Monday, December 3, 2007

房地产市场大旺 黄金地段祖业 该守? 该卖?

Source : 我报 Dec 03, 2007

Little India Hotel Opens After $25m Overhaul

Source : The Straits Times, Dec 3, 2007

THE refurbished Parkroyal Hotel on Kitchener Road made its debut last Wednesday, following a year-long, $25 million facelift.

NEW LOOK: The new lounge at Parkroyal Hotel on Kitchener Road is one of the facilities that the hotel now boasts after its makeover. It has also created exclusive rooms with extra features for business executives.

Formerly known as New Park Hotel, the 21-storey building saw all its 532 rooms and suites undergo a dramatic makeover.

'This extensive makeover puts us in the deluxe category of hotels, upgrading us from a three-star property to a magnificent hotel of four-star standard,' said Mr Felix Yeo, the general manager of the hotel, which he dubbed the 'Grand Hyatt of Little India'.

The hotel, a stone's throw away from the heart of Little India, has also shifted its positioning. It now targets corporate travellers instead of holidaymakers.

For example, Indian clients used to make up about 40 per cent of its guests; of these, most were leisure travellers. After the rebranding, the proportion has dropped to about 27 per cent, and most of these clients are now corporate travellers.

Numerous efforts have been taken to boost the hotel's image and elevate its positioning. Aside from the contemporary decor, it has an exclusive Orchid Club aimed at business executives.

The top three floors of the hotel are reserved for such members. Orchid Club rooms - which cost almost 50 per cent more than standard rooms - are plusher and come with extra facilities like wireless broadband Internet.

This extensive overhaul does not come cheap for travellers.

Standard room rates have approximately doubled, compared with the rates two years ago.

The Parkroyal chain of hotels is owned by United Overseas Land's mainboard-listed hotel arm, Hotel Plaza. It has another Parkroyal hotel at Beach Road, which underwent a $8.1 million refurbishment that was completed at the end of last year.

Few Landed Collective Sales Done Even In Boom Times

Source : The Straits Times, Dec 03, 2007

Experts say the selling process for houses is trickier than for condos

COLLECTIVE sales were all the rage for a large part of this year - but few were for landed homes.

They are not the easiest of deals to close, but DTZ Debenham Tie Leung managed it two weeks ago when it brokered the sale of 15 houses in the Balestier area for $61 million, a record price for the area.

The houses lined both sides of a road, which was also proposed as part of the sale. The entire area will give a sizeable combined site of 32,978 sq ft.

But such large tracts with a high redevelopment potential are hard to come by, say property consultants.

Also, for landed homes to go en bloc, every owner must agree to the sale. This is unlike strata-titled condominiums, where a collective sale requires the consent of up to only 90 per cent of the owners.

Getting 100 per cent approval for landed homes, as consultants will tell you, is not easy.

'The risk is there because you need to have contiguous support,' said Savills Singapore's director of investment, Mr Steven Ming. 'You may work on a row of houses only to find that one or two houses in the middle refuse to sell.'

Another dampener is that many landed sites come with a development potential of only 1.4 times their size. This means that they cannot be redeveloped into large properties, limiting a developer's potential profit.

Even if a large development is allowed, the developer would likely need to pay a large fee to the Government in order to proceed.

'This takes out some of the gains for the owners,' said an industry observer, 'and, thus, it is often not worthwhile for consultants to work on the sale.' Hence, some of these sales are done by individuals or small-time developers, he said.

Mr Michael French, the managing director of Asia Premier Property Consultants, says it is sometimes easier to sell landed homes en bloc because there are simply fewer owners to deal with than in a condo.

But some owners just refuse to sell. Homemaker S. Tan, who lives in a semi-detached house in Telok Kurau, says she has been approached by agents asking her and her three neighbours to sell collectively.

She is not keen, unless all her neighbours agree. 'We like this place... It is convenient for my children.'

Replacement cost is also an issue. 'Even if they pay a bit higher, we can't buy another house with the same location and size,' she added.

