Sunday, May 31, 2009

Regent Garden Enbloc Deal: Majority Owners Lose Appeal

Source : The Business Times, May 30, 2009

THE Court of Appeal yesterday dismissed an appeal by the majority owners of Regent Garden who oppose a $34 million collective sale deal with Allgreen Properties.

The appeal was lodged on May 15, 2008, by 23 of 25 majority owners of the 31-unit project, who were unhappy that Allgreen made extra payments totalling $2 million to six minority owners who initially opposed the collective sale.

The appeal was lodged after Allgreen obtained an order from the High Court on April 16, 2008, compelling the majority owners to complete the sale and purchase of Regent Garden.

Four months earlier in January 2008, the Strata Titles Board rejected the sale on the grounds that the valuation was too low and the deal was not done in good faith.

In its judgement, the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal of the majority owners, saying that there was nothing in the agreement between buyer and seller, or the law, to prohibit Allgreen making additional payments to the minority owners.

The Court of Appeal also reiterated that the Land Titles Strata Act exists to protect minority owners and not to protect majority owners from their own 'improvident' bargain.

Allgreen, represented by Davinder Singh of Drew and Napier, also relied on an affidavit of Knight Frank managing director Tan Tiong Cheng which said: 'It is also my experience that it is not uncommon for the developer to contribute to the payment of the premium to the minority owners to procure their consent to the collective sale.'

On whether the collective sale was done in good faith, the Court of Appeal said: 'A purchaser does not owe any duty of care, much less duty of good faith, to a vendor of property in relation to the price of the property. The general principle is caveat emptor.'

In its concluding observations, the court said collective sales committees that do not want to find themselves in a similar predicament vis-a-vis incentive payments can easily make provision for similar contingencies by providing for them in the sale-and-purchase agreement.

Canadian School's Campus Rumpus

Source : The Business Times, May 30, 2009

With work on Jurong West Campus stalling, some parents threaten to stop paying building fee

FOR an institution that is in the business of providing answers, the privately-owned Canadian International School (CIS) has left a group of irate parents with a $7.7 million question, now that the school's new campus development has failed to materialise.

AT A STANDSTILL - Since late 2007, $7.7 million has been raised from about 1,600 parents of students in three of CIS's campuses for the construction of the school's new Jurong West campus. However, construction on the campus - slated to open in February this year - has stopped since last October.

Since late 2007, $7.7 million has been raised from about 1,600 parents of students in three of CIS's campuses who have been paying $1,100 per semester for what they believed had been contributions to a Building and Development fund set up for the construction of the school's new Jurong West campus.

The new five-storey campus will consolidate three out of four of CIS's campuses on the island. Construction on the campus - slated to open in February this year - has stopped since last October.

'There has been no explanation for why the work has stopped and they have been less than precise about what will happen,' said Anthony Phillips, who has paid $8,800 in building fees to date for his two children over four semesters. 'The site appears to have come to a standstill, but we've been getting an invoice every six months for building and development fees.'

When contacted by BT yesterday, CIS's head of school, Glenn Odland, said that the halt in construction was 'a function of the change in global economic circumstances'.

'We have reassured the parents that construction will resume by the end of this school term, which is June 12.

'By then, we will also explain to our parents in detail the reasons behind the delay and how we've resolved them,' said Mr Odland.

He was unable to provide BT with an estimated date of completion.

There are also conflicting views on what the fund was originally intended for.

'We were told that the money went for maintenance purposes, but that was not what the Building and Development fee was for, and that is unacceptable,' said Martine Guerin, who has contributed $4,400 for her son who is now in Grade 3 at CIS.

Mr Odland maintains, however, that this was never the case. 'We have made it clear from the start that the building fee would go towards maintenance of existing structures as well as new developments; it is mentioned in our admissions policy online,' he said.

In a letter - issued by the previous principal - dated October 2006, the new campus is mentioned as the reason for the Building and Development fee, but not the existing facilities.

The school will continue to include the fee on invoices. 'The building fee is a common part of the fee structure in many international schools, and it will continue as a permanent element in the fee structure,' said Mr Odland.

Fanning the furore, news of a Korean school's impending takeover of CIS's Bukit Tinggi campus in August 2010 has surfaced, leaving parents to wonder whether their children will still have a middle school campus if the Jurong West site is not ready by then. Mr Odland refused to elaborate on current negotiations with the Korean school. 'While it is ongoing, it would be grossly unfair to the process for it to be published to the public,' he said.

Despite a CIS email to parents on Tuesday that reassured them about ongoing negotiations with the Korean school and the resumption of work on the site before June 12, some of the parents remain unplacated.

'With the new West Jurong campus running almost two years behind schedule, many parents are extremely disappointed at there being almost nothing to show for the multi-million dollar investment in the project,' said Mr Phillips.

Mr Phillips and John Cappetta will be among the many parents who will not be paying future Building and Development fees. 'I was initially happy to pay, because my son, who is in Grade 1, would get to use the new facilities. But there has been absolutely no transparency over what's been happening to these funds,' said Mr Cappetta.

Parents like them might find themselves in a standoff with the school as a result. 'We will treat it as we would a delinquent account; we are pursuing and trying to facilitate payment. No family will be allowed to not pay,' Mr Odland told BT.

S'pore Home Prices Slide Down The Ladder

Source : The Business Times, May 30, 2009

From being among world's best performers last year, it's among the worst in Q1

FROM around the top of the heap to near the bottom of the pile in just 12 months!

A year ago, Singapore was ranked as the fourth best-performing market in the world under Knight Frank's Global House Price Index based on the first-quarter's year-on-year price change. This week, it emerged as the third-worst in a table that listed a total of 46 markets.

The house price index for Singapore slipped 23.8 per cent in Q1 2009 over the same year-ago period. And with the index declining 16.2 per cent quarter-on-quarter in the first three months of this year, Singapore emerged as the second worst-performing market based on a quarter-on-quarter ranking, compared with its ninth position a year ago.

Knight Frank's index for Singapore was pegged to the official Urban Redevelopment Authority's price index of non-landed private homes in the Core Central Region.

Israel was the top performer over the 12-month period ending Q1 2009, recording price growth of 10.9 per cent, followed by the Czech Republic with a 9.9 per cent increase. The worst performers were Latvia, Dubai and Singapore with declines of 36 per cent, 32 per cent and 23.8 per cent respectively.

On a quarter-on-quarter comparison, Dubai posted the worst performance with a fall of 40 per cent, followed by Singapore.

Hong Kong, saw its Q1 ranking (based on a year-on-year comparison) slip from third spot last year to 40th position, with a price drop of 15.7 per cent. United Kingdom was ranked 42nd on an annual-change comparison (the price slide was 16.5 per cent) while the US was in 43rd position with a 16.9 per cent decrease.

India made it to the top 10 list; it was ordered fifth with a 5.1 per cent year-on-year price appreciation in Q1 2009.

The percentage changes are calculated in local currency terms and are hence not affected by fluctuations in exchange rates.

'There is sporadic evidence of buyers snapping up relative bargains. However, of those buyers in a position to move, many are still waiting for clearer signs that markets are approaching the bottom of the cycle,' Knight Frank said.

Fourteen of the 46 markets covered by the index had not reported Q1 data at the time of the writing of the report.

'The latest data suggest some easing in the plight of markets. On a quarterly basis, 48 per cent of the countries from whom we received Q1 data reported a drop in prices, compared to 88 per cent in our Q4 2008 index.

'On an annualised basis, 48 per cent of countries also showed a fall in values compared to 77 per cent in Q4. Given the high proportion of 'absentees' for Q1, however, it would be potentially misleading to jump to too many hasty conclusions, although over half had shown annual and/or quarterly price falls at the last time of reporting. Nonetheless, the shorter-term future direction of most underlying economies suggests that the world's residential markets are likely to continue to suffer for some while,' Knight Frank's report said.

The consultancy's director of research and consultancy in Singapore, Nicholas Mak, said that while there has been a pick-up in private home sales lately (with developers managing to inch up prices for better-selling projects), a sustained price recovery will hinge on an improvement in the jobs market. 'If expats are not coming into Singapore, the strength of the rental housing market will be affected and that will, in turn, affect investment demand for residential properties,' he added.

A developer said: 'While we are seeing price stability in the mass-market segment, I think the high-end sector will not stabilise until the perception of DPS-buyers defaulting clears away'.

The government scrapped the Deferred Payment Scheme (DPS) in October 2007.

