Thursday, January 31, 2008

$1.73 Decent Exit Price For Ascott: CIMB

Source : Today, Wednesday, January 30, 2008

CapitaLand’s offer to buy the remaining shares of its 67-per-cent unit, The Ascott Group, at $1.73 apiece represents a decent exit price for minority owners of the luxury residences operator, according to CIMB, who said the price “is a fair valuation from a historical perspective, but attractive in the current environment of heightened risk aversion”.

Stock markets worldwide have been rocked in recent months by the fallout from the US sub-prime mortgage fiasco, and banks and property counters have bore the brunt of the volatility. The ST Index is down about 12 per cent since the beginning of the year.

In its offer document despatched to Ascott shareholders yesterday, CapitaLand’s fully-owned Somerset Capital unit said the offer was unconditional in all aspects and that payment would be disbursed 10 days after the receipt of acceptances. The offer will close on Feb 26 and the offer price will not be revised. CapitaLand intends to take Ascott private and will exercise its rights of compulsory acquisition.

CIT Distributable Income For Q4 Surges 59%

Source : The Business Times, January 30, 2008

Distributable income for full year 31.7% more than forecast

CAMBRIDGE Industrial Trust (CIT) has posted distributable income of $11.59 million - 59 per cent higher year on year - for its fourth quarter ended Dec 31, 2007.

The figure comprised $1.6 million distributed to unit holders for the period Oct 1-17, just ahead of an equity fund-raising exercise completed on Oct 18, and distributable income of almost $10 million for the rest of the quarter.

The $10 million reflects distribution per unit (DPU) of 1.258 cents, which works out to an annualised figure of 6.122 cents and a resulting distribution yield of 9.2 per cent based on CIT's closing price of 66.5 cents yesterday. The counter ended the day half a cent lower.

Net property income for Q4 rose 46.3 per cent year on year to $13.9 million on a 49.1 per cent rise in gross revenue to $16.1 million.

For the year ended Dec 31, 2007, CIT posted distributable income of $35.7 million, which was 31.7 per cent higher than forecast by the trust's manager, Cambridge Industrial Trust Management.

Net property income of $45.8 million was 28.3 per cent above forecast, while gross revenue of $53 million surpassed the forecast by 22.7 per cent.

CIT's portfolio comprised 40 properties at end-December 2007, up from 27 assets a year earlier. The 40 properties, valued at $927.8 million at end-2007, were fully occupied as of that time.

The trust's manager said it 'believes the demand for quasi-offices will spill into demand for light industrial space resulting from current rental pressure on prime office space in the Central Business District'.

The latest DPU of 1.258 cents for the period Oct 18-Dec 31, 2007 will be paid on Feb 29.

MMP REIT Reports Full-Year Net Income Of S$76.8m

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 30 January 2008

Macquarie MEAG Prime REIT (MMP REIT) has reported a full-year net income of S$76.8 million, boosted by a jump in its fourth-quarter earnings.

The trust, which owns Ngee Ann City and Wisma Atria, said this is due to higher rentals, new leases and revenue from its acquisitions in Japan and China.

Following the strong results, MMP REIT plans to distribute 6.19 cents per unit to its unit holders.

The revamp of the Wisma Atria shopping mall is paying off for MMP REIT.

Despite higher expenses from the installation of new escalators for the mall, net income for MMP REIT still grew to S$76.8 million in 2007.

In the fourth quarter, its net property income rose to S$22.2 million, up about 29 percent on-year.

Franklin Heng, CEO, Macquarie Pacific Star, said, "It's slightly above our expectations. The most surprising is actually the office sector. Towards the first half of last year, we were only doing an average of 7 to 8 dollars (psf/per month). But towards the last quarter of 2007, we've actually done an average of S$12 - slightly above S$12 dollars psf. And in fact, most recently, we've done the lease of close to about S$13.50. So going forward, we believe that (the) office (sector) will continue to underpin the strong performance."

The strong performance is clearly a boon for unit holders, who will receive 6.19 cents per unit.

MMP REIT has about S$60 million to be distributed in 2007, up 7.6 percent over the previous year.

