Friday, February 29, 2008

URA Launches Sale Of 11 Land Parcels At Sembawang Rd/Andrews Ave

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 29 February 2008

The Urban Redevelopment Authority has launched 11 land parcels at Sembawang Road and Andrews Avenue for sale for landed housing development.

This is the second phase of the planned Sembawang Greenvale estate.

It is one of the eight residential sites on the confirmed list announced under the Government Land Sales Programme for the first half of 2008.

The estate will have a mix of landed housing including bungalows, semi-detached and terrace houses.

Phase 1 of Sembawang Greenvale, which consists of 12 land parcels with a total of 57 units, was successfully sold in October 2007.

The 11 land parcels under Phase 2 will be sold on 99-year leases.

A public auction will be held on April 22. - CNA/ms

Singapore Land Posts 1,252% Rise In Full-Year Net Profit

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 29 February 2008

Fair value gains as a result of a revaluation of properties has boosted the full-year earnings of Singapore Land by 1,252 percent.

It posted net earnings of nearly S$1.4 billion, compared with S$121 million in the year-ago period.

Revenue rose 34 percent to S$271 million.

This was due to the contribution from its Pan Pacific Singapore hotel operations and higher rental income.

Singapore Land expects the office and retail rental market to remain buoyant in 2008 because the Singapore economy is forecast to grow moderately and office supply will continue to be limited.

However it is more cautious about the residential property space, amidst the current turbulent global financial environment

Singapore Land is recommending a first and final dividend of 20 Singapore cents per share.

Meanwhile, its parent company United Industrial Corp reported a 139 percent rise in its net profit for the full year to S$1.2 billion.

This is on the back of a 62 percent rise in revenue to S$528 million. - CNA/ms

Area Around Singapore River To Be Revamped For F1 Night Race

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 29 February 2008

The area around the Singapore River is getting a new look to give it a night-time buzz, and lighting will be a key feature in the makeover.

The Read and Cavenagh bridges will be fitted with programmable lights that produce different colours and patterns. There will also be lights under the Clemenceau, Coleman and Elgin bridges.

Even the underpasses at Boat Quay, Empress Place and Clarke Quay will be fitted with programmable lights.

The river steps outside Central Mall and UOB Plaza will light up as well.

Floating lights in the shape of jellyfish will be making a splash on the river outside Empress Place. There will also be new street lamps and lights on the trees along the riverfront.

Work on the makeover starts in April and the Singapore Tourism Board is aiming to finish the first phase in time for the Formula One night race in September.

The first phase of infrastructure work stretches from the mouth of the Singapore River to the Cavenagh Bridge and Clarke Quay – about 2km out of the total 3km of works.

The second phase – from Robertson Quay to Kim Seng Bridge – will start in October 2008, and is scheduled to be completed in March 2009.- CNA/so

Development Charges To Rise With Biggest Hikes In Industrial And Warehouse Sectors

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 29 February 2008

Developers will have to pay more to redevelop non-residential sites such as hospitals, hotels, shops and warehouses.

They also have to pay marginally more to redevelop residential sites for condominiums.

This is according to the latest revision of development charge rates released by the Ministry of National Development (MND).

The biggest hikes came from non-residential sites, which include parcels for hotel and hospital, as well as industrial and warehouse use.

The industry and warehouse sector saw the development charge rise 16.8 per cent overall.

The most affected was the Tuas Area, which includes Kranji, Lim Chu Kang and Choa Chu Kang.

For hotels and hospitals, there's been a 3.3 per cent rise all round.

According to consultants Knight Frank, this was likely fuelled by a hospital site at Novena Terrace and Irrawaddy Road that was sold to the Parkway Group for S$1.2 billion.

Knight Frank said locations with the biggest percentage increases include Sungei Seletar, Yio Chu Kang Road, Raffles City and Grange Road area.

Commercial sites will see their development charge go up by 1.5 per cent in general, moderating from the high of 42 per cent in September 2007.

Consultants CB Richard Ellis (CBRE) said the increases were seen in areas where there were recent land sale transactions.

These include the Serangoon Central, Toa Payoh, Braddell Road and Bishan region.

CBRE said the hike could be due to the recent award of a commercial site at Lorong 6 Toa Payoh.

For the closely-watched development charge for residential plots, rates have gone up 2.6 per cent overall compared with the last review in September.

The rise is seen to be not significant, given that the charge has been increased a few times in 2007 as a result of the booming private residential property market.

The Thomson, Ang Mo Kio Ave 6 and Choa Chu Kang Road areas saw the sharpest increase - with the charge rising nearly 29 per cent.

The increase was due to some collective sales done in the second half of 2007 in fringe areas such as the Thomson Road and East Coast areas.

Development charges are paid by developers to enhance the use of sites or build bigger projects on them.

The charges are revised every March and September and are based on recent land and property values. -CNA/vm

CityDev’s 4Q Profit Rose 71%

Source : TODAY, Friday, February 29, 2008

City Developments (CityDev) said fourth-quarter profit rose 71 per cent after home prices surged to an 11-year high in the city state.

Net income rose to $235 million in the three months ended Dec 31, from $137.3 million a year earlier, the company said. Full-year profit climbed to $725 million, or 76 cents a share, from $351.7 million, or 36.6 cents.

CityDev and rivals CapitaLand and Keppel Land may face declining demand in Singapore this year amid concerns the economy could fall into a recession. Government data showed private home prices surged 31 per cent last year, but prices rose at a slower pace after the Government took steps to cool the market and the United States subprime crisis dampened sentiment.

“Moving forward, the performance of the property market will largely depend on how the sub-prime crisis pans out and its impact on global economies,” CityDev said. “Transaction volume and rental increase have slowed down in the fourth quarter.”

CityDev shares closed up 1.3 per cent at $12.48.

Sixfold Surge In Allgreen 2007 Profit

Source : The Business Times, February 29, 2008

ALLGREEN Properties’ 2007 net profit surged more than sixfold to $493.5 million on the back of a fair value gain of $348.5 million on its investment properties. In contrast, the developer recorded net profit of $75.9 million for 2006.

Excluding revaluation gains, Allgreen’s 2007 net profit came to a more modest $145.0 million but was still 91 per cent higher compared to the previous year. Revenue for the year ended Dec 31, 2007, rose 19.4 per cent to $568.8 million - from $476.5 million a year ago - as the developer sold more homes amidst new launches and saw increased revenue from its investment properties and hotel.

Last year, Allgreen officially launched Cairnhill Residences at Cairnhill Circle, Blossoms@Woodleigh and phase 1c of Pavilion Park at Bukit Batok. Cairnhill Residences is fully sold while Blossoms and Pavilion Park phase 1c are almost fully sold. The company also sold 186 units of its 536-unit Cascadia at Bukit Timah Road.

For investment properties, Allgreen’s Great World City office, retail and service apartment complex and Tanglin Place enjoyed higher occupancies and rents. At Tanglin Mall, however, renovations to increase lettable area meant that the occupancy was lower although rental rates were slightly higher.

At Traders Hotel, room rates and occupancy were higher in 2007 than the previous year, the company said. Allgreen’s earnings per share rose to 31.4 cents in 2007, up from 7.2 cents in 2006. The company declared a dividend of five cents a share.

Going forward, Allgreen said that it expects a property market slowdown in the early part of 2008 but is hopeful that the second half of the year will bring a recovery - in line with what other developers in Singapore have said.

