Thursday, April 10, 2008

IMF Warns Of ‘Elevated’ Risks To Global Financial System

Source : The Business Times, April 9, 2008

Report highlights concern over impact of financial turmoil on major economies

RISKS to the stability of the international financial system remain ‘elevated’ in the wake of the US sub-prime mortgage crisis, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned yesterday in a report that also flagged growing concern over the impact of financial system turmoil on the major economies.

The report was issued as the Group of Seven finance ministers and central bank governors prepare to meet in Washington on Friday to discuss new policy responses to the crisis.

In its latest Global Financial Stability Report, the IMF urges policymakers to ‘take immediate steps to mitigate the risks of an even more wrenching adjustment’ in financial markets.

It underlined the systemic risks that are looming as a result of ‘deteriorating credit quality, a drop in the valuations of structured credit products and a lack of market liquidity accompanying broad de-leveraging in the financial system’.

The forceful tone of the document reflects the more central role the IMF is assuming in global monetary and financial affairs under its recently appointed managing director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

It is likely to come as a shock to stock, bond and currency markets that have regained some semblance of stability in recent weeks as the impact of the sub-prime crisis has appeared to recede.

Problems are ’spreading beyond the US sub-prime market to prime residential and commercial real estate markets, consumer credit and to corporate credit markets’, according to the report. The US remains the ‘epicentre’ of the crisis but ‘industrialised countries with inflated house price levels relative to fundamentals or stretched corporate or household balance sheets are also at risk’, it says.

The report strikes a chilling note too about the dangers of an economic slowdown. It warns that damage to the capital base of financial institutions, coupled with continuing uncertainty about the size and location of bank losses, will ‘weigh heavily on household borrowing, business investment and asset prices, in turn feeding back into employment, output growth and balance sheets’.

The impact could be more severe than in previous credit cycles because of the huge amount of securitisation and leveraging built into the financial system, the report says. ‘It is now clear that current turmoil is more than simply a liquidity event’ and reflects ‘deep-seated balance sheet fragilities and weak capital bases, which means its effects are likely to be broader, deeper and more protracted’.

Emerging market countries have been ‘broadly resilient’ so far to the spreading financial system crisis, but with debt markets reeling under the impact of turbulence in advanced countries and funding costs rising, ‘further shocks to investors’ risk appetite for emerging market assets cannot be ruled out’.

Countries with current account deficits and reliant upon foreign debt are especially vulnerable, the IMF says.

It suggests that falling house prices and rising delinquencies on mortgage payments could lead to aggregate losses of around US$565 billion in the US residential mortgage and related securities markets. And if losses on commercial real estate, consumer credit and corporate loans are added, the total rises to US$945 billion, which points to ‘added stress on bank capital and further write-downs’.

Macro-economic policy will have to be the first line of defence ‘to contain downside risks to the US and other leading economies impacted by the crisis’, the IMF says.

Central banks need to ‘reflect further on the role that monetary policy may have played in fostering a lack of credit discipline and to improve their instruments for relieving liquidity stress in today’s more global financial system’.

The challenge will be to control systemic instability ‘in ways that minimise both moral hazard and potential fiscal costs’, the IMF says. And compensation structures that contributed to the credit explosion also need addressing.

JLL, Aussie Firm In Tie-Up To Manage Malls

Source : The Business Times, April 9, 2008

JV will tap regional market with focus on China, India

JONES Lang LaSalle has teamed up with Australia’s Colonial First State Property Management to launch a retail property management venture, the first of its kind in Asia.

The 50:50 company, Sandalwood, will aim to tap into a growing market for retail malls in particular, with China and India being the prime areas of focus.

The Singapore-based firm will help developers and landlords in the development and management of shopping centres, with its existing ambit covering around 40 malls in the region. It will also provide consultancy and leasing services.

Between 2006 and 2012, an estimated 1,000 malls are being built in the region, according to Jones Lang LaSalle.

‘This is our most significant investment in our retail business in the region,’ Jones Lang LaSalle chief executive officer (Regional Business Lines & Corporate Solutions) John Forrest explained.

‘Retail is also quite a specialist thing. With shopping centres it’s much more of a living entity, and a key driver for why we wanted to bring in Colonial, with its depth of experience in managing malls.’

Colonial First State Property is one of Australia’s largest property development, management and leasing specialists, having undertaken more than 25 large shopping centre developments since it was launched in 1983.

It currently manages 36 centres on behalf of third party clients across Australia.

According to Mr Forrest, the joint venture will initially focus on Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Macau, Taiwan, Indonesia and India as its key markets.

No details were given on the capital that both firms have injected into the venture.

Around 740 staff from both the companies will move into Sandalwood. The venture officially launches on June 1.

One of Sandalwood’s first major projects will be a shopping mall in Ningbo, China. According to Mr Forrest, Singapore is a market where the joint venture would like to take on a major project that would become a flagship.

He also expects China and India to account for a large percentage of their project work, with retail space in these markets growing amid rising middle class incomes and potent spending power.

According to Jones Lang LaSalle’s latest Retailer Sentiment Survey, the region is experiencing robust growth and optimism.

In all, 76 per cent of respondents in the poll said that they anticipate higher growth in turnover in 2008. Nine out of 10 survey respondents said that they plan to expand their retail operations.

Cities such as Hong Kong have been enjoying a prolonged retail rebound on the heels of strong economic growth and consumer confidence.

January retail sales were more than 23 per cent higher than the same period a year ago, totalling HK$25.7 billion (S$4.5 billion).

However, economists are expecting more modest growth for the rest of the year as inflation begins to bite and consumers wait on the sidelines amid global economic uncertainty.

Although Hong Kong saw its gross domestic product grow by 6.3 per cent in 2007, the government has cited a slowdown in the US and Europe as a possible dampener, with growth this year expected to be in the region of 4 per cent.

Global Sub-Prime Losses Hit A Trillion: IMF

Source : TODAY, Thursday, April 10, 2008

The International Monetary Fund estimates worldwide losses stemming from the sub-prime mortgage crisis in the United States could reach US$945 billion ($1.3 trillion) as the impact spreads globally.

In a particularly stark report, the IMF said falling US housing prices and rising delinquencies on the residential mortgage market could lead to losses of US$565 billion.

Combined with other categories of loans originating in the US and securities issued in the country that are related to commercial real estate, the consumer credit market and corporations “increases aggregate potential losses to about US$945 billion”.

“The crisis is spreading beyond the US sub-prime market - namely to the prime residential and commercial real estate markets, consumer credit and the low- to high-grade corporate credit markets,” the IMF said in its Global Financial Stability Report. While the US remains the epicentre, “financial institutions in other countries have also been affected”.

It was the first time the multilateral institution has made an official estimate of the global losses suffered by banks and other financial institutions in the credit squeeze that began eight months ago in the US, amid rising defaults on sub-prime, or high-risk, home loans.

The staggering estimate represents roughly US$142 per person worldwide and 4 per cent of the $23.21 trillion credit market.

The IMF said that global banks would probably shoulder about half of the losses, at US$440 billion to US$510 billion.

“Leading indicators point to a tightening of credit conditions across many economic activities,” said IMF’s head of Monetary and Capital Markets Department Jaime Caruana.

The unusually precise and harsh report comes ahead of the IMF and the World Bank spring meetings this weekend in Washington.

The IMF, whose core mission is to promote global financial stability, said there was “a collective failure to appreciate the extent of leverage taken on by a wide range of institutions - banks, monoline insurers, government-sponsored entities, hedge funds - and the associated risks of a disorderly unwinding.

“It is now clear that the current turmoil is more than simply a liquidity event, reflecting deep-seated balance sheet fragilities and weak capital bases, which means its effects are likely to be broader, deeper and more protracted.” - AFP

Fed Now Looking At Long, Deep Recession

Source : REUTERS, Thursday, April 10, 2008




US central bank considering how to bolster lending power: Report

WASHINGTON - WORRIES about a deep recession - not a shallow one - drove the United States Federal Reserve to slash a key interest rate last month, according to the minutes of the Fed’s meeting.

Even as the Fed battled in an almost unprecedented fashion to stem a widening credit and housing slump, some members fretted over the possibility of a ‘prolonged and severe’ economic downturn.

It was in that environment that they voted to cut the Fed’s most important interest rate by three-quarters of a percentage point to 2.25 per cent. That action capped the most aggressive Fed intervention in a quarter-century.

Some Fed policymakers thought that such a widening recession could not be ruled out given the ‘further restriction of credit availability and ongoing weakness in the housing market’, according to the minutes made public on Tuesday.

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Fed was looking at contingency plans for bolstering its lending power in case other measures to unfreeze the credit markets fail.

Nothing is imminent since the Fed still has room on its balance sheet for additional lending.

One option would be to have the Treasury borrow more money than it needs to fund the government and keep the proceeds on deposits at the Fed, the report said.

Other options include issuing debts in the Fed’s name, with the proceeds used to make loans or purchase other assets; and, asking Congress for immediate authority for the Fed to pay interest on commercial bank reserves rather than wait until a 2006 law permits it in 2011, the Journal said.

The Fed has been urgently moving to prevent the trio of economic woes - housing, credit and financial - from plunging the US into a deep recession.

On the other hand, with soaring energy prices and high food costs, policymakers realise that they cannot afford to let inflation get out of control either.

Some Fed officials were ‘concerned that inflation expectations could potentially become unhinged’, according to the minutes.

If people, investors and businesses expect prices to rise sharply, they will act in ways that will make inflation worse.

Still, many economists believe the Fed will lower rates again at its next scheduled meeting on April 29 to 30, in light of the latest employment data showing the economy lost jobs for the third month in a row in March.

