Saturday, October 27, 2007

Permanent Race Track To Be Built At Changi

Source : The Business Times, October 27, 2007

THE government said yesterday it will develop motorsports here by working with the private sector to build a permanent race track on a 20-hectare site at Changi and putting together a comprehensive plan.

'Motorsports is an activity that has great potential for Singapore,' said Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Vivian Balakrishnan.

It is being recognised first as a sport in its own right and second as an industry that Singapore wants to promote, he said.

The Economic Development Board has realised that there is business potential and is part of the team working on the development project.

Emphasising that it is still at a preliminary stage, Dr Balakrishnan said: 'We are now signalling to the private sector, local and international, that Singapore is interested in the development of a permanent motor sports track.

'We want them to get in touch with the Sports Council and start the dialogue with us over the next few months as we refine the detailed specifications of the tender that we will call.'

The Singapore Sports Council will lead a multi-agency team which will market the project locally and internationally.

The seafront view and longish sides of the 30-year tenure site, which could yield a track 2.8-3.5km long with possibly one of the longest straights in Asia, would be unique selling points. The track should be able to seat at least 15,000 spectators and would be a Grade 2 FIA-approved track circuit that could host any type of motor race except Formula 1.

There would also be a Grade 1 karting track - the only such track in South- east Asia.

Promoters bidding for the track will have to bring in at least three international races and two national series a year, as well as other motor sports events and exhibitions. In addition, a motor racing and advanced driving school must be part of the facilities.

A request for proposal is expected to go out in May next year. The tender process will likely take six to nine months and the track is expected to be completed by end-2010 or early 2011.

MAS Proposes Changes To Liquid Asset Requirements For Banks

Source : The Business Times, October 27, 2007

They can hold a broader range of assets as buffer against sudden drain

THE Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has published a consultation paper on proposed changes to the cash and liquid asset minimum requirements for banks here.

Under the proposed changes, banks will be allowed to hold a broader range of assets as part of their buffer against a sudden drain on their liquidity.

Related Link -
MAS' consultation paper

The risk posed to the banking system due to a lack of liquidity has been amply demonstrated in recent weeks, after the financial market turmoil triggered by problems in the US mortgage market eventually led to a bank run on UK mortgage lender Northern Rock.

Some commentators have even argued that central banks have in recent times placed too much emphasis on monitoring banks' credit risk exposures, while neglecting to assess their vulnerability to liquidity risk.

To ensure that banks here are able to react quickly to liquidity stress situations, the process for drawing down their liquid reserves with the central bank has also been streamlined, said MAS yesterday.

If the proposed changes are approved, the range of instruments eligible as liquid assets will be expanded to include Singdollar debt securities and sukuk - Islamic bonds - with a sufficiently high credit rating, or those issued by statutory boards here.

The current MAS rules define liquid assets eligible for inclusion in the buffer in much narrower terms, restricting banks mainly to holding cash and Singapore government bonds to meet the regulatory requirements. Corporate debt securities - even top rated ones - are excluded.

The proposed changes are expected to give banks 'greater flexibility in managing their liquid assets portfolio', said MAS in a statement.

With the new rules, any Singdollar debt securities with a total issue size of at least $200 million rated as investment grade or higher by international ratings agencies Moody's, Fitch and Standard & Poor's will qualify as liquid assets. Higher values will be assigned to debt with better credit ratings.

MAS said that it 'may consider including securities rated by other agencies where appropriate in future'. The central bank consulted the industry last year on the proposed changes to its liquidity risk supervision framework and it has included some of the industry responses it received in the consultation paper released yesterday.

Several respondents argued that some undrawn commitments such as credit facilities offered by banks should be excluded from the liability base used in computing how much they need to hold in liquid assets.

MAS said that its 'guiding principle is to include items that the bank is committed to and which would pose liquidity risk to the bank should the customer utilise or call upon the commitment'. These would include the unused portion of guarantees, stand-by credit facilities or stand-by letters of credit, it said.

But MAS said that it would allow banks to exclude such commitments from their liability base 'provided the bank has the contractual unconditional right to refuse drawdown'.

Comments on the proposals should be submitted to MAS by Nov 26.

DBS Q3 Net Profit Beats Forecasts

Source : The Business Times, October 27, 2007

11% rise to $610m despite CDO-linked allowances and loss and TMB impairment

DBS Group Holdings beat analysts' expectations with a third-quarter net profit of $610 million, 11 per cent higher than the previous year's corresponding quarter's $552 million.

Mr Tai: Said that the search for his successor is continuing and refused to comment on whether ex-SingTel chief Lee Hsien Yang would be chosen

This was despite the group's allowances and mark-to-market loss relating to collateralised debt obligations (CDOs) and an impairment charge for its stake in Thailand's TMB Bank.

The Q3 net profit compared favourably with an average forecast of $481 million from five analysts polled by Reuters.

DBS said that although none of its $2.36 billion of CDOs as at Sept 30 has defaulted, it has set aside allowances of $70 million for the $275 million of collateralised debt obligations (CDOs) that had some exposure to US sub-prime assets. This comprised $43 million in specific and general allowances charged to the profit and loss account and $27 million marked against existing cumulative general allowances. There was also a mark-to-market loss of $42 million charged to net trading income relating to CDOs held by Red Orchid Secured Assets (Rosa), a fully-consolidated conduit managed by DBS.

A separate impairment charge of $38 million was taken for DBS's 16 per cent stake in Thailand's TMB Bank. This further impairment charge - which came after another charge in the previous quarter - was to reflect a further reduction in TMB's market valuation. DBS reiterated that it will not inject new funds into TMB Bank, unless it can get sufficient management control to effect business and operational changes.

Without the $38 million impairment charge, DBS's net profit attributable to shareholders would have been $648 million, a year-on-year rise of 17 per cent.

'The global credit squeeze caused by the US sub-prime mortgage-related concerns affected DBS's result in two areas, structured credit and credit trading activities, as well as CDO-related charges,' outgoing chief executive Jackson Tai said, adding: 'We have prudently set aside reserves even though there have been no credit defaults in any of our CDO holdings.'

He took pains to emphasise that the bank's $275 million of CDOs that had some exposure to the US sub-prime mortgage compose less than 0.12 per cent of its total assets and the overall $2.36 billion exposure to CDOs is about 1 per cent of the total assets.

For the first nine months of the year, net profit after one-time items was $1.79 billion, a year-on-year rise of 7 per cent. Excluding one-time items, net profit came in at $1.93 billion, up 19 per cent.

Net interest income - or profit from loans and also the bank's core business - grew 15 per cent from a year ago to $1.05 billion, marking the 11th consecutive quarter of growth. Customer loans hit a record $104.7 billion, up 23 per cent from a year ago, led by corporate and SME loans in Singapore and Hong Kong. Singapore housing loans also continued to grow strongly, the bank said.

Net interest margins - the difference between what the bank earns on loans and pays on deposits - dropped from the previous quarter to 2.14 per cent as interest spreads in Hong Kong and Singapore fell.

Looking ahead, chief financial officer Jeanette Wong said: 'I'm not surprised we will face pressures on our net interest margins, since prime Hibor spreads have been narrow and Singapore interest rates are trending down, so we might face margin pressures going into the fourth quarter.'

On the non-interest income front, the bank achieved record fee income on the back of more fees from stockbroking, investment banking, loan syndication and wealth management.

Net fee income increased 38 per cent from a year ago to a record $403 million. However, trading income recorded a net loss of $47 million compared with a net trading income of $100 million in the previous quarter. Wider credit spreads for trading securities and credit-linked derivatives were blamed for the negative trading income.

Expenses climbed 12 per cent from a year ago due to higher staff and IT costs, but the bank's cost-income ratio improved to 42 per cent from 44 per cent a year ago.

A quarterly dividend of 20 cents per share was declared.

On the issue of his successor, Mr Tai said: 'I don't have an update for you, I can assure you the process (of searching for a successor) continues and there are many good candidates.' Mr Tai leaves the bank at the end of this year after five years as CEO, and said that he will be returning to New York.

Responding to a question on whether former SingTel chief Lee Hsien Yang would succeed him as CEO, he said: 'I cannot comment on a specific individual.'

Shares of DBS ended 70 cents or 3.3 per cent higher at $22 yesterday.

Singapore's two other local banks - United Overseas Bank and Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp - are due to report their results on Oct 30 and Nov 6 respectively.

Related Link -
DBS Group's news release
Performance summary
Presentation slides


《联合早报》Oct 27, 2007







另外,办公楼吃紧在情况下使租金被推高,在过去三个月里上涨14.8%,相比之下,第二季的涨幅为11%。今年首九个月,我国办公楼租金已飙涨了40.7%。市建局的数据显示,位于市区核心及乌节路 (Category 1)的中数(median)月租达每平方英尺10.95元,较第二季的9.50元高了15%。其他地区(Category 2)的办公楼月租则为每平方英尺5.14元,也较上季的4.48元增加了15%。


卓登国际(Chesterton International)研究部主管陈瑞谨认为,尽管政府自今年2月开始出租纯粹作办公用途的国有房地产,供私人企业投标作办公用途,同时推出短期办公楼(transitional office)地段,但由于这些地段都需要时间装修和兴建,因此远水救不了近火。




Holland Hills Mansion - Court Rejects Plea Against Strata Board Decision On En Bloc Sale

Source : The Straits Times, Oct 27, 2007

THE High Court yesterday dismissed an appeal by a minority shareholder against a Strata Titles Board decision approving the en bloc sale of Holland Hills Mansion.

The dissenting owner, Dynamic Investments, had wanted the distribution of the $292 million sale proceeds to be based solely on floor area, or it would stand to lose about $2.4 million.

The 118-unit property on Holland Road had been sold en bloc to developer Calne Pte Ltd, a subsidiary of MCL Land, in November last year.