‘The market in the early months of 2008 is expected to be fairly quiet, given the financial and economic uncertainties in the United States,’ the company said. ‘We are optimistic of a pick-up in activities in the second half of 2008.’

Allgreen shares closed two cents up at $1.28 yesterday.

Lease Buyback Scheme: ‘Unlocking’ Value

Source : TODAY, Friday, February 29, 2008

Lease Buyback Scheme to benefit the elderly

Some 25,000 households - or 70 per cent of elderly two and three-room flat owners - will qualify for the Housing and Development Board’s (HDB) new Lease Buyback Scheme (LBS) that kicks off next year.

The HDB will buy back the tail end of the flat’s lease from elderly owners at market value, so that they can “unlock” the value of their flat. The lessee would be left with just 30 years of lease to his or her flat.

First announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the last National Day Rally, details of the LBS were unveiled in Parliament yesterday by National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan.

In addition to the equity from the selling of part of the flat’s lease, the HDB will provide a subsidy of $10,000. However, only $5,000 will be paid upfront in cash. The remaining equity will be used to pay the CPF Life annuity scheme that provides monthly payouts for life.

“I believe that the LBS, together with CPF Life, will substantially improve the financial situation of lower income elderly households,” said Mr Mah. “In particular, many of today’s elderly do not have much in their Retirement Accounts.”

But not every HDB lessee qualifies for the LBS. The scheme is restricted to those aged 62 and above who live in three-room or smaller flats. They must have enjoyed at most one housing subsidy and have a household income of less than $3,000. They must also not have bought bigger housing types before. Furthermore, their outstanding housing loans must not be more than $5,000 and they must have stayed in the flat for at least five years.

If the lessee decides to terminate the 30-year lease, there will be a pro-rated refund from the HDB. And if he or she outlives the 30-year lease, the HDB will look into the individual’s circumstances to determine an appropriate housing arrangement, if he or she is unable to pay for lease extension.

“I want to assure them that they will have a roof over their heads, if they outlive their LBS lease,” affirmed Mr Mah.

Jurong MP Mdm Halimah Yacob said the HDB needed to reach out to the elderly who are eligible for the LBS.

She had earlier raised concerns about how the annuity scheme would exclude a quarter of CPF members, those who have less than $40,000 in cash in their CPF accounts - the “very folks who need such protection the most”.

Rental Flats: Full Review On The Way

Source : TODAY, Friday, February 29, 2008

ONE tenant of a public rental flat installed a split-airconditioner in her flat, thanks to her children. Another asked for a season car-parking label.

Still other tenants of such heavily-subsidised rental flats - meant as a “final safety net” for the needy with no other options - have been known to sublet their units.

The Housing and Development Board (HDB) will not hesitate to clamp down on such cases and redistribute the flats to more deserving cases in the long waiting queue, said National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan in addressing the keen shortage of rental flats.

He announced a comprehensive review of the Public Rental Scheme to better manage demand, even as the HDB builds more of such flats.

There will be a “more holistic assessment criteria” for applicants, to start with. Mr Mah noted that ex-HDB lessees who had fallen on hard times made up two-thirds of rental flat applicants. Even so, one in five had the money to buy a smaller flat, while many could have stayed with their families.

As for the difficulties of low-income divorcee families, who cannot apply for a rental flat 30 months after the matrimonial home is sold off, Mr Mah said the wider issue of dysfunctional families needs to be studied from a “wider perspective”.

But the Ministry would look into the idea of short-term housing for low-income divorcee families, which now make up more than 20 per cent of those applying for public rental flat. Meanwhile, the HDB will increase the stock of rental flats in the next few years from 42,000 to 50,000. Already, 930 rental units converted from vacant blocks will be ready by this quarter, while work will start this year on another 2,000 which will be ready for allocation from 2011.

Shortage Of New HDB Flats?

Source : TODAY, Friday, February 29, 2008

Young couples must be realistic, says Mah

AMID concern that young couples are being priced out of the public housing resale market, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said the Government spent, on average, $1.4 billion a year over the last five years on its commitment to keep housing affordable - and has allocated a further $1.6 billion this coming financial year.

Last year, demand for public housing saw resale prices rise by about 17 per cent. Many first-time buyers voiced frustration at having to turn to the resale market due to a shortage of new HDB flats - but Mr Mah said that this was not an accurate picture.

While there was overwhelming demand for new HDB flats in mature estates such as Bukit Merah, Mr Mah pointed out there are still some 700 units available in the Built-To-Order projects launched last year in Punggol and Sengkang.

Urging buyers “to be realistic in their expectations”, he said: “The Government cannot ensure that flat buyers will get their ideal flat at the specific location and at the time that they prefer.”

As to calls from Members of Parliament to raise the $8,000 income ceiling for housing subsides, Mr Mah pointed out that eight in 10 Singaporean families are already eligible, which means even the upper-middle income are enjoying subsidised housing. “I hope members will agree with me that this is more than generous.”

Turning to another emotion-laden issue that surfaced during Tuesday’s Budget Debate, the Minister stressed that compulsory acquisition of flats by HDB was “absolutely the last resort”, carried out “only after other measures have been exhausted, and only if lessees do not make any effort to resolve their financial situation”.

He was referring to Tampines MP Ong Kian Min’s account of Ms Judy Mitchell’s plight - she had to vacate her flat after accumulating arrears of more than $10,000.

Mr Mah said Ms Mitchell lives in a five-room flat with her adult daughter and mother. “This is her third flat. She has bought and sold two previous flats and has made profits of about $190,000. She has enjoyed three concessionary loans.”

On four occasions over two years, HDB had allowed her to defer her mortgage or pay half her instalment amount, but Ms Mitchell - who was not receptive to HDB’s suggestion to include her working daughter to help service the housing loan - “did not make any attempt to find a long-term solution, and arrears kept mounting”.

Still, Mr Mah said he would ask HDB to consider a non-concessionary loan should Ms Mitchell fail to get a bank loan to buy a smaller flat.

Three-Pronged Strategy To Resolve Rental Flat Shortage

Source : The Straits Times, Feb 29, 2008

A review of the public rental scheme will also be carried out to ensure more holistic assessment criteria.

THE Government has unveiled a three-pronged strategy to tackle rising demand for public housing rental flats.

National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan yesterday said he has asked the Housing Board to resolve the shortage in three ways.

One is to increase flat supply. Secondly, the eligibility criteria for rental flats will be reviewed; and thirdly, enforcement will be stepped up to weed out those who abuse the rules on use of flats.

To address stronger demand, the stock of rental flats will go up by 20 per cent to 50,000 over the next few years, said Mr Mah. Since 2006, when building for rental flats resumed, some 2,200 new units have been built.

Another 930 rental flats converted from vacant blocks will also be ready by next month.

This year, another 2,000 units will be built across different estates, and ready for families to move in from 2011.

Mr Mah was responding to calls by some MPs to review the policy on rental flats.

Ms Irene Ng (Tampines GRC) questioned whether the current 5 per cent of total housing stock for rental was sufficient. She also called for rules on rental flats to be relaxed ’so that Singaporeans have more access to them’.

Mr Mah disclosed that a ‘comprehensive review’ will be done on the public rental scheme.

‘This review will put in place more holistic assessment criteria of rental flat applicants,’ he said.

Mr Mah also noted that Singaporeans who can afford home ownership or have family support should not join the queue, otherwise, ‘the more needy cases will be crowded out’.

He referred to an example raised by Mr Masagos Zulkifli (Tampines GRC) of elderly residents who had no place to go after selling their flats and giving the proceeds to their children who subsequently refused to live with them.

