Thursday, September 4, 2008

CapitaLand Reaps $163m Gain From Capital Tower Beijing Sale

Source : The Business Times, September 4, 2008

Net cash flow of $498m; plan to redeploy capital for more developments

CAPITALAND has entered into a share purchase deed for the sale of its indirect wholly owned subsidiary Hua Lei Holdings, which indirectly owns 100 per cent of Capital Tower Beijing.

Many offers: The tower's buyer is a Fortune 500 company that hopes to set up its HQ in Beijing

In a statement yesterday, CapitaLand said the consideration of US$352 million takes into account the assignment of a shareholder's loan of US$166 million and values Capital Tower Beijing at US$488 million.

CapitaLand said it will obtain net cash flow of about $498 million and expects to recognise a gain of $163 million. It said Capital Tower Beijing had been intended as a core long-term asset and the divestment following an unsolicited offer will allow it to redeploy the capital to undertake more developments in China.

The divestment is CapitaLand's second in less than a week.

On Friday last week it announced that it would divest its 30 per cent stake in Inverfin - whose principal asset is Menara Citibank in Kuala Lumpur - to IOI Corporation for RM586.7 million (S$244.6 million). It said it would recognise a gain of $22.1 million.

Capital Tower Beijing was completed in 2006. CapitaLand said it received unsolicited offers from 'several prospective investors' but would only say that the buyer is a Fortune 500 company that hopes to set up its headquarters in Beijing.

It is understood that CapitaLand has its Beijing office in Capital Tower Beijing and has no plans to move.

CapitaLand president and CEO Liew Mun Leong said: 'This transaction fully demonstrates CapitaLand's skill-sets and expertise in adding value to real estate projects and its ability to unlock value for shareholders despite current volatile financial markets.'

CapitaLand said Capital Tower Beijing had been intended as a core long-term asset, but that divestment will allow it to redeploy the capital to undertake more developments in China.

Separately, CapitaLand subsidiary Australand said yesterday that it has completed the final phase of its non-underwritten one-for-one entitlement offer, raising A$461 million (S$553 million). It said 769 million new stapled securities will be allotted under the offer at A$0.60 apiece.

In July 28, CapitaLand said it had given an unconditional commitment to subscribe for its 54.2 per cent pro rata entitlement.

This comprised 502,772,610 stapled Australand securities, for a total of A$302 million.

Following the completion of the entitlement, CapitaLand now holds 59.3 per cent of Australand.

Growth Forecasts Get Another Trimming

Source : The Business Times, September 4, 2008

Construction sector, financial services buck trend but GDP predictions bleak

While they have slashed their forecasts of manufacturing and overall GDP growth, economists are apparently looking to better numbers in the construction sector and financial services this year.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS)'s latest poll of economists shows that they have cut their forecasts of Singapore's 2008 GDP growth to a median 4.2 per cent, down from 5.5 per cent in the previous poll three months earlier.

But most of the GDP forecasts from the poll are basically out of date, as the survey was done in the second week of August, just after the Q2 economic results were released.

The poor figures - GDP grew 2.1 per cent in the quarter, and contracted 6 per cent against the preceding Q1 - prompted a round of cuts to the growth forecasts, as the official projection itself was at the same time revised down to 4-5 per cent. A Ministry of Trade and Industry official even specified the 'lower half' of the range.

And in the weeks since, following the release of dismal July industrial production data - output fell almost 22 per cent - economists have cut their forecasts further. The market consensus of Singapore's 2008 GDP growth has gone below 4 per cent, with some economists at just above 3 per cent.

So, chances are, current market forecasts could be as much as one percentage point lower than indicated in the MAS poll.

In any case, the 20 economists who responded to the poll last month slashed their estimates of manufacturing growth (to just one per cent for the full year) but forecast higher for not only construction and financial services, but also wholesale and retail trade, as well as private consumption.

The construction sector is now expected to grow 15 per cent this year (up from sub-12 per cent), and financial services 11 per cent (from an earlier forecast of 9 per cent).

The economists also forecast 2.7 per cent GDP growth in Q3, and 4.8 per cent in Q4, although these too may likely be on the low side now.

United Overseas Bank economists yesterday said the risks of a technical recession here - if Q3 also sees negative GDP numbers on a q-on-q basis - have risen following July's manufacturing slump.

