Monday, February 18, 2008

DBS Rises On Positive Analyst Notes

Source : The Straits Times, Feb 18, 2008

SHARES of DBS Group Holdings rose as much as 3.1 per cent on Monday to $18.46 with 3.6 million shares traded, adding to Friday's gains after research notes were positive on Southeast Asia's largest lender.

Deutsche Bank analysts gave DBS a 'buy' rating, citing cheap valuation of the stock and the firm's removal of sub-prime exposure. However, key risks included a 'stronger-than-expected slowdown in the global economy' and continued risk from sub-prime-related losses affecting global financials.

DBS said on Friday that quarterly profits fell 18 per cent due to further writedowns linked to the global credit crisis, but the decline was less than feared and its shares rose 3.5 per cent.

DBS announced $200 million in writedowns, at the top end of market forecasts for $150-$200 million, but said that it was cautiously optimistic about the year ahead despite financial market turmoil.

Credit Suisse analysts maintained an 'outperform' rating on DBS's stock but said the falling Sibor (Singapore Interbank Offered Rate) remained a risk.

At 11.01am, the Straits Times Index was up 0.25 per cent. -- REUTERS

Straits Trading Says Tecity Raises Bid To $6.70

Source : The Straits Times, Feb 18, 2008

STRAITS Trading said on Monday that family-owned Tecity Group has raised its offer for the commodities and property firm, trumping an offer made by the family that owns a significant stake in Singapore's third-biggest bank.

Tecity is an investment vehicle of the family of OCBC Bank's former chief, the late Dr Tan Chin Tuan.

Tecity, through its investment vehicle Cairns Pte Ltd, raised its offer to $6.70 from $6.50 previously, above the $6.55 offered by the Lee family, the main shareholders of OCBC Bank.

The new Tecity bid values Straits Trading at $2.18 billion.

The higher offer came after OCBC, a major shareholder in Straits Trading, said last week that it does not intend to accept the offer for Straits Trading. -- REUTERS

Tecity Raises Offer For Straits Trading To S$6.70 A Share

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 18 February 2008

The bidding war for the tin-smelting and property firm, Straits Trading Company, continues to escalate.

Tecity Group, controlled by the family of the late Tan Chin Tuan, has again raised its offer for Straits Trading.

It is now offering to pay S$6.70 a share to take over the company. This is S$0.20 higher than its last revised offer.

The latest bid values Straits Trading at S$2.18 billion.

Tecity's move comes after the Lee family, which controls OCBC Bank, raised its offer to S$6.55 a share last week.

Tecity has said that the latest offer will be its final bid, which it will not extend beyond March 6.

Straits Trading has businesses ranging from hotels and properties to the metals and mining sectors. - CNA /ls

Macquarie May Sell Reit Stake After Review

Source : The Business Times, February 18, 2008

MACQUARIE MEAG Prime Reit is expected to undergo a strategic review soon that may result in the Macquarie group selling its 26 per cent stake in the Singapore-listed Reit, industry sources said.

The move is believed to be prompted by the trust trading at a steep discount to its net asset value (NAV). MMP last traded at $1.06, compared with its NAV of $1.61 as at Dec 31, 2007. Among MMP’s current assets are Wisma Atria and Ngee Ann City.

Macquarie, it seems, has floated the ’strategic review’ proposal to the other two shareholders of the Reit’s manager Macquarie Pacific Star Prime Reit Management - MEAG Munich ERGO Asset Management GmbH and Investmore Enterprises Ltd - both of which are likely to have reservations about the move.

MEAG is part of the Munich Re group, one of the largest reinsurance groups in Germany, while Investmore belongs to the fast-growing Pacific Star group founded by Singaporean entrepreneur Jeff Tay.

Industry observers said that since Macquarie bought into the Reit during the IPO, it has been calling the shots at the Reit and its strategy for growing the Reit’s footprint in Asia does not always agree with those of the other two shareholders.

In the event of a sale, unitholders may raise the question of a potential conflict of interest as Macquarie is the single largest unit holder of the Reit, as well as manager of the Reit and its properties.

Also, some feel that if Macquarie wishes to divest, it should get its own investment bank to carry out a private tender rather than have the Reit manager do so in a public manner that may create uncertainty for tenants, employees and business associates during the review period, expected to take a few months.

