Saturday, May 17, 2008

Regent Garden Owners Make En Bloc Appeal

Source : TODAY, Weekend, May 17, 2008

Should those who oppose an en bloc sale get more money for their flats than those who support it?

Disgruntled owners of homes in Regent Garden don't seem to think so. They are going to the Court of Appeal, after property developer Allgreen offered six owners more money than it had to the others so that the six would no longer hold up the sale.

This, after a High Court decision last month that the en bloc sale of the West Coast condominium should go ahead.

Some 23 of the 25 owners who sold at a lower price filed a notice of appeal on Thursday. They are not trying to reverse the sale but think everyone should get the same amount of money.

Allgreen described the appeal as "curious", given that the sale of Regent Garden was actually completed yesterday. "Allgreen intends to vigorously contest the appeal, and all claims and allegations made by the appellants," it said in a statement.

Last month, the High Court ruled that allegations against developer Allgreen of a breach of contract were without merit and ordered the sale to go ahead.

The case was a first-of-its-kind in which majority owners, after agreeing last April to the en bloc sale, sued the developer. They argued that Allgreen had overstated the development charge, thus depressing the sale price. At the time, they also alleged that it gave "disproportionately high" proceeds to win over the six erstwhile minority owners.

Allgreen, represented by lawyer Davinder Singh, has said these claims were "an attempt to reopen a concluded bargain".

Rental Rate To Fall 25%: Bank

Source : TODAY, Weekend, May 17, 2008

Barclays Capital says market has peaked, rent to drop 5% this year and more in next 2 years

Have home rentals peaked? With a looming rush of new supply, one bank is predicting that they could fall by as much as 25 per cent by 2010.

That is good news for tenants, but not so good news for landlords, who saw private rentals surge an average of 41 per cent last year.

This bold forecast comes in a report from Barclays Capital. Its author, regional economist Leong Wai Ho, expects rentals to fall by 5 per cent this year, with a more severe price correction beginning from next year.

"The market has certainly peaked because vacancy rates are starting to rise and rents are linked to vacancy rates," he said.

Current vacancy rates for completed flats are not particularly high, at 6.3 per cent in the first quarter of this year, according to Urban Redevelopment Authority figures.

Mr Leong said: "The vacancy rises are not strong this year, but it will be exceptional next year due to the huge supply hitting the market."

A surge in reconstruction is taking place across town, following the recent flood of en bloc condominium sales. Some big residential developments around the central business district, including The Sail@Marina Bay, are also nearing completion.

Almost 13,000 new homes could be completed next year, rising to 18,000 the year after. All this, at a time when the global economy is slowing.

On the outlook for rents, other property consultants offered mixed views. Chesterton International's research head Colin Tan believes that the Barclays forecast of a 5-per-cent correction this year is too "conservative".

He believes the recent spike in rental demand was a "one-off". As thousands of home owners cashed in and sold their properties en bloc, there was a surge in instant tenants. Mr Tan believes many of them would have now found accommodation and the en bloc scene has since quietened down.

He added: "Supply will also be greater than usual due to the larger proportion of units owned by investors, as opposed to owner-occupiers, who usually put their properties up for rent." During the recent boom, many people bought second or third homes as rental properties.

Jones Lang La Salle's research head Chua Yang Liang is more bullish. He expects rents to hold steady as demand from foreign workers remains strong. In fact, he predicts that rents will grow "in the teens" this year before moderating to about 6 to 8 per cent next year. "The hiring of upper management level staff may have reached stable levels, but foreign banks such as Standard Chartered are hiring more employees at the middle-management levels, who also need housing," he said.

ERA Singapore's assistant vice-president Eugene Lim said that his company has seen a higher volume of leasing transactions this year and expects rents to rise by another 3 to 4 per cent this year.

Regent Garden Owners File Appeal Despite Sale Completion

Source : The Straits Times, May 17, 2008

ONE of Singapore's most unusual collective sale disputes, over Regent Garden, is now headed for the Court of Appeal even though the sale was completed yesterday.

