Monday, May 31, 2010

Sim Lian to sell property to Sabana REIT for S$46.3m

Developer Sim Lian Group, through its subsidiary Geo-Tele, has offered to sell its property at 9 Tai Seng Drive to Sabana Investment Partners (SIP) for S$46.3 million.

The construction and property company said the offer price represents a premium of 78 per cent over the book value and presents an attractive opportunity for it to dispose of the asset.

The firm will require the approval of JTC Corporation, which issued the property to Sim Lian, in order to sell the property.

The property will be purchased by SIP’s REIT manager, Sabana Real Estate Investment Management, which plans to list its units through a proposed initial public offering on the SGX.

Since this is an Islamic-based REIT, approval will also be needed from a Sharia’a Council to ensure future businesses on the property are Sharia-compliant.

Sim Lian subsidiary, Geo-Tele will also be required to provide rental income support of S$6.3 million for a period of 5 years from the date of completion.

Sim Lian said the group stands to gain S$13.3 million upon disposal of the property.

The proceeds from the sale will help the company deploy its financial resources more efficiently.

Source: Channel News Asia, 31 May 2010

Sim Lian to sell property to Sabana REIT for S$46.3m

Developer Sim Lian Group, through its subsidiary Geo-Tele, has offered to sell its property at 9 Tai Seng Drive to Sabana Investment Partners (SIP) for S$46.3 million.

The construction and property company said the offer price represents a premium of 78 per cent over the book value and presents an attractive opportunity for it to dispose of the asset.

The firm will require the approval of JTC Corporation, which issued the property to Sim Lian, in order to sell the property.

The property will be purchased by SIP’s REIT manager, Sabana Real Estate Investment Management, which plans to list its units through a proposed initial public offering on the SGX.

Since this is an Islamic-based REIT, approval will also be needed from a Sharia’a Council to ensure future businesses on the property are Sharia-compliant.

Sim Lian subsidiary, Geo-Tele will also be required to provide rental income support of S$6.3 million for a period of 5 years from the date of completion.

Sim Lian said the group stands to gain S$13.3 million upon disposal of the property.

The proceeds from the sale will help the company deploy its financial resources more efficiently.

Source: Channel News Asia, 31 May 2010

Property agents urged to be responsible in light of “scare tactics”

With the property sector showing signs of a slowdown, concerns have been raised over how some real estate agents are employing scare tactics to close deals.

Emails forwarded to MediaCorp detailed how some agents are highlighting the government’s recent land sales as a bargaining tool to lower their clients’ expectations on property prices.

One agent disclosed that a deal was closed after telling the client that the “market is going to crash”.

Industry observers said the gap in expectations between buyers and sellers is widening due to mixed sentiments in the market.

On the one hand, the economy is strong and the interest rate is low. But on the other hand, there are concerns over the debt crisis in Europe and the government land sales.

But observers also pointed out that no one can predict whether the market will crash.

ERA said it did not have specific guidelines on how agents should communicate with clients – so long as the information presented is factually correct.

In any case, agents have to communicate the facts to their clients.

“It’s a matter of perspective. A person’s impression that if the market drops by 10 per cent, the market is crashing. Another person (would think) a drop by 10 per cent is nothing,” said Eugene Lim, associate director of ERA Asia Pacific.

He added: “Most of the sellers today are very well-informed, and because of the availability of information from the media and the government, I think most people would have sufficient information to form an opinion.”

But some said such language is not condoned.

“By telling the seller that the market is going to crash, it will make the seller worry, and ultimately they will sell at a price below their expectation. This conduct is not condoned by the industry. Instead, the agent should provide more comprehensive analysis of the market condition,” said Steven Tan, advisory committee member of the Singapore Accredited Estate Agencies.

The advice to buyers and sellers is to be armed with information.

When contacted, the Ministry of National Development (MND) said it’s setting up a new statutory board – the Council for Estate Agencies – to implement a new regulatory framework for the real estate agency industry, so as to better safeguard consumer interest and to raise the professionalism of the industry.

The new framework will include a Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, which estate agencies and agents must adhere to.

Unethical pressure sale tactics or using unsubstantiated information about the property market will constitute as misconduct under the Code.

Consumers who feel they have been disadvantaged or misled by estate agencies or agents can report to the CEA, after its formation.

CEA will investigate into the complaint and take disciplinary action if warranted.

Sentiment on property prices remain mixed. Some observers said prices may slide by 5-10 per cent if transaction volume and demand continue to ease over the next quarter, while others point to a gradual uptrend with property prices rising in tandem with the economy.

Source: Channel News Asia, 31 May 2010

Singapore office property market picking up, says expert

Singapore’s office property market is picking up, according to brokerage firm Nomura.

It noted that office rentals in Singapore are bottoming out amid stronger-than-expected demand, prompting tenants to commit sooner than expected.

Nomura said a reduction in occupancy costs and the desire to secure contiguous expansion or better quality space has prompted pre-commitments.

Given such stronger demand – with 79.9 per cent of this year’s supply pre-committed – Nomura said vacancy is likely to be lower than previously forecast.

It has also raised its rental expectations by between 7.9 per cent and 15.4 per cent for International Grade A (IGA) space, and between 5.4 per cent and 10.4 per cent for Grade A space.

On the back of the revisions, Nomura is bullish about the sector and has raised its price targets for office landlords listed here.

Its top picks are Keppel Land, Singapore Land, CapitaCommercial Trust and K-REIT Asia.

It said it’s keeping its “buy” rating on Keppel Land and K-REIT Asia as they are most exposed to the IGA office market.

As for Singapore Land and CapitaCommercial Trust, Nomura said valuations for the two firms remain compelling.

Source: Channel News Asia, 31 May 2010

Greater buyer interest in resale waterfront, city homes in S’pore

More people are buying resale waterfront and city homes in Singapore.

CB Richard Ellis (CBRE) said secondary sales of homes in the prime inner city districts, such as Marina Bay and Sentosa, reached S$750.8 million last year.

This is higher than the average secondary sales levels of about S$738 million between 2005 and 2008.

Compared with new sales last year, resale transactions in the prime inner city and Sentosa districts were 15 per cent higher than new sales in those areas.

About S$652 million worth of new homes were sold.

CBRE said the healthy resale volume and transaction values show ongoing and sustained demand for homes in the new prime areas.

CBRE’s Executive Director for Residential, Joseph Tan said the convenience of working and living within the city is a major pull.

He said the limited number of new launches in the inner city district is an added draw.

The number of new, non-landed homes sold in the prime inner city and Sentosa precincts was 286 last year. This compares with 482 units sold in the resale market.

CBRE said the most popular development was Caribbean@Keppel Bay which sold 200 units. This was followed by The Sail@Marina Bay, which sold 128 units.

In the first five months of this year, resale demand reached 246 units or about half of last year’s volume.

CBRE believes that the ongoing demand for residential units in those areas could prompt developers to convert or redevelop older office blocks to high-end residential uses. Examples include Starhub Centre and 76 Shenton Way.

CBRE estimates that about 1.3 million square feet of offices will be converted to mainly residential use up to 2013.

Source: Channel News Asia, 31 May 2010

S’pore REITs raising gearing levels to grow acquisitions

Singapore’s real estate investment trusts (REITs) have toughened up and are ready to hit the acquisition trail, according to analysts.

The country’s REITs have recapitalised their balance sheets and refinanced debt, which will put them in a better position to grow this year.

After a difficult 2009, REIT managers have lowered their gearing levels.

But observers said the REITs are now comfortable with raising their debt to assets going forward.

With the Singapore economy staging a strong comeback from last year’s recession, observers said the REITs are acquiring aggressively again.

Last year, the sector’s value plunged 60 per cent and debt levels sky rocketed.

“They are acquiring properties, assets, largely because they view the outlook as stable. And the capital market is very liquid, so the access to funds is there. They are adjusting their gearing target ratio slightly upwards,” said Loy Wee Khim, associate director at Standard & Poor’s.

Analysts estimate that the average gearing levels for the REITs are set to move up from around 31 per cent currently, to up to 39 per cent in the near term.

This is because the REITS are more comfortable with their capital positions and could raise more debt to fund expansion.

But there are some uncertainties on the horizon.

“In terms of returns, we are looking at 10 per cent returns over the next 12 months. Macro economic concerns are on the front seat again so we’re seeing a lot of volatility. What we’re thinking is that investors will probably ascribe a higher risk premium on the REITs in the near term,” said Meenal Kumar, an investment analyst with OCBC Investment Research.

In the light of that, OCBC has a ‘neutral’ weighting on the sector and is recommending a defensive stance, with its top picks as Ascott Residence Trust, Fraser Centrepoint Trust and Mapletree Logistics Trust.

Standard and Poor’s, on the other hand, said its outlook on the sector is ‘stable’.

Source: Channel News Asia, 31 May 2010

More Singaporeans buying pricey homes

Locals overtake PRs and foreigners as buyers of units costing above $5m

THINK most buyers of homes priced above $5million are foreigners? Not any more, according to a report by Savills Research and Consultancy.

It has reported a stunning reversal of a trend that has prevailed for at least three years, when foreigners had dominated the top end of the market here.

The proportion of Singaporeans buying these pricey homes shot up 12.8 percentage points to 42.3 per cent for homes sold in the four months ended April 30, compared with the figure in the fourth quarter of last year.

Locals have easily overtaken the 39.7per cent combined figure for permanent residents and foreigners. Their share is 21.4percentage points lower compared to that in the three months ended last December.

Companies made up the other buyers.

'This decrease could be partly due to more cautiousness as a result of the financial woes and uncertainties facing the European countries,' senior manager of Savills Research and Consultancy Christine Sun said. 'Another reason could be... that the Singapore currency is generally stronger against other currencies, making these houses more expensive for foreigners.

