Thursday, November 29, 2007

6 SLA Residential Infill Sites Sold For S$31m

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 29 November 2007

There has been strong response at an auction of six residential infill sites by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA).

The sites fetched a combined S$31 million.

They were launched for sale last month on 99-year leases.

Infill sites are small, and usually have adjacent buildings on either side.

The most popular plot is located at Somme Road, and it received 64 bids. The site was finally sold to a company called Sarda for S$3.8 million.

This works out to about S$3,800 per square metre per plot ratio.

Two Good Class Bungalow sites in Eng Neo Avenue also saw good response. One was sold for S$6 million and the other for S$12 million.

The SLA said it will consider releasing more infill sites to meet demand. - yb

HDB Launches Mobile Bidding Service "M-bid"

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 29 November 2007

HDB is launching a new mobile bidding service called "M-bid" on Thursday.

With better mobile capabilities powered by 3G networks and wireless@SG programme, mobile users can now register, search for properties, bid and track the results at

A wide range of properties such as factories, shops, offices and child care centres are available for bidding.

The mobile service is similar to the HDB internet website,, where industrial and commercial premises are posted for viewing and open bidding in real time.

The facility will be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Businessmen who are looking for a business premises to rent can source for them anytime, anywhere. - CNA/ch

1.4m US Home Foreclosures Expected Next Year

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 29, 2007

DETROIT - AN ESCALATING mortgage crisis will push another 1.4 million US homes into foreclosure and drive nationwide property values lower by 7 per cent next year, according to a report by a group representing city mayors.

The report, released on Tuesday by the US Conference of Mayors, predicted that states and cities will be left scrambling to make up for lost property tax revenue, particularly in markets such as California and Florida, where home values had soared.

The forecast, prepared by economic consulting firm Global Insight, was released as the non-partisan mayors group began a special meeting here intended to address the foreclosure crisis and its connection to problems such as neighbourhood blight and crime.

It forecasted that US home owners will see property values fall by US$1.2 trillion (S$1.73 trillion) next year, with almost half of those overall losses coming in California.

California property values are expected to drop by 16 per cent next year, the report said, costing the most populous state almost US$3 billion in property taxes.

The report said the weakening US property market would have knocked some US$676 billion from home values.

Another US$519 billion in losses could be tied directly to the financial problems facing borrowers who are unable to meet escalating monthly mortgage payments, it said.

During the property boom of 2004 and 2005, thousands of borrowers with riskier, or sub-prime, credit took out adjustable rate mortgages that had very low 'teaser' interest rates for the initial two years before resetting at much higher rates.

As those interest rates have started to reset, home foreclosure rates have jumped, especially in once-hot real estate markets such as Nevada, California and Florida.

The report forecasted that the US economy will grow by just 1.9 per cent next year, with hiring and consumer spending both curtailed.

Representatives of the US Conference of Mayors were expected this week to join calls for mortgage investors and loan servicing companies to make a collective effort to work out new payment terms with borrowers to try to contain the number of foreclosures.

The Conference of Mayors represents more than 1,100 cities in the United States with a population of 30,000 or more. - REUTERS

KSH Wins $118m Deals From Ho Bee

Source : The Business Times, 29 November 2007

CONSTRUCTION company KSH Holdings has secured two contracts from the Ho Bee Group worth more than $118 million to build high-end residences at Sentosa Cove and Orange Grove.

The deals take the value of construction contracts secured by KSH this year to $512.8 million. The company's order book now stands at a record $498 million.

One of the new contracts, worth about $64.8 million, is for Ho Bee's Turquoise @ Sentosa Cove condominium and showflat. Work will start in February 2008 and be completed within 26 months.

The contract takes the total value of KSH's projects at Sentosa Cove to more than $292.8 million. Besides Turquoise @ Sentosa Cove, it is building Ho Bee's The Coast @ Sentosa Cove.

The other contract announced yesterday is for The Orange Grove in Stevens Road. The contract value is about $53.2 million.

The development will have 72 units with attics. Work is scheduled to start this month and be completed in 28 months.

Related link:
KSH's news release

KSH chairman and managing director Choo Chee Onn said that his company has had a strong working relationship with Ho Bee since November 2000.

'With our solid track record of high-profile construction projects, we are confident of benefiting from the construction boom and achieving even greater heights,' he said.

KSH was listed on the Singapore Exchange in February at 36 cents a share but its stock closed at 94 cents yesterday - a jump of about 160 per cent.

On Tuesday, the company proposed a one-into-two stock split to improve the liquidity of the shares and enhance their affordability.

Stamford Land In A$220m Sydney Project

Source : The Business Times, 29 November 2007

SINGAPORE-LISTED Stamford Land, the hotel and property arm of shipping tycoon Ow Chio Kiat, is planning to build some of Australia's most expensive homes on the site of two old demolished warehouses and a heritage building.

Mr Ow bought the 99-year leasehold site on Sydney's The Rocks area fronting Gloucester Street and Cumberland Street for A$22 million in June 2004 and is developing a 30-storey building with 122 apartments, five luxury terraces and commercial and retail space, at a total cost of some A$220 million (S$279 million).

Even before the official launch, 55 per cent of the project is said to have been sold, at an average price of just over A$1,000 per square foot (psf).

The 427 square metre penthouse at The Stamford Residences and The Reynell Terraces is expected to fetch A$14 million, which, according to The Daily Telegraph, will beat the A$12 million paid for another apartment at The Bennelong. This would be just short of the record A$16.5 million paid for three adjoining apartments formerly owned by one of Australia's richest men, John Symond, who founded lending giant Aussie Home Loans and who in 2004 had a fortune estimated at A$365 million.

The cheapest apartment, a 62 sq m one-bedroom unit, is expected to go for A$645,000, or about S$1,200 psf - high, but way below the $4,000 psf apartments at Singapore's Orchard Turn are fetching.

A brochure for the project says: 'This unique development will create history as the last grand residential tower permitted in The Rocks - Sydney's first neighbourhood.'

According to The Daily Telegraph, The Stamford Residences is the final tower to be approved under the Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority Planning Scheme. The scheme allowed for a single tower to be built in each of the six blocks south of the Cahill Expressway as a way to provide funding to upgrade other heritage buildings in The Rocks area.

In the past 25 years, the scheme has resulted in the Four Seasons Hotel, Grosvenor Tower, Quay West Apartments, the Shangri-la Hotel and the Cove Apartments.

The Telegraph quoted National Trust of Australia conservation director Graham Quint as saying: 'We warm to the idea that this is the last large development of this scale and size. You wouldn't want this encroaching further into the heart of The Rocks . . . This sort of thing is the trade-off to protect the rest of The Rocks . . . The area is becoming glitzier and glitzier but people and tourists don't want to see something they can in their own country. You don't want to lose all that character.'

Stamford Land, with a market capitalisation of about $500 million, owns seven of Australia's best hotels and one in New Zealand. It has also gone into the development of high-end property in the two territories, having developed three luxury residential projects in Sydney - Stamford on Kent, 187 Kent, and Stamford Marque.

Besides The Rocks, it has two other residential projects - The Stamford Residences in Auckland and The Stamford Cosmopolitan in Double Bay - and an office tower in Perth under development.

Mr Ow, Stamford Land's executive chairman, told BT: 'Stamford will continue to make its residential developments synonymous with its five-star luxury hotel brand. We are committed to focus on the upmarket end of the housing market throughout the region.'

Life Can Go On, With Or Without A Home Of Your Own

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 29, 2007

MARKETING manager Eva Chia accepted her boyfriend’s proposal in the middle of this year, but their joy was short- lived when the hunt for a marital home turned up nothing for months on end.

Their combined income busted the ceiling for subsidised housing but they baulked at the prices of resale Housing Board (HDB) flats and private apartments.

Up until Tuesday, when they finally found a flat, they were prepared to postpone their marriage.