In Prome Road is an example of what happens when not everyone agrees to sell. A row of houses has been sold en bloc, but a few others will be left standing.

An 80-year-old retired teacher who lives in a three-storey terrace house with her family is staying put.

She did not participate in the August collective sale of a stretch of old, single-storey houses in the street because she did not think the apportionment of proceeds was fair. 'I paid a lot of money to build this house. It's much bigger inside, so we should get more money than the rest,' she said.

When confronted with owners such as these, developers tend to build around or next to these houses. That can leave a single house standing, incongruously, next to a five-storey development.

High Court Orders 3 Family Firms To Close

Source : The Straits Times, Dec 03, 2007

IN THE end, the wish of the eldest of three feuding brothers - a clean break - prevailed.

Still solvent family firms worth more than $100 million will be wound up, on a High Court judge's orders.

A liquidator, appointed to do this, will use the proceeds to pay off $34 million in debts. The brothers - two doctors and an architect - will then get their due shares.

In her judgment published last Tuesday, Justice Judith Prakash noted that the brothers could not get along with each other and had their own ideas about how 'the companies and the family fortunes should be dealt with'.

The rift had 'translated into fractures in the companies' and a logjam over the debts.

Patriarch and property investor Chow Cho Poon, who died a decade ago, had set up three companies which held 29 properties in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong valued in 2005 at over $100 million.

The properties include Chow House in Robinson Road, an office building described as the 'jewel in the crown' in court papers.

His wife made each of their three sons directors of all three companies, hoping they could work together.

But now, five years after her death in 2002, the feud has led to legal wrangles.

All three siblings, now in their 60s, live in Hong Kong.

Eldest sibling Chow Kwok Chi through Senior Counsel Jimmy Yim of Drew & Napier sought to wind up the companies so that the brothers could make a clean break from one another.

He pointed out that as long as the companies exist, their father's estate would remain unadministered because of the unpaid $34 million debt.

Second brother Chow Kwok-Chuen opposed the move. He argued through lawyer Ang Cheng Hock from Allen & Gledhill that Kwok Chi had not alleged any loss of confidence or lack of probity in his conduct in relation to the running of the companies.

Youngest brother Kwok Ching also contested the suit, arguing through lawyer Peter Low from Colin Ng & Partners that if there was to be a winding up, the reason should be his siblings' alleged 'oppressive conduct'.

Justice Prakash said in view of the 'litigation history' and 'the complex nature of the relationships among the brothers, it did not make sense for this court to stand aside and allow the situation to deteriorate further'.

The judge apparently broke new legal ground in ordering the winding up of firms that were not insolvent.

'The desire for a clean break is not an established ground for a winding up application. It is a concept found in matrimonial matters rather than in commercial ones.

'In a case like this, however, where the dispute may be considered as springing from domestic relations, it may have some place,' said Justice Prakash.

Hedge Funds Bet On Presidential Race

Source : The Business Times, December 3, 2007

(WASHINGTON) Wealthy hedge fund managers closely guard their investment strategies, but mounting political donations reveal how some 'hedgies' are betting in the crowded US presidential race.

Hedge funds' campaign donations have skyrocketed in recent years as trading profits have ballooned and the industry has lobbied Congress aggressively this year against raising taxes on managers' often multimillion dollar earnings.

Democratic White House hopefuls have been more successful so far, compared with their Republican rivals, in winning funds.

The top-grossing recipient is Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd who garnered US$714,500 in donations from the hedge fund industry in the first nine months of the year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP).

The CRP says Republican presidential aspirant Rudolph Giuliani holds second place with donations of US$565,000 followed by Democratic contenders Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards.

'They want to make friends in Washington and campaign contributions are a good way to do that,' said Massie Ritsch, a spokesman for the research centre.

Mr Ritsch pointed out that Mr Dodd is charged with overseeing the industry because of his chairmanship of the powerful Senate Banking Committee while Mr Giuliani, a former New York mayor, has strong ties to the city where many hedge funds are based.

