Tuesday, November 6, 2007

OCBC Posts 22% Rise In Q3 Profit To S$463m

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 06 November 2007

Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp (OCBC) reported on Tuesday a 22 percent jump in its third-quarter profit to S$463 million from S$379 million a year ago.

Net interest income for the three months ended September 30 was S$565 million, up from S$473 million, while non-interest income rose to S$481 million from S$357 million.

The bank also unveiled a S$221 million (US$$152 million) charge to account for losses from the credit market turmoil.

The writedown was specifically for S$270 million in asset-backed securities collateralised debt obligations (CDO), out of a CDO portfolio of S$641 million.

OCBC said it stopped using counterparty quotes to value its ABS CDOs in the third quarter as the "ABS CDO market has come to a virtual standstill."

Instead, it used a third-party valuation model to estimate the fair value of the securities.

The bank's corporate CDO portfolio of S$372 million continues to be marked-to-market based on counterparty quotes.

As of September 30, the fair value of corporate CDOs was S$357 million.

At midday on Tuesday, OCBC shares were traded up 5 cents at S$8.90. - CNA/ch

Resorts World At Sentosa Adds New Attractions

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 06 November 2007

Genting International is pumping an additional S$800 million to build the integrated resort at Sentosa.

This will push up the cost of Resorts World at Sentosa to S$6 billion - up 15 percent from the previous S$5.2 billion.

Higher costs of construction accounts for about half of the additional budget, but the amount also includes the cost for six new attractions in the resort.

These include two new roller coasters for Universal Studios.

Justin Tan, Managing Director, Genting International, said, "There will be three vacant plots of land in Universal where they can actually add in more attractions as we move along. Obviously we want to get more repeat visitors, so at this point in time, we are planning that every year, something new will come out in our attractions."

S$250 million has been included as contingency, in anticipation of increasing labour costs. - CNA/ms

Govt Plans To Erect Floating Stage At Singapore River

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 06 November 2007

The government is planning to erect a floating stage at the Singapore River.

This is part of efforts to enhance the buzz in the city's night life.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has launched a "Request for Information" process for the project.

It is seeking expressions of interest for the design, construction, maintenance and operation of the floating stage.

Based on the information submitted, the URA will then determine whether to proceed with a Request for Proposal or tender.

The floating stage is expected to be iconic, and host arts and cultural events, performances as well as corporate functions to add vibrancy to the Singapore River. -CNA/ms

Sports Hub Bidders Come Out With Innovative Funding Models

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 06 November 2007

The people behind the various proposals for the Singapore Sports Hub want to make it a place every Singaporean, young and old, wants to head to.

Besides big names such as tennis sensation Maria Sharapova that could draw crowds to the place, all three bidders know the sports hub should be for all Singaporeans to enjoy and use in order to ensure the long-term success of the project.

The bidders have proposed various schemes in which substantial amounts will be set aside to fund events at the Sports Hub.

"A lot of events… are not profit making. They are loss making, but they are extremely important for the community in Singapore, and they are extremely important to encourage a healthy nation, a healthy lifestyle, extremely important to encourage grassroots participation in sports," said Neil Arora from Singapore Gold Consortium.

Singapore Sports Hub Group's proposal

"What we have done is to set up a Premier Park Foundation which really looks to reinvest the bulk of our commercial revenues that we will earn from Premier Park back into the project. At this moment, we have calculated that up to about 75 per cent of the commercial revenues earned from the park will be (reinvested) into the project to ensure that the programming content is sustainable over the long term," said Lynn Tho from Singapore Sports Hub Consortium.

The sports hub project is also unique as it is the largest sports infrastructure built on a public and private partnership basis.

"A lot of governments around the world are finding that allowing these sorts of facilities to be social infrastructure facilities… managed by private enterprise can be a more efficient way of doing things. And that's certainly the arguments that are being put in Australia and the UK," said Alpine Mayreder Consortium’s Stephen McMillan.

Alpine Mayreder's proposal

The Singapore Sports Hub, to be finished in 2011, will be built, owned and operated by the winning consortium.

All three bidders have included about 40,000 square metres of retail space in their designs. - CNA/ac

International Court Of Justice Begins Hearing On Pedra Branca

Source : The Channel NewsAsia, 06 November 2007

THE HAGUE: The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has begun the hearing on the sovereignty of Pedra Branca and its outcrops of Middle Rocks and South Ledge on Tuesday.

According to Ambassador-At-Large Professor Tommy Koh, who is also serving as the agent of Singapore for this case, the Singapore team is well-prepared for this session.

Related Video -http://tinyurl.com/2nur5v
International Court of Justice begins hearing on Pedra Branca

He said the team has been working hard on the case and is looking forward to presenting its arguments in court.

The team's morale is also very high, he added.

The island, about the size of a football field, is located at the eastern entrance of the Singapore Strait.

Singapore has exercised sovereignty over the island and its outcrops since 1847, when the British colonial government built the Horsburgh Lighthouse there.

In 1979, Malaysia published a map of its territories, and included Pedra Branca.

Singapore objected to the move and argued that it has sovereignty over the island because of various reasons, one of which is that it conducts numerous activities there.

The hearing comes over four years after Singapore and Malaysia referred the issue to the ICJ.

The Singapore delegation includes Deputy Prime Minister and Law Minister S Jayakumar and Chief Justice, Chan Sek Keong.

Attorney-General Chao Hick Tin and a team of international legal counsels are also part of the team.

The hearing comes after three rounds of written pleadings exchanged between Singapore and Malaysia from March 2004 to November 2005.

The Singapore team will get to present their case first for the initial four days, and Malaysia will do their presentation on the following four days. Time will be given for both sides to rebut the statements afterwards.

The hearing is set for about three weeks. - CNA/ac

Background on Pedra Branca

Pedra Branca South Ledge

Pedra Branca
Located some 24 nautical miles to the east of Singapore, Pedra Branca commands the entire eastern approach to the Straits of Singapore, through which almost 900 ships pass daily. The island, also known as Pulau Batu Puteh, sits at the eastern entrance of the Straits of Singapore and houses the Horsburgh Lighthouse, the oldest feature on the island which was built on the island by the British between 1847 and 1851. The island also comprises Middle Rocks which are two clusters of rocks situated 0.6 nautical miles south of Pedra Branca, and South Ledge, a rock formation which can be seen only at low-tide, that sits 2.1 nautical miles south of Pedra Branca.

The Dispute
In 1979, Malaysia published a map claiming the island. In response, Singapore lodged a formal protest with Malaysia, in early 1980.
As the issue has been a sore point in bilateral relations, both Singapore and Malaysia decided to put the dispute before the International Court of Justice in the Hague. This suggestion was first made by Singapore in 1989 and agreed to in 1994 by Malaysia . The two countries then agreed in 1998 on a Special Agreement that was needed to submit the dispute to the ICJ. The Special Agreement was signed in February 2003 before the ICJ was formally notified in July.

The Case
Singapore and Malaysia have asked the International Court of Justice to decide on who has sovereignty over Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge. It is Singapore's case that sovereignty over Middle Rocks and South Ledge should belong to the country that has sovereignty over Pedra Branca.

Between 2004 and 2005, both Singapore and Malaysia submitted to the ICJ, written documents on their case for sovereignty. The ICJ decided in May 2006 that the next stage should be held, with arguments and public hearings at the ICJ. This will take place for the most part of November.

After the close of the public hearings, the ICJ will conduct their internal deliberations on the case before a decision is made by majority vote.
The judgment which is expected to be delivered before June next year is final and without appeal.

The Teams
Singapore's delegation comprises Deputy Prime Minister, Coordinating Minister for National Security and Minister for Law Professor S. Jayakumar, Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong, Attorney-General Chao Hick Tin, and Ambassador-at-Large Professor Tommy Koh, who is also serving as the Agent of Singapore for this case. Also part of the Singapore delegation are an experienced team of international legal Counsel, namely, Mr Ian Brownlie Q.C., Professor Alain Pellet, Mr Rodman Bundy and Ms Loretta Malintoppi.

Malaysia's delegation will be headed by Tan Sri Abdul Kadir Mohamad, who is Ambassador at Large, and also the Prime Minister's Adviser on Foreign Affairs. He will be Malaysia's agent for the case while Datuk Noor Farida Ariffin, the Malaysian Ambassador to the Netherlands, will act as co-agent. The Malaysian legal team will be headed by Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail,along with Sir Elihu Lauterpacht and James Crawford, professors in International Law at the Cambridge University; Nicolaas Jan Schrijver, professor of Public International Law, Leiden University; Marcelo G. Kohen, professor of International Law, the Graduate Institute of International Studies, Geneva; and Penelope Nevill, college lecturer,Downing College, Cambridge University.

