Friday, December 21, 2007

Outlook For S-Reit Market Remains Positive Despite Sub-Prime Fears

Source : The Business Times, Dec 20, 2007

SINCE consumer confidence is the most fickle of all economic factors, the retail trade is a good barometer for the health of an economy.

For 2007, this barometer has been in the 'extremely healthy' range. Sales have been up - to the tune of 14.4 per cent as of June 2007 - and so has rental of retail space.

We expect retail to continue nicely right through 2008. For one thing, retail malls - led by the professionally run retail Reits - are investing in physical enhancements to improve and maintain competitiveness.

The enhancements inject a new vibrancy, creating a better experience for the shoppers and improved business for the tenants. For example, thanks to Anchorpoint's $12 million repositioning as a village-mall, shopper traffic and tenant business have improved substantially.

The malls are not the only innovators. Retailers, too, are coming up with new concepts. For instance, the Tung Lok Group created their first kitchen-concept eatery in the new Anchorpoint with Zhou's Kitchen. Similarly, Charles & Keith, G2000, FOS, Club Marc, City Chain, Capitol Optical, Pedro and Giordano have also created unique outlet concepts.

With the advantages of Reits, there will be increasing securitisation of the Singapore retail scene through 2008, with more properties being injected into a Reit structure.

Singapore's Reit scene is only about five years old but the market has grown. By September 2007, there were 18 listed Reits with a total market capitalisation of $29.5 billion, which made Singapore the third-largest Reit market in the Asia-Pacific and the seventh largest worldwide.

We expect more Reits to be launched in the medium term, with at least one or two being retail Reits or Reits with retail components.

The two retail Reits listed at present - Frasers Centrepoint Trust and CapitaMall Trust - are also growing aggressively in the region, particularly in Malaysia and China.

Institutional and retail investor appetite for Singapore Reits continue to be strong.

Reit prices took a bit of a correction in the second half of 2007 when prices fell by about 25 per cent as a result of the US sub-prime fears. I believe the increased volatility will attract more investors to Reits in 2008. Reits are a defensive investment instrument - providing a consistent underlying yield and yet providing exposure to the on-going recovery and long-term growth of the Asian economies and property markets.

Investors will gravitate towards Reits with quality assets. In this respect, suburban malls are very resilient. After all, Singaporeans will still need to shop for their basic necessities. Suburban malls in Singapore managed to ride through the Sars epidemic as people cut back on luxury goods and focused on daily essentials. There exists a very inelastic demand at the suburban mall level.

Investors will also look to Reits with proven track records. Typically, institutional investors have found Reits associated with strong sponsors attractive because of their ability to leverage on the synergies with the sponsor for growth opportunities.

Ultimately, the outlook on Singapore's overall Reit market remains very positive, with market experts expecting it to double by 2010. Retail Reits should continue to remain stable and sensible investment options, even in the current sub-prime environment.

The writer is CEO, Frasers Centrepoint Trust

Analysts Expect Property Prices To Continue To Climb In 2008

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 20 December 2007

The property market has gone on a bull run this year, and industry watchers believe prices will continue to climb in 2008, albeit at a slower pace.

Good demand sent property prices soaring this year. In the first nine months alone, prices rose by over 20 percent, double the increase for the entire 2006. Industry watchers said this level of optimism has not been seen since the late 1990s.

"Residential sales this year have hit a record high. We haven't seen anything as high as this. The typical 10-year average is about 7,200-over private homes sold a year. This year, we are going to see more than double that figure," said Nicholas Mak, analyst at Knight Frank.

"This market sentiment has greatly helped the local buyers. Mainly, I must say it's fuelled by foreign investors, picking up many of the high-end condos. Likewise, we also witnessed a lot of foreign international funds, Middle Eastern funds, European funds and even some local investors picking up properties en bloc," said Mohd Ismail, CEO of PropNex.

The spike in en bloc sale transactions has also contributed to the property boom. In the first half of this year, the Strata Titles Board received a record 45 collective sale applications, compared to 43 for the whole of 2006.

One case stood out; the failed collective sale of Horizon Towers has thrown up questions on how such deals are being sealed. So, industry players welcomed the government's move to tweak laws to make the process more transparent.

The land development charge rates have also been raised from 50% to 70% and analysts said this has cooled the en bloc fever slightly.

To curb speculative activity, the government has done away with the deferred payment scheme on property purchases. It has also released more comprehensive data on both the public and private housing market, in a bid to calm fears of fast escalating property prices.

Industry players said the measures taken by the government have stabilised the property market and there's no concern about it overheating just yet. In addition, the sub-prime crisis unfolding in the US will also make investors more cautious going forward.

