Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Fears Of Bigger Sub-Prime Losses Spook Markets

Source : The Business Times, November 13, 2007

Asian stocks take a beating, with Singapore's STI sliding a hefty 2.5%

Stock markets around the region were again mauled yesterday in a widely expected retreat after share indices in the United States ended sharply lower on Friday.

The sell-offs on Wall Street last week and those around Asia yesterday were triggered by fears that banks and other financial institutions are likely to suffer much larger losses than earlier expected from the turmoil that began in the US sub-prime mortgage market.

Shares in companies outside the financial sector were also hit, particularly those that depend heavily on export sales, as investors feared that the rising number of home repossessions and mortgage loans gone bad in the US housing market is spreading pain to consumers there who may spend less.

Worries that the US could be headed for an economic recession - never far from investors' thoughts since late July when the financial market upheaval began - seem to have resurfaced with new intensity.

Some market observers have suggested that the US Federal Reserve's ability to stave off a recession through further interest rate cuts may be hampered by rising inflationary pressures - a fear that has been stoked in the past week by higher oil prices and a fast-weakening US dollar.

But the broad consensus - for now - seems to be that the US economy is likely to see slower but still positive growth rather than fall into recession, said economist David Cohen at Action Economics. 'It doesn't appear that the US is going off a cliff.'

Around the region, major share indices fell sharply yesterday. In Singapore, the Straits Times Index finished 2.5 per cent lower, while in Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index fell 3.9 per cent. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index was down 2.5 per cent, while the two main indices in mainland China ended 2.4-2.5 per cent lower.

The gyrations in the market are likely to last at least until early next year when companies report their earnings results for the current quarter, said Philip Lee, JPMorgan's chief executive of investment banking in South-east Asia. 'A lot of it is sentiment-driven. People want to see how the fourth-quarter results come out.'

The results, which would indicate the extent of the impact from the recent spike in oil prices and other factors, would be 'a good harbinger of things to come', he said.

Meanwhile, investment banking deals are still being done in China and India, he said. 'People who can do deals are still doing them. Fundamentally, a lot of companies are still doing very well in this part of the world.'

But last week's slide in the US dollar, which has weakened considerably against the euro and major Asian currencies since August, has also prompted fresh worries over demand for Asian exports destined for the US.

CIMB economist Song Seng Wun said there was 'quite a lot of fear on the street' of a US economic recession, but Singapore's economy was robust enough to withstand a hiccup, though not a protracted downturn. 'We do have some slack in domestic consumption which is still resilient enough to cushion us in the near term.'

Citigroup's US research team is still forecasting a 'soft landing' for the American economy, said economist Chua Hak Bin in a report yesterday.

But he warned that the evidence so far suggests that Singapore and other Asian economies are still vulnerable to a sharp downturn in US economic growth, although less so than in the past. 'Arguments about decoupling is premature and probably 10 years too early. Asia or emerging markets will not be able to escape the effects of a full-blown US recession.'

Singapore's prospects in 2008 'will hinge critically on the extent of the slowdown in US economic activity next year', he said.

Still, 'the current US slowdown is largely housing and construction-led, which has less of an impact on Asian and Singapore exports,' he added.

Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew said on Sunday that Singapore's economy was 'doing fine', but warned that 'there are dangerous market signals' - higher oil prices among them.

Lippo Launches Retail Reit IPO, Aims To Treble Size By End-09

Source : The Business Times, November 13, 2007

Trust comprises 7 Indonesian malls and 7 retail spaces in other malls.

THE Lippo Group aims to triple the portfolio size of its latest real estate investment trust (Reit) to $3 billion by end-2009, the Reit’s manager said yesterday.

Mall exposure: Investors welcome opportunity to participate in Indonesia's growing retail sector, says CEO of the Reit's manager

The Lippo-Mapletree Indonesia Retail Trust (LMIR Trust), which will be the first Singapore-listed Reit to offer exposure to Indonesia’s retail sector, aims to raise $516.4 million from its initial public offering (IPO).

The trust, which has an initial portfolio of seven Indonesian shopping malls and seven retail spaces in other malls, will sell 645.5 million units at 80 cents each.

The trust had earlier gave an indicative range of 78-91 cents a unit for the IPO.

Of the offer, some 625.5 million units have been placed with institutional and other investors - and is 1.6 times subscribed - while the remaining 20 million are being offered to the public.

‘Investors we met during the roadshows welcome this opportunity to participate in Indonesia’s growing retail sector, given Indonesia’s robust economic fundamentals underpinned by a growing and affluent urban middle-class population of about 66 million consumers,’ said Viven Sitiabudi, chief executive of the Reit’s manager.

PT Lippo Karawaci, Indonesia’s biggest listed real estate developer, will hold 27 per cent of the trust after the unit sale, while Singapore’s Mapletree Investments will own 12 per cent, the trust said.

LMIR Trust is projecting a yield of 6.9 per cent for 2007, 7.3 per cent for 2008 and 7.8 per cent for 2009, it said.

The public offer will close at noon on Nov 15 and trading is expected to start on Nov 19 at 2pm.

The trust is listing at a time when market sentiment is poor.

Japanese trust Saizen Reit tumbled 14 per cent on its debut on Friday, while Japan’s Asia Pacific Land delayed its $514.9 million Singapore IPO last week, citing ‘negative market sentiments’.

But Ms Sitiabudi said that she is confident of LMIR Trust’s quality, even as Lippo’s Indonesian hospital trust First Reit, which was listed last December, fell below its IPO price last week.

‘The market goes up and down, but we’re confident of the quality of our product,’ she said.

Lippo president Stephen Riady, who was speaking to reporters at a news conference to launch the trust, said that the group plans to list two to three Reits - worth some $3US-4 billion in all - in Singapore over the next two to three years.

‘These new Reits would most likely be for hotels, offices and for retail malls outside of Indonesia,’ Mr Riady said.

Soilbuild Bags Industrial Site For $12.2m

Source : The Business Times, 13 November 2007

JTC Corporation has awarded a 21,871 square metre (235,417 sq ft) industrial site at L7 Pioneer Road/Tuas Avenue 11 to property-based Soilbuild Group Holdings for $12.2 million.

Based on the maximum plot ratio of 1.4, the cost for the site works out to be $398 per sq metre/gross plot ratio. The industrial site is on a 30-year lease and development of the site is expected to take place in 2008-09.

Soilbuild said in a statement yesterday that its subsidiary SB (Westcove) Investment will act as a single-purpose vehicle to hold and develop the factories. Total development cost, including the land, is estimated at about $43 million. The project will be funded by the group's internal resources and bank borrowings.

With this latest acquisition, Soilbuild has a total of more than 1.4 million sq ft of business space properties for development over the next two years.

Its other projects in the pipeline include the logistics and warehousing development at Penjuru Lane with gross floor area of about 410,000 sq ft and a development at Tuas Crescent (gross floor area of about 740,000 sq ft) for engineering companies and supporting industries in the oil and gas, and marine clusters. Both projects are slated for completion in 2008 or 2009.

The listed group's completed projects include its flagship 8-storey Eightrium @ Changi Business Park for MNCs, the 12-unit Kranji Linc for light industries, the 15-unit Senoko Food Connection for food industries, and 33-unit Pioneer Lot for light industries.

ART Buys Rental Apartments In Tokyo

Source : The Business Times, November 13, 2007

ASCOTT Residence Trust (ART) is acquiring more than 500 rental apartments in 18 blocks in Tokyo for 12.2 billion yen (S$158.6 million).