All eyes will be on the August industrial production figures, due to be released towards the end of September. Another output slump and chances of a 'manufacturing-led technical recession' will surge, with possibly yet another round of cutbacks to the full-year GDP number.

Property Transactions With Contract Dates Between Aug 18th - 23rd, 2008

China Banks Urged To Monitor Exposure To Property Sector

Source : The Business Times, September 4, 2008

(BEIJING) China's banking regulator has urged lenders to stress-test the impact of a cooling real estate market and to set aside more cash to cover potential losses from property loans, local media reported yesterday.

'Banks must closely monitor changes in the real estate market and seek to limit the impact on them from the difficulties the property industry is facing in raising funds,' the Beijing Times quoted Liu Mingkang, head of the China Banking Regulatory Commission, as saying.

China's banks have cut lending to the property sector, especially since late last year, in the face of stringent lending quotas and stagnant property prices in some markets.

They provided 398.8 billion yuan (S$83.6 billion) in new loans to property developers and home buyers in the first half of this year, down 30 per cent from a year earlier, according to figures from the central bank. Total loans to the property sector accounted for 18 per cent of Chinese banks' local currency lending by the end of June, at 5.2 trillion yuan.

Mr Liu urged banks to carry out thorough estimates of their exposure to the sector and set aside more provisions to fend off systemic risks to the banking industry.

China's property market has entered a downturn after a raft of government measures to rein in excessive price rises and investment growth. In the southern city of Shenzhen, 1.7 billion yuan in mortgage loans had turned sour by the end of June, up 13.8 per cent from the start of the year, the People's Daily reported. -- Reuters

卖北京凯德大厦 嘉德置地赚1.63亿

Source :《联合早报》September 4, 2008

嘉德置地(CapitaLand)以4亿9800万元的价格脱售北京凯德大厦(Capital Tower Beijing)股权给Sky Property Management,赚取1亿6300万元的利润。

嘉德置地已正式签署股票购买契据(share purchase deed)脱售其独资子公司华磊控股(Hua Lei Holdings),华磊控股拥有北京凯德大厦100%的股权。这项交易将在今年底完成。





凯德置地总裁林明彦则表示,集团原本计划将北京凯德大厦列为长期核心投资项目之一,如今改变主意是因为这项交易将为集团提供资本,在中国进行其他发展项目。他指出,Sky Property Management有意在北京设立公司总部。



‘What Goes Up Will Also Come Down’

Source : TODAY, Thursday, September 4, 2008

But analysts divided over 2010 ‘nightmare scenario’

DESPITE healthy profits reported for subsales in the first seven months of the year, there seems to be an uneasy air looming over the property market — in particular, the slowing mid- and high-end residential segments — these days.

The coffeeshop chatter found its way into public discourse last month when Wing Tai Holdings’ chairman Mr Cheng Wai Keung — known for his candid assessments of the property market — warned that the peak prices in 2006 and last year could lead to a firesale come 2010 when these projects are completed.

In effect, what Mr Cheng was saying as he announced Wing Tai’s second quarter results was this: Come 2010, only a spectacular economic recovery would stop the property market from being flooded with “expensive apartments”.

Records were set during the property bull run, with units at The Marq sold for as high as $5,100 per square foot (psf) and some at The Orchard Residences (picture) going for $5,500 psf. In the past 12 months, caveats were lodged for The Marq and Orchard Residences at prices averaging about $4,900 and $4,100 psf.

Analysts Today spoke to are split over the likelihood of such a “nightmare scenario” coming about, but they do rule out a repeat of the property market crash of a decade ago.

Typically, there would be a rush to offload units right before a project’s completion, when more payment instalments are due. The term “subsale”, often seen as a gauge of speculative activity, refers to secondary market deals in projects that have yet to receive their Certificates of Statutory Completion. This may be anywhere from three to 12 months after the project receives its Temporary Occupation Permit (TOP) — people can move in, pending completion of the final paperwork.

Apart from the global economic uncertainty and financial market turmoil that could hurt demand, the situation is made worse by the fact that developers, buoyed by the property fever, now have “too many projects on their hands”, said Chesterton International associate director Colin Tan.

Adding that the buzz surrounding the upcoming F1 Grand Prix and the integrated resorts was “overplayed”, leading to “unrealistic” downtown property prices,Mr Tan added: “We know the market is declining, but yet, developers are still launching their properties.”