However, analysts believe there's still an upside for the property sector in 2008.

They expect prices for both private and public residential properties to grow by between 3 percent and 5 percent per quarter.

"Even though it seems like the market may have peaked, I don't think it will immediately come down... If 2008 prices seem to be coming off, there's always the F1 in October, and it will boost sentiments... Then there's also the first integrated resort," said Colin Tan, analyst at Chesterton International.

The future also looks bright for public housing, with a slew of upgrading programmes to revitalise the heartlands like Punggol and Dawson estates.

The HDB is also expected to build over 10,000 new flats over the next six months to meet rising demand. - CNA /ls

Dengue Situation In East Coast Affects Turnout At Showflats

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 21 December 2007

According to the National Environment Agency (NEA), over 5,000 households have been penalised for breeding the Aedes mosquito at home this year.

This is double the number in 2006.

In the areas near East Coast Road, the high number of dengue infections seems to have affected property sales.

Industry players have noticed that the number of people viewing showflats there has dropped by some 30 percent.

A road separates a new private residential development from the construction site where 14 foreign workers were hit by dengue recently.

Property agents believe that, the new project, which was launched last week, could turn out to be very popular.

But reports of the dengue outbreak have cut the turnout at showflats by 30 percent.

Geraldine Tan, Associate Director, C&H Group, said, "Last week, we (had) many keen buyers who liked our project, but because of this dengue fever problem...they're supposed to bring their family members over, they called us and said they wanted to delay until after the dengue situation is over, then they will come by."

The NEA has despatched its officers to check the East Coast area over the past 20 days.

They also visited over 200 households to look out for potential mosquito breeding sites.

Between January and November this year, some 5,100 households were fined for breeding mosquitoes.

There were only 2,400 households fined over the same period last year.

So far this year, the number of dengue cases has gone up to almost 8,700, with eight fatalities. - CNA/ms

Building On Boxes

Source : The Straits Times, Dec 17 , 2007

Everything put together by Chan Soo Khian looks modern but the award-winning architect is steeped in classics and tradition

AWARD-WINNING architect Chan Soo Khian is wearing a pair of impossibly well-cut grey trousers from Italian luxury label Prada.

PICTURE OF COOL: Chan Soo Khian wears clothes that have clean, simple lines, much like the buildings he designs. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Paired with a white long-sleeved shirt from Calvin Klein and a pair of super-spiffy black leather shoes from Paris, he cuts a stylish figure.

His choice of clothes - his other favourite fashion labels being Jil Sander and Helmut Lang - embodies the same qualities as the buildings he designs: clean, simple lines that emphasise function and have a modern yet classical sensibility.

His spanking new office, a four-storey shophouse in Teck Lim Road, features a gallery on the ground floor that displays a scale model and large, colourful artist renderings of one of his current projects, the Alila Resort in Bali.

The just-completed Singapore High Commission in New Delhi, India (above), designed by Chan Soo Khian. -- PHOTO: SCDA ARCHITECTS

It also houses a mock-up of the resort's rooms, outfitted almost entirely with his new in-house furniture line, SCDA Collection.

So guests can admire the design of the resort while sipping cocktails from one of the daybeds and armchairs that grace the interiors.

Lounging on a deep-seated, dark wood chair he designed, he is a picture of cool. Throughout the two-hour interview, Chan, 45, is calm and considered in his responses.

He tells you he's in the midst of moving house from a colonial bungalow in the East Coast he's been renting for a decade, to a house he's designing off Holland Road.

It won't be 'hardcore modern', he says, but will include some signature elements of his design aesthetic, such as the prominent use of glass, stone and wooden screens. It will be furnished with, among other classics, a Mies van der Rohe daybed and a Castiglioni Arco lamp.

He chuckles when you tease him about his penchant for designing boxy houses with flat roofs, and admits his house will be boxy, albeit without the signature timber-trellised cover-ups.

'Why not a box?' he asks rhetorically.

'A lot of the houses are boxy because they are creating a courtyard. You arrange two, three boxes and the space that is left by what is created between the boxes is the courtyard. Besides, squares are efficient, it's what structure is.'

Asked to define his own style, he says: 'Basically I'm just a humanist and I'm classical in spirit. I think that the classic sense of space never left me, even though the way I put everything together is very modern.'

Malaysia-born Chan moved to Singapore in 1990 from New York, where he had been working.

The following year, he won a Young Designers Award in a competition organised by the then Trade Development Board, for a flat, interlocking candle-holder.