The 30 to 40 per cent slide in high-end residential prices, coupled with more cautious bank lending to property investors, could mean that some DPS-buyers may not complete payments for units bought during the 2007 peak. A surfeit of such properties making their way back to the market could depress prices. While developers could take legal action against local buyers, they may have a harder time pursuing foreign buyers, especially companies registered in the world's tax havens.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

发展商削价及股市飙涨 带动私宅市场频传捷报

Source : 《联合早报》May 30, 2009


益民林发展(EL Development)已经在短短两个星期内,卖出全部51个Parc Centennial单位。城市发展(City Developments)也在过去几个星期,卖出剩余的33个Botannia单位,取得100%的销售率。


至于星狮地产(Frasers Centrepoint)也在最近削减价格后,于短短几个星期内,预售了百多个Martin Place Residences单位。这个星期,它计划正式推出这个项目,并拨出第二大楼的50个单位供买家选购。



更多发展商 提早推出手头项目


本星期销售的其他项目,还包括同荣集团(Tong Eng Group)在东海岸发展的Balcon East。这个只有37个单位的公寓项目,已经在上个星期四的预售活动中卖出28个单位,每平方英尺成交价介于780元至850元。

接下来可能登场的项目,可能包括星狮地产靠近兀里(Woodleigh)地铁站的一个共管公寓项目,以及靠近里峇峇利的Nathan Residences(91个单位)。

城市发展也透露,它计划加快丰隆花园(Hong Leong Garden)的推出计划,这个西部的项目,单位面积从480平方英尺起,四卧房式单位的面积约1480平方英尺。

Friday, May 29, 2009

Developers Readying For Launches As Activity Rises

Source : The Straits Times, May 29 2009

Weekend launches include Martin Place Residences and Balcon East.

MORE developers are preparing to launch new properties in response to a marked improvement in sentiment in Singapore's property market, experts say.

Activity has picked up in the past two to four weeks, they observe.

Martin Place Residences – Photo from Frasers Centrepoint

Some developers are now rushing to prepare projects for launch, but they face some inevitable delays. They may lack promotional materials, for instance.

Starting today, Frasers Centrepoint Homes will be releasing more units at its 302-unit freehold Martin Place Residences in the River Valley area. It recently sold more than 100 units of the project after it cut prices. The units were released at $1,260 per sq ft (psf) to $1,700 psf, compared with $1,700 psf to $2,000 psf last year.

Chief operating officer Cheang Kok Kheong said prices ranged from $1.5 million for a two-bedder to about $2 million for a three-bedder. He said Frasers was aiming to sell the remaining units at $1,350 psf to $1,700 psf.

Other weekend launches include Balcon East in Upper East Coast Road. Tong Eng Group started sales at its 37-unit development on Thursday last week and managed to sell 28 units. Prices ranged from just below $500,000 to $1.39 million, with the one- to two-bedders costing about $850 psf, and three-bedders at $780 psf, said Savills Residential director Phylicia Ang.

Next month, new re-launches could include the 91-unit Nathan Residences in Nathan Road and Frasers' 330-unit leasehold project near the Woodleigh MRT station. The former's preview last September at an average of $2,000 psf met with no success.

Frasers has reconfigured the layout in the Woodleigh project, which previously had 300 units, to accommodate the more affordable one-bedders of 400 sq ft. The rest will be two-, three- and four-bedders. Prices will be 'at the upper end of $750 psf to $780 psf', said Mr Cheang.

There are still many projects waiting to be launched and certainly not all will be on the market soon.

'Those developers who are ready will see this as a good window period to launch, but the really high-end projects won't come out soon,' said Ms Ang.

Developers will launch if they can accept today's pricing, as the recent re-launches are easily 25 per cent to 30 per cent below the peak, said Knight Frank executive director Peter Ow.

'Much Uncertainty' In Real Estate

Source : The Straits Times, May 28, 2009

GIC Real Estate president Seek Ngee Huat believes the global property sector still faces much uncertainty and that more distressed assets in the developed world are likely to emerge in the next two years.

Real estate values in developed markets have been written down rapidly due to falling rents and rising capitalisation rates.

Further declines are expected, particularly as investors who face refinancing difficulties are forced to sell their properties, Dr Seek told an audience at the National University of Singapore's Institute of Real Estate Studies public seminar at InterContinental hotel yesterday.

Professor Joseph Gyourko of The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, said: 'There's a lot of debt coming due across all sectors in the United States.'

He said housing prices should stabilise in the bubble markets of the US sunbelt region such as Arizona but sharp price downturns in key coastal markets including New York City can be expected this year.

'Deleveraging has begun in earnest in the West and we are yet to see the full impact of that on commercial real estate,' he said. 'The next five years are looking even more challenging than what we have just gone through in the debt market.'

A number of over-leveraged markets have yet to bear the brunt of maturing debt that will occur in the next one to two years, said Dr Seek. Distressed private equity has yet to surface, he added.

Most of developing Asia has been hit by contracting demand but fortunately, as it is not as overly leveraged as the US, it will probably not suffer massive writedowns and depressed values, he said.

There are positive signs of financial markets stabilising but it is too early to tell if the global economy is out of the woods yet. 'Until we see a sustainable economic recovery... (only then) will growth and rents rise again,' said Dr Seek.

'Opportunities abound, more immediately in undervalued Reits and distressed debt, and perhaps in the next year or two, in undervalued or distressed assets particularly in the developed world,' he said.

Reits, or real estate investment trusts, without a sound asset base and manageable debt levels will continue to languish, and eventually some will fall or be absorbed. 'I certainly do not want to leave you with the impression that real estate, even in developing Asia, is already on a growth path. There are still a great deal of uncertainty,' said Dr Seek.

US Recession Could End In Next Quarter

Source : The Straits Times, May 28, 2009

Govt stimulus spending and Fed efforts paying off, key survey shows

WASHINGTON: - The US recession will probably end in the third quarter of this year, a key survey of business economists showed, even as rising joblessness indicates the recovery will be weaker than previously estimated.

The world's largest economy will begin to expand next quarter, according to 74 per cent of leading forecasters in a National Association for Business Economics (Nabe) survey. Compared with Nabe's February poll, growth will be slower and unemployment will be higher in the second half of this year and through 2010.

Government stimulus spending and Federal Reserve attempts to thaw credit markets are helping to pull the economy out of the worst slump in half a century, the survey said. While housing is stabilising, the economists predicted that consumer spending will be restrained by a deteriorating labour market as job losses continue for the rest of the year.

'There are emerging signs that the economy is stabilising,' Mr Chris Varvares, president of the group and of Macroeconomic Advisers, said in a statement. Still, the recovery may be 'considerably more moderate than those typically experienced following steep declines', he said.

The economy will shrink at a 1.8 per cent annual rate from April to June, and then grow at a 0.7 per cent pace in the next three months, the survey showed. Growth will accelerate to a 1.8 per cent rate by the final quarter.

Consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 per cent of the economy, may fall 0.4 per cent this year, compared with a 1.3 per cent drop forecast in the prior poll. Purchases will increase 2.1 per cent next year, less than estimated in February. The Nabe survey, based on the median forecast of a panel of 45 economists, was conducted from April 27 to May 11.

Nine of every 10 participants said the Fed's new credit facilities improved borrowing conditions, and 55 per cent said the programmes also benefited markets that were not directly targeted. At the same time, nearly half the economists said credit was still hard to get.

Home sales may reach a bottom by mid-year, according to 72 per cent of the panellists, and more than six in 10 predicted that housing starts will hit a trough by that time. The survey showed home prices have further to fall, with 40 per cent of the respondents forecasting the declines will continue into next year or later.

Payrolls will decrease by an estimated 4.5 million this year, pushing the unemployment rate to 9.8 per cent by year-end, almost a percentage point higher than the previous estimate of 9 per cent, the survey showed. Job gains next year will help reduce the jobless rate to 9.3 per cent by the end of 2010.

The outlook for business investment this year also soured compared with the February survey, reflecting sharper pullbacks in spending on equipment, software and facilities, and a bigger reduction in inventories. Economists in the survey also predicted corporate profits will decline 16 per cent this year.

The cost of living will fall and worker productivity will improve this year, the Nabe report showed. With inflation in check and unemployment rising, Fed policy makers will keep the benchmark interest rate close to zero until the second quarter of next year, at which time a series of increases may push the rate to 1.25 per cent by year-end. -BLOOMBERG NEWS

Analysts Upgrade Property Stock Calls

Source : The Business Times, May 26, 2009

Private residential prices now expected to rise next year

PROPERTY analysts now expect private home prices to climb again next year - a turnaround from previous forecasts that they would continue to slide into 2010 - as there is now a sense that the residential market has hit bottom.

And amid this new- found optimism, analysts' recommendations on several property stocks have been upgraded.

The residential price index chalked up its worst-ever quarterly decline of 14.1 per cent in Q1 2009, according to official figures from the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

'A bottom has been established for the housing market, as price cuts have catalysed latent demand and accelerated inventory clearance, in our view,' said Deutsche Bank analysts Gregory Lui and Elaine Khoo in a note yesterday.

With this in mind, analysts now expect to see the residential price index move up in 2010 - or even as early as the second half of this year.

