Friday, February 1, 2008

Valuation Wrong, So Strata Board Rejects Sale Of Regent Garden

Source : The Straits Times, Jan 31, 2008

In an unusual case, it says $34m price agreed on by owners and developer is well below market value.

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 condominium 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The case is unusual because all six dissenting minority owners had withdrawn their objections to the sale, which was inked last April.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 because it was not done in good faith, as Regent Garden’s valuation - on which the final price was based - was wrong.

It said that 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 to the sale.

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

The majority owners filed an originating summons in the High Court this month trying to overturn the sale.

They argued that the $34 million sale price was wrong partly because of a wrongly estimated $7.2 million development charge - a charge for redeveloping a site to enhance its value. The charge, payable by developers, turned out to be just $950,000.

The large disparity is not common, and a consultant said it could be due to historical reasons, as the Regent Garden site permits more space to be built than usual.

Unless those involved knew the project’s development history, they would have been unaware of this, he said.

Allgreen has also gone to the High Court to ask for an order requiring the majority owners to complete the sale deal by Feb 28.

The two cases are likely to be heard together on a date that has yet to be fixed, said a sale committee member.

Another high-profile disputed collective sale, at Horizon Towers, as well as smaller cases such as Finland Gardens, are also due to be heard by the High Court.

The STB delivered its decision yesterday in an oral statement at the end of a half-day hearing, and has yet to give the grounds for the decision.

In a statement yesterday, Allgreen said it was surprised at the STB decision to hear the case despite pending court proceedings and the fact that there had been no objectors.

A property industry source who declined to be named said the case is unique as the STB took the effort to hear the merits of the case and threw it out even though there were no objections.

In a case where there are withdrawn objections from minority owners, these owners must sign the collective sale agreement in order to be a party to the deal. If not, the STB still has to rule on it.

However, in past cases, the STB just approved a sale, and did not look into the merits of the case as there was no need to, said the source.

Allgreen said that the STB decision would have no bearing on the case in the High Court.

Its fixed sale price of $34 million was the highest among all bids, it said. Also, it had offered owners the option of a floating sale price subject to the development charge.

But the sale committee had asked for the $34 million fixed price and refused advice to pay for an official figure.

The majority owners’ allegations are ‘nothing more than belated attempts to reopen a concluded bargain and to extract a better price for themselves’, said Allgreen.

‘We will rigorously pursue our case in court.’

Door Shuts On Flat Applicant Of ‘Other’ Race

Source : The Straits Times, Jan 31, 2008

Author: John Mc, Henderson Lackey Bangalore, India

I FORMALLY made Singapore my adopted home and took up citizenship in 2006. I believe that my family and I will make many contributions. We are currently posted overseas and look forward to returning home in March.

Like all Singaporeans, we spent a considerable amount of time and money looking for the ideal place to call home, and found such a place in Pasir Ris. When we executed the purchase agreement late last month, there were no restrictions for the ‘Other’ racial group. However, to our dismay, when we went to register the sale with HDB early this month, we were rejected as applications under the ‘Other’ category had closed.

I broadly understand the aim of the national housing policy and the desire to ensure a good racial mix in an estate. However, one needs to look no farther than my family for an example of racial/ethnic diversity. I am a Caucasian who has lived in Asia for the past 12 years. My wife is Malaysian of Indian descent and we have a two-year-old daughter who was born in Hong Kong. I have two older children whose mother is Chinese.

We don’t fit a cookie-cutter definition of race and to simply categorise us as ‘Other’ overlooks our unique blend of race and culture.

I am proud to call Singapore my home but feel it is time for Singapore to recognise that in today’s world the traditional definitions of race/ethnicity no longer exist.

State Properties For Office Use See Healthy Take-Up

Source : The Business Times, January 31, 2008

SLA to release more sites this quarter to further ease office space crunch.

Offices in state-owned properties seem to be catching on. After a quick turnaround time of about six months and about $2 million spent, Phillip Securities has opened its new Phillip Investor Hub at the former Moulmein Community Centre this week.

And following the healthy take-up of state-owned properties - 12 out of 15 properties put up for dedicated office use were awarded in 2007 - the Singapore Land Authority says it expects to release another 32,300 square feet of space for potential office use in the current quarter. Properties that have been earmarked include the former Siglap-Changi Community Centre.

SLA says that of the 12 properties , which have a total of over 1.1 million sq ft of floor area, half have achieved full occupancy.

Foster Wheeler, a US engineering and construction services consultancy, is another company that will move to the former ITE Pasir Panjang site, taking up 70,000 sq ft. SLA believes the company’s move will free up 50,000 sq ft in the central business district or CBD.

SLA director of land operations Simon Ong said: ‘More importantly, the relief supply met the immediate need of tenants decanting from prime locations.’

The new Phillip Investor Hub was leased to Phillip Securities after it emerged as the top bidder in a public tender with a bid of $35,000 a month for the 22,593 sq ft gross floor area (GFA) building, or just $1.55 psf per month.

