Tuesday, February 12, 2008

'A Steal At $246,000'

Source : The Electric New Paper, February 12, 2008


IT was never meant to be a home, but a driveway for a nearby house.

But now Toronto's smallest house is so popular that it has changed owners several times.

It even has its own website, www.thelittlehouse.ca, where you can take a mini-tour of the interior.

It was supposed to be a driveway for a neighbouring house. Pictures: WAYNE HIGGINS, WWW.OBEO.COM

And the unique property is back on sale again for C$173,000 ($246,000).

If you think your HDB flat is too small, think again.

Dubbed The Little House, the home measures just 300sqft, around the size of a one-room flat.


But past and present owners have managed to squeeze much into the tiny rectangular-shaped pad.

Such as a garage for two cars, a storage basement, a patio and stone walkway to a tiny garden.

The living room is the first room you see when you enter the house, followed by a kitchen and the bedroom.

Space is maximised with built-in wardrobes and cabinets, and a double-sized bed that can be hidden into a wall cabinet, thus opening up space during the day.

Current owner David Blois, who bought it for C$139,000 in 2006, told City News that he is trying to cash in on his property.

He said: 'It reminds people of a small cottage or what they may have seen in a storybook.'

Real estate agents in Toronto claimed that the property is a steal at C$173,000.

Said Ms Cristina Lopes: 'Even though this is only 300sq ft, it looks more spacious than a condo unit that's 700 or 800 sq ft.

'It all depends on the layout and the layout of this home was really nicely done.'

Located at 128 Day Avenue in the Rogers and Dufferin area, the home was built in 1912 after the City Hall decided not to pursue its plan to build a driveway for a neighbouring home.

The first owner was contractor Arthur Weeden, who lived there for 20 years with his wife.

StanChart Invests S$206m In New Changi Business Park Office Building

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 12 February 2008

Standard Chartered Bank is investing S$206m in a new office building in Changi Business Park in Singapore.

The new building will house the bank's back-end operations and a global learning centre, and will be completed in 2010.

This makes Standard Chartered the latest financial institution to relocate part of its operations to Changi.

DBS, Citibank and Credit Suisse have made similar announcements.

The planned office building is the latest of Standard Chartered's broader billion-dollar plan to consolidate its operations in Singapore, from the current six locations to just three, to keep up with its longer-term growth strategy.

Mr Lim Cheng Teck, chief executive of Standard Chartered Bank Singapore, said: "For us, as a bank, we need to look for opportunities in the market, capitalise on them.

"We have to make sure that we have the capacity to leverage on the opportunity. And this investment on the premises is to make sure we can support further growth."

While other global banking giants have been hit by the US sub-prime crisis, Standard Chartered said it has so far been relatively insulated because its focus is outside the US.

Mr Lim said: "We are a bank that is focused in Asia, Middle East and Africa. Growth in Asia is still strong, growth in the Middle East is still strong and Africa is also showing strong growth.

"So it's really part of our growth strategy that we are investing more in Singapore, serving not just the Singapore market but using Singapore as a hub to serve the rest of Asia."

In April last year, Standard Chartered announced that it was taking half a million square feet of space at the upcoming Marina Bay Financial Centre.

But for the Changi building, it will take up 225,000 square feet and house up to 2,000 staff involved in non-frontline operations such as IT and trade operations.

Upon completion, the bank will have an option to add extensions to the building in two more phases, up to a total floor area of 700,000 square feet.

The building will be leased to Standard Chartered for 15 years, with a review every five years. - CNA/ir

Locations Of Downtown Line Stations Will Depend On Commuter Traffic

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 12 February 2008

Construction of the Downtown Line began on February 12 and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said it will decide where to build future stations for the new line after looking at commuter traffic.

Besides the Chinatown Station, the first phase will consist of another five stations.

But for the other 27 stations, which fall under phases two and three, the LTA has yet to finalise their locations on the train line.

Related Video Link - http://tinyurl.com/ywjcvs

One major factor that will determine where the stations will be is commuter traffic. And many future stations may also be located underground.

Lim Bok Ngam, Deputy Chief Executive of Infrastructure & Development at LTA, said: "Typically, we do not want to sterilise land. So you find that many of the stations are located at junctions and the lines are running below the road. That, on the bigger context, saves land for the government.

"But then of course, in terms of construction, it makes it more difficult because you need to make sure traffic flows (smoothly) at the same time."

The existing Chinatown Station will have an additional entrance at Hong Lim Complex.

LTA is using a method that allows excavation to continue through underground openings while the hole is covered. This way, excavation works will not affect the flow of traffic above ground.

On Cross Street, a road bridge from Raffles Quay to the east of China Street is due to be completed by the fourth quarter of the year, with the aim of minimising congestion. The viaduct will be in use till the completion of Phase one of the Downtown Line in 2013.

The two remaining contracts for Bugis and Promenade stations will be awarded by the end of the year. - CNA /ls

Ascott Investors Advised To Accept Offer

Source : The Straits Times, Feb 12, 2008

SERVICED apartment operator The Ascott Group’s shareholders should accept an offer from parent CapitaLand of $1.73 apiece for its shares, an independent financial adviser has recommended.

Shareholders ‘who wish to realise their investments’ in Ascott, said PricewaterhouseCoopers Corporate Finance (PwCCF), should either take CapitaLand’s offer or sell the shares on the open market before the offer closes on Feb 26.

PwCCF is advising Ascott’s independent directors on the deal. CapitaLand, it noted, has also stated intentions to delist Ascott. If CapitaLand, which already owns two-thirds of Ascott, succeeds in acquiring enough shares to do so, ‘the trading liquidity of the shares would be aversely affected’.

On Jan 8, CapitaLand made a cash offer for shares of Ascott.

The property firm added it did not intend to revise its offer, which gave a 43 per cent premium over Ascott’s then-last traded price of $1.21.

Ascott is the biggest operator of serviced apartments in Asia and Europe, with almost 15,000 units around the world and another 5,000 more under development.

Its share price closed unchanged at $1.72 yesterday.

Stanchart Joining Quest For Space In Changi

Source : The Business Times, 12 February 2008

Bank seeks to build complex of up to 400,000 sq ft to house backroom operations: sources

STANDARD Chartered looks set to be the next financial institution to head out east to Changi Business Park (CBP), which is fast becoming a hub for financial backroom operations.

Already, Citibank, Credit Suisse, DBS and OCBC have either staked their claims on space there, or are in the process of doing so.

As for Standard Chartered, sources say that it is looking to build a complex of between 300,000 and 400,000 sq ft to consolidate its backroom operations currently spread out in locations like Tampines, Bukit Merah and Bras Basah.

It is also understood that the bank expects to increase its headcount when it expands its offices to CBP.

It has already committed to take up over 500,000 sq ft of space at the upcoming Marina Bay Financial Centre.

Industrial and business parks developer Ascendas, which is a subsidiary of JTC Corporation, is said to be the developer of Standard Chartered’s CBP offices.

