

The fifth-largest commercial bank in Thailand, TMB has been criticised by the Thai Finance Ministry for lax lending practices.

Both DBS and the Thai Finance Ministry had pushed for a change in TMB's management as a condition of their injecting fresh capital into the bank, forcing TMB to delay its 35 billion baht rights issue initially planned for July.

It now seems the talks were not enough to convince DBS to pump in more money. But DBS said yesterday that Thailand remains an important market in Asia and said it would 'continue to look for opportunities to grow its footprint in Asia'.

Last month, Thai newspaper Khao Hun reported that Dutch banking group ING was in talks with TMB to buy a 24.9 per cent stake in the bank, fuelling talk that ING might replace DBS as TMB's second-largest shareholder.

Last week, DBS said it was 'too premature to comment' on the matter, which had yet to be finalised.

DBS acquired its stake in TMB when it was formed in 2004 from the merger of DBS Thai Danu, Thai Military Bank and the Industrial Finance Corp of Thailand.

Since the start of the third quarter in July, TMB's shares have lost another 19 per cent. They last traded at 1.84 baht yesterday.

Green Hotels Gain, Others Spew Hot Air

Source : The Business Times, September 15, 2007

Saving the environment can go with lower power bills, but many still reluctant to change

(SINGAPORE) In some parts of the world, conviction is driving hotels to go green. But, as several hotels in Singapore have concluded, common sense points to the same path.

The Far East Organization, for example, realised that its corporate electricity bill for all its properties across Singapore was $33 million a year. 'Imagine if we can cut that by 10 per cent,' said Chia Swee Cheng, assistant director of the group's central engineering & operations department.

And so its Changi Village hotel has new boiler and chiller systems in place and a far more efficient energy use.

Over at the Grand Hyatt, Singapore's first plant to produce electricity, steam and chilled water at a hotel is under construction. Along with the solar panels planned for a new garden conference room, the plant could slash Hyatt's energy use by a third and save it $800,000 in bills.

While critics say that many local hotels pay only lip service to eco-programmes, there are others, led by Hyatt, who are changing mindsets, going green - and finding that it pays.

'My impression is that all the hotel operators are serious about sustainability, but not necessarily all the owners, who have to pay for changes,' said Robert Hacker of Horwath, a hotel consultancy. 'Generally, all the international chains are taking on board green principles.'

The Regent Singapore, for example, in late 2005 replaced a diesel boiler for heating water with a heat exchanger that produces hot and cold water at the same time. This has cut energy use by a fifth.

And at the Shangri-La, energy use improved over 10 per cent through better work processes, such as using small ovens to prepare meals on demand, rather than keeping a large oven fired up all day just to reheat food.

But critics like Tay Kheng Soon, architect and promoter of socially and environmentally conscious architecture in Singapore since the 1970s, say Hyatt is the only energy-efficient hotel in Singapore.

And though the National Environment Agency handed out the new Energy Smart label to some hotels last month, that is only a starting point, said Mr Tay. A more basic change might come about, in his opinion, if there were incentives to use renewable energy sources, like wind and solar energy.

Many hotels 'hand-wave' over cosmetic eco-programmes, like using hybrid cars to ferry guests or planting trees, but miss the 'elephant in the room' - like the efficiency of their chiller systems - said Lee Eng Lock, general manager of Trane, a US-based energy solutions firm and an accredited Energy Service Company (ESCO) here.

The Hyatt sets the bar but there is no reason why others should not follow suit, with high returns and backed by bank guarantees, said Mr Lee.

But business in the hotel sector is negotiated on the basis of relationships, so it is not necessarily the most efficient solutions that get selected, he said.

Luxury hotels in Singapore run at an energy intensity of 427 kilowatt hours of electricity per square metre of gross floor area, according to a study by the National University of Singapore (NUS) last year. This is down from the 468 KWh/m2 reported by Apec in 1999, but pales beside the under-300 KWh/m2 averages achieved in parts of Europe and Australia.

In other words, local hotels could be using up to 40 per cent more electricity than ideal.

Dr Lee Siew Eang, head of NUS's Energy Sustainability Unit and leader of the study, recalls some four and five-star hotels saying during the study that energy efficiency was 'not relevant' to them - since, as 'posh hotels', it was 'their duty to be extravagant'.

Many hotel managers were not aware of how much energy their buildings were using. One hotel, which had wanted to apply for an eco-award, was found by NUS to be using an exceptionally high 800 KWh/m2, said Dr Lee. That's almost twice the industry average. According to the Singapore Hotel Association (SHA), which represents about 90 per cent of the total number of gazetted hotel rooms here, most hotels in Singapore pay attention to water and energy conservation. 'In the long run, it makes good corporate sense for hotels to go green as it not only saves the environment but reduces costs,' said SHA president Kay Kuok.

Whether the message has sunk home is another matter. With the two integrated resorts set to help up Singapore's hotel room stock by over 10 per cent by 2010, it is a critical time to move into energy efficiency, said NUS's Dr Lee. 'The designs are being drawn right now. If we miss this chance, we have to wait another 20 years.'