Paul Singer, the founder of the US$9 billion hedge fund Elliot Associates, is one of Mr Giuliani's backers and has also made a corporate jet available to him.

Federal Election Commission records show Mr Singer has made a maximum individual donation of US$4,600 to Mr Giuliani's campaign this year. Elliot Associates's staff have stumped up a combined US$200,000. Mr Singer became an advisor to Mr Giuliani earlier this year.

Gregory Chase, who runs Chase Capital Management, says he has spent about US$500,000 of his own money promoting Democrat Mike Gravel, a former senator.

'I've been very unhappy with the United States foreign policy and its dependence on foreign oil over the last few years,' Mr Chase explained.

The currency trader can spend as much as he wants because he is acting independently of Mr Gravel's official campaign and is not bound by US campaign laws, like Mr Singer, which cap donations.

Mr Chase has placed advertisements in USA Today, The New York Times, The Washington Post and other major newspapers in support of Mr Gravel. -- AFP

Transformed Mt Faber Eyes MICE Business

Source : The Business Times, December 3, 2007

It hopes to double capacity before Sentosa facilities come onstream

AFTER a major revamp in 2004 that saw Mount Faber transforming from a cable car station to Singapore's second most visited paid tourist attraction, Mount Faber is now eyeing the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) business.

Jewel in the crown: The 'four seasons' campaign changes the design and colours of the facade at Jewel Box every quarter, offering a different experience each time

Before the MICE facilities in the integrated resort at Sentosa are up and running, Mount Faber hopes to double its own MICE capacity. Its facilities can currently hold 1,200 persons at any one time.

'We have been working with the relevant authorities for land space,' Mount Faber Leisure Group CEO Susan Teh told BT. 'We are still in talks to see how we can expand.'

The existing MICE facilities are already fully utilised during peak season and 80 per cent booked during off-peak period, she said.

From a low base, revenue from the MICE segment has grown by a staggering 290 per cent since Ms Teh took office in 2004, and has become a significant growth driver for the group.

Ms Teh now hopes to position Mount Faber as a 'total solutions' for MICE events, given the unique offering of conference venue amid the lush flora and fauna, attractions, food and beverage (F&B), business centre service and coach transport that enables visitors to arrive in style.

Some major institutions and corporations that have already tapped Mount Faber's MICE facilities include the International Monetary Fund, Citibank Singapore, UBS and Singapore Telecommunications.

Confident that Mount Faber offers a unique hilltop experience not seen in other parts of Singapore, Ms Teh reckoned that the MICE facilities at Resorts World at Sentosa would be complementary rather than competitive.

'As the government is targeting 17 million (visitors by 2015), there will definitely be spillovers and everyone can have a piece of the pie,' Ms Teh said.

With companies increasingly looking for unique places to hold corporate functions, Mount Faber now has an event management team that helps to plan corporate events such as dinner and dance parties and product launches.

Since Mount Faber's revamp in 2004 that saw the group embark on a strategy of diversification, significant improvements have been seen not just in its facade, but also translating to headline numbers.

Its profit has doubled from 2004 while its revenue has tripled over the same period. The revenue mix has shifted from predominantly cable car receipts to an even contribution from F&B, MICE, cable car rides, attractions and wholesaling.

Mount Faber now serves a broad target group by providing casual to formal dining, family attractions to venues for corporate events, and has seen a mingling of tourists and locals.

The revamped Mount Faber also saw an increase in visitor arrivals from 1.2 million in 2004 to 1.8 million year-to-date.

'We are targeting two million visitors, an all-time high, and we are on track by the end of this year,' Ms Teh said.

The icon of the revamped Mount Faber - Jewel Box - which houses its MICE facilities and F&B outlets, sits on the hilltop which was previously only used for the cable car station.

Other selling points of Mount Faber stem from its 'four seasons' campaign, which changes the design and colours of the facade at Jewel Box every quarter, including touch points like menu and cocktails, offering a different experience each time.