All told, the US has lost 232,000 jobs in just three months.

US$945b: IMF’s Estimate Of Losses From Sub-Prime Crisis

Source : The Business Times, April 10, 2008

Banks will bear roughly half of the losses, the Fund says in a report

It’s going to be an almost trillion-dollar meltdown. That’s the message on the likely magnitude of the US sub-prime-related crisis from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In its Global Financial Stability Report released in Washington yesterday, the IMF points out that the crisis is spreading beyond the US sub-prime market, to the prime residential and commercial real estate markets, consumer credit and the corporate debt markets.

Headquarters Of The IMF

The IMF loss estimates are in line with those put out by some private economists who have closely tracked the crisis, such as George Magnus of UBS, although others, such as New York University professor Nouriel Roubini, cite US$1 trillion as a minimum loss figure, with the maximum going as high as US$2.7 trillion in the worst case.

According to the IMF, of the US$945 billion of total losses, US$565 billion will be due to residential mortgage debt, US$240 billion will come from commercial real estate debt, US$120 billion from corporate debt and US$20 billion from consumer credit debt.

US$720 billion, or about 76 per cent of the total losses, will come from securitised debt - that is, debt that has been packaged into tradable securities.

Banks will bear roughly half of the sub-prime mortgage-related losses, with insurance companies, pension funds, money market funds, hedge funds and other institutional investors accounting for the rest. Globally, banks are estimated to have US$740 billion of net sub-prime exposure, 53 per cent of which is held by US banks and 41 per cent by European banks. Asian (including Japanese) banks hold about 5 per cent.

The IMF estimates potential losses of US$144 billion for US banks and US$121 billion for European banks. Losses of Asian banks are likely to be less than one-tenth of losses in Europe, it says.

It points out that most sub-prime-related losses appear to have been reported already, noting that through mid-March 2008, banks had reported US$190 billion in losses on US mortgage market exposure. However, it adds that much of that represents mark-to-market losses (losses arising from loans being valued at low prevailing market prices) and some could yet be recoverable in the future.

Still, the IMF says that US banks and government-sponsored enterprises could report a further US$49 billion in additional writedowns, while European banks could report as much as US$43 billion.

Nonbank financial institutions, including insurance companies, may yet also report sizeable additional writedowns.

However, the IMF urges that loss estimates should be treated with caution, because:

They depend on the quality of disclosure, and are sometimes based on estimates of exposures;

Aggregate losses are highly sensitive to bank exposures to different types of loans, which are again estimates. Different tranches of securities are also valued differently;

The timing of loss recognition is uncertain and the norms vary across countries; and

Loss estimates could be lowered by remedial measures such as the modification of mortgage loan terms.

On the ripple effects of the crisis, the IMF points out that emerging-market countries have been ‘broadly resilient’ so far. But it adds that some remain vulnerable to a credit pullback, especially where domestic credit growth has been fuelled from external funding and large current account deficits need to be financed.

However, this is not so much the case in Asia, where most countries have current account surpluses. Eastern European countries are the most exposed.

The IMF’s report comes ahead of tomorrow’s meetings of Group of Seven finance ministers. This will be followed by the spring meetings of the IMF and the World Bank, where the sub-prime crisis is expected to top the agenda.

With regard to policy measures, the IMF says ‘the immediate challenge is to reduce the duration and severity of the crisis. Actions that focus on reducing uncertainty and strengthening confidence in mature market financial systems should be the first priority’.

Comparing the magnitude of the US sub-prime crisis to previous financial crises, the IMF points out that in absolute dollar terms, it is slightly larger than Japan’s banking crisis of the 1990s.

But relative to GDP, the losses stemming from the sub-prime crisis would be around 7 per cent, which makes it much smaller than either the Japanese crisis or the Asian financial crisis of 1997/98, where the total losses came to 15 per cent and 35 per cent of GDP, respectively.

IMF Urges Nations To Make Contingency Plans

Source : The Business Times, April 10, 2008

GLOBAL economic growth will slump to 3.7 per cent this year from near 5 per cent in 2007. But China, India and other emerging economies will continue to expand fast enough to limit the impact of falling growth in crisis-hit advanced nations, the International Monetary Fund says in its World Economic Outlook (WEO) released yesterday.

However, the risk of ‘global recession’ is growing and policy-makers should start making contingency plans now for a severe downturn, it warns.

The report comes on the heels of another major IMF report on Tuesday, which said risks to the stability of the international financial system remain ‘elevated’ in the wake of the US sub-prime mortgage crisis.

The two reports will provide a sombre backdrop to tomorrow’s scheduled meeting of G-7 finance ministers and central bank governors in Washington, where policy responses to the financial and economic crisis will be discussed.

‘The US economy will tip into a mild recession in 2008 as a result of mutually reinforcing cycles in housing and financial markets, before starting a modest recovery in 2009 as balance sheet problems in financial institutions are slowly resolved,’ the IMF suggests in its latest report.

‘Activity in western Europe is also projected to slow to well below potential, owing to trade spill- overs, financial strains and negative housing cycles in some countries.’ it says.

The report projects that US real GDP will expand just 0.5 per cent this year, crumbling from 2.2 per cent in 2007 and 2.9 per cent in 2006. US growth rate is tipped to recover only modestly to 0.6 per cent next year. Japan’s growth is seen at 1.4 per cent this year, down from 2.1 per cent in 2007, and 1.5 per cent next year.

The euro area as a whole should grow 1.4 per cent this year, down from 2.6 per cent in 2007, but slow further to 1.2 per cent growth in 2009.

In contrast to the growth slowdown in advanced nations, ‘growth in emerging and developing economies is expected to ease modestly but remain robust in both 2008 and 2009′, the IMF predicts. ‘The slowdown reflects efforts to prevent overheating in some countries as well as trade and financial spillovers and some moderation in commodity prices.’ it says.

It warns that ‘the overall balance of risks to the short-term global growth outlook remains tilted to the downside’. IMF staff now see a ‘25 per cent chance that global growth will drop to 3 per cent or less in 2008 and 2009 - equivalent to a global recession’.

The prospect of global recession has not been even mentioned in previous issues of the bi-annual WEO.

‘The greatest risk comes from still-unfolding events in financial markets,’ the latest report says. It cites in particular ‘the potential for deep losses on structured credits related to the US sub-prime mortgage market and other sectors to seriously impair financial-system balance sheets and to cause the credit squeeze to mutate into a full-blown credit crunch’.

Interaction between ‘negative financial shocks and domestic demand, particularly through the housing market, remains a concern for the US and to a lesser degree for western Europe and other advanced economies’.

In the event of a severe global downturn, ‘there would be a case for providing temporary fiscal support in a range of countries that have made good progress in recent years in securing sound fiscal positions,’ the IMF says.

By ANTHONY ROWLEY
IN TOKYO

Fed Easing Up On Rate Cuts Despite Slowing Economy

Source : The Business Times, April 10, 2008

Members say cuts alone won’t solve problems; express concern over prices

(WASHINGTON) Federal Reserve officials signalled that they would slow the pace of interest-rate cuts even as they concluded that ’some contraction in economic activity’ is likely.

Some Federal Open Market Committee members saw the danger of a ‘prolonged and severe downturn’, according to minutes of its March 18 meeting released yesterday. Still, ‘monetary policy alone could not address fully the underlying problems in the housing and financial markets’, the minutes said.

Policy makers cut the benchmark lending rate by 2 percentage points in the first 11 weeks of the year, the fastest pace in two decades. They may now need to assess the impact of the reductions, US$168 billion of fiscal stimulus, and several steps to increase liquidity in financial markets.

The Fed’s target rate for overnight loans between banks is 2.25 per cent, down from 5.25 per cent in September. Economists anticipate officials will stop lowering borrowing costs after cutting the rate to 1.75 per cent in June, according to the median of 62 estimates.

‘The most important factor is, I think, that they know that the fiscal stimulus is about to go out,’ said Jan Hatzius, chief US economist at Goldman Sachs Group in New York, referring to tax rebate checks scheduled for distribution from May. Fed policy makers ‘are very reluctant to go below 1 per cent. And they’re pretty reluctant to go below 2.’

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has overseen an expansion of the Fed’s efforts to alleviate the credit crunch that has gone beyond rate cuts, including making loans directly to investment banks.

The central bank also made an emergency loan to Bear Stearns Cos and agreed to take on US$30 billion of the firm’s assets to secure its takeover by JPMorgan Chase & Co. Yesterday’s minutes included no details on the discussions surrounding the decision, which was made by the Fed’s Board of Governors, rather than the FOMC.

Fed staff economists told policy makers that they had ’substantially revised down’ their forecast to show a first-half contraction in gross domestic product, with a ’slow rise’ in the second half. In 2009, the staff projected growth ’somewhat above’ the economy’s long-term potential pace, the minutes showed.

Some stabilisation in US housing markets is probably needed to ‘underpin’ the economy’s recovery, though policy makers saw ‘little indication’ that the process had begun, the minutes said.

Policy makers continued to express concern about rising consumer prices, although ‘most participants still expected inflation to moderate later this year and in 2009′, the minutes said. Fed staff economists also projected that inflation would slow next year.

The Fed’s preferred inflation measure, the personal consumption expenditures price index minus food and energy, rose 2 per cent in February from 12 months before. Including the two items, prices climbed 3.4 per cent, the fourth straight month in excess of 3 per cent.

Committee members last month also discussed evidence of an ‘adverse feedback loop’, where lenders reduce credit, hurting growth and causing lending to contract further, the minutes showed. — Bloomberg

Ascendas India Devt Trust In $290m JV

Source : The Business Times, April 10, 2008

Project comprises IT Special Economic Zone and mixed-use development

ASCENDAS India Development Trust (AIDT) has announced a 50:50 joint venture with Indian real estate fund IREO to develop a $290 million project in Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu state.

