Saturday, May 9, 2009

New Hotel Oens In Clarke Quay

Source : The Business Times, May 8, 2009

It banks on area's popularity and lack of hotels there even as tourist arrivals are falling

AGAINST a backdrop of declining numbers of tourists to Singapore, another hotel, the Park Hotel Clarke Quay, has opened this month.

The new Park Hotel Clarke Quay is dangling carrots such as free Internet access, free meals and even a free river taxi ride to attract guests. -- ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

Like many others braving the downturn, the brand new 336-room four-star hotel in Unity Street is dangling a special package with freebies.

Guests who book between now and Aug 31 will get, for $198 and upwards, a room with free Internet access, free breakfast and lunch, free non-alcoholic mini-bar drinks and a free river taxi ride, on top of discounts on laundry, drinks and food.

Those who pay $238 and upwards for a Park Privilege Club room will also get free afternoon tea and evening cocktails, free use of the Club Lounge facilities and free laundry services.

Many hotels have rolled out similar promotions. Far East Organization's boutique hotel Quincy opened in March with a $208 flat rate (excluding taxes) covering all its services, such as three meals, Internet access and limousine pick-up from the airport.

The offers are a sign of how anxious hotels are for their share of a shrinking pie. In March, visitor arrivals fell for the 10th straight month compared with the same period last year.

The downward trend forced hotels to slash their average room rate to $196 in March. It marked the first time in nearly two years that the average room rate has dropped below $200.

But the Park Hotel Group remains optimistic. Based on the 'strong' booking response from leisure and business travellers, its director Allen Law forecasts 80 per cent occupancy by August. The average hotel occupancy was 74 per cent in March.

He said: 'Clarke Quay is an area which a lot of tourists want to visit, and there are not many hotels there. We think we've hit a good market segment.'

People's Park Complex...Or Hostel?

Source : The Straits Times, May 8, 2009

Many units renting out bed spaces to workers; URA investigation on

APARTMENTS at People's Park Complex in Chinatown are being partitioned to create extra rooms holding bed spaces for foreign workers, and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is on the case.

Apartments at the iconic green-and-orange People's Park Complex have apparently been converted into workers' quarters. -- ST PHOTO: NURIA LING

The signs of overcrowding are there.

The three lifts serving residents in the iconic green-and-orange building are jam-packed and frequently break down, and long-time residents there say the place has become noisier and dirtier.

They also fear that the partitioning within units and packing in of beds have created fire hazards.

Two URA officers were at the complex on Tuesday, and a URA spokesman said investigations were on.

Private apartments are for residential use and long-term residential stay, so leasing them out on daily, weekly or monthly terms is generally not allowed, URA said.

Also, planning approval is needed for a single residential unit to be broken up into more units.

URA can take action against unauthorised use of residential space.

The Straits Times reported yesterday that the agency had quashed the plan of a master tenant in Leonie Hill's Grangeford condominium to run a student dormitory there.

Double-decker beds are a common sight and some units accommodate as many as 30 people. -- ST PHOTO: NURIA LING

URA said it is also investigating condo owners elsewhere who are reportedly renting out rooms as hotel rooms.

URA is not the only enforcement agency: The Singapore Civil Defence Force said it issued composition fines to nine units at People's Park Complex this year and 18 units last year for unauthorised conversions of apartments into workers' quarters, flouting fire-safety regulations.

Those that have been caught, however, could just be the tip of the iceberg.

When The Straits Times visited the complex, many of the estimated 288 apartments from the eighth to the 31st floors looked like they were occupied by more people than a typical family unit.

The cues: shoe racks with 15 to 30 pairs of shoes, laundry strung out on window grilles, on racks in the hallway and in staircase landings; kitchens that appeared to have been turned into bedrooms; and notices on doors reminding occupants to keep quiet or to shut the door.

One unlocked regular-size unit of 1,119 sq ft had at least seven rooms. In its original state, a unit that size would have only three bedrooms and a living room.

Tenants in the complex, observed to be mostly Chinese nationals, said they were renting bed spaces for between $180 and $300 a month.

Mr Li Guiquan, 28, a chef, said he has been paying $200 a month for his bed space for more than a year. His bed is one of six in a room with three double-decker beds. He reckoned 30 people occupied the seven or eight rooms in the unit.

He said nonchalantly in Mandarin: 'Perhaps it's just the way it is in Singapore.'

People's Park Complex residents said the conversion into workers' quarters became apparent two years ago.

Long-time resident Beverly Lee, 49, in a letter to this newspaper's Forum page published on Monday, said that, with the alert on for the Influenza A (H1N1) flu, contact tracing would be difficult in such overcrowded conditions.

The complex's management corporation seems to have its hands tied.

Complex manager Wilson Goh said the management corporation managed only the common areas and had no jurisdiction over the apartments.

'What we can do is only to persuade owners to take care of the issue,' he said.

Some residents are resigned.

One resident who has been living there for more than 10 years and who gave his name only as Benny, 58, said: 'There is no use complaining.'

