Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Home Prices Have Peaked 'But Won't Crash'

Source : The Straits Times, Sep 10, 2008

HIGH-END home prices have dropped by about 15 per cent to 20 per cent and will 'stabilise at this level', Wing Tai Holdings deputy chairman Edmund Cheng said yesterday.

The United States sub-prime crisis has affected Singapore's property market, he said.

Transactions here in the first half of the year have dropped by about 77 per cent from the same period last year, he added.

'In recent launches and resale of high-end properties, the market experienced about a 15 per cent to 20 per cent drop, but I believe we're going to stabilise here.'

Many developers have strong balance sheets and acquired properties before the property boom last year, so they are sitting on profits and 'will not be forced to sell below what they believe is the right price', he said.

The era of condominiums selling out within days of their launch is over, he said. Property sales in Singapore will see a more 'normal pace', with decent-sized projects taking six months to a year to sell out.

Home prices have 'peaked for now', but they will not crash as long as developers and home sellers hold on to their properties, he added.

Asked about concerns of further home price falls and a potential supply glut in 2010, Mr Cheng replied that these would depend on whether the US financial crisis would deepen.

'If it's really bad, obviously Singapore will be affected. In the meantime, we won't see that (happening).'

Singapore's burgeoning population, especially foreigners who come to the country to live and work, will be able to absorb this supply, he said.

He was speaking on the second day of the annual Forbes Global CEO Conference, held at the Shangri-La hotel.

In a session titled 'Rolling the dice on real estate', a panel of speakers, including Mr Ronnie Chan, the chairman of Chinese developer Hang Lung Properties, spoke on pressing real estate issues.

Mr Chan said China's real estate market had been affected more by domestic economic conditions than the US crisis.

'Real estate is a long-term asset. Some short-term impact will be inevitable, but in the longer-term view, it's not as serious,' he said.

Mr Stanley Gale, the chairman and managing partner of Gale International, a New York-based property developer, said the US sub-prime crisis was a banking crisis, 'not a real estate one'.

It is more difficult for developers to get financing in the US now. Despite the nervousness, however, the market has strong fundamentals, he said.

The office market, for example, especially in the Central Business District, has held on very well, he said. 'The US is open to new ideas and quick to change.'

With the efforts by the US authorities to take over ailing mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the US presidential elections in November, 'we'll see a different economy in the US going into 2009'.

Soft launch for Beach Road condo

Source : The Straits Times, Sep 10, 2008

THE weak property market has forced developer Hong Fok Corp to shun the traditional glitzy condo launch in favour of a 'soft' release of some flats for its new Beach Road project.

The firm is initially releasing 90 flats in the 360-unit Concourse Skyline. An additional 30 units may be sold if demand is strong enough.

'If we can sell 120 units, we'll call it a day,' said Hong Fok director S.E. Cheong. 'We would hold back the rest until the market improves.'

Prices for the one- to four-bedroom apartments will be between $1,500 and $1,800 per sq ft (psf) - or from just below $1 million to around $4.2 million. Sea-facing units will cost $300 psf more than those facing the city, said Mr Cheong.

The 99-year leasehold project near Kampong Glam, next to Parkroyal Hotel, has two tower blocks - one with 40 storeys, the other, 28. About 60 per cent of the flats are one-bedders of about 800 sq ft and two-bedders of around 1,000 sq ft. There are also some penthouses.

There will be a podium block with shops on the first storey and 18 units that Hong Fok will keep for rental. Hong Fok will spend about $200 million to build the Concourse Skyline.

Hong Fok Launches 360-Unit Residential Property At Concourse

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 09 September 2008

The 88 serviced apartments at the Concourse will be redeveloped into a 360-unit residential property. Developer Hong Fok Corporation said the 99-year leasehold units will be "priced to sell" in today's softer property market.

Ninety units of Concourse Skyline will be launched over the next few days in Singapore and Hong Kong. They will be sold at a price of between S$1,580 and S$1,800 psf – about S$1.3 million for a single bedroom unit.

Joseph Tan, executive director, Residential, CB Richard Ellis, said: "This year, in terms of a broad range of transactions, we still see transactions between S$1,500 and S$3,300 psf. So in a sense, we are a bit below that. That's why it's priced to sell."

Hong Fok said while the current serviced residences saw occupancy rates hover around 90 per cent, those units only used up about 60 per cent of the total space available. The remaining 40 per cent was wasted on corridor space.

The developer will tear down the current two towers and rebuild them with the same facade at an estimated S$200 million.

Hong Fok said construction costs are expected to soften by the time building works start in early 2009 and the development will be ready for accommodation by end-2012.

Concourse Skyline will offer a view of the Marina Bay Sand integrated resort and the Singapore Sports Hub.