The judges for the International Court of Justice are Raymond Ranjeva (Madagascar), Shi Jiuyong (China),Abdul G. Koroma (Sierra Leone), Gonzalo Parra Aranguren (Venezuela), Thomas Buergenthal (US), Hisashi Owada (Japan), Bruno Simma (Germany), Peter Tomka(Slovakia), Ronny Abraham (France), Kenneth Keith (New Zealand), Bernardo Sepulveda Amor (Mexico), Mohamed Bennouna (Morocco) and Leonid Skotnikov(Russia).

城市发展与美资集团 合买两座豪宅当投资项目

《联合早报》Nov 6, 2007

城市发展(CDL)采取新商业模式,与美资金融服务集团旗下的瓦霍维亚发展(Wachovia Development Corporation)以4亿3240万元买下凯林豪庭(Cliveden at Grange)两个大厦的44个单位。


这是城市发展首次与瓦霍维亚发展合作,双方于10月29日签署合约,合资成立一家名为Grange 100的公司来购买以及管理这44个豪华私宅单位。瓦霍维亚发展将持有60%的股权,另外40%则归城市发展。




凯林豪庭位于乌节路一带的格兰芝路(Grange Road),坐落在前金陵大厦(Kim Lin Mansion)旧址,属于永久地契,占地约13万8400平方英尺。世界著名建筑师卡洛斯欧特(Carlos Ott)设计的凯林豪庭,由四个24层楼高的大厦组成,共有110个面积介于2153和2842平方英尺的三和四卧房。




以Grange 100开出的4亿3240万元来计算,每个单位的平均售价相等于每平方英尺3750元。公司将各别购买这44个单位,包括三、四卧房式以及顶层豪宅(penthouse)的单位,最低价为每平方英尺3392元,最高价则为每平方英尺4313元。




让位给体育城 新加坡海京楼须拆除

《联合早报》Nov 6, 2007

海京楼(The Oasis)在加冷内湾(Kallang Basin)的三座圆形水上餐馆已确定必须拆除,让位给体育城发展计划中的水上运动中心。  

竞标体育城设计、发展及经营权的三个财团—阿尔皮内财团(Alpine Consortium)、新加坡金财团(Singapore Gold Consortium)和新加坡体育城财团(Singapore Sports Hub Consortium),昨天公布设计蓝图时答复询问,表明无法把水上餐馆融入整体发展中。









OCBC Profit Beats Forecast, Takes Charge

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 6, 2007

OVERSEA-Chinese Banking Corp, Singapore's third biggest bank, said its quarterly profit rose 22 per cent, beating expectations, and unveiled a $221 million charge to account for losses from the credit market turmoil.

The bank reported net profit of $463 million for the July-September period, up from $379 million a year ago and against an average forecast of $417 million by five analysts polled by Reuters.

Global credit and equity markets experienced sharp falls in the third quarter after defaults in US subprime mortgage market spread, drying up liquidity in credit markets, hammering valuations of financial securities and causing hefty losses in bank earnings across the globe.

The bank also booked at writeback for loans and properties in the quarter, taking its total net allowance to $39 million.

Last month, No 2 United Overseas Bank, posted a below-expected 8.2 per cent rise in quarterly profit as trading and investment income was hit by US credit turmoil.

DBS Group, Southeast Asia's biggest lender by assets, posted a better-than-expected 11 per cent rise in quarterly profit on strong loan and fee growth, despite taking a small hit from the credit turmoil.

Shares of OCBC and DBS were hit in the third quarter by the global credit squeeze.

OCBC dropped 2.7 per cent, DBS fell 5.3 per cent, while UOB, which has benefited from Singapore's property boom, rose 0.5 per cent in the quarter. All lagged a 4.5 per cent gain in the benchmark Straits Times index. -- REUTERS

Genting Reports S$800m Cost Overrun For Sentosa IR Project

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 6, 2007

GENTING International said on Tuesday the estimated cost of building its casino resort on Singapore's Sentosa Island has soared by S$800 million due partly to higher construction expenses.

Genting International, a unit of Malaysian casino operator Genting Bhd, now expects to spend as much as S$6 billion to build the Sentosa casino, up 15 per cent from an earlier estimate of S$5.2 billion.

The new budget for the casino, which includes a contingency provision of S$250 million, also covers the cost of six new attractions as well as improvements to transportation and access infrastructure, Genting International said in a statement.

The higher cost of construction accounted for about half the increase in budgeted expenses, Genting International Managing Director Justin Tan said during a telephone conference.

The company will cover the additional expenses through project financing at the resort level. 'We do not have any plans to go to shareholders for money,' he said.

Genting International earlier this year raised S$2.17 billion from shareholders via a rights share issue. On Tuesday, it reported a loss of S$393.4 million for the three months ended Sept 30, reversing from a net profit of S$86.9 million a year earlier.

The loss was mainly due to an impairment loss on intangible assets of S$454.6 million.


Singapore is currently undergoing a construction boom due to the award of several large projects such as a new financial centre, the two casino resorts and several shopping malls.

Many apartments complexes in the city-centre are also being torn down to make way for taller and more densely built developments.

Genting International and sister company Star Cruises won in December last year the right to build and operate Singapore's second casino resort.

Called Resorts World at Sentosa, the 49-hectare project will include a Universal Studios theme park, a giant oceanarium with 700,000 aquatic creatures, and six hotels with more than 1,800 rooms.

The resort is scheduled to be completed in 2010.

Singapore's first casino site, a 20.6-hectare piece of waterfront land at Marina Bay near the financial district, was awarded to Las Vegas Sands in May 2006.

Singapore legalised casino gaming in 2005 as part of ambitious plans to double visitor arrivals to 17 million by 2015. -- REUTERS

2 New Rides, 4 New Shows For Sentosa IR

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 6, 2007

RESORTS World at Sentosa (RWS) announced on Tuesday that it will be adding six new attractions to its integrated resort (IR).

Universal Studios Singapore will feature the park's all-time favourite ride, ET: The Flight Home. -- PHOTO: RESORTS WORLD AT SENTOSA

Its Universal Studios Singapore will feature two new rides - a 'heart-stopping' roller coaster ride plus the park's all-time favourite ride, ET: The flight home.

On the entertainment front, RWS is bringing four new shows that feature multimedia, light and sound effects to add to the three public performances proposed in its original bid.

With the new additions, RWS has revised its budget from $5.2 billion to $5.75 billion. There is also a further contingency of $250 million, raising the budget to $6 billion.

The revised budget also covers improvements made to its hotels and resort design for higher-value guests, transportation and access infrastruture in the resort, and the rising costs of construction.

RWS is confident that the enhancements will allow the IR to tap further into the growing tourism markets.

'We are bullish in our visitor arrival projections. With the economies of China and India growing at unabated speed, we expect to see visitors who will spend more,' said Mr Tan Hee Teck, RWS' CEO.

Construction is on track for the resort's soft opening in 2010. When completed, the resort's Universal Studios Singapore will boost 22 rides, making it one of the largest theme parks in the world.

New rides, new budget for Resorts World at Sentosa

Come 2010, visitors to Resorts World at Sentosa can expect to be thrilled by more attractions, which the Integrated Resort announced today.

But coupled with the improvement works and rising construction costs, Resorts World also revealed a bigger budget for building the IR - up by $800 million or 15 per cent - to $6 billion.

Related Video Link - http://tinyurl.com/2wfjx5
New rides, new budget for Resorts World at Sentosa

URA Moots Idea Of Floating Platform On S'pore River

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 6, 2007

IMAGINE being enraptured by Christmas carols, or entranced by a Chinese New Year lion dance - by performers on a floating platform along the Singapore River.

This idea of a movable floating stage on the waterway has been mooted by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), to add that 'zing' for a more vibrant nightlife along the river.

Likely to be a performance venue for arts and cultural events, the platform is envisaged to be about 40 by 25 metres, with space for up to 250 people, a kitchen, two showers, and two dressing rooms.

'As announced during the Budget Debate this year, the floating stage is part of the government's initiative to improve night-time buzz in Singapore [...] that can make [us] an attractive 24/7 city to live, work and play in,' said Ms Fun Siew Leng, the URA's director of urban planning and design.

Observers also noted that the URA had pledged in a letter to The Straits Times to revitalise the waterfront after Straits Times readers wrote in three months ago to complain that Boat Quay was becoming an eyesore.

The plans for the floating stage were revealed in a Request for Information (RFI) listed on Nov 5 on the government tender website GeBiz.

During this RFI process, the URA will mull over the private sector's ideas on design, construction and other aspects before it decides to open the project for tender.

The stage is expected to be self-propelled, so that it will not need to be towed, and to have a collapsible roof, to pass under the low bridges along the river.

Read the full report in Wednesday's edition of The Straits Times.

Big Brother Will Be Watching

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 6, 2007

Come 2010 when you step into one of Singapore's two Integrated Resorts, expect to be watched over by thousands of cameras installed in practically every corner of the sprawling development.

Straitstimes.com speaks to security solutions provider, Honeywell, to get an insider's look into how a hi-tech digital video surveillance system will put a lock on those who may try to filch the casino.

