Thursday, June 19, 2008

Govt To Offer 13 New Land Sites In Second Half

Source : The Straits Times, June 19, 2008

THIRTEEN new sites have been added to the Government Land Sale (GLS) programme in the second half, adding more homes, hotels and office space to meet an expected increase in demand and a surge in tourist arrivals.

The new parcels comprise six residential, three commercial, three hotel and one white sites, said the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) in a statement on Thursday.

Together with another 27 unsold sites from the first half year and which will be carried forward, they will produce 400,000 square meters of commercial space and as many as 7,960 homes and 5,750 hotel rooms,

This means that there will be 40 sites comprising 21 residential, six commercial, 11 hotel and two white sites in the second half year.

'The total supply has been assessed to be sufficient to meet the demand for the various types of properties over the medium term,' said the URA statement.

Home prices and office rents in Singapore are cooling after rising to records last year, as a global credit squeeze damped economic growth this year.

High prices had prompted developers to tear down old apartment blocks at a record pace last year, and most of the new homes will be built in 2010 and 2011.

As many as 56,500 homes and 1.1 million square meters of office space will be finished by 2011, according to the URA data.

Most of the new supply for offices will be completed in the next two to three years, the ministry said.

Singapore expects the number of tourists to reach 17 million in 2015 from 10.3 million last year with new attractions such as the two integrated resorts.

HK Flat Fetches Highest Price In Asia

Source : The Straits Times, June 18 2008

HONG KONG - A LUXURY flat in Hong Kong has sold for HK$225 million (S$39.4 million), the most expensive apartment in Asia on a per sq ft (psf) basis.

TOP OF THE ARCH: The 80th floor penthouse has a private swimming pool and faces Victoria Harbour. -- PHOTO: SUN HUNG KAI PROPERTIES

The 80th floor penthouse, with a private swimming pool and a spectacular view of Victoria Harbour, sold for HK$41,000 psf, a report in the Sing Tao Daily said, citing an unnamed real estate source.

The 5,497 sq ft home, with its own roof-top terrace, is located in a new complex called The Arch, in Hong Kong's Kowloon area.

The development is close to a yet-to-be-completed office tower, the International Commerce Centre.

The new tower is luring multinational companies away from the Central Business District, where rocketing property prices have scared away even the world's richest firms.

The flat's price beat the record of HK$39,800 psf set last November by a larger apartment on Hong Kong Island, according to the report.

Hong Kong's property market has boomed in recent years, following a major crash during the Asian financial crisis in the later 1990s.

Keppel Land Buys New Shenyang Site For Integrated Township Development

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 18 June 2008

Keppel Land has bought a 10 hectare site in Shenyang's Shenbei New District for about S$31 million.

This parcel is located next to another site which Keppel bought in August 2007.

The combined area of some 34 hectares will house an integrated township development, with a mix of mid- and high-rise apartment blocks.

The new township is surrounded by residential, commercial, high technology industrial developments and educational institutions.

The development, which is scheduled for completion in 2013, will have about 5,600 homes, with a total gross floor area of over 675,000 square metres.

The first phase of the development, targeted at upper and middle income home buyers is due to be launched in 2009.

Shenyang is the capital city of Liaoning Province. It is seen as an important industrial and transportation centre in northeast China. - CNA/vm

Hong Kong, Singapore Most Global Trade Friendly

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 18 June 2008

GENEVA : Hong Kong and Singapore are the two economies most conducive to global trade, according to a ranking by the World Economic Forum released on Wednesday.

The World Economic Forum's new Global Enabling Trade Index survey of 118 economies looked at ten factors impacting trade, such as tariffs, customs administration efficiency and availability of transport and communications infrastructure.

Tourists in transit return to Boat Quay in Singapore.

The forum ranked Hong Kong number one thanks to its "very open market" as well as a "secure and open business environment."

Singapore's open business environment was also complemented by a "highly efficient and transparent border administration" and a well-developed transport and communications infrastructure.