His firm, SCDA Architects - of which he is the founding principal and design director - has also been winning awards since it started in 1995. These include the URA Architectural Heritage Awards and the Royal Institute of British Architects Worldwide Award.

Last year, he won two inaugural awards: the Designer of the Year award for his distinctive tropical yet modern homes at the President's Design Awards and an SIA-Getz Architecture Prize for Emergent Architecture in Asia for contribution to new directions in Asian architecture.

He also designed the Toy Museum in Seah Street and is sought after overseas, counting the Hotel Lonudhuahuttaa in the Maldives, the Singapore High Commission in New Delhi and the OneKL condominium project in Kuala Lumpur among his projects.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority has also commissioned him to design a public space at Dhoby Ghaut, on an empty plot beside Istana Park. He is understandably tight-lipped about the project, but says it will be 'landscape-oriented'.

He has the endorsement of his peers too.

Mr Hans Bauer, 46, principal architect of HB Design, has known Chan for nine years and calls him 'a leading light for others to do similar works of high quality of design'.

'He's been very prolific and his projects are extremely rigorous, well-detailed and well-thought- through, using clean materials that require a high level of control,' he adds.

First project his own house

CHAN knew he wanted to be an architect from an early age.

Born the second of three children in January 1962 in Penang, he remembers being exposed to buildings - and the idea of building them - from a young age.

He says: 'It sounds almost cliched but I did grow up with a lot of building toys, such as Lego and model kits. At some point, I found that I was interested in making things.'

Both his parents worked in the banking industry. His father died 10 years ago and his mother, who is in her 70s, still lives in Penang. Both his siblings live and work here. Elder sister Wan Nee, 50, is a kindergarten teacher and younger sister Wan Teng, 42, works in a bank.

He attended Penang Free School where, he says, he was a good student and was even nominated to be a prefect.

'But I was not exactly abiding by the rules most of the time,' he says with a cheeky grin. 'So I was one of only two prefects who weren't confirmed.

'I drew caricatures of teachers and passed them around, and I always arrived a little bit late - I still tend to be late, but I try not to be.'

Indeed, he was rather indifferent about being 15 minutes late for this interview.

He went to Washington University in the United States straight after taking his O levels in Penang. After obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree in architecture, he went on to get his professional degree, a Master of Arts in architecture from Yale University.

He graduated in 1987 and practised for two years in New York with the prestigious firm Kohn Pedersen Fox.

He came to Singapore in 1990, when the firm was awarded a project here. Later that year, he joined Singapore firm Architects 61, and stayed there until he started SCDA - which stands for Soo Chan Design Associates - in 1995.

He declines to talk about money or turnover, but today, the firm's award-winning portfolio of works includes not just private homes but also condominiums, holiday resorts and the interior of Rang Mahal restaurant and the now-defunct Song & Kelly boutique.

His first project was his own house in Koon Seng Road, an old shophouse that he converted into a modern tropical haven.

'People liked it and I started doing others in Emerald Hill and Cairnhill and that's how the practice started - from the attic of the house,' he recalls.

Asked if architecture is a lucrative career, he says that it 'rolls with the times and economy'.

Fortunately for him, the property market continues to be white-hot.

He says it's not easy to make the jump from houses to high-rise condominiums - the latter being what an architect needs to design to hit the big time.

'You need some breaks. Mine was probably in 1999 for SC Global's The Ladyhill or Lincoln Modern,' he says.

Both projects won awards in 2005. The Ladyhill won the Gold Medal in the multi-family residential category of the Miami + Beach Bienal International Competition and the Lincoln Modern clinched the international award in the Royal Institute of British Architects Worldwide Awards.

Ask him if it ever gets boring working for a regular client - in this case, upmarket property developer SC Global - and he says: 'They demand a certain quality and standard and we enjoy working with them. Underlying it, we share common ideals in getting it right.'

That's not to say he has always gotten it right throughout his career. He has some projects he'd rather not name but 'hide and hope nobody really sees them'.

But he is hard-pressed to name a favourite work of his.

'They're all like your own kids, they're all yours, even the bad ones,' he says, grinning.

Speaking of bad architecture, he had said in a previous Straits Times article that Singapore has 'too many badly proportioned neoclassical houses, overtly Balinese houses and period houses copied from other countries'.

Citing German-American architect van der Rohe's Barcelona Pavilion, Rome's Pantheon and the Katsura Imperial Villa in Kyoto as some of his favourite buildings, he says: 'Neoclassical buildings have rules, you know, like proportions and ratios. What bugs me most is that some houses look wrong because I know what is supposed to look right. True classical buildings have a lot of strength and power, but those are caricatures of the original.'

