Thursday, February 28, 2008

Developer Allgreen Properties Reports Full-Year Net Profit Of S$493m

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 28 February 2008

Developer Allgreen Properties says its full year net profit jumped more than six fold to S$493 million.

Its earnings were boosted mainly by fair value gains on its investment properties.

Excluding the fair value gains, net profit would have nearly doubled on year to S$145 million.

Revenue rose 19 percent to S$569 million.

The company benefitted from higher sales of properties as a result of the buoyant market.

On Thursday, Allgreen shares rose 2 cents to S$1.28.

Allgreen is recommending a final dividend 5 cents a share. - CNA/ch

Banyan Tree Rakes In 142% Jump In FY Net Profit To S$102m

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 28 February 2008

Luxury resorts and spa operator Banyan Tree is reaping more rewards from its overseas expansion.

Banyan Tree Bintan (file picture)

Its net profit for the full year jumped 142 percent to $102 million.

This was achieved on the back of a 26 percent rise in revenue to $422 million.

The bottomline was driven by Banyan Tree's hotel operations and property sales segments, coupled with a one-off negative goodwill exceptional gain arising from its unit's rights issue in July last year.

Commenting on the results, Banyan Tree's executive chairman Ho Kwon Ping said most of the company's businesses performed better in 2007, adding that he is hopeful the positive trend will continue into 2008.

Mr Ho said that Banyan Tree is also seeing a strong pipeline of new hotel projects and encouraging responses to property and hotel residences sales.

Banyan Tree said that so far, there has been no perceptible, negative impact of the US sub-prime crisis and liquidity crunch on its hotel or property operations.

The US market accounts for only less than 2% of its business.

The company said it remains cautiously optimistic about its performance for 2008 unless the US sub-prime crisis and liquidity crunch adversely affect the global economy.

And the company is looking to grow its business through funds they will set up in different parts of the world.

Mr Ho said: "We're very gratified that against today's very negative financial climate, we have today signed and closed the first US$100 million portion of the Banyan Tree IndoChina Fund. We expect to close the balance which will be another US$300 million before the end of this year and that will then establish our first fund which is the Banyan Tree IndoChina Fund at US$400 million. We will then move to a Banyan Tree China Fund which will be even larger and we'll be simultaneously doing other funds in other parts of the world."

Banyan Tree has recommended a final tax exempt dividend of 2 cents per share for 2007.

A total dividend of S$15.2 million will be paid out when approved.

The resort operator has been aggressively expanding into new destinations around the world such as Mexico, Mauritius, Turkey, Vietnam and Jordan. - CNA/ir/ch

DBSS Tender For Bishan Site Awarded To Qingdao Construction

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 28 February 2008

Qingdao Construction Group Corporation has won a Housing and Development Board (HDB) tender to build public housing flats at a site in Bishan Street 24.

It submitted a tender price of S$135,888,777.

The site is the fourth to be offered under HDB's Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) where the developer bids for the land, designs, builds and sells the flats as public housing.

The flats have a 99-year lease and will be offered to buyers under similar conditions as flats developed by the HDB.

On its completion, the HDB will handle the development site's lease administration, while the Town Council will manage the maintenance of its common areas and car parks.

HDB said this latest site is located in a middle-aged estate, with a wide variety of facilities. - CNA/so

URA Launches Sale Of Two Transitional Office Sites In Newton Area

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 28 February 2008

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has launched the sale of two transitional office sites at Scotts and Anthony Roads in the Newton area.

The sites are being released under a government programme to meet the near-term demand for office space.

The two parcels are located next to the Newton MRT station.

The first site has an area of some 0.86 hectares and can yield a maximum gross floor area of about 13,000 square metres.

The second adjacent site spans about 0.9 hectares with a maximum gross floor area of some 13,500 square metres.

Both sites, released on short terms leases of 15 years, can accommodate buildings of up to 4 storeys each.

The URA had already awarded three transitional office sites over the last six months at Scotts Road, Tampines Avenue 5 and Mountbatten Road.

These sites will together provide 47,186 square metres of office space. - CNA/ch

City Dev More Than Doubles FY Net Profit To S$725m

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 28 February 2008

Property developer City Developments (CDL) has booked record full year earnings, thanks to strong home sales and hotel revenues.

Net profit for 2007 more than doubled on-year to S$725 million, beating market expectations.

Revenue rose by 22 percent to S$3.1 billion.

CDL says it will not rush into new residential launches in the coming months but will closely monitor market conditions.

It has been a good year in 2007 for City Developments which sold 1,655 residential units in Singapore.

But the developer expects to see a dip in sales this year because of the US sub-prime mortgage crisis.

But it says hotel operations, which accounted for 64 percent of its revenue last year, will remain robust.

Kwek Leng Beng, Executive Chairman, City Developments, said: "I think all sectors will slow down but I think hotels will continue to perform very well in the key gateway city where we're located."

CDL's full year earnings are its highest since its inception in 1963.

For the fourth quarter alone, net profit jumped by 71 percent on year to S$235 million.

The developer acquired 8 sites worth about S$1.3 billion last year, the biggest of which was South Beach.

It expects to launch its Quayside Isle@ Sentosa Cove project this year, as well as the redeveloped former Lock Cho apartments at Thomson Road.

But CDL says it is possible some of its project launches may be delayed.

Mr Kwek said: "This year we will continue to operate more efficiently for the hotels and the office rental. We will continue to revise the rentals when the leases are expired and we will launch the project at the right time.

"The difference between last year and this year is that last year you could sell property under development very quickly (but) this year you have to be realistic that you cannot do that. Therefore there's a likelihood that some projects will be delayed before we launch."

Out of the four projects scheduled to be launched in the first half of 2008, CDL is giving priority to two projects.

Mr Kwek said: "We will delay some. We will go ahead with some of these launches where we had already secured much earlier, construction cost has been cheaper. I think we have five but possibility is that we will launch two first. One is the Quayside in Sentosa and the other one could be the Thomson Road Lock Cho building construction for 300 over units."

CDL remains positive about its prospects for 2008, saying it expects to say profitable.

It is proposing to pay a final dividend of 7.5 cents a share and a special dividend of 12.5 cents per share. - CNA/ch/ir

More Office Space With New Extension In Marina Bay

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 28 February 2008

National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said in Parliament on Thursday that the government has set aside a new growth area in Marina Bay. This will yield an estimated 2.8 million sqm of gross floor area for office use.

The future vision of Marina Bay - URA Photo

Marina Bay – a centrepiece of efforts to ensure there is sufficient office space to meet future needs – will be a seamless extension of the current Central Business District at Raffles Place.

At 85 hectares, the new growth area will be more than twice the size of Raffles Place, which now spans 31 hectares.