For the fourth quarter, distributable income came in at S$16.2 million or 1.68 cents per unit.

This is 14.3 percent increase from the previous year.

Going forward, MMP REIT expects its major tenant Takashimaya at Ngee Ann City to pay 15 percent to 25 percent more rent in a new contract starting June.

On acquisitions, Macquarie said it is beginning to see good quality assets in Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore, and it is constantly reviewing proposals to find the right fit at the right price.

It is leaning towards retail due to its defensive qualities as office rents tend to be subject to cyclical changes.

Two other REITs also submitted their report cards on Wednesday.

Retail trust Suntec REIT reported a higher distribution income of S$33.5 million for its first quarter.

At 2.279 cents per unit, that is 16.1 percent higher than the previous year.

Fuelled by strong growth in tourism, CDL Hospitality Trust recorded a net income of some S$85.8 million for its first full-year earnings report.

That is 66 percent higher than its own projections.

The trust is distributing S$68.7 million of its income, or 8.98 cents per unit. - CNA/ms

S'pore Companies Can Benefit From Real Estate Boom In Qatar

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 30 January 2008

DOHA, Qatar : It has been dubbed the "Venice of Qatar"; a project called "The Pearl-Qatar" is an upscale Riviera-style development, and when completed in 2011, the project will be home to some 40,000 residents.

Investors from 45 countries have flocked to the project to snap up properties there, but real estate is not the only attraction for Singapore companies.

With its mix of Venetian charm and Arabic chic, the US$20 billion project is built entirely on a man-made island.

All 4 million square metres of it is reclaimed land, creating 32 kilometres of new coastline.

Related Video Link -

The project has been launched in phases, and according to the developer, 35 percent of the units have already been taken up.

In fact, an entire residential district was sold within an hour recently.

That transaction alone amounted to over US$405 million.

These mind-boggling numbers were presented to the Singapore delegation, led by Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong.

The progress of the development was obvious as the visitors cruised the waters of the Arabian Gulf.

However, while property is one obvious area to consider, Singapore companies may want to venture into other sectors.

Minister of State for Education Lui Tuck Yew said, "There are some possibilities on how Singapore companies can participate because we were asking them about security arrangement, we were asking them about the operation and the running of the entire complex, and they thought that that's an area where Singapore companies would be interested to look into."

This is Qatar's first international real estate venture, and it comes with all the frills of luxurious waterfront living.

Shaped like a string of pearls, the island retreat will house marinas, high-end retail shops, five-star hotels, schools and medical centres.

The development will also feature high-tech services and a fully-automated vacuum waste disposal system, amongst others.

Besides industry players, the Singapore delegation is in Qatar to touch base with the country's leaders.

During a meeting with the Amir, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, both leaders discussed developments in the region and relations between the two countries.

One of the topics covered was how to strengthen the already close state of bilateral relations.

Opportunities to collaborate in various areas, including joint ventures in environmental technology, was among the ideas mooted.

The two leaders also exchanged views on recent developments in Asia and the Middle East.

SM Goh last met the Amir in June 2005, when the Amir made a state visit to Singapore.

The Amir hosted SM Goh to lunch and during their discussions, SM Goh praised the Amir for the rapid development of Doha since his last visit there in 2005.

SM Goh also met Crown Prince Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, the Heir Apparent, who led a high-level committee to Singapore for a working visit last October.

It was Sheikh Tamim who had invited Mr Goh to visit Qatar.

They last met when Sheikh Tamim visited Singapore last October.

During this meeting in Doha, Sheikh Tamim briefed SM Goh on Qatar's economic development and its future outlook.

Sheikh Tamim also expressed satisfaction with the progress of the High Level Joint Committee which is chaired by himself and Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng.

The two leaders also discussed how Qatar and Singapore could cooperate in tapping business opportunities in third countries.

Apart from meeting the members of the royal family at the Diwan Amiri, SM Goh is also expected to address the business community at the inaugural Qatar-Singapore Business Forum.

The event will see a gathering of businessmen from both sides and the signing of three agreements to spur bilateral trade.

More educational exchanges could also be on the cards, following SM Goh's visit to the Texas A&M University at the Qatar Foundation.