Minor Community & Infrastructure Projects Bumped Off Till After 2009

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 18 February 2008

The government's move to defer another S$1 billion worth of construction projects beyond 2009 is being welcomed by industry players.

They said it will help to ease pressures on the supply side, allowing for critical private sector projects to go ahead.

Still, they expect construction costs to hold up - and even jump by 10 to 15 per cent in 2008.

Work is already underway at the two integrated resorts at Marina Bay and Sentosa - but there are other contracts waiting to be awarded.

And amid the tight labour supply, market-watchers believe the latest deferment will help such massive projects to go ahead.

Christopher Wong, Investment Manager of Aberdeen Asset Management Asia, said: "That would actually have a positive impact in terms of competition for scarce resources will actually reduce competition of some of these raw materials and skilled resources to be re-allocated to the private sector."

Lawrence Lye, Vice-President of CIMB-GK Research, said: “The deferment may not impact cost pressures all that much for the time being because demand is still very strong.

“But, I think what will help is that when there's a constraint in resources and where there are tight timelines required for some of these big projects, the pulling back of some of these big public sector projects, will actually help the private sector meet their own deadlines."

During last week's budget speech, Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam announced that S$1 billion worth of construction projects will be deferred beyond 2009.

This includes construction of several institutional projects such as student hostels and schools upgrading.

According to some analysts, it will also affect some water-related infrastructure as well as drainage projects.

While the move may ease manpower pressures, overall, experts said will not push costs downwards.

Desmond Hill, President of the Singapore Contractors Association, said: "We don't think that construction prices will be coming down any day soon because our construction market is actually a fully imported market in terms of materials, plants and equipment."

"So of course, while the demand will be somewhat reduced, we think the construction prices will remain just as volatile because material prices is subject to the world market," he continued.

Some market-watchers expect construction costs to rise by between 10 and 15 per cent in 2008 - down from the 30 per cent jump in 2007.

Meanwhile market watchers said despite the deferment, the construction industry will remain robust.

The Building and Construction Authority is forecasting projects to be awarded in 2008 to come up to between S$23 and S$27 billion.

And the private sector is expected to account for nearly 70 per cent of the works. -CNA/vm


《联合早报》Feb 18, 2008









他强调,政府会继续通过住屋津贴以及优惠贷款利率,帮助新婚国人购买他们的第一间组屋。事实上,为了帮助低收入家庭拥有自己的组屋,政府已在去年放宽额外公积金房屋津贴(Additional CPF Housing Grant)的申请条件,把平均家庭月入顶限从3000元提高到4000元,而最高津贴额也从两万元增至3万元。






身为淡滨尼集选区议员的马宝山也在新春晚宴上,宣布淡滨尼21街第257到262座组屋获选家居改进计划(Home Improvement Programme ,简称HIP)。





10,000 Applicants For 278 Flats

Source : The Straits Times, Feb 18, 2008

ALMOST 10,000 people have applied for 278 surplus flats offered by the Housing Board in mature estates like Toa Payoh, Tampines and Bedok.

The 278 flats offered in this launch are located in highly coveted mature towns and surrounded by amenities. Most of them are four-room flats, with 84 five-room and executive units. -- ST PHOTO: FRANCIS ONG PG

By 5pm on Monday - hours before the midnight deadline for applications - there were about 36 applicants for every flat available. This is the highest subscription rate recorded so far for such exercises.

Most of the surplus flats offered in this batch are already completed, with the rest expected to be ready by 2011.

Property consultants had expected a flood of applicants as buyers are increasingly being turned off by high asking prices in the HDB resale market.

The surplus flats also appeal to buyers not wanting to wait three to four years for the HDB's build-to-order flats, which the Board is putting out in greater numbers this year.

About 4,500 of them will be offered from January to June alone.

Resale prices of HDB flats rose 17.5 per cent last year, while the median cash-over-valuation amount paid in transactions rose to $22,000 in the October to December period (2007), compared to just $17,000 in the previous quarter.

The 278 flats offered in this launch are located in highly coveted mature towns and surrounded by amenities. Most of them are four-room flats, with 84 five-room and executive units.

Four-room flats are going for $141,000 to $398,000, while five-roomers cost $218,000 to $532,000.

The few executive units available will cost $333,000 to $470,000.