More choice for customers: ART now offers both serviced residence and rental housing options to cater to a wider range of budgets and customer needs. Its existing properties in Japan include Somerset Roppongi (above), located in Tokyo's Minato ward

The properties, the subject of a conditional sales and purchase agreement, are being acquired from a private equity firm. There are a total of 509 units in eight wards in Tokyo - Shinjuku, Bunkyo, Meguro, Setagaya, Nakano, Suginami, Nerima and Taito Ku. They are all freehold and have an average age of 18 months. Total net lettable area is estimated at 13,318 square metres.

The newly purchased properties include purpose-built studio and one-bedroom apartment units which are popular with an increasing number of singles customers. Each of the 18 sites is within walking distance of the Tokyo subway, other public transportation, restaurants and supermarkets.

The apartments are currently managed under a mixture of four Japanese rental housing brands - Zesty, Joy City, Gala and Asyl Court.

All of them have broadband Internet, security access phones, air-conditioners, fully-fitted kitchens, built-in wardrobes and water heaters. ART said in a statement yesterday that the properties were acquired at an estimated annualised property yield of 4.1 per cent in the forecast year 2008.

The transaction will be funded by borrowings, which will bring ART's gearing to 36.8 per cent, well within the 60 per cent gearing limit allowed under the Monetary Authority of Singapore's property fund guidelines.

Upon legal completion, all 18 rental housing properties will be managed by Ascott International Management Japan (AIM Japan), a 60:40 joint venture between The Ascott Group and Mitsubishi Estate Co, a major real estate developer in Japan.

Chong Kee Hiong, ARTML's chief executive officer, said: 'The longer tenancy leases of the rental housing model and high average occupancy of 90 per cent across the 18 properties ART is acquiring provide good income stability and potential for organic growth in ART's Japan and overall portfolio.

'In addition, ART will be able to enlarge the customer base for its Tokyo portfolio as it now offers both serviced residence and rental housing options to cater to a wider range of budgets and customer needs.'

With the latest purchase, ART's diversified portfolio now comprises 22 per cent rental housing units and 78 per cent serviced residence units. Its length-of-stay profile will improve from an average of seven months to eight.

ART's existing properties in Japan are Somerset Azabu East and Somerset Roppongi, located in Tokyo's Minato ward.

Upon completion of the acquisition, ART's total portfolio value will stand at S$1.34 billion, comprising 3,463 units in 36 properties in 10 cities across seven countries.

UK Home Prices May Decline In '08: Citigroup

Source : The Business Times, November 13, 2007

(LONDON) UK house prices may fall next year as a 'toxic mix' of higher interest rates, overvaluation and record debt deters property investors, Citigroup Inc said.

Downturn: Citigroup said house prices may also fall as the government's decision to cut capital gains tax encourages owners to sell

'We suspect that the number of buy-to-let home purchases will fall outright in 2008, hence contributing to a sharp drop in overall housing turnover' and a price decline of between one per cent and 2 per cent, said Michael Saunders, chief western European economist at Citigroup, in an e-mailed note. 'There is a sizeable risk that the outturn will be worse.'

The UK's housing boom has been driven in recent years by so-called buy-to- let investors, who purchase properties to rent them to tenants, Citigroup says.

With rental yields declining and buy-to-let mortgage lenders finding it more expensive to raise funding in the money markets, house prices may lose that prop.

The number of new buy-to-let mortgages, which have more than doubled since 2002, may drop 45 per cent in 2008, Citigroup says.

Loans for first-time buyers have dropped 31 per cent in the past five years and may be little changed next year, the bank said.

Britons are shouldering a record £1.4 trillion (S$4.2 trillion) in debt and trying to cope with five interest-rate increases in a year from the Bank of England.

The US sub-prime mortgage slump has also pushed mortgage rates higher, further hurting affordability.

Citigroup said house prices may also fall as the government's decision to cut capital gains tax encourages owners to sell.

The new levy came into effect in April and will lower the tax on second-home sales to 18 per cent from as much as 40 per cent.

'Buy-to-let investors may be tempted to sell soon in case the government, as it often does, reverses the tax change in a year or two,' said Mr Saunders.

UK house prices, which have tripled in the past decade, are already showing signs of falling. Values dropped for a second month in October, the first back-to-back decline since May 2005, mortgage lender HBOS Plc said last week.

Higher prices have made it harder for investors to profit from letting out their properties.

Rental yields on houses and apartments are now about 5 per cent, says Citigroup, which compares with the 6.37 per cent average rate offered by lenders this month on a two-year mortgage for 95 per cent of the property price. - Bloomberg

3 Bukit Timah Properties Up For Joint Collective Sale

Source : The Business Times, November 13, 2007

THREE adjoining freehold properties at Robin Drive, off Bukit Timah Road, have been put up for joint collective sale.

On the market: Credo Real Estate has indicated a price range of $128-138 million for the combined plots, which have a total land area of 64,878 sq ft

Credo Real Estate, the marketing agent representing the majority owners of Robin Court and Robin Star and the sole owner of No 1 Robin Drive, has indicated a price range of $128-138 million for the combined plots, which have a total land area of 64,878 sq ft. This reflects a unit land price of about $1,500-1,600 psf of potential gross floor area inclusive of an estimated $8 million development charge.

Based on this, the breakeven cost for a new condo on the site works out to about $2,075-2,190 psf, Credo executive director Yong Choon Fah said. The combined site of the three properties is large enough for a condo with about 43 units averaging 2,000 sq ft.

The site is zoned for residential use with a 1.4 plot ratio (ratio of maximum potential gross floor area to land area) and a five-storey maximum height.

Robin Court comprises 15 apartments, Robin Star 10 apartments, and No 1 Robin Drive is a detached house with a pre-school operating on its site.

Owners controlling more than 80 per cent of share values in each of Robin Court and Robin Star, and the sole owner of No 1 Robin Drive have agreed to the sale, Credo said. The tender for the three properties closes on Dec 12.

Oei Sells Site Initially Meant For Museum

Source : The Business Times, November 13, 2007

Pasir Panjang properties sold for $52m to Freddie Tan

TYCOON Oei Hong Leong has apparently abandoned his plans to build a museum to display his vast collection of Buddha statues. It was to have been built at a site of two properties he bought earlier this year at Pasir Panjang Road.

Instead, he is selling the 55,000 sq ft freehold site to former publisher Freddie Tan for some $52 million - realising a gain of almost $14 million or 37 per cent in less than a year.

The sale was brokered by Savills, which now displays a 'Sold' sign at the site.

Earlier this year, Mr Oei struck a deal to buy the two properties, at 98 and 100 Pasir Panjang Road, from Novena Holdings for some $29.8 million. His total cost, together with earlier options to buy the buildings on the property, is said to be around $38 million.

Given his desire to house his collection of Buddha statues at a suitable site, Mr Oei could use the proceeds to buy a new property for the purpose.

The buyer of the Pasir Panjang site, Mr Tan, founded Magazines Incorporated, which published, among others, the Peak magazine. Mr Tan sold his magazine to property magnate Simon Cheong's Blu Inc for $5 million in 2003, which was subsequently sold to Singapore Press Holdings.

Meanwhile, Mr Tan used the proceeds from the sale of his magazine business to venture into property investments over the last few years.

It is not known if he is also bidding to purchase another property next to the Pasir Panjang site whose sale is also being handled by Savills. The site, 100C Pasir Panjang Road, has a five-storey building and its tender closes on Thursday. BT understands that the 34,700 sq ft freehold site has drawn strong interest from end-users and developers.

Mr Oei's purchase of the Pasir Panjang properties from Novena Holdings coincided with his investment of about $10.71 million in the furniture retailer earlier this year. He swopped his 20 million Tung Lok Restaurants shares for about 10.3 million new Novena shares in a deal worth about $2.61 million. He also paid $8.1 million in cash for 27 million new Novena shares.

