Tuesday, May 27, 2008

New Mapletree Project

Source :The Business Times, May 27, 2008

MAPLETREE, a real estate unit of Singapore investment company Temasek, said yesterday it is developing property worth US$320 million in China's Guangdong through its private real estate fund.

The Mapletree India-China Fund will have an 80 per cent stake in the project, which includes seven blocks of serviced apartments and a mall, while Guangzhou Southern-Donald Scientific Technology Co owns the remainder, Mapletree said in a statement. Mapletree said the newly launched fund has raised US$1 billion so far, half from Mapletree and the other half from an unidentified international institutional investor. The targeted fund size is about US$1.5 billion, it said.

The 33-hectare project in the Nanhai district of Foshan city is the fund's third in China, and also includes a business park. Named Nanhai Business City, it will be built over five to eight years. The two earlier investments are a US$144 million residential and retail development in Xi'an and the US$121 million acquisition of an office block in Beijing's central business district, it said. - Reuters

Top HK Developer Sun Hung Kai's Board Ousts Chairman - BT

Source : The Business Times, May 27, 2008

HONG KONG - The board of Hong Kong's top developer, Sun Hung Kai Properties, ousted company chairman Walter Kwok on Tuesday as a family power struggle convulsed one of the city's most respected blue-chip firms.

Mr Kwok is replaced by his 79-year-old mother, Kwong Siu Hing

Mr Kwok, who has taken a leave of absence since Feb 18, has accused younger brothers Thomas and Raymond of trying to have him dismissed without legal basis, but a Hong Kong court on Monday rejected his bid to block a vote by the board.

Their mother, Kwong Siu Hing, 79, will take Walter Kwok's place, the firm said in a statement.

Sun Hung Kai shares climbed 1.3 per cent in the morning, following a 1.8 per cent gain on Monday. But they had shed a tenth of their value since the start of the month, as the Kwoks' increasingly acerbic battle made newspaper headlines. -- REUTERS

Property Firms Raise Rents In Central Tokyo

Source : The Business Times, May 27, 2008

Average rent in five central wards up 12% last month from June 2007

(TOKYO) Japan's leading estate firms including Mitsui Fudosan Co have begun proposing big rent rises in central Tokyo, where office vacancy rates have been hovering near 20-year lows.

These rock-bottom vacancy rates have helped Mitsui Fudosan and rival Mitsubishi Estate Co weather tougher times for much of Japan's property market, which has been hit by tighter credit and stricter apartment building codes.

Mitsui Fudosan, Japan's largest real estate developer, said yesterday that it was in talks with tenants to raise office rents in central Tokyo by an average of 10-15 per cent.

The country's second-largest developer, Mitsubishi Estate, also said that it was in talks with tenants to raise office rents in the Marunouchi area of central Tokyo by 15-20 per cent.

Another major developer, unlisted Mori Trust Co, said that it was preparing to raise office rents in central Tokyo's Minato district by an average of 20 per cent.

The office vacancy rate in Tokyo's 23 wards stood at 2.1 per cent last month - the lowest since the bursting of Japan's asset-inflated bubble economy in 1990, according to Ikoma Data Service System, a research firm specialising in the market for office buildings.

Average rent in Tokyo's five central wards last month was 15,120 yen (S$199) per approximately 3.3 sq m. That marks a 12 per cent increase from 13,530 yen in June of last year, according to the most recently available data from Ikoma.

'Tokyo's office market is extremely tight,' said Ikoma researcher Mitsuhiro Asada.

'With signs of an economic recovery, many companies started hiring more people, and that's making them want to move to bigger offices,'
he said.

He added that such conditions would likely last for a while, helping real estate firms' businesses.

Mitsubishi Estate said that it was seeking the rent increase given the tight office market situation in the Marunouchi area. It said that its vacancy rate in that district was just 0.19 per cent as at the end of March, the lowest since it started disclosing the data in 2003.

Shares of Mitsui Fudosan tumbled 3.8 per cent to 2,440 yen and those of Mitsubishi Estate lost 2.7 per cent to 2,675 yen at the end of trade yesterday. -- Reuters

Malaysian MPs Slam Govt For Losing Pedra Branca

Source : The Straits Times, May 27, 2008

Parliament debate shows island issue could become a political hot potato

KUALA LUMPUR - THE 'loss' of Pedra Branca to Singapore became a topic of debate in Parliament yesterday as several MPs expressed unhappiness at the decision of the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The debate was led by several Johor Members of Parliament, as well as opposition leaders.

The vocal Datuk Puad Zarkashi, an Umno MP from Johor, said Malaysia lost because it failed to archive its historical documents properly.

He lambasted the government for failing to locate a crucial letter from the British colonial government seeking the Johor sultan's permission to build a lighthouse on the island which he described as a key piece of evidence.

'As a Johorean, I am disappointed. We lost, simple as that. I don't believe in the win-win situation as claimed by the government,' he said.

The debate in Parliament came after a weekend of measured response from politicians and the media, and is an indication that the loss of the island could become a political hot potato.

The MPs had been briefed in advance of the ICJ verdict last Friday as the government attempted to moderate the response to the decision, but strong sentiments are beginning to surface.

The opposition has also jumped onto the bandwagon to blame the government for its poor handling of the case.

The opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) in Johor yesterday lodged a police report against former foreign minister Syed Hamid Albar for having been 'careless' in the handling of the case.

'They did not do anything against Singapore when it constructed buildings and a light house on the island,' Johor PAS information chief Mazlan Alimin said.

The party is also planning to table a motion in Parliament today to debate the matter.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim wrote in his blog yesterday that the ICJ decision was a bitter pill, and attacked the Malaysian government for its weak case.

'Malaysians should express their anger and regret at the carelessness, and protest to the Umno and BN-led government, and Attorney-General,' he said.

