Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Oh! Dont't Stop

SKorean Watchdog To Review Bank Sale To HSBC

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 02 October 2007

SEOUL : South Korea's corporate watchdog said Tuesday it would look into legal issues surrounding banking giant HSBC's planned purchase of a bank here amid a battle over the domestic lender's previous sale to a US hedge fund.

British-based HSBC Plc last month agreed to buy a 51.02 percent stake in the Korea Exchange Bank (KEB), the country's sixth largest lender, for 6.3 billion dollars in cash from US private equity fund Lone Star.

South Korea's Fair Trade Commission, however, said in a statement that it planned to "carefully review" the legal issues in the deal.

The Financial Supervisory Commission, South Korea's financial regulator, has also said separately it would only approve the deal after court cases are settled.

Lone Star scrapped an earlier deal to sell KEB to a South Korean lender, Kookmin Bank, due to legal disputes.

Lone Star raised controversy in South Korea by buying the majority stake in KEB for 1.5 billion dollars in 2003 and later increasing its stake to 64.6 percent.

Prosecutors have accused six people, including a former KEB president, of manipulating figures on KEB's financial health to pave the way for the private equity fund to acquire the bank.

Lone Star was separately accused of manipulating the share price of KEB's credit card unit so it could be acquired cheaply by the main bank.

The US firm has denied the allegations and says the charges were driven by a latent hostility towards foreign investors. It says there are no legal obstacles to the planned sale to HSBC. - AFP/ms

Lion Capital Eyeing $50b In Assets Within 5 Years: CEO

Source : The Business Times, October 2, 2007

FUND manager Lion Capital, partly owned by Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp, aims to grow assets under management to $50 billion within five years from $34 billion at the end of June, its chief executive said

Mr Chan: Sees asset growth to $50b as a realistic, if not easy, target

'We'd like to grow to at least $50 billion in that timeframe,' chief executive Daniel Chan told Reuters in an interview yesterday.

'I think it's a realistic target. It's not easy. We do need the performance numbers to be sustained. We do need good effective marketing, institutional marketing to happen before we see the institutional money come in.'

Lion Capital Management Ltd is 70 per cent owned by Great Eastern Holdings and 30 per cent by OCBC.

In early August, OCBC said Lion Capital was managing $5.7 billion worth of collateralised debt obligations. Of that, $1.5 billion worth of assets had subprime exposure.

Mr Chan said the $1.5 billion figure had not changed significantly in the last month, noting the firm held the more highly rated classes of sub-prime exposed CDOs. 'These are high-grade CDOs, which means we only invest in the higher-grade pieces of the underlying mortgages,' he said.'As far as I know I don't think we have sold any.' - Reuters

Horizon Towers Owners, Buyers Argue Against STB's Decision

Source : The Business Times, October 2, 2007

Court allows buyers, 13 owners to intervene in appeal

HORIZON TOWERS: STB had the power to amend the application for a collective sale order, court told

The majority owners and the buyers of Horizon Towers joined forces for the first time in months yesterday, to argue against the dismissal by the Strata Titles Board (STB) of the development's collective sale application.

This was after Supreme Court Judge Choo Han Teck allowed the buyers - HPL and its partners - and a group of 13 majority owners to intervene in yesterday's appeal.

The appeal at the High Court was originally meant to involve only the majority owners, who consented to the en bloc sale of Horizon Towers in February, and the minority owners, who oppose the sale. But HPL and the group of 13 who wanted separate representation applied to participate in the proceedings, on the grounds that they had a stake in its outcome.

Judge Choo heard their submissions and ruled yesterday morning that it was 'just and convenient' to allow both parties in. He also said that 'prudence requires that HPPL (HPL and its partners) be heard', as the outcome of this appeal would have a bearing on their allegation that the majority owners breached the sales contract.

HPL and its partners - Morgan Stanley Real Estate-managed funds and Qatar Investment Authority - have sued the majority sellers for up to $1 billion in damages, alleging that the owners failed to do everything in their power to effect the collective sale.

This came after the STB in August dismissed the majority owners' application for a collective sale order, on the grounds that it was defective because it was missing three pages.

The STB said the statutory declaration provided by the sales committee was 'false' because it stated that the collective sale agreement was appended when, in fact, three pages - containing the signatures of three consenting owners - were missing from it. The board also said that it had no power to amend the application and threw it out, without considering its merits.

HPL's suit against the majority owners has been stayed, pending the outcome of this appeal.

Yesterday, majority owners and the buyers alike sought to convince the High Court that the STB had erred in its decision to throw out the application. They argued that there were no material instances of non-compliance in the application, only a minor technical one - which the STB has the power to amend.

Senior Counsel Chelva Rajah of Tan Rajah & Cheah, who represented the majority owners, and Senior Counsel Andre Yeap of Rajah & Tann, who represented the group of 13 owners, both argued that the missing pages had been a mere oversight.

'It was only due to a clerical error that the pages weren't included ... and these missing pages were brought to the STB's attention during the course of the hearing,' Mr Rajah said.

Mr Yeap also argued that the missing pages had no material effect on the application. It was a point Mr Rajah agreed with - he pointed out that, even without these three signatures, the application would still have the signatures of more than 80 per cent of the owners. According to collective sale rules for older developments, the owners of more than 80 per cent of the units must agree to the sale.

Both also said that STB had the right - under Rule 12 of the Building Maintenance and Strata Management Regulations - to amend any application submitted to the board, and could have done so instead of dismissing it.

Senior Counsel K Shanmugam of Allen & Gledhill, representing HPL and its partners, echoed the spirit - if not the tone - of the majority owners' submissions.

Mr Shanmugam said his goal was also to convince the High Court that STB had erred in throwing out the collective sale application, without considering its merits. But he warned that there were competing interests among the majority owners.

He cited examples of how some of the majority owners had tried to scupper the en bloc sale, after neighbouring developments started to fetch much higher prices. He related instances of how the sales committee had been equivocal about setting STB hearing dates and how anonymous flyers had circulated around the development, encouraging sellers to renege on the deal.

'So I want to be joined to this action (this appeal) to ensure our interests are safeguarded,' he said.

The hearing continues today, when the minority owners will present their objections.

Tender Closing For Residential Site At Simon Road

Source : Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) News Release, 2 October 2007

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has closed the tender for the residential site at Simon Road today.

The site was launched for public tender on 7 August 2007 (http://www.ura.gov.sg/pr/text/2007/pr07-83.html). The site was offered for sale on a 99-year lease.

Please see Annex A for the particulars of the site and the details of the bids received.

This is not an announcement of tender award. A decision on the award of the tender will be made after the bids have been evaluated. This will be publicised at a later date.


For media enquiries, please contact:

Ms Serene Tng
Manager, Public Relations
DID: 6329 3224
Email: serene_tng@ura.gov.sg

HSBC Files For Anti-Trust Body Review Of KEB Deal

Source : The Business Times, October 2, 2007>

SEOUL - HSBC has applied for a review of its US$6.3 billion purchase of a stake in Korea Exchange Bank (KEB) to South Korea's anti-trust agency, the country's Fair Trade Commission (FTC) said on Tuesday.

HSBC Holdings had announced in early September that it agreed to buy a 51.02 per cent stake in KEB from private equity firm Lone Star.

HSBC Holdings had announced in early September that it agreed to buy a 51.02 per cent stake in KEB from private equity firm Lone Star, in a deal that could propel the UK-based bank into the top ranks of Asia's third-largest banking market.

'HSBC handed in the application for the merger on Sept 27 directly,' the commission said in a one-page statement.

'The FTC will proceed with the merger review in a prudent manner. It takes normally 30 days but can be extended for additional 90 days if necessary.' -- REUTERS

S'pore Q3 Office Rents Up 17%: CBRE

Source : The Business Times, October 2, 2007

Singapore office rents rose 16.7 per cent between July and September from the previous quarter and are likely to increase further, albeit at a slower pace, property consultancy CB Richard Ellis (CBRE) said on Tuesday.

Prime office rents in Singapore have hit historic peaks, driven by strong demand from the financial and banking industries

Despite some market uncertainty triggered by the US sub-prime mortgage meltdown, prime office rents in Singapore have hit historic peaks, driven by strong demand from the financial and banking industries.

Monthly prime office rents were at an average of $12.60 (US$8.55) per square foot (0.093 sq metre) during the third quarter, 82.6 per cent higher from a year ago.

But CBRE said the market was moving into a period of 'more modest rental growth' with the government reacting to rein in escalating business costs by releasing more land sites for office developments.

'We have observed tenants' increasing resistance to rental hikes while occupiers are more prepared to explore lower cost locations and alternative premises,' said Moray Armstrong, office services executive director at CBRE.

Developers such as CapitaLand and Keppel Land have enjoyed strong office rent returns in the past year. -- REUTERS

Singapore Private Home Prices Hit 10-Year High On Rosy Economic Outlook

Source : AsiaOne News, Oct 1, 2007

Singapore's private home prices surged to a 10-year high in the third quarter, the government said Monday.