At the Foundation, SM Goh also held discussions with Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al-Missned, Consort of the Amir and Chairperson of the Qatar Foundation.

This was SM Goh's second meeting with Sheikha Mozah.

During their talks, SM Goh said he was impressed by the progress of the Education City, which is a flagship project of the Qatar Foundation.

SM Goh and Sheikha Mozah also discussed opportunities for cooperation between Singapore and Qatar in education as well as research and development.

The Singapore delegation also toured the ASPIRE sports academy. - CNA/ms

GuocoLand Reports 15% Rise in H1 Net Profit To S$60.6m

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 30 January 2008

Property developer GuocoLand has reported a net profit of S$60.6 million for its half year ended December 31.

That was a 15 percent increase compared to the same period a year ago. Revenue rose 114 percent to S$402 million.

However, net profit in the second quarter actually fell 26 percent to S$33 million. This was due to the absence of an exceptional gain that was booked in the year-ago period.

GuocoLand also reported losses linked to foreign exchange hedging.

Going forward, GuocoLand is looking to develop more residential properties in the prime districts of Singapore. It will build residential properties on the sites of the existing Sophia Court and Leedon Heights.

It is also expanding its footprint in China, Malaysia and Vietnam.

The developer said that although the spectre of a recession is looming over the US economy, China and India are expected to remain resilient.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, GuocoLand expects to report satisfactory results for its third quarter and full year. - CNA/ms

Citigroup revises Singapore's GDP Growth This Year To 5.6% From 6.2%

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 30 January 2008

Citigroup has revised down Singapore's economic growth forecast this year to 5.6 percent from 6.2 percent, amid market uncertainty.

However, the lender said it is confident about strong growth in emerging Asian markets for 2008.

Citigroup is also predicting that equities will be the asset class of choice.

With the volatile market, Citigroup is also advising investors to keep a close eye on telecom, banks and media stocks.

Singapore's economic growth is expected to moderate this year because of worries over the US sub-prime crisis and anticipated slowdown in the world economy.

Citigroup thinks Singapore's GDP will expand by about 5.6 percent in 2008. This is slower than the 6.2 percent that it had forecast in December.

Salman Haider, Head of Investments, Global Consumer Banking, Citibank, said: "If there is a longer recession, or protracted recession in the US, we do see an impact. I think retail investors should continue looking at equities as an asset class of choice.

"They should also be aware that there will be extended volatility which we have been advising clients on for a while now. And because of that, (it is) extremely important that they are diversified, in addition to being overweight in equities."

Citigroup analysts expect the US Federal Reserve to cut its benchmark interest rate to 2.25 percent by mid-year to stabilise global financial markets.

Given the volatile market in recent weeks, Citigroup believes that valuations are starting to look attractive in certain equity sectors. It is bullish about the telecoms, media and banking counters.

Mr Haider explained, "(With regards to) banks, (it is) from the perspective that there is fairly limited CDO exposure; the calculation is strong, the dividend yield story is a strong one.

"(For) media and telecom (stocks), primarily from a cash flow perspective - (they are) strong companies, (with) very visual cash flows. (They are) positioned very well, and again the dividend yield play comes into position for the media companies as well."

Commodities such as gold are also expected to continue to do well, as investors hedge against the dipping US dollar.

For 2008, Citigroup sees growth coming from emerging markets in Asia, such as China. However, on the flipside, slower growth is expected from the US, Japan and Europe. - CNA/ms

Govt To Spend S$14b To Improve Singapore's Road Infrastructure

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 30 January 2008

The government will spend S$14 billion to improve Singapore's road infrastructure over the coming years.

The money will go towards building the new North-South Expressway, the earlier announced Marina Coastal Expressway, widening the Central and Tampines Expressways, and improving various interchanges.

The Transport Ministry is optimistic the changes will soften the traffic gridlock.

Related Video Link -

The go-ahead has been given for the new North-South Expressway, which will cost some S$7 billion to S$8 billion and be ready by 2020.

The 21-kilometre expressway will link Woodlands and Yishun in the north to the East Coast Parkway.