Third and fourth places were taken by Sweden and Norway respectively, while Canada was ranked fifth.

The world's largest economy United States, however, did not figure in the top ten, coming in at number 14, dragged down by its border administration, judged to be "lacking some efficiency."

"Customs procedures (in the United States) are seen as comparatively burdensome (ranked 42nd) and there is a relatively high cost to import (ranked 65th)," said the WEF.

Export giant China fared even worse, ranked just 48th, reflecting "underlying weaknesses in its economy and its trading regime."

"Above all, China is a fairly closed country. Although its economic success relies heavily on exports, imports are still severely inhibited by tariff and non-tariff barriers, despite the country's accession to the WTO," it said.

Fellow Asian giant India ranked even further down the list, at 71st place, due to its market access, which is rated as "severely restricted."

Brazil was not far behind India, at 80th place, as its markets remain "fairly closed, with tariffs... inhibiting goods imports." - AFP/de

CBRE S'pore Earnings Up 130% Last Year

Source : The Business Times, June 19, 2008

Property consultancy sets up new business units for luxury homes, residential agency and hotels

CB RICHARD Ellis Singapore has set up three new businesses this year - luxury homes, a residential agency of associates to market projects for developers and a hotel business - to provide a stable and broader business platform, after record revenue and net earnings last year.

The property consultancy company's managing director Pauline Goh would not give absolute figures but said revenue was up 84 per cent and net profit up 130 per cent in 2007. The gains easily exceeded a 55 per cent jump in revenue and a 56 per cent increase in net profit in 2006.

'It's very, very hard to improve on 2007 numbers. Last year has to be taken as an extraordinary year,' Ms Goh said.

'In Singapore, I think we are not so reliant on the US situation improving. We are now struggling with the wait-and-see attitude adopted by many investors. But Asia is still a sweet spot for many foreign institutional investors.'- CBRE managing director Pauline Goh

'Residential sales volume is down fairly significantly this year. Office leasing is still active and rentals are still increasing, though at a slower pace. We expect fees from investment sales to be very close to those last year, thanks to a pipeline of properties we've been working on since last year.'

Despite the tough market, CBRE has brokered 62 per cent of the overall $4.9 billion of private-sector office investment sales here so far this year.

Elaborating on the challenges facing the Singapore market, Ms Goh, said: 'The lack of consensus of when the US sub-prime crisis will stabilise is a good indicator of uncertainty regarding the direction the Singapore market will take this year. Asia has not been hit to the same degree as US and European markets, so Asia - basically India and China - will provide a counterbalance.

'In Singapore, I think we are not so reliant on the US situation improving. We are now struggling with the wait-and-see attitude adopted by many investors. But Asia is still a sweet spot for many foreign institutional investors.'

Before 2005, foreign buyers accounted for a relatively small portion of Singapore real estate investment deals above $5 million. In 2003, foreign investors bought $53 million of such real estate in Singapore. In 2007, this increased to $4.94 billion. So far this year, the figure is about $2.7 billion.

With the onset of the US sub-prime crisis, the profile of foreign institutional investors in the Singapore market has changed since Q4 last year, according to Ms Goh. 'There are fewer opportunistic funds in the market now,' she said. 'These days we're seeing more the core and core-plus funds.'

Opportunistic funds typically gear much higher and have a bigger risk appetite in exchange for higher returns, whereas core and core-plus funds have a lower risk appetite and use a higher proportion of equity.

Elaborating on the new businesses CBRE Singapore has entered this year, Ms Goh said the luxury homes business was set up to focus on the top-end of the residential market in a 'systematic and structured manner' rather than pursuing it ad hoc and risking 'some of the opportunities falling between the cracks'.

CBRE's luxury homes business is headed by Douglas Wong, formerly with Knight Frank Regal Homes.