AIDT is the private property development fund of business space provider Ascendas, which will manage the development when it is completed in six to seven years.

The project, on a 53 acre site, will comprise an IT Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and mixed-use development.

Of the 53 acres, 28 acres will have development potential of more than three million square feet of IT SEZ space to accommodate over 30,000 IT professionals.

The remaining 25 acres are earmarked for residential, commercial and hospitality use.

Development will take place in four phases, expected to start in September 2008.

Ascendas’s Singapore-listed Ascendas India Trust has the right of first refusal on income-producing business space in the project.

Ascendas president and chief executive Chong Siak Ching said that Ascendas aims to provide diverse residential, retail and other commercial offerings and the Coimbatore project is in line with this.

Ascendas has more than 265 acres of development projects across six cities in India. The latest project is its third IT development in Tamil Nadu state after International Tech Park Chennai and CyberVale at Mahindra World City, Chennai.

IREO has an asset portfolio of about US$2 billion, spread across more than 15 development projects encompassing residential, office, retail and hospitality properties in India.

The Coimbatore project is in a fast-developing business area 10 km from the airport. Ascendas said that the development would feature quality infrastructure and facilities synonymous with its projects across the region.

St George Launching Projects Here

Source : The Business Times, April 10, 2008

LONDON mixed-use developer St George is launching its latest projects in Asia.

The first is One The Tower at Battersea Reach, a 17-storey feature on the south bank of the Thames.

Due for completion in the summer of 2009, the tower will house 41 two- and three-bedroom apartments and one triplex penthouse.

Prices start from £pounds;800,000 (S$2.19 million), or £pounds;900 per square foot.

The next is Aquarius House at St George Wharf, London’s most central riverside development, which offers views of the London Eye and the Houses of Parliament.

With 85 one- and two-bedroom apartments, Aquarius House is expected to be completed in spring 2010. Prices start from £pounds;399,950 or £pounds;800 psf.

Both developments will feature riverside bars, restaurants and retail outlets.

Bus and rail transport links are available, and Heathrow and Gatwick airports are within an hour by public transport.

DST International Property Services is marketing the developments in Singapore and Malaysia.

An exhibition will be held here at The Four Seasons Hotel on April 19 and 20.

‘Both schemes have previously sold extremely well in Asia and we anticipate strong demand,’ said Mark Griffiths, managing director of St George South London.

Soilbuild Clinches Fusionopolis Contract

Source : The Business Times, April 10, 2008

MAINBOARD-LISTED Soilbuild Group Holdings yesterday said it has clinched the Concept-and-Fixed Price Tender (CPT), called by JTC Corporation, to develop and lease Fusionopolis Phase 2B.

The proposed development, estimated to cost about $148 million, is a 16-storey multi-tenanted facility at one-north in the Buona Vista area.

It will cater to the infocommunications, media, science and engineering research and development industries. This is Soilbuild’s fifth CPT contract with JTC.

Fusionopolis Phase 2B sits on a 7,734 square metre site with a plot ratio of 6.5, which translates into a maximum gross floor area of 50,271 sq m.

It will comprise an office space white component of about 7,200 sq m and a retail space of 300 sq m. The development is expected to take 22 months to complete, with the target date set for the second half of 2009.

Soilbuild’s winning design for Fusionopolis Phase 2B is by world-renowned architect Ken Yeang, who impressed JTC with his green and sustainable building concept.

Low Soon Sim, Soilbuild’s executive director, said the group was confident that Fusionopolis Phase 2B would attract strong interest.

He said the award of the project tied in with the group’s overall strategy to grow its recurrent income stream through its business space segment.

‘The shorter development cycle also complements the two-to- three-year investment-to- sales cycle for our core residential property segment,’ he said.

“With the full year contribution in 2008 from our current three completed investment properties, we are on course to meet our medium-term target of $10 million in annual recurrent income since we began our expansion into the business space segment in 2005.”

In all, Soilbuild has about two million square feet of business space in the pipeline.

Confirmed: Tulip Garden’s En Bloc Sale To Bravo Rescinded

Source : The Business Times, April 9, 2008

IT’S official. Tulip Garden’s owners have rescinded the $516 million en bloc sale of the estate to a unit of Bravo Building Construction.

Lee & Lee partner Ow Yong Thian Soo, representing ‘Tulip Garden’ owners, confirmed that the firm yesterday sent a notice of rescission of the sale- and-purchase agreement for Tulip Garden to Bravo’s lawyers. ‘We also informed them that the sellers will be forfeiting the 5 per cent of the transaction price paid to them so far. And our clients reserve all rights,’ he said.

The notice of rescission was sent to Bravo after it failed to pay the second 5 per cent instalment by the deadline on April 7. Bravo had requested another extension of this deadline to June 7, as well as to extend the completion date of the transaction (which is when it would have had to pay up the remaining 90 per cent of the purchase price) from May 28 to Aug 7. Tulip Garden owners met over the weekend and most indicated they wanted to cancel the sale if Bravo missed the payment deadline on April 7.

$516m Deal: Tulip Garden Owners Call Off Collective Sale

Source : The Straits Times, Apr 9, 2008

OWNERS at Tulip Garden have called off the $516 million collective sale of their 164-unit Holland Road condo, but they will keep the $25.8 million deposit.

Mr Ow Yong Thian Soo of Lee & Lee, who is representing the owners, told The Straits Times yesterday that a notice rescinding the sale was given to the intended buyer - a consortium led by Bravo Building Construction.

The owners also told Bravo that they would retain the 5 per cent deposit, a right allowed under the sale and purchase agreement.

They decided to cancel the sale after Bravo missed Monday’s deadline - which had already been extended from last month - to pay a further 5 per cent of the purchase price. The developer wanted even more time to pay and complete the sale.

The deposit will now be distributed proportionally. Owners who were due to receive $2.5 million to $4.2 million from the sale will now get 5 per cent of these sums once the estate pays expenses of possibly $1 million or more. These include half the conveyancing fees, half the fees of consultants Savills Singapore, plus litigation and administration costs.

Bravo bought Tulip Garden last July and was due to complete the sale late next month. It also has unfinished business at Pender Court, where it missed the $80 million collective sale completion date but has an extension until later this month.

Was Bravo Too Ambitious?

Source : TODAY, Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Analysts point to bad timing for developer in 3 en bloc attempts

ONE construction and property development firm, troubled by the cooling property market and credit crisis, has left three en bloc sellers’ hopes of a cash windfall in shambles - and some analysts wondering if it is a victim of circumstances, or a player that bit off more than it could chew.

Since April 1, Bravo Building Construction has made the news for rescinding the sale of Makeway View, and for delaying payments for the purchase of Tulip Garden (picture) and Pender Court.

Pender Court’s 48-unit owners are now waiting until April 29 to see if payment is made. If they do not see their cheques of over $1 million each by then, most would “take it that the sale is off”, a resident told Today.

Tulip Garden’s 164 unit owners also look certain to call off the sale, as they voted in a show of hands over the weekend not to give Bravo a longer time to pay.

Bravo has problems raising funds and is seeking an unconditional extension of time.

The company is likely to forfeit its first payment of $25 million, and owners would receive their share of about $125,000 each by this month, a Tulip Garden resident said.

Some market-watchers are sympathetic of Bravo’s plight - going ahead with en bloc purchases last year, seeking partners to come on board since November, and now facing trouble raising funds to pay the sellers.

“It’s unfortunate things didn’t work out. It was because of the timing and all the bad news in the financial markets,” said Mr Eugene Lim, assistant vice-president of ERA Singapore.

Noting that the property market has been relatively quiet since September after the boom earlier, analysts said Bravo may have “just missed the cycle”.

They said the company’s woes showed that dabbling in en bloc was not for everyone - especially not smaller, less experienced players.

Bravo, whose office is in Geylang Lorong 23, was set up in 2002. It ranked fourth in collective sale purchases last year, outbuying City Developments and Hotel Properties.

A lawyer dealing in collective sales found Bravo’s performance “very strange”, because compared to the big players such as United Overseas Land, CapitaLand and Guocoland, it was “nobody at all”.

Smaller companies would have problems securing funds from banks in the current credit crisis, he said.

While it is common for developers to make purchases before roping partners into the project, small players should secure partners before buying sites, said Mr Colin Tan, head of consultancy and research at Chesterton International.

For example, CapitaLand bought Gillman Heights last February, but later sold half its stake to Hotel Properties (HPL) and two private funds.

“It is common for one party to go in first, but for less experienced parties, they might over-reach,” said Mr Tan.

Meanwhile, residents at the Makeway View, Tulip Garden and Pender Court seem quite happy to stay put.

One Tulip Garden owner said the money forfeited by Bravo was some consolation for the “hassle we had to go through”.

Another owner said she gave up her car after moving to Tulip Garden seven years ago, and found its location hard to beat.

A Pender Court resident said she was happy to remain in her home of 22 years “where my children grew up”.

Makeway View resident Mark Devilliers, 31, who has been living there for over a year, did not know that its en bloc had fallen through.

Rejoicing when told of it by Today, he said it would be “sad if a nice building such as Makeway View went en bloc”.

Amber Glades On The Block Again, At $18m Discount

Source : TODAY, Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A day after the Royalville site off Sixth Avenue was relaunched at a much lower price, another en bloc site has been put back on the market at a significant discount from the heady prices its sellers were asking for less than six months ago.

