Friday, January 18, 2008

GIC Invests US$300m In US Property Hedge Fund

Source : The Business Times, January 16, 2008

The Government of Singapore Investment Corp (GIC) has committed US$300 million to a US hedge fund for investing in real estate securities, said a statement by the fund obtained by Reuters on Wednesday.

GIC's real estate investment arm will also acquire a minority stake in the fund, California-based Rosen Real Estate Securities, to capture its future growth, the statement issued by Rosen said.

The fund is run by Kenneth Rosen, a professor of real estate and urban economics at the University of California in Berkeley.

'We have known and respected Ken for a very long time and look forward to expanding our relationship,' GIC Real Estate president Seek Ngee Huat said in the statement.

The investment comes as property values have dipped sharply in the US, pummelled by a deepening mortgage crisis and fears of a recession in the world's largest economy.

GIC, which invests more than US$100 billion of Singapore's foreign reserves abroad, has also injected funds into major banks including nearly US$7 billion in Citigroup, announced on Tuesday, and US$9.75 billion for Swiss bank UBS AG.

GIC's sister firm Temasek Holdings took a US$4.4 billion equity stake in US brokerage Merrill Lynch last month, as global banks face massive write-downs from the US sub-prime mortgage crisis. -- REUTERS

A-Reit’s Portfolio Hit Record Occupancy Of 99% At End-2007

Source : The Business Times, January 18, 2008

ASCENDAS Real Estate Investment Trust (A-Reit) said yesterday its overall portfolio occupancy rate increased to a record 98.7 per cent at end-2007 from 96.1 per cent at end-2006.

The occupancy rate for A-Reit’s multi-tenanted buildings rose to 97 per cent at end-2007 from 93.1 per cent at end-2006, the trust said.

Based on value, A-Reit’s portfolio comprises 51 per cent multi-tenanted buildings and 49 per cent sale- and-leaseback properties .

A-Reit renewed and signed new leases including expansions amounting to a net lettable area of 46,933 sq m for the three months ended Dec 31, 2007. These leases represent 6.8 per cent of the net lettable area of its multi-tenanted buildings and annualised rental income of $11.1 million.

Total new leases including expansions for the quarter were 16,961 sq m - 28.7 per cent in business and science parks, 32.8 per cent in hi-tech industrial buildings and 38.6 per cent in two other sectors - light industrial and flatted factories and logistics and distribution centres. A-Reit said HansaPoint@CBP, a partial built-to-suit development project it undertook in November 2006, attained 100 per cent pre-committed occupancy during construction. The development is expected to be completed next month.

Looking ahead, demand for industrial space is likely to remain healthy due to multi-national companies setting up facilities in Singapore and the spillover effect from tight office supply in the central business district, A-Reit said.

But anticipated high supply of 702,000 sq m of logistics and distribution space in the next two years is expected to dampen rents, it warned.


《联合早报》Jan 18, 2008


于上个月推出的义顺组屋预购项目—Jade Spring,申请期限是今天午夜,但截至今天中午12时为止,总共已有1832人提出申请。


该项目的48个三房式单位则有141人申请,即每个单位有近3人抢购。Jade Spring的三房式单位售价估计介于11万8000元至13万4000元之间。

尽管义顺组屋的转售价一直偏低,但市场人士对Jade Spring所受欢迎程度,却不感到意外。



Jade Spring位于义顺环路与义顺11道的交界处,相当靠近纳福坊购物中心;其设计特点在于单位的落地窗,而面向义顺公园的单位还将建有阳台。


《联合早报》Jan 18, 2008
















Merrill CEO Thinks Worst Is Over For Subprime Woes - For Now

Source : The Straits Times, Jan 18, 2008

NEW YORK - JOHN Thain, presiding over his first set of earnings as the new leader of Merrill Lynch & Co, cleared the decks with some US$15 billion (S$21.6 billion) of subprime mortgage related write-downs that led to the largest quarterly loss since the the world's largest brokerage was founded 94 years ago.

And, while it was among the most aggressive moves on Wall Street to deal with bad bets on subprime mortgages, Mr Thain is still not ready to say the worst of the credit crisis is over.

With a possible recession looming, Merrill Lynch and other Wall Street investment houses might still be saddled with unforeseen turmoil. While taking steps to minimize future disruptions, Mr Thain is still wary about challenges that face the global financial markets.

'We will continue to take risks - you don't make money if you don't take risk,' Mr Thain said.

'But the risk will be sized appropriate for the business. Nobody should be taking risks that wipe out the entire annual earnings of a business, and certainly not the entire firm.'

That's exactly what happened under former CEO Stan O'Neal, whose heavy bets in subprime mortgage securities backfired as homeowners defaulted on their loans at an alarming rate. That strategy led to a nearly US$10 billion loss during the fourth quarter, on top of US$2.31 billion during the previous period.

Merrill Lynch posted a net loss after preferred dividends of US$9.91 billion, or US$12.01 per share, compared to a profit of US$2.3 billion, or US$2.41 per share, a year earlier. It also recorded negative revenue of US$8.19 billion, down from revenue of US$8.39 billion a year earlier.

The New York-based brokerage marked down US$11.5 billion from mortgage-backed securities, and an additional US$3.1 billion in adjustments to hedge positions on them.

Exposure to risky collateralized debt obligations, or CDOs, was US$4.8 billion at the end of 2007, down from US$15.8 billion three months earlier.

For the same periods, exposure to subprime-residential mortgages fell to US$2.71 billion from US$5.66 billion.

The huge housing-driven shortfalls come as weak economic data have intensified fears of a recession, and have increased pressure on the government for an economic stimulus plan.

There is growing evidence that the late payments and defaults that torpedoed the mortgage industry might be bleeding into other parts of the economy. Consumers are falling behind on all kinds of loan payments - like automobiles, credit cards and home-equity lines - that could tip the economy's scale toward recession.

Merrill Lynch joins rival Wall Street investment houses Morgan Stanley and Bear Stearns Cos. in posting losses in the last three months of fiscal 2007.

Citigroup Inc., the nation's largest bank, reported on Tuesday a quarterly loss of almost US$10 billion, the largest in its 196-year history.