Data from Savills Singapore shows that nearly 97 per cent of those who have sold private apartments and condos in the subsale market in the first seven months of this year have made profits. For those who turned a profit, the average gain per unit came to $417,563 or 36.5 per cent. Most of the sellers had picked up their units in 2004 and 2005.

The industry estimates that just under 30 per cent of private homes are owned by foreigners, including permanent residents.

Standing out against the doomsayers, Wakefield and Cushman managing director Mr Donald Han pointed out that the market is “still flushed with cash”.

He said: “If you look at Singapore’s wealth management industry, it’s still growing. Any investors looking to put his money into Asia will first take into consideration political stability and economic growth.”

Dr Chua Yang Liang, head of South-east Asia research at Jones Lang LaSalle, felt it was “difficult to call”, adding that the construction crunch has slowed the pipeline, mitigating fears of an oversupply of private homes.

Noting the “obliqueness” of the market, Dr Chua said: “Looking at it on face value, yes, there’s a potential (it could happen). For those who bought the properties under the deferred payment scheme (DPS), they may have overstretched themselves. But nobody knows the financial background of these buyers.”

In a bid to curb excessive speculation, the Government scrapped the DPS last October. But since then, banks including OCBC and UOB have rolled out similar schemes in the form of the interest absorption scheme (IAS) and the zero-instalment scheme.

Under the new schemes, buyers have to sign up for a bank loan for the property. Once the credit worthiness — based on factors including income level, credit history and repayment ability — is established, the buyer pays nothing more until the TOP is issued. Under the IAS, the developer pays the interest to the banks during that period.

Dr Chua noted that compared to the DPS, the new schemes allow banks to carry out more extensive checks on the prospective buyers before extending the loans.

But some fear a replay of the United States sub-prime woes, sparked by mounting defaulted payments. Mr Tan said: “The question is, how strict are the banks when they assess credit worthiness? The banks in the United States behaved irresponsibly; what is there to stop Singapore banks from behaving the same way?”

On its part, the Monetary Authority of Singapore has stepped up its surveillance on banks here, following the US sub-prime crisis.

Overall, the mid-market is experiencing a weak transaction volume, noted a recent OCBC report. Some new high-end projects “had not sold a single unit since launching”, it added.

According to latest official figures, rentals of private homes rose 2.5 per cent in the second quarter of this year, compared with 6 per cent in the previous quarter.

The first signs of trouble would be declining rents, said an analyst who declined to be named.

He added: “If I cannot sell my property for a good price, I can always fall back on rentals. But if rentals only give me, say, 1-per-cent yield, what’s the point? ”

In the words of property magnate Kwek Leng Beng, “what has gone up very high in a straight line will also come down”. Property owners are all hoping — with their title deeds and bank books in hand — that the slide in private home prices will not take the same steep path.

A Future Gold Mine

Source : TODAY, Thursday, September 4, 2008

Revamp of Jurong East could translate into high resale prices for property there

UNLIKE Jurong West, which boasts over 70,000 homes, Jurong East has always been viewed as a rather sleepy estate with just over 22,000 homes. Even neighbouring Bukit Batok and Clementi have over 32,000 and 24,000 homes respectively.

Other than the Singapore Science Centre and Chinese Gardens, there was not much going for Jurong East in terms of entertainment.

However, plans to revamp the area could change all that.

In April, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan unveiled plans for the new Jurong Lake District to be the largest commercial hub outside the Central Business District.

Gleaming office towers and a swanky new Olympic-sized ice-skating rink would make up the 70-hectare Jurong Gateway precinct, while serene parks and exciting water-based activities on the lake would be a part of the 290-hectare Lakeside precinct.

Imagine the quiet estate of Jurong East radically and beautifully transformed into a self-contained nucleus of its own; with businesses, recreational areas, swathes of nature, entertainment venues and food and beverage outlets all interconnected with overhead walkways and viaducts.

This is a facelift of immense magnitude, which will inject much dynamism into the neighbourhood.

With the decentralisation of businesses, commuting times will be greatly reduced. This will in turn allow Jurong East residents more time to enjoy the added recreational amenities and “edutainment” facilities.

With the prospect of an improved work-life balance, we can expect to see an increase in the buying and renting of property in the Jurong East district. With this, the value of the more than 22,000 dwellings is likewise expected to go up.

We can expect to see, in the initial stages, a marginal 5- to 10-per-cent price increase in the properties there. However, upon completion of the many facilities and amenities, and as more businesses gradually shift their operations to the new Jurong Gateway precinct, we should even be able to see price increases of 30 to 50 per cent.