The Amber Glades site on the East Coast is being relaunched today at an indicative price of $127 million, more than 12 per cent lower than the asking price of $145 million when it was first launched last October, according to its marketing agent Colliers International.

“Including an estimated development charge of $3.5 million, the price will work out to some $1,140 per sq ft per plot ratio,” said Mr Ho Eng Joo, executive director of investment sales at Colliers.

The 40,917 sq ft freehold residential site has a plot ratio of 2.8. Amber Glades, comprising two 10-storey residential blocks with a total of 63 units, currently stands on the land.

The site can be re-developed to accommodate a residential development comprising 88 units of 1,300 sq ft each, Colliers said.

Amenities can be found at the nearby Parkway Parade, Katong Shopping Centre and East Coast Park, while access to other parts of the island is available via East Coast Parkway and the new Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway.

EM Services Top Bidder For Commonwealth Flats

Source : The Business Times, April 9, 2008

EM Services Pte Ltd, a property management services company, yesterday emerged as the top bidder in a Housing & Development Board (HDB) tender to lease out 126 units of HDB flats at Commonwealth Drive.

EM Services offered $180,810 a month for a 3+3 years tenancy.

Its bid was 30.2 per cent higher than the next highest bid of $138,888 a month by Hean Nerng Holdings.

The tender, which HDB called on Feb 26, attracted 13 bids, with $37,800 a month being the lowest.

The three-room flats are located in Blocks 57, 61, and 67 to 73 of Commonwealth Drive.

Based on information on EM Services’ website, the company is a joint venture between HDB and Keppel Land Limited.

HDB is expected to make a decision in the next three weeks.

EM Services Puts In Top Bid For Interim Housing At Commonwealth Dr

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 08 April 2008

Property leasing firm EM Services has put in the top bid of S$180,810 for nine blocks of HDB flats at Commonwealth Drive for interim housing.

Its bid was 30 percent more than the next highest offer of S$138,888 from Hean Nerng Holdings.

The tender by the Housing and Development Board attracted a total of 13 bids. The lowest came in at S$37,800 from a consortium led by B19 Technologies.

Under the tender rules, the winning bidder will be able to rent out 126 units of 3-room flats at Blocks 57, 61, 67 to 73 Commonwealth Drive.

The units, each measuring about 52 square metres, can be leased for three years with an option to renew for another three.

EM Services is a unit of the Housing and Development Board.

The winning bid is expected to be announced in about three weeks. - CNA /ls

Hard Rock Hotel Contract Awarded

Source : The Business Times, April 9, 2008

GENTING International has awarded a $340 million contract to Singapore-listed Low Keng Huat (S) Ltd to build the Hard Rock Hotel at Resorts World at Sentosa (RWS).

The latest construction award brings the tally of construction contracts to over $1 billion.

The Hard Rock Hotel will be the first and only such hotel here. It is also one of six hotels at the $6 billion RWS development.

Expected to open in early 2010, the Hard Rock Hotel will have 360 keys (rooms), including nine suites and 351 rooms.

It will also have conference facilities, more than 20 meeting rooms and a large column-free ballroom with seating for 7,300 guests.

Michael Chin, executive vice-president of projects at RWS, said that Low Keng Huat was selected from a tender exercise which drew ’several bids’.

He added that the construction of the resort is entering a new phase in which the superstructures such as the hotels will be built.

‘Low Keng Huat’s proven track record and expertise in building construction and property development, especially in hospitality-related sectors, were the key factors in our selection,’ Mr Chin said.

One of the challenges in the construction of the Hard Rock Hotel will be the ballroom.

Low Keng Boon, managing director at Low Keng Huat, said the difficulty in constructing the ballroom lies in the fact that it is completely column-free, without the support of beams for a foundation.

With a floor area of 6,500 sq m and at a height of 11m, Mr Low explained that extremely large trusses will have to be specially manufactured to withstand the weight of the entire structure.

RWS will have some 1,800 rooms, spread across its six hotels of varying themes. Topping the list are Maxims Residences, Hotel Michael and the Hard Rock Hotel.

Construction Of Singapore’s First Hard Rock Hotel To Start In May

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 8 Apr 2008

Construction of Singapore’s first Hard Rock Hotel which will be located at the upcoming Resorts World at Sentosa will begin in May.

The 360-room hotel is one of six to be developed and fans and visitors will be grooving to it when the famous chain opens in 2010.

Model of Hard Rock Hotel to be located at Resorts World at Sentosa, Singapore

Together, the hotels will provide 1,800 rooms but this might still not be enough.

Elena Arabadjieva, Deputy Vice-President, Resort Marketing, Resorts World at Sentosa, said: “We have 15 million visitors projected for the first year of operation, out of which 60% will be from overseas. We will definitely have challenges accommodating all our guests. Therefore, we are working with the hotels on the island to forge out some partnership.

“In the years to come, we are looking at different opportunities, from block booking part of the properties and other forms of partnership.”

Related Videos : - http://tinyurl.com/5oc2f6

The S$346 million five-star hotel will include 20 conference rooms and they are expected to be in high demand especially, the massive ballroom which will have no columns.

This will be located at the basement of the Hard Rock Hotel and could take up to 7,300 people.

The Hard Rock Hotel chain has operations in the US and around the region, including Bali, Penang and Pattaya.

Resorts World has been promoting its wide range of offerings in trade shows overseas.

It’s expected to rev up its marketing activities in 2009 in Southeast and North Asia, Australia as well as Europe.

The Hard Rock Hotel is part of the S$6 billion resort development.

It’s also the first of six hotels to begin construction work after the building contract was awarded to Low Keng Huat Limited.

The construction firm edged out two other bidders to secure the deal.

Resorts World said Low Keng Huat was selected based on its proven track record and its expertise in building construction and property development, especially in the hospitality-related sectors.

This deal is the latest in a string of construction contracts amounting to over S$1 billion that have been awarded so far. - CNA/vm

Farm Resort In S’pore? It Will Be A Reality Soon

Source : The Business Times, April 9, 2008

GREENERY is all around and there is nary a tall building in sight. Gone is the buzz of heavy day-time traffic. Have a short rest in your air-conditioned villa, and take in the stretches of gardens and fruit trees that come into view. But there is no need to linger for too long, as there is much outside to indulge you in - a wellness spa, a farm produce market and even a corn plantation tour.




















This may sound like a farm stay overseas, but rustic escapes like this will soon be possible in Singapore. Come September, what is hailed by the HLH Group as the country’s first agri-tainment getaway D’Kranji Farm Resort will be ready to welcome its first visitors.

The five-hectare Lim Chu Kang resort, already 60 per cent complete, will house 21 villas, 21 farming plots and retail kiosks, a wellness spa, seafood restaurant, beer garden, as well as a research and development (R&D) centre for corn plantations.

D’Kranji is a $10 million project undertaken by mainboard-listed HLH Group, the former PDC Corp which in 2006 adopted its present name to reflect its shift from electronics business to agricultural business.

Its three core areas now are agricultural plantation, agri-business and property development.

The foray into agri-tainment is a reflection of HLH’s restructuring efforts since 2006. The group, a commercial corn producer in Asia, is involved in the whole value chain of corn plantation, corn processing as well as the merchandising of agricultural products.

The resort is an offshoot of HLH’s efforts to develop its corn plantation business. According to CEO Tan Siang Hee at the media briefing yesterday, HLH began with the idea of setting up an R&D centre in Singapore to test different varieties of corn before growing them on a larger scale. Noting that people may be interested in visiting corn plantations, the concept then developed into the one we see today.

The resort also offers entrepreneurship opportunities by providing rental-free agri-retail kiosks to those interested in farming. Kiosk operators will receive a two-year operating permit, renewable subject to overall performance, and will pay a monthly management fee to HLH in return.

The resort aims to attract 500,000 visitors a year. HLH is in talks with eight tour group operators, and also has plans to work with community centres to bring visitors to the site.

Landscaping company Nyee Phoe Group also has plans to launch kampung-style chalets in Lim Chu Kang.

On the potential competition, Mr Tan said that the key was about ‘how we are going to strategise, how we are going to make our uniqueness stand out, and how we differentiate our products’. With similar players in the area, there would also be potential for Lim Chu Kang to develop as a lifestyle hub.

Shares of HLH closed trading unchanged at three cents yesterday.

Singapore’s First Farm Resort In Lim Chu Kang To Offer Villas

Source : Channel NewsAsia, Apr 8, 2008

Lim Chu Kang looks all set for a change if the Singapore Land Authority’s plans for the first agri-tainment resort work out.

Agri-tainment farm resort in Lim Chu Kang

Developers of the agri-tainment farm resort hope to offer visitors a more unconventional experience when it opens its doors in August 2008.

Visitors will be able to find out how crops like corn and coffee are grown and may even get the chance to harvest their own vegetables.

In addition, the five-hectare site, which is equal to the size of six football fields, will have 21 villas and a nearby spa. And the villas will be going for up to S$200 a night.

HLH Agri International is paying S$880,000 for a 20-year lease which it admits is ‘cheap’.

It plans to sub-lease 21 plots to entrepreneurs and will charge 10 per cent of their total earnings in management fees.

Dr Tan Siang Hee, CEO of HLH Agri International, said: “We’re going to create the opportunity for people to have a storefront. They can be planting from somewhere else and bringing in the product. Or in another sense, they could be planting within the 700 square metres that we give them as a demonstration port.”

HLH has refused to disclose other financial details.

Each operator will be given a two-year operating permit that will be renewable subject to the overall performance of the operator.

Interested operators will be able to operate rent-free and will only have to pay a minimum management fee.

Operators will need to submit a business plan specifying crop type.

Other nearby farm owners that Channel NewsAsia spoke with said they don’t feel threatened by the new resort farm and expect it to help renew interest in the industry.