'We believe risky assets (at Merrill) were conservatively marked, the exposures are still significant, and further deterioration in pricing so far in January means write-downs may not be over,' said Mr Roger Freeman, an analyst with Lehman Brothers, in a note to clients.

Problems will be identified

Mr Thain, who was CEO of NYSE Euronext and a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc president, said he's taking steps to help identify where the problems are. He brought in a new co-head of risk management, who was a former Goldman executive, and is also bringing in a senior executive to oversee all trading to get better control over the business.

He's also pledged to clear the brokerage's books and shore up its capital base to better position it amid the credit market turmoil.

Merrill Lynch secured almost US$13 billion worth of fresh capital, mostly from foreign wealth funds in Singapore, Korea, and Kuwait.

It also addressed the balance-sheet woes by selling a commercial-finance unit, and could make more divestitures in future quarters.

The brokerage also plans to move some trading assets into funds that will be sold to outside investors - essentially removing them from the company's books. Merrill is raising money for a real-estate fund in the Pacific Rim and hopes to create some private equity, and possibly infrastructure, funds.

Merrill Lynch shares tumbled US$5.64, or 10.2 per cent, to US$49.45 on Thursday when Wall Street tumbled after a regional Federal Reserve report showed a sharp decline in manufacturing activity and as investors feared that downgrades of key bond insurers could trigger further trouble with souring debt.

Merrill's shares have fallen almost 50 per cent since their high of US$98.68 last year, wiping out some $40 billion in shareholder value along the way. -- AP

Three Allco Reit Properties Gain $121m In Value

Source : The Business Times, January 18, 2008

ALLCO Commercial Real Estate Investment Trust (Allco Reit) said yesterday that the combined value of three of its property assets has jumped by $120.8 million or 12 per cent since the end of June last year, based on the latest revaluation.

The three properties are China Square Central and 55 Market Street in Singapore, and Central Park in Perth. Allco Reit owns the first two properties, and has a 50 per cent stake in the third.

This means that the total value of the trust's stakes in the three properties rose 36.8 per cent or $302.8 million over the full year in 2007. Their combined value at the end of December was $1.13 billion.

The Singapore properties were valued by Savills and the Perth property was valued by CB Richard Ellis.

'The most significant increases in this latest round of asset valuations were seen at China Square Central and 55 Market Street in Singapore,' said Nicholas McGrath, chief executive of Allco Reit. 'These assets increased in value by 17 per cent and 14 per cent respectively in only six months.'

China Square Central, 55 Market Street and Central Park have all achieved significant growth in value since end-June 2007, adding to earlier increases of 15 per cent, 43 per cent and 26 per cent respectively in the first six months of last year.

'The continued improvements to Allco Reit's underlying asset values are a direct reflection of (the trust's) asset management strategy, combined with underlying market rental growth across the Singapore and Perth commercial property markets,' Mr McGrath said.

Allco Reit's share price closed 1.5 cents lower at 80.5 cents yesterday. The trust's share price has fallen 10.1 per cent since the start of the year.

Sweet Interest In These Suites

Source : TODAY, Thursday, January 17, 2008

Sales previews for Marina Bay luxury condo to start end of this month

DESPITE worries of a global slowdown and a decline in sales of private property these few months, developers of the Marina Bay Suites are confident they will be able to attract enough buyers for this luxury condominium.

Sales previews for these 221 units will start by the end of the month, and marketing agents said they have seen substantial international interest, as well as interest from earlier buyers of the sister residential development, Marina Bay Residences.

“We believe that currently, the market is strong enough,” said Marina Bay Financial Centre (MBFC) head of residential marketing Kan Kum Wah, who added that while last year was exceptionally good for the residential property market, he expects demand from buyers to continue this year.

While prices for the units in the 66-storey development have not been fixed, Mr Kan said people could get some indication from current market transactions of around $3,000 per square foot (psf).

This translates to at least $4.8 million per unit, which ranges from $1,600 to $2,700 psf.

Marketing agents DTZ Debenham Tie Leung and CB Richard Ellis, which have done pre-marketing visits to Shanghai, Dubai, Jakarta and Hong Kong, said there is significant interest from international buyers.

Between 40 and 60 per cent of the buyers for the luxury residential property segment in Singapore are usually from overseas, said Ms Ong Choon Fah, executive director and regional head of consulting and research at DTZ. Forty per cent of the buyers of Marina Bay Residences were from overseas.

Mr Donald Han, managing director of property consultancy Cushman and Wakefield, agrees that these prices are reflective of the rates in that area, but the developers “might offer a lower price for early birds”.

“I’ve got no doubt that the project is able to sell well,” he said.

The Marina Bay Suites, located at the bayside near One Raffles Quay, will feature 218
three- and four-bedroom apartments, and three penthouse units. There is a significant demand for big units, explained Mr Kan, who received feedback from buyers about the earlier development that offered one to-four bedroom apartments.

This project, which is a joint venture between three developers, Cheung Kong/Hutchison Whampoa, Hongkong Land and Keppel Land, will appeal to a distinct group of internationally-well-travelled buyers, said Mr Kan. He noted that this is the last call for buyers interested in owning an apartment directly fronting Marina Bay.

But he added that this is not the last chance for buyers who are interested in having an address in this “new downtown”.

While this residential property may be the last few available in the necklace of developments at Marina Bay, said Mr Han, “the government still holds a fair bit of undeveloped and unreleased URA sales of sites in that area”.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is setting aside 60 hectares of land at Marina South for a landmark residential district.

URA said last September that some 11,000 housing units have been planned.