It is understood that the industry practice is to distribute the proceeds among the owners based on what was decided by them and the project consultants.

In this case, it had been proposed to share the proceeds by the 50:50 method, which is 50 per cent based on the share value and 50 per cent based on the floor area.

But Dynamic, which owned the largest unit on the block, had wanted the share of proceeds to be determined solely by floor area.

The 642 sq m penthouse it owned had a share value of six while the smallest unit, measuring about 57 sq m, had a share value of three.

The Strata Titles Board, in its decision in July, had acknowledged that the objector would have been paid more had the area method been used, but held that the method chosen was ‘not made in bad faith’.

Dynamic, through lawyers from Drew & Napier, had argued, among other things, that the Strata Titles Board had erred in law as the sale was not made in good faith given the distribution method adopted.

But Senior Counsel Deborah Barker argued this was a question of fact, not a point of law, and only issues concerning points of law could be brought up for appeal.

Together with lawyers Chia Ho Choon and Spring Tan from KhattarWong, she represented the majority owners.

Justice Andrew Ang agreed and accepted that the Strata Titles Board decision to approve the sale was made in good faith.

Dynamic’s lawyer Lawrence Tan said yesterday that he was reviewing the decision with his client and the instructing solicitor Clarence Tan from UniLegal before deciding whether a further appeal would be filed.

组屋转售价走势强劲 马宝山:并未到引起关注的地步

《联合早报》Oct 27, 2007















Dennis Wee房地产经纪行董事许家荣说,除了屋主要价过高外,美国次贷(sub-prime)危机及农历7月的影响,也是导致交易量下滑的原因。




转售组屋水涨 新组屋价船高





私宅价格 第三季仍劲增8.3%

《联合早报》Oct 27, 2007




非有地私宅方面,过去三个月里全岛的涨幅相当平均。位于核心中央区(Core Central Region)——滨海湾、圣淘沙和第9、10、11邮区的私宅价格比第二季上扬8.3%。其他中央地区(包括实龙岗、大巴窑、芽笼、东海岸、中峇鲁、红山、巴西班让、金文泰等)以及岛国外围的公寓与共管公寓价格,季比上升7.9%。







卓登国际(Chesterton International)研究部主管陈瑞谨则指出,该局虽然表示供应有在增加,而且也采取降温措施,不过却没有正视市场的需求要比供应更快速增长,因此上述举措可能不足以改善目前和接下来供不应求的局面。



Ex-Wife Gets To Keep $4m Properties On Appeal

Source : The Straits Times, Oct 26, 2007

She had earlier been awarded 35% of two apartments in Bedok

By K.C. Vijayan, Law Correspondent

AN INDONESIAN woman who was initially given 35 per cent of her ex-husband's two apartments in Bedok Court by the High Court in February will now get to keep all 100per cent instead, involving a sum of more than $4million.

This follows a Court of Appeal ruling on Wednesday which, among other things, also ordered Indonesian businessman Aspin Suryanna, 59, to hand over to Madam Alicia Tjia, 50, a Mercedes-Benz and Nissan X-trail.

The increased award came after the court heard arguments from Madam Tjia's lawyers from Harry Elias Partnership that Mr Suryanna's assets in Indonesia had not been fully accounted for and had not been included in the division of the matrimonial assets.

Besides six declared properties in Indonesia, Mr Suryanna is said to have other properties, including three warehouses in Medan and seven other units in Jakarta.

It is understood that the court viewed his assets in Indonesia as quite substantial, on which it was unable to place a dollar value.

As part of the settlement, Mr Suryanna gets to keep his assets in Indonesia, as well as shares in Japan Macro Fund valued at some $2.1million.

In addition, the court - comprising Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong, and Judges of Appeal Andrew Phang and V.K. Rajah - also lowered the lump sum maintenance award for Madam Tjia, from $800,000 to $500,000, taking into account the size of the assets now awarded to her.

Legal observers felt that the outcome was a 'win-win' for both parties - as they stood to gain from the steep rise in asset values since the earlier High Court decision in February.

The couple had been married for 27 years before they split in 2004.

Madam Tjia was a 20-year-old undergraduate when she met Mr Suryanna, who was then 29.

She dropped out to marry him a year later in August 1977, against her parents wishes.

The couple had three sons born in 1979, 1981 and 1984. Some time in 1996, she moved here to look after the children, who were studying in Singapore schools.

Her husband, a businessman selling motorcycle spare parts in Indonesia, visited her once a month but stopped doing so in June 2002.

The couple divorced on the grounds that he had deserted her for more than two years.

In arguing for an equal share of the assets, lawyers Koh Tien Hua and Tan Shin Yi, for Madam Tjia, had argued that she sacrificed her own university education on her husband's orders, and raised their three sons almost single-handedly while her former spouse was amassing his fortune.

They argued that even the High Court did not buy Mr Suryanna's claim that the numerous properties he owned in Indonesia were assigned to his creditors along with his business.

He had also emptied more than US$4million (S$5.8million) from several bank accounts before and during the proceedings, which would otherwise have been matrimonial assets.

Mr Suryanna, through lawyer Syn Kok Kay, had submitted that he was indebted to his suppliers to the tune of more than US$4million.

The money withdrawn was therefore not for his own use, but transferred directly to his suppliers.

Mr Suryanna also claimed that Madam Tjia led a lavish lifestyle, and therefore deserved a smaller maintenance claim.

Madam Tjia declined comment when contacted through her lawyers.

Rentals For Private Homes, HDB Flats Continue To Soar

Source : The Straits Times, Oct 27, 2007

Private home rents jump 11% while HDB flat rents surge 21% on landlords' increased expectat

TENANTS complaining about rising home rentals now have official figures to back them up.

Rents of private homes and HDB flats soared in the July to September period, according to the latest data released by the Government yesterday.

They climbed 11.4 per cent for private homes, on top of the 10.4 per cent increase in the previous three months.

This means that since January, private home rentals have already jumped by 32.2 per cent, compared with only 14.1 per cent for the whole of last year. They are now at their highest level in at least nine years.

As for HDB five-room flats, the overall median rental - the level at which half the rents are higher and half are lower - surged by 21.2 per cent in the third quarter.

One reason for the strong growth in rents could be the increased expectations of landlords, said Mr Leonard Tay, the director of research at consultancy CB Richard Ellis.

Rents are also being pushed up by an increasing demand for completed homes, and a shortfall in supply at the same time, he added.

A large number of collective sales in the last two years has led to the demolition of existing homes and has forced the sellers to become home seekers.

With no respite in sight - fewer homes are expected to be completed next year than average - rents will continue to surge, said Ms Tay Huey Ying, the director of research and consultancy at Colliers Internaitonal.

She said that according to yesterday's data, only 5,541 homes are expected to be completed next year. This compares with a net average of 7,670 new homes between 2000 and 2004, before the collective sale fever set in.

'If we take into consideration the withdrawal of units because of collective sales, there will probably be a net addition of only 3,500 to 4,000 homes next year,' she said. Due to this acute shortage of completed homes ready for immediate occupation, Ms Tay expects rents to rise between 40 per cent and 43 per cent for the whole of this year.

But she also predicts that the rate of growth will moderate after that. Her forecast for next year: a rise of 30 per cent to 35 per cent.

'We expect rents to continue to grow strongly, but we do expect growth to be slightly slower than it was this year,' said Ms Tay.

'This is partly because we are already coming from a high base. Also, we could be seeing resistance to higher rentals; people could be reconsidering Singapore as a place to live.'

Beyond that, she believes that home completions will shoot up in 2009, which may help to stabilise rents.

Yesterday's figures showed that rents grew across the board for non-landed private properties.

They rose 12.2 per cent in the core central region, which covers Orchard, Holland, River Valley, Bukit Timah, Marina Bay and Sentosa.

In the rest of the central region - stretching to Marine Parade, Queenstown, Geylang and Bishan - rents increased 11.9 per cent. For the rest of the country, rents went up 11.8 per cent.

This even rate of growth is likely to be the trend ahead, said Colliers' Ms Tay.

For HDB resale flats, median rents crossed the $2,000 mark for five-room flats in Bukit Merah and the Central area, as well as executive flats in Bishan, Kallang/ Whampoa, Clementi and Queenstown.

Overall, median rents were $1,200 for three-room units, $1,400 for four-room units, $1,600 for five-room flats and $1,700 for executive flats.


Rents of homes are also being pushed up by an increasing demand for completed homes, and a shortfall in supply at the same time, says Mr Leonard Tay, director of research at consultancy CB Richard Ellis.

CapitaLand Rides Asia Boom, Posts $564m Profit

Source : The Straits Times, Oct 27, 2007

ASIA'S resilient boom has been brought home to CapitaLand - literally, in the form of rocketing sales of residential property across the region.

The property giant, which reported robust third-quarter results yesterday, has cashed in spectacularly on the demand for housing - with more to come.

Chief executive Liew Mun Leong said: 'Our core markets of Singapore, China and Australia continue to deliver sterling results. We continue to expand our footprint in growth markets like Vietnam, the Gulf Co-operation Council region and India.'

Chairman Richard Hu agreed, saying the group is in a 'good position to benefit from Asia's positive growth'.

'Our expansion in China, including second-tier cities, is bearing fruit as evidenced by the strong results.'

Mr Liew indicated that the firm is confident about the region's continuing prosperity, pointing out that CapitaLand has invested more than $8 billion in new businesses this year.

'As the region grows, our strong balance sheet and healthy earnings growth allow us to capitalise on investment opportunities that arise.'

The firm's net profit for the three months ended Sept 30 more than doubled to $563.9 million, powered by robust growth in China and Singapore.

Revenue jumped 25 per cent to $895.8 million, up from $718.7 million a year ago.