It will run somewhat parallel to the Central Expressway, thereby relieving traffic from the heavily-used CTE.

The S$2.5 billion Marina Coastal Expressway, linking the eastern and western parts to Marina Bay, will be ready by 2013.

Then there is the widening of the Central and Tampines Expressways, which will be completed by 2011.

When completed, the CTE will have four lanes on either side.

The Ministry is confident these changes will make road travel more efficient.

But Singaporeans are mixed in their views.

One person said, "I'm actually looking forward to all the new highways, because just by coming out of the new KPE, it's improving traffic a lot. I've used it, and I'm very happy with it."

Another noted, "There will always be people wanting to buy cars. So long as the government allows that, I think this thing (congestion) will still keep on continuing."

A third added, "The government wants to have 6 million people. There's no way it can stop."

Others offered alternatives which they think will work.

One person suggested, "They have to make more roads underground."

Another commented, "If you can get from Point A to Point B very conveniently on public transport, then I think I wouldn't be driving a car."

A third added, "Staggering working hours is a good idea."

Whatever the view, it will take some time for the initiatives to settle in, and the authorities are hoping more people will switch to public transport to ensure Singapore does not end up in a gridlock. - CNA/ms

More ERP Gantries, Higher ERP Rates, But Motorists To Get Road Tax Cuts

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 30 January 2008

More ERP gantries, higher ERP rates, and halving the annual vehicle growth rate to 1.5% - these are some of the main announcements by Transport Minister Raymond Lim in the final instalment of changes under the land transport review.

But the bitter pill of more ERP was accompanied by some sweeteners, such as a permanent 15% cut in road tax for all vehicles and a multi-billion dollar improvement programme for expressways.

Related Video Link -

Singapore has the same problem faced by many other growing cities in the world - an insatiable appetite for cars, leading to congestion and possible gridlock. Singapore transport officials said congestion has climbed 25% since 1999.

Drawing out the future road map, the transport minister said the problems made three things certain.

"First, not everybody can drive to and from work, it's just not possible. Two, the trade-offs that we face will become sharper. The more cars that we put on the road, the higher your ERP charges will be and the more extensive the ERP coverage will have to be," said the Transport Minister.

"Three, even if we have higher ERP charges and more extensive ERP coverage, given where the car population is today and that road growth is trending down, we will still have to moderate our vehicle population growth," Mr Lim continued.

So, ERP coverage will be expanded, where 16 more gantries will be activated this year, adding to the current 55.

On April 7, the gantries at Upper Bukit Timah Road, Toa Payoh Lorong 6, Upper Boon Keng Road, Geylang Bahru and Kallang Bahru will be activated.

On July 7, there will be five new gantries on roads along the Singapore River area. These are at Eu Tong Sen Street, New Bridge Road, South Bridge Road and both sides of Fullerton Road.

On November 3, there will be six more gantries at Commonwealth Avenue, Jalan Bukit Merah, Alexandra Road, AYE (westbound) and PIE (westbound) and Serangoon Road.

While these gantries kick in this year, solid public transport improvements are still some years away, so interim measures will be implemented immediately.

The frequency of basic bus services along ERP-affected corridors will be increased from 15 minutes to 12 minutes by June, and 10 minutes by next August. The frequency of feeder services will also go up.

And for the first time, buses will be allowed to duplicate services along mature rail lines.

Premium bus services will also be expanded from the current 42 to 72 by June, with priority for areas affected by the ERP expansion. - CNA /ls

Singapore Plans $8b North-South Expressway

Source : The Business Times, January 30, 2008

Singapore will spend up to $8 billion (US$5.6 billion) to build a new expressway spanning the island state to help ease growing congestion on its roads, a government minister said on Wednesday.

The announcement of the 21-km North-South Expressway (NSE) comes days after the government said it would spend US$14 billion to double Singapore's rail network, and after saying this month that it wanted more competition in the public bus sector.

Analysts say Singapore's investments on mega construction projects, that also include two casinos with a combined price tag of over US$8 billion and a US$1.3 billion water-front sports complex, could help boost economic growth as the city-state fights slowing exports - the economy's traditional mainstay.

