Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Market Stirs

Source : The Business Times, July 9, 2009

THE buzz has returned to the property market. Developers' home sales have recovered impressively since February. Private home prices have begun to pick up after hitting a low in the first quarter.

The revival in home buying is being fuelled by pent-up demand, low interest rates and a lack of trust in financial instruments after the Lehman Minibond fiasco. Some buyers are also motivated to make a commitment sooner rather than later for fear of missing the boat.

However, short-term factors are also at play, such as the spectacular stockmarket rally from March to mid-June. But the stock market is hard to predict, and with the Singapore economy still in recession, the jury is out on whether the property market will continue its recovery.

Still, some may find this a good time to buy. It would, of course, be wise to keep an eye on the debt-service ratio as a proportion of income and to set aside reserve funds for loan payments. One also has to be savvy when shopping for a mortgage.

For those eyeing overseas property, the weaker Singapore dollar has made investment more costly.

The articles in this supplement give some pointers for a decent property investment strategy. And as always, remember that property is a long-term commitment and that it's best to buy within one's means.

New Bridge To Sentosa Open To Traffic

Source : The Business Times, July 9, 2009

CONSTRUCTION of the new bridge to Sentosa is complete - and the first traffic crossed it yesterday.

Until July 22, all traffic to and from the island will be diverted to the new bridge, which runs parallel to the existing bridge. The existing bridge will be closed for works.

The $80 million new bridge was commissioned by Resorts World at Sentosa (RWS) to handle the 13 million visitors it expects when it opens in early 2010.

Australian-based engineering and construction company McConnell Dowell started the bridge project in March 2008.

The new bridge will carry traffic from the mainland to Sentosa. The existing bridge will carry traffic the other way.

When enhancement of the Sentosa Gateway is completed, there will be a three-lane carriageway for traffic in each direction.

Mike Barclay, CEO of Sentosa Leisure Group, said: 'Sentosa Gateway is poised to take on the increase in traffic when RWS opens and as more residents move into Sentosa Cove.'

RWS's executive vice-president of projects, Michael Chin, said: 'We built the new bridge as we are committed to providing our visitors a world-class destination. Their memorable experience must include hassle-free access to and from our resort and Sentosa.'

In 2008, the Land Transport Authority announced a package of road improvement measures aimed at enhancing travel for visitors to the Sentosa-HarbourFront area, including the construction of a new Gateway Tunnel to meet a long-term increase in traffic volume.

The tunnel is slated for completion in 2015.

Sentosa Leisure Group will boost transport on the island by increasing the Sentosa Express fleet.

Mount Faber Leisure Group will upgrade and expand its cable car system and rebrand the cable cars as a premium gateway to Sentosa.

Marina Bay Sands Opening Delayed To 2010

Source : The Business Times, July 9, 2009

LAS VEGAS Sands (LVS) will launch its Marina Bay Sands (MBS) integrated resort later than expected, with doors opening in January or February instead of at end-2009.

Topping out ceremony: Mr Adelson, flanked by his wife and two sons, with George Tanasijevich (back row), GM and VP of Sands' Singapore Development

Early-2010 will also be when LVS is likely to re-start construction work on stalled sites in Macau, as financing is expected to be 'settled' by September, LVS chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson said yesterday.

In town for a ceremony to mark the topping out of three 55-storey hotel towers at MBS, Mr Adelson said that depending on future market conditions, LVS could sell non-core assets at MBS, such as the retail mall, and use the cash to repay loans.

His comments on non-core assets were in response to questions on whether LVS might float MBS here.

There are no plans for an IPO of Singapore assets. But in Macau - where LVS owns several casino resorts, including the Venetian Macau - Mr Adelson said that LVS is 'actively and seriously' looking at several options to secure funding for its stalled Macau projects.

These include an IPO on the Hong Kong stock exchange of its Macau properties, which could raise US$3 billion - US$4 billion.

However, Mr Adelson said that LVS is also considering new equity partners and selling non-core assets in Macau, including retail malls and condominiums.

LVS announced late last year that it would suspend the development of Sites 5 and 6 on Macau's Cotai Strip due to the global credit crunch, and focus on completing MBS instead.

Financing for MBS is secured.

One reason for the delay in opening MBS is said to be the complex structure of the Sands SkyPark, an aerial park that will link and crown the three hotel towers. As such, MBS is likely to open in phases, Mr Adelson said. But the phases are not likely to be far apart, he added.

Building conditions have not always been favourable, he explained.