Included in CapitaLand's profit after tax and minority interests in the quarter were gains totalling $211.3 million from the sale of Savu Properties, Hotel Asia, Jiulong Mall and other investments.

Profit from jointly controlled entities leapt 778.6 per cent to $278.1 million, mainly due to 'the share of fair value gain from the AIG Tower in Hong Kong and divestment gain from Somerset Baywater'.

The firm attributed the increased revenue largely to 'higher sales from China's development projects and revenue from Raffles City Shanghai'.

Its biggest revenue driver came from sales of homes in Singapore, China and other markets, which climbed 30 per cent to $664.5 million.

Revenue at its retail unit rose 56 per cent to $33.1 million in the third quarter, while sales from its commercial property business jumped 60 per cent to $49.1 million.

Earnings per share in the quarter rose to 20.1 cents from a restated 9.9 cents a year earlier, while net asset value per share rose from $2.65 to $3.32.

Profit after tax and minority interests for the first nine months was $2.1 billion, nearly four times higher than the same period last year.

If unrealised revaluation gains of $650.6 million are excluded, the group's profit after tax and minority interests was $1.4 billion, nearly three times more than last year.

Buyers Paying Way Above Valuation For HDB Flats

Source : The Straits Times, Oct 27, 2007

IF YOU are looking to buy an HDB resale flat, make sure you have plenty of cash on hand.

Due to soaring home demand, an average HDB resale flat now costs $17,000 above its valuation from $7,000 just three months ago.

This figure, called the cash-over-valuation amount, has to be paid in cash by a buyer under current rules.

Five-room flats in popular areas like Queenstown are going for about $110,000 above valuation, according to data released by the Housing Board yesterday.

In addition, more flats are being sold at higher prices.

Between April and June, only three out of every 10 resale flats went above valuation. Since July, however, this has applied to eight out of 10 flats, the HDB said.

The higher prices, however, may be starting to deter buyers.

The number of resale flats sold in the third quarter fell 11 per cent to 8,700, after rising 38 per cent in the previous three months.

HDB resale prices are soaring because rising private home prices are pushing buyers to the cheaper public housing segment.

Taking advantage of growing demand, flat sellers are now asking for prices that are significantly higher than valuations.

But this is creating unhappiness among buyers, said property agents.

'With these kinds of asking prices, we are beginning to see some resistance in the market,' said Mr Eugene Lim, assistant vice-president at property agency ERA Singapore.

'The typical HDB homebuyer does not have or does not want to fork out too much cash. It just does not make sense.'

ERA's data show that in the third quarter, there were fewer resales of all types of flats, from one-room units to executive flats.

But Mr Ku Swee Yong, director of marketing and business development at Savills Singapore, suggested that the lower sales could simply be due to the Hungry Ghost month in the third quarter.

Another property agency, PropNex, said the drop in flat sales is only slightly significant.

Over the last 10 years, the number of resale flats sold was 6,500 to 8,000 for most quarters.

Even with the fall in transactions in the third quarter, 7,700 resale flats were sold, said PropNex's chief executive, Mr Mohamed Ismail.

'It may be too early to conclude from this dip that consumers are price sensitive,' he said, unless 'the number of transactions continues to drop'.

Mr Ismail agreed, however, that the cash-over-valuation amount had increased significantly.

'Today, without at least $50,000 in cash, homebuyers will not be able to purchase a resale flat in the Central location,' he said.

According to HDB figures, buyers of executive flats are forking out the highest median cash-over-valuation amounts.

The median amount - the point at which half the homes sold for more cash and half for less - hit $155,000 in Clementi.

Overall, the median amount for this flat type was $25,000.

For four- and five-room flats, buyers paid a median of $18,000 above valuation. For two- and three-room flats, the amount was $15,000.

The highest amount paid above valuation for a five-room flat was $91,500. The figures were $57,500 for a four-room flat and $40,000 for a three-room flat.

In general, the areas requiring the least cash-over-valuation were Woodlands, Yishun and Bukit Panjang.

On the other end of the spectrum was the Central area, Queenstown and Marine Parade.

The HDB said, however, that in some of these cases, there were fewer than 10 sales of the specific flat type in that area. This means the figures may not be representative.

Deferred Payment Scheme For Home Buyers Scrapped

Source : The Straits Times, Oct 27, 2007

THE Government last night scrapped the deferred payment scheme that allowed homebuyers to postpone payments on new property.

It said the strong economy and property market allowed it to axe the scheme. This would also deter speculators and force people to be more prudent when committing to pricey real estate.

It was a response to signs of overheating in the market, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said last night. 'There's a danger that we may feel over-exuberance in the market. There's also a danger it may actually encourage excessive speculation,' he said.

Buyers will now have to make progressive payments in step with the construction process, instead of deferring payment till the property is completed a few years later.

Experts say prices and sales will be hit, though the impact may not be significant, given the robust demand.

'Now the property market is 'red-hot', maybe after withdrawing deferred payment it will just be 'hot',' said Mr Ku Swee Yong, director of marketing and business development at Savills Singapore. 'There is strong, genuine demand driving sales. Taking away this scheme will only spook speculators. It will take away the froth that is false demand.'

The deferred payment scheme was introduced in 1997, when the market was lacklustre. It is no longer relevant today, said Mr Mah.

Projects that have been approved can continue with deferred payments, but others - uncompleted private homes and commercial properties, including industrial ones - will be hit by the withdrawal, which took effect last night.

Some experts say deferred payment encouraged speculators - pushing up prices. 'Once speculators find it riskier to go into the market, there will be less competition for homes,' said an industry observer. 'Developers may have to lower their prices, and prices may level off. It's good to cool the market, so that you are in tune with the rest of the world.'

Progressive payments call on buyers to pay an amount varying from 5 per cent to 25 per cent of the purchase price at various stages of construction. A 10 per cent payment is required once foundation work is completed, which can be in as soon as six months after purchase or up to 18 months.

Luxury homes have continued soaring in price, while new Government figures show that speculation is becoming a market factor.

Sub-sales - owners selling uncompleted properties - in the core central region comprised 21.6 per cent of total sales in the three months ended Sept 30.

Overall, sub-sales accounted for 12.7 per cent of total deals. They accounted for 28 per cent of total deals in 1996, when speculation was rife.

'Speculation has not reached the mid-1990s level, but at the rate it's going, it could increase, so why not nip it in the bud?' said Ms Tay Huey Ying, director of research and consultancy at Colliers International .

The Real Estate Developers' Association of Singapore said: 'The need for this scheme has diminished with the strong market recovery.'

Some experts say yesterday's move may trigger fears of further Government intervention, which may then indirectly hit prices and sales.

Mr Mah did not rule out the possibility of further moves: 'We are monitoring the market very closely. Obviously, the objective is to make sure that our prices do not overrun, do not go beyond the fundamentals.

'We want to make sure the market is a stable and healthy one.'

Motorsports To Get Permanent Changi Racetrack

Source : The Straits Times, Oct 27, 2007

At least three international races will be held each year; industry has sporting and economic growth potential

SINGAPORE'S motorsports industry is set to shift into high gear.
After months of speculation, the Government yesterday announced plans to call for design tenders for a permanent racetrack in Changi. With the winning bidder required to host at least three international races annually, enthusiasts - already high from Formula One fever - will be spoilt for choice come the facility's completion in 2011.

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, said the move was made after the motorsports industry was identified to have both sporting and economic growth potential.

'In our discussions with the private sector, industry players shared that the development of a permanent racetrack is critical for us to develop a comprehensive motorsports industry,' he said after touring the 20ha site next to the Singapore Airshow grounds.

A request for proposals is likely to be made next May, with the tender and bidding process expected to take about half a year. Five to eight local groups have expressed interest, and Dr Balakrishnan said he expects strong interest with a formal announcement.

The facility will be fully funded by the private sector, but the successful bidder will pay the government market price for the land. The Grade 2 facility, which will have a tenure of 30 years, could host any race except F1.

To ensure the track remains commercially viable, the successful bidder must stage at least three international races, such as the A1 Grand Prix, Japan GP and motorcycling's MotoGP, every year. Other site facilities will include a racing and driver training school, and a pit building and grandstand.

The track's length is likely to be 2.8km to 3.5km, and its unique seafront location makes it an iconic site for drivers and spectators. It also allows a 1km straight, longer than the average of 700m in other permanent circuits.

Early estimates put construction costs at about $100 million.

Motorsports fever has been on the rise since May, when Singapore announced it will host its first F1 race on a Marina Bay street circuit next year.

Related Video Link -
Rev-ving up the motor sports scene

More good news for those who love fast cars and bikes.

Apart from getting a taste of the Formula One race here, motor sports enthusiasts can also look forward to at least three international races based in Singapore by early 2011.

Announcing the Government's plans to develop the motor sports industry here, Community Development, Youth and Sports Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said his ministry is looking to the private sector to build and maintain a permanent race track located at Changi.

However, said Dr Balakrishnan, the F1 race is just once a year and is insufficient 'as a platform to encourage all the other potential developments which surround motorsports'. Hence the decision on a permanent facility which could host other races, exhibitions and industry-related events.

One development the Government is keen to tap is the business potential of the motorsports industry. Top automobile manufacturers such as BMW and Mercedes use motor races as technical and engineering test-beds for their commercial vehicles.

Said Dr Balakrishnan: 'Many of these companies already have a base in Singapore. As Singapore moves up the value chain... there are areas we believe Singapore's high-precision engineering and our past experience will give us a competitive edge.'

He also announced a cross-government agency working group, led by the Singapore Sports Council, to develop a comprehensive motorsports industry development plan.

The local motorsports fraternity is also understood to be in the advanced stages of planning a national race 'born and bred in Singapore'. It will be staged at the new circuit and involve touring cars.