UBS Investment Research, for one, said in a recent report that there is a possibility of higher prices in H2 2009 and 2010.

'We think it suggests prices are stabilising and could potentially rise 5-20 per cent in 2010, versus our assumption of flat pricing for 2010,' UBS Research analysts Michael Lim and Regina Lim said in a May 19 note.

Likewise, Goldman Sachs is now projecting a 5 per cent gain in private home prices next year, reversing its previous forecast of a 10 per cent fall in 2010.

'The recent pick-up in transaction volumes in the primary residential market is a harbinger of price stabilisation being just around the corner, in our view,' the bank said in a May 12 report.

Price increases could already be on the way - recent reports have indicated that developers are already raising prices of select units by 2-5 per cent where demand seems resilient.

The price creep is difficult to ascertain, UBS said, but it estimates that up to six months ago, early-bird discounts were a permanent feature for new launches. 'Developers have since limited the discount duration to the initial launch,' it said. 'We think this is a positive development, though unexpected, and suggests a high probability of a meaningful recovery in H2 2009.'

The drop in prices in Q1 meant that transaction volume showed a significant increase. More than 1,200 homes were sold each month in February, March and April - after just 108 homes were sold in January.

'In our view, the strong momentum suggests buyer confidence is returning and could provide the next wave of momentum for developer stock prices,' said UBS. And developers are in stronger positions after inventory clearance this year and cash calls, noted Deutsche Bank.

UBS's analysts issued a 'buy' call on City Developments. 'We believe City Developments would be a key beneficiary as it has the largest market share in residential sales volume in Singapore, and its share price is strongly correlated to resale transactions,' said the bank's analysts.

Goldman Sachs likewise upgraded CityDev to 'buy' from 'sell'.

Deutsche Bank also yesterday upgraded two developers from 'hold' to 'buy' - Keppel Land and Allgreen Properties.

However, while upbeat on the residential sector, analysts said the outlook for the office sector is less rosy. Deutsche Bank, for one, expects vacancies to approach 17 per cent in 2012. While the rental decline will decelerate sharply in H2 2009, any recovery is likely to lag, the bank said.

Developers Dangle Rent Guarantees

Source : The Business Times, May 26, 2009

Buyers respond well to scheme introduced at some projects

Some developers here are turning to rental guarantees to lure buyers in the current down-market.

Under such schemes - which are offered only for certain units within selected projects - developers help buyers secure tenants, and also ensure that the owner gets a minimum pre-determined yield.

Quick sale: Investors snapped up units at Gallop Gables after Straits Trading offered a two-year guaranteed rental yield of 7 per cent on 10 units there in April. All 10 units sold in three days

Far East Organization, for example, offers rental guarantees for selected units in selected projects such as Orchard Scotts, Vida, River Place, Tanglin View and Icon.

'Through our marketing efforts over the years, we found that investors do not have the time to lease out or manage the tenancy of their apartments that they have bought from us,' said Chia Boon Kuah, chief operating officer for property sales at Far East Organization.

'Therefore, in 2006, we rolled out the rental guarantee scheme to assist our investment buyers in leasing out their properties. With our own in-house leasing and estate management teams, we are able to provide a seamless one-stop service to our buyers.'

For Vida, which is located in Cairnhill Rise, Far East is now offering a guaranteed rental yield of 5 per cent a year. This, according to Far East, can potentially work out to a return on invested equity of about 10-13 per cent a year.

'Vida is a superior investment as we are offering a yield or return on invested equity of around 10-13 per cent per annum,' said Far East in a recent letter to potential buyers.

Several other developers are offering schemes along the same vein.

At Belle Vue Residences, Wing Tai Holdings is offering a guaranteed return of 20 per cent on the downpayment a buyer makes if he picks up a unit using the deferred payment scheme. (DPS). Under the scheme, the buyer will have to pay 20 per cent of the property's price as the downpayment. For a property worth $4 million, for example, this works out to $800,000.

But under Wing Tai's scheme, he will get some of that money back.

Buyers who use the DPS to buy units in Belle Vue will get a guaranteed income of 10 per cent a year for two years on their downpayments. The guarantee will kick in once Belle Vue receives its temporary occupation permit (TOP) at the end of 2010. Using the same example as earlier, the buyer will get some $160,000 two years after TOP.

Market watchers said yield guarantee schemes are generally well-received in a down-market.

Investors, for example, snapped up units at high-end residential development Gallop Gables after The Straits Trading Company offered a two-year guaranteed rental yield of 7 per cent on 10 units there in April. All 10 units at the freehold Farrer Road estate sold in three days.

Elsewhere, at its preview for The Mezzo, Soilbuild Group Holdings offered a 6 per cent annual rental guarantee for two years, apart from the interest absorption scheme. The rental guarantee kicks in right after the TOP date. Soilbuild said recently that the launch of the first phase of The Mezzo was 'met with an encouraging response'.

Market sources told BT that at least a few more new upcoming projects will offer variations of such schemes. Developers have historically offered such schemes to entice buyers when the property market is weak.

Hong Leong Group's 71-unit luxury development Cuscaden Residence had such a scheme when it was launched in 2004 shortly after the Sars scare. Wing Tai Holdings also offered something similar for Duchess Crest in Bukit Timah in 1998, during the Asian financial crisis.

However, yield guarantees are a popular option for developers, said Joseph Tan, CB Richard Ellis' executive director for residential. This is because such schemes force developers to manage units once they have been sold.

A check with Singapore's three largest listed developers - CapitaLand, City Developments and Keppel Land - showed that none of them are currently offering any kind of rental guarantee schemes.

Units with yield guarantees could also come at a higher price, said Peter Ow, executive director for residential at Knight Frank. For example, developers who offer the interest absorption scheme at their properties usually charge a price premium of 2-3 per cent for units sold under the scheme, Mr Ow pointed out. This is because the developers have to absorb the interest costs that would otherwise have been borne by the buyers. The same principle applies for units offering yield guarantees, he said.

M'sian Economy On The Road To Recession

Source : The Business Times, May 28, 2009

GDP shrinks for first time in years; exports battered

THE Malaysian economy shrank 6.2 per cent in the first quarter - its first contraction since 2001 - and there were signs that the decline would continue through the second quarter. This could push the country towards its first recession in a decade.

The worse-than-expected deterioration came as nearly all sectors - bar construction - reported sharp falls amid collapsing global demand. The manufacturing sector was the hardest hit, falling nearly 18 per cent.

In the fourth quarter of last year, the economy had managed a marginal gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 0.1 per cent; and quarter-on-quarter, the decline was about 7 per cent.

Bank Negara governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz said that there were signs of improvement in May - retrenchments have stabilised, bank lending has expanded by 10 per cent and commodity prices have strengthened - but only expected to see 'significant improvement' in the third quarter, the extent of which mainly depends on the pick-up in the external economy. But she was confident that the economy would expand in the final quarter.

A recession had loomed inevitably since late last year and in the coming days, Prime Minister Najib Razak is expected to revise the official full-year GDP forecast to a contraction of between 2-3 per cent from between one per cent to negative one per cent.

While the export-oriented sectors suffered - electrical and electronics shrinking 41 per cent year-on-year - the domestic-oriented sectors also declined by 16 per cent owing to the weakness in the consumer and construction related sub-sectors.

Aggregate consumer demand was down almost 3 per cent and private sector consumption - a previous mainstay of the economy - shrank 0.7 per cent from a growth of 5.3 per cent in the quarter before as consumers held back spending on fears that the economy would worsen and jeopardise jobs.

Even the normally reliable services sector fell into negative territory - albeit a marginal 0.1 per cent - as the sharp contraction in the trade services of utilities, transport and storage, and real estate offset the gains in the area of communications and other services.

Although public sector spending brought some support, the near 11 per cent drop in fixed capital formation revealed that planned projects had been slow in getting off the ground.

Even so, Ms Zeti noted that the economy was robust enough to weather the downturn. Inflation has moderated to about 3 per cent currently, while the trade surplus for the first quarter remains strong at RM33 billion (S$13.7 billion), with total external debt at RM244 billion or some 35 per cent of gross national income.

Net outflows of portfolio investment funds had further moderated to RM9.5 billion in the first three months of the year from RM25 billion in the fourth quarter, while net overseas investments by local firms - mainly in services - had also slowed to RM3 billion.

On Moody's placing of nine Malaysian banks on review watch with the possibility of a downgrade, she observed that the rating agency had previously been 'proved to be so very wrong', in the Asian financial crisis for example, in over-estimating by double the amount need by the country to recapitalise its banks.

In the current crisis, unlike the West, the Malaysian banking system was not in need of shoring up, and the RM67 billion in fiscal stimulus to date was to arrest the slump by stimulating economic activity.