He adds: 'But thankfully, that's in the past. I think everyone is now averse to anything classical. In that sense, I think the sensibility for me is to return to classical because that's what everyone doesn't want now.'

He has high hopes for Singapore architecture, and says the industry is enjoying a higher profile in recent years because of good talent.

'We don't need to brand our architecture as Singaporean, we just need to brand Singapore as a place of good design.'

He adds: 'If you always want to ask 'What's Singaporean about this?', you'll end up with a World's Fair of Raffles Hotels or trishaws or Merlions.'

What's important

CHAN perks up when you ask him to choose three words to describe himself.

Hmm, he ponders aloud, before responding: intuitive, decisive and passionate.

He is intuitive because he sizes people up quickly based on a 'vibe', such as when hiring staff. He is decisive out of necessity as he has to make many decisions on any given day, and is passionate because he wants to 'get it right, and will find whichever way to do so'.

How about in the bedroom, you ask, hoping to elicit a more animated response.

But he stifles an impulse to chuckle, saying: 'I can't answer that, it's very private - but you can imagine. You could say I'm intense and focused.'

The divorced father of three boys says the most important things in his life now are intangible ones, like change and time.

Now newly engaged, he says: 'The early years were all just study, work and trying to achieve. Now, I think finally the less tangible things are important, like spending time with people who are dear to you.'

He lets slip that his fiancee, whom he refers to as Ling but will not say more about, sometimes travels with him to visit his projects overseas or 'she won't see very much of me'.

And yes, he always travels Business Class.

He says matter-of-factly: 'Of course I have to, it's work. When I get there I need to be fresh. Even if I go on long, personal trips, I definitely have to. To get up and go all the time is really hardship.

'I have so many frequent flyer miles that I have more than enough to redeem free flights for everyone.'

You wonder if he has any spare time to indulge in hobbies. Yes, he says. He enjoys reading and photography, and holds a black belt in taekwon-do.

By the end of the interview, you realise that under the boxy, modern exterior is a man steeped in classics and tradition - the kind who likes to wear suits when he is overseas and is not currently living with his fiancee because 'we're not married yet'.

Another side of him also emerges when his picture is being taken after the interview.

Gone is the reserved, soft-spoken, thinking architect in the chair. In his place is a booming art director telling the photographer how he would like his picture to be taken.

He says: 'This looks weird', 'Can we do this instead?' and 'Doesn't it look funny like that?' and declares he is uncomfortable each time he has to look into a camera and smile.

And there is the drive, the perfectionist streak that makes him the sought-after architect that he is.

'Every decent architect has to be a little bit of a control freak,' he admits.

Building A Foundation

Source : The Straits Times, Dec 20, 2007


THE name Woha Architects popped up on nearly everyone's lips when Life! asked architects and industry experts for people who have made a mark in the architectural field this year.

TOWERING ACHIEVEMENTS: Wong Mun Summ (left) and Richard Hassell have propelled their architectural firm Woha to great heights. -- ST PHOTO: ALAN LIM

Wong Mun Summ, 45, and Richard Hassell, 41
Founding directors of Woha Architects

Yet, Wong and Hassell seemed surprised when told of this. In fact, Wong jokes that 'it's because we've been so overexposed'.

We think not. The architects, who founded Woha in 1994, must be doing something right.

Wong is a National University of Singapore graduate and Hassell graduated from RMIT University in Melbourne. They have 18 years of experience each.

The name Woha is an amalgamation of their surnames, Wong and Hassell. The partners share the same office space and both oversee each project they do. Though they share the same vision, they do not finish each other's sentences. Instead, each lets the other speak his mind.

The award-winning firm continued its winning streak this year.

REDEFINING DESIGN: The modern-looking Church of St Mary of the Angels in Bukit Batok (above) won the President's Design Award last year. -- PHOTO: PRESIDENT'S DESIGN AWARD 2006

Hassell says one of the biggest prizes won this year was the Aga Khan Award for Architecture for its residential project, 1 Moulmein Rise. The development features monsoon windows in each apartment, which are special horizontal structures to let the breeze in but keep out the rain. The architects each have apartments there.

The award, held once every three years, has a prize fund of US$500,000 (S$739,000), making it the largest architectural prize. This is the first time a Singapore project has won it.

'It got us a lot of media coverage worldwide and even got us onto the BBC,' says Hassell. Wong adds that the triumph got the firm interest from Middle East clients, and even a home owner in Spain wanted Woha to design his home.