It will be a built-to-suit building which will be leased to Standard Chartered in a similar way that Ascendas Real Estate Investment Trust (in which Ascendas holds a 60 per cent stake) is developing and leasing to Citibank its new backroom office space at CBP.

Earlier, Citigroup said it would invest $220 million to cover the capital, relocation, rental and operating costs of the new CBP office and will lease the space until 2016 and has an option to extend its lease for another six years.

CBP is a 66.54 ha business park which currently comprises around 60 development plots. JTC revealed earlier that about 50 per cent of these have already been allocated. While it is not clear which plot will be the site for Standard Chartered’s new backroom office, a JTC map of the area reveals that Ascendas has been allocated plots near The Signature, which is also near Expo MRT Station.

Other plans afoot at CBP include a hotel.

While the idea of a hotel was first mooted several years ago, there was little interest from industry players then.

It is understood that interest for a hotel has now been revived with CBP growing to become more than just a business park.

Cushman & Wakefield managing director Donald Han believes that while CBP may not have the critical mass to become a sub-regional town centre, it could become a fringe commercial centre along the lines of Harbourfront or Alexandra Road which Mr Han believes came about through ‘organic growth’.

With more businesses moving to CBP, Mr Han says that the authorities may have to, ‘over time, transform CBP into a fringe centre too’.

Mr Han also believes that in the process, Singapore Expo could be amalgamated to create the critical mass that will sustain support functions like the hotel as well as retail facilities.

For now, however, Mr Han reckons CBP is still ‘a bit disconnected’.

A Touch Of Glass For Moulmein HDB Flats

Source : The Straits Times, Feb 12, 2008

RESIDENTS of HDB flats in Cambridge and Owen Roads will be the first in Singapore to get see-through, bubble lifts like those found in hotels and shopping malls.

They will be up and running by next year, said Minister of State (Education) Lui Tuck Yew yesterday at a Chinese New Year dinner for Tanjong Pagar GRC.

These lifts are cheaper to install because they are not enclosed in a concrete shaft. They cost about 25 to 35 per cent less than that of the lifts now found in HDB blocks.

Residents in Buffalo Road in Serangoon will also have such lifts by 2010, said Rear-Admiral (NS) Lui.

The authorities had previously said that by installing shaftless lifts, they could quicken the pace of upgrading so that HDB blocks would have lifts that stop on every floor.

In all, 1,200 HDB homes in the MP's Moulmein division will gain from lift upgrading in the next two years.

Residents strongly support the programme to improve their lifts, with 85 per cent to 100 per cent of them giving the green light in polls, RADM Lui said at the dinner attended by the GRC's six MPs, including Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew.

Meanwhile, efforts to upgrade private estates have been less successful.

Three submissions last year to the National Development Ministry's Estate Upgrading Programme were not selected. RADM Lui did not identify the estates.

He plans to approach the ministry's Community Improvement Programme for funds to do minor improvements to the private estates.

He also disclosed that 'after much deliberation and some persuasion', the Government gave more money for the renovation of the iconic Tekka Market, at the corner of Serangoon Road and Bukit Timah Road.

The sum has been raised from $5 million to $12 million for a more thorough make- over, he added.

Beyond the physical improvements, RADM Lui also highlighted the need for more community awareness. He urged the residents to play their part in helping the needy and be more neighbourly.

One resident who is looking forward to the bubble lift is deliveryman Tan Soy Tee.

The 61-year-old lives in a three-room flat on the sixth floor of Block 46 in Owen Road. The lift does not stop on his floor but on the seventh floor.

Daily, he would have to take the flight of steps to and from his home.

He expects to pay about $760 for the lift upgrading, a sum he finds affordable: 'I earn $1,200 a month and cannot afford it if I have to pay much more than that,' he said in Mandarin.

KSH Wins $53.5m Contract

Source : The Business Times, 12 February 2008

KSH Holdings, a construction, property development and property management group, has secured a $53.5 million contract from Eurochem Corporation Pte Ltd at International Business Park.

With the latest project, the existing order book of the group's construction business stands at more than $505 million.

The contract to build the 13-storey building with a basement carpark was won by Kim Seng Heng Engineering Construction (Pte) Ltd, the group's wholly owned subsidiary in Singapore. The building will have a gross floor area of 25,057 sq m.

Construction work is scheduled to start this month and is expected to be completed within 18 months.

Said Choo Chee Onn, executive chairman and managing director of KSH: 'It is always our strategy to reach out to a new clientele base and maintain a wide job portfolio. Our portfolio spreads across multiple segments, including residential, industrial and commercial sectors. With this new project, we are able to maintain a good mix of building construction projects on hand.'

The project is the first construction contract secured by the group this year. In 2007, the group secured more than $510 million worth of construction contracts which included a mega shopping complex at Tampines Central 1 worth $86 million; a high-profile commercial and hotel development project at Collyer Quay from Hong Kong-listed property developer Sino Land worth about $120 million; industrial developments worth about $30 million; as well as a number of high-end residential developments of about $273 million in value.

双月组屋销售计划 13市镇278单位待售

《联合早报》Feb 12, 2008




这次分别有194个四房式、64个五房式和20个执行公寓组屋单位待售。它们都是预购项目(Build-To-Order,简称BTO)、抽签选购制度(Balloting Exercises)和选择性重建计划(Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme,简称SERS)卖剩的组屋。













Odds Of US Recession Now At 50%: Blue Chip Forecast

Source : The Business Times, 11 February, 2008

(WASHINGTON) The odds of a US recession have increased and stand at nearly 50 per cent amid a spate of data showing a weakening labour market, signs of more credit tightening and turmoil in the financial markets, the latest Blue Chip economic forecast projects.

A month ago, economists in this closely watched forecast put the chance that the world's richest economy would fall into recession at 40 per cent, but government data showing a contraction in hiring, slowed consumer spending and other reports pointing to sagging business activity have indicated a much more deteriorated outlook.

Among those economists, slightly more than 20 per cent are now expecting to see the economy contract in at least one or two quarters.

'The economic malaise that originated in the housing sector during 2006 (and) spread to the financial market in 2007, now appears to be infecting Main Street,' the newsletter wrote.

And even as the economy slows, inflation is expected to creep higher.

The majority of those surveyed between Feb 5 and 6, however, continue to say that a recession will be avoided. But growth is going to be weak.

Economists are now projecting that the economy will grow by just 1.7 per cent in all of 2008, down from the 2.2 per cent forecast a month ago.

Blue Chip economists are expecting that the Federal Reserve will continue to cut interest rates to help avert a recession. They expect that the central bank will reduce its target federal funds rate by at least half a percentage point more this year.

Last month, the Fed cut benchmark interest rates by a sharp 1.25 percentage points in a bold move to support growth as weakness, which was largely contained in the housing market last year, began to spread.