Big Brother will be watching

Inflation May Hit Record 4% Next Year

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 6, 2007

Citigroup forecast based on further tightening of labour and property sectors

INFLATION may hit a record- breaking 4 per cent in the first half of next year as a red-hot economy adds more strain on the already-tight labour and property markets.

TOP ISSUES: Global energy and food prices are surging, but bigger challenges lie in property and labour markets here, says Dr Chua. -- ST FILE PHOTO

The warning from Citigroup economist Chua Hak Bin also came with a call for the Government to allow the Singdollar to appreciate faster while possibly deferring less urgent major investment projects like the Marina Bay botanic gardens.

'We maintain that overheating and inflation risks remain high,' said Dr Chua in a research report out yesterday.

'The economy is now at full employment, and the cost of hiring foreign workers has now increased considerably given higher accommodation cost.'

Despite greater uncertainty about the global economy, he said Singapore is likely to beat next year's official growth forecast of 4 per cent to 6 per cent, as it has done so in previous years.

His assessment found backing among other economists while others felt a slowing world economy will keep prices in Singapore in check.

HSBC economist Robert Prior-Wandesforde agreed that the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) may allow a faster strengthening of the Singdollar to curb inflation from imported goods at the next monetary policy review in April.

The tightening carried out last month is unlikely to have a dramatic effect on inflation, said Mr Prior-Wandesforde.

But Action Economics economist David Cohen brushed off overheating concerns, predicting that inflation in the first half of next year should come in at just over 3 per cent.

'The bigger concern is a potential slowing in the world economy, so it's a balanced outlook right now,' he said.

Dr Chua's report comes a month after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said while there are shortages in office space, the economy, as a whole, is not overheating and inflation is well under control.

The MAS has attributed the rise in inflation largely to a July hike in the goods and services tax rate. It is expecting prices to increase by 3.5 per cent on average in the first half of next year, before moderating in the rest of the year.

'We are probably less sanguine,' said Dr Chua.

He said global energy and food prices are rising sharply, driven by record oil prices and adverse weather conditions in farming areas. But bigger challenges lie in the domestic property and labour markets.

Dr Chua said the consumer price index (CPI) is lagging behind the steep increases in property prices and rents.

Housing CPI costs rose 0.4 per cent in September. But official indexes show that residential rents surged 11.4 per cent in the third quarter, while those for commercial space jumped 14.8 per cent.

The labour market is also at its tightest in a decade, with unemployment at 1.7 per cent.

Unlike previous years when the Government could simply let more foreigners in to work, skyrocketing rents mean their wages have to be hiked to cover their housing costs.

Labour costs are thus likely to continue rising after surging 8.5 per cent in the second quarter, said Dr Chua.

Sports Hub Proposals Promise To Add Buzz To Kallang

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 6, 2007

Three groups unveil designs and plans, which include bringing in top sporting events

TOP sporting events, a 24/7 year-round lifestyle destination and ample entertainment and retail options.

Singaporeans were promised all these and more when the three consortiam bidding to build the Sports Hub - which will replace the 34-year-old National Stadium - unveiled their designs and proposals yesterday.

The project will transform the Kallang waterfront area from a sleepy nook into a world-class athletic and recreational centre.

Key Features - http://tinyurl.com/2jytac

The three bidders are the Alpine group, which includes local construction firm Woh Hup; SingaporeGold (SG), which is led by the Macquarie Group; and the Singapore Sports Hub (SSH) group, which counts design firm Arup Sports among its members.

The groups have employed architects who have been involved in some world-famous projects, such as Beijing's National Stadium - better known as the 'Bird's Nest' - and Munich's Allianz Arena, and have promised that Singapore's new stadium will be equally iconic.

Alpine's proposal, for example, centres on a stadium that bears a resemblance to the Allianz Arena, the most memorable of the 12 venues for last year's soccer World Cup in Germany because of its exterior, which resembles a pillow.

The group's plan calls for a similar stadium encased in a translucent membrane made of material similar to Teflon.

Alpine also has plans for a man-made beach along the Kallang waterfront.

The SSH's 'Premier Park' proposal involves a dome-shaped stadium with a lightweight retractable roof that can be programmed to provide different colour schemes at night.

The covered roof will allow for the projection of images, similar to that of a 'giant IMAX screen', said the group's lead architect, J. Parrish, who had a hand in designing the 'Bird's Nest' in Beijing.

Its proposal also includes go-karting and white-water rafting facilities.

The last bidder, SG, unveiled its proposal for a horseshoe-shaped stadium that opens out directly onto the waterfront in March. It did not announce any major changes to its plan yesterday.

The three groups had submitted their designs earlier in the year, but were made to go back to the drawing board when the Singapore Sports Council (SSC) announced in June that that a public water sports centre, located at the site of the Oasis building, had to be incorporated.

They were given until September to submit the refined proposals, which were kept under wraps until they were presented to the media yesterday.

Apart from unique building designs, each consortium also promises to make Singapore a flagship venue for international sports events.

Proposals include an annual pre-season tournament involving top European soccer teams, international cricket matches and tennis tournaments.

The Sports Hub is the world's first and largest sports facility infrastructure involving a public-private partnership. The scheme is one in which the private sector designs, builds, finances and operates public facilities.

The hub is expected to cost between $650 million and $800 million. It will include a new 55,000-capacity stadium with a retractable roof, a 6,000-capacity indoor aquatic centre, and a 3,000-seater multi-purpose arena, as well as retail and other recreational facilities.

The winning bidder will be announced in January, and construction is expected to be completed in 2011.

The evaluation process is ongoing, and a committee will soon submit its reports to the approval authority, which is chaired by Minister of Community Development, Youth and Sports Vivian Balakrishnan.

S'pore Sports Hub - a sneak preview

Competition heats up for the three consortia bidding for the rights to build the Singapore Sports Hub, as all players unveiled their designs and proposals today.

Even a change in concept midway - to have a water sports centre included in the Sports Hub - did little to dampen the overall concept of the three proposals.

Bidders banked on unique infrastructure, eco-friendly technology and good old sentimentalism - but will it be enough to win?

Related Video Link - http://tinyurl.com/2tyyqe
S'pore Sports Hub - a sneak preview

Inflation Risks Remain High: Citigroup

Source : The Business Times, November 6, 2007

CPI may not be capturing full extent of inflation pressures: report

OVERHEATING and inflation risks in Singapore remain high and further monetary tightening may be on the cards, says Citigroup.

Price pressures: There are considerable upside risks from escalating food, energy and wage costs in an economy now at full employment

While recent government remarks suggest that the economy is not overheating, the US bank - in a Singapore Market Weekly report published yesterday - is less sanguine. Indeed, it is 'concerned that inflation pressures are accelerating and that the CPI (consumer price index) statistic may not be capturing the full extent of inflation pressures'.

At 0.4 per cent in September, the rise in the CPI's housing component lags actual steep increases in property prices and rents, Citigroup economist Chua Hak Bin points out. 'These housing costs will show up more visibly next year and could potentially lift CPI inflation sharply to 4 per cent or above in the first half of the year.'

There are also considerable upside risks from escalating energy, food and wage costs in an economy now at full employment.

Other economists have also pointed to rising price pressures and overheating concerns amid robust growth. But the government maintains that the recent spike in inflation to near-3 per cent is due primarily to July's two-point Goods and Services Tax (GST) hike, and that the CPI rise is likely to ease to perhaps 2-2.5 per cent in the second half of 2008.

The Citigroup report concedes that slower global growth next year is likely to cool demand and ease inflation pressures. But for now, the biggest challenge facing the government is overcoming supply bottlenecks and containing overheating pressures, it says. And 'more tightening measures may be in the pipeline' as new data show up the price pressures. 'Some prioritisation and deferment of investment projects may also be necessary to manage demand pressures.'

Citigroup reckons that there is a good chance of 'another move' by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) next April, as its recent 'slightly' steeper Singdollar appreciation bias 'may be too gentle a move'.

Dr Chua says: 'Prospects of a stronger Singdollar appreciation are therefore likely next year.'

Citigroup also does not expect the Q3 9.4 per cent gross domestic product (GDP) flash growth estimate to be downgraded despite weaker-than-expected September manufacturing data. Stronger services and construction growth will probably provide some offset, it believes.

And despite concerns about the global economy, Singapore will most likely outperform the early official forecasts of 4-6 per cent growth in 2008 - as it has every year for the past four years.

Lehman's Big Office Signals Big Plans For Singapore

Source : The Business Times, November 6, 2007

Empty space quickly filling up as it bulks up presence after leaving in the 90s

To get an idea of how Lehman Brothers sees its Singapore operations shaping up, one just has to consider its sprawling office in Suntec City.

'Asia is the fastest growing component (for the group); it used to make up 10 per cent of total revenue, it's going to be 20 per cent.'- Jasjit Bhattal, Lehman Brothers Asia-Pacific chief executive

At the end of last year, it had just 60 staff. The premises currently house 150, and the headcount could easily double to 300 in two years.

What is more, it would not even be a squeeze.