Although the massive spending had blown the budget deficit to 7.6 per cent of GDP this year, Ms Zeti said that it was necessary to support the economy in these 'exceptional circumstances'.

She expects corporations to take over the reins soon, pointing to interest rates which are at historical lows.

'State intervention can only be temporary. Going forward, next year the government can gradually exit from the fiscal stimulus, while the private sector can assume greater responsibility.'

US Recession To End In Second Half: Survey

Source : The Business Times, May 28, 2009

But forecasters see lacklustre rebound posting meagre 1.2% annual pace

(WASHINGTON) The reeling US economy is poised to emerge from recession in the second half of the year, but recovery will be lacklustre, a survey of economic forecasters showed yesterday.

The National Association for Business Economics (NABE) said a survey of 45 professional forecasters found that the consensus believed the end of the prolonged recession that began in December 2007 was finally in sight.

'While the overall tone remains soft, there are emerging signs that the economy is stabilising,' according to NABE's latest survey and its president, Chris Varvares.

'The survey found that business economists look for the recession to end soon, but that the economic recovery is likely to be considerably more moderate than those typically experienced following steep declines,' said Mr Varvares, who is president of Macroeconomic Advisers.

Subscribing to the same view, prominent economist Martin Feldstein told Reuters in Athens that the United States may not see a sustainable recovery before next year even if there is positive growth in the second quarter.

'I still hold the view that a sustainable recovery in the United States will start in 2010, if we are lucky,' said Mr Feldstein, a Harvard University professor who sits on US President Barack Obama's Economic Recovery Advisory Board.

'We may see some positive growth in the second quarter but it will not be the beginning of a sustainable recovery,' he said in an interview on the sidelines of an economic conference in the Greek capital. 'When we look at Q3 and Q4 what we still see is weak exports and consumers raising their savings rate.'

The Economic Recovery Advisory Board was tapped by Mr Obama to help shape his response to the economic crisis.

The NABE outlook showed that panellists expected gross domestic product (GDP) to shrink by 1.8 per cent in the second quarter.

But the NABE panel, in the survey taken between April 27 and May 11, downgraded the outlook for the next several quarters.

The panellists said a sharp pullback in business investment was stoking near-term weakness, and cited rising government spending as a 'vital support' to the ailing economy.

The consensus forecast continued to see a 'modest' rebound in the second half, beginning in the third quarter, 'followed by steady improvement', NABE said.

But overall the lacklustre rebound was expected to post a meagre 1.2 per cent annual pace, 'well below trend', in the second half of the year.

That would include growth of 1.0 per cent in the third quarter and 2.1 per cent in the fourth quarter.

For 2010, meanwhile, the NABE pegged average growth at just 2.0 per cent, down from its earlier projection of 2.4 per cent growth.

NABE said the key downside risks continued to loom large: steep job losses, extremely tight credit conditions and falling home prices.

'These same forces are causing consumers to remain cautious, a feature that NABE panellists think is here to stay,' the association said.

Consumer spending is considered key to economic recovery since it represents about two-thirds of US output.

The NABE panel predicted that labour market conditions would deteriorate further, but the pace of job losses would decline through the rest of the year.

'A total of roughly 4.5 million jobs are expected to be lost in 2009, driving the unemployment rate to 9.8 per cent by year-end,' NABE said.

The panellist projected 'modest' job gains in 2010 that would trim the unemployment rate to 9.3 per cent by the end of next year. -- AFP, Reuters

Home Resales Gain 2.9% In April

Source : The Business Times, May 28, 2009


(NEW YORK) Home resales in the United States gained in April as foreclosure auctions and improved affordability spurred bargain hunters.

Purchases increased 2.9 per cent to an annual rate of 4.68 million, close to forecasts, from 4.55 million in March, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) said yesterday in Washington. The median price slumped 15 per cent from a year earlier, the second-biggest drop on record, and distressed properties accounted for 45 per cent of all sales.

Record-low mortgage rates, tax credits and falling prices may keep boosting demand and trim the glut of unsold homes. In turn, a pick-up in sales will help stem the slump in property values, which is key to shoring up household finances and construction as the economy begins to emerge from the recession.

'An increase in affordability has seemingly enticed potential homebuyers,' Michelle Meyer, an economist at Barclays Capital Inc in New York, said before the report. 'We believe home sales have stabilised.'

Economists forecast resales would rise 2 per cent to a 4.66 million annual rate from a previously reported 4.57 million pace in March, according to the median of 72 projections in a Bloomberg News survey. Estimates ranged from rates of 4.47 million to 4.8 million. Sales were down 3.5 per cent compared with a year earlier.

The number of houses on the market climbed 8.8 per cent to 3.97 million in April, reflecting the gains usually associated with this time of the year, NAR said. At the current sales pace, it would take 10.2 months to sell those homes, up from 9.6 months in March.

Resales of single-family homes increased 2.5 per cent to an annual rate of 4.18 million. Sales of condos and co-ops rose 6.4 per cent to a 500,000 rate.

The gain last month was led by a 12 per cent jump in the Northeast and a 3.5 per cent gain in the West. Purchases also climbed in the South and fell in the Midwest.

Foreclosure filings in the US rose to a record in April for the second consecutive month, Realtytrac Inc, a seller of foreclosure data, said on May 13, as the jobless rate climbed to its highest in more than a quarter century. Foreclosure filings jumped 32 per cent from a year earlier, the group added.

The share of distressed sales last month was down from March, reflecting normal volatility, NAR said. First-time buyers accounted for about 40 per cent of April sales, also down from March, the group noted.

Still, 'it's a non-regular market in terms of so much distressed sales activity', Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the agents group, said in a press briefing. The market is led by gains in sales of lower-priced properties, while there is 'very little' activity at higher price points, Mr Yun said.

Multiple bids are now common on foreclosure sales, while properties selling for US$750,000 or more are taking 40 months to sell on a median basis, Mr Yun said. Higher mortgage rates for jumbo loans are one reason for the disparity, he added. - Bloomberg

Genting Again Rocks The Boat At Sentosa

Source : The Business Times, May 28, 2009

Move to sell 9% stake means more probity checks prior to licence award

With only months to go before the casino at Resorts World at Sentosa opens, Genting Singapore seems prepared to gamble with its casino licence again by making the regulatory probity process more complicated.

Pansy Ho: US gaming officials have recommended that MGM Mirage cut ties with its partner Ms Ho. Genting Group is said to have bought secured notes from MGM

In a statement released yesterday, Genting Singapore said that existing shareholders of the company had sold about 850 million shares via a private placing agreement representing a significant stake of about 9 per cent worth over $600 million.

The sale sent the share price plummeting almost 18 per cent to 71 cents, down 15.5 cents from the previous day. Reuters also quoted a term sheet it had seen revealing that the shares were sold for between 72-76 cents per share.

Apart from introducing new shareholders to the fold, there has also been speculation that the Lim family, headed by Lim Kok Thay, may be looking to raise capital for a possible acquisition of MGM Grand Macau. But any new significant shareholders in the company here will be scrutinised by regulators.

In response to an SGX query, Genting Singapore said: 'The respective substantial shareholders will in due course be releasing the relevant Notice of Substantial Shareholder's Change in Interests/Cessa- tion of Interests (as the case may be).'

The sale of shares was done through Golden Hope Ltd and Lakewood Sdn Bhd, vehicles that are understood to be controlled by the Lim family which owns Malaysian gaming firm Genting Bhd, the parent of Genting Singapore.

All significant shareholders of Genting Singapore will be expected to undergo strict probity checks before the gaming licence is awarded to the casino operator here by the Casino Regulatory Authority (CRA). It is understood that the gaming licence has not been awarded yet.

Speculation on the Macau deal was fuelled when it was revealed on Monday that Genting Group had acquired US$100 million in secured notes from MGM Mirage.

The talk of a divestment of MGM Grand Macau was itself sparked when the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement recommended last week that MGM Mirage sever ties with Pansy Ho, its partner for MGM Grand Macau, adding that the daughter of Chinese gaming magnate Stanley Ho is an unsuitable partner.

Bloomberg had quoted Ang Kok Heng, chief investment officer at Phillip Capital Management in Kuala Lumpur, as saying that the Lim family may be raising funds to finance a possible investment in MGM Mirage's Macau casino. But he also added: 'It's not easy for Genting or Resorts World Bhd to take over MGM Mirage's venture in Macau because of their investment in Singapore. There's a likelihood the Singapore government may not agree, so the family has to come in on their own.'

This is not the first time Genting Singapore has raised eyebrows in Singapore by associating itself - perceived or otherwise - with Stanley Ho.

In 2007, after winning the tender to build one of two casino resorts in Singapore, Genting Singapore said it was looking to sell a stake in Star Cruises - which was then its partner in the Sentosa resort - to Stanley Ho. Genting Singapore later had to backtrack on this and subsequently acquired Star Cruises' entire stake in the resort in an apparent bid to pacify the Singapore government.