'You can't find another attraction in a hill environment. The Jewel Box itself has already started to benefit from the brand and this is what we will leverage on going forward,' she added.

Ahead of the opening of the Sentosa IR, other non-MICE facilities at Mount Faber will also get a facelift to cater to the sophisticated and discerning visitors that the IR is expected to attract.

This would include upgrading the F&B area which comprises Altivo, Glass Bar, Faber Rock and Faber Hill Bistro, and increasing retail outlets, Ms Teh said.

'We are working with the relevant authorities to improve the accessibility here,' she added.

Without letting on whether a tram line is in the pipeline, Ms Teh said that the authorities will look at improving accessibility in the southern precinct in general and can be expected to talk to various stakeholders to achieve this.

Property Sales Set For Big Drop In Q4

Source : The Business Times, December 3, 2007

Early numbers show Q4 private property deals at $2.9b, nowhere near Q3's $15.6b

Weakening market sentiment could have a bigger impact on property sales if early numbers for the Q4 2007 transactions are anything to go by.

In a preliminary analysis of caveats lodged by DTZ Debenham Tie Leung (DTZ), the value of all private property transactions for Q4 to date is about $2.9 billion.

This figure does not represent the full fourth quarter. There is also a time lag between a transaction and the lodgement of a caveat. Still, doubling or even tripling this figure will not bring it close to Q3's figure of $15.6 billion and Q2's record breaking figure of $24.2 billion.

DTZ executive director Ong Choon Fah also pointed out that apart from the continuing effects of the US sub-prime crisis, the property market was also jolted by the withdrawal of the deferred payment scheme in October. 'It made people understand that there were risks involved,' she added.

Signs of poorer market conditions were already apparent in the third quarter. In DTZ's analysis for Q3, transactions for all private homes fell 36 per cent to 8,416 units. But this was attributed to seasonal market activity marked by the Hungry Ghost Month, as well as the reduced number of developer launches.

Mrs Ong believes that fewer launches in Q4 could be the culprit if sales do fall.

According to its report, the number of developer sales in Q3 reflected a 41 per cent quarter-on-quarter (q-o-q) drop to just 1,956 transactions with developers apparently monitoring the market for possible sub-prime impact.

Now, well into the fourth quarter, new launches still appear to be on hold. Mrs Ong believes that there are 'genuine buyers' in the market but developers could nevertheless be choosing to take their time to decide on pricing, or, launch developments in phases to test the market.

But she said that there is no evidence that developers or sellers are prepared to accept lower prices. 'Prices are still inching up even though the activity level has dropped,' she added.

Mrs Ong said that the recent strong performance of the private residential market has allowed many developers to accumulate financial reserves and most are not in need of immediate revenue. 'Developers don't feel the need to launch immediately. They can still launch next year, while some may even be considering waiting until the opening of the integrated resorts creates more buzz,' she added.

The number of transactions in Q3 was bolstered by the high number of deals in the secondary market which saw 6,434 homes change hands. This represents a q-o-q drop of 34 per cent, but the decrease is of a lesser magnitude compared with that of developer sales.

And although collective sales slowed in Q3, DTZ says apartments in the secondary market in the prime districts continued to perform, largely due to price increases.

The number of secondary market apartments sold in Q3 fell 33 per cent q-o-q to about 5,300 units with foreigners accounting for 1,590 or 30 per cent of these transactions. DTZ noted that this was among the highest since 1995. The strength of the secondary market was partly due to the buoyant leasing market which also encouraged foreigners to buy homes ready for immediate occupancy.

Bucking the downward trend of all category of buyers were corporate or institutional buyers.

In Q3, transactions attributed to companies actually rose by 11 per cent with 958 homes changing hands. DTZ said this was the largest number of units purchased in a quarter.

Apart from the reported acquisition of a block at Costa Del Sol by the Ong Beng Seng family, DTZ highlighted the sale of 49 out of 58 units in Duchess Crest, registered as company transactions. DTZ executive director (residential) Margaret Thean added that unlike the bulk sale at Costa Del Sol, the Duchess Crest transactions were not done by a single company either.

