Thursday, December 11, 2008

Whiff Of Hollywood To Touch Buona Vista

Source : The Business Times, December 11, 2008

Singapore aims big with billion-dollar media hub at one-north

Locals could be rubbing shoulders with movie stars and Hollywood bigwigs at the one-north cluster in the near future.

And films like box-office hit 300, part of a new wave of films that rely extensively on state-of-the-art digital movie studios, could be spawned from studios coming up in a new 19 hectare Buona Vista enclave, called Mediapolis@one-north.

In the frame: Mr Chan, second from left, with MDA, JTC and IDA officials yesterday

Singapore's new media hub is a billion-dollar mega project that could see more than a dozen buildings sprawled across a lush landscape by 2020.

Announcing Mediapolis at the Asia Television Forum trade show yesterday, Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts Lee Boon Yang said the hub will be a 'crucible' for creating and distributing content from Singapore to the world.

Mediapolis will sit on land roughly the size of 19 football fields adjacent to Portsdown Avenue, a plot now partly occupied by the Ayer Rajah military camp.

It will 'have facilities not found elsewhere in Singapore and become the ideal home for international and local media companies, media schools and R&D (research and development) firms', the minister said.

At yesterday's media briefing, Chan Yeng Kit, chairman of the Mediapolis steering committee, said that Mediapolis is proceeding despite the financial downturn because demand for co-production expertise and facilities remains robust.

Mr Chan, who is also the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (Mica), added: 'In some ways, the downturn does provide a window of opportunity for us, with construction costs coming down. By prepping the ground now and strengthening the whole ecosystem for media with scaled-up infrastructure and greater depth, we will be ready to catch the tide and gear up for the next stage of growth when recovery comes.'

The media industry is 'fairly recession-proof', he noted, because consumers will still continue to spend on entertainment in a downturn.

Four government agencies will jointly steer Mediapolis. They are the Media Development Authority (MDA), JTC Corporation, the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) and the Economic Development Board (EDB).

Commercial developers are expected to undertake most of the development at the park, alongside JTC. The total gross floor area will come to around 400,000 square metres, according to a JTC spokesman.

Construction will kick off in the first quarter of next year on a 1.2 hectare plot of land. Local media production firm Infinite Frameworks will be Mediapolis' first developer.

The firm yesterday announced that it will be investing between $80 million and $120 million to build Singapore's first purpose-built soundstage complexes. These are hanger- like studios that can be fitted with movie sets and so-called green screens, which are used by studios to create the illusion of on-location shooting.

When completed by 2020, Mediapolis will have movie studios, digital production and broadcast facilities, research labs, games and animation studios, offices, service apartments and high-tech hotels.

There will also be a sprawling park that can host outdoor movie screenings and provide location settings for film companies.

According to JTC assistant chief executive Philip Su, Mediapolis could swell by another 18 hectares in a future second-phase development after 2020. This will likely be sited south of the current 19 hectare plot.

Mediapolis is expected to stoke an already bullish Singapore media industry. According to a joint statement, between 2000 and 2005, this industry reported an annual turnover of US$13.4 billion in revenue, contributing 4.5 per cent, or US$3.6 billion, to Singapore's gross domestic product and employing 53,500 people.

There has also been an influx of overseas projects, with the upcoming shoot of Jan de Bont's Point Break 2 here next year an eye-catching example. A number of global media giants such as Lucasfilm, Linden Lab, EA, Ubisoft and Rainbow SpA have also set up facilities in Singapore.

Prime Office Rentals Coming Down To Earth

Source : The Business Times, December 11, 2008

Q4 sees them crash by up to 20% in some cases as tenants call the shots

Landlords may be frowning but those looking for office space have reason to cheer. After climbing steadily for nearly four years, average Grade A and prime office rental values in Singapore are estimated to have slipped about 20 per cent in the fourth quarter of this year over the preceding quarter, according to latest figures by CB Richard Ellis.

Grade A covers the best office space within CBRE's prime office space basket.

The Q4 decline means that for the whole of this year, the estimated fall in rentals is around 13 per cent for Grade A space and 14 per cent for prime space. 'Modest rental growth featured in the early part of 2008, but the market had peaked by Q3 2008. It was only in Q4 that the sheer depth of the financial crisis pitched the office market into decline,' CBRE executive director Moray Armstrong said.

'We expect further downward pressure on rents through 2009,' he added without elaborating.

