Saturday, March 1, 2008

Small Development Tax Increase Sign Of Property Slowdown

Source : TODAY, Weekend, March 1, 2008

In the latest signal that the market for private homes has cooled, the Ministry of National Development (MND) yesterday announced minimal changes in the development charges for residential sites.

A tax on property developers for site enhancement, the development charges payable in the next six months for non-landed residential sites were raised on average by a marginal 2.6 per cent.

The latest hike, which the MND said was calculated after having "taken into account current market values" following a half-yearly review, compares with a 58-per-cent rise in the same category last September.

On average, development charges were raised 1.5 per cent for commercial sites such as those for offices and shopping centres, 3.3 per cent for hotel and hospital sites and 16.8 per cent for industrial and warehouse sites. Charges in the other categories, including landed residential, remained unchanged.

"It is encouraging to know that the Government has made minimal changes to the development charges for residential use, a reflection that it is mindful of the current market sentiment and the uncertainties ahead," said Mr Li Hiaw Ho, executive director of CBRE Research.

Mr Donald Han, managing director of Cushman and Wakefield, attributed the virtually "flat" rates to the lacklustre market for private homes, as well as sales of residential sites, in recent months. He noted that the property market started deteriorating in December as sentiment turned cautious amid uncertainty over the extent of the fallout from the sub-prime crisis in the United States and stock market volatility.

Statistics from the Urban Redevelopment Authority showed that the number of new private homes sold in December shrunk by half from the month earlier, while January numbers were flat. Fewer units were also launched by developers in the past two months.

The double-digit rate of increase in development charges for industrial sites was "a good indication of healthy demand for such land as well as a continued stream of foreign investments into Singapore's manufacturing sector", said Mr Li.

Property Development Charges Barely Budge

Source : The Straits Times, March 1, 2008

Small revision of fees points to dwindling deals, slow price growth

IT'S official: the property market has gone deathly quiet.

Teh Government barely tweaked development charges in its semi-annual revision of fees yesterday, reflecting the property sector's subdued state over the last six months.

CITY FRINGE STILL ACTIVE: Some collective sales late last year, including those of Toho Gardens in Yio Chu Kang (above) and 15 terrace houses in Balestier (below), have lifted development fees for non-landed residential sites in Upper Thomson, Tiong Bahru, Balestier and Chancery, among others. -- TOHO GARDEN, ST FILE PHOTO

Development charges, which can run in the millions of dollars, are what a developer has to pay to buy and redevelop an existing site.

Average islandwide charges for office, hospital, hotel and non-landed housing sites merely inched up, while landed residential sites saw no change in the fee at all.

This marks a big reversal from last year, when the frantic pace of land acquisition led to record hikes in development charges for many sectors.

In super-hot locations, the fees were even doubled.

This time, the only major change was in the industrial sector, where charges jumped 16.8 per cent - compared to 2 per cent in the last round.

This was due to a previous low base, as well as rising demand for back-office space, which led to recent land sales at benchmark prices in areas such as Commonwealth and Ubi, said experts.

Development charges are set by the chief valuer based on recent land and property values, and are adjusted every six months, so their growth rate can be used to indicate market activity.

Property watchers said yesterday's small rises show what the market has known for some time: Property deals are dwindling and the pace of price growth has slowed.

'The rates have been moderated as a result of the limited transactions over the last six months, attributed in part to the more cautionary sentiment,' said Mr Lui Seng Fatt, the regional director and head of investments at Jones Lang LaSalle.

But fees rose for areas on the city fringe, showing that activity is spilling out from prime spots, said Savills Singapore's Mr Ku Swee Yong.

Development charges rose for non-landed residential sites in Upper Thomson, Tiong Bahru, Balestier and Chancery, among others.

This was probably due to some collective sales late last year, said Mr Nicholas Mak of Knight Frank.

These include the sale of Toho Gardens in Yio Chu Kang and 15 terrace houses in Balestier.

Mr Mak said the fee rises in these areas could further affect the already cautious sentiment in the market.

The overall impact, however, is 'not as major' as that from the last round of hikes in charges, he added.

Still, developers looking for new land will probably start relying more on government sales - which do not involve development charges - than on collective sales, said Mr Li Hiaw Ho, the executive director of CB Richard Ellis Research.

In the office and shops sector, the recent sales of transitional office land helped boost development charges in Tampines and Scotts Road.

