Monday, October 22, 2007

Hiap Hoe, SuperBowl buy The Aspine condo in S$138m en bloc deal

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 22 October 2007

Niche property developer Hiap Hoe and its joint venture partner SuperBowl have bought The Aspine condominium on Balmoral Road for S$138 million.

The purchase price works out to about S$1,870 per square foot of gross floor area.

The Aspine is a freehold development, comprising a five-storey block with 35 units.

The site, now occupying a 46,104-square foot land parcel, has a plot ratio of 1.6.

The Balmoral area is attractive due to its close proximity to highly popular schools and Orchard Road.

Hiap Hoe said it believes there is still good upside for re-developed properties in this vicinity.

The property developer will take up a 60 percent stake in this acquisition, while SuperBowl Holdings will take up the remaining 40 percent. - CNA/ms

First International Brand-Name Hotel Being Built At Changi Airport

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 22 October 2007

The first international brand-name hotel is being built at Changi Airport - right next to the new Terminal 3.

The S$90 million Crowne Plaza Changi Airport will open its doors in late March.

The new hotel will boast more than 300 rooms, featuring Asian yet multicultural design concepts.

A Singapore design company is working on the hotel's concept, which will have a unique combination.

Mark Winterton, General Manager, Crowne Plaza Changi Airport, said, "What we want to achieve is to take elements of both a city centre hotel and a resort hotel, which hasn't been seen at an airport before."

Thus, some rooms will have elements of a tropical theme.

The hotel will also house courtyards with rainforest gardens and a shaded pool.

Mr Winterton said, "All the meeting rooms are designed like a jungle (with a) tropical feel."

The hotel is mainly targeting the corporate market and is working closely with the Singapore Expo and Changi Business Park.

Its location - right next to the new Terminal 3 - is also expected to be a big draw.

The hotel connects to the MRT and Changi people mover system.

There is also an added convenience for guests - two linkways connect both the Departure and Arrival Halls directly to the hotel.

The hotel expects to welcome its first customers in March next year. - CNA/ms

First REIT Reports Q3 Distributable Income Of S$4.68m

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 22 October 2007

Singapore's first healthcare real estate investment trust, First REIT, has reported a third-quarter distributable income of S$4.68 million.

That exceeded its own forecast by 7.5 percent.

It works out to a distribution per unit (DPU) of 1.72 cents.

Revenue was also better than expectations - coming in at S$7.02 million.

First REIT invests in assets that are primarily used for healthcare. - CNA/ms

Surbana Secures 70% Control Of Residential Township Project In Shenyang

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 22 October 2007

Surbana Corporation has acquired a 70 percent stake in the Macao Lung Iam Real Estate Investment and Development Company for about S$61 million.

The acquisition effectively gives Surbana 70 percent control of a residential township project in Shenyang, in China's Liaoning province.

The site is strategically situated between the city centre and the Western Industrial Corridor.

The 56-hectare site will yield a potential gross floor area of about 1.1 million square metres.

The township development will have infrastructure and amenities, including schools, kindergartens, commercial and recreational facilities.

The Shenyang site is the fourth township project that Surbana has in China. The other projects are in Chengdu, Wuxi and Xi'an. The four projects will yield a total of about 55,000 residential units.

Group CEO of Surbana, Mr Tan Thai Hong, is pleased about the acquisition.

He said: "Our customer target group for the Shenyang township is the middle-income residents who need to shuttle between the city and the Western Industrial Corridor.

"This group of buyers is likely to be homeowners and therefore will not be affected by the Chinese government's anti speculation measures.

"We will also leverage on our Chinese partner's local connections and experience to ensure smooth delivery of the project and explore further investment and development opportunities in the city". - CNA/ms

Frasers Centrepoint Trust Reports Full-Year Distributable Income Of S$40.3m

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 22 October 2007

Frasers Centrepoint Trust has reported better-than-expected full-year earnings.

In its first set of annual results since its listing in July last year, Frasers turned in a distributable income of S$40.3 million.

This is 11 percent higher than its own forecast.

With defined growth projects in place, Frasers Centrepoint is painting a positive outlook.

Sales in its last fiscal year grew to almost S$77.5 million, while net property income climbed by 3 percent to some S$51.7 million.

New and renewed leases for the company recorded an increase of over 12 percent above preceding rates.

Frasers said it is eyeing more growth through asset enhancement initiatives.

Christopher Tang, Chief Executive Officer, Frasers Centrepoint Asset Management, said, "For example, in the last 12 months we have put together a pipeline of three additional assets - the extension of the Northpoint, Yew Tee Point as well as Bedok Mall. And all this will form part of the acquisition of the REIT over the next 12 to 24 months."

Fraser's first asset enhancement initiative is the rebranding of Anchorpoint Mall - expected to be fully functional by Christmas.

Rental rates for the mall is forecast to jump by about 36 percent to S$7.20 per square foot from the current S$5.32.

Frasers is also improving the Northpoint mall in Yishun with a S$30 million project which will commence on the first quarter of 2008.

This will increase the mall's lettable area to about 232,000 square feet.

Apart from urban malls, Frasers said it may consider opportunities outside main city areas, especially in its overseas operations.

Mr Tang said, "For developer-sponsored REIT, like ourselves, we can widen our acquisition pipeline beyond just operating malls. We can go into areas like brownfield malls, greenfield malls, put them into a pipeline using the balance sheet of the developer to grow it to the point where it's mature. And then at that point in time have it injected into the REIT.

"So as a total strategy, we have greater access to a pipeline; we also have greater access over a wider geographical area through our current presence in many markets including Malaysia, China, Australia."

In May of this year, Fraser Centrepoint took a 27 percent stake in a Malaysian REIT called Hektar, making the company the second largest unit holder of Malaysia's only pure retail REIT. - CNA/ms

Eligibility Schemes For Buying A Resale HDB Flat

Source : Housing Development Board (HDB)

Depending on Scheme of Purchase, a resale flat can be purchased by a maximum of 4 applicants and 6 occupiers. Applicants are also known as lessees and they will be able to utilize their CPF for the financing of the flat and payment of monthly installments, whilst occupiers not able to do so.


1. Public Scheme (PA)

The Public Scheme allows a buyer with a family nucleus to buy an HDB flat from the open market. If you wish to buy a resale flat under the Public Scheme, you must meet the following eligibility conditions:

Citizenship
You must:
be a Singapore Citizen (SC) or Singapore Permanent Resident (SPR).
include at least one listed occupier who is a SC or SPR.

Age
You must be at least 21.

Family Nucleus
You must form a family nucleus, such as:
Your spouse and children, if any; or
Your parents and siblings; or
Your children under your legal custody, care and control (for widowed, divorced or separated persons).

Income Ceiling
There is no income ceiling (unless applying for CPF Housing Grant).

Ownership of Private Residential Property
You can own private property (unless applying for CPF Housing Grant) but must live in the HDB resale flat.

Ethnic Integration Policy
You can buy an HDB resale flat in any town/estate as long as the approved proportion of your ethnic group has not been reached.

To check, click Ethnic Group Eligibility or call HomeLink at 1800-8663060.

CPF Housing Grant for Family

You may apply for the CPF Housing Grant for Family or Singles if you meet all the eligibility conditions for CPF Housing Grant Scheme for Family or Singles.


2. Fiance/Fiancee Scheme (FS)

The Fiance/Fiancee Scheme allows a couple intending to get married to buy an HDB flat from the open market. If you wish to buy a resale flat under the Fiance/Fiancee Scheme, you must meet the following eligibility conditions:

Citizenship
You must be a:
Singapore Citizen (SC); or
Singapore Permanent Resident (SPR)
Your fiance(e) must also be an SC or SPR.

Age
You must be at least 21.

Family Nucleus
You must list your fiance(e) either as a co-applicant (provided he/she is above 21) or an occupier in the application.

Special Condition
You and your fiance(e) must register your marriage with the Registries of Civil or Muslim Marriages and submit your marriage certificate to HDB within 3 months from the date of taking possession of the flat. [If you are applying for CPF Housing Grant, you must submit your marriage certificate on or before the date of taking possession of the resale flat].

If your fiance(e) is between 18 and 21, his/her parents must consent to the purchase.

If your fiance(e) is less than 18, a licence to marry from the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports must be obtained and submitted to HDB for verification.

If you are a divorcee, you have to produce the Decree Nisi, Order of Court and Decree Nisi Absolute for verification.

Income Ceiling
There is no income ceiling (unless applying for CPF Housing Grant).

