Thursday, June 12, 2008

CapitaLand, Grand Hyatt Win Green Awards

Source : The Business Times, June 12, 2008

CAPITALAND won the Singapore Environmental Achievement Award while Grand Hyatt took home a merit prize at the second Singapore Green Summit yesterday.

The Summit, said to be the 'Oscars for the environment', is organised by the Singapore Environment Council. The award recognises overall environmental and social responsibilities in an organisation and is the most prestigious green gong in Singapore.

This year saw a new category which recognises SMEs that have gone green.

Richard Hale, a board director at CapitaLand, said that it was not enough for companies to be 'an acceptably pale, commercial green'. He said that his company's winning of the award validated its efforts, including its comprehensive green strategy, energy saving efforts and outreach programmes.

John Beveridge, manager of the Grand Hyatt Singapore, said that the award 'will act as a motivator to help us focus on making even more of a positive impact on the environment'. The hotel was lauded for a $3.5 million efficient cooling system and its efforts to reduce energy consumption.

Marc-Plan, an offshore and shipbuilding company, got the inaugural Efficiently Developing Growing Enterprise (Edge) award. The offshore and shipbuilding company was praised for its waste-cutting and energy efficiency strategies.

The SEC-Senoko Power Green Innovation Awards was won by Microwave Packaging, which designs food containers. Senoko Power was the main sponsor of the event.

The second Singapore Green Summit was meant to bring all environmental awards under one roof. But differences over timing and a re-alignment of its corporate objectives meant that last year's partner, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, went it alone this year and presented its part of the awards on environmental and social reporting at a conference last week.

The guest of honour at yesterday's ceremony was Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan.

Financial Crisis In The West Is Not Over Yet

Source : The Business Times, June 12, 2008

It's necessary to dig deep into the data to determine what exactly is going on

IN RECENT years the world economy has boomed. Now we are seeing a slowdown. This slowdown is centred on the United States but its impact will be seen around the globe. Even though there is a need to be cautious about immediate economic prospects, there are many reasons to be positive about longer-term prospects.

Look closer: The Bank of England said in a report that markets may be overstating losses leading the FT to report that the Bank believed the credit crunch was history. But a second look shows it was focusing on the sub-prime market, which was factoring in a default rate of 38%, implying that 76% of lenders would lose half of their money.

The world economy - but in particular in the West - is in a financial crisis. Every financial crisis is different. The outcome depends on a number of factors: the economic fundamentals, the policy response and confidence. Of these, the hardest to predict is confidence. In recent weeks there has been a return of confidence to many parts of the financial sector. In turn, this had led many asset markets to stabilise, and has even led the market to believe that the next move in US interest rates is up.

I would warn against believing that the present financial crisis is over. Indeed, why should one believe those financial firms that are now telling us the credit crunch is over, when only a few weeks ago some of those firms did not know the value of the positions that they themselves were holding!

I would like to believe that this is the end of the credit crunch, but I do not think it is. To use a Churchilian phrase, we believe that we are at the end of the beginning, not at the beginning of the end. Or, to put it another way, we believe that we have finished the first phase of the crisis, and now we are about to enter the second phase.

The first phase since last August has witnessed a period of intense financial stress. The second phase will be how this feeds into the wider economy. And in particular, there will be a focus on how the US is affected and on how any problems in the US impact the rest of the world.

One way to picture this is that a race is on, with policy-makers and central bankers trying to stabilise the financial sector before economic problems hit. In my view, policy-makers will fail on both counts. They will not be able to prevent a downturn and, despite recent policy actions, parts of the financial sector in the West may be too fragile to cope.

The economic downturn will see defaults rise, bad loans increase and the price of assets change. Financial firms in the West are likely to see a further deterioration in asset quality if the economic outlook deteriorates, and if property prices fall.

There will be a negative wealth effect. There will be a negative credit effect. Any deterioration in the economic outlook could expose more skeletons in some parts of the financial sector, with concerns having been expressed about areas as diverse as US commercial real estate, monoline insurers, US government-sponsored agencies and the credit default swap market.

Policy-makers need to help minimise any of the spillover from the financial sector into the economy, but they also can't overlook the enduring aspects that led to this crisis and that contributed to financial instability. For us here, the questions to ask are what are the immediate consequences and what are the longer-term lessons?

Here I will focus on the lessons for the financial sector. There is deleveraging. Parts of the securitisation market have effectively closed. And within the financial sector, we have moved from one extreme to the other.

Whereas in recent years markets were not pricing for risk - or perhaps one should say participants in the market were not pricing for risk - now we are seeing in many Western markets, particularly in the US and UK, not only higher pricing for risk but also a reduction in the quantity of risk that is being taken.

This will lead to a reduction in lending. In recent months we have witnessed a host of banks facing liquidity constraints and then capital constraints, prompting them to sell assets and to shrink their balance sheets.

At the beginning of May, the Bank of England released its impressive half-yearly Financial Stability Report. Looking at the global situation, the Bank of England said that markets may be overstating losses that will be seen. This led the Financial Times to proclaim in its front-page headline that the Bank of England believed the credit crunch was over.

Nothing of the sort! The Bank was focusing on the sub-prime market, which was factoring in a default rate of 38 per cent, which would imply that 76 per cent of lenders would lose half of their money. Whilst it is possible that the particular sub-prime market may be too pessimistic, it would be wrong in my opinion to imply anything for other financial markets.