The series of recent cuts took overnight rates, which stood at 5.25 per cent in early September, down to 3 per cent.

But those rate cuts may fuel inflation, a concern that has been voiced by a growing number of economists and some Fed officials.

'Despite lowered expectations for economic growth, consensus forecasts of inflation this year continued to creep higher,' the newsletter said.

Consumer prices, excluding food and energy, are expected to increase 2.3 per cent in 2008 and by 2.2 per cent in 2009, well above the Fed's 2 per cent comfort ceiling.

New home building activity is expected to drop by 25 per cent from levels seen in 2007.

'All of our panelists think real residential investment will remain a drag on GDP growth during the first half of this year and 42 per cent of them say it will subtract from GDP growth throughout 2008,' the newsletter said.

The consensus predicts that sales of both new and existing homes will fall another 14 per cent this year and prices will decline 9.3 per cent.

Even so, the trade sector is expected to remain the bright spot in the economy, as the decline in the value of the US dollar and better growth abroad has fuelled demand for American goods. -- Reuters

Write-Downs From Sub-Prime Problems Could Touch $568b

Source : The Straits Times, Feb 12, 2008

THE bloodbath is not over yet.

Sub-prime-related write- offs may hit US$400 billion (S$567.8 billion) - more than treble the US$130 billion losses that Wall Street banks and other financial institutions have revealed in recent weeks, according to the world's top finance officials.

Speaking on Saturday after last weekend's Group of Seven (G-7) meeting in Tokyo, German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck said the grouping now feared that write-offs of losses on securities linked to United States sub-prime mortgages could reach US$400 billion.

This is also far bigger than the US Federal Reserve's estimates for sub-prime losses last year of US$100 billion to US$150 billion.

According to Bank of Italy governor Mario Draghi, the next two weeks will be critical in revealing how much damage the credit crisis has done to the global financial system.

'The next 10 days to two weeks will be crucial because we are going to have the first audited accounts from financial institutions since the crisis started,' said Mr Draghi, who is the chairman of the Financial Stability Forum (FSF). The FSF, a committee of international regulators and central bankers, is heading an international inquiry into the crisis.

Some of the world's biggest banks have already disclosed billions of dollars of bad credits related to the US sub-prime mortgage market collapse, but these are only preliminary estimates, he added.

'Auditors have become more vigilant' as the fallout from the sub-prime crisis continues to spread and audited accounts for last year could reveal a grimmer picture, Mr Draghi told The Business Times.

The FSF's preliminary report at the G-7 meeting warned that 'there remains risk that further shocks may lead to a recurrence of the acute liquidity pressures experienced last year', adding that 'it is likely we face a prolonged adjustment, which could be difficult'.

Mr Draghi also said regulators were ready to force banks to reveal their losses and replenish their equity ratios.

He did not rule out the possibility that governments might eventually need to inject capital into banks, although he stressed that market solutions should take precedence. The FSF will issue its full report on the causes of the credit crisis and ways to tackle it in April.

The G-7 policymakers, in their statement, painted a grim picture, saying the US economy may slow further, eroding global growth, while banks, despite falling interest rates, will tighten credit even further.

While the G-7 did not propose specific measures, European Central Bank (ECB) president Jean-Claude Trichet said countries will do what was necessary, both individually and collectively, to counter a 'significant market correction'.

Economists, however, said the ECB is held back from cutting interest rates by its fears of rising inflation.

'The problems are going right through all parts of the financial markets and there's not much the G-7 can do about this,' Mr Gilles Moec, an economist at Bank of America in London, told Australia's The Age newspaper.

'There's a danger that the downturn will become a self- fulfilling prophecy,' he was quoted as saying.

2,224 In HDB Line And It's Only Day 1

Source : The Straits Times, Feb 12, 2008

A BATCH of 278 surplus Housing Board flats in established towns like Bedok, Geylang and Toa Payoh drew more than 2,200 buyers within hours of going on sale yesterday.

Buyers have until Feb 18 to submit online applications for a computer ballot that will fix their position in the queue to pick a flat. The results will be out on Feb 21.

Yesterday's 'apply to buy' rush will not have come as a surprise given the past response to the HDB's year-old sales scheme.

A batch of 316 flats offered in outlying towns drew 5,147 applications in December, while about 840 others offered in two prior sales exercises were fully taken up.

The latest batch comprises mainly four-room units, with some five-room and executive flats - all in mature locations with amenities.

'There will an overwhelming response,' predicted Mr Albert Lu, the managing director of C&H Realty.

By 5pm yesterday, 2,224 people were in the queue.

The biggest group of units is in Toa Payoh, with 105 four-room and 14 five-room flats on offer. Flats are also available in Jalan Membina in Bukit Merah town and Geylang Serai.

The four-room flats cost $141,000 to $398,000, the five-roomers cost $218,000 to $532,000 and the executive flats, $333,000 to $470,000, depending on location and features of the units.

Demand is expected to come from buyers who want flats urgently but cannot stomach the prices that owners in choice areas are demanding.

Administration assistant Ellis Ang, 26, who plans to get married this year, has struck out in three ballots for a new flat so far.

'There are a lot of couples like us out there,' she said.

Unlike build-to-order flats, where construction starts only after most of the units are booked, most of the 278 flats on offer are ready and the rest are expected to be completed by 2011.

The HDB said: 'Given the overwhelming popularity of new flats in established towns and the limited number of new flats available here, HDB would like to encourage flat buyers to consider flats in non-mature estates as well.'

Increased demand has shrunk the HDB's surplus stock from more than 10,000 four years ago to about 2,200 at the end of last year.

But it is ramping up the number of build-to-order flats, with about 4,500 new flats offered this way in the first half of this year.

There is 'ample supply' of such new flats, it said, pointing out that 200 flats in the 698-unit Coral Spring estate in Sengkang were not taken up when booking

Conservancy Charges: Is HDB Giving Value For Money Collected?

Source : The Straits Times, Feb 12, 2008

A RESIDENT of a five-room HDB flat pays $73.50 a month in service & conservancy charges and another $90 in parking charge.

A resident of a similar-size flat in a typical condominium pays about $200 per month. But that includes water, electricity, maintenance, mandatory lift check, cleaning service every day, clean lift, pest control, pleasant landscape, security, security cameras, covered parking lot, swimming pool, tennis court, function room, barbecue pit, recreation events, managing agent fee, some surplus for sinking fund at year-end and so on.

The HDB resident gets a parking lot and a not exactly clean environment.

Is the HDB overcharging residents or is it not doing enough to get value for residents?

My friend lives in a condo, pays $200 a month and get all the things I mentioned, while I pay $163.50 in service & conservancy charges and for a parking lot. I get a dirty lift and floors. Furthermore, the HDB collects parking fines and hourly parking charges and keeps them.

As a big buyer, the HDB certainly has better bargaining power than the condo. The $163.50 paid to the HDB is excessive.

The HDB must explain how it spends the money it collects.

