Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Elizabeth Tower Goes On En Bloc Sale

October 17, 2007

The Elizabeth Tower condominium at Mount Elizabeth in Orchard has been put for a collective sale by public tender.

Marketing consultant Newman and Goh says the owners of the 36-storey freehold property are looking for the site to fetch an en bloc price of 673 million dollars.

That translates to 2,666 dollars per square foot per plot ratio.

Newman and Goh's head of investment sales Jeffrey Goh says the site can be redeveloped into 101 units of apartments with an average size of 2,500 square feet each, or into 6-star service apartments.

With recent property launches in the area fetching 4,200 dollars per square foot and above, Mr Goh says the redeveloped Mount Elizabeth property could achieve prices well above 4,000 dollars per square foot.

Tenders For Changi Track Soon

Source : The Straits Times, Oct 17, 2007

TENDERS are expected to be called soon for interested parties to build a permanent motor sports track in Changi.

With Singapore set to host its inaugural Formula One race next year, interest in motor sports is gathering pace among Singaporeans. The government is believed to be keen to build on that interest with the new facility.

Apart from go-kart and touring-car races, the facility will likely be also able to host events like the MotoGP, Motocross and Japan's Super GT.

Work is expected to begin next year, and should finish by 2009.

A pit building, garages and other facilities will likely be built too.

It is believed that the idea for a permanent circuit was mooted by the Prime Minister's Office.

A source involved in the project said the track, probably about 4km long, is likely to be located beside the Singapore Air Show grounds off Changi Coast Road.

Early estimates put the cost of the entire project at about $4 million.

No formal announcement has been made, but the motor sports fraternity is already eagerly anticipating the buzz that the facility will bring.

Said Tan Teng Lip, president of the Singapore Motor Sports Association: 'This new track is definitely very positive news for us, as it's something we've been hoping for for a long time.

'We probably have to thank F1 for this, as there's been a lot of interest generated since the announcement of the race.

'This facility will be able to cater to the expected increase in interest in the coming years.'

CityDev Sets Up US$125m Joint Venture With Amtel

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 17 October 2007

City Developments is expanding into Russia by setting up a US$125 million joint venture with the Amtel Group of Companies.

Under the deal, the joint venture will own the Iris Congress Hotel and a 9-storey serviced apartment building in Moscow.

The 8-storey Iris Congress Hotel has more than 200 rooms and facilities.

It is expected to be re-positioned as a Copthorne property and will be managed and operated by Millennium & Copthorne Hotels.

The joint venture plans to build a mixed-use complex on a vacant site adjoining the hotel.

The complex will include conference and business facilities, as well as food and beverage outlets, and a car park. - CNA/so

HDB Rentals, Resale Prices To Continue To Rise: Industry Watchers

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 17 October 2007

Industry watchers expect HDB rentals and resale prices to rise in the fourth quarter due to a surge in demand.

This is despite HDB's plans to offer 4,500 new flats in the next six months.

In its latest annual report, HDB said it has also succeeded in clearing its stock of unsold flats, with the aim of reducing it to 2,200 units by year-end.

There has been a flurry of activity in the public housing market in the past year.

Among them is the easing of the subletting policy to allow elderly home owners to generate income by renting out their flats.

"Our scheme has enabled more rental flats, more HDB flats to be available in the open market for subletting. Our figures showed that the number of HDB flats in the rental market has gone up by 30% from 12,000 last year to about 16,000 now," said HDB's CEO Tay Kim Poh.

Despite the added supply, rentals of HDB flats have ironically also gone up. This trend could continue because rentals for private residential property are rising at a faster rate - up to 50% in some cases.

Donald Han, MD of Cushman & Wakefield said: "A lot of tenants, particularly the expats who have to renew the premises, may not find the private property meeting their housing budget, so they may have to downgrade to HDB as potential option.

"As a result there will be more demand for HDB rental property and as a result of the increase in capital values, rental will also rise in tandem with the market. Rental will probably rise 2% to 3% on a quarter basis."

Rental flats aside, HDB said it will roll out 4,500 new flats over the next six months under its Build-To-Order scheme.

Another 1,500 units will be built by private developers under three upcoming Design, Build and Sell Scheme projects.

Property agents have welcomed the move, saying increased supply will stabilise prices in the resale market.

"I believe the resale prices will continue to climb in the next few quarters for a few reasons. First, demand is going up. Next, the spillover from the en bloc fever. For the 4th quarter this year, it should be in the region of about maybe 5% to 7%, and after 4th quarter, it should grow in the region of 3% to 5%," said David Poh, Director, Strategic Planning & Development, PropNex.

HDB also revealed that it halved its deficit to S$740 million in the last financial year, due to lower impairment losses. - CNA /ls

Interim Market Set Up To Help Stallholders Affected By AMK Fire

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 17 October 2007

Help is on hand for hawkers and stallholders who are affected by the fire at Ang Mo Kio market and hawker centre on Tuesday night.

For a start, an interim market will be set up by Monday morning, so that those selling market produce can continue doing business.

At 4pm on Wednesday, the hawkers and stallholders had a meeting with the representatives from the relevant agencies such as the town council, Community Development Council (CDC), Citizens' Consultative Committee (CCC) as well as MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC, Wee Siew Khim, who stood in for MP Seng Han Tong who was away.

Related Video Link (Straits Times Video News) -
AMK market: Help for stallholders but...

Help is on the way for stallholders of the Ang Mo Kio market and food centre that was completely gutted by fire on Tuesday night.

But as Jermyn Chow reports, the over 200 stallholders are still not happy with the slew of packages planned to help them get through their losses.

At the end of the meeting, stallholders were given the following few options.

- Give up their business and opt for a cash grant of $16,000 (for market stallholders) or $23,000 (for cooked food stallholders), or
- continue at an interim market which will be set up for one and a half month. They may then move to a temporary market that will be set up for between 18 months and 2 years or they can opt for an alternative stall in other markets and hawker centres.

But for those opting for the temporary market, they will have to pay at least a few thousand dollars to help build it.

Wee Siew Khim, MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC said: "As we have practised in all the other market fires in the past, all stallholders will pull together and share the cost of building that market which they are going to use for the next 18-24 months.

"We took note of their concerns and those who have any constraints or financial problems, we will probably structure it for them to pay by instalments. Or they could come to us and we'll treat each case on a customised basis."

Because of that, many stallholders are thinking twice about taking the offer to operate their business at the temporary market.

"I'll try to take it but if the rent is very expensive, like $8,000 to $10,000, then I think I can't afford it. If I don't take, I don't know what I can do," said Peh Thiam Hock, a stallholder.

Some have decided to take a break till the market is rebuilt in about two years' time, while others have decided to throw in the towel.

"Some of them, up to 40% of them, are first-generation stallholders, so they have the option of taking an ex-gratia payment and not operate anymore," said MP Wee.

The stallholders have till Friday to make their decision.

The fire on Tuesday night was one of the worst market fires in recent years.

More than 100 people were at the food centre having their meals when the fire broke out at about 9.30pm on Tuesday. They made a quick dash for safety when they saw the fire spreading quickly.

The SCDF said investigations are ongoing to determine the cause of the fire. - CNA /ls

More Plans To Help Lower Income And Elderly Flat Owners

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 17 October 2007

HDB will increase the supply of rental flats and build more two-room flats under its Build-To-Order (BTO) and Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme to help lower-income families.

So far, 539 units have been launched for sale under both the BTO and Balloting Exercise (BE). Among these, 355 units were offered under the BTO scheme.