'We can't control the flow of sand to make concrete. We can't control the availability of steel. And we can't control the availability of labour due to other projects that are in the market.'

The first attractions to open will be key revenue drivers - including the casino, which is at an advanced stage of construction.

No events are expected before April 1 for the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibition (Mice) facilities.

However, Mr Adelson, a Mice veteran, said that MBS is negotiating about 150 Mice events contracts - most of them new to Singapore.

The hotels will also be a key component of MBS, with about 2,600 rooms and suites in total. While the number of rooms is lower than the projected 3,000 when LVS won the public tender to build the IR in 2006. Mr Adelson said that MBS will be 'pushing business to other hotels'.

MBS has been in discussions with other hoteliers in the area, he revealed. Some had feared MBS would wage a price war to attract customers. Mr Adelson said that MBS wanted to assure other players it would not do this.

On the contrary, he said 'we will be pushing up room rates', because MBS will offer something unique.

CDL unveils Tampines Concourse

Source : The Business Times, July 9, 2009

It is developer's first CarbonNeutral® project in region

CITY Developments Ltd (CDL) yesterday unveiled 11 Tampines Concourse - the first CarbonNeutral® development in Singapore and the Asia-Pacific.

The three-storey office building - with a gross floor area of 124,001 square feet and lettable space of 108,000 sq ft - has an energy-efficient design and eco-friendly fittings that will yield energy savings of 620,000 kWh, or at least $120,000, a year.

The building has been awarded the CarbonNeutral® mark, which certifies that all carbon dioxide gas from construction and energy consumption has been measured and offset either through savings arising from more environmentally friendly processes, systems and behaviour, or by paying for an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide to be saved by an accredited project elsewhere.

Aside from natural lighting in the atrium and lift lobbies, the building has an indoor non-compressor cooling system that uses water instead of ozone-depleting chemical refrigerants to cool incoming air through a natural heat exchange process.

The building itself is constructed from recycled materials and 'green concrete' comprising sustainable materials.

No dollar figures were given, but all in all, the eco-friendly features added about 2 to 5 per cent more to building costs. These costs have been budgeted for.

CDL is looking for 'green' tenants. Rents for office space in the Tampines area is between $3.50 and $4 psf.

CDL managing director Kwek Leng Joo said: 'Championing the environmental cause is no walk in the park. In earlier years, there were not many who believed in sustainable development.

'But fast-forward to today, with greater awareness of climate change issues, 'green' and 'sustainability' have become the buzz words.'

Esther An, head of corporate social responsibility at CDL, said: 'We have just started marketing 11 Tampines Concourse and have been doing so quite selectively, looking for tenants who share our commitment to environmental conservation.

'The response has been very positive. We have leased over 50 per cent to date.'

Property Market Continues Riding On Buying Mood

Source : The Business Times, July 9, 2009

PROPERTY market activity continued in the first week of last month as more private homes were launched - or re-launched - to ride the buying momentum.

Good demand: Bukit Sembawang Estates has sold 50 of the 78 units at Luxus Hills, a 999-year leasehold landed development at Ang Mio Kio, in a preview

Bukit Sembawang Estates said yesterday that it has sold 50 of the 78 units at Luxus Hills, a 999-year leasehold landed development at Ang Mio Kio, in a preview. Intermediate terrace homes were sold for an average of $1,085 per sq ft of land area, while corner terraces went for an average of $980 psf.

BT understands that agents have also started to market prime projects, including GuocoLand's 272-unit freehold Sophia Residence, City Developments's 85-unit project on the former Garden Hotel site and Wing Tai's 346-unit Ascentia Sky in Alexandra Road.

For Sophia Residences, asking prices range from $1,400-$1,600 psf. For CityDev's project, agents are quoting $1,800-$2,000 psf. At Ascentia Sky, a limited number of units have been released at prices ranging from $1,150- $1,350 psf.

Other developers are re-launching projects. CapitaLand is believed to have re-launched Latitude in the River Valley area last week. Asking prices range from about $1,600-$1,900 psf, a significant decline from $2,600 psf fetched for the 11 units sold from September 2007 to April 2008. Far East Organization re-launched Silversea a few weeks ago, selling some units at $1,250-$1,400 psf.

Developers can be expected to expedite new launches and continue promoting already-launched projects over the next two weeks as the Hungry Ghost month - which is traditionally slow for property sales - draws near.