The 55,000 sq ft site along Pasir Panjang Road has two buildings which were to be demolished and replaced by the museum and an office block which would have sea views.

Mr Oei owns about 10,000 Buddha statues, many rescued from temples that would have been submerged once the water level rose along China's Three Gorges Dam. He has been collecting Buddha statues for years, and has long been searching for a suitable location to display them. The statues are now stored in warehouses.

When built, the new museum - which could be sited closer to the city - could house the largest private collection of Buddha statues in the world.

Sub-Prime Woes Continue To Hold Sway

Source : The Business Times, November 13, 2007

ST Index hits two-month low after 2.5 per cent fall, in line with Hang Seng Index

AS EXPECTED, the local stock market was unhinged yesterday by Wall Street's continuing fears over the impact the sub- prime crisis might have on its earnings and the US economy, fears which have now rendered the two interest rate cuts of the past seven weeks nothing more than a distant memory.

The end of a weak session saw put warrants - instruments that gain in value in a falling market - occupy 18 of the 20 spots available in the top gainers list, while the Straits Times Index (STI) stood 88.55 points or 2.5 per cent down at 3,511.12, the lowest in two months.

This loss was very much in line with that in Hong Kong, where the Hang Seng Index closed 1,117.68 points or 3.9 per cent lower at 27,665.73.

Other than describe the market as 'very nervous' and 'jittery', brokers were at a loss to comment further on the present sentiment. 'Who knows what might spook Wall Street next?' asked a dealer, echoing the feelings of the majority. The December futures contract on the Dow Jones Industrial Average, usually a reliable guide to how Wall Street might open later that same day, first dropped 50 points but regained about 40 points by 5pm.

The broad market experienced one of its worst performances, registering only 61 rises versus 497 falls and 266 unchanged or untraded counters, excluding warrants. This works out to about eight falls for each rise.

Since peaking at an all-time high of 3,875 almost exactly one month ago, the STI has now lost 364 points or just under 10 per cent. A weak Wall Street has been chiefly responsible, with stocks coming under severe pressure following announcements by the major banks of large write-offs relating to the sub-prime problems in the US.

Here, banks have also led the decline. In yesterday's session, falls in the three banks cut a total of 25 points off the index. DBS continued to lead the sector's decline, losing 70 cents at $19.80 versus 50 cents for UOB at $19.60 and 15 cents for OCBC at $8.50.

With sentiment as shaky as it is, positive broking recommendations had little impact - Kim Eng's 'buy' on construction firm Lian Beng with a $1.22 target price, for example, was shrugged off by the market, and the stock closed 2.5 cents weaker at 74 cents. The local broker based its call on the upswing in construction, the company's healthy profit margins and sound financial management.

'We are initiating coverage with a $1.22 target based on a sum-of-the-parts valuation with 16 times FY09 PE on recurrent income from its construction business, along with the addition of the present value of development profits,' said Kim Eng.

On the outlook for Wall Street, US newspaper Barron's Nov 5 issue carried the results of its latest Big Money poll of fund managers, which is always an interesting read. Some of the findings are: 22 per cent thought Wall Street (with the Dow at 13,595) was overvalued, 23 per cent undervalued and 55 per cent fairly valued.

The single factor seen which could lift stocks over the next few months was better-than-expected corporate earnings while, overall, 42 per cent of respondents said they are still bullish on stocks. However, this figure was down from the 64 per cent of a year ago.

Bukit Sembawang Q2 Profit Up 44.6%

Source : The Business Times, November 13, 2007

BUKIT Sembawang Estates yesterday reported a 44.6 per cent year-on-year increase in second-quarter group net profit to $8.4 million. The property developer said that profit for the current financial year ending March 31, 2008, is likely to be higher than the preceding year because of a one-time $46.5 million capital gain from the sale of about 2.29 million shares in HSBC Holding Plc. The share sale, announced on Oct 10, was to reduce the group's bank borrowings.

The property developer disclosed that on Oct 31 the Strata Titles Board had dismissed on a technicality the application from the majority owners of Airview Towers for a collective sale. However, the majority owners are planning to appeal, Bukit Sembawang said in its results statement. The jump in net earnings for Q2 ended Sept 30, 2007, was on the back of a 36.2 per cent increase in revenue to $21.7 million. For the first half, group net earnings rose 67.6 per cent over the same period last year to $18.95 million, with revenue increasing 60.9 per cent to $46 million.

Bukit Sembawang said first-half earnings consist of the recognition of revenue, based on percentage of completion method, for the housing units sold at Straits Gardens, Mimosa Terrace Phases 2, 4 and 6, Parc Mondrian and Paterson Suites.

Earnings per share for Q2 increased to 8.82 cents from 6.36 cents in the same year-ago period. Net asset value per share stood at $4.56 as at Sept 30, down eight cents from six months earlier. Bukit Sembawang will pay shareholders a five cent per share interim tax-exempt cash dividend. On the stock market yesterday, the counter ended 30 cents lower at $10.90.

Horizon Towers Hearing - DTZ : $500m Was Best En Bloc Price Possible

Source : The Business Times, November 13, 2007

Site unattractive; but ex-sales committee member says higher offers were received

$500 million - the amount it eventually attracted - was realistically the best price Horizon Towers could have fetched in an en bloc sale, DTZ Debenham Tie Leung director Tang Wei Leng told the Strata Titles Board (STB) yesterday.

She was one of several marketing agents invited in early 2006 to make a presentation on the en bloc sale potential of the development to its newly formed sales committee.

Ms Tang's testimony to STB yesterday suggests the eventual price of $500 million obtained by the Horizon Towers sales committee was the highest it could have hoped for, given some of the development's shortcomings.

Ms Tang said the Leonie Hill 99-year leasehold development was a challenge to market, compared with other sites in the area.

She described the site as unattractive because it had a limited view, was oddly shaped and impossible to sub-divide. She also said the two access roads leading to it were not an advantage.

She compared it to its neighbouring development The Grangeford, which she said had a regular shape, a full view of Orchard Road and a Grange Road address.

Her testimony comes in the face of some of the arguments put up by minority owners - those who did not agree to the en bloc sale.

It is the minorities' case that the collective sale of Horizon Towers should not be allowed because the deal was done in bad faith - as the sales committee did not do its best to secure the highest possible price.

Still, the minorities' case got support when former sales committee member Henry Lim returned to the stand later yesterday. He had first testified last Friday.

Yesterday, he said the sales committee received a higher offer than the $500 million from Hotel Properties (HPL) and its partners, which was eventually accepted by the bulk of the owners.

Mr Lim said Hong Kong developer Vinyard Holdings, through its Malaysian lawyers Chan & Shu, offered $510 million for Horizon Towers. He said he made attempts to contact them but was advised by lawyer David Ang of Drew & Napier not to pursue the offer as Chan & Shu was an 'unknown name'.

Mr Limsaid last Friday that there were at least four offers comparable to or better than HPL's $500 million bid. He said three out of nine of the sales committee members were happy with the HPL offer but rushed into the deal and had failed to consult the majority owners before accepting it.

The hearing continues today.

New Sin Ming Funeral Parlour: Incense Must Be Burnt Indoors

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 13, 2007

A PLANNED funeral parlour in the Sin Ming area that has aroused residents' anger will have to ensure that incense is burnt indoors.

It will also have to confine processions to its premises.

These are among the requirements set, said Minister of State for National Development Grace Fu yesterday, as she assured Mr Hri Kumar (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC), that the Sin Ming area will not become a 'funeral parlour hub'.

The Government is taking residents' concerns on the development seriously, she said in a reply to Mr Hri, the MP for the area.