The firm estimates the average monthly Grade A office rental value at the end of this year at about $15 per square foot, down from $18.80 psf in Q3. The average prime office rental value in Q4 is estimated to have eased to $12.90 psf from $16.10 psf in Q3. The Q3 figures were unchanged from the preceding three months.

The latest figures confirm that the office upcycle which had seen rents galloping over the past two years has ended.

Office rents nearly doubled last year, rising 96 per cent for Grade A category and 92 per cent for prime space. That was on top of respective gains of 53 and 50 per cent posted in 2006.

Putting the latest rental slide in perspective, Mr Armstrong said: 'The extraordinary pace of rental growth experienced through the past three years was clearly not sustainable and would have been arrested by the increased volume of new supply in the pipeline. We had already anticipated a supply-led softening in the market from 2010 onwards.

'The rapid deterioration in the economy and loss of business confidence have accelerated the process as office demand has dried up.'

Tenant retention is the top priority for existing landlords. Next year is likely to be a market where lease renewals outnumber relocations, Mr Armstrong says.

Cushman & Wakefield Singapore managing director Donald Han predicts Grade A office rents will weaken a further 10-15 per cent in first-half 2009 from current levels. 'Landlords are more keen to provide existing tenants with an incentive to retain them, in terms of rental discounts during lease renewal negotiations; because if they leave, the landlord will suffer downtime until it finds a replacement tenant that will also have to be given fitting-out time. This means loss of rental income.'

The office rental slide reflects a reversal of the market dynamics to a more demand-led rather than a supply-led model, Mr Han argues. 'Office rents had surged because of a shortage of existing office stock; now rents are softening because of weakening demand,' he explains.

Another seasoned market watcher said while a 20 per cent drop in Q4 rentals seems alarming, the absolute drop of about $3.20 to $3.80 psf in monthly rents is not so, given that 'rents were at artificially high levels' on the back of shortage of existing Grade A and prime space.

Grade A vacancy rates had been sub-1 per cent for almost two years before rising to 1.2 per cent in Q3. Some analysts estimate this will rise further to over 2 per cent by end-2008.

CBRE does not expect to see significant changes in vacancy levels until sizeable new office developments start to be completed from 2010.

Tenants, meanwhile, are looking to contain costs during the economic downturn, Cushman's Mr Han observes.

CBRE's Mr Armstrong says: 'Corporates will be under severe pressure to contain and indeed reduce costs. (But) the reality in the Singapore office market is that many tenants with renewals and rent reviews next year under leases committed three to four years ago will still be faced with rents that could potentially increase by 75 per cent to 150 per cent. We expect some fairly robust negotiations.'

He also predicts an increase in subletting and surrenders of space by tenants if job attrition in the key financial services sector spirals.

'Take-up in new developments will inevitably be sluggish until demand improves and tenants are able to secure capital expenditure approvals to relocate. It will be highly competitive,' Mr Armstrong says.

Property Derivatives Market Seen Growing

Source : The Business Times, December 11, 2008

(LONDON) The global property derivatives market is likely to keep growing despite the financial crisis, as fund managers and property firms seek to better manage their real estate risks, observers said on Tuesday.

The fledgling market, which offers over-the-counter trading mainly in swaps based on property indexes, could grow by about 7 per cent year-on-year to £7.5 billion (S$16.7 billion) by end-2008, said Rawle Parris, head of property derivatives at ING Wholesale Banking.

'It's modest growth, but still quite good considering what's happening in other real estate markets,' he said.

Plans to set up exchanges as clearing houses for property derivatives could help to promote the market as investors hunt for cheaper and more efficient ways to adjust their real estate exposure, he added.

Use of derivatives is holding up even as the volume of direct commercial real estate investment falls, with UK direct investments down 45 per cent year-on-year to £21 billion by end-2008, estimates broker Jones Lang LaSalle.

The property derivatives market is yet to capture significant interest outside Britain however, with France, Germany, the United States, Spain and Japan seeing just a small number of trades, industry executives said.

'It's the wrong time to promote derivatives in the US,' said Aviva Investors's head of client relations for real estate Steve Felix. 'When I talk to pension, endowment funds in the US, these guys don't get compensated for risk and anything new to them is risk.'

But Ian Cullen, co-founding director of Investment Property Databank argued that investors will put themselves at a disadvantage without a derivatives market. 'Real estate investors managing their positions without a deep and liquid derivatives market, when every other asset class investors are managing theirs with derivatives markets, is like fighting with one arm tied behind their backs.' - Reuters

Australia's Home Loan Approvals Are Up

Source : The Business Times, December 11, 2008

(SYDNEY) Australian home-loan approvals increased in October for the first time in nine months after the central bank slashed borrowing costs to encourage property buyers back into the market.