The firm's most recent win was also for 1 Moulmein Rise, which won Design of the Year at the President's Design Award this year. The annual award is Singapore's highest accolade for designers and designs.

NO PANE, NO GAIN: 1 Moulmein Rise, which features monsoon windows (left) that keeps rain out while allowing air to circulate, won the Aga Khan Award for Architecture and the Design of the Year award the President's Design Award this year. -- PHOTO: AGA KHAN AWARD FOR ARCHITECTURE

This is the second time that Woha has won it. Last year, it won the same award for the modern-looking Church of St Mary of the Angels in Bukit Batok.

Hassell points out that they are now getting awards for buildings that they designed several years ago. 'Winning shows that our buildings have longevity,' he says.

The architects say their fear is when the firm gets too commercialised and loses its innovative streak.

From a firm of two, they now have a staff of 80 in Singapore, in South Bridge Road, and five in Thailand. 'We are bigger now but we have shown that we can still be creative and innovative,' says Wong.

Upcoming projects that will be completed within the next year or two include Iluma, an entertainment centre in Bugis, and the School of the Arts in Selegie.

A recently completed residential project is Newton Suites, which boasts a 30-storey wall covered with creepers and other plants, which is possibly the first in the world. The architects have also put in gardens at the lift lobbies.

With green issues now the hot topic, we won't be surprised if Woha continues to win big time next year.

Bringing Good Design To The Masses

Source : The Business Times, December 21, 2007

Uber-designer Karim Rashid talks to PARVATHI NAYAR about his interest in visual language and what draws him to a project

HE Is one of today's hottest designers, almost a household name in the US with signature products that meld form and function with a love for colour and sleek shapes. In person, with his imposing height and attention-grabbing white-and-pink sartorial statement, Egyptian-born, New York-based Karim Rashid certainly fits the role of uber-designer.

Sartorial statement: The colourful Sceye glasses and the funky Alessi watch are both designed by its wearer, Karim Rashid, who is attired in his signature white-and-pink colours

It helps, of course, that every accessory he's wearing has been personally designed by him: colourful Sceye glasses, funky Alessi watch, comfortable Fessura shoes and eye-catching rings. Having long abandoned mantras as predictable as 'creative people wear black', Karim has worn only white - and pink - for several years now. 'It makes shopping for clothes very easy; if I walk into a store and don't see white, I leave.'

Karim is credited with bringing good design to the masses, his commercial success somewhat unusually matched by equivalent critical acclaim. In other words, if he has over 2,000 objects put into production, equally, his objects are featured in the permanent collections of museums like New York's Museum of Modern Art.

The 47-year-old designer was in town for a series of events connected with the Singapore Design Festival that included a design lecture on Blurring Boundaries, unveiling two limited edition prints inspired by the MINI Cabrio Sidewalk, and the ongoing exhibition titled Plastik Blobular Worlds.

'I've been doing quite a bit of art over the past 15 years; in art you can be completely free,' says Karim. He enjoys the space this allows him to inhabit, space that lies somewhere between the worlds of design - that by definition has to be useful - and art, which defines itself as having no usefulness at all.

As promised by its title, Karim's exhibition showcases colourful, two- and three-dimensional blobs, which, says the designer-artist, evolved out of years of experimentation with the latest tools of computer technology.

However, his interest in visual language grew out of a childhood love for drawing. 'As a child I would hide under the bed and draw,' he says, explaining how he was not at all tuned into the 'real' world populated by adults. Very soon the precocious child realised that with the act of drawing, 'I could change my physical environment, alter what I saw around me'. And so he was hooked.

Growing up, he thought he might be an architect but happily found his true calling in industrial design, and graduated with a degree in it from Canada. Karim went on to graduate in design studies in Italy, then spent a year at the Rodolfo Bonetto studio in Milan.

In 1993 he opened his design studio in New York where he is still largely based. There is an inevitability to this choice of geography: as young children, Karim and his brother were so fascinated with New York, they promised each other that one day it would be the city in which they'd live. When he actually started living the dream, however, there were a few nightmare years.

'The first five years were painful. For eight months I cold-called about 100 companies for design work - picking companies that I felt needed good design rather than companies that already practised it.' Finally he got work with the Santa Fe-based company Nambe, which had been founded in 1951 but was still relatively unknown in the US. Karim's first collection for the company sold for about US$30 million, and along the way, established his American credentials.

Since then, he has worked on product and interior design, fashion and architecture, with such names as Sony, Prada and Issey Miyake, to create iconic objects and democratic designs like the Oh Chair and Garbo trash can. Among the many awards he has received is the prestigious Daimler-Chrysler award for design excellence. He has also taught design at prestigious schools like the Pratt Institute.