'On the other hand, Singaporean buyers are more upbeat, especially after seeing the boost in our gross domestic product (GDP) and the influx of tourists and investors.'

Indeed, this strong optimism was reflected in the surge in sales of non-landed, high-end private homes. An impressive 214 homes costing $5million or more were sold in the first four months of this year, surpassing the 208 for 2008.

This year's sales also amount to 70 per cent of the 307 homes sold in the whole of last year, bolstering Ms Sun's confidence that this year's sales total will better last year's as well.

Optimism in the high-end market started picking up in the third quarter of last year, when 147 homes worth at least $5million were sold - a 283per cent jump from the figure in the previous quarter. In the first quarter this year, 137 of these pricey units were sold.

But Ms Sun noted that these figures are still a far cry from 2007 figures, when 1,249 units priced at $5 million or above were sold as a result of the property boom.

In the primary market, Urban Suites sold the largest number of these high-end homes - 24 units - for the period from the third quarter of last year to this April.

Goodwood Residence and Nassim Park Residences were not far behind, with 18 and 16 units sold respectively.

In the resale market, Ardmore Park took the lead with 19 units sold, followed by Grange Residences with 15 units. The subsale market saw Tate Residences swiping first place with 17 units, while Ardmore II bit at its heels with 16 units sold.

As a result, the total transaction value of these non-landed private homes priced at $5 million and above has shot up 30 per cent in the first quarter to $953 million from the figure in the previous quarter.

This upswing looks set to continue with last month's figure of $507 million already more than half of last quarter's.

Leading the pack in price so far this year is a 6,889 sq ft unit at Nassim Park Residences, sold for an eye-popping $20million. This, however, is still some distance away from the record $33.4million for an 8,051 sq ft unit at Boulevard Vue sold in November last year.

These rising figures have translated into a larger share of the non-landed market for these homes, from 0.3 per cent in the first quarter of last year to 3.4 per cent last month.

As a result, the share of private homes priced at less than $2.5 million has dropped from 95 per cent to 87.4 per cent.

'All these findings may indicate that more buyers are increasing their risk appetite for pricier homes as the economy recovers,' said Ms Sun, who was quick to note that this may also be a result of private home prices rising in recent months.

Add another reason to the mix: Buyers are going for larger units as well.

Sales of non-landed private units above 2,000 sq ft saw a year-on-year leap of 426.7 per cent for the first quarter of this year to 553 units. These homes now make up 7.6 per cent of the non-landed private market, a 4 percentage point rise in the same period.

But Cushman & Wakefield managing director Donald Han thinks that demand for luxury homes will not continue rising at this rapid rate. 'Our rapid GDP rise is clouded by the European crisis, and the stock market does not look buoyant at the moment... I expect the property market to take a breather,' he said.

Source: Straits Times, 31 May 2010

The Minton sells 180 units over weekend

Observers say sales below figures achieved during March/April height

(SINGAPORE) In a widely watched property release, developer Kheng Leong had sold about 180 units of The Minton condo in Hougang as of 6 pm yesterday.

This is out of a batch of more than 300 units that Kheng Leong has released since last Friday in the 1,145-unit development at Lorong Ah Soo/Hougang Street 11 at an average price of $850 per square foot.

Property agents marketing the project told BT that the sales result, while encouraging, was below what they would have expected during the recent height of the property market in March/April. The peak was prior to the fallout from Europe's economic problems and the Singapore government's announcement in May that it will deliver a bumper land sales programme for the second half of this year to meet hot demand in the residential property market.

A new release like The Minton would have sold closer to 300 units in its first weekend and at about 5-8 per cent higher pricing, said CB Richard Ellis executive director Joseph Tan.

Knight Frank managing director (residential services) Peter Ow, also reckoned the 99-year leasehold project could have sold about 300 units in its initial weekend had it been put on the market a couple of months ago. He said: 'The government land sales announcement has definitely had an impact. When we talk to (potential) buyers, they're now taking a bit longer to decide. They're worried that with the new supply coming up, prices might fall.'

As has been the case with other launches, the most popular units at The Minton's holiday-extended weekend preview were one and two-bedroom units.

Kheng Leong's general manager (property) Luk Kwok Wing said prices of one bedders sold (as of 6 pm yesterday) ranged from about $480,000 to $590,000 per unit. Two bedders cost $750,000 to $870,000. The project also has three and four bedders, penthouses as well as dual-key units.

Buyers were predominantly young Singaporeans, including families. Generally, buyers have HDB addresses, including Hougang, Serangoon and Tampines (all in the north-east part of Singapore).

Mr Luk said buyers were drawn by The Minton's lush landscaping and generous facilities afforded by the large site area of close to half a million square feet.

The Minton will have a 50-metre lap pool, a 20-metre heated pool, a treehouse playground, a tennis court and an air-conditioned badminton hall that doubles as a function room. It will also boast a big library, a sky-terrace and spas/gyms. The grand clubhouse will accommodate activities like yoga, karaoke and billiards/table soccer, apart from an indoor children's playground.

Kheng Leong, a privately owned property group controlled by the family of banker Wee Cho Yaw, is developing The Minton on the former Minton Rise site that it bought in 2007 through a collective sale.

Source: Business Times, 31 May 2010

A revamp for iconic Scotts Road bungalows

The iconic stretch of black-and-white bungalows from 29 to 35 Scotts Road will soon get a facelift, with more buzz expected as it has been earmarked by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) for redevelopment into a lifestyle belt.

Among the new tenants that can occupy the colonial-style bungalows following the redevelopment include those that operate beauty services, health and fitness stores, bridal and wedding outlets, as well as restaurants.

This means existing tenants that operate businesses that fit the criteria and concept of the new belt may opt to stay on at the premises while others, such as those that operate office units there, may have to move out soon.

About 15 tenants currently occupy the 16,500 square metre land area and each bungalow has a built-in area of about 300 to 550 square metres.

Among the tenants that are operating there now include The Song of India restaurant, which occupies 33 Scotts Road, and the SK-II Boutique Spa at No 35.

While these tenants fall within the approved list of tenants that can occupy the bungalows in future, they are still required to submit a fresh tender bid.

The lease of all units there expires in September and an SLA spokesperson told MediaCorp that “there are plans to launch them (the bungalows) for tender by end June”.

“Current tenants interested in such uses will be invited to participate in the tender as well,” the SLA spokesperson added.

The bungalows’ managing agent DTZ said most tenants are glad to participate in the tender, as they are operating beauty or food and beverage (F&B) businesses and so far, they had no major objection on the redevelopment.

Tenants whose businesses do not suit the new lifestyle concept can bid for the space if they adapt or change their businesses accordingly, said DTZ property manager Keh Peng Leong.

When asked about the likely rent these bungalows will fetch following the redevelopment, Mr Keh said that the current market value of the area and the redevelopment’s details are still being worked out.

Market experts said this move is timely as it will serve the nearby Cairnhill Road area, which is fast becoming a luxury condominium stretch.

Mr Colin Tan, head of research and consultancy at Chesterton Suntec International, said new apartments in the area are attracting many high-net-worth individuals.

For instance, The Urban Suites, located less than a kilometre away from Scotts Road, was sold for between $2,400 and $2,800 per square feet.

The redeveloped bungalows will draw very niche businesses as the entire land area is quite small. Clientele-wise, outlets there will draw sophisticated individuals who prefer the colonial vibe of the place, said Mr Tan.

“By itself, it has no critical mass of shops to be a hub destination by itself. The services there have to be very niche, unlike a big shopping centre,” he said, who estimates rentals for that area will be $25 per square feet for an F&B outlet.

Source: Today, 31 May 2010

180 units sold at The Minton

Property developer Kheng Leong has sold 180 units in The Minton condo project in Hougang over the weekend.

The units sold were part of the 300 units released in the 1,145-unit project at Lorong Ah Soo/Hougang Street 11. It has an average selling price of about $850 psf.

Property agents marketing The Minton project said that the sales result was below the expected output, which was patterned in the property market peak in March and April. The peak was prior to the growing eurozone debt crisis and the Singapore government’s announcement early this month that it will release a bumper land sale programme for the second half of 2010 to meet the demand in the residential property market.

A new project release such as The Minton would have already sold about 300 units in its first weekend, and with prices at about five percent to eight percent higher, said Joseph Tan, executive director of CB Richard Ellis.

Peter Ow, managing director (residential services) for Knight Frank, also noted that the 99-year leasehold project could have sold 300 units in its initial weekend if it had been released in the market two months ago.

“The government land sales announcement has definitely had an impact. When we talk to (potential) buyers, they’re now taking a bit longer to decide. They’re worried that with the new supply coming up, prices might fall.”

The most popular units at The Minton’s holiday-extended weekend preview were the one- and two-room units.

Luk Kwok Wing, general manager (property) of Kheng Leong, reckoned that prices of one-room units sold are ranging from $480,000 per unit to about $590,000 per unit. The two-room units, on the other hand, were priced at around $750,000 to $870,000 per unit. The project also comprises three- to four-room units, penthouses and dual-key units.

Buyers who snapped up the project were mostly young Singaporeans, including families. Overall, buyers had HDB addresses, in areas like Serangoon, Tampines and Hougang.

Mr. Luk added that buyers were generally attracted to the project’s lush landscaping and generous facilities situated in a large site area of nearly half a million sq ft.

The Minton condo will have a 20-metre heated pool, a 50-metre lap pool, a tennis court, an air-conditioned badminton hall, which doubles as a function room and a treehouse playground. It will also feature a sky-terrace, a big library and spas/gyms. Its grand clubhouse will accommodate activities such as billiards, table soccer, karaoke and yoga.

The Minton condo project is being developed by Kheng Leong, a privately owned property developer controlled by the Wee Cho Yaw family. It is situated on the former Minton Rise site, which the company purchased through a collective sale in 2007.

