Thursday, May 22, 2008

S'pore Casino Costs Under Control: Genting

Source : The Business Times, May 22, 2008

(KUALA LUMPUR) Malaysian casino operator Genting Bhd does not expect further cost over-runs for a casino it is building on Singapore's resort island of Sentosa, the company's chief executive said here yesterday.

Resorts World at Sentosa Pte Ltd, a wholly owned unit of the Singapore-listed arm, Genting International, is building the casino at a cost of up to $6 billion - about $800 million, or 15 per cent, above its initial budget, due mainly to higher construction expenses.

'At this point, we are staying at $6 billion. Concerns about cost over-runs for the project are unsubstantiated,' Lim Kok Thay, Genting's chairman and CEO, told Reuters on the sidelines of a tech conference. 'Costs are under control despite high oil prices,' he added.

Genting unveiled the higher price tag for the casino project last November and said it would cover the additional expenses through project financing at the resort level.

The raised budget covers the cost of six new attractions as well as improvements to transportation and access infrastructure, with higher building costs accounting for half of the increase.

Mr Lim said there was no need to raise any more funds for the project. 'The recent financing we announced has catered for the increase in construction costs. All the financing is in place, there is no need for further financing.'

In April, Resorts World at Sentosa said it had obtained a $4 billion syndicated loan to fund the casino project.

Last December, Genting International and sister company Star Cruises won the right to build and operate Singapore's second casino resort. The 49-hectare project will include a Universal Studios theme park, a giant oceanarium with 700,000 aquatic creatures, and six hotels with more than 1,800 rooms. The resort is scheduled to be completed in 2010.

Singapore's first casino site, a 20.6-hectare piece of waterfront land at Marina Bay near the financial district, was awarded to Las Vegas Sands in May 2006. -- Reuters

MI-Reit's Distributable Income Rises

Source : The Business Times, May 22, 2008

Q4's $5.8m boosted by rentals from new properties

STRONG rental contributions from its new properties lifted Macarthurcook Industrial Reit's (MI-Reit) distributable income in the fourth quarter to $5.8 million, with distribution per unit (DPU) coming in at 2.22 cents.

Q4 distributable income was 19.9 per cent higher than its initial forecast, while DPU was 19.4 per cent ahead of estimates.

'The 19.4 per cent higher than forecast DPU for 4Q FY08 was largely due to rental contributions from our acquisitions of nine yield accretive properties during the year. Of these nine properties, five were acquired during the fourth quarter,' said Craig Dunstan, chief executive officer of the manager for MI-Reit.

These acquisitions increased the total value of MI-Reit's investment properties by 75.5 per cent to $555.4 million, compared with its initial portfolio value of $316.5 million, he added.

MI-Reit's net property income for the fourth quarter ended March 31 stood at $8.21 million, 38.1 per cent higher than forecast. Taking an earlier revaluation gain from its 12 properties into account, its net asset value per unit (NAV) was $1.29 at the end of March, 7.5 per cent higher than the NAV of $1.20 at its initial public offer in April 2007, it said in a statement yesterday.

Annualised DPU came in at 7.91 cents for the full financial year, beating forecasts by 6.7 per cent. The annualised yield worked out to be 8.03 per cent, based on the closing price of $0.985 per unit at the end of March. Full-year distributable income also beat estimates at $19.61 million.

Properties acquired in the last six months include new warehouse and logistics facilities in Yishun Industrial Park A and Defu Lane 10, as well as a manufacturing complex in Kallang Way which was acquired through a sale and leaseback agreement with Xpress Holdings.

Besides lifting rentals, these acquisitions also helped to reduce the reliance on a single property or tenant, said MI-Reit. As testament to the results, it said no single tenant contributed more than 20.3 per cent to total rental income in March this year.

Looking ahead, Mr Dunstan expects economic growth in the region to be moderated as a result of the US mortgage crisis and this may put a temporary halt to MI-Reit's acquisition plans. However, he expects demand for industrial properties to remain strong across Asia.

MI-Reit shares closed at 96 cents yesterday, down 1.5 cents.

Leisure Plan Promises Fun Times Ahead

Source : The Business Times, May 22, 2008

Devts include 150km round-island path, agri-tainment sites and urban hotspots

From a round-the-island jogging route to night festivals in the city, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has shown it is serious about fun by coming up with Singapore's first Leisure Plan.

According to National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan, there is a need to 'further sharpen Singapore's distinctiveness as a vibrant yet liveable city'.

But the task is not simple, says URA chief executive Cheong Koon Hean. 'It is not just about providing space and facilities to play, it is also about enhancing the variety and quality of leisure options we have around-the-clock, where there is something for everyone.'

Built on the 2003 parks and waterbodies and identity plans, the Leisure Plan aims to enhance Singapore's quality of life. It is part of the 2008 Draft Master Plan that will also focus on sustaining economic growth.

The Leisure Plan seeks to provide recreation to suit everyone.

For those seeking active fun, more green spaces will be available.

For starters, a 150-km round-the-island route for joggers and cyclists is in the works. Linking park connectors and other trails from Changi to areas such as Punggol, Lim Chu Kang, Jurong Lake, Marina Bay and back, the route will be finished in 10-15 years. Stretches in some regions such as the Southern Ridges are already complete, and the next five years will see at least half the route laid out.

Bringing parks closer to homes, the park connector network will more than triple in size from 100 km to 360 km in the next 10-15 years. The web will expand further to include six more loops in the next five years, in areas such as Siglap-Kallang.

Parks will grow to 4,200 ha in the next 15 years, from 3,300 ha today. In the more immediate future, new parks in areas such as Lower Seletar Reservoir will appear.

Besides parks, more accessible waterways and new sports facilities will become must-go destinations for residents keen on outdoor play.

Beyond creating spaces, the Leisure Plan aims to carve out destinations with a distinctive character.

Under the second part of the plan, the 1,400-ha Kranji and Lim Chu Kang area will become a countryside getaway. Besides the 115 farms there, new parkland, new trails though Kranji Marshes, three agri-tainment sites and other facilities will be created.

In the city area, special lighting will dot areas such as Orchard Road, Bugis and Marina Bay to help give the island a vibrant nightlife.

And the National Heritage Board will step up the beat over two weekends in July in the Bras Basah and Stamford Road area, with night festivals featuring live music, street theatre and other performances. The Singapore Tourism Board will follow in September with its Singapore River Festival.

Arts activities and lifestyle hotspots such as Tanglin Village and Rochester Park will also provide urban entertainment.

Industry players are positive on more recreation. 'The development of recreational venues is a boon to surrounding residential areas,' said Cushman & Wakefield managing director Donald Han. 'With more attractions and infrastructure being built, we are likely to see higher demand and a sustainable price increase over the longer term.'

Supporting that view, director of marketing and business development at Savills Singapore Ku Swee Yong said: 'A planning approach that packages work and play around daily activities in one area, such as the proposed Jurong Lake District, will mean premium property prices in the area.'