IDA, SLA To Vacate Downtown Offices

Source : The Straits Times, Feb 18, 2008

MORE help is on the way to ease the Singapore office shortage that has sent rents soaring.

At least two government agencies will give up downtown offices to make room for private sector businesses needing more space.

The Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) will relinquish about a third of its 11,300 sq m of office space in Suntec City by moving some divisions to the Mica building in Hill Street. This will take place by the end of this year.

Although IDA will still be close to town, it plans to move again in a few years to a 'more appropriate location outside the central business area' that can accommodate all headquarters staff.

The Singapore Land Authority is also planning to give up its seven floors at 8 Shenton Way, formerly Temasek Tower, although it has not yet found a new home.

Other state departments may follow suit, after Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said on Friday that the Government will move several agencies out of the central area by the first quarter of next year.

This will free up 20,000 sq m of precious prime office space for the private sector - equivalent to about 20 floors of a Suntec City office tower, Mr Tharman said in his Budget speech.

He said although office space here is still cheaper on average than in Hong Kong or Tokyo, the rate at which rents have risen has been 'rapid and unsettling for businesses'.

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

Hong Leong Finance's Profit Rises 39% To $133m

Source : The Straits Times, Feb 18, 2008

Growth in interest income and hiring charges boosts full-year results

HONG Leong Finance, Singapore's largest finance company, had a sparkling year, with earnings for the 12 months ended Dec 31 last year up 38.7 per cent at $133.4 million.

STERLING YEAR: Hong Leong Finance, in capitalising on strong economic conditions last year, intensified its services to SME markets and heartlanders. These areas, in turn, contributed greater depth to its customer base. The company is proposing a final dividend of eight cents per share, which will bring the year's total payout to 26 cents.

The company, which focuses on offering loans and other financial services to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and heartlanders, saw its interest income and hiring charges rise 20.4 per cent to $362.7 million.

For the year, earnings per share reached 30.42 cents, up from 22.04 cents a year ago, but net asset value per share slipped from $3.19 to $3.17.

It is proposing a final dividend of eight cents per share, which will bring the year's payout to 26 cents.

The company's net loan assets, including hire purchase receivables, reached $8.1 billion at the end of the year. This compares with $6.06 billion as at Dec 31, 2006 and $7.53 billion as at Sept 30 last year.

There was strong growth in the deposits and savings accounts of its customers.

Capitalising on strong economic conditions, Hong Leong Finance intensified its services to SME markets and heartlanders that, in turn, contributed greater depth to its customer base, said chairman Kwek Leng Beng.

Last year, the company built new dealer relationships in the competitive motor vehicle financing market and was active in assisting small and medium-sized developers.

The final quarter of last year saw some slowdown in activity due primarily to the United States sub-prime crisis, rising oil price and concerns about the political situation in the Middle East. But the fundamentals for the domestic market remain bright, it said.

Still, Hong Leong Finance is adopting a 'more cautious' outlook for the Singapore economy this year in view of adverse external factors, said Mr Kwek.

He said the group was looking to enhance its scope of activities to increase fee income. It plans to distribute an expanded range of insurance and annuity products to further enhance its wealth management portfolio.

'With the two integrated resorts well into the construction phase, we will also be focusing on a range of capital-intensive industries to grow our equipment financing and cash flow financing business.'

Shares of Hong Leong Finance closed four cents higher at $3.70 last Friday.

Set Up Hotels In Suburbs To Create More Vibrancy

Source : The Straits Times, Feb 18, 2008

I REFER to the report, '12 sites set aside for new hotels to ease room crunch' (ST, Feb15).

I don't know why hotels have to be in the city or at the fringes. Why can't they be in the suburbs like Tampines or Jurong East. A hotel in Woodlands would probably do very well. Singapore is compact and our transportation system reasonably good.

New three-star hotels can be located close to train stations and near shopping, food and beverage, and entertainment facilities. These places can be no more than 30 minutes by train to the city centre.

This way the retail trade in the suburbs could be enhanced and there will be greater vibrancy. Hotel rates could also be made more affordable.

Anthony Leong Chee-Hong

Fair Legislation In Collective Sales Needed To Protect Both Buyers And Sellers

Source : The Straits Times, Feb 18, 2008

THE issues in en-bloc sales stem from the rush to redevelop older condos and the resulting lack of mutual benefits between buyers and sellers.