Units at the 40-storey and 28-storey towers will be designed by top architect Philip Cox, and will include one- to four-bedroom apartments, sky suites, penthouses and super penthouses.

Hong Fok is positive on market sentiment and said it has already received enquiries on about 25 units.

Cheong Sim Eng, executive director, Hong Fok Corporation, said: "With the buyers on hand, we wouldn't want to wait. We have planned this more than two and a half years ago. With the F1 coming, we don't need to wait for a better time to launch."

Analysts from DTZ and CB Richard Ellis noted that three multi-billion-dollar projects – the Kallang Riverside, the Ophir-Rochor Corridor and Marina Bay – surround Concourse Skyline, putting it in good stead for capital appreciation and future rental potential. - CNA/so

Tender Closed On Site At New Upper Changi Road; Top Bid Hits S$282 PSF

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 09 September 2008

The URA has closed the tender on a residential site along New Upper Changi Road, with the highest bid coming in at S$84 million from TID.

This translates to S$282 per square foot (psf) per plot ratio, said CB Richard Ellis.

The 9,875.5 square metre site attracted seven bidders.

CB Richard Ellis said the high number of bidders showed that developers still have an appetite for favourable sites even in the current depressed market.

Based on the highest bid, the consultancy estimates that the break even price for the location could be S$700 to S$750 psf. This translates to a potential sale price range of S$800 to S$850 psf.

Comparable developments in the area, such at the Waterfront Waves condominium near Bedok Reservoir, is going for S$800 psf on the resale market. - CNA/vm

Tanah Merah Residential Site Attracts 7 Bids

Source : The Straits Times, Sep 10, 2008

A TENDER for a choice residential development site right next to Tanah Merah MRT station has attracted a healthy seven bids - proving that even in a subdued market, location is king.

TID placed the highest bid - $84 million, or $282 per sq ft (psf) of potential gross floor area, the Urban Redevelopment Authority said yesterday.

The firm is a partnership between the Hong Leong Group and Japan's leading real estate company Mitsui Fudosan,

Its bid is 12 per cent above the second highest bid - from Sim Lian Land - at $75 million or about $252 psf of potential gross floor area.

Boon Keng Development was third at $61.88 million or about $208 psf of potential gross floor area.

Other bids were much lower, with First Changi Development coming in last at $44.63 million.

The seven bids were a strong showing. 'It's a positive shot in the arm for the property market where sentiment is concerned,' said Knight Frank's head of research and consultancy Nicholas Mak.

He said the 99-year leasehold Tanah Merah Kechil Avenue site generated healthy interest as it is next to an MRT station.

'In light of the current cautious sentiment in the residential market, the amount of interest that this site has generated provides evidence that land parcels in good locations with immediate accessibility to transport links are still sought after by developers,' said CBRE Research director Leonard Tay.

TID's bid is lower than the $318.50 psf per plot ratio price achieved for the nearby Casa Merah site back in 2006.

Property consultants said the breakeven cost of a condo at the Tanah Merah site should be at $700 psf to $750 psf, based on the top bid. This means that TID, if awarded the site, would be able to sell condo units at between $800 psf and $850 psf, they say.

Asia Offers Cushion For Businesses While US Crisis Likely To Worsen

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 09 September 2008

Despite the recent relief following the US government's bailout of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, some business leaders still fear the worst is yet to come.

Speaking at the Forbes Global CEO Conference on Tuesday, they said the current difficult period is also set against Asia's growing domestic demand and under-leveraged financial markets. These can cushion the current downturn and offer opportunities.

Stock markets may have received a temporary boost from the bailout of Fannie and Freddie, but a top business leader warns the United States housing crisis is likely to get worse with more defaults from leveraged buyouts.

Richard F Chandler, chairman, Orient Global Holdings, said: "I would guess if the debt gets re-priced in the weak global environment, we are going to see more defaults, and those defaults are going to be in the same companies that are writing off the mortgage defaults today."

While it may take years for the US economy to recover from the crisis, Asia on the other hand has grown stronger from the financial crisis in 1997.

Businesses are being urged to look for opportunities in Asia, especially as the region is catching up with the US in almost every respect.

John S Chen, chairman, Sybase Inc, said: "What we are seeing is a GDP reshuffling around the world, around sector rotations and around geographic location."

However, oil costs may still pose a threat, with some businessmen expecting prices to top US$200 a barrel in two or three years. - CNA/vm

Experts Say Singapore Has Edge Over Macau As A Gaming Destination

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 09 September 2008

Singapore will have an edge over Macau when the first of its integrated resorts is completed in 2009. This is because the Republic is already an established tourist destination, said gaming experts at the Asian Casinos Executive Summit on Tuesday.

Integrated resorts with casinos are not just about gambling. They now include family-friendly attractions, business-focused trade shows, restaurants and entertainment shows.