CBRE has also built up a team of 180 associates under a residential agency business to help out when it clinches residential project launches for developers. These associates are not salaried. Instead they receive commissions on sales.

'The associates can do the ground sales, and this frees our core residential project marketing team to focus on more strategic matters like working with developers on project concepts, unit size mixes and marketing, recommended pricing and launch strategy,' said Ms Goh.

She acknowledges that CBRE's pool of associates is small compared with competitors. 'But our associates, unlike the competition's, don't focus on the HDB resale market,' she said.

'We brought them in with a very clear mandate to do project marketing. We hope to eventually grow the associates team to 400-500. But we're taking it easy. We want to hire selectively and discriminately, rather than hire for the sake of hiring.'

The firm's hotel business, set up earlier this year, is CBRE Hotels' South-east Asia hub. This complements a North Asia hub based in Hong Kong which opened last year. CBRE Hotels began its business in the Pacific (Australia/New Zealand) in 2001 and expanded to Europe, the Middle East and Africa, as well as the Americas in 2003.

'Currently, the South-east Asia hub focuses on providing hotel consultancy work, but we're gearing up to handle hotel transactions,' Ms Goh said.

Apartments Above $10m Still Shine In Dull Market

Source : The Business Times, June 19, 2008

In the landed sector, demand for GCBs remains strong, says CBRE

The high-end residential sector has been largely subdued in 2008, but at least 50 luxury apartments costing above $10 million each have been sold so far this year. And the tally for the full year, according to property consultant CB Richard Ellis (CBRE), is expected to come in at about 70 to 100 units.

This will be lower than the 139 such units sold for the whole of 2007, but still significantly higher than the 2006 full-year figure of 23 units, CBRE's research shows.

Putting things in perspective, CBRE Singapore's managing director Pauline Goh says: 'One point to note is that luxury home prices in 2006 were lower than in 2007. Hence, fewer units would have touched the $10 million mark back in 2006. There was also a smaller supply of upscale developments with big units back then compared with 2007 and H1 2008.'

The 50-odd luxury apartments costing above $10 million each sold so far this year are the tally at June 17 and include not just units sold at Nassim Park Residences, which was previewed in May, but also a unit each transacted at Cliveden at Grange, The Tomlinson, The Grange and The Orange Grove condos.

BT understands that the highest-priced transaction so far this year is a $19.7 million ground-floor unit sold at Nassim Park Residences.

In the landed sector, a total of 23 Good Class Bungalows (GCBs) have changed hands so far this year for a total of $380 million.

'We're quite confident that at least 50 to 60 GCBs will be sold for the whole of 2008. Demand will continue to be strong from Singaporeans as well as PRs, but deals are limited by availability of GCB stock,' Ms Goh predicts.

Last year, a total of 87 GCB deals totalling $1.15 billion were sealed, against the record 119 transactions worth $1.23 billion in 2006.

As for the outlook for luxury apartment sales, Ms Goh says: 'Singapore has a lot going for it; the government has put in so much effort to build Singapore into a global city. We'll have the integrated resorts, special events like Youth Olympic Games and F1 night race. Singapore is on the radar screens of a lot of international investors. However, the flow of bad news from the US has to stabilise before confidence returns.

'On the other hand, as Nassim Park Residences shows, if the product is right, there can be very, very strong demand. The project is in a very niche location; arguably the best luxury location in Singapore.'

Market watchers say the volume of transactions for apartments costing more than $10 million for the rest of 2008 will depend partly on when developers release new prime-district condos and their strategy on the mix of unit sizes.

Developers have tended to veer towards bigger units in the past couple of years but some analysts say some developers are now considering changing tack for upcoming projects. These developers are wondering whether it will make more sense now to have a higher proportion of smaller units - given weaker sentiment.

'The idea is to make the absolute price quantums smaller, say $3-5 million per apartment, which will mean a bigger pool of buyers, compared with having a lot of biggish units in a project costing, say, above $10 million,' an analyst says.