This downturn is already more complex, more nuanced and it is necessary to dig deep into the data to determine what exactly is going on. In short, it depends on where you sit and on what you do. Different businesses, different people will be impacted in different ways.

The Bank of England, in that report, also said that there are large discounts in the market for illiquidity and for uncertainty. That is certainly right. And for banks there has to be a genuine fear that continued liquidity constraints could lead to capital problems. I would suggest that central banks are providing more liquidity not only to address immediate issues but also in the hope that this will prompt banks to increase their transparency regarding writedowns and to raise more capital.

Further consolidation is inevitable within the banking sector. The fact that earlier this year some Western banks had to turn to sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) for an injection of capital is as clear a sign as one needs of how the balance of power is shifting.

The injection of capital by SWFs prevented at that time a consolidation of the banking sector. SWFs have rightly been seen as the new power brokers, alongside private equity and hedge funds.

But they also highlight the growing importance of sovereign players, seen also in rising foreign exchange reserves, and also likely to be seen in the greater role of governments in markets. Indeed the latest crisis in food prices has already led to some calls for markets in staple foods to be closed, to discourage speculation.

Whether that happens or not, I think in coming years we may see more government-to-government barter transactions, particularly in the areas of commodities.

The writer is the chief economist and group head of Global Research, Standard Chartered Bank, London

Property Transactions With Contract Dates Between May 26th - 31st, 2008

UK Commercial Property Rents Fall In May

Source : The Business Times, June 12, 2008

(LONDON) Commercial property rents in the UK fell for the first time since 2003 in May, confirming analysts' fears and adding a fresh dimension to the country's property slump, data from CB Richard Ellis Group Inc showed on Tuesday.

Worse still for investors banking on a quick end to the market's slide, the data showed an acceleration for the first time this year in the monthly rate of decline in capital values.

Commercial property valuations, on average, have fallen by more than a sixth since the UK market peaked last August on the back of a sizzling multi-year bull run. Capital values fell by a further one per cent in May, after having slipped by 0.7 per cent in April, and are now 6.2 per cent lower than at the beginning of the year, CB Richard Ellis said.

Central London's crane-peppered office building market was under notable pressure - as financial sector job losses mounted at the same time as new buildings were completed - with rents sliding 1.3 per cent in the period, the property services firm said. -- Reuters

NZ Home Sales In May At 16-Year Low

Source : The Business Times, June 12, 2008

(WELLINGTON) New Zealand home sales slumped 53 per cent to a 16-year low last month, reinforcing speculation that the central bank will cut interest rates from a record high.

The number of houses sold dropped to 4,373 last month from 9,285 a year ago, the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand Inc said in a report to Bloomberg News yesterday. That's the fewest since December 1991.

A cooling property market adds to signs that the economy is slowing as retail spending drops, employers cut workers and construction declines.

Reserve Bank governor Alan Bollard kept the official cash rate at 8.25 per cent last week, and said that he was likely to lower borrowing costs this year as moderating domestic demand helps ease inflation pressures.

'The pace and depth of the current housing and economic correction suggest to us the central bank should have been easing already,' said Shamubeel Eaqub, an economist at Goldman Sachs JBWere Ltd in Auckland.

'The outlook for the residential property sector remains challenging.'

The Reserve Bank forecasts that the economy would grow 1.2 per cent this year, which would be the slowest pace in a decade.

Thirteen of 15 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News expect Mr Bollard to cut interest rates in the third quarter. Two forecast a reduction in the fourth quarter.

New Zealand's currency touched a 20-week low of 75.03 New Zealand cents yesterday. The five-year bond yield was unchanged at 6.52 per cent.

Demand for housing is slowing after immigration fell to a six-year low and investors reduce buying on expectations of falling prices and weaker rental returns, Goldman's Mr Eaqub said.

The median house price slipped 1.4 per cent from a year ago to NZ$345,000 (S$357,700), the Real Estate Institute said yesterday.

Prices were unchanged from April. Mr Bollard said last week that house prices would fall over the next three years.

Adding to signs of a cooling economy, retail sales fell 1.2 per cent in the first quarter. Construction and the number of people employed also declined in the first three months of 2008.

The median time it took to sell a house increased to 49 days, the second longest on record, from 44 days in April, yesterday's report showed. Days-to-sell reached 50 in February.

The growing amount of time needed for sales suggests that prices should fall further to clear a large stock of unsold residences, said Goldman's Mr Eaqub. -- Bloomberg

S Korea Eases Property Controls For Small Cities

Source : The Business Times, June 12, 2008

(SEOUL) South Korea said yesterday that it was easing measures aimed at curbing a sharp rise in domestic housing prices for small cities to support ailing property markets.

The Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs said in a statement that the government had decided to lift the maximum loan-to-value ratio for unsold houses to 70 per cent from the current 60 per cent in areas where housing prices are unlikely to jump on speculation, if builders cut prices of unsold houses by 10 per cent.

The loan-to-value ratio expresses the maximum amount of a home loan as a percentage of the home's market value, and South Korea has steadily reduced the limit over the past several years.

The government will also cut acquisition tax and registration tax for those homes by 50 per cent.

The concessions took effect from yesterday until the end of June next year, the ministry said.

The market cooling measures, along with higher property taxes, have dented demand for new homes in small cities, hitting the economy in those areas.

