Friday, June 26, 2009

Are Investors Banking On A Rental Recovery?

Source : TODAY, Jun 25, 2009

Consider this: Rentals are sliding while residential property sales continue to scale new heights in the current troubled times. With almost half of recent buyers being potential investors with private addresses, could these people be punting on a rental recovery?

If so, they may be staring at a wait of several years for the uptick.

"I don't expect any rental recovery for the rest of this year," said PropNex chief executive Mohamed Ismail.

ERA Asia Pacific associate director Eugene Lim concurred. "Tenant demand has nothing to do with property prices, so even though sales have gone up, the rental market is still challenging," he said.

Some analysts are even projecting that a rental recovery will not kick in until three years later.

According to the Urban Redevelopment Authority, rentals slid 8.5 per cent in the first quarter of this year - down from 5.3 per cent in the fourth quarter of last year - as the double whammy of a weak economy and new supply hit the market.

Mr Mohamed expects second-quarter rental rates to be even more dismal than those of the first quarter. After all, rentals went up 40 per cent in the two-and-a-half years since 2006 as the property market boomed, he noted.

Still, residential property buyers continue to pile in, shrugging off predictions that rentals would continue sliding for the rest of the year. Perhaps they are not even interested in rental yields.

Said Cushman and Wakefield Singapore's residential head Connie Looi: "Buyers are rushing in to buy because there has been a downward adjustment in prices. It's not so much because of rental yields, which is about 3.5 per cent on average. It's more for capital appreciation down the road.

Mr Mohamed cautioned: "Even if you buy property from an investment angle now, it's very hard to predict what the market will be in three years".

Some market watchers, however, are bullish on the rental market. UBS Investment Research analysts said in a report dated June 18 that they expected rents to "stay flat for the rest of the year and potentially rise 2 to 15 per cent in 2010". They calculated that prime rents had fallen 12 per cent in the year to date.

So who should invest now? "You need to have a greater appetite for risk and greater holding power to go in now - these are investors with mid- and long-term views, about five years and beyond," said Mr Mohamed.

URA Tender For Hotel Site Coming Up

Source : The Business Times, June 26, 2009

THE Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) will launch a public tender for a hotel site at New Bridge Road in two weeks' time, it said yesterday.

The 0.45ha site was made available for sale through the government's reserve list system in April 2007. Under the reserve list system, the government will put up a site for public tender only if it receives an application from a developer who commits to bid for the site at or above the minimum price which is acceptable to the government.

URA said that it has received an application from a developer who has committed to bid at a price of not less than $43.9 million for the land parcel, which triggers the public tender.

Analysts said that interest seems to be returning to small development sites with good attributes.

Earlier this month, a government tender for a small hotel site on Short Street closed with a whopping 14 valid bids received. The number of bids - 15 in all, including one bid judged invalid because it was below the minimum bid price - is one of the highest received for a Government Land Sales tender.

The New Bridge Road site, which can house a boutique hotel development with about 200 rooms, is also thought to be attractive as it is very close to Outram Park MRT Station and should receive several bids, analysts said. It has a maximum permissible gross floor area of 168,853 sq ft.

60% Of IR Will Be Ready

Source : The Straits Times, June 26, 2009

Casino and theme park to open in first quarter; fewer visitors expected due to tough economy

THE Sentosa integrated resort (IR) is all set to throw open its doors in the first quarter of next year - but visitors will not get to see the finished product.

Construction of the 49ha integrated resort on Sentosa is ongoing. When it opens early next year, the casino, the university Studios theme park, the theatre, four hotels as well as the retail and dining area are expected to be ready, but not other facilities such as the oceanarium. -- ST PHOTOS: JOYCE FANG

When the resort opens, just 60 per cent of it will be ready: four hotels, the casino, the Universal Studios theme park, the theatre and the retail and dining area.