Hotels Raise The Bar

Source : The Straits Times, Sep 14, 2007

Some of them now offer live-band entertainment and fancy cocktails to draw the after-dinner crowd

TOAST OF THE TOWN: Pierre Eugene (above) at The Oriental Singapore's Axis Bar. -- PHOTO: JOSEPH NAIR, RAFFLES THE PLAZA

TOAST OF THE TOWN: Emma (Left) at Pan Pacific Singapore's The Atrium. -- PHOTO: JOSEPH NAIR, RAFFLES THE PLAZA

THE next time a girl asks where you are taking her for a hot date, suggest a place like the Pan Pacific Hotel or Raffles The Plaza.

But before alarm bells start ringing in her head, tell her that some hotels now have the snazziest bars around which target both in-house guests and the pub-crawling public.

Over the last year, at least three hotels have opened or revamped their bars to vie for a larger share of the nightlife business, pumped up with the opening of mega-club complexes and a healthy economy.

Mr Byron Chong, director of food and beverage at Four Seasons Hotel Singapore, agrees that such services are an important source of revenue.

To compete, the hotel spent $250,000 to renovate its The Bar and Alfresco in July, spearheaded by renowned international design firm Hirsch Bedner and Associates.

The result is a meeting hub for both businessmen and pleasure-seekers in the heart of the city, with a sandstone-carved installation featuring gently cascading water and an array of lights.

It has been money well-spent. Mr Chong says it has seen a significant growth in revenue for the 100 people-capacity bar.

To be sure, nightclubs in hotels are not new.

In the 1980s, clubs like Xanadu (in Shangri-La Hotel), Chinoiserie (Hyatt Regency) and Cheers (Novotel Orchid Inn) were popular hang-outs.

But they were eclipsed by non-hotel clubs such as Warehouse, Fire and Zouk in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and have since closed.

Hotels started to offer cosy and more sedate lounges, which catered mainly to their guests.

Now, they have changed course to offer upmarket bars, with live-band entertainment and fancy cocktails to draw the after-dinner crowd.

Prices of drinks at these places may be a little higher than non-hotel ones but they often have very good promotions on martinis and champagnes, or even one-for-one deals on bottles, with some even handing out free tapas, so it all works out to be a pretty good deal.

They do not open till 6am, like some of the clubs do, but most are open for drinks in the afternoon when hotel guests and business executives hang out, before the dating couples and younger executives take over at night.

Mr Noel Emmanuel, assistant director of F&B at The Oriental Singapore, agrees that 'a great bar equals great business'.

Its Axis Bar, which opened in October last year, operates close to its capacity of 80 people during peak hours after 9pm.

Mr Patrick Behrens, F&B manager for Raffles The Plaza, which runs Ink Club Bar, points out: 'In a bid to increase profit, hotels are exploring many avenues. Although the night scene is extremely competitive, a bar with an outstanding concept can still be successful.'

Industry sources say hotel bars have become the toast of the town because, apart from offering an elegant setting, they boast five-star service, too.

Hotels often have more resources to spend on training than non-hotel nightspots and are careful to protect their reputation, which is why they do not lease space to outsiders to run a nightspot.

As Ms Cheryl Ng, public relations manager for Pan Pacific Singapore, says: 'Managing our own bar allows the hotel's brand philosophy to be sustained in terms of designing the product and menu and in providing the same service standards throughout the hotel.'

Ms Lee Chor Lin, 45, director of The National Museum of Singapore, who frequents The Atrium in Pan Pacific Singapore, says: 'Service is always very good in a hotel bar. Outside, service standards vary.'

Green Theme

Source : The Straits Times, Sep 15, 2007

Naumi hotel in Seah Street is designed as an urban jungle getaway for business travellers

VIEW FROM THE TOP: Guests can relax on banana leaf-shaped deck chairs and admire the CBD skyline from the rooftop terrace. -- ST PHOTOS: DESMOND FOO

CREEPERS crawl up the facade of the new Naumi boutique hotel in Seah Street.

But architect Sim Boon Yang is quick to dispel notions that his work plants a flag for eco-architecture.

'It is simply our design philosophy to include some green elements,' he says of the work done in his firm Eco-id.

The hotel, which is owned by local business consortium The Hind Group, opened on Wednesday.

CORPORATE IMAGE: The botanic motif is distinct in the corporate suite from the lampshade to the walls.

Street theatre

The harmonising of nature with the building design - the essence of eco-architecture - is clear from the minute one sets eyes on the 10-storey hotel which has 40 rooms and whose rates start from $390 a night.

SCREEN SAVER: The original-fold screen supports creepers crawling up the hotel.

On its facade, an origami-fold screen that provides support for growing creeper plants sets Naumi apart from its shophouse neighbours.

The hotel stands on the site of the 33-year-old Metropole Hotel which The Hind Group bought for $18 million last year. It was retrofitted at a cost of $10 million. The job took eight months.

Inside, a different greenery takes over. In the lobby and rooms, a botanic motif is distinct - from decorative garden-themed wall sculptures to mirrored walls covered in a white, floral-patterned decal.

MIRROR IMAGE: A hanging balloon bulb and mirrored coffee tables up the sleekness factor in the rooms.

Mr Surya Jhunjhnuwala, managing director of Naumi, says the aim is to create an urban-jungle getaway for business traveller guests. To pamper them, rooms are furnished with designer fittings like a classic Ardea armchair from Italian furniture house Zanotta and a leather rocking chair from Poltrona Frau, another Italian company.

On the rooftop terrace, guests can admire the Central Business District skyline as they take dips in a 14m-long, purple tiled infinity pool.