The take-up rate has been high. The first batch of 86 units was launched last July in Fernvale Vista at Sengkang and 74 units have been sold.

Another 164 in Fernvale Vista Phase II and 105 units at Punggol Vista were offered in May 2007 and Aug 2007 respectively. Selection has not been completed at Fernvale Vista Phase II and has not started for Punngol Vista. The flats built under BTO will only be completed in 2011.

To meet the demand for those who need flats urgently, HDB converted five-room flats at Blocks 990A-C in Jurong West Street 93 into two-room flats.

Executive flats at Block 302B in Anchorvale Link were also turned into two-room and three-room flats.

Out of the total of 184 converted two-room units offered for sale, 177 units have been sold and the buyers have already taken possession of the flats.

Another group that will be helped is elderly flat owners. HDB said it has launched more studio apartments to meet their needs.

It has also provided options to let them unlock the value of their flat. HDB is currently working with the CPF Board on how to implement the lease buy-back scheme.

As at September 30, NTUC Income has received 57 applications. Of these, 17 have been approved and 27 were withdrawn by the applicants. - CNA /ls

HDB To Build 4,500 New Flats Over 6 Months To Meet Demand

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 17 October 2007

The Housing and Development Board (HDB) will offer about 4,500 new flats over the next six months, under its Build-To-Order Scheme, to meet rising demand for public housing.

Artist impression of part of Punggol 21+ estate

It also reported good sales for its stock of surplus flats and is aiming to bring the number down to 2,200 units by year's end, as revealed in the latest HDB annual report on Wednesday.

In the last financial year, HDB received 8,455 bookings for new flats – 7 percent more than the previous year.

Between January and September this year, HDB has offered 2,700 new flats under its Build-To-Order exercises.

Related Video Link -
HDB to build 4,500 new flats over 6 months to meet demand

Demand looks so good that HDB said it would roll out 4,500 flats, including a small number of five-room flats, in the next six months.

Tay Kim Poh, CEO of HDB, said: "The main focus would still be largely in Punggol and Sengkang. For Punggol, this is part of our plans to build up the catchment so that we can provide more facilities.

"In Sengkang, there is also land available, and these two towns happen to be very popular towns with flat buyers. In addition to that, we will also be looking at other estates where we have run out of unsold flats."

Three new sites will also be tendered for HDB's Design, Build & Sell Scheme, yielding a further 1,500 units.

Industry players said demand for HDB flats has risen over the last six to nine months, partly due to the rosy economic outlook and an increasing confidence in the value of HDB flats through the government's slew of estate upgrading programmes.

HDB said the take-up rate for new flats has also been strong at 92 percent and 97 percent in its two sales exercises this year.

The good demand, coupled with the conversion of flats into two-room units in Jurong West and Sengkang, has also depleted HDB's stock of unsold flats, which have dropped from over 10,000 units three years ago to just 3,500 now. And the stock could fall to 2,200 units by the end of the year.

Property agents have welcomed the move to build more new flats, saying increased supply will stabilise prices in the resale market.

David Poh, Director of Strategic Planning & Development, PropNex, said: "I believe the resale prices will continue to climb in the next few quarters for a few reasons. First, demand is going up. Next, the spillover from the en-bloc fever.

"For the fourth quarter this year, it should be in the region of about maybe 5 to 7 percent, and after Q4, it should grow in the region of 3 to 5 percent."

HDB said lower-income families will continue to get help to buy their own homes. It revealed that its Additional CPF Housing Grant Scheme, introduced last March, has already benefited 3,500 households.

Looking ahead, HDB said upgrading remains a key part of its plans. It will be extending the lift upgrading programme to 96 percent of HDB blocks that do not have full lift access. It is also on track to put lifts on every floor for all eligible blocks by 2014.

In its annual report, HDB said it would work on realising the vision to remake the heartlands.

While many of these are long-term plans, it said the changes should come on stream over the next five years, including the rejuvenation of older estates in Queenstown.
- CNA/so

十人争买一间 西北滞销组屋抢手

《联合早报》Oct 17, 2007





Dennis Wee房地产经纪行董事许家荣对滞销组屋也获得如此热烈反应不感惊讶。他说,现在转售市场火热,卖方要求的溢价(cash over valuation)介于3万至5万元,许多有兴趣的买家觉得向建屋局买新房子更划算。







10月份的双月组屋销售计划是建屋局取消直接选购计划(walk-in selection)后第四次以新制度出售组屋。前三轮销售活动在4月、6月和8月展开,销售2545个单位。其中,4月和6月的双月组屋销售计划已售出超过九成的单位。

Local Law Firms Among Asia's Best

Source : The Business Times, October 17, 2007

LAW firms in Singapore have muscled their way up the ladder to be counted among the top firms in Asia, according to a new law guide by Chambers and Partners.

Chambers has been ranking leading law firms and lawyers worldwide based on interviews with lawyers and clients for almost 40 years.

It launched its first Asia legal guide this year, showcasing firms that 'can claim to take a truly Asia-wide approach to their work'.

The report, Chambers Asia, which was released on Monday, ranks Singapore's largest law firms - Allen & Gledhill (A&G), WongPartnership (WP), Rajah & Tann (R&T) and Drew & Napier (D&N) - among the top law firms in Asia for different practice areas.

The local law firms rank well for international arbitration with R&T in band three and A&G, WP and D&N in band four.

Band one arbitration firms are Herbert Smith and Shearman & Sterling. Allen & Overy, DLA Piper and White & Case are in band two.

Chambers Asia said Singapore has a significant number of domestic firms with genuine expertise in the field.

While Singapore continues to grow as a popular seat and centre of activity, Hong Kong remains a major centre of arbitration.

A&G and WP did well in the investment funds category. WP is ranked band two for hedge funds and real estate and band three for private equity.

And A&G is ranked band one for retail investment funds, band two for real estate and band three for private equity.

Chambers Asia said Hong Kong and Singapore are the most popular venues to set up investment funds in Asia.

It also said clients in the fund industry put a premium on the ability of lawyers to advise on investment activities in Asia, especially China and India. For shipping litigation, R&T was placed in band three.

However, local firms were not featured in the guide in practice areas such as asset finance and capital markets.

The guide said a 'hiring crisis is feared' in Singapore because of demand for legal services buoyed by the economy, as well as young lawyers leaving for Hong Kong.

F1 Lighting Plan All Set For Thumbs Up

Source : The Business Times, October 17, 2007

A 6.3km-long aluminium truss will be built along the length of the track

SINGAPORE is heading into the final lap of preparations for the 2008 Formula One Grand Prix, with the lighting plan for the street circuit set to get the thumbs up from the sport's governing body.

Bright spot: Tests were carried out at the Paul Ricard High Tech Test Track to ascertain the effectiveness of the lighting system in real racing conditions

The Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) and lighting contractor Valerio Maioli have said they are confident that Singapore's inaugural event will write a page in racing history as a night race.

Once FIA gives official approval, work on the lighting system will start straight away, Colin Syn, deputy chairman of Singapore GP, said yesterday.

Singapore GP said it has signed a letter of intent with Italian company Valerio Maioli to design and construct the system.

Challenges associated with a night race must be overcome - chiefly, ensuring the safety of drivers and marshals and illuminating the circuit uniformly to meet high definition television broadcast standards.

And Singapore's street circuit presents its own problems.

As the track is temporary, the lighting system will have to be assembled and dismantled annually.

But underground ducts cannot be used for cables. And on top of this, the trees along the road could obstruct the path of the lighting system and have to be worked around.