不受股价暴跌楼市冷清影响 滨海高档私宅拟近期上市

《联合早报》Jan 17, 2008

尽管本地私人住宅市场最近比较冷清,房地产股昨天又暴跌,但高档私宅滨海湾居(Marina Bay Residences)的姐妹项目Marina Bay Suites毅然选择在近期登场。



简锦华表示,Marina Bay Suites单位可看见滨海湾金沙综合度假胜地(IR),是“在滨海湾购买产业的最后机会”。

Marina Bay Suites将成市场温度计

因此,66层楼高的Marina Bay Suites被普遍认为是为房地产市场的温度计,其销售成绩备受瞩目。这个项目预计会在2012年竣工。

Marina Bay Suites住宅市场开发经理简锦华说,与滨海湾居不同之处,是这个项目的221个单位中,除了三个顶层豪宅外,其余的218个单位都是三至四个卧房式,属于较大的单位,单位的面积介于1600至2700平方英尺,每层只有四个单位,每户有专属电梯,对准的是本地和海外的豪宅买家。





据世邦魏理仕提供的最新资料,滨海湾一带的私人住宅,包括滨海湾居、One Shenton(珊顿路一号)和滨海舫(The Sail@Marina Bay)。滨海湾居和滨海舫已卖完。







Boon Keng Bonanza

Source : TODAY, Thursday, January 17, 2008

Demand for ‘condo-like’ HDB flats outstrip supply by five times.

APPLICATIONS for the second batch of condo-like HDB flats, near Boon Keng MRT station, closed yesterday, with demand outstripping supply by five times.

As of 6pm yesterday, City View @ Boon Keng, part of HDB’s Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS), attracted 3,499 applications for the 714 flats up for sale.

About 50 more applications were expected before the deadline at midnight, said Mr Wong Chee Herng, spokesperson for the developer, Hoi Hup Sunway Development consortium.

While Mr Wong considered the response good and “within our expectation”, the numbers pale in comparison with the first DBSS project, The Premiere @ Tampines.

Launched in October 2006 and developed by Sim Lian Land, the Premiere attracted 5,700 applications for its 616 units, consisting largely of five-room flats priced between $308,000 and $450,000. Prices for its two-room units start from $138,000.

City View @ Boon Keng consists of three 40-storey blocks of three, four and five-room flats priced between $349,000 and $727,000. The average price per square foot is $520. And the development has a more central location on the fringes of the city, and extra features like air-conditioning in the living and dining areas, instead of just the bedrooms.

Some potential homebuyers told Today that they were deterred by the prices, which exceeded their budget for a HDB flat.

But there were those who felt that the good location and pleasant sea and city views were worth paying a premium for.

“Prices are a little steep but it’s near the MRT and you can see the sea from some units,” said Ms Marlinah Abdullah, 30, who was at City View’s showflat with fiance Idris Osman, 34.

“If not for the sea view, I wouldn’t have come today,” said Mr Idris, a project manager with a shipbuilding company. “We may apply for it, depending on what (Marlinah) says,” he added.

Ms See H S, a 28-year-old buyer in the semiconductor industry, applied for a flat even without visiting the showflat because she thought it was a good investment. The view, she added, would be a plus “especially if I sell the house in the future”.

Under the DBSS, private developers get to design, build, price and sell the flats but have to adhere to public housing guidelines. For example, the flats are subject to ethnic quotas and can be sold only to households earning no more than $8,000 per month.

Resale Flats Out Of Reach

Source : TODAY, Thursday, January 17, 2008

Allow potential buyers to make higher use of CPF to own a home

Letter from ANTHONY TAN

LIKE many first-time flat buyers, I am having great difficulty getting a Housing and Development Board (HDB) unit so that I can start a family.

To buy a unit, you can either ballot for one or buy one on the resale market. But at last month’s balloting exercise, there were 5,147 applicants for 316 available units. It is clear that there are insufficient new units from the HDB to meet the current demand.

The HDB has announced the release of 7,000 more new units during the first half of this year, but many of these are through the Build-To-Order (BTO) exercise, which means there are no units available to meet the needs of people who want to buy flats. Since BTO normally take three to four years to complete, the only choice for those who cannot wait that long is to look to the resale market.

But here’s the catch: The resale market is experiencing sky-high transaction prices, with a unit being sold recently for $890,000. Egged on by such news, many owners seem to think they, too, can find buyers who would be willing to pay a premium for their units, resulting in owners demanding anywhere between $60,000 and more than $100,000 above the valuation price for their units, even when their units are located in the suburbs, such as Boon Lay and Yew Tee.

With no available units that first-time buyers can purchase from the HDB and skyrocketing resale prices, it is no wonder people like me are having difficulty finding an affordable home. Since many of us have been working for about four to five years only, our cash savings are limited.

Many people do not have problems paying for the 10-per-cent cash downpayment. But if you buy flats at above their valuation price, the difference between the purchase price and the valuation price has to be paid in cash. Many find it difficult to pay for this portion of the sale price.

Since it is not possible for the HDB to meet the demand for new flats, I would like to suggest that the board allow the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Housing Grant and/or monies in the CPF Ordinary Account (OA) to be used to pay for that additional cash portion if we buy resale flats, most of which are now sold above their valuation prices.

Regarding the Government’s worry that we may use too much of our CPF towards paying for our flats, I believe the 120-per-cent valuation price cap for resale flats already limits the maximum amount of CPF savings we can use.

If this is not a feasible option, I hope the authorities can come up with some short-term measures to help first-time buyers get a house in the resale market as the problem could worsen when the Integrated Resorts are completed.

As a professional earning an above-average salary, I’m already feeling the financial pressure while trying to find my own home. I cannot imagine the difficulties low- income Singaporeans face.

Brothers’ 20-Years Feud Over $15m Of Properties Ends

Source : The Straits Times, Jan 17, 2008

FOR almost 20 years, brothers Leow Mei Loy and Chia Then have been involved in a spat over $15 million worth of real estate their businessman father left behind after his death.

On Monday, their feud came to an end when a High Court judge ordered two properties - which include a Mountbatten Road bungalow valued at $13 million - to be sold and the money split among the brothers and their four sisters.

The deal came on what would have been the opening day of a trial to decide on a bid by Chia Then, represented by lawyers from Drew & Napier, to enforce the sale, and a separate suit against him by elder brother Mei Loy, represented by lawyer Wong Yoong Phin.

The two-decade-long drama ended after a meeting between lawyers from both sides in the chambers of Justice Belinda Ang. She issued a consent order for the two properties to be sold within six months.

The deal ends a saga that began when the brothers’ father, Mr Leow Nee Chong, died in 1988 and left no will. Both brothers, who are in their 50s, handled the estate on behalf of their mother and four sisters. Their mother died in August 1993.

The suit is the third involving siblings and their inheritances to be settled in the High Court within a month.