‘Our rental flats cannot be used to support such irresponsible behaviour of the children,’ said Mr Mah.

Addressing another point raised by Ms Ng on low-income divorcee families who are increasingly turning to rental flats, Mr Mah said: ‘We have to look at the overall issue of low-income dysfunctional families from a wider perspective together with the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports and other ministries. The issue cannot be just limited to housing.’

Among others, the review will also study how existing tenants can buy their own homes when their situation improves.

In reply to MPs who shared anecdotes of tenants installing air-conditioning units or sub-letting their rental flats, Mr Mah said that ‘HDB will not hesitate to terminate the flat tenancy of those who abuse or violate the conditions of the lease’, and will re-distribute these to the more deserving cases in the queue.

The Government will continue to be flexible to help families in financial hardship, added Mr Mah.

‘But the individual has to exercise prudence and financial responsibility.’

Low: When Will It Be Hougang’s Turn For HDB Upgrading?

Source : The Straits Times, Feb 29, 2008

OPPOSITION MP Low Thia Khiang crossed swords with Minister of State (National Development) Grace Fu over the upgrading of HDB flats, especially those in his Hougang constituency.

Mr Low yesterday repeatedly pressed her for answers as to when his residents could benefit from upgrading and asked if they were being fairly treated.

He accused the Government of using upgrading as a political tool to change voting behaviour, and wanted to know how much it spent on upgrading flats in different precincts.

He also claimed that the Government ‘owes every eligible flat owner in Hougang constituency $22,500 to $27,000 for the long overdue upgrading’.

This is based on the average cost of $30,000 for a basic upgrading package, of which the Government pays the major portion and residents the rest.

It has been 12 years since he was told that Hougang’s turn for the Main Upgrading Programme (MUP) would not happen for ‘many, many years’, he said during the debate on the National Development Ministry’s budget.

Noting that the MUP has since been replaced by schemes such as the Home Improvement Programme (HIP), he asked: ‘Will opposition wards need to start all over again and wait many, many years for HIP to happen?’

Ms Fu said the HIP was the result of residents asking for more flexibility and consultation in upgrading.

The programme would benefit 300,000 flats across the island.

Explaining that the MUP was restructured so that flats could be spruced up more quickly, she said the change applied to PAP and non-PAP constituencies.

Mr Low had asked about the amount spent upgrading each flat and how these government funds would be applied fairly to everyone.

Responding, Ms Fu said the amount was about $30,000 a unit. But she told Mr Low that the question of fairness did not arise in this matter.

‘It is not a case of an entitlement. It does not mean that every Singapore household can come and claim for this sum of money,’ she said.

‘It is something that we will prioritise. It’s something that we will do depending on the age, the quality of the flats.’

And who gets HIP first also depends on the funds available.

The Government’s focus now is to have lifts stop at every floor of HDB blocks by 2014, she said.

‘And Hougang residents can look forward to that by 2014,’ she said, adding that Mr Low could speed the process up by having his town council undertake the upgrading of the lifts in his constituency.

Why Income Cap For HDB Buyers Won’t Be Raised

Source : The Straits Times, Feb 29, 2008

THE Housing Board will not raise the $8,000 income ceiling for first-time buyers of HDB flats, despite numerous calls from MPs and the public for it to do so.

The reason: The income criteria capture some eight in 10 Singaporean families, including upper middle-income earners, said National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan yesterday.

‘I hope Members will agree with me this is more than generous and will not be surprised if I tell them HDB has no plans to revise the income ceiling,’ he added.

His reply during the debate on his ministry’s budget was sparked by calls from MPs such as Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) during the debate earlier in the week on the Finance Minister’s Budget statement.

Mr de Souza said buyers, especially young couples, had no access to affordable housing if they earned more than $8,000.

Mr Mah acknowledged HDB resale prices saw ‘heady’ growth of about 17 per cent last year. But he did not expect the spike to continue.

There are other affordable alternatives for such couples, he said, citing the resale market in executive flats.

Mr Mah also assured Singaporeans that the Government will ensure HDB flats remain within reach of the vast majority, especially young couples seeking to buy their first home. For instance, they will get more chances in balloting exercises for new flats.

On average, the Government spent $1.4 billion a year over the last five years on public housing. In the coming 2008 financial year, it has set aside $1.6 billion.

The vast sums are spent on providing Singaporeans with various housing types to meet changing aspiration and various needs, said Mr Mah as he detailed HDB plans, policies and programmes.

Affordable housing

NEW HDB flats are priced below market value. And the subsidy for first-time buyers can go up to $88,000.

As a result, first-time home owners last year used, on average, only 20 per cent of their monthly income to pay their home loan.

This is well within the 30 per cent benchmark for affordability.

Also, at least 70 per cent do not fork out cash from their pockets each month but settle their mortgage entirely with their CPF contributions.

Many choices

THREE more sites will be offered to private developers to build condo-style flats, under HDB’s Design, Build and Sell scheme.

It will bring the total of such HDB flats to around 4,000 units, to cater to families who can afford to pay more.

But Mr Mah stressed that HDB-built flats will still be the mainstay of new flat supply.

Sufficient supply

ABOUT 700 new flats in Punggol and Sengkang are still available for purchase, said Mr Mah, who allayed concerns over whether supply is enough to meet growing demand.

HDB builds flats only if buyers show firm commitment, in the form of a deposit. It started the practice following a glut of unsold flats in the 1990s.

This build-to-order scheme has not reduced supply. Some 10,500 flats have been launched since last year, and HDB will continue to do more of such projects.

Mr Mah also assured the House that getting a new flat was not a case of tikam-tikam (’trying your luck’), a phrase Mr Baey Yam Keng (Tanjong Pagar GRC) used of couples who came to see him when they could not get flats.

Mr Mah said his checks with HDB showed in the past six years, only 250 were still unsuccessful after taking part in more than four HDB sales exercises. ‘This is less than 1 per cent of first-timer applicants applying for a new HDB flat,’ he said. Also, four out of five of the 250 applied only for homes in established towns.

Such outcomes, Mr Mah said, are why he repeatedly advises young couples to be flexible and go for new flats in newer towns or resale flats.

HDB Will Cater To Buyers With Different Income Levels: Mah

Source : The Business Times, Fenruary 29, 2008

THE Housing & Development Board (HDB) will continue to provide a range of housing options to cater to buyers of differing income levels and aspirations, Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan told Parliament yesterday.

He was responding to concerns that the price gain in the HDB market is putting flats out of the reach of many. HDB resale prices rose by about 17 per cent last year. In addition, reports said that buyers forked out up to $727,000 for a five-room flat in a private-developer built, condo-style project offered under the Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS).

The price gain for resale homes should slow this year. Mr Mah said: ‘The HDB resale price index grew by only one per cent in January, and I expect prices to grow at a more moderate pace in 2008.’

The HDB plans to release three more DBSS sites to build up a ‘reasonable stock’ of DBSS flats, Mr Mah said. Together with the four sites already released, the new sites will yield about 4,000 flats.

He said HDB will continue to cater to buyers with different aspirations and means by providing a range of housing options.

However, Mr Mah said that flats built by HDB will continue to be the mainstay of new supply.

‘Similar to executive condominiums, DBSS flats serve a small niche market of buyers that can afford to pay higher prices for public housing with different designs and features,’ he said.

Mr Mah also unveiled details of HDB’s new Lease Buyback Scheme, which aims to help low-income and elderly households.