The solution to all this is a 6.282 km-long horizontal aluminium truss - supported by vertical steel pylons - built along the track.

Almost 1,500 lighting projectors will be installed on the truss, providing a combined 3.18 million watts that will make the track almost four times brighter than a stadium.

But that won't worry the drivers. The angle of the projectors will prevent light beams blinding them - even if there is heavy rain or puddles on the track.

No need to worry about a crash either. A special support on the truss will allow for a safety junction between truss and pylon, just in case a pylon is hit during the race.

The safety junction will break but the truss will stay up.

What about getting lost? Unlikely, as run-off ways will be lit with a different intensity from the track so drivers do not mistake one for the other.

OK, say there's a blackout? To guard against such an unexpected and unlikely event, electricity will be produced by 12 twin-power generators fitted in special protected areas.

Each generator has the capacity to produce enough energy for the entire system in its area, should one fail.

'I explained to them that we studied all the technical problems for the light, for the power systems, for the truss. At the end of the meeting they were happy,' said Mr Maioli of Valerio Maioli, saying he is sure FIA will give the go-ahead for a night race.

The cost of the lighting system is yet to be finalised, but it could be in the range of $3-6 million.

'We'll try to keep it low by using local contractors,' Mr Syn said.

Tests were carried out in July and September at the Paul Ricard High Tech Test Track in Le Castellet, France, to ascertain the effectiveness of the lighting system in real racing conditions - and they went off without a hitch.

The lights will be brought to Singapore for testing in a controlled environment in early January 2008.

Setting up the system, which is expected to take two or three months, should start in the second quarter of 2008.

Fed Ready To Act To Ensure Market Stability: Bernanke

Source : The Business Times, October 17, 2007

Setbacks expected as full recovery likely to take time

(NEW YORK) US financial markets are healthier after a turbulent summer, but a full recovery will take time and the Federal Reserve will act as needed to support market stability as well as non-inflationary growth, Fed chairman Ben Bernanke said on Monday.

'Conditions in financial markets have shown improvement since the worst of the storm in mid-August, but a full recovery of market functioning is likely to take time, and we may well see some setbacks,' Mr Bernanke told the New York Economic Club.

'The ultimate implications of financial developments for the cost and availability of credit, and thus for the broader economy, remain uncertain,' he said. 'For now, the Federal Reserve will continue to watch the situation closely and will act as needed to support efficient market functioning and to foster sustainable economic growth and price stability.' The US central bank lowered benchmark overnight interest rates by a surprisingly large half-percentage point to 4.75 per cent on Sept 18.

Mr Bernanke said that 'by doing more sooner' the Fed hoped it could forestall any damage to the economy from financial disruptions triggered by mortgage delinquencies.

At the same time, policy-makers were prepared to reverse course and raise borrowing costs if inflation pressures - which seemed to have moderated - rekindled, he said.

Asked by a member of the audience about the impact of a weaker dollar, Mr Bernanke said: 'One cannot deny that when the dollar depreciates there is some inflationary impact', but added that the impact had been smaller in recent decades.

The Fed chief also said that expectations of slower growth would underpin hopes that price gains would moderate and that the central bank remained focused on keeping inflation low.

Mr Bernanke said policy-makers considered the possibility that the Fed's move to cut rates to restore stability to financial markets might promote 'excessive' risk-taking.

But the Fed reasoned that improved market functioning would increase chances of putting the economy on track for non-inflationary growth during a period of strain.

The Fed meets again on Oct 30-31 and markets see a 32 per cent chance that policy-makers will cut benchmark overnight borrowing costs by a quarter-percentage point then, as implied by short-term federal funds futures.

Economic information published since the September Fed meeting points to the housing slump exerting a 'significant' drag through early 2008, Mr Bernanke said. The Fed is closely monitoring whether tighter credit has affected business or household spending, he added. -- Reuters

Banyan Tree signs Dubai deal

Source : The Business Times, October 17, 2007

BANYAN Tree Holdings said it has signed a management contract for its first Banyan Tree branded development in Dubai. Banyan Tree Meydan will be positioned as the first golf and equestrian resort in the Middle East.

Banks Likely To Post Decent Earnings Growth For Q3

Source : The Business Times, October 17, 2007

But much hinges on whether they make large provisions for exposure to CDOs, warn analysts

AS the third-quarter results season kicks off, the three Singapore-listed banking groups - DBS, UOB and OCBC - will be closely watched for the impact of recent financial market turmoil on their bottom lines.

Positive outlook: Banks here have enjoyed a good run so far this year, buoyed by strong economic growth, high employment and busy stock and property markets -- FILE PHOTO

Banking analysts BT spoke to said they generally expect 'decent' earnings growth for Q3 compared with the same period last year.

But they warned that the rosy forecasts could be thrown off if the banks make large provisions against earnings for any losses from their exposure to collateralised debt obligations or CDOs.

Some analysts believe the market value of these debt securities may have fallen by half since the start of the credit crisis in August, which caused the market for such instruments to dry up.

Some international banks have already reported a steep fall in Q3 earnings after accounting for a sharp drop in the value of the debt securities they hold.

Earlier this week in the US, Citigroup announced a 57 per cent drop in Q3 net profit to US$2.38 billion after taking a hit of almost US$3 billion from writing down the value of various loans and securities, including those backed by sub-prime mortgages.

Banks here have so far enjoyed a good run this year, buoyed by strong economic growth, high employment and busy stock and property markets. These factors are likely to support continued strong earnings for the banks, said analysts here.

'The only uncertainty is the amount of provisions they will make for their sub-prime exposure, if any,' said David Lum at the Daiwa Institute of Research.

Pauline Lee at Kim Eng Securities said she expects 'quite decent growth on a year-on-year basis, but it may be slightly weaker than the second quarter'. Her projections for net profit growth for each of the banks range from 13-20 per cent compared with the same period last year.

Stockmarket and investment-banking activities were still strong in Q3, she said. 'Fee income should still see decent growth.'

Leng Seng Choon at UOB-Kay Hian agreed. 'Broking income should still be good.'

Much hinges on how the banks choose to account for any fall in value of any debt securities they are exposed to, the analysts said.

If the banks believe a portion of their CDO holdings can no longer be recovered, 'they may write it off to the P&L (profit and loss statement)', which could put a dent in their earnings, said Ms Lee.

In a research note published yesterday, Credit Suisse analyst Sanjay Jain estimates that the banks' net profits could fall as much as 25 per cent compared with Q3 last year and 40 per cent from Q2 this year, assuming they mark down the value of their CDO exposure and take the hit in their P&L statements.

But he added that if the banks do take such charges against their earnings, 'the market should take it positively, as seen in US banks' and that 'all three of them will still manage to show decent profits'.

Not all analysts expect to see an impact on the banks' earnings from their CDO exposure.

In a report published last month, Tay Chin Seng of Macquarie Research wrote: 'At this time we do not anticipate any provisions from the mark-to-market losses on the banks' CDOs to be put through their profit and loss statements.'

He expects the banks' combined Q3 net profit to be $1.73 billion - a projected increase of 23.8 per cent from the same period last year and 2.9 per cent from Q2 this year.

Motorsports To Put Changi On Fast Track

Source : The Business Times, October 17, 2007

Multi-million-dollar circuit being planned will host all sorts of races except Formula One

In time, they could be putting pedal to the metal and burning rubber in Changi.

Revving up: The project is expected to be offered to interested parties on a tender basis. Work is likely to begin early next year, and construction could take at least a year.