About 40 percent of the available office space has already been taken up by developments such as One Raffles Quay, the Marina Bay Financial Centre and white sites at Marina View.

Mr Mah said: "To give you an idea of its eventual scale, the amount of space that will be generated within the area located immediately adjacent to the existing financial district at Raffles Place and Shenton Way will be equivalent to two Canary Wharfs in London.

"It will provide as much Grade A office space as Hong Kong's Central. URA will make available more sites for development in this area over the next five to six years, in line with market demand."

More land will also be released around Tanjong Pagar, as well as redevelopment plans for the Ophir and Rochor area to transform it into a vibrant office cluster.

Mr Mah said the office market will remain tight until 2009. But some 1.4 million sqm of office space should become available in 2010 and beyond.

To ease the supply crunch, the government will continue to release land for transitional office sites.

The office developments at Scotts and Anthony Roads – two parcels on short-term leases of 15 years – could be completed by mid-2009.

These transitional office land parcels will join three others awarded previously at Scotts Road, Tampines Avenue 5 and Mountbatten Road. - CNA/so

PAP Town Councils To Freeze S&C Charges This Year

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 28 February 2008

All 14 town councils run by the People's Action Party (PAP) will not be increasing their Service and Conservancy (S&C) charges this year.

The freeze applies to both residential and commercial properties, and is aimed at lessening the financial burden of the residents due to inflation.

The town councils announced their decision on Thursday in response to the government's call for town councils to hold their S&C charges for the year.

Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam made the call in Parliament on Wednesday when he announced the extension of a one-year freeze on fee increases for government-provided services till the end of 2008.

The last revision of S&C charges was in September 2004.

To mitigate the rise in their operating expenditures, the PAP Town Councils say they have been capitalising on new technologies and innovations to reduce energy consumption and maintenance costs.

This is without compromising the quality of estate management services. - CNA/ir

HDB's New Lease Buyback Scheme To Benefit 25,000 Elderly Households

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 28 February 2008

Some 25,000 households, or 70 per cent, of two- and three-room flat owners will benefit from HDB's new Lease Buyback Scheme.

Under this scheme, the Housing Board will buy back the tail end of the flat lease from elderly owners, to help them unlock the value from their flat.

Details were announced by National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan in his speech

Low income elderly households can sign up for the Lease Buyback Scheme to monetise their flat to meet retirement needs.

Under the scheme, those above 62-years-old can sell the tail end of their flat's lease back to the HDB at market rate.

The household can continue to stay in their flat, which will be left with a 30-year lease.

Mr Mah said: "In addition to the housing equity that is unlocked by this purchase of the tail end of the lease, HDB will provide a S$10,000 subsidy. Out of this S$10,000 subsidy, S$5,000 will be given to the household as an upfront lump sum payment. The remainder will then be used to purchase a CPF LIFE Plan to provide the owner with a steady stream of income for life."

Related Video Link -

For instance, a household living in a three-room flat with a 70-year lease valued at S$200,000 can expect to pocket S$97,000.

The sum will include S$87,000 for 40 years of their flat's lease, after factoring in depreciation and a S$10,000 government subsidy.

Of this, S$92,000 go to the purchase of the CPF LIFE Plan and S$5,000 will be paid out to the household in cash.

Using the same illustration, the CPF LIFE Plan will yield a monthly payout of between S$460 and S$490 for the household for the rest of their life.

However, the annuity terms will vary depending on the age and gender of the owners.

And should the elderly outlive the 30-year lease, HDB says they can choose to have it extended.

Appropriate housing arrangement will also be made on a case-by-case basis for those who cannot pay for the lease extension.

Those who opt for the Lease Buyback Scheme will not be allowed to sell the flat in the resale market, nor sublet the entire flat.

However, they may return their lease prematurely to the HDB under special circumstances, such as the relocation of the owner to an institutional home.

The HDB will then reimburse the residual value of the lease.

To prevent abuse of the scheme, HDB will impose a pro-rated forfeit of the S$10,000 subsidy, if the flat is returned within the first five years.

The Scheme will be introduced next year.

Only elderly households in 3-room or smaller flat, who earns up to S$3,000 a month are eligible.

And they must not have enjoyed more than one housing subsidy or owned a larger flat or private residential property previously.

To be eligible, the household must also have lived in the flat for at least five years and not have any outstanding loan on their flat exceeding S$5,000.

Mr Mah says HDB will assess if the scheme should be extended to 4-room flat households. - CNA/ch

Property Transactions With Contract Dates Between Feb 4th - 9th, 2008


《联合早报》Feb 28, 2008






世界最大的财富管理公司之一Citi Private Bank负责寻找投资者,目标是筹集到3亿美元。

集团昨天与Citi Private Bank签署了合作谅解备忘录。

同时,嘉德置地昨天也与越南的合作伙伴——产业投资公司Nam Thang Long,签署协议达成策略伙伴关系,以便共同在越南寻找投资机会。


建屋局又在榜鹅推出 494间四房式组屋供预购

《联合早报》Feb 28, 2008

建屋发展局在榜鹅推出名为“Punggol Spring”的“预购组屋”(Build-to-Order,简称BTO)单位,建造5座共有494个四房式单位的组屋。

“Punggol Spring”的预购组屋单位,建造5座共有494个四房式单位的组屋。(建屋局美术构想图)

前天下午5点 网站已有278份申请


位于爱德菲尔坪(Edgefield Plains)和榜鹅通道交界处的“Punggol Spring”,,靠近榜鹅未来的镇中心,也同榜鹅地铁站、达迈轻轨列车站和巴士转换站毗邻,附近有培道中学,小吃店、超级市场和商店。

这批组屋面积介于92到97平方米,售价介于20万4000元和25万9000元,价格比建屋局去年12月在同个地区推出的Damai Grove四房式单位高。Damai Grove每个单位的售价介于19万5000元和24万元。

建屋局去年8月推出的“Punggol Vista”四房式单位,价格则介于18万4000元至22万7000元。

“Punggol Spring”是建屋局今年上半年在“预购组屋”计划下所推出的4500个单位的第一个项目。建屋局呼吁在最近的组屋出售中无法买到组屋的公众,考虑申请“Punggol Spring”的组屋或其他新镇的预购组屋。

公众可通过建屋局网站申请预购Punggol Spring组屋,并可到建屋局中心3楼展示厅参观及索取销售资料,展示厅平日开放时间是上午8时至下午5时,星期六是上午8时至下午1时。 



建屋局表示,如果反应良好,“Punggol Spring”就能动工建造,预料可在2011年12月完工。


US Jan Home Resales Close To 10-Year Low

Source : The Business Times, February 26, 2008

Median price down 4.6%, the fifth consecutive month of decline

Sales of existing US homes fell to the lowest level in nearly a decade in January while the median price for a home dropped for the fifth straight month.