This shift away from a purely gambling focus has helped Las Vegas withstand economic shocks in the 1970s and late 1990s and widened its appeal beyond just gamblers. Singapore is expected to follow this trend.

Tim Maland, director of Nevada Commission on Tourism, said: "Times are tough when compared to prior years. But I think in the long term, you have to look out ahead of yourself.

"In several years, when you're looking at the structures that are being constructed here, I'm totally optimistic that we will live through this cycle that we're going through right now, and recover in the future when these facilities are completed.

"I think that will be when the economies of the world are getting stronger again and I have no doubt that these facilities will be successful."

Experts said Singapore will have an edge over established Asian gaming hotspot Macau because it already draws in tourists who come here for shopping and business.

"Macau on the other hand is truly just a gaming destination and will remain a gaming destination for many years until they start to build the infrastructure that Singapore already has," said Andy Nazarechuk, the dean of the Singaporean campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

"So when Singapore opens the integrated resorts, it will jump ahead of Macau in certain aspects - not size, but for the quality of the product that Singapore will offer," he added.

Singapore's integrated resorts also differ from its competitor as they are targeting high rollers for their casino component, whereas Macau's customers are mass market players from China, Taiwan and Japan.

Singapore's first integrated resort, the Marina Bay Sands, is scheduled to be completed at the end of next year. - CNA/vm

Size Up Home Supply Again

Source : The Straits Times, Sep 9, 2008

Figures predicting ample numbers don't take into account delayed projects

WHAT a difference a year makes.

Just last year, all official hands were on deck to calm what was seen as an overheating property market.

To help keep soaring home prices in check, the Government released an unprecedented amount of data on the housing market.

It also deviated from usual practice to draw attention, in its quarterly updates, to the huge number of new homes in the supply pipeline.

This figure jumped by more than 10,000 units over the past year to reach almost 70,000 now.

To gauge how enormous this number is, just consider that it is about seven times the average number of new homes bought yearly since 2001.

The supply numbers were meant to reassure potential buyers that there were plenty to go round and they need not rush to buy.

Today, however, the property market is nowhere near as feverish as it was last year.

It is pertinent to ask whether this number is the best measure to guide potential buyers who no longer need assurance that there is enough in the pipeline but are now concerned there might be too many.

Developers have adjusted to the cooling market sentiment by putting off sales. So the Government should also adapt its calculation of supply figures to reflect these new conditions.

It could switch its focus to units already being built and supplement this data with information tailored for a wary market rather than an overexcited one.

The swift change in mood has been striking. Worries over runaway prices and property speculators have given way to a diametrically opposite problem: a protracted slowdown in the property market, sparked by the United States sub-prime mortgage crisis.

Home prices and rents are starting to dip and sales activity has slowed to a crawl. The only speculation taking place these days is about when property prices will crash for real, as no one can agree on whether the slowdown is a blip or the beginning of a downturn.

What is certain, though, is that the massive supply figure, originally meant to restore sanity to a frantic market, is now acting as a drag on already negative sentiment.

Citing these numbers, analysts, including Credit Suisse, DMG & Partners, Barclays and Nomura, have warned of a potential oversupply in coming years. This has formed the basis for their pessimistic outlook on Singapore's property market.

A more accurate reflection of impending supply is to focus on units that have already begun to be built, as opposed to those still on the drawing board.

Given the construction crunch and the fact that developers are delaying launches due to market gloom, homes that were planned during a more bullish time could now be postponed indefinitely.

This change alone would more than halve the banner supply figure that has etched itself in bearish minds.

According to the latest data released by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) in July, the total supply of homes in the pipeline has jumped to 67,569.

But a closer look at the data shows that construction has started on only 31,176 of these units.

Another reason to highlight the figures under construction is that they tend to stay more stable from quarter to quarter, unlike the total supply number, which fluctuates according to developers' reactions to changing sentiment.

In the first quarter this year, the total number of homes expected to be ready next year and in 2010 alone was 30,296. Just three months later, URA revised this figure down by almost a third to 22,206 units, after developers submitted modified completion estimates in the light of delayed projects.

But the number of units actually under construction remained pretty much the same across the two quarters, at about 17,000 homes.

Making the change to focus on units under construction would be far from radical. In fact, before 2006, that was exactly what the URA did.

Apart from this, the URA should also divulge how many units have had their scheduled completion dates pushed back, and to which years.

This would throw light on the extent of delays in project completions, something the overall supply figure alone cannot communicate, and the current data only hint at.

The latest figures, for instance, show about 10,400 homes expected to be completed next year. But three months ago, there were 12,800. Have these missing 1,400 units been pushed back to 2010, finished ahead of schedule this year or taken out of the equation altogether?

The 2010 predictions fare even worse: The forecast for completions that year has been reduced from 17,500 units to 11,800 in just three months. When are these lost units expected to come on the market?