The government is expected to announce a plan soon for a new motorsports track in Changi.

The facility will host races by vehicles ranging from go-karts to touring cars, which are essentially souped-up saloons, as well as open-wheeled cars like those in the A1 Grand Prix. Anything, in fact, except Formula One cars.

This is because the Changi track is intended to be an 'accessory circuit', to complement the F1 race on a street circuit in the heart of the city already scheduled for next September.

'It doesn't make sense to build another circuit for F1,' says a source. 'This way, Singapore can have the best of both worlds.'

The project is intended to build on the huge interest in motorsports generated by Singapore's first F1 race, which will be held on Sept 28 next year.

'The aim is to have a facility that can sustain this interest all year round,' adds the source. 'It is a very good development for Singapore motorsports.'

The idea for a permanent circuit was believed to have been suggested by the Prime Minister's Office. But because it involves motorsports, it will come under the purview of the Singapore Sports Council.

The project is expected to be offered to interested parties on a tender basis. Work is likely to begin early next year, and construction will take at least a year.

There has been some speculation about the location of the circuit and several sites in Changi have been identified, including Loyang and the former site of the Asian Aerospace show.

But Loyang is too close to residential areas while there are security considerations over the other location because of its proximity to the airport.

Instead, land beside the Singapore Air Show grounds, off Changi Coast Road, is said to be the likely spot for the circuit. There will be enough space for a track of up to 4 km, a pit building, garages and other facilities.

How it would probably work is as follows. The government would identify the site and release the land along with the required approvals, with private sector bidders invited to propose the infrastructure.

'It is like an open-ended exercise and the best comparison is to the integrated resort - apart from the casino, the bidder can suggest what other buildings and attractions he thinks should accompany it,' says an industry observer.

Because of this process, the maximum cost of the project is hard to predict. 'It depends on how elaborate the final design will be,' the source says.

But the race track alone will cost around $4 million, with construction costing about $1 million per kilometre. 'Asphalt is expensive,' the source says.

Last year, it was reported that JTC Corp was due to award a site along Jalan Ahmad Ibrahim, near the Tuas Checkpoint, for an $80 million race track. That proposal did not get the starting-flag, however.

State land on Tuas West Drive was nevertheless released earlier this year for Singapore's first motocross track. The 25,000 sq m site will have a 1.7 km track as well as infrastructure such as a grandstand, cafe and shops. Work is expected to be completed early next year.

City Developments In US$125m Russian JV

Source : The Business Times, October 17, 2007

Singapore's property developer City Developments (City Dev) said on Wednesday that it has agreed to acquire a 50 per cent stake on Russia's Soft Proekt, which owns a hotel and service apartments in Moscow.

The US$125 million joint venture is with Golden Orchard Hotels, which is buying the remaining 50 per cent of the firm.

Related Link -
City Developments' Press Release

Golden Orchards is linked to Sudhir Gupta, founder and chairman of Amtel Group of Companies, CityDev said in a statement.

Soft Proekt owns the Iris Congress Hotel and a 9-storey serviced apartment building in Moscow. -- REUTERS

Muhibbah Eyes Projects In S'pore

Source : The Business Times, 17 October 2007

(KUALA LUMPUR) Construction firm Muhibbah Engineering Bhd has identified sizeable infrastructure construction projects in Singapore and Vietnam to grow its business organically, says a report in Malaysia's Business Times.

It is targeting an organic revenue growth of 10 per cent this year from RM1.09 billion (S$473 million) in 2006. Net profit was RM33.8 million last year.

The Klang-based group currently has some RM2.3 billion worth of infrastructure projects in Malaysia, Singapore, the Middle East, Europe, Sudan and Cambodia.

Group chief financial officer Shirleen Lee said Muhibbah plans to focus on getting new jobs in Singapore to take advantage of its booming construction industry.

'Singapore will be seeking bids for projects to build bridges, ports, terminals and plant installations in the country over the next two years. We have tendered for RM600 million worth of jobs via our Singapore unit,' Ms Lee told the Malaysian paper in an interview.

Muhibbah made a foray into Singapore through its wholly owned unit, Muhibbah Engineering (Singapore) Pte Ltd, 18 years ago, but reduced its work in the 1990s to concentrate on projects in Malaysia.

It became active again in 2002 and has completed more than RM500 million worth of jobs.

Ms Lee said Muhibbah has a good working relationship with Singapore Government-Linked Companies and a proven track record for completing jobs on time, for example, the horizon oil jetty and terminal project on Jurong Island.

She added that Muhibbah still has RM200 million worth of infrastructure jobs ongoing in Singapore. 'We have also tendered for some RM500 million worth of contracts to build jetties, factories and ports for the private sector in Vietnam. However, it could take a while before anything happens.'

Group managing director Mac Ngan Boon said Muhibbah has identified RM11 billion worth of infrastructure jobs mostly related to the oil and gas industry in the Middle East, South-east Asia, North Africa and Malaysia, of which it has tendered for almost half of the jobs.

HDB To Build More Flats To Meet Rising Demand As Supply Falls

Source : The Straits Times, Oct 17, 2007

It will offer about 4,500 new flats under the build-to-order system in the next six months.

THE Housing and Development Board (HDB) has committed to building more flats to meet rising demand as supply depletes and prices continue to rise.

In the next six months, it will offer about 4,500 new flats under the build-to-order system, which puts flats on the market only if the take-up rate is favourable. HDB will aso release another three new Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) sites, which will yield about 1,500 flats.

'The rosy economic outlook and improved market sentiments have resulted in rising demand for new HDB flats," said HDB chief executive Tay Kim Poh at a briefing on Tuesday to discuss the latest HDB annual report . .

From January to September, HDB offered a total of about 2,700 flats under the various BTO systems. -- ST FILE PICTURE

In the financial year ending March, HDB sold 5,712 new flats, down from 10,000 the previous year. Of these, 2,290 units were four-room flats, 1,303 five-room units and 1,057 executive flats. But bookings for new flats rose by 7.2 per cent to 8,455 units.

Most of the resale deals during the year were for four- and three-room flats.

From January to September, HDB offered a total of about 2,700 flats under the various BTO systems.

The HDB also increased the supply of two-room flats and rental flats to help lower income families, offering two-room flats for sale under the BTO system for the first time. Also, it started building new rental flats and is converting five vacant blocks of three- and four-room flats into one-room and two-room rental flats.

For the latest financial year ending March, HDB reported a deficit of $740 million, down from $1.4 billion in the previous year, and a lower deficit of $740 million, against the $1.4 billion a year ago, due to a one-off impairment loss provision.

Some 4,037 rental flats were let, up from 3,962 in the previous year.

HDB said it will implement innovative solutions to bring its popular lift upgrading programme to more blocks.

For example, for older blocks of a certain design, it will provide lift access via a new door entrance for the units

URA Launches Tender For Residential Development At Boon Lay Way/Lakeside Drive

Source : Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) News Release, 17 October 2007

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) launched the residential site at Boon Lay Way / Lakeside Drive for sale by public tender today.

The Land Parcel at Boon Lay Way is one of the eight residential sites to be sold through the confirmed list under the Government Land Sale (GLS) Programme for the second half of 2007.

Sale site at Boon Lay Way / Lakeside Drive

With a site area of about 2.2 ha, the site will have a maximum permissible gross floor area of 77,003 sqm.

The Land Parcel is conveniently located adjacent to the Lakeside MRT station and close to recreational and commercial amenities at Jurong East and Jurong West town centres.

