Friday, September 5, 2008

Three MI-Reit Properties Gain $1.3m In Revaluation

Source : The Business Times, September 5, 2008

Revaluations raise carrying amount for portfolio to $554.1m from $553.6m

THREE properties under MacarthurCook Industrial Reit (MI-Reit) have gained $1.3 million in value from a year ago in the latest revaluation exercise.

MI-Reit's manager, MacarthurCook Investment Managers (Asia) Ltd, yesterday released new independent valuations for seven industrial properties as at Sept 1. The value of four other properties remained unchanged from the previous year.

Together, the seven properties were valued at $227.6 million as at Sept 1, against $226.3 million a year ago.

Their total book value as at June 30, 2008, was $227.1 million.

The revaluations have raised the carrying amount for MI-Reit's portfolio to $554.1 million, up from $553.6 million reported on June 30, 2008.

MI-Reit has 21 properties in its portfolio - 20 in Singapore and one in Japan. Independent valuations for the remaining 14 properties will be obtained throughout the financial year.

For the first quarter ended June 30, MI-Reit reported a distributable income of $6.62 million, 68 per cent higher than in the same period last year.

This followed a 94 per cent increase in net property income to $9.12 million.

Distribution per unit (DPU) rose 55 per cent year-on-year to 2.35 cents in 1Q09. In a press release last month, MacarthurCook Investment Managers (Asia) said that it expects to deliver a DPU that is in line with recent performance for the coming year.

While the US economic slowdown and global inflation could affect Asia, 'we expect the demand for industrial properties in Singapore and in the Asian region to remain healthy on the back of strong prospects for Asia, albeit at a less brisk pace', said CEO and executive director of the Reit manager, Craig Dunstan.

'Given this economic scenario, organic growth in the portfolio will drive returns in the near future,' he added.

'However, we expect to resume our active acquisition growth strategy once capital market conditions improve.'

MI-Reit's units gained 0.5 cents yesterday to close at 76 cents.

The counter has slid around 29.6 per cent from the start of the year.

CCT Signs Up Leases For 77,900 Sq Ft In 2 Office Towers

Source : The Business Times, September 5, 2008

CAPITACOMMERCIAL Trust (CCT) says 77,900 sq ft of office space at Capital Tower and One George Street has been renewed or newly committed for between two and three years.

Three companies account for the leases - JPMorgan Chase & Co, BHP Billiton and Shinhan Bank.

CCT did not reveal the rents.

'Given the Grade A quality of Capital Tower (next) and One George Street (above), they are in line with rates achieved at comparable Grade A office buildings in the respective micro-markets.'- CCT spokesman

But a spokesman said: 'Given the Grade A quality of Capital Tower and One George Street, they are in line with rates achieved at comparable Grade A office buildings - between $16 to $20 per sq ft per month (psf pm) - in the respective micro-markets.'

In July, CCT said it expected 4 per cent of leases at Capital Tower to expire in 2008.

Separately, CCT said yesterday that CapitaLand, which has a 30.92 per cent stake in the Reit, will lease 1,313.2 sq ft of office space at Capital Tower for three years for a total sum of $449,125.92.

CCT described the space as an 'unconventional office unit located on the ninth storey'.

It said the terms of the lease were reviewed by CB Richard Ellis, which confirmed the rent is at market level.

Based on the total rent, the monthly rent works out to about $9.50 psf pm.

JPMorgan Chase & Co is one of CCT's top-10 blue chip tenants, contributing about 3.3 per cent of the trust's gross rental income. It will now occupy an extra one-and-a-half floors at Capital Tower.

BHP Billiton, which has several offices in the CBD, will renew its lease at Capital Tower.

This follows a recent report last month that said BHP Billiton is leasing about 150,000 sq ft at Tower 2 of the upcoming Marina Bay Financial Centre, slated for completion in the second quarter of 2010.

At One George Street, new tenant Shinhan Bank has taken space to grow its business footprint in Singapore.

Lynette Leong, CEO of CCT's manager said: 'The lease commitments are definitely encouraging news.'