'The office is fitted for 500 people - we take a long term view of the business (usually) for three to five years; for Singapore, it's five to 10 years,' said Jasjit S 'Jesse' Bhattal, Lehman Brothers chief executive, Asia-Pacific, in a recent interview with BT.

And sure enough, in the past year the vast empty spaces in the office have quickly been occupied by new hires.

The bulge bracket Wall Street firm is determined to ride the strong wave of investment and growth in the region, and has plans to sell services to the burgeoning fund management industry here, especially hedge funds.

As part of the bulking up of its capital markets business, Lehman Brothers established a prime services group in Singapore this year to service the growing number of hedge funds.

Funds managed in Singapore reached S$900 billion by end-2006, a 24 per cent increase from 2005 fuelled in part by the rapid growth of hedge funds. The number of hedge funds in Singapore rose 76 per cent to 190 in 2006, while assets managed by these funds rose 150 per cent to US$26 billion.

A big draw for investment banks like Lehman Brothers is doing business with the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) and Temasek Holdings. They rank third and seventh respectively on the Super Seven Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWF) with assets valued over US$100 billion, according to a recent study by London-based Standard Chartered Bank and Oxford Analytica, a consulting firm also based in London.

'We do work with GIC and Temasek,' said Mr Bhattal.

And yet, Lehman Brothers is still playing catch-up with the other major global investment banks such as Citi, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and UBS.

Each of these banks already has several hundreds, if not thousands, of employees in Singapore competing to offer corporate advisory services, sell financial products and services to Asian corporates and fund managers and provide funding for mergers and acquisitions amid the booming regional economies.

This is in addition to having major trading operations in fixed income, equities, foreign exchange and commodities.

Lehman Brothers used to have a presence here but pulled out in the nineties as it decided to concentrate on building up its US business after a series of corporate moves which saw the firm regaining its independence in 1994.

Its Asian presence was basically confined to a fixed income house in Japan. Mr Bhattal himself is currently based in Tokyo.

In the last three to four years, Lehman Brothers has started looking again to the rest of Asia and its expansion has been at a blistering pace. Of its 3,000 people across Asia, 1,400 are in Japan while the 800 people it has now in Hong Kong has doubled from 18 months ago. Last year Lehman set up an office in India which is already 130-strong.

For the nine months to August 31, 2007, revenues from Asia-Pacific hit US$2.08 billion, compared with US$1.46 billion for the same nine-month period last year, up 43 per cent.

Revenue for the last quarter from Asia-Pacific was US$728 million out of total global revenues of US$4.31 billion, a 79 per cent increase from a year ago.

This year's financial market uncertainty will have no impact on its expansion plans for Asia, said Mr Bhattal.

Lehman Brothers was the first major Wall Street firm to report sub-prime losses. It posted writedowns of US$700 million and slashed 850 jobs in the US and UK.

'Our (Asia) business has not been affected at all; Q3 was one of our best quarters, it continues to be very robust,' he said.

'Asia is the fastest growing component (for the group); it used to make up 10 per cent of total revenue, it's going to be 20 per cent,' he said.

For the last quarter Asia accounted for 17 per cent of global revenues and Mr Bhattal expects this to reach 20 to 25 per cent in the next five years.

Would the shortage of experienced investment bankers across the region be an obstacle to his expansion plans?

'It is getting harder, clearly there is a considerable war for talent. While it is a challenge it is not a significant roadblock,' said Mr Bhattal.

Lehman Brothers believes in paying for performance, he said, noting the 49 per cent compensation ratio - typically the amount of money investment banks pay to employees as a percentage of revenues.

Compensation ratio at Goldman Sachs - regarded as the pack leader in terms of pay generosity - was 48 per cent of net revenues for the first nine months of 2007.

Worst Ahead For US Sub-Prime Mess, ABS East Panel Says

Source : The Business Times, November 6, 2007

Florida - More pain ahead was the theme for this year's ABS East conference where panelists warned that the worst is yet to come for US sub-prime mortgages and those securities tied to it.

With sub-prime losses mounting into the billions of dollars, downgrades intensifying in sub-prime residential mortgage-backed securities, and more recently, the collateralized debt obligation, or CDO, market, 2008's performance looks pretty bleak.

In an opening panel discussion on the state of the structured finance market, investors and issuers agreed that falling home prices, rising defaults and foreclosures along with tighter credit left the US housing market in a tailspin this year. But fallout in the future remained a key concern.

Panelists were all over the place when quizzed on what volume would be like for ABS in the coming year. Answers ranged from down 80 per cent to up 10 per cent in 2008.

Conference participants agreed there would be some impact from sub-prime mortgage contagion to other segments of the asset-backed securities market, including credit cards, autos and student loans, but most believed it would be moderate. The conference, which officially opened on Sunday, runs through Wednesday.

Spreads in the sector were seen flat to wider in the coming year, but all agreed things would get worse before they got better.

Steve Eisman, managing director of FrontPoint Partners, warned conference attendees that the under-equitised structured finance market was in need of a complete overhaul.

Many agreed that transparency issues would be key in the structured finance market in the coming year and would need to be addressed, specifically when it came to the market for ABCP, or asset-backed commercial paper.

Panelists agreed that the market was in dire need of an overhaul and predicted certain segments of ABCP, without external liquidity support like extendible notes, would disappear. Other portions like the multiseller programs, which could be restructured, would survive.

Independently sponsored commercial paper vehicles, extendibles and SIVs, will never return in the form that they were in, in some cases,' said Erik Falk, managing director and cohead of global securitized products at Deutsche Bank.

At the conclusion of the discussion, the moderator asked panelists what would make the ABS market feel normal again - to which participants responded, an entire restructuring of the structured finance market. -- REUTERS

High US Home Inventories A Major Concern: Greenspan

Source : The Business Times, November 6, 2007

TOKYO - Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said on Tuesday that falling US home prices and high home inventories raised major concerns amid the ongoing turmoil in the sub-prime mortgage market.

Mr Greenspan said that the slide in the dollar was neutral for the economy, and that the currency would slide in the long run relative to East Asian currencies.

He added that the slide in the dollar was neutral for the economy, and that the currency would slide in the long run relative to East Asian currencies.

'I don't think it's favourable or unfavourable,' Mr Greenspan said when asked about the falling dollar.

'What is not true is that because we have a large current account deficit, the dollar has to weaken,' said Mr Greenspan, who was speaking to a CEO conference in Tokyo via video link from Washington. -- REUTERS

Greenspan, Soros Warn Of More US Housing Pain

Source : The Business Times, November 6, 2007

TOKYO - Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan and billionaire investor George Soros warned of more pain ahead for the US economy, saying the downturn in the housing market had yet to take its full toll on growth.

When asked whether a recession was inevitable, Mr Soros said: 'I think we are definitely in for a slowdown that I think will be a bigger slowdown than Bernanke is seeing.'

Mr Greenspan told a forum in Tokyo on Tuesday that high inventories of unsold homes presented a major risk to the US economy and financial markets and that he was not sanguine about how quickly the glut could be reduced.

'We still need to accelerate the rate of inventory liquidation, and that will mean bringing housing starts down and sales up. We have a long way to go,' said Mr Greenspan, who was answering questions at a CEO conference in Tokyo via video link from Washington.

The surge in defaults in sub-prime mortgages has taken a toll on major financial institutions, leading to billions of dollars in asset write-downs and the departures of the chief executives of Merrill Lynch and Citigroup.

Citigroup's additional US$11 billion write-down tied to sub-prime mortgage revived fears about the extent of the credit crunch, hurting equity markets and the dollar while keeping benchmark US Treasury yields near a two-year low.

Mr Soros said in a lecture at New York University that the US economy was on the verge of a serious correction and that the Federal Reserve may be underestimating the potential slowdown.

'I think we are definitely in for a slowdown that I think will be a bigger slowdown than (Fed Chairman Ben) Bernanke is seeing,' he said.

The comments came after Bill Gross, chief investment officer at the world's No. 1 bond fund PIMCO, said on CNBC Television the Fed cannot afford to let US housing prices fall sharply and would need to cut rates aggressively, perhaps to 3.5 per cent.

The Fed has slashed rates by a combined 75 basis points to 4.5 per cent in an effort to limit the damage on the broader economy from the housing market slide and ease some of the financial strains from the resulting credit crunch.

But Fed Governor Frederic Mishkin said on Monday that the Fed should be prepared to reverse its monetary easing if the US economy escapes major damage from the market turmoil, even as a recovery is a way off in housing and sub-prime mortgages.

Mr Greenspan said about US$900 billion of sub-prime mortgages have been securitised into fixed-income instruments, and the excess level of unsold homes is driving the price declines that are eroding the value of the securities backed by those mortgages.

'The critical issue on the whole sub-prime, and by extension the whole financial system, rests very narrowly on getting rid of probably 200,000-300,000 excess units in inventories in the United States,' Mr Greenspan said.