South Korea had some 132,000 unsold houses as of the end of March this year, almost double the average number over the last 10 years, ministry data showed.

Among those unsold houses, 109,000 units are in small cities. -- Reuters

Sub-Sales Market May Stay Active As Punters Sell Units

Source : The Business Times, June 12, 2008

Median sub-sale price fell 8% in Q1 2008, says DTZ study

SPECULATIVE buying has eased, but the sub-sale market may continue to be active as speculators dispose of units in projects as they are physically completed, DTZ says in a recent report.

'Those who had purchased multiple units on deferred payment schemes are most likely to sell some or all units to avoid stretching their financial limits,' it added.

Typically the deferred payment schemes under which many residential projects have been sold in the past by developers run out when the projects receive Temporary Occupation Permit (TOP). That is when buyers have to pay the bulk of the purchase price to developers.

The scheme was scrapped in October last year to discourage speculative buying which had sent private home prices to dizzying heights earlier - until the US sub-prime crisis struck.

DTZ's analysis of caveats lodged for private home purchases shows that the median sub-sale price fell by nearly 8 per cent quarter-on-quarter to $1,107 per square foot in Q1 2008.

This was due to fewer high-end units being transacted in the sub-sale market. Projects which received the strongest subsale interest in Q1 2008 were Citylights, Icon and Varsity Park Condo, as TOPs for these projects were granted recently, resulting in many speculators disposing of their early purchases, the report said.

Independent of whether they bought their units on deferred payment, property investors typically tend to sell off units shortly before or after a project receives TOP as buyers are willing to pay a slightly higher price then, because units in the development can be immediately rented, DTZ executive director Ong Choon Fah explains.

Sub-sales, used as a proxy for the level of speculative activity, refer to secondary market deals in projects that have yet to receive Certificate of Statutory Completion. This may be anywhere from three to 12 months after the project receives TOP.

DTZ's report also showed that foreigners (including permanent residents) accounted for 28 per cent of caveats lodged for overall private home purchases in Q1 this year, up slightly from a 27 per cent share in the preceding quarter.

Indonesians and Malaysians continued to be the biggest buyers, accounting for 18 per cent and 15 per cent respectively of private homes bought by foreigners in Q1 2008.

Buyers from India saw their share go up from 11 per cent in Q4 last year to 14 per cent in Q1 2008. However, Koreans' share slipped from 8 per cent to 5 per cent over the same period.

'The higher earlier share was partly due to a number of projects being marketed in Korea during 2007,' DTZ said.

Projects that were popular among foreign buyers in Q1 2008 included Zenith in the Zion Road location, Waterfront Waves facing Bedok Reservoir, and Marina Collection in Sentosa Cove.

Expatriate Cost Of Living Climbs

Source : The Business Times, June 12, 2008

LIVING costs for expatriates in Singapore have risen among the most over the past nine months, according to a survey.

ECA International's latest cost-of-living study shows Singapore climbing 17 places in the rankings to 114th spot. Within Asia, it is 13th on a list dominated by Japanese and Korean cities.

Human resources firm ECA says a stronger currency and high food and fuel price rises led to a big climb in rankings for cities such as Singapore, Manila and 'many second-tier cities' in China. Hong Kong, India and a few Korean cities, on the other hand, fell in the rankings.

Globally, Luanda in Angola was ranked the most expensive city for expatriates, followed mostly by European cities and another African location - Libreville, Gabon - in the top 10.

The survey - carried out twice a year - compares a basket of 128 consumer goods and services commonly bought by expatriates in more than 370 locations worldwide.

According to ECA, multinational companies use the results as a guide to set assignment salaries. Living costs for expatriates are affected not only by inflation and exchange rates but also the availability of common consumer goods.

Not everything has gone up in price, however. While the cost of petrol rose more than 13 per cent in Singapore and Hong Kong in the six months between September 2007 and March 2008, and the cost of egg noodles by almost 15 per cent here over the same period, the cost of a flat screen TV set in Singapore, for instance, has fallen 20 per cent between the surveys, ECA notes.

The continued weakness of the US dollar has led to falls in rankings for most US cities. Manhattan, previously the most expensive in America, has dropped 29 places to 83rd globally. Rio de Janeiro is now the most pricey for expatriates in the Americas, and Canadian cities like Toronto and Montreal are now more costly than Manhattan.

And while Luanda's pole position may surprise some, ECA general manager Lee Quane points out that the survey compares like-for-like goods and services - and certain items and brands typically bought by expatriates can be very expensive in a place like Luanda where they may not be readily available.

JTC Launches Hotel-In-Biz Park Tender

Source : The Business Times, June 12, 2008

A hotel within a business park? That may soon become reality, as JTC Corporation launched a concept and price tender yesterday for the development of an integrated business park facility with retail and hotel components in Changi Business Park (CBP).

The 4.7-hectare Plot 61 is a 'Business Park - White 40' site. Forty per cent of the total gross floor area of 1.26 million square feet will go towards 'white' or commercial activities.

Retail activities will take up 45 to 60 per cent of the 'white' space, while the balance will be set aside for a hotel. 'It would seem that there is a deliberate effort to ensure that a hotel will be built on the site, adding a complementary element to the predominantly business park use at CBP,' said executive director of CBRE Research, Li Hiaw Ho.

According to the tender document, bidders may opt for either a term of '30 years with an option for a further term of 30 years', or 60 years.