The price index of private residential property rose 8 percent to 159.6 points in the July-September quarter, its highest level since the third quarter of 1997, according to preliminary estimates released by the Urban Redevelopment Authority. No average price figures were released.

Singapore's property market has been growing at a blistering pace in recent months, with the second quarter rise being the fastest in eight years.

"Investors are being driven by four factors - increased liquidity, confidence in local economic growth, a healthy job market and a broad-based recovery in the property market," said Nicholas Mak, head of research at property consultancy firm Knight Frank.

The Singapore government recently raised its full-year economic growth forecast to 7-8 percent from a previous target of 5-7 percent. The city-state also added a record 64,400 new jobs in the second quarter when seasonally-adjusted unemployment was a mere 2.3 percent.

The government's preliminary estimates are based on data for the first 10 weeks of the quarter. More detailed figures will be released at the end of the month.

A Worldwide Downturn Looms, New York City Mayor Warns

Source : TODAY, Tuesday, October 2, 2007

MICHAEL Bloomberg, founder of the financial news and data giant, has warned of a looming global economic downturn that is triggered by the run-up of public debt.

Mr Bloomberg, who is also New York City’s Mayor, said governments should build up a surplus to fall back on during economic slides, according to AFP.

“Being a fiscal conservative means preparing for the inevitable economic downturns — and by all indications, we’ve got one coming,” he told Britain’s Conservative Party conference in Blackpool.

But, he said, it was unclear if the downturn would be a “a dip or a dive”.

Agreeing, economists said the question is the kind of slowdown the global economy would face.

“What we are looking at is whether cutting rates and pumping liquidity into international markets are sufficient to prevent a hard landing,” said Mr Vishnu Varathan, an economist at Forecast.

However, Mr Varathan thinks cutting government spending is not the right thing to do at this stage.

“If governments were to cut down on spending at the same time the private sector is contracting, that will actually deepen the down cycle,” he said.

HSBC economist Mr Robert Prior-Wandesforde is expecting growth to slow, but not significantly. He predicted Asian economies would expand 7.6 per cent this year and 7.5 per cent next year.

“We are still confident that Asia can withstand any further slowdown in the US economy, actually very well,” he said.

“That is premised on the view that US economy doesn’t go into a recession, which seems unlikely at this stage.”

Keppel Land In Vietnam Venture

Source : TODAY, Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Keppel Land has entered a joint venture to develop residences in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Total investment capital for the project, which will be developed in phases, is about US$136 million ($201 million).

Keppel’s wholly owned subsidiary Corredance will take a 60-per-cent stake in the project – representing about US$24.6 million of registered capital –while local developer Hong Quang Co will subscribe for the remaining interest of about US$16.4 million.

The site – Keppel’s fifth new residential project in Vietnam this year – is expected to yield a potential gross floor area of 244,800 sq m, which will include about 1,500 apartments.— DOW JONES

Horizon Towers : 'Quit Playing Games' Says Senior Counsel K Shanmugam

Source : TODAY, Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Shanmugam casts doubts on intentions of Horizon Towers majority owners

HAVING got his wish to intervene in the hearing, Senior Counsel K Shanmugam — who is representing the consortium seeking to buy over Horizon Towers — sought to dominate yesterday's proceedings and lay bare what he claimed was the game plan of the majority owners in appealing against the Strata Titles Board's (STB) decision to abort the $500-million deal.

The board threw out the sale after three pages — supposed to contain signatures of three of the majority owners — were found to be missing from the sale order application.

The intention of the majority owners, according to Mr Shanmugam, was to have the case sent back to the STB and hope that the minority objectors would raise new arguments — including the claim that the contract was invalid.

Yesterday, Justice Choo Han Teck granted the applications by the consortium, Horizon Partners Private Limited (HPPL), and a splinter group of majority owners to have their cases heard by the court. It would "not be unjust and inconvenient to hear two more parties", the judge ruled.

Telling the other lawyers in the tussle — which included heavyweight legal eagles Senior Counsels K S Rajah and Michael Hwang who are representing some minority owners — to "get real", Mr Shanmugam also challenged them to argue before Justice Choo the validity of the contract between HPPL and the owners.

By doing so, he hopes to preempt what he believes would be the owners' game plan — to "get rid" of HPPL and succeed in the appeal as well.

Professing to have a "complicated mind", Mr Shanmugam explained that the Horizon Towers owners could plausibly renege on the contract by arguing that it had lapsed upon the original sale order deadline of Aug 11.

Two weeks ago, the owners resolved to extend the deadline by four months — a move that staved off HPPL's $1-billion lawsuit against them for the loss of profits.

But Mr Shanmugam revealed that up to two days before the resolution, circulars were sent out by some majority owners, including Ms Doreen Siow who had recently resigned from the sale committee, stating they would only consider the extension if the High Court appeal is granted.

It was only after HPPL's meeting with some of the owners at Hilton Hotel that they apparently changed their minds.

"We were very frank. We told them we are going to intervene (in the appeal) and explain to the court what the game is. And that we are going to prosecute the contract action rigorously," said Mr Shanmugam.

Alluding to Mr Rajah, Mr Shanmugam also suggested the owners and their lawyers were deliberately trying to stall for time.

Mr Rajah, who is Mr Shanmugam's former father-in-law, countered: "I hate to interrupt my learned friend in full flight, in all his investigative work. But what has all this got to do with the appeal?"

He added: "What he is doing is to cast Ms Doreen Siow in rather dark colours. He's doing what we wanted to avoid — HPPL is spreading its wings into every other corner. While we are all here talking about the appeal, all my learned friend is concerned with is HPPL's case."

Mr Shanmugam said all he wanted was to establish the "real intentions" of the parties involved.

And should Justice Choo grant the appeal, he asked that HPPL be allowed to present its case to STB, a request that had been twice turned down by the board.

The hearing continues today.

Sun, Sand And Sea At Punggol Point

Source : The Straits Times, Oct 2, 2007

Related Video Link - http://tinyurl.com/3docyc
Sun, sand and sea at Punggol Point

Announcing their target to have more environmental improvement projects next year, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) unveiled plans to jazz up Punggol Point.

That means sandy beaches and lush shady trees entwined with the balmy sea breeze.

Fernvale Flat Prices: Comparisons Inapt

Sources : The Straits Times, Oct 2, 2007

I REFER to the letter, 'HDB flat prices in Fernvale rose too rapidly' (ST, Sept 26), by Mr Leong Sze Hian.

Mr Leong compared the selling prices of HDB's latest build-to-order project, Coral Spring, with the selling prices of Fernvale Vista and Fernvale Court launched in May this year and September 2005 respectively.

The comparisons are inappropriate, as they did not take into account prevailing market values and the different design features of the flats.

Coral Spring is a Premium project while the two earlier projects cited by Mr Leong are Standard projects.

HDB's Premium projects come with enhanced architectural designs, landscaping and better-quality finishes, compared to Standard projects.

In addition, the flats at Coral Spring also come with many improved design features, such as bay windows and planters, as well as a larger floor area.

The Fernvale area has also undergone significant development since the launch of Fernvale Court two years ago. With the LRT system in operation, improved road network, as well as more amenities and established facilities, the flats in the Fernvale area have appreciated in market value. This can be seen from recent resale transactions in the area, where four-room flats were transacted at between $275,000 and $287,000.

We would like to reiterate that HDB has continued to price its flats such that they are affordable to the vast majority of flat buyers.

New HDB flats are priced below their equivalent market values so that buyers can enjoy a substantial subsidy from the Government.

In addition, the Government has recently revised the Additional CPF Housing Grant Scheme for first-timers to allow households earning up to $4,000 in income to qualify, with the highest-tier grant increased from $20,000 to $30,000.

Kee Lay Cheng (Ms)
Deputy Director
(Marketing & Projects)
For Director
(Estate Administration & Property)
Housing & Development Board



Coral Spring, a Premium project, also comes with features such as bay windows and planters, as well as a larger floor area.

Another KepLand Waterfront Home Project In Vietnam

Source : The Strait Times, 02 October 2007

PROPERTY developer Keppel Land (KepLand) is joining forces with a Vietnamese company to build a US$136 million ($202.8 million) luxury waterfront residence in Ho Chi Minh City.

The company announced yesterday that its wholly owned subsidiary Corredance will take a 60 per cent stake in a joint-venture firm developing the 51,000 sq m site near the city's District 2.

Local firm Hong Quang will own 40 per cent.

The as-yet-unnamed project, the fifth Vietnamese residential development by KepLand this year, is expected to yield a gross floor area of nearly 250,000 sq m.

Facilities include swimming pools, tennis courts, a clubhouse and round-the-clock security.

Another attraction will be its access to the city centre, via the East-West Highway and Saigon River Tunnel, both of which are expected to be completed in 2009 - the same year units in the 1,500-unit complex will be on sale.

KepLand director Ang Wee Gee said there was pent-up demand for middle to high-end residences like the ones it was building.

