Friday, November 28, 2008

Lend Lease Makes Progress In Leasing Of Orchard Mall

Source : The Business Times, November 28, 2008

LEND Lease says it has found over 50 per cent of the retailers it needs for 313@Somerset Orchard Road.

Lend Lease development director Michael Kenderes would not reveal expected rents, but he said Lend Lease has 'agreed terms' with these retailers and expects to sign letters of offer early next year.

313@Somerset is one of three new malls opening on Orchard Road next year. Targeted at the mid-market segment, the mall has 294,000 sq ft of net lettable area with about 180 retail and F&B outlets.

Mr Kenderes did not reveal the names of any retailers but said that it had undertaken surveys and focus groups to arrive at the mall's positioning. 'It's not going to be all things to all people,' he added.

As a part of 313@Somerset's USP (unique selling position) Lend Lease will be focusing on service standards and will open a $1 million Retail Training and Employment Centre to provide retail training to the employees of its retailers. Mr Kenderes said that this was prompted by 'the retail industry's need for skilled workers geared towards service excellence'.

Lend Lease says it will fund around 60 per cent of the training centre and expects to seek additional funding through various government agencies.

Already six months into planning, Lend Lease is working with the Singapore Workforce Development Agency on obtaining course accreditation and expects to train about 1,000 employees a year. So far, it has about 600 potential trainees.

The training centre will focus on the Customer Centric Initiative programme developed by Spring Singapore.

Priority will be given to 313@Somerset's retailer's employees but additional space will be opened up to anyone interested.

The training programme will also be free.

Already, tenant Charles Wong of Charles & Keith is happy about being able to save on its business costs. Mr Wong said that his company spends about $20,000 on training a year. 'This will help to save cost, especially for SMEs for whom training is not top of mind during a downturn,' he added.

Mr Kenderes said that in Singapore alone, the training centre is expected to save over $3 million in potential savings from hiring costs, training costs and downtime.

The centre is expected to be fully operational by mid-2009.

URA Releases Reserve-List Hotel Site For Application

Source : The Business Times, November 28, 2008

Market watchers don't see any takers until at least mid-'09

THE Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) yesterday released for application through the reserve list a plum hotel site at Bukit Chermin flanked by Keppel Club and the Reflections at Keppel Bay condo project.

Despite the site's attractive location in hilly terrain along the coast, some market watchers do not expect takers to emerge until mid-2009 at the earliest, given the grim property investment climate.

Any eventual bids for the 60-year-leasehold plot will be assessed under a dual-envelope system, taking into account concept and land price. The 3 ha plot is expected to yield about 50-70 hotel rooms/ villas.

The plot was initially on the second-half 2008 confirmed list but was moved to the reserve list late last month.

Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels executive vice-president Chee Hok Yean said it is difficult to pin down the site's value because of a combination of substantial construction costs expected for the project, the tight funding market and higher returns sought by potential investors given the current situation in the hotel business as operating profits trend down.

The site may be triggered for launch by investors towards second-half 2009, Ms Chee said. 'At least business sentiment should be a lot clearer by then.'

Cushman & Wakefield Singapore's managing director Donald Han also puts the earliest trigger date for the site at mid-2009. Hopefully by then, too, construction costs will have come down, which might also entice investors to apply for the site's release, he said.

URA said: 'The release of the site for a distinctive lifestyle hotel development will enhance the attractiveness of the Southern Waterfront and Southern Ridges.'

With panoramic views of Keppel Harbour, the plot, which has a maximum permissible gross floor area of 107,639 sq ft, is envisaged to be developed into a lifestyle hotel, URA said.

The site includes four pre-war black-and-white bungalows that are now leased for housing but will have to be restored and adapted for new uses by the successful tenderer. New buildings with panoramic views towards the harbour can be built, interspersed with the exiting bungalows, to create a unique development, URA said.

Developers interested in bidding for the site can make an application to URA accompanied by an undertaking to bid a minimum price. If this price is acceptable to the state, the plot will be launched for tender. Tenderers have to submit their concept proposals and bid prices in two separate envelopes. The concept proposals will first be evaluated against criteria including business and development concepts.

At the second stage, the price envelopes of proposals with acceptable concepts will be opened and the site will be awarded to the tenderer with the highest bid among those with acceptable concept proposals.

Jurong East Reserve Site Available For Application

Source : The Business Times, November 28, 2008

Urban Redevelopment Authority on Friday made available for application a 'white' site next to Jurong East MRT Station through the reserve list.

The 1.9 hectare site can be developed into a maximum gross floor area of about 1.15 million sq ft, of which at least 30 per cent must be set aside for office use and the rest for additional office use or other uses permitted under the white site zoning such as commercial (for example, retail and entertainment), hotel and residential uses.