Last month, the High Court ruled that the $34 million sale of the West Coast Road condo to Allgreen Properties must go ahead.

But now, the owners of 23 out of the 31 Regent Garden apartments have filed papers to take the case to Singapore's highest court - the Court of Appeal.

They cannot overturn the sale now that it has been completed, but they want the court to rule on certain 'burning' questions, and they might seek remedies if they succeed.

They say other people involved in collective sales might be interested in getting answers to these questions.

These majority owners, including owners of two units who did not join the appeal, had earlier sought to overturn the $34 million deal, claiming among other things that their condo had been undervalued.

In a statement, the sale committee said: 'These questions include whether, in a situation where a minority of owners object to a proposed collective sale, an intending buyer is permitted to go behind the backs of the majority owners and reach a side deal with the minority owners.'

A spokesman for the majority owners said the 'side deal' referred to the fact that six of the owners who had opposed the sale had received an extra $2 million, divided between them, in return for withdrawing their objections.

Those appealing also want to know whether these minority owners are entitled to retain the extra payments without sharing the sum with the majority owners in accordance with the distribution arrangements in the sale agreement.

Yesterday, all the owners at Regent Garden completed their sale, which means they would each have pocketed a large part of their proceeds, which range from slightly over $700,000 to $1.4 million.

The remaining 5 per cent of their proceeds is due to be released to them when they vacate their homes.

In a statement released yesterday evening, Allgreen described the appeal as 'curious', given that the sale and purchase of Regent Garden had been completed earlier yesterday.

'Allgreen intends to vigorously contest the appeal, and all claims and allegations made by the appellants,' it said.

'Recession-Proof' Las Vegas Hit By US Economic Downturn

Source : The Straits Times, May 17, 2008

LAS VEGAS (Nevada) - FOR almost any other tourist hotspot, greeting nearly 10 million visitors and earning US$2.9 billion (S$4 billion) from convention business in three months would be a cause for cheer.

But for Las Vegas, those figures reflect the cold truth that, in a break from its history as a recession-proof oasis in the American economy, Sin City is hurting in the nationwide downturn, too.

Since 1970, Las Vegas saw gambling revenues fall only once - in the aftermath of the Sept 11, 2001 terror attacks, when gaming revenues in 2002 were less than one per cent lower than 2001. -- PHOTO: AFP

Latest economic figures, released last week by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, show that through March 31 several important indicators are either flat or down.

The US$2.9 billion in convention revenues represents a 7.1 per cent decline and is due partly to a 12.6 per cent drop in the number of conventions.

It all adds up to an unfamiliar feeling for a destination that has long prided itself on being impervious to the harshest sides of swings in the national economy.

'This is different from prior downturns,' said Mr Bill Lerner, a Vegas-based Deutsche Bank gaming sector analyst.

'Now that there's a lot more non-gaming amenities in Las Vegas, the visitation mix is leaning toward non-gamblers, and the consumer coming to Vegas is different now than it was in prior recessions.'

Since 1970, Las Vegas saw gambling revenues fall only once - in the aftermath of the Sept 11, 2001 terror attacks, when gaming revenues in 2002 were less than one per cent lower than 2001.

As in earlier tough times, Vegas resorts get creative in finding new niche markets to pursue.

The 2001 downturn prompted the advent of aggressive marketing to gays, Hispanics and blacks.

This time, casinos are focusing on lucrative overseas markets where the weak dollar makes coming to Las Vegas a bargain.

'Bachelor parties in Vegas are now all the rage for soon-to-be-wed fellows from Australia and the UK, for instance, because it's so cheap to get there,' said Mr Robert LaFleur, a gaming-stock analyst for Susquehanna Financial Services.

'If the Hispanic market's been tapped, the gay market's been tapped, the cat-lover market's been tapped, you go find business where you can find it.

'Right now, it's an easy sell to get people from overseas.'