His wife, Wan Azizah Ismail, an MP from Penang, said in Parliament that Malaysians were saddened by the decision, against which there was no appeal.

Mr Mahfuz Omar, a PAS MP from Kedah, blamed the Attorney-General for failing to advise the government adequately.

Independent MP Ibrahim Ali urged the government to be wary of Singapore, pointing out that the Republic has a water treatment plant in Pulai which was manned by its personnel.

'I have been made to understand that it is big, and if it was to overflow, half of Johor will be flooded,' he said.

Meanwhile, Malaysian analyst Datuk Dr Cheah See Kian was quoted in the Nanyang Siang Pau yesterday as saying that the ICJ decision could have military and strategic significance for Singapore.

He said Pedra Branca was a strategic spot from the military point of view, and that it could even be used as a new naval base.

'Although we are not certain whether there are oilfields around Pedra Branca, Singapore has achieved a historical breakthrough with the verdict,' he said.

'As a Johorean, I am disappointed. We lost, simple as that. I don't believe in the win-win situation as claimed by the government.'

- DATUK PUAD ZARKASHI, an Umno MP from Johor, said Malaysia lost because it failed to archive its historical documents properly.

KL Govt Told: Make Sure Two Other Islands Don't Fall To Singapore

Source : The Straits Times, May 27, 2008

SEVERAL Malaysian politicians have asked the government to keep a close eye on two Malaysian islands to ensure they will not be lost to Singapore, like Pedra Branca was.

PULAU PISANG: The lighthouse on Malaysia's Pulau Pisang is managed by Singapore under a 1885 agreement. -- PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN MALAYSIA

One of the Malaysian-owned islands is Pulau Pisang, on which Singapore operates a lighthouse. The other is Pulau Merambong off Tuas.

Umno-owned mass-selling newspaper Utusan Malaysia yesterday reported on its Page 1 the comments by a Johor MP who said the government must quickly draw up a programme to develop Pulau Pisang to ensure Malaysian sovereignty would not be lost.

The daily also published a big file picture of Pulau Pisang which showed the lighthouse at its centre.

The lighthouse on Pulau Pisang is managed by Singapore under an agreement in 1885 between the ruler of Johor and the governor of the Straits Settlements.

The MP for Pontian, a Johor constituency that includes the island, Mr Ahmad Maslan, said the Pulau Pisang lighthouse has a history 'similar' to Pulau Batu Puteh, the Malaysian name for Pedra Branca.

'Taking a leaf from the bitter experience of Johoreans when Batu Puteh fell under the ownership of Singapore, it is not right for Pulau Pisang to receive the same fate if ownership claims were to be made one day,' he said.

Mr Hamim Samuri, an Umno MP from Johor, said in Parliament yesterday that the government must learn from the Pedra Branca experience and keep an eye on Singapore's activities near Malaysia.

'We have to carefully watch Pulau Merambong which is near Tuas,' he said.

Referring to Pulau Pisang, he said the government must ensure that it is not lost to Singapore as well.

'The Singaporeans fly their flag on the lighthouse there. It gives the impression that they have sovereignty over the island,' he said.

Top HK Developer Sun Hung Kai's Board Ousts Chairman - ST

Source : The Straits Times, May 27, 2008

HONG KONG - TOP Hong Kong developer Sun Hung Kai Properties ousted its chairman, Walter Kwok, on Tuesday in a family feud that has rocked one of the city's best regarded blue-chip corporations.

Mr Kwok's departure after nearly two decades at the helm of the $42 billion property company caps weeks of sensational media coverage, with Mr Kwok accusing his brothers and fellow directors of having him diagnosed as bipolar, and reports of an extra-marital affair.

The saga offered a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse into the occasional power struggles among Hong Kong's corporate glitterati.

Sun Hung Kai was named in a Euromoney poll as Hong Kong's best-managed firm in 2007.

Mr Kwok, 57, who took leave of absence on Feb 18, has accused his brothers Thomas and Raymond of trying to have him dismissed illegally, but a Hong Kong court on Monday rejected his bid to block a vote by the board.

The brothers' mother, 79-year-old Kwong Siu-hing, was named as chairwoman, Sun Hung Kai said on Tuesday.

Walter would be a non-executive director, a symbolic role with no real power.

A spokeswoman for Walter Kwok could not be reached for comment.

Sun Hung Kai shares climbed 1.3 per cent on Tuesday, following a 1.8 per cent gain on Monday, as the power struggle looked to be heading for a resolution, but the stock is still down more than 10 per cent this month, wiping over $4 billion off its market value.

Citigroup's Tony Tsang slapped a sell recommendation on Sun Hung Kai in a May 18 report, citing 'potential instability' of the firm's management as a factor that might lead to delays of key property projects later in the year.

The Kwok brothers were ranked Hong Kong's second wealthiest by Forbes magazine in January, with a combined fortune of $24 billion, behind Asia's richest self-made billionaire Li Ka-shing.

Waning star
Over the past four decades, Sun Hung Kai has built some of the city's most exclusive high-rises, including luxury hilltop apartment blocks and harbour-front skyscrapers.

Its International Commerce Centre, on the Kowloon peninsula, will become the world's third tallest tower when completed, Raymond Kwok said last year.

Walter Kwok filed a suit against his brothers this month to stop them firing him, arguing that any attempt to remove him would constitute a breach of agreement.

The tycoon added that he believed his brothers had proposed his dismissal because of health concerns, linked to a diagnosis of bipolar disorder that he was contesting.

Local media, however, have reported that the rift may have resulted from Walter's close friendship with a purported mistress who exerted an untoward influence on Kwok's running of the firm - one of the city's largest land owners and employers.