Thomson and Paya Lebar also saw bigger hikes than the rest.

Hotel sites had increases mainly in central areas, while the fees for industrial sites rose across the board.

More Landed Housing Sites Up For Auction

Source : The Straits Times, March 1, 2008

THE Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has launched the second phase of Sembawang Greenvale after auctioning all parcels in Phase One last October.

In the first phase, 12 sub-divided landed housing plots near Sembawang Beach were auctioned for a total of $37.09 million, which works out to about $285 per square foot (psf) of land on average.

Phase Two comprises 11 land parcels for a total of 90 dwellings. Most of these will be terrace houses.

Knight Frank director (research and consultancy) Nicholas Mak says new terrace houses in the area are now selling for $1.7 million to $2 million.

The median unit price for landed housing in District 27, where Sembawang is located, increased 12 per cent quarter-on-quarter in Q4 2007, he said. 'Therefore, in terms of bidding price, we expect the average land price of Greenvale Phase Two will be higher than that of Phase One.'

Mr Mak expects that terrace plots will fetch about $320-380 psf of land, and semi-detached plots about $300-350 psf of land.

Cushman and Wakefield managing director Donald Han believes demand for landed property will stay sound this year. But he also reckons current sentiment - hurt by the US sub-prime crisis - could see potential bidders for Sembawang Greenvale Phase Two discount their offers in the light of rising risks.

As such, he thinks bids could be 5-10 per cent below those received for Phase One.

Mr Han still believes there will be interest in the parcels, especially those that can yield more units, as developers will be able to 'average down' construction costs and increase profit margins.

Separately, URA said yesterday it has launched an industrial land parcel at Ubi Avenue 4/Ubi Road 2 for sale by public tender, after a developer committed to bid at least $14 million in early February.

Colliers International managing director Dennis Yeo estimated earlier that bids for the site could come in at $70-80 psf per plot ratio, translating to a breakeven cost of about $230-250 psf.

S'pore Will Be 'Important Node' In Arab Network

Source : The Straits Times, Feb 29, 2008

SINGAPORE has always been an 'important node' in the international Arab network, and Foreign Minister George Yeo is confident that the country will become one again in the 21st century.

With the Middle East fast becoming a 'new frontier' for Singapore, he told the House yesterday that the region is 'full of opportunities, though not without risks'.

In the last few years, relations between Singapore and the Arab nations have seen a 'sea change' and high-level bilateral visits are so common, it is happening almost every month.

Mr Yeo was responding to Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman and Mr Hawazi Daipi (both Sembawang GRC), who asked about Singapore's ties with the Middle East.

Relations with the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have been stepped up, said Mr Yeo, and negotiations on a free-trade agreement between Singapore and the GCC were successfully concluded last month.

The GCC members are Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

It is estimated that about 35 million people live in these GCC states.

Beyond the GCC, Singapore's ties with Libya have also 'begun to flower', said Mr Yeo, since the establishment of relations last year.

Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong will be making an official visit to Libyan capital, Tripoli, later this year.

Mr Yeo also revealed that Shell's Singapore chairman Lee Tzu Yang has been appointed to chair the new Middle East Institute. An international search for a director is ongoing.


River Revamp Hailed But 'More Can Be Done'

Source : The Straits Times, March 1, 2008

BUSINESSES along the Singapore River have welcomed a new government plan to revamp the area and are hoping the changes will translate into more spending on food, alcohol and entertainment.

'Clarke Quay has the critical mass and prime location. I'm very confident that the area will attract even more people with the enhancements,' said Mr Clark Martin, owner of the Highlander Bar at Clarke Quay.

The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) unveiled plans yesterday to revamp the river from Empress Place to Kim Seng Bridge.

Mr Bill Graham, co-owner of Clarke Quay restaurants Peony Jade and Quayside Seafood and nightspot The Pump Room, said that the STB was 'spending the right money on the right things'.

'It's not mega bucks, it's not the Eiffel Tower. But it will double, maybe triple, the appeal of the area, and will give Singapore something iconic to crow about,' he said.

Some businesses are already planning to capitalise on the changes. For instance, Mr Graham is anticipating more river taxi traffic and hopes to entice more passengers into his restaurants with promotional packages.

Regular patrons to the area said they are looking forward to the revamp, but at least one hoped that the STB would use a light touch in some spots.