On the market: Households are being aided by the biggest round of interest rate cuts since the economy was last in a recession in 1991, and by expanded government grants for first-home buyers

The number of loans granted to build or buy homes and apartments rose 1.3 per cent to 48,299 from September, when they slid a revised 2.4 per cent, the statistics bureau said in Sydney yesterday. The median estimate of 21 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News was for a one per cent gain.

Households are being aided by the biggest round of interest rate cuts since the economy was last in a recession in 1991, and by expanded government grants for first-home buyers. House prices fell in the third quarter by the most since 1978 and the building industry shrank in November for a ninth month.

'The number of first-home buyers should increase, in part owing to the expanded first-home owners' grant,' Stephen Walters, chief economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co in Sydney, said ahead of the report yesterday.

To restore consumer and business confidence battered by tumbling stock markets, central bank governor Glenn Stevens cut the overnight cash rate target by three percentage points since early September to a six-year low of 4.25 per cent.

Consumer sentiment gained 7.5 per cent in December, the second straight increase, Westpac Banking Corp reported yesterday.

The reduction in borrowing costs will provide 'significant' support for the economy in 2009 amid the global slowdown, Mr Stevens said on Tuesday. 'There is scope to do more with macroeconomic policy settings if needed,' he added.

The Reserve Bank of Australia will reduce the rate by a further half-point when the board next meets on Feb 3, according to 16 of 21 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, trying to stop Australia's economy from slipping into its first recession in 17 years, tripled in October the government's A$21,000 (S$20,829) grant to first-home buyers of newly built dwellings.

Prior to yesterday's report, most indicators of Australia's housing market showed that demand for homes and finance have slowed. Home-building approvals dropped in October to the lowest level since 2001, a report showed on Dec 4.

The total value of lending rose 1.9 per cent to A$17.4 billion in October, yesterday's report showed. -- Bloomberg

Urban Property Prices Up In China

Source : The Business Times, December 11, 2008

(SHANGHAI) China's urban property prices rose 0.2 per cent year-on-year (yoy) in November, lower than the 1.6 per cent rise in October and the slowest growth in more than three years, according to official figures.

Prices in 70 major cities across the country rose by 0.2 per cent year-on-year, the National Development and Reform Commission, China's top economic planning agency said in a statement on its website on Tuesday.

The figure represents the lowest growth since the government started releasing monthly statistics of property prices in July 2005.

Property prices in Shenzhen city, just north of Hong Kong, posted the biggest loss among all the cities, declining 14.8 per cent from a year earlier, according to the statement.

Property prices in the city dropped 12.6 per cent yoy in October.

The weakening property market is likely to place further pressure on China's slowing economy as investment in the sector accounts for more than 20 per cent of the country's urban fixed asset investment.

To keep the property market growing, Premier Wen Jiabao has said that increasing investment in low-price housing projects will be one of the priorities when the government rolls out a US$586 billion stimulus package. -- AFP

Property Transactions With Contract Dates Between Nov 24th - 29th, 2008

300 Chinese In US Foray To Buy Houses

Source : The Business Times, December 11, 2008

(BEIJING) Three hundred cashed-up Chinese will visit the United States next month to seek bargains in the plunging American real estate market, a tour organiser said yesterday.

The itinerary will include major US cities such as New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, said Liu Jian, chief operating officer of, a popular Chinese real estate portal that has arranged the trip.

'We think that there is a need for people in China to buy houses in the United States,' he told AFP.

'Some people believe that there's an opportunity for them because of the economic decline in the United States, which has made real estate prices drop.'

The state-run China Daily newspaper said that 40 per cent of those who had registered for the 10-day, 15,000 yuan (S$3,292) trip were investors seeking opportunities in the US market.

'(They) have been following the increase in mortgage foreclosures in the US, and the decline in the real estate market,' Mr Liu told the paper.

The other 60 per cent are looking for homes for their children, who plan to go to the United States to study, according to the report.

Local regulations limit Chinese visiting the US to taking US$50,000 a year, but some potential property buyers have gone on enough trips to accumulate sufficient funds, the paper said. -- AFP

Property Investments Seen Lagging Others In 2009

Source : The Business Times, December 11, 2008

(LONDON) Real estate professionals think that the performance of property investments will lag behind other asset classes next year, a survey conducted at the Thomson Reuters' Global Property Outlook conference showed on Tuesday.