There is absolutely no reason that minority owners should be forced to uproot under the 80/90 per cent rule.

It is ridiculous that majority consenting owners are trying to justify why they should renege the contract they signed when property price increases and not otherwise.

The intrinsic principle and spirit of collective sales for urban renewal in Singapore seem to evaporate into thin air while both parties lock horns in the pursuit of self-benefits. The dynamics of property price fluctuations, distribution of sales proceeds and disputes between aggrieved buyers and sellers only benefit the lawyers.

Looking at the situation from a different angle, I could see some light at the end of tunnel if we address the often-neglected elements of nostalgia as well as the mutual benefit mechanism in a collective sales exercise.

It is impossible to resolve the aspirations of hundreds of condo owners living at the same location for decades. A holistic approach with proper legislation may solve the perennial problems. Redevelopments on the premise of economics may not necessarily be a good thing. Pragmatic measures should be in place to control unnecessary and wonton demolitions for the sake of preserving Singapore's history and people's homes.

To mitigate the element of nostalgia and mutual benefit mechanism, comprehensive legislation is needed to protect the interests of buyers and sellers in the event of collective sales.

First and foremost is to ensure that those who don't want to move to other locations retain the right to exchange a unit of a similar area at no extra cost at the new redevelopment if they wish.

The laws embracing the interests of both willing and unwilling sellers in the event of collective sales should mandate that developers (buyers) must provide alternative options to existing owners in their new redevelopments for exchange or trading with combinations for cash and smaller units on fair terms.

Fair legislation in collective sales built on mutual benefits may eliminate potential sentimental or financial problems.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi

'No' To Ring Fencing Residential Areas In Geylang: Mah

Source : The Straits Times, Feb 18, 2008

After dark, Geylang becomes a one-stop location for vice activities such as gambling. -- ST FILE PHOTOLet Geylang stay the way it is.

National Development Minister Mah Bah Tan said there is no need to 'ring fence' the residential areas in Geyland as there is vigilant enforcement to control vice activities.

An illegal gambling operation in the back alleys of Geylang. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

In his written response to a question from Marine Parade GRC MP Fatimah Lateef, who had asked on Friday if there are concrete plans to ring fence Geylang Lorongs 22 to 44 which are mainly residential areas, such as reviewing the mixed zoning in the area, Mr Mah said, the Urban Redevelopment Authority has no such intention.

Sex workers plying their trade in Geylang, a one-stop location for vice activities like prostitution, gambling and piracy. -- PHOTO: NP

He said that in the 2003 Master Plan, the majority of the sites (60 per cent) in the area between Lor 22 and Lor 44 Geylang is zoned Residential. Many of the other sites are either zoned 'residential' or 'residential and institution', with a number of sites fronting Geylang Road zoned 'commercial'.

For sites zoned Residential in the master plan, the change of use to non-residential uses, such as for public entertainment uses, would in principle not be supported.

Teenaged girls hanging around Geylang's 'red light district' waiting for customers. -- PHOTO: BH

'This is to retain the residential nature of these areas and helps in 'ring-fencing' the area,' said Mr Mah.

He added that the 'ring-fencing' of the area is also achieved through vigilant enforcement to control vice activities.

The Police have and will continue to undertake regular enforcement action in both the odd and even lorongs in Geylang.

Among all the vice activities, Geylang still holds many gems, like this popular eateries serving delicious local food. -- ST PHOTO: TAN HOWE YANG

The Anti-Vice Branch (AVB) conducts frequent checks at the red-light areas and regular enforcement against vice, and the police imposes stringent licensing conditions for entertainment outlets and massage establishments in the area, and also conducts regular checks on the public entertainment outlets.

'Although there has not been any serious problem associated with these outlets, police will continue to monitor these outlets and would not hesitate to suspend or revoke the licence of errant operators,' said Mr Mah, adding that the Ministry of Home Affairs and police also work closely with agencies such as the Hotel Licensing Board and URA to regulate the operations and development of budget hotels and lodging houses there.

Hidden steals like 24-hour stalls selling durians at 50 cents each in Geylang. -- ST FILE PHOTO

In addition, a multi-agency effort has been set up, led by Dr Fatimah, to coordinate efforts by various government agencies, as well as the grassroots, to improve the conditions in Geylang.

