Monday, August 11, 2008

Property Prices Set For Continued Growth

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 11 August 2008

This year's Hungry Ghost Festival, which is celebrated on the seventh month of the Chinese lunar calendar, comes at a time when the global economy is also slowing.

Traditionally, it means a quieter property market as investors and developers lie low during what they perceive to be an inauspicious occasion.

The Singapore property market is no exception, but experts said lower volumes may not be due to superstitions alone. According to market watchers, buyers in the market today tend to put bargains over and above bogeymen.

Eugene Lim, associate director, ERA Asia Pacific, said: "They tend to be less affected by their grandmother's tales and all that kind of thing, and they basically make their decisions on what they see and the dollars and cents behind it. In that sense, they are more open to buying properties even during the Chinese seventh month."

In fact, last year's boom saw developers and buyers alike doing brisk business throughout the seventh month.

While no concrete data is available after just the first week of the seventh month, most market watchers expect volume to have slowed a little. But this does not mean prices will be heading south anytime soon.

Eric Cheng, executive director, HSR Group, said: "Developers out there will not price their prices even lower than the construction costs plus the land cost that they actually purchased."

It would appear that the property industry as a whole has fewer reasons to be spooked. - CNA/so

Former Changi Military Camp Offered For Development As Hotel

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 11 August 2008

The former Changi Military Camp at Hendon Road has been offered for development as a hotel. This is the second state property that has been put up for hotel use.

The first state property that has been converted for hotel use is No. 175A Chin Swee Road. It is now a boutique business hotel called Hotel Re!.

The former military camp has a land area of 9,666 square metres – slightly larger than a football field with a gross floor area of 5,097 square metres. It comprises two blocks of three-storey buildings and a covered shed.

The tenancy is for an initial term of three years and is renewable on terms up to 2018. The guide rental is S$28,500 per month.

Nicholas Mak, director of Consultancy & Research, Knight Frank, said: "I think the developer will have to think creatively. For example, the building is fairly historical. It's of British military nature – they may want to play up this fact.

"I don't think you can find many places in Singapore which are a bit out of the way but still accessible. It's fairly near to the sea and it has a holiday resort, and a bit of a laid-back kampung kind of feeling. So, I think Changi is right for this sort of holiday getaway."

Sharing the same view, the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) said the property is well-suited for hotel use as Changi is being transformed into an exciting destination for locals and tourists, with its wide-ranging leisure, recreational and lifestyle attractions.

Since 2007, the SLA has awarded four state properties in the Changi area, namely Lorong Bekukong, No. 23 A/B, No. 24 Turnhouse Road and the former Changi Hospital, for adaptive commercial reuse.

Two of the properties have been converted into restaurants, while another is being transformed into a spa resort. - CNA/so

Singapore's Full-Year Growth Likely To Be At Lower End Of 4-5% Range

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 11 August 2008

Singapore's full-year economic growth is likely to come in at the lower end of the newly-revised 4 to 5 per cent range.

This is according to the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI).

Singapore's GDP grew by 2.1 per cent on-year in the second quarter, down from the 6.9 per cent pace in the first three months of this year.

Growth for the first half was 4.5 per cent, with construction and the services sectors remaining the pillars of support for the economy.

But weak semiconductor demand is expected to weigh on Singapore's key electronics sector for the rest of the year.

This, together with strong competition and drug approval delays in biomedical manufacturing, is expected to pull back growth.

Kit Wei Zheng, vice-president for Asia-Pacific economic and market analysis at the Citicorp Investment Bank, said: "In addition, I think the lag effect of the previous appreciation of the Singdollar will likely weigh on growth in the second half of the year."

Just a few days ago, the government narrowed its forecast for full-year economic growth to between 4 and 5 per cent, bringing it in line with numbers from most private sector economists.

But there are those who say there is reason to stay positive, despite weakening exports.

Mr A Prakriti Sofat, an economist at HSBC, said: "We do not think that just slowing exports automatically mean that the domestic economy would also go down with it. When you look at fundamentals within the Singapore economy, jobs and wage growth are both running at double digits, so labour market is obviously extremely tight."

HSBC added that low nominal interest rates and a strong growth in HDB prices are also a signal of the country's strength.