She added: 'This reflects that foreign investors and property funds still have confidence in the Singapore market.' Ms Thean also said: 'With the sub-prime crisis in the US, some of these funds may also be increasingly looking outside the US to invest.'

Exec Condos Grow In Appeal With Age

Source : The Sunday Times, Dec 2, 2007

Many resale units will reach the 10-year mark within the next three years, which means sale restrictions will be lifted and they can be marketed like any other private home.

EXECUTIVE condominiums (ECs) are back in the spotlight these days as private property prices climb beyond the reach of many upgraders.

LOCATED WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE OF THE MRT STATION, units at Simei Green are expected to be highly sought after and to go up in value as plots around the station fill up. -- ST PHOTO: BRYAN VAN DER BEEK

These ‘hybrid’ properties, which come with the type of facilities found in private condos but with sale restrictions, were introduced in 1995 to help higher-income couples who had been priced out of the then booming private property market.

These projects became rarer during the property slump that followed their introduction.

However, their popularity has been revived of late given the growing gap between the prices of private and public housing.

One EC site in Punggol is on the reserve list, while another three EC sites, in Yishun, Jurong and Sengkang, will be added in the first half of next year.

EASTVALE'S POPULARITY IS EXPECTED TO RISE once it turns 10 years old in 2009. At that point, even foreigners will be allowed to buy units at the executive condo, located in Pasir Ris. -- ST FILE PHOTO

This means they will be put up for tender when a developer commits to bidding a minimum price that is acceptable to the Government.

The outlook for resale ECs seems just as bright as that for new ECs. The first crop of ECs is nearing the 10-year mark, and they are looking more appealing in terms of investment value.

This is because, while resale ECs are generally 10 to 15 per cent cheaper than their fully private counterparts, their values are expected to rise when they turn 10 years old.

This is the point at which restrictions will be completely lifted, so they can be bought by anyone, including foreigners, and can hence be sold like any other type of private home.

New ECs cannot be sold within the first five years. They can be sold after that but, until they turn 10, only to Singaporeans and permanent residents. This effectively places a cap on their sale prices; there is no such cap on private condo prices.

Six of the existing 23 EC projects - Eastvale in Pasir Ris, Westmere in Jurong East, Simei Green, Windermere in Choa Chu Kang, Chestervale in Bukit Panjang and Pinevale in Tampines - will turn 10 in 2009.

Another seven projects will ‘mature’ one year after that.

The director of research and consultancy at Colliers International, Ms Tay Huey Ying, said: ‘The investor is likely to enjoy some capital appreciation in the short to medium term, provided the upcycle for the residential property market is sustained till then.’

The locations of the older ECs are a major attraction. The managing director of C&H Realty, Mr Albert Lu, said: ‘All ECs within a 10-minute walk of MRT stations will be good buys. As more spaces near MRT stations are taken up, the value of nearby ECs will continue to rise.’

Many of the first few ECs, such as Westmere, Simei Green and Eastvale, are located within walking distance of MRT stations.

The rental yields are attractive too. The rents they fetch are comparable to those for private condos: They come with similar facilities, but their yields are higher because they cost less to buy in the first place. The chief executive of property agency PropNex, Mr Mohamed Ismail, estimated that ECs have rental yields of 5.5 to 6.5 per cent, compared with just 4 to 5 per cent for private condos.

Still, there is some downside to buying resale ECs. House hunters should not expect luxurious trimmings because new ECs can be bought only by households earning not more than $10,000 a month. Mr Colin Tan, the head of research and consultancy at Chesterton International, said: ‘To ensure a reasonable profit margin, developers might lower the quality.’

For home hunter Tan Song Teng, 43, the biggest pull factors for resale ECs are their location and price. The banker, who is looking to buy a three-bedroom unit in Simei Green, said he was attracted by the lower price and the proximity to Simei MRT station.

‘You won’t be overpaying,’ he noted, predicting that even if the value of the property does not rise, it will not drop below current levels.