Phillip Securities will still maintain its corporate offices in the CBD, but it is quite happy to expand part of its operations to SLA properties . Phillip Securities business development director for consumer services Lisa Lee said: ‘Since we have spent close to $2 million to renovate the place, we intend to lease the state property from SLA for as long as we can.’

While the new Phillip Investor Hub will occupy 100 per cent of its leased premises, ERC Holdings, which was awarded the former River Valley Primary School property , plans to sub-let part of the property to other companies to cover some of its costs.

ERC chief executive Andy Ong said that it would have spent between $3.5 million and $5 million when the refurbishment is completed.

Already, it has signed tenants including luxury watch maker Audemars Piguet, which will set up a service centre, and restaurant group Senso Holdings.

While occupying old buildings does come with certain challenges - power supply and plumbing being the main issues - ERC has nevertheless decided to move a substantial part of its offices out. Mr Ong said that ERC would give up three-quarters of its 20,000 sq ft office in Robinson Road ‘after the rent was increased by 350 per cent’.

Knight Frank director of business space Agnes Tay said that push factors notwithstanding, these state properties may not be for everyone. ‘Most of these tenants are very clear about what sort of location they want,’ she added.

Knight Frank is the leasing agent for the former ITE Pasir Panjang site, which has a GFA of 218,891 sq ft, at Alexandra Road. The site was awarded to master tenant RichZone Properties for $288,999 a month or $1.30 psf per month.

Ms Tay said that leasing operations began in Q4 last year. About 40 per cent of the property has been leased out so far. Apart from Foster Wheeler, other tenants include electronics giant LG.

Early-bird tenants were also offered rents at about $4 psf per month but potential interest has bolstered rents and Ms Tay said that the asking rent has now gone up to $5-5.50 psf per month.

But because of the capital investment involved in undertaking such a large site, Ms Tay notes that there is little ‘immediate profit’ for the master tenant. ‘This is not a yield-type play,’ she said.

Hean Nerng Investments, which is in the business of managing properties , has leased the former Gan Eng Seng School at Raeburn Park - with a GFA of 160,000 sq ft - for about $200,000 per month or $1.25 psf per month. It is sub-letting the property at about $5 psf per month and sub-tenants include a government agency.

The property is already 60 per cent leased. Refurbishment of the property will be completed by end-February and Hean Nerng expects to have no problem filling it up. Hean Nerng managing director Kelvin Lim noted that his potential tenants are either escaping high CBD rents or looking for space to expand.

And CBD rents are expected to continue rising this year. Ms Tay said that asking rents for some prime Raffles Place office space is now as high as $19-20 psf per month, ensuring that at least a few more old state buildings are likely to get a new lease of life.

Corrupt Land Sale: Recovered $1.1m Back With Taoist Group

Source : The Straits Times, Jan 31, 2008

Money placed in the care of Taoist Federation as a charity fund.

A 15-YEAR-OLD saga of a corrupt land sale that sent three Taoist devotees to prison and bankrupted one family has come to a close.

Yesterday, in a room above the watchful gods of the San Qing Gong temple in Bedok, members of the Taoist Federation said the money recovered from the lawbreakers - about $1.1 million - has been placed in its care as a charity fund.

The money, said the federation’s chairman Tan Thiam Lye, will be used to help underprivileged Singaporeans pay for school expenses, medical treatment and other welfare services. Applicants for the fund need not be followers of the Taoist faith.

The return of this money to the charge of Singapore’s Taoist community has been a long time coming.

In 1991, the land on which sat the 100-year-old Kew Thian Neo Neo Temple in Balestier Road was sold for a tenth of its value - $132,000 - after three of its four property trustees accepted nearly $1 million in bribes from its buyers.

It was torn down soon after.

Two years later, the three trustees were found out, charged, and sent to jail.

The buyers, a businessman and his son, were spared jail time for their testimony, but were slapped with $6.3 million in fines.

More than 10 years later, the Attorney-General’s Chambers has decided to stop waiting for them to pay up the fine.

The businessman died in 2004, the same year his building supplies company closed down. His son declared himself bankrupt a year later.

Of the fine, father and son coughed up $952,000. Another $147,000 was recovered from the corrupt trio, rounding up the sum to $1.1 million.

The federation has appointed three new trustees to manage the money.

Unlike their predecessors, Mr Lim Chwee Kim, Mr Tan Tee San and Madam Maih Lan Ying hold respected positions in the Chinese community. They also come with years of experience in charity work.

Said Madam Maih, who has given away millions privately in the last 60 years: ‘This is the public’s money now. There will be strict controls and checks to ensure that every cent will go to a good and deserving cause.’

The Taoist Federation is not new to managing large amounts of money.

In 2004, it was appointed by the courts to handle $250,000 that came out of a legal tussle between the trustees of another temple - the Kew Ong Yah Temple in Upper Serangoon Road.