Another useful measure would be to break down expected supply by location, completion year and construction status.

The URA only provides the number of unsold units in each of three broad districts: the core central region, city-fringe areas and suburban locations.

If the URA could give this additional data by postal district, it would reveal valuable information about which areas might be in danger of oversupply. Quarter-on-quarter, it would also show how home supply is adjusting across different areas in reaction to demand.

Property consultancy CB Richard Ellis (CBRE) has already flagged a possible glut in the prime districts and in the East Coast, which have turned into major building sites after developers snapped up land there in the last two years.

The problem is that CBRE's supply figures do not gel with the URA's. But unless the Government releases more relevant information - and property developers cooperate to boost transparency - the question of supply overhang will continue to hang over the market for some time.

Pending Home Resales Down 3.2%

Source : The Business Times, September 10, 2008


Higher than forecast fall in July points to growing glut of unsold properties

(WASHINGTON) Fewer Americans than forecast signed contracts to purchase previously owned homes in July, a sign that slowing demand will keep adding to the glut of unsold properties.

The index of pending home resales fell 3.2 per cent after a revised 5.8 per cent gain in June, the National Association of Realtors said yesterday in Washington. The decline is the fourth this year as tighter credit conditions keep would-be buyers from taking advantage of lower prices.

Thirty-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 6.29 per cent in July, up from an average of 5.81 per cent in the first half of the year. The US government's takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which own or guarantee almost half of American home loans, aims to ensure that mortgage funds remain available and to minimise further declines in the housing market.

'Both the pricing and availability of mortgages remain very restrictive and are major impediments to a rebound in sales,' said Richard DeKaser, chief economist at National City Corp in Cleveland.

Economists had projected the index would fall 1.5 per cent, according to the median of 39 forecasts in a Bloomberg News survey. Estimates ranged from a drop of 3.5 per cent to a 2 per cent gain.

Pending resales were down 6.8 per cent from July 2007, yesterday's housing report showed. Resales dropped the most in the west, where they were down 10.6 per cent from June. They fell 7.5 per cent in the north-east and were unchanged in the south. Pending sales increased 2.8 per cent in the mid-west.

Compared with a year ago, pending resales were down in all regions except the west.

The pending resales report is considered a leading indicator because it tracks contract signings. Closings, which typically occur a month or two later, are tallied in a separate report from the Realtors.

Meanwhile, the Commerce Department reported yesterday that inventories at US wholesalers rose 1.4 per cent in July, twice what analysts had forecast, while sales were down 0.3 per cent, the Commerce Department reported yesterday.

Wall Street analysts polled by Reuters were expecting inventories to rise 0.7 per cent, compared with a 0.9 per cent gain in June, previously reported as 1.1 per cent.

The inventory-to-sales ratio, a measure of how long it would take to sell stocks at the current sales pace, rose to 1.07 months' worth in July from 1.06 months' in June.

The ratio for automotives rose to 1.68 months', the highest since 1.72 months' in December 1997.

While sales declined in July, they rose 3 per cent in June, up from the previously reported 2.8 per cent gain. They also rose 16.5 per cent from a year earlier, and inventories increased 10.6 per cent from July 2007. -- Bloomberg, Reuters

Hong Fok Launches Concourse Skyline

Source : The Business Times, September 10, 2008

Developer releasing 90 residential units in first phase

MAINBOARD-listed property developer Hong Fok Corporation yesterday launched the first phase of a new residential development on Beach Road - the Concourse Skyline.

Clearly prized: The site is at the heart of major attractions such as the upcoming Marina Bay IR

Comprising two towers and a podium complex, the 99-year leasehold development will house 360 units when completed in 2013. Units consist of one to four-bedroom apartments and penthouses, with one-bedroom apartments making up some 40 per cent.

Hong Fok is releasing 90 units in the first phase, and average sale prices could range from $1,500 to $1,800 per sq ft (psf) for the apartments. One-bedroom units, for instance, can go up to 893 sq ft. None of the development's 10 penthouses will be released for now.

The Concourse Skyline is 'priced to sell', said Hong Fok's director SE Cheong, adding that prices would have been higher had the units been sold when the property market was stronger not long ago. He estimated that the first phase could be sold out in a month.

DTZ and CB Richard Ellis are marketing the property and according to DTZ's executive director of research Ong Choon Fah at a media briefing yesterday, 'this project has generated a lot of interest from investors as well as potential owner-occupiers'. Besides Singapore, potential Hong Kong buyers will also get a preview.

One of the Concourse Skyline's selling points is its location. Some units offer sweeping waterfront views, and the site is at the heart of major attractions such as the upcoming Marina Bay integrated resort and Gardens by the Bay.