Said Singapore Motor Sports Association official Tony Tan: 'To us, this is like the next biggest news after F1. This is something we can call our own. Fewer trips to Sepang and Pasir Gudang for us soon!'

How KPE Saved Me Two Mins

Source : The Straits Times, Oct 27, 2007

By Maria Almenoar

LIKE most people who drive to work, I have a tried-and- tested route.
I take the Pan-Island Expressway (PIE) from Simei Avenue near where I live and use the Toa Payoh exit to get to News Centre in Toa Payoh North.

No other route has come close in terms of time or distance. My 15km trip takes me 21 minutes.

But yesterday's opening of the first phase of the Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE) trims my travelling time, even if I have to drive a little further.

Getting to the PIE via the KPE and the East Coast Parkway (ECP) means travelling 16 km, but it takes 19 minutes - two minutes less.

I start from the Bedok South entrance to the ECP, turn off into the KPE before the Benjamin Sheares bridge and then get onto the PIE just before the Toa Payoh exit.

Two minutes may not seem like a lot, but multiply that by two trips a day and 260 working days a year, and I save 17 hours a year!

This route also means I escape much of the infamous PIE congestion.

And travelling on the leafy ECP has always been a more pleasant experience, with fewer motorists changing lanes to exit or enter the expressway.

My routes home or to after-work activities are likely to change as well.

Making my way to a sports club near Fort Road in the Kallang area after work was made more convenient recently with the new flyover connecting the PIE east-bound to Sims Avenue.

But a quick test yesterday found that the new KPE section from Sims Avenue to Fort Road was a 5km-long drive, including the entrance and exit driveway, and took me all of five minutes.

That's a snap compared to taking 11 minutes driving along Sims Avenue past Mountbatten Road.

The KPE tunnel was also well-lit and its white walls made it an agreeable drive.

But I did spot two points in the KPE system that might spell trouble for motorists.

First, the entrance to the KPE on the ECP west-bound, just before the Benjamin Sheares bridge, is difficult to negotiate, especially for those unfamiliar with the road.

The second is that the sign for the turn-off from the KPE to the ECP south-bound was too close to the exit, giving motorists little time to react.

Perhaps these kinks can be ironed out before the 12km-long KPE is fully opened late next year.

Govt Stance On Granite Stockpile Still Solid

Source : The Straits Times, Oct 27, 2007

THE Kranji farmers have made their strong plea for a granite stockpile to not be located there.

ROCK HOARD: In land-scarce Singapore, says the National Development Ministry, 'it is important for coexistence of different land uses on adjacent land plots'. -- ST PHOTO: ASHLEIGH SIM

Now, in response, the Government has explained that it is of strategic importance for Singapore to have its own supply of key construction material.

In land-scarce Singapore, 'it is important for coexistence of different land uses on adjacent land plots', a Ministry of National Development statement said yesterday.

The intended site off Neo Tiew Road, according to the Kranji farmers' reckoning, is the size of 20 soccer pitches.

News first surfaced in May that a granite stockpile would be built in rustic Lim Chu Kang, which has more than 100 farmers. Urban visitors flock there on weekends.

About 10 farmers had banded together in 2005 to form the Kranji Countryside Association to promote the area. The association now has around 20 members.

It argued that a stockpile there, along with trucks regularly ferrying in granite, would hurt the farms and despoil the area.

On Oct 9, it sent a petition to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong with more than 1,000 signatures in a bid to 'save Singapore's countryside'.

Yesterday, the ministry's spokesman explained that the recent Indonesian sand ban and granite restrictions illustrated the strategic importance of a local stockpile.

Also, the land is listed as a 'reserve' site, meaning there is no fixed use for this land for the next 15 to 20 years.

The spokesman reassured the farmers that the ministry has a programme to monitor the water and soil conditions in the area. It will ensure that disruptions are minimised.

But Mrs Ivy Singh-Lim, the association's president, was not placated.

She insisted that the same arguments were being trotted out by the ministry.

She said: 'I would like to invite the Prime Minister down on a weekend to see the hundreds of children and families here. If, after that, he can still say that the stockpile here is the right thing to do, then I shall accept it.'

Office Rents Still Up, Rising 15% In 3rd Quarter

Source : The Straits Times, Oct 27, 2007

OFFICE rentals, a major business cost, continued their relentless rise - up nearly 15 per cent in the third quarter - as the official vacancy rate for prime office space fell to just 2.8 per cent.

Recent uncertainty in global financial markets has had no discernible impact on office space demand, said property agency CB Richard Ellis (CBRE).

It cited figures from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), which also showed that occupied office space rose by 645,840 sq ft in the third quarter, up nearly 54 per cent from 419,796 sq ft in the second quarter.

Overall, office rents rose by 14.8 per cent in the third quarter, compared with 11 per cent in the second quarter. And from the end of last year to Sept 30, office rentals have risen by 40.7 per cent.

These government figures confirmed industry statistics, which have showed a persistent climb in rents, particularly for quality space in the Central Business District, amid tight supply.

It has come to the point where some tenants are showing resistance to the rapid increases in rents, consultants said.

In URA’s prime office category, median rents of new leases reached $11.89 per sq ft (psf) per month in the third quarter, up from $10.33 psf per month in the earlier quarter.

In URA’s general category, accounting for 80 per cent of office space, median rent for contracts signed in the third quarter was $5.29 psf a month, up from $4.60 psf a month in the second quarter.

The growth in the prices of office space slowed a little to 8.1 per cent in the third quarter, from 8.9 per cent in the previous quarter.

In the past three quarters, prices of office space have risen by 22.7 per cent.

Vacancy for office space continues to fall as expected, with the rate for URA’s prime office space down to 2.8 per cent, from 5 per cent at the end of the second quarter.

The Government has said it will make more space available and has introduced transitional office sites for quick occupation.

Rentals could ease from 2010 onwards when more office buildings are ready, said Cushman & Wakefield’s managing director in Singapore, Mr Donald Han.

Deferred Payments Scrapped In Bid To Cool Property Fever

Source : The Business Times, October 27, 2007

Market players expect blip, not crash, to follow the exit of the buy-now-pay-later scheme.

In a surprise move yesterday, the government said that it was withdrawing the deferred payment scheme (DPS) for the sale of uncompleted private properties in a bid to discourage speculative buying and cool the property market.

Market players said that the move could unnerve some buyers in the short term - leading to a drop in demand. A crash, however, was unlikely as the recovery of the mid-tier and mass markets this year shows that there is strong underlying demand from non-speculators.

Developers will not be allowed to offer the DPS with immediate effect, but a developer that has already obtained approval to offer the scheme for a project may continue to do so.

The DPS allows buyers to buy a property by forking out only a 10 per cent or 20 per cent downpayment, with the rest due upon completion - sometimes as long as three years later.

The scheme was introduced at a time when the property market was lacklustre and the economy was in recession.

But with the property market now booming, critics have said that the scheme encourages speculation as some seek to resell their properties at a profit without immediately worrying about payments.

Announcing the scrapping of the DPS yesterday, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said that the scheme was no longer needed as the property market has recovered.

The Real Estate Developers’ Association of Singapore (Redas) agreed, saying that it understands the government’s decision to withdraw the DPS. ‘The need for this scheme has diminished with the strong market recovery over the last two years,’ Redas added.

A spokesman for City Developments (CDL) said that the move had been ‘expected’ for some time.

It is estimated that less than half of the buyers of CDL’s projects use the DPS. Said the spokesman: ‘We have been actively discouraging buyers from taking up DPS by way of a price differential.’

Lippo Group is one of the few developers that have not offered the DPS for any of its launches here. ‘I do not think it would affect the sales of our projects,’ Lippo executive director Thio Gim Hock said.

Lippo developments like The Trillium and Newton One have sold well. Mr Thio believes that Lippo’s buyers are not speculators. But he concedes that although the buyers may not flip properties immediately, some do sell after a few months.

The market could see an initial cooling in response to the government intervention, analysts said.

‘What will affect the market is the idea that the government is flexing its muscles,’ said Ku Swee Yong, Savills Singapore’s director of marketing and business development. ‘Frankly, how the signal is going to be interpreted or misinterpreted is going to decide the market’s reaction.’

Mr Ku also said that institutional funds that invest in property here could be unhappy as the government’s move adds volatility to the marketplace.

Looking at the other side of the issue, Lippo’s Mr Thio pointed out that with the DPS, banks, which lent money to developers for construction, had to bear greater risks. ‘In a rising market, banks are not worried to give loans,’ he said.

Citigroup economist Chua Hak Bin had raised the alarm in a report earlier this year when he pointed out that the estimated average debt-to-equity ratio at Singapore property developers with a market capitalisation of more than $1 billion rose to 61 per cent in the first quarter, from 50 per cent a year earlier.

However, Dr Chua believes the rationale for axing the DPS now has more to do with ‘taking away the froth at the high-end market’.

‘Banks have become more cautious anyway,’ he said.

United Overseas Bank (UOB) said that the move should help property prices stabilise. ‘That’s good news for the loans market as more property buyers would now be taking loans with banks,’ said Kevin Lam, the head of UOB’s loans division.

Property stocks are expected to fall on Monday when the market resumes trading. ‘It (the announcement) will affect market sentiment as it will have an impact on future demand,’ said David Lum, an analyst at the Daiwa Institute of Research. ‘The stock market always looks to future demand, and it is no secret that the scheme has been one of the major drivers of demand.’

Situation Vey Different Now: Mah

Source : The Business Times, October 27, 2007

MINISTER for National Development Mah Bow Tan hopes that withdrawing the deferred payment scheme could cool the overheating market and discourage excessive speculation. Pointing out that the scheme was introduced in 1997 when property prices were depressed, he said that the situation was very different now.