She said she is confident the trust will delivering its forecast distribution per unit of 10.61 cents and 12.34 cents for the financial years ending 2008 and 2009 respectively.

Following the completion of the acquisition of One George Street on July 11, CCT's asset size is close to $7 billion, which is ahead of the $6 billion target it set itself by 2009.

Protesters Want KL Hillside Bungalow Project Halted

Source : The Business Times, September 5, 2008

Residents in suburb hand over papers to anti-graft agency alleging corruption

RESIDENT activism in a middle class suburb of Kuala Lumpur could force a RM400 million (S$167 million) development of 21 bungalows on a nearby hillside to come to a grinding halt, illustrating a rare combativeness among Malaysians in the wake of the March 8 general election.

On Wednesday, nearly 20 residents from Medan Damansara, a leafy, upper middle-class suburb of retired government servants and younger professionals, descended on the Putrajaya offices of the Anti-Corruption Agency to hand over papers alleging corruption on the part of City Hall when it allowed the developer permission to build on the slope. The ACA has promised to get back in three weeks.

The resident's assertiveness has redefined the way hillside development is carried out in the capital and has put Kuala Lumpur's powerful City Hall under siege from relentless media attacks and on the defensive.

Moreover, government lawmakers, who would have normally defended City Hall as a rule, are seemingly sympathetic to the residents in a bid to win popularity. The area, normally pro-government, swung heavily to the opposition in the March elections partly as a result of the unpopular development.

Meanwhile, the protests have put the developer - listed Selangor Dredging - in a bind. It paid RM58 million for the land and claims to have spent over RM30 million since in infrastructure work. The company, which even advertised the homes in Singapore, denies any wrongdoing, arguing that hillside development is common in places like Hong Kong.

The residents beg to differ, pointing out that the Cabinet of former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad banned development of any hillside with a gradient of over 30 degrees. The Medan Damansara slope is well over 39 degrees.

Development of the slope began in December last year but the residents continued protesting with their efforts intensifying after the general elections. In June, City Hall slammed the developer with a stop- work order after it determined that several by-laws had been contravened.

Since then, trees have fallen in the area followed by a massive landslide last week that nearly demolished two houses in the middle of the night.

'Only then did everyone, including the mayor, come out to see the place,' said Randhir Singh, one of the neighbourhood's most vocal critics. 'All of us snubbed him. Where was he when we needed him?'

The resident's tactics have been effective. Following the stop-work order, they wrote to the 17 government agencies whose permission is required in any urban development, asking about the Medan Damansara development.

Five agencies replied, some revealing that certain approvals hadn't been obtained for the development. These were the documents lodged with the ACA.

Even so, the residents aren't completely hopeful that they will win out in the end. 'Whatever the outcome, I think we have demonstrated one thing,' said Mr Singh. 'I don't think City Hall will ever take Kuala Lumpur residents for granted again.'

US Credit Problems Far From Over: FDIC

Source : The Business Times, September 5, 2008

WASHINGTON - Troubled loans keep rising and US banks will need to shore up their reserves to cover potential losses for the next several quarters, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp Chairman Sheila Bair said on Thursday.

Ms Bair: 'We're confident that our industry-funded reserves will be more than adequate to cover any losses caused by more bank failures'

'You simply must accept that the credit downturn is far from over,' Ms Bair said in prepared remarks to a banking group in Florida, a state where the US housing market has take a dramatic downturn.

She urged banks, 'especially here in Florida,' to strengthen their reserves. 'It's a tough slog but there's no easy way out,' Ms Bair told the Florida Bankers Association.

Banks have been piling up reserves to cope with credit losses from mortgage defaults and troubled commercial real estate lending activities - raising capital and slashing dividends to retain earnings, which have plummeted in the last several quarters.

Ten FDIC-insured banks have failed so far this year, dominated by the insolvency of California mortgage lender IndyMac Bancorp Inc .

Ms Bair expects more failures but said the FDIC's US$45 billion insurance fund, that covers up to US$100,000 per deposit and up to US$250,000 per retirement account, was strong enough to cope.