Transport Minister Raymond Lim told reporters on Wednesday that the NSE, to be completed by 2020, will cut travel time by 30 per cent for residents living in the island's north heading to the central business district in the south.

He also announced an expansion of the electronic road pricing system, emulated in some European cities, where motorists pay to drive into city areas.

The aim is to 'encourage motorists to switch to public transport' to help reduce road congestion, which has increased by 25 per cent since 1999, he said.

'Against our ever growing appetite for car use, we are faced with the immutable realities of Singapore's situation: a compact city state with 12 per cent of its land already used up for roads,' he said.

The number of vehicles in Singapore, one of the most expensive places in the world to own a car due to high taxes and charges, hit 850,000 on an annual growth rate of 3 per cent.

Mr Lim said starting in 2009, the government will take steps aimed at lowering the vehicle population growth rate to 1.5 per cent. -- REUTERS

STB Rejects Collective Sale Of Regent Garden

Source : The Straits Times, Jan 30, 2008

AN UNUSUAL battle over the en-bloc sale of Regent Garden intensified yesterday when the Strata Titles Board (STB) threw out the sale - ruling the $34 million sale had not been done in good faith.

The showdown over the fate of the 31-unit West Coast Road condo site is now headed for the High Court.

The case is unusual because all six dissenting minority owners had withdrawn their objections to the sale, which was inked last April.

It is now the majority owners, who signed off on the sale, who are trying to back out of the deal with buyer Allgreen Properties.

The STB said it rejected the deal as it was not done in good faith as Regent Garden's valuation - on which the final price was based - was wrong.

It said Regent Garden's $34 million sale price was well below its market value.

The deal needed STB's formal approval as there had originally been objections.

The dispute also involves alleged extra payments made to minority owners to quell those objections.

In January, majority owners filed an originating summons in the High Court trying to overturn the sale.

They argued the $34 million price was wrong partly because of a wrongly-estimated development charge of $7.2 million - a charge for redeveloping a site to enhance its value.

Read the full story in Thursday's edition of The Straits Times.

No Go For Regent Garden's En-Bloc Sale

Source : The Straits Times, Jan 30, 2008

ANOTHER collective sale has run into hiccups. The Strata Titles Board on Wednesday dismissed the sale of Regent Garden in West Coast Road after the estate's majority sellers contested its purchase by Allgreen Properties.

The majority owners, who own 25 of the condominium's 31 units, have said they want to be released from the sale agreement. They signed the agreement last April to sell the condominium to Allgreen for $34 million.

Alternatively, the majority owners want damages of between $5.7 million and $6.685 million from Allgreen. According to them, the sale price of $34 million was a 'mutual fundamental mistake', based on a wrongly assumed amount for development charges.

The owners had expected a development charge of $950,000, but the sale proceeds put the charge at $7.2 million.

In addition, the majority owners are unhappy that the minority owners appear to have been paid an extra amount by Allgreen.

Allgreen denied that a mistake was made. It has also pointed out that its bid for Regent Garden was the highest and a good $4 million above the reserve price.

The mainboard-listed developer also said these assertions are 'nothing more than belated attempts to rewrite the bargain in the hope of extracting a higher price for Regent Garden'.

Buy A Home Withing Your Means

Source : The Housing Development Board (HDB) -

$450m Shopping Mall To Add To Tampines Bustle

Source : The Straits Times, Jan 30, 2008

With two other malls, it will make town hub an even stronger shopping destination

THE popular suburban haunt of Tampines is set to get a fresh injection of retail buzz when a new $450 million mall, now under construction, opens for business early next year.

SETTING ITSELF APART: While its anchor tenants may be familiar brand names, Tampines 1 will strive to be different by bringing in new retail concepts to tie in with its 'young, savvy and lover of all new things' theme. -- PHOTO: TAMPINES 1

The arrival of Tampines 1 on the scene will alleviate a shortage of shopping space in the crowded town hub, where rents in two existing malls have risen over the years, industry sources say.

The new mall's manager has already signed up anchor tenants. It is now 40 per cent leased and is expected to be fully leased by May, said AsiaMalls Management (South East Asia).