KepLand In Tie-Up With Marina Builder

Source : The Business Times, January 17, 2008

KEPPEL Land International and high-end marina builder Bellingham Marine Industries yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding for Bellingham to design and construct premier marinas in Keppel Land’s waterfront properties in the region.

Bellingham will provide KepLand with design, project management and construction expertise for marinas, when there is a potential for one to be included in one of its masterplan projects. KepLand chief executive Kevin Wong said: ‘We are confident that Bellingham, with its proven track record in the design and construction of marinas, will enhance our overall masterplan for our developments at Keppel Bay as well as our other waterfront developments in Asia.’

The US-headquartered company with an annual turnover of over US$100 million has carried out several marina projects in countries around the world. Apart from the recently completed Marina at Keppel Bay, others include the 180-berth Portofino Yacht Club in Redondo Beach, California, and the 250-berth Marina CostaBaja in Mexico.

Bellingham president Everett Babbitt said: ‘Keppel is a very honourable and outstanding company and our talents mesh very well because we bring a high degree of technical skills while they have all the contacts and infrastructure base throughout Asia.’

KepLand’s marina project is Bellingham’s biggest foray into the region, where it has been active for only the past three years.

Mr Babbitt said Bellingham enjoys a good reputation among the yachting and marina circles. The company organises forums for megayacht skippers and crews and is well known in the community. Mr Babbitt said these crews, who make many decisions on behalf of the owners about where to dock these expensive boats, tend to look out for Bellingham-designed marinas because they know they can expect a high standard.

Mr Babbitt said he hopes the partnership will lead to more success in the region and perhaps raise revenue share from Asia from about one per cent to 10 to 15 per cent in future.

Marina Bay Suites @ Marina Bay

Set in the heart of the US$30 billion Marina bay, Asia's most exciting urban lifestyle hub, the 66- storey, 239-metre tall Marina Bay Suites sets new standards for exquisite luxury living in Marina Bay Fortunate residents will enjoy dynamic city skyline vistas and exclusive views of the elegant Central Linear park.

An oasis of peace and tranquility in the heart of the new Downtown, the Central Linear park will serve as a ceremonial green focal point for the entire area. Wake up to the soothing greenery of the park and the cool breezes from the sparkling blue water of Marina Bay.

Marina Bay Suites residents will also enjoy superb road and rail connections and easy access to the airport and the rest of Singapore. With direct road links to East Coast Parkway and the upcoming US$1.65 billion Marina Coastal Expressway, the international air link hub of Changi Airport is less than 18 minutes away. Residents will also have convenient access to Raffles Place and the rest of the Island via future MRT station.

Location : Marina Boulevard
District : 01
Tenure : 99yrs Leasehold (w.e.f 8 March 2007)
TOP : 31 Aug 2012
Total Units : 221 in one block of 66 storeys

Unit Types:-
Type A 4 Bedroom ~ 55 units (2680 to 2691sqft)
Type B 4 Bedroom ~ 55 units (2045 to 2067sqft)
Type C 3 Bedroom ~ 54 units (1572 to 1604sqft)
Type D 3 Bedroom ~ 54 units (1615 to 1625sqft)
Type P Penthouse~ 3 units (4715 to 8181sqft)

Nearby Amenities: Walking distance to CBD- Raffles Place, Garden by The Bay, Singapore Flyer, Bayfront Bridge, Marina Barrage, Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort, Bussiness Financial Centre, Grand Prix Racing, Esplanade Theatres on The Bay.

Forget Forecasts, US May Be In Recession Already

Source : The Straits Times, Jan 18, 2008

Misreading economy not unusual due to mixed signals from various sectoral data

WASHINGTON - FOR all the complex ways in gathering economic data and crunching it at the speed of light, predicting recessions is still an inexact science.

'It's the economy, stupid,' said Mr Bill Clinton and he was elected President in 1992 on promises of ending a recession that had, in fact, ended 18 months earlier. Only later analyses showed that.

Misreading the economy's body language is not unique to politicians. The National Bureau of Economic Research in the United States had declared that the previous recession began in November 2001. Not really. It actually ended then, having begun almost a year earlier.

It is an economist's occupational hazard that Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke is certainly aware of as he stands behind - though is unlikely to explicitly endorse - the Bush Administration's proposal of reviving a sagging economy through measures that include tax cuts.

In his own snapshot of the economy, the so-called beige book containing anecdotal reports of business conditions around the country, Mr Bernanke refuted claims that the US had already entered recession.

The report this week said economic activity 'increased modestly' from mid-November to the end of last month. It noted robust demand in health care, hotels, insurance and the legal sector, while agriculture was upbeat and manufacturing mixed.

The biggest concern is the increasingly frugal US consumer. Hit by the housing slump, credit squeeze and rising petrol prices, he is crimping his spending, and this may trigger a recession.

Analysts were shocked by retail sales figures this week. They dipped 0.4 per cent last month - the sharpest fall for six months.

And sales for last year rose 4.2 per cent, the lowest annual increase since 2002.

The consumer's unwillingness to spend is partly because he sees his net worth declining as housing prices have tumbled.

Insecurity prevails on the jobs front. Unemployment jumped to 5 per cent last month, the highest in two years. It was that high during the last recession in 2001.

Even then, the signals are mixed, as one US paper noted: 'Construction workers are on unemployment lines, but engineering and consulting firms are in bidding wars for staff members.'

Inflation also dealt a blow. Recent figures show consumer price inflation hit 4.1 per cent last year, the highest since 1990.

The recession alert has been sounded by many prominent economists and big-name investment houses.

Others tip 'rolling recessions' - as seen in the 1980s - where certain sectors or some states enter recession at different times but the economy, as a whole, is spared.

Weak outlook

KEY indicators point to a downturn for the US economy:

# Retail sales grew last year at the slowest pace since 2002.

# Unemployment shot up to 5 per cent last month, a level last seen in the 2001 recession.

# Full-year inflation is at a 17-year high.

# Corporate profits are expected to decline this year by an average 7.5 per cent after tax, according to a Goldman Sachs estimate.