In a poll of around 150 market observers, analysts and investors, just 12 per cent of respondents said that they felt property would perform more strongly than stocks, bonds and alternative investments next year.

Just over a third of those surveyed said that bonds would be the wisest investment in 2009, while 39 per cent indicated a preference for stocks.

The findings show how confidence in commercial property investment has plunged since the credit crunch and the climax of a global real estate boom collided last year.

An acute shortage of debt has sidelined all but a select few property buyers, and has helped to cut average commercial real estate values by up to a third in the hardest-hit markets of Britain, Ireland and Spain.

Despite the speed of the correction, which some market observers claim has already surpassed that seen in the early 1990s, around two-thirds of those surveyed said that they believed it would be more than a year before market conditions showed any signs of improvement.

More than half said that they expected to see total property returns - a combination of rental income and capital value growth - of minus 10 per cent and worse in the UK, eurozone and the US next year.

Respondents were only slightly more optimistic about Asia, where 48 per cent predicted that total returns of minus 10 per cent or worse in mature markets such as Japan and Hong Kong versus 41 per cent for emerging markets such as China and India.

Taking an average from across all four geographies, less than 16 per cent of those polled believed that real estate would generate a total return of zero or better in 2009. -- Reuters

High-End Projects Take A Knock, Suburban Condos Edge Higher

Source : The Business Times, December 11, 2008

High-end prices fall 12-28%, while mass market projects climb 1-7%: study

Fresh data on home transactions compiled by Credo Real Estate confirms that prices of high-end housing projects have fared far worse than suburban condo prices between second-half 2007 and second-half 2008.

Credo's study shows that average prices of high-end projects generally posted declines, ranging from 12 to 28 per cent during the period. In contrast, the average prices of units in selected projects in the mass market generally rose 1 to 7 per cent.

Market watchers note that high-end residential property prices climbed much earlier during the bull-cycle and the price gains recorded were also much steeper. In contrast, mass-market home prices have lagged. 'So what goes up faster during the bull-run also tends to fall faster during the downturn; its physics,' as one seasoned residential property consultant put it.

Credo Real Estate managing director Karamjit Singh feels that high-end condo prices tend to be more elastic in relation to property cycles compared with mass-market projects.

This is partly due to differing buyer profiles in the two segments. 'Suburban condo buyers usually make their purchases for their own use and less as a tool for investment or speculation, unlike buyers in the high-end segment,' Mr Singh says.

'Prices are not a perfect science at the high-end due to the profile of the rich and foreign buyers who make up a good proportion of demand. They're less price sensitive and the products are less homogeneous; if there's something they like, even if it is priced at a premium, they're quite happy to buy it,' Mr Singh says.

Agreeing, another property consultant says that during the downward slide, 'investors, if they need to keep themselves liquid, will exit. In many cases, they may still make a profit even if price drops, as they entered the market early. But even if they need to cut losses, they will. Suburban home buyers, however, are likely to have purchased for their own occupation or upgrading, so they can't sell so readily.'

Credo's Mr Singh points out that the dramatic volatility in high-end prices over the past three years has also been shaped by the large number of prime district en bloc sales in 2006-07. This led to a chunk of the physical stock being withdrawn and driving high-end prices up astronomically. On the flip side, this global crisis in 2007-08 has actually impacted the rich much more than the man in the street, thereby dampening demand for high-end homes.

Credo's sample looked at Four Seasons Park condo, Ardmore Park and Cairnhill Crest in the Orchard Road belt, which showed average transacted prices fell 27, 12 and 17 per cent respectively in H2 2008 over H2 2007.

At Sentosa Cove, Credo's sample basket comprised The Azure, The Berth and The Oceanfront condos. The declines were 22 per cent for The Azure and 28 per cent for The Oceanfront. The sole unit transacted this half for The Berth was at $1,590 psf, down 5 per cent from the $1,679 psf average price achieved for 20 deals in H2 last year.

In the city centre, the average price at Marina Bay Residences fell 17 per cent to $1,985 psf in H2 2008 with five deals done. At The Sail @ Marina Bay, the average price slipped 14 per cent to $1,811 psf, with 42 deals in H2 2008.

In the mid-priced segment - defined as the low-$1,000 psf price range - One Amber, Sky@Eleven and The Tessarina - saw average transacted prices fall 19, 21 and 17 per cent respectively.