The company has built more than 20,000 homes since it entered the Vietnam property market more than a decade ago and will 'continue to be on the lookout for more prime residential sites in Vietnam to ride on the market upswing', added Mr Ang.

According to estimates by the Asian Development Bank, Vietnam's economy will grow by 8.3 per cent this year and 8.5 per cent next year.

Property prices are also on the rise. High-end homes in Hanoi average US$177 per sq ft (psf) and US$270 psf in Ho Chi Minh City, the country's business hub.

A Ho Chi Minh City condominium, The Lancaster, was resold at a record price of US$465 psf recently. It was launched at US$185 psf just three years ago.

KepLand shares rose 10 cents to $8.40 yesterday.

KepLand In 5th Viet Project This Year

Source : The Business Times, 02 October 2007

KEPPEL Land has announced its fifth residential project in Vietnam this year - a 1,500-unit condominium in Ho Chi Minh City - adding to its portfolio of over 20,000 homes there.

Mr Ang: 'We will continue to be on the look-out for more prime residential sites in Vietnam'

The total investment capital for the latest project is estimated at US$136 million.

Through wholly-owned subsidiary Corredance Pte Ltd, Keppel Land has signed a joint venture agreement with Vietnam-based Hong Quang Co Ltd to develop the 5.1ha waterfront site. Corredance is expected to take up a 60 per cent stake amounting to US$24.6 million of the total registered capital of US$41 million in the JV company while Hong Quang, a property developer, will subscribe for the rest.

Keppel Land director of regional investments Ang Wee Gee is bullish on Vietnam. He said: 'We will continue to be on the look-out for more prime residential sites in Vietnam to ride on the market upswing and to further capitalise on our strong reputation as a choice developer.'

The latest project is close to the Thu Thiem New Township, which has been earmarked as the new downtown to complement Ho Chi Minh City's CBD. The sales launch of the first phase is slated for early 2009.

Keppel Land's next launch is expected to be for The Estella, a residential project comprising 1,600 upmarket apartments in the An Phu Ward, Ho Chi Minh City. The soft launch is targeted for Q4 '07.

Other projects being developed in Ho Chi Minh City include Saigon Sports City, a 64-ha integrated township development, and Saigon Centre, a mixed development comprising office buildings, serviced apartments and retail component.

It is also developing two waterfront residential developments fronting the Saigon River, while in Hanoi, two memorandums of understanding have been signed with local joint venture partners to develop residential townships.

Keppel Land is also developing a 509ha waterfront township in Long Hung, Long Thanh, Dong Nai.

Mall Gets Dolled Up

Source : TODAY, Tuesday, October 2, 2007

It's been a long wait, but Pasir Ris residents can now enjoy a new and improved White Sands shopping centre.

The mall has undergone a year long facelift and is back with a fresh new look and a wider mix of tenants.

"We re-positioned White Sands as an active lifestyle mall given its close proximity to the beach and the resorts and chalets in the area," said Ms Stephanie Ho, assistant general manager, AsiaMalls.

When AsiaMalls Management acquired White Sands at the end of 2004, it originally catered to the basic needs of Pasir Ris residents, but AsiaMalls figured that it had greater potential.

Intensive renovation work began in May last year and was completed in August.

The revamped mall is now home to over 100 fashion, lifestyle and food and beverage outlets like Ben and Jerry's, Bata and Eu Yan Sang. The mall also boasts an extra 20,000 sq ft of floor space thanks to the expansion of its ground and basement levels.

"As shoppers' lifestyle and preferences change, they tend to shop at areas that appeal to them in terms of offering the latest retail trends for specialty products," said Ms Ho.

"The active life concept broadens and deepens the mall's offerings, and provides something for everyone in the community who enjoys active and healthy living," she added.

White Sands' re-launch involved a flurry of activities spread out over several weekends and included a Singapore record breaking attempt for the longest time spent on a static bike.

The Starfish Angels Charity event involved 10 schools vying for a $16,000 cash donation to charity.

The celebrations ended with the Family Bike-In Community Ride and Carnival, which despite the gloomy weather attracted a crowd of 170, including Minister of Defense Mr Teo Chee Hean.

AsiaMalls manages a $1 billion portfolio of five malls (Tiong Bahru Plaza, Century Square, Hougang Mall, White Sands and Liang Court) that have a combined retail space of 1 million sq ft. It is also the retail and marketing manager of the Tampines 1 retail development that is due to be completed by early 2009.

A Worldwide Downturn Looms, New York City Mayor Warns

Source : TODAY, Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Michael Bloomberg, founder of the financial news and data giant, has warned of a looming global economic downturn that is triggered by the run-up of public debt.

Mr Bloomberg, who is also New York City's Mayor, said governments should build up a surplus to fall back on during economic slides, according to AFP.

"Being a fiscal conservative means preparing for the inevitable economic downturns — and by all indications, we've got one coming," he told Britain's Conservative Party conference in Blackpool.

But, he said, it was unclear if the downturn would be a "a dip or a dive".

Agreeing, economists said the question is the kind of slowdown the global economy would face.

"What we are looking at is whether cutting rates and pumping liquidity into international markets are sufficient to prevent a hard landing," said Mr Vishnu Varathan, an economist at Forecast.

However, Mr Varathan thinks cutting government spending is not the right thing to do at this stage.

"If governments were to cut down on spending at the same time the private sector is contracting, that will actually deepen the down cycle," he said.

HSBC economist Mr Robert Prior-Wandesforde is expecting growth to slow, but not significantly. He predicted Asian economies would expand 7.6 per cent this year and 7.5 per cent next year.

"We are still confident that Asia can withstand any further slowdown in the US economy, actually very well," he said.

"That is premised on the view that US economy doesn't go into a recession, which seems unlikely at this stage."

4-Year-Old Case Dragged Up In Horizon Towers Saga

Source : The Straits Times, Oct 2, 2007

Dragon Court case cited to persuade judge to overturn the STB decision

THE tangled Horizon Towers case has become even more complex as a controversial collective sale four years ago was dragged into the proceedings.

In their High Court appeal yesterday, lawyers for the majority sellers of Horizon Towers cited the case of Dragon Court, where a lone owner fought against the estate being sold en bloc in 2003.

They argued that the Dragon Court ruling sheds some light on the ongoing legal tussle over the Leonie Hill estate, as it is also related to an issue of missing disclosure.

In the Horizon Towers case, the Strata Titles Board (STB) dismissed the owners' application for a collective sale in August over a technicality: Pages bearing three consenting owners' signatures were missing from the submitted application.

The majority owners want the High Court to overturn the STB dismissal.

Their lawyer - Tan, Rajah and Cheah's Mr Chelva Rajah - said the STB knew those three owners signed the sale deal, and that the Board had the power to amend the application to include the missing pages.

Mr Rajah argued that even without those three signatures, the rest of the owners who had consented to the sale still held 82.51 per cent of share values - comfortably above the 80 per cent minimum requirement.

Mr Rajah also told the court that the missing pages were a 'clerical error'.

He then cited the High Court's ruling that upheld the STB's decision to allow the Dragon Court sale in 2003, despite more 'material' information not being disclosed in the application.

Dragon Court unit owner Koh Gek Hwa tried to block the sale, arguing that a conflict of interest between the majority sellers and the buyer had not been highlighted. Nine of the estate's 14 units were owned by a single company linked to the condominium's buyer, she said.

But the STB, noting that there was only one bidder for that sale, decided there was no reason to suggest that the buyer was unfairly chosen. The High Court backed that ruling, saying the STB had known of the seller-buyer relationship prior to its decision.

Yesterday's Horizon Towers hearing was somewhat quieter than Friday's lively session, when comments from the public gallery peppered the lawyers' speeches. The room, though, remained packed, with more than 20 lawyers from six firms and at least 40 people in the public gallery.

Justice Choo Han Teck kicked off proceedings by deciding to allow the estate's buyers to participate, ending a row that had taken up the whole of last Friday.

The buyers - led by Hotel Properties and represented by Allen & Gledhill's Mr K. Shanmugam - had asked to join the proceedings in order to protect their own interests. They have said that they will sue the majority owners for breach of contract if the $500 million sale does not go through.

Their request for inclusion, however, proved unpopular with the condominium's majority sellers.

Justice Choo said yesterday he would allow the buyers' participation as they were pursuing their commercial interests. He said it will not be 'unjust or inconvenient to hear two more voices', as long as he can 'mute' them if they prove disruptive.

Things heated up in the afternoon, when Mr Shanmugam took the court through a long retelling of the Horizon Towers saga.

Earlier case

# Dragon Court went en bloc in 2002, and sole bidder Limau Heights Development offered $12.9 million.

# But unit owner Koh Gek Hwa, a former accountant, opposed the sale, claiming not enough weight was given to the majority sellers' links to the buyer.

# When the STB dismissed her objection, Ms Koh became the first home owner here to take her collective sale protest to court.