‘What’s the point in getting married when you have to stay in separate homes?’ said Eva, 27, in an e-mail.

The housing crunch has hit operations officer Mohammed Samsudin, 29, and his wife in a different way, but their distress has a similar ring.

They qualify for subsidised housing but fear they will miss out on a new HDB flat because of the immense demand. The couple, who live in a rented room in an HDB flat, are adamant about not having a child until they get a home of their own.

‘Definitely not in a rented room. Only in my own house,’ said Mr Mohammed.

In the minds of these and many other couples, married life - or family life - cannot start without a home of their own.

As the booming market puts some properties out of reach, couples who fail to get new flats in the HDB’s regular ballots argue that the Government is not doing enough to curb speculation.

Some nurse conspiracy theories about rogue housing agents trying to boost the sale of resale flats - and their income - by bumping up demand for new HDB flats with fake applications. Others point the fingers at foreign money, which they say is fuelling runaway home prices.

But others, like Ms Jenny Yap, who wrote to The Straits Times Forum recently charging that these couples are simply being choosy, think otherwise. They want the best home, in the best location, at the best price and gripe when they have to compromise, she said.

Harsher critics label such couples as being spoilt, pointing out that not too long ago, 10-member, three-generation families lived in three-room flats, and were none the worse for it.

While it may be true that some couples are too finicky for their own good, many cannot fathom married life without owning a home simply because they have been conditioned along these lines.

Singapore’s housing policy is overwhelmingly weighted towards home ownership, which in turn is heavily hinged on marriage. Married couples are entitled to subsidised home loans, a new HDB flat or a slew of housing grants, as well as the chance to buy condominium-style housing that could be 30 per cent cheaper than private homes.

Married couples are also encouraged to own, instead of rent, through generous aid schemes that help low-income tenants buy their first flat.

Only about 48,000 - or 5 per cent - of the 880,000 HDB flats islandwide are rental units for low-income families. As at September, about 16,000 HDB flats were rented out on the open market.

An even more striking fact is that nine in 10 Singaporeans own their homes, compared with less than 10 per cent 40 years ago.

Home ownership is so deeply rooted in the national psyche that some propose marriage by way of asking the other party to apply for an HDB flat together.

Along with this comes a deep sense of entitlement that a new HDB flat - and the chance of trading up for a bigger one a few years down the road - should come along with marriage.

It is an entitlement the Government takes seriously, judging by the reassurances given yesterday by National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan, who announced plans for 7,000 new flats to be launched for sale by ballot in the next seven months.

National Institute of Education professor Ooi Giok Ling says that while Asians tend to place relatively more value on home ownership, the link between marriage and home ownership seems even more prevalent in Singapore.

The contrast is more apparent when attitudes here are compared with those in Europe, Australia or North America, where young people commonly leave home when they go to university or start working.

Many get used to the idea of renting early in life while some with higher incomes buy a modest home on their own.

Prof Ooi said: ‘When they decide to get married, homes and home ownership might not be such a major factor to consider.’

But Singaporeans’ love affair with property is so entrenched that many couples feel their life together cannot start without a mortgage.

To be fair, having your own home does have its upside: You do not have to worry about your landlord raising your rent or throwing you out, and it does provide a more stable environment in which to bring up children. It could also work out to be cheaper too, on a monthly basis.

But danger arises when we start hinging major life decisions on the vagaries of the property market. What does it say about us as a society? What does it say about what we value?

Perhaps it is time to take a step back and get a sense of perspective about what really matters to us. Life can go on, with or without a home of our own.


Owning a home is so much a part of the national psyche that some propose marriage by asking to apply for an HDB flat.

Allco Reit Calls Off Plans To Raise $150m

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 29, 2007

ALLCO Commercial Real Estate Investment Trust (Reit), which owns commercial buildings in Singapore, Australia and Japan, has cancelled a plan to raise up to $150 million, citing market conditions.

The trust said it was not proceeding with its plan to raise capital by offering up to 175.2 million new units to existing unit holders.

‘There is no pressing need for Allco Reit to be raising capital at this time,’ said Mr Nicholas McGrath, the chief executive of Allco Reit’s manager.

The Reit had meant to use capital raised from the offering to pay off some of the debt taken on when it bought properties in Singapore and Japan.

‘However, given current market conditions, the manager has concluded that it is not prudent to raise equity at this time,’ the Reit said in a statement.

Earlier this month, Saizen Reit - which owns properties in Japan - saw the price of its units plunge 13 per cent on its debut.

As well, APL Japan Trust - which has a portfolio of residential buildings in 12 Japanese cities - postponed its initial public offering.

It said that it was concerned about post-listing weakness amid poor market sentiment.

Singapore’s Economic Policy Posers

Source : The Business Times, 29 November 2007

OCCASIONALLY, it’s apparent that the economic indicators don’t quite square with the reality on the ground. The Singapore economy’s robust GDP figures do reflect the buoyant conditions at hand, but it’s also one instance when the numbers don’t quite tell the whole story.

With GDP growth expected at between 7.5 and 8 per cent for 2007 - well surpassing early official estimates of 4-6 per cent at the start of the year - it should, by all accounts, go down as another banner year, one more notch in Singapore’s growth record. And indeed, the strong economic performance will translate into a fatter bonus for civil servants at year-end, and presumably for many private sector employees as well, if their companies had a great ride of the economic boom. It’s the fourth year in a row, after all, that the economy has grown above its trend potential.

In any case, sub-8 per cent growth is smashing good growth for an economy that’s no fledgling. But inevitably perhaps, the remarkably charmed co-existence of high growth and low inflation that Singapore has enjoyed in recent years is finally fizzling out. While almost a pedestrian rate by world standards, Singapore’s 3.6 per cent October inflation rate, a 16-year high, amounts to something like a return of inflation with a vengeance, driven by a mix of domestic and imported factors.

The recent spike in inflation has led to calls for measures to - almost ironically, one would think - curtail demand and growth in an over-stretched economy. Much as the government has maintained that the economy is not overheating, it has moved quickly enough to snuff out bubbling price pressures - it scrapped a key deferred payments scheme for property purchases, it postponed several major construction projects, it allowed the Singapore dollar to appreciate by a bit more than usual in a bid to contain imported inflation, and it is now further relaxing the foreign worker quotas.

The question is: Will a further strengthening of the Singapore dollar next April (as is widely expected) suffice to deal with the mounting inflationary pressures, or are additional cooling measures needed? Notably, for all the buzz in the economy, business sentiment has weakened of late, with companies less upbeat about the next six months, and even emerging signs of a slowdown in activity, a BT-UniSIM survey found. Similar official surveys also found cautious optimism among manufacturers, and some dampened spirits in the service sectors.

Among workers, amid a tight labour market and big pay jumps, the problem of a skills mismatch and structural unemployment among older, low-educated Singaporeans hasn’t entirely disappeared overnight. So, are cooling measures in order? A US recession, or even a sharp slowdown, if it happens, will probably take care of any runaway growth in Singapore.

Then again, minus other measures, how far can exporters and the economy stomach a strengthening Singapore dollar, which could erode the economy’s competitive edge? There are quite some policy posers in these seeming rollicking good times.

Popular’s Property Ventures Not A Sure Winner

Source : The Business Times, 29 November 2007

POPULAR Holdings is best known for its bookstores and schoolbooks, but there is now more to it than meets the eye. For the household name has been making big bets on real estate in Singapore, and its fortunes going forward are likely to be driven more by property than by publishing.

It’s a shift that started just last year but has since picked up dramatically enough to alter the complexion of the group.

Last week alone, the group announced two new property investments. It purchased all the strata units at View Point at Jalan Datoh for $16.5 million and at Shiba Apartments at Jalan Raja Udang for $15.5 million.