The National Association of Realtors said yesterday that sales of single-family homes and condominiums dropped by 0.4 per cent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.89 million units, the slowest sales pace on records going back to 1999.

Economists polled by Reuters were expecting home resales to fall to a 4.80 million-unit pace from the 4.89 million-unit rate initially reported for December. The December sales pace was revised to a 4.91 million unit rate.

'The report wasn't that much different than expectations. The disturbing thing is that we are still looking at a lot of supply on the market and it will take a long time to clear that up. The implication is that prices will continue to decline,' said Scott Brown, chief economist, at Raymond James & Associates in St Petersburg, Florida.

The median price of a home sold in January slid to US$201,100, a drop of 4.6 per cent from a year ago.

The drop in sales and the fifth consecutive decline in prices underscored the continued pressure facing housing, which is struggling to emerge from its worst slump in a quarter-century.

Sales were weak in all parts of the US except the Midwest, where sales posted an increase of 3.4 per cent. Sales dropped by 3.6 per cent in the North-east, 2.1 per cent in the West and 0.5 per cent in the South.

Sales of both existing homes and new homes tumbled for a second straight year in 2007 as the housing industry was battered by a severe credit crunch that hit in August as major financial institutions began reporting multibillion-dollar losses on their investments in risky sub-prime mortgages, loans made to homeowners with weak credit.

The market for sub- prime mortgages has essentially dried up and other types of loans have become harder to obtain as lenders have tightened their standards.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the Realtors, said he believed the housing market may be on the verge of bottoming out with a rebound expected to start toward the end of this year.

'Sub-prime loans and other risky mortgage products have virtually disappeared from the marketplace, and over the past five months, this has been reflected in soft but fairly stable home sales,' he said.

He said he expected demand to be bolstered in coming months by the action of Congress in the economic stimulus bill to raise the caps on the size of loans that can be backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration.

The slump in housing that began in 2006 followed a boom period in which sales and prices had soared to record levels. Many economists believe that the sharp turnaround has severely depressed US economic growth and boosted the odds that the country could fall into a full-blown recession. -- AP, Reuters

Faint Light At End Of Sub-Prime Tunnel?

Source : TODAY, Thursday, February 28, 2008

But banks now have to deal with slowing economy

A heart-thumping sub-prime ride for local banks may be nearing a halt after two quarters of hefty provisions for risky investments.

But investors looking to banks repeating the double-digit earnings gain of recent years could be disappointed. A slowing economy is likely to put a squeeze on interest margins and earnings growth, suggesting 2008 could turn out to be, at best, unexciting.

“The banks have already provided a significant coverage against its collateralised debt obligation portfolio (CDOs) as far as asset-backed CDOs are concerned … but currently, there is no strong growth catalyst. Business is driven by mostly organic growth and core business,” said Kim Eng analyst Pauline Lee.

For fiscal year 2008, she predicted core bank earnings to grow at an average of 6 per cent to 8 per cent, slower than the 10 per cent in 2007.

Loan growth should remain strong on a robust construction sector and as borrowers start to draw down on loans made during last year’s property boom, said Phillip Securities’ Brandon Ng.

But lower margins caused by falling interest rates could cloud the positive prospects. Inter-bank rates have been easing since late last year, taking the cue from the United States rates.

Stock markets which appeared to defy gravity helped boost non-interest income substantially last year, but the reverberations from the sub-prime crisis shook capital markets and weakened sentiment, suggesting this source of income would be affected in 2008, said Daiwa Institute of Research analyst David Lum.

While “one of the major external risks” may be removed this year, at the same time, “there’s nothing really new to look forward to”, said Mr Lum.

Global banks sent a shiver through the world’s financial system when they disclosed massive losses related to their investments in sub-prime debt. In Singapore, banks created shocks too although their exposures were viewed as more limited.

The shares of the three banks, which have dropped an average of almost 20 per cent from last August to end-January, have since found a footing.

Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation rose 11 cents, or 1.4 per cent to $7.78 yesterday, while DBS Group Holdings and UOB dropped 18 cents and 42 cents to $17.70 and $18.42 respectively.

Martin Place Residences

Location : Martin Place
District : 09
Tenure : Freehold
Expected Completion : Dec 2011
Total Units : 302 units in Two 33-Storeys Residential Towers

Unit Types:-
1 bedroom ~ 592-646 sqft
2 bedroom ~ 1044-1163 sqft
3 bedroom ~ 1421 sqft
3 + study ~ 1722 sqft
4 bedroom ~ 1894-2002 sqft
Penthouse ~ 3326, 3380, 3434 sqft

Expected Price : from $1900psf

Facilities: -
-Swimming Pool (Olympic-size 50m x 25m; 8 lanes)
-Children's Pool
-Clubhouse with Function Room, Gymnasium and Changing Rooms
-Children's Play Area
-Play Pavilion with Lawn
-Tennis Court
-Spa Pools (2 Spa Pavilions, and 2 Spa Pavilions with BBQ Facilities)
-Pool Deck
-Grand Pavilion with Kitchen, Barbeque Facility (2 nos.) and Lawn
-Sky Terrace at 14th Storey
-Reading Lounge
-Yoga Corner
-Sky Lounge
-Water Garden

CityDev's 2007 Profit Doubles To $725m

Source : The Business Times, February 28, 2008

City Developments, South-east Asia's second-largest developer, said on Thursday that 2007 net profit more than doubled, beating expectations due to strong home sales and hotel revenues.

CityDev's full-year results did not take into account revaluation gains on its investment properties, which would have boosted full-year earnings to $2.8 billion

The developer, controlled by Singapore tycoon Kwek Leng Beng, reported a full-year net profit of $725 million (US$519.3 million) against $351.7 million a year earlier.

CityDev said in a statement that its prospects are good this year. 'Property development will continue to make significant contribution with locked-in profits yet to be recognised from its pre-sold residential projects,' it added.

CityDev's full-year results did not take into account revaluation gains on its investment properties, which would have boosted full-year earnings to $2.8 billion, the company said.

Its accounting differed from rival CapitaLand, South-east Asia's biggest developer, which last week reported revaluation gains of $136.8 million on its assets for the final quarter of 2007.

Private home prices in Singapore jumped 31.2 per cent last year, boosting the profits of CityDev and its Singapore rivals CapitaLand and Keppel Land.

CityDev said it sold a total of 1,655 units with sales value reaching $3.38 billion in 2007, profits of which will be recognised progressively based on construction progress.

But prices rose a slower 6.8 per cent in the fourth quarter, and is expected to moderate further this year, reflecting concerns about global growth and the effect of government measures to cool the market.