# The High Court ruled that the STB knew all material information before its decision.

Who's who in the saga

The buyers

# Hotel Properties, Qatar Investment Authority, funds managed by Morgan Stanley Real Estate.

# Lawyers: Allen & Gledhill, led by senior counsel K. Shanmugan.

The majority sellers

# As a whole, directed by the current sale committee.

# Lawyers: Tan, Rajah and Cheah, led by senior counsel Chelva Rajah.

The majority sellers

# A group of 13 sellers, including three members of the original sale committee.

# Lawyers: Rajah and Tann, led by senior counsel Andre Yeap.

Minority owners

# One group of three represented by Tan Kok Quan, led by Mr Ramesh Kannan.

# One group of four represented by Harry Elias Partnership, led by senior counsel K. S. Rajah and Mr Philip Fong.

# One owner represented by Phang & Co, which has given instructions to senior counsel Michael Hwang.

Botanic Gardens To Get 11ha Of Ex-SMU Land

Source : The Straits Times, Oct 2, 2007

THE Singapore Botanic Gardens will soon have enough new space to fit more than 20 football fields.

The Straits Times understands that the 11ha will come from land that was previously used by the Singapore Management University.

This abuts the current 63.7 ha Botanic Gardens on its northern edge, along Evans Road.

National Parks Board's chief executive officer Ng Lang let slip the nugget at the launch of Asia's first children's garden yesterday.

Related Video Link - http://tinyurl.com/32tjft
'The Secret Garden'

Take time to smell the roses - literally.

That seems to be the message to young children as a new haven for kids blossoms at the Botanic Gardens.

The Children's Garden - a first in Asia - is specially designed for children up to 12 years old.

The children's garden marks the end of a $100 million redevelopment of the Botanic Gardens, which has sat on its prime site just off Orchard Road since 1859.

The 11ha will mean new gardens in three or four years' time. Mr Ng declined to divulge more details, saying that information will be released later in the year.

Govt To Boost Supply Of Homes

Source : The Straits Times, Oct 2, 2007

Observers view supply increase as a signal to calm market amid high property prices

THE Government has sent its strongest signal yet that it plans to increase the supply of homes and residential sites - a move that comes amid soaring real estate prices.

It will offer 6,000 new Housing Board flats over the next six months and might release more land for private homes next year if necessary.

The initiative comes as lower-end homes see a price spurt that is finally starting to match that in luxury homes.

Property consultants said the increased supply is the latest Government move to calm the market.

'The Government is seeing a very strong take-up for homes, and it wants to avoid panic buying,' said Mr Nicholas Mak, the director of research and consultancy at Knight Frank. 'So it's just telling potential buyers there is a lot of supply out there.'

Prices of entry-level private homes in suburban areas were 8.1 per cent higher in July to September than in the previous three months. The pace about matched that set by more expensive homes in the central region, going by initial estimates out yesterday.

In the same period, prices of HDB resale flats jumped by 6.5 per cent. This is double the 3 per cent rise in the previous quarter and is by far the biggest quarterly jump since 1999.

Given the recent 'good response for new flats', HDB will release a slew of new units in the coming months. Of these, 4,500 will come under the Build-to-Order (BTO) system. Another 1,500 units will be in three new Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) sites in central and eastern Singapore.

So far this year, HDB has released 2,700 BTO flats - about the same number as for the whole of last year. In the same period, it has sold a DBSS site at Boon Keng and launched another at Ang Mo Kio. The two combined can host at least 1,100 units.

HDB also said it 'will continue to monitor the market situation closely, to ensure that there is an adequate and affordable supply of flats'.

A similar reassurance was issued by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) with respect to private homes. It reiterated that it 'will continue to monitor prices closely'.

In an unusual move, the agency added that it is reviewing the Government Land Sales scheme, launched every six months, for the first half of next year. It said it 'will make available more sites...if the demand continues to remain strong'.

Experts interpreted this to mean that the URA intends to put out more sites for private home development, especially under its confirmed list.

The confirmed list system offers sites for sale outright, while the other option - the reserve list - follows a more cautious approach. Reserve sites are put out only when a developer submits a minimum acceptable bid.

While consultants believe the new HDB flats can be absorbed easily, some question the need for more land for private homes.

'I don't think there would be a glut on the HDB side,' said Knight Frank's Mr Mak. 'If there is any risk of oversupply, it would be with private homes, three to four years from now.'

He noted the record run in collective sales in the past two years. Even if developers can sell all the new homes on these sites, those buying to rent out might not be able to find enough tenants when all the homes are finished.

This could bring rents and prices down, said Mr Mak. But for this year, he expects a record take-up of 15,000 new homes, compared with 11,000 last year and 7,500 in an average year.

On the other hand, collective sales will remove about 9,000 homes from the market, said Mr Ku Swee Yong, the director of marketing and business development at Savills Singapore.

'If job growth continues to be strong, absorption may not be the problem; actually, there may not be enough to go around,' he said.

The URA also removed a hotel site in Balestier from its land sales list yesterday. The 0.86ha site has been on the reserve list for a year or so, but the URA is reviewing its land use together with that of other vacant plots nearby.

Transforming Singapore's Hotel Industry

Source : The Business Times, October 2, 2007

Global players are injecting new brands and product concepts into the local hotel scene

Upping the ante: New brands and new-generation properties are expected to generate a wider geographical capture and mix of tourist traffic to Singapore

SINGAPORE'S hotel sector is currently enjoying a new surge of energy and opportunities brought about by the government's efforts to reinvigorate tourism.

Complementing efforts by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) to raise visitor numbers to 17 million by 2015, the government had in recent years released more sites for hotel development under its Government Land Sales (GLS) programme to meet the anticipated accommodation needs.

The state land tenders have generally been met with keen industry interest, buoyed by the strong trading conditions that have prevailed with the current strong demand and tight room supply. This is a stark contrast to the 1990s when the government announced a hotel safeguarding policy in 1997 to check the creeping trend of hotels being converted to residential use.

Latest numbers from the tourism authority showed a total of 225 hotels and 36,891 rooms in Singapore's accommodation market as at end-2005. There is no existing star-rating system in Singapore and the current hotel stock is sub-divided into 103 gazetted hotels (30,445 rooms) and 122 non-gazetted hotels.

Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels estimates that around 81 per cent of the gazetted 30,445 rooms fall within the upper-tier four-star and five-star hotel segments.

Geographically, the majority of these upper-tier hotels are concentrated along the traditional hotel belt: Orchard Road, City Hall, Suntec City/Marina Centre, Bras Basah/Bugis and the CBD/Boat Quay/Clarke Quay.

Familiar international brands found within these localities include the Ritz-Carlton, Marriott, Grand Hyatt, Hilton, Shangri-La, Four Seasons, Raffles, Swissotel, Traders, Pan Pacific, Conrad, Meritus, Novotel as well as The Oriental Singapore which was re-named the Mandarin Oriental Singapore from Sept 25.

Outside of these locations, a cluster of smaller, self-managed budget or boutique hotels have emerged in the Chinatown, Little India and Geylang/ East Coast/Joo Chiat areas.

Sentosa Island is now home to a handful of mid- to high-end hotel properties such as The Sentosa Resort & Spa, Shangri-La's Rasa Sentosa Resort and the new Amara Sanctuary Resort Sentosa.

A more exciting local hotel scene is unfolding with a new cast of players, additional brands and creative product concepts. Riding on the opportunities presented by the renewal of the tourism industry, international hotel management companies such as Accor, Starwood Hotels & Resorts and the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) are growing their presence in Singapore by bringing in other brands from their portfolios that are currently not in this market.

Ranging from boutique to mid-tier to luxury establishments, many of these new hotel developments are being established in non-traditional hotel locations such as Tanjong Pagar, One-North, Labrador Park and Novena areas. A new 320-room Crowne Plaza, a brand from the IHG family, is scheduled to open at the Singapore Changi Airport next year.

United Engineers, a local developer with a strong focus on the residential sector, has announced plans to build a business hotel at Singapore's biosciences hub at South Buona Vista.

With the latest GLS programme for the second half of 2007 including sites like Jalan Bukit Merah/Alexan- der Road, Outram Park and Kampong Glam for hotel development, more hotels can be expected to spring up outside of the typical hotel hot spots.

The two upcoming mega integrated resorts (IRs) at Marina Bay and Sentosa will also be the launch-pads for new hotel brands and concepts. While Sands @Marina Bay will offer 2,500 rooms in the upper-tier sector in 2009, Resorts World @Sentosa will add another 1,830 rooms in six hotels in 2010.

The latter will comprise a Hard Rock Hotel, the Hotel Michael boutique hotel, the Festive Hotel with a Hollywood theme, an iconic Maxims Residences, the Equarius Hotel with a lush greenery theme and the ESPA Villas.

Resort and villa-type establishments, too, are making a stronger statement in Singapore. Apart from the ESPA Villas, Villa Raintree @Labrador Nature Reserve (a refurbishment project) as well as the recently opened Amara Sanctuary Resort and the upcoming Capella Singapore at Sentosa fall under this category.