Expats Here Are Feeling The Pinch Too

Source : The Sunday Times, Dec 2, 2007

DOWNSIZING is one way of fighting soaring rents, but expatriate Diana Cloe and her husband moved downstairs instead, going from their 24th-floor condominium apartment to a similar-size unit on the fourth.

MS DIANA CLOE AND HER HUSBAND moved from their 24th-floor apartment to this unit on the fourth floor when rent was increased by 40 per cent. -- ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

The step down came after their landlord raised the rent for their 2,900 sq ft Anderson Road flat by 40 per cent in April.

They moved down 20 floors to a flat that costs $8,200 in monthly rent - 20 per cent higher than what they were forking out.

Expats who have been complaining about rising rent are feeling vindicated by a recent global survey.

The ECA International survey showed Singapore rising 10 places to rank as the ninth-most-costly Asian city for expats.

Private home rentals have jumped by 32.2 per cent since January, compared with 14.1 per cent for the whole of last year.

Ms Cloe’s American husband, a global development manager who did not want to be named, said: ‘The rents are crazy. My housing allowance was $7,000 but my company was gracious enough to up it.’

Mr Ervin Scully, head of corporate leasing at Knight Frank, said soaring rents have prompted many multinationals to increase expat pay by up to 30 per cent.

Indian expat Sonya Madeira said her boss increased the pay of all 13 employees by 10 per cent after a discussion on the rising cost of living.

Ms Madeira, associate director of Eastwest Public Relations, said the rent for her 1,600 sq ft Pasir Panjang flat doubled to over $3,000. ‘Prices are up but our salaries are not going up at the same pace, so it’s still a bit difficult to manage,’ she said.

Ms Madeira said her family might leave Singapore if rent hits $5,000.

The British and American chambers of commerce are concerned about the rise in rentals.

But Mr Terry O’Connor, president of the British chamber, said the Government’s recent ‘cooling measures’ such as axing the deferred payment scheme has helped redress the situation. But this may not be enough to retain some expats.

Brand consultant Simon Faure-Field, 37, was hit by the doubling of both his office and home rents.

His High Street office now costs $10,000 a month but he renewed the lease as alternative locations were equally expensive.

However, when the rent for his 1,400 sq ft Bukit Timah apartment doubled to $5,000, he moved to a similar-size apartment in Pasir Ris for $3,000.

He said: ‘I can live in Dubai for the same amount. But there, my company can charge up to thrice the price for our services.’

Top 10 The most expensive cities in Asia

1 Seoul
2 Tokyo
3 Yokohama
4 Kobe
5 Hong Kong
6 Taipei
7 Beijing
8 Shanghai
9 Singapore
10 Guangzhou

Meet The Man Who Paid $435m For An Orchard Condo

Source : The Sunday Times, Dec 2, 2007

Billionaire tycoon Francis Yeoh, the man behind YTL Corporation, opens up about his life and loves.


WHILE his pals were off sightseeing during the school holidays, Malaysian tycoon Francis Yeoh was doing his own brand of ’site’-seeing: checking out the building sites run by his father’s construction firm.

It was no holiday. Mr Yeoh stayed and worked on rough terrain with the people who helped to build YTL Corporation.

Given that he now has a personal fortune well in excess of $1US billion ($1S.4 billion), a private island and two helicopters for his personal use, you would have to say it was time well spent.

Mr Yeoh has overseen the remarkable transformation of YTL from a tiddler worth $200,000 to a $13 billion conglomerate, with interests in construction, property, hotels and utilities.

Its latest move made headlines here last week when YTL paid an eye-popping $435 million for Westwood Apartments (left), a 30-year-old condominium in Orchard Boulevard.

It raised the usual questions that often follow one of the firm’s coups: ‘What is YTL and who is Francis Yeoh?’

While relatively unknown here, YTL is a household name across the Causeway.

Founded in 1955 by Mr Yeoh’s father, Tan Sri Yeoh Tiong Lay, whose initials inspired the firm’s name, YTL began life in a two-storey shophouse in Kuala Lumpur’s Jalan Bukit Bintang.