CityDev's 53 per cent-owned hotel arm Millennium & Copthorne, which operates 112 upmarket hotels globally, announced on Feb 20 that profit before tax rose 21 per cent to 157.4 million pounds (US$306.6 million). -- REUTERS

Two More Hotel Sites Put Up For Tender

Source : The Business Times, February 28, 2008

TWO more hotel sites have been put on the market - a 99-year leasehold plot in Race Course Road, offered by the Urban Redevelopment Authority, and a freehold plot in Bencoolen Street now occupied by Peony Mansion.

Peony Mansion's owners want $50 million, which works out to about $850 per square foot of potential gross floor area including an estimated $2.65 million payable to the state for two smallish plots - one is a road ingress and the other houses an electrical substation - behind Peony Mansion.

The two plots total 2,760 square feet, while Peony Mansion runs to 11,964 sq ft. Peony Mansion comprises 33 apartments and two shop units.

Approval for a collective sale has been secured from owners controlling at least 80 per cent of share values - under the old en bloc rules.

Under Master Plan 2003, Peony Mansion is zoned for hotel use with a 4.2 plot ratio - the ratio of maximum potential gross floor area to land area.

Peony Mansion and the adjoining state sites can be redeveloped into a boutique hotel with about 200 rooms, assuming there are no food and beverage outlets. Peony Mansion will be marketed through a tender that closes on April 4.

Over in the Little India area, URA has launched the tender for a 0.9 hectare plot above Little India MRT station.

Jones Lang LaSalle regional director and head of investments Lui Seng Fatt says that assuming the plot is developed into a hotel of up to four-star standard and with about 500 rooms, the completed property would be worth about $600,000 a room or a total of $300 million.

Assuming construction costs of about $500 psf of gross floor area, the site's land value works out to about $135 million or $400 psf per plot ratio (psf ppr).

However, CB Richard Ellis executive director Li Hiaw Ho reckons that top bids for the site will come in higher - around $600-700 psf ppr - given the plot's location above an MRT station.

'The plot can be developed into a four-star property. Bidders are also likely to include some retail/food & beverage facilities.'

The plot has a 3.5 plot ratio, resulting in a maximum gross floor area of 338,417 sq ft.

The tender for the confirmed list site closes on May 21.

SC Global Posts 67% Rise In FY07 Profit To $28.3m

Source : The Business Times, February 28, 2008

SC GLOBAL has reported a profit after tax and minority interests of $28.3 million for FY2007 - an increase of 67 per cent from 2006.

In a statement yesterday, it attributed its performance to sales of residential units at The Ladyhill, The Lincoln Modern, The Boulevard Residences and The Tomlinson.

Higher contribution from its Australian associate AV Jennings and a write-back of provision for diminution in value of development property also contributed.

SC Global has proposed a final dividend of two cents a share, after a special interim dividend of 3.5 cents a share paid during the year.

FY2007 turnover fell 32 per cent to $129.2 million, from $190.8 million in FY2006.

In particular, sales in the second half of 2007 fell 61 per cent to $41.2 million.

SC Global said this was mainly due to the timing of revenue recognition. It added that it also had a low number of completed units for sale.

It said its first development project in China made its maiden contribution to the group's revenue.

While gross profit fell 16 per cent to $45.2 million for the year, gross margin was higher at 35 per cent compared to 28 per cent the previous year, as higher prices were achieved.

SC Global said the launch of its new residential project at Martin Road can be expected in Q2/Q3 this year.

In China it is also expected to launch the next phase of units at Kairong International Gardens in Q2/Q3 this year.

It added that it has secured a land bank of more than 1.1 million sq ft in Orchard Road and on Sentosa.

Ho Bee Q4 Net Falls 24%

Source : The Business Times, February 28, 2008

HO Bee Investment, the biggest developer on Sentosa Cove, has posted a 24.2 per cent year-on-year drop in net earnings.

For the fourth quarter ended Dec 31 it made $38.8 million, a reduction attributed to lower property development revenue and profit.

The comparable period Q4 2006 saw the group's top and bottom lines helped by the physical completion of The Berth condo.

Ho Bee did manage to achieve a record full-year net profit of $272.2 million, up 176.1 per cent from 2006, due to a sharp rise in revenue from property development, mostly from progressive recognition of revenue from the group's projects on Sentosa Cove.

Also boosting the full-year bottom line was an $83.3 million gain in fair value of investment properties, mainly from office space that Ho Bee owns at Samsung Hub and Suntec City, and the group's industrial properties.

Ho Bee acknowledged that demand for high-end residential property has dropped as foreign and local investors have become more cautious.

However, for Ho Bee, the substantial progressive recognition of income from the sale of residential projects and the expected launch of new residential projects will be a significant contributor to the group's revenue and earnings for the current year ending December 2008 as well as the next two years.

Ho Bee is likely to launch this year the 150-unit Trilights on the Elmira Heights site at Newton Road, the 348-unit Dakota Residence (a joint development with ChoiceHomes Investments) and the 151-unit Seascape on the Seaview Collection plot at Sentosa Cove.

Ho Bee is also expected to launch a 72-unit condo, The Orange Grove, this year.

The group may also release a 184-unit condo on the Holland Hill Mansions site in the second half of this year in a joint venture with MCL Land.

The group's joint-venture condo on the Pinnacle Collection parcel at Sentosa Cove could be launched in the first six months of next year.

Ho Bee shareholders will receive a two-cent per share (one-tier) final dividend.

Revenue for Q4 eased 63 per cent to $60.7 million while full-year revenue rose 51.7 per cent to $596.1 million. Most of the increase came from a 51 per cent jump in revenue from property development.

The improved showing was chiefly due to the progressive recognition of revenue from Ho Bee's three Sentosa Cove projects, the Coral Island development, The Coast and Paradise Island, as well as Orange Grove Residences, Montview at Mount Sinai Road and Quinterra at Holland Road.

Ho Bee has yet to book revenue for Turquoise condo at Sentosa Cove as construction has yet to begin.

'Honey, Quit Work So We Can Buy Flat'

Source : The Electric New Paper, February 27, 2008

Desperate couple, drastic move

Reason: They won't exceed HDB's $8,000 income ceiling

HE asked his wife-to-be to quit her job - just so that they could qualify to buy a new Housing Board (HDB) flat.

Sounds silly?

Not if you consider today's HDB resale prices and the robust private property market.

29 Jan, The New Paper

Right now, those with a household income above $8,000 would not qualify for a new HDB flat.

Mr Christopher de Souza, Member of Parliament for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, cited the above example to The New Paper.

He argued that the $8,000 income ceiling, which has remained unchanged for the last 14 years, should be revised.