Sales at recently launched projects have continued apace. 'We visited show flats for a few mid and prime projects last weekend,' said DMG & Partners Securities analyst Brandon Lee in a July-6 note. 'More developers are now offering additional price discounts of 2-5 per cent during soft launches to incentivise buyers.'

Prices rose 4.8 per cent quarter-on-quarter in Q2, Mr Lee said. 'Along with a flat stock market performance, we believe this has led to a less fervent show-flat turnout. However, sales volumes remain healthy.'

In an update, Far East Organization said yesterday that it has sold 130 apartments at its 280-unit Vista Residences at Thomson.

Separately, Credo Real Estate yesterday released for sale by tender a cluster of 18 shophouses at Joo Chiat/Onan Road. The properties are owned by a family trust, which is seeking offers in the region of $25 million to $30 million. The freehold site is 35,440 sq ft and the total gross floor area of the shophouses is 62,489 sq ft.

Rebound In Resale Flats Shows Stability, Says Mah

Source : The Business Times, July 9, 2009

URA data shows Q2 resale price index rising 1.2%, against dip of 0.8% in Q1

THE slight rebound in HDB resale flat prices indicates a stable, not a rising, market, said Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan yesterday.

'New flats to cater to every last person... if you do that, then obviously, you are overbuilding.' - Mr Mah

Flash estimates from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) had shown that the HDB resale price index rose 1.2 per cent in the second quarter, against a 0.8 per cent dip in the first quarter - suggesting a recovery in the sector.

Speaking at the unveiling of City Development Limited's Tampines Concourse, Mr Mah said: 'Well, I don't know whether you could use the word rising - it's only one per cent. It was minus less than one per cent in the previous quarter, it's now plus one per cent. I would say it is stable, I wouldn't call it rising.'

Noting that the HDB market is a very large one, he feels that price fluctuations within a range of one per cent is stable.

Looking ahead, Mr Mah also revealed that '8,000 or more' new HDB flats may be launched this year, depending on the demand. However, not all the demand for public housing will be met by new flats.

Cautioning against an oversupply, Mr Mah said: 'We cannot be building new flats to cater to every last person who wants a new flat. Because, if you do that, then obviously, you are overbuilding. So some of the demand will have to be made with resale flats.'

Oversupply of new flats may depress resale flat prices, leaving existing homeowners worse off and new homeowners feeling like they have overpaid for their flats. Thus, the supply of new HDB flats should be carefully calibrated to 'cater to some of the new demand (for flats) but not all', with an emphasis on maintaining price stability.

As for keeping public housing affordable, the minister said that the monthly instalments for new and resale HDB flats, as well as household incomes, are closely monitored to ensure that public housing remains affordable for the masses.

Global Economy Not Out Of Woods Yet, Recovery Will Be Slow: IMF

Source : The Business Times, July 9, 2009

THE global recession is not over and recovery is still expected to be slow, the International Monetary Fund warned in the latest update of its World Economic Outlook released last night. The highly cautious tone of the report will be seen as validating market concerns that have re-emerged over whether sentiment has outrun short-term economic recovery prospects.

Sewing it up: The stars in global economic growth will be China and India

'The global economy is beginning to pull out of a recession unprecedented in the post-World War II era, but stabilisation is uneven and the recovery is expected to be sluggish,' the IMF says in its bi-annual update on the world economy. The global growth forecast for 2010 has been revised upwards slightly in the latest update to 2.5 per cent after a forecast contraction of 1.4 per cent this year.

The report makes it clear that the global economy and the international financial system are still on life-support from government and central bank-administered aid, and that 'macro-economic policies need to remain supportive'. But it also urges governments to 'prepare the ground for an orderly unwinding of extraordinary levels of public intervention'.

There has been a massive transfer of risk from the private to the public sector as a result of banking rescue packages and economic stimulus programmes and the fiscal burden this has produced will not be easily or quickly resolved, the IMF says.

In the latest market update of its Global Financial Stability Report (GFSR), also released last night, the IMF reported that 'financial conditions have improved as unprecedented policy intervention has reduced the risk of systemic collapse' but, at the same time, it warned that 'vulnerabilities remain and complacency must be avoided'.

The World Economic Outlook suggests that the US economy would contract by 2.6 per cent this year and expand a modest 0.8 per cent in 2010. Japan, the world's second largest economy after the US, is projected to post a 6 per cent drop in GDP this year (exceeded only by a forecast 6.2 per cent fall in Germany) before returning to 1.7 per cent growth in 2010.