Don't Assume Crisis Over: BOE's Blanchflower

Source : The Business Times, May 28, 2009

LONDON - The world should not assume that the worst of the global economic crisis is over, Bank of England monetary policy committee member David Blanchflower said in comments published on Thursday.

'My worry is that there can be many false dawns and we shouldn't just assume that everything is over,' the usually dovish economist told The Times newspaper.

'We have to have a rethink. You're going to have to throw away lots of economics and start again. How can anybody not say that when we've had the greatest financial crisis in 100 years.'

Mr Blanchflower, who steps down from the MPC at the end of this month, said that while he had long been a lone voice calling for rate cuts on the BOE's rate setting committee, he had taken no pleasure in being proved right when the financial crisis hit.

'I don't think vindicated is the right word,' he said. 'It's a smug position. I don't feel that in any way. I was fearful of what was coming and it turns out it has come. And I take no comfort in that.'

'It is hard to feel vindicated when the economy is in a very difficult position and we are faced with a most enormous recession.'

Mr Blanchflower, who started voting for rate cuts in October 2007 as the crisis began to dawn, said that one of his earliest dissenting positions was to argue that there was going to be no explosion in wages as others on the committee were predicting.

'I was a lone voice. Now we are seeing the biggest decline in wages we've ever seen,' he told the paper.

He said the Bank had been too narrowly focused on inflation, which meant that it kept rates high for too long.

'It would have made a substantial difference if we'd been cutting earlier on,' he said.

Despite having carved out a niche as something of a Cassandra - a contrarian who no one believes but who ends up getting it right - Mr Blanchflower said debates on the MPC had always been polite.

'The MPC's greatest strength (is) that one can have a dissenting voice,' he said.

'It was extremely uncomfortable to be in a minority of one for a very long time. The worst bit was in the middle of August last year, feeling completely alone. I was a lone voice, and maybe a lost voice, maybe a lost cause. That was the worst part.' -- REUTERS

US New Home Sales Rose 0.3% In April

Source : The Business Times, May 28, 2009

WASHINGTON - Sales of newly built US single-family homes rose slightly less than expected in April, a government report showed on Thursday, and the previous month's figures were revised down to show a steeper fall.

The Commerce Department said sales rose 0.3 per cent to a 352,000 annual pace, from a downwardly revised 351,000 in March. March sales were revised to show a 3 per cent decline, which had been reported as a 0.6 per cent slide.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast sales at a 360,000 rate in April.

The median sales price in April fell 14.9 per cent to US$209,700 from a year earlier, the department said. The median marks the half-way point, with half of all houses sold above that level and half below. However compared to March, the median price was up 3.7 per cent, the biggest increase since November.

The inventory of homes available for sale in April fell 4.2 per cent to 297,000, the lowest level since May 2001. April's sales pace left the supply of homes available for sale at 10.1 months' worth, the lowest since a matching reading in July. -- REUTERS

Thursday, May 28, 2009

1 In 8 US Homeowners Late Paying Or In Foreclosure

Source : The Business Times, May 28, 2009

NEW YORK - One of eight US households with a mortgage ended the first quarter late on loan payments or in the foreclosure process in a crisis that will persist for at least another year until unemployment peaks, the Mortgage Bankers Association said on Thursday.

US unemployment in April reached its highest rate in more than a quarter century and is still rising, helping propel mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures to record highs.

Such economic conditions drove up foreclosures of prime fixed-rate mortgages, which represented the largest share of new foreclosures for the first time since the rapid growth and the ensuing collapse of the sub-prime loan market.

'We clearly haven't hit the top yet in terms of delinquencies or the bottom of the housing market,' Jay Brinkmann, the association's chief economist, said in an interview.

Prime fixed-rate loans, made to borrowers with high credit quality, comprise 65 per cent of the US$9.9 trillion in outstanding first mortgages, according to the industry group.

'The housing market depends on the employment situation,' he said, 'and we don't expect unemployment to bottom out until the middle of next year, so then normally housing would not recover until after employment recovers.'

A record 12.07 per cent of loans on one-to-four unit residences were at least one payment past due or in the foreclosure process in the first quarter, on a non-seasonally adjusted basis.

Foreclosure actions were started on an all-time high 1.37 per cent of first mortgages in the quarter, a record increase from 1.08 per cent the prior quarter.

The share of loans in the foreclosure process rose to a record 3.85 per cent from 3.30 per cent in the fourth quarter and 2.47 per cent a year earlier.

California, Florida, Arizona and Nevada accounted for nearly half of the new foreclosure activity in the quarter and half of the increase in prime fixed-rate foreclosure starts.

Those severely hit states, the biggest winners in the five-year housing boom earlier this decade, continue to worsen as recession overtakes problems spawned by lax lending standards.

'Every job loss, every divorce, every incident like that is going to be turning into a foreclosure because they are so far under water with the homes already,' Mr Brinkmann said.

When a house is 'under water', its price has fallen below the size of the mortgage.

Average US home prices swooned more than 32 per cent in March from the 2006 peak, according to Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller indexes.

Foreclosures mounted in the first quarter even though various temporary moratoriums were in place to delay the failure of distressed loans.

The short-term freezes artificially tempered new foreclosures before federal loan modification programs took root.

But loans that had already been modified re-defaulted in the quarter, Mr Brinkmann said. Foreclosure actions also were taken on vacant homes, which make up as much as 40 per cent of the properties with failing mortgages, he said.

Some loan servicers also began the foreclosure process on borrowers who clearly did not qualify under the various mortgage fixes, he said.

On a non-seasonally adjusted basis, the delinquency rate dipped to 8.22 per cent from 8.63 per cent.

The bankers' group noted that the late payment rate always declines in the first quarter due to seasonal factors and said that after such adjustments, the rate jumped to a record 9.12 per cent. -- REUTERS

Property Transactions With Contract Dates Between May 1st - 8th, 2009

Distressed Properties May Flood Markets

Source : The Business Times, May 28, 2009

But Asia is in better shape than mature markets, says GIC Real Estate chief

Distressed property assets may emerge in developed markets in the next two years or so, GIC Real Estate's president Seek Ngee Huat said yesterday.

'Refinancing difficulties will force many property owners to sell their assets into an already weakened market,' he said at the first public seminar organised by the National University of Singapore's Institute of Real Estate Studies.

Dr Seek: 'Refinancing difficulties will force many property owners to sell their assets.'

According to Dr Seek, not many distressed sales have surfaced in the troubled property markets of the US and UK yet. Nevertheless, a 'flood' may come if credit markets remain tight as large volumes of loans mature.

Professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania Joseph Gyourko shared some worrying numbers on this at the seminar. He cited estimates from Goldman Sachs, which found that US$1.2 trillion of commercial property debt will come due in the US from 2009 to 2011.

With the near shutdown of the commercial mortgage-backed securities market, some property owners will not be able to obtain refinancing, he said.

In fact, distressed property assets in the US have just started to appear and will increase in number over the next few years, Prof Gyourko told reporters on the sidelines of the seminar. These assets can come from any property segment depending on owners' ability to roll over debt.

There will be a 'historic investment opportunity not seen in the US since the early 1990s' and investors are setting up funds for this, he said.

GIC Real Estate's Dr Seek said that most property markets in developing Asia are in better shape because they relied less on leverage. While mature markets are more likely to offer opportunistic acquisition deals, emerging Asia seems to be attracting strategic long-term acquisitions, he said.

There are also investment opportunities in undervalued real estate investment trusts (Reits), Dr Seek said.

The downturn has affected Reits globally, which are now separated into 'haves' and 'have-nots' - the 'haves' are those with sound asset bases, manageable debt levels and the ability to raise new funds, he said.

'Further consolidation of the Reit market is inevitable,' he added. The 'haves' will survive this downturn and become stronger, while the 'have-nots' will languish and some may eventually fail or be absorbed.

Kaki Bukit CarMart Site Available For Application

Source : The Business Times, May 28, 2009

THE Urban Redevelopment Authority yesterday made available for application a 30-year leasehold industrial site next to Ruby Warehouse Complex at Kaki Bukit Road 2 on the government's reserve list.

The property is expected to generate a fair amount of interest given its location in a mature industrial estate and low capital outlay involved, says Colliers International director (industrial) Tan Boon Leong.

The 1.07-hectare plot is currently occupied by Kaki Bukit CarMart but its operator will return the site to the state when its current Temporary Occupation Licence expires at the end of this month.

Colliers's Mr Tan reckons that likely parties that may trigger the site's release for tender could include contractors/develo- pers, car dealers and workshop owners, and those involved in the logistics, hardware, marine and oil and gas industries.

Being on the reserve list, the site will be launched for tender only upon successful application by a developer with an undertaking to place a minimum bid acceptable to the state.