Currently, another $1.2 million of the temple’s funds is being held by the Public Trustee. That money is expected to be handed to the Taoist Federation for safekeeping, too.

‘This is the public’s money now. There will be strict controls and checks to ensure that every single cent will go to a good and deserving cause.’
MADAM MAIH LAN YING, one of the new trustees

GuocoLand Posts 26% Drop In Q2 Earnings

Source : The Business Times, January 31, 2008

QUEK Leng Chan's Singapore-listed property arm GuocoLand yesterday posted a 26 per cent year-on-year slide in group net profit to $32.95 million for the second quarter ended Dec 31, 2007. This was due largely to a 26 per cent drop in other income, from $39.4 million to $29.3 million largely because of a non-recurring profit of $19.3 million that arose from GuocoLand selling its stake in BIL in the year-ago corresponding period.

However, gross profit for Q2 rose 145 per cent, from $16.38 million to $40.21 million on the back of contributions from the group's development projects in Singapore (including The Stellar, Quartz, Le Crescendo and The View @ Meyer condos) as well as the West End Point project in Beijing.

The decrease in other income was mitigated by higher net foreign exchange gains of $11.3 million from revaluation of US dollar bank loans.

Revenue for Q2 more than doubled from $99.6 million to $211.1 million. For the half year ended Dec 31, 2007, revenue also more than doubled from $187.8 million to $402.1 million. Net earnings for the half year rose 15 per cent to $60.6 million.

GuocoLand's results statement also showed it has withheld payment of 2.58 billion yuan (S$509.2 million) out of the total 5.8 billion yuan purchase price for the acquisition of a 90 per cent stake in Beijing Cheng Jian Dong Hua Real Estate Development Company (CJDH) and a 100 per cent stake in CJDH's holding company, Hainan Jing Hao Asset Limited, to cover potential liability relating to separate lawsuits involving guarantees and loans given by Beijing Dong Hua Guang Chang Zhi Ye Co Ltd, formerly a related company of CDJH.

One law suit, for 1.5 billion yuan, has been lodged by Shenzhen Development Bank against CJDH and the other, by Agricultural Bank of China, has been lodged against CJDH and Hainan for a loan of about two billion yuan given to Zhiye. GuocoLand said in its statement it will vigorously contest both suits and give further updates when appropriate.

CJDH owns the land use and development rights to a prime plot of land along Dongzhimen Road on the East Second Ring Road in Beijing's Dong Cheng District.

Credit Fallout Hits First-Time Home Buyers In The UK

Source : The Business Times, January 31, 2008

Lenders demanding higher deposits on debt market fears

First-time buyers are finding it harder to get a foot on the British property ladder than at any time since 2005, a survey showed on Tuesday, but mortgage payments are becoming more affordable.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) said mortgage lenders had reduced the amount they were prepared to lend, leaving first-time buyers typically needing more than 100 per cent of their income to make a purchase during the final quarter of last year.

'First-time buyers are finding it even harder to get a foothold on the housing ladder and the signs are that conditions are unlikely to get better in the short term,' said RICS Senior Economist David Stubbs. 'Mortgage lenders are demanding ever higher deposits as the credit crunch continues to take effect.'

Economists have long argued that affordability constraints would eventually take their toll on the overall health of the housing market as first-time buyers became increasingly priced out.
The once red-hot housing market in Britain has cooled sharply in recent months as past interest rate rises and worsening sentiment take their toll.

However, the RICS said that existing home owners were finding it slightly easier to repay their mortgages in Q4 2007 - the first such improvement since early 2006 - due to steady interest rates and rising wages.

Mortgage affordability hit a 16-year low in Q3, according to RICS.

'Those who are struggling with mortgage repayments are still faced with paying a large percentage of take home pay but there may be some release of pressure as earnings continue to rise,' Mr Stubbs said.

'If the Bank of England cuts interest rates next week, many will breathe a sigh of relief.' The Bank is expected to cut borrowing costs by 25 basis points to 5.25 per cent next week as policymakers seek to shore up the economy, but there is some doubt over how far rates will fall this year given concerns about rising price pressures. -- Reuters

Carlton Now Part Of Worldhotels Network

Source : The Business Times, January 31, 2008

It is the third S'pore hotel to do so, after Goodwood and York

From tomorrow, Carlton Hotel Singapore will join the prestigious Worldhotels 'First Class Collection' marketing network.

Worldhotels is a European-based global hotels group bringing together individual and independent hotels and regional hotel brands. With an existing base of about 500 hotels worldwide, this partnership with Carlton adds a landmark property in Singapore to Worldhotels' 78 other members in the Asia-Pacific region.

This is the group's third tie-up with a Singapore hotel, with Goodwood Park Hotel and York Hotel already on board as members.

Carlton Hotel Singapore's general manager, Ronald Loges, said yesterday that the hotel was entering into the partnership at a time when Singapore was expecting a big influx of visitors.