Home Prices Stay Firm Even As Property Stocks Retreat

Source : The Straits Times, Jan 18, 2008

Amid weak sentiment in a quiet market, many players are adopting a wait-and-see attitude

SINGAPORE'S property stocks have been taking a hammering lately but the property market has so far remained unscathed.

After riding the boom to dizzy heights, property counters have now dropped by up to 60 per cent or so from their high points over the past 12 months. Home prices, on the other hand, have not softened noticeably, if at all, although the number of transactions has shrunk significantly.

The share price of Wheelock Properties, for instance, closed at $1.87 yesterday, down 48.9 per cent from its one-year high on Nov 4.

But caveats lodged with the Urban Redevelopment Authority and anecdotes of more recent transactions showed no evidence of property sellers lowering their prices.

'The stock market must fall convincingly before property prices will be hit,' said DMG & Partners Securities head of research (retail) Terence Wong, explaining the apparent disconnect between physical properties and stock prices.

Stock investors' worries stem from serious trouble in another housing market - the United States, which is currently embroiled in a sub-prime mortgage crisis. Fears are growing that the US is headed for recession.

In Singapore, while property buying sentiment is weakening as liquidity dries up, prices are not likely to head south any time soon, analysts said.

They say that is because most potential buyers are believed to be taking a breather for now and watching to see what comes next.

If and when these would-be buyers believe the worst of the current financial worries are over, they are set to jump back into the market, they said.

Mr Ku Swee Yong, director of Savills Residential, said: 'Asia is still very strong and so is the Singdollar.'

'The problem is not bad enough that expatriates have to be repatriated. Our finance industry is still growing and the expats are still renting.'

But things could get worse in the US and that would hit the general investment mood. 'Sub-prime is but the tip of the iceberg,' said Mr Ku.

Knight Frank managing director Tan Tiong Cheng said: 'A prolonged US recession could contain any price increases in the property market this year. But the property market is fundamentally sound and there are buyers on the sidelines.'

Prices of upcoming launches are expected to remain firm, analysts say.

'I believe the major developers will hold as their pockets are deep enough,' said DMG's Mr Wong.

Favourable interest rates will enable them to hold for a longer period, analysts say.

While launch prices are not likely to be hit, resale prices could fall, one analyst said.

Still, analysts believe many people bought properties at high prices in the past year or so and are unlikely to dump them now. Many of them are believed to have strong holding power.

Mr Ku said buyers who made use of the deferred payment scheme before it was scrapped will not be worrying about their buys for several years.

But analysts think some speculators who bought high, hoping to make a quick buck from high-end properties in Sentosa Cove, Marina Bay and the Orchard Road area, are now panicking.

High-end homes have crossed the $5,000 per sq ft mark - more than double the record price in the last peak in 1996.

The days of making quick money from the high-end property market are likely over. 'The clock is running and there would be some speculators out there who cannot service the loans on their property,' said one analyst.

Even so, speculators do not form a large part of the market, analysts say.

With buyers adopting a wait-and- see attitude given the current uncertainty, the market is expected to remain quiet for a while.

Analysts Confident Of Singapore's Fundamentals Despite Market Volatility

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 17 January 2008

Despite the current volatility in the markets, analysts said they remain confident about Singapore's fundamentals.

They blame the jitters on persistent bad news coming out of the US instead.

According to some market-watchers, it's time to pick up bargains and re-assess the portfolio, with the STI just above 3,000 points.

Analysts said that attention should be channelled to the construction and banking-related stocks and added that now is a good time to re-evaluate your portfolio as the market sobers up to the reality of the US economy in recession.

Gabriel Yap, Senior Dealing Director of DMG & Partners, said: "The nature of selling in the last couple of days has been indiscriminate. So essentially when these things do happen, it's time for you to re-juggle your portfolio and re-position your positions in those sectors you think you like."

Market-watchers said that the recent sell-down opens up plenty of opportunities for bargain-hunting.

Wong Sui Jau, General Manager of, said: "For me as an investor, I'd say now is a good time to accumulate bargains. Certainly a lot of investors won't agree (to) that, saying why not wait until its over. But it's extremely hard to get the exact bottom of the market."

And has some interesting figures to back up its stand.

Mr Wong continued: "The STI index was up around 16.6 per cent in 2007. If you take away the 10 best performing days in the 260 trading days, then your 16.6 per cent gains for the whole year will be reduced to a negative 14 per cent loss."

"So it is important to capture a lot of the gains. And these gains happen after a sell-down. That's when the largest gains are," said Mr Wong.

Analysts added that Wednesday’s sharp slide was mainly sentiment-driven, due to the slew of bad news from the US. Overall, they said that Singapore's fundamentals still remain strong.

"What we saw yesterday was not unexpected. When major supports are being broken, essentially all markets will go all the way down to test the next support," said Mr Yap.

With the outlook for the US economy still cloudy, market-watchers said they expect to see volatility for at least another two to six months. - CNA/vm

S'pore's Export Growth Slowed To 2.3% In 2007, Surprising Experts

Source : The Straits Times, Jan 17, 2008

SINGAPORE'S export growth slowed to 2.3 per cent last year, missing official targets as overseas sales of goods made here contracted last month.

Non-oil domestic exports (Nodx) shrank 4.5 per cent in December, dragged down by lower exports of semiconductors, telecoms equipment and computer disk drives.

December's dismal showing caught economists, who had expected positive growth, by surprise. It also capped a lacklustre year for Singapore exports, which came in well-under the Government's 4 to 6 per cent forecast.

Still, the government trade promotion body, International Enterprise Singapore (IE Singapore) expects things to turn around this year, repeating a 4 to 6 per cent forecast for Nodx.

While the trade agency expects the global economy to slow, it believes a long-overdue technology recovery will provide enough boost to achieve its target, though economists say this appears to be optimistic at best.

Total trade is projected to grow between six and eight per cent this year, which is slower than the five to seven per cent expected, said IE Singapore .

'The main downside risks to the trade outlook for 2008 include a hard landing of the US economy, continued weakness in semiconductor prices and persistently high and volatile oil prices,' IE Singapore said.

'Even though Singapore has diversified by reducing its reliance on the US and exporting more to the regional markets, a sharper-than-expected US slowdown is likely to have a large negative impact on our exports as much of the final demand still comes from the US.'