IndyMac's failure is expected to cost the FDIC about US$8.9 billion.

'We're confident that our industry-funded reserves will be more than adequate to cover any losses caused by more bank failures,' Ms Bair said.

The FDIC has several options to support the fund, including raising premiums on banks and even borrowing government funds.

The FDIC can tap into a US$30 billion long-term line of credit with the US Treasury Department and up to US$40 billion of short-term credit.

The need to draw on Treasury's Federal Financing Bank will depend primarily on the pace of bank failures and how fast failed bank assets can be sold, Ms Bair said.

'But given the stress analyses (including high-loss scenarios) that we've been doing for over a year, we're confident that our industry funded resources available to the insurance fund are more than enough to cover projected losses,' she said. -- REUTERS

Orchard Central Duplexes Split Up

Source : The Straits Times, Sep 5, 2008

Level 1 duplexes turned into single-storey units due to slow economy and lack of demand

GLOOMIER times appear to have taken a toll on the upcoming Orchard Central mall near Somerset MRT Station.

The mall will no longer house two-storey shops, or duplexes, on its ground floor as had previously been announced, the project's developer Far East Organization has told The Straits Times.

Orchard Central, which has 14 storeys, will have restaurants with outdoor seating and a special "jewel box" - a glass-fronted shop suspended in mid-air. PHOTO: FAR EAST ORGANIZATION

These duplexes were intended to have been glitzy, eye-grabbing outlets likely to have been leased by top-notch brands.

Instead, the three duplexes planned for level 1 have been split into single-storey units and leased to retailers wanting smaller premises.

Industry watchers said demand for the higher-rent duplex stores is likely to have waned due to the economic slowdown.

Also, the area, considered by some to be the more downmarket end of Orchard Road, may lack the cache needed to pull in the large brands that are more likely to take those spaces, they said.

Orchard Central is one of three new shopping centres to go up in Orchard Road in more than a decade.

The 14-storey mall is slated to open early next year, and will boast underground shops, restaurants with outdoor balcony seating, as well as a special 'jewel box' - a glass-fronted shop to be suspended in mid-air outside the building.

When contacted, Far East said: 'We had more demand for single-floor units, and we are happy to report that the key level 1 shops facing Orchard Road have been snapped up. We also decided to change the original plans as this would mean more shopping diversity and choices for our customers.'

It added that the mall has one more duplex unit, on levels 3 and 4, which has attracted interest but has yet to be leased out.

Ms Lau Chuen Wei, executive director of Singapore Retailers Association (SRA), said it is 'not surprising if there is a lack of demand' for the double-storey units.

'A duplex would definitely require a higher rental commitment, which is, by and large, something that retailers find quite hard to commit to at this time.'

Property consultants The Straits Times spoke to said duplex stores have high visibility so landlords would 'normally want a very high-end brand' to occupy them.

'If I were the landlord, I'd have to give it to someone who is really worthy of it,' said one retail property specialist, who declined to be named.

'If not, splitting a unit into two will get higher rental,' he added.

Some observers also say the fact that several malls are springing up at about the same time has created more intense competition in the battle for the brands.

Previously, Far East had told The Straits Times that its 'jewel box' store, to be designed by renowned Egyptian-born industrial designer Karim Rashid, will 'as its name occupied by an upmarket jeweller'.

But Cupid Jewels, a home-grown firm specialising in lower-priced bling, has now confirmed its tenancy there.

It has four showrooms in decidedly less swanky locales - Clifford Centre, Harbourfront Centre, Novena Square and OG Orchard Point - but said it will rebrand itself as a more upmarket jeweller at Central.

In contrast, Ion Orchard, the other mall being built at Orchard Turn, has snagged glitzy labels like Cartier and Louis Vuitton to front its duplexes, as well as haute jewellers Harry Winston, Chaumet and Boucheron to occupy its first floor.

But industry experts also defended Orchard Central's positioning, saying the area near the Somerset MRT Station is no less attractive than the strip nearer to the Orchard MRT Station.