Source: PropertyGuru, 31 May 2010

Sunday, May 30, 2010

New launches aplenty amid uncertainty

Analysts believe demand likely to be healthy despite market volatility

New residential projects have been launched for the long weekend as Singapore celebrates Vesak Day. But with the recent uncertainty in the financial market, will property investors bite?

Property experts whom The Sunday Times spoke to said the jury is still out on whether April's bumper sales of 2,207 new units - the second-highest monthly sales achieved - can be sustained this month.

This figure was up from 1,761 in March and 1,202 in February.

But recent turmoil stemming from the sovereign debt crisis in Greece and other European countries, coupled with stock market volatility, may have a cooling effect on the market in the short term, experts said.

Last week, the Government also released the largest amount of state land for private homes in response to surging demand.

It put 18 residential or residential/commercial sites on the programme for confirmed sale in the second half of the year, and 13 sites for residential use on the reserve list.

Together, the plots could yield 13,905 new homes - a figure that has experts speculating about a possible supply glut in the future.

The big question on the minds of property hunters on the prowl this weekend: Is this the right time to buy?

Ngee Ann Polytechnic real estate lecturer Nicholas Mak said that investors will now have to consider that there may be cheaper projects on the horizon.

'With the bumper crop of land sales, bids will be less aggressive and this could translate to lower launch prices,' he said.

Chesterton Suntec International research and consultancy director Colin Tan said the uncertainty of the global economic outlook could also be a reason for investors to stay away.

Mr Tan did not think, however, that the Government's recent land release would have a big impact on demand as there are still genuine buyers in the market.

But both experts agreed there is a healthy level of demand that will still move sales this weekend.

Major projects launched this weekend include Kheng Leong group's The Minton in Lorong Ah Soo/Hougang Street 11, which officially opened to the public yesterday.

The 99-year leasehold development offers a range of one- to four-bedroom apartments and is due for completion around 2014. Units were sold during the soft launch at an average price of $880 psf.

Another project launched last Friday was Frasers Centrepoint's Flamingo Valley in Siglap.

About 40 of 120 units released during the previews have been sold at an average price of $1,200 psf, said Frasers.

The freehold development offers a range of units from studios to four-bedders and penthouses.

Another recent launch: the freehold Cascadia condo in Bukit Timah Road.

More than 50 of 90 released units have been sold, said its developer Allgreen Properties. Units sold at between $1,300psf and $1,600psf, with average transacted prices close to $1,400 psf, it said.

For buyers on the lookout for completed properties, Melodies Limited's freehold 72-unit Cassia View in Guillemard Road offers three-bedroom units and penthouses. Prices range from $900 psf to $1,100 psf.

Ngee Ann Polytechnic's Mr Mak said that despite market uncertainty, some projects - especially those attractively priced - will still do well.

Chesterton's Mr Tan said that the recent bidding by developers for land at bullish prices reflects developers' positive outlook on demand for homes.

Source: Sunday Times, 30 May 2010

Friday, May 28, 2010

$92m upgrade for Six Battery Road

Makeover will include green features to boost energy efficiency

RAFFLES Place Grade A office building Six Battery Road is to undergo a $92 million facelift that will give its tenants a greener working environment.

CapitaCommercial Trust (CCT) Management, which owns the building, yesterday unveiled its ambitious asset enhancement plan.

It said it is upgrading the site to meet the needs of modern-day office tenants, while at the same time boosting its energy efficiency and cutting its environmental impact.

Among the green features that will be incorporated are a wind turbine to power lighting and reduce the building's carbon footprint, and a re-designed chiller plant room to improve energy efficiency.

The cost of the makeover is equivalent to about 8 per cent of the property's value, as at the end of December last year.

CCT Management chief executive Lynette Leong said that it was 'an opportune time to undertake asset enhancement' given that the Singapore office market was poised for rental recovery.

Six Battery Road will 'continue to offer value-for-money office accommodation to tenants, and sustain the building's high occupancy and rental rates', she said.

Ms Leong told a briefing yesterday that there was the potential for a rent increase of between 10 and 15 per cent after the upgrade.

The chairman of CCT's manager, Mr Richard Hale, said the plan 'was in line with our portfolio reconstitution strategy (where) we will proactively enhance the trust's long-term value through divestments, asset enhancement initiatives and acquisitions.'

Building work will begin in October and be carried out in phases until 2013, so that tenants can continue to operate with minimal inconvenience.

The ground-floor lift lobby, turnstiles and reception area will be the first area to be tackled.

A key highlight in the main lobby will be a 184 sq m green wall with plants - the largest of its type in Singapore.

CCT said it is undertaking the work now to capitalise on the changeover of its tenants, which will minimise downtime.

Six Battery Road this week won the BCA Green Mark Platinum award - the highest accolade for a green building.

Yesterday, Ms Leong disclosed that CCT was on the lookout for acquisitions, but said the market was still volatile and rental recovery too uncertain to commit to a purchase.

Source: Straits Times, 28 May 2010

Global recovery is under way: OECD

Rebound driven by trade flows, emerging markets and stimulus policies

PARIS: Despite mounting concerns about European debt and fears that Asian economies may be overheating, the global recovery is taking root, an international research group says.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development on Wednesday raised its overall growth forecast and its outlook for the United States, the euro zone, China and Japan.

The rebound from the severe downturn that plagued the global economy for much of 2008 and last year is driven by a healthy increase in trade flows, booming emerging markets, the continued support of government stimulus policies that are now unwinding, and better market conditions, according to the organisation's twice-yearly Economic Outlook report.

'There're objective reasons to be positive about the outlook,' said the organisation's secretary-general Angel Gurria. 'World growth is picking up - it's quite better than it was even a few months ago - led by China, led by India, but also a very brisk recovery in the US, where we're seeing a pick-up in jobs.'

The organisation has 31 member countries, all advanced industrial democracies. And the group predicted that gross domestic product across the OECD area would rise 2.7 per cent this year and 2.8 per cent next year; in November, it had estimated that growth would be 1.9 per cent this year and 2.5 per cent next year.

'We're slowly moving from a policy-driven recovery to a self-sustaining recovery,' the organisation's chief economist, Mr Pier Carlo Padoan, said.

The US is in a stronger position than the euro area, he said, helped by better financial market conditions and 'a number of more favourable elements on the fiscal side' - notably the outlook for stronger tax revenue, which gives it more time than Europe to undertake debt-reduction steps.

The report forecast real GDP growth in the US of 3.2 per cent this year and next, compared with its previous forecast of 2.5 per cent this year and 2.8 per cent next year. It predicted that the American jobless rate would fall to 8.9 per cent next year, from 9.7 per cent this year.

Mr Gurria suggested that the doubts about the viability of the euro area had been excessive. Bad news 'tends to sell better than good news', he said.

Growth in the 16-country euro area was estimated at a much more modest 1.2 per cent this year and 1.8 per cent next year, but that was up from the previous forecast of 0.9 per cent this year and 1.7 per cent next year. Unemployment will remain high in the region, at 10.1 per cent next year, the report said.


Source: Straits Times, 28 May 2010

US economy grew less than estimated

WASHINGTON: The economic rebound in the United States in the past quarter turned out to be slower than first thought, one of the reasons unemployment is likely to stay stubbornly high this year.

The economy grew at a 3 per cent annual rate from January to March, the Commerce Department said yesterday. That was slightly weaker than an initial estimate of 3.2 per cent growth a month ago.

The new reading, based on more complete information, also fell short of economists' forecast for stronger growth of 3.4 per cent.

The reasons for the downgrade: consumers spent less than first estimated. The same goes for business spending on equipment and software, while the nation's trade deficit was a bigger drag on economic activity.

Normally, growth in the 3 per cent range would be considered healthy. But the country is coming out of the longest and deepest recession since the Great Depression, meaning economic growth needs to be two or three times the current pace to make a big dent in the 9.9 per cent unemployment rate.

Labour Department figures yesterday showed more Americans than forecast filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, indicating redundancies persist even as the economy rebounds and employment rises. Initial jobless claims fell by 14,000 to 460,000 in the week ended May 22.


Source: Straits Times, 28 May 2010

RGS site could be worth billions if sold: Analysts

ITS students may be sad to see it go, but property developers will be eagerly eyeing the plum plot of land that Raffles Girls' School (RGS) will leave behind if it relocates.

The school now sits on a prized centrally located site that is likely to be worth billions if it is converted into a residential plot, property consultants said yesterday.

'This is a very, very prime site,' said Mr Ho Eng Joo, executive director of investment sales at real estate firm Colliers International.

'It's been quite a long time since this kind of prime site has been released in the market, and at this size. There are no comparables, it's priceless,' he added.

RGS occupies one of the most coveted plots of land in Singapore, bounded on all four sides by some of the country's priciest residential areas: Ardmore Park, Draycott Park, Stevens Road and Anderson Road.

Given the location, the size of the plot is massive: 4.5ha, or 10 times the size of nearby The Ardmore and almost five times that of Anderson 18. It is about the size of the sprawling Ardmore Park.

Mr Ho believes the site could go for $1.6 billion to $2 billion, based on a plot ratio of 2.8, which is similar to that of nearby developments. This would work out to about $1,400 per sq ft (psf) of the total floor area, which could amount to 1.35 million sq ft.

Ms Chua Chor Hoon, head of South-east Asia research at DTZ Debenham Tie Leung, has an even higher estimate at well over $2 billion. This is based on a possible selling price of $2,800 to $3,200 psf of the final units in the development.

If the Government decides to sell the land as 99-year leasehold residential plots, it will probably parcel it out into more easily digestible pieces, consultants said.

Nearby land plots have sold for record prices. In 2007, SC Global bought The Ardmore, with a freehold land area of about 0.4ha, for $262 million, or a record $2,337 psf of gross floor area.

Back in 1999, Wing Tai paid $1,100 psf for its Draycott 8 site, at the time a record price for 99-year leasehold land.