In particular, more recreational venues will help the western region of Singapore shed its industrial image to present a better value proposition for home buyers. As Mr Han noted: 'Residential prices in the east are traditionally higher because of the diversity of attractions in the area - golf courses, the beach, restaurants and interesting food and beverage chill-out concepts.'

Kranji Countryside Association president Ivy Singh-Lim supports the increased focus on agri-tainment. According to her, visitors will benefit from a refuge away from the city and farmers can gain additional income.

But Mrs Singh-Lim is concerned that development could encroach on the area's rustic charm, and hopes agri-tainment will become just be 'part of the scene (of sustainable agriculture)'.

URA will launch the Draft Master Plan 2008 exhibition tomorrow for the public to give feedback.

Mun Leong 'Effect' Plays On CapitaLand Price Again

Source : The Business Times, May 22, 2008

Stock underperforms STI as CapitaLand CEO sells another tranche of his shares

Call it the Mun Leong effect.

As CapitaLand chief executive officer Liew Mun Leong disposed of another tranche of his shares, the company's stock once again underperformed the Straits Times Index. This seems to happen every time Mr Liew or his wife sell their shares in the open market.

The disposal does not appear to have any informational content as it is part of Mr Liew's regular practice to cash in on his stock options. The market, however, seems intent on reading something into it.

Mr Liew sold 800,000 CapitaLand shares last Friday at an average price of $6.87. This reduced his shareholding in South-east Asia's largest real estate company to about 800,000 shares.

What followed has almost become a pattern.

Yesterday, the stock shed six cents to end the day at $6.60 - 0.9 per cent lower. That was the highest it had been all day, falling at one point to a low of $6.47. In comparison, the STI slid by a marginal 0.1 per cent.

Earlier in the month, Mr Liew also sold 800,000 CapitaLand shares. On that occasion, the stock underpeformed the STI by 1.3 percentage points. Mr and Mrs Liew have disposed of CapitaLand stock six times in the last one and a half years. On each occasion, CapitaLand had underperformed the STI by an average one percentage point the day after the announcement was made.

Someone close to Mr Liew quipped that he sold his shares in order to pay his income tax. 'He received quite a big bonus last year, you know.' According to CapitaLand's annual report, Mr Liew received a salary $1.15 million and a bonus of $5.35 million last year. Others said that he was merely monetising part of his remuneration.

A CapitaLand spokesperson said: 'Share-based compensation forms a part of his (Mr Liew's) overall remuneration package, which carries tax liability. It is prudent cashflow management for an employee to sell some of his shares after exercising his options, as he has to pay taxes based on the difference between the exercise price and the market price at that point in time. Besides, Mr Liew typically sells some of his shares after results announcement, and during a period when the company is not announcing any significant or new development that has an impact on share price.'

Most of the options exercised by Mr Liew in the last couple of years had exercise price of $3 or less per share.

CapitaLand in recent years has switched to awarding performance shares instead of share options. Mr Liew has some 400,000 performance shares deliverable to him after 2008, and another 300,000 after 2009. He also has some stock options outstanding.

Buffet Sees Long-Term Effect Of Crisis On US

Source : The Business Times, May 22, 2008

MADRID - US investor Warren Buffet said on Wednesday that he saw the impact of the current financial crisis on the US economy lasting longer than many people do.

Mr Buffet said the US dollar would continue to fall as the policies needed to correct the greenback's slide had yet to be implemented

'I think tidal wave that hit various financial institutions since last August has largely been recognised and felt,' Mr Buffet, the world's richest man, told a news conference in Madrid.

'In terms of the effect on the economy in the United States, we don't know, but I think it will be longer and deeper then many people do. There could well be a lot to come,' he added.

Dollar will continue to fall
Mr Buffet said the US dollar would continue to fall as the policies needed to correct the greenback's slide had yet to be implemented.

'The dollar will decline in value. That's not a 20-year prediction or a two-year prediction. The same policies that have obviously resulted in a deterioration in the value of the dollar will produce some more results,' he said.

'It looks at the present time like those same policies are being continued, so I would expect, unless we have a major change, that the dollar will decline in value over a long period of time,' he added, who is worth US$62 billion according to Forbes magazine.

Won't buy Internet firms
Mr Buffet said that he had no plans to invest in Internet companies.

'I have tried to stay with businesses where I know how their economics will look in five, 10 or 20 years and that's much easier to do in areas where there's little change,' he said.

'I'm not good at predicting change. I tend to stick with things where there is very little change and that tends to preclude internet companies,' he added. -- REUTERS

CapitaMall To Buy S'pore Property For US$619m

Source : The Business Times, May 22, 2008

Singapore-listed Reit CapitaMall Trust (CMT) said it is buying office development, The AtriumzOrchard, for $839.8 million (US$619 million) from the government through its trustee HSBC Institutional Trust Services.

CMT said the total acquisition cost, including purchase price and fees, would be $850 million and would be funded by a mixture of debt and convertible bonds.

The development, of two office towers of seven and 10 storeys, is located at Singapore's main shopping belt along Orchard Road, CMT said in a statement on Thursday.

It also has some ground floor retail space and is connected to a major train interchange.

Trading in shares of CMT was halted at 1400 (0600 GMT). -- REUTERS

Landscape Design Contest For Punggol waterway

Source : The Business Times, May 22, 2008

Competition includes design of Punggol Town Park

FOLLOWING its announcement to develop Punggol into a modern waterfront town, HDB is also engaging with the private sector to design the landscaping of the Punggol waterway through a Landscape Masterplan Design Competition for the Waterway.

The competition aims to draw on fresh and innovative ideas for the landscaping of the 4.2 km waterway, and also includes the designing of the Punggol Town Park - a 10.6 ha land that will provide a range of water-based activities and facilities.

Tapping talent: The winner of the competition will receive $300,000, which will form part of the professional fee to be paid to the appointed firm or team

Besides proposing the landscape design development direction of the waterway, entrants to the competition can also actively participate in creating the communal and commercial spatial typologies along the waterway.

Proposals for the competition are expected to introduce new sustainable development concepts and features, in line with HDB's concept of 'green living by the waters'.

According to HDB, response to the competition has been good, with 17 firms registered as of yesterday.

Design Link Architects is one such company, and its director Mabel Goh said: 'We feel that this project is quite innovative. So far, waterfront housing has been largely limited to the East Coast side, but this is an innovative attempt to integrate the water body with public housing.'

Another firm, Atelier Dreiseitl Asia, which has years of experience in landscape architecture and urban hydrology, is evaluating the competition brief and its director Leonard Ng has expressed interest in the project.

'Right now, it's a clean slate and it gives you the potential to work out a complete approach to design, being sensitive to all the aspects of an urban environment. If that's taken into consideration, it can have a cutting edge design that integrates the urban fabric with the waterway.'

The winner of the competition will receive $300,000, which will form part of the professional fee to be paid to the appointed firm or team. The professional fee will be fixed at 3.68 per cent of the total construction costs of the landscape development. In addition, two merit prizes of $50,000 each will be awarded.