Mr Sim says there were many challenges in regenerating an old building.

HOME SUITE HOME: Understand designer furniture like a red leather armchair makes the executive patio suite feel more like home.

'There were a lot of columns we couldn't move and the ceiling height in the lobby wasn't as generous as I would like it to be,' he says.

URBAN JUNGLE: It is hard to escape the jungle at Naumi, where almost every room features a mirrored wall covered in a while floral-patterned decal.

Given the small land area of 498 sq m, he had to go big on creative solutions. For example, the lobby now serves as a dining area by day and a whisky bar at night.

Drawing inspiration from a theatre stage, the space's lighting changes according to the time of day.

'This open concept turns the hotel into a form of street theatre for those passing by. In this way, the hotel becomes part of the streetscape,' says Mr Sim, who has previously worked on the Metropolitan Hotel in Bangkok and the W Hotel in the Maldives.

Circle Line To Exceed Original Budget Of $6.8b

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 14 September 2007

The Circle Line MRT project will exceed its projected $6.8 billion budget.

But this increase is unlikely to be more than 10 percent of the original cost, according to the Land Transport Authority's estimate.

The costlier project is due to the disruption in the supply of sand and granite faced by the construction industry recently.

Aside from costs, LTA says the Circle Line project is on schedule.

At the Farrer Road and the Botanic Gardens MRT construction sites, work is well underway to beef up the stations' structural frame.

Related Video Link -
Circle Line to exceed original budget of $6.8b

There are 10 stations in the permanent works stage which involves laying the foundation and putting up critical support structures.

At the Botanic Gardens station, 192,000 cubic metres of earth have been excavated. It will use some 54,000 cubic metres of concrete. This process takes roughly 18 months.

But other stations are even nearer to completion, with just the finishing touches to go.

In fact by the end of the year, LTA will hand over the first four completed stations to operator SMRT. These include the Dhoby Ghaut, Bras Basah, Esplanade and Promenade stations.

SMRT will oversee caretaking duties leading up to the Circle Line's operational date of 2010.

Lim Bok Ngam, LTA's deputy chief executive for infrastructure and development, said: "Overall, the Circle Line is about 65 percent completed. For individual elements, tunnelling works, we are about 70 percent completed. On the station side, I think 10 of the 29 stations are already into the architectural and fitting up work phase."

LTA had to grapple with cost issues arising from the recent disruption in sand and granite supplies.

The agency will compensate its contractors 75 percent of the increase in sand and granite costs. The increase in costs has affected phases 4 and 5 of the project.

LTA's Mr Lim said: "The few stations and the Circle Line 2, for example Nicoll Highway, Dakota, Mountbatten, they're also affected. But contractors are working closely with us, there's no big concern about supply."

LTA says it will not know the final increased cost of the project until it is completed. For now, it says, it will be able to manage the situation. - CNA/ir

Greenspan Criticises Bush Policies In Memoir

Source :THe Straits Times, Sep 15, 2007

WASHINGTON - FORMER Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan criticises President George W. Bush's administration in his memoir for putting political imperatives ahead of sound economic policies, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

Under President Bush, the 'political operation was far more dominant' than in the White House of former President Gerald Ford, whom Mr Greenspan served as a top economic adviser, the former Fed chief said, according to the paper. The Journal said it bought the book in a New York bookstore. Mr Greenspan's memoir is scheduled for release on Monday.

'Little value was placed on rigorous economic policy debate or the weighing of long-term consequences,' Mr Greenspan writes of the Bush administration.

Mr Greenspan said he unsuccessfully urged the White House to veto 'out-of-control' spending bills while the Republicans controlled Congress. Republicans 'deserved' to lose control of Congress in last year's election because they 'swapped principle for power,' he said.

Mr Greenspan's congressional testimony in favour of tax cuts during the early part of the Bush administration has been criticised by some for giving the green light to Congress to approve the president's fiscal policies.

The former Fed chief has subsequently said Congress ignored his recommendations it accompany any substantial tax cuts with safeguards to protect against future deficits.

Looking at the future of the US economy, Mr Greenspan ominously forecasts that if the Fed is to keep the inflation rate between 1 per cent and 2 per cent in coming years it may need to force interest rates into double digits.

But he said he feared the Fed would face 'populist resistance from Congress, if not from the White House' to its policy of maintaining price stability.

He said if the Fed succumbed to that pressure, the inflation rate could rise to an average of 4 per cent to 5 per cent by 2030, and 10-year Treasury yields would rise to at least 8 per cent with the potential to go 'significantly higher for brief periods,' according to the report posted on the newspaper's Web site.

Offering a defence
The former Fed chief said that as the process of increasing globalisation slows, inflation pressures will reassert themselves. He points to recent increases in the prices of US imports from China and a rise in long-term interest rates as signs 'the turn may be upon us sooner rather than later.' Mr Greenspan, now 81, was chairman of the US central bank from August 1987 until January 2006. He was the second-longest serving chairman in the Fed's 93-year history.

His deft handling of the 1987 stock market crash and international debt crises of the 1990s, and his role in guiding the economy through its longest expansion on record, helped establish his sizable reputation. A book about him by Washington journalist Bob Woodward was entitled 'Maestro.' The native New Yorker, whose owlish demeanour and cryptic utterances appeared simultaneously to bewilder and impress congressional, financial and public audiences, managed to achieve a type of intellectual celebrity status rare in American public life.