Mr Danny Yeo, deputy managing director of Knight Frank, said: 'It's not that this part of Orchard Road does not have a draw, it's just not a main draw for the high-end segment.'

'The malls near Somerset are all internally connected to each other. And there are enough young people who will find that this side will provide a good alternative to the strip between Ion and Ngee Ann City. Now Orchard Road has two distinct and strongly positioned areas.'

And Ms Daisy Loo, head of leasing and consulting at Sandalwood Retail, said: 'Mass market brands can have duplexes too. It doesn't mean only luxury brands can afford a duplex, and it doesn't mean a duplex is the only thing that will earn you top dollar.'

She added: 'It's part and parcel of business to rethink strategies and review plans when market conditions change. Decisions are always based on changes in demand and tenant requirements.'

Who's setting up shop at the mall

ORCHARD Central is a glass-clad mall next to Somerset MRT Station. Of its 14 storeys, 12 are above-ground while two are basement-level.

Developer Far East Organization has commissioned Japanese design firm Super Potato to create four food levels to suit all budgets.

The first floor has been fully leased to retail tenants.

Its 'jewel box', to be suspended on the facade of the building, will house local jeweller Cupid Jewels. It is designed by Egyptian Karim Rashid.

Other confirmed tenants occupying Orchard Central's 1.2 million sq ft of shopping space include:

# Japanese eatery Ootoya

# Kenko's Fish Spa

# Levi's

# Dockers

# Lee Coopers

Homegrown multi-label boutique Tyan, which will stock Malaysian fashion ingenue Khoon Hooi for the first time in Singapore.

Backyard Walls Collapse In Mudslide

Source : The Straits Times, Sep 5, 2008

Walls, fences of two homes off Jalan Kayu affected in midnight incident after heavy rain

RESIDENTS in a private housing estate off Jalan Kayu scrambled for help after a mudslide brought the walls and fences at the back of their homes down late on Wednesday night.

While residents believe that construction work behind their homes could have caused the walls to collapse, the project's engineer said the walls could be structurally weak. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND LIM

The mudslide that followed a heavy downpour that night left one occupant of a terrace house in Jalan Tari Serempi without the 2m-high wall and fence at the back and badly damaged the perimeter wall of another.

While the residents believe that the construction of a block of houses behind their homes could have something to do with the incident, the engineer and developer for the project pointed their fingers at the weak structure of the walls.

The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) has ordered construction works on the site to stop until further notice. An investigation is under way. A spokesman said the Qualified Person for structural works, or the project's engineer, has inspected the site and 'confirmed that the structural integrity of the houses had not been affected by the collapse'.

Madam Habsah Sultan, 50, a property agent who lives at 2, Jalan Tari Serempi, said there had been a lot of construction work going on since a month ago. 'With the digging and the rain, the soil might have just given way,' she said.

Her neighbour, Madam Toh Wong See, agreed, adding that in her 12 years in the neighbourhood, mudslides have never happened, not even during heavy rain.

Madam Habsah was awake when the walls collapsed around midnight.

She told The Straits Times: 'I was still up when I heard a loud sound like a thunderclap at about 11.50pm. I thought it was the storm again but when I went to the back of the house, I saw part of the backyard area had given way and the wall and perimeter fencing had buckled.'

Madam Toh, 57, a housewife who lives with her son, his wife and their two young children, was watching TV at that time and ran to the backyard to see what happened. Her walls did not collapse but there was a 1m crack on a side wall near where the earth had moved.

Both women woke up their families, alerted the neighbours and rang the police. 'Thankfully, no one was injured but who can be sure this would not repeat when it rains again?' Madam Habsah said.

Both families were adamant about staying put. 'The contractors and BCA officers came by this morning and told us the place is safe. But I just wish they would quickly repair the walls,' Madam Toh said in Mandarin yesterday.

Mr Liauw Chin Lee, the 48-year-old developer for the construction behind their houses, said that repairs are under way. 'It's too early to estimate what the repair costs are, but the walls will be up as soon as possible,' he said in Mandarin.