PIMCO's Gross likened the US housing market downturn to the bursting of Japan's property bubble in the 1990s that dragged the world's second-largest economy into a protracted bout of deflation.

Mr Gross said the pain to household finances from adjustable-rate mortgages being reset higher had yet to be fully felt.

'We've only begun to see the pain from the standpoint of the homeowner in terms of those monthly payments. Defaults and delinquencies will increase as we extend throughout 2007 and then into 2008,' he said.

Inventories of existing US homes have jumped to the highest on record going back to 1999, while inventories of new homes remain at elevated levels as falling prices and tighter credit standards have deterred buyers.

But Mr Greenspan said the global economy was very powerful even with the 'extraordinary' rise in oil prices, and the underlying structure of the global economy was doing well. -- REUTERS

Wing Tai To Raise $148m With Rights Issue

Source : The Business Times, November 6, 2007

Property firm Wing Tai Holdings said on Tuesday that it will sell about 72.2 million rights shares at $2.05 each, raising about $148 million (US$102 million).

The firm said in an offer statement lodged with the Monetary Authority of Singapore that it will issue one rights share for every ten shares held by its shareholders. --REUTERS

OCBC Q3 Profits Up 22% To $463m

Source : The Business Times, November 6, 2007

Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp, Singapore's third biggest bank, said its quarterly profit rose 22 per cent, beating expectations, and unveiled a $221 million (US$152 million) charge to account for losses from the credit market turmoil.

OCBC made a net allowance of $39 million in Q3, compared to $3 million allowance the same period last year

The bank reported net profit of $463 million for the July-September period, up from $379 million a year ago and against an average forecast of $417 million by five analysts polled by Reuters.

The bank said on Tuesday that Asian growth opportunities were encouraging, following a third quarter that saw global credit and equity markets suffer sharp falls after defaults in the US sub-prime mortgage market spread to hammer financial stocks.

Global credit and equity markets experienced sharp falls in the third quarter after defaults in US sub-prime mortgage market spread, drying up liquidity in credit markets, hammering valuations of financial securities and causing hefty losses in bank earnings across the globe.

Related link- http://tinyurl.com/yw428q
OCBC's media release

OCBC took an allowance worth $221 million against its exposure of $270 million in asset-backed collateralised debt obligations (CDOs), though this was offset to a net $39 million by write-backs on allowances for loan and property assets.

Last month, No 2 United Overseas Bank, posted a below-expected 8.2 per cent rise in quarterly profit as trading and investment income was hit by US credit turmoil.

DBS Group, Southeast Asia's biggest lender by assets, posted a better-than-expected 11 per cent rise in quarterly profit on strong loan and fee growth, despite taking a small hit from the credit turmoil.

Shares of OCBC and DBS were hit in the third quarter by the global credit squeeze.

OCBC dropped 2.7 per cent, DBS fell 5.3 per cent, while UOB, which has benefited from Singapore's property boom, rose 0.5 per cent in the quarter. All lagged a 4.5 per cent gain in the benchmark Straits Times index. -- REUTERS

Genting Raises Budget For S'pore IR To $6b

Source : The Business Times, November 6, 2007

Genting International said on Tuesday that it expects to spend as much as $6 billion (US$4.14 billion) to build an integrated resort on Singapore's Sentosa Island, up 15 per cent from an earlier estimate of $5.2 billion.

The new figure, which includes a contingency provision of $250 million, will cover the cost of six new attractions as well as the rising cost of construction, Genting International said in a statement.

Genting International and sister company Star Cruises, which are both units of Malaysian casino operator Genting Bhd, won in December last year the right to build and operate Singapore's second casino resort.

Called Resorts World at Sentosa, the 49-hectare project will include a Universal Studios theme park, a giant oceanarium with 700,000 aquatic creatures, and six hotels with more than 1,800 rooms. The resort is scheduled to be completed in 2010.

Singapore's first casino site, a 20.6-hectare piece of waterfront land at Marina Bay near the financial district, was awarded to Las Vegas Sands in May 2006.

Singapore legalised casino gaming in 2005 as part of ambitious plans to double visitor arrivals to 17 million by 2015. -- REUTERS

Market Hit By Property, Bank Fears

Source : The Business Times, November 6, 2007

ST Index suffers 1.2 per cent fall, due also to sharp plunge in Hang Seng Index

SINGAPORE stocks started the week yesterday on a sour note due to renewed fears in the property and financial sectors, and a sharp plunge in Hong Kong's main share index.

The Straits Times Index (STI) ended 45.14 points or 1.2 per cent lower at 3,670.18. Earlier in the day, it fell as much as 2.2 per cent below Friday's close. Around the region, most major share indices also ended lower.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index plunged 5 per cent - the largest one-day fall in percentage terms since Sept 12, 2001, the day after the terrorist attacks in the US.

Investors in the Hong Kong market were reacting to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's remarks over the weekend, dampening hopes that a plan announced in August to allow mainland Chinese to buy Hong Kong stocks would be approved by Beijing in the near future.

The effects were felt in Singapore, as Hong Kong-based companies in the STI made up three of the top six laggards dragging the index lower at yesterday's close.

Property developer Hongkong Land fell 4.9 per cent to US$4.64, while conglomerates Jardine Matheson and Jardine Strategic fell 4.3 per cent and 4.2 per cent to US$29.20 and US$15.80 respectively.

Singapore-based developers were also hit yesterday, as worries persisted over the impact of the government's withdrawal of the deferred payment scheme for property purchases on Oct 26 to discourage speculative buying.

Among the large developers, CapitaLand fell 20 cents or 2.5 per cent to $7.70, while City Developments finished 20 cents or 1.3 per cent lower at $14.90.

Wing Tai, another developer, saw its share price slide 5.8 per cent to $2.94. It was the largest percentage loser among the blue chips yesterday.

In the banking sector, United Overseas Bank (UOB) led the losses in the STI, falling 50 cents or 2.4 per cent to $20.30 and dragging the index down 8.9 points. UOB's share price has fallen $1.70 or 7.7 per cent since the close of Monday last week, the day before the bank reported its third-quarter earnings.

Its rivals DBS Group and OCBC Bank also saw their share prices dip in intraday trading, as some analysts said they expected to see more dents in the banks' earnings due to further write-downs in the value of their collateralised debt obligation or CDO holdings.

Last week saw a slew of bad news from several major international banks which said they had suffered much bigger losses from the recent credit market turmoil than earlier estimates had suggested. The revelations led to Citigroup chief executive Chuck Prince quitting on Sunday - the latest high-profile casualty of the problems that started in the US sub-prime mortgage market.

Here, DBS's share price closed 20 cents or 0.9 per cent lower at $21.40, while OCBC's share price ended unchanged.

Of the STI's 47 members, 28 fell and nine rose. Technology stocks were among the large gainers. Creative Technology saw the largest percentage gain among the blue chips, ending 5.6 per cent higher at $6.60, while electronics contract manufacturer Venture Corp rose 2.3 per cent to $13.50.

In the broader market, stocks mostly ended lower, with all but one of the SGX market sub-indices registering losses including the UOB Sesdaq index, which fell 7.66 points or 3.3 per cent to 225.58. Only the electronics sector showed a slight gain.

Overall, falling counters outnumbered rising ones by 445-86, excluding warrants and bonds. Trading volume, including warrants and bonds but excluding shares traded in foreign currencies, was 2.24 billion units worth $2.4 billion.

Hoteliers Targeting US$115b Asian Market

Source : The Business Times, November 6, 2007

Global operators on building spree to lure free-spending Asians abroad

(HONG KONG/MUMBAI) Global hoteliers are riding a building boom in Asia, and using plush new hotels as giant advertisements to lure newly rich Chinese and Indians to their US and European properties.

Welcome! Holiday Inns outside China are starting to stock hard pillows popular with the Chinese and installing water boilers for instant noodles

Operators such as InterContinental Hotels Group and Hilton Hotels Corp are growing fast in an Asian market worth US$115 billion a year, spurred on by a regional travel craze.

But they also hope to lodge their brands in local minds. That's because despite a reputation for cramming into cheap package tours, Chinese tourists spend an average US$3,786 on trips to the United States and US$5,253 in Europe.

The number of Chinese travelling to the US has jumped 44 per cent in four years to 320,000 last year, and Indian visitors increased nearly 60 per cent to 406,000, according to the Pacific Asia Travel Association.

InterContinental's acting Asia head, Anthony South, said the chance to capture the outbound market was a motive in a deal to buy a controlling stake in the hotel management unit of Japan's All Nippon Airways Co (ANA) last year.

ANA later sold its 13 hotels, jointly branded with InterContinental, to US investment bank Morgan Stanley.

'Through good times and bad, the Japanese go to all corners of the globe and are very well-heeled,' Mr South said. 'The same applies to China, where the outbound market is growing off a small base very rapidly. If they identify with our brand at home, it's good for our business.'