Earlier in May this year, Popular bought 10 residential units at 18 Shelford Road for $27.2 million for redevelopment.

Its first major property foray was back in May last year, when the group bought eight residential units with a total land area of 15,070 sq ft at Robin Road, at a cost of $12.5 million. The company plans to sell the units once development is completed.

So in just over a year, the group has invested almost $72 million in the property business.

In sharp contrast, Popular’s investments in publishing-related businesses have been less eye-catching. It has made only two recent publishing-related announcements. This month, the group, through its subsidiaries in Hong Kong, raised the paid-up capital of eNet Digital Pacific Ltd from $2HK.00 to $10HK,000. In September, Popular acquired two ordinary shares of RM1 each in the capital of Seashore Publishing (M) Sdn Bhd, which is in the business of publishing and distributing books, articles and other printed materials.

Property, clearly, has become an area of major focus for Popular. In its announcements, the group had tended to characterise its property forays as opportunistic. ‘While retail, distribution and publishing will remain the group’s main business focus, property development will be a potential area of growth that the group is looking into, to capitalise on the potential and promising returns of the current property market,’ it said while making one of its property investments.

But it is clearly more than that. In its latest annual report, chairman Chou Cheng Ngok told shareholders that Popular is entering into a new business segment, property, through a new unit, Popular Land Pte Ltd. And its ambitions span beyond residential property. ‘We are also looking into commercial property business opportunities as well as for potential future self-use,’ Mr Chou said. ‘We will give the same passion for property development as we have shown for our book and publishing businesses. This ‘diversification’ will enhance our shareholders’ value in the long term.’

The question, of course, is whether this will really be the case. While one-off projects could well give a short-term fillip to earnings, going into property on the basis that Popular is thinking of entails more risks. The lessons from the past show clearly that it is very difficult for non-property players to play the real estate game well. Many will recall how many non-property companies all rushed into property during the property bull run in the mid-1990s, and got their fingers burnt when the bubble was pricked in 1996/97. While the current state of the property market is still bullish, several factors, such as overstretched valuations in some segments, the threat of more government intervention to cool prices, and concerns about the impact of a potential US recession on local sentiment, will make it challenging for property players.

So it is by no means certain, despite the company’s optimism, that Popular’s property ventures would achieve the results it is hoping for. It is also debatable if going the property route is the best way for Popular to increase shareholders’ value - it could have invested its surplus cash in its core business, or return it to shareholders if there are no suitable investments. What has clearly changed is that Popular is no longer just the stable, if rather staid, publisher and retailer of education staples. If the potential returns from property development are high, so will be the risks.

Stephen Riady: Man With A Vision

Source : The Business Times, 29 November 2007

CHOW PENN NEE speaks to Lippo Group’s Stephen Riady whose business acumen has led the firm make several strategic property investments.

THE Lippo Group should be familiar to Singaporeans by now, with its brand name plastered on more than a dozen property developments across the island, and less obviously, behind the ownership of retailers Robinsons and River Island.

At the helm of Indonesian conglomerate Lippo’s business empire in Singapore is Stephen Riady, whose entrepreneurial spirit is well known.

Mr Riady, executive director of Auric Pacific Group, clinched the Strategic Investment Entrepreneur of the Year award in Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year Awards for Singapore this year. Among the criteria for the award are traits like strong financial performance, personal integrity and entrepreneurial spirit.

His group’s move into property has been strategic, given current, sky-high property prices, and the fact that he went into the market much earlier on.

‘We started off with the purchase of Lippo Centre on Shenton Way at the end of 2004,’ Mr Riady told BT in an earlier interview. ‘You think people come to us asking us to buy? No. We went out, and at that time, there were no bidders,’ he recounted.’ Wise investors are those who have a vision, they are the ones who see something that other people have not seen … Then they start taking action, instead of just waiting there.’- Stephen Riady, Auric Pacific Group executive director

The building has since been sold for $350 million - or more than double the $151 million purchase price - earlier this year. ‘There were signs that the Singapore economy was in good shape in 2005 and 2006, so we continued buying,’ he said.

Citing the hallmarks of a good entrepreneur, he said one must have the ability to understand timing and be willing to invest and take risks. ‘We should be willing to go outside our comfort zone.’

Recounting how he started investing in Singapore, he said: ‘When the Singapore government talked about plans to remake this place, lots of people heard about it. But we believed in it and took action early.’ And that, he says differentiates the wise investors from the foolish ones.

‘Wise investors are those who have a vision, they are the ones who see something that other people have not seen,’ he says. ‘Then they start taking action, instead of just waiting.’

Foolish investors, on the other hand, wait for opportunities to come but they still don’t take it, he said. ‘The opportunity leaves and then they say they regret not having taken it.’ The Lippo group has so far amassed nine residential developments, five commercial properties and two retail brands, with a total value of $4 billion in Singapore.

The Lippo group has so far amassed nine residential developments, five commercial properties and two retail brands in Singapore, with a total value of $4 billion.

Mr Riady hopes to go further, increasing the value of the group’s portfolio from $7US billion in assets at present to $20US billion within five years.

The group’s retail arm is also expanding aggressively. The business includes Auric Pacific - a distributor of fast-moving consumer food and non-food products, Robinsons, and various clothing stores.

‘The plan for our retailing business is to grow turnover from the present $2US billion to $5US billion in five years’ time,’ said Mr Riady.

His entrepreneurial instincts showed up early. Every school holiday, Mr Riady would return to the family business - set up by his father Mochtar Riady - to learn the ropes. The elder Riady started the Lippo business with a bank and has since built up a vast conglomerate spanning property, banking, and retail.

‘My dad didn’t say that I had to join the business, but since we already had it, somehow in university you just naturally major in business. You don’t think about it.’

He considers working in a family business advantageous as there is a ‘consultative environment in which both timeliness and calculated risk-taking strategies can be explored, discussed and implemented’.

‘To any entrepreneur, these two elements are key to the success of a business,’ he said.

At 46, the businessman is at the top of his game, and continually trying to improve. ‘A lot of people have mid-life crises because they get stuck and they are not inclined to grow or learn anymore,’ he said.

‘I really believe in growing because without growth, we will have crises and problems. We must train ourselves to learn.’

More Supply But HDB Prices Will Go Up: Mah

Source : The Business Times, 29 November 2007

Board may offer another 6,000 units through build to order scheme.

The Housing and Development Board will continue to monitor demand and could offer another 6,000 units through its build-to-order (BTO) system. However, prices are also likely to go up.

Saying that he did not want to ‘fudge the issue’, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said: ‘Prices will go up as a result of resale prices going up.’ Mr Mah was speaking at the launch of two new housing projects under the BTO system.

The projects, Segar Meadows in Bukit Panjang town and Compassvale Beacon in Sengkang town comprise a total of 1,162 flats.

Three- and four-room flats (68 sq m-93 sq m) at Segar Meadows will cost between $116,000 and $231,000, while two- to four-room (48 sq m to 97 sq m) flats at Compassvale Beacon will cost between $69,000 and $233,000.

Although the precise formula for fixing prices was not revealed, Mr Mah explained that it would be based on average resale prices rather than the ’spectacular prices’ reported for some flats recently.

Mr Mah also let on that he had received a few letters and e-mails from constituents saying that they had not been successful in getting flats through the BTO system.

But he reiterated that the government was committed to providing a variety of affordable public housing to meet the ‘aspirations’ of first-time buyers and young couples.

To this end, he revealed that 4,800 units have been launched through BTO this year, twice the number compared to 2006.

On affordability, Mr Mah said that the majority of households spent a manageable 20-25 per cent of their monthly household income servicing loans for their flats. He also added that since the implementation of the Additional Housing Grant scheme in March 2006, 4,100 eligible households have benefited from grants amounting to about $50 million.