He said: 'The sophisticated needs of travellers within Asia-Pacific today and the latest developments in Singapore, ranging from the Singapore Flyer to the integrated resorts and Sports Hub, creates tremendous energy that will draw unprecedented numbers of visitors to this island.'

He said the partnership would enable Carlton, as an independent hotel, to compete with top international hotel organisations like the Hilton and Hyatt groups.

Apart from the Worldhotels partnership, Carlton is also developing a new Tower Wing at the corner of Bras Basah and North Bridge Road, scheduled for completion in late 2009.

The new wing will add 285 rooms to the current total of 630. The hotel also has 880 square metres of function space in a pillarless grand ballroom, and function rooms designed by the Hirsh Bedner & Associates interior design firm.

News of the expansion comes just less than a year after the Carlton group, in May 2007, emerged as the top bidder for a 99-year hotel site at Gopeng Street next to the Amara Hotel in the Tanjong Pagar area, where it intends to develop a new hotel.

Worldhotels (Asia-Pacific) vice-president Roland Jegge said that Carlton was strategically located, with the Suntec Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre just down one road, and the busy financial district minutes down another. The hotel is also just a five-minute walk from CityLink mall - Singapore's largest underground shopping mall - and the City Hall MRT station, he added.

Meanwhile, Worldhotels is also understood to be in talks with Singapore Airlines regarding a frequent flyer partnership programme.

Property Players Hold Back

Source : TODAY, Thursday, January 31, 2008

Companies wary of acquisitions amid market uncertainty

Even as property prices come off their peaks, sector participants are keeping cautious, with Macquarie MEAG Prime Reit's manager becoming the latest to say it will hold off making acquisitions for now.

The uncertain mood brought on by turbulence and volatility in financial markets is curbing enthusiasm for property around the world.

"We have been shy of making acquisitions at the wrong price. So far, we have been prudent in terms of looking at what's a good buy for us," said Mr Franklin Heng, chief executive officer of Macquarie Pacific Star, the manager of the Macquarie MEAG Prime Reit. The Reit has interests in properties such as Wisma Atria and Ngee Ann City.

He announced at a briefing that for the three months ended Dec 31, the Reit had a distributable net income of $16.2 million, which means a distribution per unit of 1.68 cents.

On Tuesday, Keppel Land CEO Kevin Wong said he will "selectively acquire commercial and residential sites", while Mapletree Logistics trust said last week it "will continue with its yield plus growth strategy, but in the current environment, it will focus on optimising yield from its existing portfolio".

This strategy to look to organic growth to drive earnings contrasts with that of last year, when property trusts derived a large part of their profits from acquisitions.

"Most Reits still have balance sheets to take on acquisitions. But for major acquisitions, perhaps not this year, especially if that requires equity fund-raising," said Mr David Lum, an analyst from Daiwa Securities. "I don't think any Reit wants to be forced into any equity fund raising."

"We are starting to see some sellers coming out of the sub-prime crisis. They may have to sell their assets very quickly, particularly those who are heavily-geared. So, getting financing is very challenging now," said Mr Heng.

Macquarie's "balance sheet is very healthy, so, it's much easier for us to gear up, to make those acquisitions. Especially towards the second half of this year, there should be some quality assets from Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong up for sale".

Prudential To Save S$1.2m A Year In Rent With Transitional Site

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 31 January 2008

Life insurance firm Prudential is expected to save S$1.2 million a year in rent for the next 15 years when it moves into a transitional office site at Scotts Road.

The site, which is slated to be ready in September, will house 2,500 staff.

The target to construct the S$35 million, four-storey building by September is a challenging one given the resource crunch in the construction sector.

Developer Scotts Spazio said it has been designed in a modular format to speed things up.

Ong Chih Ching, managing director, KOP Capital, said: "Our project managers are putting together a package where instead of having one main contractor, they have split the packages up and they, themselves, become the main contractor supervising the work."

As its leases at Bugis Junction and Fuji Xerox building at Tanjong Pagar expire this year, sole tenant Prudential will take up all 150,000 square feet of the space at S$6.50 per square foot.

Philip Seah, CEO of Prudential Assurance Company Singapore, said: "At this point in time, we occupy about 200,000 square feet. By the time the rentals are due for the properties in town, we could be looking at rental of approximately S$10 to S$11, which is being cited to us, as opposed to S$6.50. In terms of the location and proximity to town, this will be a better location."

Located right above Newton MRT station, the one-hectare site is considered one of the best transitional office sites to be released so far and both the developer and main tenant are already hoping that the URA will extend its lease beyond 15 years.
- CNA/so

Strong Economy Lifts Demand For JTC's Industrial Space To New Peaks

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 31 January 2008

Demand for JTC's industrial space jumped to a record 880,000 square metres in 2007, thanks to a strong economy.

Singapore's largest industrial landlord said take-up for its ready-built facilities reached nearly 215,000 square metres. This was about 20 per cent higher than the record set in 2005.