'In the past few days, some people have spread dishonest opinions to mislead shareholders over my mental state and of hindering the running of the company,' he said in a statement on Monday.

'These rumours have destroyed my own legitimate right to govern Sun Hung Kai.'

On Friday, the high court rejected Walter's application for an injunction, saying it was not a decision for the court, and on Monday again rejected an attempt by his lawyer to re-apply.

Mr Kwok expressed 'utter disappointment' with the decision.

Family disputes are rarely so acrimoniously aired in public in Hong Kong's tight-knit corporate community.

Another exception is a marathon dispute over the multi-billion dollar estate of Nina Wang, formerly Asia's richest woman and one of the city's most colourful tycoons, which has not yet been resolved. -- REUTERS

购物中心头一遭 加东广场寻求集体出售

《联合早报》May 27, 2008

本地第一个寻求集体出售的购物中心——加东广场(Katong Mall)公开招标,要价介于2亿2000万元至2亿5000万元之间,相等于容积率每平方英尺870元至980元。




如果不发展购物商场,仲量联行向市区重建局获得的初步策划准证(outline planning permission),也允许发展商在这个地段上兴建一个综合住宅和购物商店的,容积率为3。发展商可兴建多达100个平均占地约1200平方英尺的住宅单位,以及185个平均达400平方英尺的零售或商业单位。

加东广场目前主要的租户为音乐学校、补习中心和家具店。何春燕指出,重建成市区以外购物商场的加东广场将能取得同百汇广场(Parkway Parade)的租金价格,地面层的月租平均将达每平方英尺20至30元,高层楼和地下层的租金价格则可介于8元至20元。



这个分层地契购物商场,有72%的股权由三家公司持有,分别为控股公司Elysium、房地产发展商Nustavino和Habitat Properties。据说,三家公司拥有共同的投资者。其余的单位则分别由约100个业主持有。


Fraser Hospitality's First Venture Into Indonesia

Source : TODAY, Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Singapore’s Frasers Hospitality is expanding into Indonesia for the first time. It has announced plans for 270 luxury service apartments and penthouses to be housed within the Ciputra World Jakarta development (picture), which is slated for completion by mid-2011.

Fraser Suites Jakarta will be located in a 30-storey tower, with leisure and fitness facilities such as a swimming pool, tennis courts and playgrounds.

Mr Choe Peng Sum, Frasers Hospitality chief executive, said: “Jakarta provides a unique gateway opportunity into Indonesia for Frasers Hospitality in light of the Indonesian capital’s rising affluence and globalisation business trends.

Building Brics For HDB

Source : TODAY, Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Proposed flat application system gives ownership of choice and saves on effort

Letter from WONG WENG KEET

I APPLAUD the Housing and Development Board’s (HDB) recent initiative regarding balloting under the build-to-order (BTO) scheme, which aims to deter people from throwing their names into the flat-balloting hat frivolously.

However, I feel that the root of the problem lies with the balloting system — it is like a lucky-draw, and when we do not give people ownership, responsibility and most importantly, accountability for their actions and decision-making, they abuse the system and keep “trying their luck” until they “strike lottery” and get the flat they desire thus, putting a strain on public resources.

At the same time, the HDB’s decision to limit additional priority for repeatedly unsuccessful applicants to non-mature estates, is unfair. This policy is in direct conflict to and cancels out the priority applicants have under the Married Child Priority Scheme (MCPS). Perpetually unlucky applicants whose parents live in popular estates such as Redhill and Toa Payoh, are deprived of additional priority unless they move far away from their parents to live in the newer estates.

Doesn’t this defeat the purpose of the MCPS, which is the promotion of stronger ties between generations in extended families, by encouraging them to live near each other?

I would like to propose a new flat application system, which I have coined the bidding-ranking cyclical system (Brics).

Under this system, HDB will announce all its up-coming projects including BTO, balloting exercises for leftover flats from Sers (selective en bloc redevelopment scheme) and others (about 8 to 10 projects) for the entire year by December of the previous year, providing adequate information necessary for potential buyers to evaluate and make informed choices.

In January, the board invites applicants to rank between three and five projects in their choice areas or estates in order of preference, with the most desired ranked 1st. For example, each applicant will be given 20 points to bid for the five projects
they have ranked (with a minimum bid of 1 point and a maximum of 7 points per project). First-time applicants will have their points doubled, while those who are first-timers and applying under the MCPS will have their points quadrupled —but they must fully utilise all their points and do so within the restrictions set by HDB.

HDB will proceed to sort applicants first by ranking and then by points. The applicant with the highest points for each project ranking will be given the 1st position in the queue and so on. If there is a tie in points, a ballot will be used (as a last resort) to determine the queue order. The whole cycle for the year is complete when all projects have undergone five rounds of sorting (for the five rankings). All priority privileges and penalties will continue to apply.

Among the many advantages of Brics:
• The ranking-bidding system, working in tandem, gives ownership of choice to the applicant and serves as a differentiating factor.

• Transparency on HDB’s part in disclosing all projects for the year curbs speculation and kiasu-ism.

• It saves on effort as HDB can do eligibility tests all at one go and does not have to have so many balloting exercises throughout the year.

• The multi-tier ranking better matches applicant-flat fits and HDB will be able to sell off most of its new flats. Hopefully, Brics will be an efficient method of solving all our flat selection woes.

Developer Joins Bid For Shaw Brothers

Source : The Business Times, May 27, 2008

Yeung Kwok-keung has HK$3b loan from chairman of Henderson Land

A GUESSING game over who will bid for Run Run Shaw's flagship Shaw Brothers intensified over the weekend as a property developer emerged as a prime contender.

Businessman Yeung Kwok-keung has received HK$3 billion (S$523.2 million) in financing from Henderson Land Development chairman Lee Shau-kee to make a bid for Shaw Brothers, according to local press reports.