Residents, worried about the noise and a possible dampener on property values, had complained about the new parlour, a modern purpose-built development on an empty plot next to Bright Hill Temple.

Already, they have to contend with 12 funeral parlours clustered in two single-storey blocks in Sin Ming Drive.

Yesterday, to allay their concerns, Ms Fu said the Government has brought forward the development of an adjacent industrial site so it can serve as a buffer between the new parlour site and the nearest residential areas and school. It will not start work on the parlour until after the industrial site is developed.

It has also moved the proposed site of the parlour farther from the nearest residential areas, and put parking lots in the plans.

The parlour operator will also need to have fully enclosed and air-conditioned premises and confine all activities indoors, including the burning of incense. Processions will also be within the premises. All services and activities will be screened from public view through the design and landscaping of the development.

Ms Fu said the new development - modelled after similar ones in Hong Kong and Tokyo - will be an improvement on current options. Most funeral wakes today are held at temporary premises such as void decks, streets and carparks, which cause traffic jams and create noise pollution.

The Sin Ming site was chosen for this modern funeral parlour because it was within an industrial estate - and away from residential areas - yet still accessible.

If the development succeeds, more purpose-built funeral parlours will be created elsewhere in Singapore, said Ms Fu. Demand for funeral services is expected to rise as Singapore's population ages, she noted.

Sin Ming Will Not Be "Funeral Parlour Hub": MND

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 12, 2007

THE Sin Ming area will not be a "funeral parlour hub" despite plans by the Government to pilot a purpose-built funeral parlour there.

Minister of State for National Development Grace Fu asssured MP Hri Kumar in Parliament on Monday that her ministry would take residents' concerns seriously when planning for this development.

Demand for funeral services is expected to rise as Singapore's population ages. Purpose-built funeral parlours are seen by the Government as an improved option over temporary premises for wakes - like void decks, streets and car parks - which cause noise pollution, traffic congestion and other disturbances.

On the Sin Ming plan, Ms Fu said the location was chosen because it was within an industrial estate - and hence away from residential areas - yet still accessible.

To mitigate concerns from residents there, the Government has brought forward the development of an adjacent industrial site so it can serve as a buffer between the funeral parlour site and the nearest residential areas and school. It will also not start work on the funeral parlour until after the industrial site is developed.

In addition, it has also moved the proposed site further away from nearest residential areas, and increased the provision for car parking lots. The operator of the parlour will need to have fully enclosed and air-conditioned premises and confine all activities indoors. Even incense will need to be burned indoors, and processions held within the premises. All services and activities will be screened off from public view through the design and landscaping of the development.

If this pilot plan succeeds, more purpose built funeral parlours will be created elsewhere in Singapore, said Ms Fu.

CPI Set To Hit High Of 5% In First Half Of 2008, Says Lim Hng Kiang

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 12 November 2007

Minister for Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang told Parliament on Monday that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) is set to reach a high of five percent in the first half of next year, though prices are likely to ease afterwards.

He explained that prices have gone up because oil prices have doubled since the start of the year, and the one-off hike in Goods and Services Tax (GST) in July also contributed to the rising inflation.

But the CPI, which measures inflation at the consumer level, is expected to go down to three per cent in the second half of 2008, Mr Lim said.

Another factor driving inflation has been the disruptions in the supply of food items such as vegetables and diary products from Australia, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Mr Lim said: "Diversifying our food supply sources is one way we can reduce our vulnerability to such supply disruptions and maintain more stable food prices.

"AVA (Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority) will continue to step up efforts to this end. However, diversification cannot protect us against a worldwide increase in food prices, as is happening now."

When MP Halimah Yacob asked what the government has done to ease the inflationary impact on Singaporeans, Mr Lim pointed to measures such as the GST Offset Package, which is expected to cost the government S$4 billion over five years.

The government's exchange rate policies have also helped minimise the impact of inflation from other countries.

But Ang Mo Kio GRC Inderjit Singh asked: "Does the minister see any impact on our competitiveness here as far as businesses are concerned?"

Mr Lim replied: "We are tracking our competitiveness position very closely and so far we are in quite a good position for several reasons... even though (our inflation rate is) higher than what we've been experiencing, it's still lower than other countries...

"Second, even though wages have gone up last year and particularly the first three quarters of this year... (over) the last five, six or seven years (they did not go up) so rapidly."

Mr Lim added that the higher inflation should also be viewed against the backdrop of rapid economic growth rates since 2003, so it should not be surprising to see inflation rise above the "unusually low levels" seen over the last few years. - CNA/ac

SC Global Q3 Profit Jumps 370% To S$4.3m

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 13 November 2007

SC Global has posted a 370 percent jump in Q3 profit to S$4.3 million.

This will bring earnings for the nine months to September to nearly S$21 million.

This is double the income of the previous year and surpasses the full-year earnings in 2006.

The property developer said the strong performance is due to robust sales of its properties.

On its prospects, SC Global expects to remain profitable for the year to December. -- CNA/so

Banyan Tree Reports 14% Net Profit Growth For Q3 At S$49.1m

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 13 November 2007

Resort and spa operator Banyan Tree has reported a 14 percent increase in net profit for Q3 at S$49.1 million.

Banyan Tree is seeing strong growth in its hotel operations – one of three pillars that are driving revenue growth.

But it saw a sharp drop in revenue from the hotel residences segment, which came in at S$3.6 million, down from S$9.1 million a year ago.

Banyan Tree sold 14 units of villas and townhouses in Phuket and Lijiang in the quarter.

But the sales of S$30.7 million will only be booked progressively over the next 1 to 1.5 years.

Ho Kwon Ping, executive chairman of Banyan Tree Holdings, said: "The strategic importance is that essentially when you sell them down, the remaining holding cost for the hotel for you goes down dramatically, so then the profitability of the hotel increases tremendously, so in that sense it's very important for us.

"We don't anticipate that it will be much of a problem in terms of property cycles. It's not that big a project to begin with. We give a guaranteed income so a lot of the people who buy them are already very wealthy individuals who are not speculating in the property market." - CNA/so

Pedra Branca Hearing Resumes With Malaysia's Presentation

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 13 November 2007

THE HAGUE: The court hearing on a disputed island in the Straits of Singapore resumes later on Tuesday with the Malaysian team presenting its evidence.

The hearing in the International Court of Justice is expected to last till 23 November.

It is a dispute between Singapore and Malaysia over which country owns the island, which Singapore calls Pedra Branca, and Malaysia refers to as Pulau Batu Puteh.

Two outcrops of Middle Rocks and South Ledge are in contention.

The hearing began last week with the Singapore team making oral presentations for four days.

Related Video Link - http://tinyurl.com/2cmwga
Pedra Branca hearing resumes with Malaysia's presentation

Singapore's team, including Deputy Prime Minister and Law Minister S Jayakumar and Ambassador-at-Large, Tommy Koh, spent four days presenting facts and evidence to prove that Singapore owns Pedra Branca and its outcrops.

Chief Justice, Chan Sek Keong and Attorney-General Chao Hick Tin are also involved in this case.

Four renowned international counsel also backed up Singapore's case.

Singapore was given four days to complete its oral argument before the judges and now Malaysia will also take four days to present its case.

The dispute came about when, in 1979, Malaysia published a map of its territories which included Pedra Branca, or Pulau Batu Puteh as it is known in Malaysia.

Singapore objected to it because it says the island was handed down to it from the British and therefore rightfully belongs to Singapore.

Malaysia claims the island belongs to it for reasons like how its fishermen fished in the waters around the area in the past and that it falls under the Johor Sultanate.

But Singapore rejects these claims, citing examples like how it has consistently conducted and maintained the activities and works on the island, thus exercising sovereignty over it.