However, suburban Singapore demonstrated greater price resilience. Average transacted prices of eight of nine projects studied in the west, east and north posted 1 to 7 per cent gains in H2 2008 over H2 2007.

Credo's analysed caveats captured by Urban Redevelopment Authority's Realis system up to early November. 'We selected projects we felt symbolise their respective location-based categories, are large enough with sufficient transactions relative to the project size to reflect a clear trend, and were ideally not affected by en bloc sales initiatives last year as that could distort price patterns,' Mr Singh explains.

Property analysts generally expect the trend of high-end home prices being less resilient than mass-market prices to continue in 2009.

However, DTZ executive director Ong Choon Fah argues that the decline in the high-end segment has to slow down at some stage. 'There has to be a price gap between the mass-market and high-end; otherwise, we'll start seeing a trade-off and demand may shift to the upper segments under market dynamics,' Mrs Ong says.

Overall current thin private residential transaction volume is being caused by a 'price mismatch between unwilling sellers and unwilling buyers' and the stalemate is expected to last 'until repricing takes place', Mrs Ong says.

'The uncertainty has to go away first. Companies will make a lot of decisions after the Singapore Budget in January.'

'Hopefully after that, some of the dust will settle and things will get clearer.'

Agreeing, the seasoned property agent said: 'It's easier to match buyers and sellers when things are more stable and we should start to see volumes improving from mid-next year.'

Singapore Seen Emerging Asia's Weakest Economy

Source : AsiaOne News, Thu, Dec 11, 2008

HONG KONG- Singapore is poised to be emerging Asia's worst-performing economy next year, when it is likely to remain entrenched in recession as the global downturn erodes demand for its exports, a Reuters poll shows.

The poll predicts the island state's gross domestic product (GDP) will contract 1.1 percent in 2009. That marks a rapid deterioration in the economic environment from two months ago as the global financial crisis has deepened - a similar poll in late September forecast 4.6 percent GDP growth in 2009.

"Singapore is particularly open to external trade - its export-to-GDP ratio is more than 180 percent, compared with an Asia average of 60-70 percent," said Eric Tsang, an analyst at Calyon in Hong Kong.

"So as U.S., European and Japanese consumers spend less that will hurt Singapore's exports and have a knock-on effect on the rest of the economy."

Economists see some rebound in 2010, forecasting 4.2 percent growth, but that would be well below average annual growth of 6.8 percent between 2003 and 2007.

Singapore slipped into recession - defined as two quarters of negative quarterly growth - in the third quarter.

Philip McNicholas, an economist at Ideal Global in Singapore, said the first quarter of next year would be especially tough - he forecasts GDP will drop at an annualised rate of 15 percent, seasonally adjusted, as exports plunge.

"That will be mainly due to a collapse in U.S. sentiment," McNicholas said. "The U.S. plans a fiscal stimulus package early next year, but it's got to get that through Congress and to the people, so that may not be until the end of Q1 or the start of Q2."

The government pledged $1.5 billion last month to help firms secure credit and said it was prepared to run a bigger budget deficit to boost the economy.

Manufacturing accounts for about a quarter of the economy and factory output fell 12.7 percent in October from September, seasonally adjusted, and 12.6 percent from a year earlier, led by sliding electronics and drugs output.

Manufacturing is expected to be harder hit next year as the downturn in advanced economies accelerates and job losses in the sector will rise as a result, analysts say.

Rising unemployment will dent consumer spending, which is not being helped by a decline in tourism since August.

As the weak economy will encourage the authorities to keep monetary policy loose, the Singapore dollar is likely to remain sluggish, the poll forecast.-Reuters

设计新景观,留住旧情感 女皇镇杜生组屋区将重新规划

Source :《联合早报》December 11, 2008











此外,在发展达士岭(The Pinnacle@Duxton)摩天组屋时,建屋局拆除了广东民路两座组屋后,也决定设计一个特色公园,结合这两座在首个公共住屋计划下、建于1963年和1964年的组屋。公众可从公园设计看到旧组屋的影子、并通过各种铜版画、雕塑和历史悠久的老树看到这里的演变。

组屋区博客 联系居民感情






Source : 《联合早报》December 11, 2008









不过,力宝集团总裁李棕(Stephen Riady)表示,“我对此表示怀疑,我认为香港房地产市场还会更大幅度下跌,它是一个波动非常大的市场。它的下滑幅度会超过新加坡。”力宝集团投资的房地产市场包括香港和中国大陆。