Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Demand for mass market homes stable: Wing Tai

Chairman is upbeat but expresses uncertainty over high-end segment

SINGAPORE'S property market looks set for recovery, although the ride ahead is not likely to be smooth, according to the chairman of property developer Wing Tai Holdings.
Mr Cheng Wai Keung, speaking yesterday at Wing Tai's full-year results briefing at Fairmont Singapore, said the mass market segment had probably stabilised and he was cautiously optimistic about the mid-end segment.

The only market area he was not so bullish about was at the high end, where recovery was uncertain in the absence of a global recovery.

Mr Cheng said demand - particularly for mass market homes - had soared in recent months.
Since July 1, Wing Tai has sold 269 units worth $575 million at Belle Vue Residences in Oxley Walk, Ascentia Sky in Alexandra Road and Floridian in Bukit Timah.

This compares with sales of 100 residential units worth $208.5 million for the 12 months to June 30, the end of its financial year. Liquidity and pent-up demand, particularly in the mass market, had been driving sales, said Mr Cheng.

The economy in Asia and Singapore is not in as bad a shape as people had expected at the beginning of the year, he added. Also, retrenchments have not been as severe as initially thought. However, the worry of a possible W-shaped recovery remains, said Mr Cheng.
'I would like to say that the market has recovered but, being a cautious person, I cannot believe that it's a V-shaped recovery,' he said.

'The fact remains that the general economy in the West has not recovered. The real economy in the West - which is the engine for the world economy - has far from recovered.'
Mr Cheng mentioned that the property market recovered around 1999 and 2000 from the Asian financial crisis, only to crash again, but quickly added that this time, the whole world had put in place stimulus packages to re-ignite growth.

Wing Tai's chairman stressed that the property market was very sentiment-driven. 'What I can say is that the mass market has probably recovered,' he said.
He pointed out that mass market homes represented good value given that their prices three months ago had still not recovered their 2007 peak.

The high-end segment - where Wing Tai is a keen player - is another story, he said, and required a lot more wealth than is being generated by the economy now.
Wing Tai did manage to sell a few units at Belle Vue for $2,400 per sq ft (psf) recently, although the condo units' average pricing is close to $1,800 psf - which is easily 10 to 15 per cent below the level it would have priced the units at during the 2007 boom, said Mr Cheng.
It has disposed of just under 100 units at the 176-unit Belle Vue. It has also sold at least 144 units at the 373-unit Ascentia Sky at $1,200 to $1,300 psf.

Wing Tai has three other high-end projects in the pipeline. It has no plans yet for these launches, though it may start construction.

Wing Tai reported a 91 per cent drop in net profit to $21 million for the full year ended June 30, mainly due to fair value losses on investment properties of $88 million.
Revenue was up 18 per cent to $507.3 million.

Excluding the fair value losses, net profit was at $108.9 million, down 31 per cent from a year ago. The group has recommended a dividend payout of four cents - comprising a first and final dividend of three cents and a special dividend of one cent.

This is down from the six cents paid the previous year.
Earnings per share plunged 91 per cent to 2.7 cents for the full year, while net asset value per share was $2.03 at June 30 and unchanged from a year ago.

In this financial year, Wing Tai expects to collect further sales proceeds of $185 million when The Riverine by the Park and Casa Merah are completed.
Its shares closed three cents higher yesterday at $1.81.

Source: Straits Times, 26 Aug 2009

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