Mr Yeung is chairman of mainland property company Country Garden (Holdings), and his apparent interest in the media firm has perplexed some observers, fuelling speculation that he may be a front man for another interested party.

Earlier this month, media tycoon Mr Shaw announced that he is looking to sell his stake in entertainment flagship Shaw Brothers, the largest shareholder of Hong Kong's No 1 broadcaster.

According to an announcement by Shaw Brothers, the 100-year-old media veteran is in talks with 'representatives of interested parties' regarding a possible sale.

Mr Shaw holds 75 per cent of Shaw Brothers, a holding company with a 26 per cent stake in Television Broadcasts (TVB), Hong Kong's leading broadcaster.

Shaw Brothers said that no agreement has been reached on a sale, but press reports have tipped a number of private equity firms to be interested in the stake, including the Tianjin-based Bohai Fund and the Blackstone Group, run by former financial secretary Antony Leung.

The apparent interest of Country Garden's Mr Yeung is one of the less obvious ones, although there are suggestions that he may be interested in the property assets of the company. Shaw Brothers has a large property jointly held in Clearwater Bay in the New Territories.

It is understood that the company has for some time been trying to get planning permission to develop the large plot into a residential area.

'He (Mr Yeung) is a property developer, so it's natural for him to be interested,' said Allan Ng, executive director of investment bank BOC International. 'But that piece of land has taken the company years to get government approval for redevelopment.'

One of the main stumbling blocks has been to improve road access to the site, which is situated along a busy stretch of road in the New Territories.

Henderson's Mr Lee told reporters that his loan to Mr Yeung did not reflect any interest to become involved in the operations of Shaw Brothers or TVB.

A sale to a Hong Kong or Chinese bidder, however, would ease any concerns which Beijing might have that the stake remains in local hands.

In 2006, a bid by PCCW boss Richard Li to sell to foreign investors was thwarted after politics seemed to come into play.

It has long been expected that Mr Shaw would seek to offload his stake in the media company, given recent bouts of ill health. In 2006, the tycoon was believed to have discussed a possible sale with a consortium of local tycoons.

Analysts had suggested that Rupert Murdoch's Newscorp and Malaysian broadcaster Astro could be potential buyers, but were given slim chances because of their foreign status.

TVB in March announced that its net profit last year rose 6 per cent to HK$1.26 billion as advertising revenue increased against the backdrop of a robust economy.

The company also recorded a one-off gain of HK$140 million during the year from a sale of a 20 per cent stake in unit TVB Pay Vision Holdings Ltd. Turnover during 2007 was HK$4.33 billion, up 3 per cent from 2006.

Revenue from terrestrial television broadcasting rose to HK$2.37 billion from HK$2.2 billion the previous year.

US Recession Still Probable: Greenspan

Source : The Straits Times, May 27, 2008

LONDON - A RECESSION in the United States remains a probability, former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan said in an interview published on Tuesday.

Speaking to the Financial Times from Washington, Mr Greenspan said he believed 'there is a greater than 50 per cent probability of recession'. He noted, however, that 'that probability has receded a little'.

The likelihood of a severe recession had 'come down markedly', he added: but it was too soon to tell whether the worst was already over.

According to the Financial Times, Mr Greenspan estimated that house prices in the United States would drop by a further 10 per cent from their levels in February, which comes to a 25 per cent drop from their peak.

'Such house price declines imply a major contraction in the level of equity in owner-occupied homes, the ultimate collateral for mortgage-backed securities,' he said.

United States economic growth has slowed dramatically in recent months and a growing number of economists believe the world's largest economy will experience a recession during 2008 amid a housing slump and related credit crunch. -- AFP

M'sia Has Proof Of Pulau Pisang Ownership: Johor MB

Source : The Straits Times, May 27, 2008

Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman said that this was despite Singapore operating a lighthouse on the 154ha island.

JOHOR BARU - THERE is no danger of losing Pulau Pisang to Singapore as Malaysia clearly has sovereignty over the island.

Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman said that this was despite Singapore operating a lighthouse on the 154ha island.

He said the ownership of the island was based on a treaty between Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Abu Bakar and the British in 1900, which clearly stated that Malaysia had sovereignty over the island.

'Our land office records show that Pulau Pisang belongs to Johor,' he said.

Datuk Seri Abdul Ghani was responding to a suggestion made by Pontian MP Ahmad Maslan that the Government should conduct a study on taking over the operation of the lighthouse.

Mr Ahmad said Pulau Pisang might suffer a similar fate as Batu Puteh where the International Court of Justice ruled in favour of Singapore.

Datuk Seri Abdul Ghani said the lighthouse, which guided ships into the Singapore Straits, was manned by four Singaporean guards.

'The guards are relieved by another team once a fortnight and are required to report to the marine department, Customs and immigration in Kukup every time they arrive and depart from the island,' he said.

He added that Malaysians were allowed to enter the island but were prohibited from entering the lighthouse. He said there were also 82 farmers who tend to orchards on the island.

'They are only given permission to work on the land but are not granted ownership of the land,' he said.

The island is about 12km from Pontian Kechil and 5km from Benut.

Meanwhile, Johor PAS officials lodged a police report against former foreign minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar, Abdul Ghani and Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail, accusing them of causing Malaysia to lose Batu Puteh.

Johor Baru (South) OCPD Asst Comm Zainuddin Yaakob confirmed that the report had been received.

Perak Puteri Umno chief Dr Wan Norashikin Wan Noordin, meanwhile, said Malaysia must take the necessary steps to ensure she irrefutably owned all her islands and territories.

She said the steps were crucial in view of the recent decision on Batu Puteh.

DAP chairman Karpal Singh said the Malaysian Government was 'foolhardy to have placed the case before ICJ' without the necessary evidence.