The competition is opened to urban planners, architects and landscape architects from May 17 to September 16 and registration closes on July 16.

New GM For Marina Bay Financial Centre

Source : The Business Times, May 22, 2008

Colliers' Singapore MD to be promoted to MD for North Asia

THE joint venture developers of Marina Bay Financial Centre (MBFC) - Cheung Kong Holdings, Hutchison Whampoa, Hongkong Land and Keppel Land - said yesterday they have appointed a new general manager for the prime project.

Wilson Kwong replaces outgoing general manager David Martin, who is moving to Hong Kong after running MBFC for four years.

Mr Kwong was previously senior asset manager, commercial property, for Hongkong Land - a role that included managing the company's interests in key developments in Hong Kong.

From 1998 to 2006 he held various management positions in the Jardine Matheson Group.

'MBFC is shaping up to redefine the Central Business District in Singapore by adding 3 million sq ft of office space, 649 new residential apartments and more than 120,000 sq ft of new shopping and dining pleasures,' he said. 'A project of this magnitude relies on the interaction of many parties, including MBFC's strong team and I look forward to working with all the parties involved.'

Mr Kwong paid tribute to Mr Martin for leading a team that gave MBFC a strong start and guiding the project through its initial phases of land tendering, design and planning.

Separately, marketing agent Colliers International has said its Singapore managing director Dennis Yeo will be promoted to managing director for North Asia from June 1. In his new portfolio, Mr Yeo will oversee Colliers' businesses in China and Taiwan, except Hong Kong and Macau.

He will work with local management teams on strategy and identifying new business opportunities.

Mr Yeo will continue as head of the regional industrial group, which helps with clients with cross-border transactions.

SIA Launches Series Of Green Building Initiatives

Source : The Business Times, May 22, 2008

SUPPORTING the local green movement, the Singapore Institute of Architects (SIA) will be taking on a series of initiatives to promote green architecture in Singapore.

SIA's latest efforts came to light at its annual dinner yesterday, as president of the institute, Tai Lee Siang, introduced three green awards to recognise excellence in sustainable architectural design.

The first is the SIA-NParks Skyrise Greenery Awards, jointly launched by SIA and the National Parks Board to encourage creative greenery design in high-rise developments.

Partnering Philips and Hunter Douglas separately, SIA will also launch the SIA-Philips Green Innovation Awards and the Eco Friend Awards.

The former recognises innovative sustainable design, while the latter promotes the creative use of sustainable products.

Awards aside, the SIA will also bid to host the 2014 International Union of Architects World Congress, one of the world's largest conferences on architecture and urban design, under the theme 'Green Cities'.

Through the bid, SIA hopes to showcase Singapore not just as a model green city, but also as a catalyst for the creation of a green region around South-east Asia.

As a sign of the government's support, Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan will lead the SIA delegation to Turin, Italy, to present the bid in July.

Yesterday's spotlight was also on the 9th SIA Architectural Design Awards.

With talk of recession and belt-tightening making its rounds, it was a uniquely apt time for the awards to introduce a new prize - 'Best Project Below S$1 Million Construction Cost'.

The winning design at 19 Jalan Elok by Chang Architects was a stunning display of urbanised nature, impressing the judges with the 'magical quality of its spaces'.

Also making its debut was the 'Building of the Year' award, which went to RSP Architects Planners & Engineers for its work on the LaSalle College of the Arts.

According to the judges, the college is 'a work with sensitivity to youth, to climate, to context, to construction'.

Global Hotel Deals Fall On Credit Squeeze

Source : The Business Times, May 22, 2008

Decline of 60% to US$8b in Q1 2008, says report from Jones Lang LaSalle

(TOKYO) Global hotel acquisitions dropped more than 60 per cent in the first three months of the year as credit tightened after losses and writedowns related to the United States sub-prime mortgage collapse, Jones Lang LaSalle Inc said.

Hotel investment fell to about US$8 billion in the first quarter of 2008, after exceeding US$20 billion year earlier, according to a report by Jones Lang LaSalle, the world's second- largest real estate broker.

'We are expecting to see a further decline in buying intention and an increase in holding intention,' said Arthur de Haast, chief executive officer of Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels, said at a conference on Tuesday in Tokyo. 'This is just reflecting the fact that there is very limited liquidity in debt markets.'

Global real estate financing has evaporated as defaults by US homeowners saddled banks and securities firms with more than US$379 billion of losses and asset writedowns worldwide. That has slashed demand from investors for hotel properties, according to a survey conducted by Jones Lang LaSalle.

'Hotel owners are preferring to hold their assets and buyers are waiting to see in which direction the market is going to move before they start buying again,' Mr de Haast said.

Few hotel transactions were completed in the first quarter of 2008 because of the tightening debt market from the end of 2007, according to the Jones Lang LaSalle report.

Rising borrowing costs, which affect a buyers' ability to pay higher prices, mean hotel prices in Japan should fall, Gregory Stuppler, managing director of Starwood Capital Group said at the hotel investment conference organised by Jones Lang LaSalle.

Mr Stuppler said that he would offer 25 per cent less for a hotel than a year ago.

Global hotel investment in 2007 surged 52 per cent to a record high of US$110 billion, the Chicago-based firm said.

Jones Lang Hotels advises on transactions in the hotel industry as well as on appraisals and raising capital. -- Bloomberg

Property Transactions With Contract Dates Between May 5th - May 10th, 2008

Pedra Branca Ruling 'Will Not Rock KL-S'pore Ties'

Source : The Straits Times, May 22, 2008

KUALA LUMPUR - MALAYSIA and Singapore have agreed not to cause trouble or problems in bilateral relations after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) delivers its ruling tomorrow on Pulau Batu Puteh, which the Republic refers to as Pedra Branca.

Foreign Minister Rais Yatim said it means that if the decision favours Malaysia, Singapore would continue to be friendly and would not raise prejudice, and vice-versa.

'We will respect the decision and continue to realise international friendships and neighbourliness. We should accept it as something normal...

'In this regard, there is agreement for a technical committee to be set up, and the committee will administer and carry out the decision according to international administrative principles,' he told reporters at the Parliament lobby yesterday.

Datuk Seri Rais said the committee would determine, among other things, who should be on the island after the ruling, and also questions over fishery areas.

Earlier, he had briefed Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi and Members of Parliament on the case.

'The Prime Minister feels it is a common case. If the country's prayers and wishes are not realised, it should face it in good nature,' Datuk Seri Rais said.

The people should also not create havoc or influence others regarding relations with Singapore, he said.

The Malaysian delegation will leave for The Hague tonight.

The ICJ heard arguments from both sides last November, and will deliver its decision on the dispute at 4pm today. The court's decision is final. -BERNAMA

Waterfall In House Project A Winner

Source : TODAY, Thursday, May 22, 2008

FROM pebbles to a pond to a waterfall — one could be forgiven for thinking that one has strayed into a mini-forest smack in the bustling Orchard area.