And demand from first time buyers has been strong. According to HDB, about 92 per cent of those who applied for the 4-room flats for the two BTO launches in August and September and were successfully short-listed within the first 100 per cent flat supply were first timers.

Mr Mah also had this advice for those looking to buy a flat now: ‘If you cannot afford a big flat, then buy a smaller flat. If you can’t get a new flat, then get a resale flat. In life, we make trade-offs all the time.’

To meet the needs of the ’sandwiched class’, Mr Mah revealed that HDB will be making more sites for executive condominiums (ECs) and the Design, Build and Sell scheme (DBSS) available in the first half of 2008.

Up to three EC sites with a total of 1,300 units, and four DBSS sites with a total of 1,900 units are set to go on the reserve list of Government Land Sales Programme for H1 2008.

Knight Frank director (research and consultancy) Nicholas Mak said that the supply of more public housing flats could cool resale flat prices but the impact will be felt next year. ‘It could be a signal that the government will release more sites to control runaway prices in the resale market,’ he added.

Managing new supply and demand will be a tricky job for HDB because it does not want to be stuck with a surplus of flats.

A tight hold on supply could, however, push up prices.

But demand seems stable. Mr Mak points out that so far, demand as measured by the number of applications received for new flats between 2000 and 2007 has ranged from 7,900 to 13,800. This pales in comparison to the 60,000 to 70,000 applications received in the mid-1990’s, he said.

Mr Mak also added that he expects the impact on the private property market to be minimal.

Where High Finance Meets High Living

Source : The Business Times, 29 November 2007

The new downtown will boast a casino, a financial hub, condos and retail areas

TIRED of Orchard Road? Jaded by Clarke Quay? Finding Robertson Walk just a trifle same-old, same-old? For the Singapore consumer - probably among the most avid in the world - Marina Bay may be the next big thing.

The next big thing: An artist's impression of what Marina Bay may look like in the near future. Events being held in and around the public areas like the Chingay street parade and the upcoming Grand Prix F1 race, will help to pull in the crowds

The new downtown will be home to a casino, a financial centre and several sparkling condominiums, so not surprisingly, shops and restaurants are eager for a presence there.

‘The Marina Bay area presents many exciting opportunities for both the business and leisure market,’ said Sulian Tan-Wijaya, general manager of The Fullerton Heritage, which is developing a string of commercial properties along the waterfront.

‘Our development is at the heart of the Central Business District, the Marina Bay Sands casino, the Esplanade theatres, new high-end residences like The Sail and The Clift, and the nearby Civic District,’ she said.

Edgar Huang, manager of marketing services for Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay, said the arts-performance centre expects to see ‘even more buzz in the area, with more people coming to work and live and play here’. The theatres, open since 2002 and famous for their domes that have been likened to durians, are also adjacent to a shopping mall.

David Martin, general manager of Marina Bay Financial Centre (MBFC), which will consist of high-rise office towers as well as retail space, estimates there will be 50,000 people living and working in the ‘immediate vicinity’ of the financial hub from 2011.

Along with the visitors who are sure to flock to the adjacent Sands, ‘we believe this creates a compelling offer to potential retail tenants, and this is also the feedback we are getting from the market’, he said.

Events being held in and around the public areas of Marina Bay will also help draw in the crowds, said the Esplanade’s MrHuang.

‘Marina Bay is also currently host to many celebrations like National Day, the Fireworks Festival and the New Year’s Day celebrations,’ he said.

Upcoming events like the Chingay street parade and the Grand Prix Formula One race, which Singapore will host in September next year, will also attract visitors, he added.

To entice what promises to be a diverse range of consumers, each developer is adopting a slightly different marketing tack.

The Fullerton development, for example, is aiming to be high-end and historical.

‘In addition to the Fullerton Hotel and a new waterfront 100-room luxury hotel, the Fullerton Heritage Precinct will offer a range of chic, trendy and elegant retail and dining experiences,’ said Ms Tan-Wijaya.

‘These include conservation buildings such as The Fullerton Waterboat House, Clifford Pier and Customs House, as well as One Fullerton,’ she said.

One Fullerton will revamp its second floor and offer even more food and beverage outlets, which should attract tourists who visit the nearby Merlion Park, she said.

The Esplanade is pitching itself as a kind of natural retail extension for the arts lover. ‘It’s a lifestyle experience pegged to the arts,’ said Mr Huang.

‘Besides coming here for a show, you can start or end your evening with drinks and food,’ he added. ‘There are many shops closely related to the arts for art lovers, and those unfamiliar with the arts won’t feel out of place either.’

Mr Huang said that business at the Esplanade has been bustling since its inception.

‘It’s been positive here at Esplanade Mall,’ he said. ‘The Esplanade also presents over 70 per cent of our artistic programmes free, which means visitors will always have something to look forward to after a meal or a visit to the shops.’

He said that some of the main attractions of the mall are the food centre Makansutra Gluttons Bay, award-winning restaurant My Humble House and library@esplanade, Singapore’s first performing-arts library.

Not forgetting the small but unusual Tatami Shop - ‘the world’s first tatami furnishings retailer outside Japan’, said Mr Huang.

Suntec City Mall, which welcomed its first customers in 1997, says its retail concept is ‘a little something for everyone’. The shopping centre’s larger tenants include hypermarket Carrefour and fashion retailers Mango, La Senza and Lacoste. It also boasts the gigantic Fountain of Wealth, which attracts visitors from all over the world.

‘Also, Suntec City Mall houses the embarkation point for the many tourists going for the Duck Tours and Hippo tours,’ said Marilyn Tan, investor relations manager at ARA Trust Management (Suntec).

As for the MBFC, Mr Martin said the financial hub aims to be ‘a vibrant and prestigious, yet convenient, shopping and dining precinct for the internationally-minded’.

Retail in the MBFC would address a ‘market gap’ in the central business district for serving the needs of higher-income earners and residents, he said. ‘This group of customers wants much more than what a conventional mixed-use centre offers. MBFC is designed as a place where residents, the office population and visitors can satisfy their everyday needs without leaving the business and financial district.’

Of the development’s 160,000 sq ft of underground retail space, about half will be for shops and the other half for food and beverage, he said. In addition, there will be a restaurant on the 33rd floor of the Tower One office block.

‘MBFC is in talks with a number of leading retail interests to be located within the centre,’ he said. The development will offer dining and entertainment options for ‘a spectrum of tastes’.

Then, of course, there is Marina Bay Sands, which will open in 2009. Its developers, Las Vegas Sands, declined to comment at this stage on the specifics of upcoming shops and restaurants.

Besides the casino, the entire integrated resort, as it is called, will feature three 50-storey hotel towers, linked by a two-acre Sky Garden. Not to mention an Arts and Sciences Museum shaped like a welcoming gesture, and one-million square feet of ‘integrated waterside promenade and shopping arcade’, according to its website.

Clearly, there will be loads of shopping and dining opportunities there. So hang on to your hats, Singapore consumer - if not your purses.

Recession In US Economy?

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 29, 2007

EVERYWHERE you turn in the US today, recession is staring you in the face.
The Sunday New York Times featured a story on the prospects for recession. The following day, the Wall Street Journal ran a recession article on page one. Newspapers in Europe and Asia are commenting on comments on a US recession.

Economists are scurrying to pencil in another reduction in the US Federal Reserve's benchmark rate on Dec 11 and to pare their expected target for next year, comments by policymakers notwithstanding.

Recently, Fed Governor Randall Kroszner was surprisingly blunt when he told a conference that 'the current stance of monetary policy should help the economy get through the rough patch during the next year'.

Data consistent with the slow growth he foresees won't suggest monetary policy is 'inappropriate,' he said.

The message was about as clear as it gets when it comes to central bankers: No rate cut in December. Unfortunately, the market's outlook isn't aligned with the US Fed's forecast.