A new high was also set for prepared industrial land with take-up at over 340 hectares.

Occupancy for ready-built facilities rose by five per cent to 93 per cent in 2007, while the occupancy rate for prepared industrial land reached 89 per cent.
- CNA/vm

Analysts Mixed On More ERP Gantries And Higher Rates

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 31 January 2008

Transport analysts have mixed feelings about Wednesday's announcement that there will be more Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) gantries and that ERP rates will go up.

However, they agree that measures to curb traffic congestion must be implemented now.

The Automobile Association does not think it is a good idea to raise ERP rates before the proposed improvements to the public transport system kick in. And it does not agree that more ERP gantries equal less congestion.

The Ministry of Transport has said the changes should achieve the goal of having smooth traffic 85 per cent of the time.

Although some feel that the ERP has worked and will likely be effective in reducing congestion, some analysts have their doubts.

National University of Singapore's Associate Professor Chin Hoong Chor said: "If we say that the 85th percentile (speed) drops, then you raise the charge on BKE (Bukit Timah Expressway) so as to bring the 85th percentile speed again, what happens then is that there will be less traffic on the BKE and they will go on to the parallel road which is the Upper Bukit Timah Road.

"And what happens if the (85th percentile) speed on Upper Bukit Timah Road... (drops) below the threshold, you will raise the charge on Upper Bukit Timah Road again. So it seems like you (are) going to keep (increasing) the rate just to adjust to the 85th percentile speed."

When it comes to the other target of encouraging more people to switch to public transport, some observers are not quite optimistic.

But Dr Michael Li from Nanyang Technological University's Nanyang Business School pointed out: "Even (if) one per cent of (the) people change (to public transport), it's still quite an accomplishment.

"Remember, it makes no sense to drive everyone out of the highways. Otherwise, what's the point of building the highways? So, that's not the purpose. So we're looking at only a small marginal change."

There are also suggestions for an Internet portal that can provide real time information to commuters on alternative routes at any given time.

Analysts say the various improvements to the public transport system have to be implemented first before accessing how successful the latest measures are.

Dr Li added that if Singapore's public transport system is as massive as the ones in Tokyo and New York, most people probably will not mind taking public transport. - CNA/ac

PM Lee says University Town Launch Is Key Development For NUS

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 31 January 2008

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong Thursday launched the University Town project at the National University of Singapore (NUS), which will also be the site of the Youth Olympic Village if the country wins the bid to host the Games.

The government has confirmed that the project has been given top priority and will be completed by 2010.

According to the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, the project is on the government's "green lane", a fast track to ensure that it clears all the necessary regulations faster than normal, without compromising on design standards, occupational health and safety.

Mr Lee also assured that the University Town will be completed in time for the Games in 2010.

"We are delighted that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has selected Singapore as one of two candidates in the final shortlist. We plan to use the University Town as the Youth Olympic Village, and will make sure that it is completed in time for the Games," he said.

He added he is confident Singapore can deliver a high-quality, memorable event that will celebrate the spirit of the Games, strengthen the Olympic movement and leave a lasting impact on young people around the world.

Related Video Link -

Located just 13 kilometres from the city centre, athletes will need only no more than 30 minutes to get to all sports venues from the University Town.

Mr Lee also noted that the S$500 million University Town project is a key development for NUS and for tertiary education in Singapore.

The sprawling 19-hectare site at the former Warren Golf Club on Dover Road will accommodate Singapore's first residential colleges, offering students a holistic and unique learning experience.

The prime minister Lee said: "Currently, NUS has several halls of residence which fulfil some of the functions of residential colleges. The halls are student dormitories that allow students to enjoy the benefits of living on campus.

"They serve student life well with a range of social and sporting activities and help to develop a sense of community, but are not organised for residential learning in an integrated and multi-disciplinary setting.

"The University Town will take this one step further with the establishment of residential colleges. Along with two graduate residences, six residential colleges will be set up, with each headed by a Master and supported by a team of faculty fellows, graduate tutors and staff.

"Each college will have the flexibility to chart its future direction and evolve its own distinctive characteristics. But the emphasis across all colleges will be on multi-disciplinary learning, with intensive small-group sessions to encourage maximum interaction and discussion.

"At the same time, they will offer opportunities for social, cultural and recreational activities to deliver a more rounded learning experience."

NUS Professor Lily Kong said: "The residential halls that we have at the moment… have done a fabulous job in terms of encouraging and developing a sense of student identity and community and commitment to NUS and their halls of residence. We want to continue. All we are trying to do here is to add another dimension which currently doesn't exist - the learning component in the colleges."

The prime minister also said the Committee on the Expansion of the University Sector, headed by Minister of State for Education Lui Tuck Yew, will be ready with its report in August.