Under the scheme, which will be implemented next year, the HDB will purchase the tail-end of the flat lease from an elderly household. The occupants will continue to stay in the flat, which will be left with a 30-year lease. On top of the housing equity unlocked, it will provide an additional $10,000 subsidy.

Of the total amount, $5,000 will be given to the household as an upfront lump sum, while the remainder will be used to purchase a CPF Life Plan to provide the owner with a monthly stream of income for life. If the flat is jointly owned by an elderly couple, they will get individual CPF Life Plans.


《联合早报》Feb 29, 2008


建屋发展局在设计、兴建和销售计划(Design, Build and Sell Scheme,简称DBSS)下供发展商投标碧山第24街一地段。根据当局昨天公布的成功标价,青岛建设集团公司新加坡分公司(Qingdao Construction Group Corporation Singapore Branch)的标价以容积率每平方英尺计算,都比其他发展商在淡滨尼、文庆路和宏茂桥的DBSS地段的标价高。这三地段的容积率每平方英尺分别是114 元、234元和212元。






Dennis Wee房地产经纪行董事许家荣也有相同看法。他认为即使DBSS的价格比建屋局的组屋来得贵,但选购DBSS组屋的公众一般收入都比较高,因此物价高涨的压力对他们购屋的决定,影响相对不会那么大。他说,“更何况如果我买的是建屋局组屋,我还得装修,但买DBSS的组屋,所有的装修都已经做好了。这些都还会是要买房子的人会考虑的事项。”



《联合早报》Feb 28, 2008






嘉德置地所设立的越南发展基金,将投资在越南的住宅产业上。集团计划持有基金的30%股权,其余70%则交由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。


让年长低收入屋主套现 组屋屋契回购计划详情公布

《联合早报》Feb 29, 2008


国家发展部长马宝山昨天在国会拨款委员会辩论国家发展部新财政年的收支预算时,公布了李显龙总理去年在国庆群众大会上首次提到的屋契回购计划(Lease Buyback Scheme,简称LBS)的详情。


在这笔钱当中,5000元现金将直接进入屋主口袋,其余的必须投入公积金终身入息计划(CPF Life)。更重要的是屋主可以继续住在原来的组屋里,不必为了套现而搬到其他地方。













$5.25b Credit Facility For Marina Bay Sands

Source : The Strait Times, Feb 29, 2008

DESPITE volatile global credit markets, another giant syndicated loan deal has been completed in Singapore.

The deal is a $5.25 billion credit facility to finance the construction of the Marina Bay Sands integrated resort (IR).

It follows Genting International's success earlier this month in lining up funding of $4.19 billion for much of the building of its Sentosa IR.

Las Vegas Sands Corp's senior vice-president for finance, Mr Scott Henry, was in town yesterday for the announcement of the Marina Bay Sands deal, allowing him to meet executives from the participating banks.

More than 30 banks, including Goldman Sachs, Standard Chartered Bank, Lehman Brothers Finance Asia and the three local banks, are involved as coordinators of the financing.

The credit facility is the largest private Singapore dollar-denominated financing ever completed.

Mr Henry said the completion of the credit facility underscores both the attractiveness of the Singapore market, and the enthusiasm and confidence the financial community has in the success of the IR.

Participating banks said the response to the credit facility had been encouraging, especially in the light of the turmoil in credit markets.

'This demonstrates the participating banks' confidence in Singapore and the Marina Bay Sands project,' said Mr Elbert Pattijn, the head of specialised corporate and investment banking at DBS Group Holdings.

Marina Bay Prime Office Space Equal To HK Business Site

Source : The Straits Times, Feb 29, 2008

It'll be a 'seamless extension' of CBD, to rival London's and Hong Kong's

THE new Marina Bay growth area will be a 'seamless extension' of the Central Business District (CBD) and will offer a significant amount of office space, said National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan yesterday.

LIVELY WATERFRONT: Fifteen years from now, the new Marina Bay financial district will provide premium office space, pedestrian-friendly covered walkways and an extensive underground network. -- PHOTO: URBAN REDEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY

Adjacent to Raffles Place and Shenton Way, it will be more than twice the size of London's Canary Wharf and provide as much premium office space as Hong Kong's Central district.

Mr Mah was responding to a question by Mr Liang Eng Hwa (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) on plans to rejuvenate the CBD and develop Marina Bay.

Mr Mah said: 'Marina Bay remains the centrepiece of our efforts. It will be a seamless extension of Raffles Place, and will offer high-quality office spaces along a lively waterfront.'

The district will have a land area of 85ha, more than double the size of London's bustling financial and shopping hub, Canary Wharf.

It will also offer an estimated 2.82 million sq m of office space, the equivalent of Hong Kong's main business district.

Mr Mah also revealed that the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) will release more sites in this area over the next five to six years.

Once built, these projects will provide more than 1.1 million of office space - the total amount of office space in Raffles Place.

The new Marina Bay financial district is expected to take more than 15 years to materialise, he added.

Mr Mah also said the URA will release land around Tanjong Pagar and 'redevelop the Ophir-Rochor corridor into a vibrant office cluster'.

Mr Mah also addressed a query from Mr Zainudin Nordin (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) on having more underground connections between buildings in the downtown area.

He said Marina Bay will be a pedestrian-friendly area, with covered walkways on the ground and an extensive underground network linking developments to MRT stations.

He added that the Government is working to ease the office space crunch in both the short and long term.

In the short term, the Government has released land for transitional office sites and vacant state properties, which will yield 150,000 sq m of space. These spaces will be available within a year.

The Government has also temporarily disallowed the conversion of office space to other uses in the central area.

Over the long term, about 1.4 million sq m of office space, equal to about five years of supply, will be completed mostly in 2010 and beyond.

Mr Mah said: 'These measures are going to take some time to filter through to the market. I will suggest that in the meantime, tenants can look at alternative locations outside the central area.'

Development Charges Rates Revised: MND

Source : The Straits Times, Feb 29, 2008

THE rates of development charges (DC) have been revised for the period of Mar 1 to Aug 31, taking into account the current market values.

Rates for use of land for shopping, commercial and recreation have increased, along with those meant for residential, hospital and hotel, as well as industrial purposes.

The rest remain unchanged.

When compared against the DC table for Sept 2007, the rates for commercial use have risen by an average of 1.5 per cent while rates for residential use went up by 2.6 per cent.

DC for hotel and hospital use jumped 3.3 per cent and rates for industry/warehouse use rose by 16.8 per cent.

In a statement, the National Development Ministry said there is no change to the number of geographical sectors and their boundaries.

The revised DC rates would also apply to cases which are granted second or subsequent extension to their provisional permission.

S'pore River To Get Makeover To Add Buzz To Waterfront Nightlife

Source : The Straits Times, Feb 29, 2008

THE Singapore River, already a throbbing night-life spot, will get a large-scale makeover to add even more buzz to the waterfront area.

The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) on Friday morning announced plans to make it rock round the clock.

These include infrastructural improvements such as new lighting and signs, as well as adding a new river festival and other quayside events.

These are part of the effort to create more night-time buzz in the area, said Ms Margaret Teo, assistant chief executive (leisure) at the STB.

'Like Orchard road and the Marina Bay precincts, the Singapore River has the potential to stand out as a distinctive 24-hour entertainment lifestyle destination,' she said.

According to a 2006 survey by the STB, only 7 per cent of visitors polled actually visited Boat Quay and Clarke Quay, despite the fact that the STB has touted them as one of Singapore's must-see sights.