The Fed funds futures market is placing the odds of a 25-basis-point cut on Dec 11 at 98 per cent. Economists had initially put their faith in the Fed's words. But now they're siding with the market's action.

So is all this recession talk overblown, a good story to explain teetering world stock markets? What hard evidence is there that the United States economy is rolling over?

'The thing that makes it most compelling is that the consensus of economists is still looking for growth,' says Mr Paul Kasriel, director of economic research at Northern Trust in Chicago.

For those putting their faith in markets, one glance at the US Treasury yield curve tells you something is amiss. The yield on every issue, from bill out to bond, is below the Fed's target rate. It makes it harder for banks to turn a profit, which is one of the reasons US financial stocks have been the biggest losers this year.

The spread between the funds rate and 10-year Treasury yield, which is one of 10 components in the Index of Leading Economic Indicators (LEI), has been inverted since July last year on a monthly average basis. Given that the US economy was still expanding in the third quarter, the spread's lead time looks to be long.

All the talk about why long rates have been low - US-dollar-related buying by the People's Bank of China, the global savings glut and now a panicked flight to quality - is beside the point. The message of the yield curve is that the Fed is keeping the overnight rate too high relative to market-determined long-term rates.

There are other troublesome signals emanating from the market. The spread between high- yield bonds and gilt-edged government securities has more than doubled since June to about 500 basis points.

'Credit spreads are usually a coincident to lagging indicator,' Mr Kasriel says. 'The fact that they've widened may suggest we're already in recession'.

Three-month interbank lending rates are rising, and central banks in both the US and Europe are acting to ease anticipated year-end funding pressures.

The Fed announced earlier this week that it plans to conduct 'term repurchase agreements', which are collateralised loans to primary dealers, that will extend into the new year. Ever since credit concerns arose in August, the effective Fed funds rate has been wide of the Fed's target.

What else is sending a worrying sign? The LEI has been going sideways for an unprecedented two years. That suggests the US economy doesn't have 'significant upward momentum going forward', said economist Ataman Ozyildirim of the Conference Board's business cycle indicators group. 'It highlights the risk in the economy.'

It is not, in his view, sending a recession signal. Of the two measures whose readings presage a slump - the six-month annualised change in the LEI and the six-month diffusion index - only one is in danger territory.

The six-month diffusion index was at the threshold of 50 in September and October, indicating that half of the 10 components were rising in the last half-year.

That index stood at 40 for the entire first half of 2007, seemingly without any untoward effects.

The six-month change in the LEI has been hovering near zero for a year and a half, well shy of the 4 per cent to 4.5 per cent fall Mr Ozyildirim says meets the threshold for a recession signal.

The recent trend in the LEI is not encouraging: The index posted steep declines in two of the last three months. Falling home prices, rising default rates, sagging consumer confidence and tighter lending standards may prove to be the proverbial straw that broke the economy's back.

'Banks are buying old credit, not making new loans,' Mr Kasriel points out.

'You could say there's a re-intermediation going on. Banks are buying the assets no one wants.'

That's not the making of a healthy economy.

The writer is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.
Copyright: Bloomberg News



'Credit spreads are usually a coincident to lagging indicator. The fact that they've widened may suggest we're already in recession.'


'Banks are buying old credit, not making new loans. You could say there's a re-intermediation going on. Banks are buying the assets no one wants.'
MR PAUL KASRIEL, director of economic research at Northern Trust

New Plum Plots For High-End HDB Flats

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 29, 2007

Govt to release 7 sites for executive condos and flats built by private developers

IF THE property pundits are right, Bishan and Toa Payoh will be the next areas to be buzzing with hot property market action.

A plot in each location is about to go on sale, and both are earmarked for public housing to be built by private developers.

The exact locations of the two choice sites were released yesterday, along with those of two others in Simei and Bedok slated for the same kind of development.

They were part of a package of more than 7,000 new HDB flats and seven land plots, meant for a mix of higher-end public housing and executive condominiums, to be released between now and June.

They also include 1,162 new flats on Bukit Panjang Ring Road and Punggol Road that were put up for sale yesterday.
The four sites for developer-built public housing can yield 1,900 homes. They will be put up for tender progressively, starting from next month until June.

Meanwhile, another three plots meant for executive condominiums - at Yishun, Jurong West and Sengkang East Avenue - will be put on the reserve list in the first half of next year. This means they will be put up for tender once an interested buyer submits a minimum bid acceptable to the Government.

Property consultants and analysts contacted by The Straits Times did not think this move would lead to any oversupply in the market. There was healthy demand for new HDB flats, they said, and this was supported by economic growth.

Citigroup economist Chua Hak Bin said: 'The market has to pay a price for the sites, has to feel comfortable that there is a demand, so it is still market-driven.'

There was a general consensus that developers would make a beeline for the plots in Bishan and Toa Payoh when they were put up for tender.

The Bishan site, which can fit about 390 homes, will be put on the market next month. It is at Bishan Street 24, near public housing blocks and schools, and a short walk from Bishan North Shopping Mall.

The other, to be put up for tender in April, is located at Lorong 1A Toa Payoh. It sits between the Braddell and Toa Payoh MRT Stations and is also a stone's throw from the bustling HDB Hub.

Developers who bag the sites will have to build flats according to the general rules of public housing, which means their common spaces will have to be easy to maintain, for example.

While they are free to design, build and price the flats, they can sell the properties only to families who earn not more than $8,000 a month, and they must maintain an ethnic quota within the estate.

The first such hybrid housing project, developed by Sim Lian Land in Tampines, was launched to overwhelming response last year. The second, to be developed by a Hoi Hup Realty-led consortium in Boon Keng, is expected to be launched soon.

The tender for a third such plot in Ang Mo Kio closed earlier this week with a higher-than-expected top bid of $212.40 per sq ft (psf) per plot ratio. This means flats there could be launched from $580 psf.

Mr Ku Swee Yong, the director of business development and marketing at Savills Singapore, predicted an even better response to the Bishan and Toa Payoh projects. He said: 'Selling prices of the finished units could hit $600 psf or even more, which means HDB prices may reach the levels of private 99-year leasehold condos.'



'Selling prices of the finished units could hit $600 per sq ft or even more, which means HDB prices may reach the levels of private 99-year leasehold condos.'

MR KU SWEE YONG, Savills Singapore's director of business development and marketing, on the prices of the HDB flats that private developers are to build on the Bishan and Toa Payoh plots

More Than 7,000 New Flats Expected Over Next 7 Months

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 29, 2007

Over 1,000 flats in 2 projects launched yesterday; 6,000 more to come by next June

NEWLY-WEDS need not worry about not having a new HDB roof over their heads.

More than 7,000 new Housing Board flats will be offered for sale over the next seven months, as well as seven plots of land which could boast another 3,200 units.

To cater to different income groups, flats on the drawing board range from the humble two-room flat to privately-designed estates and executive condominiums.

This increase in flat supply, the biggest in recent years, is expected to ease the bottleneck that has emerged in recent months as buyers, put off by the high prices of private homes and resale flats, turned to new subsidised HDB flats.

Prices of resale HDB flats grew by 11 per cent in the first nine months of this year, while prices of private homes shot up 22.9 per cent.

An indication of the rush for new flats: the HDB recently received almost 8,000 applications for just 400 flats in Telok Blangah and more than 1,600 applications for 516 homes in Punggol.

National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan yesterday made clear the HDB was stepping up flat building 'in a very major way'.

At 4,800 units, the number of HDB's build-to-order flats offered by the end of this year is already more than double the number launched last year.

Property agents say the move will also encourage HDB flat sellers to be more realistic about their asking prices.

Mr Albert Lu, managing director of C&H Realty, thinks that prices may drop. 'But it's a good thing, as more people will be able to afford flats,' he added.

Two build-to-order projects were launched yesterday:

# Segar Meadows in Bukit Panjang Ring Road, comprising 412 three- and four-room flats.
# Compassvale Beacon in Punggol Road, comprising 750 two-, three-, and four-room flats.