Source: Straits Times, 28 May 2010

Railway land valuation

THE valuation of land owned by Malayan Railway (KTM) in Singapore will be completed within a month, Khazanah Nasional's managing director Azman Mokhtar said yesterday.

'Then we'll work out commercially what is the best thing to do,' Mr Azman told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.

Khazanah and Singapore's Temasek Holdings, which will set up a joint company to develop the land, have already met and set up a working group, he said.

Asked if the valuation would be based on Singapore market rates, he said it was being done by independent parties and each side would present its own valuation.

'Some numbers have been mentioned but it is certainly substantial,' he said.

Mr Azman said the resolution of the decades-long railway land dispute was a 'breakthrough' for the two countries.

'It is not like I win, you lose, it is we both win. If you look at it carefully, the exchange is fair, it is good,' the Khazanah chief said.

He said he did not expect the issue of valuation to bog down the intended development of the KTM land.

'We need to see the valuation by both sides. The intention is to move forward,' he said, adding he hoped the matter could be concluded when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong visits Malaysia later next month.

Source: Straits Times, 28 May 2010

Services sector posts robust 8.8% growth

Data in line with overall recovery; low-base effect also a factor: Analysts

THE all-important services industry, which makes up two-thirds of Singapore's economy, is the latest sector to record a return to robust growth.

Business has been particularly strong among firms here involved in financial and insurance services, education, and information and communications.

This helped to drive the business receipts index, released yesterday, 8.8 per cent higher in the first quarter, compared to the same period last year.

By contrast, in the first three months of last year, business receipts - income from business operations - of these firms had slid 2.3 per cent from a year earlier.

The impressive rebound follows the lead of strong performances in manufacturing and exports, as well as overall economic growth.

Economists The Straits Times spoke to said the growth is in line with the overall economic recovery. 'It is on par with the healthy growth of the economy as well as the turnaround in global trade which trickles down to services,' said United Overseas Bank economist Chow Penn Nee.

Another economist, Ms Selena Ling of OCBC Bank, said another contributing factor was the so-called low-base effect, as the comparative figure last year was recorded at the height of the global financial crisis.

The healthy year-on-year growth was not matched by the quarter-on-quarter figure, which grew only 0.1 per cent.

Many clusters in the services sector also saw quarter-on-quarter results not matching the stellar year-on-year ones.

For example, financial and insurance services, which led the sector's rebound with 17 per cent year-on-year growth, fell 1.1 per cent from the fourth quarter.

Business services, comprising legal, accounting and management consultancy services, for example, fared similarly.

While they grew 5.8 per cent in the first quarter year-on-year, business receipts dropped 1.5 per cent quarter-on-quarter.

Education, however, rose 15.4 per cent year-on-year - the sector's second best showing - and gained a hefty 24.3 per cent quarter-on-quarter. Infocomms services continued to do well, growing 11.5 per cent from a year earlier and 2.3 per cent quarter-on-quarter.

The mainly flat quarter-on-quarter business receipts do not necessarily flag a slowdown, said Ms Chow. 'It could be that in the previous quarter, there was already some growth, so the comparison base is larger, leading to a smaller headline number in the first quarter.'

Her sentiments are shared by Ms Ling, who says the sector could grow further in the coming quarters as wages rise.

Still, compared to the manufacturing sector's first quarter showing, growth for the services sector was relatively muted.

Ms Ling said this was 'possibly because the services sectors are more oriented towards domestic demand, and education services, infocomms are more like necessities.'

Ms Chow remains upbeat on the sector's outlook. 'In general, services should continue to grow in tandem with the broad recovery of the local economy.

'The recovery in global trade should also lift the services sector here. Coupled with the low-base effect from last year, high year-on-year growth numbers are set to continue.'

The quarterly index is compiled by the Department of Statistics. It does not include firms in wholesale and retail trade, hotels and restaurants.

Source: Straits Times, 28 May 2010

Industrial plot near Pioneer MRT available

THE Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has made a 30-year leasehold industrial site at Pioneer Road North / Soon Lee Street available for sale.

The land parcel is on the reserve list, and interested developers can ask URA to put it up for tender.

The site spans 155,427 sq ft and has a maximum gross plot ratio of 2.0. It is zoned for Business 2 use, making it suitable for clean industries and other activities such as vehicle repair and furniture production.

The land parcel is near Pioneer MRT station. It is also right next to a site which URA sold in December last year. KNG Realty beat stiff competition from seven other developers to win that site then, with a bid of $19.4 million or $48 per sq ft per plot ratio (psf ppr).

Demand for industrial sites in the last few months has been strong as the economy picked up. In April, the tender of a larger 60-year site at Woodlands Avenue 12 drew six bids, with the highest one at $65.2 million or $75 psf ppr.

Colliers International said this month that demand could grow further, as manufacturers expand their operations and institutional funds return to scout for investments. Already, the average monthly gross rent at single-user factories in the central part of Singapore has increased by 3.8 per cent to $1.35 psf between October last year and March this year. Capital values of such properties have also risen.

Source: Business Times, 28 May 2010

Q1 grows at slower pace

THE US economy grew at a slower pace than previously estimated in the first quarter as businesses investment slackened, while hard-hit state and local governments curbed spending at the steepest rate since 1981, a government report showed yesterday.

Gross domestic product expanded at a 3 per cent annual rate, the Commerce Department said, instead of the 3.2 per cent pace it reported last month.

Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast GDP, which measures total goods and services output within US borders, growing at a 3.4 per cent rate in the January-March period. The economy expanded at a 5.6 per cent pace in the fourth quarter and has now grown for three straight quarters.

Economists are monitoring the US recovery closely to see how well the economy can endure the debt troubles that threaten to slow Europe's growth. The above-trend first-quarter US growth suggests a solid base of support. Output in the first three months of the year was revised down as business spending rose at only a 3.1 per cent rate instead of the 4.1 per cent initially reported last month.

Spending grew at a 5.3 per cent pace in the fourth quarter. Business spending on software and equipment increased at a 12.7 per cent rather than the 13.4 per cent rate reported last month. State and local government spending contracted at a 3.9 per cent rate, the largest decline since the second quarter of 1981.

However, consumer spending, which is key to the economy's recovery, held up well. Consumer spending increased at a 3.5 per cent rate, rather than the 3.6 per cent rate reported last month. Although it was revised down slightly, it was still more than double the 1.6 per cent pace in the fourth quarter and the largest advance since the first quarter of 2007.

Recovery from the longest and deepest recession since the Great Depression had so far been largely driven by the manufacturing sector as businesses replenished their warehouses to meet strengthening demand. Consumers, however, are now participating as the labour market begins to firm.

The GDP report also showed after tax corporate profits rose 2.1 per cent in the first quarter after increasing 6.5 per cent in the final three months of 2009. -- Reuters

Source: Business Times, 28 May 2010

Are we headed for a housing glut?

Responding to the strong demand for private housing and land for private residential developments, the Ministry of National Development last week released its “highest potential supply quantum” per half year since 2001.

Comments from the industry suggest they expect the impact of this strong signal to be immediate, in terms of cooling home sales and dampening land bids.

Well, the experts have been swiftly proven wrong.

The first tender to close thereafter saw a record price for Executive Condominium (EC) land. The level of interest has also not waned. The number of bids – seven – was about on par with recent tender exercises for EC and Design, Build and Sell Scheme sites.

Just how large is the newly-announced housing land supply? Assuming developers do not trigger any sites from the reserve list for the second half of the year, the estimated 8,135 private homes from the confirmed list sites for the second half is only 30 per cent more than the actual first-half supply (including triggered sites).

Given that demand from developers has been enthusiastic, a 30-per-cent growth rate for the next six months may not be too unreasonable.

At the same time, it might be necessary to close the tenders for the next few sites at the same time, to thwart further rises in land prices.

If it is not a big problem for developers to absorb the increased supply, what about the demand side? Will there be enough buyers?

Yes, if the results of a recent property survey are to be believed. The survey with a sample size of more than 2,200 people found that three out of four potential home-buyers feel that the prices of private homes and resale Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats in Singapore are too high.

I think most of us know that already, but wait for this: Out of a sub-set of 657 active property seekers, 75 per cent still hope to buy a home within the next two years. They constitute 22 per cent of the total sample size. And this after saying in the same survey that they expect HDB resale prices and private property prices to rise between 6 and 10 per cent over the coming year. The survey was conducted last month and this month – after two sets of cooling measures were already introduced.

Last year, we had about 1.1 million households in Singapore. If we apply the 22-per-cent finding, this means there would be 242,000 households actively seeking to buy a property within the next two years. That is a lot of buying potential. Even if we were to take just one-fifth of this to allow for a very high margin of error, that is still 48,400 households.

This is the conundrum facing the Singapore housing market – the liquidity problem. Potential buyers know that housing prices are high but are still intent on buying. Developers sense this even if they cannot quantify it.

The trick is to turn things around fast, from land award to securing a sales licence before any correction can take place. The only crucial factor is whether the downpayment is affordable: If this cannot be done, throw in branded furnishings. Which tenant can resist such fine living?

As one property consultant noted: The bullish demand is largely driven by sentiment rather than a supply shortage. Quite right, as most buyers are investment driven, not need-driven.

Will it all come to grief eventually? You do the math. The capacity to occupy the homes is only 8,700 units per annum (average for past decade). The land supply for this year will be at least 14,400 units. The remaining owners will have to find other better uses for their homes when completed.

Source: Today, 28 May 2010

Thursday, May 27, 2010

China developers target residential segment in Singapore

Developers from China are looking to break into the Singapore property sector by building mass market and mid-tier residential homes.

Observers said the new entrants want to diversify from their home market, while seeking opportunities in Singapore’s growing property sector.

Since late 2007, China-based developers have been trying to cut themselves a slice of the pie.