The STB and Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said the makeover will run into the millions but will cost less than the US$40 million facelift for Orchard Road.

The bulk of the costs will go towards infrastructural works.

The river enhancement project will be carried out in two phases, with the first expected to start in April and end in August, in time for the Formula One races Singapore is hosting in September.

It will see ambient lighting installed along the bridges, trees, river walls, boat landings, and staircases from Cavenagh Bridge to Clarke Quay.

These will include programmable lighting on bridges and underpasses, 'jellyfish' lights in the water, and even lit-river taxis.

Other improvements will include new signs and themed street furniture that will match each sub-precinct.

The second phase, to start in October and expected to be completed by March next year, will see similar improvements made to the area stretching from Robertson Quay to Kim Seng Bridge, near Zouk.

Cruise operators will also increase river taxi and cruise services along the river.

The STB will complement the 'hardware' with 'software', which will include a signature event - the Singapore River Festival - to be held from Sept 19 to 28 as a lead-up to the F1 season.

It will include a mega concert on the river, a river float parade, outdoor parties, art exhibitions, and food and beverage promotions.

The STB will work with stakeholders in Empress Place and Clarke Quay to develop their own themed events.

CDL Boss Prepared To Delay Launches In Subdued Market

Source : The Straits Times, Feb 29, 2008

Some projects can be held off till 2009, he says, as full-year gain swells to $725m

THE property market may have stalled for now, but City Developments (CDL) executive chairman Kwek Leng Beng is not too worried.

He said that if necessary, he can hold off launches of new developments until next year.

'Rather than launch today when the market is subdued, I would rather start construction on some projects first' and launch them when demand picks up, Mr Kwek said yesterday.

'If today there are not many buyers, this means that pent-up demand is building up, which can be very powerful.'

CDL plans to launch more than 400 units in four projects by June, assuming market conditions do not worsen.

It will release the 77 units at Shelford Suites in Bukit Timah, which is said to have been ready for launch for some time.

The group also intends to launch 100 units of the 228-unit Quayside Isle @ Sentosa Cove, and another 100 at a new development on the former Lock Cho Apartments in Thomson Road, which will have 336 units.

The fourth project is a joint venture at Pasir Ris Drive 1. About 150 of its 724 units are targeted for release by June.

Even if the launches end up delayed, CDL may first start construction on Shelford Suites and the Thomson Road project, said Mr Kwek.

This could also bring in more upfront cash for the group when it does sell the homes. Buyers have to pay 30 per cent in cash after foundation work is done, compared with only 20 per cent if no construction has started.

Mr Kwek's comments yesterday came on the back of a sterling year for CDL last year.

The developer, Singapore's second-largest, said full-year net profit more than doubled to a record $725 million. Revenue rose 22 per cent to $3.11 billion.

Earnings per share more than doubled to 78.3 cents for the year. Net asset value per share rose to $5.72 as at Dec 31, from $5.21 a year ago.

Last year, CDL booked profits from projects such as St Regis Residences, Tribeca and The Sail @ Marina Bay.

But it has yet to recognise any profits from One Shenton, The Solitaire, Cliveden at Grange and Wilkie Studio - which account for about $1.7 billion of sales. In all, the group sold 1,655 homes last year for a record $3.4 billion.

CDL's hotel and office properties are also enjoying high occupancy rates in the buoyant market. Its offices are almost 96 per cent occupied, compared with a market average of 92 per cent.

The group has also not adopted the same approach to revaluing its properties as some of its competitors, which have reported huge revaluation gains. With these gains, its profit would have surged to $2.8 billion, it said.

The group is recommending a final cash dividend, tax-exempt, of 20 cents a share in total.


'If today there are not many buyers, this means that pent-up demand is building up, which can be very powerful.'

MR KWEK, on why he would rather begin construction on some projects, and launch them later on when demand picked up

URA Launches 2 More Temp Office Sites In Newton

Source : The Straits Times, Feb 29, 2008

Analysts see good demand just like for a nearby plot launched earlier

TWO more transitional office sites have been launched by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) in a move to help ease some of the pressure on space.

The adjacent sites - parcel A is 8,682.8 sq m in size and parcel B is 9,037.9 sq m - are near the Newton MRT station, between Scotts Road and Anthony Road.

The sites can accommodate developments of up to four storeys that can be built within a year.

Transitional office sites, a relatively new concept, were introduced as a quick fix to the lack of space in the Central Business District (CBD).

They have 15-year leases, significantly less than the usual 99-year leases for commercial buildings.

The response has been mixed. A plot launched by the URA in Aljunied recently flopped, with all bids rejected as being too low.

The URA believes the Newton sites will fare better.

'Based on market feedback, there is still demand for transitional office sites in the city centre,' it said.

Property experts also expect a more enthusiastic response.

Mr Nicholas Mak, Knight Frank's head of research and consultancy, said the prime location near the CBD and Newton MRT would draw bidders.

And the sites being adjacent means a developer could combine the land.

'There is a potential for amalgamation to create bigger floor space,' added Mr Mak, who estimated that the sites could sell for around $100 to $130 per sq ft (psf).

This values the parcels from $14 million to $19 million each.

Mr Mak felt the Aljunied site was 'too close to the red-light district of Geylang'.

For the two latest plots, the industry experts interviewed expect a level of response similar to the Scotts Spazio site, which is across the road and was eagerly received by developers.

KOP Capital is developing the site, which cost $37 million, with partners Hwa Hong Group and Dubai Investment Group.

Insurer Prudential will lease the four-storey building for 14 years, paying $6.50 psf a month. The company should move in by September.

However, some experts believe that transitional office sites will not be commercially viable given their brief tenure. Tenders for the two Newton sites close on April 24 for parcel A and April 30 for parcel B.

HDB Unveils 'Income For Life' Scheme For The Elderly

Source : The Straits Times, Feb 29, 2008

It will buy back tail-end of flat lease at market rate, with money going to CPF Life

FOR 68-year-old retiree Teng Kiat Hwa, who owns a three-room HDB flat in Toa Payoh, his home is his only asset.

Since he fell ill and stopped driving a taxi, he has had no income and his CPF money has been dried up by medical bills.

TO SELL OR NOT TO SELL?: Mr Teng, 68, a retiree who owns a three-room HDB flat in Toa Payoh, will be able to sell part of his flat's remaining lease to the HDB next year, but he is undecided about taking up the option. -- ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

But come next year, Mr Teng will be able to sell part of his flat's remaining lease to HDB, and receive a cash payment of $5,000 and an annuity payout of about $500 monthly from CPF Life.

Details of the long-awaited 'Lease Buyback Scheme', which helps the elderly sell their HDB flats to the Government for cash - while still being able to stay in them - were unveiled yesterday by National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan.

This is how it works: HDB will buy back the tail-end of a flat lease at market valuation, leaving a 30-year lease for the household. So, for example, if a flat has a remaining lease of 70 years, HDB buys 40 years of the lease from the flat owner. It pays market rate for the lease it buys and this money goes to the new CPF Life annuity in the flat owner's name.

According to Mr Mah, the cash is enough to give a typical flat owner about $500 monthly for life. At the end of 30 years, the flat's ownership is then transferred to HDB.

If the flat owner dies before the 30 years is up, his family gets a pro-rated refund from the HDB. If he outlives the 30-year lease, HDB may extend the lease or relocate the flat owner to rental housing.