He declined to give more details about the couple.

The 32-year-old lawyer said: 'Some people actually take the drastic step of making their wife-to-be stop work for a period so they can qualify for the ceiling.'

He added that some people would accept a promotion at work, but declined a raise so they would remain below the income ceiling.

'We need to address how realistic this ceiling is, considering that resale flats have become more expensive in recent years.'

Mr de Souza raised this issue during the Budget debate yesterday and noted that many people in his age group have crossed the household income ceiling.

He said: 'For a young couple, few things are harder or more ironic than having to slog for many years to pay off a huge mortgage for their first home, just because they worked hard and were given raises early in their careers.'

Raising this income ceiling was one of Mr de Souza's three suggestions on how the Budget could achieve a better and more equitable distribution of the nation's wealth without discarding the principle of workfare and meritocracy.

His other two suggestions were to invest resources to beautify Singapore's common spaces and to make the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) Scheme more sensitive to inflation rates.

He noted that the last time HDB increased the income ceiling was in 1994, from $7,000 to $8,000.

The Government's push to increase the population to 6.5 million by attracting new immigrants is creating a volatile property market where foreign buying or selling will affect prices, according to Citibank's Economics & Market Analysis of June 2007.

As can be seen with the HDB resale market, demand from foreign buyers trickles down the property chain, causing prices to go up for lower-end private property.

Apart from rising property prices, another reason for reviewing the income ceiling is the growing number of households earning $8,000 or more per month, the MP said.

FROM 11% to 20%

Data from the General Household Survey shows that the proportion of households earning $8,000 and above has nearly doubled from about 11 per cent in 1995 to about 20 per cent in 2005.

He asked: 'Is $8,001 per month per couple comfortable enough a wage to exclude them from subsidised first-time HDB property ownership, bearing in mind that the couple receives no WIS, less GST credits, faces a rising inflation rate and, more significantly, that the only other housing alternative is a pricey resale flat or private condo?'

Mr de Souza questioned how a young couple could ever strive for 'work-life' balance if they are saddled with a back-breaking mortgage?

He added: 'The husband and wife's pre-occupation will be to overcome the considerable debt and they are likely to decide that promotions at work are needed to achieve this.

'Consequently, having children becomes a weaker priority than career.'

The New Paper had questioned whether the $8,000 income ceiling should be raised in a report last month.

The Housing Board replied then that it has no plans to raise the ceiling as the vast majority of Singaporean families qualified for subsidised public housing.

CapitaLand Raises Ascott Stake

Source : TODAY, Tuesday, February 26, 2008

CapitaLand, South-east’s Asia largest property group, said yesterday its fully-owned Somerset Capital unit and concerted parties had raised their stake in luxury serviced residence operator Ascott to 96.73 per cent.

Having acquired more than 90 per cent of Ascott shares that it or its concerted parties did not own before the general offer announced last month, Somerset intends to delist Ascott from the Singapore Exchange and will exercise its right of compulsory acquisition of all the outstanding shares in the serviced residence operator.

Following yesterday’s announcement, the unconditional offer to buy Ascott shares at $1.73 each has been extended by two weeks to March 11.

CapitaLand had said earlier that in taking Ascott private, the serviced residence operator would have the full flexibility of leveraging on the parent company’s capital base as well as its project development opportunities, without being unduly encumbered by the compliance requirements expected of a listed entity.

Singapore January Inflation Rate Rises To Hit 6.6%

Source : The Business Times, February 26, 2008

But economists don’t expect further monetary tightening in April

The inflation rate surged to another 25-year high of 6.6 per cent in January - and is not expected to ease for a while yet.

Still, most economists do not expect further monetary tightening in April, citing growing concern on the government’s part about the impact of an overly-strong Singapore dollar on exports. Instead, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is expected to maintain a ‘modest and gradual appreciation’ of the trade-weighted nominal exchange rate at its next policy review.

Higher costs of not only food but also housing and transport weighed on the consumer price index (CPI) last month, according to figures released yesterday.Related link: Click here for the Department of Statistics’ press release

The latest data prompted the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) to issue a statement saying that the 6.6 per cent jump in the CPI - up from December’s 4.4 per cent, which was also a 25-year high then - is ‘consistent’ with the official inflation forecast of 4.5 to 5.5 per cent for 2008 as a whole.

The January high not only comes off revised annual values of HDB flats, it also reflects a low base 12 months earlier in January 2007 when the inflation rate was only 0.3 per cent.

According to MTI, the month-on-month CPI numbers - particularly when smoothed out to remove the monthly volatility - give a better picture of the underlying trend.

And the three-month moving average of the month-on-month inflation rates has hovered around 0.8 per cent since picking up sharply last July when the Goods and Services Tax (GST) rate was raised by two percentage points.

January’s 0.8 per cent pace by this measure largely reflects the global inflation in food and energy prices that has persisted through the past seven months, MTI says.

Maintaining that there has been no surge in the core rate of inflation since last July, MTI says: ‘Inflation momentum has neither accelerated nor abated in January 2008.’

The year-on-year inflation rate should ‘moderate significantly’ in the second half of 2008 as the effects of the low base and one-off factors wear off, but underlying inflation will likely ease more gradually, pending external price trends, it says.

But economists track the standard year-on-year CPI measure, and most see inflation staying high in the near term.

DBS Bank economist Irvin Seah reckons that even with the GST effect out of the picture from the second half onwards, fundamental price pressures will remain.

Apart from high food and oil prices, domestic price pressures will be kept high by short-term job market tightness and with rising rents, Mr Seah writes in a recent report.

He forecasts: ‘Inflation now looks set to average 5 per cent in 2008, with core inflation lifted to 3.7 per cent.’

Despite the uptick, Mr Seah and other economists - taking a cue from Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam’s remarks about Singapore’s inflation strategy in his recent Budget statement - do not think that MAS will further increase the Sing dollar appreciation slope at the next review.

One exception is Goldman Sachs economist Mark Tan. He thinks that the recent fiscal easing and falling interest rates will provide a buffer to economic growth and has given MAS room to further tighten its policy stance.

More Rental Flats To Help Low-Income

Source : The Straits Times, Feb 26, 2008

THE Government should allocate more resources for rental housing, which seems to be in short supply, urged Ms Indranee Rajah (Tanjong Pagar GRC) during yesterday’s Budget debate.

This would alleviate the needs of the lower-income group and the elderly.

She said: ‘They don’t have the money to buy a house, their only option is rental housing and they can’t afford to rent private property .’

Ms Indranee referred to the trickle-down effect of rising rents, starting with the higher-end properties .

She said: ‘You have this effect where slowly, people are pushed out, and it goes all the way down along the line until you get to the person who has nowhere else to go except an HDB rental flat.”