JTC said that it launched the tender to meet rising demand for business park space and amenities in CBP. The working population in the park could rise from 6,000 to 20,000 by 2011.

The integrated development would house firms in the high-technology, high value-added and knowledge-intensive industries. CBP is already attracting backend operations from financial institutions.

According to Knight Frank's senior manager of industrial business space Chow Kok Seng, rents in CBP can range from $3.50 to $6 psf.

He believes that the site may attract three or more bids from private developers, and Soilbuild Group Holdings could be one of them. The firm has developed Eightrium @ CBP, and recently won a JTC award to build, own and operate a stack-up factory at Tanjong Kling.

He also notes that private developers may offer bids ranging from $130 to $167 psf.

Observing that Plot 61 is larger than a previous site which was awarded to United Engineers in Q4 2007, Mr Li said that 'Plot 61 is likely to draw bigger developers which have the experience with large mix-used developments.'

The design concept probably needs to have a 'wow' factor because JTC may want the development to be a showcase, according to Chesterton International's head of research and consultancy Colin Tan. Therefore, he does not expect the award to be based solely on the bid price.

CBRE Research's Mr Li is optimistic on the integrated development's appeal. 'The proposed hotel would be able to draw guests that are working on a short-term basis in CBP or at Changi Airport, as well as participants of events held in the Singapore Expo,' he said.

Interested developers have up to August 19 to submit their proposals.

S'pore Inflation To Peak Above 8%: Credit Suisse

Source : The Business Times, June 12, 2008

Inflation in Singapore is expected to peak above 8 per cent in May or June, but the risk of higher prices stifling economic growth is not imminent, a Credit Suisse economist said yesterday.

'High inflation is negative for growth but it will depend on real income decline,' the Swiss bank's emerging markets economics group director Cem Karacadag told BT.

'In Singapore's case, real wages are still holding up well,' he said. 'I do not think at this moment in time, we are at a level that will stifle growth.'

The government has raised its full-year forecast range for Consumer Price Index twice since the start of this year, with the latest hike taking the forecast to 5-6 per cent, up from 4.5-5.5 per cent after inflation hit a 26-year high of 7.5 per cent in April from a year earlier.

Elsewhere in Asia, food and oil-related items are also driving inflation to near or above double digits.

At a briefing yesterday, Mr Karacadag said that even if oil prices stabilise there is still inflationary upside because the oil price spike in May has not been fully transmitted, food prices are still rising and there are still cost pressures on the economy.

In countries where government controls mute the pass-through of higher oil prices to retail fuel prices, inflationary expectations may worsen in anticipation of discrete price hikes, he added. The recent 25-33 per cent hike in retail fuel prices by the Indonesian government, for instance, could push annual inflation there above 12 per cent in June.

Credit Suisse has raised its inflation forecasts for most Asian countries for 2008, lifting the forecast for Singapore from 4 to 5 per cent. The hike is greatest for Vietnam - from 10.7 to 22.1 per cent.

But with central banks in the region still wrestling with growth risks in the coming quarters, they are unlikely to rapidly appreciate their currencies to combat inflation, Mr Karacadag said. The pass-through impact that exchange rate has on inflation is also generally low.

'We think that policy responses will depend on the risks to inflationary expectations and the risk of second-round effects,' Mr Karacadag said. 'If oil prices keep rising, the risk is that policy falls behind and monetary tightening has to play catch-up later.'

But monetary tightening in Singapore appears to have some impact. The Monetary Authority of Singapore said last month that if not for the appreciation of the Sing dollar - which rose about 11 per cent against the US greenback last year, and a further 4-5 per cent so far this year - Singapore's 2007 inflation rate would have been 2-2.5 points higher.

'We expect MAS to maintain the current position and slope of its policy band until the next monetary policy statement in October,' Mr Karacadag said. 'If oil prices continue to rise and inflation stay higher for longer time, I do think there is a material possibility of them either steepening the slope or re-centring the band.'

If oil and food prices do not rise further and the second-round effects are avoided, inflation is expected to fall next year and economic growth is expected pick up across Asia ex-Japan, except in Vietnam, he added

HDB Upgraders Hold Key To Property Market Turnaround

Source : The Business Times, June 12, 2008

Squeezed out of private home market for some years, they see their share rise again

HDB upgraders could once again provide the base for a recovery in private home buying, just like they did in 1998, property consultancy group DTZ argues, based on its latest analysis of caveats data which show an increase in these upgraders' share of private homes bought in Q1 this year.

HDB upgraders accounted for 28 per cent of all private homes purchased in Q1 2008, up from a 22 per cent share in the preceding three months. Their Q1 share was also the highest in seven quarters, according to DTZ's analysis of caveats released to BT.

'This is in line with the current profile of private home buyers we've been seeing amidst a quieter market; they're buying more for owner occupation rather than for investment.' DTZ executive director Ong Choon Fah says.

'HDB upgraders are price sensitive and very careful with their purchase. They're waiting for the right opportunity,' she added.

Mrs Ong compares the growing share of HDB upgraders in the private home-buying pie in Q1 2008 to the surge seen in 1998, at the trough of the last big property slump during the Asian financial crisis. In that year, HDB upgraders made up a whopping 60 per cent of caveats lodged for private home sales, up from a 42 per cent share in 1997 and 34 per cent share in 1996.