Analysts fear the US economy, the biggest in the world, is heading for a recession due partly to a mortgage default crisis.

Singapore's trade-reliant economy was valued at $210 billion at the end of 2006.

Exports Lurch To Worst Showing In Five Years

Source : The Business Times, January 18, 2008

NODX hit by electronics slump; jury still out on 2008 as US slowdown looms

Even the economists were caught off-guard. They had expected Singapore's key non-oil domestic exports (NODX) in December to grow at a healthy clip, compared to a year ago. Instead, they fell 4.5 per cent on the heels of a 3.4 per cent drop in November.

This unexpected slowdown meant that, for the year as a whole, NODX put on its worst showing in five years.

As all eyes turn to 2008, there appears to be a difference of views between the official assessment and what economists in the private sector feel.

International Enterprise Singapore, the government trade promotion agency, yesterday said things are likely to get better on the trade front this year. Other economists are less sanguine.

The NODX expanded just 2.3 per cent from a year ago in 2007, when IE Singapore expected it to grow 4-6 per cent, after trimming its forecast from 7-9 per cent in July. This key barometer had risen 8.5 per cent in 2006.

Last year's disappointing export performance came despite a robust growth in the overall economy, which put on 7.5 per cent gains. IE Singapore tips the NODX to grow in line with the larger economy in 2008 - by 4-6 per cent, against a 4.5-6.5 per cent growth forecast for the economy.

Overall trade, which increased 4.5 per cent to $846 billion in 2007, is likely to expand a bit faster at 6-8 per cent.

Economists in the private sector, meanwhile, feel that the looming recession in the United States could hit Asian exports.

'Looking forward, the 2008 outlook is definitely getting less sanguine,' said Selena Ling of OCBC Bank. 'Given the slowing global economy and the increased risk of the US economy sliding into a recession, the external demand outlook would be dampened.'

OCBC is projecting the NODX to grow 4-5 per cent this year, but may revise it after reviewing the NODX data in the first three months. The present signs are not encouraging.

The NODX has dropped sharply over the past two months, even though the median estimate by private sector economists was that it would register a 5.3 per cent increase in December.

IE Singapore, which sees the NODX performing better this year, could not say when the turnaround will come. While indicating that its projection is conservative and wide enough to accommodate a slowdown in the world economy, IE Singapore's chief executive Chong Lit Cheong said the agency is prepared to trim its trade forecast - especially if US growth forecast falls below the 1.5-2.0 per cent range.

While China overtook the US last year as Singapore's third largest trading partner - after Malaysia and the European Union - Mr Chong said it is still a 'very significant' market for Singapore. Many of Singapore's exports to China and other markets in the region eventually ended up in the US.

In fact, along with South Korea and Malaysia, the US was the biggest contributor to NODX's growth in 2007. Exports to the EU, Japan, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Taiwan also sank

For 2008, IE Singapore is riding its hope on a recovery in electronics shipments; stronger exports in chemical products, especially pharmaceuticals and petrochemicals; and still-robust economic growth in Asia to take up the slack in the US and EU.

Poor electronics exports was a key reason for the NODX's poor performance last year. Shipments fell each month since February as a global inventory glut pushed down prices of memory chips and microprocessors. For the year, electronic exports fell 9.2 per cent from 2006.

Mr Chong sees chip prices bottoming and an electronics pickup in the second half of 2008. Bigger pharmaceutical output could provide an extra boost.

More pharmaceutical plants have been built in Singapore since 2004 - up from 25 to 42 today - and many will be rolling out production this year, Mr Chong pointed out.

Export Growth Slumps To Slowest Pace In Five Years

Source : The Straits Times, Jan 18, 2008

2.3% figure is well under official forecasts of between 4% and 6% growth

A SURPRISE contraction last month capped a disappointing year for Singapore exports, which missed official targets as growth slumped to its slowest pace in five years.

Expansion last year hit just 2.3 per cent, well under official forecasts of between 4 and 6 per cent and small change compared with the 8.5 per cent growth in 2006.

Last month's dismal figures reflect the wider downturn: Overseas sales of goods made here shrank for the second straight month, contracting 4.5 per cent against expectations for at least 5 per cent growth.

Pharmaceutical exports disappointed, failing to recover from a surprise contraction in November, while the electronics sector shrank for the 14th time in 15 months.

Economists had expected a rebound from November's 3.4 per cent contraction. A better December trade figure could have signalled that overall economic growth for the fourth quarter was better than an early estimate of 6 per cent.

But the dismal data out yesterday dashed such hopes, pointing instead to yet another weak month for manufacturers.

It has cast a pall over the new year, but trade agency IE Singapore is predicting a turnaround, forecasting export growth of between 4 and 6 per cent this year.

This is despite expectations that growth in all of Singapore's main markets will slow.

The trade agency is pinning its hopes on a long-overdue global technology recovery to provide enough boost to achieve its target.

'GDP growth of our trading partners will moderate, but we are hopeful that the other engines of growth for trade can help us,' said IE chief executive Chong Lit Cheong.

Exports last year were a major letdown. Growth was only 2.3 per cent - mainly because of shrinking exports of semiconductors, disk drives and telecom equipment. The number paled beside the 3 per cent predictions of many market economists.

Electronic exports shrank 9.2 per cent last month, as well as for the whole year.

'The electronics sector remains firmly in the doldrums,' said HSBC economist Robert Prior-Wandesforde. Much of this was due to a prolonged downturn in the global electronics cycle, he said. 'But Singapore has fared a lot worse than other tech-heavy countries, hinting at some more fundamental problem.'

By contrast, pharmaceuticals helped hold up overall exports, jumping 21 per cent for the whole of last year.

But a failure last month by the notoriously volatile sector to rebound from a surprise November contraction kept overall exports in the red for a second straight month.

IE is counting on a global chip recovery in the second half of this year to boost local electronic exports. Industry forecasts predict global chip sales to grow 6 to 9 per cent this year, up from last year's 3 to 4 per cent.

Two new pharmaceutical plants coming on stream this year could boost drug exports, said Mr Chong.

But all eyes are on the US, Singapore's No. 2 export market after Europe, which may be sinking into a recession. Mr Chong said IE's forecast may be revised if the country's economic outlook worsens from the agency's 1.5- to 2-per-cent forecast.