While they account for no more than 5 per cent of the market, market watchers said they have been gunning for land.

“The success rate has been quite low for them – about 20 per cent of the bids turn into a successful construction project for them. Nonetheless, of all the bids they have put in, about 13 or 45 per cent of those bids, are in the top three running order, so they are quite aggressive on that front,” said Chua Yang Liang, head of Research (SEA) at Jones Lang LaSalle.

Market watchers said China developers are most active in bidding for mass market residential sites – the market they are most familiar with.

And some with deep pockets bid aggressively – such as China Sonangol Land buying the Parisian site at Paterson Road in October last year for some S$283 million.

While margins for China developers are lower, at around 20 per cent compared to the 30 per cent they can find in their home market, observers said they are willing to sacrifice a little for diversification.

But analysts also warn that China players may not stick around if the market turns down.

“When you go into a market like Singapore where there are a lot of local players, that margin could slow down to some 10-12 percent. At some point in time, they might find that there might not be good opportunities here in Singapore,” said Donald Han, MD of Cushman & Wakefield.

Some observers said that more developers from China could mean more buyers from China.

Developers coming from the mainland could bring with them client lists for investors looking to buy into Singapore property.

Source: Channel News Asia, 27 May 2010

New Dubai law to pay off in longer term

(DUBAI) A new law that defines the rights, responsibilities and obligations of all parties in jointly owned properties in Dubai will comfort investors but will do little to boost demand for properties in the short term, analysts say.

Guidelines implementing the long-awaited Strata Law were published by the Land Department on Tuesday, in a bid to help the emirate on its path to mature market status, but comes against a backdrop of residential and office oversupply.

'An instant pick-up in transaction activity is not expected on the back of this new legislation,' said Sana Kapadia, vice-president of equity research at EFG-Hermes in Dubai. 'While these clear and transparent rules will undoubtedly give buyers more comfort over their purchase decision, demand is only likely to be positively impacted in the medium to long term,' she said, adding the bank expected an overall decline in house prices and rents of up to 10 and 15 per cent respectively this year.

Dubai's residential market, already oversupplied by about 20 per cent, will gain 41,000 more homes between now and the end of the year, while office space will rise to about 6.4 million square metres by the end of 2011 from about 3.6 million sq m at the end of 2009, according to Colliers International.

The framework, which offers guidelines for all types of property, sets new rules for general regulation, jointly owned property declaration regulation, constitution regulation and survey regulation.

Additional rules include regulation on the setting up and collection of service charges without the clearance of the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA), the emirate's property watchdog. 'This move should put a cap on some of the unreasonable charges being levied by some developers currently,' Ms Kapadia said. -- Reuters

Source: Business Times, 27 May 2010

First Mumbai land sale in 2 years passes muster

Developer plans to build mostly homes on the 25,000 square metre plot

(MUMBAI) Asia's third- most expensive office market, sold land for 40.5 billion rupees (S$1.2 billion) in the first successful auction in almost two years.

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority sold the land in the central Wadala neighbourhood to Lodha Developers Ltd, the agency's Additional Commissioner SVR Srinivas said on Tuesday. The authority will lease the land for 65 years and had set a reserve price of 19.8 billion rupees or 40,000 rupees a square metre, according to the tender document.

The agency's first sale of land since 2008 gives Lodha Developers the largest development rights in the city, said managing director Abhisheck Lodha. The company can build 495,000 square metres (5.3 million square feet) of space on a 25,000 square metre area.

The authority, which failed to sell a block in the city's emerging business district earlier this year, managed to attract buyers for a separate parcel of land on Tuesday after allowing builders to construct homes and offices. Earlier rules only allowed commercial development.

'It's a fair deal and in line with current prices in the area,' Ashutosh Limaye, associate director at Jones Lang Lasalle Meghraj, said. 'At this bid price their cost including construction and financing will work out to about 15,000 rupees a square foot.' Lodha Developers, which is planning an initial share sale, will build mostly homes on the land, Mr Lodha said.

The four bidders included Sunteck Realty Ltd and Indiabulls Real Estate Ltd. Sunteck bid 70,002 rupees a square foot compared with Lodha Developers' 81,818 rupees.

'The bid price was better than we expected,' said Mumbai development authority's Mr Srinivas. The agency was optimistic of selling the Wadala plot because the area is expected to get metro and monorail connectivity, he said.

The sale comes after the authority didn't attract any bids for land at Bandra-Kurla Complex this year priced at 300,000 rupees a square metre, unchanged from 2008. Rents in the area have dropped by more than a third in two years, according to data from property broker CB Richard Ellis India.

Mumbai, a city of 18 million people, ranks behind Hong Kong and Tokyo as the most expensive office location in Asia, according to a survey by Los Angeles-based CB Richard Ellis Group Inc. -- Bloomberg

Source: Business Times, 27 May 2010

UK April mortgage approvals rise

(LONDON) The number of mortgage approvals for UK house purchases rose an annual 15.5 per cent last month to the highest level this year, industry data showed yesterday.

The British Bankers' Association said that the number of loans approved for house purchase rose to 35,729 last month from 35,044 in March and 30,649 in April last year.

However, the number remains well below levels of more than 40,000 seen in the second half of last year.

The figures came after mortgage lender Nationwide said that it expected the housing market to be broadly stable over the next six to 12 months as an increase in property supply keeps a lid on price gains.

'The ongoing muted BBA mortgage approvals data reinforce our suspicion that house prices will struggle to make significant gains over the coming months,' said Howard Archer, an economist at IHS Global Insight.

Net mortgage lending was subdued as households continued to pay down debt. Net mortgage lending rose by just £pounds;1.825 billion (S$3.7 billion) last month, the lowest since February 2001, and less than half the levels seen through most of 2008.

'Household priorities are clearly reflected in these latest data, with people paying down debt rather than building up savings,' said BBA statistics director David Dooks. -- Reuters

Source: Business Times, 27 May 2010

Nationwide full-year profit halved

UK mortgage lender sees broad stability in market over six to 12 months

(LONDON) Nationwide, Britain's largest building society, said it expected broad stability in the housing market over the next six to 12 months, when posting a near halving of full-year profit yesterday.

House prices have recovered ground in recent months, though they fell in February and April, according to rival lender Halifax, raising questions over the strength of the market.

'Unless there is a significant spike in interest rates, which we are not expecting, a major dip in prices is unlikely to occur over the next year,' Nationwide chief executive Graham Beale said.

Data from Nationwide itself, Britain's third-largest mortgage lender, showed a one per cent rise in house prices in April, taking the annual rate of increase into double digits for the first time in nearly three years.

Nationwide said an increase in properties for sale would relieve pressure on prices, while a continuing lack of credit and high prices relative to salaries would act as an upward limit.

Customer-owned Nationwide said it had been hit by the contraction in its core mortgage and savings markets and by pressure on margins. Underlying profit in the year to April 4 almost halved to £212 million (S$429 million).

The lender said it saw lower levels of profitability continuing throughout 2010.

It lent £12 billion of mortgages over its past financial year, representing a market share of 8.7 per cent, down from 9 per cent in 2008-09. Nationwide said it had no 'aggressive growth plans' and expected to remain at that level.

The building society, under pressure from weak markets and low interest rates, plans to accelerate cost cuts to hit a targeted cost/income ratio of less than 50 per cent by the end of 2012-13 from a current 61.3 per cent.

It will review its distribution network, swollen by recent acquisitions, and administrative buildings. Nationwide has over 1,000 retail outlets.

'It is quite an extensive network, and we need to make sure it is the right shape for the business. . . We need to adjust our business model to reflect the market conditions,' Mr Beale said.

Nationwide has already cut more than £150 million of costs over the past three years and shrank its workforce by just under 800 staff over the past 12 months to almost 15,800.

Mr Beale declined to comment on further job cuts and said the review underway would take 'years not months'.

Arrears remained broadly flat, with mortgages three months or more in arrears totalling 0.68 per cent, well below an industry average of 2.2 per cent and expected to remain stable. Bad debts on the commercial properties saw a significantly better second half, with impairment charges dropping 20 per cent to £119 million.

Nationwide, echoing rivals across the sector, said it expected lower levels of impairment going into the coming year as commercial bad debts have peaked, adding a slower recovery and weak tenant demand could throw that off track. -- Reuters

Source: Business Times, 27 May 2010

Projects being released in subdued market

Kheng Leong seen releasing initial 300 units in preview of The Minton

DEVELOPERS are continuing to release projects amid more subdued sentiment in the property market.

Kheng Leong group is previewing this week The Minton at Lorong Ah Soo/Hougang St 11 at an average price of about $850 per square foot.

The developer is expected to release an initial batch of about 300 units in the 1,145-unit project that is being developed on a 99-year leasehold site.

Kheng Leong is offering a mix of various unit types, from one-bedders to penthouses, and prices will range from $770 psf to $960 psf at this week's preview.

The development includes 121 one bedders, ranging from 550-700 sq ft, 335 two-bedroom apartments (940-990 sq ft), 158 two bedroom with study units as well as 44 dual key units (comprising a two-bedroom apartment and a one-bedder). The remaining unit types at The Minton include three and four bedders. In addition, there will be 24 penthouses ranging from 2,000 sq ft to 3,500 sq ft in size.

The Minton will have a total of 18 blocks, ranging from 15 to 17 storeys in height.

The project is slated for completion around 2014.

Kheng Leong has appointed three marketing agents - CB Richard Ellis, ERA and Knight Frank.

Home buyers who are shopping for completed properties could consider Melodies Limited's offer of 72 units at Cassia View, a 10-year old freehold development at Guillemard Road near Geylang. The project has been on the market for about two weekends and 16 units have been sold so far.