Except that these natural elements are part of the interior landscape of a three-storey terrace house near Mt Elizabeth Hospital.

The house eco-friendly design by Chang Architects, which cost $390,000, so impressed a panel of judges that it took home the inaugural Best Project Below $1 million Construction Cost at the 9th Architectural Design Award presentation last night. Chang also bagged the Design Award for residential projects at the bi-annual event organised by the Singapore Institute of Architects (SIA).

According to Mr Chang Yong Ter, the brains behind the design, he and three other architects had only 230 sq m to work with for the project. In line with the owners' wishes, 40 per cent of the house — from the living room to the bedroom — is made up of landscape elements such as pebbles, plants and a waterfall. And like a rainforest, the temperature in the house is cooler than outside, said Mr Chang, 38.

Another winner, RSP Architects Planners and Engineers, also drew inspiration from Mother Nature. Director Pok Siew Fatt, 53, hoped that the design of the LaSalle College of the Arts building could inspire art and create more interaction between the students and the public.

"Like larva from a volcano, which will sculpt and shape the surroundings over time, there are a lot of event spaces, event bridges as well as a ground floor where students can hold many activities that are open to the public," said Mr Pok.

The transparent panels of the college building will also enable outsiders to look in on students while they are engaged in creative work — thus bringing the process of art-making to the public.

The $76-million LaSalle project won the Building of the Year award as well as the Design Award for institutional projects.

The SIA yesterday also announced the launch of three new "Green" awards to recognise excellence in sustainable architectural design and to promote green thinking in the design of buildings.

The institute will also be bidding for the International Union of Architects (UIA) World Congress 2014, the largest architectural congress in the world.

For more information on the green awards, visit

Welcome To Leisure Island

Source : TODAY, Thursday, May 22, 2008

SOON, when someone claims there is nothing to do in Singapore, you can tell him to go fly a kite. Or cycle around the island, literally.

Alternatively, he can relax amid the rustic charms of Changi on a spa treatment table, soak up the carnival atmosphere at night festivals down by the Singapore River and Bras Basah area, or take in a theatre performance at the nearest community centre.

Apart from a more vibrant arts scene and nightlife, parks, green space connectors, farms and a 150km round-island route form the centrepiece of the Urban Redevelopment Authority's (URA) plan to up the Republic's leisure quotient — the first time the urban planners have drawn up a comprehensive scheme to help Singaporeans relax and have fun.

Notably, Changi's distinct colonial flavour would be retained, with all-time haunts such as the old Changi Hospital and former Hendon Camp converted to spa resorts. The vicinity's black-and-white bungalows could also be turned into boutique hotels.

Unveiling the "Leisure Plan" yesterday as part of the URA's draft masterplan for the next 10 to 15 years, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said that with "judicious land use planning", Singapore would be able to set aside land for new leisure options — or "valuable gateways for our city dwellers".

At the same time, the URA will enhance the "night-time buzz" along Orchard Road, the Singapore River, Bras Basah and Bugis areas and Marina Bay through activities, bolder night lighting and new street furniture.

"Singaporeans need not be concerned that higher economic and population growth will come at the expense of a sense of space and greenery. Even as we seek to further green our city, we want to add life and colour to our city centre," said Mr Mah, who was speaking at the Singapore Institute of Architects' 47th annual dinner.

Touted to redefine the Republic as a "City of Garden and Water", the blueprint would see the creation of new trails into the previously inaccessible Kranji marshland, while the Sungei Buloh wetland reserve would undergo a makeover. The Kranji and Lim Chu Kang area would also be spruced up into a "unique countryside destination" boasting of farm stays, spa resorts and kayaking.

Some 900 hectares of land would be carved out as parks, increasing park space by 27 per cent to 4,200 ha. Eventually, the total park space in Singapore would be equivalent to the size of 15 Bishan Parks.

The round-island route, which would take a day of cycling or a whole weekend of walking to complete, would take visitors through the "nature retreats, breathtaking waterfront views, beautiful beaches and attractive parks".

For instance, a family can spend a morning at East Coast Park, enjoy the sea breeze at the Punggol promenade, take an evening stroll through the scenic Southern Ridges and end the day by pitching a tent at a campsite along the way.

Mr Mah enthused: "I think we may be the first and only people in the world to be able to take a walk, relatively easily, around our whole country."

Part of the route is already in place, with Changi Point linked to the Southern Ridges via East Coast Park -- a trail described by avid cyclist Joshua Lee as "beautiful".

Still, the 28-year-old pointed out: "Unless the park connectors have nearby amenities such as fast food restaurants and restrooms, they will not be fully utilised as most people would stay put within hotspots like East Coast Park."

By 2013, at least half of the route would be completed, in tandem with the creation of an extensive web of connectors linking up parks located all over the island.

The draft masterplan would be fully unveiled on Friday with a month-long exhibition at the URA Centre. The public is invited to give its feedback.

Pedra Branca: 4 Possible Outcomes

Source : TODAY, Thursday, May 22, 2008

AS HE leaves for The Hague to hear the decision on the dispute over Pedra Branca, Ambassador-At-Large Tommy Koh is crossing his fingers that a "seductive argument" by Malaysia does not find any favour with the International Court of Justice.

The Malaysian proposal, presented as a "win-win" solution, is that if it were to gain ownership of the disputed territory, it would continue to allow Singapore to operate the lighthouse on the rocky islet.

This would not be a good outcome for Singapore, but is a possibility when the verdict is delivered tomorrow.

It is one of four scenarios, sketched out by Professor Koh hours before his flight, that both countries will have to live with when the 29-year dispute comes to a close with the ICJ decision, which is expected to be reached by 6pm Singapore time.

Both countries have agreed to abide by the court's decision, but only two scenarios would be good news to Singapore.

Optimally, the ICJ will decide that Pedra Branca and two smaller maritime rocks nearby — Middle Rocks and South Ledge — which are also under contention, belong to the Republic. On the other hand, Malaysia could be awarded all three.

But a decision to award Malaysia the two small maritime features — one of which, South Ledge, is only above water during low tide — would also be a welcome scenario if Singapore is given ownership of Pedra Branca.

The latter, a granite outcrop the size of a football field, commands the eastern entrance to the Singapore Straits and is where Singapore operates the Horsburgh Lighthouse, used by the many ships that traverse one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

"Freedom of navigation, safety of navigation are important interests for Singapore," said Prof Koh.

So, what are the chances Singapore will win?

"I'm a born optimist and I'm optimistic about the outcome, though not presumptuous nor arrogant," said the diplomat.

For its part, amid its political uncertainties, Malaysia has been exuding confidence in the run-up to tomorrow's verdict decision. And the question is whether its "seductive" proposal — one which would be hard to retract because it was made in open court, according to Prof Koh — finds favour at the Hague.

When asked by Today if he thought the ICJ might factor political implications into its decision, Prof Koh said: "Singapore hopes the judges will remain as judges and as good international lawyers and do not attempt to become good diplomats or politicians.