As for the hard facts, gambling revenues for the top casinos were down 4.8 per cent in March for a 3 per cent drop thus far in 2008; the average daily room rates dropped 2.7 per cent and the stock prices of Las Vegas Sands, owner of the Venetian and Palazzo, fell 38 per cent and MGM Mirage, owner of Bellagio, Mirage and eight other Strip resorts, have fallen 42 per cent since November.

Overall visitor volume is up 0.4 per cent so far in 2008, but experts say it would be down had it not been for this leap year's extra day in February.

The thinking in past recessions has been that gamblers tended to come to Las Vegas even when times were tough hoping to win something.

But the Las Vegas of 2008 earns just 40 per cent of its revenues from gaming sources and the rest from upscale leisure amenities such as restaurants, spas, nightclubs and shows that downturn-damaged Americans can't afford.

In 1992, the last comparable recession, the calculus was reversed; gaming revenues represented 58 per cent of overall cash flow.

That makes it harder for Vegas to stay above the economic mire because leisure and business travellers cut discretionary spending, Mr Lerner said.

'It's an easy sell now to get people from overseas'
Indeed, several major annual conventions have seen fewer attendees show up and have seen those that come stay for shorter periods.

The National Association of Broadcasters convention in April is one such example, greeting 105,000 registrants, down from 111,000 in 2007, said NAB executive vice-president Chris Brown.

Those figures could have been worse, but advance registrations were so far down that several hotel-casinos voluntarily offered to cut room rates by US$10 or more to encourage attendance, he said.

'That's never happened before,' Mr Brown said.

Every facet of the nation's economic woes is rearing its ugly head in Vegas.

The credit crunch has forced several major construction projects on the Strip to be delayed, including a second tower for Mr Donald Trump's newly opened condo-hotel and a US$6-billion version of New York's Plaza Hotel.

Nearly four per cent fewer cars crossed the Nevada-California border along Interstate 15 through March, reflecting in part that record high gasoline prices are curtailing drive-in visitors from California.

In the past six weeks, three airlines with substantial service to Las Vegas - Aloha, ATA and Champion - have announced they are going out of business.

And if the Strip is slumping, the many casinos that cater to local Las Vegans are facing double-digit drops in gaming revenues in a city that has one of the highest home foreclosure rates in the nation.

The downturn has also prompted some layoffs, most significantly the elimination of 440 middle-management jobs at MGM Mirage for a savings of US$75 million annually.

Still, there are some silver linings. More than US$30 billion in new construction continues unabated, promising to deliver another 40,000 hotel rooms to the current 136,000 by 2011 and creating more than 100,000 new jobs.

Travel deals are flooding the e-mail boxes of many frequent Las Vegas visitors, including cut-price US$68 weekend rooms at the MGM Grand and airfares as low as US$37 each way from San Francisco.

Some of the top shows are, for the first time, on sale for discounts at various half-price ticket vendor kiosks around the Strip. -- AFP

Two New Bridges = A 9km Scenic Walk

Source : The Straits Times, May 16 2008

Telok Blangah Hill Park now linked with Mount Faber, Kent Ridge Park

The wet morning yesterday did not dampen the excitement of Telok Blangah resident Habib Ismail.

He was among 500 residents who watched Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong officially open two pedestrian bridges - Henderson Waves and Alexandra Arch.

Spanning 274m across Henderson Road, the 36m-high wave-shaped Henderson Waves is Singapore's highest pedestrain bridge. The other bridge, Alexandra Arch, is located in Alexandra Road. -- ST PHOTO: ASHLEIGH SIM

With these bridges, Telok Blangah Hill Park is now linked to Mount Faber on one side and Kent Ridge Park on the other.

An avid walker, Mr Habib, 44, a father of two, joined Mr Lee and the other residents on a tour of the bridges.

The bridges complete a 9km chain of greenery in the Southern Ridges, which consist primarily of three large hill parks - Mount Faber, Telok Blangah Hill Park and Kent Ridge Park.