'We are confident of the location,' said CBRE executive director of residential services Joseph Tan, explaining why the launch went ahead in today's quieter property market.

'We believe there is strong underlying demand in the Singapore market for appropriately priced and unique developments,' Hong Fok's Mr Cheong said.

Depending on take-up for the first phase, Hong Fok could release another 30 units in the next phase.

Mr Cheong said that he would be comfortable holding back remaining units for later launches once around 120 units are sold.

Hong Fok also announced yesterday that it is developing a 68-unit serviced apartment project at the Mid-Levels in Hong Kong through its subsidiary, Winfoong International.

The project is slated for completion in early 2010.

Hong Fok shares closed half a cent higher at 50.5 cents yesterday.

Choice Tanah Merah Condo Site Receives Seven Bids

Source : The Business Times, September 10, 2008

DESPITE the quieter property market and a weak response at some state land sales, a 99-year leasehold condo site next to Tanah Merah MRT station yesterday drew seven bids.

The top bid of $84 million or $282 per sq ft per plot ratio (psf ppr) came from TID - a joint venture between Singapore's Hong Leong Group and Japan's Mitsui Fudosan.

The top bid was within the $250-300 psf ppr range predicted for the plot when it was launched by the Urban Redevelopment Authority in mid-July.

But it is 11 per cent shy of the $318.50 achieved for a neighbouring site - farther from the MRT station - in April 2006, when sentiment was more buoyant. That site is now being developed as the Casa Merah condo.

Commenting on the response at yesterday's tender, an observer said: 'The market is not dead. If a prime site comes along there will be takers, especially at state land tenders.'

Agreeing, DTZ senior director (research) Chua Chor Hoon said: 'I'm not surprised with the outcome of the tender. After all, it was for a mass-market site in an attractive location where there has always been good demand for condos.' TID's bid was 12 per cent above the next highest offer by Sim Lian Land of $75 million or nearly $252 psf ppr. The other bidders were:

# Midview group unit Boon Keng Development ($61.88 million);

# BS Capital subsidiary Bishopsgate Developments ($61.33 million);

# Frasers Centrepoint unit FCL Emerald (3), which bid $53.58 million;

# Hoi Hup Realty ($48.51 million); and

# GuocoLand subsidiary First Changi Development ($44.63 million)

CB Richard Ellis director Leonard Tay estimates that based on TID's bid price, the breakeven cost for a new condo is likely to be $700-750 psf, translating to possible sale prices ranging from $800-850 psf.

'This takes into account recent comparables, the current market, much higher construction costs and the new planning guidelines on bay windows and planter boxes,' he said.

'Waterfront Waves, a new condo at Bedok Reservoir, is currently being marketed at $800 psf on average. A sub-sale unit at Casa Merah, was sold at $783 psf in August, while in the resale market, older units in East Meadows were transacted at an average of $660 psf in the first half of 2008.'

The 106,299 sq ft plot on offer at yesterday's tender has a 2.8 plot ratio - ratio of maximum potential gross floor area to land area - and can be developed into a condo with 240-250 units averaging 1,200 sq ft.

CBRE's Mr Tay said the future project on the site will be attractive to HDB upgraders living in Bedok, Tampines and Marine Parade and private homeowners in the East Coast area.

'It will also be attractive to expats looking to rent homes along major transport nodes,' he added.

S'pore Moves Up In World Of Global Business Hubs

Source : The Business Times, September 10, 2008

It pips Chicago, HK to take 4th spot in MasterCard study

Singapore has been ranked the fourth best centre of commerce worldwide, just behind Tokyo, according to a recent study of 75 global cities.

It was also considered the best city for ease of doing business, ahead of Hong Kong, London, Toronto and New York.

The latest Worldwide Centres of Commerce Index published by MasterCard ranks 75 cities, based on seven broad criteria including their legal and political framework, economic stability, ease of doing business, knowledge creation and information flow, and quality of life.

As businesses expand beyond their home market, an understanding of the advantages that different cities have to offer will prove to be an indispensable competitive edge, said the report's authors.

'While many multinational companies may claim to be global businesses today, in the coming decades only those capable of building a globally integrated structure will rise above the competition.'

London, New York, and Tokyo retained the top three spots respectively in this year's ranking, but Singapore moved up two rungs, overtaking Chicago at No 5 and Hong Kong - its main rival in Asia - at No 6.

Paris moved up one spot to No 7, while Frankfurt slid to No 8 from No 7 last year. Seoul stayed at No 9, while Amsterdam moved from No 11 to No 10, displacing Los Angeles, which slid to No 17.

Singapore ranked second only to Stockholm for its legal and political framework, and ahead of more established financial centres such as New York and London.

The cities ranked top for economic stability were all in Western Europe - Vienna in first place, and Barcelona and Madrid tied in second place.