"I just hope they don't attempt to go for a win-win situation … it will not be a win-win outcome for us."

If it does turn out that way, Singapore personnel working on Pedra Branca will probably have to go through Malaysian immigration before setting foot on the isle. The Republic will also have to withdraw its marine policing in the surrounding waters.

Both countries have set up a joint committee to implement the ICJ's decision. Even if Singapore wins, and the status quo is maintained, issues such as the rights of Malaysian fisherman would still have to be looked into.

Singapore's most well-known diplomat does not have any inkling, however, about which way the ICJ may be leaning.

Since the count down to the verdict began last November, when the two countries spent three weeks presenting their final arguments and rebuttals at The Hague, Prof Koh has "scrupulously" been avoiding the judges of the ICJ.

"Whenever any of the judges visit Singapore, I've found excuses to be out of the country. Even if any of the 16 judges were to send me books they thought were interesting, I didn't send them any books in return," he said with a smile.

While there may be smiles for only one country tomorrow, whatever the outcome, the overwhelming feeling for the Singapore team will certainly be one of relief, said Prof Koh.

"I'll be relieved because we've been waiting for decades to bring this dispute to a resolution and put it behind us," he said.

And although he will be "disappointed" if Singapore loses, Prof Koh said he "takes comfort in the process" both neighbours have chosen: Third-party resolution for thorny bilateral issues.

"It's a victory for international law. It's good for the Asean family," he said in his inimitable diplomatic style.

Ruling For Malaysia

Source : The Straits Times, May 22, 2008

MALAYSIA claims that the Sultanate of Johor had, since its establishment in 1512, possessed title to the island, which it calls Pulau Batu Puteh.

That original title was then passed to the State of Johor and, subsequently, to the Federation of Malaya, which Johor joined in 1948.

Malaysia also argued that in 1844, the Johor rulers gave the British permission to build and operate a lighthouse there.

Singapore was merely a lighthouse operator, it argued, and never exercised sovereignty over the island.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) could rule in Malaysia's favour in two ways:



THE court could award sovereignty of Pedra Branca, the Middle Rocks and South Ledge to Malaysia.

'This, for Singapore, would not be a happy outcome,' Ambassador Tommy Koh said.

He observed that during the oral pleadings before the ICJ last November, Malaysia told the court that if it was awarded sovereignty over Pedra Branca, it would allow Singapore to continue operating Horsburgh Lighthouse.

That was a 'seductive' argument, and Malaysia had sought to persuade the court that it would result in a win-win outcome.

Not so, Ambassador Koh said yesterday, as the status quo is that Singapore enjoys both property rights to the lighthouse and sovereign rights over the island.

If Singapore loses sovereignty over Pedra Branca, responsibility for the island's security would then pass to Malaysia. Singapore would have to withdraw its maritime police and navy from the area.

However, the Republic of Singapore Air Force's access to the South China Sea would not be affected.

Its aircraft would still have a right to fly over and transit through the airspace above Pedra Branca because the Singapore Strait is an international waterway.

'Singapore's hope is that the judges will remain as judges and good international lawyers and not be tempted to become good politicians or good diplomats.

'I hope that they will not be tempted to say: 'Let's go for a win-win solution,' he added.



THE court could award sovereignty over Pedra Branca to Malaysia and sovereignty over the Middle Rocks and South Ledge to Singapore.

But such an outcome is 'very unlikely', Ambassador Koh said.

During the oral pleadings last November, Singapore argued that the Middle Rocks and South Ledge both lie within Pedra Branca's territorial sea.

That means that whoever has sovereignty over Pedra Branca should also have sovereignty over the two smaller maritime features.

Leisure Island

Source : The Straits Times, May 22, 2008

NOTHING to do on the weekends in Singapore? Not if its city planners can help it.

Yesterday, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) revealed an ambitious blueprint to make Singapore a great place to work, live and have fun in.

Under its Leisure Plan, 900ha of new park space and 260km of park connectors will be added in the next 10 to 15 years.

The plan also includes an uninterrupted 150km round-island cycling and jogging route.

'I think we may be the first and only people in the world to be able to take a walk, relatively easily, around our whole country,' said Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan, unveiling the plan at the Singapore Institute of Architects' 47th annual dinner last night.

He added that Singaporeans need not worry that higher economic and population growth will come at the expense of space and greenery.

The URA plan also earmarks six areas to be developed into leisure hotspots.

Five have been previously announced. Last night, Mr Mah added the sixth - the Kranji and Lim Chu Kang areas which will become a 'countryside' retreat for urban dwellers.

Boating activities such as kayaking will be permitted at the Kranji Reservoir and new parkland and nature trails will allow better access to the Kranji Marshes and the wetlands in Sungei Buloh.

A final plank in the plan is to inject more buzz into the city, especially at night. The URA is relooking everything from night lighting to street fixtures, and hopes to kick-start these after-dark activities with a new Night Festival in July.

The Leisure Plan is part of a bigger blueprint, the 2008 URA Draft Master Plan, which will be revealed tomorrow.

For ideas, URA planners combed the island looking for leisure opportunities for the young and old, said URA chief executive officer Cheong Koon Hean.

'We want to ensure that even as we continue to grow, we can still enjoy a very good quality of life,' she said.

Ruling For Singapore

Source : The Straits Times, May 22, 2008

SINGAPORE claims sovereignty over Pedra Branca on the basis that the British took lawful possession of the island between 1847 and 1851, when they built Horsburgh Lighthouse there.

Before that, the island was terra nullius, that is, it belonged to no one, Singapore had argued before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Netherlands last November.

Singapore inherited the title to the island from the British colonial government.

It maintained that title through an open, continuous and effective display of state authority over the island from the 1850s up to the present, it said.

Those state activities, known in international law as effectivites, went well beyond the operation of Horsburgh Lighthouse, and included naval patrols in the waters around Pedra Branca and the control of access to the island.

If the ICJ judges agree, it could result in one of two possible outcomes.



THE court could award sovereignty over Pedra Branca, the Middle Rocks and South Ledge to Singapore.

That would be 'optimum' for Singapore, Ambassador-at-large Tommy Koh said.

Such an outcome would maintain the status quo. Singapore would then have to decide how to delimit its territorial sea and exclusive economic zone around Pedra Branca.

'If these zones overlap with those of our two neighbours (Malaysia and Indonesia), then we will have to sit down with them to negotiate an agreed delimitation...and we may have to talk to Malaysia about fishing rights in Pedra Branca's waters,' he added.



THE court could award sovereignty over Pedra Branca to Singapore and sovereignty over the Middle Rocks and South Ledge to Malaysia.

Middle Rocks and South Ledge are two maritime features that lie within three nautical miles of Pedra Branca.

Ambassador Koh said he would regard such a split decision as still 'a good outcome because the lighthouse is on Pedra Branca and of the three maritime features, the largest and the most significant is Pedra Branca'.