Developers are aiming to draw 500,000 local and foreign visitors a year with plans to increase that number to 650,000 by 2012. - CNA/vm

Soilbuild Wins S$148m JTC Contract To Build Facility At Fusionopolis

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 09 April 2008

Property developer Soilbuild on Wednesday said it has secured a S$148 million contract from JTC Corp to develop a multi-tenanted facility at Fusionopolis.

The proposed development is a 16-storey multi-tenanted facility at one-north that will cater to the infocommunications, media, science and engineering research and development industries.

Soilbuild said the development site will span 7,734 square metres, with a plot ratio of 6.5.

The proposed facility can be developed up to a maximum gross floor area of 50,271 square metres. It will have office and retail space.

The project is due to be completed in the second half of 2009. - CNA/ms

Economists Say Singapore's GDP Growth Likely To Rebound In Q1

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 09 April 2008

Singapore's economy is expected to see a rebound in the first quarter. Economists are forecasting GDP to expand by some 6.8% on year, swinging up from the 4.8% decline in the previous three months.

They said the boost will come from a rebound in the pharmaceutical and electronics manufacturing sector. But going foreward, they expect growth numbers to go downhill.

The construction sector is one of the main pillars of Singapore's growth so far this year. Together with manufacturing, the construction sector is holding up the first quarter's rebound, according to economists.

Irvin Seah, economist with DBS Group Research, said: "The only bright spark in the economy will probably be the construction sector. The construction sector has been growing at about 20 per cent so far last year.

"And with healthy pipelines of projects coming up - for example the two IRs (integrated resorts), MRT line, Marina Bay Financial Centre and facilities for the Youth Olympics in 2010, we have a very healthy pipeline of mega projects - that will continue to power this sector in the next couple of years."

Kit Wei Zheng, from the Asia-Pac Economic and Market Analysis unit at Citicorp Investment Bank, said: "The key source of rebound will come from the manufacturing sector.

"We saw manufacturing growth in the first two months of the year rise to 11.4 percent from just 0.2 percent in the fourth quarter last year. This is largely a function of a large rebound in pharmaceuticals, which surged more than 60 percent in January this year.

"The second source of strength (in relation to manufacturing) will come from trade related services."

Economists are also expecting to see some good numbers from the services sector, which is seen as a reliable pillar of growth despite a slowdown in the financial services sector.

Seah said: "The services sector is likely to continue to remain a stable, reliable pillar of growth. But we do see moderations in service sector growth, led by the financial services sector.

"(This is due to) risk aversion and equity tightness in the sector. Investors' risk appetites have diminished and that will slow down financial services activity drastically.

"The property market has also slowed down recently and that means lower housing loans. The business services sector will also see slower growth going forward."

Economists warned that the going will get tougher in the next few quarters due to a cooling global economic climate, where the electronics sector is expected to bear the brunt of a slowdown in US consumer spending.

But rather than call it a recession, some prefer the term "cyclical speed bump".

Kit said: "It's a strong start to the year, but it may be what we call a calm before a storm. We now expect a protracted US recession and growth in other major industrial economies will continue to slow. In Asia, we expect China to register growth of 9.8 percent - the first under-10 percent growth in more than five years.

"(Against) this backdrop of slowing global economy, we expect more headwinds for Singapore exports. We expect that the electronics sector in particular, to bear the brunt in the slowdown of US consumer spending.

"Having said that, we are not expecting a recession but a cyclical slowdown. Our forecast for the full year stands at 4.7 percent, which you can call a cyclical speed bump rather than a recession. If you compare it to the last US recession in 2001 when economy contracted more than 2 percent, I think this is a relatively decent performance.

"Why we are relatively confident comes from three key sources of resilience. The first is the manufacturing sector has basically diversified and there is less dependence on electronics.

"We have seen the share of electronics in total GDP fall from around 12 percent in the last recession to around 7 percent currently. At the same time, sectors less sensitive to US business cycle have increased their share of GDP." For example, the biomedical and transport engineering sectors now account for about 10 percent of GDP.

The government will release advance estimates of first quarter growth on April 10. - CNA /ls

S$400m Increase In Investments In Resorts World At Sentosa

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 09 April 2008

Genting International is injecting an additional S$400 million into the integrated resort at Sentosa.

Genting said the funds will come in part from a rights issue of 400 million new ordinary shares. This will be done through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Star Eagle Holdings Limited.

Resorts World at Sentosa is slated to open in early 2010.

Genting won the bid to build the S$6 billion integrated resort in 2006.

It had earlier secured more than S$4.19 billion in syndicated funding to pay for the mega project.

The funding is a record for Genting and one of the largest syndicated credit deals in Singapore’s banking history. - CNA/vm

Millennium And Copthorne Hotels Moves Into India Market With Rakindo Tie-Up

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 09 April 2008

Millennium and Copthorne (M&C) Hotels is partnering with India-based developer Rakindo to launch two hotels in southern India to tap into growing demand.

They plan to open at least another 20 properties in the sub-continent over the next five years.

M&C is majority-owned Singapore-listed City Developments, which holds a 53% stake in the company.

Business travellers to Bangalore and Chennai are seeing a sharp jump in hotel room rates, and hotel chains like M&C are keen to tap into the growing demand.

M&C and Rakindo are pumping in almost US$100 million each into their joint venture.

"Millenium will be running the business with their technology and Rakindo will be looking after the needs of the joint venture, in terms of sourcing of the land, regulartory approvals and environment management. (Rakindo is) essentially helping the joint ventures implement the projects faster and better, at a better cost," said Kishore K Kothapalli, director of Rakindo Developers.

M&C Rakindo may be the the newest player in India's hospitality market, but it is promising to equip its hotel rooms with smart design features to draw in the independent and tech-savvy traveller.

With India's economy expected to grow at an average of eight percent annually over the next decade, both partners are positive about the outlook.

They are looking to grow both organically and through acquisitions.

"I suppose it will be a combination of both. We're open to either finding new sites to develop or open to acquisitions as and when they arise," said Tan Kim Seng, senior VP of Operations at Millennium and Copthorne Hotels.

The hotel in Chennai will be completed in 2009 while the Bangalore hotel will open in 2010.

The 120-room hotel in Chennai will be located in the T Nagar central commercial district while the 300-room Bangalore hotel will be situated in a key IT district.

Both hotels will feature contemporary, urban-inspired guestrooms with smart design features that promise to make guest stays memorable. Amenities such as modular furniture designed to encourage multi-tasking & productivity, to flat-screen televisions will be provided in each room. - CNA /ls

HDB Says BTO Flats To Constitute Main Supply Going Forward

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 10 April 2008

The Housing and Development Board (HDB) said build-to-order (BTO) flats will constitute the main supply of new flats going forward.

The BTO projects will only commence when a majority of the units have been booked to avoid over-building.

HDB also said it is the norm that buyers have to wait about three years before the new flats are ready.

Between now and September, HDB plans to offer 5,000 new BTO flats in towns such as Punggol, Sengkang, Woodlands and Bukit Panjang.

This brings the total planned BTO supply for the first nine months of the year to 6,100 units, surpassing the number of BTO flats launched in the whole of last year and in 2006.

HDB also said it will refine its combined balloting/walk-in system starting July.

The supply of unsold four-room and bigger flats, currently grouped under three sectors - North and West, Northeast and established towns - will be consolidated under a single launch.

The sales exercises will also be re-structured.

The sale of three-room and smaller unsold flats will be conducted once a quarter, starting from July.

For three-room premium, four-room and bigger flats, the sales exercise will be conducted once every six months from October onwards.

With the refinements, a larger supply of unsold flats will be offered for sale under each launch.

Starting July, HDB will also offer first-timers priority status for these sales exercises, and 90 per cent of the flat supply will be set aside for first-time applicants.

First-timers will also enjoy double chances over regular applicants under the ballot to determine their queue position. - CNA/ac

Singapore's Q1 GDP Grows 7.2% Year-On-Year

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 10 April 2008

Singapore's economy grew an annual 7.2 per cent in the first quarter, faster than the 5.4 per cent expansion recorded in the previous three months, the government said Thursday.

Last quarter's performance was also better than economists' average growth forecast of 6.4 per cent expansion.

On a quarter-on-quarter seasonally adjusted annualised basis, real gross domestic product for the first quarter of this year expanded by 16.9 per cent after dropping 4.8 per cent in the fourth quarter last year, the trade ministry said.

Growth in the first quarter was powered by the manufacturing sector which expanded an annual 13.2 per cent, picking up sharply from the 0.2 per cent recorded in the previous quarter, the ministry said.

"This was largely due to a surge in the output of the biomedical manufacturing cluster, following its contraction in the previous quarter," it said.

The construction sector also posted double-digit year-on-year growth of 14.6 per cent in the first quarter although the pace was slower than the previous quarter's 24.3 per cent, the ministry said.

For the services-related sector, growth was estimated at an annual 7.6 per cent, slightly slower than the previous quarter's 7.7 per cent, it said.

"All in all, a good start to the year, but with demand in OECD countries likely to soften in the coming months, Singapore's growth could moderate going into the second-half," said Song Seng Wun, an economist with CIMB-GK Research.

He was referring to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, whose members include major industrialised countries.

Any slowdown in the world's major economies will affect Singapore because of its dependency on external trade which is more than three times the size of its gross domestic product valued at 243.17 billion Singapore dollars (179 billion US) last year.

The global economic outlook is increasingly grim, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said Wednesday.

It said global expansion is set to slow to 3.7 per cent in 2008 amid an unfolding crisis that began in the United States whose economy, the world's biggest, is likely in a "mild recession".