Singapore also cited a 1953 letter which showed that the Johor state then said it did not own Pedra Branca island.

The Malaysian team includes its Ambassador-at-Large and Adviser for Foreign Affairs to the Prime Minister, Abdul Kadir Mohamad, and Ambassador to Netherlands, Noor Farida Ariffin.

They also have a team of five foreign counsel to defend their position.

Like Singapore, the Malaysians are also expected to showcase geographical maps and historical documentation when they put their case forward.

After Malaysia completes its four days of oral presentation, the court will spend two days listening to Singapore's rebuttal of Malaysia's statements.

Malaysia will then get two days after that to do the same. - CNA/ch

Survey Shows Singapore Is Asia's Most Desirable City To Live In

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 13 November 2007

According to the latest Country Brand Index, Singapore is – among Asian cities – the country that most people want to live in.

Singapore also came up tops among Asian countries in this annual global survey when it came to shopping and fine dining.

On the global stage, Singapore was number three in this category.

It was also placed in the third spot, after Sweden and New Zealand, for being environmentally conscious.

The survey has also sealed Singapore's reputation as an attractive business destination.

Singapore was ranked within the world's top 10 countries for best and easiest places to do business.

These were the choices made by over 2,600 international travellers who participated in this year's survey. - CNA/so

Macquarie Puts In Highest Bid For Land Parcel B At Marina View

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 13 November 2007

Macquarie Global Property has put in the highest bid for a white site at Marina View, at just under S$953 million.

Picture shows land parcel A and B at Marina View

But the tender price for land parcel B is still below market expectations.

Macquarie, a private equity real estate fund management company, had previously clinched land parcel A, the site next to the current one.

Macquarie was one of two bidders eyeing land parcel B.

The other bidder was Brilliant Hotel Trustee Pte Ltd which tendered for $898 million.

The two tender prices are $55 million apart, compared to the $200 million average spread for land parcel A.

Market watchers say this is the clearest signal yet that the land grab frenzy in the central business district has peaked.

Jones Lang LaSalle's head of research & consultancy, Dr Chua Yang Liang, said: "This is an indication of how developers are perceiving the office market. Most of these sites, should they be developed, will come on stream in 4 or 5 years down the road, possibly as soon as 2010. By that time, the Marina Bay Financial Centre will be released already. So, I think developers as a whole are looking at that market in totality."

Just two months ago, land parcel A was sold for more than $2 billion.

The sale price beat market projections and raised price expectations for parcel B to at least $2 billion. And even at that amount, analysts had expected more bidders to join in the fray.

While this has failed to turn out, analysts said land parcel B still has potential.

The 99-year lease white site spans about 0.9 hectares and yields a maximum permissible gross floor area of around 110,000 square metres.

At least 60 per cent of it will be for office development.

The tender also requires a hotel development on another 25 per cent of the space. This is expected to yield around 550 hotel rooms.

Commercial, residential or more hotel developments can make up the remaining area. - CNA/ir

Blackstone Exec: Subprime Mess Getting Worse

Source : Reuters 12 Nov 2007

Blackstone Group President and Chief Operating Officer Hamilton James said on Monday that the subprime mess that has hit Wall Street banks appears to be getting worse.

"The subprime black hole is appearing deeper, darker and scarier than they thought," James said, referring to investment banks. James spoke on a conference call with media after its earnings were released on Monday. Blackstone swung to a loss in the quarter.

But James added that Blackstone Blackstone Group LPBX is starting to "go long" the subprime market, after a successful bet against the sector that played out over the last 18 months. Blackstone invests in the industry through its hedge fund operation. Its private equity portfolio has only a tiny sliver tied to the residential mortgage industry, James said.

James also said investment bankers expect the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates again, as Wall Street has seen the credit market crisis clog balance sheets with hundreds of billions of dollars in leveraged buyout debt.

That backlog will take around six months to play out, James said, with banks having worked through what Blackstone estimates is around 40 percent of the leveraged loan backlog.

明年组屋年值 调高18%至25%

《联合早报》Nov 13, 2007

明年起所有组屋的年值(annual values)将调高18%至25%,以反映更高的市场租金。不过,这并不表示所有组屋屋主将缴付更高的房地产税。

明年九成屋主 不需付更多房产税











ERP Charges For Some Gantries To Go Down Temporarily

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 12 November, 2007

Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) rates will come down temporarily by S$0.50 on some roads and expressways in the CBD area during the year-end school holidays next month.

The revised rates will apply on East Coast Parkway (ECP), Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE), Bendemeer Road, Dunearn Road and Thomson Road from November 17 till December 31.

The rates will revert to the pre-December rates starting January 2, 2008.

The ERP rates will be reviewed again in February, which will be the first quarterly rate review for the year 2008. - CNA/ac

Annual Values Of HDB Flats To Be Revised

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 13 November 2007

The Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) will be revising the Annual Values (AV) of HDB flats and most other properties from January 1.

Most AVs will be revised upwards to reflect the current rentable values of these properties, and property tax computation will be affected.

All owner-occupied residential properties, however, will receive a tax rebate of up to S$100 per year in 2008 and 2009 as part of the Goods and Services Tax Offset Package announced in this year's budget.

HDB owners will receive their valuation notices and property tax bills by January 1. Those paying property tax will receive an additional "Guide to Property Tax" brochure.

HDB flats in areas such as Bishan, Bukit Merah and Marine Parade generally have higher AVs. - CNA/ac

Amendments To CPF Bill Passed In Parliament

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 12 November 2007

The government has passed the amendments to the Central Provident Fund Bill, which will facilitate the implementation of the new CPF interest rate framework, as well as provide low-wage workers with a new long-term income supplement scheme.

MP of Jurong GRC, Mdm Halimah Yacob

As Singaporeans are living longer, they need more money to last them through old age.

One of the changes made to the CPF Bill is to help members improve their retirement adequacy by providing them with an extra 1 percent in interest on the first S$60,000 of a member's CPF monies every year.

Manpower Minister, Dr Ng Eng Hen, said: "However, under the new interest rate structure, the extra interest that could have been earned would depend on the amount of combined CPF balances at each relevant period, as well as the balances in each CPF account at any one time, which would change due to contributions and withdrawals, including for uses other than housing.

"As such, it may be quite complex and indeed costly to determine whether the additional 1 percent interest could have been accrued at each relevant period. We therefore propose to adopt a practical approach and the amendments in these clauses allow the CPF (Board) the discretion to recover up to the additional interest that could have been earned."

The amendments also give a leg-up to low-wage workers by helping them to increase their incomes and CPF savings through the Workfare Income Supplement Scheme (WIS).

But MP of Jurong GRC, Mdm Halimah Yacob, was concerned about the income ceiling eligibility.

She said: "Currently the WIS applies only to those who earn not more than S$1,500. However in computing this quantum, the current definition of salary under the Employment Act is used. Hence, instead of just using the basic pay as the basis for computation, all allowances, bonuses and overtime pay are included in the computation of the S$1,500 ceiling salary. I would like this to be reviewed as it is very common for low-wage workers to work overtime, which can, on average, come up to about 20 percent to 30 percent of the monthly wages."

Dr Ng said for now, the scheme will remain targeted at older workers, earning up to S$1,500 a month.

He said: "We don't want to spread the help too wide because then it becomes difficult. Every time we raise it, we have to give more and certainly, there will be a fiscal impact. As it is, we think that it will cost S$400 million a year, every year."

Dr Ng, however, assures that the scheme will be reviewed in three years.