Ownership of Private Residential Property

You and your fiance(e) can own private property (unless applying for CPF Housing Grant) but must live in the HDB resale flat.

Ethnic Integration Policy
You can buy an HDB resale flat in any town/estate as long as the approved proportion of your ethnic group has not been reached.

To check, click Ethnic Group Eligibility or call HomeLink at 1800-8663060.

CPF Housing Grant for Family
You may apply for the CPF Housing Grant for Family if you meet all the eligibility conditions for CPF Housing Grant Scheme for Family.


3. Single Singapore Citizen Scheme (SSC)

Single citizens who have reached the age of 35 can buy a resale HDB flat under the Single Singapore Citizen Scheme (SSC). There is no restriction by flat type or location. Below are the eligibility conditions for purchase of resale flats under the SSC Scheme.

Citizenship
You must be a Singapore Citizen.

Age
You must be at least 35 years of age (based on date of birth) at the point of submission of your resale flat application. This age criterion applies to both unmarried singles and divorcees.

As for widowed persons and orphans, the age criterion is at least 21. For an orphan buying a resale flat on his or her own, he or she must not have another sibling below the age of 35 buying a flat separately under the Orphans Scheme, SSC or Joint Singles Scheme.

Income Ceiling
There is no income ceiling (unless applying for CPF Housing Grant).

Ownership of Private Residential Property
You can own private property (unless applying for CPF Housing Grant) but must live in the HDB resale flat.

Ethnic Integration Policy
You can buy an HDB resale flat in any town/estate as long as the approved proportion of your ethnic group has not been reached.

To check, click Ethnic Group Eligibility or call HomeLink at 1800-8663060.

CPF Housing Grant for Singles
You may apply for the CPF Housing Grant for Singles if you are at least 35 and meet all the eligibility conditions under the CPF Housing Grant Scheme for Singles.


4. Joint Singles Scheme (JSS)

The Joint Singles Scheme allows two to four single citizens to jointly buy an HDB flat from the open market. If you wish to buy a resale flat under the Joint Singles Scheme, you and the co-applicant(s) must meet the following eligibility conditions:

Citizenship
You must be Singapore Citizens.

Age
You must be at least 35 years of age (based on date of birth) at the point of submission of your resale flat application. This age criterion applies to both unmarried singles and divorcees.

As for widowed persons and orphans, the age criterion is at least 21. The orphan buying the resale flat must not have another sibling below the age of 35 buying a flat separately under the Orphans Scheme, SSC or Joint Singles Scheme.

Special Condition
You must buy the flat jointly as co-applicants.

Income Ceiling
There is no income ceiling (unless applying for CPF Housing Grant).

Ownership of Private Residential Property
You can own private property (unless applying for CPF Housing Grant) but must live in the HDB resale flat.

Ethnic Integration Policy
You can buy an HDB resale flat in any town/estate as long as the approved proportion of your ethnic group has not been reached.

To check, click Ethnic Group Eligibility or call HomeLink at 1800-8663060.

CPF Housing Grant for Singles
You may apply for the CPF Housing Grant for Singles if you are at least 35 and meet all the eligibility conditions under the CPF Housing Grant Scheme for Singles.


5. Non-Citizen Spouse Scheme (NCS)

The Non-Citizen Scheme allows a citizen with a non-citizen spouse to buy an HDB flat from the open market. If you wish to buy a resale flat under the Non-Citizen Scheme, you must meet the following eligibility conditions:

Citizenship
You must be a Singapore Citizen.

Age
You must be at least 21 if your spouse is holding a social visit pass (including work permit) of at least 6 months.

You must be at least 35 if your spouse is holding a social visit pass (including work permit) of less than 6 months.

If the social visit pass expires during the resale transaction, you have to produce the renewed social visit pass at the point of completion of the resale transaction.

Family Nucleus
You are married to a non-citizen.

Income Ceiling
There is no income ceiling (unless applying for CPF Housing Grant).

Ownership of Private Residential Property
You can own private property (unless applying for CPF Housing Grant) but must live in the HDB resale flat.

Ethnic Integration Policy
You can buy an HDB resale flat in any town/estate as long as the approved proportion of your ethnic group has not been reached.

To check, click Ethnic Group Eligibility or call HomeLink at 1800-8663060.

CPF Housing Grant for Singles
You may apply for the CPF Housing Grant for Singles if you meet all the eligibility conditions under the CPF Housing Grant Scheme for Singles.


6. Non-Citizen Family Scheme (NCF)

The Non-Citizen Family Scheme allows a single citizen with non-citizen family members to buy an HDB flat from the open market. If you wish to buy a resale flat under the Non-Citizen Family Scheme, you must meet the following eligibility conditions:

Citizenship
You must be a Singapore Citizen.

Age
You must be at least 21.

Family Nucleus
You must form a family nucleus, such as:
Your parents and siblings; or
Your children under your legal custody, care and control (for widowed, divorced or separated persons).

The non-citizen family member listed as occupier must have a social visit pass (including work permit) of at least 6 months.

If the social visit pass expires during the resale transaction, you have to produce the renewed social visit pass at the point of completion of the resale transaction.

Income Ceiling
There is no income ceiling (unless applying for CPF Housing Grant).

Ownership of Private Residential Property
You can own private property (unless applying for CPF Housing Grant) but must live in the HDB resale flat.

Ethnic Integration Policy
You can buy an HDB resale flat in any town/estate as long as the approved proportion of your ethnic group has not been reached.

To check, click Ethnic Group Eligibility or call HomeLink at 1800-8663060.

CPF Housing Grant for Singles
You may apply for the CPF Housing Grant for Singles if you are at least 35 and meet all the eligibility conditions under the CPF Housing Grant Scheme for Singles.


7. Orphans Scheme (OR)

The Orphans Scheme allows two or more orphans who are unmarried siblings to buy an HDB flat from the open market. If you wish to buy a resale flat under the Orphans Scheme, you must meet the following eligibility conditions:

Citizenship
You must be a Singapore Citizen (SC) with at least one other unmarried sibling who is an SC or a Singapore Permanent Resident, included as a co-applicant or occupier in your application.

Age
You must be at least 21.

Family Nucleus
Your application must comprise you (an unmarried orphan) and your unmarried siblings.

Special Condition
You and your unmarried siblings are not allowed to buy or to rent separate flats under the Orphans Scheme.

Income Ceiling
There is no income ceiling (unless applying for CPF Housing Grant).

Ownership of Private Residential Property
You can own private property (unless applying for CPF Housing Grant) but must live in the HDB resale flat.

Ethnic Integration Policy
You can buy an HDB resale flat in any town/estate as long as the approved proportion of your ethnic group has not been reached.

To check, click Ethnic Group Eligibility or call HomeLink at 1800-8663060.

CPF Housing Grant for Singles
You may apply for the CPF Housing Grant for Singles if you are at least 35 and meet all the eligibility conditions under the CPF Housing Grant Scheme for Singles.


8. Citizen/SPR Siblings Scheme (NCP)

The Citizen/SPR Siblings Scheme allows two or more single siblings whose parents are not citizens and not residing in Singapore permanently to buy an HDB flat from the open market. If you wish to buy a resale flat under the NCP Scheme, you must meet the following eligibility conditions:

Citizenship
You must be a Singapore Citizen (SC) or Singapore Permanent Resident (SPR) with at least one other sibling who is also an SC/SPR.

Age
You must be at least 21.

Family Nucleus
The application must comprise at least two single siblings whose parents are not SCs and not residing in Singapore.

Special Condition
If your parents have a less than 6 months social visit pass, your application must be supported by a Statutory Declaration to affirm that the non-citizen parents are not residing in Singapore permanently. (Parents' passports and Marriage Certificate must be produced at the time of registration).

Siblings of the same parents are not allowed to apply separately to rent or buy HDB flats.

Income Ceiling
There is no income ceiling (unless applying for CPF Housing Grant).

Ownership of Private Residential Property
You can own private property (unless applying for CPF Housing Grant) but must live in the HDB resale flat.

Ethnic Integration Policy
You can buy an HDB resale flat in any town/estate as long as the approved proportion of your ethnic group has not been reached.

To check, click Ethnic Group Eligibility or call HomeLink at 1800-8663060.

CPF Housing Grant for Singles
You may apply for the CPF Housing Grant for Singles if you are at least 35 and meet all the eligibility conditions under the CPF Housing Grant Scheme for Singles.