Another surge in HDB upgraders' share of private home buying was seen in 2002, when it hit 59 per cent, after private home prices fell during the 2001 economic slowdown. Since 2002, HDB upgraders' share has been slipping, hitting a low of 22 per cent last year. The falling share of HDB upgraders over the past few years has come in tandem with rising property prices - which squeezed them out of the market - and the emergence of more foreign buyers, industry watchers said. The first quarter of this year saw their share rise again.

DTZ's Mrs Ong reckons HDB upgraders' share of private home purchases should continue to rise in the coming quarters but this will also be a function of the type of projects developers launch. Typically, HDB upgraders go for mass-market developments in the suburbs.

'They're pretty comfortable living in their HDB flats and face no pressing need to upgrade to a private home. So upgrading is quite an aspirational thing; they're not satisfying a need, but a want. They will buy selectively; it has to be a project that suits their lifestyle but it must also be priced attractively,' Mrs Ong stresses.

'Part of the reason developers have not been selling many homes lately is that they are not offering many mass-market projects at attractive price-points. They have not re-priced existing projects. It's only for their new launches that prices are being set at the lower end of, or below, earlier market expectations,' she added.

Agreeing, Knight Frank executive director Peter Ow noted that the level of activity in the HDB resale market is still healthy. 'So mass-market condos that are reasonably priced should appeal to HDB dwellers aspiring to upgrade to private housing. These buyers are very price sensitive though,' he said.

DTZ's analysis, based on caveats captured by Urban Redevelopment Authority's Realis system, showed that the total number of caveats lodged for private home purchases fell 40 per cent quarter-on-quarter to 3,066 in Q1 this year.

Amid the slower home sales, the number of private homes bought by those with HDB addresses also fell 25.8 per cent, from 1,145 units in Q4 2007 to 850 units in Q1 2008.

However, this decline was lower than a 44.4 per cent slide in the number of private homes bought by those who already have a private home address over the same period. As a result, the share of private homes bought by HDB upgraders rose in the first three months of this year.

Districts 15, 9 and 16 were the top picks for HDB upgraders who bought private apartments/condos from developers in Q1 2008. The most sought-after projects included Waterfront Waves in the Bedok area (District 16), Wilkie 80 (District 9) and Zenith in the Zion Road location (District 10).

Landed properties made up 13 per cent or 111 of the total 850 caveats lodged for private home purchases in Q1 2008.

Parc Seabreeze

Address : 532 Joo Chiat Road
Tenure : Freehold
Completion : Mar 2012
Site Area : 58,750 sqft
Description : 20 Storeys In One Tower Block
Total Units : 94

Unit Types:-
3 bedrooms ~ 1314-1398 sqft
4 bedrooms ~ 1625-1647 sqft
3+1 penthouse ~ 2347 sqft
4+1 penthouse ~ 3004 sqft


# Excellent transportation linkages like PIE, ECP (10-15 mins to CDB, Marina Bay Integrated Resort, Suntec Shopping belt, Raffles City, Changi Airport)
# Easy access to abundant of amenities, i.e. supermarts, wet markets, banks, food centres
# Close proximity to excellent schools like CHIJ (Katong) Primary, Tanjong Katong Primary, Chatsworth Intl Sch, Victoria Jr College, Ngee Ann Pri School, St Patrick School
# Excellent recreational facilities (East Coast Park, Chinese Swimming Club, Parkland Golf Driving range, Marina Bay Driving Rang & Golf Course)

# Basement Carpark (103 lots),
# Landscape Deck,
# Sky Terrace,
# Children Play Area,
# Lap Pools,
# Social Pool,
# Children Pool,
# Spa Pool,
# Dining Pavilion,
# BBQ Pits,
# Gymnasium,
# Aqua Gym,
# Sauna,
# Steam Room

JTC Launches Tender To Develop Hotel, Retail Shops

Source : The Straits Times, Jun 12, 2008

This will add vibrancy to Changi Business Park, offer business travellers options

IN A Singapore first, the fast-growing Changi Business Park (CBP) is set to boast a hotel and retail outlets alongside the hubbub of enterprise.

A move yesterday by industrial landlord JTC Corp to invite developers to inject vibrancy into CBP with the novel development was warmly welcomed by the property market.

The 4.7ha site on offer, next to Singapore Expo, will include a business park's regular features, such as an industrial space for high-tech and research and development firms.

JTC, however, yesterday asked that the proposals - which are to cover price and concept - should also include plans to develop a hotel and retail outlets. This is the first such project for a business park in Singapore.

It means business travellers attending exhibitions and conventions in the east will soon be able to rest and relax at CBP rather than heading elsewhere in town.

JTC said it expected CBP's population of 6,000 to surge to 20,000 by 2011.

Mr Dominic Peters, the director of industrial services at property advisory firm Savills Singapore, said: 'There is currently no retail component in and around CBP; just mere amenities like F&B outlets. A hotel and retail mixture will create some vibrancy in the evenings in and around the Changi area... The response for tenders should be overwhelming.'

The site will yield a gross floor area of 117,515 sq m, 40 per cent of which has been designated for commercial activities. About 45 per cent to 60 per cent of the area designated for commercial activities can be used for retail, leaving a floor area of 18,800 sq m to 25,900 sq m for a hotel.

Bids for the site could be in the region of a few hundred million dollars, some consultants said.

JTC has said it is catering to the rising demand for business park space and amenities in CBP.