To encourage people to opt for the scheme, HDB is also providing a $10,000 'bonus' for anyone eligible for the scheme who signs up. Half of this - $5,000 - will be paid immediately in cash. The other $5,000 goes into the CPF Life annuity.

One catch: the scheme will be available only to 25,000 low-income households in Singapore. That's because the eligibility criteria restricts the scheme to those aged 62 and above and who own two- or three-room HDB flats.

Among other things, they must also have fully paid up for their flats, or else have a loan amount outstanding of less than $5,000.

Mr Mah said in Parliament yesterday that this is consistent with the objectives of the scheme, which was first announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at last year's National Day Rally.

He said the scheme is meant to supplement the recently announced CPF Life annuity by providing a stream of retirement income for poor households who may not have the minimum sum needed to sign up for CPF Life, but still need steady income in old age.

He added that the 25,000 households that qualify for the scheme represent about 70 per cent of elderly households in two- and three-room flats.

Asked for his reaction, Mr Teng said in Mandarin that it was 'an interesting option'.

'But we must consider it thoroughly before taking it up. My wife and I wanted to leave this flat to our kids,' he added.

Meanwhile, industry players yesterday welcomed the scheme, but expressed concern that the criteria were too strict.

This was also brought up in Parliament by Madam Ho Geok Choo (West Coast GRC), who asked if owners of larger HDB flat can qualify for the scheme.

Mr Mah replied that this can be examined after the scheme was implemented and feedback given.

Mr Eugene Lim, the assistant vice-president of ERA Realty Network said renting out the flat may give better yield or payouts than the annuity.

HL Asia Posts 56% Jump In Full-Year Profit On Strong China Operations

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 28 February 2008

Hong Leong Asia's foray into China is paying off for the company.

Its China operations and building materials unit both helped to boost its full-year net profit to S$95.4 million, up 56 percent on year.

Revenue rose 30 percent to S$3.2 billion.

Hong Long's share of profit from associates increased to S$25.4 million in 2007, a turnaround from the loss in 2006 of S$500,000.

Most of the contribution come from its Malaysian associate Tasek Corporation.

As at 31 December 2007, the group's net gearing ratio was 21 percent as compared to 17 percent of the previous year due to higher borrowings in the China operations.

On its outlook, Hong Leong says it expects to remain profitable, barring unforeseen circumstances.

It is citing the expected economic growth rate in China of about 8 percent to 10 percent and the continuing growth momentum of property development and construction sectors in Singapore.

Hong Leong's building materials unit is expected to benefit from strong demand for ready-mixed concrete from the construction industry. - CNA/ch

Blueprint On Sustainable Development To Be Launched In 2009

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 28 February 2008

Singapore's development into a vibrant and distinctive city will be done in a sustainable way.

And the newly-formed Inter-Ministerial Committee on Sustainable Development will be launching its blueprint on this next year.

National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said this will provide a comprehensive road map of initiatives and measures to sustain Singapore's development for the next 10 years and beyond.

Mr Mah was speaking in Parliament on Thursday in response to questions from MPs on Singapore's sustainable development policies.

He also said the government is making plans to rejuvenate the Central Business District.

Land will be released around the Tanjong Pagar area and the Ophir/Rochor corridor will be developed into a vibrant office cluster.

But he stressed the Marina Bay Financial Centre will remain the centrepiece of Singapore's push for more economic growth.

Mr Mah said it will be a "seamless extension of Raffles Place, offering high-quality office spaces along a lively waterfront".

The area generated will be equivalent to two Canary Wharfs in London.

The new financial district is expected to take more than 15 years to materialise depending on demand.

And Mr Mah gave the assurance the government will continue to release land in a calibrated manner to meet such demand. - CNA/ch

Mah Bow Tan Says Acquisition Of Flat Is "Absolute Last Resort"

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 28 February 2008

National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan assured Singaporeans in Parliament on Thursday that compulsory acquisition of a HDB flat is the "absolute last resort" – a serious decision carried out only after all other measures have been exhausted.

Mr Mah said this when he gave what he called "the full picture of Madam Judy Mitchell" – whose plight was highlighted by her MP Ong Kian Min of Tampines GRC earlier this week.

The five-room flat Judy lives in with her mother and her daughter, an air-stewardess, is her third flat.

Mr Mah said she had bought and sold two flats previously, making profits of about S$190,000. She has also enjoyed three concessionary loans.

But Judy had difficulties servicing the loan for her third flat soon after buying it.

HDB has allowed her to defer her mortgage payments or pay only half the instalment amount on four occasions for six months each, over a period of two years.

But Mr Mah said Judy did not make any attempts to find a long-term solution.

He said: "She was not receptive to HDB's suggestions to downgrade or include her working daughter to help to service the housing loan. As a result, her outstanding loan has increased beyond the original loan. They have to downgrade, while they can still obtain enough sales proceeds to afford a small flat.

"I would like to urge Mr Ong to persuade the family to please do the right thing quickly. If they cannot get a bank loan, I will ask HDB to consider providing a non-concessionary HDB loan for them." -CNA/so

Proof Must Be Furnished To Update New Addresses

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 28 February 2008

Those who apply to update their addresses on their identity cards will be required to furnish proof that they are indeed living at the addresses stated.

The move is to protect innocent victims from being harassed by loansharks.

Senior Minister of State for Law and Home Affairs Associate Professor Ho Peng Kee announced this in Parliament on Thursday when responding to concerns raised by MPs over illegal moneylending activities.

He acknowledged that some borrowers furnish outdated or false home addresses to avoid harassment, leading to innocent households being harassed.

Last year, about half of the harassment cases reported involved innocent victims of loansharks.

Noting that illegal moneylending syndicates have come up with new modes of operations, Prof Ho said the authorities are exploring ways to tackle the organised nature of loansharking squarely.

They will study the proposal made by MP for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC Christopher De Souza to make borrowing from loansharks an offence.

Prof Ho cautioned that while borrowers are part of the problem, there is also a need to consider the wide-ranging social circumstances behind these actions and establish different approaches to fit the circumstances.

He explained: "We have to differentiate. I think he suggests an approach where the Public Prosecutor is given the discretion. Indeed, he has the discretion, but he will exercise it consciously and carefully. Well, we will study this issue and include in our study the profiles of borrowers and the habits so as to strike a balance."

Six loansharking syndicates were smashed in 2007, resulting in the arrest of 37 syndicate members.

Prof Ho said the syndicates were believed to have had a pool of 2,000 debtors and had given out loans amounting to a total of more than S$1 million.

In all, 392 persons were arrested in 2007, compared to 294 in 2006. In a landmark case, a loanshark's assets were even confiscated. - CNA/so

Newton Area Growing As A Hub For Hybrid Offices

Source : The Business Times, February 29, 2008

NEWTON is shaping up as a centre for hybrid offices, with another company, The Ascott Group, moving to the neighbourhood.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) also said yesterday that it would release not one, but two, transitional office sites between Scotts Road and Anthony Road for sale.

Ascott, which is officed at the former Temasek Tower, could not say how much space has been decanted in the move but did say that its new offices in Newton will accommodate some 50 to 80 employees, including trainers, trainees and staff who will support the training activities at its Ascott Centre for Excellence there.

A spokesman for Ascott said that it leased the former Anthony Road Girls' School in mid-2007 on a 3+3+3 year lease from the Singapore Land Authority, and started moving in from the end of last year after refurbishing it.

URA offered its first transitional office site in Newton in August 2007 too. This was sold to Hwa Hong Corporation and KOP Capital for $37 million - $219 per square foot per plot ratio (psf ppr).