Its first two decades were successful, but then came the 1970s oil crisis.

‘It was a turbulent time,’ Mr Yeoh, 53, told The Sunday Times this week. ‘Two generations of savings were wiped out.’

Despite this, his father managed to scrape together enough money to send Mr Yeoh, the eldest son in a family of seven children, abroad to get a degree. ‘He wanted me to come back and change the way we do things.’

He earned a civil engineering degree, found a fresh perspective on business management and came home to revolutionise YTL, turning its fortunes around in 1978, when he took over the reins at 24.

Its aggressive expansion has seen profits grow every year for the last decade.

YTL moved into the utilities industry, becoming Malaysia’s first independent power producer and listed on the Malaysian bourse in 1985.

It ventured overseas, buying a stake in one of the biggest power distribution companies in Australia and a part of Indonesia’s second largest power generator.

It also bought English utility firm Wessex Water, a bold £1.2 billion ($3S.6 billion) swoop that prompted Britain’s Daily Telegraph to ask in a headline: ‘Who the hell are YTL?’

Many might regard the firm, with its surprising moves on the international stage, as a bit of a dark horse, but the same cannot be said of Mr Yeoh, for whom the phrase ‘flamboyant entrepreneur’ seems to have been invented.

He has an abiding love for the arts, especially opera, and counted the late Luciano Pavarotti as a good friend. On one occasion, Mr Yeoh flew 200 businessmen, politicians and celebrities to his private island - Pangkor Luat, off Malaysia’s east coast - for a Pavarotti concert.

He is also a keen buyer of art and fine wine and loves golf, skiing and the rarefied sport of flying helicopters. That’s why he has two.

Mr Yeoh is also an arts patron and funded KL’s new Performing Arts Centre.

His philosophy, for business and life, is ‘go for the best of the best’.

That approach can be seen at YTL’s Starhill Gallery in KL, a vast retail space with blue chip brands such as Louis Vuitton and Fendi.

This is also YTL’s approach to its next gambit: real estate in Asia, starting here in Singapore.

YTL owns majority stakes in two Sentosa Cove projects - Sandy Island and the Lakefront - and is planning luxury villas designed by Claudio Silverstrin, the architect behind Armani stores worldwide.

As gilded as his life has been, Mr Yeoh was touched by tragedy when his wife Rosaline died after a seven-year battle with breast cancer.

It had been love at first sight, with Mr Yeoh proposing to Rosaline, then a Hong Kong actress and TV star, within two weeks of meeting. ‘Both our mothers cried with joy’ at the news, he said.

‘She was very courageous and uncompromising in quality. If I did something wrong, she’d prod me. She always told me to go for the best.’

Mr Yeoh said that after her death, he felt like ‘a bit of my flesh was torn away from me’, but added that he was happy that she was in heaven.

Mr Yeoh, a born-again Christian, credits his success to God, and said: ‘I don’t fear death. Because I know I’ll go to a better place. And I… will see my wife again.’
His children, aged 15 to 26, are all Christians and named after Biblical characters: Ruth, Jacob, Joseph, Joshua and Rebekah.

It is perhaps his robust belief that gives him his unshakeable business confidence. ‘People ask if YTL will be as big as General Electric some day. I think, why not? I don’t think there’s a limit to how much YTL can grow.’

Sell My Sea-View Flat? Not Even For $1 million

Source : The Sunday Times, Dec 2, 2007

YOU can keep your $1 million; retired technician Jim Klass won’t sell his Marine Parade flat for any amount.

MR POH BENG HOW, 80, enjoys the cool sea breeze from his flat in the Marine Parade block where one five-room unit was sold for a record $750,888 last week, mainly for its view of the sea. -- ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

‘So what if my flat can fetch a good price? Where are we going to live after that? Here, we have the sun, sand and sea,’ said Mr Klass, 75, who has lived in the five-room HDB flat with his wife, Carmen, for the past 30 years.