URA noted on its website that the plot is located within the established Kaki Bukit Industrial Estate and next to the industrial estates at Kampong Ubi and Eunos Techpark.

Prominent uses in the vicinity include warehousing and automobile industries. Surrounding developments include Gordon Warehouse, Borneo Motor and Kah Motor.

Mr Tan reckons that the site could be released for tender if interested parties undertake to bid at least $40 per square foot per plot ratio (psf ppr), although the actual tender for the property could see top bids of $50-70 psf ppr.

Even at the higher end of that range ($70 psf ppr), the investment in the site - which has a 1.0 plot ratio (or ratio of maximum potential GFA to land area) - will amount to around $8 million, making the site affordable to a bigger pool of potential investors.

The plot is zoned for Business 2 use, suitable for a range of uses such as clean/light industry, general industry and warehousing.

Two years ago, when the industrial property market was buoyant, a site along Kaki Bukit Road 3, a 30-year leasehold plot with Business 1 zoning, fetched $71.86 psf ppr.

Separately, the Singapore Land Authority yesterday announced the successful auction of a two-hectare site at 20 Eunos Road 4 for use as a heavy vehicle park. The successful bidder is Lim Chai Kiui, the 62-year-old chairman of Kim Soon Lee group, which currently operates the existing heavy vehicle park on the site.

Based on his winning bid at yesterday's auction, he will pay SLA a monthly sum of $63,000 - which works out to about 29 cents per square foot of site area. The plot was offered for tenancy on a three-year term with an option to renew for a further two years.

STC Offers Short-Term Office Leases

Source : The Business Times, May 28, 2009

Six-month lease offer at 18 Cross St part of move to attract clients to China Sq Central

THE Straits Trading Company (STC) is offering short-term leases at 18 Cross Street for companies in search of transitional office space.

Tenants can sign up for leases of at least six months at the 15-storey Grade A office tower, which is part of China Square Central, and asking rents range from $8 to $10 psf.

Some 50,000 square feet of space spread across the 7th to 10th floors are available for this arrangement.

According to STC executive vice-president Eric Teng, short-term leases will be useful for companies which are waiting for office rents to fall further before committing to new leases.

There are also situations where firms need a bit more time before they can move out, but their landlords are not keen to give short-term lease extensions, he said.

Companies guarding against the possible spread of the H1N1 virus can also consider moving some work teams to 18 Cross Street for the time being, he added.

STC hopes that the experience of working at China Square Central may attract some tenants to stay on longer. This is a way to 'encourage 'sampling' of our product', said Mr Teng.

STC said that it can help tenants by footing some refitting or renovation costs first. Tenants will then repay the company through higher monthly rentals.

Knight Frank director of business space (office) Agnes Tay felt that STC's move to attract tenants is creative.

If STC aims to entice them to stay, it can consider offering attractive renewal packages after their short-term leases end, she added.

Around 75 per cent of office space at 18 Cross Street is currently occupied, STC said.

The company previously owned 18, 20 and 22 Cross Street but completed a sale and leaseback deal with Allco Commercial Reit (now known as Frasers Commercial Trust) in 2006.

STC now has a master lease on these properties which ends in 2012.

UE And GuocoLand Add Green Beauty

Source : The Business Times, May 28, 2009

Green concerns have gone beyond consumers toting reusable shopping bags to developers putting up buildings that are kind on the environment.

Winner again: UE has clinched its third and fourth Gold award for The Rochester condominium, shopping mall and hotel development

Two developers that have met the mark in this area are United Engineers Ltd (UE) and GuocoLand, with each clinching Green Mark awards given out by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA).

Having bagged two BCA Green Mark awards since 2007, UE has clinched its third and fourth Gold award for The Rochester condominium (residential category) and Park Avenue Rochester Hotel and The Rochester Square Shopping Mall (commercial category). The condominium, shopping mall and hotel form a mixed development in One-North, South Buona Vista Road.

This is the first commercial project in One-North to win such an award and deploy a district cooling system. This cooling system distributes thermal energy in the form of chilled water or other media from a central source to multiple buildings, eliminating the need for separate systems in individual buildings.

Having a green building, however, does not necessarily translate to absolute cost savings in the short term, since facilities such as the district cooling system can cost quite a substantial amount.

Platinum winner: GuocoLand's Sophia Residence, a condominium coming up in the prime residential enclave of Mount Sophia in District 9

Benefits of green buildings are long term, some of which can be rather intangible, says David Liew, managing director of UE Developments. 'A good and clear conscience goes beyond what money can buy.'

Other green features of The Rochester include energy-efficient air-conditioning and lighting, and a water-efficient sanitaryware system in compliance with WELLS (Water Efficiency Label System), a national rating system by BCA.

Another plus point is the use of recycled building materials. The project will have outdoor furniture made from recycled materials and concrete kerbs built from recycled concrete aggregate.

A sky garden on the condominium's ninth storey and vertical greenery from levels four to eight in the commercial buildings add a touch of beauty.

UE, which has a history dating back to 1912, has managed to keep pace with the times, tailoring its corporate philosophy to take account of the current green focus.

'As a corporate citizen, we have a social responsibility as most of our projects will definitely have a physical and environmental impact on our island-state,' said Mr Liew. 'As a company, where we have to be responsible to our customers, shareholders and employees, maintaining a portfolio of environmentally sustainable buildings has also increasingly demonstrated long-term asset value and investment merits,' he added.

UE has plans to put its next project up for the Green Mark award - the UE Biz Hub in Changi Business Park.

GuocoLand is another developer that has excelled in meeting environmental standards, clinching the Platinum Green Mark award for its residential project, Sophia Residence.

The condominium is coming up in the prime residential enclave of Mount Sophia in District 9. This is the group's third such award, and its second Platinum.

Homebuyers seem to be more aware about environmental sustainability these days, and GuocoLand has kept its clients satisfied.

Trina Loh, managing director of GuocoLand (Singapore), noted that Sophia Residence is one of the first Green Mark Platinum award projects assessed under the new and more stringent BCA Green Mark criteria. 'We are proud that Sophia Residence has excelled with its outstanding eco-friendly features and has exceeded some of the requirements.'

The innovative design process for the building façade also leads to a lower RETV (Residential Envelope Transmittance Value). This lessens the heat load and can achieve up to a 25 per cent reduction in electricity bills for air-conditioning.

An interesting feature of the condominium is its eco ponds and biofilter ponds. These ponds, which are part of the landscaping, will be fed by rainwater and ground water harvested from the development's roof terraces and infiltration trenches.

The ponds will then filter the water using oxygenating reeds and will be able to support diverse water plants and fish. The filtered water is collected in an irrigation tank and can be reused to irrigate the landscape.

The projected energy savings could come up to 3.8 million kWh a year - equivalent to S$728,000 in energy bills. Savings in potable water come up to 47,000 cubic metres a year, or up to S$115,000.

But beyond cash savings, the extensive green features will enhance the overall quality of life for the homeowners, said Ms Loh.

5 Circle Line Stations Open

Source : The Straits Times, May 27, 2009

THE first five stations of the new Circle Line were opened by Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean on Wednesday morning.

A 'raindrop' concept bench seen at the Bishan MRT station. -- ST PHOTO: TERENCE TAN

Trains will start rolling from Thursday morning at Bartley, Serangoon, Lorong Chuan, Bishan and Marymount stations.

Commuters can transfer to the existing North-South line and North-East line at Bishan and Serangoon respectively.

15 Y-shaped beams are a unique feature at the Circle Line stations and can be seen at the Lorong Chuan (left), Bartley and Marymount stations. -- ST PHOTO: TERENCE TAN

'The Circle Line will open up multiple new connections for residents in the north and the north-east,' said Mr Teo before launching the new line.

About 55,000 commuters are expected to use the first five stations every day.

The Circle Line station platform is seen at the Marymount station. -- ST PHOTO: TERENCE TAN

The remaining 24 stations of the line will open from next year. Once fully operational, the line's daily ridership is expected to go up to 500,000.

Transport Minister Raymond Lim told reporters on Wednesday that progress at the other stations are on track.

Circle Line escalators are seen at the Serangoon station. -- ST PHOTO: TERENCE TAN

Tunnelling work for the entire line is almost completed, and is expected to be finished by September, said the Land Transport Authority.

While it is not clear yet which other stations will open next, the LTA said six stations have already received the Temporary Occupation Permit - an indication that they will be next in line.

Trains will start rolling from Thursday morning at Bartley (left), Serangoon, Lorong Chuan, Bishan and Marymount stations. -- ST PHOTO: TERENCE TAN

These are Dhoby Ghaut, Bras Basah, Esplanade, Promenade, Stadium and Tai Seng.

Public transport operator SMRT, which will operate the new line, said it will donate takings from its first 22 days of operations to charity.