From next month till June, the HDB will also launch for sale another 6,000 new flats under the build-to-order system, where projects are built only if the majority of flats are booked.

It will also launch for sale four plots of land in Bishan, Simei, Toa Payoh and Bedok for flats to be built and sold by private developers. Another three sites - in Yishun, Jurong, and Sengkang - will be made available next year for development of executive condominiums.

Mr Mah reassured homebuyers - especially those buying their first subsidised home - that there were enough flats as well as a variety of properties to meet their needs.

About 80 to 90 per cent of applicants for each build-to-order project are such 'first-timers', many of whom are newly-weds. In the two recent balloting sales exercises, 92 per cent of shortlisted buyers fell into that category.

He urged them: 'Don't be too choosy...It's not possible or realistic for the HDB to offer only new flats in mature estates in the heart of the city.'

The boost in supply buoyed buyers like Ms Affizah Aziz, 40, who turned to the HDB resale market after failing to get a new flat in a recent ballot. The housewife said: 'I still would like to have a new flat. Its surroundings and atmosphere are much better.'

Mr Mah promised that new flats will remain affordable. Their prices, long pegged to the values of resale HDB flats, will not be affected by a rise in building costs.

He also rejected suggestions that the release of the flats was meant to prevent a property bubble from forming. 'I don't see any bubble forming,' he said. Unlike the private property sector, the HDB market is a much bigger and more stable. 'The growth we are seeing is a healthy one in the resale market,' he said.

Video Link -
Higher supply of new flats, but don't be 'choosy'

Good news for homebuyers seeking new flats. To tackle the supply crunch, the HDB is building another 10,000 homes over the next few years.
These include 9,000 new flats and 1,300 executive condominium units.

But even with the added supply, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan had this advice for newly-weds and first-time homebuyers - 'Don't be too choosy'.

Is Booming China Risking US-Style Housing Crisis?

Source : The Electric Paper, November 29, 2007

Yes, say some experts, pointing to country's riskier credit system

CHINA'S booming economy is making many people rich - and happy.

But experts warn of a possible downside: A property crisis like the one the US is facing now.

Mortgage woes in the US have led to the forced sale of countless homes.

A government economist even warns that China's problems could be worse because its housing loans are riskier.

According to him, many mortgage holders in China borrow by giving false information about their assets and income.

Mr Yi Xianrong, an economist with the China Academy of Social Sciences - a government think tank - said in an interview with the state-run magazine Oriental Outlook: 'I estimate that the large majority of mortgage holders would not meet the standards for even subprime loans.'

He also said that China lacks a comprehensive credit data system, which makes assessing the level of risk difficult.

A price correction is unlikely to happen soon, though, as many consumers there are less concerned about potential economic problems than they are about speculating on property.


New flats north of Shanghai's famous Bund waterfront are selling for a record 128,000 yuan ($25,000) per sq m, or more than $2,300 per sq ft.

Typical buyers? Upwardly mobile singles like Ms Li Ruoning, 22, a public relations company employee who borrowed 300,000 yuan from her parents in central China for the downpayment on a 645 sq ft flat in Shanghai.

What's more, Ms Li says she would buy another flat 'as an investment', if she had the money.

The possibility of defaults in Asia may also not be as bad as in the US because in some markets, including China, lenders tend to demand downpayments of at least 30 percent or more.

Singapore and Hong Kong supply low-cost housing and low-interest loans to the poor, which cut the risk of foreclosures, while South Korea has already cracked down on risky mortgages.

None of this may be of help to red-hot China, though.

Warned Mr Zhang Yu, a real estate analyst from Guotai Jun'an Securities in China: 'The government does need to do something fundamental to improve the situation.

He added: 'Tightening mortgage operations iscrucial for avoiding a financial crisis.' -AP

Favourite Son Wins Dispute

Source : TODAY, Thursday, November 29, 2007

Defendant not obligated to distribute late father's assets

THE eight month-long legal battle over the assets of late shipping tycoon Ng Teow Yhee has ended with Justice Woo Bih Li ruling in favour of the defendant and third son Sebastian Ng, 50.

Justice Woo dismissed the claims by the tycoon's 83-year-old widow, Madam Low Ah Cheow, his youngest son, Mr Ng Puay Guan, 41, and second daughter, Madam Ng Bee Eng, 51, which alleged that the patriarch had willed the asset into Mr Sebastian Ng's care, on the understanding that the wealth was to be redistributed to the rest of the family.

The father, a Chinese immigrant who died of cancer in 2001 at the age of 80, found the shipping and stevedoring company Ng Teow Yhee & Sons in the 1960s.

Before he died, he made Mr Sebastian Ng — his favourite son — the sole beneficiary and trustee of his estate.

The patriarch, however, did not share the same bond with the rest of the family, court documents revealed.

Almost five years after his death, the issue remained a sore point with the family and in February last year, they sued Mr Sebastian Ng to reclaim assets they believed were rightfully theirs.

Madam Low had made a claim on the family bungalow at Wiltshire Road, as well as 186,740 shares in the company registered in her late husband's name.

Mr Ng Puay Guan claimed $200,000 for himself as well as $100,000 each for his sons, Ng Zhi Kai and Ng Zhi Hao.

His sister, Madam Ng Bee Eng, on the other hand, had asked for $90,000 as well as 33,320 shares in the company.

Two other daughters chose to drop out of the court tussle, claiming they had no money to pursue the case.

During the trial, Mr Sebastian Ng maintained that he was never instructed by his father to distribute the assets.

While Justice Woo was of the opinion that the patriarch left his entire estate to Mr Sebastian Ng "in the expectation that he would do right by the other family members", he concluded that "Sebastian will have to be dictated by his conscience but there is no legal obligation on him".

Justice Woo dismissed the claims because the "evidence is fraught with inconsistencies and is unreliable".

Though he was pleased with his victory, Mr Sebastian Ng said he was saddened that a private family dispute is now in the public domain.

"I am glad that my family and I can finally move on with our lives, and hopefully, I can now start to mend the relationship with my mother and siblings," he added. Defendant not obligated to distribute late father's assets and siblings," he added.

Flats To Be Had, Just Don't Be Picky

Source : TODAY, Thursday, November 29, 2007

TO CATER to the burgeoning demand for new flats, the Housing and Development Board (HDB) has announced it will offer another 6,000 flats under the Build-To-Order (BTO) system — bringing the total number of new flats to be released over the next seven months to more than 10,000.

This comes in addition to some 1,162 BTO units that National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan launched yesterday.

The projects, Segar Meadows in Bukit Panjang and Compassvale Beacon in Sengkang, comprise two-, three-, and four-room flats. Applications are open until Dec 18.

Mr Mah reiterated the Government's commitment to home ownership and ensuring a steady supply of new flats for first-time buyers such as young couples — but urged these buyers not to be too picky.

Citing recently-raised concerns from some first-time buyers who said they had gone through several rounds of balloting in vain, Mr Mah said he had investigated at least one such case of a buyer who emailed him.

He found that the potential buyer had been offered a flat, but had given it up as he did not want one below the sixth floor.

Mr Mah said buyers should "be realistic".

"It is really not possible for HDB to be able to provide a flat in the exact location, in the exact flat type, on the exact floor, in the right size (that you want), and so on," he said.

"We will build more flats, we will give you more chances to own a flat. If you do get a flat, it's best that you think carefully. Even if it's not ideal, if you need a new flat … take it up and then, over time, you may want to upgrade your flat," he said.

HDB statistics from BTO launches in August and September show that 92 per cent of first-time buyers are shortlisted for new flats. In total, the HDB has launched 4,800 BTO units this year, double the number for last year.

Also, from next month until June, the board will release sites that will contribute another 1,860 Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) flats and 1,300 Executive Condominiums (EC) to the pool.