Singapore and other "newly industrialised economies" should see 4.0 per cent growth, the IMF said.

According to government projections, Singapore's economy is targeted to grow between 4.0 and 6.0 per cent for the full year, slower than the 7.7 per cent of 2007.

The advance GDP estimates for the first quarter are based largely on January and February data. More detailed figures are due to be released next month. - AFP/ac

MAS Continues To Tighten Singapore's Monetary Policy

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 10 April 2008

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) further tightened monetary policy on Thursday in a bid to address a sharp rise in inflation, allowing the Singapore dollar to continue to rise against other currencies.

The move sent the Singapore dollar to all-time highs at US$1.3623 in morning trade, against 1.3810 late Wednesday.

In its semi-annual policy statement, the MAS said consumer prices have risen sharply since the second half of last year, reflecting both external and domestic factors.

From 0.8 per cent in the first half of last year, consumer price index (CPI) inflation accelerated to 6.6 per cent in January-February, MAS said.

The MAS conducts monetary policy through the local currency rather than by setting interest rates.

The Singapore dollar is traded against a basket of currencies of the city-state's major trading partners within an undisclosed trading band known as the nominal effective exchange rate (NEER).

Since its last policy review in October, the NEER has fluctuated in the upper half of the band, MAS said.

"Against this backdrop of continuing external and domestic cost pressures, an upward shift of the policy band at this point will help to moderate inflation going forward, while providing support for sustainable growth in the economy," it said.

"MAS will therefore re-centre the exchange rate policy band at the prevailing level of the NEER."

Details of the trading band are not made public to prevent speculation in the Singapore dollar.

The government on Thursday said Singapore's economy grew at a faster 7.2 per cent in the first quarter of the year, in a report that beat the average forecast made by economists.

On April 11 last year, the Singapore dollar was trading at US$1.5182. - AFP/ac

金香园Tulip Gardens 集体出售告吹

《联合早报》Apr 9, 2008

金香园(Tulip Gardens)集体出售交易昨天正式告吹,风波主角Bravo Building Construction驳斥财务面临困境的传言  

从事建筑和发展业的Bravo去年7月中以5亿1600万元,买下位于荷兰路的金香园,相等于容积率每平方英尺1018元。公司原订于上个月13日缴付 5%的款项,却因为无法及时融资而要求把付款期限延后至4月7日。然而,公司本月初又再次向业主寻求宽限,但不被接受。

金香园业主昨天通过代表律师李及李律师馆,正式向Bravo致函,不接受其二度延期付款的要求,并将没收早在去年8月所接收的2580万元定金。每名业主将被分配到10万元左右。

Bravo董事兼发言人方小姐在接受本报访问时,对业主的决定表示失望和不解。

她说:“我们要求他们宽限两个月8天,好让我们有足够的时间筹集资金。我们是与另外四名伙伴购买这个项目,需要所有人同意才能进行融资。如此巨额项目,如果我们没有信心能够争取到资金,一开始就不会开出那么优惠的价格。业主只要多等两个多月就能赚取2亿元的盈利,这不是比现在取得2580万元来得好吗?”

“何况他们如果重新开始整个集体出售过程,不但需要约一年的时间,以目前的市场情况来看,所得的标价也相信不会比我们开出的价格来得高。”

据了解,Bravo开出的5亿1600万元是金香园获得的最高标价,排在第二的据说是联合工业,出价4亿8000万元。

金香园业主不答应延后交易完成最后期限是由于分层地契局已允许出售申请,而交易须在三个月内完成,销售委员会在5月28日后,无权延长期限。
  
除了金香园外,Bravo也向秉德阁(Pender Court)业主要求延期至本月底才付款。上个月该公司也决定放弃购买位于纽顿地铁站附近的马克维景(Makeway View),失去约163万元的定金。发言人解释,由于需承担的发展费比预期来得高,又见科威特金融屋(Kuwait Finance House)没有在最后限期之前行使优景苑(Goodwood Residence)的认购权,公司在重新检讨了之后认为回本价太高而决定放弃马克维景。

对于市场谣传公司一再要求延后付款和放弃收购计划是因面临财务问题,发言人说:“我们不是单枪匹马购买金香园,2580万元的损失将和其他伙伴分担。还有,我们今年以来所蒙受的损失,只不过抵销了一些在去年所赚取的盈利,我们接下来将推出新项目,会有盈利进账。只能说,金香园对我们来说是次惨痛的教训。”  

Bravo是去年买下最多集体出售项目的发展商之一,总共收购了总值8亿2450万元的集体出售项目。

这家成立六年的新加坡公司,由方氏家族经营,在本地发展小型项目,自2006年9月已在本地购买了约16幅地段,大部分是东部的集体出售项目,平均土地面积介于3万至4万5000平方英尺。金香园是公司买下的最大幅地段。

武吉知马富贵园Royalville 再次标售

《联合早报》Apr 8, 2008

位于新加坡第10邮区(武吉知马路)的富贵园(Royalville)再次推出招标,包括隔壁地下排水道上面的地段在内,预示价为3亿零500万元。

该地段曾于去年推出招标,但由于房地产市场降温没能成功售出。负责销售项目的房地产代理商齐乐行(Credo)执行董事陈鸿文指出,这次将富贵园和隔壁这块占地8420平方英尺的地皮一起推出,价格上更加优惠,更具吸引力。

这两幅地皮共达18万2596平方英尺,容积率是1.4,允许建造达五层楼高的公寓。如果发展商选择建造占现有总建筑楼面10%的阳台,总建筑楼面可达 28万1198平方英尺。目前这个拥有93个住宅单位和11个商店楼面的地段,可重新发展成140个平均2000平方英尺的共管公寓单位。

根据1.54的容积率计算,该地段的发展费为600万元,相当于容积率每平方英尺1106元。而去年10月,富贵园的预示价为3亿3000万元,即容积率每平方英尺1235元。

齐乐行表示,每平方英尺1700元的售价即可使发展商收支平衡。而附近嘉皇轩(Duchess Residences)的售价超过了每平方英尺2000元。

陈鸿文说:“这一地段会吸引外籍工作人士和有就学年龄孩子的富裕家庭。附近拥有多所名校,如美以美女中、恒力小学、莱佛士女子小学以及几所国际学校。我们也预计,未来武吉知马一带的地铁站会靠近富贵园。”
  
招标截止日期为5月9日(星期五)下午2时半。

担心市场每况愈下 一些私宅业主降价求售

《联合早报》Apr 10, 2008

房地产市场坏消息接踵而来,一些私宅业主担心市场将每况愈下,已开始降低要价,以便尽快将资产脱手。

虽然房地产市场已出现放缓迹象,转售业主和发展商今年以来一直不肯调低售价期望,使市场进入“静止状态”。不过,据市场人士观察,过去几个星期以来,一些业主已开始把售价降低5%至20%左右,而且不限于高档公寓,连中档和一些大众化私宅的业主也不惜削价卖出。

位于纽顿一带,属于中高档的Park Infinia at Wee Nam,最近就有业主自动将要价从1600元调低至1500元,调低幅度约7%。

根据市区重建局Realis系统的数据,位于Park Infinia一间22楼的单位,今年三月以每平方英尺1434元售出,但在今年一月,同样楼层和面积的单位,售价为每平方英尺1600元,价差为12%。在去年11月,类似的单位售价为每平方英尺1700元。

第一太平戴维斯(Savills)行销与业务开发主管邱瑞荣指出,Park Infinia的业主两年前以每平方英尺900元左右的价格进场,即使目前把售价从1600元调低至1300元还是有得赚。

高力国际(Colliers)投资分析部主管何永裕表示,业主之所以调整心态可能与近期全球市场频频传出坏消息有关。

除了大环境以外,市场人士指出,考虑到发展商会在今年下半年推出新项目,而且明年开始将有大量新供应充斥市场,也使一些业主担心到时候手头上的房子无法争取到好价。

据市区重建局数据显示,即将在2009年完工的单位约1万4706个,而在2010年完工的则有2万1369个单位,要比过去几年平均的7000多个单位来得多。  

不单是转售业主,集体出售业主也准备降低“身价”,为求尽早卖出。

自上个月底开始,房地产代理尝试重新推出一些去年推出市场,但没有成功卖出的集体出售项目。它们的预示价都打了折扣,下跌幅度介于10%至20%,据说较接近保留价。

高力国际前天重新推出的安珀林园(Amber Glades),新预示价为1亿2700万元,即容积率每平方英尺1140元,要比去年10月的1345元来得低15%。

负责销售此永久地契项目的何永裕告诉本报,重新推出安珀林园主要是希望在其集体出售协议到期前,尽最后努力再搏一次。

他说:“业主考虑到目前市场情况,已渐渐变得更实际,知道如果得重新再来可能得不到目前的价格,因此不介意把预示价调低一些,但还是在保留价之上。目前的利率环境低,价格调也低了,希望对买家更具吸引力。”

虽然业主开始调低售价期望,但由于市场存在太多的未知数,购买兴趣还是很低,上个月的转手交易非常少。

据第一太平戴维斯统计的数据,今年首两个月转售交易额分别为1009个和654个单位,比去年同期的1689个和1916个单位,显著减少,已回复到2005年市场开始复苏时的水平。

黄金地区和甲级办公楼 第一季租金涨幅放缓

《联合早报》Apr 9, 2008

连续多季暴涨的办公楼租金,终于出现一些放缓的现象。世邦魏理仕(CB Richard Ellis)前天发表的数字显示,今年第一季,新加坡黄金地区和甲级办公楼租金涨幅,分别放缓至6.7%和8.7%,达到每平方英尺16元和18.85元。