SMRT's president and chief executive officer Saw Phaik Hwa said the operator expects to collect about $400,000.

Consider Top-Up Rule When Selling Below Valuation Sale Rule

Source : The Straits Times, May 28 2009

Sliding flat prices may force some to refund with cash

OWNERS of Housing Board flats, already hit by a softening market, may now have to stump up cash if they are selling their properties below valuation.

This is the result of a longstanding rule by the Central Provident Fund Board which property agents say was enforced loosely until recently.

Under this rule, a property owner who had used his CPF funds to pay for his property is required to refund the principal withdrawn and interest accrued into his CPF account after settling any outstanding debt. If there is a shortfall, he needs to make good on that amount if he is 'unable to provide good reasons for selling his flat at a price below the fair market value'.

This clause was not an issue when the market was booming as recently as a year ago, but could hurt transactions now that property prices are sliding and more flats are being sold below valuation.

Overall resale prices dropped 0.8 per cent from January to March this year, after climbing 14.5 per cent over the whole of last year. Meanwhile, the median cash over valuation amount - an indication of how coveted a particular property is - was just $4,000 from January to March, less than a third of the $15,000 registered in the previous quarter.

Property owners selling their flats below valuation say they are being advised by Housing Board staff that they may have to top up any shortfall in their CPF refunds - or get the CPF Board to accept their reasons for pricing the flat below valuation - before the transaction can go through.

The situation is making people such as civil servant S. Salim fret. The 44-year-old father of one signed an agreement early this year to sell his Jurong West maisonette for $10,000 below its valuation of $358,000.

'I don't have the money (for the top-up). But if I don't go through with the sale, who knows, the buyer may sue me for breach of contract.'

He has written in to the CPF Board listing the reasons for his flat's price - like the fact that it is on the second storey and his kitchen does not get much sunlight - and is still waiting for a reply.

The CPF Board, when asked how many people have been asked to make a top-up over the years, would only say: 'Of those who sold their property over the last 12 months, fewer than 10 members had to top up the difference in cash to make up the full required CPF refund.'

This figure, however, does not include home owners who may have altered the selling price of their flat to match valuations in order to avoid hassle.
The CPF Board said: 'These members understood the Board's rationale for this requirement, which is to preserve their retirement savings. They have since made the necessary arrangements to put back the amounts into their own CPF accounts for their retirement needs.'

Last year, 28,419 flats changed hands, with the majority paying for them with CPF savings.

Mr Eric Cheng, executive director of HSR Property Group, reckoned that the CPF Board was tightening up on policing transactions after having learned their lessons from before.

'Perhaps they see the trend of cashback coming back, and they could be trying to pre-empt it,' he said.

'Cashback' practices were rampant about five years ago. Under this illegal arrangement, buyers and sellers collude to inflate the price of a flat so that the buyer can get a bigger home loan than is allowed.

As home loans are usually paid through CPF savings, this allows a buyer to prematurely 'withdraw' money from his retirement savings account before reaching age 55.

Mr Cheng said cashback practices in this climate would differ slightly: A buyer and seller could collude to understate the price of a flat - with the difference paid to the seller in cash - so that the seller need not refund the full amount to his CPF account.

Despite the concerns over fraud, the chief executive of property agency PropNex, Mr Mohamed Ismail, feels that the CPF Board should waive the rule altogether for flats which are sold not less than 10 per cent below valuation.
He reasoned: 'There is always a lag time for valuation to catch up with the actual price of flats. Having the buffer would mean that people need not be so anxious waiting for approval.'

Meanwhile, the director of Dennis Wee Properties, Mr Chris Koh, advised sellers who are selling their flat below valuation to write to the CPF Board before signing on the dotted line. Or else, 'they may be caught in a situation whereby not only are they not making from the sale of their flat, but they have to further cough up cash', he warned.


Source :《联合早报》May 28, 2009


新加坡政府产业投资公司(GIC Real Estate)董事经理薛义华博士指出,抹平房地产债务、取得再融资,是美国和发达国家目前面对的棘手问题。考虑到许多房地产贷款将在2011年之前到期,如果拥有这些资产的基金经理在为债务取得再融资面对困难,它们也许会决定脱售。




另一名主讲人美国沃顿商学院房地产和金融教授约瑟夫·吉尤科(Joseph Gyourko)则提出,不良资产已开始在美国出现,而这些资产其实存在很好的投资价值,但由于投资者遇到财务问题而被迫将它们“牺牲”。









Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Source : 《联合早报》May 27, 2009














Dennis Wee房地产经纪行的董事许家荣也指出,由于经济放缓,目前还未看到沿线房地产价格明显上涨,但由于靠近地铁站的优势,这些单位还是有需求的。






三房地产以六百多万转手 房地产拍卖恢复买气

Source : 《联合早报》May 27, 2009



自去年8月,土地管理局拍卖四幅腾空地段(infill sites),收取1381万元后,房地产拍卖会好几个月都“吃鸭蛋”,或只促成一两宗交易,而交易额也都在100万元以下。










楼市出现“小阳春” 更多私宅项目将推出?

Source : 《联合早报》May 27, 2009



金成兴控股(KSH Holdings)总裁朱峙安透露,过去一周,市场上有五个延迟或取消的私宅项目重新开放招标,当中有两个为有地房地产,也不乏拥有600个单位的大型项目,吸引包括金成兴以内的建筑公司出手。













US Housing Market Seen Hitting Bottom Soon

Source : The Business Times, May 27 2009

But weak rebound likely, with housing starts near WW2 low

(BOSTON) The slump in the US housing market that caused the median value of homes to decline 24 per cent since 2006 may bottom next month without any prospect of a rebound for another year, according to estimates from chief economists at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Mortgage Bankers Association and national realtors and homebuilder groups.

End of the road: New-home sales traditionally lead all other indicators in a recovery but it may not be the case this time, say economists

Existing home sales probably won't reach pre-boom levels until the third quarter of 2010 and housing starts won't surpass one million until 2011, a barrier last broken six decades ago, the economists said.

'There are very few V-shaped recoveries in the history of real estate, and this one is likely to be even slower because of the size of the bubble,' said Robert Shiller, the Yale University professor who, with economist Karl Case, created home price indexes in the 1980s now used by Standard & Poor's.

The rebound will be so anaemic that 2009 building starts will total about 496,000 homes, the lowest since the end of World War II in 1945, according to the economists' forecasts.

Foreclosures on pay option adjustable-rate mortgages and a backlog of bank-owned properties will slow any revival and keep housing from playing its traditional role of boosting economic recovery.

Residential construction and home sales led the way out of the previous seven recessions, with housing starts improving an average seven months and resales gaining strength about four months before the economy picked up.

The world's largest economy probably will grow 1.9 per cent next year, according to the average estimate of 56 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. After each of the last seven contractions, it expanded more than 3 per cent on average in the first year of recovery.

Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas president Richard Fisher said earlier this month that the US is on the verge of rebounding with 'healthy signs - the stirrings of what I call green shoots.' So did former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan, who cited 'seeds of a bottoming' in housing during a May 12 speech at a National Association of Realtors conference in Washington.

'If you are looking at prices relative to income and rents, you could argue that we are at the bottom, and I'm cautiously optimistic that we may be,' said Thomas Lawler, a former Fannie Mae economist in Leesburg, Virginia. 'It's possible, however, that we could have a second wave of foreclosures and the very small amount of support the economy might have gotten will turn into the reverse.'

The recession started after US banks and Wall Street firms securitised mortgage loans made to the riskiest borrowers to earn fees only to see homeowners default, prices fall and the value of the bonds dwindle.

Homeowners like Craig Mitchell of Boise, Idaho, said they're paying the price for Wall Street's greed. Mr Mitchell, 66, said his video-editing business has dwindled in the recession. He said he's now being forced to sell his truck to make his mortgage payment while he seeks a buyer for the three-bedroom home he owns in a state with the fifth-highest foreclosure rate in the US.

The house is priced at US$289,000, about US$140,000 less than what it would have fetched three years ago.

Mr Mitchell may be waiting a long time for a buyer as the housing market tries to recover from the worst slump since the Great Depression.

While new-home sales traditionally lead all other indicators in a recovery, it may not be the case this time because the drop has been unlike any other since the 1930s, Mr Lawler said.

'History suggests that new-home sales bottom long before unemployment peaks, and perception of the economy starts to improve long before we see actual economic improvement,' Mr Lawler said. 'This time around we don't know if that will hold true.'

Prices in California fell for six years during the last major housing slump in the 1990s, and didn't return to their 1991 peak until 2006, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

About US$40 billion of mortgages at US banks have payments 90 days or more overdue, more than triple the US$11.5 billion of homes the banks already hold, according to data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp in Washington. Another US$78.8 billion are 30 to 89 days overdue, the FDIC said. -- Bloomberg

Firm Demand Boosts Sales Of Private Homes

Source : The Business Times, May 26 2009

Some developers have raised prices as a result.