Ms Indranee recounted two incidents of residents asking her for help.

She said: ‘I had one resident approaching me for a rental flat because he has been living in a bin centre.

‘He didn’t have a roof over his head, he was staying in that open area where the dustbins were; he had nowhere else to go.’

Another case involved a family whose members had to live apart because they could not get a rental home.

She recalled: ‘One child was with one relative, another child was with another relative, and they said sometimes they went to the beach to stay.’

Ms Indranee urged the Government to conduct a comprehensive review of rental housing here, and to analyse supply and demand.

She said: ‘There seems to be an acute shortage of HDB rental housing.

‘The waiting list at the moment seems to be like nearly up to eight to nine months and in some cases nearly a year.’

Ms Indranee also called for the HDB to reconsider the policy of requiring at least two people to live in a rental flat.

Asian Real Estate Body Sets Up Singapore Chapter

Source : The Business Times, February 26, 2008

The country could become a major Reit centre for the region.

THE Asian Public RealEstate Association (Aprea), which represents and promotes publicly traded Asia- Pacific realestate , has set up a Singapore chapter, following those set up in Hong Kong/Macau, and Japan.

Aprea CEO Peter Mitchell said: ‘Singapore’s listed realestate market is one of the most exciting and fastest-growing in the world. Our new chapter reflects the increasing interest of the participants and investor community in this vibrant market.’

Mr Mitchell highlighted that market capitalisation of Singapore’s Reit market of US$21.6 billion is only second to Japan, which has a Reit market capitalisation of US$46 billion.

The third-largest Reit market is Hong Kong with a market capitalisation of US$8.5 billion, followed by Taiwan (US$1.7 billion), Malaysia (US$1.6 billion), Thailand (US$1.5 billion) and South Korea (US$0.6 billion).

Aprea was established in mid-2005. Founding members include ARA Trust Management, Ascendas-MGM Funds Management, Westfield Group, Macquarie Bank and Hongkong Land. To date, it has 125 members.

Mr Mitchell believes that Singapore has the potential to be a major cross-border Reit centre for the region, citing reports of upcoming Japan, India, Indonesia and China Reits being listed here.

‘We want to make sure our members are fully supported in achieving this goal,’ he added.

While projections of a further 10 Reits being listed here this year may be seen as ‘a bit optimistic’ in the wake of the US sub-prime crisis and global credit crunch, Mr Mitchell believes there are still opportunities in the Asian realestate sector.

‘For some players, 2008 will present a period of good opportunities for companies that are well capitalised and don’t rely on credit,’ he said.

He added that those players who are not, ‘will find it hard to compete and face some difficulties’.

Describing the Reit sectors in Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore as ‘mature’, he also said the general downturn in the economy could see a return to ‘fundamentals’. ‘We have seen the end to financial engineering,’ he said.

Aprea seeks to create a market based on international best practice standards.

It will sponsor and publish research and analysis and assist with education and training within the industry.

UK House Prices Fall For 5th Month In A Row

Source : The Business Times, February 26, 2008

House prices in England and Wales fell for a fifth month running in February, pushing the annual rate of inflation to its lowest since April 2006, a survey showed yesterday. However, there were also signs of improving demand, with new buyer registrations rising for the first time since last summer.

Housing market research company Hometrack said house prices fell by 0.2 per cent this month to stand 1.4 per cent higher than in February 2007. In January, house prices fell by 0.3 per cent to stand 2.3 per cent higher in annual terms. The figures are not adjusted to take seasonal factors into account.

The average time taken to sell a property held steady at 8.5 weeks - jointly the longest period since the survey began in 2001. However, a near 8 per cent rise in new buyers registering with estate agents painted a slightly brighter picture. The biggest increase in demand was here where new buyer registrations rose by 13 per cent.

'In the wake of the credit crunch, demand for housing fell by 45 per cent, but the latest Hometrack survey shows a small yet important turnaround in demand over February,' said Richard Donnell, Hometrack's director of research.

'The modest increase in new buyer registrations is evidence of firming demand, largely on the back of recent interest rate cuts.' The Bank of England has cut rates twice in the past three months, bringing them down to 5.25 per cent. Money markets show investors are betting rates will come down at least as far as 4.75 per cent by the end of the year. -- Reuters

UBS Fund For China Property

Source : The Business Times, February 26, 2008

Fund to pour US$1b in housing; bank seeks US$300m to finance venture

UBS plans to launch a fund that will pour about US$1 billion into Chinese property, a further sign of enthusiasm for Asia at a time when investors are nervous about ailing European and US real estate markets.

Braving a sector that Beijing is desperate to slow, the Swiss bank signed a deal to build housing with Shanghai-listed developer Gemdale Corporation last month.

It is now looking to raise about US$300 million in equity to finance the venture, which will include the bank's own money as well as investment from its clients, and will be supplemented by debt to help lift returns.

'The focus is on residential, and we're hoping to launch a vehicle, and we're working on details,' said Lijian Chen, head of China real estate for UBS Global Asset Management.

'We're targeting US$300 million in capital overseas, with leverage, to give us roughly a billion dollars of buying power,' he said in a telephone interview from New York.

UBS is following the likes of Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank's property arm RREEF, and ING Real Estate, which raised a US$350 million fund for Chinese housing last year and has partnered Gemdale on individual projects.

While European and US property markets are waning in the face of a global credit crunch, Asia still appears strong, notching up a 26 per cent jump in direct property investment to US$121 billion in 2007, according to consultant Jones Lang LaSalle.

The UBS tie-up with Gemdale, which follows a similar deal in Japan with Mitsubishi Corp, is targeting 20 per cent internal rates of return over an investment period of five years.

The move comes at a time when Chinese developers are hungry for finance as government austerity policies, aimed at cooling the property market, start to bite.

But Mr Chen, who is moving back to his native China after 20 years in North America, said Gemdale was not starved of funds.

He said the firm raised 4.5 billion yuan (S$884 million) in a secondary share offering last year and has a further US$2.52 billion share sale pending approval. However, analysts say Chinese regulators are loath to approve property company listings in Shanghai for fear of further stoking property prices.

'It's not forced,' Mr Chen said. 'It's much more about their senior managers' vision. They want to create a diverse source of sound funding.'

With average home prices doubling since 2002, Beijing has told banks to curb loans to developers, raised interest rates, imposed taxes on capital gains and land appreciation and employed a 'use it or lose it' policy to deter land speculation.

The measures hit housing market transactions at the end of last year in some cities, including Guang-zhou, Shanghai and Shenzhen. With many developers struggling to recycle money from apartment sales to finance new projects, analysts believe thousands could go bust.

Although his initial aim is to work on land bought by Gemdale, Mr Chen said he would also look to take over companies to obtain their land.