The DBSS flats are alternatives to HDB-built flats as the private sector will be involved in developing the public housing.

Last week, the HDB announced it would require EC developers to reserve at least 90 per cent of units for first-time buyers in the first month of sale. Also, second-time buyers who buy a new EC will no longer have to pay the resale levy.

Apart from the new units coming on tap, there will be additional balloting exercises for surplus new flats.

Mr Mah said the HDB will not over-supply the market with new flats as it would not ensure a healthy resale market in the long run.

"A person who is a buyer today is also going to be a seller tomorrow," he said. "If we don't have a healthy resale market, then I think down the road ... we're going to have problems."

The increase in supply, however, has not quelled the anxiety of first-time buyer Alice Lim, who has been looking for a flat with her fiance since June.

She has taken part in balloting exercises twice but did not even get to view the flats as she was too far behind in the queue.

"We can't wait for BTO flats because we want to get married and start a family soon," the 31-year-old procurement officer said. "We are not fussy, but even in places like Sengkang and Punggol, there are no new flats readily available and resale flats are just too expensive."

And new flat prices are expected to rise if resale flat prices continue their upward trend. This is because HDB flat prices are pegged to resale flat valuation prices, even if they are not dependent on construction costs.

Mr Mah assured home-buyers: "We will always make sure that the new prices will be affordable." This will be achieved by ensuring the mortgage repayment paid out per month is not more than some 30 per cent of the household income.

$30,000 Auction Bid For Hotel Room During F1 Race

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 28, 2007

Sum paid was for charity but is indicative of F1 race interest building up

THAT room with a view of the Formula One race cost a bomb - $30,000 - but it was for charity.

A professional paid $30,000 for a three-night stay at the Pan Pacific Hotel to catch the F1 race from Sept 26 to 28 next year.

The winning bid was made at an auction during a charity dinner at the Pan Pacific on Sunday.

Some 500 guests, including Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and Mrs Goh, were at the dinner which raised $700,000 for the Assisi Hospice.

While the sum the bidder paid for the hotel's standard room was for a charity auction, it is indicative of the interest that has been building up over the F1 race.

Room rates have been the subject of much speculation since the announcement by the Government that trackside hotels will be slapped with a 30 per cent levy between Sept 24 and 28.

Trackside hotels include The Fullerton, Marina Mandarin, Conrad Centennial and Pan Pacific.

When contacted, several of these hotels said their F1 rates have not been finalised.

Among them, so far Pan Pacific has said its guests could fork out well over $1,000 a night for a regular room during the race period, with no guarantee of rooms overlooking the racetrack.

This is more than double Pan Pacific's highest average room price of $455 this year.

The hotel also said its suites, which offer a view of the track, will cost over $2,200 a night. For both rooms and suites during that period, guests must stay a minimum of five nights.

Industry observer Noel Hawkes, who was general manager of the now defunct Hotel Phoenix, said in other cities which host F1 races, room rates could rise to as much as triple the normal rate.

'I don't think its unreasonable. It's not that exorbitant by any means,' he told The Straits Times.

Several non-trackside hotels, which will pay a 20 per cent levy, have set their rates and secured bookings too.

From checks with about 20 hotels islandwide, guests may have to fork out between $300 and $1,200 per night.

The Grand Hyatt Singapore is nearly sold out, though it still has limited suites available at $3,000 per night. Regular rates for its suites are about 50 per cent less.

'We have not encountered resistance to our rates,' said Grand Hyatt Singapore manager John Beveridge.

'This buzz in the market has created an environment for strong demand for all categories of rooms. There is no question F1 fans want to be here,' he said.

YTL Buying Singapore Apartments En Bloc

Source : TheStar Malaysia News

PETALING JAYA: YTL Corp Bhd has entered into the largest residential collective sale transaction in Singapore since the new en bloc legislations came into force on Oct 4.

According to a statement, YTL Corp was awarded the tender for the en bloc purchase of Westwood Apartments, located on Singapore's famed Orchard Boulevard, for S$435mil cash.

The acquisition is in line with our wider strategy, focusing on upscale real estate in well-established markets. Group managing director Tan Sri Francis Yeoh Sock Ping said the property acquisition was YTL Corp's third in the city-state in two years.

The company is currently involved in the high-end Lakefront and Sandy Island residential development projects in Sentosa Cove, which will comprise exclusive, bespoke homes.

“The acquisition is in line with our wider strategy, focusing on upscale real estate in well-established markets, which enables us to employ our branding to enhance the value of these properties,” Yeoh said in the statement.

Westwood Apartments is a condominium development on the Orchard Road shopping and entertainment belt and within easy access of several stations on Singapore's Mass Rapid Transit system.

The more than 30-year-old, 50-unit condominium block is located on about 62,179 sq ft of prime freehold land.

Its address is synonymous with some of Singapore’s top luxury residences, including the St Regis Residences, The BLVD and Four Seasons Park.

YTL Corp said apart from geographical diversification and increase in its property development land-bank portfolio in Singapore, the acquisition would enable the group to enhance its earnings potential from the high sale and rental rates expected from the renewed interest in the city-state's property sector.

In the same statement, property consultancy Savills (S) Plc managing director Michael Ng said the recent sales of well-designed properties to high net-worth individuals reflected the positive sentiments in the Singapore property market.

“For example, the Ritz-Carlton Residences was recently sold for as high as S$5,000 per sq ft, a reflection that Singapore is primed for growth in the indulgent property sector,” he added.

According to an analyst at Affin Securities, the Singapore property market had good earnings potential which would bode well for YTL Corp's latest acquisition.

KepLand Sets Up JV To Develop Housing Project In Vietnam

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 28 November 2007

Keppel Land has set up another joint venture in Vietnam to develop its eighth residential development in the country.

The venture with Hung Phu Real Estate Investment Corporation will develop a 10-hectare site into a premier waterfront enclave in Ho Chi Minh City.

The site will yield about 140 luxury villa homes, bringing Keppel Land's existing pipeline to more than 25,000 homes in Vietnam.

The project is expected to be launched in early 2009.

Keppel Land will take a 60 percent stake in the venture, which has an investment capital of S$83 million. - CNA /ls

HDB's Plan To Release More Flats Will Take Some Heat Off Market

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 28 November 2007

Property analysts said the increased supply of HDB new flats will take some heat off mass property market. But they added that prices will keep the overall upward momentum.

The newly-launched build-to-order units are but a small portion of the 6,000 to be released in the first half of 2008. That is 25 percent more than the 4,800 units released under the scheme this year.

Together with the units expected from the planned release of seven other sites, next year is going to see a good surge in supply of mass market housing.

However, property consultants said the impact will be contained.

"If you look at the different segments, it's not going to have any impact on the high-end market or the mid-tier market. The new announcements is going to probably cause some upgraders to relook their plans on whether they should buy this new HDB flats or DBSS flats or executive condos as compared to that of mass market projects," said Nicholas Mak, Director of Consultancy and Research at Knight Frank.

Still, analysts said this will take the heat off the HDB resale market and slightly dampen demand in mass market condominiums for next year.

"Quite a few people are expecting the pick-up in mass market condos for next year. With this large increase in supply, this could divert some demand in the mass market," said Mak.

At the launch for HDB's November sales exercise, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said the cost of new flats will likely nudge upwards. That is because one of the factors in pricing them is the average price of resale flats.

However, he said the government won't jack up supply to keep prices down. He said: "We will be creating an oversupply situation downstream. The person who is a buyer today is also going to be a seller tomorrow.

"It may be an obvious thing to do today, to say let's build more flats because there's such high demand. But I think the lesson we have learnt over the years is that if you overbuild, you will create problems for the very people that you're trying to help."

Mr Mah added, however, that affordability will still be a key goal, with the income ceilings of applicants kept in mind.