'I think Robertson Quay could do with more lighting, but if it gets too glitzy, then it'll lose its quaint feeling,' said Mr David Firth-Eagland, 30, a Canadian operations manager working here.

Some tenants also felt more could be done.

Mr Mohan Mulani, chief executive of Harry's Holdings which owns a Harry's Bar outlet at Boat Quay, said that other problems, such as touting, should be addressed. He said the problem has been around for too long, and tourists are getting irritated.

Just up the river at Robertson Quay, Ms Monique Kwok, operating partner of Belgian restaurant Brussels Sprouts, complained of a stench coming from the river 'four days out of seven'. She said it is off-putting to diners in outdoor restaurants.

'If the STB can look into all these first, that would be good. There is no point enhancing the river when you have these problems,' she said.

Makeover To Add Night Buzz To S'pore River

Source : The Straits Times, March 1, 2008

Walkways, trees and water will be bathed in light in time for upcoming river-centred activities

THE Singapore River is getting its biggest makeover since 1999, when $16 million was spent to improve the pedestrian walkways there.

Work, to begin next month, will be geared towards creating a night-time buzz along the historic, 3km stretch from the river mouth inland.

The makeover - the first comprehensive one of the waterfront attractions - will be anchored by new lighting which will evoke the magic of being out at night:

The trees on the water's edge will be lit up and 'jellyfish' lights will gleam on the water; the sidewalks will be bathed in subtle light and landing points for river taxis will also be lit.

The lights on the bridges will even be programmable to match festivals or seasons.

New street furniture and street signs will be put in place to create a backdrop for a line-up of river-centred activities like the Singapore River Festival in September, a two-week jamboree that will feature a mega-concert, river float parade, outdoor parties and other events.

By the time the inaugural Formula One Grand Prix race rolls around - also in that month - the work will be two-thirds done.

Asked why the focus is on creating buzz for the riverfront by night, Mrs Cheong Koon Hean, chief executive officer of the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), explained that Singapore's sweltering daytime temperatures are not conducive to walks by the river, 'so it makes sense for us to create a vibrant night life' for the cooler evenings.

Indeed, although the Singapore River has for years been touted as one of the 'must-see' free attractions, a 2006 survey by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) revealed that only 7 per cent of tourists polled visited it.

The same survey had the Orchard Road shopping strip topping the list of free attractions, with 73 per cent of polled tourists beating a path there, and 51 per cent to Chinatown.

Neither the STB nor URA could be persuaded to say how much the improvements, first announced in 2006, will cost, but STB's assistant chief executive of leisure Margaret Teo let on that the project will 'run into the millions', although it would still 'cost less than' the $40 million poured into renovations for Orchard Road.

The budget nonetheless reflects the latest effort to rejuvenate the riverfront, which was given a $170 million clean-up in the 1980s to get rid of its pong and to lift it above being a waterway for Singapore's early commerce.

While riverfronts in other countries are key attractions for tourists and locals, the fortunes of the attractions on the banks of the Singapore River have waxed and waned.

Boat Quay itself has undergone smaller-scale revamps; the constant flux in shops and restaurants there hint at businesses' low staying power.

Mr Mohan Mulani, the chief executive of Harry's Holdings which owns Harry's Bar there, said: 'One gets the feeling that Boat Quay is very rundown. It is like the necklace of Singapore, and it could be a beautiful necklace shimmering by the water.'

A revamp is long overdue, he added.

Businesses like his will be included in a programme by the STB and URA to provide seed funding to merchants there to develop events on the river all year round.

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

Equity salesman Teo Kian Boon, 30, hopeful that the makeover will make a difference, said: 'Maybe all these will finally turn us into Venice of the East.'

Jazzing Up S'pore River's Sights And Sounds

Source : The Business Times, March 1, 2008

COME September, visitors will be treated to a new look and an enhanced experience of the sights and sounds of the Singapore River.

The Singapore Tourism Board (STB), together with the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), yesterday announced plans for a series of infrastructural developments as well the staging of new signature events to promote the nightlife alongside the river.

STB spokeswoman Margaret Teo said: 'The Singapore River has the potential to stand out as a a distinctive 24-hour entertainment lifestyle destination.

'Plans lined up will add to the precinct's overall appeal and augment our international standing as an exciting, dynamic and vibrant city and a leading events and entertainment capital in Asia.'