Details of the sale site and location plan are given in Annexes A-1 and A-2. More details on the land parcel are available on URA website at

Other details

A tender period of about eight weeks will be allowed for the site. The tender will close at 12 noon on 12 December 2007. Selection of the successful tenderer will be based on the tendered land price only.

Developer’s Packets containing details of the site, development requirements and conditions of tender are available at S$105 each (inclusive of GST). These can be purchased from the Customer Service Counter on the 1st storey of The URA Centre, 45 Maxwell Road, Singapore 069118. The Developer’s Packets can also be purchased via URA-Online at’s_packet.html at a cost of S$105 each (excluding delivery charges) for local and overseas purchases.


For media enquiries, please contact:

Ms Serene Tng
Manager, Public Relations
DID: 6329 3224

Boon Lay Residential Site For Tender

Source : The Straits Times, Oct 17, 2007

THE Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) launched a 2.2 ha residential site at Boon Lay Way/Lakeside Drive for sale by public tender on Wednesday.

It is one of the eight residential sites to be sold through the confirmed list under the Government Land Sale (GLS) Programme for the second half of 2007.

The URA said in a news release that developers can build up to a maximum gross floor area of 77,003 sqm at the site.

The land parcel is conveniently located adjacent to the Lakeside MRT station and close to recreational and commercial amenities at Jurong East and Jurong West town centres.

Tender for the site will close at 12 noon on Dec 12 2007.

The URA added that selection of the successful tenderer will be based only on the tendered land price.

Fire Razes Food Centre, Market In Ang Mo Kio

Source : The Straits Times, Oct 17, 2007

A RAGING fire in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4 last night razed an entire market and food centre the size of six basketball courts.

DEVESTATING BLAZE: The 232 stalls at the centre were burnt to the ground, leaving only charred remnants. No injuries were reported at press time. -- PHOTO: COURTESY OF JASMINE TEO

The flames devoured the 232 stalls at Ang Mo Kio market and food centre in Block 628A, leaving only charred remnants by the time the fire was put under control about two hours later.

No injuries were reported at press time, when pockets of flames were still being doused.

But more than 100 people eating and drinking at the centre at about 9.30pm had to dash to safety, because the fire spread so quickly, said eyewitnesses.

Stallholder Alvin Teo, 47, who runs a Hokkien mee stall there, told The Straits Times that he was having a drink with several fellow stallholders and friends when they heard a loud bang.

Some among the group, who had gone for fire-safety training, saw flames and smoke coming from the back of the market and tried to put them out with a fire extinguisher.

But the wall of flame soon forced them to run for safety.

'The fire was spreading too fast for us to make a difference, even with an extinguisher,' Mr Teo said.

'As we ran, we shouted for others who were trying to save their valuables to leave immediately, as there were gas pipes which could explode.'

Indeed, a string of explosions were soon heard, even by residents in neighbouring blocks.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said 40 firefighters and 12 fire-fighting vehicles arrived within three minutes of receiving a call and began dousing the flames from all angles.

Related Video Link -
Fire guts Ang Mo Kio market

A raging fire in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4 razed an entire market and food centre, the size of six basketball courts.

The flames devoured the 232 stalls at Ang Mo Kio market and food centre in Block 628A, leaving only charred remnants by the time the fire was put under control about two hours later.

The incident happened at about 9.30pm on Tuesday. There've been no reports of injuries.

Police cordoned off the area and the elite Special Operations Command officers were deployed to help keep the situation under control.

The large area covered by the fire posed a challenge for firefighters, said an SCDF spokesman.

'It was difficult to penetrate the middle of the market, where the fire was raging most strongly,'' he said.

They are investigating the cause of the fire.

Stunned stall owners, who stood outside the cordon watching their businesses go up in smoke, said many had been at the centre since it opened in 1980.

Said Mr Teo's wife, Mrs Wendy Teo, in Mandarin: 'I have been working here since I finished school when I was 18, and this business supported my family.

'It is so painful to see it gone in an instant.'

Massive Fire Guts Ang Mo Kio Wet Market, Hawker Centre

Source : TODAY, Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Massive fire guts Ang Mo Kio wet market, hawker centre WHEN patrons heard the shouting, they thought that a fight had erupted at the other end of the hawker centre in Ang Mo Kio. It turned out that a big fire had broken out — one that would raze the entire wet market and food centre at Block 628A, Ang Mo Kio St 61.

Witnesses told TODAY that the fire started at about 9pm. The area was still crowded then, with some 100 people. One hawker, Mr Alvin Teo, said he saw his cooked food stall, which he had operated for the past 26 years, destroyed by the fire within minutes. The owner was having a drink with his friends at the hawker centre when the fire broke out.

A crestfallen Mr Teo, 47, said: “When I saw the fire, I wanted to run in to put it out but the fire spread too fast. I feel very heartbroken. The stall was like my second home.”

The cause of the fire remained unknown and no casualties were reported at press time. A police officer was heard telling some residents living on the lower floors next to the hawker centre that it was safe for them to return to their homes.

Like Private Properties, Flat Values Change Often

Source : The Straits Times, Oct 17, 2007

I REFER to the letters by Ms Liew Yi Xui (’Conditions unchanged, why 8% rise in flat price?’) and Mr Lawrence Ng (’Why build flats when so many units unsold?’; ST, Oct 8)about the pricing and supply of new HDB flats.

Like private properties, the market values of HDB flats are constantly changing, in tandem with prevailing market conditions. This is most clearly seen in the prices of resale flats.

Likewise, HDB adjusts the selling prices of new flats in line with the market, while keeping prices below the equivalent market value so that flat buyers enjoy a substantial subsidy.

The executive flat in Jurong West mentioned in Mr Ng’s letter was priced based on the prevailing market conditions when he first bought it in 1998. When the unsold executive flats were re-offered for sale in April this year, nearly 10 years later, they were priced taking into account the prevailing resale prices of comparable executive flats in the vicinity minus a subsidy.

Ms Liew mentioned that the unsold flat below her unit was subject to a $24,000 price increase between last November and June. We would like to clarify that the price increase was $16,500 (or about 5.5 per cent), which is consistent with the resale price movement of similar flats in the vicinity.

Ms Liew compared the selling price she paid for her executive flat with the resale prices of other executive flats transacted in Sengkang recently, and concluded that she had enjoyed a subsidy of only $10,000. This is not correct.

The market-subsidy component for new flats is significantly higher than $10,000. In fact, as recently as July this year, a resale executive flat in Ms Liew’s development was transacted at $75,000 more than what she had paid HDB for her flat.

To ensure that the supply of new flats is in line with market demand, HDB has been offering new flats under the build-to-order system since 2001. Under this system, HDB proceeds to build flats only when a good majority of the supply in a project has been booked.

With the improved economic outlook, demand for new flats has increased in recent months, and HDB’s stock of unsold flats has been reduced significantly to about 3,500 units. In particular, there was very good response to the unsold flats in Jurong West that were offered for sale in April and July this year. The unsold stock in Sengkang and Punggol has also been reduced significantly following similarly good response in recent offers.

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

Keen Interest In Toa Payoh Commercial Site

Source : The Straits Times, Oct 17, 2007

Plot in Lorong 6 draws nine offers; Sim Lian puts in highest bid of $38m

A SMALL commercial site in Toa Payoh has reaped an offer of $38.2 million after ‘aggressive’ bids by nine companies.

Sim Lian Development lodged the top bid for the 99-year leasehold plot in Lorong 6 but it was only a whisker ahead of its next closest rival.