Mr Jeff Teo, 33, who lives beside a unit which he estimates houses up to 20 foreign workers, quipped: 'Right now, you can call it People's Park Hostel.'

To inform URA of unapproved use of residential units, call 6223-4811 or e-mail To inform SCDF of fire hazards, call 1800-2800-000.

Ion Orchard To Have 12,000 Sq Ft Of Watch Retail

Source : The Business Times, May 8, 2009

Internationally renowned luxury watch brands to set up shop in new mall

SWISS luxury watch manufacturer IWC Schaffhausen's stand- alone boutique in Ion Orchard will be part of some 12,000 square feet of watch retail space that the upcoming mall will have.

IWC has 21 boutiques across the world, but the one in Singapore - which will measure 1,000 sq ft - will be the first for the brand in Asia outside Hong Kong.

The watch company joins the ranks of other internationally renowned luxury watch brands - such as Rolex, Omega, TAG Heuer and Patek Philippe - in setting up shop in Ion Orchard.

Home-grown specialist watch retailers The Hour Glass and Cortina Watch will also be taking up space in the mall, which is due to open for business in July.

In all, Ion Orchard will have some 12,000 sq ft of space devoted to the retail of watches.

'Attracting the world's leading luxury watchmakers to bring their unique designs and concepts to Singapore was an important part of Ion Orchard's leasing strategy,' said Soon Su Lin, chief executive of Orchard Turn Developments, the developer of Ion Orchard.

Orchard Turn Developments is jointly owned by Singapore- listed CapitaLand and Sun Hung Kai Properties of Hong Kong.

Ion Orchard has secured 80 per cent tenancy commitment and is in advanced negotiations for the remaining space, the mall said in a recent update.

Andreas Boesch, general manager of IWC's South-east Asia division, said that the company invested a 'significant' amount in the upcoming boutique.

IWC's boutique in the mall will host all the brand's watches - except, of course, for those editions that are sold out.

Mr Boesch says that many tourists from the region can be expected to buy watches at the new boutique as Singapore is the de facto watch hub for the region.

'We have been looking at the market here in Singapore for quite a while and we needed a very good solution like what Ion Orchard is offering,' said Mr Boesch.

IWC has reduced the number of stores along Orchard where third-party distributors sell its watches from six outlets about six months ago to just two outlets now.

CapitaLand Collects Payment For 98% Of Sold RiverGate Apartments

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 07 May 2009

Property developer CapitaLand has collected payment for 98 per cent of the 542 units of RiverGate apartments which have been sold since it obtained the Temporary Occupation Permit in March 2009.

RiverGate condominium

CapitaLand said the progress payments and deferred payment receivables for the sold units were securitised through special purpose vehicle Okeanos Investment Corporation.

Okeanos issued US$477 million (S$731 million) of floating rate notes in January 2007.

The notes are due in 2011 and CapitaLand expects to fully redeem them by the maturity date in June 2009 with the proceeds collected for RiverGate to date.

RiverGate is a joint venture project by CapitaLand and Hwa Hong Corporation.

The development comprises 545 freehold residential units and is located in Singapore's Robertson Quay area. - CNA /ls

Payment Collected For 98% Of Sold RiverGate Units

Source : The Business Times, May 8, 2009

PAYMENT has been collected for 98 per cent of the 542 condo units sold at CapitaLand's RiverGate project since Temporary Occupation Permit (TOP) was obtained in March, the developer said yesterday.

The three towers: Payment collection for 11 units, all sold separately to individual buyers under DPS, is ongoing

Payment collection for the remaining 2 per cent, or 11 sold units, is ongoing, and the buyers have been served notice to pay up. The 11 units were 'all sold separately to individual buyers under the deferred payment scheme (DPS)', a CapitaLand spokeswoman said.

More than 90 per cent of the 542 RiverGate units sold were under DPS, she added. CapitaLand developed the 545-unit freehold condo in the Robertson Quay area through a 50:50 joint venture with Hwa Hong Corporation.

Asked what CapitaLand will do regarding the 11 buyers that have not paid up, the spokeswoman said: 'For genuine homebuyers who may face difficulties meeting the payment obligations, we will address these on a case-by-case basis. We will see how we can lend our assistance within the constraints of the obligations under the securitisation structure.'

The progress payments and deferred payment receivables for sold units were securitised through special purpose vehicle Okeanos Investment Corporation, which in January 2007 issued US$477 million ($731 million) of floating rate notes due 2011.

With the proceeds collected for RiverGate so far, the US$477 million of notes are expected to be fully redeemed by the expected maturity date in June 2009, CapitaLand said in a statement yesterday.

RiverGate buyers who opted for DPS paid 20 per cent of the apartments' price when booking them. Upon obtaining TOP, a further 65 per cent of the price is payable, with the balance of 15 per cent to be paid once the development obtains a Certificate of Statutory Completion and legal completion status from the authorities.

The 43-storey freehold project was launched in phases, with the initial phase in 2005 priced at $1,080 per square foot on average, and the final phase in 2006 priced at $1,600 psf on average. Units in the project have recently changed hands at about $1,200-1,380 psf.