There are three parts to the plans. The first is a series of infrastructural changes which will see more night-lighting, street furniture such as benches, signage and storyboards, in addition to new bumboat landing points and ticketing kiosks.

The lighting plan will see new ambient and programmable lighting for the Read and Cavanagh bridges, that would be able to change to suit various festive occasions. Underbridge lighting along the Clemenceau, Coleman and Elgin bridges will be another feature, besides floating 'jellyfish' lights on the river and enhanced landscape lighting along the three-kilometre stretch.

The URA will soon be launching a tender for the construction of a mobile floating stage at Boat Quay, which will accommodate a range of arts and cultural performances, concerts and dance acts.

The next approach will involve STB working with stakeholders of the various quays to create an annual events calendar for the area.

The highlight will be the Singapore River Festival, an annual event held in conjunction with F1 Singapore GP seasonal festivities spanning the two weeks leading up to the race.

At other times, each quay is expected to organise an event that mirrors its unique character. For example, the Empress Place event might have a greater focus on the arts, heritage and culture while the Clarke Quay event will play up its entertainment nightlife facade.

The final part of the plans is a continued partnership between the public and private sectors, such as 24-hour licensing for round-the-clock operations or even government seed money for lifestyle events by the entertainment industry.

The first phase of infrastructural works will be completed by September, with the second phase to be launched in October with expected completion next March.

Reality Check

Source : The Straits Times, March 1, 2008

Home owners here are buying reproductions of classic designer furniture at a fraction of the price

LIKE many Singaporean home owners, personal banker Karen Teo has furnished her five-room HDB flat in Sengkang with pieces of furniture that are well-known in the design world.

TIGHT BUDGET: Ms Karen Teo and Mr Jeremy Lee bought Arco lamp and Bombo stool lookalikes for their home in Sengkang. -- PHOTOS: BETTY CHUA FOR THE STRAITS TIMES, FLOS

In her bedroom is the ubiquitous arched stainless steel standing lamp. And in her living room, by the bar counter, stand two bar stools that often grace the pages of home decor magazines.

But while they look very much like the Arco lamp and the Bombo stool, they are not the real thing. They are lookalikes.

Ms Teo and her engineer husband Jeremy Lee, both 27, had a tight budget when they were furnishing their home three years ago. They set aside $30,000 for furnishings, including electronics.

To stretch their dollar, they hunted for bargains and found furniture shops in Sungei Kadut, where 'you can get designer-inspired pieces at a fraction of the price', she says.

Then, she bought her Arco lookalike for $440 and her bar stools for $99 each. An Arco lamp from Space Furniture at Millenia Walk costs $4,225, while a Bombo stool from X-tra Living at Park Mall costs $920.

'They were designer pieces that I wanted, but I didn't want to pay too much for them so this is the next best option,' she reasons.

As Singaporeans become more house-proud, home owners who covet designer pieces but do not have the budget for them are turning to more affordable reproductions.

The Arco lamp, by Italian designers Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, is one of the most copied items in the market, thanks to its distinctive design. Half the lighting shops that line Balestier Road and Geylang carry Arco lookalikes, mostly from China and Taiwan.

They look almost like the real McCoy, but there are differences. While the Arco uses Italian Carrera marble for its base, the cheaper alternatives use marble from China or India. Also, some arches are made of a circular stainless steel tube instead of a rectangular one.

Mr Aman Heng, general manager of Light Image Holdings which has a chain of lighting stores, says such pieces are popular with home owners who are not particular about whether the lamp is an original or a copy.

'They are happy just to have the same design,' says Mr Heng, 43. 'It also fits those with tight budgets.' His new shipment of Arco lookalikes will come in at the end of the month, and he says they will go for at least $600.

A spokesman for Lush in Upper Paya Lebar Road, which sells designer reproductions, says such items are also popular with interior designers who do up showflats, as 'they don't want to spend too much on the pieces'.

The store sells about 20 Arco copies a month, each going for $580. In comparison, Space Furniture sells about 200 to 250 Arco lamps a year.

At Dream Interiors in River Valley Road, a dealer for Knoll furniture, a Barcelona chair starts at $8,000. Compare this with a reproduction which costs $1,300, and it's not surprising that budget-conscious consumers opt for the cheaper one.

There is a reason the designer classics are costly.

Dream Interiors owner Shawn Tan says the high prices are due to the meticulous manufacturing process, the quality of materials used and, most importantly, the intellectual input from the designers.