On the economic importance of Pedra Branca to Singapore, Ambassador Koh noted that the island is strategically located at the eastern entrance of the Strait of Singapore.

The Strait is a key channel for international shipping and some 900 ships pass through it each day.

'Since our port is so important to our livelihood, freedom and safety of navigation are critical and part of our core national interest,' he said.


'No matter what the outcome is, Singapore remains committed to resolving disputes through international law and third-party dispute-settlement procedure.

'I am very happy that the two governments have repeatedly said they will accept and abide by the judgment of the court.

'The two foreign ministers have said that no matter who wins, this will not affect bilateral relations.

'In fact, the two sides look forward to putting this dispute behind us so that we can focus on positive cooperation, both bilaterally and multilaterally.'

AMBASSADOR-AT-LARGE TOMMY KOH who, with Deputy Prime Minister S. Jayakumar and Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong, leads the Singapore delegation to The Hague to receive the court's judgment

Banyan Tree Signs Contract For Angsana Resort & Spa In The Caribbean

Source : Channel NewsAsia, May 21, 2008

Mainboard-listed Banyan Tree Holdings has signed a management contract for a resort in the island of Saint Lucia in the Caribbean.

Banyan Tree said the Angsana Resort & Spa Saint Lucia is the group's fourth foray into the Caribbean.

Angsana Saint Lucia is an integrated resort project that will comprise a full scale resort with related facilities and amenities, including a marina and a commercial centre.

The development, which will also include residences for sale, is slated for completion in 2011. - CNA/vm

No Bids Received For Race Course Rd/ Bukit Timah Rd Hotel Site

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 21 May 2008

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said on Wednesday it did not receive any bids for the hotel site at Race Course Road/Bukit Timah Road when the tender closed at noon.

It said it will announce its plans for the site after a decision has been made.

URA launched the hotel site for sale by public tender in February this year.

It was one of the two hotel sites to be sold through the confirmed list under the Government Land Sales Programme for the first half of this year.

URA said the site is located above the Little India MRT station and has an area of about 0.9 hectare and a maximum permissible gross floor area of 31,440 square metres.

Analysts Channel NewsAsia spoke to seemed slightly surprised by the tender results, given the still-booming hotel property segment.

But they said it is unlikely for the robust hotel industry to see a 180-degree turnaround so quickly - especially in times of strong tourist arrivals.

Property firm Cushman and Wakefield noted that it is still seeing good demand for the hotels it is handling in the financial district.

So consultants said the reasons for the no-show could lie with the site itself.

Savills said the site is on the outskirts of the city, and close to other three- and two-star hotels.

This makes it almost impossible for a developer to build a five-star property there.

And with construction costs so high, developers would find it hard to strike a good deal.

Meanwhile, Chesterton suggested that interest in the site could have been affected by the large crowds in the area, especially over the weekends.

Property consultants also said that it will be at least two years before a hotel can be up and running - which makes it impossible to cash in on upcoming events like the Formula 1 race later this year and the upcoming opening of the integrated resorts. - CNA/ms

4 Possible Outcomes When ICJ Delivers Decision On Pedra Branca On Friday

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 21 May 2008

The longstanding dispute between Singapore and Malaysia over Pedra Branca, known in Malaysia as Pulau Batu Puteh, will have closure this Friday.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) will deliver its decision on which country has sovereignty over the island and its rocky outcrops, Middle Rocks and South Ledge.

The dispute arose when Malaysia published its new map in 1979 of its territories, which included Pedra Branca. Singapore disagreed with it because it said it owns the island.

Pedra Branca has remained a thorn in bilateral ties. In 1993, the prime ministers of Singapore and Malaysia decided to refer the case to the International Court of Justice. After three rounds of written pleadings, both sides presented their cases in open court last November.

According to Singapore's Agent to the Court, Professor Tommy Koh, four possible outcomes are likely on Friday.

First outcome: Singapore is awarded sovereignty over Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and Southern Ledge.

Second outcome: Malaysia is awarded sovereignty over Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and Southern Ledge.

Third outcome: A split decision, which means that Singapore gets Pedra Branca, the most important feature, while Malaysia gets Middle Rocks and South Ledge.

Fourth outcome: Another split decision, but this time Malaysia gets Pedra Branca, and Singapore gets Middle Rocks and South Ledge.

If full sovereignty goes to Singapore, it will be primarily a maintaining of the status quo, according to Professor Koh.

If full sovereignty goes to Malaysia, there will definitely be a change, though it was argued that this would be a win-win situation as it would continue to allow Singapore to maintain the lighthouse.

Professor Koh said: "We no longer have the right to protect the island through our Navy and Marine Police. So although we may still be the lighthouse operator, the security of the island falls on Malaysia."

No matter what the outcome, both sides have said they will accept and abide by ICJ's decision and that it will not have an adverse impact on bilateral ties.

And as for the Singapore team's outlook, Professor Koh said: "Being a natural born optimist, I am optimistic, but I am not arrogant or presumptuous because the court could decide in any one of the four ways.

"I hope no matter what the outcome is - that both sides will take inspiration from this process and will see this as a possible precedent which could be used to settle bilateral disputes."

A joint committee from both countries will meet after the judgement to work out how to implement the final decision.

Channel NewsAsia will show the verdict 'live' on Friday, from 4pm. - CNA/vm

Government To Spend S$30m On Punggol Waterfront Town

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 21 May 2008

The government will spend about S$30 million to develop key features of the new Punggol Waterfront Town.

Most of that amount - S$25 million - will go towards the man-made Punggol Waterway, which will be constructed next year.

The waterway will be the focal point of activities, according to plans by the Housing and Development Board (HDB).

Professional planners have been invited to submit designs and concepts to develop the areas along the waterway.

Punggol residents have a lot to look forward to. They will soon have plenty of activities that are centred around a new 4.2-kilometre waterway.

Related Video -

The waterway will connect Sungei Serangoon and Sungei Punggol. It will snake through various areas, including the proposed Town Centre - bringing water and water activities closer to residents.

Dr Johnny Wong, Deputy Director, Building Technology Department, HDB, said: "We are hoping that it will promote activities like canoeing, some passive walking along the waterways, and even alfresco dining. So we are quite excited about this project."

Architects, engineers and landscape planners have been invited to enter the Punggol Waterway Landscape Masterplan Design Competition. Interested groups were brought to the sites of some of the developments - including the waterway - on Wednesday.

The waterway will be built mostly on vacant land, so that there will be minimal disruption to the surrounding areas.

Mabel Goh, Director, Design Link Architects, said: "We have done quite a fair bit of public housing and it's not new to us. The exciting thing is to redesign public housing with spaces, balconies overlooking the waterways and even private space to integrate with the waterways..."

Leonard Ng, Landscape Architect, Atelier Dreiseitl Asia, said: "It has to be considered in the urban context. We have to relate it to the buildings around it, to the open spaces, the parks around, and how the edge of the river can connect the people and engage the people.

"And so the challenge would be how to carry that out while still being mindful about the safety and security aspects."