Today Karim gets 'five design proposals a week from over 24 countries', but the projects he gets involved in have nothing to do with the remuneration offered. 'The reason I became successful was because I didn't worry about the money; all I'd ask myself was, 'Is there something new that I can do with this project?' Today I'd pick a project based on three criteria: it must allow opportunities for innovation and be in an area that needs improvement; also, I need to believe in the agenda of the company.'

For example, when he got into redesigning the vacuum cleaner for Dirt Devil, what captured him was the idea of a paradigm shift. His Dirt Devil KONE, with its sleek, sculptural form, was born out of a desire to 'break the archetype of the vacuum as something you hide away. I wanted to create an object so beautiful and simple you'd leave it on display in your home, so you could just pick it up when you needed to use it.'

Future plans include the realisation of a long cherished ambition - to create his own line of casual clothes for men and women. Any advance previews? 'There will be jeans but not in blue,' he says cryptically.

But it's not just colours and fabrics that he wants to play with. Karim has no room for nostalgia, and wants to rethink the basic elements of clothing, such as jacket lapels or the placement of pockets, to see if these things still have reference to - and relevance with - the way we live today. 'I want to make clothes that are more symbiotic with the world in which we live - like sporting gear today, for example, that is so well designed.'

Karim is someone who wants to leave his visual mark on the contemporary world. It's a desire reflected in the titles of the books he has authored, such as I Want to Change the World, Evolution and Design Your Self: Rethinking the Way You Live, Love, Work, and Play. Karim reads a lot - philosophers like Paul Virilio, business books like Our Brave New World - but he hasn't looked at a design magazine in over two years. 'I need to be inspired by other things now,' he says.

Inspiration - that much-hyped word - should not come from looking at other people's designs but from a personal response to the world we live in.

Plastik Blobular Worlds, at Gallery Hotel, Robertson Quay, Until Jan 31. The works are for sale: digital paintings at $8,500; each of the 250 sculptural blobs at $250 and the entire installation at $45,000. Free admission.

Latest US Data - Gloomy Indicators Show Recession Could Be Looming

Source : The Business Times, December 21, 2007

Conference Board's gauge falls for third time in 4 months

(WASHINGTON) The index of leading economic indicators fell for the third time in four months in November, signalling an increasing risk of a US recession.

The Conference Board's gauge, which points to the direction of the economy over the next three to six months, fell a greater- than-forecast 0.4 per cent after declining 0.5 in October, the New York-based research group said yesterday.

The report followed revised figures from the Commerce Department that confirmed growth accelerated in the third quarter.

Gross domestic product (GDP) grew at a 4.9 per cent pace in the July-to-September quarter, unchanged from an estimate made a month ago. This impressive performance, the best in four years, was swarmed by bad news on other fronts. Builders slashed spending on housing projects in the third quarter at an annuallised rate of 20.5 per cent, the most in 16 years.

The economy's growth from October to December is expected to have slowed to a pace of just 1.5 per cent or less.

GDP measures the value of all goods and services produced within the US.

The deepest housing slump in 16 years is likely to worsen as foreclosures mount and banks restrict lending, economists said. Declining property values and rising energy costs may also hurt consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of the economy.

'It's certainly pointing to a slowdown,' said Roger Kubarych, chief US economist at Unicredit Global Research in New York and a former Federal Reserve researcher. 'The fourth quarter is going to be much weaker.'

Economists forecast that the Conference Board's index would decline 0.3 per cent, according to the median of 60 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey. Projections ranged from a decline of 0.6 per cent to a gain of 0.2 per cent.

The National Retail Federation in Washington has forecast that holiday sales this year will show the smallest gain since 2002.

The leading index is down at an annual pace of 2.3 per cent over the last six months, short of the approximate 4 per cent to 4.5 per cent drop that Conference Board economists say signals recession.

Former Treasury secretary Lawrence Summers said on Wednesday that it is 'quite likely' that a contraction will develop next year, while former Federal Reserve chairman Allan Greenspan has given it about even odds. -- Bloomberg, AP

Calm Replaces Frenzy, But Office Sector Will Still Be Buoyant

Source : The Business Times, December 21, 2007

Supply remains tight in short-term, prices may rise slower in 2008

The tight supply of office space seen this year will spill over into 2008, keeping rents buoyant and rising in the region of 20 per cent for Grade A space.

However, the massive supply expected from 2010 onwards, coupled with a growing resistance to rental hikes and the possibility of a slowdown in the US economy, will likely bring a sense of calm with the new year, replacing the manic price increases that dominated much of 2007, when rents in areas like Raffles Place increased by 100 per cent.