New initiatives, such as enhanced street lightings and installation of CCTVs, have been implemented. Mr Mah said these multi-agency efforts are aimed at curbing crime and vice through better lighting and monitoring, enhancing the sense of security among residents by reducing the number of streetwalkers venturing into the residential areas, and reducing dis-amenity to residents arising from public entertainment outlets in the area.

A proposed plan for a ring fence around residential area has been rejected. -- PHOTO: BH

HDB Flat Still Very Affordable For Average S'porean

Source : The Straits Times, Feb 18, 2008

Some get up to $88k in subsidies, says Mah Bow Tan; also flats still cheap enough for families to use CPF for full mortgage payments

PROPERTY prices may be on the rise but HDB flats still remain very affordable for the average Singaporean, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan emphasised yesterday.

That is because families have access to subsidies which can go as high as $88,000 for some households, he noted.

And flats are still cheap enough for families to be able to fund their mortgage instalments entirely from Central Provident Fund (CPF) contributions - without the need to stump up cash.

Mr Mah made these points at a Chinese New Year dinner at the Tampines East Community Club yesterday.

With HDB resale prices rising about 17.5 per cent last year, he said he is well aware that younger Singaporeans are becoming increasingly concerned about the affordability of HDB flats.

He reiterated the Government's commitment to providing affordable public housing and said there were two ways to achieve this.

One was to give big housing subsidies to help newly-weds buy their first HDB flat. The other was to provide mortgages at a concessionary interest rate.

In terms of subsidies, an Additional CPF Housing Grant (AHG) introduced in March 2006, provided lower-income families with an additional grant of between $5,000 and $20,000 to buy their first HDB flat.

The income ceiling for this grant was raised from $3,000 to $4,000 to allow more families to benefit. And the grant limit was also increased by $10,000 so that the highest tier grant is now $30,000.

Mr Mah said: 'A recent Ministry of Finance simulation estimated that the typical young low-income household could enjoy housing subsidies worth about $88,000.'

He also revealed that HDB's records show that recent buyers of new HDB flats use only about 20 per cent of their monthly household income to service their housing loans.

'This means that families can service their housing loan entirely from their CPF Ordinary Account contribution, without any cash outlay,' he noted.

In any case, rising resale prices seem also to have stabilised for now so there is no need for buyers to rush in at this point, said Mr Mah.

'The HDB Resale Price Index grew by only 1 per cent last month, and we expect prices to grow at a more moderate pace in 2008,' he added.

Mr Mah also noted that the proportion of resale transactions with a positive cash over valuation, as well as the median cash over valuation also dipped marginally last month.

He said HDB will continue to monitor the situation closely.

Spruce-Up Time For 650 HDB Flats In Tampines

Source : The Straits Times, Feb 18, 2008

Govt to pay most of the bill; work under home improvement scheme to start before year-end

SEVERAL hundred Tampines residents are expected to be among the first to have their flats spruced up in a new Housing Board scheme that will see the Government foot most of the bill.

Six blocks in Tampines Street 21 will be upgraded under the Home Improvement Programme (HIP), Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan announced yesterday.

The work, scheduled to start before the end of the year, will focus on mending weathered concrete and replacing waste pipes.

Once at least 75 per cent of flat owners vote for the upgrading, this essential work is compulsory. But this will be fully paid for by the Government, said Mr Mah, also an MP for Tampines GRC.

The HIP will give residents the choice of opting out of certain upgrades, including repairs to toilets, front doors and rubbish chutes, which will be subsidised at 90 to 95 per cent. The bill to owners would then be between $550 and $1,375 for the full package.

Residents living in the 25- year-old blocks, which house about 650 flats, welcomed the HIP.

'I have water dripping down in the toilet, and I've complained to the town council about it, so I'm glad something is being done,' said real estate agent Maria Mansoor, 43, who lives in a five-room flat with her family of six.

Retiree Choy Wai Han, in her 60s, who lives in a four-room flat with her husband and son, was relieved to hear the news, but wanted to know how much the non-essential upgrades would cost.

Said Madam Choy: 'As long as I can pay in instalments, and the price is reasonable, I'm all for it.'

Currently, about 300,000 flats islandwide are eligible for HIP upgrades.