9. Conversion Scheme

You must meet the following eligibility conditions if you wish to buy a resale flat under the Conversion Scheme:

Citizenship
You must be a Singapore Citizen or Singapore Permanent Resident (SPR).
You must include at least one listed occupier who is a Singapore Citizen/ Singapore Permanent Resident.

Age
You must be at least 21.

Family Nucleus
You must form a proper family nucleus with one of the following:
Your spouse and children, if any; or
Your parents and siblings; or
Your children under your legal custody (for widowed, divorced or separated).

Income Ceiling
There is no income ceiling.

Ownership of Private Residential Property
You can own private property (unless applying for CPF Housing Grant) but must live in the HDB resale flat.

Purchase Options
You can buy:
(i) 2 units of 3-room or smaller flat from the open market
(ii) an adjoining 3-room or smaller flat from the open market.

Special Condition
For purchase option (ii), you must be a flat owner of a 3-room or smaller flat.

Ethnic Integration
Purchase option (i), you can buy 2 adjoining HDB resale flats in any new town/estate as long as the approved proportion of your ethnic group has not been exceeded. Buyers and sellers of the same ethnic group are not affected by this requirement.

Purchase option (ii), you are not effected by Ethnic Integration Policy.

Procedure to Apply
You must complete the "Scheme for Conversion of 3-Room or Smaller Flat" request and application forms, which are obtainable from the Resale Operations Unit, Atrium, 1st Storey, HDB Hub, 480 Lor 6 Toa Payoh.

The resale application will be registered after HDB has checked and ascertained that pairing of the flats is possible.

Financing
For resale applications received before 19 July 2005, HDB will give a loan of up to 80% of the market value or declared resale price of the adjoining flat (whichever is lower).

For resale applications received on or after 19 July 2005, HDB will give a loan of up to 90% of the market value or declared resale price of the adjoining flat (whichever is lower). However, the amount of loan granted is subject to credit assessment and full utilisation of the applicant's CPF savings in the CPF Ordinary Account.

Status of Leases of Adjoining Flats
For purchase option (ii), you must surrender the leases of the two flats so that one lease can be issued for the combined flat.

Conversion of Flats
On completion of purchase, you must convert the two adjoining flats into one unit by:
# Constructing at least an opening (1.0m by 2.0m) between the two units. (Normal prior approval from HDB for the door opening and other renovation works, if any, must be obtained).

# Removing one each of the PUB meters for electricity, water and gas supply (by licensed contractors) and making good the electrical sub-mains outside the flats after removal (by using HDB term contractor).

# Engaging a licensed electrical contractor and a licensed plumber to apply to Power Supply Pte Ltd and PUB Water Department respectively for approval before carrying out any re-wiring and re-piping works; and where applicable, to engage a licensed gas service worker to apply to the Power Gas Pte Ltd for approval before carrying out any work on the gas pipes. Alternatively to apply directly to the said Company to carry out these works.

# Retaining existing flat number for the combined flat.

To Resell Combined Flat
You can resell your combined flat after you have occupied the flat for 30 months or in accordance with the prevailing resale policy.

You will be treated as having sold a flat and required to pay resale levy, if your original 3-room or 2-room flat was bought direct from HDB.

You will be debarred permanently from buying another flat from HDB, if your original 3-room or 2-room flat was your second flat bought directly from HDB.

You cannot sub-divide the combined flat into two flats to resell, transfer, surrender, etc.

Payment of Upgrading Cost
The lessee of the combined flat is required to pay for the upgrading costs based on the sum total of the two original flat types if the purchase is completed during or after polling for the Main Upgrading Programme (MUP). As each Singapore Citizen is only allowed to enjoy one upgrading subsidy, the subsidy for the second flat will be reduced even if the lessee has not enjoyed an upgrading subsidy previously. If the purchase is completed before polling, the upgrading costs payable will be based on the redesignated flat type.

In addition, if the precinct has voted in favour of the Standard Package plus Space-adding Item, the lessee will be required to pay for the two additional space-adding items. For more details, please check with the Branch Office managing the flat or click here for more details on MUP.

Longevity Insurance: SM For Payout At 80

Source : The Business Times, October 22, 2007

He says govt's flexibility on payout age will help secure support for scheme

SENIOR Minister Goh Chok Tong says he believes the government's flexibility on the payout age of the proposed longevity insurance scheme will go far in securing the support the scheme needs.

He added that, personally, he preferred a younger payout age of 80, as opposed to 85.

'The proposed age is 85 but I am glad that the Minister for Manpower is prepared to be flexible on the payout age for the longevity insurance. I personally think 80 years will be a good alternative,' the Senior Minister said yesterday.

Mr Goh was speaking at the annual graduation ceremony of YAH! Community College, at the Singapore Polytechnic Convention Centre.

'I prefer 80 because many people think they cannot live beyond 85,' he said. 'Of course, the insurance premium and the payout after 80 will have to be adjusted accordingly.'

He added: 'If we give people a choice that they can draw down their annuities at 80 or even a few years younger, I believe that most people will then support a compulsory annuity scheme because they will see the glass as more than half-full. They can then see better that they will benefit from the longevity insurance. This will overcome a psychological mental block to the longevity insurance proposal.'

'If given a choice, I would choose to pay a higher premium and an earlier payout age of 80. Like most Singaporeans, I am a little bit kiasu,' said SM Goh.

The proposed longevity insurance had been one of the government's recent proposed changes to the CPF scheme - to ensure that Singaporeans have enough savings for their old age. The proposal requires those aged below 50 to buy an annuity that they will start collecting at 85.

It's a suggestion that has met a fair degree of resistance, with many worried that they may not live beyond 85 to benefit from the scheme.

It's also one of several steps being taken by the government to address the challenges posed by Singapore's ageing population. These include: proposed legislation that would allow workers to be offered re-employment until the age of 65, and eventually to 67; increasing CPF savings with better returns; and buying the tail-end of the lease of HDB flats to make it easier for Singaporeans to unlock the values of their HDB flats without having to sell them off.

SM Goh also noted yesterday that Singapore is one of the fastest ageing countries in the world - with the UN Population Division projecting that by 2050, Singapore might have the fourth oldest population in the world, behind Macau, Japan and South Korea.

Macquarie Ups A-Reit To 'Outperform'

Source : The Business Times, October 22, 2007

Macquarie Research has raised its rating on Ascendas Real Estate Investment Trust (A-Reit) to 'outperform' from 'neutral' and increased the property trust's target price to $3.17 (US$2.17) from $2.84.

'The shares have corrected 20 per cent since July 2007 and offer good value with total return of more than 35 per cent, making it one of the most attractive Singapore Reits,' Macquarie analyst Tuck Yin Soong said.

Macquarie also said it expects A-Reit's distribution per unit to grow 12 per cent this year. -- REUTERS

Style And Finish

Source : The Straits Times, Oct 20, 2007

The late architect Alvar Aalto's experiments with structure have turned out fine works that are still highly sought after

LIGHT FANTASTIC: The Floor Lamp A810 comes with a black leather-covered stand and lampshades that face opposite directions. This allows the light to be spread out, making it less harsh on its surroundings. -- ST PHOTO: ASHLEIGH SIM

THE 'little' man was a big consideration in the work of late Finnish architect Alvar Aalto.

'For Aalto, every design had to have the 'little man' in the centre,' says Professor Matti Rautiola, adding that this meant taking the user into account.

'He was considered one of the most famous architects,' says the professor, a board member of the Alvar Aalto Foundation.

Aalto (1898-1976) was sometimes called the 'Father of Modernism' in the Nordic countries.

He was extremely prolific in his 55-year career, having designed about 500 buildings, mostly in Finland. He also designed 100 single-family homes - to fit just one family - and more than half of which were realised. There are still some 50 such houses standing today.

Photographs and drawings of 16 of these works are on display at Alvar Aalto, an exhibition at the NUS Museum.

Prof Rautiola says Aalto was not interested in designing homes for the rich.

He designed the single-family homes for three groups - friends and relatives, corporations that required housing for its staff and, lastly, as standardised housing models.

He created a sense of place in his homes, 'so that each person can feel unique and feel that the place was specially designed for him', explains Prof Rautiola.

Aalto once wrote: 'Architecture cannot save the world but it can set a good example.'

In 1954, he built the Experimental House - his summer home - at the side of a huge rock outcrop, experimenting with various brick-layering styles to test their durability in the Finnish weather. He even built a fireplace in an outdoor courtyard for this house on Muuratsalo, a Finnish island.