While the two new sites now being offered are equally well located, Knight Frank director (research and consultancy) Nicholas Mak believes bidding 'will be more cautious this time'.

Both parcels are to be sold on short-term leases of 15 years, and Knight Frank estimates the first of the new sites, Parcel A, which can yield a maximum gross floor area (GFA) of 140,189 sq ft, could see bids of between $14 million and $18.2 million, or a unit land price of $100-$130 psf ppr.

Parcel B, which can yield a maximum GFA of 145,915.4 sq ft, could see bids of between $14.6 million and $19 million, representing the same unit price range of $100-$130 psf ppr.

Mr Mak noted that current monthly gross rents for the Scotts Road area are comparatively low at between $6 and $8 psf.

He also highlighted that the proposed transitional office developments are expected to be completed by the middle of next year - and about 2.6 million sq ft of new office space is expected to be supplied to the market in 2009.

Savills Singapore director of commercial services June Chua believes that there could still be an attractive profit margin for any developer, but adds that the developer, or possibly even contractor, would have to secure a tenant first, so that there is a minimal 'void period', during which the landlord has to secure a tenant.

She also said that the target rental would have to be around $7 psf per month.

Marina Bay To Provide 1.1m Sq M Of Office Space

Source : The Business Times, February 29, 2008


It will become a seamless extension of Raffles Place, says Mah

THE upcoming financial district at Marina Bay will be twice the size of London's Canary Wharf and will provide as much Grade A office space as Hong Kong's Central.

Revealing more plans for Singapore's new financial hub, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan told Parliament yesterday that Marina Bay remains the centrepiece of the government's efforts to provide more office space.

'URA (the Urban Redevelopment Authority) will make available more sites for development in this area over the next five to six years, in line with market demand,' he said. 'When completed, these new developments will provide more than 1.1 million sq m of office space, to match the total amount of office space at Raffles Place today.'

The area will become a seamless extension of Raffles Place, Mr Mah said. It is expected to take more than 15 years to materialise, depending on market demand.

The existing central business district will not be neglected, he said. URA will release land around the Tanjong Pagar precinct as well as redevelop the Ophir/Rochor corridor into an office cluster.

Mr Mah also touched on plans for Orchard Road, saying that URA plans to work with the private sector to build a pedestrian network with underground links, walkways at street level and second-storey links between buildings.

The Ministry of National Development will set out its land use plans for the next 10-15 years in the next few months in its Master Plan 2008. The plans have been developed with three key objectives in mind - to ensure that Singapore has sufficient land to support economic growth; to reduce commuting by bringing jobs closer to home; and to provide greater greenery and leisure options.

Addressing a now-hot topic, Mr Mah said that sustainable development will continue to be a priority.

To encourage environmentally friendly practices, the government will look at a range of measures including public education, research and development, and possibly legislation, he said.

CDL Boss Punctures Popular Wisdom

Source : The Business Times, February 29, 2008

Mid-market may not shine and high-end is unlikely to collapse, he says

City Developments Ltd (CDL) executive chairman Kwek Leng Beng yesterday turned a popular market view of the Singapore residential sector on its head.

Many have whispered that the high-end residential segment is in danger of being hardest hit by the sub-prime crisis while the mid-tier and mass-market segments will be better shielded. Not true, says Mr Kwek.

'The high-end is not going to collapse like what some (in the market) are saying. The mid-end is not going to be fantastic, like what is commonly believed, because of the subprime situation and Singaporeans' wait-and-see attitude.

'The mass market will do well, but selectively. It's not going to be what you've seen before...people queuing up,' Mr Kwek said.

The Housing & Development Board also provides a credible alternative to mass-market private housing, Mr Kwek said at a media and analysts' briefing to announce CDL's results for the year ended Dec 31, 2007. The group's full-year net profit doubled to $725 million - a record.

Mr Kwek also acknowledged that the current market environment was not conducive to setting up real estate investment trusts (Reits). He would look into opportunities to buy into existing Reits, but only if they were being offered for sale together with their respective Reit management companies, which earn handsome fees.

On the high-end residential sector, Mr Kwek noted that it is supported not only by wealthy local investors with holding power, but also by well-heeled foreigners. 'Super-rich investors from Russia, Middle East and even hedge-fund managers have yet to come into Singapore in a big way.

'With Singapore developing into a global city and placed into the limelight, it can be a very attractive place to invest for these well-heeled clienteles, as seen in London,' CDL said in its results statement.

The next big wave for the Singapore property market will come when the two integrated resorts are operating successfully. 'It will be a different Singapore altogether. Singapore is a hub. I've been harping on this. Nobody believed me until last year,' said Mr Kwek.

He also sought to debunk another popular view, that the deferred payment scheme which was removed by the authorities in October last year, had only served to fuel property speculation. 'Deferred payment is not only an instrument for speculation. It is an instrument to enable buyers of new (residential) units to dispose of their existing units at a gradual pace, instead of being forced to sell their existing homes,' he said.

Noting that sentiment in the local property market has become subdued because of the sub-prime issue, Mr Kwek said: 'Sentiment is more important than supply and demand. The higher the prices, the more people buy.'

He also recommended buying real estate as a hedge against inflation, especially given the current low housing loan rate environment, adding in the same breath that he was not trying to talk up the market - drawing laughter from the audience.

But Mr Kwek also had some advice on affordability. 'You must be able to pay your instalment, that is most important. If you can't pay the instalment, and you hope (the property value) will go up tomorrow, then you are speculating.'

Referring to the squabbles among owners in estates with en bloc sales, Mr Kwek said: 'People are fighting, because they are jealous somebody sold higher. Who can say this is the peak? You should be happy if you have a good gain, don't fight. That's my advice.'

He estimates that about 50 per cent of those who've sold their homes through en bloc sales have not yet bought replacement homes, even if they may want to downgrade.

Property Players Sweat Over Lending Squeeze

Source : The Business Times, February 29, 2008

Banks batten down hatches amid global turmoil and as big deals suck liquidity

The squeeze is on. Banks have tightened financing for property investment deals, which include big transactions like sales of office blocks and development sites. This, in turn, may keep some buyers from participating in the market, industry players have told BT.

It's also taking longer to wrap up property sales deals these days as securing funding becomes more of an issue - and this could be a drag on investment sales.

Bankers cite two main causes for the tightening. The turmoil in the global financial market has led to increased awareness of risks all round, and several mega transactions in the past 12 months here have left less liquidity available for others.

Says Tan Teck Long, DBS Bank managing director, corporate and investment banking: 'There are a couple of large deals such as the integrated resorts (IRs) which have soaked up a fair bit of liquidity.'

Yesterday, Las Vegas Sands Corp announced the completion of its $5.25 billion loan syndication for the Marina Bay Sands IR, the largest deal of its kind here.

Brad Nelson, global head of commercial real estate, Standard Chartered Bank, agrees that the big deals had been sucking liquidity out of the market. 'Banks only have a certain amount of capital base,' he points out.

Banks' exposure to property-related loans is capped by law at 35 per cent of their total loans, to keep risks from the industry in check. This does not include mortgages for owner-occupied properties.

Meanwhile, banks have become more cautious and are giving smaller loans relative to a property's valuation than, say, 12 months ago. This serves to provide them with a greater buffer in the event of a fall in property values given the weaker sentiment in the Singapore property market today.