去年,黄金地区的季度租金涨幅介于13.7%至23.6%,甲级办公楼的季度租金涨幅则介于10.3%至25.6%。

世邦魏理仕认为,由于大量办公楼面将在今后几年陆续出炉,所以一些办公楼业主将开始调低租金期望。

该公司办公楼服务业务执行董事阿姆斯特朗说:“接下来,新加坡办公楼市场应该会稳定下来。整体的确定办公楼供应量应该不会严重过剩,不过我们认为政府应该对市场的供需力量保持敏感度——对接下来的政府售地计划采取谨慎的态度。”

他指出,今年第一季的办公楼出租市场仍然维持活跃,不过大多数的租用活动是由现有租户更新租约,以及搬迁办公室带动的。除了银行和金融机构有意扩大办公楼面,一些辅助性服务业,例如律师行和资讯科技业也有意租用更多的办公楼面。

中央商业区公司 一些搬至国有房产

由于中央商业区内已经面对供应短缺的问题,一些公司开始搬迁到翻新后的国有房地产。目前,中央商业区核心地带的租用率已经攀升至97.6%水平、非核心地带为97%、边缘地带为95%以上。甲级办公楼面的租用率则高达99.4%。

仲量联行(Jones Lang LaSalle)前天发表的第一季报告也认为,较平衡的需求上涨,应该会对接下来的办公楼租金涨幅带来一些上升压力。

该公司商业楼面租用部主管亚齐宝说:“在如此不稳定的市场条件下,新加坡第一季的办公楼面租金上涨,虽然值得我们保持乐观态度,但有关租金上涨其实相当大程度上是过去几个季度的累积涨幅的残留作用。在供需情况显著改变之前,接下来几个季度的市场供应情况还是对业主有利……因此,未来六至九个月租金应该还有上调的空间,虽然涨幅将放缓。”

该公司发表的第一季数据跟世邦魏理仕不同,仲量联行认为,今年第一季的办公楼租金仍然继续加快上升的步伐。

中央商业区内甲级办公楼(少于1万平方英尺的楼面)的租金上升了8.4%,达到每平方英尺17.35元。这比去年第四季的7.4%涨幅进一步加快步伐。中央商业区内乙级办公楼租金则上涨了11.2%,由每平方英尺12.50元上升至13.90元。不过,高科技楼面的租金涨幅则稍微放缓至6.3%,达到每平方英尺4.20元。

US At Odds With IMF's 'Unduly Pessimistic' Outlook

Source : The Straits Times, Apr 10, 2008

WASHINGTON - THE United States and IMF are at odds over the global economic outlook, with a top US official arguing the organisation's projections are 'unduly pessimistic.' Treasury Under Secretary for International Affairs David McCormick told journalists that President George W. Bush's administration does not share the view expressed in the IMF semiannual World Economic Outlook (WEO).

'We remain positive about the long-term resilience of the global economy, as well as the long-term resilience of the US economy, and we believe that the IMF's latest WEO projections are unduly pessimistic,' Mr McCormick said.

The IMF on Tuesday cut growth projections for virtually every major economy, and for the US projected 0.5 per cent growth in 2008, with a 'mild recession' this year, followed by a slow recovery that will drag on growth into 2009.

The IMF cut growth for Japan, the eurozone and Britain and slashed its global growth forecast to 3.7 per cent.

Mr McCormick did not offer any more specific growth numbers but said the US believes the IMF projections are 'significantly below consensus.' He also said the administration hopes a faster recovery in 2008 and a 'steeper growth curve' in 2009.

He declined to say whether the administration sees a recession or not at any point this year.

'I don't think it matters what you call it right now, or the degree to which the actual definition (of recession) holds true,' he said. 'I think the US is suffering through a significant downturn in its growth.' Mr McCormick acknowledged problems in the US and elsewhere but said the outlook was not as grim as portrayed by the IMF.

'As you know, the global economy was exceptionally strong the last four years, averaging nearly five per cent growth annually,' he said.

'It was perhaps inevitable that some slowdown would occur but the financial headwinds and other adjustments underway pose significant challenges to the outlook for 2008,' he said.

He added that while there are still 'significant downside risks to the outlook,' the US has taken many steps aimed at mitigating these risks.

These include the pending economic stimulus tax-rebate checks and efforts to coordinate the lending industry's response to a wave of foreclosure threats that could drive the housing market down even further.

He said Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson would deliver the message to his counterparts at Friday's meeting of G7 finance ministers.

'Secretary Paulson will tell them that the housing correction, financial market turmoil, and high energy prices are weighing on US economic growth,' Mr McCormick said.

'Since last August, markets have been re-pricing and reassessing risk and there will be more bumps in the road.' -- AFP

HDB Revises Sales Scheme As Stock Of Flats Falls

Source : The Straits Times, Apr 10, 2008

THE Housing Board will be selling unsold flats on a quarterly and half-yearly basis, instead of on a bi-monthly and monthly basis.

Announcing this change on Thursday, the HDB said this is because of the progressive reduction of its unsold stock.

From July 1, the HDB will sell three-room and smaller unsold flats once a quarter. The bigger flats - three-room premium and above - will be sold in a half-yearly exercise starting from Oct 10.

Also, HDB will consolidate the supply of unsold four-room and bigger flats under a single launch. They were previously grouped under three sectors - North & West, Northeast and Established towns.

A larger supply of unsold flats will thus be offered for sale under each launch, said the HDB.

There is good news for first-time buyers. Responding to public feedback, the HDB will now set aside 90 per cent of the flat supply in these exercises for first-time applicants. They will also enjoy double chances over regular applicants under the ballot to determine their queue position.

New unsold flats on offer
The HDB on Thursday also launched the sale of 490 four-room and bigger flats in the North and West zones under the April bi-monthly sale exercise. This lot consists of 76 four-room flats, 371 five-room flats and 43 executive flats.

They are in various towns such as Bukit Batok, Jurong East and Yishun.

S'pore Moves To Curb Inflation As Growth Rebounds

Source : The Straits Times, Apr 10, 2008

SINGAPORE'S central bank unexpectedly further tightened monetary policy on Thursday, pushing the Singapore dollar to a record high against the US dollar, in a move aimed at keeping a lid on soaring prices.

Singapore's economy grew at an annualised, seasonally adjusted rate of 16.9 per cent in the first quarter, beating economists' expectations, government data showed on Thursday, after a surprise 4.8 per cent contraction in the fourth quarter of 2007.

The data beat a median forecast from economists polled by Reuters for growth of 11.5 per cent because of a recovery in pharmaceutical and electronics manufacturing.

'The GDP figures were stronger than what the market had predicted and that gave the Monetary Authority confidence to tighten the policy,' said Joseph Tan, an economist at Fortis.

'Strength of GDP quarter-on-quarter came from domestic sources. Where we go from here is a step in time approach but the one-up shift of the band, as opposed to the steepening of the Singapore dollar, shows that MAS recognises inflation is an imminent danger.'

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) conducts policy through the exchange rate, steering the Singapore dollar within a secret trade-weighted band against a basket of currencies, rather than by adjusting interest rates.

Growth support

Against (the) backdrop of continuing external and domestic cost pressures, an upward shift of the policy band at this point will help to moderate inflation going forward, while providing support for sustainable growth in the economy,' the central bank said in a twice-yearly monetary policy statement.

'MAS will therefore re-centre the exchange rate policy band at the prevailing level of the S$NEER. There will be no change to the slope or width of the policy band.' The Singapore dollar hit a record high, up 0.9 per cent on the news to 1.3683 per US dollar. The currency has gained around 5 per cent this year.

Ten out of the 12 economists polled by Reuters had expected the MAS to refrain from tightening monetary policy due to concerns about slower economic growth.

The other two had expected the MAS to tighten policy to fight inflation, which stood at 6.5 per cent in February. In January it hit 6.6 per cent, the highest since March 1982.

The MAS said it expected inflation in the upper half of its 4.5 per cent to 5.5 per cent forecast range this year.

Singapore is one of the first Asian countries to report GDP data each quarter. The health of its exports is seen by analysts as a barometer of demand for Asian goods.

Despite concern about slower global growth, most central banks in Asia have refrained from easing monetary policy due to high inflation.

Some analysts said a stronger Singapore dollar would further cut demand for the island's exports by making them more expensive at a time when demand in the key US market is weakening.

They also said a stronger Singapore dollar may not be as effective as before in reining in inflation because domestic factors such as a tight labour market, high wages and elevated property prices were factors as well.

The MAS tightened policy slightly at its last meeting in October as asset prices spiralled higher.

Singapore's economic growth is largely fuelled by manufacturing of products such as electronics, pharmaceuticals and oil rigs. However, the economy also relies increasingly on tourism, financial services and construction. -- REUTERS

Credo Real Estate Looks To Spread Its Wings

Source : The Business Times, April 10, 2008

Six-year-old outfit ventures into auction, eyes fund management

CREDO Real Estate, the No 1 collective sales broker last year with $2.17 billion of deals, plans to branch into new areas of business - including auctions, residential project marketing, valuation and even property funds management.

Managing director Karamjit Singh told BT: 'This lull in the en bloc sales market is giving us an opportunity to work on new initiatives. Last year, there were opportunities that came our way but we had to decline them because it was difficult to take time off to pursue them.'

Mr Singh: Lull in the en bloc market gives Credo a chance to work on new initiatives and also reflect, re-strategise, regroup and 'meet people'

'It was also very hard to entice good people to join us because they themselves were also very busy. So now's a good time to reflect, re-strategise, regroup and most importantly, to meet people,' he added.

Despite the quieter en bloc sales market today, brokering collective sales will still be the mainstay of Credo's business for now, although the firm is now very selective in taking new appointments.