Analysts also said plans for new executive condominiums will meet good market demand, especially those in mature estates such as Yishun and Jurong West.

"The demand for HDB flats is usually fairly volatile. For example in the mid 1990s, the number of applicants goes above 50,000 a year. But in recent years, over the last 5-7 years, that number can vary anywhere from 7,000 a year to as high as 14,000 a year. For next year, I don't think we'll be seeing much difference; it'll be around 10,000 to 12,000," said Mak. - CNA /ls

HDB Plans To Offer Over 10,000 New Flats Over Next 7 Months

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 28 November 2007

The Housing and Development Board (HDB) is building up the supply of new flats by 10,362 units over the next seven months to meet rising demand.

These will cut across different flat types and suit different budgets, said National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan.

For a start, two new Built-To-Order (BTO) projects have been launched in Sengkang and Bukit Panjang.

The new Compassvale Beacon in Sengkang will offer 750 flats, comprising 2, 3 and 4-room units, while the other BTO project is the 412-unit Segar Meadows in Bukit Panjang.

The BTO exercise will end on December 18.

Related Vide Link -
HDB plans to offer over 10,000 new flats over next 7 months

Priced between S$69,000 and S$231,000, the two projects will help address housing needs, especially those of young couples.

This is good news for 26-year-old Mohammad Harris, who is looking to buy his first flat but could not afford a resale unit.

He said: "As long as I can get a house for myself and my family, it's okay. But my wife will consider the journey time to her workplace."

"The new flats will give me more options and I can select based on my budget," said Chong Poh Ying, also a first-time flat buyer.

Separately, the HDB plans to build another 6,000 units under its BTO system in the first half of next year.

The total number of flats offered under BTO this year is 4,800 units, double that of last year.

The National Development minister urged buyers not to be too choosy when offered a new flat.

"Be realistic about the chances of getting a flat. If you need a new flat, please take up the new flat even if it's not something you like, even if it's not ideal for you. Take it up and then gradually over time, you may upgrade to the flat that you like," said Mr Mah.

Those looking for premium flats will also have more choices.

Given its success, the HDB will release four more sites for its Design, Build and Sell Scheme for about another 1,900 new units.

The first, at Bishan Street 24, will be launched next month. Those in Simei Road, Lorong 1A Toa Payoh and Bedok Reservoir Crescent will be offered next year.

In addition, another three executive condominium sites comprising some 1,300 units will be progressively released under the Reserve List of the government land sales programme.

These will be in Yishun Avenue 11, Jurong West Street 42 and Seng Kang East Avenue.

Mr Mah also addressed concerns about flat prices.

"For HDB, the market has moved in recent months, but it hasn't moved to the extent of the private (market). Just looking at the numbers, I don't see any bubble forming at the HDB market. For a start, it's a bigger market and it's a much more stable market. The growth that we are seeing is a healthy one, in the resale market," said the National Development minister.

In view of the construction boom, Mr Mah said the rising construction costs will not have a direct impact on the prices of new HDB flats, as they are pegged to the average resale market prices. He also assured that the HDB flats will remain affordable.

As for the lower income families, Mr Mah said they've been helped by various schemes.

Among them, the Additional CPF Housing Grant which has provided S$50 million to 4,100 households. - CNA /ls

10,000 More Homes Expected In Next 7 Months

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 28, 2007

They include 9,000 new flats and about 1,300 executive condo units.

The first, Segar Meadows in Bukit Panjang Ring Road, comprises 412 three- and four-room flats. -- PHOTOS: HDB

The second, Compassvale Beacon in Sengkang East Avenue, comprises 750 two-, three- and four-room flats.

GOOD news for househunters desperately looking to get their own place. The Government on Wednesday announced plans to make available 10,000 homes over the next seven months.

The homes in the pipeline include 9,062 new flats, including those to be built by private developers, as well as about 1,300 executive condominium units.

Two build-to-order projects were launched on Wednesday. The first, Segar Meadows in Bukit Panjang Ring Road, comprises 412 three- and four-room flats. The second, Compassvale Beacon in Sengkang East Avenue, comprises 750 two-, three- and four-room flats.

From next month till June, the Housing Board will also launch for sale another 6,000 new flats under the build-to-order system, where projects are built only if the majority of flats are booked.

The HDB will also put up for sale four plots of land in Bishan, Simei, Toa Payoh and Bedok for flats to be built and sold by private developers. These plots will yield a total of about 1,900 homes.

Another three sites - in Yishun Avenue 11, Jurong West Street 42, and Sengkang East Avenue - will be made available next year for development of executive condomiums.

These special condominiums are limited to those eligible for public housing and are meant to cater to those with higher incomes.

The plots will be put on the reserve list, so they will be put up for tender once a party commits to making a minimum bid that meets the Government's expectations.

National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan, who gave details of the new supply of homes at a press conference on Wednesday, reassured newly weds that there were enough flats as well as a variety of homes to meet their needs.

Malaysian Tycoon Is Back With Major Johor Project

Source : The Business Times, 28 November 2007

A LARGE tract of land along Lido beach in Johor Baru facing Singapore has been privatised and will help Malaysian tycoon Vincent Tan Chee Yioun form the nucleus of a RM2.7 billion (S$1.1 billion) integrated residential-cum-commercial Boulevard City.

The 122 acre development, which was launched by Johor Chief Minister Abdul Ghani Othman last night, is to be undertaken by a joint venture headed by Central Malaysian Properties (CMP), a private company owned by Mr Tan and his partner, lawyer-businessman Chan Tien Ghee.

The other partner in the joint venture is the Johor state government (5 per cent) which privatised the development to CMP in August last year for RM30 million in cash, according to executives familiar with the transaction.

The project is unique in the sense that it falls within the Iskandar Development Region (IDR), yet does not involve state agency Khazanah Nasional, the IDR's master developer. Indeed, it has been dubbed by CMP as 'one of the biggest private finance initiatives to date in the IDR'.

The development also marks the corporate return of Mr Tan, one of Malaysia's most aggressive tycoons during the 1990s and the controlling shareholder of the sprawling Berjaya group with interests in property development, retail malls, hotels, financial services, gaming and franchised food outlets.

But the 1998 Asian crisis stressed Mr Tan's empire and almost laid him low. Over the last nine years, however, the tycoon regrouped, restructured and pared debt. He has since expanded to Vietnam where his proposed developments have re-ignited investor interest in his once-shunned stocks like Berjaya Land and Berjaya Corporation. In that context, the present development represents a return to his glory days when the tycoon often ventured into projects in his personal capacity.

'This development will not only change the Johor Baru skyline but will also raise our city's profile internationally,' said Mr Ghani at last night's launch. 'The idea is to design and reposition Johor Baru as an international gateway to Malaysia.'

According to CMP's co-owner, Mr Chan, the development, which will include a 2.4 km boardwalk along Lido Beach, will have four main components - luxury condominiums, waterfront office suites, a hotel and a shopping mall.

Other notable features include a ice skating rink, a bowling alley, a 24 acre man-made lagoon for water-based activities and a 4.5 acre park. It will also include a 50,000 square foot indoor Snow Park and, because of reclamation that will narrow the Straits, a jetty for a water-taxi service to Singapore.

If successful, the project will rehabilitate a major stretch of Lido beach, often considered an eyesore by locals. All that remains to complete the rehabilitation of the beach area is the resumption of the long-abandoned RM6 billion 'floating city' proposed by Pilecon Engineering back in 1995 but was stymied by the 1998 financial crisis.

That could still happen. In 2005, Pilecon won its suit against the state government which sought to terminate its privatisation agreement with the company in 2004. According to news reports, Pilecon is now negotiating with the state government to revive the project. One reason for its eagerness: its land along Lido beach, valued at RM25 a square foot in 1993, is now valued at close to RM500 a square foot.