Melodies, controlled by the Lee family of Hotel Royal, last year tried to sell the 20-storey block of 72 units, on an en bloc basis, with a price tag of about $70 million, or $783 psf, of strata area. That exercise did not result in a sale and the company is now selling the apartments individually. The average price is about $980 psf. Melodies will refurbish units with branded bathroom fixtures and designer kitchen cabinets and appliances. It will also spruce up common areas.

The bulk, or 67 of the 72 units, are three bedders (1,100 to 1,200 sq ft) and they are priced between $1 million and $1.3 million. Cassia View has just one two-bedroom apartment (of 900 sq ft) and four penthouses (about 2,300 sq ft each).

'The units comprise almost 100 per cent nett useable space as they do not have bomb shelters, bay windows or balconies,' says Liang Thow Ming, head of residential services at Credo Real Estate, which is marketing Cassia View.

Market watchers say visitorship at showflats slowed last weekend, due to the weak stock market, Europe's economic woes, tensions on the Korean Peninsula, and the Government announcement last Friday evening that it will deliver a bumper supply of private residential land for the second half of this year to meet strong demand for its sites from developers.

Frasers Centrepoint has sold 40 units at Flamingo Valley in Siglap after two weekends of sales. Prices in the freehold project range from $900-$1,580 psf.

Allgreen Properties found buyers for 50 units at Cascadia condo at Bukit Timah Road at its preview last week, with one- and two-bedroom apartments making up the bulk of sales. Units in the development are priced mostly in the $1,400-1,600 psf range. Cascadia and Flamingo Valley are freehold.

Source: Business Times, 27 May 2010

Property firms with Johor land get leg up

Optimism rises in wake of progress in S'pore-M'sia issues

PROPERTY companies owning large tracts of land in Johor can expect greater investor interest as Singapore and Malaysia resolve previously sticky issues.

The biggest gainers may be the special economic zone of Iskandar Malaysia and Johor's real estate sector.

Given the proposals for a new rapid transit line between Tanjung Puteri in Johor Bahru and Singapore, as well as increasing bus and taxi services and reducing the Second Link toll rates, many analysts felt that Johor property developers 'could be back in play'.

Over the past two days, the bearish stockmarket sentiments notwithstanding, developers such as UEM Land and Tebrau Teguh which have large landbanks in Johor have seen a bigger spike in interest.

Government-linked UEM Land which owns an estimated 3,300 hectares in the southern state - much of it in key nodes in Iskandar - has been one of the most active counters, yesterday closing three sen up at RM1.33 after reaching an intra-day high of RM1.37.

The progress made on a number of outstanding two-decade-old issues including land owned by KTM in Singapore which will now be jointly developed by both countries' state investment agencies, as well as Singapore's commitment to a proposed wellness township in Iskandar, has raised optimism that development would now be speeded up rather than put on the back-burner.

'Oh yes, Johor and Iskandar have become more attractive, especially if Temasek comes in and brings others,' said CH Williams Talhar & Wong director Danny Yeo.

CLSA, which had previously written on improving Singapore-Malaysia relations, was also optimistic that 'the pieces were falling in place very quickly'. It expects more Singaporeans to be living in Iskandar.

In a client note, Macquarie pointed out that with Singapore helping to drive part of Iskandar's growth, Malaysia's potential economic growth and move up the value-added chain would be greatly boosted.

The proposed rapid transit link between the two countries is expected to smoothen cross border movements when it is completed in 2018.

Property players around the Johor city area are already rubbing their hands in glee. 'The South Key project just got better with the rail connection,' declared CH William's Mr Yeo. The promoters of the RM12 billion (S$5.1 billion) mixed development project on the former Majidi army campsite plan to launch the first phase involving three-storey shop lots in the coming months.

Sentiments have improved on the latest developments, Mr Yeo said, adding that with inflation likely to see a higher jump should the Goods & Services Tax be implemented next year, properties are a better hedge against inflation. 'All that coupled with the recent rate hike will only push buyers to commit earlier rather than later in order to lock in rates.'

Even so, the momentum is only expected to pick up once more Singapore money starts to trickle in.

Source: Business Times, 27 May 2010

GIC explores Singapore listing of some of its property assets

IPO could raise up to US$1b even though the timing of the listing is fluid

(SINGAPORE) The Government of Singapore Investment Corp (GIC) is exploring a listing in Singapore of some of its property assets through an initial public offer of shares that could raise up to US$1 billion, Reuters reported yesterday, citing sources with knowledge of the deal.

A source told BT that the timetable for the IPO is 'very fluid' due to the current volatility in financial markets, but 'the intention to list the assets is quite clear'.

When contacted, GIC declined to comment. But the fund - which manages Singapore's foreign reserves, including pension savings, and invests only outside Singapore - has been in talks with major banks for several weeks now about its plans to list some of its assets, the source said.

No mandate has been awarded to any of the banks yet, but Citigroup and JP Morgan appeared to be the frontrunners to manage the IPO, according to the source. Both Citi and JP Morgan declined to comment.

'The proposal was to list their logistics business,' said a source that's aware of GIC's plan, according to Reuters. 'They could do an industrial Reit (real estate investment trust).'

The IPO would include assets in China and Japan that GIC bought for US$1.3 billion in 2008 from ProLogis, a New York-listed developer of warehouse facilities worldwide, Reuters reported, citing its own source.

Real estate accounted for 12 per cent of GIC's investment portfolio at the end of March 2009, up from 10 per cent a year earlier. GIC Real Estate, GIC's property investment arm, manages over 200 property investments across more than 30 countries, according to GIC's website.

Its property investments include brick-and-mortar assets, stocks of listed property companies, real estate investment trusts, as well as debt securities issued by real estate firms.

The investments span most property sectors, including office, retail, residential, industrial, and hotel, as well as niche sectors such as senior and student housing, and sports and medical facilities.

Not all the investments have been successful. Late last year, GIC wrote down most of its US$675 million investment in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, a large apartment complex in New York that was bought at the height of the property boom in the United States, but which then suffered from the collapse of the housing market there.

The vehicle that GIC chooses to list would need to disclose detailed information about its portfolio holdings, marking a departure from the secrecy that GIC usually applies to its investments.

But GIC could be seeking to list some of its assets to cash in on investments it made during the financial crisis that have since risen in value, without giving up control of the assets entirely.

'If you've held the assets for a reasonable period of time, then it makes sense to get some of your money back,' said one investment banker, who declined to be named. 'But maybe you still want to own a stake in the business.'

'Also the deal size may be quite large, and there may not be appetite from any single investor to buy an asset. That's another reason to do an IPO rather than a trade sale,' the banker said.

Source: Business Times, 27 May 2010

Singapore keeps ranking as most livable Asian city

SINGAPORE retained its ranking as the Asian city with the best quality of life, while Hong Kong lags behind rival financial hubs as it struggles with air pollution, according to a survey by Mercer Consulting.

Singapore ranks 28th among 221 cities, Tokyo is 40th and Hong Kong is placed 71st, the list shows. Hong Kong also trails behind New York City (No. 49), and smaller Japanese cities such as Kobe and Yokohama (tied for No. 41), Osaka (No. 51) and Nagoya (No. 57), according to the list.

The cities are rated on 10 factors including infrastructure, political and social environment, and access to medical care. Hong Kong scored poorly on health concerns, said Ms Cathy Loose, a Tokyo- based Mercer officer who helped compile the list.

'The government hasn't done very much to introduce green measures or reduce pollution,' Ms Loose said in an interview. The list serves as a compensation guide for expatriate relocation.

Hong Kong's score of about 94 points is little changed, which leaves it 5 points above the level at which Mercer says hardship allowances should be paid to workers who relocate. For cities including Beijing and Mumbai, a 10 per cent allowance is suggested, while an allowance of up to 28 per cent is suggested for Phnom Penh.

Hong Kong's air pollution was its worst on record during the past two quarters, sparking regular government health warnings. To address the problem, the government introduced a Bill last month proposing a ban on idling vehicle engines, among other measures.

Said HK Environmental Protection Department spokesman Eva Wong, in an e-mailed response to questions from Bloomberg: 'To tackle local emissions, we have been implementing very stringent control measures which are equivalent to those required by other advanced countries.'

The government is working with local bus companies and neighbouring cities in southern China to curb air pollution, and is investing HK$300 million (S$54.5 million) to develop low-carbon transport technology to cut roadside emissions, she said.

Singapore lags behind Hong Kong only on measurements of personal freedom and media censorship, said Ms Loose. Mercer is a unit of Marsh and McLennan.

In a Mercer statement, Ms Loose said: 'In addition to quality of living, this year's ranking also identifies the cities with the best eco-ranking based on water availability and drinkability, waste removal, quality of sewerage systems, air pollution and traffic congestion.'

For Asia, Kobe (No. 9) came out on top in eco city ranking, followed by Singapore (No. 22), while Dhaka (No. 220) ranked the lowest, she added.

Hong Kong's effort to cut pollution and protect the environment trails behind that of Havana and ranks just above Damascus, the list shows. Overall, Vienna retains the top spot as the world's best city to live in.


Source: Straits Times, 27 May 2010

Jalan Kayu businesses facing closure

Despite 2 years of notice, tenants say it's hard to relocate

SEVERAL businesses at Jalan Kayu are caught in a bind, partly of their own making: Their leases are due to expire at the end of the year, and they are having poor luck looking for new sites.

The 18 tenants at Seletar West Farmway 2, 4, 5, 6 and 7 - 16 plant nurseries, a kindergarten and a halfway house - were told as early as two years ago that they would have to go.

But they could relocate to only Government-approved locations, and most have had a hard time finding alternative sites.

The Straits Times understands that only two have managed to set up shop elsewhere. The others are still looking, but most say they are resigned to closing down if their searches prove futile.

The 20ha plot - roughly the size of 13 football fields - has been slated for new roads and industrial development.

When contacted, the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) said it had given the tenants ample notice. It added that tenants have been told several times to move. But the affected businesses countered that they have tried, but have been unsuccessful in their searches for new locations.