At the same time, Mr Greenspan's policies have been criticised by some for inflating the dot-com and housing bubbles. Critics say a long period of low interest rates in the early part of the decade laid the foundation for current problems in housing and credit markets - problems Mr Greenspan's successor at the Fed, Ben Bernanke, is grappling with.

Mr Greenspan defends his policy course in the book, the newspaper said.

'We wanted to shut down the possibility of corrosive deflation,' he wrote. 'We were willing to chance that by cutting rates we might foster a bubble, an inflationary boom of some sort, which we would subsequently have to address.' 'It was a decision done right,' he said.

The release of Mr Greenspan's book comes just ahead of a Fed meeting on Tuesday that is the most closely watched of Mr Bernanke's relatively short tenure.

The Fed is expected to lower the benchmark federal funds rate by at least a quarter-percentage point from 5.25 per cent to help the economy shake off a prolonged housing downturn and credit-market turbulence.

The book makes scant mention of Mr Bernanke, the paper reports, except in a photo caption in which Mr Greenspan says, 'I was very comfortable leaving the post in the hands of such an experienced successor.' -- REUTERS

Wall St Edges Higher, Shakes Off Credit Fears (ST)

Source : The Straits Times, Sep 15, 2007

NEW YORK - US stocks edged up on Friday as expectations of an interest rate cut offset a warning by Merrill Lynch that revived concerns about credit conditions and the impact of the weak US housing market.

Indexes ended higher for the week, with the Dow posting its best week since April 22.

Keeping the global credit squeeze at the forefront of investors' concerns, Merrill Lynch & Co said it has adjusted the value of securities linked to risky subprime mortgages and other products. Merrill, the world's largest brokerage, said the move could hurt its third-quarter profits.

Even so, financial stocks held their own, with the Federal Reserve widely expected to cut interest rates at its policy meeting on Tuesday.

'The possibility of a rate cut' is helping the market, said Edgar Peters, chief investment officer & director, asset allocation at Boston-based PanAgora Asset Management. At issue for the market is whether the Fed will cut its benchmark lending rate by 25 or 50 basis point. 'It could go either way, but it certainly seems' as if the market is expecting a 50-point cut.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 17.64 points, or 0.13 percent, at 13,442.52. The Standard & Poor's (S&P) 500 Index was up 0.30 points, or 0.02 per cent, at 1,484.25. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 1.12 points, or 0.04 per cent, at 2,602.18.

For the week, the Dow ended up 2.5 per cent, while the S&P rose 2.1 per cent and the Nasdaq gained 1.4 per cent.

United Technologies boosted the Dow industrials and S&P 500 after brokerage Sanford C. Bernstein upgraded the company's shares, citing the profit outlook for its Carrier air conditioner and Sikorsky helicopter units. The industrial conglomerate's stock rose 1.5 per cent to US$76.14 (S$115).

Stocks began the day lower, with government data showing retail sales, excluding vehicles, unexpectedly declined in Aug.

A separate report showed the preliminary consumer sentiment index inched up this month to 83.8 from 83.4 in Aug.

Trading was light on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), with about 1.20 billion shares changing hands, well below last year's estimated daily average of 1.84 billion, while on Nasdaq, about 1.58 billion shares traded, down from last year's daily average of 2.02 billion.

Rising stocks were outnumbering falling ones by a ratio of about 17 to 14 on the NYSE and by 16 to 13 on Nasdaq. -- REUTERS

Circle Line Will Exceed $6.7b Budget

Source : The Straits Times, Sep 15, 2007

CONSTRUCTION work on the Circle Line MRT is on schedule, but it will cost more than the original $6.7 billion budgeted.

Inflation, more expensive concrete and more stringent design and engineering standards following the 2004 collapse at the Nicoll Highway station have pushed costs up.

Giving a progress report yesterday, Land Transport Authority deputy chief executive Lim Bok Ngam said part of the 33.5-km line should be ready by 2010, with the rest of it completed by '2011 or 2012'.

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.

The new timeline takes into account delays after the 2004 collapse. Before the accident, which killed four workers, the first phase of the line was to have been completed by 2006, and the second phase by 2010.

Yesterday, Mr Lim said: 'In all mega projects, there will be some areas of works that are ahead of schedule and some slightly behind. For the Circle Line, we are satisfied that the overall progress is on track for completion from 2010.'

About 65 per cent of the line has been completed.

The structures of 14 of the 29 stations are done, and by next year, LTA expects all tunnelling work to be finished.

The Circle Line, which is expected to carry 400,000 to 500,000 commuters daily around the city centre, may yet open in stages.

The LTA said that a stretch measuring about 8km - with seven stations between MacPherson and Marymount - was in advanced stages of completion.

In fact, architectural, electrical and mechanical works are being carried out now, and are expected to be completed by mid-2008.

The Straits Times understands that as the train depot is along the stretch, it is feasible to open it as early as the first half of 2010.

But Mr Lim would not commit to this.

'It's not just the construction. Testing and commissioning of the system can be quite complicated,' he said.

Mr Lim said a new contractor will soon be picked to finish the MacPherson and Tai Seng stations - where construction stalled last year when Sweden's NCC stopped work because of the sharp rise in concrete prices.