The euro area as a whole will see its economies shrink by 4.8 per cent and then by a further 0.3 per cent next year. Advanced economies as a whole will contract by 3.8 per cent before returning to 0.6 per cent overall growth in 2010.

The stars of the global economy will be China, growing at a projected 7.5 per cent this year and 8.5 per cent in 2010, and India, 5.4 per cent and 6.5 per cent respectively - well ahead of other emerging markets which are projected to see their overall growth rate slump to just 1.5 per cent (from 6 per cent in 2008) and to recover only to 4.7 per cent in 2010.

Despite some positive signs in the global economy, 'financial systems remain impaired, support from public policies will gradually diminish and households in countries that suffered asset price busts will rebuild savings', the report says. The implication is that recovery may slow again as official support fades, and that personal consumption will not return to pre-crisis levels.

The 'downward drag exerted by the financial shock, the sharp fall in global trade and the general increase in uncertainty and collapse of confidence is gradually diminishing'. 'However, supportive forces are still weak. Many housing markets have yet to bottom out, financial markets remain impaired and bank balance sheets still need to be cleaned and institutions restructured. The main policy priority now remains restoring financial sector health.'

Adding to this, the GFSR notes that the global financial sector 'continues to be dependent upon significant public support, resulting in an unparalleled transfer of risk from the private to the public sector'.

Overall conditions in financial markets 'remain tight'. 'Growth in bank credit to the private sector continues to be slow in mature economies, securitisation markets outside of those supported by the public sector remain impaired and lower quality borrowers have little access to capital market funding.'

S'pore Tops List For Trade Openness

Source : The Business Times, July 9, 2009

HK, last year's No1, lost ground for very congested roads

Singapore is ranked top this year in the World Economic Forum's Enabling Trade Index, which measures openness to trade. Last year's No 1, Hong Kong, dropped to second place this year.

The report, written by Robert Lawrence of Harvard University, and Margareta Drzeniek Hanouz and John Moavenzadeh of the World Economic Forum, aims to assess policies and institutions that affect trade flows.

Singapore's 'very open market, as well as a highly efficient and transparent border administration, a well-developed transport and communications infrastructure, and an open business environment all contribute to this result', the report noted. 'Customs procedures are assessed as the least burdensome in the world, and time and cost for both import and export are among the lowest for all countries covered.'

Hong Kong's open domestic market won praise, as did its efficient customs, developed transport and communications infrastructure, and conducive regulatory environment.

However, it lost ground for its very congested roads and could benefit from more commitments to open up its transport sector, the report said. Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Canada, Norway, Finland, Austria and the Netherlands round out the top 10.

The report said that Singapore could also benefit from less congested roads and improvements to its info-comms infrastructure. The country was ranked 86th out of 121 countries for road congestion.

Singapore also improved this year on non-tariff barriers to trade - such as health and safety standards and certification, that are seen as instruments of protection, rather than applied for legitimate reasons.

In 2008, access to Singapore's market was perceived as 'fairly difficult' because of non-trade barriers, the report for that year noted, but said the area was highly subjective.

'There is no international consensus on what can be considered legitimate . . . (non-tariff measures) and what measures are illegitimate barriers to trade - making it difficult to provide a clear picture.' This year, Singapore moved from 84th to 38th on that measure.

The report said there was a general correlation between prosperity and openness to trade and said this should not be forgotten especially in poor economic times.

'Protectionism is not the cause of the crisis, but it could be one of its most important consequences,' the report said, noting that some countries are overtly favouring domestic industries or imposing further barriers to trade.

'Limiting global trade would not only amplify the current downturn, in the longer term it would also reduce growth - in particular in developing countries - plunging millions of people back into poverty.'

Property Transactions For Districts 1 To 16 With Contract Dates Between June 17th - 23rd, 2009

When To Tax Property Gains

Source : The Straits Times, July 8, 2009

A PROPOSED change to income tax laws will make clearer to property sellers when they will be taxed on their profits.

Anyone who sells only one property in any four-year period will not be taxed on his profit, according to a proposed amendment to the Income Tax Act.

But if he sells another property within four years of the first sale, the profit from the second sale may be taxable.

If the proposal becomes law, it will provide certainty for owners who now cannot be sure if the taxman will come calling after they sell.

Under existing rules, an individual does not pay tax on gains made from selling a property unless the taxman decides that he is trader - someone who buys and sells multiple properties within a short time span. And there is no way for the seller to know in advance if he might be deemed a trader.