The house still stands today and Prof Rautiola says that when the fireplace is lit and the surroundings are all dark, it feels like being indoors.

By the 1950s, Aalto was one of the few Finns who were considered so important that if they were late for a Finnair flight, the plane delayed take-off until they were on board.

According to a past report, Aalto often arrived late and Finnair passengers were accustomed to waiting for him.

While he designed buildings and homes, he also designed on a smaller scale. In 1935, together with a group of young Finnish idealists, he started the furniture brand Artek.

The pieces he created, such as the Stool 60 and the Armchair 42, were a result of his structural experiments.

His Floor Lamp A810 with its leather stand and his birch wood Tea Trolley are so well-known, 'every Finn wants to buy them', says Prof Rautiola.

Another icon is the Aalto vase for Finnish glassware company Iittala. Its organic form was inspired by the leather breeches carried by Eskimo women, and is one of the most copied shapes in the world.

Some Artek and Iittala pieces are available at Scandinavian lifestyle store Style:Nordic in Ann Siang Road.

Despite more than 30 years after his death, Aalto still has something to impart to young designers today.

'They can learn that the value of good design is a universal quality,' concludes Prof Rautiola.

Set Payout Age For Compulsory Annuities At 80 But Raise Premiums: SM Goh

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 21 October 2007

Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong has suggested setting the payout age for compulsory annuities at 80 instead of the proposed 85.

He acknowledged that many Singaporeans are still resistant to the concept of compulsory annuities as they think they will not live beyond 85 years old.

So he suggested lowering the payout age from the proposed 85 years old to 80.

This way, Mr Goh said, it might win more people over to the idea of compulsory annuities.

But premiums will be increased accordingly.

Related Video Link - http://tinyurl.com/24lrqe
Set payout age for compulsory annuities at 80 but raise premiums: SM Goh


"If given a choice, I would choose to pay a higher premium and an earlier payout age of 80. Like most Singaporeans, I am a little kiasu," said Mr Goh.

A member of the public agreed with Mr Goh's idea, saying, "We don't mind paying a bit more premium, then we get (our payout) earlier, have more money to spend."

But, another member of the public said: "80 (years old) is too late; some don't even live up to that age, so it's better for payouts to start earlier."

Speaking on the sidelines of another event, Manpower Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen said the possibility of a lower payout age was discussed in the recent debate on CPF reforms.

Dr Ng said: "People have different needs. Some people want to have a payout earlier - 80 as Senior Minister suggested, or even 75. Some people want it later, so they have less dependence on longevity insurance."

Dr Ng said the National Longevity Committee would consider the various options.

Their report is expected to be out early next year.

Mr Goh was speaking at the graduation ceremony for YAH! Community College which promotes lifelong learning.

And, age was the last thing on the minds of the senior citizens who received their graduation certificates from the Senior Minister.

To make learning even more interesting, the college has teamed up with China's Tsinghua University of Third Age to offer exchange programmes for students.

This is something which the 200 graduates, including a 62-year-old, can look forward to.

"I only have Secondary 2 education, so taking this course is like a dream come true, like graduating from university. I'm very happy. I used to be a quiet person, but now I've learnt to socialise more," said Mr Lee Keng Seong, a graduate of YAH! Community College. - CNA/ir

BIig Move In Little India - Kicked Out

Source : The New Paper, October 22, 2007

Angry landlord evicts 60 workers after our expose on overcrowded, rat-infested shophouse

FIRST they had to stay in an overcrowded shophouse that was infested with rats.

















Evicted: The Chinese workers waiting to move to a shelter after their landlord took back their rooms. - Picture: Gavin Foo

Then, after the conditions there were revealed in a report in The New Paper on Sunday, the landlord allegedly terminated their tenancy without notice and chased them out that very day.

Some of the female China workers there managed to move into a shelter run by the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home) temporarily.

Others were not so lucky - they had to spend a night on the streets.

One of the male tenants, who wanted to be known only as Ah Zhong, spent the night in a coffeeshop.

The 25-year-old Malaysian, who works here as a chef, said: 'I didn't sleep. I just sat there all night and took a bus back to Malaysia the next day.

'The Chinese workers are more pitiful. They don't have any relatives here. Neither do they have any good friends who would take them in as they have been here for only two months,' said Ah Zhong, who now shuttles between his sister's home in Johor Baru and his workplace in Orchard Road every day.

Earlier this month, The New Paper on Sunday received a tip-off on the illegal three-storey boarding house in Little India.

About 60 migrant workers were squeezed into a three-storey shophouse.

Rats and bed bugs infested the rooms, and the place was a fire hazard. The tenants had to cook their meals in their rooms and the corridor because there was no proper kitchen.

As many as eight people crammed into some of the rooms, each no bigger than an HDB bedroom.

Clutter: Previously, up to eight people squeezed into each room, and tenants had to cook their meals there. - Picture: Gavin Foo

They had to stack their food and belongings on their mattresses as there was no other place to keep such things.

The tenants, mainly from Malaysia and China, were paying $150 to $170 a month to the landlord, without realising that together, they could have rented a better place.

FIRE HAZARD

The Singapore Civil Defence Force said last week that the makeshift partitions used to create extra rooms could be a fire hazard.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority also said that the shophouse was not meant for use as a boarding house and that anyone who rented it out to tenants would be committing an offence.

After The New Paper on Sunday exposed the illegal boarding house, the women who stayed there said the landlord told them to leave.

One of the tenants, who wanted to be known only as Xiao Fang, said in Mandarin: 'The landlord barged in around 4pm last Sunday and told me to pack my things and leave.

'Initially I thought he wasn't serious. Around 7 or 8pm, the landlord's wife came and demanded that we pack our things immediately.

'I told her that I didn't have any place to go to. She blamed me for disclosing all the ugly details of living in the shophouse to the media. So we had to go.'

Some of the women managed to find alternative accommodation, but a group of them had to spend the night on the streets.

Later, about 10 female tenants managed to check into a shelter, after The New Paper on Sunday alerted Home's president, Mrs Bridget Lew, about their plight.

Mrs Lew, who runs the shelter, which is meant to house troubled maids, immediately instructed her staff to prepare a room for the Chinese women, who moved in early on Monday morning.













Clearing out: The tenants move all their belongings out of the shophouse. - Picture: Gavin Foo

Unfortunately, the shelter for men was full and could not take in more people.

Mrs Lew said: 'Such situations have happened before, leaving foreign workers stranded here.

'Our society does not provide enough social service support for foreigners.'

Mrs Lew felt the landlord may have acted out of anger because his tenants had called the media to report on him.

She said the landlord could argue that he had to ask the workers to leave, 'to comply with the law'.

But she asked: 'Is it socially and morally acceptable to throw a bunch of helpless migrant workers out onto the streets?'

When contacted, the landlord, who wanted to be known only as Mr Mok, said he had acted on impulse and on his friend's advice after reading The New Paper on Sunday report.

'I was afraid the police would arrest me the next day. I had no choice but to ask them to go and close down the boarding house. But come to think about it now, I do regret my action,' he said.

Under URA's enforcement practice, a grace period is given to the landlord to allow a reasonable time for the unauthorised use to cease, said its spokesman.

A further extension of the grace periods can also be granted if the landlord says he needs it to seek alternative accommodation for the lodgers or workers.

Mr Mok did not ask for a grace period.

He said: 'After everyone moved out their belongings, we dismantled everything and cleaned up the place thoroughly.'

He added that more than 10 officers from the Ministry of Manpower checked the shophouse the following day.

He returned to his tenants their one-month deposit and charged them for their stay up to 13 Oct.

Mr Mok, who was apparently subletting the place, said: 'I paid out more than $9,000 in cash to these people. I also suffer big losses. If I stop leasing the place, my two-month deposit with my landlord will be forfeited.'

Mr Mok claimed he had rented the shophouse for more than $3,000 a month. His utilities bill came to about $2,000 a month.

'I am not making much from these migrant workers,' he said.

'Now what am I going to do with the place?'

He also claimed he had made the tenants an offer.

'I am not so heartless,' he said. 'I did offer them alternative accommodation if they had no place to go to. I can't do anything if they chose to stay in the streets.'

About 30 of the male tenants did take his offer and moved to another boarding house.

NO OFFER MADE

But all the women tenants we spoke to insisted that he had not made the offer to them.

The women who went to the Home shelter later found alternative accommodation.

They declined to reveal their new address.

One of them, who gave her name only as Miss Ren, said: 'Our new place is clean. There are two bathrooms, a kitchen and the landlord is getting us two washing machines and a fridge.