Mr Lim said another episode such as this was unlikely, saying 'the NCC case was an exceptional case'.

Industry players said NCC, a relative newcomer to LTA work, may be the first casualty of cost overruns which have hit Circle Line projects since the 2004 collapse.

The Nicoll Highway station has been re-designed. It is now one-third smaller, but costs 10 per cent more to build.

Higher engineering standards - which have pushed up costs - were evident at other stations along the line.

For instance, the Farrer Road Station under construction now has retaining walls that are 1.2m thick - 50 per cent thicker than the collapsed walls of the Nicoll Highway station.

The higher standards affect the western half of the Circle Line more, as construction there started well after 2004.

Mr Lim said the eventual cost 'has not been worked out', but the higher cost of sand and granite would only add 'a single-digit' percentage increase to the project.

He said the LTA will compensate the contractors 75 per cent of the rise in sand and aggregate cost.

DBS Will Not Participate Recapitalisation Of Thai TMB Bank

Source : Weekend TODAY, September 15, 2007

DBS Group Holdings will not participate in the proposed recapitalisation of Thailand’s TMB Bank, although it will continue to be a shareholder.

DBS, which had earlier indicated interest in playing a greater role in improving TMB’s performance, said however, that after months of discussions with Thailand’s Ministry of Finance and TMB, DBS “did not receive adequate assurance on its position going forward”, the Singapore bank said in a statement.

DBS owns 16 per cent of TMB and said it “remains committed as a significant shareholder”. — DOW JONES

Circle’s Coming Round

Source : Weekend TODAY, September 15, 2007

Cost of Circle Line could go up by less than 10%: LTA

WITH Indonesia’s ban on sand exports and tougher design requirements since the 2004 Nicoll Highway collapse, the overall price tag for the upcoming Circle Line (CCL) MRT (picture) will go up.

But the increase is likely to stay below 10 per cent, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA) on Friday, as it downplayed any fears of significantly busting its estimated $6.8 billion budget.

“I wouldn’t say (the increase is) substantial … it may be a big figure, but I think the figure is something we can manage,” deputy chief executive (Infrastructure and Development) Lim Bok Ngam told reporters.

This is the LTA’s first update on the CCL — which links all MRT lines in the city — since the sand ban started in January. A section of the line may open as early as 2010.

With more than half the project completed before the ban, Mr Lim noted that while materials prices may be higher, they have “come down substantially”.

The statutory board will compensate its contractors three-quarters of cost increments, the maximum limit of the Government’s pledge to bear higher construction costs due to the ban.

Meanwhile, the extra costs of more stringent design and engineering requirements have yet to be worked out, Mr Lim said. These include thicker retaining walls than those that failed at the Nicoll Highway station.

The CCL is being built in five stages and is already about 65 per cent complete, a rate Mr Lim is “satisfied” with. All five stages are in full swing, with excavation works underway at the Holland Village, Buona Vista, West Coast, Pasir Panjang and Labrador Park sites.

Structures for 14 of the 29 underground stations are up and have moved on to the next phase of architectural, electrical and mechanical works.

These stations, which include Dhoby Ghaut and Bras Basah, are likely to be done by early next year.

Steps have been taken to lessen the inconveniences caused by the works, said the LTA. About half of the roads diverted are slated to return to their original alignments by next year-end. Barriers are in place to reduce the noise in housing areas.

This report card on the CCL progress comes a month after media reports of contractor woes and stopwork orders due to sinking ground.

Last month, tunnelling works were halted at the Telok Blangah site — the fourth instance this year — after a 7-m stretch of two lanes reportedly sank 20cm. Such ground movements are expected but measures are taken, the LTA said.

Mr Lim was also asked about the dispute with Swedish contractor NCC International, which the LTA said had failed to fulfil its contractual obligations involving work on the MacPherson and Tai Seng stations.

Mr Lim said the LTA planned to exercise its rights “as part of the contract provision”.

While the NCC has completed much of its designated work, a “few small contracts” will be awarded to third-party contractors over the next few weeks.

Extra Cool Touch For Boon Keng Rd Flats

Source : The Straits Times, 15 Sep 2007

More air-con units will be standard for flats, built by private developers.

THE second batch of public housing built by private developers will boast condominium-style features such as built-in wardrobes, bay windows and large balconies.

The flats in Boon Keng Road will also feature air-conditioning, not just in the bedrooms, but also in the living and dining areas.

This extra air-con was not included in the initial offering of these hybrid public flats, which were designed and built privately and released last year to strong demand.

Units on the top floors of the three 40-storey blocks in Boon Keng Road will offer fine city views, especially a select few that will come with higher ceilings than normal.

Unveiling the design of the project yesterday, the Hoi Hup Sunway Development consortium said just 474 of the 714 flats to be built there will be five-room flats, which will be between 105 sq m and 120 sq m each.

The proportion of five-room flats here - two-thirds - is notably lower than the 94 per cent that made up the first batch of such hybrid flats in Tampines. The HDB had required the second developer to set aside at least 30 per cent of its units for four-room or smaller flats.

That means flat hunters looking for smaller homes will have their pick of 168 four-room flats of 80 sq m to 95 sq m each, as well as 72 three-room units of 60 sq m to 70 sq m each.