Meanwhile, the luxury hotel segment will soon witness the opening of the 299-room St Regis Hotel at end-2007. Sino Land plans to open a new 120-room boutique hotel at Collyer Quay in 2009, while a new 320-room W Hotel at Sentosa Cove is expected to be operational by the end of 2010.

The entry of these new hotels will up the ante in Singapore's luxury hotel segment, which currently comprises the Four Seasons, Shangri-La, Ritz-Carlton and The Fullerton.

The present lack of quality branded mid-tier accommodation options has created opportunities for new niche developments that are targeted at specific market segments. For example, Far East Organization's upcoming hotel at Sinaran Drive next to the Tan Tock Seng Hospital will cater to the needs of the growing inbound medical tourist segment.

Similar opportunities are available at a government 'white' site on the current Reserve List that is located at Outram Road/Eu Tong Seng Street to develop a 555-room hotel near the Singapore General Hospital.

The proliferation of low-cost carriers in Asia has also fuelled the growth of lower-tier segment, with the new Ibis Hotel scheduled to open at Bencoolen Street in 2009 a case in point. More recently, the Hong Leong Group has linked up with Istithmar PJSC and Tune Hotels.com to open around 30 budget hotels in South-east Asia, including Singapore.

The completion of the Marina Bay and Sentosa IRs as well as supporting infrastructure and tourist attractions in the Marina and Sentosa vicinities will collectively cultivate an environment conducive for the entry of differentiated quality and luxury hotel products to the Singapore marketplace.

The arrival of new brands and new-generation properties such as W, Westin, Fairmont, emerging Middle East Groups like Jumeriah and from the Indian sub-continent, groups like Taj and Oberoi, will provide synergy for the broader local hotel market and is anticipated to generate a wider geographical capture and mix of tourist traffic to Singapore.

In the longer term, new hybrid products such as condotels (or condo-hotels) that are established in the US but still relatively untested in Asia, may be introduced, although the success of such products will hinge on the regulatory framework.

In the meantime, with a wider selection of accommodation offerings to suit the different budgets and expectations of visitors, guests can look forward to a more varied and interesting stay experience in Singapore.

The writer is Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels executive vice-president

Greenspan: Home Market Long Way From Stabilising

Source : The Business Times, October 2, 2007

But he says lending crisis is ending as demand for more risky assets grows

(LONDON) The US housing market has a long way to go before stabilising after the sub-prime crisis, spelling bad news for consumers in the world's biggest economy, former Federal Reserve chief Alan Greenspan said yesterday.

Mr Greenspan, who has been outspoken throughout the credit crunch, said more house price declines were likely given a surfeit of supply but pointed to signs the lending crisis could be coming to an end as demand for more risky assets grows.

However, he warned that any speculative market fever must be allowed to run its course to enable a full recovery.

'As in similar situations of inventory excess, I would expect home price declines to continue until the rate of inventory liquidation reaches its peak,' Mr Greenspan told an audience at Reuters in London.

'There is little relevant American history to guide us in judging the ultimate extent of home price decline or the timing of a new price recovery, or by extension, the economic impact on the rest of our trading partners.'

The US housing market remains extremely fragile after a crisis in low-end mortgage borrowing spread fear of a global economic slowdown and put a squeeze on lending conditions.

The Fed has slashed US interest rates by half a percentage point to try and stabilise markets and encourage banks to increase their lending to each other.

But official data shows a US housing recovery is some way off with new home sales falling more than expected in August to notch their slowest rate in seven years and prices recording their sharpest annual fall since 1970.

Analysts said those figures largely reflected conditions before the mid-August market turmoil set in.

'All that I conclude is that the process of inventory adjustment has just started and we have a long way to go before residential housing and mortgage markets stabilise in the US,' Mr Greenspan said.

Mr Greenspan said likely victims of sustained weakness in the housing market would include the consumer and, consequently, the world's biggest economy.

'Recent declines in home prices are already eating into home equities and unless stock prices resume their pace of increase of earlier this year, US consumer spending and GDP will be under pressure from declining household wealth,' he said.

But he said signs were emerging the credit crisis could be coming to an end.

'To be sure, lenders in recent days have been reaching out for longer term, lesser quality assets and that is a good sign,' he said. 'Is this August-September credit crisis about to be over? Possibly.' - Reuters

Balestier Hotel Site Taken Out Of Reserve List

Source : The Business Times, October 2, 2007

URA to review plot's land use; Rangoon site goes to S'pore Healthpartners

A HOTEL site at Balestier Road/Ah Hood Road is to be withdrawn from the reserve list of the Government Land Sales (GLS) Programme for the second half of this year, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said yesterday.

The URA intends to review the land use plan of the site together with the other vacant land in the vicinity.

This site was on the reserve list since Oct 26 last year, being slated for hotel development on a 99-year lease.

The URA declined to indicate what plans it was considering for the site, saying that it would release details when they are finalised.

'We are unable to reveal if we have received applications for the site,' a URA spokesman said.

'However, from time to time, the government receive inquiries for the site.'

Under the reserve list, the government will release a site for sale only when an interested party submits an application for a site to be put up for tender with a minimum purchase offer price that is acceptable to the government.

Separately, URA yesterday awarded the tender for the white site at Race Course Road/Rangoon Road to Singapore Healthpartners Pte Ltd (SHP).

The company submitted the highest bid of $265.27 million or $4,635.47 per square metre of gross floor area.

Singapore Healthpartners has a total of 38 shareholders, including prominent doctors Charles Chan, Leslie Lam and Maurice Choo.

A major shareholder is Berjaya Leisure (Cayman) Ltd, which is said to be linked to Berjaya Leisure Capital led by Malaysian businessman Vincent Tan.

Directors of SHP contacted by BT last week declined to comment on the company's plans for the 13,625 sq m site but a medical centre-cum-hotel appears to be in the offing.

The 99-year leasehold white site has a maximum permissible gross floor area of 57,225 sq m and at least 40 per cent of this must be used as a hotel.

An Eastern Charm In S'pore

Source : TODAY, Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Another 228 buildings in the Joo Chiat/Katong area identified for preservation

FROM landmark churches to picturesque pre-war shop houses, the Joo Chiat and Katong area is an undisputed hotbed of architectural diversity and the historical home for the local Eurasian and Peranakan community.

Given its unique mix of exquisite architecture, history and culture, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has identified another 228 buildings for preservation. These are in addition to the more than 700 historical landmarks located along key roads such as Joo Chiat Road and East Coast Road, as well as 15 bungalows on Mountbatten Road, that have already been gazetted for conservation.

Speaking at the URA Architectural Heritage Awards presentation ceremony at the National Museum of Singapore yesterday, Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan said that the URA recently embarked on public consultation with the owners of the 228 buildings earmarked for conservation.

Said Mr Mah: "The aim of this conservation proposal is to complete conservation of the street block and add to the critical mass of heritage buildings and rich architectural diversity in Katong and Joo Chiat."

Seeking the individual owners' views, he added, was in line with the URA's consultative approach.

"It also contributes to a more transparent process in gazetting buildings for conservation (and) will take into account the owners' feedback," he said.

Among the buildings targeted in this proposal will be the bungalows, terrace houses and shop houses in Koon Seng Road, Onan Road and Carpmael Road, as well as landmarks such as St Hilda's Church at Ceylon Road and the single storey Bethesda (Katong) Church at Pennefather Road.

Mr Mah also announced plans to build a new 4.9km waterfront promenade stretching from Punggol Point to Sungei Serangoon, as well as projects to revitalise the older housing estates of Woodlands and Siglap Village "in order to enhance the distinct character, identity and overall environment of each area".

These improvements are targeted for completion between 2008 and 2010.

"As a land-scarce nation, we have to take a pragmatic and balanced approach towards conservation," he said.

"Creating an endearing home goes beyond individual heritage buildings, it is also about strengthening the identity of places where we live, work and play."

Since 1989, the URA has gazetted more than 5,600 buildings for conservation. In addition, 55 buildings with historical significance have been earmarked as national monuments.

Now in its 13th year, the annual URA awards were set up to recognise and inspire quality restoration and architectural excellence.

“Protecting and restoring Singapore’s building heritage cannot be done by the Government alone,” said Mr Mah at the awards ceremony.

“Increasingly, more and more enlightened developers and owners have willingly expended resources to buy and restore their conservation buildings for the benefit of the larger society and our future generations.”

To date, more than 77 winners have received the awards since they were launched in 1995.

The prizes are divided into two categories: Category A is for national monuments which are assessed on how far they adhere to quality restoration principles, while Category B appraises projects on both quality of refurbishment as well as innovation of new elements.

The National Museum of Singapore, the Chek Jawa Visitor Centre on Pulau Ubin, Amara Sanctuary Resort on Sentosa and the NUS Law School at Bukit Timah won the Category A awards yesterday.

The Category B honours went to a renovated 1940s terrace house at Martaban Road and a shop house at Niven Road.