As a comparison: For the first quarter of the year, the median resale prices for five-room flats in Bukit Merah and Toa Payoh — estates that are considerably close to town — were $585,000 and $538,000 respectively, while the median resale price for a five-room flat in Jurong East was just $386,000.

We can also expect to see a spillover effect from the revamped Jurong Lake District in the surrounding hinterland towns of Bukit Batok, Clementi and Jurong West.

I would strongly encourage Jurong East residents to hold on to their properties due to the strong prospects for a high resale price upon completion and establishment of the Jurong Lake District. For long-term property investors, Jurong East should definitely be seeing great returns in the next decade.

The writer is chief executive of Propnex.The views expressed are his own.

Morgan Stanley Raising US$10b Global Property Fund: Source

Source : The Business Times, September 4, 2008

US$1.5b or more to be invested in China over the next few years

(SHANGHAI) Morgan Stanley is raising US$10 billion for a global property fund and plans to put US$1.5 billion or more of that into China, shrugging off concern about a property market downturn, a banking source said yesterday.

Still bullish: Other foreign funds, including Blackstone and Carlyle, are also looking for investment opportunities in China's residential and commercial properties

The Morgan Stanley Real Estate Fund VII Global, the latest in a series of property investment funds, is expected to begin investing worldwide before the end of this year, said the source, who had direct knowledge of the fund.

It will invest at least 10 billion yuan (S$2.1 billion) in China over the next few years, taking a gradual approach while focusing on the largest cities such as Shanghai, where the price for a luxury downtown apartment can exceed US$20 million, said the source.

The retail portion of the fund- raising has been completed with a minimum requirement of US$1 million for individual investors in Asia.

The institutional portion, which requires at least US$10 million for each institutional investor, will be completed soon, the source added.

'It should not be too difficult for Morgan Stanley to raise funds from retail investors in Asia since, as you know, in China alone the number of millionaires has been growing very fast in recent years,' the source said.

'As for the institutional portion, many of them are old friends of Morgan Stanley,' he said, referring to investors in the Wall Street bank's last six global property funds.

The source declined to be identified because he was not authorised to comment on the fund to the media. Morgan Stanley declined to comment.

Some industry watchers, including Andy Xie, formerly Morgan Stanley's Asia economist, have warned that bubbles may be emerging in the property markets of some major cities such as Shanghai, where many buyers are foreigners and investors rather than long-term residents.

A property investment arm of Morgan Stanley has plans to sell at least two high-end serviced apartment projects in Shanghai, one of its earliest China property investments, for several billion yuan, people familiar with the situation told Reuters in June.

But Morgan Stanley and other foreign funds, including Blackstone and Carlyle, are also looking for new investment opportunities in high-end residential and commercial properties in China, according to industry sources.

Last month, sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters that Blackstone and others were vying to buy up to four commercial buildings in Shanghai for as much as US$1 billion. That deal is still under discussion, however, industry sources have said.

Some foreign funds have also begun shifting their focus to second-tier Chinese cities, reflecting the large number of investors and intensifying competition in the largest cities. -- Reuters

HK Home Transactions Slump 60% To Two-Year Low

Source : The Business Times, September 4, 2008

Home prices in the city down 4.4% between end-June and August

(HONG KONG) The value of Hong Kong home transactions fell 60 per cent to the lowest in more than two years in August, signalling that the city's property market may be poised for its biggest decline since 2003.

Gloomy: With the outlook for the economies of both Hong Kong and China still uncertain, buyers' future property price expectations could continue to fall

The total value of residential transactions last month fell to HK$15 billion (S$2.75 billion) from HK$37.8 billion a year earlier, according to a press release on the Land Registry website. The figure, the lowest since July 2006, represented a 40 per cent decline from the previous month.

Home prices fell in 23 of 25 US metropolitan areas in June from a year earlier as foreclosures pushed down values, real estate research company Radar Logic said. The impact of credit market losses may be spreading to Hong Kong, with the threat of a global economic slowdown and a slump in the stock market leading potential homebuyers to expect to pay less for properties.

'There's a tug-of-war going on between buyers and sellers,' Cusson Leung, a Hong Kong-based analyst at Credit Suisse, said in an interview. 'With the outlook for the economies of both Hong Kong and China still uncertain, buyers' future price expectations could continue to fall.'