Besides studying the form of the fourth publicly funded university, the committee is also looking at other major changes to help meet the future needs of the economy. - CNA/ac

Keppel Land Gets An Early HongBao

Source : TODAY, Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Boosted by sale of stake in One Raffles Quay, the firm posts a seven-fold surge in Q4 profits to $572 million

KEPPEL Land kicked off the current quarterly earnings for the property sector on a positive note with a strong set of results, but analysts said the sharp gains may not be repeated in the current year as businesses could face weaker business conditions.

The seven-fold surge in net profit to $572 million for the three months ended Dec 31 was boosted by a one-time capital gain from the sale of its one-third stake in One Raffles Quay (picture).

Keppel Land is proposing a final dividend of 8 cents per share and a special dividend of 12 cents per share. For the full year, it said profit after tax rose almost four times to $780 million from $200.3 million the year before.

Singapore’s second largest property developer’s results bids well for the rest of the sector, but analysts warned that property developers in general may not see such buoyant conditions this year, with weak market sentiment resulting in delays in property launches.

The launch of the Marina Bay Suites has been delayed until after Chinese New Year “to wait until people get their bonuses and perhaps, after people get their hongbao (red packet)”, said Keppel Land chief executive officer Kevin Wong.

Both housing and office property prices reached records last year, but with the US sub-prime crisis widening, companies are starting to tighten their spending on worries of a global slowdown.

The latest Urban Redevelopment Authority data showed that sales and rental prices for private residential and office properties have risen at a slower pace in the fourth quarter versus the third quarter of 2007. For the whole of last year, private home prices rose 31.2 per cent and prices of office space rose 32.6 per cent.

The rising price trend will continue and will broaden to the mass residential market, but the gains won’t be as aggressive, with analysts forecasting no more than a 15-per-cent rise in property prices on average.

“The drivers for earnings growth this year (for Keppel Land) are most likely from projects in emerging markets like China and Vietnam,” said CIMB analyst Donald Chua.

JTC Ready-Built Facilities’ Take-Up Hits Record

Source : The Business Times, February 1, 2008

AS A result of strong economic growth and a buoyant industrial space market in 2007, Singapore’s biggest industrial landlord JTC yesterday said that net take-up for its ready-built facilities reached a new record high of 214,700 sq m in 2007. This surpasses the previous record of 179,600 sq m set in 2005.

Similarly, a new high was also set for its prepared industrial land, which saw a net take-up of 341 ha in 2007.

The growth in the ready-built facilities segment came from increases in net allocation for flatted, stack-up and standard factory space, JTC said.

The overall occupancy for ready-built facilities rose to 92.7 per cent in 2007, from 87.8 per cent in 2006.

Gross allocation of ready-built facilities rose by 42 per cent to 399,900 sq m in 2007, from 281,000 sq m in 2006. However, the termination level also increased by 14 per cent year-on-year to 185,200 sq m in 2007 - giving a net allocation of 214,700 sq m.

For prepared industrial land, the robust net allocation was mainly due to ‘exceptionally strong’ gross allocation of 451 ha, an increase of 42 per cent over 2006, JTC said.

As a result, the occupancy rate for prepared industrial land reached 89 per cent last year. The bulk of the increase in net allocation came from specialised parks (which accounted for 250 ha - or 73 per cent - of the total net allocation of 342 ha). There was significant growth in net allocations for Jurong Island (156 ha) and Wafer Fab Park (42 ha).

JTC also said that the chemical sector made up 50 per cent of the total gross allocation of prepared industrial land for 2007. Manufacturing related and supporting sectors (such as logistics and services) accounted for 13 per cent and 12 per cent respectively of total gross allocation.

Market observers have said that rents and occupancy levels improved across all industrial space last year as many international companies have recently turned their sights on Singapore on the back of Asia’s growth.

Rents and occupancy rates for all industrial space are expected to continue growing this year, they said.

分层地契局裁决丽景花园公寓Regent Garden集体出售无效

《联合早报》Jan 31, 2008

新加坡分层地契局(STB)裁决,丽景花园公寓(Regent Garden)的集体出售,因”缺乏诚信”而宣判无效。



丽景花园公寓位于西海岸路。长春产业(Allgreen Properties)在去年4月26日已同丽景花园公寓的大多数业主达成买卖协议,将以3400万元购买这个打算集体出售的项目。长春产业指这个价格是当时的最高标价,也是附近房地产的最高集体出售价格之一。


















Prudential In 14-Year Lease For Scotts Road Site

Source : The Straits Times, Feb 1, 2008

A BUILDING on Singapore's first transitional office site in Scotts Road will be completed in September at a cost of about $75 million.

LONG LEASE: Prudential has locked in an unusual agreement that allows it to lease a four-storey building (left) on Singapore's first transitional office site for 14 years instead of the usual three to five years. The insurance giant will pay $6.50 per sq ft - or about $975,000 - per month for the $75 million building. Mr Seah, the chief executive, says Prudential sees value in locking in a longer-term lease. -- PHOTO: KOP CAPITAL

The entire four-storey block has already been leased to insurance firm Prudential, which has locked in an unusual rental agreement that will last for an effective 14 years.