HSBC is among the more optimistic, with its forecast for full-year growth at 5.8%, though it says it may nudge down its prediction.

MTI says it expects to see job losses in sectors like manufacturing by year-end if the economy continues to weaken. It says, however, that it is unsure of the magnitude of these potential job losses.

While MTI says it is too early to tell how 2009 will fare, some economists think the outlook is cloudy.

Citicorp Investment Bank's Kit Wei Zheng said: "Right now most of the market is still expecting faster growth next year compared to this year. But this could give way to further growth slowdown next year. First of all, I think, growth slowdown in Europe, Japan is more pronounced."

Citi added that the inflation issue in Asia will likely see central banks tightening monetary policy, further slowing growth in the region.

It expects Singapore to grow at 3.9 per cent next year, lower than the consensus 5.3 per cent. - CNA/yb/ir

Singapore Economic Growth Slows As US Woes Take Toll

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 11 August 2008

Singapore said Monday economic growth slowed to an annual rate of 2.1 per cent in the second quarter and forecast a decline in key exports, with experts saying the US slowdown had begun to hit Asia.

The 2008 economic growth target had also been cut to four to five per cent from four to six per cent previously, the city-state's Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said.

The revised growth target was "consistent with the moderation in economic growth seen" over the three months to June in Southeast Asia's most advanced economy, it said.

The economy grew 4.5 per cent over the first half and the outlook for the rest of 2008 was not expected to improve much as the world's major economies were slowing, affecting Singaporean and Asian exports, the ministry added.

Projecting a similar level of expansion in the second half, it said "weaker demand in the major economies, coupled with the need to contain inflationary pressures, will dampen growth in the fast growing Asian economies."

The second-quarter performance was sharply down from the 6.9 per cent rise recorded in the first quarter. On an annualised, quarter-on-quarter basis, the economy contracted 6.0 per cent in the second quarter.

"The economy is slowing as the US economy appears to be starting to affect countries in Asia and elsewhere," said Alaistair Chan, a Sydney-based economist at Moody's

"Weak export demand is the main reason the government cut its GDP (gross domestic product) growth forecast for this year," Chan said, but added Singapore's construction and service sectors were still going strong.

Singapore's United Overseas Bank said the city-state would continue to feel the pinch from slowing exports, especially of electronics, and lowered its 2008 growth target to 4.2 per cent from 4.7 per cent previously.

"As the Eurozone and Japan join in a US-led slowdown, the small, open and export-driven Singapore economy would be unable to decouple meaningfully from weaker global demand," the bank said in a report.

Singapore also said Monday that its key exports could decline up to four per cent this year as a global economic slowdown takes its toll.

Trade promotion agency International Enterprise Singapore had previously forecast a two to four per cent rise.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong first announced a lower 2008 economic growth target on Friday during his National Day message. The government's lower predictions represent a sharp slowdown from last year's 7.7 per cent expansion.

The weak second-quarter economic performance was due to a contraction in the biomedical sector and sluggish growth in the electronics industry, both lynchpins of Singapore's trade-led economy, the MTI said.

The manufacturing sector shrank an annual 5.2 per cent over the three months to June, after growing 12.7 per cent in the previous quarter.

Construction grew 17.4 per cent, faster than the 16.9 per cent growth in the first quarter, while service sector industries expanded 7.0 per cent compared with 7.7 per cent in the March quarter.

The US economy, a key buyer of Asian good and services, has slowed after a financial crisis and tumble in house prices. - AFP/ir

Singapore's Fourth University To Be Located In Changi

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 11 August 2008

Singapore's fourth public-funded university will open its doors in 2011, offering programmes in Engineering and Applied Science, Business and Information Technology, and Architecture and Design.

The disciplinary areas chosen for the new university's initial offerings will serve Singapore's economy and manpower needs over the medium term.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) has appointed Philip Ng Chee Tat, CEO of property developer Far East Organisation, as chairman of the steering committee to oversee the establishment of the new university.

The committee will comprise leaders from the academia, industry and public sector.

One of the committee's main tasks is to develop a masterplan for the development of the new university's permanent campus and to locate a temporary campus in the interim.