In fact, the property consultancy firm is using the current slowdown to study the possibility of getting ISO 9000 certification for its en bloc sales business - possibly a first here.

'We're in discussion with an ISO consultant. Getting the certification will give added assurance to clients,' Mr Singh said. 'It means ensuring a certain minimum standard of output, process management and consistency so the en bloc sales part of the business can be run more efficiently and on a structured basis, as we expand into new areas.'

Credo currently has 16 staff and will be marking its sixth year of business next week. Mr Singh, 36, worked at Colliers and Jones Lang LaSalle before setting up Credo in 2002, which he runs today with fellow executive directors Tan Hong Boon and Yong Choon Fah.

The firm plans to enter the new businesses over the next 12 months, but much would hinge on finding the right people.

'We're still meeting people, going through the processes and making sure we find the right person in terms of energy, integrity and ability to be a team player,' said Mr Singh.

'We're not rushing into it. The benefit of getting the right person in our set-up is that we're able to provide a platform for him or her to own part of the company by joining us as an executive director while the company is still small.'

The first new business to get off the ground is auctions.

Credo recently appointed Irinn Lee, formerly the No 2 at DTZ's auction department, and plans to conduct its first auction around June or July.

To set itself apart from existing property auction heavyweights, Credo will not be auctioning individual shop units and apartments. Instead, the focus will be on development sites, good class bungalows and other investment sales deals, riding on the company's traditional strength as a land specialist.

Development sites could also include smallish en bloc sales involving a few adjoining landed homes.

'Our idea is to grow the Singapore auctions market instead of just grabbing the market share of existing players. Our auction house aims to be Singapore's only land auctioneer,' Mr Singh said.

Credo is also thinking of providing auction and tender services to smaller en bloc sales agents who may lack the expertise to do so - given that the revised en bloc legislation requires every site to be launched for sale by public tender or auction.

'Auction is the best way of selling a property where transparency is paramount - for instance, where multiple parties or members are involved, as in the case of a large family, religious organisation or clan association,' Mr Singh said.

He describes the proposed funds management business as a 'radical set-up' compared with the other new businesses.

He said: 'What we've in mind is to start off with a local focus. It could be a Singapore property development or investment fund, with a view to eventually branch out to Asian emerging markets.

'This will have to be a separate set-up from Credo. We can't compromise on conflict-of-interest issues. For instance, our funds will abstain from buying properties marketed by Credo.

'We'll need a team of professionals - in raising funds, shareholder management, sourcing and marketing of projects, designing, construction management. There's a shortage of investment sales specialists with localised knowledge who are in the funds management business. The idea is to sniff out opportunities. There's always a certain level of market imperfection that we could look to capitalise on.'

For its proposed valuations business, Credo hopes to zoom in on land valuations rather than do bread-and-butter mortgage valuations. Again, en bloc sales are creating a niche opportunity for valuations that Credo hopes to tap.

'Under the new en bloc rules, there's a requirement for valuation at every close of tender. Increasingly too, owners in en bloc projects are choosing valuation as the main method, or one of the factors in the formula, for apportionment of sales proceeds,' Mr Singh said.

And venturing into residential project marketing 'dovetails closely with what we're doing - selling land parcels to developers'.

'When the developers are ready to launch their new projects on these sites, we can extend our services and help them by marketing the project and offloading it for them,' Mr Singh said.

US Mortgage Crisis To Cost $1.3 Trillion Worldwide

Source : The Straits Times, Apr 9, 2008

WASHINGTON - THE International Monetary Fund said the worldwide losses stemming from the United States subprime mortgage crisis could hit US$945 billion (S$1.3 trillion) as the impact spreads in the global economy.

The IMF, in a particularly stark report, said on Tuesday that falling US housing prices and rising delinquencies on the residential mortgage market could lead to losses of US$565 billion.

That, combined with other categories of loans originated and securities issued in the United States related to commercial real estate, the consumer credit market and corporations 'increases aggregate potential losses to about US$945 billion', it said.

'The crisis is spreading beyond the US subprime market - namely to the prime residential and commercial real estate markets, consumer credit, and the low- to high-grade corporate credit markets,' the IMF said in releasing its semiannual Global Financial Stability Report.

While the US remains the epicentre, 'financial institutions in other countries have also been affected, reflecting the same overly benign global financial conditions and to varying degrees - weaknesses in risk management systems and prudential supervision'.

It was the first time the multilateral institution has made an official estimate of the global losses suffered by banks and other financial institutions in the credit squeeze that began eight months ago in the United States, amid rising defaults on subprime, or high-risk, home loans.

The staggering US$945 billion estimate of losses, made in March, represents roughly US$142 per person worldwide and represents four per cent of the US$23.21-trillion credit market.

The IMF said that global banks likely will shoulder about half of the losses - at US$440 billion to US$510 billion.

Last month, ratings agency Standard & Poor's estimated global banking firms would likely write off US$285 billion in various securities linked to US subprime real estate, with more than half the losses already recognised. Some analysts have put the figure higher for the subprime market and related losses.

'Leading indicators point to a tightening of credit conditions across many economic activities,' Mr Jaime Caruana, head of the IMF's Monetary and Capital Markets Department, said at a news conference.

Mr Caruana said the losses 'suggest a potentially large impact on US economic growth', and that Europe may also see tightening conditions and slowing credit growth under the global financial strain.

The IMF releases its biannual World Economic Outlook on Wednesday and already has said it would slash a half percentage point off its forecast of 2008 global economic growth, to 3.7 per cent.

The Global Financial Stability Report cautioned that loss estimates were imperfect and could go higher.

The unusually precise and harsh report comes ahead of the IMF and the World Bank spring meetings on Saturday and Sunday in Washington.

The IMF, whose core mission is to promote global financial stability, said there was 'a collective failure to appreciate the extent of leverage taken on by a wide range of institutions - banks, monoline insurers, government-sponsored entities, hedge funds - and the associated risks of a disorderly unwinding'.

'It is now clear that the current turmoil is more than simply a liquidity event, reflecting deep-seated balance sheet fragilities and weak capital bases, which means its effects are likely to be broader, deeper, and more protracted,' it said.

The report criticises the 'excessive risk-taking' and 'weak underwriting' undertaken by under-capitalised institutions.

The IMF recommended a range of measures to address issues raised by the crisis, including better coordination between central banks, improved transparency from financial institutions and reform of ratings systems.

'Shoring up the confidence in financial institutions should be a priority,' it said. -- AFP

Prices Of High-End Condos Starting To Fall As Sales Dwindle

Source : The Straits Times, Apr 9, 2008

Downward trend may continue for next few quarters, experts predict

HOME prices are starting to fall, as several high-end properties begin to feel the squeeze of retreating buyers.

Sales of Singapore's most expensive condominiums - all the rage last year - have dwindled to just a trickle this year.

And with plunging sales, prices have also started to dip, although official figures have yet to reflect this trend.

Early signs of the slide lie in the handful of caveats filed involving many luxury projects in the first quarter. These showed prices fell from the previous quarter, in some cases by up to 20 per cent.

In Districts 9 to 11, Singapore's creme de la creme of residential locations covering Orchard, Holland and Bukit Timah, average prices have fallen by about 30 per cent since the beginning of the year, according to caveats.

They dropped to an average of $1,564 per sq ft (psf) between January and March from $2,023 psf in the preceding three months.

In luxury island enclave Sentosa Cove, almost all condos posted drops in average psf prices, ranging from 2 per cent for the Marina Collection to 23 per cent for The Azure.

Property experts say this could be because luxury home buyers are now selecting only the most competitively priced properties.















'Market activity is very slow now, so any transactions that do take place are likely to be from people who have found attractive buys,' said Mrs Ong Choon Fah, the executive director at property firm DTZ Debenham Tie Leung.

She said high-end properties in the traditional prime districts were more dependent on investor buying, so they could be more affected by the current global credit crunch and weaker sentiment.

'A lot of people who bought luxury homes are also 'specuvestors', so they may be happy making just a small profit and selling quickly,' Mrs Ong explained.

The Government estimated last week that private home prices continued to climb in the first three months of the year, albeit at a slower pace. They rose 4.2 per cent, down from 6.8 per cent in the previous three months.

In the priciest segment, the core central region, the price gain dropped to 4.4 per cent from 7.5 per cent in the previous quarter. This region covers Districts 9 to 11, the Marina Bay area and Sentosa.

Anecdotal evidence from property insiders and caveats lodged, however, showed that prices at many projects fell rather than rose this year. At Scotts Square in Scotts Road, only two units have been sold so far this year - at an average price of $3,700 psf, down from $4,000 psf for 42 units in last year's fourth quarter.

Similarly, at The Oceanfront @ Sentosa Cove, the most recent deals were in February, where three units were sold at $1,720 to $1,751 psf. Just six months before that, 15 units were sold at an average price of $2,480 psf.

Other high-profile, pricey condos, such as the Marina Bay Residences and The Marq on Paterson Hill, have yet to see a single caveat lodged this year.

But the story is not all bad. The Orchard Residences, which holds the title of Singapore's most expensive condo, has sold only one unit this year - but at $4,700 psf, higher than most of its other sales.

Other older condos in areas such as Cavenagh or Balmoral may also be trading at higher prices from their previously low base, pushing up the overall prices for the whole district, suggested Mr Ku Swee Yong, director of marketing and business development at Savills Singapore.

But he said the price index for high-end homes may be under pressure in the next two quarters, now that 'everyone wants a bargain'.

'You only need developers to start giving discounts or people starting to buy lower-floor units instead of penthouses. That will push the index down and put pressure on prices.'