HDB Upgraders Come Out To Play In Quiet Market

Source : The Business Times, September 10, 2008

Their share of private home purchases rises, that of foreigners falls

When the property market is hot, foreign buyers are in action. When it quietens, HDB upgraders take the spotlight.

HDB upgraders' share of private home purchases rose to 34 per cent in Q2 2008 from just 28 per cent share in Q1 2008. This is the highest quarterly figure in at least three years, according to DTZ's analysis of caveats captured by Urban Redevelopment Authority's Realis system.

The number of private homes bought by those with HDB addresses also increased 35 per cent quarter-on-quarter to 1,199, outpacing a 3 per cent increase over the same period in the number of private homes picked up by those with private addresses.

In absolute terms in Q2, HDB upgraders picked up the most number of units in The Verve in the Balestier area - 36 - followed by 32 at Stadia at Yio Chu Kang Road in the primary market (from developers). Proportionately, The Quartz was the most popular with 86 per cent of its buyers being upgraders.

Developers are targeting this segment. 'Developers have been pricing launches at more realistic prices and some developers have arranged for banks to offer attractive mortgage schemes for buyers,' said DTZ executive director Ong Choon Fah.

Meanwhile, the buyers of 97 of the 169 primary market transactions of private apartments/condos below 1,000 sq ft and costing at most $1,000 psf in Q2 had HDB addresses. 'This could be partly due to singles who are staying with parents in HDB flats purchasing for either investment or owner-occupation,' DTZ said.

HDB upgraders have also been more active in Q2 in the secondary market, where prices have dropped by as much as 10-12 per cent in Q2 2008 over Q1 2008 in some instances, Mrs Ong said.

The number of private apartments/condos changing hands in the subsale market bought by those with HDB addresses increased 52 per cent Q-on-Q to 152 deals in Q2 2008.

'HDB upgraders can more easily upgrade to private properties as HDB resale flat prices are still rising, while prices for some private properties have fallen,' DTZ said.

The median price for private apartments/condos picked up by HDB upgraders in the subsale market declined 8 per cent Q-on-Q to $871 psf in Q2 this year.

Subsales - often seen as a reflection of speculative activity - refer to secondary market deals in projects that have yet to receive their Certificates of Statutory Completion.

The total number of subsales for non-landed private homes rose 25 per cent quarter-on-quarter to 493 in Q2 2008. They made up about 17 per cent share of transactions of non-landed private homes in Q2.

'This is high considering that there's very little speculation now compared with last year. Rather, the subsale activity in Q2 seems to have been fuelled by those who'd bought units in the past few years unloading their investments as their units reach or near completion,' DTZ said.

The median subsale price (of non-landed private homes) continued to fall by 5 per cent quarter-on-quarter to $1,052 psf in Q2 after sliding 8 per cent in Q1 and 4 per cent in Q4 2007. 'This was due to fewer high-end units being transacted in the subsale market as well as slight price corrections. Owners are now more realistic in asking prices,' DTZ said.

Median subsale prices of Citylights and The Sail @ Marina Bay were $1,100 psf and $1,810 psf respectively in Q2 2008, down about 2 and 14 per cent respectively from Q1.

Meanwhile, the number of private homes acquired by foreigners (including permanent residents) rose 3 per cent Q-on-Q to 913 in Q2. Foreigners bought 26 per cent of total private homes in the quarter, down slightly from a 28 per cent share in Q1.

DTZ senior director Chua Chor Hoon observed that 'when private property prices are high, there are more foreigners as they are attracted by the growth story. When private property prices are low, there are more purchasers with HDB addresses as it's a good opportunity to upgrade at more affordable levels.

'The price gap between HDB resale flats and private properties is also narrower, so the outlay is smaller for HDB upgraders who can use the sale proceeds from their HDB flats to pay off part of the private property purchase price.'

MBFC Bags BHP Billiton, Macquarie Group As Tenants

Source : The Business Times, September 10, 2008

Australia's BHP Billiton and Macquarie Group are among the latest tenants announced for Marina Bay Financial Centre (MBFC), a major office development being built in Singapore's Marina Bay area.

Resources group BHP Billiton will lease 142,000 sq ft on levels 44 to 50 of MBFC's Tower 2 while Macquarie will take over 74,000 sq ft on levels 16 to 18. Both tenancies are for 10 years with options for renewal and expansion. Murex Southeast Asia, which is involved in software development for trading, risk management and processing, has leased 25,000 sq ft on level 19 under a six-year tenancy agreement. With the latest leasing deals, MBFC's first phase is 65.6 per cent preleased, a statement by Raffles Quay Asset Management on Wednesday, Sept 10, said.

The company manages MBFC project as well as the neigbouring One Raffles Quay, which has been completed.

Did Bumper $539m Death Tax Come From Them?