Indeed, some analysts said the IE growth target is ambitious. 'My best guess is that exports will grow 2 to 4 per cent, given our view of US growth at 0.5 per cent,' said Standard Chartered Bank economist Alvin Liew.

1,098 HDB Flats Now Open For Balloting

Source : The Straits Times, Jan 18, 2008

THE Housing Board yesterday launched a ballot for the sale of 1,098 flats in Bedok, Clementi, Queenstown and Jurong West with demand for public housing staying on the boil.

The flats are surplus units from the board's Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme, which relocates residents from ageing blocks to new ones nearby.

Such flats are usually highly coveted as they are located in mature estates near transport nodes and amenities.

Adding to the demand is the fact that recent hikes in private property prices have pushed more buyers to these government-subsidised flats.

Last month, an HDB ballot for 316 surplus flats in the outlying towns of Hougang, Sengkang and Punggol drew an overwhelming 5,147 applications.

The Government responded by committing to putting out about 6,000 new flats between last month and June.

Its latest sale exercise includes 234 studio apartments for the elderly in Queenstown and Jurong West, at a cost of $54,000 to $89,000 each.

There are also 164 three-room flats priced from $180,000 to $266,000, 516 four-room flats going for $282,000 to $400,000 and 184 five-room flats between $400,000 and $520,000.

Five unfurnished sample units in Clementi and Queenstown will be open for viewing.

While some of the flats are immediately available, others will be ready by 2012.

Online applications from potential buyers must be submitted by Feb 6.

A computer ballot will determine the queue position of eligible applicants and those shortlisted will be informed in April.

A-REIT Reports Record Occupancy Rate For Tenanted Properties

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 17 January 2008

Ascendas Real Estate Investment Trust (A-REIT) has reported record occupancy for its tenanted properties.

Its overall portfolio occupancy rate increased to a record high of 98.7 percent as at 31 December, compared to 96.1 percent a year ago.

The occupancy rate for A-REIT's multi-tenanted buildings also rose to 97 percent in the quarter ended December, compared with 96.2 percent in the previous three months.

This is mainly due to the continued healthy demand for business space in the business & science parks and hi-tech industrial sectors.

A-REIT secured leases for a total net lettable area of 46,933 square metres in the three months to December. The space leased out has brought in an annualised rental income of S$11.1 million.

Looking ahead, A-REIT said demand for industrial space is likely to remain healthy, particularly for the business parks and hi-tech industrial sectors, due to the tight supply in office space in the central business district and the fact that a number of multinational companies is setting up facilities in Singapore.

A-REIT said the anticipated high supply of 702,000 square metres in the logistics and distribution centres sector for the next two years is expected to dampen rental rate.

The Trust's portfolio comprises 51 percent multi-tenanted buildings and 49 percent sale-and-leaseback properties based on portfolio value. - CNA/so

Banyan Tree Branches Into China's Gansu Province With Resort Project

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 17 January 2008

Luxury resorts operator Banyan Tree Holdings is branching into China's north-western Gansu province.

It has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Dunhuang Government to develop and operate a resort at Gansu's Dunhuang county.

Banyan Tree Dunhuang is the latest addition to the group's growing portfolio of 15 resorts and city hotels across China.

This includes Banyan Tree Lijiang and Banyan Tree Ringha resorts in Yunnan province.

Dunhuang county is famous for its endless sand dunes and beautiful desert scenery and now attracts thousands of tourists from around the world.

Banyan Tree Dunhuang spans more than 31 hectares of virgin land near the Mogao Caves, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The initial phase of the development will comprise two resorts under the Banyan Tree and Angsana brands.

Later phases will see the addition of up to three more resorts.

The development is slated for completion in 2011.

These new developments are not expected to have any material financial impact on the group's earnings and its net tangible assets for 2008. -CNA/vm

Applications For Over Half Of HDB Surplus Flats On First Day Of Launch

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 17 January 2008

The Housing and Development Board on Thursday launched the sale of more than 1,000 surplus flats available from the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS) under the Balloting Exercise.

By 5pm, applications were received for more than half of the number available.

676 applications were submitted for 1,098 surplus units in Bedok, Clementi, Queenstown and Jurong West.

Their prices range between $282,000 and $335,000 for a four-room flat in Bedok and between $310,000 and $400,000 for a four-room flat in Queenstown.

The units comprise 234 studio apartments in Queenstown and Jurong West, 164 units of three-room flats, 516 units of four-room and 184 units of five-room flats in Bedok, Clementi and Queenstown.

Interested buyers have until 6 February to submit their applications. - CNA/ir

City View@Boon Keng Oversubscribed Five Times

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 17 January 2008

The latest series of public housing designed and built by a private developer has been oversubscribed five times.

City View@Boon Keng received over 3,500 applications in all, when submissions closed at midnight on Wednesday.

714 apartments were put up for sale by developer Hoi Hup. They were going at $520 per square foot.

All applications submitted will now be put through a ballot. Only 1,400 applicants will be successful and they are expected to be notified next month.

City View@Boon Keng is the second project under the Design, Build and Sell Scheme by the Housing Development Board.

The first project at Tampines was oversubscribed by 10 times. - CNA/ir

Winning Bid For New Sports Hub To Be Announced On Jan 19

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 17 January 2008

Results of the winning bid for the new Sports Hub will be announced on 19 January.

Singapore Gold's proposal

Community Development, Youth and Sports Minister, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, will reveal the chosen bid.

Three consortiums had submitted their design in November 2007, after the government called for tenders in 2006.

The three include the ‘wrapped’ design by Alpine Mayreder, Singapore Gold’s ‘Lucky Horseshoe’ design and Singapore Sports Hub consortium’s ‘Cool Dome’ design.

Singapore Sports Hub Group's proposal

Authorities have considered various aspects and even visited buildings designed by the three consortiums overseas when evaluating the designs.

Once chosen, the winning consortium will still need to go through a few more processes before construction can begin.

The Sports Hub is expected to cost some S$800 million and is due for completion in 2011. - CNA/vm

Alpine Mayreder's proposal

Another Bid To Stop Sale Of Gillman Heights

Source : The Straits Times, Jan 17, 2008

A GROUP of minority owners at the Gillman Heights condominium is making another bid to stop the $548 million collective sale of the huge estate in Alexandra Road.