The changes to the CPF Act will take effect from 1 January 2008. - CNA/so

Inflation Could Hit 5% Early Next Year, Then Taper Off

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 13, 2007

AS CONSUMER prices continue to rise, inflation in Singapore will likely surge to 4 or 5 per cent in the first quarter of next year.

But it should taper off by the second half of the year to 'more normal conditions', said Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang yesterday.

The average rate for next year should be around 3 per cent.

Fuelled mainly by rising global oil and food prices, inflation recorded a 13-year high of 2.9 per cent in August. It is expected to dip to 2.7 per cent in the last quarter, Mr Lim told Parliament.

But it was his 2008 forecast that made analysts and consumers sit up yesterday.

Citigroup economist Chua Hak Bin said that the 5 per cent rate predicted would be a 'historic high' in the 25 years since 1983. The previous high was in July 1991, when it hit 4 per cent.

Most economies, including Singapore's, size up inflation by tracking the Consumer Price Index, or CPI. The CPI measures the cost of a basket of goods and services consumed by most households.

Yesterday, Mr Lim cautioned against 'interpreting a rise in the headline CPI as necessarily reflecting an increase in the cost of living'.

It depends on the individual household's spending. 'Switching to cheaper products can reduce the cost of living despite a rise in the CPI,' he added.

A CPI increase may also not reflect actual hikes in consumer prices. For instance, flat prices soared, but flat owners do not pay rent.

Higher inflation, he said, should also be viewed against rapid economic growth, with the gross domestic product rising more than 6 per cent on average since 2003 and wages also on the up.

'Against this backdrop, we should not be surprised to see inflation rise above the unusually low levels seen in recent years.'

However, MPs such as Madam Halimah Yacob worry that residents, especially the elderly on fixed incomes, are feeling the pinch. 'They go to the market with a similar sum of money. But they can buy less,' she said.

Mr Lim promised: 'The Government will continue to keep a tight watch to ensure that inflation remains low.'

He sketched out how the landscape will look like next year.

Explaining why there will be a spike in inflation before it plateaus, he cited two reasons: First, it is as compared to the first quarter of this year, when inflation was at 0.5 per cent and oil prices were low.

Second, the 'one-off' effect of the goods and services tax hike, which will be felt until next June.

Thereafter, the trend will 'revert to more normal conditions in the second half of next year'.

The numbers come against a global backdrop of rising oil and food prices, such as more expensive chicken due to costlier feed. Adverse weather in food-supplying countries has also reduced supply, even as demand has risen.

Diversifying sources is one way to maintain more stable food prices, Mr Lim said, but there was a limit to this given the worldwide increase in food prices being seen now.

But inflation has not affected Singapore's economic competitiveness, he said.

'We are tracking our competitiveness position very closely and so far we are in quite a good position,' he said, adding that inflation here was lower than in other countries.

He noted that imported inflation has been reduced because of the policy of gradually appreciating the Singapore dollar.

Other watchers suggest more aggressive measures. Citigroup's Dr Chua, for instance, believes that the economy is in danger of overheating.

He called on the Government to re-prioritise projects, given that unemployment is already at a low.

'The economy cannot be growing at that pace - it is reaching a bottleneck, there's a supply constraint, with wage, price, rent increases. It is costly for everyone.'

Inflation May Hit 5% In Q1 '08 As Oil, Food Prices Head North

Source : The Business Times, November 13, 2007

But Singapore's competitiveness still intact: Hng Kiang

Singapore's inflation rate could hit 5 per cent in the first quarter of 2008 on the back of record oil prices and higher food and transportation costs, Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang told Parliament yesterday.

'We expect (inflation in) the first quarter of next year to reach the peak of between 4 and maybe even 5 per cent,' Mr Lim said.

For the present quarter, the consumer price index (CPI) is expected to rise at least 2.7 per cent, he said.

The index rose 0.5 per cent in the first quarter of 2007, one per cent in the second quarter and 2.7 per cent in the third quarter.

'Food prices have risen mainly due to dearer imports arising from supply disruptions in some of our major food import sources,' Mr Lim said.

Similarly, oil prices have reached historical highs in recent months due to strong global demand, tight supply and low global inventories, he said.

The index in the first quarter of 2008 will also be high because it will be compared to the first quarter of 2007's relatively lower base, he said. But inflation is expected to moderate in the second half of 2008, Mr Lim added.

Singapore's central bank - the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) - has an official inflation forecast of 1.5-2 per cent for 2007 and 3 per cent for 2008.

MAS has allowed the Singapore dollar to appreciate in recent months to ease inflation. The government has also taken steps to cool the booming property market, which experts said is contributing to inflationary pressure.

The new forecast for the first quarter of 2008 is 'a bit shocking', Citigroup economist Chua Hak Bin told a news wire.

Dr Chua said that the central bank may need to tighten policy again, possible before its next scheduled meeting in April.

Yesterday, Members of Parliament also voiced fears that rising prices could affect Singapore's ability to attract foreign companies.

In response, Mr Lim said that Singapore is still competitive in this respect.

'We are tracking our competitiveness position very closely and so far we are in quite a good position,' he said.

Mr Lim pointed out that Singapore's inflation rate was still lower than what other countries are seeing. And while wages here climbed in 2006 and in the first three quarters of this year, the increases came on the back of a long period where wages did not move up much, he said.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the government is unlikely to impose controls on food or utility prices in response to rising inflation, but will continue to use other ways to help Singaporeans cope with the cost of living.

He was speaking at the People's Action Party annual convention after a party member had asked how the PAP-controlled government could help lower-income Singaporeans cope with rising prices.

Proposed Changes To Housing & Development Act Introduced

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 12 November 2007

Proposed amendments to the Housing and Development Act will provide owners of older flats with more help on common maintenance problems.

The amendments, which were introduced in Parliament Monday, allow for the Home Improvement Programme (HIP) to be implemented.

Under the HIP, HDB owners will get help with problems such as spalling concrete and ceiling leaks. They will also be offered a choice on what works they want to get done when their flats are upgraded.

Flats built before 1987 that have not undergone the Main Upgrading Programme are eligible for HIP.

The amended bill will also allow the Housing Development Board to conduct polling for the HIP on a block basis. Currently polling is done by precinct.

Works will be carried out if at least 75 per cent of the lessees vote in favour of such works. - CNA/ac

Inflation May Hit 5%, Then Tail Off In 2008: Lim Hng Kiang

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 12, 2007

RISING food prices recently may have worried many, but the Government has stepped in to assure Singaporeans that this phenomenon will tail off in the second half of 2008.

Speaking in Parliament on Monday, Minister for Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang told the House that prices of food items like diary products, vegetables and cereals have gone up due to the 'dearer imports from Australia and Malaysia'.

Mr Lim explained that the increase in inflation is fuelled by rising food prices and energy costs, as well as the increase in Goods and Services Tax (GST).

But he added that the GST effect will wear off by the second half of 2008.

In addition, transport costs will drop and oil prices will wash out next year.

Mr Lim stressed that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has grown on average by more than six per cent since 2003.

He said growth has been broad-based across all sectors, wages have also been growing especially last year and this year. So against this backdrop, Singaporeans should not be surprised that inflation rises above the unusually low this year.

That also means Singaporeans should be wary in interpreting the rise in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) as that of an increase in the cost of living.

Pointing out that the CPI is expected to increase by about four to five per cent by first quarter next year, Mr Lim said that the CPI measures average changes in prices across all households.

He added that the cost of living of each individual household is dependent on its spending pattern.

He went on to say that a rise in CPI can reflect a rise in technical factors rather than a rise in prices faced by consumers.

In response to Jalan Besar GRC Member of Parliament Dr Lily Neo's questions on strengthening the Singapore dollar and the components of CPI calculation, he said food accounts for 23 per cent of the CPI calculation, while transport accounts for about 21 to 22 per cent.