'We also have proper cupboards and shoe racks and new mattresses to sleep on.

'The only sad thing is that we have to spend more money on taking public transport now.'

From the Litte India shophouse, Miss Ren could walk to her workplace.

'At worst, I'll skip some meals to make up for the transport costs,' said Miss Ren who earns $950 a month as a beautician. 'I'm still better off in my new place.'

新加坡国浩置地6250万元 购东丰花园公寓

《联合早报》Oct 22, 2007

国浩置地(GuocoLand)上个星期六在一个集体出售计划下,以6250万元买下位于杨厝港的东丰花园公寓(Toho Garden)。

这个永久地契的地段,占地8万6881平方英尺,容积率是1.4,可建12万1633平方英尺的楼面,国浩置地预料会在这个地段发展一座五层楼的公寓,大约有100个单位。  

东丰花园 (Toho Garden)靠近实龙岗花园(Serangoon Gardens)和忠忠熟食中心(Chomp Chomp),而附近名校林立,还有法国国际学校和澳洲国际学校。

这是国浩置地自2006年来,所购买的第五幅地。国浩置地的收购价相等于容积率每平方英尺594元,整个交易预料在明年2月之前完成。

$400m Makeover For Science Park

Source : The Strait Times, Oct 22, 2007

SINGAPORE'S first research and development (R&D) hub, the 25-year-old Singapore Science Park, is getting a $400 million makeover.

The renovations will create more space for the R&D companies there and improve access to greenery and recreational facilities.

The first phase of development, to cost half of the $400 million, will start next month. It will add 87,000 sq m of space, an increase of 14 per cent over the current built-up space of the hub.

Its developer, Ascendas, hopes the new look will help it to retain current tenants and attract new ones.

The makeover comprises:

# A new access road;

# New buildings, one of which will house recreational facilities under one roof; and

# Footpaths leading to the Kent Ridge nature park.
The redevelopment, to take place in three phases over the next 10 years, largely affects Science Park I, which is near the National University Hospital.

Ascendas president and chief executive Chong Siak Ching told The Straits Times that this portion of the Science Park is older than Science Parks II and III, and most in need of a makeover.

Science Park II was completed in 2001 and the first building in Science Park III, in 2002. A new building will be added there next year, which still leaves land for future buildings.

The new access road to be built under Phase 1 of the redevelopment will extend from Normanton Park into Science Park I.

At the moment, the only way to get into the area is from South Buona Vista Road.

Work on the road will begin in the middle of next year, as four existing buildings in the centre of Science Park I are torn down and rebuilt as a single building, for now called the Central Plaza.

At six storeys high, it will house facilities such as a gym, restaurants, an auditorium, as well as R&D and IT firms.

Ms Chong noted that although each building has its own cafeteria now, most other recreational facilities are scattered throughout Science Park I.

The road and the building are expected to be completed in 2011, at about the time the MRT Circle Line construction in the area is ready, she added.

The construction of another building, Cintech 4, will start next month and will be completed in 2009.

Later phases of the makeover will see the redevelopment of another five buildings and the building of footpaths linking buildings in all three Science Parks to the greenery of Kent Ridge Park.

The Science Park, born as the first initiative to centralise R&D activities in Singapore, has been somewhat eclipsed in recent years by its more glamorous cousins - the life sciences hub Biopolis, and Fusionopolis, the infocommunications and media technologies research hub.

Ms Chong is not daunted by this. She sees the Science Park's natural green setting as its selling point.

'Researchers can take a walk in Kent Ridge Park or sit by the lake to take a break from work or to get inspiration for fresh ideas,' she said in an interview at Science Park I last week.

Science Park tenants welcome the makeover.

Long-time tenant Seagate Technology's senior vice-president of global disc storage operations, Mr David Mosley, said: 'We expect the redevelopment...to not only positively impact our business operations, but also to enhance the work-life balance of our employees.'

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Facts and figures

INFRASTRUCTURE

# Land area of 65ha, divided into:
Science Park I, 30ha
Science Park II, 20ha
Science Park III, 15ha

# Has 31 buildings, 10 owned by companies which lease the land on which their buildings sit

# More than 350 established companies and start-ups

# More than 9,000 employees


TENANT PROFILE

# Companies in the information technology field, for example, hard disk drive maker Seagate, form 38 per cent of tenants

# Life sciences companies, like United States-based Quintiles, which has been behind some of the world's largest HIV and Hepatitis B clinical trials, make up 14 per cent


MILESTONES

# 1980: The Singapore Government gives the go-ahead to build the Singapore Science Park to consolidate national R&D efforts and for more value-added economic growth

# 1982: Science Park I welcomes its first tenant

# 1990: Jurong Town Corporation forms Technology Parks, which later became Ascendas, to manage the Science Park commercially

# 1993: Construction begins on Science Park II

# 2001: Last building in Science Park II is completed

# 2002: First building in Science Park III is completed. The Ascendas Real Estate Investment Trust is listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange as Singapore's first business and industrial property trust

Bubble Fears In Hong Kong

Market bullish but analysts warn of crash



















THE dramatic rise in Hong Kong share prices over the past two months has sparked fears the market is experiencing a Chinainspired bubble, with analysts warning it is about to burst.

With share prices on the main Hang Seng index having increased 36 per cent since Aug 22, crashing through the 30,000-point barrier briefly on Thursday, onlookers say all the warning signs of a severe tumble are evident.

Morgan Stanley released a report last Thursday downgrading its market view of Hong
Kong to “cautious”, saying: “We remain bullish on the fundamentals,
but the magnitude of growth/returns/liquidity required to justify the current valuations has become untenable.”

The report added that market valuations were now on average 22 times that of earnings, and the market, which is experiencing its longest bull run ever from its Sars-inspired low in April 2003, was overstretched.

Morgan Stanley believes this is comparable to the 2000 tech bubble. “China stocks now have plenty in common with the Nasdaq bubble in 2000,” it warned. It says there is a 30-per-cent chance the index could fall to 24,000 in the next three months.

Mr David Webb, a shareholder activist who has been pushing for reform in the Hong Kong market since the Asian financial crisis, says the current picture is “very much” a bubble.

A recent survey of users on Mr Webb’s campaigning website (Webb-site.com) showed that most people believe the market could fall back to 14,000 points.

The trigger for the recordbreaking rise in recent months was the announcement by Chinese officials that they would allow mainland individuals to invest in Hong Kong.

Despite the lack of concrete details of the scheme — supposedly limited to account holders at one bank in Tianjin — and with no firm date fixed for its implementation, money has poured into equities in Hong Kong.

Investors believe the huge liquidity slopping around Chinese markets will quickly make its way to Hong Kong, bumping up prices and creating a replication of the soaring Shanghai market.

But Mr Webb disagrees. He believes the scheme will either be very limited, with nowhere near the level of liquidity many expect, or so successful it will drain cash from the mainland markets, triggering a correction there which will echo in Hong Kong, as the success of both markets is based on Chinese firms, often listed in both cities.

The Morgan Stanley report backs up the assertion, believing the liquidity has already arrived. Other onlookers believe Chinese cash has already made its way here, often illegally.

But others say the volatility in recent weeks has actually shown that there is solid support for the current valuation and there will be no repeat of the crash that hit the bourse ten years ago.

Fulbright Securities’ general manager Francis Lun said that as long as companies continued to produce spectacular figures, the Hong Kong market would keep thriving and any correction would be minor. — AFP

Condo In Yio Chu Kang Sold For $62.5M

Source : TODAY, Monday, October 22, 2007

GuocoLand’s wholly-owned unit, GLL Ventures, will pay $62.5 million for the en bloc purchase of freehold Toho Garden Condominium along Yio Chu Kang Road.

It said it would redevelop the site, which has a gross floor area of 121,633 sq ft, into a 5-storey condominium with 100 units. The acquisition is expected to be completed by February 2009.

GuocoLand said it would use internal resources and bank borrowings to finance the deal.

‘Black Monday’ For Asian Stocks?

Source : TODAY, Monday, October 22, 2007

Unless top firms bolster Wall Street’s performance, more dark days lie ahead for Asia





















INVESTORS in Asia are bracing themselves for a bruising time today.

Following Wall Street’s dismal showing on the 20th anniversary of “Black Monday”, there are nagging suspicions about the health of the United States economy and how its weakness could hurt the rest of the world.

On Oct 19 — the very day back in 1987 that US markets nose-dived on panic selling — share prices plunged 2.6 per cent, clocking their biggest fall in two months.