The move could temper the market which ‘has shown signs of overheating’, he said. And while the government would prefer not to interfere, it is monitoring the market and would step in if necessary.

Its preference, he said, was to ensure that there was sufficient supply in the market and inject more, if necessary. ‘We want to make sure the market is a stable and healthy one,’ Mr Mah said.

The minister also said that he was not concerned about the rise in the HDB resale price index as it had been lagging behind the market for a while. ‘HDB flat owners can look forward to higher prices. They are holding a more valuable asset if they wanted to cash out or finance their retirement,’ he said.

MAS Invites Feedback On Proposed Changes

Source : Weekend TODAY, October 27, 2007

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is inviting feedback for a consultation paper on proposed changes to the liquidity risk supervision framework.

These include a revised set of “qualifying liabilities” to replace “liabilities base”, an expanded range of eligible liquid assets to afford banks greater flexibility in managing their liquid assets portfolio, and a revised computation formula and maintenance period.

Feedback on the draft notices, which are available on, must be sent to the MAS by Nov 26.

Asian Central Banks Act To Slow Rise Of Its Currencies

Source : Weekend TODAY, October 27, 2007

Asian central banks intervened yesterday to slow the ascent of their currencies against the US dollar, as the greenback continues to forge multi-year lows against many of the region’s currencies.

Fund flows to booming Asian markets, coupled with a weakening in the United States economy, are keeping the dollar on the defensive. Expectations that the Federal Reserve will again cut US interest rates next week, even as many Asian central banks remain hawkish, are widening the valuation gap between the dollar and its rivals in this region.

Singapore’s central bank bought US dollars yesterday after the greenback dropped to a 10-year low of $1.4523, traders said.

They estimate the trade-weighted Singapore dollar had risen to or above the upper limit of the undisclosed currency band maintained by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

Ascott Group’S Q3 Net Profit Fell 41 Per Cent

Source : Weekend TODAY, October 27, 2007

Serviced residences operator Ascott Group Ltd said third-quarter net profit fell 41 per cent on lower portfolio gains from divestments.

Ascott, part owned by property developer CapitaLand Ltd, said net profit for the quarter ended Sept 30 was $34.1 million, down from $57.4 million a year ago.

Revenue increased 17 per cent to $116.5 million from $99.2 million.

UOL Group’S Q3 Net Profit Doubled On Year

Source : Weekend TODAY, October 27, 2007

Property developer UOL Group Ltd said third-quarter net profit doubled on year, on strong revenue and a one-time gain.

The company posted a net profit of $64.5 million for the quarter ended Sept 30, up from $31.5 million in the third quarter of 2006. Revenue was up 11 per cent at $166.7 million, largely from hotel operations here and in countries including Australia and Vietnam.

The company’s profit was also boosted by a one-time gain of $17.8 million related to the acquisition of a subsidiary.

UOL Group said Singapore’s property market is likely to remain strong, while its hotels should continue to profit from a robust tourism sector. But it warned that the performance of its hotel in Myanmar may be hurt by the political uncertainty there.

Home Prices Up, But May Cool

Source : Weekend TODAY, October 27, 2007

More homes being built to help meet demand, says URA

PRIVATE home prices rose islandwide in the three months ended Sept 30, but the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said more supply is in the pipeline to meet demand.

“As at third quarter 2007, there were about 65,400 private residential units in the pipeline, comprising the supply from projects that are already under construction and those that have been granted planning approval but are not under construction yet,” the URA said.

The number marks a 16.4-percent increase over the potential supply of about 56,200 units in the second quarter.

According to the latest data, housing properties were up an average 8.3 per cent over the quarter, slightly faster than the Government’s estimated 8-per-cent rise forecast made in Oct 1. Versus end-2006, prices averaged 22.9 per cent higher.

“While there weren’t many new launches in the market in ... September and August, the results show that developers have held their prices well,” said Mr Donald Han, managing director of property consultancy Cushman and Wakefield. Those two months were clouded by sub-prime worries and the Hungry Ghost month, a traditional lull period. But prices picked up in the last two weeks of the third quarter, said Mr Han.

The upswing in prices was led by gains in the prime central area, said Mr Eugene Lim, assistant vice-president at real estate agency ERA. Property prices in the prime locations increased 8.3 per cent, faster than 7.9 per cent in the second quarter. Outside the central area, prices were up 7.9 per cent.

UBS real estate analyst Regina Lim attributed the demand to foreigners, who accounted for about 50 per cent of sales in prime areas. “We expect foreign buying to continue to support prices in the prime and midrange segments,” said Ms Lim.

However, others detected demand strengthening in the mid- and lower-end of the market. “The prime areas were where the developers were most confident, but the gains were supported by the mass segment market this time round, and to a certain extent, the mid-end market,” said Mr Han.

URA data showed that other property segments, commercial and industrial, also drew robust interest.

Housing Development Board (HDB) data, also released yesterday, painted a similar picture for the resale and rental markets. The HDB Resale Price Index rose 6.6 per cent in the third quarter, and was up 11 per cent from the start of the year.

However, the number of resale transactions fell 11 per cent to 7,722 from 8,708 in the previous quarter, but Mr Mohammed Ismail, chief executive of real estate agency Propnex said it may be “too early” to conclude that consumers are price sensitive.

“(The) HDB market will be a star performer in the next six months,” said Mr Han. “We’re seeing a full upturn on all sectors of the market and HDB has just joined this bandwagon after being in the doldrums in the last two, three years.’

CapitaLand Shows Hefty Q3 Profit

Source : Weekend TODAY, October 27, 2007

CAPITALAND’S third-quarter net profit more than doubled from a year earlier, buoyed by strong growth in China, the region’s largest property developer said.

The profit after tax and minority interests for three months ended Sept 30 stood at $563.9 million, up from last year’s $272.4 million.

Revenue was $895.8 million, up 24.6 per cent from $718.7 million.

“The group continues to see healthy and sustainable growth prospects in Asia and other new markets,” said CapitaLand chairman Richard Hu.

“Our expansion in China, including second-tier cities, is bearing fruit, as evidenced by the strong results. In Singapore, we also expect a solid full-year performance, underpinned by strength in all property segments,” he added.

For the year to September, net profit was $2.1 billion, nearly four times the previous year’s $559.2 million.

The 42-per-cent Temasek-owned developer, the largest in South-east Asia by market capitalisation, said that earnings before interest and tax for the Singapore market was up nearly four times to $1.7 billion for the year to September, while China’s contribution for the period was $714.6 million.

Mr Liew Mun Leong, the president and chief executive officer, said that while CapitaLand’s core markets of Singapore, China and Australia continue to deliver sterling results, “we continue to expand our footprint in growth markets like Vietnam, the Gulf Cooperation Council region and India”.

For the year to date, CapitaLand has committed investments of more than $8 billion in new businesses and new geographies, as exemplified by our recent Raffles City site acquisitions,” Mr Liew said.

“As the region grows, our strong balance sheet and healthy earnings growth allow us to capitalise on investment opportunities that arise.”

DBS Undented By CDOs

Source : Weekend TODAY, October 27, 2007

NONE of DBS Group Holdings’ $2.36 million of collateralised debt obligations (CDOs)as of Sept 30 defaulted but the bank said at its third-quarter earnings briefing yesterday that it recorded $112 million in CDOrelated provisions and losses for the period.

The figure includes $70 million in allowances set aside for the $275 million CDOs that had some exposure to United States subprime assets, while $42 million was a mark-to-market loss relating to CDOs held by its conduit, Red Orchid Secured Assets.

Speaking to TODAY, Mr Jackson Tai, DBS’ outgoing vice-chairman and chief executive officer, said: “I think we weathered the storm pretty well … Our provisions of $70 million is a prudential reserve against a portfolio that has only $275 million of CDOs exposed to the US sub-prime mortgage market. That’s 0.12 per cent (of CDOs to DBS’ total assets) — very small but we think that, nonetheless, it’s very important to set aside some reserves and we’re comfortable with those reserves and believe we’ll do just fine.”

Mr Tai said the bank was “pretty conservative with the write-down”, and that it’s “confident” about the portfolio.

For the third quarter, South-east Asia’s largest bank by market capitalisation said net profit was $648 million, which excluded an impairment charge of $38 million for its 16-per-cent stake in Thai lender TMB Bank to reflect its market valuation as at Sept 30. For the nine months, net earnings were up 19 per cent year-on-year to $1.93 billion.

“Results for the quarter were reassuring despite turbulence in the global credit markets. We took steps over the past five years to diversify our earnings across businesses and geography to supplement our strength in corporate banking and the markets. During the quarter, this diversification delivered solid results despite disruptions on some areas of our treasury and markets business,” Mr Tai said.

He said net interest income and fees rose to new highs while customer loan volumes also rose. The net interest income was $1.05 billion, up 15 per cent from a year earlier, while loans grew 23 per cent to $104.7 billion. The net interest margin,
though, shrank a tad to 2.14 per cent from 2.17 per cent a year earlier.

Daiwa Institute of Research analyst David Lum said the DBS statement on its CDOs held no surprise and investors were relieved that its “earnings growth was not affected”.

“The direct exposure to the sub-prime crisis is insignificant. Local banks are small and not directly affected by the sub-prime crisis and DBS’ provisions seem like a realistic charge to take,” he said.

DBS, the first of the big three banks to report third-quarter earnings, helped alleviate concerns over its CDO exposures, and the shares rose 3.3 per cent to $22.
United Overseas Bank advanced 2.9 per cent to $21.60 and OCBC Bank was up 1.7 per cent to $9.10.

The Straits Times Index closed at 3771.55 points, up 1.7 per cent. Gainers outnumbered losers 519 to 306 and the volume traded was 2.54 billion shares, up slightly from 2.49 billion shares on Thursday.