The 99-year leasehold plot is the first sale site being offered in URA's Jurong Gateway precinct since URA unveiled plans for the Jurong Lake District earlier this year. Jurong Gateway is the commercial hub of the Jurong Lake District.

'Given its strategic location, it is vital that the proposed development on the first sale site in Jurong Gateway is a well designed landmark development with appropriate quality. Hence, the design of the proposed development will be reviewed by a Design Advisory Panel (DAP), chaired by URA. The DAP will work with and guide the development team in the design of the development after the tender has been awarded,' URA said.

Under the government's reserve list system, a site will only be put up for tender if the developer's indicated minimum bid price in his application is acceptable to the government. When the site is put up for tender, a tender period of about 16 weeks will be allowed before tender closes.

The tender for the Jurong East site will be awarded on the basis of land bids.

CityDev's M&C's Sale Of Hilton Seoul Is Off

Source : The Business Times, November 28, 2008

City Developments' London-listed hotel unit Millennium & Copthorne Hotels (M&C) announced on Friday that the agreement for the disposal of Millennium Seoul Hilton to Kangho AMC Co has been terminated with immediate effect.

The buyer was unable to finalise its financing arrangements by the extended completion date of Nov 28.

The sale, announced in June this year, was to have been for about 580 billion Korean won (around S$767 million at the time.

On Sept 19, 2008, M&C announced that Kangho had asked the company for an extension of the completion date originally scheduled on Sept 30, 2008, whilst it finalised the terms of its financing arrangements. On Sept 29, 2008, M&C announced that the company and Kangho had agreed, among other things, to the amendment of the completion date of the disposal from Sept 30, 2008, to Nov 28, 2008.

'M&C today announces that while the company was ready, willing and able to complete the disposal, Kangho has, in the current difficult financial markets, been unable to finalise its financing arrangements and, consequently, the remainder of the purchase price remains unpaid,' M&C said in its statement.

The agreement for the disposal has therefore terminated with immediate effect.

Following the termination of the disposal, the Millennium Seoul Hilton will continue to be managed by the M&C group.

Gov't Has Important Role In Property Market: Mah

Source : The Business Times, November 26, 2008

The Government has an important role in ensuring the long-term stability and smooth functioning of the property market, said Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan at the Real Estate Developers' Association of Singapore's (Redas) anniversary dinner tonight.

'Let me first highlight why the real estate sector is important to us,' Mr Mah said.

Mr Mah's comments comes in the wake of public queries over the government's role in the property market, with some wondering if the land prices should be left to market forces.

Mr Mah said there are mainly 3 key reasons.

'First, it is a major economic sector in Singapore. The real estate services and construction sectors together accounted for about 9.6 per cent of overall GDP and 13 per cent of total employment in Singapore in 2007. Second, the health of the property market affects other major sectors of the economy. Third, as a country with the highest rate of home-ownership of more than 90 per cent, the property sector is where most of us have invested our hard-earned lifelong savings.'

The Government will do whatever is within its means to help all the various economic sectors in Singapore cope with the current crisis and mitigate the impact on businesses, Mr Mah said.

For the property market specifically, the Government will ensure that the supply of land released for development is well calibrated and sufficient to meet demand over the medium to long term. It will also give developers the flexibility to activate Government Land Sales supply according to market demand by using a pre-dominantly market-led approach through the use of the Reserve List.

The authorities will also provide detailed real estate information to enhance market transparency and allow informed decision-making by market players, and will put in place policies that ensure that systemic risks to both the demand and supply sides are minimised, thus safeguarding the overall health of the property market, Mr Mah added.

Finally, the Government will also guard against irrational market behaviour such as excessive speculation that is not in sync with economic fundamentals, Mr Mah said.

Crisis Bites Deeper Into Asia

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 28, 2008

TOKYO - ASIAN economic giants Japan and India on Friday revealed fresh damage from the global financial crisis, which has battered international trade and consumer spending.

Japan slipped deeper into recession with factory output tumbling 3.1 per cent and consumer spending dropping 3.8 per cent in October, official data showed.

The figures were 'stunningly bad,' said Societe Generale's chief Asia economist, Glenn Maguire.

'Japan's industrial activity is set to worsen in the near-term, perhaps by an unprecedented degree, as exports to the US have plunged over the past year,' he warned.

Rising economic powerhouse India said its economic growth slowed to 7.6 per cent in the third quarter of 2008, from 7.9 per cent in the second.

While it was still a respectable performance at a time when many developed economies are in recession, the slowdown in India highlights the extent to which the US-born financial crisis has spread around the world.

There was also bad news from South Korea, where industrial production fell 2.3 per cent in October in a sign that the export-driven economy is slowing faster than expected.