Among those who bought RiverGate units from the developers is property fund manager Ferrell, which acquired 100 units in two tranches - 80 around Chinese New Year in 2005 and 20 later that year.

RiverGate is the first residential project in Singapore to be accorded landmark status by the Urban Redevelopment Authority in recognition of its strategic location and cutting-edge architectural design, CapitaLand pointed out yesterday.

'At 43 storeys, the development towers above the predominantly 10-storey buildings in the vicinity,' it said. 'Against this urban landscape, the majority of RiverGate's apartments enjoy views of the river and the business district city-scape.'

UK Commercial Property Revival In Prospect: Report

Source : The Business Times, May 8, 2009

LONDON - Britain's bombed-out commercial property market is edging closer to recovery, with prices of prime shops and offices holding firm since March, a report on Friday showed.

Global property broker Cushman & Wakefield said yields for high-quality UK property in 21 of 24 market segments it monitors have stabilised in the last two months, presenting the most stable picture on prices since March 2007.

Moreover, some prices for prime shops, offices and distribution properties remain unchanged since Dec 31, putting yields of the most in-demand properties under pressure to fall, the report said.

'The UK is looking very attractive at the moment to overseas investors who can take advantage of the weak currency ... it is also almost certainly the most advanced market globally in the cycle and has received a very heavy fiscal stimulus,' said David Hutchings, head of the firm's EMEA research division.

UK commercial property values have nosedived by more than 40 per cent since summer 2007, when the banking crisis ended an era of record prices fuelled by cheap and plentiful debt.

According to research from Property Data, just 3.6 billion pounds (US$5.40 billion) of UK commercial property transactions were completed in the first three months of 2009, the lowest quarterly volume reported since their records began in 2000.

Cushman & Wakefield said it expected to see a gradual improvement in investment activity over the next two to three months as more would-be buyers move to exploit discounts before prices start to rally.

But it warned of further falls in values over the shorter term as rental growth assumptions and occupancy levels are hit by the recession.

'...even though the occupational markets have further pain to come, we expect the commercial property investment market to stage the first and earliest significant western European recovery, with signs of this likely to be evident before the end of this year,' Hutchings said. -- REUTERS

Now It's Property Counters

Source : The Straits Times, May 08 2009

Real estate big guns soar but analysts say property prices yet to stabilize.

BANKS gave way to property counters yesterday as the extraordinary share market rally stayed in high gear.

The property sector's big guns rocketed and helped the market jump almost 63 points to 2,241.6.

The numbers from two high-fliers were stunning. Keppel Land, which made a cash call late last month to raise $712 million, was the biggest gainer in percentage terms, rising 56 cents, or 25.2 per cent, to $2.78. It has gained 66.47 per cent in just five days.

City Developments looked a slacker in comparison but still surged 85 cents, or 11.3 per cent, to $8.35.

The trading volumes of some property counters, including City Developments and CapitaLand, swelled by more than 40 per cent each yesterday.

The FTSE ST Real Estate Index has surged 59.5 per cent since its March lows, outperforming the benchmark Straits Times Index, which is up 53.9 per cent.

Some observers have described the recent stock market resurgence as a 'liquidity rally' - one driven by new flow of capital into stocks.

'I think it's simply because the sector is so under-owned over the last few quarters,' said CIMB-GK property analyst Donald Chua. 'Once the market picks up and liquidity comes in, many fund managers have no choice but to buy into the sector.'

But he adds that fundamentally, there has been no changes in the sector, although there might be some talk of sales volumes picking up.

'I don't think you can conclude that property prices have stabilised and I think that's the key thing to look out for before you can say anything has changed,' he said.

Many developers have cautioned in earnings statements that this year will remain challenging as the local property market remains cautious.

Fund managers have been steadily moving money back into equities, helping to ignite a rally in stock markets around the world.

Mr David Lee, managing director of Ferrell Asset Management, a Singapore-based hedge fund, said in an interview with The Straits Times this week that he had put money into property stocks at the start of this year.

'It was the best time to increase Asian allocation in risky assets such as property stocks,' he said, adding that real estate shares had been lagging.

'Sentiment was very bearish; valuations of some stocks became very attractive,' he said.

'The situation is a lot better now. For example, refinancing risk of properties is improving. People feel a lot better now with easier credit and better liquidity.'

A recent UBS report said the Singapore economy bottomed in the first quarter, making this a good time for investors to buy property and banking stocks as they are likely to be the best-performing sectors in the six months to come.

Yet investors have been positioned 'exactly the other way round' with heavier allocations in defensive stocks like telecoms, said UBS strategist Tan Min Lan.

While rocketing share prices took the headlines, CapitaLand also offered some good news from the front line of sales. It has collected payment for almost all the 542 units sold in its RiverGate condominium at Robertson Quay, which was completed in March.

About 98 per cent of the buyers have paid up, with collection of the remaining payments still ongoing.

Most buyers opted for the deferred payment scheme where they put up a 20 per cent downpayment and delayed the remaining payments until completion.


Source : 《联合早报》May 8, 2009