Henderson Waves, at a height of 36m, is Singapore's highest pedestrian bridge. A wave-shaped, steel-and-timber structure, it spans 274m across Henderson Road. The other bridge, Alexandra Arch, spans 80m across Alexandra Road.

The parks were previously separated by roads and wooded vegetation. Now, one can walk ridge-to-ridge, starting from HarbourFront MRT and ending at West Coast Park.

In 2002, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said it would link up parks in the Southern Ridges as part of the Parks and Waterbodies and Identity Plans.

The project, which took two years to complete, cost $25.5 million.

Apart from the two bridges, the Southern Ridges now also boast the Forest Walk, a 1.3km-long elevated walkway that cuts through secondary forest at Telok Blangah Hill Park; and Marang Trail, which links HarbourFront MRT to Mount Faber.

Mr Lee also officiated the opening of the $13 million Horticulture Park - or HortPark for short.

With 20 theme gardens, HortPark is South-east Asia's first one-stop gardening and lifestyle hub.

The 23ha park, which has been open since December last year, took two years to build and also serves as a park connector between Telok Blangah Hill Park and Kent Ridge Park.

In his speech, Mr Lee noted that such projects 'provide a first-class living environment for all Singaporeans'.

He also announced upcoming plans to link the Southern Ridges to the Keppel Waterfront as part of a broader plan to develop a recreational and leisure hub in the south.

This includes having a park connector from Alexandra Arch to Labrador Park, building a mangrove boardwalk at Berlayer Creek and having a waterfront boardwalk that connects Bukit Chermin to VivoCity, with waterfront views along the entire stretch of Keppel Bay.

Details of these plans will be released soon, the URA said.

About 1 million visitors to the Southern Ridges are expected annually, and with the bridges open 24 hours a day, lovebirds might be expected to make a beeline for them after dark, especially as Henderson Waves offers panoramic views of the city and southern islands.

Mr Habib, a senior research supervisor, had stopped his daily jogs at Telok Blangah Hill Park due to work commitments. He is digging out his sneakers again.

'I'm making plans to walk along the new walk with friends,' he said with a smile.

World's Tallest Condo In US...Hit By Pullout Of Many S'pore Buyers

Source : The Straits Times, May 17, 2008

Two-thirds backed out after US sub-prime crisis took a turn for the worse

LOCAL condominiums are not the only ones suffering from the recent sharp downturn in property market sentiment.

Two-thirds of Singapore buyers have backed out of their purchases of units in the much-hyped Chicago Spire in the United States, The Straits Times understands.

ICONIC STRUCTURE: The 150-storey Chicago Spire boasts a unique spiral-shaped design. Most of the units sold were said to be one- or two-bedroom apartments that averaged US$1 million each, or US$1,000 per sq ft. -- PHOTO: BLOOMBERG NEWS

The iconic condo in Chicago was well-received when it was launched in Singapore in early March. More than 800 people attended the exhibition at the Four Seasons Hotel, and almost 40 buyers were said to have reserved units.

But more than 20 of them withdrew from their deals subsequently, after the US sub-prime crisis threatened to take a turn for the worse in the weeks following the launch, sources said.

The 150-storey Chicago Spire is touted as the world's tallest condo, and boasts a unique spiral-shaped design.

But this was not enough to hook buyers. A number were apparently spooked by the near-collapse of US investment bank Bear Stearns, which took place a week after the Chicago Spire was launched in Singapore.

Many of the buyers who changed their minds may have been first-time punters who got cold feet, property experts suggested.

These buyers paid a US$2,000 (S$2,762) reservation fee for the units, but were refunded this amount in full, thanks to a cooling-off period that is the standard for US home sales.

Mr Colin Tan, the head of research and consultancy at Chesterton International, said it made sense for the buyers to pull out of their deals.

'Housing prices in the US are coming down, and while some properties may look like a good investment now, you can probably get it cheaper later,' he said.