The damage was nowhere near the 23-percent crash on the historic “Black Monday” when investors were spooked by an interest rate hike amid an ailing economy.

But a slew of poor corporate earnings report cards and a credit crunch sparked by lax mortgage practices, are building up talk about a possible recession. Worries that losses from the worst US housing slump since 1991 will spread, led Asian markets to post their biggest weekly drop in two months.

In Singapore, the index suffered its first retreat in nine weeks and more declines could follow, dealers told AFP, because of rising crude oil prices. As tensions in the Middle East caused oil futures to trade near all-time peaks of US$90 ($130) per barrel last week, investors here were getting jittery too. The Straits Times Index shed 2.8 per cent last Friday to close at 3,749 points.

While analysts do not foresee a crash a la 1987 on the horizon, “there’s an increased sense of nervousness in the market because we’re at an inflection point,” Mr Owen Fitzpatrick, Deutsche Bank head of US equities, told financial news provider MarketWatch.

“The main thing is the belated impact from housing on the economy … and the spillover from the credit crisis, which is still not over,” Barrington Research Analyst Alexander Paris was quoted as saying in the report.

When fresh US data about existing home sales is released on Wednesday, followed by a Thursday report on new home sales, pundits are expecting signs of a further decline in the housing market.

Heavyweight companies are also mentally preparing for not-as-pretty results. Last week, Caterpillar, a maker of construction equipment such as bulldozers, predicted a 12-per-cent drop in this year’s machinery and engine sales in the US. The company also reduced its full-year profit outlook to US$5.20-$5.60 per share, down from July’s anticipation of US$5.30-$5.80.

Mr Dave Burritt, Caterpillar chief financial officer, told Reuters he saw a 50-percent chance of a US recession.

The pessimistic outlook came shortly after a string of big lenders, including Citigroup and JP Morgan, reported that defaults had eaten into their profits this quarter. The combined earnings of America’s five biggest banks for the quarter, which came to US$18.7 billion, is the lowest in nearly four years, according to Bloomberg.

“Right now, financial stocks are like radioactive waste,” Mr Michael James, senior equity trader at Wedbush Morgan Securities in Los Angeles, told Bloomberg. “People just do not want to touch them.”

Unfortunately, staying away from financial stocks means shunning companies that, according to Bloomberg, produced 27 per cent of the profits of the Standard & Poor 500 Index last quarter.

On the other hand, there remains a bunch of companies that Wall Street is still hanging its hopes on. Apple, Amazon.com and pharmaceutical group Bristol Myers Squibb are among those posting their quarterly results this week. Some rosy numbers
are expected, but all eyes will be on the outlooks of these companies.

If they do not spring a dampener like Caterpillar did, investors will probably heave a sigh of relief. Otherwise, more dark days may be ahead for Asia, too, say analysts.

Earlier Payouts May Win More S'poreans Over To Annuity: SM

Source : The Straits Times, Oct 22, 2007

Payouts under scheme can be set at age 80 rather than proposed 85, suggests Mr Goh

SINGAPOREANS will be more likely to support the proposed compulsory annuity scheme if they can obtain a payout at an earlier age.

And the 'earlier age' for payouts under the longevity insurance, suggested Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong yesterday, could be 80 rather than the proposed 85.

He said if people can draw on their annuities a few years earlier, they would likely overcome the 'psychological mental block' they now have to it.

Mr Goh was speaking at the third graduation ceremony of the Young-at-Heart! (Yah!) Community College, which promotes lifelong learning among senior citizens.

He said in his speech in Mandarin: 'The proposed age is 85, but I am glad the Minister for Manpower is prepared to be flexible on the payout age for the longevity insurance. I personally think 80 years will be a good alternative.'

Responding to Mr Goh's suggestion, Manpower Minister Ng Eng Hen, who was at another event yesterday, said he thought it is a good one, and noted that the committee set up by his ministry will be asked to consider payouts at different ages because people have different needs - some want payouts earlier, and some, later.

The idea of a compulsory longevity insurance - an annuity scheme that will make payouts to Singaporeans from age 85 till their death - was mooted by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during his National Day Rally speech this year.

Under the scheme, all Central Provident Fund (CPF) members must buy an annuity at age 55 with a small portion of their CPF Minimum Sum.

They will then get a monthly payout of between $250 and $300 once their Minimum Sum runs out at age 85. These payouts will help cover their needs if they outlive their CPF savings.

Many people - unconvinced that they will live past 85 - have not been persuaded on the need for it.

The committee set up to address these concerns and look at proposals will put out a report in about five months.

Annuities -‘Set Payout Age At 80’

Source : TODAY, Monday, October 22, 2007

But raise premiums for compulsory annuities, says Senior Minister Goh

Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong has suggested setting the payout age for compulsory annuities at 80 instead of the proposed 85.

He acknowledged that many Singaporeans are still resistant to the concept of compulsory annuities as they think they will not live beyond 85 years old.

"They are both half-right and half-wrong. It is like looking at a glass half-filled with water. Is it half full or half empty? The Government says that it is half full, but many people say that it is half empty," said Mr Goh.

A "good alternative" would be to lower the payout age, which might help more people to "overcome a psychological mental block" to the idea of compulsory annuities. But premiums will be increased accordingly.

"If given a choice, I would choose to pay a higher premium and an earlier payout age of 80. Like most Singaporeans, I am a little kiasu," said Mr Goh, who spoke yesterday at the graduation ceremony for YAH! Community College, which promotes lifelong learning.

A member of the public agreed with the idea, saying: "We don't mind paying a bit more in premium — then, we get (our payout) earlier (and) have more money to spend."

But another member of the public wanted payouts to start earlier.

Speaking on the sidelines of another event, Manpower Minister Ng Eng Hen pointed out that the possibility of a lower payout age was discussed in the recent Parliamentary debate on CPF reforms.

Dr Ng said: "People have different needs. Some people want to have a payout earlier, 80 as Senior Minister suggested, or even 75. Some people want it later, so they have less dependence on longevity insurance."

Dr Ng said the National Longevity Committee would consider the various options. Their report is expected to be out early next year.

Meanwhile, age was the last thing on the minds of the 200 senior citizens who received their graduation certificates from Mr Goh yesterday.

"I only have Sec 2 education, so taking this course is like a dream come true, like graduating from university. I'm very happy. I used to be a quiet person, but now I've learnt to socialise more," said Mr Lee Keng Seong, a graduate of YAH! Community College.

To make learning even more interesting, the college has teamed up with China's Tsinghua University of Third Age to offer exchange programmes for students.

Make Accreditation Of Estate Agents Compulsory

Source : The Straits Times, Oct 22, 2007

I REFER to the letter, 'Accreditation scheme for estate agents exists' by Mr Charles Ee Hoon Kee of Asia-Elite Realty Network (ST, Oct 15).

While the accreditation scheme of the Singapore Accredited Estate Agencies (SAEA) is a good start, it is still not good enough because estate agents can still practise without any accreditation from SAEA.

The Institute of Estate Agents (IEA) has already started issuing practising certificates to its members.

While this is another step in the right direction, it is also not good enough because non-holders of the IEA practising certificate can also practise as real estate agents.

These piecemeal self-regulation measures by SAEA and IEA are good, but not good enough because they do not cover non-accredited agents and non-IEA members.

What we need is a central controlling authority that regulates and controls all practising agents.

To better protect the interests of the public, may I suggest:

SAEA's accreditation scheme and IEA's practising certificate scheme be made compulsory for practising agents; and

All estate agents be licensed individually (rather than on company basis), before they be allowed to practise as estate agents. This is to ensure they are personally accountable to the licensing authority for their individual actions.


Yeo Hock Chuan

CENTRAL AUTHORITY NEEDED
These piecemeal self-regulation measures by SAEA and IEA are good, but not good enough because they do not cover non-accredited agents and non-IEA members.

What we need is a central controlling authority that regulates and controls all practising agents.

Penalised For Delay Caused By CPF Board

Source : The Straits Times, Oct 22, 2007

WITH the current property craze, I want to share with other home buyers my experience when dealing with the CPF Board.

In May last year, my husband and I bought an apartment. I wanted to use my CPF funds as part of the first 20 per cent payment.

My lawyer, Drew & Napier (D&N), assisted us with the paperwork, including requesting the release of my CPF funds to the developer. All went well and we waited in anticipation as our dream apartment is being built.

A week ago, we received a letter from the developer charging us interest on late payment of the instalment under our sales and purchase agreement.