The authorities had told him that the walls should be up before any further construction could continue, he said.

Both Mr Liauw and the project's design engineer, Mr Chua Hock Beng, felt that the rain and the walls were to blame.

'The walls which had given way have been there a long time and weren't built very well,' Mr Chua said.

Even so, Mr Liauw said he would not argue about whose fault it was.

'I am going to live here when the construction is completed and these affected people will be my neighbours. Thankfully, no one was hurt. I'll just treat this as a costly expenditure to ward off misfortune.'

A geotechnical engineering expert told The Straits Times it appears that the wall could have collapsed after rainwater collected in the soil behind the wall, exerting pressure on it.

Professor Leung Chun Fai, from the department of civil engineering at the National University of Singapore, said: 'This can usually be avoided if 'weep holes' are constructed in walls to allow the water to pass through. The holes will then have to be cleared frequently because leaves and other objects might block them over time.'

Top Condo Units Vie For F1 Pie

Source : My Paper, Fri, Sep 05, 2008

EXPENSIVE rates and full bookings at Singapore's more popular five-star hotels are driving Formula One tourists to look elsewhere.

Premium rooms are available at cheaper rates - not across the Causeway or in neighbouring Bintan island - but right in the heart of town.

The Hotel Alternatives (THA) claims it is the first known company here to capitalise on the luxury-vacation rental concept. It has 50 fully-furnished apartments with en-suite bedrooms nestled in various condominium estates in Tomlinson Road, Somerset and LeonieHill - the prestigious districts nine and 10.

With the world's first F1 night race kicking off on Sept 26 and 40,000 tourists expected for the three-day event, THA hopes to capture spillover visitors, like Mr Sonny Alo, who have been unable to secure rooms at popular five-star hotels.

The Ferrari fan from Cebu City in the Philippines wanted to book rooms at the Meritus Mandarin this month, but was told that the five-star hotel was full.

The 38-year-old moneylender then turned to THA. He has booked a room in Horizon Towers for US$220 (S$315) a night from Sept 26 to 29. In comparison, hotel rates can be as high as $1,500 a night, with a minimum stay of three to five nights.

"I'm very used to five-star hotels and I wanted to stay in Orchard Road because my wife wants to go shopping while I'm at the race," said the Kimi Raikkonen fan in a phone interview with my paper.

Mr Anook, 57, a deputy commissioner from Delhi, India, will also be staying at Horizon Towers with four of his family members from Sept 22 to 29, at a total cost of $3,300.

He had chosen to visit Singapore during this period because his teenage son and nephew are "into F1 car racing".

THA, established in 2005, belongs to Les Vacances Maison Haute Couture International, which is in turn owned by a group of angel investors. The company also deals in properties in Shanghai and Indonesia. Currently, 56 out of the 83 boutique rooms set aside for F1 tourists have been taken up.

THA's apartments belong to home-owners who are not utilising their properties. They are located in potential en-bloc estates like Horizon Towers and Elizabeth Heights.

Thirty apartments have been rented out to expatriates on long-term leases, and the remainder are available for shortterm stay. These are highly popular with Indonesian tourists, particularly during the Great Singapore Sale.

The vacation-rental arrangement makes financial sense to en-bloc property owners for obvious reasons:While waiting for en-bloc deals to be sealed, they might as well make extra cash from apartments they have already vacated.

Home-owners get a 50 per cent cut of what tenants pay THA.

Tenants enjoy free Internet access and over 30 channels of digital cable TV, on top of the usual condo facilities.

Mr Anook said he saves at least 20 per cent by opting for a huge family room with THA than if he had taken two hotel rooms in the Orchard Road belt.

He said: "It's not just about the price, as I'm aware that there are cheaper hotels in areas like Geylang. It's the location."

全球地价最贵10条街 香港施勳道名列第二

Source : 《联合早报》September 5, 2008


据英国《星期日泰晤士报》刊登的该项排名所提供的数据,施勳道(Severn Road)土地售价高达每平方英尺6090英镑(1万5469新元)。