Located beside the Tampines MRT station, it will complement two existing malls, CapitaMall Trust's Tampines Mall and Asian Retail Mall Fund's Century Square.

Tampines 1, due for completion later this year, sits on a 91,000 sq ft site and has shops spread over five storeys and one basement. It will have 203 carpark lots.

The mall has a net lettable area of 260,000 sq ft, which makes it smaller than Tampines Mall's 323,000 sq ft but bigger than Century Square's 210,000 sq ft.

When combined, the three malls will make Tampines an even stronger shopping destination, according to Knight Frank's deputy managing director, Mr Danny Yeo.

Popular suburban malls, such as those in Tampines, can command relatively steep rents due to their high levels of traffic.

This trend is growing now that the Housing Board has stopped building neighbourhood shops, as shoppers prefer to frequent bustling suburban malls, said Mr Yeo.

He added that ground-floor rents in Tampines suburban malls could fetch between $35 and $50 per sq ft (psf) a month.

That range is relatively high for outlying shopping centres, given that ground-floor rents in main shopping malls along the Orchard Road shopping belt go for about $45 to $70 psf on average.

While Tampines 1's anchor tenants may be familiar brand names, such as Cold Storage, the mall will strive to be different by bringing in new retail concepts to tie in with its 'young, savvy and lover of all new things' theme.

One of them is a fitness club and spa that will come complete with a swimming pool.

The BEYS fitness club and spa by the Amore Fitness group will take up about 17,500 sq ft of space on the fifth floor.

Cold Storage supermarket, which will be fitted out to the tune of $3 million, will occupy almost 14,000 sq ft of the basement.

This outlet will focus on high-quality fresh food and offer more than an ordinary heartland supermarket, said the mall manager.

For instance, it will have the largest range of smoked salmon and Alaskan seafood and will offer ready-to-eat steamed lobsters and shucked oysters.

Times The Bookshop is another key tenant, while Challenger, the information technology superstore, will take up 6,100 sq ft on level four.

Challenger used to be a tenant at DBS Tampines Centre that, together with Pavilion, have been torn down to make way for the upcoming mall.

Asian Retail Mall Fund II bought the two sites for nearly $289 million. Its total investment in the mall has reached $450 million, including land cost.

Apart from new retail concepts, Tampines 1 will also offer new architecture elements, such as a European-inspired Sunken Plaza and double-floor retail shops, said the mall's assistant general manager, Ms Stephanie Ho.

One of these duplex units - on levels four and five - will be taken up by Japanese restaurant chain Sushi Tei.


Suburban malls will continue to command high rents, as shoppers prefer to frequent these places over neighbourhood shops.MR YEO, Knight Frank’s deputy managing director, on the new mall’s commercial potential.


Tampines 1 will offer new architectural elements, such as a European-inspired Sunken Plaza and double-floor retail shops.MS STEPHANIE HO. the mall’s assistant general manager.

S'pore Only Nation With High Growth, Job Creation

Source : The Business Times, January 30, 2008

Lim Swee Say cites Economist report; NTUC to help 8,000 unemployed workers get jobs

SINGAPORE was the only country in the world to post high economic growth and low unemployment in 2007. The labour movement here wants Singapore to at least keep up with this achievement in 2008, as it unveiled its work plan yesterday for the new year.

Despite global uncertainties and the threat of a recession in the United States in 2008, Lim Swee Say, secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), said that the strong economic gains made in the past few years have built up a healthy pipeline of jobs to provide some buffer against a global downturn and carry workers through the year.

He noted that Singapore has continued to take in foreign workers, indicating that there are more than enough jobs to go around for all.

'We are in a much better position than many countries,' Mr Lim told reporters at a press conference.

Earlier, in an address to unionists, the NTUC chief cited a study reported in The Economist, which showed that out of 56 countries, including fast-growing economies like China and India, Singapore was the only one in 2007 to have achieved high economic growth and created enough jobs for its workers.

China, which probably chalked up the world's highest economic growth of 11.5 per cent in 2007, has an unemployment rate of 9.5 per cent. Some 25 countries, among them India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong and South Korea, fell into this category of high growth but insufficient jobs last year.

