Friday, August 17, 2007

FRASERS Centrepoint has sold 80 per cent of its Soleil @ Sinaran condo near Novena MRT Station at an average price of nearly $1,500 psf, with 173 unit

FRASERS Centrepoint has sold 80 per cent of its Soleil @ Sinaran condo near Novena MRT Station at an average price of nearly $1,500 psf, with 173 units sold at yesterday’s soft launch, following last week’s staff and VIP preview when 156 units were sold.

The 99-year leasehold condo seems to have attracted predominantly Singaporeans and permanent residents, according to Frasers Centrepoint Homes chief operating officer Cheang Kok Kheong.

Buyers included a mix of investors as well as likely owner occupiers, drawn by the project’s location and its proximity to the Orchard Road belt, he added. There was a buyer who purchased an entire floor of seven apartments, Mr Cheang revealed.

‘Those who’re buying properties are basically looking at a long-term investment and the real economy here is still doing well,’ Mr Cheang said in explaining why the US sub-prime woes and global stock market rout seem to have had little impact on Soleil buyers.

Soleil @ Sinaran comprises two 36-storey blocks. Apartments come with one, two, three and four bedrooms. Frasers Centrepoint will release the project’s four penthouses - each with five bedrooms - at today’s official launch. Their prices start from $8.5 million.

Source : Business Times - 17 Aug 2007

Government Land Sales Programme for the second half of this year is to be at the junction of Jalan Bukit Merah and Alexandra Road.

The first of the four hotel sites to be put on the reserve list of the Government Land Sales Programme for the second half of this year is to be at the junction of Jalan Bukit Merah and Alexandra Road.

The site has an area of 0.79 ha and a maximum permissible gross floor area of 22,249 square metres (239,486 sq ft).

A spokesman for the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said it has already received some market interest for the site, which is close to Mount Faber and Sentosa.

The URA said: ‘The area is of a mixed-use character and there is no change in planning intentions in the near future.’

Cushman & Wakefield managing director Donald Han says that, as the site is near Alexandra Hospital, a hotel there might attract ‘medical tourists’.

At present, the area is predominantly an industrial and car showroom enclave.

‘There’s a price to everything and hotel sites are well in demand now - regardless to location,’ Mr Han said.

He thinks the site could sell for between $400 to $450 per square foot per plot ratio (psf ppr), putting it in the $100 million range.

He pointed out that hotels near regional hubs are needed to help commercial growth as part of URA’s decentralisation strategy.

Mr Han reckons a 3-star hotel with up to 400 rooms would be feasible. Rates would be below $180 per night.

Highlighting that the current $220 per night average room rate has caused some concern within the tourism industry, Mr Han said: ‘More suburban or 3-star hotels may be needed to keep hotel rates affordable, particularly for the budget-conscious tourists.’

Knight Frank director (research and consultancy) Nicholas Mak believes interest for the site is not likely to come from any of the big players.

‘If any developer were to be interested in this site, they are likely to be small developers or hotel operators such as Fragrance Land or Hotel 81,’ he said.

For the first half of the year, URA released three hotel sites on the reserve list.

In July, a hotel site in the Tanjong Pagar area sold for $97.07 million or $562 psf ppr.

Source : Business Times - 17 Aug 2007

CITY Developments (CDL) will be giving one of South Korea’s leading cities, Incheon, an image boost, with plans to invest up to US$300 million

CITY Developments (CDL) will be giving one of South Korea’s leading cities, Incheon, an image boost, with plans to invest up to US$300 million (S$459.2 million) in a major residential and commercial project.

The Singapore-listed property giant yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding with DC Chemical Company (DCC) to develop a large site in the city.

Under the deal, it will pump between US$150 million and US$300 million into the site, which is more than 600,000 sq m. By comparison, Suntec City Mall has only about 82,498 sq m of retail space.

Incheon, which will play host to the 2014 Asian Games, is a major seaport with a population of about 2.5 million, not far from the country’s capital of Seoul.

A large-scale commercial centre will be built on a site of 281,850 sq m, DCC said at a press conference held in Incheon yesterday.