DBS Vickers said the likelihood of an STI correction low at 3650 points has increased.

Wet Wonderland In Punggol

Source : Weekend TODAY, October 27, 2007

WET WONDERLAND: This artist’s impression of the new Punggol Floating Wetlands shows what Punggol residents can expect when the dams at Sungei Serangoon and Sungei Punggol are built.

The wetland will have a fruit-themed walkway skimming the lake, with a mangosteen pavilion, limes for seats and peek-a-boo orange slices allowing a glimpse of the water below.

A boardwalk and suspended bridge links the new Punggol reservoir with Seng Kang Fruit
Park and the upcoming Anchorvale Community Club.

The project is slated to be ready in 2009.

Granite Stockpile Stays, Lim Chu Kang Farmers Told

Source : Weekend TODAY, October 27, 2007

THE farmers may object but the decision is final — the Government's granite stockpile stays in Lim Chu Kang, where several farms are located.

In a letter responding to a petition sent by the Kranji Countryside Association (KCA) earlier this month, the Government said locating such facilities away from densely-built up areas "is not always possible in land-scarce Singapore". The Lim Chu Kang site, it said, was selected after "careful consideration", taking into account various land use needs.

Stockpiling granite, the Government explained, was of "strategic importance" and key to ensuring a sufficient supply of construction materials here. The Indonesian sand ban and granite supply disruption has shown that supply cut-offs can be "sudden" and "potentially-damaging".

Concerned about granite dust affecting the area's water and crops, the KCA sent a petition with 1,000 signatures to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

A six-metre fence helps to keep the dust in, but farmers are worried that sunlight may not reach their crops.

The Government's letter assured farmers of "appropriate measures" taken to mitigate the impact of stockpiling activities. A programme is also in place to monitor the soil and water conditions around the site and relevant agencies will continue to work with the farmers.

S’pore, Get Ready To Rock

Source : Weekend TODAY, October 27, 2007

Tribal-owned Hard Rock to aggressively push its brand

THINK of places with slot machines and poker tables and immediately top gaming destinations like Las Vegas and Macau come to mind.

But when it comes to gaming revenue, even the combined US$12.4 billion ($18.2 billion) of those two cities last year dwarfs in comparison to the whopping US$27.8 billion raked in by the American tribal-owned casino industry.

Leading the way is the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which made the headlines in March with an astonishing US$965 million takeover of Hard Rock International.

And having secured the purchase of that famous chain of rock-themed tourist attractions — comprising Hard Rock's cafes, hotels, casinos and music memorabilia stores — the Seminole tribe is now ready to make deeper inroads into Asia.

Singapore — with its upcoming two integrated resorts (IR) with casinos — has already fallen under the radar of Seminole's expansion plans in Asia, its gaming operations chief executive officer James Allen told Today.

The gaming industry veteran is currently in Singapore for a three-day business visit, having already visited both Manila and Macau earlier this week.

"We have been very successful in the Far East for many years, and we want to re-launch some of our products in this part of the world. We want to rekindle our relationship with the franchise partners and have them know that we seriously want to take our brand to a higher level," said Mr Allen.

"The name 'Hard Rock' has been around for 36 years and survived that test of time, so it could use some re-energising," he added.

Singapore hotelier Ong Beng Seng's Hotel Properties Limited (HPL) owns the franchise for Hard Rock Café in all of Asia, excluding Japan.

Singapore will open its first Hard Rock Hotel in 2010, as one of six hotels being built at Resorts World at Sentosa.

The Hard Rock Café at Cuscaden Road has been in operation since 1990, but Mr Allen has ruled out the possibility of opening more outlets in the same city.

Instead, the plan is to meet with local partners and discuss ways for Hard Rock to take advantage of the current tourism boom in Singapore, he said.

"Singapore was a city that used to have certain perceptions, but now it's one of the most beautiful places to visit.

"It's a gateway to Asia and we feel we can tap on this to grow our presence," he said.

Seminole now controls 122 Hard Rock Cafes and nine Hard Rock Hotel resorts in 47 countries. Three more hotels are being constructed and 25 are in the planning stages, said Mr Allen.

In South-east Asia, the latest Hard Rock Hotel will be built in Penang, a joint development between Hard Rock International and HPL Hotels & Resorts.

In early 2009, a Hard Rock Hotel and Casino will open in Macau — opposite American billionaire Sheldon Adelson's Venetian Macau — as part of the four-hotel City of Dreams Project. These will add to the two existing Hard Rock hotels in Bali and Pattaya.

While casino gaming is Seminole's forte, operating a casino in Singapore is out of the question for now, said Mr Allen, due to the 10-year exclusivity deal guaranteed by the Singapore Government to both the IRs.

The tribe, with a population of 3,300 living on or off Florida reservations, opened the first Native American-owned casino in the US in 1979.

Gaming is widely regarded as a lucrative business for tribes, with casinos often located on less desirable plots of land. According to the National Indian Gaming Association website, there are more than 220 tribes in 28 American states that have gaming operations, accounting for over 406 Indian-owned gaming facilities.

Income from gaming operations accounts for more than 90 per cent of all Seminole tribe income, and in turn, gaming proceeds fund more than 90 per cent of the tribe's expenditures, including education, healthcare, housing, economic development, and other social services.

Is S'pore Getting Too Crowded?

Source : Weekend TODAY, October 27, 2007

Or are we just finding it difficult to live with others?

AS A foreigner who has lived in Singapore for almost three years, my usual reaction whenever friends complain about the heavy rush hour traffic or weekend downtown crowds has always been that of bemusement.

As they dig out their most impressive hyperbole ("Horrible!" "Terrible!" "Awful!" "Siao liao! (it's mad)"), I'll offer a sympathetic nod before biting my tongue at the point where I'm tempted to retort: "You call this crowded? Try living in Manila ... "

Or any neighbouring city for that matter. Years of training in the urban jungle of my hometown have enabled me to weave through Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok or the motorbike-dense streets of Hanoi with ease. Compared to these places, handling crowds in Singapore is peanuts.

Or so I thought until I took on a new job and experienced my first Raffles Place crowd at lunch break.

As I was swept away by wave upon wave of white-collar workers, a thought crossed my mind.

Is Singapore indeed getting too crowded?

Imagine a measly red dot of an island with a total area of 704 sq km where over 4.68 million people live (and that's still 1.8 million short of the Government's target population of 6.5 million). Add to that the Land Transportation Authority's mind-boggling statistic of some 799,373 vehicles (and counting) plying the road last year.

Of course, for statistically-challenged people (like me), a picture of what's happening on the ground works best.

I turned to the nightspots that always seem to be packed with people.

According to Zouk's marketing manager Tracy Phillips, as many as 3,500 patrons flock to the entertainment complex on weekends — the same number as on Wednesdays, when theme night Mambo Jambo takes place. But while she said the growth in the number of clubbers has been increasing since 1995 — when she first came on board — there's been no "obvious jump" in attendance.

And besides, I thought, what kind of lame club would it be if it weren't crowded?

At Clarke Quay, you've got an average of 40,000 people during weekends and 20,000 on weekdays, said Ms Dawn Tan, centre manager for Clarke Quay Management. But then again, the area has over 62 establishments, with 80 per cent of them F&B outlets and bars. What kind of a sorry lifestyle and entertainment complex would it be if it weren't crowded?

Unconvinced, I dragged a Singaporean friend along for more investigative work.

First stop was Clarke Quay on a Wednesday night, Ladies' Night at most bars — incentive for women (and men) to come down in droves. For three hours, we parked ourselves at coffee joint TCC for a clear lay of the land. From my vantage point, the crowds seemed manageable to me. My friend concurred. We also spoke to Benson, the cafe's manager for the past two years. He said that it gets "very bad, especially after 10pm when the late crowd comes in". I checked my watch — it was 11pm and no heavy crowd. It was time to leave.

On a Saturday, I headed for Parkway Parade, the scene of many "horror stories" from friends who live around the East Coast area. "Trust me, it's going to get crowded, especially during lunchtime," warned my friend.

That same friend left Parkway Parade with a puzzled look on her face after witnessing what seemed like a "normal" lunchtime Saturday crowd. I am pleased to report that walking through the shopping centre did not induce any bouts of claustrophobia in yours truly.

I was getting absolutely nowhere in trying to prove the premise that Singapore is indeed overcrowded. There was one final recourse — a survey.

Replies soon trickled in, a mere half-hour after I had sent out an informal email survey.

Of the 50 respondents — made up mostly of Singaporeans, barring a handful of foreigners who have lived here for quite some time — 38 believed that Singapore was getting too crowded.

Twenty-nine of them said they thought twice about stepping out of their homes (presumably on weekends).

The Orchard Road stretch received the most votes for being the most crowded area in Singapore. A few disgruntled respondents also fingered the Central Business District, Parkway Parade, Little India and several of the heartland malls.

Orchard Road and the Central Expressway emerged tops as the most crowded roads in Singapore. Pan Island Expressway, Bukit Timah Road and Serangoon Road were among the other dishonourable mentions.

Still, there was nothing surprising or out of the ordinary in those findings so far, I thought.

Things only got more interesting when it came to the portion of the survey where I asked respondents to select the reasons for what they believed accounted for this supposed overcrowding in Singapore. What I had thought would garner the most ticks didn't.

Only one respondent thought that the boom in tourist arrivals accounted for the overcrowding. This came despite the Singapore Tourism Board's recent announcement about a record-breaking 911,000 visitors in August.

The proliferation of malls also received a handful of votes. That didn't seem substantial enough.

There were, however, some interesting points raised, including how "kiasu" and "bored" Singaporeans seem to converge at the same place at the same time.

