Saturday, March 3, 2007

LaSalle Investment goes big on Singapore hotels

Lasalle Investment Management (LIM) has entered the Singapore hotels sector in a big way. The investment manager has quietly acquired the Swissotel Merchant Court from Colony Capital in January and another un-named hotel more recently, it has emerged.

In December 2006, LIM acquired a hotel development site on Bencoolen Street for $73 million - making three hotel acquisitions here in less than six months.

David Edwards, regional investment strategist at LIM, said that it has ‘technically’ acquired its third hotel here but declined to give details until the deal is finalised. He also declined to say what it paid for the Swissotel Merchant Court at Clarke Quay.

Mr Edwards did say that LIM ‘likes the hotel segment in Singapore’, and in general, the ‘limited service hotel segment in Asia’.

‘This is a segment we are looking to develop in partnership. We are very keen on developing this partnership arrangement,’ he added.

Mr Edwards did not specify who this partner is. However for the Bencoolen Street site, LIM will be partnering the Accor Group, which owns the Sofitel, Novotel, Ibis and Mercure hotel brands.

Mr Edwards said: ‘We have been a long term investor in hotels so we are very familiar with the sector and it fits in nicely with the Singapore growth story.’

The Swissotel Merchant Court was part of the 41 properties in the Raffles Hotels and Resorts chain acquired by Colony Capital in 2005 for $1.45 billion from CapitaLand’s Raffles Holdings.

It is not known if Colony Capital is selling any more of its hotels here, but an industry source who did not want to be named said: ‘I am surprised they have started selling so soon.’ The same source priced the Swissotel Merchant court at between $300 million and $400 million.

Mr Edwards was speaking at a press briefing for LIM’s Investment Strategy Annual, where he also said: ‘Investors can continue to earn relatively attractive returns in real estate by adapting to an expanded universe.’

About 60 per cent of LIM’s investments in the Asia Pacific are in Japan, with another 3 per cent based in China.

Source: The Business Times, 03 March 2007

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Whitehouse Holdings wins hotel tender

The Singapore Land Authority (SLA) has awarded the tender for a site at 175A Chin Swee Road for use as a boutique business hotel to Vita Holdings unit Whitehouse Holdings. The rental price is $82,178 a month.

Vita will invest $6 million to refurbish the 12 storey building - previously Pearl’s Hill Primary School - into a 130-room hotel and is slated to open by the end of this year. The state property has an estimated land area of 10,500 sq m and gross floor area of 5,800 sq m and is the first one tenanted out by SLA for niche use as a mid-tier hotel.

The site is just three minutes from the centre of the central business district and will be well-situated as a business hotel. The lease is for an initial term of three years and is renewable on terms up till 2016.

Vita will finance the investment through a combination of internal funds and bank borrowings. The investment is not expected to have any significant impact on the group’s financials in the current financial year.

SLA said the winning bid was selected based on several factors including tender price, concepts, proposed uses, track record and the financial health of the company submitting the bid. Whitehouse Holdings’ tender price was the highest, beating five other tenderers, including East Lodge Management - whose bid it easily topped by at least $10,000 - Bescorp Investments, Club Panoly Holdings, Ideal Accommodation and Jian Yu Construction.

This will be Vita’s first hotel property. Executive chairman Christine Sim was upbeat on the prospects for the business. ‘Our move in this business direction is timely, given the increasing overseas traveller arrivals and the changing needs of frequent business travellers,’ she said.

The new property will increase Vita’s current portfolio to 13 properties.

Source: The Business Times, 01 March 2007

District 11 Newton circus area prices and rentals differ tremendously

District 11 Newton circus area prices and rentals differ tremendously from the district 11 Novena MRT area, which is also tremendously different from that inside part of Novena near Balestier. Again differ tremendously from district 11 Chancery/Whitley/Trevose/Shelford/Watten side.

So which part of district 11 are you talking about? Even within same district, different locations have tremendously varying rate of return.

See district 10. Orchard/Tanglin side is very very high price and rent. But the further west Bukit Timah side (Tan Chong Motor area) cost very much less. Again, Holland side cost another price segment which is quite low also. Mount Sinai is another price segment which is so far from the Ardmore Park price.

So, location location location still takes top priority even within the prime districts.

My opinion is that if you are eligible to buy HDB in the city area, it would be a good investment as the ROI is quite high as price is not yet closed up with the pte property in the same vicinity. It is an attractive purchase for locals if the flat had just undergone MUP or IUP as PR needs to pay very much higher for the upgrading fees, hence you have less competitor for the unit you are eyeing at. Once the price is paid, you are at the liberty to sells it to PR after one year who are willing to pay good price for it. Of course the net gain may not be much but it is a good start for people who are looking into property investment with very little cash and very little risk.
Do not go into area where there are a lot of construction going on e.g East coast area because when these apts are available in the market in future, it's going to squeeze the rental market. Stretches along Holland and Bt Timah sometimes have good value properties available. The hillview area is good to buy for own stay as the air are relatively fresh compared with the city and many units are still selling below original purchased price. Rental had gone up quite a bit too. If you can hold it long enough till MRT started to serve the Bt Timah area, there will be potential for further upside in Bt Timah, Beauty world area and Upp Bt Timah as these stretch of road is where all the traditional good schools,junior colleage and Polytechnic located.
But the CPF cap of 120% of valuation or purchased price beginning next year may dampen the property market if more and more people started to realised that they have to pay using cash instead of CPF savings once the capital and interest repayment reached 120% of valuation. How soon it arrive depends very much on the interest rate movement and whether Gov tweak the policy in future.

However, I'm a "city person". Unlikely for me to want to move to Hillview or suburbs.

My office is 10 mins walk to my home. My son's school is 15 mins walk to my home. My house is 10 mins drive to Orchard, 10 mins drive to Raffles Place.

I'm too used to the convenience and savings in both "time" and "money" from the place I stay.

However, I'm on a look-out for property to invest though. Part of the reason I raised my cash position to 65% is partly to lock in my capital gains on stocks and also partly to prepare to re-invest part of the cash into a property.

It's difficult to look for a "bargain" though as many sellers are increasing their asking price.

Mobilo, you have any "lobang" or "views" on what properties can be good investment?