Hersing offered $37.34 million for the 1,396.8 sq m plot, United Engineers Developments bid $36.1 million while HSR International Realtors came in with $35.5 million.

‘The bids are aggressive, which is reflective of current market conditions,’ said Mr Donald Han, managing director of Cushman & Wakefield.

Sim Lian’s bid works out to $847.5 per sq ft (psf) of potential gross floor area. It plans to build an office block to ride on the red-hot office market, which is seeing rising rents amid an acute shortage.

If it is awarded the site by the HDB, the firm - wholly owned by privately held Sim Lian Holdings - will proceed quickly.

Sim Lian Holdings director Ken Kuik said the company hopes to complete construction in two years, before more supply comes on stream elsewhere in Singapore. The first phase of the mega Marina Bay Financial Centre will be ready around 2010.

The block, which can be built up to a gross floor area of 4,190.4 sq m, could be 10 to 13 storeys with some retail shops on the ground floor, said Mr Kuik.

Office space will be aimed at smaller firms, particularly those forced out of the Central Business District (CBD), he said.

CBD buildings have been registering record rents and the sharpest increases recently.

‘It’s for long-term investment,’ said Mr Kuik. ‘We should be able to achieve rents of $7 to $7.50 psf on average.’ That is the level HDB Hub offices are commanding, he added.

Mr Han said: ‘If Sim Lian can rent out the space at about $7 psf, it would justify a net yield of about 4.5 per cent, which is the prevailing market yield for suburban offices.’ He added that further upside is likely.

Rental hikes in the office market have prompted more firms to consider cheaper locations further from town, in business parks or in other industrial space.

‘Suburban offices will continue to enjoy spillover demand,’ said Mr Han.

Strata Titles Board - Horizon Towers’ STB Hearing Starts On Oct 30

Source : The Straits Times, Oct 17, 2007

HEARING dates, which should still allow enough time for the collective sale to go through before the Dec 11 deadline, have been set for the Horizon Towers case.

The Strata Titles Board (STB) will adjudicate in the contentious sale application starting on Oct 30 and running on selected days until Nov 15, if needed, said sources.

If the $500 million sale of the Leonie Hill estate is not completed before Dec 11, the deal could be off. The sale remains in limbo after the STB dismissed the initial application on a technical error in August. That ruling was overturned by the High Court last Thursday, sending the application back to the STB.

At the hearing starting this month, STB will hear from minority owners objecting to the sale and rule on whether it can go ahead.

Lawyers from Allen & Gledhill, which are representing the intended buyers, have applied to the STB to be a party at the hearing. A decision on this is expected next Monday. While the hearing dates have been set, the process could still be derailed if minority owners appeal against the High Court’s decision. They are believed to be considering the option.

Consenting owners at Horizon Towers also have another legal matter to deal with - a lawsuit from the intended buyers, headed by Hotel Properties. They claim that the owners breached their sale contract and are claiming up to $1 billion in lost profits. The suit has been put on hold but remains a threat to the owners.

Fuyong Estate Residents Irked As They Need To Pass ERP Gantry To Make U-Turn

Source : The New Paper, October 17, 2007

U-turn U pay? LTA: New U-turn will be created for residents

THE residents of this Upper Bukit Timah estate were upset when they saw an ERP gantry being constructed just down the road.

Residents from Fuyong Estate, such as Mr and Mrs Anto Nur, will need to pass the ERP gantry to make U-turn towards Woodlands. Picture: KENNETH KOH

It meant that every time they left their homes, they would have to pay ERP charges.

Fuyong Estate residents must first make a left turn from Jalan Asas onto Upper Bukit Timah road towards town.

To travel in the opposite direction, they must make a U-turn after the point where the gantry is being built.

Said one resident, Mr Anto, 60, a retiree: 'I don't understand why they would build an ERP gantry here.

'There's no way we can avoid it no matter which way we go, we have to go through it.'

Mr Anto, his wife and their two children have been living in their Fuyong Estate house, just off Upper Bukit Timah Road, for more than 20 years.

The residents were even considering a petition until The New Paper checked with the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

As it turns out, the residents had worried for nothing.

LTA spokesman Suhana Kharudin said the positioning of the ERP gantry is not a mistake.

'A U-turn will be created along Upper Bukit Timah Road for motorists coming out of Jalan Asas, before the ERP gantry is operational,' she said.

She added that the ERP gantry would only be activated when congestion builds up, and traffic conditions warrant the implementation of ERP.

But residents are still surprised.

Said Mr Anto: 'It just seems like an unlikely place for an ERP gantry to be built,' he said.

An announcement on LTA's One.Motoring website said that with the introduction of a new ERP gantry at the south-bound BKE, traffic at Upper Bukit Timah Road may deteriorate as motorists avoid the BKE.

This justifies the need for an ERP gantry along the south-bound Upper Bukit Timah Road after Hume Avenue, to alleviate congestion if necessary.

Mrs Anto is relieved by news of the new U-turn.

She said: 'We send our children to school and work, and sometimes I meet my friends in the morning - I go out to exercise, and also to shop.

'Unfortunately, we don't just leave once in the morning and come back in the evening.'

The family's schedule means Mr Anto and his wife have to drive past the gantry up to seven times every day.

Another person who was relieved to hear the news is Mr Wong Yuen Lik, 36, who initially said he, too, planned on petitioning against the construction of the gantry.

He saw the half-constructed gantry and confirmed his fears after reading the announcement on the LTA website.

He had even written a letter to the LTA about his concerns on the gantry.

Said Mr Wong: 'I'm relieved in a way, because I won't have to pass the gantry before making a U-turn.'

But he felt that LTA could have planned it better.

'If the LTA had first consulted with residents of the area, they may have been able to avoid the inconvenience of moving the U-turn so many times,' he said.

Hotel Space Opens Up At Jalan Besar

Source : TODAY, Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Urban Redevelopment Authority yesterday opened for bidding a land parcel at Sturdee Road near Jalan Besar for hotel development.

The site has an area of about 0.61 hectare and a maximum permissible gross floor area of 18,334 sq m. It is next to the Jalan Besar Conservation area and close to tourist attractions like Little India.

The site is under the Government’s reserve list and would only be put up for tender if a developer’s indicated minimum bid price is acceptable.

Market Down On Renewed Sub-Prime Worries

Source : TODAY, Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Shares tumble 1.3% as slow new home sales hurt property stocks

RENEWED concerns over the United States subprime crisis and high crude oil prices shook Singapore shares yesterday, sending the index tumbling 1.3 per cent at the close.

The Straits Times Index lost 51.3 points to end at 3810.7, on a volume of 3.35 billion shares, up from Monday’s 2.69 billion, while losers overwhelmed gainers 722 to 216 in the broader market.

“It is across the board selling, coming on the back of the weakness of Wall Street and high oil prices and also concerns that as the third quarter earnings season kicks off, there could be disappointment,” said Mr Vasu Menon, chief editor of online bank,

The market has had a good run in recent weeks, and with “a heavy week in terms of US economic data and earnings numbers, investors are taking a more cautious stance by locking in profits,” he said, adding that if earnings do not disappoint, the market could stage a rebound.

Wall Street shares fell after Citigroup warned that the credit crisis would dent fourth-quarter earnings. Some interpreted negatively the creation of a fund by large US banks aimed at ensuring liquidity in the still struggling US commercial paper market.

Fears that the sector was getting a bailout sent reverberations through Asia yesterday.

Latest Urban Redevelopment Authority figures showing a slowdown in new home sales added to the gloom, hurting property stocks, while high crude oil prices added to the growing risk aversion.