InterContinental, which like most hotel firms has eschewed ownership to only operate hotels, aims to add 130 new properties to its 190 in Asia over three years. And at its Holiday Inns outside China, the firm is starting to stock hard pillows popular with the Chinese and installing water boilers for instant noodles.

Asia's hotel market is far from a sure bet, with the 1997 economic crisis and an outbreak of the Sars respiratory disease in 2003 each causing a 20 per cent drop in visitor arrivals. But the travel industry has a knack for bouncing back quickly so hotels are taking long-term views, focusing on the economic growth rates of around 10 per cent in India and China.

'As the wealth in both countries increases, the first thing people want to do is travel,' said Gerald Lawless, chief executive of Jumeirah, a hotel firm owned by the ruler of Dubai. Jumeirah aims to operate 60 hotels by 2011, with three or four each in India and China.

The company now runs 11 luxury hotels, including the sail-shaped Burj al-Arab in Dubai and the Jumeirah Essex House in New York. 'The outbound market is vital for us,' Mr Lawless said. 'There's been a surge in Chinese visitors at the Burj.'

China's US$16 billion hotel market, growing at 15 per cent a year, is the main focus in Asia for most operators and investors.

The number of domestic trips per year has doubled since 2001, and domestic tourism is expected to rise to 8 per cent of gross domestic product within a decade, from 5.4 per cent in 2002.

And with the 2008 Olympic Games expected to put China on the world travel map, Hilton has clinched a deal to manage around 20 new hotels being built by Deutsche Bank's property arm RREEF and private equity firm H&Q Asia Pacific.

Hilton, now with six hotels in China, has tied its loyalty programme to Air China and China Eastern Airlines to hook Chinese on its brand when they travel abroad.

India's hotel market is even more lucrative, with US$300 room rates common because of a massive shortage. The country has only 110,000 hotel rooms, with internationally branded rooms making up less than 40,000 of the total - less than half on offer in tiny Singapore.

But the inflated prices could hurt the industry. Average room rates have risen 30 per cent in the last year. 'Inflated room rates will have a severe negative effect on potential demand, especially in leisure destinations,' said Manav Thadani, managing director of consultants HVS International.

Investors are keen to build more - Citigroup, for example, is building a luxury hotel in Bangalore with developer Nitesh Estates.

Around 100,000 rooms are forecast to enter the market over the next five years, but India's creaking infrastructure could stall the plans. 'Unless the airport situation is addressed and new ones opened, it's going to be a barrier,' said InterContinental's Mr South. 'Hotel development will be in a stop-start manner.' - Reuters

Average UK Lease Term Getting Shorter

Source : The Business Times, November 6, 2007

(LONDON) Challenging UK retail trading conditions have forced commercial real estate landlords to slash lease lengths to attract and keep tenants in their properties, data showed yesterday.

The 10th Annual Lease Review, published by the British Property Federation (BPF) and Investment Property Databank, showed that the average length of a lease fell from 6.2 years in 2005/2006 to 5.7 years in 2006/2007.

The survey draws from detailed evidence of 75,000 tenancies, encompassing a full analysis of lease lengths, break clauses, review cycles, rent free periods and income profiles.

The data showed that 67 per cent of leases struck in 2006/2007 were for five years or less, while less than 3 per cent of leases agreed in the same period were for more than 15 years. Retail leases fell from an average of 7.8 to seven years and office leases fell from an average of 5.7 to 5.2 years. Industrial leases remained the same as the previous year's survey at 4.2 years.

The BPF said that the increase in shorter lease terms reflected the industry's improved ability to offer flexible lease terms to occupiers. -- Reuters

London Luxury Home Prices Lose Momentum

Source : The Business Times, November 6, 2007

Homes worth at least £pounds;2.5m up just 0.3% in Oct, slowest pace since July '05

(LONDON) Luxury-home prices in London rose last month at the slowest pace since July 2005 as the prospect of job cuts and smaller bonuses deterred investment bankers and other buyers, Knight Frank LLC said.

The average price of houses and apartments costing at least £2.5 million (S$7.55 million) increased 0.3 per cent in October from the previous month, according to an index compiled by the London-based property broker. Prices gained about 34 per cent from a year earlier.

Companies in the City of London financial district may cut 6,500 jobs and reduce bonuses by 16 per cent this year, the Centre for Economic and Business Research said on Oct 8. For the past two years, most of the bonuses have been spent on real estate, fuelling demand for apartments in London neighbourhoods such as Chelsea, Kensington and Notting Hill.

'The impact of the credit crunch and a weaker City economy have contributed to a more sober market,' said Liam Bailey, head of residential research at the London-based firm.

Bonus-earners in the city will invest only £2 billion in homes next year, compared with £5.5 billion this year, as they seek assets that offer higher returns, according to Savills plc estimates. Savills and Knight Frank are the biggest brokers for prime London properties, the most expensive in the world.

The lack of investment will restrict the gain in luxury-home prices to 3 per cent in 2008, less than a tenth of this year's rate, Knight Frank forecast this week. The company cut its estimate from 10 per cent.

For homes costing more than £5 million, the average price increase will probably be about 8 per cent next year compared with the estimated 2007 gain of 34 per cent, Knight Frank said. The main customers for the most expensive houses and apartment are wealthy investors from Russia and the Middle East, according to the broker.

The contrast with the rest of the London market 'illustrates the strength of the super-prime market with demand from international buyers remaining very strong,' Mr Bailey said. -- Bloomberg

No. Of Applications May Not Reflect Take-Up Rate

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 6, 2007

I REFER to the letter, ‘10,200 applicants chasing after 354 flats’ (ST, Oct 30), by Mr George Matthews.

The writer opined that HDB should have closed application or shortened the time to three days once it was known that the number of applications far exceeded the number of flats offered.

Buyers are given one week to submit their applications so that they have ample time to check out the flats available.

HDB does not set a limit to the number of applications as this may result in buyers rushing to submit their applications.

It is also unfair to close application or shorten the time midway through the application period.

As HDB updates the number of applications received daily on the HDB website, interested buyers can decide whether to submit their application, taking into account the number of applications already submitted.

We would like to point out that the number of applications received during the one-week application period may not be a true reflection of the take-up rate for the flats, as some of the initial applicants may eventually decide against selecting a flat under the exercise.

For example, in the April 2007 bi-monthly exercise for flats in the North and West zones, HDB received 2,308 applications during the initial phase for the 1,269 flats on offer. However, only 604 of the initial applicants (roughly one in four) subsequently booked a flat under this exercise.

Under the June 2007 exercise for flats in the North-east Zone, only 819 of the 3,955 initial applicants (about one in five) proceeded to book the 922 flats on offer.
Tay Koon Quie Deputy Director (Sales) for Director (Estate Administration & Property) Housing and Development Board

Sports Hub May Cost $1b

Source : The Business Times, November 06, 2007

The Sports Hub could cost as much as $1 billion to build, some $200 million more than the higher end of the original estimates, it was suggested yesterday.

The new costings emerged as the three bidders presented their proposals to build the nation's mega-sports complex through a public-private partnership - said to be a world first.

To ensure its financial sustainability and funding of non-profitable community events, the contenders revealed funding plans which would result in ploughing back significant amounts of revenue and profits into the 25-year project. These range from initial seed money (SingaporeGold) to a percentage of commercial revenue (Singapore Sports Hub).

Sources told BT the construction cost of the Sports Hub would be around $1 billion. But Singapore Sports Council spokesman Alvin Hang yesterday said the initial cost estimate of $650 million to $800 million remains.

All three groups said the building cost would be met through bank loans, with the shareholders retaining a typical 10 per cent equity, which is how such projects are generally structured. Returns expected by the shareholders and investors for infrastructural projects would be between the high single digits and the mid-teens.

Lynn Tho, HSBC director of project and export finance, said the project met with enthusiastic response from banks when they were sounded out on financing the project. 'We had a funding competition and received over 200 per cent funding commitment for our costs,' she said.

HSBC Infrastructure Fund Management is the main shareholder of the Singapore Sports Hub Consortium, with 90 per cent equity. Dragages (Singapore) and United Premas each have 5 per cent.

Although this is said to be the world's first public-private partnership sports complex, members of the consortiums were confident of financing support. Babcock & Brown Securities director Marc-Antoine Thiriez said: 'A certain proportion of revenue will come from sports events which are volatile but our pool of banks have a level of tolerance for this.'

Much of the revenue model centres on retail and events.

The 50-50 Macquarie and John Laing Infrastructure-led SingaporeGold Consortium's Sports Quay concept boasts 2.6 km of waterfront promenade. It says it is teaming up with the strong retail credentials of Australia's Lend Lease, and the events management pedigree of IMG puts it in a good position.

The Alpine consortium, meanwhile, has a radical plan for a 7,000 sq metre lifestyle/sports hypermarket. This will be similar to the Rebel chain of stores in Australia, said Stephen McMillan, managing director of Citta, a unit of major equity partner Babcock & Brown, which is in charge of the retail component.

The equity partners are Alpine (46 per cent), Babcock & Brown (48 per cent) and Woh Hup (6 per cent).