After much investigation and clarification with D&N, it has been determined that while all papers were prepared and handed in on time, the CPF Board did not release my CPF funds to the developer in accordance with the payment schedule.

The payment was made two days late and as a result, we were charged interest at the base rate of 6.75 per cent.

RESPONSIBILITY DENIED
When D&N contacted the Board, its response was that there is no service-level agreement in place so the CPF Board will not be held responsible.

When D&N contacted the Board, its response was that there is no service-level agreement in place so the CPF Board will not be held responsible.


As a consequence, we were penalised for its lack of due diligence in handling my CPF funds.

By not taking responsibility for its actions, there is nothing to keep the CPF Board from making the same mistake again.

Jennifer Ho Shu Yun (Ms)

Dow Plunges On 20th Anniversary Of Black Monday Market Crash

Source : The Sunday Times, Oct 21, 2007

NEW YORK - THE Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped more than 360 points on the 20th anniversary of the Black Monday crash, as lacklustre corporate earnings, renewed credit concerns and rising oil prices spooked investors.

The major stock indexes on Friday turned in their worst week since July after construction equipment giant Caterpillar Inc soured investors' mood with a discouraging assessment of the United States economy.

Investor sentiment took another hit when Standard & Poor's downgraded a batch of residential mortgage-backed securities, adding to unease about credit quality. The reduction followed a similar move earlier in the week affecting more than 1,400 classes.

Oil prices also appeared on some investors' list of worries, after briefly moving above the psychological barrier of US$90 (S$132) per barrel for the first time.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted 4.05 per cent to 13,522.02, retreating from its Oct 9 high of above 14,000 points.

The broad market Standard & Poor's 500 index sank 3.92 per cent to 1,500.63 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq tumbled 2.87 per cent to 2,725.16.

Still, Friday's pullback paled in comparison to what investors had to contend with 20 years ago on Oct 19, 1987 - Black Monday - when the Dow plunged 23 per cent.

A decline of similar proportion today would mean a drop of some 3,100 points.

Friday's decline is the third-biggest point and percentage drop this year and the ninth- biggest point drop in the Dow since Black Monday. But there is a ray of hope, as many on Wall Street expect the Federal Reserve to respond with another rate cut this month.

Bond prices rallied in the past week as investors flocked to safety. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves inversely to the price, fell to 4.4 per cent from 4.5 per cent late on Thursday.-AP, AFP

Wall Street Insight - Analysts Dismiss Spectre Of Crash, But Selling's Not Over

Source : The Business Times, October 22, 2007

Last week's 4% slide due more to recent sharp run-up than to fear of another crisis

AS STOCKS plummeted on earnings outlooks and renewed credit worries last Friday on the 20th anniversary of Black Monday, Wall Street forecasters couldn't help but draw parallels to that record-setting dire day of October 19, 1987, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average crashed by more than 500 points, and more impressively, a whopping 23 per cent, in a single day.

But in truth, last Friday's sell-off, which caused the bluechip index to give up on a percentage basis only a tenth as much as investors lost in the infamous Black Monday crash 20 years ago, was more reminiscent of much more recent history, namely the early weeks of last August, when the unknowns of the ramifications of the burgeoning global credit crisis were turning investors' euphoria over new record highs in the US equity markets into fear, uncertainty and the risk aversion that goes with it.

'It's easy to invoke Black Monday on its 20th anniversary as we're experiencing a sell-off, but there really is no parallel with today,' observed Hugh Johnson, the chief investment officer at Johnson Illington Advisors.

'Back then, the markets had been churning their way down for a while, and you could sense the vulnerability as fear on the trading floor built higher and higher over the course of a few weeks. But in the case now, you have to remember that, just last week, investors - and Wall Street economists - were talking about having a Goldilocks economy, a soft landing,' he said.

Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke started to burst that bubble last Monday when he said that the drag from housing was worsening, and would hit growth in the fourth quarter and in 2008, and his warning was soon echoed by corporate profit outlooks.

Leading companies such as Caterpillar, 3M and Schlumberger beat third quarter estimates, but offered cautious earnings forecasts for the fourth quarter, leading to renewed concerns over the spread of the credit crisis beyond the financial sector.

But while the previous weeks' euphoria seems to have clearly been out of touch with the realities of what remains a stock market still vulnerable to the unknowns surrounding the impact of last summer's credit crisis, to say nothing of skyrocketing oil prices that have risen to potentially crippling levels and have oil analysts speculating on when the price of a barrel of light sweet crude might hit triple digits, many other of the market's fundamentals appear far too solid to invoke the spectre of anything resembling a Black Monday-like panic.

'Last week's downturn was more a function of the sharp run-up in share prices over the past several weeks and over-stretched positive expectations than fear that we're about to get into crisis mode again,' said Tobias Levkovich, Citibank Smith Barney's chief investment strategist.

'Various measures of credit market distress have eased lately, including increased functionality in commercial paper and even high-yield debt markets,' he noted. And unlike the last period of severe turmoil in credit markets in the fall of 1998, commodity prices are rising and economic activity abroad is strong, Smith Barney chief economist Steven Weiting wrote last week.

So, while Wall Street traders were quick to dismiss the potential for a crash of epic proportion, investors' new-found caution and sober outlook is likely to result in more selling and bearish risk aversion, with the potential for a 10 per cent sell-off such as the market experienced in the month between July 16 and Aug 16.

'I think everyone was just a little too eager to say that we'd put the liquidity crisis behind us and the worst was over,' said Richard Maclemore, a money manager at Goodman Securities. 'Then, when we get a few of our major companies saying that it's not just going to hit the third quarter earnings, but that the fourth quarter isn't going to look too good either, you get a quick 'uh-oh' reaction, which is what we saw on Friday,' he said. Uh-oh indeed.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average sank 366.94 points, or 2.64 per cent, to 13,522.02 on Friday. The S&P 500 was off 39.45 points, or 2.56 per cent , at 1,500.63, and the Nasdaq Composite plunged 74.15 points, or 2.65 per cent , to 2,725.16. Friday's firesale brought an abrupt end to the major averages' five-week winning streak.

For the week, the Dow and the S&P 500 each lost 4 per cent, and the Nasdaq gave back 2.9 per cent. It was the worst downturn for the indices in two months. The only things that rose last week were negative indicators. The CBOE Volatility Index, often called the fear index, added 24 per cent on Friday to a reading of 23, its highest in a month. Oil surged briefly to a record US$90 a barrel and gained 6 per cent for the week, while two-month Treasury bills rallied the most since Sept 11, 2001.

This shows that investors have re-embarked on a flight-to- quality trade. The week's wave of earnings reports could offer some relief, as several major names from outside the disastrous financial sector announce their third-quarter results and offer outlooks for coming quarters.

'It would set a lot of minds at ease if some of these companies say that next quarter isn't looking too bad,' said Mr Johnson. As many as 163 more S&P 500 companies are scheduled to report this week, including six Dow components.

Thus far, with 121 S&P 500 companies having reported over the past week, growth expectations for the third-quarter earnings season have sunk to negative 0.1 per cent, compared with expectations for earnings to grow 3.6 per cent on Oct 1, according to Thomson Financial.

Black Monday Revisited?

Source : The Business Times, October 22, 2007

IT WAS exactly one month ago that the US Federal Reserve cut its short-term rate by a surprise 50 basis points, sparking off a worldwide rally in stocks and consigning the then-prevalent US sub-prime fears to the market's backburners.

Exhibiting the same disregard for risk that marked trading throughout the past year or so, investors then pushed Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index up more than 40 per cent in the ensuing four weeks and the Straits Times Index about 30.

Complacency once again set in as program trading kept the upward momentum going in the major indices and, significantly, virtually not a single broker released warnings about increased risks or even discussed the possibility of a steep correction.

In the US, the VIX indicator, which measures implied volatility in S&P 500 options and is often used by contrarians as a complacency indicator, settled back to sedate levels (the lower the index, the higher the complacency; conversely, the higher the index, the higher the fear in the market). It spiked up 24 per cent following Friday's plunge.

Although painful, Friday's collapse here and on Wall Street was thus long overdue, given that oil has kept up its inexorable climb to US$100 per barrel, while the sub-prime crisis' effects on corporate earnings are still not fully known, the US dollar is crashing, the US economy is slowing drastically and, perhaps most crucially, the China stock market continues to inflate in mania-like fashion.

The fact that Friday's falls occurred on the 20th anniversary of the crash of Oct 19, 1987 was however pure coincidence, the date probably playing only a minor role in creating nervousness in the market's collective mind.