CBP, launched in July 1997 and covering 66ha, houses a mix of high-tech, data and software enterprises, and R&D and knowledge-intensive outfits like IBM and Honeywell. It is also fast-becoming a hub for financial backroom operations, with Citibank, Credit Suisse, DBS Group Holdings and OCBC Bank poised to set up there.

Said a JTC spokesman: 'The hotel component is a must and should be at least a three-star one catering to the business traveller.'

This is good news for CBP's neighbour, Singapore Expo, just across Changi South Avenue 1.

A spokesman for Singex Venues said all 10 halls and 100,000 sq m of the Singapore Expo had been sold out through this month, citing the burgeoning meetings, incentive trips, conventions and exhibitions (Mice) industry.

A business hotel over the road could help meet this demand, as the country's hotels have estimated that over 20 per cent of room revenue last year was from Mice visitors.

Said Mr Keith Oliver, the general manager of Singapore Expo: 'The hotels will be good for our overseas exhibitors and visitors, who will find the proximity a great convenience.'

Interested developers have up to Aug 19 this year to submit their proposals for the tender.



'A hotel and retail mixture will create some vibrancy in the evenings in and around the Changi area... The response for tenders should be overwhelming.'

MR PETERS, of Savills Singapore, on the likely impact of developing a hotel and retail outlets in CBP

En Bloc Blues? There's Hope, Says Support Group

Source : The Straits Times, June 12, 2008

WE REFER to the report, 'En bloc sales bring out the worst in Singaporeans' (June 1) by Ms Jessica Cheam.

We are a group of concerned friends who love Singapore and the estates in which we live. While we welcome progress, we also cherish the old and familiar.

Our cityscape has improved enormously in the past decades, thanks to the vision of Singaporeans and its leaders.

But for our communities to forge together in good-neighbourliness, roots to grow deeper and future generations to see Singapore as home, we need to preserve our homes. We need to retain the kampung spirit that binds us.

The recent spate of attempts in en bloc sales have impacted us in a way that is counter-productive to our nesting instincts and identity as a gracious society.

We need to stop perpetuating these negative experiences. We want to be free from the constant worry of losing our homes to those who see them as mere financial tools for increasing wealth.

In this spirit of proud home ownership and community living, we have formed an online community called Hope for Stayers ( where we share our experiences and educate others on the whole process of an en bloc sale.

As 'stayers', we hope that we can contribute to the ethos and values needed to enable Singapore to evolve into a truly first-class progressive nation, where the term 'prosperity' reflects more than dollars and cents.

Lastly, we agree with Ms Cheam's view that it would be prudent to consider a requirement for an 80 or 90 per cent quorum for an extraordinary general meeting to decide whether to push for en bloc sale. This is consistent with the current 80 or 90 per cent requirement for an en bloc sale to succeed.

This would establish whether an estate has such support from the very outset. The current system of 30 per cent quorum encourages a possible abuse of MCST funds in repeated and wasteful attempts at the en bloc 'lottery' and results in the depletion of funds meant primarily to maintain the estate.

We also hope that the entire en bloc sale process is tightened in such a way that it reflects and acknowledges the need for fair play and the deep-rooted sentiment that we have for our homes.

Dai Qiujin

(This letter carries 12 other names)

Man Arrested For Cheating 11 Tenants Of Deposits

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 11 June 2008

Police have arrested a 46-year-old man for cheating 11 tenants of rental deposits over the last two months.

The suspect, who is unemployed, had apparently approached unsuspecting housing agents to let out a three-room flat at Commonwealth Drive.

To allay the suspicions of the victims, he would hand over copies of his identity card, flat conservancy booklet and a bunch of keys.

He would then disappear after pocketing rental deposits of between S$150 and S$3,000.

Police were alerted to the scam within two weeks of the first incident. They eventually ambushed him at Causeway Point Shopping Centre in Woodlands on Tuesday. A bunch of keys and conservancy booklet were found on him.

The suspect will be charged in court on Thursday. If found guilty, he may face up to seven years in jail and a fine. - CNA/ac

Credit Suisse Says Inflation For May Or June May Hit 8.5%

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 11 June 2008

Financial services group Credit Suisse believes that inflation in Singapore for May and June may hit 8.5 per cent, but it says things will look brighter in the second half of the year.

Inflation in Singapore was hovering at 25-year highs in March and April, largely due to rising energy costs.

In April, energy costs added 1.6 per cent to the overall consumer price index (CPI).

While many analysts expect inflation to be between 7.5 and 8 per cent, Credit Suisse is more pessimistic. It feels that the impact of crude price increases has not yet been fully factored in.

Credit Suisse is basing its assumptions on oil prices at US$130 a barrel.

As for food, the good news is that prices in global markets are starting to moderate.

But analysts say that even though global food prices have somewhat stabilised, Singapore is still going to see some food price increases in the near future because previous price hikes have yet to make their way through the system.

The broad view among analysts is that inflation will come down by the end of the year. Credit Suisse thinks that the inflation rate will be around 5 per cent while others are more bullish with their forecast ranging from 2.5 to 3.5 per cent.

Analysts say the picture will look brighter in 2009 when the base effect from increases in housing prices wears off.

The government's forecast for inflation this year is 5 to 6 per cent. - CNA/ac

S'pore Ranked 13th Most Expensive Asian City For Expatriates

Source: Channel NewsAsia, 12 June 2008

Singapore is fast rising in the ranks of becoming one of the most expensive cities in Asia for expatriates to live in.