Richard Lim Poh Chuan

White House Economists See No Recession In 2008

Source : The Straits Times, Feb 12, 2008

WASHINGTON - THE US economy will continue growing in 2008 and avoid a recession despite a lingering housing slump and a related credit crunch, White House economists predicted on Monday.

The annual 'Economic Report of the President' said the world's largest economy had absorbed shocks in the past and that Congress's approval of a giant economic stimulus plan last week would help fire up growth.

'Economic growth is expected to continue in 2008. Most market forecasts suggest a slower pace in the first half of 2008, followed by strengthened growth in the second half of the year,' the annual survey said.

It forecasts that US gross domestic product growth (GDP) will remain at 2.7 per cent in 2008 compared with a similar assumption for 2007, and sees growth accelerating several notches to 3.0 per cent in 2009.

The White House projections contrast with forecasts by some private economists, some of whom believe that the world's richest nation is on the cusp of or has already fallen into a recession.

'This report indicates that our economy is structurally sound for the long term and that we're dealing with uncertainties in the short term,' President George W. Bush told reporters at the White House as he endorsed the annual assessment.

The White House report, however, cautioned that the troubles roiling the mortgage and credit markets could hamper growth.

'The contraction of the secondary market for some mortgage securities and the ensuing write-downs at major financial intermediaries are a new downside risk,' the report cautioned.

White House economists said the downturn in the housing market had not spilled over into the wider economy as of the end of last year.

President Bush is due to sign the economic stimulus plan, which is valued at around US$150 billion (S$213 billion) and includes temporary tax rebates and business incentives, into law on Wednesday.

Aside from the economic aid package, the report also underlined action taken by the US central bank to give growth a shot in the arm.

'The Federal Reserve provided liquidity and took measures to support financial stability in the financial markets in the wake of the disruptions in the credit markets,' the report stated.

US growth slowed to a 0.6 per cent annualised crawl in the fourth quarter compared with a blistering 4.9 per cent clip in the prior quarter, despite the Fed unleashing a sustained rate-cutting campaign in September.

The central bank has slashed its key federal funds short-term interest rate to 3.00 percent in recent weeks in a bid to underpin economic momentum.

The White House assessment echoed remarks made by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson on Saturday.

'I believe that we are going to keep growing. If you are growing, you are not in recession, right? We all know that,' Mr Paulson said after a meeting in Tokyo of finance chiefs from the Group of Seven rich nations.

The report also forecast that inflationary pressures will cool in 2008 with the consumer price index (CPI) moderating to 2.1 per cent from an expected 3.9 per cent in 2007. The CPI is forecast to tick up to 2.2 per cent in 2009.

On the job front, the unemployment rate is anticipated to rise to 4.9 per cent in 2008 and hold steady during 2009, compared with a predicted 4.6 per cent for last year. -- AFP

MM Confident S'pore Will Ride Out Global Slowdown

Source : The Straits Times, Feb 12, 2008

US troubles won't hurt Asia for the first time, thanks to investments and region's resilience

SINGAPORE will do well despite trouble in the global economy, said Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew.

And, for the first time, Asia will not tip into recession even though the United States economy is faltering, he said at his annual Tanjong Pagar Chinese New Year dinner yesterday.

But while he registered confidence in Singapore's prospects, he was also mindful of the widespread worry among Singaporeans over the cost of living.

Speaking in English as well as Mandarin, he noted that economists have forecast that Singapore will still achieve 4 per cent to 6 per cent growth.

'This is quite remarkable for it will be the first time that when the American economy slows down and reduces imports from Asia, Asia will not go into recession,' he said.

He cited two main reasons for Singapore being able to ride out the financial disturbances.

One, it stands at the heart of the world's highest-growth region. Two, the massive investments that are pouring into the island.

On the region's prosperity, he highlighted the domestic growth momentum in China and India as well as the buoyant economies of neighbours such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam.

In his Mandarin speech, he said Vietnam will have South-east Asia's most lively economy in 20 to 30 years. Among Asean scholarship students here, he noted, the Vietnamese are the most serious, intelligent and reliable.

As for the massive investments here, he noted that the construction industry will be busy for several years building $20 billion worth of new MRT lines, the two integrated resorts and more.

Foreign investors, too, are here. Citing three billion-dollar projects, he said: 'Huge investments cannot be recovered in a few years but will take decades to get back.'

Mr Lee believes these developments, in the region and at home, can help Singapore 'mitigate' its problems.

'The rise in food and energy prices, and the widening income gap between high and low earners is cause for concern. But we must press ahead and maximise our chances to break through in the coming five to 10 years to reach a higher quality of development.'

He also said that Singapore is into a period of steady growth and transformation that includes the HDB estates.

'We will not leave our heartlands behind,'' he promised, as the 1,200 Tanjong Pagar GRC residents and guests celebrated with yu sheng (raw fish salad) under a white tent at the Farrer Park Primary School.

In the festive crowd was lawyer Michael Chia, 37, who said: 'It's comforting to know that Singapore will continue ticking.'

While assuring people about the days ahead, Mr Lee also warned against overreaching in good times and called it 'a blessing' that the financial crisis had cooled the property market.

'Please remember that property prices go in cycles,'' he added. 'So when they go up, don't believe it's going to go up further and further and you start buying bigger and bigger homes...''

'Boom and bust is in the nature of business cycles. You must be able to ride through a recession and emerge the better for it.'

This is how the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation and Temasek have been able to increase the value of its assets, he said, focusing on opportunities present in dark times.

'In a recession we hang on. As the boom gets too intoxicating, we sell part of our shares and other assets and keep cash.''

So when UBS, Citigroup and Merrill Lynch needed a cash infusion, Singapore invested $22 billion in these distressed international banks.

'When the share prices of these banks recover that $22 billion investments, it will be worth $50 to S$70 billion.''

Stock Of Surplus Flats Vanishing Fast

Source : The Straits Times, Feb 12, 2008

Buyers on tight budgets looking for finished flats will be vying for fewer units

THE Housing Board's offer of 278 surplus flats in mature towns yesterday will be likely to slash its stock of readily available units to less than 2,000, down from 17,500 in 2002.

Surging demand and a shortage of affordable completed property has dramatically cut the surplus supply.

At the end of last year, HDB was estimated to have just 2,200 surplus flats left. The almost 100 per cent take-up rate in previous sales exercises will push this figure down further.

It means that buyers on tight budgets hoping to purchase a completed flat will find themselves vying for fewer and fewer units, with the only alternative being coughing up more cash to buy a resale flat.

Those who were unlucky in ballots or who lack the cash will just have to wait.

Most new HDB flats come under the build-to-order (BTO) scheme. These flats are constructed only when most units are taken up. A person booking a BTO unit today could still have to wait three years or more for his home to be ready.

In the meantime, newly married couples will just have to rent or live with their parents until their new flat is ready, said PropNex chief executive Mohamed Ismail.