The developer declined to disclose prices, as the project will go on sale only in January. Its spokesman, Mr Wong Chee Herng, would only say that flats there would be ‘affordable to the public’.

But in an interview he gave The Straits Times in June, Mr Wong had indicated he expected the average selling price of the project to be almost $500 psf, which would work out to about $645,000 for a 1,290 sq ft five-room flat.

New homes at nearby condominium Kerrisdale were selling for about $550 psf earlier this year.

Property agency Propnex’s chief executive Mohamed Ismail expects the upcoming development to attract young, middle-income families who wish to live close to the city. But he warned that prices would start becoming unpalatable if they breached the $550 psf level.

Under the hybrid housing scheme, private developers get to design, build, price and sell flats according to public housing guidelines. Among other things, this means that only family units earning no more than $8,000 a month can buy these flats, and they have to meet ethnic quotas.

The flats have proved popular so far, because of their condominium-like trappings and their location in mature - and even central - estates.

The first such hybrid project, developed by Sim Lian Land and located in Tampines, received an overwhelming response when it was launched last year. Almost 6,000 people applied for its 616 flats, most of them five-room flats priced from $308,000 to $450,000.

Earlier this week, a third site for such hybrid developments was put up for tender in Ang Mo Kio Street 52, a stone’s throw from Ang Mo Kio MRT station. Analysts expect this project to receive just as much interest from developers and home-buyers.

CDL Attracts Heavy Buying After Clinching Iconic Site

Source : The Straits Times, 15 Sep 2007

CLINCHING the historic Beach Road military camp site helped ignite fresh buying interest in property giant City Developments (CDL).

The site, which cost the CDL-led consortium $1.69 billion, is just a stone’s throw from the upcoming Marina Bay Sands integrated resort and the Formula One street circuit.

Observers believe the acquisition will enhance CDL’s already high-quality portfolio, which includes top-notch commercial buildings and condos like Republic Plaza and The Sail@Marina Bay.

CDL yesterday surged 50 cents to $15.40 on a heavy volume of 5.8 million shares. It hit an intra-day high of $15.60. Its total gain for the week was 40 cents.

Kim Eng Research analyst Wilson Liew said the iconic Beach Road site is slated to include premium offices, two luxury hotels, exclusive residences and retail space with a total gross floor area of 1.58 million sq ft.

‘Assuming a breakdown of 40 per cent for office use, 30 per cent for hotel use, 15 per cent for residential use and 15 per cent for retail use, we estimate the total development cost at around $2.6 billion, should add 25 cents per share to revalued net asset value (RNAV),’ he said.

Mr Liew raised his target price for CDL to $18, based on a 20 per cent premium to his RNAV of $15.66.

The heavy buying of CDL shares also reflected investors’ conviction that demand would stay buoyant in the red-hot residential market.

On Thursday, BNP Paribas noted that developers had maintained their selling prices ‘and have no intention of lowering them at this juncture’.

This was despite a slowdown in property sales last month, which could have been due to buyers here also taking a ‘wait-and-see’ attitude, as the United States mortgage crisis deepened.

On the secondary resale market, the wide disparity between sellers’ asking prices and buyers’ offer prices is narrowing, suggesting that demand in the property market is sustainable.

‘Singapore developers are currently trading at around 6 per cent to 37 per cent below the peak share price prior to the market correction in late July, which presents an attractive discount, especially as property market fundamentals have not changed much over the period.’

BNP Paribas also expects developers with a big exposure to the Singapore mass market, such as CDL, to benefit from opportunities for collective sales still available on the city’s fringes and in suburban areas where land is still affordable.

Is Red-Hot Property Market Starting To Slow Down?

Source : The Straits Times, 15 Sep 2007

Possible correction seen but underlying demand is still strong, say experts.

UNAFFECTED BY SLOWDOWN: Projects that went on sale last month, including The Soleil @ Sinaran condominium (Left) in Novena and The Parc in West Coast Walk, did well despite a slowdown in the residential property market. -- FRASERS CENTREPOINT, SAVILLS

AFTER months of racing along at a feverish pace, Singapore’s residential property market seems to be finally taking a breather.

Home sales and collective sales slowed last month, and property watchers have started to speak of a possible correction in the market.

‘A correction is going to take place. The question is: How severe?’ OCBC Investment Research analyst Winston Liew told Reuters.

Experts agree, however, that underlying housing demand is still strong, and that home prices will keep rising, although at a slower pace. Prices surged 13.5 per cent in the first six months of the year alone.

‘Property market fundamentals have not changed much over the period,’ said French bank BNP Paribas in a report on Thursday.

It is tipping mid-tier and suburban homes as the big growth areas for the rest of the year. These have lagged in the rebound, which has been led mainly by high-end homes setting new record prices.

‘We still see opportunities available on the fringe of the city and suburban areas, where land remains affordable to developers,’ BNP said.

It noted, however, that home sales had been falling since June, according to caveats lodged. Sales fell from 4,921 in May to 3,917 in June to 3,540 in July.

So far, just 1,127 sales have been lodged for last month, partly due to a time lag in caveats. BNP estimates, however, that even when all the data is in, last month’s sales will hit about 2,500 only.

Collective sales, which set a string of record land prices earlier this year, have also slowed to a trickle, with only one deal recorded last month.

Property analysts have offered several reasons for the current slowdown.