You'd have to wonder, though, how was it that the selling on Friday started here first, way before Wall Street opened for trading and way before big names Caterpillar, Honeywell and 3M released their disappointing numbers? Even with markets as interconnected as they are, how is it that funds know to sell or buy stocks here because Wall Street is going to fall or rise later that day?

No matter, the big question is: Will we see a repeat of the crash of 20 years ago? It's possible but not probable. While Asian markets will surely have to brace themselves for a 'Black Monday'-type sell-off this week, it's unlikely to be of the magnitude suffered 20 years ago.

The main reason for this is simple - the US Fed, first under Alan Greenspan and now Ben Bernanke, has repeatedly signalled its willingness over the past decade to cut interest rates at the first sign of trouble and the markets have taken note of this.

In addition, the US and world economies are a lot stronger than they were back then and the political scene was vastly different - China was nowhere as open as it is today, India was not an economic force to reckon with, and the Berlin Wall had yet to crumble.

So when asked by US newspaper Barron's whether a repeat of Black Monday was possible, Byron Wein, chief investment strategist at Pequot Capital Management, echoed the view of most practitioners when he said in the Oct 15 issue: 'I don't think there's a chance that the market can go down 22 per cent in one day. There's too much liquidity and too many buyers to cause a cascade like that.'

However, there are undeniable similarities between then and now. In 1987, the US dollar was weakening, oil and commodity prices were rising, the Fed had a chairman who was only a few months into the job, the major market indices were at all-time highs, and the US economy was at the tail end of a prolonged expansion.

Of the lot, the sliding dollar and rising oil are the most significant because if both persist in the direction they are heading, they could seriously undermine growth, fan inflation and dampen sentiment.

To recap: the odds of a full-scale repeat of Black Monday are low because liquidity is high and the Fed is on the side of the markets. Risks, however, have increased. Prices will collapse today, but how far they go will depend on how Hong Kong, China and the US futures market perform in the wake of Friday's much-needed shot of reality.

Asian Market Selldown Expected After Dow Crash

Source : The Straits Times, Oct 22, 2007

Traders watching if HK cracks after Hang Seng's recent meteoric surge

TRADERS are bracing themselves for a beating when Asian markets open today as they recoil from Wall Street's third-biggest one-day plunge this year.
What they fear is a fresh spate of margin calls and forced-selling of shares as foreign fund managers rush to cut their exposure to the red-hot Asian markets to plug losses back home.

On Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 367 points, or 2.6 per cent, as record high oil prices, banking woes and slower corporate earnings revived fears of a recession in the United States and sent global financial markets into a tailspin.

The fall coincided with the 20th anniversary of the October 1987 crash on Wall Street - when the Dow plunged 23 per cent - and marked its worst selldown since August, when a mortgage crisis in the US sparked a global credit crunch and spooked market sentiment worldwide.

What dealers now fear is a selldown in Hong Kong, where the Hang Seng Index had climbed by nearly 50 per cent in the past two months after it attracted billions in hot money.

Any massive pullout by foreign funds in Hong Kong, which reopens today after a public holiday last Friday, may send other regional markets reeling as well.

In Singapore, sentiment will also be affected by the controversy over recently listed Uni-Asia Finance, after investors pressed the Singapore Exchange to investigate whether there was foul play behind the wild swings in the prices of its shares.

One market strategist said: 'It is very unfortunate that Uni-Asia should erupt at the same time as the slump in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Just imagine what sort of reaction foreign funds will have as they read our local newspapers.'

Some traders are predicting that the benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) may dive by as much as 100 points initially, mirroring the falls during the August sell-off.

Indeed, even before Wall Street's plunge, the STI had already fallen 61.71 points to 3,747.98 on Friday, bringing its total fall for the week to 109 points, or 2.8 per cent.

Phillip Securities managing director Loh Hoon Sun said: 'There will be a selldown because investors will want to err on the cautious side and raise some cash.'

Given the big impact which the US economy has on the rest of the world, traders will be asking themselves if last Friday's plunge was merely a blip or a signal of something more fundamentally wrong, he said.

Still, the biggest concern is the red-hot Hong Kong market, where US investment bank Morgan Stanley last week warned of a 30 per cent correction in the next three months because valuations had become 'untenable'.

One trader said: 'So much hot money has been put into Hong Kong that it only takes a spark to ignite a panic selldown. Hedge funds may use Wall Street's fall as an excuse to short Hong Kong.'

But CIMB-GK research head Song Seng Wun is confident the market will take the 2.6 per cent correction on Wall Street in its stride.

'Investors will be looking at the selling here as an opportunity to hunt for bargains,' he said.

Fresh Look For Bridge

Source : The Straits Times, Oct 22, 2007

The colourful Alkaff Bridge at Robertson Quay is undergoing major maintenance work. It was built in 1997 and painted in 2004 by the late Filipino artist Pacita Abad, who died after she completed the piece.

The latest maintenance work, which includes cleaning, touching up paintwork and varnishing, was started two weeks ago and will take up to a month to complete.

Upcoming Launches For Month Of October 2007!

District 9 & 10

Luma @ River Valley Rd
Leonie Parc View (44 Exclusively Units)
Parkview Elcat @ Grange Rd
Cliven @ Grange Rd by MCL land
One Devonshire
Relaunch of Visioncrest
Helios @ Cairnhill
Ardmore Park II
Relaunch of Element @ Steven
Duchess Residences @ Duchess walk
Orchard Scotts Residences


District 11

Soleil by Fraser Centrepoint
Relaunch of Park Infinia


District 15

D Oasis @ Kembangan MRT
Seabreeze @ Marine Parade
Former Haig Garden Site
Casa Rose
33 Siglap Hill Hses
Seraya


District 13
Launch of the Medallion (Cluster Housing)
Launch of 18 Dunfold @ Dunfold Drive (Cluster Housing)
Jansen


District 21
Talk of the Town! CASCADIA @ Upper Bukit Timah
Jardin @ Bukit Timah

GuocoLand Buys Condo Plot In Serangoon For $63m

Source : The Straits Times, Oct 22, 2007

PROPERTY developer GuocoLand has bought Toho Garden, a condominium near Serangoon Gardens, for $62.5 million through a collective sale.

The acquisition price works out to $594 per sq ft per plot ratio, including a development charge of $9.8 million.

Toho Garden is located on Yio Chu Kang Road, near the junction of Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3 and Hougang Avenue 2.

It is the smallest of five major residential land purchases made in Singapore by GuocoLand in the past two years.

The purchase price comes below its March acquisition of Palm Beach Garden in the East Coast area for $75 million.

The company's other land purchases are:

# The former Casa Rosita site on Bukit Timah Road, where the firm is building Goodwood Residence;

# Sophia Court, near the Dhoby Ghaut MRT Station; and

# Leedon Heights, off Holland Road.

All five plots are freehold sites and bring GuocoLand's land bank in Singapore to just below two million sq ft.

They give GuocoLand 'a strong and interesting pipeline of projects on freehold land', said GuocoLand Singapore managing director Trina Loh.

Toho Garden sits on a 86,900 sq ft plot and has a plot ratio of 1.4, giving it a gross floor area of 121,600 sq ft.

GuocoLand plans to build a mid-range five-storey condominium comprising about 100 apartments on the site.

The plot is located in an area of mostly landed properties and is near the Central and Seletar expressways.

GuocoLand's luxury condominium, Goodwood Residence - which has not been launched yet - recently won Singapore's highest accolade for green buildings.

The developer clinched the Building and Construction Authority's Green Mark Platinum Award for its high environmental standards.

Shares of GuocoLand ended unchanged at $5.55 last Friday.

Largest Park In Northwest District Opens, Has 7 Hectares For Recreation

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 22 October 2007

Residents in the northwest district now have a new recreational venue - all seven hectares of it.

The Admiralty Park, which is located right next to Republic Polytechnic on Riverside Road, was officially opened by Health Minister and MP for Sembawang GRC Khaw Boon Wan.

At 27 hectares, it is the largest park in northwest Singapore.

Seven hectares of the park is dedicated to recreational amenities.

It is also the only park in that vicinity to offer both recreational facilities and a mangrove swamp.

The recreational highlights include an activity plaza, fitness equipment and an amphitheatre.

The National Parks Board has left the existing mangrove swamp stay in the park.

This is so that residents can get to appreciate the nature at their doorstep, while the children could learn about nature conservation. - CNA/ir