Over 200 More Buildings In Katong Area May Be Conserved

Source : The Straits Times, Oct 2, 2007

THE rich heritage of Katong and Joo Chiat district will get more protection from the wrecking ball with a further 228 buildings earmarked for conservation status.

GRAND OLD DAME: The former Grand Hotel along Still Road South was built by an Indian cattle merchant in the 1900s. -- ST FILE PHOTO

The buildings include landmarks such as St Hilda's Church, the Bethesda (Katong) Church and the former Grand Hotel in Still Road South.

Three bungalows - in Marine Parade Road, Chapel Road and Joo Chiat Road - have also been selected.

PRESERVATION: These houses along Marine Parade Road are among the buildings selected for conservation in the area. -- ST PHOTO: LIM WUI LIANG

The buildings were selected to serve as markers of the area's heritage.

St Hilda's Church, for example, was built in 1949 and is designed in a simple English parish church style while the former Grand Hotel building was built in 1917 in the ornamented Victorian style with a slight Indian influence.

Related Video Link - http://tinyurl.com/2sb33z
No demolition for these old buildings

The charming and diverse heritage of Katong and Joo Chiat is the reason why the Urban Redevelopment Authority has selected another 228 buildings there to be saved from the wrecker's ball.

These buildings include well-known landmarks like St Hilda's Church as well as bungalows, terrace houses and shop houses in the area.

This plan was revealed by National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan on Monday at URA's Architectural Heritage Awards ceremony.

WELL-KNOWN LANDMARK: St Hilda's Church in Ceylon Road was built in 1949 in s simple English parish church style. -- ST PHOTO: LIM WUI LIANG

There are already about 700 buildings under conservation orders in the East Coast area, traditional home of Singapore's Eurasian and Peranakan communities and a haven for food-lovers.

The plan was announced by National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan yesterday at the Urban Redevelopment Authority's (URA) Architectural Heritage Awards ceremony.

The URA has told the building owners about the conservation plan. Its final decision will be made after feedback.

Conservation orders mean owners cannot demolish the building or make major alterations to structures or facades.

But the URA noted that most can be redeveloped to their full economic potential even if conserved.

One owner, Ms Lyn Lee, 34, wants the certainty a conservation order would bring. Ms Lee, who owns the Awfully Chocolate cakeshop chain, lives in a pre-war, three-storey shophouse in Tembeling Road, one of a row of 10 houses.

She and her husband bought the ageing freehold property for $880,000 six years ago and have spent about $500,000 renovating it into a home for themselves and their three children. They do not intend to move.

'It's very important that someday, somebody won't come and mow down three houses and build a pink-tiled monstrosity,' she said.

Some of her neighbours are considering upgrading the neighbourhood if it is eventually conserved.

The 228 buildings proposed for conservation were chosen from about 1,000 buildings in the area that are more than 30 years old. More than 6,500 buildings have been conserved in Singapore.

The announcement was bittersweet for interest group Historic Architecture Rescue Plan, which has been lobbying the Government to conserve various properties in the district.

One - a 95-year-old Amber Road bungalow - could only be partly conserved. Earlier this year, its developer agreed to build a hybrid apartment block incorporating some elements of the old building, but it plans to tear down its much vaunted crescent-shaped section.

Mr Mah told the ceremony guests that Singapore had to strike a constant balance between redevelopment and conservation.

Six projects were singled out in the URA awards yesterday for sensitive or innovative restoration work, including the National Museum and Chek Jawa Visitor Centre in Pulau Ubin.

Mr Mah also announced the URA would be enhancing various districts next year. These include a 4.9km waterfront promenade from Punggol Point to Sungei Serangoon and a coastal promenade in Woodlands.

It will also improve roadside infrastructure in Siglap and Upper Serangoon Road.

2007 Architectural Heritage Award winners
# The National Museum: Restored to its former glory, with a new rear extension. Part of the original tiled roof was cut away for a glass connector, offering an unhindered view of its historic dome.

# Chek Jawa Visitor Centre: Believed to be the only remaining authentic Tudor- style house with a fireplace here, it was sensitively restored.

# National University of Singapore Law School: Home to various institutions for more than 80 years, it had to be adapted to meet the functions of the NUS law faculty.

# Amara Sanctuary Resort Sentosa: The former military barracks were converted into an eco-sanctuary with a tropical feel.

# 13 Martaban Road: This transitional style terrace house has been restored into a modern home filled with natural light and ventilation.

# 62 Niven Road: This squat shophouse has had a four- storey extension built at the rear, where full-length glass windows and a steel-mesh sunscreen add a modern function.

URA Aims To Conserve Up To 228 Katong/Joo Chiat Buildings

Source : The Business Times, October 2, 2007

More developers, owners expending resources to buy and restore their old buildings: Mah Bow Tan

THE East Coast may be a hive of new construction activity right now, but the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is also working to keep some old buildings conserved for posterity.

AHA winners: The National Parks Board's Visitor Centre on Pulau Ubin (left) by architects/engineers CPG Consultants and contractor Precise Development, and the National Museum of Singapore by architects CPG Consultants with W Architects, engineers CPG Consultants and contractor Sato Kogyo

Minister of National Development Mah Bow Tan revealed yesterday that the planning authority was looking at conserving up to 228 buildings in the Katong/Joo Chiat area. The URA is seeking feedback from the owners.

Related Link - http://www.ura.gov.sg/pr/text/2007/pr07-105a.html
Full Text of Mr Mah's Speech

The area already has 700 gazetted conservation buildings. Most of the additional buildings under consideration are shophouses or terrace houses. The addition will make Katong/Joo Chiat one of the larger clusters of conserved residential buildings.

Mr Mah said: 'The aim of this conservation proposal is to complete conservation of the street block and add to the critical mass of heritage buildings and rich architectural diversity in Katong and Joo Chiat.'

Mr Mah was speaking at the presentation ceremony of the URA Architectural Heritage Awards (AHA) 2007. Awards were presented to the owners, architects, engineers and contractors of six buildings. These were:

# National Museum of Singapore;

# The 1930s holiday home on Pulau Ubin of the former chief surveyor, Landon Williams;

# Amara Sanctuary Resort Sentosa;

# National University of Law, Bukit Timah Campus;

# 13 Martaban Road, Balestier;

# and 62 Niven Road, Mount Sophia.

Since the awards' inception in 1995, a total of 77 buildings have received the AHA.

Mr Mah said: 'Increasingly, more and more enlightened developers and owners have willingly expended resources to buy and restore their conservation buildings for the benefit of the larger society and our future generations.'

One such person is Lyn Lee, who together with her husband bought a house on Tembeling Road six years ago for about $800,000 and then spent another $500,000 on restoring it. This house and others like it on the same road are now being considered for conservation - and Ms Lee is all for it.

Getting conservation status will increase the value of the building as its future is guaranteed. But more important for Ms Lee is that the conservation status means owners who want to alter their homes beyond conservation guidelines will not be allowed to do so.

'Right now, there is a beautiful symmetry to the street,' she explained. This sense of identity of place is exactly what URA hopes to do by restoring or creating 'markers' in housing estates as well. Mr Mah also said that apart from plans to rejuvenate Queenstown, the government is proposing to build a 4.9km promenade to link Punggol Point and Sungei Serangoon to enhance the 'rustic coastal character'.

Other areas being looked at include Woodlands, Siglap Village and Upper Serangoon Road. Mr Mah said these projects could be completed by around 2009-2010.

HDB Resale Boom

Source : TODAY, Tuesday, October 2, 2007

HDB resale prices surge in Q3 as rates for private properties rise at slower rate

Resale prices of Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats have risen to levels not seen since 1996, benefiting from a spillover of the bullish sentiment in the private home market.

In the third quarter of this year, HDB flats commanded an average 15-per-cent premium to their prices in the fourth quarter of 1998, which is used by the HDB as the base quarter for price comparison (base=100). Early estimates by the HDB showed the resale price index grew from 108 to 115 — a strong 6.5 per cent, in the three months ending September this year. This is more than double the 3-per-cent growth registered in the previous quarter.

"This means good news for the mass market — for people who have bought homes in the last six years, as they are now able to realise some profit," said Mr Mohamed Ismail, the chief executive of real estate agency PropNex.

Mr Ismail noted that the HDB resale price index had shown positive increases for three consecutive quarters. He estimated that with the current trend expected to continue into the final quarter of the year, the total number of resale units registered for the year could surpass last year's by about 4 per cent to hit 31,000.

Mr Eugene Lim, assistant vice-president at real estate agency ERA, said: "While the overall price increase was expected, the larger-than-usual jump in the HDB resale price index is probably caused by the filter-down effect from the private property market."

Earlier this year, several resale HDB flats were snapped up at record prices by cash-rich beneficiaries from the en bloc sales of private housing estates. Some prospective sellers of HDB flats in choice areas such as Bukit Merah, Queenstown, Tiong Bahru and Toa Payoh are now asking for premiums between $50,000 and $200,000 above valuation, ERA noted.