Using German-born American architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona chair as an example, Mr Tan, 37, points out that even though the chair was designed in 1929, it still looks modern today. That shows that the design was ahead of its time.

Physician Wong Tien Hua, who has several designer pieces such as an Eames surfboard table in his bungalow in Bukit Timah, says he buys only the real pieces even though they cost more.

'The quality is better and you're buying into the history as well,' says Dr Wong, 38.

Even in the reproduction industry, retailers say there are different grades of products. 'The copy must be as close to the original as possible,' says Mr P.C. Ee, 36, owner of Exit Design Studios, which carries a range of designer reproduction furniture.

Retailers say they tend to favour items from Australia, Thailand, Vietnam and Taiwan, which produce better reproductions. Some retailers avoid reproductions from China because they tend to be poorer copies, even though they are cheaper.

Mr Lorgan Wong, 49, owner of Lorgan's which carries second-hand and reproduction retro pieces, says he doesn't carry items from China because 'they are not close enough to the original'.

As for the legal implications of copyright breaches, the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore, which looks after intellectual property of individuals and companies, says it does not handle such matters.

Industry players say the copyright infringement issues against those who produce copies are usually undertaken by the respective companies' headquarters, which are mostly overseas.

Retailers that Life! spoke to say they make it a point to inform customers that the pieces are reproductions.

'We tell them these are not original pieces, so the price is much lower,' says Mr Ee.

As for copyright issues, retailers resort to two avenues to get around the problem.

'We cannot use the original names. Instead we give it a code number,' says Mr Ee.

Others, such as Lorgan's Mr Wong, use phrases such as 'Eames-style' or 'Eames-era' to describe a reproduction of a recliner.

The other method is to copy the design but use dimensions that are different from the original, such as making it slightly smaller. Some manufacturers also use different materials from the original.

Fighting back

THE manufacturers of the originals are understandably not happy to let reproductions flood the market.

Italian lighting manufacturer Flos, which makes the Arco lamp, has taken legal action worldwide against manufacturers of Arco lamp copies.

This includes sending a warning letter from the company's lawyer, as well as removing imitations from the market. Flos says most such cases have been with European retailers, and it has not taken any legal action in Singapore in the last five years.

A spokesman for the company says the hunt for imitation manufacturers is not easy because 'as soon as one manufacturer is discovered and stopped, a new one starts'.

Finland's Artek, which produces designer classics such as the Alvar Aalto Armchair 400, says it has also taken legal action against those who make copies of Artek pieces.

But a spokesman says 'legal action was costly and in the end it has no long-term effect', as imitation pieces still pop up. 'However, we have not given up. We just find other ways more effective than legal action,' he adds.

Artek wants to educate consumers on why they should buy originals.

It hopes that consumers will understand that Artek products have the quality to last through generations, and that it uses only materials that come from environmentally sustainable forests.

Still, that is not stopping Singaporeans from buying copies of the high-priced items.

Corporate communications manager Raymond Lim, who has an Arco lamp lookalike in his four-room HDB flat in Tiong Bahru, says he is not a 'designer furniture freak' but just loves tastefully designed pieces.

He first saw the Arco when he was 16, but didn't realise then that it was considered a designer classic. 'But I told myself I must have this lamp in my home one day,' he says.

Now 29, he bought a lookalike at a lighting shop in Balestier Road for a mere $200. 'It fits my budget. The brand is not important but the design must be appealing,' he says, of his Arco copy that is made in China.

S'pore To Raise Land Development Charges In March

Source : The Business Times, February 29, 2008

Singapore said on Friday it will increase land development charges for most categories of real estate from March 1, with the biggest rise affecting developers who wish to build factories and warehouses.

The Ministry of National Development said in a statement that the rates for industrial properties will rise by an average of 16.8 per cent from September.

The development charge for malls and offices will go up by an average of 1.5 per cent, the charge for residential (apartments) development will gain an average 2.6 per cent, while the rate for hotels and hospitals will increase by an average of 3.3 per cent.

Singapore revises development charges twice a year to reflect changes in land values. -- REUTERS

DC Rate Hike Lower Than Expected

Source : The Business Times, March 1, 2008

Average industrial rates up 16.8%, muted increases for most other uses

THE government yesterday announced modest, lower-than-expected increases in development charge (DC) rates for most use groups, except industrial.