One is the sub-prime home loans crisis in the United States, which triggered weeks of stock market volatility in Singapore and in the rest of the region. Developers say this has led to more caution among foreign investors, some of whom are the biggest buyers of luxury homes in Singapore.

Consultants have also blamed the sharp run-up in property prices since the beginning of the year. With asking prices breaching the stratosphere, many buyers are now holding out for better deals.

Upcoming changes in rules on collective sales and higher development charges are also dampening the collective-sale market, previously a major source of housing supply and demand.

A fourth reason could be the month-long hungry ghost festival that ended last week. Fewer projects were launched during this time compared to previous months.

But projects that did go on sale last month. including The Parc in West Coast Walk and Soleil@Sinaran in Novena, received a strong response.

MCL Land has also quietly sold more than half its strata titled terrace homes in Bukit Timah since Monday, even before official previews. About a third of the 168 units at Hillcrest Villas have been taken up by the developer’s close associates at between $2.5 million and $3 million apiece.

‘Residential demand remains healthy, even though homebuyers and investors will tread cautiously,’ CB Richard Ellis executive director Li Hiaw Ho said.

He and other market experts agree that while market activity has slowed somewhat, the pace of growth will pick up again at year-end.

‘The stock market has started to stabilise and, come November, things will probably go back to the way they were before August,’ said Mr Lui Seng Fatt, regional director at Jones Lang LaSalle.

Location Makes All The Difference At Boon Keng

Source : Weekend TODAY, September 15, 2007

The views from the three 40-storey blocks of flats will be of Orchard Road, Kallang River and the Central Business District. The builders promise sizable balcony space for residents to enjoy the “electric, urban cityscape”.

Located next to an MRT station and five minutes away from Dhoby Ghaut, the second batch of privately built Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats will, understandably, be more expensive than the first, in Tampines.

The 714 flats to be built at the junction of Bendemeer and Boon Keng roads will probably be launched in January, says developer Hoi Hup Realty, who won the tender a few months earlier for HDB’s Design, Build and Sell Scheme.

Under the scheme, private developers are responsible for the entire process of a public housing development.

While condominium-style finishes are promised, as it was for The Premiere, the scheme’s pilot project, location will be a big draw — and difference — in this case.

“This is almost a city-living kind of concept. Of course, as you can see from the successful tender price ($170 million; $234 per sq foot), there’s a difference in pricing,” Hoi Hup director Wong Chee Herng told 938Live, adding that the company was still working on the final pricing.

The Premiere’s flats were priced between $308,000 and $450,000 for five-room units.
The facilities at Boon Keng include a park, playground, senior citizen’s corner and barbecue terrace. All units have a bathroom that can be retrofitted for wheelchair users and the elderly.

No Signs Of Bubble In Property Sector, Say Two Bankers

Source : The Straits Times, 15 Sep 2007

SINGAPORE’S buoyant property market shows no signs of a speculative bubble, two leading bankers said yesterday.

DBS Group Holdings chief executive Jackson Tai said home prices may have risen but this simply reflects the strong fundamentals of a balanced economy.

Mr Philip Lee, senior country officer of investment bank JPMorgan Chase, echoed Mr Tai’s views.

‘There’s no bubble in Singapore…while luxury prices have soared recently, mass-market prices have not gone up yet.’

They were among five corporate bigwigs from the thriving finance and property sectors who discussed Singapore’s booming economy at an annual Leadership Forum organised by newswire Bloomberg.

Four other speakers from sectors such as consulting and asset management spoke about the global risks at the 90-minute session held at the Ritz-Carlton Milennia Hotel.

Singapore does not face the same problems as the United States, where the US Federal Reserve has created ‘a housing bubble, inducing people to refinance their homes’ with ’spicy loans’ and ‘artificially low rates’, said Mr Tai.

In contrast, 90 per cent of people own their own homes in Singapore, so ‘the culture here of protecting one’s home is very different from that in the US,’ he noted.

While acknowledging that ’speculation is always in the marketplace’, Mr Tai said Singapore is ‘not a one-trick pony’ but has a well-diversified economy.

Property prices and broader economic growth will be sustained by a ‘rising population’ and more diversified economy, added Mr Chris Fossick, South-east Asia managing director at Jones Lang LaSalle, pointed to a ‘rising population’.

Singapore will enjoy new booster engines to its growth with the upcoming integrated resorts which will boost tourism and attract more high-networth clients, said Mr Kenneth Sit, chief executive of Bank Sarasin-Rabo (Asia).

Even in the event of a downturn in Asia or globally, Singapore may benefit from a ‘capital flight to quality’ because it is a reputable Asian financial hub, noted Mr Lim Cheng Teck, chief executive of Standard Chartered Singapore.

Wall Street Edges Higher, Shakes Off Credit Fears (CNA)

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 15 September 2007

NEW YORK - US stocks eked out small gains Friday, as generally positive reports on retail sales and consumer sentiment helped the market shake off renewed worries about a widening of the credit crunch.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 17.64 points (0.13 percent) at 13,442.52, recovering from a loss of nearly 100 points at the opening.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq added 1.12 points (0.04 percent) to end at 2,602.18 and the Standard & Poor's 500 broad-market index rose a fractional 0.30 points (0.02 percent) to 1,484.25.

The weak opening came on news that British mortgage lender Northern Rock sought emergency funding, raising concerns that the credit squeeze is not over and may be widening.