"With these kinds of asking prices, we are beginning to see some resistance in the market as the typical HDB home buyer does not have or does not want to fork out too much cash," said Mr Lim. "It just doesn't make sense."

Mr Nicholas Mak, director, Consultancy and Research Department at Knight Frank, believes that the growing demand for resale HDB flats will drive the lower end of the private property market.

"If the HDB resale home prices continue to grow by more than 3 per cent per quarter on average, it will give that extra push to the private mass-market segment in 2008, and we can expect very robust upgrader demand for private homes," said Mr Mak.

For private non-landed properties, prices continued to rise, but at a slower pace, in the third quarter — the first time since the current market upturn that started two years ago. The Urban Redevelopment Authority's (URA) preliminary estimates showed that private property prices rose 8 per cent compared to the second quarter, when they grew 8.3 per cent from the previous quarter — the fastest growth rate in eight years.

"Despite the stock market turbulence in August, the average private residential property prices in Singapore increased by 8.3 per cent," said Mr Mak. "The surge is even more obvious when compared with last year, where the average private residential property prices rose by less than 4 per cent per quarter."

"The demand drivers for the increase in the price of private homes could be attributed to several factors, including the increase in foreign talent to Singapore, optimism of the market, economic growth, and the increase in the price of the rental market," said Mr Mak.

Singapore created a record 64,400 new jobs in the second quarter of this year, and recorded a seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate of only 2.3 per cent.

About 43,000 new units of private housing are expected to be completed between the second half of this year and 2010, the URA said. Of these, about 19,900 units, or 46 per cent, have yet to be sold by developers.

Mr Mak predicts that "for the whole of 2007, private home prices could increase between 23 per cent and 32 per cent year-on-year, while HDB average resale flat prices could rise by 13 to 20 per cent".

Property Boom Spreads To Mass Market

Source : The Straits Times, Oct 2, 2007

Suburban, HDB homes post best quarterly price growth in years

NEW government figures released yesterday will bring cheer to the average Singaporean homeowner.

This is because prices for so-called 'mass market' properties - comprising mainly suburban condominiums and HDB homes - have posted their best quarterly growth in years.

This has brought the prices of both public and private homes to their highest level in a decade.

The flash estimates for the third quarter, which are based on home sales in July and August, show that private home prices rose 8 per cent, while prices of HDB homes jumped 6.5 per cent for the same period.

The numbers show that the effects of Singapore's property recovery, which have been largely focused on high-end luxury apartments for the last year or so, are finally filtering down to the typical homeowner.

Most significantly, prices of non-landed private homes outside the central region - in areas such as Clementi and Bedok - surged 8.1 per cent, almost on par with the increase of 8.3 per cent for homes in the core, or central, area.

Growth in prices of homes located in prime areas like districts 9, 10, 11, downtown and Sentosa have far outstripped that of suburban homes since 2004, the earliest period for which price changes in different districts are available. But the gap in price increases has now narrowed to just 0.2 percentage points.

Property analysts say the figures show a confident local market generally unshaken by the recent volatility in the stock market - due to the sub-prime mortgage crisis in the US.

Savills Singapore's director of marketing and business development Ku Swee Yong said future growth is now likely to be fuelled 'from the bottom up' by mass market homes.

CBRE Research's executive director Li Hiaw Ho also marked this quarter as a 'big step' for suburban projects, which were launched at $850 to $1,000 psf.

Suburban projects were usually defined as those costing around $600 psf - but projects like The Parc Condominium in West Coast, for example, fully sold all 659 units in August at a median price of $880 psf, said Mr Li.

Meanwhile, HDB home prices are also driving the mass market recovery. The 6.5 per cent jump in prices is the highest since 1999, and comes on the back of a 3 per cent rise in the last quarter.

'HDB home prices have languished in the doldrums for many years so it's heartening for homeowners to see them pick up pace now,' said property firm Propnex's chief executive Mohamed Ismail.

The bullish figures have prompted some analysts to revise their forecasts. Property experts say private home prices have increased 21.1 per cent so far this year, already surpassing their forecasts of between 20 and 25 per cent.

Knight Frank's director of research and consultancy Nicholas Mak gave a revised forecast of between 23 and 32 per cent.

As for HDB homes, Mr Mohamed expects the HDB price index to rise 15 per cent for the whole year.

Last year, in comparison, HDB's price index only rose 2 per cent for the whole year, while for private homes, it was about 10 per cent.

The Government also highlighted that about 43,000 new private homes are expected to be completed from now till 2010, and almost half are still unsold.

Separately, the HDB also said it plans to launch up to 6,000 new homes in the next six months, subject to market demand.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority and HDB's official third-quarter statistics will be released at the end of this month.

En Bloc Effect Pulls Up HDB Resale Prices

Source : The Business Times, October 2, 2007

Private home prices also up smartly; govt may make more sites available

The property price boom seen in the past two years has filtered down to the heartlands. The Housing & Development Board's Q3 2007 flash estimate for its resale flat price index was 6.5 per cent higher than in the preceding three months. This is the biggest quarter-on-quarter jump in the index since Q2 1999, when it rose 8.1 per cent.

Market watchers say the key factor driving the increase this time around is the army of en bloc sellers downgrading for their replacement property.

Meanwhile, the party continues in the private housing market. The Urban Redevelopment Authority's (URA) flash estimate shows that the official price index for private homes jumped 8 per cent in Q3 over the previous quarter, after rising 8.3 per cent in Q2. To ensure that prices do not run ahead because of a shortage of supply, the URA indicated that more sites could be made available through the Government Land Sales programme.

For now, the gains appear pretty evenly spread across regions. The URA said its price index for non-landed private homes in the Core Central Region - which includes the prime districts, Downtown Core and Sentosa - increased 8.3 per cent quarter-on-quarter in Q3, followed by an 8.1 per cent rise for Outside Central Region, which covers suburban mass-market locations like Woodlands, Yishun and Jurong, and 7.7 per cent for Rest of Central Region, including places like Bukit Merah, Toa Payoh and Katong.

The big price disparity among the three areas at the beginning of the year is clearly dissipating, notes PropNex CEO Mohamed Ismail. DTZ Debenham Tie Leung executive director Ong Choon Fah said yesterday's official property data is 'not such a bad thing. Everybody should feel a little richer'. CB Richard Ellis executive director Li Hiaw Ho says the URA's Q3 flash estimate shows that 'confidence in the residential market was unshaken despite periods of volatility in global stock markets caused by the sub-prime mortgage problems'.

'While it's not surprising that the high-end market continued to lead the way as more and more projects were marketed at above $3,000 psf, it was a big step made by several suburban projects that were launched at $850-1,000 psf,' he added.

The URA's flash estimate for its Q3 overall private home price index reflects a 22.6 per cent gain in the first nine months of this year, since Q4 2006.

Mr Li reckons the gain for the whole of this year may come in at 25 to 30 per cent. The uptrend will continue as there are more high-end projects to be rolled out in Q4, including Hilltops, Ritz-Carlton Residences, Grange Infinite, Phase 2 of Marina Bay Financial Centre and projects on Sentosa Cove, he noted.

Mrs Ong notes that other factors driving private home prices include still-strong liquidity, the trend of tenants deciding to become home owners, and the appeal of buying apartments for investment, given the tight rental market.

As for the HDB resale price index, Mr Ismail predicts the full-year increase will reach 15 per cent, considering that the increase in the first nine months alone amounted to 11 per cent. ERA assistant vice-president Eugene Lim forecasts an increase of 13 to 16 per cent for the whole of this year. He laments the unrealistic prices sought by many owners who are still riding on the euphoria created by record prices achieved for some five-room resale flats in the Bukit Merah area. HDB homebuyers are beginning to show some resistance and this could translate into lower resale volumes later down the road.

Mr Ismail estimates that transacted prices of HDB resale flats in Q3 reflect premiums over valuations ranging from $10,000 to $50,000. 'A year ago, for the smaller three and four-room flats, the premium could have been $10,000-$15,000, while for bigger flats in outlying areas, many were not fetching any premium over valuation at all,' he added. He reckons that for the next year, HDB's resale flat price index could go up 10-12 per cent. Mr Ismail does not expect HDB resale flat prices to run away as they did in 1996, when the index rose 34.3 per cent, as the authorities will step up supply quickly to prevent public housing prices from becoming unaffordable.

HDB said it will continue to monitor the market closely to ensure 'an adequate and affordable supply of flats'. It will be increasing its supply of new flats with plans to offer about 4,500 units under the Built-To-Order system over the next six months, after offering about 2,700 BTO flats from January to September. In addition, HDB plans to release three new sites under the Design, Build and Sell scheme that can generate about 1,500 HDB flats in central and eastern Singapore in the next half year.

As for the private housing market, the URA also gave a clear signal yesterday on its intention for the Government Land Sales programme for H1 2008, which it is currently reviewing. 'The government will make available more sites for private residential development through the GLS programme next year if the demand continues to remain strong,' it said.