'I have water dripping down in the toilet, and I've complained to the town council about it, so I'm glad something is being done.' - MADAM MARIA MANSOOR, who lives in a five-room flat

Asia Won't Catch Flu If US Gets A Cold, Says MM Lee

Source : The Straits Times, Feb 18, 2008

With China and India propelling it, Asia won't be 'unduly disadvantaged' by a recession in the US

ASIA - propelled by the twin engines of China and India - will not be 'unduly disadvantaged' if a recession hits the United States, said Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew last night.

AIRING HIS VIEWS: MM Lee Kuan Yew is confident that the aviation industry in Asia will continue to soar. -- PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

'I believe this may be the first time where the US economy catches a cold and we are not going to catch influenza - I hope,' he said at the Singapore Airshow Aviation Leadership Summit dinner dialogue attended by about 200 aviation pundits.

The Chinese and Indian economies are unlikely to dip below 8, 9, or 10 per cent, he added, and while about 40 per cent of intra-Asian trade today is bound for the US, even if the US cuts its imports by half, Asia will not be too badly hit.

Zeroing in on the aviation industry, he was confident Asia will continue to soar high, as new airports are built and more people take to the skies.

He said: 'I see enormous growth in Asia in the next 10, 20 years, more in Asia than in any other part of the world.'

China alone is looking at about 240 airports by 2020 and more than 500 by 2050 - and 'that is just the beginning' he said.

But on whether Asia, with its booming air travel sector, is well-placed to lead the aviation industry in all areas, including liberalisation going forward - an agenda that the International Air Transport Association (Iata) led by its head Giovanni Bisignani is trying to push - Mr Lee was a bit more sceptical, adding that 'it will be very difficult'.

Countries with airlines that are not doing so well will want their flag carriers to grow stronger first before they open up. And while in his view, this is the 'wrong approach', it is nonetheless the reality.

Citing Singapore Airlines' example, Mr Lee said its success shows how you become competitive when you are forced to compete internationally.

He remembers telling management and unions when Singapore Airlines (SIA) was set up as a separate entity from Malaysia's national carrier that 'if you can fly the flag and make a profit, I will be proud. If you cannot, let us forget it and somebody else can fly this flag'.

Everybody in SIA - from management, to pilots, to cabin crew and catering - understood that unless SIA was better than the rest, there was no reason for people to fly the airline.

Mr Lee said: 'So I believe many of the problems that our neighbours are facing will go if they get international competition going and get international management to bring them up to speed. Then the whole region will prosper.'

Some progress has been made, he said, noting that by December, Asean will lift all restrictions on flights between capital cities of the 10 member states and by 2015, Asean national carriers will be able to criss-cross the skies over the region with no restrictions.

Turning to the other hot potato of global warming, Mr Lee was also asked during the 45-minute session for his reactions to attacks on the aviation industry by governments and organisations, primarily in Europe. Proposals have included taxes and penalties on airlines.

He replied that the industry contributes to about 2 per cent of man-made carbon emissions, but global warming has to be attacked in every way.

Still, if the problem is to be dealt with in a more cost-effective way, 'then you must come to the conclusion that surely you can save more by rationalising air routes and have less of this prohibited flights and no-fly zones.'

Other things like more fuel-efficient jets, maybe the use of solar cells and many other options will also have to come.

According to industry average, one minute less of flight time saves 62 litres of fuel and 160kg of carbon emissions.

How Will Matrimonial Assets Be Affected When I Remarry?

Source : The Sunday Times, Feb 17, 2008

Q I AM a widower. If I remarry now, will my current assets form part of the matrimonial assets that my new wife will receive in case of a divorce?

What about new assets acquired after my marriage to a new wife? Will these be the only assets considered for distribution upon a divorce?

A THE answer is that it will depend on a variety of factors.

If your assets, excluding the matrimonial home, are acquired as gifts or inheritance, and when these have not been substantially improved during the marriage by either your new spouse or by both of you, then this category of assets will not be open for division by the court in the event of a divorce.

On the other hand, if your asset is a property you purchased before the marriage and which you now share and use as a matrimonial home with your new spouse, then it is defined as a matrimonial asset that can be divided upon a divorce.

If you have other assets that you bring to the new marriage and where your new spouse or your children in the new marriage enjoy, or which have been substantially improved during the marriage by your new spouse or by both of you, then these assets are considered matrimonial assets and may be divided by the court upon a divorce.