The latest Cost of Living survey by consultancy firm ECA International shows that Singapore has leapt 17 places in ranking this year.

Singapore's Central Business District

The city-state is now ranked 13, trailing behind cities such as Beijing, Taipei and Shanghai.

Higher food and fuel prices are among the reasons for the jump.

Tokyo tops the list as the most expensive Asian city for expatriates, followed by Yokohama and Seoul.

ECA's Cost of Living survey is carried out twice a year, comparing a basket of more than 120 consumer goods and services commonly bought by expatriates in over 370 locations worldwide. - CNA/ac

S'pore Can Become A Hub For Region's Arab Community, Says George Yeo

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 11 June 2008

Foreign Affairs Minister George Yeo said Singapore can become a hub for the region's Arab community, even as it broadens its ties with Middle Eastern countries like Yemen.

Mr Yeo was speaking at the dinner hosted for Deputy Governor of the Hadramout Region in Yemen, Mr Ahmed Janned Al Janned.

Mr Ahmed is in Singapore on a four-day visit aimed at taking Yemen-Singapore ties a step further. Mr Yeo last visited Yemen in May last year.

The leaders felt that the relationship can be further enhanced as there is a strong reflection of Middle East, not only in Singapore but throughout Southeast Asia. There are also plans to set up an Arab cultural centre in Singapore.

"There has been some progress and a lot of work needs to be done. We will be establishing an Arab centre and plans are being drawn up. We are hoping that the governor of Hadramout can help us on this effort," said Minister Yeo. - CNA /ls

New Changi Business Park Site May See Bids Of Up To S$600m

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 11 June 2008

JTC Corporation on Wednesday launched a tender for a mega development site at Changi Business Park, and the 4.7-hectare site is likely to see bids as high as S$600 million.

The winning bidder will have to build an integrated development comprising a business park, retail activities and a hotel.

Changi Business Park has been a hub for businesses that need to stay close to the airport or away from the city centre.

The new site being launched by JTC is at the junction of Changi South Avenues 1 and 2.

The site will yield a total gross floor area of 117,515 square metres, and 60 per cent of the floor space must be used for business park activities. The rest has been set aside for so-called "white" or commercial activities, including retail and hotel space.

Developers can dedicate 45 to 60 per cent within the "white" component to retail activities, with the remaining being set aside for the development of a hotel.

Observers say the winning bidder will need to build a hotel on the site to ease the crunch on hotel rooms in the vicinity.

Chua Yang Liang, head of research and consultancy at Jones Lang LaSalle, said: "I would say the retail component is going to be more limited to just serving the day-to-day needs of the immediate occupants there. Hotel, on the other hand, is probably more welcomed. There is a dearth of hotels in and around that area."

Some 2,000 hotel rooms could be built on the site, according to analysts that Channel NewsAsia spoke to.

The news comes as the government tries to cater to the rising demand for business park space and amenities in that area.

JTC expects Changi Business Park's current population of 6,000 to surge to 20,000 by 2011.

Market watchers say demand will continue to remain strong over the next 12 to 24 months.

Donald Han, managing director of Cushman & Wakefield, said as long as there is a huge gap between the prime office rentals in the central business district and the rentals in Changi Business Park, "there will be what we call the preference for huge multi-national corporations to try and average down CBD office rents by moving part of their operations into the Changi Business Park."

Interested bidders have up till 19 August to submit their proposals for the site. - CNA/ac

Cost Of Living Up For Expats In S'pore

Source : The Straits Times, June 12, 2008

Republic up 17 places in global ranking due to higher inflation and stronger Singdollar

SINGAPORE has become a more expensive place for expatriates to live, but it is still cheaper than Hong Kong, even though the gap is closing with its long-time rival.

The Republic jumped 17 places to land at the 114th spot in a global survey of the costliest cities for expatriates, because of higher inflation and a stronger Singdollar in the past year.

FEELING THE PINCH: The purchasing power of expats living in Singapore has been dented by higher costs such as rents, fuel and food. -- ST FILE PHOTO

Singapore closed the gap with pricier cities such as Hong Kong, which fell in the rankings to the 97th spot, in the survey conducted by human resources firm ECA International.

Within Asia, Singapore actually fell from the ninth spot six months ago to the 13th spot, partly because the cost of living in some Japanese cities had risen rapidly due to the stronger yen.

The purchasing power of expats living in Singapore has been dented by higher costs such as rents, fuel and food, as well as a stronger Singdollar.

According to ECA's data, the cost of fuel rose by more than 13 per cent in the last six months, while the price of foodstuffs such as egg noodles soared by almost 15 per cent.

Inflation in Singapore is now at a 26-year high, after accelerating at a faster-than-expected rate of 7.5 per cent in April.

This prompted the Government to raise its inflation forecast to between 5 per cent and 6 per cent, up from the 4.5 per cent to 5.5 per cent range.

Yesterday, the Singdollar fell to about 1.374 against the greenback, but analysts expect it to gain further this year as the Government seeks to rein in inflation.

Mr Scott Colman, 38, an executive in an American technology company, said he felt the greatest pinch from rising rents and petrol prices, as well as the strengthening Singdollar because his compensation package is partly paid in US dollars.

Mr Lee Quane, the general manager of ECA International Hong Kong, said Singapore's rising cost of living has prompted global companies to adjust their expat employees' pay and allowances.