Mr Lim added that the Government measures the CPI affecting the different income groups and will keep tabs on the impact of inflation.

Nominated Member of Parliament Sylvia Lim also asked if the Government is looking at further diversifying food sources as well as increasing local food production.

To tackle this issue, Mr Lim said the Government can diversify food supply sources, which is what they have been doing, but he stressed that this solution is not always applicable.

Citing the worldwide rise in corn feed, Mr Lim said it's difficult to keep prices of chickens down when there is no cushioning available.

Related Video Link - http://tinyurl.com/2qvarp
S'pore getting too expensive?

Singapore's consumer price index (CPI) is expected to rise by about four to five per cent in the first quarter of 2008.

Speaking in Parliament today, Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang said the CPI will show an 'upward trend' but he also sought to put things in perspective saying this increase does not equal a rise in inflation.

In fact, Mr Lim said inflation is expected to end by the second quarter of next year.

But as Claire Huang reports, Singaporeans are feeling the pinch despite the Government's assurances.

Annual Values Of HDB Flats To Rise

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 13, 2007

GET ready to pay more property tax next year. Along with the rise in home prices, the taxman is revising the value of most properties upwards.

However, rebates given to offset the impact of the goods and services tax (GST) hike this year will soften the move's impact.

The annual values of all types of Housing Board (HDB) flats will be raised from Jan 1, said the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) in a statement yesterday. This means property taxes, which amount to 4 per cent of the annual values of owner-occupied homes, will rise.

Asked about private homes, Iras said: 'The annual values of most private residential properties have already been reassessed to reflect the current market rental levels during the year. The average increase for these private residential properties is about 20 per cent.'

Annual values of private residential properties in the central core area have generally increased between 20 per cent and 50 per cent this year.

The annual values will increase by an average of 18 per cent for HDB four-room and executive flats and 20 per cent for one-, two- and five-room flats. Three-room flats will face the greatest increase of 25 per cent.

Most HDB flat owners, however, will not pay higher taxes even after the revision, because of property tax rebates granted earlier this year to offset the impact of the GST hike.

Currently, owners of all one- and two-room flats, as well as 13 per cent of owners of three-room flats, do not pay property taxes because of earlier GST rebates.

The 2007 GST offset package gives all owners who are living in their property an extra $100 rebate annually for next year and 2009.

This means 90 per cent of all owners of HDB flats will not pay more property tax next year. In fact, 60 per cent of three-room flat owners will pay zero property tax, while 40 per cent will pay less tax than now.

About 15 per cent of owners of four- and five-room and executive flats face a hike in tax payable, but not more than $40.

The last time the annual values of HDB flats were raised was in 2004, and that doubled the number of home owners paying property tax. The increase brought in an extra $40 million a year for the Government.

IRAS To Raise Annual Values Of HDB Flats

Source : The Business Times, November 13, 2007

Market rental values have increased significantly, it says

THE Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) is raising annual values (AVs) for all Housing & Development Board (HDB) flat types for the first time in about four years, to reflect the 'significant increase in their market rental values'.

From Jan 1, 2008, the average AVs will go up between 18 and 25 per cent, with the biggest hike for three-room flats.

IRAS' spokeswoman noted that IRAS regularly reviews AVs of properties in Singapore to reflect their prevailing rental values.

'In the case of HDB flats, however, AVs had not been increased since 2004 as they had been supportable by actual rental evidence. The AVs of most private residential properties have already been re-assessed to reflect the current market rental levels during the year,' she added.

In a joint statement with the Ministry of Finance, IRAS yesterday said it will be revising upwards the AVs of most properties, including HDB flats.

Generally, HDB flats in more centralised and popular areas like Bishan, Bukit Merah and Marine Parade would have higher AV increases, compared with other areas, the statement added.

The property tax rate in Singapore is set at 10 per cent of a property's AV, although owner-occupied residential properties enjoy a concessionary 4 per cent tax rate.

Island-wide, the average AV hike in percentage terms for the various HDB flat types are: 20 per cent for one-room and two-room flats, 25 per cent for three-room flats, 18 per cent for four-room flats, 20 per cent for five-room flats, and 18 per cent for executive flats.

However, the increase in AVs for owner-occupied HDB flats does not translate to a proportionate increase in property tax actually payable, due to the property tax rebates granted by the Government, including those announced as part of the GST Offset Package in Budget 2007.

As a result, 90 per cent of all HDB flat owners will not pay more property tax in 2008 even after the AVs of their flats go up.

For four-room, five-room and executive flat owners, about 15 per cent will pay a higher property tax but the increase will be less than $40, or about $3 a month.

All HDB flat owners will receive their valuation notices and property tax bills by Jan 1.

'IRAS encourages HDB flat owners to join the Giro scheme as it allows them to enjoy up to 12 interest-free monthly instalments,' the joint statement said.

S'pore To Revalue Gov't Flats, May Boost CPI

Source : The Business Times, November 12, 2007

Singapore said on Monday it will raise the annual value of government flats on which property taxes are calculated - a move that may boost inflation seen surging by up to 5 per cent early next year.

A government statement said the increases would take effect on January 1.

Housing makes up 21 per cent of the government's consumer price index, which hit a 12-year high of 2.9 per cent in August despite a minimal increase in the housing component.

Economists estimate that most of the CPI housing segment is from the value of government-built flats, in which over 80 per cent of Singaporeans live. This means inflation figures have not reflected a booming private property market that has seen residential prices soar to their highest in a decade, they say.

The average increase will be between 18 and 25 per cent for the government flats, depending on size, with those in central or more popular areas set higher, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore said in the statement, according to local media.

The government unexpectedly said on Monday that annual inflation, which averaged just 1 per cent in 2006, could almost double from current levels in the first quarter of next year. -- REUTERS

Property Market: No Further Plans To Cool It

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 13, 2007

Govt assurance dampens speculation on capital gains tax

THE Government is not planning any fresh measures to cool the property market for now, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said yesterday.

GOOD NEWS: The announcement should bring relief to property market players, hit by uncertainty after the deferred payment scheme was scrapped. -- BT FILE PHOTO

His statement effectively hosed down speculation that a capital gains tax might be reintroduced to stop people flipping units for quick gains.

The news brought some relief to players in the property market, which has been hit by uncertainty after the scrapping of the deferred payment scheme two weeks ago.

The 10-year-old scheme, allowing people to buy property with a downpayment but no further payments until the completion of the project, was abolished to curb speculation.

Now, buyers have to make progressive payments while their homes are being built.

The change spooked developers, and was seen as the reason why there were only two bids when the tender for a residential site in Enggor Street in Tanjong Pagar closed on Nov 1.

That followed a sizzling 22.9 per cent growth in private home prices in the first nine months this year. Sub-sales, when uncompleted properties change hands, made up almost 22 per cent of total sales in central Singapore from July to September.

Addressing questions on the scrapping of the scheme in Parliament yesterday, Mr Mah said it was too early to ascertain its overall impact.

But he did not think genuine home buyers would be unduly affected because they could still get home loans from banks. Over time, the change will encourage the property market to grow in a 'more healthy and sustained manner', he said.

Responding to a question from MP Ho Geok Choo (West Coast GRC), he said the Government will closely monitor the market to ensure that prices are supported by economic fundamentals, and that there are sufficient private homes.

He said there is no need for any new measure, and that the Government is not considering any for the property market now. 'Our bias is really not to over-regulate or to interfere in the market if we don't have to,' he said.

If a capital gains tax - which was introduced in 1996 but lifted in 2001 - was imposed again, it would dampen foreign investor sentiment, said the director of research and consultancy at Colliers International, Ms Tay Huey Ying.