Colliers International director for research and consultancy Tay Huey Ying says that based on the average annual office absorption rate in the last three years of about 2.3 million sq ft, islandwide occupancy could reach 95 per cent by 2010, but added that this was 'unlikely in view of the looming US recession'.

Colliers estimates that potential supply is estimated to be 5.2 million sq ft, or about 1.7 million sq ft a year for the next three years.

'In the likely event of a moderation in annual office demand by some 25-30 per cent to an annual average of some 1.6 million sq ft in the next three years, islandwide occupancy rate would still remain at a healthy level of above 92 per cent by 2010,' added Ms Tay.

Cushman & Wakefield's (C&W) estimates for the shorter term reveal a more dire supply situation.

C&W managing director Donald Han says that only 2.7 million sq ft of new office space will be completed for 2008 and 2009, or an average of 1.35 million sq ft per annum. Projected take-up however, has historically been around 2 million sq ft.

But while rents will continue to rise, tenants may simply up their tolerance thresholds and resist expansion by 'hot-desking, working from home, or reconfiguring workstations', at least until rents stabilise, reckons Mr Han.

Landlords' rental expectations will remain high but Mr Han believes that tenants are beginning to resist high rents and expects 'more corporates who are large users of space to continue adopting cost segregation strategy in 2008'.

'Assuming half of a front end office in the CBD pays $15 psf while the other half of backroom operations pays a $4 psf industrial rate, the blended rate achieved is $9.50 psf, which makes businesses more agile and competitive in a high cost environment,' Mr Han said.

He also noted that the Grade B office sector is enjoying high occupancy rates of 95-98 per cent with some fringe areas like the Tanjong Pagar, Beach Road and Chinatown micro markets seeing record rental transactions.

Mr Han added: 'There has been a growing trend of companies buying premises for own use in lieu of renting. These have similarly led to the rise of rental and capital values for conservation shophouses and strata-titled offices.'

Capital values rose rapidly in 2007. According to Savills Singapore, average Grade A capital values rose 33 per cent in Q2'07 and 23 per cent in Q3'07, quarter-on-quarter.

For 2008, however, Savills is projecting a 20 per cent increase for the whole year.

The sector will also continue to be bolstered by institutional buyers. Savills director of marketing and business development Ku Swee Yong said: 'They invest in Singapore for interest rate arbitrage, tax gains, forex gains or diversification, and portfolio diversification. The office investment market will continue to be filled with investor interest and we will see a constant supply of funds chasing after very few assets.'

The lower price fetched for Marina View Parcel B recently does not alter his view either. 'Marina View Parcel B had restrictions due to the common services tunnel construction access. The price is not reflective of the market because you have to discount for the inconvenience. I don't believe one can draw any conclusions from the price,' he added.

With good returns on capital values, Knight Frank director, research and consultancy Nicholas Mak believes that 2008 will see investors continue to look for short term gains. 'A few have already been flipping commercial properties because the profit is too good to pass up,' he added.

Better yields may persuade these investors to hold for longer term rental returns but Mr Mak only expects yields to rise in 2009 or 2010.

For 2008, the tight supply will be mitigated by limited office space completion and new transitional office sites being developed.

Interest in the transitional sites has been encouraging.

CB Richard Ellis executive director (office services) Moray Armstrong said: 'The successful award of the first transitional office parcel at Scotts Road and the swift pre-commitment of the entire block by insurance giant Prudential provides a good gauge of strength of the leasing market in 2007.'

CBRE estimates that Grade A rents will average $18.50 by end-2008 but Mr Armstrong expects the market to be, 'more friendly beyond 2010'.

'This is likely to be factored into property decisions by the corporates,' he added.

By CBRE's analysis, more than 68 per cent (or about 6.2 million sq ft) of the on-coming supply from 2008-2012 is likely to be categorised as Grade A - almost doubling the current Grade A stock.