He was referring to Malaysian ambassador-at-large Tan Sri Abdul Kadir Mohamad?s statement that he could not locate a letter sent by a British governor in Butterworth to the Johor Temenggong seeking permission to build the Horsburgh Lighthouse on Batu Puteh.

Mr Abdul Kadir led the Malaysian team to The Hague.

'Discovery of the letter now or in future cannot restore Malaysia's sovereignty over Batu Puteh,' he said. - The Star/ANN.

Key Player In Jade Saga Set To Sell Luxury Home

Source : The Straits Times, May 27, 2008

$13.8m price tag in Anthony Soh's ad suggests he wants a quick sale

THE businessman caught out when his takeover of Jade Technologies descended into farce and recrimination has put his multimillion-dollar home on the market.

Dr Anthony Soh placed an advertisement for the plush house in The Straits Times classifieds section over the weekend with an asking price of $13.88 million.


The home near the Singapore Island Country Club in leafy Windsor Park Road sits on 21,000 sq ft of sloping land and boasts a pool, badminton court and parking for up to 10 cars. The area is surrounded by the greenery of MacRitchie Reservoir.

The pricing probably indicates that Dr Soh is looking to seal a deal soon as similar-sized bungalow plots are being advertised for as much as $15 million.

But Dr Soh told The Straits Times that he is not selling because he is in financial difficulties. 'I am selling because I want to clear all my outstanding housing loans with OCBC, and to downgrade to get out of the public eye,' he said.

OCBC Bank was also caught up in the buyout drama. It was Dr Soh's adviser, but resigned and has since found itself criticised by investors for its role in the mess.

The bank also made a report to the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) about the buyout events.

Dr Soh, who bought the house in December 2006, said he was raising funds to also cover his expected hefty legal fees in relation to the Jade fiasco.

The doctor-turned-venture capitalist became Jade's largest shareholder in June last year. His arrival boosted the shares, with investors hopeful that he would transform the firm and its loss-making precision engineering business.

The counter got a further boost when he launched a buyout offer for the firm in February.

But the positive sentiment turned sour when he abruptly withdrew his $117 million bid in April.

He told the Singapore Exchange that he had pledged millions of his Jade shares to Australian broker Opes Prime as collateral to get a loan.

But Opes collapsed, partly a victim of a falling Australian share market that exposed many of its clients to severe margin calls. Its creditors, Merrill Lynch and ANZ Bank, seized the shares held by the brokerage, including those pledged by Dr Soh.

The seizure meant he had insufficient funds to complete the buyout.

Many investors have been burnt. They were confident that the deal would succeed as Dr Soh had said he owned nearly 46 per cent of Jade. All he needed was 50 per cent plus one share for the deal to go through.

But as more details emerged, some have questioned if Dr Soh's loss was just a hard-luck story. Doubts were also raised as to whether he really owned as much as 46 per cent of Jade when he made his offer.

Dr Soh's move to sell his bungalow may be related to OCBC's actions.

As the financial adviser in the deal, OCBC stated that he had enough financial resources to complete the buyout.

After the deal fell through, investors questioned how OCBC could make such a statement when his shares had been pledged elsewhere.

OCBC's report to the CAD claimed that 'in the course of our advisory assignment, a series of events had occurred which caused us to question the integrity of the representations which we have received'.

So where will Dr Soh and his family live?

He said: 'I have two other properties but have not decided which one to move in to. The objective is to pay OCBC all my loans as all my three properties are mortgaged to it.

'I am going to fight for my integrity and what I have lost. I will never be a quitter.'

One-North - A Place For A Meeting Of Minds

Source : The Business Times, May 27, 2008

one-north, encompassing Biopolis and Fusionopolis, is Singapore's icon of the knowledge economy

THERE I was, standing in the middle of a gleaming complex of buildings, with blocks bearing names like Chromos, Proteos, Genome and Matrix. I was, of course, at Biopolis, conceived to put Singapore on the global map of the biomedical sciences industry. Biopolis itself is only one part of a vast development called one-north that is emerging around the Buona Vista area.

Brain space: Biopolis (left) was conceived to put Singapore on the global map of the biomedical sciences industry; global pharmaceuticals corporation Novartis houses its Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases at Chromos. The institute 'is dedicated to discovering treatments for diseases of the developing world, including tuberculosis, malaria and dengue fever', says its chairman Paul Herrling

This 200 ha area is 'Singapore's icon of the knowledge economy', according to the one-north website. It encompasses Biopolis and Fusionopolis, a sprawling area dedicated to the media and information businesses.

In its widest interpretation, one-north includes Rochester Park, Insead business school and one campus of the Nanyang Technological University. Clearly, it is planned to be a kind of 'brain space' and creative nerve for Singapore.

But does the talent really like working here? I approached a man and a woman chatting to each other and posed them that question.

The woman's answer was emphatic. 'Yes, it's convenient. It's got everything - there are restaurants, cafes, shops. There's a shared system among all the corporations here, to take care of all our grocery and other needs.' They declined to give their names but said that they work at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology.

And for those who think that the location is somewhat out of the way, there is the view of Edison Liu, executive director of the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS). one-north is practically 'in the middle of the city', he said, speaking to BT in a phone interview as he was travelling in the US.

'We are only some 20 minutes from all the major hospitals and universities. It's not like some other research centres, where you're stuck in the outskirts of suburbia.'

GIS is the national flagship programme for genomic sciences, and occupies - of course - the Genome block at Biopolis.

'Of course I'm biased, but we are always counted among the top 10 genome centres in the world,' said Prof Liu. 'Within a 25-hundred-mile radius in Asia, there is no centre with better firepower than us.' He said that the institute has made its mark in the areas of stem cell genomics, systems pharmacology (which is research related to cancer) and genomic technology.