The nurseries, especially, said their businesses require large tracts of land of more than a hectare in size. The tenants also said cost was another factor. The going rates for sites up for tender were much more costly - about 20 times higher, they said.

'We need space and approved land. This makes it really difficult to find a new location,' said Mr Patrick Tan, who manages a 1.2ha nursery owned by Far East Orchids. 'I am searching like crazy, but there is nowhere to go.'

The 48-year-old currently pays $2,000 a month in rent. He said he had considered a 3ha plot of land in Queenstown that the Government put up for tender recently. 'But after calculations, I realised there was no way I could afford the $35,000 rental per month,' he said, adding that he is unsure of his next move.

The owner of Yee Peng Orchid Nursery Ho Wai Ron, 50, has decided what to do: He will give up his 26-year-old business.

'Land is so scarce here and our leases keep expiring and we have to move again and again,' said Mr Ho, who said the company has moved four times so far. 'It is too disruptive.'

The SLA said it is working closely with other government agencies on the possibility of a further extension.

'But tenants are aware that they will have to move if this is not possible,' said its spokesman.

Source: Straits Times, 27 May 2010

A chance for real, lasting change

Concept Plan 2011 may sound like yet another bureaucratic exercise that will produce another paper to be filed away – and many people have simply ignored it. Past history shows that Concept Plans can actually be a big deal, though.

Just look back a few decades. Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan said recently: “In the first Concept Plan in 1971, we drew up plans for major infrastructure projects such as Changi Airport and our first MRT lines.”

Two decades later, “in the 1991 Concept Plan, we systematically planned for the decentralisation of commercial space from the CBD”, he added.

Recommendations in those two Concept Plans have radically transformed Singapore.

A further two decades on, it may now be the right time for another radical change. This time, though, the initial recommendations announced early this month make it seem like Concept Plan 2011 could focus as much on the softer side of Singapore’s soul as on infrastructure.

It has the potential to catalyse far-reaching changes that could create a more vibrant place to live. To make a real difference, though, three unpolished gems amid the concepts floated so far may need a lot more polishing to make a real difference.

One of those gems is – as the focus group said – that the city needs buzz. With only 43 per cent of respondents in the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s 2009 Lifestyle Survey saying they are satisfied with night-time activities and events here, many Singaporeans seem to agree. The recent CB Richard Ellis study showing that Singapore had dropped to 11th place for cities where top world retailers are located reaffirms the need for vibrancy.

Yet much more than closing downtown streets on weekends and putting art on the streets is needed. Renowned researcher Richard Florida says that knowledge workers prefer things like a “vibrant music scene, outdoor restaurants, organic supermarkets, juice bars”, rather than “passive cultural amenities” and “big-ticket items”.

Innovative ideas for more far-reaching concepts – from edgier entertainment to entirely new models for restaurants and retailers – may need to become key parts of the mix.

A second gem involved concepts for buildings that included recommendations for changes such as organic growth in “distinctive neighbourhoods” like Bugis or Little India, and space for inter-generational bonding.

All are good concepts. Again, more transformational changes than tweaks to HDB flats may be needed to bridge the generational and diversity divides.

In one of his books Harvard professor Robert Putnam cites a dozen success stories – such as the Chicago public library branches that have become vital locations for building social connections – as examples of how to build social capital. Multi-cultural multi-ethnic Singapore may have even more opportunities than the United States, and out-of-the-box thinking could create new concepts that better connect this diversity of people.

The concept of diversity, too, could be expanded to refer to anything from art havens to lifestyle choices.

And third, the focus group recommended environmentally-friendly projects ranging from bike lanes and better public transport to creating a Heritage Charter to preserve historic buildings. But rather than just pulling down old buildings or clearing away parks to make way for the new, co-chairman Lee Tzu Yang said it is important to “try and build a consensus among all the stakeholders in a particular district as to how to cherish, safeguard the things we love”.

These ideas are good too, yet, as reporter Ong Dai Lin noted in Today’s coverage of the Concept Plan 2011, “their suggestions echoed popular calls that have been rejected time and again”. More transformative projects, perhaps something like solar panels on the roof of every public building to make Singapore a world model for alternative energy, could offer changes that remake Singapore.

This once-in-two-decades chance to transform Singapore through the Concept Plan seems too important to ignore. What may be needed to propel Singapore forward is more input from more people and truly innovative ideas for creating vibrancy or improving fundamental policies.

While small focus groups and lightly-publicised requests for feedback that drew a few thousand responses are a start, only around 0.1 per cent of the population has provided input on what could truly be a plan to reinvent Singapore yet again. Now is the time to put the power of many more people to work.

Source: Today, 27 May 2010

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

For sale: 9 properties of winding-up family firms

NINE properties owned by three family companies - Associated Development Pte Ltd, Chow Cho Poon (Pte) Ltd and Lee Tung Co (Pte) Ltd - are being liquidated and put up for sale to the public.

According to previous media reports, the three companies were set up by property investor Chow Cho Poon, and his three sons were made directors and shareholders of the three family companies.

At the time of his death in 1997, Mr Chow owed debts to the companies which could not be paid off as his estate's assets were mainly tied up as shares in the companies.

In 2007, the Singapore High Court ordered the winding up of the three solvent companies so that the brothers could go their separate ways, given that they could not get along with one another.

Tam Chee Chong, head of financial advisory services for Deloitte & Touche, has been appointed as the liquidator of all three companies.

As part of the liquidation process, the assets of the companies will be realised and distributed among the shareholders, according to a joint release by Deloitte and DTZ.

DTZ is marketing the sale of the properties via public tender.

The value of the properties was not available at press time as the liquidators are currently seeking advice on the valuation of the properties.

Chow House, the six-storey office building at 140 Robinson Road (which is owned by Associated Development) is described as the jewel in the portfolio.

'The freehold property has not been built to its maximum potential. According to the Master Plan 2008, the site is zoned 'commercial' at plot ratio 11.2+, translating to a potential commercial gross floor area of 101,749 sq ft. An outline permission has also been granted for an erection of a 'residential development with commercial on first storey',' said Shaun Poh, DTZ's senior director for investment advisory service.

The properties owned by Chow Cho Poon Pte Ltd are 490 to 500 Upper Serangoon Road, 524 to 530 Upper Serangoon Road and 296 to 308 Lavender Street.

Lee Tung Co owns 13, 14 & 15 Lorong Telok, 17 North Canal Road, 19, 20 & 21 North Canal Road, 290 Jalan Besar and 377 to 383 (odd nos) Jalan Besar.

'The leasehold 999- years conservation shophouses in Lorong Telok and North Canal Road in the CBD are rarely available and would be ideal for boutique corporate offices or F&B businesses,' added Mr Poh.

Closing dates for the tenders differ, depending on the property, and range from July 7 to 15.

Source: Business Times, 26 May 2010

S'pore moves up a rung in global retail rents ranking

Despite moderation in prime retail rents here, it's ranked 17th most expensive

PRIME retail rents in Singapore may have fallen marginally so far this year, but that has not stopped the city-state from moving up one place in CB Richard Ellis's latest survey of the world's most expensive retail locations.

According to the property firm's latest Global MarketView report on the retail sector, prime retail rents here were 17th most expensive in the world in the first quarter of this year, up from 18th in Q4 last year.

This was despite a moderation in prime retail rents here. According to the report, the average prime retail rent in Singapore at the end of Q1 this year was US$436 per sq ft per year, down slightly from US$444 at end-2009.

CBRE's director of retail services here, Letty Lee, said: 'Singapore has been successful in attracting a sizeable number of global brands and new-to-market concepts due to an abundant choice of prime pipeline supply in the Orchard Road and the Marina Bay areas. That in turn has put some pressure on prime retail rents.'

New York, Sydney, Hong Kong, London and Paris remained seated at the top of the table, keeping their positions as the top five most expensive retail markets.

A trend that came through in the report is that prime retail rents in the world's leading shopping destinations have stabilised in the majority of markets, and even grew in some major cities in Q1. This was despite a lack of retail sales growth in most markets.

CBRE's global chief economist Ray Torto said: 'Retailers still face uncertain trading conditions and continue to put pressure on landlords to offer incentive packages.

'However, market pressures have not stopped retailers from expanding, and demand for prime retail space remains strong in many markets.'

But while prime space appears to be in demand, secondary units worldwide are typically seeing higher vacancy rates, lower retailer demand and falling rents, CBRE said.

The firm's head of cross-border retail for Europe, Middle East & Africa, Peter Gold, said it is too early to tell the gap will narrow during 2010.

Among regions, Asia appears to be leading the recovery, with retail markets generally strengthening in Q1.

'Thus far, Asia is the only region of the world where economic growth is starting to feed through into retail sales increases, and this is now starting to impact real estate markets,' CBRE said.

In particular, a number of international retailers are looking to expand their footprint into cities like Singapore, Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai, it said.

Source: Business Times, 26 May 2010

First tender in new setting draws record bid

EC plot in Sengkang fetches top bid of $320.58 psf ppr

(SINGAPORE) The first state land tender to close following the government announcement of bumper land sales for the second half has seen a record price for executive condominium land.

The plot, at Sengkang East Avenue and Buangkok Drive, however drew seven bids, down from 11 bids for an earlier plot at Compassvale Bow/Buangkok Drive at a tender in March.

Industry players also pointed out that for yesterday's tender, the top bid aside, the other bids were within expectation.

Market watchers suggest the bullish top bid of $320.58 per square foot of potential gross floor area could be due to the top bidder's ability to control costs better as it involves a joint venture involving a construction group and a steel supplier.

Maxdin Pte Ltd, a subsidiary of Greatearth Holding, which in turn is part of United Engineers, will hold a 65 per cent stake in the tie-up with Lee Carriers, which is part of Lee Metal Group, a leading fabricator and manufacturer of reinforcement steel products and a trader of steel products.