They filed a High Court appeal yesterday against last month's decision by the Strata Titles Board (STB) to approve the sale to CapitaLand and other parties.

Among other things, the 22 disgruntled owners are appealing on the grounds that the sale of Gillman Heights should require consent from 90 per cent of owners, rather than the usual 80 per cent.

The rules say consent from 90 per cent of owners is required for estates less than 10 years old to be sold en bloc. For older estates, 80 per cent is needed.

The conflict over the required consent for Gillman Heights comes because it is a former Housing and Urban Development Company estate, said the minority owners' lawyer, Mr Richard Tan, from legal firm Tan Chin Hoe & Co. It has engaged Senior Counsel Michael Hwang to act for the minority owners.

The minority owners point out that although the estate was completed in 1984, it was privatised only after a seven-year process that ended in 2002. They argue that this should be the date from which the age of Gillman Heights is calculated.

Majority owners say that 87.5 per cent of owners at the condominium signed the collective sale agreement, which places it outside a 90 per cent consent mark, Mr Tan said.

However, the minority owners are also contesting this figure. They say the original sale agreement expired before the STB heard the sale application while the subsequent supplementary agreement had signatures from less than 80 per cent of owners.

Another bone of contention is the estate's price, Mr Tan said.

He said the majority owners' valuation report valued the condominium at $530 million as of last February, when the estate was sold. But a separate report commissioned by the minority owners valued it at $660 million.

The Gillman Heights appeal follows similar legal battles over other collective sales.

The most high-profile case is that of Horizon Towers in Leonie Hill, where minority owners earlier this month filed a High Court appeal against STB's go-ahead.

Other estates embroiled in legal collective sale tussles include Finland Gardens in Siglap, Regent Court in Serangoon Road and Airview Towers in St Thomas Walk.

Aljunied Temp Office Plot Draws Single Bid

Source : The Strait Times, Jan 17, 2008

A TEMPORARY office site in Aljunied Road has attracted only one bid - and a far lower-than-expected one at that.

The $7.8 million sole offer that came in for the 1.88ha site by the close of its tender yesterday represented only a quarter of the $30 million or so that experts had predicted.

This follows similarly cool responses for other transitional office sites released recently. Property consultants said it could signal that such plots - introduced last year to relieve the severe shortage of office space - are no longer necessary.

All eyes are now on whether the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) will award the 15-year leasehold site to Mezzo Development, a small development and construction firm that was the sole bidder.

A related firm, Mezzo Properties, turned in the top bid for a transitional office site in Mountbatten Road last week. Although the offers for the Mountbatten parcel also came in lower than predicted, the site drew a better response with three bids.

URA awarded the site to Mezzo the day after the tender closed.

But the offer for the Aljunied site is only about half the top bid for the Mountbatten plot.

The Aljunied bid works out to just $38.37 per sq ft of gross floor area - close to the level of some industrial space, said Mr Nicholas Mak, director of research and consultancy at Knight Frank.

He said the market may have reached a saturation point for such transitional office space. 'All these temporary sites attract only certain types of tenants', who may have had their fill of the four short-term sites that URA has pushed out to date.

Besides the Aljunied and Mountbatten sites, URA released a plot in Tampines late last year that drew only one bid. The first such site, in Scotts Road, elicited a strong 11-bid response.

Mr Mak added that market uncertainties arising from the recent stock-market turbulence could also be a reason for the cool response.

Another factor could be that construction costs have gone up more quickly than the expected rise in office rentals in Aljunied, making this site less attractive as an investment, suggested Mr Ku Swee Yong, director of marketing and business development at Savills Singapore.

He also agreed that 'we probably do not need any more transitional office sites'. Any new sites released in the coming months are unlikely to help relieve the current space crunch anyway, Mr Ku said. Construction on them will be finished only in late 2009 or beyond - when a flood of office space is already expected. 'You don't want your transitional building to be competing with a whole lot of new Grade A premium space,' he added.

URA said yesterday that it would 'consider releasing more transitional office sites if there is demand for such office space'. It also said the last time it did not award a tender for a sale site was in 2001, for a white site - where developers can choose whether they want to put up a residential or commercial building - at Central Boulevard.

Transitional Office Site Fetches Just One Bid

Source : The Business Times, January 17, 2008

INTRODUCED as a quick fix to address the shortage of office space, the new transitional office sites may just as quickly become redundant.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) closed the tender for the fourth transitional office site at Aljunied Road and Geylang East Avenue 1 yesterday with only one bid received.

The bid price was also below earlier market expectations at $7.8 million or a unit land price of $38.35 per square foot per plot ratio (psf ppr).

The bidder was Mezzo Development, which also put in the top bid for the third transitional office site at Mountbatten earlier this month. Only three bids were received then with the top bid coming in at $69.17 psf ppr.

In November 2007, the second transitional site in Tampines also received a single bid of $80.65 psf ppr.

The recent tenders are a stark comparison to the first one, which saw 11 bids received in August 2007 and a top bid of $219 psf ppr.

That the site was next to Newton MRT Station may have had something to do with it.

Cushman & Wakefield managing director Donald Han said that demand (and prices) could increase if the transitional office sites are more attractive. But at the going rate, these sites could well be phased out. Mr Han said: 'At some stage if demand (and prices) drops even further, the government will have to decide if these sites are relevant.'

As at December 2007, the URA had said in its H1 2008 land sales press release that, 'more sites in a number of locations will be made available for the development of transitional offices'.

But as Mr Han notes, the closer in time these sites are released to 2010, when projected new office supply comes onstream, the higher the risks involved in developing them. 'The window of opportunity for whoever buys these sites is getting narrower,' he added.

While Savills Singapore director (marketing and business development) Ku Swee Yong does not believe that there would be an oversupply of office space in 2010, he does feel that transitional offices are not entirely feasible either.

'Especially when you consider construction time and rising construction costs,' he said.

Mr Ku, who estimated that construction time alone could take between 9 and 12 months, added: 'I don't think we need to keep launching these (transitional) sites.'