The new way of taxing property profits is one of many changes listed in a draft Income Tax (Amendment) Bill 2009 put up for public feedback last month by the Finance Ministry. If implemented, the change will take effect from January.

A ministry spokesman told The Straits Times on Tuesday that the proposed change aims to provide certainty of non-taxation to individuals who own property.

Once it takes effect, the individual who sells a property for a profit can be sure that his gains will not be taxed - provided he had not sold any other property in the previous four years.

If he sold other properties within that period, the spokesman said, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) will decide whether he should be taxed, 'based on the facts and circumstances, no different from the present tax treatment'.

The draft Bill can be read at the Finance Ministry website and the public has up to next Tuesday to give feedback. The Bill is expected to go before Parliament later in the year.

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

S'pore, HK Most Trade Friendly

Source : The Straits Times, July 8, 2009

GENEVA - SINGAPORE and Hong Kong are the two most trade-conducive economies, the World Economic Forum said on Tuesday in a study that placed the United States in 16th place, its performance affected by fears of crime and terrorism.

The WEF said in its Global Enabling Trade Report that Singapore and Hong Kong, in addition to offering a trade-friendly business environment, 'are endowed with well-developed transport and telecommunications infrastructures ensuring rapid transit to final destinations.'

The report, published for the second time and covering 121 economies, assesses institutions, policies and services that facilitate the flow of goods across national borders.

The top 10 economies on the WEF's Enabling Trade Index after Singapore and Hong Kong are Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Canada, Norway, Finland, Austria and the Netherlands.

The report described the US performance as 'uneven,' with the country getting high marks for its transportation infrastructure and the efficiency of its customs administration and export and import procedures.

'On a less positive note,' the report said, 'the business environment is less attractive than it could be.' 'Among other issues businesses voice their concern about the level of security and indicate that the threat of terrorism and crime and violence impose significant costs.' The report also cited 'restricted access to markets' in the United States.

Japan, in 23rd place, also scores well for its transportation services but suffers from 'high barriers to market access in domestic and foreign markets, as reflected in the high tariffs on agricultural products and the complexity of tariffs, as well as barriers faced when exporting to foreign markets.' In China, ranked 49th, 'imports are still significantly inhibited by tariff barriers,' the report found.

China could also do with improvements in its air transport network and regulatory environment.

The Geneva-based World Economic Forum is an independent international organisation to promote research and dialogue among business and government leaders.

It organises an annual meeting in the Swiss ski resort of Davos which draws business and political leaders. -- AFP

Conversion Bid Lost

Source : The Straits Times, July 8, 2009

House attached to it does not sit on a plot big enough for a bungalow

A DECISION in a legal case has just re-affirmed a key principle of property development - a semi-detached house can be converted to a bungalow only if the neighbouring house is also on a plot large enough for a bungalow.

The 2002 circular stated that 'a semi-detached house can break away if the adjoining semi-detached house is also capable of redeveloping into a standard detached house under prevailing guidelines'. -- ST PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN

The case centred on co-owners who wanted planning permission to convert their semi-detached house in the Upper Thomson area into a bungalow.

Madam Borissik Svetlana and her husband Low Eng Pah applied for permission in 2007 - after buying the house - to erect a two-storey bungalow with a basement, an attic and a swimming pool.

Their application was rejected by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) but the couple went to the High Court to get the order overturned.

The High Court said the applicant cannot assume that the URA will allow the couple's house to be redeveloped into a bungalow and then claim they have suffered hardship when their own assumption turned out to be wrong.

The court dismissed their appeal last week and referred to a 2002 URA order that imposed restrictions on the redevelopment of semi-detached houses.

It was concerned that redeveloping some semi-detached houses into bungalows could leave the adjacent semi-detached house with a lop-sided appearance if the land it is on is too small to accommodate a bungalow.

The 2002 circular stated that 'a semi-detached house can break away if the adjoining semi-detached house is also capable of redeveloping into a standard detached house under prevailing guidelines'.

This means that the adjoining semi-detached houses must each stand on at least 400 sq m of land - the minimum plot size for a detached house. The plots must also have a width of 10m.

The couple's semi-detached house at 2 Jalan Chengam sits on 419 sq m of land but the house to which it is attached, 1A, has a plot of only 244.5 sq m.

If their redevelopment plan had been approved, the remaining semi-detached house would become the type of lop-sided home the 2002 circular was drafted to prevent, the High Court said.

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

Quick Recovery Unlikely

Source : The Straits Times, July 8, 2009

FORGET a quick recovery. Getting out of this global downturn is going to be 'a hard slog', cautioned Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Tuesday.