Singapore Sports Hub has Frasers Centrepoint as its retail partner. They will allocate about one-third of their 41,000 sq m gross floor area to food and beverage outlets and say they expect daily retail traffic of about 20,000. The consortium is counting on World Sport Group's ability to bring in international cricket and Asian-level football as an advantage.

Alpine is partnering US-headquartered SMG.

Chinatown Shophouse Put Up For Auction At $3m

Source : The Business Times, November 06, 2007

Price for the leasehold property works out to $4,274 psf

A restored three-storey shophouse at the corner of Trengganu and Temple streets, often featured as an icon of Singapore's Chinatown area, has been put up for auction.

15 Trengganu Street: The former opera house will be auctioned on Nov 22

The owner's indicative price is $3 million for the property, which is on a site with a remaining lease of 65 years. This works out to $4,274 per square foot based on the property's 702 sq ft land area.

That sounds steep, considering that No 20 Trengganu Street nearby, comprising seven shophouses also with a remaining lease of 65 years, was sold earlier this year for $18 million, or $1,722 psf of land area, to Asok Kumar of Royal Brothers Group.

That property has a total land area of about 10,450 sq ft and a total lettable area of nearly 24,000 sq ft.

However, Knight Frank's auctions director Mary Sai, whose firm is offering 15 Trengganu Street at its auction at Carlton Hotel on Nov 22, points to the property's aesthetic appeal, with intricate arches and columns, and its historical background - it was an opera house in the 1930s/1940s.

'It also has dual frontage along Trengganu Street and Temple Street,' Ms Sai says.

The property is being put up for sale by its owner, a local businessman active in the Chinatown circle.

He occupies the building's upper floors, according to Ms Sai. He will vacate the property for the new owner, although he has leased out the ground floor to a tenant until September 2008.

The property has about 2,200 sq ft of floor area.

Knight Frank is also offering at the same auction a two-storey pre-war intermediate terrace house at Lorong 40 Geylang. The freehold property has been put up for auction by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore to recover outstanding property taxes.

The property has the address Nos 17 and 17A Lorong 40 Geylang. No 17A is the second storey, which is served by a separate external staircase.

The property's land area is 1,392 sq ft.

Knight Frank, which points out that the property is not part of the Geylang red light district, says the indicative price is $700,000 to $750,000. Surrounding uses include residential and associations.

IRAS auctions off properties only as a last resort to recover property tax - after the owner repeatedly fails to pay or defaults on his payment despite many reminders. IRAS will return any balance on the sum received to the owner, after recovering outstanding tax, penalty payment, interest, and the cost of recovery.

Horizon Towers: Seven Vow To Go All Out To Stop Sale

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 6, 2007

$2m spent in fight to keep homes but they're willing to pay more to win

SEVEN owners who opposed the collective sale of Horizon Towers from the word 'go' vowed last week to spend as much as it takes to keep their homes.

They have already spent nearly $2 million to fight the sale and may rack up double that by the time the saga is resolved.

'We have no budget,' said one, a retired former chief executive. 'In life, not everything has to do with money. For us, this is our only home.'

These owners are locking horns with the majority owners - those who voted for the collective sale - at the Strata Titles Board (STB).

The hearing, with all the twists, turns and fighting over legal niceties that has marked it from day one, involves majority owners seeking STB approval for the original sale application rejected in August.

A number of minority owners - including the defiant seven who are split into two groups, each represented by different lawyers - oppose this, on a variety of grounds.

Disgruntled owners are becoming more common in Singapore. The property boom and the surge in collective sales have led to increasing numbers of people finding that rising replacement costs mean their bounty from selling en bloc counts for little.

One of the seven minority owners, who lives in a 5,000 sq ft penthouse, said: 'There are seven people in my family, including the helper. You cannot expect us to downgrade to a 1,000 sq ft place.'

But the problems at Horizon Towers go deeper than that. The unhappiness over the sale of the 99-year leasehold estate started in January, said the seven minority owners.

It was then that they and many others learnt - via a newspaper report - that their 210-unit estate had been sold for $500 million to Hotel Properties and two partners.

The seven are among the 10 groups of owners who did not agree to sell and subsequently filed objections. One has withdrawn his objections.

They say the $500 million price tag, which works out to $850 per sq ft, is an unfair sum because prices have risen considerably. Developments nearby sold for more than double the price per sq ft achieved at Horizon Towers this year.

The seven owners spoke freely about protecting their homes but were cagey about disclosing personal details. Six of the seven refused to divulge full names, although they are listed in the STB affidavit.

They were also reluctant to reveal job details. One is a businessman, one runs her own company and there are at least three retirees - a lawyer, a chief executive and a property developer.

What unites them is the fight for their homes - something they say money cannot buy, and certainly not at last year's prices.

Apart from their ability to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight the sale, they are also clued-up about the law. 'We are very different from other objectors,' said Ms J. Tan, one of the seven. 'We are very well-informed and very well-educated.'

A second owner, who was bemoaning the fact that every day of delay costs them about $100,000 in legal fees, said: 'Every time someone makes a mistake, it becomes my problem.'

Said another: 'If I don't have grounds, I will not throw away my money. If I win, nobody will pay us back.'

Wheelock Books 78% Lower Earnings

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 6, 2007


UPMARKET developer Wheelock Properties yesterday reported a 77.6 per cent drop in second-quarter net profit to $30.4 million.

But profit from continuing operations was up 90.3 per cent from $16 million previously.

The reason for the drop in bottom-line profit was that Wheelock had booked a one-off gain of $116 million in the second quarter last year from the sale of its British-based Hamptons Group.

Revenue for the three months ended Sept 30 slipped 9.8 per cent to $97.6 million.

The company attributed this mainly to lower revenue recognition of units that had been sold in The Sea View and The Cosmopolitan condominium projects.

This was partly offset by higher dividend income from the group's 20 per cent stake in Hotel Properties.

Second-quarter earnings per share were 2.55 cents, down from 11.38 cents previously while net asset value per share stood at $1.71 compared with $1.69 as at March 31.

Six-month net profit slipped by 65.6 per cent to $55.9 million on revenue of $191.6 million.

Wheelock said the prospects for improved rental rates are good for both office and retail space at its commercial property, Wheelock Place.

Its 338-unit Scotts Square, a luxurious condominium project, was well received during its soft launch. Half of the development has been sold at an average price of $3,986 per sq ft. Sales of the remaining units are ongoing.

CDL, US Group To Buy 44 Units Of Grange Road Condo

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 6, 2007

PROPERTY giant City Developments (CDL) has teamed up with United States financial services group Wachovia to buy 44 homes in CDL's freehold Grange Road project for $432.4 million.

REIT IN PIPELINE?: The deal for two towers at Cliveden, which will have manicured gardens with playful sculptures, is in line with CDL's strategy of leveraging on the capital appreciation potential of its projects, says Mr Kwek. -- PHOTO: CITY DEVELOPMENTS

Industry analysts suggest CDL might be preparing to list a real estate investment trust (Reit) using the properties. Knight Frank executive director Peter Ow said: 'The only reason I can think of for this deal is so that they can put the apartments in a Reit in the future.'

CDL, however, declined to say if a Reit was in the pipeline, but it acknowledged it was studying this as well as other business models.

Under the deal, which works out to an average price of $3,750 per sq ft (psf), Wachovia's real estate arm, Wachovia Development, will take a 60 per cent stake in the joint-venture company.

According to CDL, there are plans to rent out the 44 three- and four-bedroom apartments and penthouses - which take up two of the four towers at Cliveden at Grange - as well as possibly selling them off later if prices rise.

CDL executive chairman Kwek Leng Beng said yesterday: 'The development has seen strong foreign interest from both individual buyers and retail investors since its launch... The deal is in line with our business strategy of leveraging on the capital appreciation potential of our developments.'

He had earlier indicated that CDL was considering keeping two blocks of homes at Cliveden instead of selling them off in a rush.

The deal could also mark the start of CDL's preparation for a residential Reit, property analysts said.

The venture would mean that there are now just 24 units left for sale at Cliveden, which was launched for sale in July.

A total of 42 units were sold at an average price of $3,690 psf before the joint venture was announced yesterday. Many of the buyers are foreigners from Britain, Australia, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan and Indonesia, among other centres.

Wachovia is not new to the local real estate scene. It is also teaming up with CapitaLand to redevelop Char Yong Gardens and Farrer Court.

Mr Ow said the deal was positive for CDL due to the limited upside now for luxury homes. Putting the homes in a Reit, he said, would allow CDL to keep the apartments over a longer period of time, say three to seven years, and ride out any possible drop in prices in the near future.