The winner of the competition will be announced in November and stands to win S$300,000 and will work with the HDB to develop the Punggol area.

Punggol Town will have 96,000 housing units eventually, with 60 percent allocated for public housing and the rest for private housing.

The residential areas will also house eco-friendly features and be a showcase for green technology. - CNA/ms

Leisure Plan Drawn Up To Enhance Recreational Options In Singapore

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 21 May 2008

In the near future, one will be able to stroll, jog or cycle around the whole of Singapore just by following an extensive route.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is developing a 150-kilometre round-island path as part of its Leisure Plan.

Overview of Gardens by the Bay site

National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan revealed details of new recreational options at the Architectural Design Awards 2008 ceremony on Wednesday.

The round-island route will be developed over the next 10 to 15 years, but up to two-thirds of the path – which includes the Punggol Coastal Promenade – could be ready in just five years.

At three and a half times the length of the Pan-Island Expressway (PIE), the route will comprise existing and new park connectors, waterfront promenades and other trails.

Related Video -

It will also cover leisure destinations at the Marina Bay, Changi Point and the upcoming Jurong Lake District.

Mr Mah said: "We may be the first and only people in the world to be able to take a relatively easy walk around our whole country. You can spend a morning with your family at East Coast Park, enjoy the sea breeze at the new coastal promenades at Punggol and Woodlands, or take an evening stroll through our hilltops at the Southern Ridges."

Besides visiting the rustic countryside and farms at Lim Chu Kang, the more adventurous will also be able to trek along new nature trails to the 17-hectare Kranji Marshes.

Furthermore, the National Parks Board will be launching a Wetland Master Plan in the Sungei Buloh area to promote "bio-learning" activities.

Cheong Koon Hean, CEO of URA, said: "We already have the very beautiful Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, which we will enhance. We will add 21 hectares of park land around it to protect the ecology of the entire system.

"The agri-tainment sites have been introduced because a lot of people just want to get away and experience farmstays, so we are creating opportunities to do that. Some sites will be tendered out for agri-tainment use."

Singaporeans can also look forward to more quiet retreats, which will be made available with 900 hectares of new green spaces, including the new Gardens by the Bay and the Diary Farm Nature Park.

Authorities also plan to triple the existing park connector network from the current 100 kilometres to 360 kilometres within 15 years.

Waterways like the one in Bukit Chermin will be made more accessible. At the same time, urban planners are considering converting some of the black-and-white bungalows there into boutique hotels or spas.

The URA has also come up with ideas to transform Singapore into a 24/7 city. One way is to create more lifestyle hotspots like the one at Dempsey Hill. In the years ahead, new chill-out places will be found at the Lakeside Village in Jurong and Kallang Riverside.

Some other leisure plans will be happening much sooner this year. Come July, the National Heritage Board is holding a Night Festival at the Bras Basah area, followed by the Singapore Tourism Board's Singapore River Festival in September.

Besides hosting more programmes, URA said improvements like better night-lighting, new street furniture and more attractive activity spaces will be introduced to create a better ambience for people to enjoy the nightlife in Singapore. - CNA/so

No Takers At All For Hotel Site In Little India

Source : The Straits Times, May 22, 2008

This is the first time in 7 years a govt land tender has failed to draw any bids: URA

A HOTEL site on top of the Little India MRT station had yet to attract a single offer by the time its tender closed yesterday.

This is the first time in seven years that no bid has come in for a government land site, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said.

It released the 0.9ha plot at the junction of Race Course Road and Bukit Timah Road for sale in February, touting it as a parcel located within a historic and vibrant tourist destination.

Property consultants offered several reasons for the lack of interest in the site, ranging from its less-than-desirable location in Little India to the cheerless mood prevailing in the property market.

Mr Colin Tan, the head of research and consultancy at Chesterton International, suggested that the Little India site failed to draw bids because of the area's 'image problem' and the crowds.

'The hotel sector is one of the brightest spots in the market, so I see no other reason the site should have no bids,' he said.

But Mr Ku Swee Yong, the director of business development and marketing at Savills Singapore, said the problem might lie with 'budget' hotel plots.

'Because of higher construction costs, it's getting tougher to generate good profits for three- and four-star hotels,' he said.

Prospects for the hotel industry remain strong, with visitor arrivals expected to rise because of the upcoming Formula One Grand Prix and the integrated resorts.

But even the hotel sector could be affected by the overall gloomy market sentiment, said some experts.

'The last time we saw no bids for a site was when the market was very weak; it's usually a sign of poor sentiment,' said Mr Nicholas Mak, the director of research and consultancy at Knight Frank.

'The overall property market is getting more uncertain, and developers or investors may think that it's too risky to commit right now.'

He also suggested that the market could be saturated with hotel sites. Since January last year, the URA has sold five parcels and made seven more available for applications from interested parties.

The Little India site is one of two hotel plots on the URA's 'confirmed list' of land sales for the first half of this year, which means the site was launched for outright sale rather than put on the 'reserve list' for developers to indicate interest.

All eyes are now on the other hotel site on the confirmed list, at Balestier Road, which was launched for outright sale in March. The tender closes on July 16.

Market watchers said the lack of response to yesterday's tender could lead the URA to put fewer sites on the confirmed list next month, when it announces its land sales programme for the rest of the year.

The last time a URA site closed without any bids was in February 2001, when two residential plots in Lengkong Empat and Geylang drew no interest at all.

Zero Bids For Hotel Site Is First In Seven Years

Source : The Business Times, May 22, 2008

Consultants cite weak economic sentiment, large site for 500 rooms

A HOTEL site at Race Course Road has failed to receive a single bid. According to the Urban Redevelopment Authority, not since February 2001 has there been a launch of a development site through the Government Land Sales Programme (GLS) that did not take off.

The 0.9 ha site at the junction of Race Course Road and Bukit Timah Road has a maximum permissible gross floor area (GFA) of 338,417 sq ft, and is next to Little India MRT station. It was launched for sale by public tender through the confirmed list under the GLS programme for the first half of 2008.

While sites on the confirmed list are generally thought to have the potential to be developed faster than those on the reserve list, developers obviously did not think so.

Knight Frank director (research and consultancy) Nicholas Mak said that the poor showing could be 'a signal to relook the quantum of land for hotel use in the confirmed list of the next GLS programme'.

In April, the government released another site on the confirmed list for sale at Balestier Road and Ah Hood Road.

In addition, there are also eight hotel sites on the reserve list currently.

Mr Mak said there could be three reasons for the Race Course Road site not receiving any bids: location; weak economic sentiment; and oversupply. He also said it was more likely to be a combination of the latter two reasons.

Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels executive vice-president and head of corporate advisory (Asia) Chee Hok Yean believes that the sheer size of the site could have put potential bidders off.

Earlier estimates had put the range of bids at between $400 - $700 per square foot per plot ratio (psf ppr).