Mr Tharman told investors, fund managers and corporate executives at the Nomura Asia Equity forum that while the worst may be over, the global economy is not yet staging a firm recovery and that any pickup will be slower than in previous recessions.

Investors should also be prepared for a slower-growth world and expect unemployment to stay high for an extended period.

'The weight of evidence suggests this is going to be a hard slog. The recovery over the next two years is going to be slower than previous recoveries, and we cannot rule out setbacks from time to time,' he warned.

Moreover, the American consumer, after two decades of unsustainably high spending, is saving more, while China's rising consumption still cannot make up for the shortfall.

Mr Tharman's 40-minute address at the Shangri-La Hotel touched on a broad range of issues, from microeconomic reforms for long-term growth to the limits of fiscal and monetary policy measures - the key tools governments typically use to influence demand.

He acknowledged that with the debt-burdened American consumer on the ropes, there will be a significant contraction of real consumption, which will also have an impact on Asia's growth.

Citing United States data, he said estimates are that if US household debt is brought down from the current 130 per cent of household income to a proportion of 100 per cent, it will require the household savings rate to rise from 4 per cent to 10 per cent over the next 10 years.

He added that gross domestic product expansion in Asia will likely fall to an average of 6.5 per cent over the next few years from 9 per cent during the 2002 to 2007 period.

The International Monetary Fund has forecast that developing economies will probably expand 1.6 per cent as a group this year and 4 per cent in 2010.

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


'The weight of evidence suggests this is going to be a hard slog. The recovery over the next two years is going to be slower than previous recoveries, and we cannot rule out setbacks from time to time.'


'Chinese consumption growth is not ready to compensate for the US consumption growth. Even if they try their hardest, it's about one-sixth the size of US private consumption.'

Marina IR Towers Topped Up

Source : The Straits Times, July 8, 2009

THE three 55-storey hotel towers of Marina Bay Sands integrated resort were topped out on Wednesday morning by parent company Las Vegas Sands chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.

The towers will house around 2,600 luxury hotel rooms that are simultaneously being fitted out. -- PHOTO: MARINA BAY SANDS

Some 120 regional and local media were invited to witness the topping up ceremony of the three blocks.

The towers will house around 2,600 luxury hotel rooms that are simultaneously being fitted out.

Mr Aldelson told reporters the US$5.4 billion (S$7.9 billion) IR is expected open by January or February next year.

When completely open, it will comprise a casino, hotel rooms, convention and retail space, as well as various entertainment facilities.

With the topping up of the hotel towers, Marina Bay Sands can start construction of the 56th floor and the 1ha Sands SkyPark on the 57th floor.

The SkyPark, which will stand some 200m from the ground, will have a public observation deck in the world's largest building cantilever.

Lawyer Struck Off Rolls

Source : The Straits Times, July 8, 2009

LAWYER David Tan Hock Boon, who was part of a group which swindled banks and the CPF Board by declaring inflated purchase prices, was struck off the rolls on Wednesday for gross professional misconduct.

Tan, 40, who was represented by lawyer Wong Siew Hoong at the Supreme Court hearing, was jailed five years last November for his part in the property scam. -- PHOTO: CRO

The Court of Three Judges, presided by Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang, took less than 10 minutes to make the ruling in the suit brought by the Law Society.

Tan, 40, who was represented by lawyer Wong Siew Hoong at the Supreme Court hearing, was jailed five years last November for his part in the property scam.

He had then pleaded guilty to being part of an elaborate housing scam that cheated banks out of almost $700,000 in just over a year. Tan was one of five people connected to the plot which also involved rogue fugitive-lawyer David Rasif.

Tan had conceived the scam in 2003 to swindle banks and the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board by falsely declaring the purchase prices of properties.

His partners included property agent Goh Chong Liang and Rasif, who went missing in June 2006 with about $12 million of his clients' money.

Their plan saw Goh convince sellers and buyers of properties, mainly HDB flats, to declare inflated purchase prices. Armed with phoney documents such as CPF and employment records, they secured mortgages well above the value of the houses.

Three others involved in the scam, all non-lawyers have already been convicted and are behind bars for jail terms varying

between 12 and 65 months. Rasif remains on the run.

Tan, a father of two young children, stopped practising law in April 2006 on leaving Rasif's law firm and became a freelance business development manager.