Construction of the other attractions at the 49ha resort - including the world's largest oceanarium, a marine museum and two more hotels - will begin next year and is slated for completion by 2012.

An ariel view of the 49ha Resorts World at Sentosa. The resort, which opens next year, is now expected to attract 12 million visitors in the first year, down from the 15 million forecast previously.

Giving an update on the progress of the IR yesterday, Resorts World at Sentosa (RWS) executive vice-president of projects Michael Chin said some 80 per cent of construction for the first phase of the resort has been completed.

What remain to be done are exterior works and outfitting the rides for the theme park.

This should be completed by August.

Work has begun on the world's tallest duelling coaster ride, the 42.5m-high Battlestar Galactica Duelling Coaster. The red track offers a tamer ride while the blue track is for the more adventurous.

After that, the resort will be testing the rides and other amenities, and getting staff up to speed on operations.

Asked about prices for the rides, the resort's head of communications Krist Boo declined to give details. But she said that charges would be kept 'affordable' and that they would be competitive when compared with other theme parks.

The Waterworld Stunt Show amphitheatre is set to be the biggest of its kind in the world. It will be able to seat up to 3,500 spectators. The special-effects show, a big hit at the Orlando and Osaka theme parks, retells the story of the movie Waterworld and features men on jet skies, men set on fire and even a small sea plane landing in the arena.

She added that prices would be comparable and likely cheaper, dollar-for-dollar, than those at Universal Studios' other parks in Orlando and Osaka, where day passes go for US$70 (S$100) and 6,000 yen (S$90), respectively.

Ms Boo acknowledged that there are some clouds on the horizon for the IR.

Because of the tough economic times, the resort would have to slash its visitor forecast for the first year from 15 million to 12 million, she said.

Read the full story in Friday's edition of The Straits Times.


Source : 《联合早报》June 26, 2009








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胜科集团与两公司合作 试验新型废水处理系统

胜科集团昨天在新加坡国际水资源周上,与本地两家公司:联合环境技术(United Envirotech)及美能材料科技(Memstar Technology),签署技术合作协议,第一次在本地试验以膜蒸馏系统(Membrane Distillation)处理和回收工业废水。



另一方面,胜科集团在裕廊岛上兴建的膜生物反应器(Membrane Bioreactor)废水处理系统昨天正式启用。





水中寄生虫检测科技 我国有望取得新突破










Signs Of Upturn In Resale Market: JLL Report

Source : TODAY, June 25, 2009

As buyers thronged showflats amid improved sentiment in recent months, the resale market also saw an uptick in the second quarter, according to a report by Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL).

Using recent housing data, the consultancy estimated that resale volumes increased more than 70 per cent from the first quarter to reach 1,464 transactions.

The two main reasons were pent-up demand from Housing Development Board (HDB) upgraders - whose own flats were seeing slower price declines than private homes - and the affordable pricing despite marginal increases, said JLL.

HDB upgraders made up almost half the buyers in the second quarter's resale market, some 11 percentage points above the 35 per cent recorded in the same period a year earlier.

Further attracting HDB upgraders was the fact that resale prices for private homes remain "highly affordable", JLL said. While current average resale prices in the mass market have surged 9.4 per cent from the previous quarter to $580 per square foot (psf) - the highest rebound across other submarkets - they remain 17 per cent below the peak of the first quarter of last year, the firm estimated.

In the luxury segment, it found that buyers were more willing to commit, seeing that average prices of $1,800 psf represented a 34-per-cent discount from peak. This is despite current prices being 53 per cent above the last trough in the first quarter of 2005, JLL noted.

South East Asia head of research Dr Chua Yang Liang believes the uptick is not sustainable, as the buoyancy is coming from short-term factors such as pent-up demand, discounted pricing and attractive mortgage packages.

The sustainability of any market recovery, he said, depends on longer-term factors such as growth in demand and economic production.

"I do not reckon the current activity in the market is likely to remain if prices continue to rise unsupported by growth of gross domestic product," Dr Chua said.