Among blue chips, DBS Group fell 20 cents to $22.20, United Overseas Bank lost 60 cents to $22.10, Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp was down 20 cents at $9.15, Singapore Telecommunications fell 2 cents to $4.08 and Singapore Airlines dropped 50 cents to $19.60.

However, oil-related shares gained. Oil refiner Singapore Petroleum, which has oil fields in Indonesia and China, rose 65 cents to $8.80.

Neptune Orient Lines (NOL) rose 5.6 per cent to $5.70 after reporting a 26-per-cent rise in container revenue for the most recent month.

In a note to clients, Lehman Brothers said NOL continues to benefit from improving freight rates and reiterated its “overweight” rating on the shares.

US Dollar Likely To Continue Slide, Say Analysts

Source : TODAY, Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The United States dollar is likely to continue to weaken as the Federal Reserve looks set to cut rates further as early as December and on a fastgrowing US trade deficit, Standard & Poor’s (S&P’s) economists said.

But the dollar’s depreciation against Asian currencies isn’t likely to be precipitous, as Asian central banks will enter currency markets to “artificially” manoeuvre foreign exchange rates, now that monetary tightening in the region has almost come to an end, the economists said.

Mr David Wyss, chief economist at S&P, expects the Fed to lower its federal-funds rate by another 25 basis points in December or January, after cutting it by 50 basis points last month.

US economic growth will hover around 2 per cent this year and next year, while Asian economies will expand by around 7 per cent until next year despite an expected slowdown in the world’s biggest economy, he said.

But S&P Asia-Pacific chief economist Subir Gokarn warned a surge in global oil prices in the wake of ongoing geopolitical risks could send shock waves across Asian economies.

Property Sector Takes Stock

Source : TODAY, Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Industry share prices down on slowing private home sales, but analysts aren’t worried

NEWS that private home sales slowed last month battered property stocks yesterday, but analysts are not interpreting the numbers to mean the start of a downturn for the sector just yet.

Forty-three of the 52 listed property shares were down. Among the biggest price-percentage losers were LC Development and Orchard Parade Holdings, which were down 5.9 per cent and 4.5 per cent to $0.48 and $1.90, respectively.

“We expected the fall in launches, because in the last couple of months, the Hungry Ghost festival and the sub-prime issue coincided,” said Kim Eng investment analyst Wilson Liew.

“The new legislation regarding en-bloc sales also caused some uncertainty.”

According to data from the Urban Redevelopment Authority, 570 new housing units were launched and 529 homes sold in September, compared with 1,731 units sold the month before.

The fall in property prices, analysts said, was a typical knee-jerk reaction to the numbers.

Besides, said Knight Frank property consultant Nicholas Mak, “the sales in August were exceptionally high,” making the numbers for last month look particularly weak.

Indeed, said Kim Eng’s Mr Liew, with the reduced launches recently, developers could pick up the slack and increase their sales in coming months.

“We’re still in the property upcycle, the property stocks should continue to do well,” he said.

Hotel Site At Sturdee Road Put On Reserve List

Source : The Business Times, October 17, 2007

0.61 hectare plot can yield an estimated 430 hotel rooms

A HOTEL development site at Sturdee Road has been put on the reserve list of the Government Land Sales (GLS) programme.

The site is one of the four new hotel sites on the GLS programme for the second half of this year.

There are already five hotel sites on the reserve list, with two more expected by the end of the year.

The 0.61 ha site could go for between $430-$450 per square foot per plot ratio (psf ppr), it is reckoned by Donald Han, managing director at Cushman & Wakefield.

Mr Han noted that a white site at Race Course Road recently sold for $430 psf ppr in September. He said: 'The Race Course Road hotel site may be located nearer to the MRT station than the Sturdee Road site, but hotel market sentiment is increasingly more optimistic now, judging from higher than expected bid prices for the Upper Pickering Street site.'

The site mentioned went to Hotel Plaza for $253.2 million or $805 psf ppr.

Other recent successful hotel site tenders include one on Tanjong Pagar Road/Gopeng Street awarded to Carlton Properties for $123 million, or $573 psf ppr in June. In July, a site at Tras Street went to businessman Chng Gim Huat of the CGH Group for $97.1 million, or $562 psf ppr.

The Sturdee Road site has maximum permissible gross floor area (GFA) of 18,334 sq m and can yield an estimated 430 hotel rooms.

A minimum of 60 per cent of the total GFA must be used for hotel rooms or hotel-related uses. The rest can be for commercial, and/or residential uses.

So far, the other hotel site put on the reserve list for H2'07 is at Jalan Bukit Merah/Alexandra Road.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority withdrew a hotel site at Balestier Road/Ah Hood Road from the reserve list this month.

About 9,100 new hotel rooms are expected to be completed from the second half of 2007 to 2010. This includes the supply of new hotel rooms from the two integrated resorts, Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World at Sentosa, which are expected to be completed in 2009 and 2010.

Sim Lian Top Bidder For Toa Payoh Site

Source : The Business Times, October 17, 2007

Its $38.23m bid for 99-year leasehold commercial site beats eight others

SIM Lian Development Pte Ltd yesterday put in the top bid of $38.23 million, or $847.54 per square foot per plot ratio (psf ppr), for a 99-year leasehold commercial site next to HDB Hub in Toa Payoh.

The company, which is not part of the listed Sim Lian Group, plans to develop a largely office project with ground-floor retail space, Sim Lian Development director Ken Kuik said when contacted by BT yesterday.

'Our all-in investment could come in at about $55-57 million, with a breakeven cost of about $1,500 psf of net lettable area. We're looking at a net yield of over 5 per cent when the project is completed in, say, two years' time,' Mr Kuik said.

'That's on the assumption that the average gross monthly office rent in the location could climb to about $8 psf by the time the project is completed. The retail space may fetch around $15 to $20 psf a month,' he added.

The development, which could be around 10 to 15 storeys, will have about 37,000 square feet net lettable area.

Sim Lian Development plans to hold the development for long-term investment. The company is a private vehicle of the Kuik family that controls listed Sim Lian Group.

The tender for the 15,035-sq-ft site at Lorong 6 Toa Payoh attracted nine bids. Sim Lian pipped the second-highest offer of $37.34 million by Hersing Corporation by just 2.4 per cent. The other bidders were United Engineers Developments ($36.10 million), HSR International Realtors ($35.54 million), Evan Lim & Co unit EL Development ($23 million), Mr Sia Kong Wah ($20 million), Superbowl F&B Pte Ltd ($19.3 million), MV Land ($18.18 million) and Eng Wah Organisation unit Wah Pho with a bid of just $1.29 million, or $28.70 psf ppr.

Hersing Corporation, which narrowly missed out being the top bidder, had a scheme for an eight-storey complex for the site, not unlike Sim Lian's, comprising ground-floor retail and offices above. 'The offices might have been partly for our own use with the rest, along with the retail space, to be rented out,' Hersing director Janice Chng said.

Hersing holds the master franchise for ERA for 18 countries in Asia-Pacific. The group's other businesses include providing self-storage facilities in Singapore under the Storhub banner.

Horizon Towers Case - STB Hearing Could Be As Soon As Oct 30

Source : The Business Times, October 17, 2007

Buyers keen to be made parties to board's hearing

The Horizon Towers saga is set to pick up again, with the Strata Titles Board (STB) set to hear the application for the en-bloc development of the site as soon as Oct 30.

The board offered this date, as well as several others in November, to the owners in a meeting yesterday to determine how to proceed with the case.