Maxdin was unsuccessful at two earlier tenders for EC sites that closed in March. It placed the third highest bid for a Yishun plot and was the fourth highest tenderer for the Compassvale Bow plot. Interestingly, Maxdin had offered a much lower price of $270.56 psf per plot ratio (psf ppr) for that site, despite the fact that it has a superior location (near Buangkok MRT Station), than its bid yesterday.

The Compassvale Bow plot drew a top bid of $315 psf ppr from a partnership between Frasers Centrepoint and Lum Chang. At yesterday's tender closing, Frasers Centrepoint, bidding solo, emerged in third position, with a $288 psf ppr bid.

'Bidders with financial muscle who have not been successful at recent tenders and who need to replenish land are hungrier than those who have already secured at least one site,' a developer suggested.

At yesterday's tender, the top bid was nearly 10 per cent higher than the second highest offer, of about $292 psf ppr, from a tie-up between Hoi Hup Realty and Sunway Developments.

Others who took part in yesterday's tender included Qingdao Construction (Singapore) at about $286 psf ppr, GuocoLand unit First Capital Holdings ($260 psf ppr) and a JV between NTUC Choice Homes and Chip Eng Seng ($240 psf ppr). Sim Lian Land placed the lowest bid, of $211 psf ppr.

Market watchers say the breakeven cost for Greatearth and Lee Metal could be around $600 psf. According to CB Richard Ellis, resale units at the neighbouring Park Green and The Rivervale ECs as well as The Florida in Hougang have been selling at $500-620 psf between January and May this year.

A spokesman for Greatearth's parent, United Engineers, said yesterday that the group's proposed scheme is for a project with about 500 units - comprising two, three and four-bedroom apartments with three-bedders making up the bulk of units. 'We're looking to launch the project in about six months. Greatearth will be project manager, and provide the design and build services, with Lee Metal being the passive investor.'

When the site was triggered for tender, analysts had estimated it would fetch $200-300 psf ppr. Before yesterday's tender close, the record price for EC land was the $315 psf ppr that Frasers Centrepoint and Lum Chang paid for the Compassvale Bow plot in March. That surpassed the previous record of $220 psf ppr for the Summerdale EC site in Boon Lay in May 1997.

'Give it time, land bids will tame. There's a lot of caution in the air,' said Knight Frank chairman Tan Tiong Cheng.

Industry players say visitorship at showflats slowed at the weekend, due to the weak stockmarket and the bumper land sales programme for H2.

Source: Business Times, 26 May 2010

KTM land parcels send out a tingle of excitement

All eyes on site at Tanjong Pagar as observers sketch out the possibilities

(SINGAPORE) Just a day after the prime ministers of Singapore and Malaysia announced that six Malaysia- owned land parcels here would be jointly redeveloped, the market was abuzz with the possibilities awaiting these prime plots of real estate estimated to be worth billions of dollars.

The 'crown jewel' among them is a 16-hectare site in downtown Tanjong Pagar, sitting just a stone's throw from the Republic's busy financial district. The area is also where the 78-year-old Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) railway station is currently located. It will be shifted to the Woodlands Train Checkpoint by July next year.

Property veteran Nicholas Mak, a real estate lecturer at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, said that one possibility for the railway building - which will be conserved because of its historical significance - could be to turn it into a historical hotel similar to the iconic Fullerton Hotel in Raffles Place.

'The site and the surrounding areas where the railway tracks run are very large. By my own estimates we could be looking at several million square feet of potential built-up area,' he told BT yesterday. 'We could see a combination of offices, shops, retail space, as well as some apartments and condominiums. I wouldn't be surprised if the land is eventually carved up into several smaller parcels.'

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is now awaiting an updated valuation of the railway land, after which he will visit his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak in Kuala Lumpur next month to discuss the swap of the railway land for other real estate in Singapore.

Between them, the six parcels of land span more than 200 hectares, according to Malaysian media reports. Apart from Tanjong Pagar, the other land parcels include one each in Kranji and Woodlands, and three in Bukit Timah.

Cushman & Wakefield managing director Donald Han said that it would make sound business sense for Malaysia to consider swapping Tanjong Pagar for a more urban and developed location such as the Ophir-Rochor area because of the greater potential in enhancing people connectivity.

'The Rochor area has hotels and shopping centres. So there is complementary potential for Malaysia to build and create more attractions for their citizens who want to come to Singapore,' said Mr Han.

While not much is known about exactly where the land parcels in Kranji or Woodlands are, two of the three Bukit Timah sites are likely to be a vacant plot and another that is currently housing workers' quarters near Methodist Girls' School, said Mr Mak. Both are likely to be used for residential purposes owing to their small size.

On Monday, Mr Lee and Mr Najib announced that a new private company set up by the two countries' sovereign wealth funds - Khazanah Nasional and Temasek Holdings - will take charge of the Tanjong Pagar land and five other sprawling plots.

Mr Mak ventured that the joint company, called M-S Pte Ltd, could well decide to allow private developers to take charge of building up the land once the master plan is completed. 'It's a much neater way to do things. The company decides what to do with the land, and then sells it in an open tender afterwards. This is a cleaner way to extract the highest value from the land with minimum hassle,' he said.

Efforts to contact KTM yesterday for comments were unsuccessful. Singapore's Foreign Affairs Ministry, which is handling all local media queries regarding Malaysia's railway land, was unable to respond to BT's queries by press time.

Source: Business Times, 26 May 2010

New York City still most expensive retail location

NEW York City is still the world's most expensive retail location, with prime rentals almost four times that of Singapore.

According to the latest CB Richard Ellis (CBRE) Global MarketView report on the retail sector, the Big Apple was tops in terms of cost in the first quarter of this year. It was followed by Sydney, Hong Kong, London and Paris.

Prime rents in New York City, which were the highest the last time the report was compiled in the fourth quarter of last year, cost a typical retailer US$1,725 (S$2,430) per sq ft (psf) per annum at the end of the first quarter this year.

Those in Sydney and Hong Kong were US$1,155 and US$974 psf per annum respectively.

London prime rents came in at US$861 psf per annum, and Paris' were US$791 psf per annum.

In Singapore - ranked 17th in the report, up from 18th place - super prime rents stood at US$436 psf per annum, from US$444 psf per annum at the end of last year.

CBRE director of retail services Letty Lee said that while Singapore is able to attract well-known brands due to an abundant choice of pipeline supply in the Orchard Road and Marina Bay areas, this has put some pressure on prime retail rents.

The CBRE report showed that across the globe, consumer and retailer confidence started to improve in the first quarter as the economic recovery gathered momentum.

CBRE noted that while this has not translated into retail sales growth in most markets, demand for prime retail space remains buoyant and there is a low level of vacancies in the best locations.

This has fuelled prime rent rises in some markets and, in many more, the rate of rent decline has slowed or is stable.

CBRE global chief economist Ray Torto said strong demand from retailers is leading to an imbalance of supply and demand in some markets.

'Retailers still face uncertain trading conditions and continue to put pressure on landlords to offer incentive packages. However, market pressures have not stopped retailers from expanding and demand for prime retail space remains strong in many markets across the world,' he added.

Prime rents

1 New York City: US$1,725(S$2,430) psf per annum
2 Sydney: US$1,155 psf per annum
3 Hong Kong: US$974 psf per annum
4 London: US$861 psf per annum
5 Paris: US$791 psf per annum
17 Singapore: US$436 psf per annum

'Market pressures have not stopped retailers from expanding and demand for prime retail space remains strong in many markets across the world.'

Source: Straits Times, 26 May 2010

Chow House, 8 others up for tender

Sale marks end of court feud between 3 brothers over firms which own the properties

NINE properties, including Chow House in Robinson Road, have been put up for public tender following the conclusion of a bitter family dispute.

Chow House is a freehold six-storey office building in the heart of the Central Business District.

DTZ, which is organising the sale, described it as the 'jewel in the crown' of the sale portfolio as it had not been built to its maximum potential.

The range of commercial blocks and residential shophouses - valued at around $100 million back in 2008 - is being marketed for Deloitte liquidator Tam Chee Chong.

The tender marks the end of a High Court battle between three feuding brothers behind three companies - Associated Development, Chow Cho Poon Limited and Lee Tung Company - which own the properties.

The siblings - two doctors and an architect in their 60s and all living in Hong Kong - are the sons of property investor Chow Cho Poon, who died in 1997.

Their father had set up three companies to hold his assets.

The firms lease out commercial space in the properties.

Eldest son Chow Kwok Chi had asked the High Court in 2007 to wind up the companies so that the brothers could make a clean break from one another.

He argued that as long as the companies exist, their father's estate would remain unadministered because of an unpaid $34 million debt.

DTZ's senior director for investment advisory service, Mr Shaun Poh, said that Chow House - with a total site area of 9,084 sq ft - has a potential commercial gross floor area of 101,749 sq ft.

An outline permission has also been granted for a residential development with commercial use on the first floor, he added.

The tender for Chow House closes on July 15.

The other properties include three restored pre-war conservation shophouses in Lorong Telok, which are being sold as one property.

They have a total site area of about 4,432 sq ft and a lease of 999 years with effect from 1831.

Other commercial shophouses up for tender are in North Canal Road and Jalan Besar.

There is also a row of six adjoining single-storey shophouses in Upper Serangoon Road with a total area of about 9,166 sq ft, being sold as one entity.

Another property comprising seven adjoining units of two-storey freehold shophouses in Lavender Street, with a site area of about 13,107 sq ft and marked for residential development with commercial use on the first floors, are also on offer.

Tenders close from July 7 to July 15, depending on the property.

DTZ said that as part of the liquidation process, sale proceeds will be distributed among the shareholders of the companies.

Source: Straits Times, 26 May 2010