Slightly more than half of GIS staff is of foreign origin, said Prof Liu, who himself is from the US but is now a Singapore permanent resident. In that sense, the institute shares the international flavour of other big research institutes.

As I walked along the paved streets of Biopolis, it seemed to me that the place, barring the occasional person in a business suit, has the feel of a large university. There is a big food court for the more budget-minded, but also espresso pit-stops and several restaurants.

These eateries are not only great places to grab a meal, but also to swap ideas and contacts, according to Paul Chapman of GlaxoSmithKline. He is head of GSK's Centre for Research in Cognitive and Neurodegenerative Disorders.

'While it is certainly possible to have this kind of interaction if you are located on a separate campus, there is no substitute for bumping into someone at the food court or the cafe,' he said. 'Those casual interactions, where people get to know each other and then discover their mutual scientific interests, just happen more easily at a place like Biopolis.'

Opportunity for study

Novartis, another global pharmaceuticals corporation, houses its Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases (NITD) at Chromos.

The institute 'is dedicated to discovering treatments for the diseases of the developing world, including tuberculosis, malaria and dengue fever', said Paul Herrling, NITD's head of corporate research and chairman.

'Biopolis's location in Singapore, a place where dengue is endemic, gives researchers the opportunity to study first-hand the epidemiology of the disease, and enables access to affected patients.'

one-north is not entirely about the medical and biotech sectors. Swissnex Singapore describes itself as a platform of the Swiss Embassy, 'facilitating knowledge and competencies' in science, education, art and innovation between Switzerland, Singapore and South-east Asia.

'Being at Biopolis brings us closer to the stakeholder,' said executive director Suzanne Hraba-Renevey. 'We are more visible and accessible to our users and have easy access to our partners from academia, research, government and business.'

The entire Biopolis project itself is yet to be completed, and consists of several phases. Across the road looms Fusionopolis 1, comprising 24 floors, two towers and 120,000 square metres of floor area.

The building, which represents phase one of the Fusionopolis project, is dedicated to infocomms, or media-related firms that use the latest in technology. It is equipped with satellite access and the necessary power and bandwith for intensive computer use. There are also service apartments, a roof-top swimming pool and a performance theatre.

Early tenant: Cable-and-satellite channel Asian Food Channel was the first to make Fusionopolis 1 its home

Fusionopolis 1 has just opened its doors to tenants, and Asian Food Channel was the first to make it its home. When I visited the premises of the cable-and-satellite channel on the 12th floor, there were still boxes to be unpacked and everything was spanking new.

'We think three to five years ahead,' said managing director Hian Goh. 'In 12 months' time, there's going to be an MRT at the bottom of this building. There will be a Cold Storage and shops. There's a sky garden - it's beautiful.'

The new office is bright, airy and full of glass partitions. There is a room at the rear to be turned into a kitchen-cum-studio.

'That's where we'll have people like Gordon Ramsay doing his shows,' said Maria Brown, managing director of acquisitions and programming. 'We'll also be able to invite people over.'

I imagined the celebrity chef, brow furrowing, expletives flying, sticking a knife in a roasted carcass and calling it done.

'Please invite me,' I said.

Govt Agencies Asked To Tighten CBD Space Usage

Source : The Business Times, May 27, 2008

New exercise targets efficient use to free up more space for private sector

Government agencies in the Central Business District have been told to re-evaluate their office space needs in light of the current office space crunch, even if these agencies own their buildings.

It is understood that the Ministry of Finance (MOF), which oversees all government office relocation projects for government ministries and statutory boards, has recently issued a directive asking these government bodies to look into the possibility of compacting their offices.

Asked to comment, a spokesman for MOF said: 'MOF and MND (Ministry of National Development) are working with government agencies to make more efficient use of office space. This is part of the government's effort to better manage its resources.'

While MOF did not reveal to what extent this exercise is being undertaken, it is expected to be on top of the 20,000 sq m of office space that Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said the government would free up in February.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) for one, has confirmed that it is indeed looking at compacting its office space at the URA Centre on Maxwell Road to make space available to the private sector.

A spokeswoman for URA said: 'We will be consolidating our office space to achieve greater space efficiency. We are still reviewing and are unable to say at this stage how much space can be freed up for rental.'

URA also said that it expects the consolidation to be completed by 2009/2010.

This latest exercise is a slight departure from earlier government office space crunch measures in that the agencies involved are not expected to move out of the CBD.

As such, URA will not be following the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) to Revenue House at Novena. Nor will it be following the Economic Development Board (EDB) to Fusionopolis at one-north in Buona Vista.

'All the URA divisions will be staying at The URA Centre,' added its spokeswoman.

But while SLA and EDB - currently located at Temasek Tower and Raffles City respectively - do not own their offices, URA does.

The 16-storey URA Centre, which was opened in 1999, was designed by Kenzo Tange Associates at a cost of $118.9 million.

And it could now prove to be a generator of considerable rental revenue.

Cushman and Wakefield managing director Donald Han says that rents at nearby Capital Tower and Temasek Tower are currently $16-$18 and $12-$13 psf per month respectively.

Prime office space is a luxury these days and Mr Han reckons that government bodies that occupy space in the CBD, may need to 'justify' their occupation of the space, even if they own it.

It is not known what the efficiency of office space at government-owned buildings such as URA Centre is but Mr Han says anything above 150 sq ft per person, 'is a luxury'.

'The industry standard in the private sector is between 80-130 sq ft per person,' he explained, adding that cutting space usage by 50 sq ft per person and improving 'operational efficiency' could amount to quite a lot of new, leasable space, especially at today's rates.

Colliers International director (research and advisory) Tay Huey Ying also believes that the MOF directive could be revenue driven rather than just a move to help ease the office space crunch.