Last week, Mr Klass’ neighbour on the 23rd floor sold her 1,300 sq ft flat for a record $750,888 - about $200,000 above valuation - thanks mainly to the superb sea view from the living room.

And last month, another five-room flat in Marine Parade went for the then-record price of $730,000.

But news of prices has not sparked a flurry of sale orders. Many owners are retirees who have grown attached to the area and want to stay put.

Retired principal Chee Teck Kion, who lives on the 24th floor, gets such a cool sea breeze that he has never needed an air-conditioner in his more than 30 years there.
‘Sometimes, when it gets too windy, I have to wear a sweater in the house,’ said the 80-year-old who lives there with his wife.

Software consultant Janice Mun, 33, bought a third-floor flat in the block last year for its ‘excellent location’.

‘This place is near good schools, the beach and the city,’ said the mother of three, who paid just $375,000.

But some residents are now wondering if their five-room flats could fetch as much as $1 million.

A 40-year-old businesswoman, who declined to be named, said: ‘I’m very attached to this place but I might consider selling it if I’m offered $1 million.’

Her father paid about $40,000 for the flat in 1974.

Property agents said sellers have to be realistic.

Agent Benny Lim, who specialises in the Marine Parade area, said: ‘Such buyers are one in 100. Only people who have made money from en-bloc sales or retirees with pension payouts have that much cash.’

PropNex chief executive Mohamed Ismail thinks it doesn’t make economic sense to pay so much for a HDB flat because the valuation price will remain low.

Mr Ismail said: ‘At the end of the day, a HDB flat is a HDB flat. You can pay $1 million for it and come home to a neighbour who lives like a karang guni man. There might be urine in the lift. It is not comparable to private housing.’

Privatise Neptune Court? Pay $144m

Source : The Sunday Times, Dec 2, 2007

Finance Ministry’s estimated quote may dash hopes of unit owners hoping to seal en bloc deal.

RESIDENTS at Neptune Court may have to bury their dreams of reaping a windfall of up to $2.4 million each from a collective sale.

The Ministry of Finance, which owns the land the estate sits on, has estimated that the cost of privatising it is $144 million.

That means the 752 apartment owners at the leafy Marine Parade estate with sweeping sea views will have to fork out about $191,000 each.

But residents of HUDC estates need pay only $25,000 to $30,000 to the HDB to privatise their estates.

The huge difference has prompted many residents to ask how the ministry came up with the $144 million sum.

One resident in his 70s, who declined to be named, said: ‘I don’t know why the ministry has to sell the land at such an expensive price when HDB can do it for so much less.’

The ministry said its estimate was derived by comparing ‘the capitalised value of the annual net rents at Neptune Court with those of a comparable private condominium’.

This means it took into account the enhanced value of the privatised Neptune Court, said Credo managing director Karamjit Singh.

‘There are various valuation principles which can be adopted by the valuer. (Those) adopted by the ministry and HDB seem to be different,’ he added.

When HUDC estates are privatised, residents pay mostly for the cost of common areas such as the carpark and landscape.

The Sunday Times understands that HUDC estates and Neptune Court were sold under different schemes, and comparisons could be unfair.

Neptune Court is on a site of about 780,000 sq ft, about three times the size of Chancery Court, a privatised HUDC estate in Dunearn Road.

The huge ministry estimate has come as a blow for Neptune Court residents who were keen on selling.

A retired civil servant in his 60s told The Sunday Times: ‘I’m a pensioner, I don’t have that much money!’

Retired civil servant Michael Chia, 67, has the $191,000 but is in a dilemma: ‘I’m afraid if I pay for the privatisation, the en bloc will not go through. On the other hand, I’m also afraid the Government will one day claim our estate and give me a replacement flat elsewhere.’

But others are relieved.

A 74-year-old housewife, who has been living at Neptune Court for more than 35 years, said: ‘I was so happy when I heard the ministry is asking for so much money. Maybe now, most residents will no longer want to privatise and go for an en bloc.’