The resale prices of HDB flats jumped 17.5 per cent last year, prompting hordes of buyers to try their luck in the queue for surplus new flats, which come at highly subsidised prices.

A batch of 316 flats in Hougang, Punggol and Sengkang drew 5,147 applications, while 840 units offered in other parts of Singapore were all snapped up.

While the Government has committed to offering more flats under the BTO system - 4,500 in the first half of this year - it cannot guarantee that these new flats will be available on the spot.

It learnt a hard lesson in the 1990s when it built too many flats in anticipation of demand that fizzled out fast in the Asian financial crisis.

The subsequent overhang, which numbered 17,500 in 2002, meant that families wanting a flat could simply walk into an HDB branch and pick a ready-built flat on the spot.

In 2005, the HDB even sold about 100 of its older surplus flats on the resale market. This had HDB flat owners fearful that the move could depress the value of their homes.

Those days look set to be over, say property experts.

C&H Realty managing director Albert Lu said that buyers will simply have to choose between waiting for a new flat or paying more for a resale one in move-in condition.

Developer Stocks May Rise Above Flat Property Prices

Source : The Business Times, February 12, 2008

Goldman says that physical market correction already priced in

Goldman Sachs predicts that private home prices will remain flat this year, but is sticking to its view that Singapore's strong structural story is driving a sustainable multi-year residential upswing.

The US bank does not expect a repeat of the mid-1996 (anti-speculation) regulatory measures that caused Singapore's residential market downturn or an economic environment like in 1998, when property prices fell sharply amid negative economic growth and job creation, and an interest rate spike. Goldman Sachs has also upgraded CapitaLand from Neutral to Buy.

'We argue that the share prices of developer stocks have priced in a severe physical market correction, which we believe is unwarranted.

'Notwithstanding near- term headwinds, we recommend investors start accumulating Singapore property developer stocks. We believe developer stocks will start trending up to their RNAVs (Revalued Net Asset Values) once investors get comfortable that property markets in Singapore and China are not heading for a severe correction,' Goldman Sachs said in a report dated Feb 8 and authored by its analyst Leslie Yee.

Even after lowering its RNAVs for Singapore developers, Goldman's 12-month target prices (set at parity to 2008 Estimated RNAV) offer potential upside of around 28-37 per cent.

Goldman Sachs attributed its lowering of 12-month target prices and valuations to Singapore private home prices staying flat, lower values of listed investments and a lower multiple of 15x (from 20x) for asset management fees.

Although Goldman Sachs assumes zero growth in overall private home prices this year, it acknowledges that prices may increase in the second half of the year.

The property market is currently caught between the negatives of macro concerns over the fallout from a US-led recession on the Singapore economy and equity market weakness, and the positives of strong Singapore domestic growth drivers such as robust job creation and wage growth, Goldman's report said.

'We have greatest confidence in the private mid- to mass-market segment, based on our analysis of different key drivers, such as affordability, income growth, population growth, and HDB resale market trends, among others. We believe strong Singapore fundamentals support this segment, which is likely to benefit most from any reduction in mortgage rates.

'In the prime residential segment, we see a dampener from a fall in speculative activity but would not underestimate the appetite of bulk buyers such as the Middle Eastern funds. We note affordability for the mass market remains strong, while the prime segment should benefit from the rise in the number of people with high incomes,' it added. Besides the Singapore residential market, other key drivers for developer stocks are the performance of the Singapore office market, the Chinese residential and commercial markets, and real estate investment trusts, the US bank said.

It argues that new office supply here in 2011/2012 can be absorbed without significant negative impact on rental and occupancy rates, and expects capitalisation rates across various property asset classes in Singapore to remain stable.

Goldman Sachs also sees little downside for residential prices in the China market, and has a positive bias on the outlook for Beijing, Shanghai and selected second-tier cities.

As for Singapore Reits, Goldman sees their unit prices rising from current levels over the next six months - given firm property rentals and the possibility of the overhang from primary and secondary equity raisings being removed.

Goldman has lowered its 2008 estimated RNAV for City Developments from $15.80 to $14.70 and for CapitaLand from $8.30 to $7.70.

'Amidst a more uncertain environment, our top pick is CapitaLand, which we upgrade to Buy from Neutral. With its multiple growth engines, highly regarded management team and low gearing, our Buy rating on CapitaLand is premised on its attractive and resilient valuation which performs well in various stress tests,' Goldman said.

The US bank is maintaining its neutral rating for CityDev.

HDB Offers 278 Flats For Sale

Source : The Business Times, February 12, 2008

By end of yesterday, there were 2,224 online applications

THE Housing and Development Board launched the sale of 278 flats in various towns and estates yesterday. And by the end of the day the units were many times subscribed, with 2,224 online applications received.

Most of the units are four-room flats, plus 64 five-room units and 20 executive flats. They are spread over 13 estates.

Toa Payoh had the largest number of flats available at 119, followed by Tampines with 39 and Bukit Merah with 30.

Cushman & Wakefield managing director Donald Han said: 'Obviously we're seeing a better response for mature estates in fairly central locations. These are the first to experience demand and price increases.'

This is HDB's fifth bi-monthly sales exercise for four-room and bigger flats under the combined balloting/walk-in system. Some 3,350 units have been offered so far.

In the first four exercises, 2,917 of the 3,034 units offered were selected, representing a take-up rate of 96 per cent.

There is also healthy demand for HDB's build-to-order (BTO) flats. The 698-unit Coral Spring @ Sengkang, launched in September 2007, is about 70 per cent taken up, with just 200 units remaining. ERA Singapore assistant vice-president Eugene Lim said this is 'not bad' considering the location.

The strong economy has helped boost BTO and bi-monthly sales. But Mr Lim said increasingly higher asking prices for resale HDB flats are pricing some people out of the resale market. 'There appears to be a stand-off between buyers and sellers in the resale market at the moment,' he said, though there is still demand for resale flats.

HDB, which has stepped up its building programme since 2007, will offer 4,500 new BTO flats in the first half of 2008.

Whether this will help cool the resale market - where at the top end a 21st-storey executive flat in Queenstown went for a record $890,000 last month - is uncertain.

PropNex CEO Mohamed Ismail reckons the resale market will remain strong for now.

'Supply (of flats) through walk-in selection is drying up and BTO flats will take time to build,' he said. 'I also believe the first half of 2008 will see people who sold their private flats en bloc earlier start to receive their collective sale proceeds, and some will downgrade to HDB resale flats.'

As such, Mr Ismail believes the resale market could see more than 30,000 transactions this year.

278 Surplus HDB Flats In Mature Towns Up For Sale

Source : The Straits Times, Feb 11, 2008

THE Housing Board on Monday offered 278 four-room and bigger surplus flats for sale in established towns like Bedok, Bukit Merah, Geylang and Toa Payoh.

This batch of surplus units is the smallest number offered so far under the HDB's bi-monthly sales programme, but is expected to meet high demand because of their location in mature estates surrounded by amenities.