Investors mostly managed to look beyond the gloomy news, hoping that interest rate cuts and stimulus spending would eventually turn things around.

Tokyo ended up 1.7 per cent in light trade after Thursday's Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, while Seoul rose 1.2 per cent and Sydney jumped 4.3 per cent. But Shanghai finished with a loss of 2.4 per cent as investors took profits after the previous day's strong gains.

The main Bombay Stock Exchange opened 1.4 per cent lower Friday, a day after being forced to shut down due to a coordinated attack by gunmen across the city, which left at least 130 people dead.

While some analysts believe stocks are now looking cheap, others see little prospect of a recovery in the current climate of fear and gloom over the global economy.

European markets got off to a lacklustre start. The London FTSE 100 rose 0.15 per cent at the open while the Paris CAC 40 slipped 0.29 per cent and the Frankfurt DAX was flat.

The region continued to feel the fallout from the financial crisis.

Britain's Royal Bank of Scotland said the government would end up with a 57.9 per cent stake in the bank after a share issue to raise funds to help it cope with the financial crisis.

A survey showed consumer and business confidence in the European Union slumped in November to the lowest level in 23 years in the face of the looming recession.

General Motors' boss in Europe wrote to staff telling them that the troubled US automaker needed to cut European costs aggressively if it was to survive as vehicle markets slump.

In the once-booming steel industry, ArcelorMittal said it could slash up to 9,000 jobs across the group worldwide through voluntary redundancies.

British retail group Woolworths, which employs 25,000 people, said it was close to bankruptcy.

With developed nations focused on efforts to boost their own recession-ridden economies, the World Bank urged donors not to abandon poor countries hit by the financial crisis.

Developing countries 'find themselves at the mercy of a crisis not of their making,' World Bank President Robert Zoellick said ahead of a UN development conference this weekend.

'A retreat to protectionism or economic nationalism by developed countries will hurt them even further,' he added. -- AFP

Malaysia To Escape Recession

Source : The Straits Times, Nov 28, 2008

KUALA LUMPUR - MALAYSIA is likely to escape a recession next year and post a modest growth despite the global financial crisis due to strong consumer demand and public spending, the central bank said Friday.

Ms Zeti (pictured) said since Malaysia was not hit by such problems, the economy will enjoy growth and not face 'a risk of a recession.' The government earlier this month announced a 7.0 billion ringgit (S$3.02 billion) stimulus programme and warned growth would slow substantially in 2009. --PHOTO: BH

'We expect to have positive growth next year,' central bank governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz told reporters.

Malaysia's top trading partner neighbouring Singapore and Asia's largest economy Japan are already in a recession.

Ms Zeti said if the global financial crisis does not worsen, Malaysia would post a growth of 3.5 per cent in 2009.

'Domestic demand has become the engine of growth. Our financial system is not facing the financial stress. We have ample liquidity in the system.

'We have no large scale retrenchments. We are creating jobs. We are in an economy where there is no asset burst,' she added.

Ms Zeti said since Malaysia was not hit by such problems, the economy will enjoy growth and not face 'a risk of a recession.' The government earlier this month announced a 7.0 billion ringgit (S$3.02 billion) stimulus programme and warned growth would slow substantially in 2009.

The spending package, reaped from savings on reduced oil subsidies, is to be spent on 'high-impact' projects including roads, schools and low-cost housing.

Earlier Ms Zeti announced Malaysia posted a slower growth of 4.7 per cent in the third quarter amid a 'sharp deterioration in the global economic and international financial environment.'

The central bank revised upwards second quarter growth to 6.7 per cent from 6.3 per cent. Malaysia posted 7.1 per cent growth in the first three months of 2008.

Zeti said Malaysia would register economic growth of 3.5 to 4.5 per cent in the fourth quarter while for the whole year it would post five to 5.5 per cent growth.

'We said the next 12 months will be a challenging period. Despite that we expect our growth (this year) to be five to 5.5 per cent,' she said.

Ms Zeti also said Malaysia had at its disposal a string of measures to sustain strong consumer demand, which will be introduced if there is a major economic downturn among its Asian neighbours and the world.

'This would relate to fiscal and other measures to attract foreign direct investments. It could also include monetary policies. A wide range of measures will be implemented if the global economic situation worsens.

'The objective is to contain the impact on our economy. It is to ensure there is access to financing,' she added.

Ms Zeti said inflation had peaked at 8.4 per cent and would moderate next year.

'In the second half of 2009, it will fall below 3.9 per cent.' -- AFP

组屋房地产税不变 私宅可能得付更多

Source :《联合早报》November 28, 2008


财政部发言人回复本报询问时说,以今年至今的市场情况来说,明年的组屋年值(annual values)应该调高。