Estimating that the site could yield 500 rooms for a three-star hotel at a possible bid price of $500 psf ppr, Ms Chee believes that land price of $170 million would have been too hefty for a potential hotel developer of this category to bear. 'Construction costs have also gone up,' she added.

While Ms Chee also added that investor sentiment is generally weak at the moment, she said that average room rates and occupancy levels in Singapore have remained high, suggesting that there is no issue with an oversupply of hotel rooms here yet.

S'pore Luxury Homes Ninth Most Expensive Globally

Source : The Business Times, May 22, 2008

Market supported by jet-setting high net-worth individuals: report

LUXURY homes in Singapore are the second most expensive in Asia and the ninth most expensive in the world.

According to a report by Citi and Knight Frank, luxury home prices here are now US$2,423 per sq ft.

High living: At US$2,423 per sq ft, S'pore luxury home prices are topped only by HK, where they cost US$4,507 psf. Even Tokyo is cheaper at US$2,334 psf

The only place in Asia where they are more expensive is Hong Kong, where they cost US$4,507 psf. Even Tokyo is cheaper than Singapore, coming in third most expensive at US$2,334.

Worldwide, London is the most expensive, followed by Monaco and St Jean Cap Ferrat (France) at US$6,191, US$5,888 and US$5,853 psf respectively.

The global luxury home market is supported by jet-setting high net-worth individuals who think nothing of owning homes on every continent.

As an example, the report describes a Brazilian/Russian family that owns apartments in New York, Geneva, Ibiza and, until recently, Singapore.

The family reportedly spends equal periods at each property, with business and social ties meaning they find it possible to change location for long or short periods with ease.

'In many ways, none of their properties is regarded as either a primary or secondary residence,' the report says. 'In fact, they feel equally at home in all of them.'

The report ranks high net-worth individuals in four categories - those with US$1 million to US$10 million; US$10 million to US$100 million; US$100 million to US$1 billion; and more than US$1 billion.

It found that 15.7 per cent of entry-level high net-worth individuals own four or more homes. In the second, third and fourth (the richest) categories, the respective percentages increased to 23.3, 31.5 and 60 per cent.

Importantly, the report found that in both developed and emerging economies, uncertain economic and political conditions did not affect the growth in numbers of high net-worth individuals, with the growth of their wealth, 'similarly undimmed throughout 2007'.

Citing data from Scorpio Partnership, the report says the most significant growth in 2007 was in the US, where the number grew almost 120,000 to 3.1 million. China had the second-largest increase, with the figure rising almost 46,000 to 373,000 - almost as many as Germany.

'Despite the credit crunch, extraordinary wealth creation has continued across the global oil and commodity sectors,' the report says.

An example of the strength of the global luxury home market is that in London the number of £pounds;10 million-plus sales in Chelsea, Knightsbridge and Belgravia rose 190 per cent in the six months to January 2008 from the same period a year earlier.

In the US, where prices fell 4.5 per cent over the past year and 4.2 per cent in New York generally, prices for prime Manhattan properties rose 25 per cent.

Knight Frank's head of residential research Liam Bailey said: 'Prime locations have held their own. London, New York, Shanghai and others are proving that almost any residential market tied to the global economy maintains confidence among purchasers.'

Hopes Of Property Market Rebound Fading

Source : The Business Times, May 22, 2008

Uncertain economy, housing glut fears seen taking toll on developers

HOPES that a slowdown in Singapore's property market is temporary are fading as an uncertain economic outlook and a looming housing glut threaten to plunge the sector into a prolonged downturn.

Homebuilders such as CapitaLand, Keppel Land and GuocoLand have delayed launching new projects in the moribund market, taking a hit to first-quarter earnings as they hoped for a rebound later this year.

Housing hurdle: With home prices expected to fall 30 to 40 per cent over the next three years, Singapore's developers could be badly hit

Prospects could be dented further in coming months if smaller developers face financing troubles and have to unload properties at massive discounts. Some have gorged themselves on expensive land acquisitions over the past two years.

With home prices expected to fall 30 to 40 per cent over the next three years, Singapore's developers could be badly hit and analysts may slash their earnings estimates further.

'This is the start of a multi-year price correction. Private residential property prices could easily fall by up to 30 per cent by 2010,' said Barclays Capital economist Leong Wai Ho.

Credit Suisse in a report this month saw rents and property prices falling even more steeply by as much as 40 per cent, and downgraded its investment recommendation for the sector to 'underweight'.

Warning signs have been flashing as first quarter 2008 sales volumes slumped to the lowest in five years and price growth slowed for two straight quarters, with concerns about a global economic slowdown and the US sub-prime mortgage crisis scaring off potential homebuyers.

Mr Leong said an impending oversupply will worsen the problem, with 66,000 new homes expected to be completed over the next four years, against forecast demand for 50,000 in the same period.

The three-month Singapore Interbank Offered Rate - a benchmark for mortgage loans - has fallen to near record lows below 1.3 per cent, but that may not be enough to revive buyers' flagging confidence, economists say.

'Negative real interest rates will be at best a cushion, rather than a boost to housing demand in the near term, although they could lift property demand if and when sentiment turns,' said Citi analyst Kit Wei Zheng.

'The worst is yet to come and price cuts are imminent,' said ABN Amro analyst Fera Wirawan.

BNP Paribas has flagged high financial risks for small developers including Bukit Sembawang, Low Keng Huat and Lian Beng, which have almost all their debts due within a year. Even major builders such as Allgreen, Keppel Land and GuocoLand could face difficulties after steep drops in profit in the last quarter as they launch fewer projects, analysts say.

Slower sales and rising costs could raise developers' gearing or debt-to-equity ratio to dangerous levels above 70 per cent, up from the industry average of about 62 per cent.

'We identify three developers, namely Allgreen, GuocoLand and Keppel Land, that could face some pressures on cash flow,' JPMorgan analyst Christopher Gee said in a report, noting that gearing levels could be pushed up to between 80 and 130 per cent.

The risk of price falls has been heightened by property speculators buying in recent years with little upfront cash, relying on a deferred payment scheme. The government scrapped the scheme last October in a bid to cool down the sector.

Analysts expect speculators will dispose of about 700 units on the cheap this year, and another 2,000 next year, as the properties near completion and instalments are due.

Some developers are still counting on home prices in the city state to rise for at least another year, as they see the market in the middle of an upswing even as the US housing market grapples with its worst downturn since the Great Depression.

'This is a temporary hiccup. We just had a boom starting in 2006 and it's usually a seven-year cycle,' property tycoon Kwek Leng Beng, who heads Singapore's No 2 developer City Developments, told Reuters. The property market will be supported by greater foreign investments as Singapore sees the completion of two casino projects and the influx of major events such as Formula One races and the Youth Olympics over the next few years, Mr Kwek argued.

But Barclays' Mr Leong said his bearish scenario, which calls for a near one-third drop in property value, already takes into account any boost resulting from these economic developments. 'It's not the worst-case scenario. This is the most likely scenario based on the numbers,' he said. -- Reuters