The market steadied as it digested a number of economic reports, including on US retail sales, industrial production and consumer sentiment. These showed generally soft conditions but not as bad as some had feared.

"The consumer confidence report took attention away from credit concerns as the Bank of England bailed out a British lender to ease a liquidity squeeze," said Al Goldman, chief market strategist at AG Edwards.

The University of Michigan consumer sentiment index rose slightly to 83.8 points, roughly in line with forecasts.

David Rodriguez at Forex Capital Markets said the figure was "hardly impressive," but nonetheless "reinforces the view that consumers remain thus far unaffected by credit and real estate market troubles."

"Consumer confidence numbers leaves scope for robust consumer spending through the medium term, which would undoubtedly boost the broader economy in the face of a housing recession," he said.

The Commerce Department meanwhile reported retail sales rose a weaker-than-expected 0.3 percent in August, suggesting US consumers are turning cautious in the face of housing and credit woes. Excluding volatile auto sales, the report showed a 0.4 percent decline.

Although this report was seen as soft as well, Charmaine Buskas at TD Securities said it "is probably good news to markets worried about fallout from the recent financial market jitters on the consumer."

The market was looking ahead to Tuesday's Federal Open Market Committee meeting, with the central bank widely expected to cut its base rate of 5.25 percent in the face of credit and housing market stress. Most analysts say the Fed will decide between a cut of 25 or 50 basis points.

Buskas said the Fed would regard the key retail sales report "positively."

"This builds the case for the Fed to act judiciously and cut rates only 25 basis points at next Tuesday's meeting," she added.

Among stocks in focus, General Motors climbed 2.77 percent to 34.22 dollars, building on gains of 10 percent on Thursday on hopes for labor concessions from the United Auto Workers union.

McDonald's, another big blue-chip gainer a day earlier, advanced 2.12 percent to 55.45, keeping momentum after its decision to raise its dividend by 50 percent.

Countrywide Financial rose 2.59 percent to 19.42, as investors dismissed the impact of the British credit problems on the US mortgage group, which on Thursday said it had secured 12 billion dollars in new credit.

Intel fell 1.66 percent to 24.93 dollars and American Express shed 2.74 percent to 58.94 on broker downgrades by Merrill Lynch.

Bonds firmed in a renewed flight to safety. Yields on the 10-year US Treasury bond dipped to 4.462 percent from 4.482 percent Thursday while the 30-year bond yielded 4.724 percent, from 4.743 percent. Bond yields and prices move in opposite directions.

- AFP /ls

Allco REIT Acquiring 3 More Properties In Japan

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 14 September 2007

SINGAPORE : Allco REIT is acquiring three more properties in Japan for 11.7 billion yen or S$153 million.

The largest of the three properties is in Osaka, while the remaining two are in Tokyo.

The acquisition will be funded entirely by debt.

The deal is in line with Allco's regional growth strategy.

Allco expects Japanese property assets to account for at least 16 percent of its total property assets when the acquisition is completed. - CNA/ms

DBS Decides Not To Participate In Recapitalisation Of TMB Bank

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 15 September 2007

DBS has decided not to participate in the proposed US$1 billion recapitalisation of Thailand's TMB Bank.

The decision comes after several months of extensive discussions with Thailand's Ministry of Finance as well as the board and management of TMB.

In a statement out on Friday, the Singapore lender said it did not receive adequate assurance that it would have sufficient management control to effect the business and operational changes necessary to improve TMB's performance.

TMB is planning a rights issue as part of efforts to raise 35 billion baht or S$1.6 billion.

Discussions were held for DBS to participate in the rights issue and raise its shareholding to 20 percent.

But the Singapore lender was reported to be disappointed with TMB's performance.

TMB will be talking with other potential investors to complete its recapitalisation by the end of 2007.

DBS said it expects its stake to be diluted, but it remains committed as a significant shareholder of TMB. - CNA/ms

Free Essential Upgrading To Repair Wear And Tear In HDB Flats

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 14 September 2007

Yishun and Tampines are the first two estates to enjoy the new Home Improvement Programme or HIP.

Under HIP, the Housing and Development Board will improve flats that were built some 20 years ago.

Mr Ng Chee Hock’s 3-room unit in Tampines Street 41 which was built in 1985 will be one of the first to benefit from this programme.

His flat will receive a free makeover by the HDB with his waste pipes replaced and spalling concrete and cracks repaired.

In addition, Mr Ng may also get his toilet fixed at a subsidised price of about $550.

He can either choose to replace his toilets, doors or grille gates or do all that at one go.

Mr Ng can pick from three choices of toilet tiles and metal gates and two types of toilet pedestals.

According to the HDB, seven out of 10 flat-owners have said that they would even opt to install this water saving toilet pedestal which has a hand-wash function.

The full range of options cost about $550 for a 3-room flat whereas the cost for an executive flat, could go up to $1,375.

Residents can choose to pay in full or in instalments of up to ten years, using their Central Provident Fund savings or cash.

But the upgrading can only be possible if 75 per cent or more of the residents in the block vote in favour of the upgrading.

The Home Improvement Programme is expected to benefit 300, 000 units built in 1986 and before.

It would also come in handy for the first generation of HDB home buyers who wanted to improve their flats but were unable to afford the renovation costs. –CNA/vm