Source : The Straits Times, Sep 10, 2008

WHILE the Government has read the last rites over the estate duty, the levy has not given up the ghost without delivering the taxman one last bumper haul.

A whopping $539 million was assessed in the 12 months to March 31, more than five times the $105 million assessed in the 2007 tax year.

Estate duty assessed basically means the taxman bills on an estate, but the payment may not be immediate, as wills and so forth can take many months to settle.

Out of the $29 billion that went into the Government's tax coffers over the last year, $153 million were estate duties collected, said the annual report from Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) released on Monday.

Speculation is rife as to which wealthy individuals caused the dramatic appreciation of estate duties assessed.

Two candidates spring immediately to the minds of tax experts: well-known banker and philanthropist Tan Chin Tuan and Chemoil boss Robert Chandran.

Mr Tan, who died in November 2005 at the age of 98, was said to own or control large blocks of shares in listed companies, including OCBC Bank, Great Eastern Life and Straits Trading.

While Mr Tan - known as Mr OCBC - died well before the latest estate duties were assessed, tax experts do not rule out that it was this levy on his assets that has generated the Iras windfall.

'It takes time for estates to be settled, and only the taxman knows,' said Mr Ivan Png, Lim Kim San professor of business policy at the National University of Singapore.

An Iras spokesman said: 'We can't tell you which estates contributed to the increase due to the secrecy provisions of the tax acts.'

In an earlier analysis, Prof Png cast some doubt about Mr Tan being behind the tax windfall. He said there were 'no obvious spikes' in estate duty collection around the time of his death.

'The closest was $29.7 million in May 2006, which seems trivial relative to the late banker's wealth. So, probably, the famously meticulous Mr Tan had undertaken very careful estate planning,' wrote Prof Png.

Mr Chandran, who died in a helicopter crash in Indonesia in January, is the other most likely candidate.

The Indian-born entrepreneur founded Chemoil Energy and amassed personal wealth estimated at US$490 million (S$702 million) before his death at 57.

Ms Paula Eastwood, head of corporate tax at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said some cases may take longer due to delays in the submission of forms to the taxman or perhaps various disagreements over an estate's value.

Estate duty had to be paid within six months of a person's death or penalties and interest apply.

The duty is a legacy of the British colonial administration and is in effect a levy on a person's assets after death.

The first $9 million of residential property and the first $600,000 of all other assets, including CPF savings, were exempt. Amounts above those levels were taxed at 5 per cent for the first $12 million and 10 per cent for anything above that.

Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam axed the levy in last February's Budget.

Tax experts said the move will cost the Government some money but it will not be a huge loss.

The biggest contributors to Iras coffers is from income and corporate taxes, stamp duty and the goods and services tax (GST). GST contributions jumped from $4 billion to $6.2 billion.

Meanwhile, the number of people here with assessable income over the magic million-dollar mark shot up by nearly 30 per cent to 2,751 in 2007, the Iras report showed.

KPMG tax services executive director Ooi Boon Jin said strong economic growth meant fatter pay packets, which in turn meant more income tax. Also, people with more money in their pockets spent more, so GST and other revenue rose, he said.

Singapore Luxury Hotel Dedicates Floor To The Ladies

Source : Reuters, Wed, Sep 10, 2008

A luxury boutique hotel in Singapore has set aside a whole floor for women, decking it out with designer amenities and female-only staff.

The Naumi hotel, which opened this year in Singapore's central business district, said the concept was intended to give women travellers a sense of security and privacy in luxurious surroundings.

"There weren't any hotels we knew that had a dedicated floor for ladies," marketing manager Adeline Quek told Reuters.

"More women are travelling around the Asia Pacific, whether it is for work, business or leisure and we wanted to provide them with a sense of peace and a feeling of being at home.

The 40-suite hotel has five ladies-only suites, hidden behind a glass panel on one floor which is accessed by a key card system. A sign on the panel reads "Naumi says... for ladies only" and men are strictly forbidden.

Special female touches on the floor include in-room cosmetics such as make-up remover, toner and aromatherapy products from all-natural Australian brand Aesop and pink and grey flowery wallpaper.

Quek said guests were mainly business executives and well-heeled women on shopping trips or holiday from Europe, Australia, Indonesia and Hong Kong. Occupancy of the floor has been 80 percent since the hotel opened, she added.

And if female guests want to entertain men in their room, Quek said the hotel recommends they stay in their regular suites.

Rooms at the Naumi are priced at between $420 and $600.

Builder's Appeal Thrown Out

Source : The Straits Times, Sep 9, 2008

SINGAPORE'S highest court has thrown out a lawsuit from a contractor that claimed its reputation was damaged by a woman who sent an angry email complaining about leaks in her condo.