DEVELOPERS continued to report encouraging private home sales last week, and some have upped prices on firmer demand.

BelleRive on Keng Chin Road and Martin Place Residences on Kim Yam Road are among the projects where prices have been raised. BelleRive's average price is now 13 per cent higher than when it was previewed in mid-April.

Growing demand: Far East Organization sold nine units at Floridian in Bukit Timah at an average price of $1,220 psf.

Frasers Centrepoint sold 60 more units last week at Martin Place Residences; new units were released over the weekend at prices that were about 5-7 per cent higher.

Chia Boon Kuah, Far East Organization chief operating officer, property sales, told BT that 'in recent weeks, we're seeing growing broad-based demand for our products across our portfolio in every price bracket, from upgrader market to the upper-middle segments to high-end luxury projects'.

Last week, the property giant sold more than 40 units, up from the 30 a week earlier. Far East's home sales for the May 18-24 week include two units at Vida on Peck Hay Road which fetched an average price of $2,030 psf; the buyers did not take up the rental guarantee offered by Far East for the recently completed condo. The developer also sold nine units at Floridian in Bukit Timah at an average price of $1,220 psf.

In the upgrader housing segment, it sold seven units at Mi Casa in Choa Chu Kang, nine units each at Lakeshore near Jurong Lake and Waterfront Waves near Bedok Reservoir. Waterfront Waves is a joint development with Frasers Centrepoint.

Frasers Centrepoint also sold four units each at its Caspian condo in the Jurong Lake location and Woodsville 28 last week.

At Martin Place Residences, the developer released fresh units below the 14th floor sky terrace in the second and final block in the 33-storey condo.

Prices of the freshly released units start from $1,350 psf, higher than the $1,260 psf starting price in the earlier block during the preceding weekend's marketing campaign.

However, the latest pricing is still below the $1,700 psf starting price for the 33-storey freehold project when it was previewed last year. Inclusive of the units sold last week, 168 units in the 302-unit condo are now sold.

Frasers Centrepoint is offering an interest absorption scheme (IAS) for all its four projects on the market - in exchange for a 3 per cent price premium for Caspian and a 2 per cent premium for the rest.

Over in Bukit Timah, a Sing Holdings subsidiary is understood to have sold five units last weekend at BelleRive, taking total sales to 39 units in the 51-unit freehold project. BelleRive was initially priced at $1,350 psf average when it was previewed in mid-April; this was raised to $1,430 psf last week and upped further to $1,530 psf this week. This translates to a 13 per cent price hike in about six weeks.

The average pricing is for the apartments in the 15-storey project, and excludes the two penthouses. About 75 per cent of BelleRive buyers have taken up the IAS offered by the developer at no extra cost.

The units were picked up predominantly by Singaporeans. BelleRive's draws include its proximity to Anglo-Chinese School (Primary) on Barker Road and Singapore Chinese Girls' School along Dunearn Road.

In the Balestier area, Soilbuild is understood to have sold another 25 units at Mezzo over the weekend. The project is priced at about $850-900 psf on average; the cost is 2 per cent more for IAS.

Property giant City Developments also sold 14 units last week for The Arte at Thomson condo. The average price in the project is now $900-930 psf, compared with $880 psf when previews began in March. The 336-unit condo is 84 per cent sold.

Near Botanic Gardens, Straits Trading has upped the price of the remaining few units at Gallop Gables to $1,400 psf, from the $1,188 psf average achieved for units sold in the past six weeks. The price increase comes after the developer achieved the sale of its 40th unit in the completed freehold condo.

In the secondary market, some 50-plus units are said to have been sold last week at RiverGate condo near the Singapore River. These are out of 88 units listed in a sales campaign last week. The average price is about $1,400 to $1,500 psf.

The 88 units were from an original pool of 100 units purchased in 2005 by a fund managed by Ferrell Asset Management.


Source :《联合早报》May 26, 2009

本地最高的公寓滨海舫(The Sail@Marina Bay)以风帆型设计闻名,但纤长的设计也意味建筑更容易被强风摇晃。


去年底竣工的滨海舫因采用独特设计和工程技术,获得建设局今年颁发的优秀设计和工程安全奖(Design and Engineering Safety Excellence Award),成为8座得奖建筑之一。

去年底竣工的滨海舫因采用独特设计和工程技术,获得建设局今年颁发的优秀设计和工程安全奖(Design and Engineering Safety Excellence Award),成为8座得奖建筑之一。







除了滨海舫,其他获得优秀设计和工程安全奖的建筑包括亨德申波浪桥(Henderson Waves)和加冷巴耶利峇高速公路(第423合约)。两项工程都面对艰巨的技术挑战,前者高高横跨亨德申路,后者低低穿越芽笼河底下,建造难度可想而知。

获得优异奖的5座建筑是私人共管公寓Parc Emily、樟宜机场的皇冠假日酒店、瑞吉酒店和瑞吉居、滨海南码头和地铁环线第一阶段工程。

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Rents For Ground Floor Shops In Orchard Rd Hold Up

Source : The Business Times, May 25, 2009

But weak retail outlook, upcoming malls expected to depress rents

The heat is on for Orchard Road retail rents with declining retail sales and substantial new supply completing soon, but Cushman and Wakefield says opportunistic retailers entering the final stages of negotiations for limited remaining choice ground-floor spots in new malls have kept demand for prime retail space firm in the first six weeks of this quarter.

New malls: ION Orchard, Orchard Central, 313@Somerset and Mandarin Gallery will add 1.8 million sq ft of net retail space in Orchard Road from now till mid-2010, says Knight Frank

The average monthly rental value for prime street-level retail space on Orchard Road dipped 1.1 per cent in the six weeks between end-Q1 2009 and mid-Q2 2009, lower than the 4.6 per cent quarter-on-quarter contraction seen in Q1 2009.

'Demand for retail space fell into a state of paralysis in Q4 2008 and early 2009 as the global economy was clouded under the tint of uncertainty. However, retailers have now moved into a state of acceptance and we are seeing more leases under negotiation,' says Cushman's associate director of retail consulting and leasing Turner Canning.

Cushman's average monthly rental value for prime ground floor Orchard Road retail space stood at $36.50 per square foot (psf) as at May 15, down 1.1 per cent from $36.90 psf as at end-March 2009. The latest mid-Q2 2009 figure represents a fall of 5.7 per cent since end-2008.

'While there is short-term resilience in prime retail rents, our forecast calls for a decline of a further 5-10 per cent in Orchard prime ground floor retail rentals through to the end of the year because of the generally weak retail outlook,' said Cushman's director of research Ang Choon Beng.

According to Knight Frank figures, ION Orchard, Orchard Central, 313@Somerset and Mandarin Gallery are among the new malls that will add a total 1.8 million square feet of net retail space in Singapore's prime Orchard Road shopping belt from now till mid-2010, a whopping 40 per cent increase from the current stock of 4.5 million sq ft.

Knight Frank managing director Danny Yeo, a veteran in the retail property consultancy sector, noted that despite the pressure from all the new shop space on Orchard Road, rents for ground floor space will probably hold up better than on the upper floors as the number of street-level units facing Orchard Road are limited in supply, whereas the supply on upper floors will be more substantial. 'So the rental drop on upper floors will be more severe than for ground floor space,' he added.

Cushman's Mr Canning reckons that upper floor shop space for new and existing malls on Orchard Road could today be fetching monthly rents of about $20-25 psf, lower than around $25-35 psf a year ago.

Knight Frank's Mr Yeo says it is difficult to quantify decreases in retail rents as traditionally measured on a fixed monthly psf basis. 'Increasingly, we're seeing more leases on a mix comprising slightly lower fixed rentals but also including a percentage of sales. This model cushions tenants when business is not on a level they want and enables them to tide over lean times, but once the market turns around, their total rental bill could be higher as retail sales pick up.'

CB Richard Ellis director (retail services) Letty Lee observes that retailers are increasingly being challenged by the economic downturn which is driving down tourist numbers.

'Coupled with the H1N1 virus, retailers face the prospect of not being able to achieve their projected turnover. The increase in supply is another challenge. Particularly for existing retailers, they will have to brace themselves for fresh competition, fresh concepts and malls incorporating new and different retail experiences,' she added.

Mr Yeo reckons that generally, retail sales at suburban malls have fared better than on Orchard Road over the past six to nine months. Retail turnover of suburban malls may have fallen by 5-15 per cent on average over this period, 'with the impact being a little bit more on fashion retailers than others such as those in groceries and F&B'.

'As for retailers along Orchard Road, for those relying heavily on tourists and big-ticket items, I wouldn't be surprised if their sales drop has been about 15-20 per cent on average over the past six to nine months, although a few may even have experienced a more substantial drop of 20-40 per cent.'