The centre will consist of a 50-storey tower, incorporating a ‘top-class’ hotel, a service residence and an office building. These will be anchor facilities.

Department stores, brand outlets, multiplex cinemas and an e-sports gaming hall will flank both sides of the tower.

To the north of the integrated commercial centre, another large site of about 380,000 sq m of land is slated for residential development.

Renowned British and engineering firm Atkins - which was responsible for the Burj Al-Arab in Dubai, the world’s first seven-star hotel - has been roped in to be the conceptual designer for the project.

Development work is scheduled to begin in two years with the main commercial centre to be constructed first, followed by residential blocks in 2010.

The large-scale commercial centre, according to DCC’s chief executive, Mr Baik Woo Suk, will ’significantly increase’ economic activity in the area and will create many jobs, in a boost to Incheon’s economy.

‘When Incheon City hosts the Asian Games in 2014, this commercial centre will be the very first image visitors will see when crossing over on Incheon Bridge into Incheon City,’ he said.

CDL’s group general manager, Mr Chia Ngiang Hong, said the firm is always on the lookout for ‘new strategic growth opportunities’, and it believes this investment is timely, given the ‘exciting developments’ in South Korea.

‘With the synergistic collaboration of an established company such as DCC, coupled with our many decades of experience in the real estate and hotel industry, we are very positive about the prospects of this project,’ he added.

This is not CDL’s first investment in South Korea’s burgeoning economy.

Subsidiary Millennium and Copthorne Hotels owns and operates Millennium Seoul Hilton hotel, Hong Leong Group spokesman Gerry de Silva told The Straits Times. ‘Of course we’re looking for viable investments in the region, and we’ve been looking at Korea for several years now. We think Korea is a market that can offer more value.’

Shares of CDL, which is part of the Hong Leong Group, closed 50 cents lower at $13.60 yesterday. The announcement came after the market had closed.

Listed on the Korean Stock Exchange, DCC is among the world’s top producers of carbon black, soda ash and pitch.

Source : Straits Times - 17 Aug 2007

CAPITALAND has bought two Malaysian shopping centres for around $527.1 million

CAPITALAND has bought two Malaysian shopping centres for around $527.1 million, it announced yesterday.

The property giant, working through two of its subsidiaries, paid $336.8 million for Gurney Plaza in Penang and about $190.3 million for Selangor’s Mines Shopping Fair.

The malls will form the first two seed assets for the proposed CapitaLand-sponsored Malaysian retail real estate investment trust (Reit), CapitaLand said.

Gurney Plaza is a seven-storey mall strategically located on Penang’s Gurney Drive promenade. The mall is about five minutes’ drive from the city centre of Georgetown.

It has more than 700,000 sq ft in net lettable area and more than 300 specialty stores.

Mines Shopping Fair is a prime retail mall that is part of the Mines Resort City in Selangor. Opened in 1997, it has a unique Venetian-styled canal flowing through the mall.

The mall is located in the growth corridor in the south of Kuala Lumpur, and measures around 650,000 sq ft in net lettable area.

CapitaLand Retail’s chief executive, Mr Pua Seck Guan, said Mines Shopping Fair is a ‘quality asset’ that ‘enjoys a good flow of human traffic’ while Gurney Plaza ‘enjoys close to 100 per cent occupancy’.

‘The acquisitions provide CapitaLand with a unique opportunity to extend our retail real estate platform to Malaysia which, in addition to Singapore, China, India and Japan, will further strengthen our position as the leading retail property company in Asia,’ he said.

CapitaLand Group president and chief executive Liew Mun Leong said in a statement that the two acquisitions will help the company increase its Reit portfolio in Singapore and overseas.

‘In line with our current Reit strategy, we have identified other quality Malaysian retail assets that will augment Gurney Plaza and Mines Shopping Fair, and form the pipeline of assets for our pure-play Malaysian retail Reit, which could possibly be listed within a year,’ he added.

CapitaLand has sponsored five Reits. Four are listed on the Singapore Exchange and one on Bursa Malaysia.