Gaming Important Part Of IR Revenues

Source : The Business Times, June 25, 2009

It will make up big chunk of Sentosa's revenue, Marina Sands' Ebitda: CLSA

The casinos may be a small component of Singapore's integrated resorts (IRs) but both operators will be counting on gaming revenue for significant support.

A report by CLSA reveals that for Marina Bay Sands (MBS), gaming Ebitda for 2011-2012 is estimated at US$700-800 million - about 75 per cent of total Ebitda.

Money spinner: CLSA says Marina Bay Sands is still likely to generate the highest Ebitda of any LVS casino globally, contributing 40 per cent of LVS's group Ebitda

For Resorts World at Sentosa (RWS), gaming revenue is expected to contribute about 70 per cent of overall revenue. While no value figure was given, CLSA said that up to 40 per cent of this will come from locals.

Andrew Hartley, Singapore country head at CLSA, said: 'People assume the local market will be very quiet, which I think is wrong. Just look at the huge daily turnover in locally listed small-caps to see there are a lot of bored retirees out there just waiting for a chance to go and punt their pensions. Or go to Tanah Merah to see the families lined up to board the boats for a day of gaming on the high seas.'

How effective the $100 daily entry fee will be at deterring locals is unknown. However, CLSA believes - but cannot confirm - that the $2,000 annual entrance fee may allow unlimited access to both casinos.

'We believe the strength of the local market will surprise,' Mr Hartley said.

CLSA noted that in 2008, Las Vegas Sands (LVS), which owns MBS, provided guidance for MBS 2012 Ebitda (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) of US$1.2 billion. 'Understandably, the company is no longer maintaining that guidance, as the world is in a different place than where we were previously,' CLSA said.

However, MBS is still likely to generate the highest Ebitda of any LVS casino globally, with MBS contributing 40 per cent of LVS's group Ebitda.

For LVS, in particular, profit targets will need to be met. CLSA said: 'We understand that the debt covenants kick in after the first full four quarters. When opened, (LVS's) credit facility will not be completely drawn down with payments made in 2010 and MBS will be still paying out for capex until Q2 2011 - around US$500 million in 2011. By that point, management should be generating at least S$800 million in Ebitda or there may be some debt covenants issues.'

The report said that LVS management expects gaming revenue to be biased towards VIPs rather than the mass market, with around a 60-40 split.

RWS, which is owned by Genting Singapore, will also target VIP and mass market players. About 30 per cent of the gaming tables are expected to be reserved for KJ (key junket) VIP players. To this end, RWS has recruited high-roller marketing veteran Mabel Lee, formerly with casino operator Wynn, to drum up business.

There is likely be a core of 20 KJ operators used by RWS, with a strong focus to solicit patrons from Indonesia, China and India, CLSA said.

Junket operators are important to the gaming industry. In Macau, one of the primary roles of junkets is facilitation, as there are limits on the amount of renminbi that can be brought into Macau - 20,000 renminbi (S$4,300) and US$5,000 per visit, which is less than the average bet in a VIP room.

To qualify as a VIP player, players need to register and have a minimum buy-in of S$100,000.

RWS will also have Universal Studios Singapore as a revenue generator. CLSA said that the overall building cost of about S$1.5 billion for USS is considerably cheaper than that of the estimated US$2 billion Universal Studios in Japan. This is largely due to cheaper construction materials, it said. As such, the estimated entry price of S$80 per adult will be cheaper than that at Universal Studios Japan, Orlando and Hollywood.

CLSA also said that RWS 'is taking the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (Mice) business more seriously than we expected'. 'We understand management have booked 38 events with more than 500 people.'

Over at MBS, CLSA said that the first Mice event has been booked for April 1, 2010.

CLSA expects both IRs to open in early 2010.