With several lawyers indicating that they were not available on some of the dates suggested, the exact schedule is likely to be firmed up only next week.

The buyers, represented by Allen & Gledhill (A&G), expressed their interest at yesterday's meeting to be made parties to the STB hearing. They will have to submit their application to do so on Friday.

The board has allowed lawyers for the majority and minority owners to comment on A&G's application, in their respective submissions, also due on Friday. The STB will then decide on Monday whether to allow A&G in as parties to the hearing.

In the earlier STB hearing, A&G and its clients - Hotel Properties Ltd (HPL) and its partners - were not allowed to participate. The High Court last week declined to make an order permitting their participation in the impending hearing.

This upcoming STB hearing will be a resumption of the previous hearing, which ended on August 3 when the board threw out Horizon Towers' application on the basis that it was defective because of three missing pages.

But the High Court ruled last week that the STB was wrong to dismiss the application. Justice Choo Han Teck said the missing pages did not constitute an 'incurable defect' as the board had alleged - as it was not a substantial omission that prejudiced the minority owners. He noted that the STB was notified of the missing pages, and was provided with them during the hearing.

The High Court's decision means the STB will now have to continue hearing the application from where it left off. This includes the objections to be made by the development's minority owners, as well as the merits of the case, before it decides whether to grant Horizon Towers the order that would enable the collective sale to go ahead.

The saga began in February when HPL and its partners agreed to buy the Leonie Hill development for $500 million. But the deal turned sour when several owners were heard to be unhappy with the sale price, after neighbouring developments started going for much more.

HPL and its partners have accused the owners of not doing their best to ensure that a proper application was filed to the STB and is looking to sue them for up to $1 billion if the sale does not go through.

US Economy Still Hurting, Recession Odds Less Than Half: Greenspan

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 16 October 2007

WASHINGTON : The US economy is still reeling from housing and credit woes but faces a "less than 50-50" chance of slipping into recession, former US Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan said on Monday.

Greenspan, in an interview with CNBC television, said the world's biggest economy is slowing as a result of of tighter credit, the outcome of the crisis in sub-prime housing loans.

"It's fairly apparent that even though the credit crunch is easing, its residual ... is going to slow this economy down to a certain extent, and indeed, you can see it, not in the third quarter data, but almost certainly going to see it in the coming quarter," Greenspan said.

"But as yet, the odds of a recession are still less than 50-50."

The former Fed chief, who has been giving a flurry of speeches and interviews following the release of his book last month, said the housing woes affecting the US economy will take more time to work through.

"We certainly haven't seen the worst of housing," he said.

"In fact, the major constraint on the United States at this moment is a very large overhang of newly built, but vacant homes which home builders find very expensive to maintain and are gradually beginning to throw them on the market."

Greenspan said the phenomenon is "pressing prices down which obviously is affecting home construction, but far more importantly, it's lowering the equity buffer in homes, which means that the very large holdings of asset-backed securities, specifically sub-prime asset backed, are potentially threatened." - AFP/de

Credit Stress Easing, But Outlook Still Uncertain: Bernanke

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 16 October 2007

WASHINGTON: Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke said Monday credit markets have improved since the August financial turmoil, but the US economic outlook is murky due to an exceptionally weak housing sector.

The US Federal Reserve

Bernanke told the New York Economic Club that he believes the US central bank's rate cut in September and other actions to improve liquidity have been effective in getting credit flowing after the near freeze-up in August.

"Conditions in financial markets have shown some improvement since the worst of the storm in mid-August, but a full recovery of market functioning is likely to take time and we may see some setbacks," Bernanke said in remarks released by the Fed in Washington.

Bernanke said the housing market crisis that sparked the credit turmoil is not yet over, making it difficult to assess the overall economic picture.

Up to now, Bernanke said, the Fed has not seen evidence of "spillovers" of the housing market into the broader economy, but the crisis is still evolving.

"The further contraction in housing is likely to be a significant drag on growth in the current quarter and through early next year," he said.

"However, it remains too early to assess the extent to which household and business spending will be affected by the weakness in housing and the tightening in credit conditions."

In view of the uncertainty, Bernanke said the Fed's decision to cut its federal funds rate by half a point to 4.75 per cent on September 18th was a form of insurance or "risk management" by the central bank.

"This action was intended to help offset the tightening of credit conditions resulting from the financial turmoil," he said.

"Risk management considerations also played a role in the decision, given the possibility that the housing correction and tighter credit could presage a broader weakening in economic conditions that would be difficult to arrest.

"By doing more sooner, policy might be able to forestall some parts of the potential adverse effects of the disruptions in financial markets."

Bernanke said US growth has maintained a "moderate" pace and is likely to show a similar trend in the third quarter despite softness in housing, which he said "subtracted about three-fourths of a percentage point from the average pace of US economic growth over the past year and a half."

He said the problems can bubble up as mortgage delinquencies rise in the face of higher rates from "resets" on adjustable-rate loans.

Because many sub prime mortgages are bundled into securities that are sold on financial markets, the housing problems spread to financial markets including short-term asset-backed "commercial paper" loans used by companies for day-to-day needs.

"But the developments in sub prime were perhaps more a trigger than a fundamental cause of the financial turmoil," he noted.

He said the Fed's actions "appear to have been helpful on the whole" but that mortgage markets remain "difficult" except in the loans for the highest quality borrowers.

Bernanke said that with the lessons learned from the crisis, "the financial system us likely to emerge from this episode healthier and more stable than before." - AFP/yb

Property Market, Prices Will Pick Up In Next Few Months: Consultants

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 16 October 2007

Property consultants are expecting private home prices to climb as much as 8.5 percent in the last quarter of this year.

And despite a sharp drop of 70 percent in the number of home sales in September, they forecast a pick-up in the coming months as more new developments are expected to be released for sale.

Colin Tan, Head of Research and Consultancy, Chesterton, said: "I think for the (last) two months they've been sort of holding back their launches. So, if they need to keep their sales moving, they would have to launch either next few months or next year. Waiting till next year may affect their bottom-line."

Some note that the fourth quarter has been particularly busy in recent years.

Tay Huey Ying, Director of Research and Consultancy, Colliers International, said: "For example in 2001, 2004, as well as 2006, the year's high – in terms of the number of units launched and sold – was actually achieved in the final quarter of the year. So for this particular quarter, we expect the developers to step up their launches after this September lull."

In numbers out on Monday, there were just 570 new units released for sale in September, down from more than 1,880 in the previous month.

But there were new highs seen for prices of units in the Hillcrest and Scotts Road areas.

Mr Tan said: "The reason why the record price for September was lower was partly because there were not many sales of high-end units. So probably in October, if the feedback is correct, we'll probably see better prices in the high-end and maybe higher prices for the month of October."

Property market watchers are expecting prices in the mass market to climb by a further 5 to 8 percent in the fourth quarter, taking the total jump of the year to between 27 and 30 percent.

For the residential market as a whole, the climb is forecast to come in at 30 to 33 percent. - CNA/so

Leasehold Site At Sturdee Road Up For Hotel Development

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 16 October 2007

A hotel site in Little India is up for development.

The 6,100-square metre site is bounded by Sturdee Road and Beatty Road and is close to major tourist attractions of Little India and Kampong Glam.

The 99-year leasehold site has a maximum permissible gross floor area of over 18,300 square metres.

It is one of the four new hotel sites on the Reserve List of the Government Land Sales programme for the second half of this year.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority will release the site for sale if a developer agrees to offer a minimum bid acceptable to the government. - CNA /ls