Assets acquired during the new marriage are considered matrimonial assets and may also be divided by the court upon a divorce.

Koh Tien Hua PartnerHarry Elias Partnership

Advice provided in this column is not meant as a substitute for comprehensive professional advice.

F1 Will See Singapore Host World's Business Bigwigs

Souce : TODAY, Monday, February 18, 2008

The inaugural Formula One Grand Prix in Singapore will give the island's economy a significant boost.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone is convinced the first night race on a downtown street circuit is where multi-billion-dollar business deals will be sealed from September.

Apart from an estimated 40,000 tourists visiting the island during the race, the 77-year-old told TODAY in an exclusive interview from London that Singapore will play host to some of the world's most influential captains of industry from team sponsors like ING, HP and Allianz.

"Everyone is excited about going there (Singapore); all the companies," he said.

"Among the sponsors alone, whom the teams will invite, there will be 3,000 to 4,000 key sponsors and, for sure, their top people there," he said.

"Oh, I think it will do people good. People are going somewhere they wouldn't normally go, perhaps see things they would not normally see and become interested. It will be good for Singapore; you will get big exposure," he added.

Mr Ecclestone also noted that with Asia and Australia set to host seven races by 2010 (once South Korea and perhaps India get on the calendar), Singapore and the region stand to benefit from the kind of F1-centric £3-billion ($8.3-billion) motorsports industry enjoyed by the United Kingdom.

"I wouldn't be surprised to see that happen, within two or three years, for sure. You need a bit of time for that to happen," he said.

Singapore has been on his F1 radar screen since 1990, two years after he took control of the sport that was near begging, turning it into a US$4-billion ($5.7-billion) business. That was the year he first gave his old friend, hotel and property tycoon Ong Beng Seng, the rights to host F1 in Singapore.

But the Government turned down a proposal to build a permanent racetrack, so in the late 1990s he took his idea elsewhere in Asia, adding Malaysia to the F1 calendar in 1999 and China five years later.

As more countries queued for the F1 starting grid, Singapore's interest was aroused once again, signalling it was keen on another bite of the F1 pie.

In May last year, Mr Ecclestone obliged, giving Mr Ong the green light to host a night race here — a global first.

The reason for the change of heart? "I am very bullish about the East," said Mr Ecclestone. "It has been so for more than 15 years (since talking to Ong), and hopefully I have been proven right because they have come on in that part of the world and now they are very strong … and Singapore is obviously in that region."

And Mr Ecclestone is confident that Singapore will eventually become a jewel in the F1 crown. - TODAY/so

Property Prices Still Stable Despite Uncertainty Over US Economy

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 17 February 2008

The number of transactions in the property market has gone down due to uncertainty over the US economy.

National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said this is to be expected but added that property prices have not shown any signs of correcting.

He was speaking to reporters at the sidelines of a community event on Sunday evening.

He said: "There is a slowdown in the market as reflected in the level of uncertainty. I think prices as far as the monitoring is concerned, I look at the prices of transactions and so far I don't see the prices correcting as yet. But the level of transactions, the number of transactions, have come down. I think that reflects the uncertainty in the market.

"People are not sure what is happening, particularly in the US. And I think that's a right attitude to take. Wait for a while, let the dust settle, then see what's happening. As far as the government is concerned, we've taken the necessary measures over the last year to try and remove some of the speculative elements in the market. So I think we'll see what happens in the next few months."

As for those who wondered why there were no specific measures targeted at housing in this year's Budget announcement, Mr Mah said the new key initiatives had been announced at last year's National Day Rally.

And some of it, like the Home Improvement Programme, Neighbourhood Renewal Programme and the Remaking the Heartlands project have since been rolled out.

Mr Mah added that service and conservancy charge rebates, which were part of the GST Offset Package, continue to apply this year.

On rising construction costs, the Minister said he's not worried that this will lead to a rise in costs or delays for upgrading programmes.

He also announced new Home Improvement Programmes at Marine Parade and Ang Mo Kio.

More details on the programmes are expected soon.

Commenting on this year's Budget, he said: "As far as this year's Budget is concerned, I think housing and public housing in particular has had its fair allocation, fair share of the housing budget. In the years ahead, I expect there'll be a lot more expenditures from the Budget on public housing." - CNA/ch