Property Transactions With Contract Dates Between June 8th - 13th, 2009

Private Resale Home Deals Shoot Up In Q2

Source : The Business Times, June 25, 2009

Average resale prices up from Q1 but still significantly below peak levels last year

THE buying frenzy at property launches has spread to the secondary market. The number of private homes sold in the resale market - excluding sub-sales - has risen to 1,464 units this quarter, based on Urban Redevelopment Authority caveat data at June 19.

One Devonshire: CBRE expects developers to sell 3,500 to 4,000 new private homes this quarter - 35-54% higher than the Q1 figure of 2,596

The figure is 71 per cent higher than the 856 units in Q1 this year, according to an analysis by Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL).

And more caveats could surface when full Q2 data emerges, with sales matching - or even surpassing - the 1,706 units sold in the resale market in Q2 last year, JLL reckons.

Average resale capital values have risen in Q2 from Q1 but are still below last year's peaks across all tiers - mass market, prime and luxury prime. This could be a key factor fuelling resale deals. Another factor could be HDB upgraders keen on buying a completed private home they can move into immediately. Also, rental yields from investing in completed property are higher than the measly interest rates earned on fixed deposits.

In another development yesterday, CB Richard Ellis said the median price per sq ft of freehold non-landed private homes sold by developers slipped 14.6 per cent from $1,051 psf in Q1 2009 to $898 psf in Q2, based on caveat data as at June 24.

However, once caveats for higher-priced projects like Martin Place Residences, The Wharf Residences and One Devonshire are lodged, the median psf price for Q2 is expected to be higher than the Q1 figure, CBRE added.

The firm expects developers to sell 3,500 to 4,000 new private homes this quarter, which would be 35 to 54 per cent higher than the Q1 figure of 2,596. The expected Q2 sales tally would be similar to levels achieved during the peak year of 2007, when developers sold an average of 3,700 units per quarter.

'The stock market rally, coupled with strong liquidity and developers' discounts, have resulted in a surge in new home sales this quarter,' CBRE executive director (residential) Joseph Tan said.

JLL's head of research (South-east Asia) Chua Yang Liang said additional factors buoying buying sentiment include pent-up demand and the interest absorption schemes. However, he cautioned: 'I don't reckon the current activity in the market is likely to remain if prices continue to rise unsupported by GDP growth.'

CBRE said that based on caveats lodged so far, HDB upgraders accounted for 65 per cent of buyers of new homes in the first half of 2009, higher than their 44 per cent share for the whole of last year. HDB upgraders have also been active in the secondary market, accounting for 49 per cent of buyers of resale and sub-sale units, up from their 33 per cent share last year, the firm added.

Sub-sales and resales are secondary-market transactions. Sub-sales involve projects that are yet to obtain a Certificate of Statutory Completion (CSC). Resales relate to projects that have received CSC.

JLL's analysis shows the average resale capital value for non-landed homes in the mass market was $580 psf in Q2, up 9.4 per cent from Q1. It is also 17 per cent below the Q1 2008 peak and remains highly affordable to most HDB upgraders, JLL said.

In the luxury market, the average resale capital value rose 7.8 per cent quarter on quarter to $1,800 psf in Q2. Against the peak in early 2008, the latest Q2 figure was down 34 per cent.

Ion Orchard, Orchard Central Have Healthy Lease Figures

Source : The Business Times, June 25, 2009

Ion is 94% leased, Orchard Central is 80% leased, say their developers

ION Orchard, which is due to open in a month, is 94 per cent leased, the mall's developer, Orchard Turn Developments, said yesterday.

Previously, the developer said the mall was 80 per cent leased and it was in advanced negotiations for the remaining space.

Shoppers' facade: Ion Orchard's management hopes many of the 333 shops will open in time for the mall's soft opening on July21. To give tenants an incentive, Ion Orchard said they will get 30% rebates off base rents

At the other end of Orchard Road, 80 per cent of space in Orchard Central is also committed. Previously, developer Far East Organization said the mall was 65 per cent leased.