As Ms Tay points out, the URA and other government bodies do pay rent even if they own their own buildings. But it is not known what rent they pay. 'The rents could be tied to market rates but it could also depend on the accounting system,' she added.

Ms Tay nevertheless lauds the move. 'At this point in time, any freeing up of space will help the supply crunch,' she said.

Interestingly, Mr Han believes that with the announcement of new growth areas in the Draft Master Plan 2008, even more government agencies could be moving out of the CDB, if only to help kick-start these areas.

'To be a catalyst in these areas, it cannot be left to the private sector because the lack of amenities will mean land prices in initial land sales sites will be low and this could lead to price distortions,' he explained.

Five Bids For Choa Chu Kang Tender

Source : The Straits Times, May 27, 2008


A UNIT of property giant Far East Organization has put in the top bid for a condominium site at Choa Chu Kang Drive, about five minutes' walk from Choa Chu Kang MRT Station.

Tian Hock Properties offered $116 million for the 204,514 sq ft plot, which works out to about $203 per sq ft per plot ratio (psf ppr).

The site drew a respectable five bids when its tender closed yesterday, possibly due to the perceived strength of the mass-market condo segment, experts said. Far East's offer topped those of Sim Lian Land, Hong Leong Holdings, GuocoLand and Hiap Hoe.

But property consultants said the bid amounts remained low, reflecting a continuing caution and lacklustre demand in the overall property market.

Mr Li Hiaw Ho, executive director of CB Richard Ellis Research, estimated the site's breakeven cost at about $600 psf, based on the top bid. The units could be sold for $650 psf in about a year, he added.

Homes at nearby condos such as Yew Tee Residences, Northvale and The Warren have fetched $450 to $650 psf recently, Mr Li said.

Far East's bid yesterday came in higher than the top bid submitted last month for a similar site at the junction of Choa Chu Kang Road and Woodlands Road.

That site, home to the Ten Mile Junction mall, drew a top bid of $61 million, or $162 psf ppr.

Bids For Residential Site Fall Short Of Expectations

Source : The Business Times, May 27, 2008

URA closes tender after top bid of just $203 psf ppr for the 99-yr leasehold site

A RESIDENTIAL site in Choa Chu Kang Drive has attracted a top bid of just $203 per square foot per plot ratio (psf ppr), reflecting weak sentiment in the property market.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) yesterday closed the tender for the 99-year leasehold site, which has a maximum gross floor area of 572,600 square feet.

The tender drew five bids - Tian Hock Properties came out tops with an offer of $116.01 million, or $203 psf ppr.

This was 7.4 per cent higher than the next highest bid - from Sim Lian Land, at $108 million or $189 psf ppr. The lowest offer came from HHA Properties - at $80.2 million or $140 psf ppr.

Analysts had expected bids ranging from $230 to $270 psf ppr, or $131.7 million to $154.6 million in all.

'The lower quantum of the bid prices is a reflection of the current subdued mood in the residential market, taking into account the current cautious environment and the relatively lacklustre take-up of new projects in the first four months of the year,' said CB Richard Ellis Research's executive director Li Hiaw Ho. But five bids reflect 'fairly good interest in the site', he added.

The director of research and advisory at Colliers International, Tay Huey Ying, noted the absence of larger developers such as Far East Organisation, saying this could be a sign of weak market sentiment.

While the bids for this site were 'healthier compared with recent ones received for the Ten Mile Junction site', Ms Tay also feels the bids were in 'the lower range of expectations'.

A site at Choa Chu Kang Road and Woodlands Road, where the state-owned Ten Mile Junction currently sits, recently drew a top bid of only $61 million or $162 psf ppr.

Market observers believe that URA may nevertheless award the site. According to Ms Tay, the 'bid price is fair under current market conditions', and the project may result in a breakeven cost of about $550 psf and a selling price of $610-$620 psf.

Mr Li also reckons the top bid for Ten Mile Junction was 'reasonably fair'. Based on the bid, he estimates a breakeven cost of $580-$600 psf, which would translate to a selling price of about $650 psf.

URA launched the tender for the Choa Chu Kang Drive site in March and will decide on a possible award after evaluating the bids.

Katong Mall On Sale For Up To $250m - Amid Controversy

Source : The Straits Times, May 27, 2008

Public tender comes after a contentious collective sale approval last year

ONE of the landmarks of the east, Katong Mall, was put up for sale yesterday at an indicative price of $220 million to $250 million - amid some controversy.

The 99-year leasehold property comprises strata-titled commercial units used as shops and other businesses.

But the site can be rebuilt into a mixed development comprising residential and commercial units, said its marketing agent Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL).

Its public tender comes after a contentious collective sale approval process in September last year.

About 35 minority owners claimed they were not consulted in the drawing up of the sale agreement, and that the sale process was conducted under the old rules and not the new, stricter ones that took effect in October.

They also complained of a low reserve price, and said some majority owners had a potential conflict of interest as they were property developers - Nustavino and Habitat Properties - that could bid for the property.

Whether the consent of owners representing 80 per cent of the share value required for the sale had been obtained was also called into question yesterday.

One minority owner, Mr Robert Ong, told The Straits Times that five owners had withdrawn their signatures before the new laws kicked in on Oct 4.

'This means the signatures collected could have fallen below the 80 per cent threshold,' he said.

When contacted, JLL's local director for investments, Ms Stella Hoh, said that the firm had the 80 per cent level to proceed with the sale.

On the conflict of interest issue, she said that even if the sale committee members were developers by trade, they were legally allowed to bid as long as they declared their position.

They would not take part in the tender decision-making and voting process, she added.

'We believe this site will attract a lot of parties despite the current market, given that there are few private land sites for sale in this area.'