The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Singapore

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Location : 65 Cairnhill Road
Tenure : Freehold
Development : 1 Block of 36-Storeys Residential Development with Communal Facilities Total Units : 56 units + 2 penthouses

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-24th Floor Sky Terrace – Ritz-Carlton Mended Wine Cellar, Gourmet Kitchen, Indoor Dinning
-Basement Carparks

Colliers International predicted benchmark prices for two upcoming projects: the Ritz-Carlton Residences in Cairnhill and the development on the former Asia Hotel site. Prices at these projects could hit $4,500 psf on average, said Mr Vincent Chong, Colliers' residential sales director (The Sunday Times, Oct 21, 2007).

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CDL-Wachovia JV Buying Two Blocks At Cliveden At Grange

Source : The Business Times, November 6, 2007

CDL hints it may retain units in some future residential developments

A JOINT venture between City Developments Ltd (CDL) and US-based Wachovia Development Corporation is buying two blocks at CDL's Cliveden at Grange condo for $432.4 million or an average price of about $3,750 per sq ft (psf).

$432.4m deal: Joint venture firm Grange 100 Pte Ltd is buying two blocks at Cliveden, comprising 44 apartments, for $432.4 million

And according CDL executive chairman Kwek Leng Beng, the deal attests to the freehold project's 'high investment potential' and reflects CDL's 'business strategy of leveraging on the capital appreciation potential of our developments'.

In an interview with BT in May this year, Mr Kwek said he was considering retaining a portion of some new residential developments for rental income and capital appreciation.

At CDL's Q2 results briefing in August, he said he was considering retaining two blocks at Cliveden.

A Hock Lock Siew column in BT later that month speculated on whether CDL was mulling a residential real estate investment trust (Reit) to which it could spin off apartments held for investment.

CDL was silent on this in its statement to the Singapore Exchange yesterday. But market watchers reckon a possible exit strategy for the CDL-Wachovia joint venture for their investment in the two Cliveden blocks would be to divest them to a residential Reit.

Without elaborating, a CDL spokesman said yesterday: 'We will look into this business model of retaining units in some of our future residential developments.'

CDL is taking a 40 per cent stake in the joint venture company Grange 100 Pte Ltd that is buying the Cliveden blocks, comprising 44 apartments. Wachovia holds the majority 60 per cent.

The 44 units are three and four-bedders, and two penthouses. The prices at which they were bought range from $3,392 psf to $4,313 psf.

Before the deal was announced yesterday, CDL had sold 42 units at Cliveden at an average price of $3,690 psf since the project's soft launch in June. More than 90 per cent of these units were bought by foreign buyers from the UK, Australia, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Indonesia, France, Korea and Japan.

After the latest deal, only 24 apartments will be left at the 110-unit Cliveden, which is coming up on the former Kim Lin Mansion site.

Last year, CDL bought the Lucky Tower site, diagonally opposite the Kim Lin plot, for $1,134 psf per plot ratio.

CityDev, Wachovia To Buy 2 Blocks Of Cliveden At Grange For S$432.4m

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 05 November 2007

City Developments and Wachovia Group have formed a joint venture to buy two tower blocks of Cliveden at Grange for S$432.4 million.

US-based Wachovia Development Corporation will take a 60 percent stake, while CityDev will take the remaining interest through subsidiary, City Venture Properties Pte Ltd, in the joint venture company called Grange 100.

Grange 100 will purchase the 44 units from CityDev, which is developing the freehold residential project.

The units comprise three-bedroom and four-bedroom apartments, as well as two penthouses.

The average purchase price for the units works out to about S$3,750 per square foot.

Cliveden at Grange comprises four towers with 110 apartments. - CNA/so

Joint Ministerial Committee Of IDR Has Second Meeting

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 05 November 2007

The joint ministerial committee for the Iskandar Development Region (IDR) held its second working meeting in Johor Bahru on Monday.

A joint statement from both sides said the committee was taken on a site visit of the IDR, and the members also reviewed the progress made by the four joint work groups so far.

The joint work groups, which cover immigration, transportation, tourism and environment, have identified a number of areas for cooperation. Further discussions will be carried out in the next few months.

The ministerial committee is jointly chaired by Malaysia's Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Mohd Effendi Norwawi and Singapore's National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan. - CNA/ac

New ERP Charges Take Effect

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 05 November 2007

New Electronic Road Pricing charges came into effect on Monday.

Motorists affected are those who travel on the Central Expressway (CTE), Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE) and East Coast Parkway (ECP).

The latest increase in charges is the third hike this year.

Most motorists moving south on the CTE have been able to move faster, according to the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

This is possible because there are fewer vehicles due to higher ERP charges.

The biggest rise affects those moving on the CTE from the Pan-Island Expressway (PIE), which went up from S$4.50 to a record S$5.

Related Video Link - http://tinyurl.com/2vehbb
New ERP charges take effect

While the increases on the ERP charges on expressways are mostly between 50 cents and a dollar, the charges imposed are more frequent.

Motorists on the south-bound CTE used to have to pay ERP charges between 7.30am to 9.30am on weekdays.

But now, that period has been extended to four hours – from 7am to 11am, between Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1 and Braddell Road.

New gantries have also been erected.

North-bound on the CTE, a new gantry is in place just before the PIE exit, and motorists are being charged from 5.30pm till 10.30pm on weekdays.

Another evening charge is for those travelling east-bound on the ECP, with a new gantry just before the Rochor Road exit.

There is also another one at the Ophir Road slip road, towards East Coast. The charges will apply between 6pm and 8pm.

Just after the Dairy Farm exit, before the BKE joins the PIE, another new gantry is operational from 7.30am to 9am.

LTA said the traffic flow along alternative routes such as Lornie Road, Thomson Road and Bendemeer Road, remains satisfactory.

On the BKE, a traffic incident reportedly affected traffic flow near the new ERP gantry.

LTA added that it usually takes a few days for traffic to stabilise after ERP rates are revised and new gantries are erected.

Another measure that is kicking in is that more Traffic Marshals will extend their coverage on the roads.

The Traffic Marshals are now covering the Fort Canning Tunnel, CTE as well as the Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE).

The LTA said it is increasing the number of Traffic Marshals from six to 17.

So far, the Traffic Marshals have attended to three incidents of vehicle breakdowns in the KPE tunnel.

But LTA said the number of incidents will probably rise, once the Fort Canning Tunnel and CTE are included.

LTA added that it is evaluating the Marshals' performance by benchmarking it against its existing vehicle recovery service. - CNA/so

Final Race Begins On Proposals For Singapore Sports Hub

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 05 November 2007

The three bidders for the Singapore Sports Hub have revealed their designs for a fully-integrated sports centre to be built on the current National Stadium site.

The three bidders Alpine Mayreder, Singapore Gold and the Singapore Sports Hub Group took turns to present their proposals which will include the development of recreational and leisure hubs.

The proposal by Alpine is for a stadium that's wrapped with a translucent fabric which provides a canvas for lighting effects along with an urban beach and a Viewing Tower.

As for the Singapore Sports Hub Group, it's proposing a dome-shaped design that uses lightweight material and features air conditioning and even a white water rafting facility.

Mr Ludwig Reichhold, Managing Director of Dragages Singapore Pte Ltd, the design and build contractor, said their biggest selling point is their program which promises to be a thriving and sustainable integrated sports, entertainment and healthy lifestyle hub.

“You can design a very nice stadium but if it is not suitable for what you want to do, it won’t be useful. We have many cities where stadiums are built for the Olympic games or other such events but it is empty after that. So we want to avoid this and we think we have achieved that by working as a team involving the designers, sporting people and the retailers to make one integrated facility,” said Mr Reichhold.

Cool it would be-figuratively and literally with cooling systems supplied from under the spectator’s seat with fan assisted breezes.

Related Video Link - http://tinyurl.com/3dt7ld
Final race begins on proposals for Singapore Sports Hub

The SingaporeGold Consortium which had shown its design in March this year for a stadium shaped like a horse-shoe featuring a retractable field and roof, has now incorporated a water sports centre.

"The inclusion of the new water sports centre enhances our design and allows for a greater range of sporting events and programmes never before possible in Singapore, creating year-round buzz and ensuring Sports Hub becomes a vibrant destination in its own right" said Mark Adams, senior vice-president of IMG in Singapore, which is a key member of the SingaporeGold consortium.

There are also plans for the recreation centre to provide more than just sports, and instead, a community attraction which will offer something for everyone.

A 41 square metres space has been set aside for a combination of sports mega stores, themed retail and dining outlets, pasar malam and even a themed sports bar.

Commercial partners have also been lined up to operate facilities that can include a world-first virtual sporting reality centre, an extreme sports zone, and a Sports Museum.

With the inclusion of the water sports centre, the Sports Hub which has ambitions to attract mega sporting events to Singapore, like the 2018 Asiad,
promises to attract a range of world-class sporting and entertainment events to one location.

The 35ha facility at Kallang is due to be completed in 2011, and will be the world's first large-scale integrated land and sea sports facility.

The hub will transform the Kallang site's limited water frontage into a 2.6 kilometre waterfront promenade lined with retail, food and beverage outlets, outdoor plazas, and landscaped gardens.

The decision on the winning proposal will be made in late January next year.- CNA/yb