荷兰山公寓Holland Hill Mansions业主不满赔偿额上诉遭驳回

《联合早报》Dec 20, 2007

荷兰山公寓(Holland Hill Mansions)一名业主不满赔偿额分配方式,向高庭上诉推翻分层地契局批准出售的裁决,但上诉最后遭驳回。  


他的五楼单位,是公寓里唯一的顶层豪宅(penthouse),将获赔625万元,面积为642平方米,分层地契份额(share value)为6,是所有单位中最高的。最小单位的份额为1。






荷兰山公寓是于去年11月集体出售,有关公寓是由和美集团(Ho Bee)与MCL地产联手以2亿9200万元,即以容积率每平方英尺750元买下。



除了荷兰山公寓外,浩然大厦(Horizon Towers)的少数业主上个月也曾向分层地契局提出分配方式对顶层豪宅业主不公平。
它们的房地产代理First Tree Properties也建议以50%份额,50%面积来计算赔偿。



The Mysterious Tower Of CBD

Source : TODAY, Friday, December 21, 2007

Singapore's tallest sculpture to be unveiled, by tier

A MYSTERIOUS tiered tower, seemingly shrink-wrapped in canvas (picture), has been under construction at one of the busiest intersections in the Central Business District for several months. Tomorrow, it will finally be revealed as Singapore's tallest sculpture.

Well, almost revealed.

On that day, the protective canvas of the first tier of the 18.35-metre, 44-tonne sculpture — titled Momentum — will be removed with the rest of the spiral progressively unveiled one tier per day.

It will culminate in the entire sculpture being specially illuminated for the first time by a state-of-the-art lighting system at 7pm on New Year's Eve as many people are expected in the area for the Marina Bay Countdown.

The $2-million sculpture, located at Finlayson Green at the intersection of Collyer Quay, Raffles Quay and Marina Boulevard, is part of the URA's Public Sculpture Masterplan and was commissioned by the developers of the adjacent One Raffles Quay to become a symbol for Singapore's new financial district at the gateway to Marina Bay.

"We hope the Singapore public will embrace this distinctive sculpture and in the fullness of time we believe it could become as iconic for Singapore's business and financial district as the 'Charging Bull' sculpture is for New York's Wall Street," said Mr David Martin for the joint developers of One Raffles Quay.

Mr Martin said he had declined numerous requests for a sneak peek but revealed the sculpture was created by Israeli artist David Gerstein. Boasting 175 hand-painted figures, Momentum depicts an upward cycle of progress, symbolising the energy and momentum of the district, Singapore and its people.

Mr Gerstein's work is prominently displayed in museums and public areas in Israel, United States, Europe and recently in South Korea. This is his first commissioned work on public display in South-east Asia.

The Neighbours Are At It Again

Source : TODAY, Friday, December 21, 2007

Forming of new committees for en bloc sales sparks renewed dissent at 2 condos

DEPENDING on which side you are on, it is a case of try and try again, or deja vu, as some residents will testify.

Condominium en bloc sales have cooled, due in part to the new Land Titles (Strata) Act that came into force in October, but at least two large developments are getting back into the game.

Bayshore Park, on Singapore's East Coast, is in the process of forming a new sales committee after it had to disband the original one because of the new ruling.

A group of opposing residents had sent a lawyer's letter to the old committee challenging its constitution and its validity under the amended Act.

Developments at the 21-year-old condominium — which is over 1 million sq ft in size — is keenly watched by marketing agents and developers alike because of its prime sea-front location and vast land area.

Clementi Park, on Singapore's West, is another condominium that had faced hurdles in its en bloc process, as the first sales committee was disbanded because it did not garner enough support — at least 80 per cent — for a collective sale even after a year.

Like Bayshore, it sits on about 1 million sq ft of land, but unlike the former which is on 99-year-lease, it is on freehold land. Despite its lack of success, another sales committee has been formed.

At both condominiums, the disbanding of previous sales committees gave a brief respite to residents who did not agree with the en bloc sales, but these dissenting voices now find themselves having to rally support against the cause — yet again.

These residents say the renewed efforts are disruptive to their lives and have a dampening effect on votes calling for upgrades to their homes — as some residents may not vote in favour, due to the uncertainty of whether an en bloc will eventually be pushed through.

However, a second attempt at en bloc sales may not be all that negative, said director of head consultancy and research at Chesterton International, Mr Colin Tan.

"The first time an en bloc sale is noted, it would usually catch people by surprise and there would be people who are resistant because they are not in the right frame of mind to sell or they already have invested in it," he said.

"In a second try, residents are more attuned to the possibility of an en bloc sale and are thus prepared for it. So, they can make a more informed decision." — Chesterton International’s director of head consultancy and research Colin Tan on a second attempt at en bloc

But residents who are less than enthusiastic about parting with their homes say that repeated en bloc attempts are just disturbing their peace of mind.

"I think it's bad news," said Bayshore Park apartment owner Stephen Seow.

"After looking around Singapore, I can't find anything suitable. We bought this apartment for the purpose of retirement. We want to stay here, enjoy all the nice facilities, the ambience and the greenery.

"In the new condominiums, there are space constraints. We wouldn't have the same type of freedom," he added.