But there was one reason that stood out. Fourteen people — or 28 per cent — blamed overcrowding on the growing number of expatriates and foreign workers living here. Yes, that means me and 1,005,499 of my fellow non-Singaporean and non-Permanent Resident residents — and their families — as recently reported by the Department of Statistics.

Not knowing whether I should wince at this apparent evidence of a siege mentality or hang my head in shame as I am a contributor to my friends' and acquaintances' discomfort, I scrolled down to that other major reason the respondents cited.

"C" said: "My need for personal space. It's not really that crowded…"

It was a wildcard reason I had put to see if maybe, it's all in the mind and a matter of perspective. Fifteen people — that's 30 per cent — felt that way.

Intrigued by this strange result — that it's either someone else's fault or that there is no problem at all — I spoke to National University of Singapore sociologist Chua Beng Huat. Prof Chua doesn't believe the crowd situation here is bad.

Whether it's on the road or on the streets, it's nothing compared to Jakarta or Bangkok or any Indian city, he said.

"The only measure of density is the quality of life. If you find yourself unable to be polite and civil, then it's dense."

Judging from the horror stories shared by the survey respondents — from aunties de-shelling prawns on buses to the ruthless shoving and jostling in trains — could it be that the real question here isn't about how crowded certain parts of the island are getting?

Rather, is the question really about how Singaporeans are dealing with having more people on the island? In other words, are Singaporeans becoming intolerant?

For now, however, whenever someone complains about the crowds, I shall continue to offer my sympathetic nod — and bite my tongue when needed.

That and avoiding Orchard Road during weekends, of course.

Another Property Brake

Source : Weekend TODAY, October 27, 2007

Govt scraps 'outdated' deferred payment scheme

Property punters and those financially lax, you're next.

The latest measure to keep prices stable crept up on the property market late on Friday afternoon, when the Government suddenly took away a popular financing option for buyers of uncompleted private homes and offices.

With immediate effect, buyers can no longer ride on the deferred payment scheme, whereby a purchaser not only pays a small fraction of the price upfront, he can also wait a couple of years before forking out the remainder.

Such grace was needed during the economic slump of 1997, when the scheme was introduced to encourage demand.

But in good times like today, it is "no longer relevant", said National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan.

Scrapping the scheme will also "encourage greater financial prudence as buyers will have to ensure they have sufficient funds or are able to secure adequate loans from banks before they commit to buying a property", said the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

While most industry players and analysts agreed with the rationale, some were puzzled by the timing.

Calling the removal a "wrong signal" to investors, property analyst Colin Tan wondered why there was a need for such a sentiment-pricking measure when data do not suggest that speculative activities are anywhere near 1996 levels.

A decade ago, the Government stepped in with painful curbs, chief of which was a tax on gains made from property sales done within three years from the time of purchase.

In this round's booming property market, the authorities have implemented a suite of "softer" measures including tweaking land supply, repeatedly warning about "monitoring" the market, singling out bullish projection by certain research firms and raising development charges.

As it is, investor confidence has softened due to growing fears of a United States recession triggered by the ongoing credit crunch, said Mr Tan, research director at Chesterton International.

Furthermore, didn't several officials come out to say there was no bubble forming in the property market, he asked.

But in Mr Mah's view, there are now "signs of overheating", even though the strong economy has also been behind the 20 per cent surge in private home prices since the start of the year.

"Don't forget with the scheme, you actually encourage speculators to come in, so it's not necessary to add further to the current market," he told reporters on the sidelines of an event on Friday evening, shortly after the URA released a statement about the scheme's removal. The announcement came after the close of the stock market and so did not touch property-related stocks, which might fall next week after digesting what some deem to be negative news.

The Real Estate Developers' Association of Singapore (Redas) said in a statement, which mirrored factors listed in the URA statement, that it "understands" the Government's decision "in view of the strong economic growth, buoyant property market and positive employment situation".

Colliers International's research director Tay Huey Ying was not surprised by the measure, which she viewed as "preventive action" against overheating and financial imprudence.

A recent sign that the Government had apprehensions about the DPS came earlier this year, she said. In April, the central bank had warned that the widespread use of deferred payment schemes (DPS) by developers could pose additional risks to banks. Under such plans, a buyer could put down a 10-per-cent downpayment and then pay the remainder when the Temporary Occupation Permit (TOP) is issued near to the project's completion date. That grace period could be two or three years. So, the scheme essentially shifts the financing burden away from households or office-space buyers, to developers and construction firms. In addition, some developers have the practice of selling bonds backed by future payments promised by buyers of units under construction.

At the same time, home loans growth here have continued to hit new highs month after month, as those on DPS start borrowing from banks when the TOP date nears.

City Developments Limited (CDL), in reaction to the measure, said the company has been "actively discouraging" homebuyers from using the DPS by informing them that the scheme effectively means paying 5 per cent more at the end of the financing period.

But would scrapping the scheme spell fewer buyers and lower demand? Ms Tay feels the property price recovery will not be derailed, especially not in the mass market, where speculative activity accounts for just 5 per cent of total sales. Furthermore, those who use the deferred payment plan number fewer than those who pay progressively, meaning making payments at various stages of the project's completion, said CDL spokesman Gerry de Silva.

In contrast, HSBC reportedly said in April that 60 per cent of its customers who bought properties under construction opted for the DPS.

Now that the deferred payment scheme is gone, it is "good news for the loans market, as more property buyers would now be taking loans with banks", said United Overseas Bank.

UOL's Q3 Profit Soars 105%

Source : The Business Times, October 27, 2007

HOTEL and property group UOL said net profit for the third quarter of 2007 increased by 105 per cent to $64.5 million from $31.5 million a year ago, boosted by higher income from hotel operations, property investment, property development and associated companies, in addition to an exceptional gain.

Revenue in the third quarter increased 11 per cent to $166.7 million, largely from the improved performance of the group's hotels in Singapore, Australia and Vietnam. Revenue from property development was also higher with the progressive recognition of revenue from the sale of units in projects like Pavilion 11, Southbank, Regency at Tiong Bahru and Duchess Residences.

Exceptional items included the recognition in the income statement of negative goodwill arising from the acquisition of a subsidiary company, UOL said.

Earnings per share rose to 8.11 cents from 3.97 cents.

Group net profit for the nine months ended September 2007 increased to $426.8 million from $107.7 million a year ago.

UOL's listed unit, Hotel Plaza, reported net profit of $14.1 million in the third quarter of 2007, up from $6.0 million in the previous period.

Hotel Plaza also announced a renounceable non-underwritten rights issue of up to 200 million new shares at an issue price of $1.70 for each rights share. The rights shares will be issued on the basis of one rights share for every two existing shares held.

The issue price represents a discount of approximately 20 per cent to the closing share price of Hotel Plaza shares yesterday.

The net proceeds of the rights issue are expected to be about $339.7 million.

Hotel Plaza said it intends to utilise the net proceeds to partially fund, up to $180 million, the acquisition and development of a land parcel at Upper Pickering Street. The balance will be used to repay advances from parent UOL.

CapitaLand Q3 Net More Than Doubles To $563.9m

Source : The Business Times, October 27, 2007

Boost from fair-value and portfolio gains and China devt projects

CAPITALAND said yesterday that its net profit for the third quarter ended Sept 30 more than doubled from $272.41 million a year ago to $563.93 million, driven by fair value gains from its investment properties, portfolio gains and higher sales of development projects in China.

Its revenue for the quarter jumped 24.6 per cent to $895.77 million, particularly bolstered by sales from its China development projects and the revenue from Raffles City Shanghai.

These gains helped to offset the lower fee-based income, lower rental income due to the divestment of Temasek Tower in April and the deconsolidation of revenue from Ascott Residence Trust (ART), following the reduction of the group's beneficial interest in ART to 37.5 per cent with effect from March this year.

For the first nine months of this year, CapitaLand's net profit more than tripled from a restated $559.15 million to $2.08 billion on the back of a 14.9 per cent year-on-year increase in revenue to $2.47 billion.

Its overseas revenue constitutes some 71.7 per cent of the group's revenue, up from 66.2 per cent a year ago as contributions from its China operations increased.

CapitaLand achieved a record Q3 earnings before interest and tax (Ebit) of $758.6 million, up from a restated $565.2 million.

'The group continues to see healthy and sustainable growth prospects in Asia and other new markets,' CapitaLand group chairman Richard Hu said.

'Given CapitaLand's substantial financial capacity and capital efficient business model, the group is in a good position to benefit from Asia's positive growth,' he added.

Year-to-date, CapitaLand has committed investments of over $8 billion in new businesses and new geographies, CapitaLand group president and chief executive officer Liew Mun Leong said.

He noted that while the group's core markets of Singapore, China and Australia continue to post stellar results, the group continues to expand its footprint in growth markets of Vietnam, the Gulf Cooperation Council region (GCC) and India.

But the profit received from its associates for the third quarter slumped 82.8 per cent to $35.27 million.

CapitaLand's subsidiary, The Ascott Group, saw net profit for the third quarter slip 41 per cent from a year back to $34 million as it received lower portfolio gains and incurred higher expenses for assets under development.

But its revenue for the quarter grew 17 per cent year-on-year to $116.55 million, with gains mainly coming from its serviced residences in Europe, North Asia, Singapore and South-east Asia.

Related Link -
Capitaland's news release
Financial statements
Presentation slides
Ascott Group's news release
Financial results
Presentation slides

Lippo President, Stephen Riady - The Devout Tycoon

Source : The Business Times, October 27, 2007

Stephen Riady, president of the Lippo conglomerate, talks to CHOW PENN NEE about why faith and business can mix, the prospects for real estate, and the group's future plans

A HUGE signboard for the Lippo development Newton One at the junction of Newton and Dunearn Road is emblazoned with the words 'Fully Sold, Thanks be to God'.