'With the macro control measures implemented by the authorities, smaller and less established, capital-starved developers are finding it difficult to obtain funding,' he said. 'There are opportunities out there.'

Mr Chen, former head of property research at UBS Global Asset Management, said some prospective homebuyers would probably hold back because of the government's cooling measures.

But with some eight million people moving away from the countryside each year, he was keen to invest in China's second-tier cities, which are transforming fast.

'I wouldn't recognise the back alleys around my old high school,' Mr Chen said of his home city, Xiamen in the south-east. 'It's been rebuilt three to five times. The pace of change is really fast back home.' - Reuters

Frasers To Add Tokyo Property To Portfolio

Source : The Business Times, February 26, 2008

SERVICED apartment operator Frasers Hospitality is expanding its footprint in North Asia with a maiden project in Japan.

The group said in a press statement yesterday that it was adding Fraser Place howff Shinjuku, Tokyo to its portfolio as part of its plan to tap the lucrative Japanese premium serviced residences market.

The new property, which belongs to re-plus inc, is one of the largest serviced apartment projects in the country. The building's East Tower with 175 units is scheduled to open next month . A further 200 units in the West Tower will be ready by the second half of this year.

Frasers Hospitality said its latest project is located near the busy Shinjuku Station, in the heart of Tokyo's largest sub-centre and a key commercial, banking and entertainment district.

Fraser Place howff Shinjuku, Tokyo, is designed by Nikken Sekkei Ltd and CKR (Claesson Koivisto Rune Arkitkontor). It comprises one, two and three-bedroom apartments as well as triplex units.

Choe Peng Sum, Frasers Hospitality's chief executive officer, said the group's latest project was a milestone in its North Asian expansion plan as Japan was a key gateway city with foreign investments.

He said the group hoped to meet the demands of both local and foreign corporations for mid- to long-term stay facilities which combined the comforts of home with selected five-star hotel facilities.

Frasers Hospitality is the hospitality arm of Frasers Centrepoint, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the listed Fraser and Neave group.

CapitaLand Targets Vietnam Amid Demand For Homes

Source : The Business Times, February 26, 2008

It's biggest market potential for group in S-E Asia outside S'pore, says CEO

CapitaLand Ltd, South-east Asia's biggest developer, is turning to Vietnam as growth slows in its home market of Singapore, after apartments at the company's first project in Ho Chi Minh City sold out in a day last June.

Demand for homes in the country of 85 million people is 'great' and supply isn't keeping up, CapitaLand chief executive officer Liew Mun Leong said.

CapitaLand, with residential projects in 10 countries including China and Australia, is developing four sites in Vietnam, where it expects to build as many as 2,800 homes.

'Vietnam will be what I saw in China 10 years ago,' Mr Liew said in an interview in Singapore.

'The total picture in terms of economic growth is very, very strong. I'd say it's the biggest market potential for me in South-east Asia outside Singapore,' he said.

CapitaLand last week said fourth-quarter profit jumped 49 per cent, led by home sales in its three biggest markets: China, Australia and Singapore.

The developer is turning to fast-growing markets with slowing economic expansion back home where Singapore faces the risk of a recession this year.

Demand for homes in Vietnam has soared as overseas companies moved into the South-east Asian country after it joined the World Trade Organization in January 2007.

Foreign direct investment commitments increased to US$20 billion last year, from US$12 million in 2006, helping boost economic growth to the fastest in more than a decade.

'Vietnam is currently going through a huge growth in the economy, the government has been very pro- business and is welcoming foreign developers, so prospects are quite exciting,' said Wilson Liew, an analyst with Kim Eng Securities Pte in Singapore. 'The impact would be even more visible in the next few years.'

CapitaLand said in June more than 400 people lined up for 273 units on offer at The Vista, a 750-home project in Ho Chi Minh City. The apartments were sold by 2pm local time that day.

The second set of apartments released for sale at the development also sold out within a day, the company said. The homes were priced at between US$1,200 and US$1,600 a square metre.

CapitaLand said last year it may increase the number of homes it is building in Vietnam to 6,000 in the next three years. The company also may consider developing offices, shopping malls and leisure centers.

CapitaLand shares closed 12 cents, or 1.9 per cent, up to close at S$6.30, the highest in a week, after rising as much as 2.9 per cent. The Straits Times Index gained 0.6 per cent.

The Singapore-based developer also has expanded abroad by investing in a Tokyo project worth as much as US$1.5 billion with Mitsubishi Estate Co.

CapitaLand has spent 32 billion yen (S$417 million) for a 20 per cent stake in the project to build a 35-storey office tower and a 20-storey condominium, CEO Liew said on Feb 22 at a presentation.

Mitsubishi Estate, Japan's biggest builder by market worth, is leading the development at a golf driving range near the country's busiest train station, where construction is set for completion by 2011. Heiwa Real Estate Co also is taking part in the project.

CapitaLand is seeking to expand abroad as price gains in Singapore are expected to slow.

The government cut the city's 2008 economic growth forecast to 4 to 6 per cent earlier this month, from 4.5 to 6 per cent previously.

CapitaLand plans to offer at most 1,000 homes in Singapore this year, down from the 1,430 it sold last year. -- Bloomberg

Citibank Launches S$3.5m High-Tech Centre For High Net Worth clients

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 26 February 2008

Citibank is gunning for more high net worth clients with a new S$3.5 million high-tech centre in Singapore.

The centre will have private conference rooms, video conferencing facilities and a plush ambience akin to a five-star hotel catering to high net worth clients.

Citibank believes such clients form a growing market, which will help it compete in the lucrative banking segment.

Such individuals typically have more than S$1 million in assets that can be invested.

And according to Citibank Singapore’s CEO Jonathan Larsen, there are 38,000 such individuals in Singapore today.

He said: “That number is going to grow and those people are going to get richer, their needs are becoming increasingly sophisticated, not just the traditional range of products.

“It’s now a very sophisticated range of hedge funds, it’s estate planning tools, it’s estate planning insurance concepts so that people can think about their legacy and how to maximise that for future generations. It’s bespoke structured products where we create a product specifically around your needs, just for one client.”

Citibank said this is the first such centre in Singapore, following successful launches in Hong Kong, Taipei and Seoul.

GIC Buys Tokyo Hotel From Morgan Stanley, Starwood

Source : The Business Times, February 26, 2008

GIC Real Estate, the property investment arm of the Government of Singapore Investment Corp (GIC), said on Tuesday that it has bought the Westin Tokyo hotel from funds managed by Starwood Capital and Morgan Stanley.

The 438-room, five-star hotel will continue to be operated by Starwood Hotels and Resorts under the Westin brand name, GIC Real Estate said in a statement.