S'pore Most Trade-Friendly

Source : The Straits Times, July 8, 2009

SINGAPORE is the most trade-conducive economy in the world, according to an influential report which put great rival Hong Kong at second.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) pointed to Singapore's many advantages, including policy approaches, that have made it No.1. -- ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

The World Economic Forum (WEF) pointed to Singapore's many advantages, including policy approaches, that have made it No.1.

Its Global Enabling Trade Report cited the open market, highly efficient and transparent border administration, well-developed transport and communications infrastructure, and an open business environment.

'Customs procedures are assessed as the least burdensome in the world, and time and cost for both import and export are among the lowest for all countries covered,' the report said.

The WEF highlighted that the Singapore Government is highly transparent and efficient, while exporters face relatively low tariffs in target markets.

But it suggested one area in which action is needed: traffic and communications. It said less congested roads and improvements to the information and communication technologies infrastructure could help exporters.

The WEF said Hong Kong's open domestic market mirrored Singapore's high dependence on exports and imports, but also noted that Hong Kong's exported products faced more barriers than Singapore's, as reflected in the tariffs it faced.

Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew recently told Malaysian leaders that Singapore businessmen have thousands of projects in China, Vietnam, India and the Middle East, and that they are benefiting from the web of FTAs the country has signed.

Still, the reality for Singapore is that being very open to trade with precious little domestic demand to speak of also means it cannot escape the global business cycle.

'Singapore is a very export dependent economy that feels the pain once global growth collapses,' said Mr Thomas Kaegi, senior economist at UBS Wealth Management Research.

Read the full report in Thursday's edition of The Straits Times.

Second Link To Sentosa Opens

Source : The Straits Times, July 8, 2009

VISITORS to Sentosa had to take a different route to get to the island on Wednesday.

The existing bridge has been closed. It will be converted into a one-way, four-lane carriageway. -- ST PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN

Vehicles crossed to the island via a new $80 million second causeway, built by the Resorts World at Sentosa integrated resort (IR). The link was opened early Wednesday morning.

The existing bridge has been closed. It will be converted into a one-way, four-lane carriageway.

When it reopens next month or in September, all four lanes will used for traffic heading out of Sentosa.

The new bridge, which will afford direct access to the IR, will then serve all traffic heading for the island.

Apartments At Fusionopolis

Source : The Straits Times, July 8, 2009

FRASERS Hospitality launched its service apartment complex at Fusionopolis on Wednesday - its third property here and certainly not its last.

Fraser Place Fusionopolis, located on levels 17 to 19 of the Symbosis Tower of Fusionopolis @ one-north, has 50 units, all one-bedroom loft apartments ranging from 46 sq m to 99 sq m.

It has obtained commitments amounting to a 60 per cent occupancy rate. The first few guests, including a professor from the nearby business school Insead, have checked in.

Frasers Hospitality chief executive officer Choe Peng Sum told The Straits Times that occupancy at its two other properties here - Fraser Suites in River Valley and Fraser Place in Robertson Quay - stands at 90 per cent despite the global downturn.

However, it has had to cut rates and the completion of a few of its planned projects overseas has been delayed, added Mr Choe.

The effect of the global downturn kicked in around February but the drop in occupancy has been slight so far, just two or three percentage points, said Mr Choe.

He attributed it to more expatriates seeking shorter stays or more flexibility in the light of the uncertainty.

The downturn has been kinder to the service apartment sector than hotels.

'We saw this during the Hong Kong handover. All the service apartments in Hong Kong were full and rates were very good,' said Mr Choe.

Singapore's hotel rates may have fallen by 35 per cent this year but service apartment rates are down by only 15 per cent, he said.

Read the full report in Thursday's edition of The Straits Times.

Marina IR Opening Delayed

Source : The Straits Times, July 8, 2009

THOSE hoping to visit the Marina Bay integrated resort at the end of the year will be disappointed. The casino-resort will only be ready in January or February next year.

On Wednesday, the IR celebrated a major construction milestone - the completion of three 55-storey hotel towers. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

The announcement on the delayed opening came from none other than Mr Sheldon Adelson, chief executive officer and chairman of parent company Las Vegas Sands. He had announced that the entire project will be completed and open by 2009 on the day the company won the bid in 2007.

Three years on, at the topping out ceremony for its three hotel blocks on Wednesday morning, Mr Adelson told the media, government officials and guests that Marina Bay Sands will have its soft opening next January or February.

Mr Adelson (first, from left) told the media, government officials and guests that Marina Bay Sands will have its soft opening next January or February. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

His reason: 'We can't control the flow of sand to make concrete, the availability of steel or the availability of labour.'