'Limited transactions in the past six months, amidst cautionary sentiment set about the US sub-prime debacle, were probably an important factor for the moderate gains this round,' said Jones Lang LaSalle regional director and head of investments Lui Seng Fatt.

Knight Frank director Nicholas Mak said: 'The government may feel that there has been no significant appreciation in land prices in the last few months.

'And DC rates for most use groups - such as commercial, non-landed residential and hotel/hospital - were already at a higher base because of substantial hikes in the last revision.

'Industrial DC rates, on the other hand, had seen only a marginal rise the previous round and hence saw the sharpest increase this time.'

DC rates, which are payable for enhancing the use of some sites or putting bigger developments on them, are revised twice yearly, on March 1 and Sept 1, and are listed according to use groups and 118 locations across Singapore.

From today, the average DC rate for commercial use has gone up 1.5 per cent - after the 42 per cent increase in the last round on Sept 1, 2007. The average rate for non-landed residential use has been raised 2.6 per cent, again much smaller than the 58 per cent hike previously, while the average rate for landed residential use has been left unchanged.

For hotel and hospital use, the latest DC rates are up 3.3 per cent on average, compared with a 23 per cent hike previously.

Industrial DC rates have jumped 16.8 per cent on average, against a 2 per cent rise previously.

JLL's Mr Lui said that the big hike in industrial DC rates is in tandem with growing demand for backoffice space as more firms relocate out of the CBD due to high rents.

For industrial DC rates, the biggest hike of 33.3 per cent was in the Jurong/Lim Chu Kang/Kranji location, which analysts attributed to JTC Corp's sale of two industrial sites at Jalan Tepong and Pioneer Road/Tuas Avenue 11 at about double the land values implied by the previous September 2007 industrial DC rate for the area.

Similarly, the sale of an industrial plot at Commonwealth Drive/Lane at about four times the September 2007 DC rate-implied land value was probably behind a 32 per cent hike yesterday in the industrial DC rate for the area.

Industrial DC rates were raised by 22.2 per cent each in the Kallang Way/MacPherson/Aljunied, and Braddell/Potong Pasir/Woodleigh areas, based on JLL's analysis. The rate for West Coast Road/Jurong East was upped 20.7 per cent. Increases of 20 per cent were seen in locations such as Havelock Road, Telok Blangah, Tiong Bahru, Bukit Merah, Redhill, Alexandra and Henderson.

Commercial DC rates stayed put in Raffles Place, Marina Bay, Cecil Street and Robinson Road. Instead, the hikes were mostly outside the central business district, 'reflecting the trend of office demand being pushed out of the CBD', Savills Singapore director Ku Swee Yong said.

The biggest increases, of 25 and 23.3 per cent, were in the Toa Payoh/Potong Pasir and Paya Lebar/Eunos areas respectively. The sale price of a 99-year commercial plot next to the HDB Hub in Toa Payoh in October and rising rents at SingPost Centre in Paya Lebar were likely reasons for the increases.

The Marine Parade and Tampines locations each saw a 19 per cent appreciation in commercial DC rates, apparently supported by the sale price of an office unit at Parkway Parade, and rental evidence at Tampines Mall and buildings in the Tampines Finance Park.

For non-landed residential DC rates, the biggest gain of 28.6 per cent was in Ang Mo Kio/Yio Chu Kang as well as an adjoining sector that covers Upper Thomson and Sembawang Hills. Far East Organization's $601 psf per plot ratio top bid for a condo site next to Ang Mo Kio Hub in September last year - a record for 99-year suburban condo land - was the likely reason for the rate hikes.

The Telok Blangah and Tiong Bahru/Ayer Rajah locations each saw hikes of 22.2 per cent in non-landed residential DC rate. CB Richard Ellis executive director Li Hiaw Ho said that the increases were probably supported by the $639 psf ppr fetched for a 99-year condo site on Alexandra Road last year. Mr Li also pointed to the sale of a freehold site on Margate Road as the likely reason for a 21.4 per cent rate hike in the Mountbatten/Meyer/Broadrick area.

For hotel use, gains of around 9-10 per cent were seen in DC rates for the traditional hotel belts in the Orchard Road, Marina Centre and Singapore River locations, as well as places like Marina Bay, Bayfront and Fullerton Road.