Orchard Central is already open to shoppers. Tenants have progressively opened for business since early June. The mall's soft opening is slated for early July, by which time about 100 shops should be open, Far East says.

As for Ion Orchard, management hopes many of the 333 shops will open in time for the mall's soft opening on July 21.

'They (the tenants) are rushing to finish renovations and we hope as many of them as possible will open with us,' said Soon Su Lin, chief executive of Orchard Turn Developments, which is building the mall. Orchard Turn Developments is jointly owned by CapitaLand and Hong Kong's Sun Hung Kai Properties.

To give tenants an incentive to open on time, Ion Orchard said in March that they would get 30 per cent rebates off base rents if they opened for business by July 21. The response has been 'very positive' so far, Ms Soon said.

Neither Ion Orchard nor Orchard Central have given a recent update on asking rents. Ion Orchard has said previously that its rents range from $20 to $80 per sq ft per month (psf pm). Rents at Orchard Central range from $20 psf pm to more than $70 psf pm, Far East Organization said late last year.

But industry watchers have said that signing rents at most existing Orchard Road malls have since fallen, which means asking rents at Ion Orchard and Orchard Central could also have edged down.

Ion Orchard said yesterday that more than 21 per cent of its 640,000 sq ft of retail space will be dedicated to food and dining - with many casual and fine dining outlets offering local and international fare, plus food and confectionary stores and a gourmet supermarket.

28 restaurants and cafes will be spread over different levels of the mall, with the largest clusters on level 4 for fine dining, and basements 2 and 3 for casual dining. In addition, basement 4 will feature a food hall, with 80 stalls offering a range of cuisines for all tastes.

Ms Soon said that Ion Orchard remains on the lookout for suitable retail and F&B concepts for the 6 per cent of space that has yet to be leased.

Asia Developers Eye New Projects

Source : The Business Times, June 25, 2009

Asian property firms are beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel and several are positioning for an upturn even as the world economy struggles to recover from its worst recession in decades.

The mood among US and European executives at this week's Reuters Global Real Estate Summit is glum, but Asian counterparts are more upbeat with some revealing plans for new projects in anticipation of an upturn later this year.

For instance, Chinese commercial property developer SOHO said it has built up a war chest of US$1.9 billion to replenish its land bank and intends to start new projects in Shanghai and Beijing in coming months.

Indiabulls, India's third-largest listed property developer, aims to launch six to seven residential projects in the financial year ending in March 2010 on the back of an expected recovery in demand.

'The general mood has been cautious, but there is also optimism. Asian companies in general are in much better shape compared to their peers in other regions,' said Ayala Land chief financial officer and Asian Public Real Estate Association president Jaime Ysmael.

Spurring the optimism in Asia is a recovery in residential markets, with price cuts drawing buyers in China, Hong Kong and Singapore, where saving rates are high and banks are prepared to lend.

The volume of transactions in these places are close to levels seen during the bull market of 2007 and residential property values have begun to edge upwards as developers such as Singapore's City Developments raise prices.

Asian property values did not rise as much as in the US and parts of Europe this decade. In dollar terms, property in countries such as the Philippines are cheaper than before the onset of the Asian crisis in late 1997.

Interest rate cuts and government stimulus plans are also helping regional property markets recover.

Singapore residential prices were supported by mortgage rates that were below rental yields, a Bank of America Merrill Lynch report said this week.

'At the current mortgage rate of around 2.75 per cent, our net cost of carry model implies that prices can rise by 30 per cent before home buyers enter negative carry,' it said. The bank predicts Singapore home prices will rise 20 per cent next year.

Singapore's housing market has been hit hard by the downturn, with home prices plunging nearly 14 per cent in the first quarter of this year, the steepest drop in over 30 years, according to government data.

Separately, Nomura said unemployment was stabilising in Hong Kong and forecasts home prices and rents in the Chinese territory will rise by 22 per cent and 11 per cent, respectively, this year.