The Singapore firm did not disclose the purchase price but the Nikkei financial daily reported earlier this month that the deal was worth 77 billion yen (US$717 million). -- REUTERS

A Place For Residents - And Birds And Trees

Source : The Straits Times, Feb 27, 2008

Part of Sungei Ulu Pandan woodland to be cleared for flats, but nature lovers’ concerns also heeded.

THEY wanted to save the birds and the trees.

The Housing Board needed the area to build five new blocks of flats to replace old ones.

The 1,330 people who signed a petition to save the flora and fauna in the Sungei Ulu Pandan woodland did not get their way.

A part of the area will be cleared, with work having begun last month.

But the HDB , heeding the views of nature lovers, has promised a ‘green buffer” of about 30 trees in a 30m strip separating the proposed residential area from the woodland.

It has also pledged to clear the area in stages so that birds and other animals can migrate to adjacent wooded areas.

The petitioners, ranging from students and retirees to architects and scientists, wrote to the Prime Minister earlier this month. They said they ‘truly value the presence and continued existence of this little remaining woodland’, and that its destruction would ‘be a great loss to our community and the nation’.

The construction will uproot around 150 trees in the 3.7ha stretch, which is tucked away next to Commonwealth Avenue West. There, some trees are almost 40 years old.

And a study of the area by The Nature Society last year uncovered many bird species, including a pair of endangered changeable hawk eagles, which call the woodland home.

But the area is also needed for Ghim Moh residents affected by the Selective En-Bloc Redevelopment Scheme (Sers).

The HDB had announced plans in 2006 for new two- to five-room flats for almost 1,000 households, to replace blocks in the area that were over 30 years old. Construction is slated for completion in 2011.

A check with the HDB revealed that it had no other suitable sites for the project.

Dr Kennedy Chew, an IT researcher who helped to coordinate the petition, conceded that new flats were needed.

‘But we are hoping that the Government will consider moving the development somewhere else nearby instead,’ added Dr Chew, a long-time resident of the area.

Dr Ho Hua Chew, who chairs the Nature Society’s conservation committee, said: ‘The woodland provides a home for birds that have otherwise been displaced in this urban jungle.’ There are only about five known changeable hawk eagle nesting sites in Singapore, he added.

But Mr Christopher de Souza, an MP for the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC and the area’s custodian, said the development was a much-needed one for the Ghim Moh precinct and one that many residents were looking forward to.

The site had been chosen, he said, as it was near the blocks that are to be demolished under Sers.

Nearly four in 10 of the area’s affected residents are elderly people who have lived there for decades. They want to continue residing among friends and family.

The HDB , responding to queries, said the eagles’ nest was not within the site, and it is working with the National Parks Board to ensure the nest’s well-being.

Said Mr de Souza: ‘We hope to achieve the best of both worlds.’

Hersing Full-Year Net Income Doubles

Source : The Business Times, Feb 27, 2008

It does not expect the record real estate activity of ‘07 to be repeated.

HERSING Corporation, which owns the ERA real estate marketing franchise here, the StorHub self-storage business and a 51 per cent stake in the Singapore network of US remittance giant Western Union, yesterday reported a doubling of full-year net income and revenue to $38.8 million and $197.2 million respectively.

But the group said it does not expect the record real estate activity of 2007 to be repeated this year.

It also said profit attributable from its financial services business will be diluted as Western Union has a 49 per cent share of after-tax profit from the remittance network in Singapore from Jan 1, 2008.

ERA brokered about 30,000 property deals in Singapore last year, more than double the number in 2006, said Hersing Corporation president Jack Chua.

Private property deals accounted for more than 70 per cent of Hersing’s $169.5 million real estate brokerage and related services turnover.

ERA had about a 40 per cent market share of total HDB resale and private residential property sales in Singapore last year, Mr Chua said.

Shareholders will receive a three cents per share special interim dividend payable on March 25 and a one cent per share final dividend payable on May 11.

Hersing’s $38.8 million net earnings for the year ended Dec 31, 2007 equates to roughly a quarter of the group’s $151.1 million market cap based on its closing price of 51.5 cents yesterday.

Hersing owns the master franchise for the ERA brand in the Asia-Pacific and operates the ERA business directly in Singapore and China. Mr Chua said the group is now pursuing the appointment of an ERA franchisee for China.

If that happens, the franchisee will pay Hersing a one-time lump sum and a monthly royalty fee.

Hersing will also start operating two new StorHub facilities in Singapore this year.

DPM Wong Kan Seng Says S'pore Attracting More New PRs, Citizens

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 27 February 2008

Singapore has been increasingly attracting new citizens and permanent residents (PRs), who help sustain the country's economic growth.

Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng said local Singaporeans alone are still not sufficient to meet the manpower demands here.

He revealed the latest immigration statistics during the debate on the Prime Minister's Office budget on Wednesday.

According to the figures, more foreigners have decided to call Singapore home for good.

Last year, Singapore saw over 63,000 new PRs, an 11-per-cent increase from 2006; and the city-state also welcomed more than 17,000 new citizens, a 30-per-cent jump.

Mr Wong said, however, there were only 760 more babies born last year compared to 2006.

Related Video Link -

He added that Singapore must continue to keep an open-door policy, both to new immigrants and foreign talents, although citizens remain the core of the population.

"For now, Singapore is a talent magnet for many. However, the global competition for talent is intense. Whether we like it or not, those who are capable and talented will be drawn to places with better opportunities and where they feel welcomed. And if Singapore does not welcome them, they will simply look elsewhere and they will then compete against us," said Mr Wong.

On integrating new citizens into the society, the minister cited some who have adapted to Singapore and are contributing to the city-state.

One of them is Kim Jin Ju from South Korea, a prefect at Yu Neng Primary. She participated in MediaCorp's Roving DV competition in 2006 and her school's entry came in first.

While he acknowledged MPs' concerns over the pace of immigration and social integration, Mr Wong said attracting immigrants will remain a key strategy to ensure the country's long-term growth and prosperity.

"So let us open our doors, minds and our hearts. We must work together, be welcoming to new immigrants and help integrate them into our community. There is a need for mutual acceptance, adjustment and respect. We can then live as one harmonious family to create even greater possibilities for ourselves, and our children and our future generations to come," Mr Wong said.

He also said schools, companies and the People's Association have implemented programs to help promote integration. But he noted that more can be done to break down barriers and dispel unwarranted biases.

Mr Wong added that Singaporeans based abroad are not forgotten. The government has been trying to engage them actively through events such as the Singapore Day. The inaugural event, held in New York last April, saw some 6,000 attendees.

He said another Singapore Day will be held in Melbourne, Australia this October. - CNA/ac