He added that the gap between Singapore's cost of living allowance for expats and that of Hong Kong has shrunk dramatically from about 20 per cent five years ago to less than 5 per cent today.

Still, he said Singapore remained a cheaper place for expats than Hong Kong or Shanghai, and global companies were not considering relocating their staff from the Republic to the Chinese cities.

Top spot in the global ranking went to the African city of Luanda in Angola, where some expat consumer items are hard to get and command top dollar.

The survey compares a basket of 128 consumer goods and services such as groceries, clothing and electrical goods that are commonly purchased by expats in more than 300 locations worldwide.

Multinational firms use the results to help determine how much to pay their staff who work overseas.

Ms Kate Bryce, a finance professional in her 40s, said her company recently reviewed her allowance and raised it by about 10 per cent.

'I'm hoping that the Singapore dollar doesn't strengthen further because I doubt I would get another revision in the next year. Most companies are tightening their belts as the global economy slows down.'


The gap between Singapore's cost of living allowance for expats and that of Hong Kong has shrunk dramatically from about 20 per cent five years ago to less than 5 per cent today. Still, the Republic remains a cheaper place for expats than Hong Kong or Shanghai, says Mr Lee Quane, general manager of ECA International Hong Kong.

Prices Of Some New Properties Going Down

Source : The Straits Times, June 12, 2008

Move may signal end of months-long stand-off between buyers and sellers

GOOD news for homebuyers: The prices of some new developments are finally starting to come down.

At least two new projects have been tagged with prices below what they were expected to fetch just months ago.

Shelford Suites (left)
Sold in March for: $1,869 psf - $1,905 psf
Current price: $1,600 psf
Dakota Residences

Planned price: $1,000 psf - $1,100 psf
Current price: $950 psf -- PHOTO: CITY DEVELOPMENTS

This may be because developers are faced with no sign of improvement in the cooling property market, consultants say. They may be choosing to move units by making their projects more affordable rather than continuing to wait out the gloomy sentiment.

One example is Dakota Residences in Dakota Crescent, a 99-year leasehold project by Ho Bee Investment and NTUC Choice Homes.

Sales of its 348 units will start next Saturday at an average of about $950 per sq ft (psf) - below the $1,000 psf to $1,100 psf that Ho Bee had previously targeted.

This means a 1,300 sq ft three-bedroom unit would cost about $1.24 million, down from as much as $1.43 million previously.

'After the land cost and building cost, the break-even price is actually almost $900 psf,' said a property agent, who asked not to be named.

The Straits Times understands that about 120 units will be released in the first phase, and prices may go up by at least 5 per cent for the remaining units, depending on demand.

For now, the two- and three-bedroom units that face away from Geylang River are said to cost $950 psf to $970 psf, while the bigger four-bedroom units facing the river will go for $1,000 psf.

City Developments' (CDL) Shelford Suites in Shelford Road has also started previews for its 77 units at about $1,600 psf on average.

Market watchers said this was lower than expected, as two units were sold in March for $1,869 psf and $1,905 psf.

Shelford Suites' launch had been delayed for months as CDL waited for sentiment to improve.

Property consultants say the act of lowering prices may be the beginning of the end of a months-long stand-off between homebuyers and home sellers that has led to a slump in transactions.

Would-be buyers have proved strongly resistant to current property prices, which have jumped 36 per cent in the last five quarters, while sellers have refused to reduce their prices until now.

But while lowering prices may jump-start the market, a one-off reduction may not be enough to sustain sales, said Mr Colin Tan, the head of research and consultancy at Chesterton International.

'Developers will have to continue to reduce prices if they want to maintain sales, as many projects are still out of the reach of owner-occupiers,' he said.

Meanwhile, developers are gearing up to launch more mid-tier projects for an increasingly price-sensitive market.

East Bay, a 40-unit condominium at Tay Lian Teck Road off Upper East Coast Road, will be on sale in the coming weeks. Prices average $1,100 psf, starting at about $600,000.

Also in the east, Ivory at Ceylon Road has sold about five of its 28 units. Prices start at $558,000 for a 640 sq ft two-bedroom apartment, averaging $800 psf.

At 353 Pasir Panjang Road, a 19-unit boutique project will be completed soon, though sales have just started. A handful of units have been sold so far, with one-bedroom apartments going for $550,000, and three-bedroom units priced at $1.4 million to $1.5 million.



'Developers will have to continue to reduce prices if they want to maintain sales, as many projects are still out of the reach of owner-occupiers.'

MR COLIN TAN, head of research and consultancy at Chesterton International, who thinks one-off price reductions may not be enough to sustain sales

开辟果园贴近大自然 盛港西将发展休闲胜地

《联合早报》June 11, 2008




举办新鲜刺激活动 吸引年轻选民

为了突出盛港西自然生态的多元性,预料在今年底落成、原本取名为“盛港果树公园”(Fruit Park)的地方将改名为“盛港河畔公园”(Riverside Park),并拥有河滨平台和瞭望台,让盛港镇的乡民登高欣赏四周的盎然绿意。





但要添加水上活动,加强安全措施就更显重要。为了提高社区活动的安全意识,盛港西基层组织成立了首支基层“安全护卫组”(Safety Guardian Groups),确保基层领袖在举行各种规模的社区活动之前,都有系统地检讨所需的安全准备。