'The tourism boom is expected to continue as the Singapore government drives towards the 17 million visitors goal by 2015. Orchard Road remains Singapore's main shopping belt, while upcoming developments in the Marina area such as the Marina Bay Sands integrated resort and the F1 race will further generate demand for hotels in the area,' Mr Lui said.

The DC use group for hotels also includes hospitals and interestingly, the government did not raise the DC rate for the Irrawaddy Road location where a hospital site last month fetched a record price of $1,600 psf ppr from Parkway group.

A spokeswoman for the Chief Valuer said: 'Parkway's record bid was an isolated case. In general, there's no compelling evidence that market values for hotel/hospital use in the area have moved up so much.'

HPL Earnings Up 52% At $150m

Source : The Business Times, March 1, 2008

HIGHER hotel revenues and valuation gains pushed the net profit of Hotel Properties Ltd (HPL) 52 per cent higher to $150.1 million for the year ended Dec 31, 2007.

Group revenue increased 29 per cent to $459.8 million from the previous year, largely attributable to the group's hotels and resorts division. Earnings per share rose to 30.73 cents from 20.70 cents.

HPL said it continues to recognise further fair value gains from investment properties, which amounted to $101.1 million in FY2007.

With the fair value gains, pre-tax profit was $178.4 million. Excluding fair value gains, pre-tax profit would have been $77.3 million, it said.

The group's finance cost increased by 44.5 per cent to $40.8 million due to higher borrowings as a result of new investments, including participation in en bloc purchases.

HPL declared a final dividend of 5 cents per share per share.

It said the outlook for the tourism industry in Singapore and the region remains good. 'However, there will be challenges arising from the threat of a recession in the United States, the rise in inflation and tight credit environment.'

UIC Profit More Than Doubles To $1.17b

Source : The Straits Times, March 1, 2008

UIC and SingLand to pay $41.3m and $82.5m in dividends respectively

UNITED Industrial Corporation (UIC), which counts Singapore Land as a subsidiary, has racked up $1.68 billion worth of valuation gains for the 2007 financial year, taking its net profit to $1.17 billion, more than double 2006's $492.1 million.

Key buildings like Singapore Land Tower at Raffles Place and Marina Bayfront at Raffles Boulevard have both increased by over 70 per cent in value.

Singapore Land Tower is now worth $1.49 billion, up from $868.4 million a year ago, while Marina Bayfront is now worth $70 million, up from $40 million a year ago.

UIC's portfolio, which includes other properties like The Gateway at Beach Road and Marina Square, is now valued at about $5.48 billion, up from about $3.77 billion a year ago.

The valuations were done by DTZ Debenham Tie Leung.

In its financial statement for FY2007 released yesterday, UIC said that net profit of $1.17 billion comprised $123.6 million from operations and $1.05 billion from fair value gain on investment properties.

Revenue for the year was up 62 per cent to $528.4 million, and was attributed to higher sales of residential properties and revenue recognition on a percentage of completion basis, contributions from Pan Pacific Singapore Hotel (Panpac), and higher rental income.

Gross rental income for FY2007 was up 17.6 per cent to $226.1 million while gross revenue from sales of properties (held for sale) increased by 131 per cent to $157.6 million.

Gross revenue from hotel operations was $77.9 million.

In the year, UIC's Marina Centre Holding acquired the remaining 50 per cent interest in Hotel Marina City, which owns the Pan Pacific Singapore hotel.

UIC reported that earnings per share (EPS), excluding net fair value gain, were 9 cents for FY2007, up from 5.5 cents. Including net fair value gain, it was 85.3 cents, up from 35.7 cents.

SingLand, which also released its full-year results for 2007 yesterday reported a fair value gain of $1.46 billion.

Net profit for the year was $1.36 billion, up from $100.4 million a year ago.

Revenue increased by 34 per cent to $271 million for the year. It was attributed to the contribution from Panpac and higher rental.

SingLand said that gross rental income of $187.4 million increased by 20 per cent or $30.6 million.

While net profit was $1.36 billion, SingLand said that $137.5 million was derived from operations and $1.22 billion was from fair value gain on investment properties.

Excluding fair gain, EPS was 33.3 cents per share, up from 24.3 cents. Including fair value gain, EPS was 329.1 cents, up from 24.3 cents.

Singland directors have proposed a first and final dividend of 20 cents per share, amounting to $82.5 million, while UIC directors have proposed a first and final dividend of 3 cents per share amounting to $41.3 million.