A poll of 10 analysts conducted in conjunction with the Reuters Global Real Estate Summit showed China home prices are expected to gain an average of 10 per cent between now and the end of 2010.

The outlook for Asia's office market remained negative but most developers said rents have stabilised after falling sharply in the fourth quarter of 2008 and earlier this year.

Some investors said any pick-up may not be sustainable. - Reuters

NSW Home Sales Soar

Source : The Business Times, June 25, 2009

(SYDNEY) New South Wales Premier Nathan Rees revealed yesterday a record number of first home buyers in May showed there had never been a better time to enter the Australian property market.

About 7,300 first home buyers took advantage of government grants and stamp duty cuts, worth around A$178 million (S$207.9 million). It was the third record month in succession, with more than 21,000 first home buyers taking up the offers in that time, Mr Rees said.

'We're getting more young families into their first homes than ever before and helping them get on with establishing their lives,' he said.

The biggest amount of grants, which are worth up to A$24,000 for those buying new homes, were handed out for properties bought in Sydney's western suburbs.

Mr Rees noted the first home owner grants paid out in May were almost double those paid out in the same month last year. -- Xinhua

Demand For Taipei Office Space Rises

Source : The Business Times, June 25, 2009

(TAIPEI) The availability rate of prime office space in Taipei this year is likely to fall less than earlier expectations as closer ties with former political rival China helps boost demand for the island's real estate.

The availability rate for prime office space will likely be at about 15 per cent this year, compared with a March forecast of 18 per cent, Tony Chao, managing director of Jones Lang LaSalle in Taiwan told reporters. Rents will also possibly fall by a smaller degree this year compared with a previous forecast of about 15 to 20 per cent, the property services company said.

'Rents could fall by about 15 per cent this year, with the drop becoming apparent in the third quarter,' Mr Chao said. 'But compared with Hong Kong, Singapore and Shanghai, the rate of decline is considered small.'

Mr Chao also said he expected demand for office space from Chinese investors to pick up only from next year. 'I visited Beijing last month, and many state-linked companies expressed interest in coming to Taiwan. But there are still policy issues, and it typically takes about six months to find a space, so the market could be weak in the short term,' he added.

Easing tensions with China, which claims self-ruled democratic Taiwan as its own, has spurred renewed interest in the island's economy. Its stock market has surged over 50 per cent since hitting a trough in January this year. -- Reuters

Resorts World On Track

Source : The Straits Times, June 25, 2009

OVER 80 per cent of the construction work at the Sentosa casino-resort has been completed, with only the last 20 per cent to go before its opening in first quarter of next year.

Works on the second phase of construction, two more hotels, the water theme park, marine life park and Marine Xperiential Museum will begin next year. --PHOTO: RESORTS WORLD AT SENTOSA

Resorts World at Sentosa gave a construction update on Thursday morning with its executive vice-president of projects Michael Chin giving the media a tour of the site.

'Everything is on track,' Mr Chin said.

Four hotels, the Universal Studios theme park, the half-kilometre stretch housing its retail and dining establishments and theatre for shows and casino will be ready for its opening next year.

This constitutes only 60 per cent of the 49-ha development. Works on the second phase of construction, two more hotels, the water theme park, marine life park and Marine Xperiential Museum will begin next year, said Mr Chin.

It will take up to two years before the final segment will be completed.

For now, the team is concentrating on rushing to complete the first phase.

Most of the construction work for Singapore's first Universal Studios is done, with only the fitting out and setting up of the rides to be done. These works are expected to be completed by August after which testings and commissioning will begin.

Because the casino-resort is opening during such economic downturn, Ms Krist Boo, its head of communications, said it has revised downwards the number of visitors expected from 15 million for its first year of operations to 12 to 13 million.

Still she said: 'We remain confident that we will draw the numbers.'