Marina Bay Sand's delayed opening will put it in direct competition with the other IR project on Sentosa, Resorts World on Sentosa, which is also targeting to open in the first quarter of next year. Both are gunning now to be ready before Chinese New Year, which falls in the mid-February, to welcome the festive crowds.

Still, Las Vegas Sands chief operation officer and president Michael Leven said he is not worried about going head to head with his competition as the Marina IR appeals to very different segments of the market.

The group remains confident that the Singapore project will be successful when it opens. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Mr Adelson promised that 50 per cent of the resort will be ready for the soft opening, with the rest to follow two to three months later. The group remains confident that the Singapore project will be successful when it opens.

On Wednesday, the IR celebrated a major construction milestone - the completion of three 55-storey hotel towers. Work will start on the next challenge, which is to hoist the sky park onto the hotel towers, some 200 metres above the ground.

Wednesday's ceremony was attended by government officials from various agencies, ranging from Singapore Tourism Board, the Singapore Workforce Development Agency, the Casino Regulatory Authority, and some 120 regional and local media.

Sheldon Adelson said Marina Bay Sands will open early next year for its initial phase. -- PHOTO: AP

The Singapore integrated resort was one of the few projects Las Vegas Sands continued to work on after the company was hit by a massive cash crunch last year. It was forced to suspend work on a Macau project late last year and lay off 11,000 workers.

However, Mr Adelson said on Wednesday he expects work to commence on the stalled Macau project by end of the year. He said the company is looking at re-financing the project, and considering five options, including an initial public offering (IPO) on the Hong Kong market for the Macau assets to raise funds. Mr Adelson said the company expects to finalise plans for Macau by September.

HDB To Offer At Least 8,000 New Flats

Source : The Straits Times, July 09 2009

It will 'calibrate supply' to meet some of the demand - but not all.

THE Housing and Development Board (HDB) will offer 8,000 new flats this year, or more if the pickup is stronger, said National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan yesterday.


He said the board is monitoring demand and will 'calibrate its supply of new flats' to meet some of that demand - but not all.

The HDB launched about 1,300 new flats in the first quarter of the year under its build-to-order (BTO) system, where units are built only when a certain level of demand is reached.

It plans to launch a further 2,400 such flats from April to September, subject to demand. The bulk of these will be in Punggol.

Last year, the HDB launched about 7,800 new flats under its BTO system.

Mr Mah, who was speaking on the sidelines of an industry event, said prices in the HDB resale market have stabilised.


Recent HDB flash estimates showed that resale prices rose 1.2 per cent in the second quarter to hit a record high after dipping 0.8 per cent in the first quarter.

This surprised analysts and industry observers, who had expected prices to fall amid Singapore's worst recession.

But Mr Mah said: 'The fact is that the HDB market is a large market...with prices going up or down by 1 per cent, I would term it a stable market, not a rising market.'

He also said the HDB will continue to supply new housing units but 'we cannot be building new flats to cater to every last person who wants a new flat...because if you do that, then obviously you are over-building'.

Some of the new demand will have to be met by resale flats, which have advantages in that buyers can move in immediately and select the location of the flats, he said.

If there is increased demand, the HDB will push out more units, he added. 'In this way, we manage the demand and, at the same time, that helps to keep the HDB resale market prices stable. I think that's something all HDB flat owners will welcome.'

PropNex chief executive Mohamed Ismail said yesterday that new HDB launches will likely be easily absorbed, especially as demand has surged in the second quarter compared with the first.

The resale market is attractive now because it requires low or no upfront cash to be paid over the valuation of a unit, he said. 'Resale flats are a natural choice for buyers who don't want to wait three years for a new flat.'

Mr Mah also flagged affordability of flats as something the HDB is closely monitoring. 'That is the key. If flats remain affordable, the HDB market will have healthy demand.'

若需求增加 更多预购组屋将推出

Source : 《联合早报》July 09, 2009

我国政府今年将兴建约8000个单位预购组屋(build-to-order,简称 BTO)单位。一旦市场需求出现进一步增长,也可能兴建更多单位。











不过,马宝山也不忘强调,立法规定的影响广泛,或许不适合业界。而另一方面,绿色建筑鉴定(Green Mark scheme)自两年前推出至今也受到了良好成效。鉴于此,政府至今仍大多通过现金及建筑面积(GFA)津贴,帮助业者把初期投入成本降到最低。