Prudential will pay $6.50 per sq ft per month for the building. At about 150,000 sq ft of space, that works out to $975,000 a month.

The agreement is unusual because most office leases are granted on a three-year basis - although this can range from two to five years - with an option for renewal.

In today's market of rising office rents, Prudential sees value in locking in a longer-term lease, explained chief executive Philip Seah.

Mr Seah said rents at the Scotts Road building would be half of what Prudential would have to pay to extend its current leases at Fuji Xerox Tower in Anson Road and at Bugis Junction, where it has a combined 130,000 sq ft of space.

Both those leases, as well as Prudential's third location at Singapore Post Centre, will expire this year.

The firm is seeking a replacement for the Singapore Post location, where it occupies 70,000 sq ft.

In the meantime, Prudential will give up the Fuji Xerox and Bugis spaces and relocate 2,500 of its more than 3,600 staff to the Scotts Road block, Mr Seah said at a ground-breaking ceremony for the building yesterday.

The Scotts Road site, which is being developed by KOP Capital, Hwa Hong Corporation and Dubai Investment Group, is the first and most successful of the Government's temporary office sites - an initiative launched recently to ease a shortage in office space.

The three other sites that were released garnered lacklustre response, with the latest not even awarded due to inadequate bids.

GuocoLand Earnings Sink 25% To $34m

Source : The Straits Times, Jan 31, 2008

INVESTORS might be tempted at first to blame a slowing housing market for a 25 per cent slide in GuocoLand's second-quarter earnings.

A closer scrutiny of the property developer's accounts, however, shows that for the quarter ended Dec 31, it actually reaped higher revenue from its property development projects in Singapore and China.

In fact, the explanation for the profit slump was the sale of its long-term investment in BIL International in the second quarter ended Dec 31, 2006, which boosted its bottom line in the earlier period to the tune of a $19.3 million one-off gain.

GuocoLand's net profit for the second quarter ended Dec 31 plunged to $33.9 million, from $45.4 million a year earlier. With the one-off gain stripped out, net profits were well up this year.

Revenue soared 112 per cent to $211.1 million, up from $99.6 million in the previous period.

Gross profit rose from $16.4 million to $40.2 million, with contribution from its West End Point project in Beijing.

West End Point, an 810-unit development in the Xicheng District of Beijing, is almost fully sold, GuocoLand said yesterday.

In Singapore, GuocoLand has three launched developments on the market: Le Crescendo, The View@Meyer and The Quartz.

As at this month, it achieved sales of about 90 per cent for Le Crescendo, The View@Meyer and the launched units in The Quartz.

GuocoLand said it has, in the pipeline, 'prestigious' residential developments in prime districts which will be built on the sites of the existing Sophia Court and Leedon Heights.

Earnings per share for the quarter fell from 7.31 cents to 4.02 cents, while net asset value per share remained unchanged at $2.30.

GuocoLand said that although the spectre of a recession is looming over the United States, the major economies of China and India are nonetheless expected to remain resilient.

Still, it noted that with the withdrawal of the deferred payment scheme in October, buyers are turning 'more cautious' in view of the 'downside risks' arising from the continuing global credit fallout, high oil prices, weak equity market sentiments and rising inflation.

Heading To Town? Choices Galore For Those In North

Source : The Straits Times, Jan 31, 2008

Fully open KPE, new expressway, Thomson rail line will cut travelling time to city

MOTORIST Shiva Bhaskaran pays between $4 and $5 in Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) charges daily to get to work.

The 49-year-old information technology director passes under two gantries on his 25-minute drive from his Yio Chu Kang home to his office in Raffles Link via the Central Expressway (CTE).

Said the owner of an eight-year-old Mercedes-Benz: 'I use the CTE although it is not the only route I can use. It's the most convenient.'

He may have a few alternative routes now, but more viable choices in travel routes - and even travel modes - will open up for him by 2020, as for all those living in the north and north-east corridor.

Residents living in areas such as Woodlands, Sembawang, Yishun, Ang Mo Kio and Bishan will benefit from some of the projects Transport Minister Raymond Lim listed yesterday.

First up, the opening of the rest of the Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE) on Sept 20, following the opening of its maiden 3km stretch from Sims Avenue to Fort Road in the East Coast Parkway last October.

When fully open, a 12km underground stretch will link north-east neighbourhoods such as Buangkok, Bartley and Tampines to the Pan-Island Expressway and the city.

Those living in these northern suburbs can expect to cut commuting time to the city by a quarter, said Mr Lim, at the unveiling of the third and final part of the the Land Transport Review.

But the $1.74 billion KPE is not the only facility built to meet the travel demands of these residents. Another new expressway, the 21km North-South Expressway (NSE), will be built parallel to the CTE by 2020.