The previous batch of 316 flats offered in outlying towns of Hougang, Punggol and Sengkang alone drew 5,147 applications, while about 840 other flats offered in two prior sale exercises were fully taken up.

In this current batch, the four-room flats cost $141,000 to $398,000, while the five-room units are priced at $218,00 to $532,000. The executive units are going for $333,000 to $470,000.

Those interesting in booking the units have until Feb 18 to submit their application online, after which a computer ballot will determine their position in the queue to pick a flat.

The HDB said: 'Given the overwhelming popularity of new flats in established towns and the limited number of new flats available here, HDB would like to encourage flat buyers to consider flats in non-mature estates as well.'

For the first half of this year, the HDB will offer about 4,500 new flats under its build-to-order system, where flats are built only when the majority of units are taken up.

There is 'ample supply' of new HDB flats under the BTO system, said the Board. About 200 flats in its 698-unit BTO project in Sengkang called Coral Spring were not taken up after the booking exercise ended last month.

The HDB also said it was conducting a review of the bi-monthly sale programme for four-room and bigger flats, under which it has offered 3,350 flats since last year.

Resorts World At Sentosa Secures S$4b Credit For IR Development

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 11 February 2008

Resorts World at Sentosa has secured S$4 billion in credit facilities for its integrated resort development.

The credit facilities would fund two-thirds of the company's projected cost of S$6 billion.

The rest of the funds will come through a rights issue by Genting International, the parent of Resorts World.

DBS and OCBC are among five local and international banks which will underwrite, bookrun and arrange the syndication of the loan.

The others are HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp.

The tenure extends to end 2015.

The syndication will be among the largest ever undertaken in Singapore.

Resorts World said it's on track to opening the integrated resort in early 2010. -CNA/vm

Analysts Say Banks Yet To Respond To Call For Mortgage Rate Cuts

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 11 February 2008

With global interest rates trending downwards, some Singapore homeowners are hoping to see a similar move in mortgage rates.

This is especially after the Singapore Interbank Offered Rate (SIBOR) hit its lowest level in almost four years in late December - at 1.5 percent.

However, some analysts have said that the banks may not be willing to lower rates, in light of the current volatility in global financial markets.

Global interest rates are trending downwards, with the US Federal Reserve cutting its benchmark by one and a quarter point over two weeks recently.

The SIBOR has also been slipping - hitting its lowest since 2004 in recent months.

SIBOR is the rate at which banks lend to each other and it usually affects mortgage rates.

Some market watchers have said that they expect to see further downside.

Jimmy Koh, Vice-President, Global Markets and Investment Management, UOB Group, said, "We'd probably see Sing rates by the middle of the year maybe about 1.25 percent and probably hovering around this level as we hit towards the end of the year."

Currently, the SIBOR is at 1.67 percent, down from 3.44 percent a year ago.

Some homeowners are hoping that this could translate into lower mortgage rates.

However some analysts said they do not expect to see any adjustment soon, given the current global credit crunch.

Thio Chin Loo, Senior Currency Strategist, BNP Paribas, said, "In this downturn, because of the uncertainty of the scenario, banks would be quite unwilling to cut rates too quickly even if SIBOR rates were falling. So I think there is going to be a lag still, but what they will promote is probably these flexible packages that are pegged off SIBOR yields".

The pressure, though, will be on the banks to move.

Professor Annie Koh, Associate Dean, Singapore Management University, said, "If enough customers are (saying)...'we can see the transparency of the SIBOR, why isn't housing loan rates coming down', the banks have to come in and say 'okay maybe we were pegging it to last year's interbank rate. The revision should be coming in now'.

"So new loan rates will probably be a lot more competitive because it's so clearly shown to the rest of the world what the SIBOR rates are at right now."

Experts also said SIBOR-pegged packages are attractive, especially if there is an option to convert to fixed rates.

Professor Koh said, "You should ask the bank, is there an option where I can take the first 3 years on a floating loan basis...and I like the option to convert from floating to fixed."

Loans pegged to SIBOR can be beneficial in the short term as the SIBOR is expected to decline further to about 1.25 percent by mid-year, remaining steady until the year-end.

However, analysts have said that inflation is a risk to consider.

BNP Paribas' Thio said, "I don't dismiss that higher inflation could actually push rates up further down the line and that those who are on these flexi-package could be exposed."

Meanwhile, the Big Three banks told Channel NewsAsia that in fixing mortgage rates, there are other factors to consider, apart from SIBOR.

These include long-term market trends, operating costs as well as pricing competition.

The average mortgage rate in Singapore stands at between 3.75 percent and 4.5 percent.

Koh Kar Siong, Managing Director and Head of Secured Loans, DBS, said, "Our mortgage packages are pegged to publicly benchmarked rates such as Sibor and CPF Ordinary Account rate, and they will move in tandem with market rate movement.

"Customers no longer have to worry about paying higher interest rates as the mortgage rates will always be aligned to the market."

A UOB spokesperson said, "We are monitoring the situation and note that pricing of mortgages are long-term financial commitments, and we strive to provide stable mortgage rates to our customers.

"We would like to highlight that other than cost of funds, operating costs and credit spreads would also have to be considered."

Gregory Chan, Head of Secured Lending, OCBC, said, "Lending rates for the fixed and variable rate home loan packages are determined based on a number of factors which include longer term market rate trends, pricing competition as well as specific details of the loan package, for example the type of property, property development status among others.

"We will review the situation before making any decisions on adjusting the rates of our packages."

Meanwhile, some analysts said the rates are already low, but they do not discount that banks can cut rates.

Robert Prior-Wandesforde, Senior Asian Economist, HSBC, said, "Those fixed rate mortgages are actually at fairly low levels already. They didn't rise a huge amount previously when market interest rates were increasing, and correspondingly they haven't obviously fallen much this time.

"Looking ahead, I would expect with the kind of deposit growth that the banks are seeing, I wouldn't be surprised to see mortgage rates perhaps edge down a little bit in the next few months." - CNA/ms

Analysts Expect Further Write-Downs From Banks To Curb CDO Impact

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 11 February 2008

Singapore's Big Three Banks are due to announce fourth quarter earnings soon, with DBS kicking off with its report card this Friday.

Analysts have said they expect to see more write-downs to relieve sub-prime pressure.

However, they added that going into 2008, the performance will stabilise, thanks to the booming construction sector.

When DBS, UOB and OCBC turn in their latest report cards, analysts will be looking closely at numbers related to the US sub-prime mortgage sector.

They are expecting to see further write-downs, taking the edge off the impact from last year's sub-prime and collateralised debt obligation (CDO) blow.

Yap Chee Meng, Asia Pacific Head of Finance, KPMG, said, "I would expect if the situation continues to deteriorate, there will be further write-downs, but it is impossible to estimate how much more...we have got to look at it in the proper context.