Another 25 countries, including the United States, Japan, Germany and Taiwan, were marked by low economic growth but high unemployment. Five countries, among them Norway, Thailand and Switzerland, while low in economic growth, were able produce plenty of jobs.

'Singapore did exceedingly well in 2007,' said Mr Lim who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office.

On the labour union front, he ticked off the lowest number of lay-offs since 1993; a sharp drop in worker grievances; the biggest pay rise in three years; and a 17-year-high bonus of 4.42 months' salary.

According to Mr Lim, to help keep unemployment low this year, the NTUC will work closely with the government and employers to find work for some 8,000 jobless workers, up from 7,757 in 2007.

Through various employment-help programmes like Job Re-Creation, Place and Train and Careerlink, the labour movement hopes to place some 7,000 unemployed.

It will also help another 1,000 mature professionals, managers, executives and technicians under the Professional Conversion Programme to shift to new careers in logistics, tourism and call centres.

The NTUC also wants to raise the employment rate through re-employment, re-deployment and back-to-work initiatives. Specifically, it wants to help mature Singaporeans to stay employed; workers hit by business restructuring to keep their jobs; and housewives who want to return to work.

In all, the NTUC is setting its sights on 8,000 Singaporeans in this category, up from 4,311 in 2007.

Lastly, the labour movement wants to extend its help to those who are under-employed - those working but earning low pay. It will help them boost their skills and secure better jobs and better pay.

KepLand To Delay Home Launches; Posts Sterling Gains

Source : The Straits Times, Jan 30, 2008

Developer confirms it is pushing back sales of projects by two to three weeks each

KEPPEL Land (KepLand) has confirmed it has pushed back the launch of Marina Bay Suites and will be slightly delaying other launches in Singapore this year.

This comes amid recent wild swings in stock markets as fears mount over the fallout of the sub-prime mortgage crisis and a possible United States recession.

KepLand group chief executive Kevin Wong also cast some uncertainty on how Singapore's luxury home segment - which had led the market boom until recently - will perform this year, saying it depends on the sub-prime outcome.

But he added that prices of mid-tier and mass market homes are expected to 'continue to go up steadily'.

Marina Bay Suites - which Keppel is developing together with partners Cheung Kong Holdings/Hutchinson Whampoa and Hongkong Land - falls into the high-end homes category.

The 221-unit condominium was initially scheduled for launch last Friday, but Mr Wong said the consortium came to a 'consensus' to delay the launch until after Chinese New Year, 'after bonuses' and 'when people get their hongbao'.

'There is some rationality to pushing it back,' he said yesterday. 'During the Chinese New Year break, people go away.'

KepLand has five other projects to launch this year but these will be pushed back due to the Marina Bay Suites delay, as the developer wants to 'stagger' its launches, added Mr Wong.

But he emphasised that the delays - of only 'two or three weeks' for each project - are 'not material'.

The other projects include 400 units in Reflections at Keppel Bay, which are scheduled to start being sold in 'the middle of the year', Mr Wong said.

KepLand also plans to launch 52 units in Park Infinia at Wee Nam, 15 units in The Crest @ Cairnhill, 34 units in The Tresor at Duchess Road and 56 units in Madison Residences in Bukit Timah Road.

The group yesterday posted a sterling set of results, due to good sales in projects such as The Suites at Central and Belvedere in Singapore; Villa Riviera in China; and Elita Promenade in India.

Net profit for the fourth quarter ended Dec 31 surged seven times to $572.3 million, largely due to a $388.2 million gain on revaluation of investment properties. Revenue rose 8.6 per cent to $371.4 million.

Earnings per share for the quarter soared to 79.5 cents, from 11.3 cents a year ago.

For the full year, net profit more than trebled to $779.7 million while revenue climbed 48.5 per cent to $1.4 billion.

Net asset value per share was 3.18 cents as at Dec 31, from 2.21 cents a year ago.

KepLand is declaring a total cash dividend of 20 cents for the year, consisting a final dividend of eight cents and a special dividend of 12 cents.