The three-judge Court of Appeal called the defamation lawsuit by Hytech Builders a 'tempest in a teacup' on Tuesday and said the firm's beef was 'completely blown out of proportion'.

The decision upheld a lower court ruling and ended a 20-month legal battle between Hytech and stockbroker Goh Teng Poh.

The feud was sparked in Jan 2007 after Ms Goh, frustrated that leaks in her year-old condominium in Ipoh Lane had not been fixed, shot an e-mail message to the building's developer.

In it, she called into question the contractor's financial health.

Hytech, the main contractor for the condominium, sued her for damages. Through lawyers from Rajah & Tann, it claimed the letter tarnished its reputation with CDL, a major real estate player here.

When the case was first heard in the High Court last year, Justice Judith Prakash agreed that the statement was defamatory.

But she said Ms Goh sent the email with the intent of getting the leak fixed, and not to damage Hytech's reputation. Ms Goh was not liable for damages as she was driven by a duty to pass on the information, not malice, the judge ruled. Her defence of qualified privilege applied.

In his submissions before the Appeals Court, Senior Counsel Andre Yeap argued Hytech was hurt by the accusations and urged the judges to imagine themselves in the company's shoes.

The judges dismissed those arguments, saying the e-mail had to be seen in context and was the result of Ms Goh's frustration.

Easiest To Do Business Here

Source : The Straits Times, Sep 10, 2008

WASHINGTON - SINGAPORE kept its top ranking for the third year in a row as the easiest place in the world to do business, the World Bank said in a report on Wednesday.

The Asian city-state edged out New Zealand and the United States in the 'Doing Business 2009' ranking by the World Bank.

The latest global Doing Business Report released by the World Bank ranked Singapore top among 181 economies.

Filling out the list of the 10 easiest business environments was Hong Kong, Denmark, Britain, Ireland, Canada, Australia and Norway.

The report, examining regulations and how they affect business, ranks 181 economies on the overall ease of doing business.

The top eight countries were in the same order as the 2008 list, but Australia and Norway traded places, according to the report produced by the World Bank and its private-sector financial development arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

At the bottom of the list was Democratic Republic of Congo.

'Economies need rules that are efficient, easy to use, and accessible to all who use them. Otherwise, businesses are trapped in the unregulated, informal economy, where they have less access to finance and hire fewer workers and where workers lack the protection of labour law,' said Mr Michael Klein, World Bank/IFC vice president for financial development.

Singapore ranked first on international trade and employing workers, and second on protecting investors and closing a business.

New Zealand afforded the greatest ease in protecting investors and starting a business. The United States led in making it easy to hire workers.

Among the world's largest economies, Japan held steady at number 12 from last year, while Germany fell to 25 from 20, China rose to 83 from 90 and Britain was unchanged in the sixth position. France moved up one spot to number 31.

Among rapidly growing emerging economies, Russia fell nine places to 120th place and India slipped two notches to number 122.

Saudi Arabia was the best performer in the Middle East, moving up to the 16th spot from 24, ahead of Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.

The report also looks at countries' progress in making regulatory reforms that enhance business operations.

Azerbaijan is this year's leading reformer, and jumped to 33 on the list from 96 last year, followed by Albania, at 86 from 135, and Kyrgyzstan, at 68 from 99.

'Among the large emerging markets, China led the way - reforms there make it easier to access credit, pay taxes, and enforce contracts,' the World Bank said.

The 185-nation development lender also highlighted Africa's 'record year for regulatory reforms', saying 28 countries had completed 58 reforms in the criteria studied.

Still, nine of the 10 most difficult countries to do business were African, with Venezuela the sole exception.

In descending order, the worst were Niger, Eritrea, Venezuela, Chad, Sao Tome and Principe, Burundi, Republic of Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo. -- AFP

上海8月二手房价格 22个月来首次下跌

Source : 《联合早报》September 10, 2008









鸿福中心11层建筑将拆 改建两座中高档公寓

Source : 《联合早报》September 10, 2008

鸿福集团(Hong Fok Corporation)将拆掉美芝路(Beach Road)鸿福中心(The Concourse)的一栋11层楼建筑,斥资2亿元兴建一个私人公寓项目“The Concourse Skyline”,成为美芝路地区第一个私宅项目,也是“鬼月”(中元节)后首几个推出本地市场的项目之一。鸿福中心的另一栋41层办公大楼则将保留原状。





她说:“这样的价格显然是在求售。根据资料,滨海舫(The Sail@Marina Bay)在第二季的中位价是1800元,劳明达的City Lights成交价约1100元。发展商虽然不会大幅度削价来推动市场,但势必将以更实际的价格来求售。”

另一个推出部分单位进行市场探温的发展商吉宝置业于两周前推出的Reflections at Keppel Bay的单位预售,至今在25个单位中已售出一半,平均尺价超过2000元。