'When the Singapore government talked about the plans to remake Singapore, lots of people heard it. But we were the ones who believed in it, and took action early.' - Stephen Riady

Stephen Riady, president of Indonesian conglomerate, the Lippo Group, is not afraid to wear his faith on his sleeve. Dotted around the island, his group's projects bear testament to his strong beliefs.

'Our development at Sentosa Cove is expected to have very good response too, when the results come out next month. For that one, I'm going to put up a signboard with the phrase 'Praise be to God', he says with delight, his arms gesturing animatedly.

Unapologetic about his enthusiasm for religion, Mr Riady says this is the best way to show one's faith. 'When you proclaim openly, you signify your commitment to Christianity. I become stronger after saying it and I feel I'm strengthening my faith,' says the 46-year-old Mr Riady. Ironically, he was the last in his family to convert - in 1992 as a 31-year-old - after his siblings and parents had taken the plunge.

Apparently, many staff of the Lippo group are also devout and have been fervently praying for the success of the group's projects. 'In fact, they were the ones who suggested I put a phrase thanking God for the developments being fully taken up,' reveals Mr Riady.

Whether or not through divine intervention, Lippo's prominence in the real estate space in Singapore has been growing. It had started snapping up properties on choice parcels of land long before the property-price frenzy took hold. 'When the Singapore government talked about the plans to remake Singapore, lots of people heard it,' he says. 'But we were the ones who believed in it, and took action early.'

Buying spree

This is the hallmark of a wise investor, he explains. 'If you see something that you believe in, that other people have not seen yet, will you just wait there? No. You get so excited you just go out to the market to find friends and brokers and see if there are opportunities.' Fortunately for him, at that time, there were few bidders and plenty of opportunities.

The group started its buying spree with Lippo's head office at Shenton Way at the end of 2004. It was subsequently sold for more than double the $151 million purchase price at $350 million earlier this year. Mr Riady said signs were becoming clearer in 2005 and 2006 that the Singapore economy was in good shape, with more investors streaming in. Then it was full steam ahead for the group, which chalked up a buy every month.

The Lippo name came to the fore with high profile buys from local banks United Overseas Bank (UOB) and OCBC - which had to divest some of their attractive properties in order to comply with regulatory requirements. 'Those were opportunities of a life-time, they were prime assets,' Mr Riady recalls.

Overseas Union Enterprise (OUE) - bought in a joint venture with Malaysian tycoon Ananda Krishnan from UOB - owns Meritus Mandarin hotel, the office building Overseas Union House, and the adjacent Change Alley Aerial Plaza. Lippo also bought retailer Robinsons from OCBC.

The tally in Singapore so far: nine residential developments, five commercial properties and two retail brands, with a total value of $4 billion. Collectively, these assets are a perfect fit for a group which had decided to focus primarily on real estate and retailing after the 1997 Asian financial crisis hit. Before that, its businesses ran the gamut of telecommunications, manufacturing, banking and other sectors.

Mr Riady - who has just been named Ernst & Young Strategic Investment Entrepreneur of the Year - is not about to slow down. He hopes to increase the value of the group's portfolio from US$7 billion in assets at present to US$20 billion within five years.

He does not think property prices here have reached their peak. 'I think not for the next four to five years,' he predicts. Ever the astute businessman, he's already looking for new opportunities. Right now, he's putting his money on properties that are almost completed.

'The developments that are going to be completed in six months to one year's time, there will be a lot of demand for them,' he says, pointing out that people who have sold their homes in en-bloc sales will need places to stay. There's also a dearth of soon-to-be completed projects.

His plan for his next few developments is to keep a few choice blocks for renting out. 'For the launch of Sentosa Cove next month, the plan is to sell half and then keep the other half and rent out,' he says, pointing to the booming demand for service apartments.

But what about the possible fallout from the US sub-prime mortgage crisis? It doesn't seem to faze him; there's still no problem borrowing from banks here, he says, and liquidity is abundant. 'I think the Asian market fundamentals are still strong, governments have accumulated huge foreign exchange reserves and companies in Asia have healthy balance sheets.'

To him, Asia and the US seem worlds apart. 'When I go to the US, people are talking about sub-prime,' he says. 'But in Asia, Hong Kong, China, Singapore, it's business as usual, people are still looking for opportunities to buy.' While transactions might slow in the next six to nine months, activity will return after that, he predicts.

Mr Riady's other core business, retail, is also humming along nicely. In the latest development, Lippo's Auric Pacific Group bought Delifrance - the chain of bakeries and cafes - from Prudential Asset Management Asia for $75.2 million earlier this month. Mr Riady said Delifrance is a 'good, strong brand' which would fit in with the food businesses Auric currently owns.

'Auric is involved in food manufacturing and distribution, but we would like to go direct into food retailing, straight to the consumers,' he said. Some of Auric's brands include Sunshine bread and SCS butter as well as a 29.9 per cent stake in Sesdaq-listed Food Junction Limited which operates a chain of food courts, Food Junction and Food Culture, in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and China.

Delifrance's network of 230 outlets spanning Asia is a good way for Auric to distribute its other food products which do not have access to other markets outside Singapore, Mr Riady explained. 'We can sell SCS butter to Delifrance outlets in Hong Kong, for example, therefore using these overseas outlets to distribute our other food products,' he said.

In terms of clothing and department stores, his vision for the group's retail business is not just confined to Singapore but takes in the whole region, encompassing Indonesia, Hong Kong, China and Thailand. Growth for his retail business will be both organic and via acquisitions.

In China the group wants to grow organically, under the brand name Robbinz. 'We have started from scratch, with two stores in Guangdong. Two more will be opened in Tianjin and Chengdu, with the Tianjin store spanning one million sq ft - the largest single department store in the whole of China.'

'In the next three to five years, we plan to grow retailing from the present turnover of US$2 billion to US$5 billion for whole group.'

China is an important market for the group, but in the next 30-40 years. 'If we want to become the top businessmen in the world, Singapore is a little small, and we cannot ignore China,' says Mr Riady.

He plans to use Shanghai, rather than Hong Kong, as the base for Lippo's China operations in the future. 'If you want to be serious about the country, we have to be in that place, rather than operate from another territory,' he says.

Meanwhile, closer to home, Mr. Riady is determined to shrug off the bad press arising from the ousting of long-time Robinson directors in November last year.

'That episode was unexpected and I feel regretful over what has happened,' he says. But he is resolute in not letting the saga overshadow his plans for the department store. 'That was in the past. We now have better relationships with the current directors. Time will tell if I'm right or wrong. Let's see the results of Robinsons over the next few years.'

As president of Lippo group, Mr. Riady's ambit spans Singapore (where he is now based) plus Hong Kong and China. His attachment to Singapore goes way back; he studied here from the age of 10. In the years ahead, he sees Singapore becoming increasingly important for the group, which has shifted its head office here from Hong Kong. 'We want to make Singapore the regional office, outside Indonesia,' he says.

'The government here has good and far-sighted vision,' he adds. 'Its plan to remake Singapore into a completely different city is very positive for the market. That gives us a lot of confidence.'

In fact, the group will be raising up to $587.4 million with the planned listing in Singapore of a real estate investment trust (Reit) based on its retail properties in Indonesia. The Lippo-Mapletree Indonesia Retail Trust (LMIR) will offer 645.5 million units at 78 to 91 cents a unit, according to the trust's preliminary prospectus which has been lodged with the Monetary Authority of Singapore earlier this week.

Having made his first million in stock market investing while he was still studying for a finance degree at the University of Southern California, Mr. Riady was already subsumed into the family business - set up by his father Dr Mochtar Riady - two years before graduation.

He has since gone from working in various departments to heading the group's business in Singapore and Hong Kong. His brother James takes charge of the Indonesian business. Given his success, it is surprising to hear him say, not without a tinge of regret, 'actually if I had a choice I would have done something else, be a doctor or engineer'.

'My dad didn't say that I had to join the business, but in the early days, you already have the business, so somehow in university you just naturally major in business. You don't think about it.' Every school holiday would see him go back to Jakarta to work in different departments in the group's banking business.

Mr Riady doesn't want to impose the same routine on his children. 'The next generation, let them go, let them choose what they like,' he says amiably. What about succession? It's too early to say who will take over the business, he replies. For now, he is letting his children pursue what they want. Two of them are studying in his alma mater, while the third is 16 years old and studying at the Singapore American School

'It's important that we tell them they don't have to be in the family business. You see many people follow something that is not in their interest. Halfway through, they say that this is not what they want.' He relates how he meets friends of his children and they ask him for advice on a career 'that gives the most money and fame quickly'. But that may not be where their talents or interests lie, he says. 'It's important that you see what areas you like and can serve best. If you can serve it well, then the money will follow.'

Mr Riady's Christian faith has helped inspire his philanthropy. Like most businessmen, making money, friends, entertainment, were top of the list. 'Even family was ranked number 3 or 4, so God was nowhere on this list,' he says. That changed 15 years ago.

Joy of giving

'I have become less self-centred since becoming a Christian. The joy and satisfaction is much greater when you give. He relates his first act of giving, when he was still working in Hong Kong, where he attended a camp organised by a Christian organisation to help recovering drug addicts. 'They only asked for US$3,000 from me, and of course I helped. There was no unwillingness or burden at all on my part, since it was only US$3,000.'

A few months later, they invited him to their Christmas party, and the people who attended the camp were all wearing new T-shirts. 'A few hundred people were able to wear new T-shirts because of my gift. I had never experienced that before.'

Today, the Lippo group gives to a variety of causes, particularly education and religion.

It donated $21 million to NUS Business School in the form of $15 million to support the Mochtar Riady Building, and $6 million to create two distinguished professorships. The group gives to various churches and schools in Indonesia, Hong Kong, China, and Vietnam. 'We set aside millions each year,' he says proudly. 'And every year it is increasing.'