High Court Allows Intervention By Two Parties In Appeal For Horizon Towers En Bloc Sale

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 01 October 2007

The appeal to allow the en bloc sale of Horizon Towers was finally heard in court on Monday.

It was postponed from last Friday, due to requests for intervention by two parties - potential buyers HPL Properties and the 13 owners who initiated the sale.

Their requests were approved by the judge on Monday.

With the approval, six lawyers are now officially on the appeal.

HPL Properties is represented by lawyer K Shanmugam while lawyer Andre Yeap is representing the 13 owners who initiated the collective sale.

Justice Choo Han Teck said he sees the intervention as 'just and convenient' and that the outcome of the appeal would affect HPL Properties, who is suing Horizon Towers for allegedly backing out of the collective sale.

The judge's decision was met with soft groans from the public gallery.

But the hearing continued, with lawyer Chelva Rajah arguing that the Strata Titles Board was wrong to reject Horizon Towers sale application over missing pages containing signatures of three consenting sellers.

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High Court allows intervention by two parties in appeal for Horizon Towers en bloc sale

He said the board knew of the error and had the power to allow amendments, but did not.

Lim Seng Hoo, chairman of the sales committee for Horizon Towers, said: "Our appeal should be allowed one way or another. We've not filed a defective application in the first place. Or, if there were any error at all, it should be very small that they should allow us to amend. It doesn't make sense that a few pieces of paper would result in a $800 million suit."

Both K Shanmugam and Andre Yeap, who rounded up the hearing, also argued in favour of overturning the decision by the Strata Titles Board.

But HPL Properties is asking the Court to direct Horizon Towers to make a fresh en bloc sales application instead, after the appeal goes through.

The hearing is likely to continue till Wednesday, and the judge is expected to make a decision within a week. - CNA/ir

Keppel Land Embarks On 5th Housing Project In Vietnam

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 02 October 2007

Keppel Land is embarking on its fifth residential project in Vietnam this year through a joint venture with Vietnam's property developer Hong Quang Ltd.

The project is worth US$136 million or S$208 million.

Keppel Land will take up a 60 percent stake in the joint venture amounting to US$25 million while Hong Quang will subscribe for the remaining interest.

The waterfront project in Ho Chi Minh City will include about 1,500 apartments.

This takes Keppel Land's portfolio to more than 20,000 homes in the country.

The 5.1-hectare site is expected to yield a potential gross floor area of 244,800 square metres.

The sales launch of the first phase is slated for early 2009.

The development will boast a range of recreational facilities, including a clubhouse, swimming pool, tennis courts and 24-hour security. - CNA/ir

Hotel Room Rates Expected To Go Up By 25% In Q4

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 01 October 2007

(Picture) Pan Pacific Singapore

Hotel room rates in Singapore in the fourth quarter are expected to be 25 per cent higher than that of last year, according to industry players.

With some big events expected to hit the calendar next year, including the F1 grand prix, hotel room rates are seen rising even further in 2008.

Tourist arrivals in Singapore have been hitting new highs this year, sending hotel occupancy to nearly 90 per cent.

With demand on the rise, hoteliers have been adjusting their room rates.

Marina Mandarin is seeing a five to eight per cent climb in room bookings for this final quarter of the year. Its meeting rooms are already 80 per cent booked for the rest of 2007.

Charles Tee, executive assistant manager of Marina Mandarin Singapore, said: "Well, Singapore has for the longest time been under-priced in terms of what we're charging for rooms. If you compare (Singapore with) cities like Tokyo, Mumbai, they have really... high rates.

"So we have to really market-adjust this. So on average, I would say that your hotel rate increase will continue to grow in the region of 20 per cent or more."

At Pan Pacific, occupancy levels have reached 84 per cent this year. It has been seeing good growth in its meetings business, and it expects next year to be even better.

Cheryl Ng, PR manager of Pan Pacific Singapore, said: "Singapore has received a lot of attention on an international scale as being a preferred destination for meetings. In particular, there have been a lot of activities happening in Marina Bay such as the integrated resorts, the confirmation of Grand Prix F1 race circuit which will be in the vicinity.

"Because of these reasons and also the hotel renovation which will (be) completed by next year, we expect to receive a high amount of bookings."

Numbers released by the Singapore Tourism Board last week showed that hotel occupancy was almost 90 per cent in August.

There were more than 910,000 tourist arrivals, a record high for the month of August. - CNA/ac

Greenspan Suggests Credit Crisis May Be Close To Ending

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 01 October 2007

LONDON : The former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan suggested on Monday that the global credit crisis triggered in August might be coming to an end.

At a conference on the world economy, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown meanwhile stressed the need for financial reforms that would prevent such a crisis occurring again.

Addressing business leaders, Greenspan said: "Is this ... credit crisis about to be over? Possibly."

The former Fed chief pointed to the re-emergence of trading in risky bonds in the United States as a sign that the global credit squeeze was easing.

He also reiterated his belief that the abrupt upheaval in world financial markets caused by lending woes "was an accident waiting to happen."

Greenspan told business leaders: "If it had not been triggered by the large loss suffered on American securitised sub-prime mortgages, it would have eventually surfaced as a rupture of some other financial product in the market."

Two months ago a credit squeeze emerged when banks around the world began to be reticent about lending to each other.

This was caused by problems in the US housing market, particularly in the "sub-prime" or high-risk sector, which landed many banks and investment funds with large losses.

Banks and investment funds had bought mortgage-backed securities, complicated financial instruments whose value was linked to US home loans.

When large numbers of US home owners began defaulting, the value of these securities plummeted and global money markets dried up as banks became nervous about lending to each other.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, whose government has come to the aid of British bank Northern Rock, told the conference that the time had come "for all financial leaders to recognise and work for the changes in the world financial system that are now needed."

At the same time, however, he said it would be wise "to refuse, even in the wake of difficulties, to make unnecessary changes" such as heavy-handed regulation.

Brown, who was Britain's finance chief for a decade before turning prime minister in June, said his Labour government would continue to respond with "the same calm vigilance" that he said it had demonstrated over recent weeks. - AFP/de

Six Restoration Projects Win Architectural Heritage Awards

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 01 October 2007

Six restoration projects have won the Architectural Heritage Awards this year.

They include the National Museum of Singapore's $79m makeover as well as two private terrace houses that have been restored for modern-day living while retaining their historical charm.

The National University of Singapore's Law School on Bukit Timah Road is also one of the winners.

The luxurious hotel suites at the Amara Sanctuary Resort Sentosa are the fifth winner of the award.

Built on top of a small hill to enjoy the natural sea breeze surrounding Sentosa, the hotel suites were transformed from two former military barrack blocks housing British soldiers before and after World War II.

But reminders of the past have been preserved in the transformation, including the former telegraphic posts and even a disused bomb shelter.

Related Video Link - http://tinyurl.com/36l58m
Six restoration projects win Architectural Heritage Awards

Miyake Masaki, concept architect for Amara Sanctuary Partner, Miyake Masaki Associates, said: "The bomb shelter was a unique item and building in Singapore. So I intentionally kept this one... will convert it to a small party space or a wine cave. We have many possibilities there."

The sixth award winner is the House No. 1 located at the eastern tip of Pulau Ubin.

It is believed to be Singapore's only remaining authentic Tudor-style house with a fireplace. Its uniqueness fits in nicely with its new function as a visitor centre to Singapore's nature treasure, Chek Jawa Wetlands.

One of the two private houses that won the heritage award is situated at No.13, Martaban Road.

Once used as a dormitory for orderlies from the nearby Tan Tock Seng Hospital, the two-storey terrace house has been charmingly turned into a chic, contemporary home without sacrificing its humble heritage.

The other private house which won the award is a two-storey shophouse at No.62, Niven Road.

The Architectural Heritage Awards were organised by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

This year's six winners bring the total number of projects that have received the Awards to 77 since the launch of the Awards in 1995.

The award ceremony was held at the National Museum of Singapore.

As Singapore develops, more is being done to preserve its past. Nearly 230 buildings in the Joo Chiat-Katong area are being considered for gazetting for conservation.

This will add to some 700 buildings in the area that have already been gazetted for conservation.

The majority are terrace and shophouses, including the two blocks at the junction of Everitt Road and Koon Seng Road. Also selected are St Hilda's and Bethesda (Katong) Church, plus four bungalows.

The URA is currently in consultation with the owners.

National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said that revitalising the areas is just as important as conserving the buildings.

He said: "Holland Village is not the only village in Singapore, we've got a very lovely, quaint little place called Siglap Village. Again, I think, it is developing very nicely. So we will try to improve the roadside facilities at Siglap Village."

There are also plans to bring life back to Punggol Point, which used to be a chilli crab haven before the restaurants were closed down.

Mr Mah said the waterfront at Punggol Point will be opened up with a new 4.9km promenade which stretches to Sungei Serangoon.

Woodlands, too, will get a promenade.

The projects will be ready by 2010. - CNA/ir