Jones Lang LaSalle regional director and head of investments Lui Seng Fatt says that about a year ago, banks may have given loans of up to 75 per cent of valuation for income-producing assets like office blocks. Today, the figure may be closer to 60-65 per cent.

Things are even harder for relatively unseasoned, smaller players buying residential development sites. They face greater scrutiny these days before banks give them loans, BT understands.

'Financing for real estate projects has definitely tightened, especially since last quarter. This is essentially because of tighter liquidity brought about by limited appetite in the capital markets, due to current market developments,' says Paul Kwee, Citigroup Singapore corporate bank director and head of real estate.

Lending amounts are more conservative now and covenants tighter, he says.

And despite the decline in Singapore dollar interest rates, the margins that are added to the floating interest rate reference are wider today, observes Mr Kwee. Margins are wider by 50-100 basis points now compared to last year, say bankers. Property sources say that while big established developers can still secure financing for purchases of development sites with relative ease, things are less rosy for smaller players.

Maybank head of business banking Lee Hong Khim acknowledges that his bank hesitates to finance new players whose core business is not in property development.

Mr Lee adds that Maybank is 'more selective in the projects we finance; the location of the project is an important consideration as well'.

Giving his take, Citi's Mr Kwee says: 'Smaller players may find it harder because they have fewer financing options available to them as compared to the big boys who may also be able to tap the convertible bond or Sing-dollar bond market, for instance.'

But Mr Nelson of Stanchart says that 'when liquidity is tight, lenders will normally take the position of supporting their existing relationships . . . regardless of whether they are SME (small and medium enterprise) or wholesale customers'.

Another outcome of banks becoming more cautious in evaluating loan applications is that it's taking longer to complete property investment sales deals, says JLL's Mr Lui.

The investment head of another major property consultancy group feels that the tighter financing environment could change the profile of institutional property buyers. 'We may see greater participation from core funds, which assume lower risk, lower returns, and lower debt, and less participation from opportunity funds, which assume higher risks, higher returns and higher debt.'

Market watchers point to an extreme recent example, when UK-based New Star International Property Fund made a pure-cash (zero debt) acquisition of One Phillip Street, an office block in the Raffles Place area, for $99.02 million.

Funds that need to assume higher leverage to achieve their investment returns may find it difficult to buy property assets in Singapore - and their numbers may dwindle.

Chicago Business School To Move To Tanglin Village

Source : The Straits Times, Feb 28, 2008

THE University of Chicago Graduate School of Business is to move from its Penang Road campus to a bigger site in Tanglin Village next year.

The school's Asian campus, set up here in 2000, plans to offer more classes and also services like career counselling.

Its Tanglin Village campus - the groundbreaking for which took place on Thursday - will have 18 study rooms, a student lounge and 29 offices and meeting rooms.

The school enrols about 90 students per intake for its executive MBA course; more than 1,000 others go through its executive programmes every year.

'The Chicago Graduate School of Business' decision to switch from renting space to building its own Asian campus strongly reflects its confidence in, and commitment to, Singapore,' said Economic Development Board chairman Lim Siong Guan at its groundbreaking ceremony.

CDL Able To Weather Uncertainty For Next 3 Yrs

Source : The Business Times, February 29, 2008

It posts full-year profit of $725m; bottom line would be $2.8b if fair value gains included

THE top brass at City Developments Ltd (CDL) yesterday said the property group has 'the financial muscle to weather the current period of uncertainty even for the next three years', after announcing a record full-year net profit of $725 million.

Attractive asset: City Square Mall

The group sold about $6.2 billion of residential projects in 2006 and 2007, which means it has locked in, to a very large extent, handsome profits which have yet to be booked.

These substantial and better-than-expected profits will continue to be recognised progressively based on construction progress. 'Some will come in 2008, 2009, perhaps also into 2010,' CDL managing director Kwek Leng Joo said at the group's results briefing yesterday.

'Even if the market recovery should take place a little bit later than expected, I think we'll be OK,' he added.

In short, the group can afford to delay launches of new residential projects if necessary to ride out the current weak sentiment.

As a major office landlord, CDL will also benefit from the office crunch as many of its key tenant leases are up for renewal between now and 2011 - a period when office supply is expected to be limited.

In the hospitality sector, CDL's hotel arm Millennium & Copthorne Hotels has a string of hotels with a wide geographical spread - which should act as 'an insurance against a downturn in any particular geographical area', CDL executive chairman Kwek Leng Beng said.

The group also has many other attractive assets such as City Square Mall and St Regis Hotel in Singapore which it could potentially sell, boosting its bottom line.

As well, CDL has a healthy balance sheet, with relatively low net gearing of 48 per cent.

CDL posted a 106 per cent jump in group net profit for the year ended Dec 31, to a record $725 million. However, had it adopted the revaluation policy of its peers, its bottom line would have surged to $2.84 billion after factoring in about $2.1 billion of fair value gains on investment properties.

The $2.84 billion net earnings for the year ended Dec 31 would pip the $2.76 billion net profit posted by fellow property giant CapitaLand for the same period.

CDL's fourth-quarter net profit rose about 71 per cent year-on-year to $235 million, with revenue inching up 3.7 per cent to $765.7 million.

The group has also yet to recognise any profits for One Shenton, The Solitaire, Cliveden at Grange and Wilkie Studio, as these residential projects are still in the initial stage of construction. These projects alone account for $1.7 billion in sales value.

Even if the group defers or paces its launches, it will proceed with the construction of its projects where construction cost had been favourably secured earlier, CDL said.

It may also consider building selected projects when the construction cost stabilises at a reasonable level. It expects that when sentiment improves and the market begins to recover, there will be pent-up demand which the group will be in a position to meet.

The group is planning to launch in the first half of this year some 427 private homes in four Singapore projects - Shelford Suites, a condo on the former Lock Cho Apartments site at Thomson Road, The Quayside Isle @ Sentosa Cove and a condo at Pasir Ris.

In its results statement, CDL also said that it has an investment commitment in the private fund Real Estate Capital Asia Partners, which acquired Jungceylon complex at Phuket's Patong Beach. This is a 1.5 million sq ft mall which opened for business recently and is next to the Millennium Resort Patong Phuket.

CDL also reckons it has 'ample time' to review its strategy for its office portfolio, given improving office rental yields.

Its options include retaining its office properties at a low cost base, monetising the portfolio and/or extracting maximum value by selling its assets wholesale or individually. Another option would be to spin off an office real estate investment trust.

The group has all along been following its conservative policy of stating investment properties at cost less accumulated depreciation and impairment losses. On adoption of Financial Reporting Standard FRS 40, the group continues to state these assets at cost less accumulated depreciation and impairment losses.

Most other Singapore- listed property groups state investment properties at fair value, as permitted by FRS 40.

CDL's full-year revenue for the year ended Dec 31, 2007, rose 22 per cent to $3.1 billion, also a record for the group.

The group also gave a segmental breakdown of profit before tax, including share of after-tax profit of associates and jointly controlled entities, which showed that pre-tax from property development more than doubled from $225.8 million in 2006 to $506.3 million in 2007.

Pre-tax profit from hotel operations fell from $396.6 million in 2006 to $285.4 million in 2007, mainly because the 2006 figure had included a $150.9 million one-off gain from the sale of long leasehold interests in four Singapore hotels to CDL Hospitality Trusts.

Profit before tax from rental properties more than quadrupled from $30 million in 2006 to $133.6 million in 2007.

CDL is proposing a final dividend of 7.5 cents per share as well as a special final dividend of 12.5 cents per share. Both payouts are tax exempt.