The number of Hong Kong home transactions in August fell 54 per cent from a year earlier, and 28.9 per cent from July, to 5,284, according to the Land Registry statement.

Home prices in the city fell 4.4 per cent between the end of June and August, according to figures from Centaline Property Agency. Credit Suisse's Mr Leung, in a July 8 report, forecast a 5 to 10 per cent drop in prices in the second half.

Home values have tracked Hong Kong's economy, peaking in the second quarter of 1997, then crashing in the Asian financial crisis, leaving many homes worth less then their mortgages for years.

The bursting of the 2000 dotcom bubble, the Sept 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome epidemic caused prices to fall as much as 70 per cent from the peak. The rebound started in late 2003 and prices doubled in the past four years.

The value of all real estate transactions, including industrial and office buildings and shopping malls, fell 59.2 per cent in August from a year earlier to HK$18 billion, according to the Land Registry. The number of transactions dropped 53 per cent to 6,402, it said. -- Bloomberg

Lenders Must Ensure Borrowers Can Afford Instalments When Due: MAS

Source : The Business Times, September 4, 2008

LENDERS must make sure that home loan borrowers can afford their instalments when they fall due, says the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

Financing schemes that allow home buyers to make a 20 per cent downpayment - and then pay nothing until the granting of a temporary occupation permit, which may be up to three years down the road - have become popular to help developers move projects.

Some observers say that given the worsening economic outlook and falling property prices, such payment schemes - offered by banks after the government banned deferred payment schemes last October to rein in speculation - will pose higher risks to banks.

Deferred payment schemes were offered by developers.

'MAS expects all financial institutions granting any kind of housing loan to apply prudent credit assessment criteria,' an MAS spokeswoman said in response to a BT query.

'Lenders must satisfy themselves that borrowers have the necessary means to make principal and interest payments as and when these become due.'

BT reported on Tuesday that Maybank, OCBC Bank and United Overseas Bank are offering the schemes. Standard Chartered Bank will launch one soon. DBS Bank, on the other hand, has decided to stop offering such schemes.

Recently, some economists have slashed their economic growth forecasts. Some are tipping growth as low as 3.3 per cent this year, whereas a few months ago, figures of 5 per cent or more were confidently put forward.

Also last month, Citi analyst Wendy Koh said that she expects a 20-30 per cent price correction for high-end properties from their recent peak, and reckons the mid-tier is likely to decline 10-20 per cent.

Foreign Workers? Not In My Backyard

Source : The Straits Times, Sep 3, 2008

Residents of Serangoon Gardens sign petition against converting an unused school in private estate into foreign workers' quarters

FOREIGN workers? Not in our neighbourhood.

More than 600 residents of Serangoon Gardens, a private estate in the north-east, have signed a petition against converting an unused school there into a dormitory for foreign workers.

The Ministry of National Development (MND) confirmed that it is assessing whether Serangoon Gardens Technical School can be converted into quarters for foreign workers, although no decision has been made yet.

The school in Burghley Drive has been vacant for about four years and can possibly house 1,000 workers.

When residents of the estate, which has more than 2,000 homes, heard about the news earlier this week, a petition was started by the residents' committee asking the authorities to reconsider.

The one-page petition said the move would 'create security and social problems and spoil the ambience of the estate'.

'I signed the petition immediately and got 80 of my friends to sign it too,' said retired teacher S. Raja, 69.

MP for Aljunied GRC Lim Hwee Hua said it is 'good that residents are speaking out with an interest' on the issue and encouraged them to give their feedback, which she would convey to MND.

The residents will be meeting Mrs Lim and fellow MP George Yeo, who is also the Foreign Minister, today as part of a dialogue series and will raise the issue.

Especially concerned are the residents who live opposite the former school.

They said that security was their main worry. Many were afraid that their maids might befriend the foreign workers and invite them into their houses while they are out.

Already, with a few construction sites and a small number of workers in the area, there have been problems, they said.

Housewife S.K. Lim, 70, said her sister, who also lives in the neighbourhood, had forgotten to lock her car one evening. A foreign worker was caught trying to steal her CashCard and other items in the car.

Sales executive Josephine Ng, 46, said she has also seen her neighbour's maid letting a man out of the house when her neighbours were on holiday.

'My husband tried to confront the stranger but he ran away,' she said.

Residents were also concerned about loitering, alcoholism and congestion problems along Burghley Drive.