'It doesn't make sense to buy and hold on to US properties when there are still sub-prime problems.'

Experts said those who had seen their purchases through are likely to be more serious buyers who may, for example, have children studying in Chicago.

Most of the units that were sold were reported to be one- or two-bedroom apartments that averaged US$1 million each, or US$1,000 per sq ft.

About half the buyers were said to be Singaporeans or permanent residents, and the rest were expatriates.

It is understood that to date, about 10 of the Singapore buyers have inked their purchase agreements. At least two of them are believed to be Indonesians.

Sources said the Chicago Spire's exhibitions in Shanghai and Hong Kong, which followed its launch in Singapore, received a lukewarm response as the turmoil in the US financial markets deepened in March.


'Housing prices in the US are coming down, and while some properties may look like a good investment now, you can probably get them cheaper later.'
MR COLIN TAN, head of research and consultancy at Chesterton International, who said it made sense for Chicago Spire buyers to pull out of their deals

Henry Paulson: U.S. Economy Will Rebound In Second Half

Source : Associated Press, Friday, 16 May 2008

Treasury secretary says markets are calmer now

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said Friday that financial markets are "considerably calmer" now than they were two months ago. He predicted the economy will be rebounding by the second half of this year.

In a speech to business executives in Washington, Paulson said the drag from housing, which he characterized as still the biggest risk to the economy, will soon be lessened by nearly $100 billion in economic stimulus payments to U.S. households.

"The fiscal stimulus will provide support to the economy as we weather the housing correction, capital markets turmoil and higher energy and food prices," Paulson said in his prepared remarks.

The economy has been pushed to the brink of a recession by a prolonged housing slump, a credit crisis, soaring energy prices and more than a quarter-million job layoffs over the past four months.

In his remarks, Paulson never used the word recession, although many private economists believe the country is in one.

But he did forecast that the stimulus checks going to 130 million households would help spur growth in the second half of the year. He said that those checks along with business tax breaks in the $168 billion stimulus package would add 500,000 jobs by the end of the year over what would have been created without the stimulus boost.

"Although we are still working through housing and capital markets issues, and expect to be doing so for some time, we also expect to see a faster pace of economic growth before the end of the year," he said.

Paulson said that both the ability to obtain loans and investor confidence are gradually improving, raising hopes that the financial market crisis which hit last August was beginning to recede.

"We are seeing signs of progress as capital markets and credit markets stabilize," Paulson said. "The markets are considerably calmer now than they were in March."

In March, the credit crisis claimed its biggest victim with the near-collapse of Bear Stearns, the country's fifth largest investment bank.

Paulson said "some bumps in the road ahead" are to be expected, but that he believes significant progress in dealing with the credit crisis has been made.

"In my judgment, we are closer to the end of the market turmoil than the beginning," he said. "Looking forward, I expect that financial markets will be driven less by the recent turmoil and more by broader economic conditions and, specifically, by the recovery of the housing sector."

股市动荡 四月楼市又回软

《联合早报》May 16, 2008

美国投资银行贝尔斯登(Bear Stearns)在今年3月底引发的股市动荡,冲击4月初楼市,造成原本稍有起色的楼市又再回软,推出和售出的新私宅单位都减少。









仲量联行(Jones Lang LaSalle)研究部主管蔡炎亮博士说:“面对实龙岗体育场的Stadia共管公寓,表现最为突出,它在4月份卖出了超过90%的推出单位。”



世邦魏理仕(CB Richard Ellis)执行董事李晓和说:“湖畔园的强劲销售反应相信跟它刚刚在今年第一季获得临时入伙准证有关。”

他指出,郊区的一些项目,包括Breeze By The East、Blu Coral、The Azurro、The Verte、The Quartz等,也都有超过10个单位成交。“这些项目都瞄准中低档市场,这个档次的市场比黄金地区的交易较为活跃。”


“跟3月份一样,今年4月只有两个新私宅单位(Scotts Square)以每平方英尺超过4000元成交。”