Singapore's 11th expressway, costing between $7 billion and $8 billion, is expected to cut travel time to the city by nearly a third, for those in the north. The NSE has been raised before as the long-term answer to the CTE's congestion, but the Government has, till now, held off building it.

Asked why it was the right time now, Mr Lim replied that travel demand in the northern corridor was projected to grow by 63 per cent.

Besides the KPE and the NSE, the Government - which hopes to persuade more to use public transport - will add a new north-south rail line, the Thomson line, for residents in the north.

The 27km rail line announced last week will run from Woodlands to Marina Bay and link Sin Ming, Kim Seng and Thomson, neighbourhoods now outside the rail network.

By 2018, commuters in Sin Ming, for example, can shave 20 minutes off the 45 minutes it now takes to get to town.

Expressways and road interchanges in the northern corridor going south to the city will also be widened.

By 2011, the CTE will have an extra lane from Jalan Toa Payoh to Yio Chu Kang; traffic flow will also be improved along the northbound CTE where it enters the PIE.

Member of Parliament for Sembawang GRC Ellen Lee is hopeful that the measures will relieve the congestion her constituents experience during the morning rush hour.

But just how will motorists take to the new projects, and will they bite at the alternative means of travel offered?

For Mr Shiva, giving up his car is not an option as he can afford it and also 'because I have invested so much in my car'.

But he added: 'I will definitely use the North-South Expressway when it's ready.'

Property-Related Loans Still Growing

Source : The Business Times, February 1, 2008

LOCAL bank lending related to property shows no sign of abating despite an impending US recession and associated slowdown of the Singapore economy.

Total property-related loans, which include housing loans and lending to building and construction businesses, was 3.2 per cent higher in December than the previous month, reaching $110.7 billion, according to preliminary data released by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) yesterday.

On a yearly basis, property-related loans were up 23.4 per cent from Dec 2006's figure of $89.7 billion.

These loans constituted the main bulk of banks' lending business here, boosting total loans and advances to $233.4 billion in December last year. This figure is 20 per cent higher than in December 2006.

Loans grew despite measures undertaken by the government to cool the property sector. Last October, the government unexpectedly removed the deferred payment scheme for homebuyers, in an apparent bid to curb speculation.

Lending to building and construction firms jumped 42.6 per cent from a year ago to $37.5 billion. On a monthly basis, the loans were up 8.7 per cent.

December also saw loans to homebuyers reach $73.1 billion, or 15 per cent higher than a year ago, and 0.6 per cent up month-on- month.

Generally, loans to most business segments went up, except loans to sectors such as agriculture, mining and quarrying, manufacturing and business services.

Borrowing by business services companies has been on a downtrend since last November. It surged to $5.3 billion in October, then dropped 12 per cent to $4.7 billion in November and by a further 2 per cent in December.

Meanwhile, housing loans were the biggest component of bank lending to consumers. Lending to other segments like share financing and credit cards also continued to grow, although these accounted for only about 7 per cent of total consumer lending.

The number of credit cards in circulation, including supplementary cards, shrank marginally by 0.5 per cent over the month to 5.7 million at end-December. But the total credit card rollover balance - that portion of the credit card debt that is subject to interest charges - went up over the month to $3.02 billion, from $2.99 billion.

Overall, month-on month, and on a yearly basis, loans to businesses grew at a faster pace than loans to consumers. Monthly, loans to businesses rose 5 per cent to $127.8 billion, while consumer loans grew only 0.6 per cent to $105.6 billion.

Year-on-year, business loans grew 26.3 per cent while consumer loans expanded 13.1 per cent.

1st Transitional Office Block Ready In Sept

Source : The Business Times, February 1, 2008

BY September, Singapore's first transitional office building will be ready for its tenant, Prudential Assurance Company Singapore, said the project's developer yesterday.

Kop Capital, which is jointly developing the upcoming Scotts Spazio with partners Hwa Hong Group and Dubai Investment Group, said that the project would cost about $75 million - including the land cost of $37 million. Ground breaking for the four-storey development, next to Newton MRT station, was held yesterday.

Prudential, which has leased the building for 14 years, will be paying $6.50 per square foot a month. The site was sold by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) in August 2007 with a 15-year lease. The building will have 150,000 sq ft of space, Prudential said.

The URA started releasing transitional office sites last year to help ease the supply crunch for space in the office sector.

The Scotts Road site was the first to be offered and it attracted a whopping 11 bids when the maiden tender closed, with the highest offer of $37 million put in by Kop Capital and its partners.

Prudential chief executive Philip Seah said that the company would relocate some 2,500 of its staff, mostly from its current offices in Fuji Xerox Building and Bugis Junction, where its leases are ending.

'Consistent with our image of prominence, we were looking for a strategic location to relocate two of our existing agency centres,' Mr Seah said. 'The first transitional office site at Scotts Road proved to be ideal.'

The rent at Scotts Spazio is about half of what the company could potentially pay were it to stay on at Fuji Xerox and Bugis Junction, Mr Seah said.