Mrs Raja noted how residents in Little India complained about workers sitting in the void decks drinking and making noise.

'I hope it will not happen in Serangoon Gardens,' she said.

Another retired teacher, Mrs L. Raja, 69, was concerned about taking the bus on Sundays.

'Sometimes, I take the bus to the food centre. With 1,000 workers living here, there would be so many of us using the buses,' she said.

Other residents expected weekday congestion to increase. They pointed out how the narrow roads in the estate are currently packed with parents sending their children to the CHIJ Our Lady of Good Counsel in Burghley Drive.

'During peak hours, the jam is bad already. Can you imagine if there are lorries picking up and dropping off workers?' said Ms Ng.

MND told The Straits Times that while 11 new dormitory sites providing 65,000 additional bed spaces for foreign workers had been released, these will take time to build, so existing buildings will be converted into temporary quarters. The school is one such building being considered.

The ministry is at a preliminary stage of assessing all available properties, and will consider factors like the site, competing uses for the property and residents' feedback.

It said that it sought residents' understanding if they find more foreign workers living in their midst and added that employers and dormitory operators also had to educate the foreigners on the Singapore way of life.

Said Mrs L. Raja: 'It is not that we are not grateful to foreign workers. It is just that we do not want any problems.'

Residents Air Dorm Fears

Source : The Straits Times, Sep 4, 2008

Serangoon Gardens folk get assurance their worries will be looked into

FOR some time now, Serangoon Gardens resident Kelvin - he did not want his full name used - has been trying to find housing for his firm's foreign workers, with little luck.

Serangoon Gardens residents at a two-hour dialogue with Aljunied GRC MPs George Yeo (with microphone) and Lim Hwee Hua last night. They expressed worries about a plan to house foreign workers in their neighbourhood. -- ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

So when he found out that the former Serangoon Gardens Technical School might be converted into a foreign worker dormitory, the 38-year-old, who is in the construction business, went into a tizzy.

The reason: The proposed dorm is next to his home, and there is no way, he says, he is willing to accept 'half-naked men' sitting in his neck of the woods.

Last night, Kelvin and about 250 other indignant residents of the firmly middle-class neighbourhood trudged through the rain to make their views known to their Members of Parliament from Aljunied GRC, Mr George Yeo and Ms Lim Hwee Hua.

At a two-hour dialogue, held under a marquee at a park along Chartwell Drive, the residents listed their objections to the proposed move, with some barely able to disguise their anger over it.

Their key worries: Security, traffic congestion caused by vehicles which will ferry the foreign workers to their worksites, and insufficient infrastructure in the area to support over 1,000 new residents.

Madam Lim Chor Yeow, 71, a retired teacher, echoed a view of many when she asked: 'If we have workers coming in here, is it safe for old people?'

Administrative manager Rose Koh, 52, said she would worry about leaving her ageing mother and two young children at home when she left for work.

Others said parks might be overrun by foreign workers. As would buses.

One resident, Mr E.T. Mohan Dass, 60, a programme manager, feared that as foreign workers flood in, the estate's value would go south.

Assuming there were 1,400 households, each worth $1 million, in the estate, he said 'even a 1 per cent drop in asset value (because of the workers' presence) would mean a $14-million loss'. Another, Ms L.S. Lim, 70, urged the authorities to 'think of Singaporeans first'.

Feelings against the dorm plan run high in the estate: A petition against the idea has been started by residents, and has been signed by about 1,400 households so far. There are about 7,000 households in the area.

After hearing their complaints and trying to temper some of their concerns, Mr Yeo and Mrs Lim said they would pass the feedback and petition to the Ministry of National Development.

At the meeting, Mr Yeo said he could understand the residents' position, adding that Serangoon Gardens is a place where 'people feel a lot for the heritage, and we should not upset that'.

But he also asked them not to cast aspersions on foreign workers, as they have 'come to Singapore, and benefit Singapore'. Mrs Lim added that residents' security will be taken into account in the plan.

However, after the dialogue, she admitted to reporters that those living in the estate should have been informed about the plan first-hand, instead of having to read about it in newspapers or get the news from neighbours.

She added that she has been in touch with MND, and is trying to 'bring home the points, the valid concerns that residents have to the minister...'

Mr Yeo also told residents: 'We are not just postmen and women transmitting your views. URA and MND have the final decision, but I assure you we are not doing nothing.'