"Singapore banks, in terms of exposure, are relatively low in the context of the rest of the world. Looking at the banks over the last couple of months, they have disclosed the exposure that they have to the CDOs, and some of the banks have already made pretty conservative provisions.

"But the valuation model for making provisioning is largely affected by market sentiment and also what is taking place right now, and since the situation is becoming slightly worse than before, I would expect to see slightly more provisioning, but as to how much, I guess we have to wait for the banks to make their announcement."

DBS, OCBC and UOB last year reported that their total exposure to CDOs was just 1 percent of their assets.

According to some analysts, DBS may write down most of the S$275 million in its CDO portfolio that is exposed to US sub-prime.

OCBC has already written down some S$221 million of its S$270 million portfolio.

The sub-prime write-downs aside, analysts are confident the situation will begin to stabilise this year.

Ivy Tan, Associate Director, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services, said, "For 2008, there are a couple of challenges and bumps in the horizon, one of which is the possibility of a US recession.

"With the US recessionary pressure, that will certainly affect the Singapore economy given the high degree of openness, and that will translate into probably a challenging business environment...and again in terms of the lending activity for the banks in Singapore, that much will be impacted...so in terms of their earning and even in terms of their asset quality, the banks will feel some pressure.

"But S&P's view is that the three local banks will continue to manage, and overall in terms of core profitability, it should remain stable as a base case scenario. But there is probably going to be downward pressure."

Analysts have said that the booming construction sector will help to provide some stability for the Big Three.

According to a Dow Jones Newswires poll, DBS is forecast to book a 6.5 percent dip in fourth-quarter net income compared to a year ago. UOB is expected to see a drop of 5 percent and OCBC a fall of almost 14 percent. - CNA/ms

HDB Launches Sale Of 278 Flats In Mature Estates

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 11 February 2008

The Housing and Development Board (HDB) has launched the sale of 278 flats under the Bi-monthly Sale of four-room and bigger flats.

These flats are in 13 established estates such as Bedok, Bukit Merah, Geylang, Tampines and Toa Payoh.

The flat supply for this exercise comprises 194 units of four-room, 64 units of five-room and 20 executive flats.

To date, HDB has conducted five of such bi-monthly sales exercises, with a total of 3,350 units offered.

As it is almost a year since the introduction of this sales programme, the HDB said it is conducting a review of it.

For this round, application is open for a week from 11 February to 18 February.

Interested flat buyers can get more information online at www.hdb.gov.sg. - CNA/so

MM Lee Says S'pore At Centre Of World's Highest Growth Region

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 11 February 2008

Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew believed Asia will not go into recession, citing not only strong growth in China and India, but also the strength of commodity prices boosting growth in Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia.

Speaking to some 1,200 people at the Tanjong Pagar Lunar New Year dinner on Monday night, Mr Lee said Singapore is at the centre of the world's highest growth region, and is in a period of steady growth.

Related Video Link - http://tinyurl.com/2vehbb

Mr Lee is also positive that Singapore can maximise its chances to reach a higher quality of development in the coming five to ten years.

"This is quite remarkable, for it will be the first time that when the American economy slows down and reduce imports from Asia, Asia will not go into recession. The reason is the dynamics of the domestic growth momentum in China and in India - two very huge countries. Furthermore, our neighbours are doing well. Singapore is in the centre of the world's highest growth region," he said.

While some may be lamenting the financial crisis, Mr Lee said he sees a blessing as property prices have cooled down for the time being.

He added that Singapore's Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) and Temasek have also been able to increase the value of their assets, especially during such downturns.

The two companies recently invested some S$22 billion into UBS, Citigroup and Merrill-Lynch.

"When the share prices of these banks recover (the) S$22 billion investments, it will be worth S$50 to S$70 billion. But never believe that assets will always go up. There will be downturns. And so we must have these reserves to see us through these troughs. Singapore has got to this level through hard work and thrift. We must continue in this mode," Mr Lee pointed out.

On the home front, Mr Lee said higher food and energy prices, and a widening income gap are cause for concern and must be addressed.

He also said that while there are massive investments, such as the Marina Barrage, to develop Singapore into a global city, those living in the heartland housing estates will not be left behind.

All estates will be upgraded and beautified to ensure all Singaporeans can benefit from the growth, Mr Lee added. - CNA/ac

Two Old Singapore Families Compete For Straits Trading

Source : The Straits Times, Feb 11, 2008

Even though the battle for the tin mining firm puts them on opposing sides, The Straits Times looks at how the Lee and Tan families share a common history through OCBC Bank.

TWO of Singapore’s most famous corporate families - the Lees and the Tans, which have been linked for decades through OCBC Bank, now find themselves on opposite sides of the fence.

The Lee family, the largest shareholder of OCBC, and the Tan family, that of the late Mr Tan Chin Tuan, a long-standing chairman of OCBC are now vying for control of The Straits Trading Company, an equally venerable company with tin mining and property interests.

On Jan 6, the Tan family made an offer of $5.70-a-share for the company. On Jan 24, the Lee family, made a counterbid of $5.76-a- share. The Tans swiftly responded on Jan 28 by raising their offer to $6.50 per share.

The Tans own about 22.4 per cent of Straits Trading.

The Lee family owns only about 6 per cent. But as it is a key shareholder in OCBC and Great Eastern Holdings, which also own Straits Trading shares, it is seen to represent about 32 per cent of the company.

The apparent clash between the two families - and the direct involvement of the usually reticent Lees - has set tongues wagging in corporate Singapore.

Just how far back do their links go? And what does today’s tussle for Straits Trading say about a decades-old relationship?

The Lee Family

THE Lee family is the largest shareholder of OCBC and a regular fixture on the Forbes rich list with a fortune previously estimated at US$3 billion (S$4.3 billion).

The foundations of the family’s fortune were laid with Mr Lee Kong Chian, the father of current OCBC director Lee Seng Wee.

Mr Lee Kong Chian hailed from Fujian province, China, arriving here in 1903 at the age of 10.

He was talent-spotted by famous rubber tycoon Tan Kah Kee. One of the richest men in Asia,

Mr Tan wanted to expand his rubber business overseas and hired Mr Lee as his manager, mainly because of his grasp of the English language.

Not only did Mr Lee land the job, he also eventually married Mr Tan’s daughter, Ai Lay.

The Great Depression gave the financially conservative Mr Lee the chance to buy acres of rubber land at rock-bottom prices.

With the wealth he made from rubber, he expanded into pineapples, coconut oil, saw mills and biscuits.

But other than being the ‘Rubber and Pineapple King’, he was behind the creation of what is now known as OCBC.

Facing a banking crisis, three banks - Oversea-Chinese Bank, Ho Hong Bank and Chinese Commercial Bank - merged to form the Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation, the largest bank in Singapore then.

Mr Lee was seen as the merger’s chief architect. He became OCBC’s vice-chairman, then chairman in 1938 - a post he held until just before his death in 1967.