'This is good news for the market. It brings stability.'

Mr Mah stressed that there was no reason to panic over a perceived shortage of homes, as there was a stock of 65,000 private homes in the pipeline at the end of September this year.

About two-thirds are likely to be built and made available over the next three years.

Still, househunters such as bank executive Luanne Lim were disappointed at the Government's declaration. The 33-year-old bank executive, who feels private homes have become 'unaffordable', said: 'I think people can still afford to speculate without the deferred payment scheme.'

On the public housing front, Mr Mah said the Housing Board was ramping up its building programme to meet demand for new homes.

MP Cynthia Phua (Aljunied GRC) asked about the supply in the next three years, saying newly-weds found it harder to get new HDB flats.

But Mr Mah said about 4,000 flats will be launched under HDB's build-to-order programme this half year.

He did not think the HDB should meet all demand for new flats. If it did, it would be laying the groundwork for a future oversupply problem.

These same newly-weds would then find it hard to sell their homes if they wanted to upgrade. It was better to channel some of the demand for new flats to the resale market, he said.


'Our bias is really not to over-regulate or to interfere in the market if we don't have to.'

NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT MINISTER MAH BOW TAN, saying there is no need for any fresh measures to cool the property market for now


'This is good news for the market. It brings stability.'

MS TAY HUEY YING, director of research and consultancy at Colliers International, on the assurance that no new measures are in the pipeline

No Plans For More Measures To Cool Property Market: Mah Bow Tan

Source : The Business Times, November 13, 2007

No further measures are planned to cool Singapore's booming property market, the government said yesterday, following the end of the deferred payment scheme (DPS) for buying uncompleted private properties.

'There is no need and there is no intention for us to take any further action,' National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said in Parliament yesterday.

The DPS allowed homebuyers to put down just a 10 per cent or 20 per cent of the price when purchasing a property, with the rest due only upon the project's completion.

Critics said that this was fuelling speculative activity and driving up property prices - leading to the government's Oct 26 announcement that it was withdrawing the scheme.

When asked in Parliament yesterday if the government would look at more measures - such as increasing interest rates - to rein in property prices, Mr Mah said that no further measures are planned. But the government, he said, will continue to monitor the property market closely to ensure that property prices are supported by economic fundamentals.

He added: 'The government will make sure that there is sufficient supply to meet the demand of private housing.' As at the end of September, there were about 65,000 units planned or under construction, he said. Private home prices in Singapore have climbed 22.9 per cent since the start of the year on the back of a supply crunch, official data shows.

The increase in property prices and rentals has contributed to inflation hitting a 12-year high of 2.9 per cent year-on-year in August - and the figure could rise further.

During Parliament yesterday, Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang said that inflation could hit 5 per cent in the first quarter of next year.

Mr Mah told Parliament that while it is too early to ascertain the overall impact of withdrawing the DPS, he is confident that the move will pay off.

'I believe that over time, the withdrawal will encourage homeowners to be more financially prudent and dampen some of the speculative activity in the market,' he said.

In the longer term, the withdrawal will encourage the property market to grow in a healthier and more sustained manner, he added.

The DPS was introduced in 1997 when the economy was in recession and the property market was slow. Before the end of the scheme, up to 90 per cent of buyers in some high-profile projects launched by Singaporean developers were opting for such payment schemes, reports have said.

The government said that ending the scheme would compel investors to have enough funds or bank loans available before they agree to buy properties.

Withdrawal Of Deferred Payment Scheme Will Not Affect Genuine Homebuyers: Mah

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 13, 2007

The withdrawal of the deferred payment scheme for property should not unduly affect genuine homebuyers as they can continue to get home loans from banks, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said in Parliament on Monday.

Instead, it would dampen speculative activity and encourage buyers to be more prudent with their finances. Over time, it will encourage the property market to grow in a 'more healthy and sustainable manner', said the minister.

The scheme, which allows people to purchase property with a downpayment and pay the rest upon the completion of the project, has been used by 'flippers' as a speculative tool.

After it was srapped on Oct 26, buyers have to make progressive payments in step with the construction process of their development.

Mr Mah stressed that, at the end of September, there was a stock of 65,000 private homes in the pipeline, so there was no reason for Singaporean home buyers to panic.

He said, in response to a question by MP Ho Geok Choo, that the Government will closely monitor the market to ensure that prices are supported by economic fundamentals.

It was not considering any new measure for the market at the moment, said the minister.

Replying to MP Madam Cynthia Phua on meeting the demand for homes, Mr Mah said that the HDB was ramping up its building programme.

He added, however, that the HDB could not meet all new demand for flats, and that some of these buyers would have to turn to the resale market.

If the HDB built to meet all new demand, it would create an oversupply problem should these homeowners want to sell their property in the future.

Related Video Link - http://tinyurl.com/36w88w
Enough supply to meet housing crunch?

The withdrawal of the deferred payment scheme for property should not unduly affect genuine homebuyers as they can continue to get home loans from banks.

National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan made this point in Parliament today even as he stressed that homebuyers need not panic as there was enough housing supply to meet market demand.

Responding to MPs queries, Mr Mah also reiterated that the Government cannot keep on building new flats to cater to 'all demand that comes on stream'.

Youth Olympics And F1 For Gardens By The Bay?

Source : The Straits Times Video News

Singapore's Gardens by the Bay, the world's first public gardens in the tropics, will incorporate F1 racing and perhaps, possibly be a venue for the Youth Olympics should Singapore win the bid to play host city in 2010.

The landmark attraction will also add economic value to Singapore. with the surrounding land and property value to go up significantly - possibly up to $8 billion over the life of the development - as the area will become more desirable to work and live in.

National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan made these points at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Gardens this morning.

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Youth Olympics and F1 for Gardens by the Bay?

Govt Plans No New Steps To Cool Property Market: Mah

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 12, 2007

SINGAPORE is not planning to take further steps to cool down the city-state's booming property market after it withdrew a scheme last month that allowed buyers to delay payments for property, the government said on Monday.

Residential property prices in Singapore have soared to their highest levels in a decade, fueled by a supply crunch and a strong economy as well as liberal payment schemes that allow buyers to make a 10 to 20 per cent deposit and delay the bulk of payments until a project nears completion.

'There is no need and there's no intention for us to take any further action,' Mah Bow Tan, Minister for national development, told parliament.

'The government will continue to closely monitor the property market to ensure that our prices are supported by economic fundamentals.'

'The government will make sure that there is sufficient supply to meet the demand of private housing.'

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'No reason to panic' over private property supply: Mah

National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan has reiterated that the Government will not take any further action to cool down the red-hot property market.

Speaking to the House, Mr Mah stressed that the Government will not interfere or over-regulate the market.

In any case, the Minister added, there is sufficient supply to meet demand in the private property sector.

The sharp rise in prices has left some government leaders worried this could threaten Singapore's competitiveness with rival Hong Kong, where property prices are higher.

Inflation in the city-state hit a 12-year high of 2.9 per cent year-on-year in August and the government said on Monday consumer prices could potentially surge up to 5 per cent in the first quarter of next year.

Singapore's government said last month it withdrew the deferred payment scheme for the sale of uncompleted private residential and commercial properties.

The scheme was introduced in 1997 when the economy was in recession.

Up to 90 per cent of buyers in projects by Singapore property developers such as City Developments and Keppel Land opted for such payment schemes.

The government said the move would encourage greater financial prudence among investors by compelling them to seek sufficient funds or adequate bank loans before they commit to buying a property.

According to official date, Singapore private home prices rose 8.3 per cent between July and September, or more than 21 per cent since the start of the year. -- REUTERS