The four-storey mall has a land area of 78,158 sq ft with a gross plot ratio of 3.6. This works out to a gross floor area of 281,369 sq ft - an indicative sale price of $782 per sq ft (psf) to $888 psf per plot ratio.

Developers have an extra option: JLL said it has also obtained outline planning permission for a mixed development with an approved plot ratio of three - a gross floor area of up to 234,474 sq ft. This is subject to the relevant authorities' approval and payment of a development charge.

Located at the junction of East Coast Road and Joo Chiat Road, the project could yield about 490 commercial units of 400 sq ft each, or 100 residential homes and 185 commercial units of 1,200 sq ft and 400 sq ft, respectively.

Savills Singapore director (business development) Ku Swee Yong said the site was an attractive location, with an increasing population catchment with upcoming condominiums nearby.

'But given the current market, it remains to be seen whether there will be takers.'

Meanwhile, all eyes will be on the results of the public tender, which closes at 3pm on June 25.

Katong Mall Up For Sale With $220m-$250m Tag

Source : The Business Times, May 27, 2008

KATONG Mall has been put up for collective sale at the indicative price of $220 million to $250 million.

Katong Mall: The 78,158 sq ft site could yield up to 100 residential and 185 commercial/retail units

The 78,158 sq ft site is zoned for commercial use and has a plot ratio of up to 3.6.

According to marketing agent Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), the strata-titled 258-unit mall can be redeveloped into a commercial or retail project with a gross floor area (GFA) of up to 281,369 sq ft, subject to official approval and payment of development charge if applicable.

Based on this GFA, the unit land price works out to be between $782 and $888 per sq ft per plot ratio (psf ppr).

JLL local director (investments) Stella Hoh estimates the site could yield up to some 490 commercial/ retail units of an average size of 400 sq ft.

Ms Hoh also said outline planning permission has been obtained for a mixed residential and commercial development, with an approved plot ratio of up to 3.

This translates to a GFA of up to 234,474 sq ft, subject to official approval and payment of development charge if applicable, and could yield up to 100 residential and 185 commercial/retail units of average sizes of 1,200 sq ft and 400 sq ft respectively.

'This scheme would appeal to developers who are looking to capitalise on the demand for residential units in the established Marine Parade enclave,' Ms Hoh said.

In September 2007 it was reported that a majority owner held 72 per cent of Katong Mall, with the rest divided among about 100 owners. It was also reported that some minority owners were unhappy about a collective sale.

But Ms Hoh reiterated that 80 per cent approval for the collective sale has been received.

URA Closes Tender Bid For Choa Chu Kang Site

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 26 May 2008

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has closed the tender for a 53,200-square metre residential site at Choa Chu Kang Drive.

The highest offer for the site was for S$116 million, which translates to S$203 per square foot. The offer was submitted by Tian Hock Properties.

Li Hiaw Ho, executive director of CBRE Research said given the top bid of S$203 per square foot and an estimated breakeven cost of S$580 to S$600 per square foot, the estimated selling price could be S$650 per square foot if the project is launched in a year.

The site at Choa Chu Kang Drive was launched for public tender in March 2008, and is on a 99-year lease.

URA said the winner will be selected after all bids have been evaluated. - CNA /ls

Katong Mall Up For Collective Sale By Tender

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 26 May 2008

Katong Mall is up for collective sale by tender.

Under the Master Plan, the 99-year leasehold 78,158 square foot commercial development site has a gross plot ratio of up to 3.6, with an allowable building height subject to evaluation.

It has the potential to be redeveloped into a commercial or retail development with a gross floor area (GFA) of up to 281,369 square feet, subject to relevant authorities' approval.

To give developers more redevelopment options for the site, Outline Planning Permission has also been obtained for a mixed redevelopment of residential cum commercial development, with an approved plot ratio of up to 3.

This translates to a permissible GFA of up to 234,474 square feet, and could yield up to some 100 residential and 185 commercial/retail units with an average size of 1,200 square feet and 400 square feet respectively.

Sole marketing agent Jones Lang LaSalle said the tender will close at 3pm on June 25. - CNA/ms

Mapletree, China Firm To Build Apartments, Retail Mall In Guandong

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 26 May 2008

Mapletree Investment, the real estate branch of Singapore investment firm Temasek, has signed an agreement with China's Guangzhou Southern-Donald Technology to build seven blocks of high-end service apartments and a retail mall.

Mapletree will hold 80 per cent of the US$320 million project.

The development in Nanhai District of Foshan City, Guangdong Province, will be the third investment of the newly established Mapletree India-China (MIC) Fund.

The fund targets the growth potential and capital from the rapidly growing market in both China and India, with a fund size target of US$1.5 billion.

To date the MIC fund portfolio has US$585 million under its belt, including a residential and retail development project in China's Xi'an, and an office block in Beijing Central Business District. - CNA/vm

Malay Village Area Set For A Revamp Under URA Draft Masterplan 2008

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 26 May 2008

National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan has unveiled some features of the Malay Village facelift under the URA Draft Master Plan 2008.

In outlining future plans for the Paya Lebar area in Parliament on Monday, the minister said a substantial portion of the Malay Village site will be reserved for a new civic building.

It will house a variety of amenities, including a Community Club, the Community Development Council office, and possibly a Community Library.

There will also be an open plaza space that could be used for activities related to the Hari Raya celebrations.

To retain the ethnic character of the area, Mr Mah said a new pedestrian mall will be created along Geylang Road to accommodate more stalls during the annual Hari Raya bazaar.

Mr Mah was responding to Non-Constituency MP Sylvia Lim, who wanted to know why the Malay Village, located in Geylang Serai, has not been able to thrive since its inception and how the new plans to revamp it will be an improvement from the past.

Mr Mah said since the village is a private development, the government cannot comment on its business performance. - CNA/vm