But while he was a banker and a rich businessman, he gave back generously to society.

In 1952, he founded the Lee Foundation, leaving it as much as half his fortune. Mr Lee had three sons and three daughters. His youngest son Seng Wee, 77, is a director at OCBC. Second son Seng Tee handles the rubber businesses while eldest son Seng Gee, 86, is chairman of the Lee Foundation.

The three daughters are Siok Kheng, Siok Tin and Siok Chee.

The Tan Family

IF MR Lee is associated with the birth of the bank, then Mr Tan, who spent half a century at OCBC, is hailed as the man who expanded its empire.

Born in 1908, he was the son of a general manager of the Oversea-Chinese Bank.

After his father died when he was a teenager, a family friend offered him a job at Chinese Commercial Bank.

He helped in the merger and in 1933, was promoted to be the manager of OCBC Properties and a new subsidiary Eastern Realty Company. He attended property auctions and was on the lookout for bargains for the bank.

As joint managing director of OCBC’s overseas operations, he ran the bank’s operations from India until the end of World War II.

Over the next couple of decades, Mr Tan was to spearhead the bank’s investments into a variety of non-banking businesses, many of which are household names today.

These included Straits Trading, Raffles Hotel, department store Robinson & Co, beverage giant Fraser & Neave, Malayan Breweries (now known as Asia Pacific Breweries), Wearnes and others.

One of the earliest deals he was involved in was taking a stake in Raffles Hotel.

It had rankled OCBC that whenever it wanted to book a dining suite to entertain its clients, Raffles Hotel always turned the bank down. Eventually, Mr Tan helped OCBC secure the shares of one of the directors who died and he eventually became the first Asian on the board.

As the British and other foreigners exited Singapore, Mr Tan thought it was a good opportunity for the locals to take over such non-banking businesses. This was how OCBC came to own shares in Straits Trading, which was set up by a German entrepreneur to smelt tin late in the 19th century.

What laid behind his investment philosophy was a belief in growing the OCBC group, with the bank at its core. The companies in the ‘OCBC stable’ could support each other, with each other’s services.

From 1966, he was chairman and managing director of OCBC until 1983 when he retired and was made life president.

He died in 2005.

As OCBC invested in other companies, Mr Tan did likewise personally. A shrewd investor, he was a very wealthy man in his own right.

He had three children - son Keng Siong and daughters Kheng Choo and Kheng Lian. The latter of the two daughters is the mother of Ms Chew Gek Khim.

Ms Chew, 46, runs a group of family investment vehicles headed by Tecity. Word has it that she was groomed from an early age by her grandfather to take over.

Mr Tan’s nephew, Dr Tony Tan, was also general manager at the bank before entering politics in 1979. He went on to become its chairman and chief executive between 1992 and 1995.

The winds of change

BOUND inextricably by the pivotal roles they played in the history of one of Singapore’s largest banks, the two families have had close ties for decades.

This is why the battle for Straits Trading is startling to observers, and could be a signal that after three generations, the winds of change are starting to blow.

There are a few theories as to why this is happening now.

One theory has to do with OCBC’s recent sale of its stakes in companies like Robinson and Raffles Hotel.

There is speculation that the Tan family is unhappy with the moves, which could be seen to be detracting from the legacy that Mr Tan had built up.

And this could be why his granddaughter - Ms Chew - could be bidding for control of companies like Straits Trading, which he helped bring into the OCBC stable.

Opposed to an earlier sale of 29.9 per cent of Robinson by OCBC to Indonesia’s Lippo Group, Tecity has now accepted an offer from Dubai’s Al Futtaim group for its shares in Robinson.

Ms Chew pointedly said:’Robinson is no longer part of the stable of companies my grandfather was instrumental in building.’ Al Futtaim will ‘understand and cherish the brand’.

OCBC’s stake sales have been driven by changes where financial regulators hold banks back from having significant non-banking businesses.

But the Tan family could be worried that any decreasing involvement of the Lees in the bank could speed up the divestment process. Although Mr Lee Seng Wee’s son Tih Shih, 44, sits on the OCBC board, none of the third generation of the Lees is as closely involved in the banking business as previously.

With rumblings - on and off - that the Lees could exit the business and OCBC be swallowed up, the new owners of OCBC - or its managers - could accelerate the break-up of the bank’s stable of companies. The Tans still own stakes in many of those companies and may have to deal with less-than-friendly majority owners.

Finally, with the passage of time, the original partnership forged between Mr Lee and Mr Tan is just not as strong.

Many see the Straits Trading tussle as proof that the relationship has now become much more business-like.

As investors wait to see if the Lee family will raise its offer, there may have been a time-out during the Chinese New Year period. Business was apparently put to one side, with an exchange of gifts.

He helped to set up

OCBC A WELL-KNOWN philanthropist and rubber tycoon, Mr Lee Kong Chian came from Fujian province in China and was instrumental in the setting up of OCBC Bank.

It was formed in 1932 from the merger of three banks in Singapore. Mr Lee was OCBC chairman from 1938 to 1964. He died in 1967.

He helped bank to expand MR TAN Chin Tuan was known as ‘Mr OCBC’ after having served at the bank for half a century.

He was appointed chairman and managing director in 1966 and subsequently retired in 1983. Mr Tan remained the bank’s life president until his death in 2005.

Han Clan Gets $7.5m Bid For Its Premises

Source : The Straits Times, Feb 11, 2008

THE Han Clan Association is on the cusp of selling its premises near the KK Hospital, after having received a bid of $7.5 million for its site.

A housing development could well come up at its Derbyshire Road location.

Encouraged by the property boom, the clan opened up its site to bids last November, and pulled in seven, with the lowest at $5.6 million.

‘The highest bid far exceeded our expectations,’ said clan chairman Han Pock Fong, 62.

But before the sale can go through, the Urban Redevelopment Authority has to give its approval to convert the land from one for community use to residential use.

Falling membership prompted the sale of the land, but the 108-year-old association has no plans to fade into history.

It is planning a new headquarters - perhaps one in Race Course Road or Joo Chiat Road - which is more accessible to public transport to make it more convenient for younger people who may not own a car.

The clan is now 300-strong, but nearly three quarters of its members are over 50 years old, said Mr Marcus Han, the clan’s 36-year-old vice-general secretary.

To attract younger members, the clan plans to organise attractive tour packages to heritage sites in Hainan Island, he said.

The clan was set up by Hainanese migrants to help new arrivals to Singapore settle in. Today, it also welcomes into its fold members of Hakka and Shanghainese origin.

Like most Chinese clans here, the clan educates its members about their ancestry and provides them with financial aid in the form of education bursaries.

The Han clan’s first headquarters was an attap house in the Thomson area. Over the years, it moved thrice before it settled in Derbyshire Road 32 years ago.

Mr Nicholas Mak, a director at property consultant Knight Frank, said the Derbyshire plot has the potential to become a fairly large prime residential development.