It will also appoint the board of trustees and management team for the institution, which includes an international search for the president of the new university.

The steering committee will guide the development of the new university's programmes and identify suitable and reputable overseas universities to form partnerships and collaborations.

The new university's campus will be located right next to the Changi Business Park, which is home to high technology businesses and knowledge-intensive facilities of leading companies such as IBM.

MOE said the location will offer the new university opportunities to develop a vibrant, industry-academia ecosystem around the campus, with possible link-ups with companies nearby.

The new campus will be built on the plot of land that was previously set aside for the University of New South Wales' (UNSW) Singapore campus.

MOE is conducting a public consultation on the naming of the new university and members of the public can submit their ideas online at - CNA/so

Ho Bee Net Profit Falls 70% In Q2

Source : The Business Times, August 11, 2008

Ho Bee Group said on Monday its net profit for the second quarter ended June 30, 2008 fell 70.4 per cent to $36.96 million compared to $125.1 million a year ago.

Revenue for the quarter of registered a 27 per cent decrease over the corresponding period last year, down from $160 million to $116.8 million.

Ho Bee said this was mainly attributed to the lower recognition of revenue from property development projects in the current quarter.

Ho Bee also said another contributing factor was the $71 million gain in fair value of investment properties recorded in the second quarter of last year. Excluding the $71 million fair value gain, it said the the drop in net profit would be 32 per cent.

Revenue from property investment continues to grow. For the first half of 2008, it registered revenue of $8.3 million, which exceeds the corresponding period last year by 79 per cent. This was attributed to the higher rental income from the office space at Samsung Hub and industrial buildings at HB Centre II and One Tannery Road.

Second State Property In Changi Offered For Hotel Use

Source : The Straits Times, August 11, 2008

A SECOND state property, which is part of a former military camp in Hendon Road, in Changi, is put up for public tender on Monday for dedicated hotel use.

The site has a land area of 9,666 square metres, slightly larger than a football field with a gross floor area (GFA) of 5,097 square metres. It comprises two blocks of three-storey buildings and a covered shed.

The tenancy, with a guide rental of $28,500 a month, is for an initial term of three years. renewable up to 2018, said the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) on Monday.

SLA said the land is well suited for hotel use as the Changi area is being transformed into an exciting destination for locals and tourists alike with its wide ranging leisure, recreational and lifestyle attractions.

It is also conveniently located next to a park connector, a walking route along Netheravon Road from Cranwell Road to Changi Village, and the Changi Point boardwalk.

More buzz can also be expected with the introduction of motor sports near the Changi Beach Park, as announced by the Government.

The first state property that has been converted for hotel use is at No. 175A Chin Swee Road.

Today, it is a boutique business hotel called 'Hotel Re!' with 140 rooms. It officially opened for business in mid-May with an initial occupancy rate of around 50 per cent.

Since last year, SLA has awarded four state properties - in Lorong Bekukong, Turnhouse Road and the former Changi Hospital) - in the Changi area for adaptive commercial re-use after receiving strong response.

Two of them are now restaurants while the former Changi General Hospital at Halton Road is being transformed into a spa resort. The groundbreaking will take place next month and the development is expected to be ready by next year.

The Government, on its part, has upgraded the car parks at Changi Village and provided additional car park lots at Turnhouse Road.

Mr Teo Cher Hian, director of Land Operations (Private) Division, said: 'SLA is offering a number of the vacant State properties for adaptive re-use such as hotels and lifestyle attractions in line with the government's vision for Changi Point as an attractive and rustic seaview hotel, resort and recreational destination'.

'This latest property will add greater buzz and vibrancy to the Changi area'.

According to the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), leading hoteliers have expressed keen interest in this property.

Ms Caroline Leong, Director, Travel Services & Hospitality Business, STB said: 'The STB encourages the development of different types of accommodation to add to the hotel mix available here.

'With its lush greenery and historical charm which the old military barracks lend, a hotel development on the former Changi Camp site will provide an ideal alternative to visitors who prefer staying amidst a rustic environment'.

According to STB, mid-tier and economy hotels enjoyed healthy average room occupancy rates of 85 per cent and 87 per cent respectively in the first six months.


Source :《联合早报》Aug 11, 2008