Source : Straits Times - 17 Aug 2007

CAPITALAND is aiming to launch a new Malaysian retail real estate investment trust (Reit) within a year and has just spent $527.1 million on the plan.

CAPITALAND is aiming to launch a new Malaysian retail real estate investment trust (Reit) within a year and has just spent $527.1 million on the plan.

Yesterday, it announced that it had entered into sale and purchase agreements to acquire two shopping malls in Malaysia. The larger of the two is Gurney Plaza in Penang, which will be acquired for $336.8 million. Mines Shopping Fair in Selangor will cost $190.3 million.

In a statement, CapitaLand said the two assets would ‘form seed assets for CapitaLand’s proposed Malaysian retail Reit’. CapitaLand CEO and president Liew Mun Leong added that the company was ‘on track’ to build up its assets under management through increasing the Reit’s portfolio in Singapore and abroad.

Mr Liew said: ‘In line with our current Reits strategy, we have identified other quality Malaysian retail assets that will augment Gurney Plaza and Mines Shopping Fair and form the pipeline of assets for our pure-play Malaysian retail Reit, which could possibly be listed within a year.’

CapitaLand did not say what the target size of the Reit would be. Its other retail Reit, CapitaMall Trust, which was listed in 2002, now has a portfolio worth almost $6 billion.

CapitaLand said it has not yet decided to list the new trust. CapitaLand has sponsored five Reits, all but one of which are listed on the Singapore Exchange. Quill Capita Trust, which was launched in January, is listed on Bursa Malaysia.

Of the latest properties, CapitaLand Retail CEO Pua Seck Guan said: ‘The acquisitions provide CapitaLand with an unique opportunity to extend our retail real estate platform to Malaysia, which in addition to Singapore, China, India and Japan, will further strengthen our position as the leading retail property company in Asia.’

He said the 700,000 sq ft Gurney Plaza is close to 100 per cent occupied. CapitaLand also signed a put and call option to acquire Gurney Plaza’s four storey extension which is under construction. It will provide an additional 130,000 sq ft of net lettable area when completed around the end of next year.

Mr Pua said that there were ’substantial asset enhancement and tenancy remixing opportunities’ at the 650,000 sq ft Mines Shopping Fair.

Source : Business Times - 17 Aug 2007

‘En bloc sale: Work starts even before all move out’ (ST, Aug 13), where Mr Chio Tan Seng queried why the developers of Balmoral View

WE REFER to the letter, ‘En bloc sale: Work starts even before all move out’ (ST, Aug 13), where Mr Chio Tan Seng queried why the developers of Balmoral View, which had been sold en bloc, were allowed to start building a showflat onsite even though seven units in the development are still occupied.
He asked if the developers are legally allowed to do this as residents have been allowed to stay till November. He was also concerned about the safety of the residents.

We understand that the developers took legal possession of the site in May. Some residents were allowed to stay longer at their request. This was privately agreed upon between the developers and the residents.

In July, the developers obtained Written Permission from URA to redevelop the site. Written Permission was given after URA had determined that the redevelopment plans complied with various planning requirements.

The developers need not obtain a further permit from either URA or BCA to build the showflat within the approved redevelopment site after they receive Written Permission. The developers and stakeholders of the project are directly responsible for safety at the worksite and they should take the necessary safety precautions to protect workers and the residents.

APOLLO Centre in Chinatown is being put on the market

APOLLO Centre in Chinatown is being put on the market, but tenants need not worry that the 14-year-old office building will be torn down.

Owner Apollo Enterprises yesterday appointed Knight Frank to sell the seven-storey building.

Knight Frank said it expects interest from institutional investors to be keen, but that the 99-year leasehold complex is unlikely to be redeveloped.

‘We have spoken to several private equity funds and expect a good level of interest due to the lack of good quality office space at the moment,’ it added.

While Knight Frank said it was unable to confirm an indicative price, property consultants expect Apollo Centre to fetch prices well above $200 million.

Mr Donald Han, managing director of Cushman & Wakefield, believes the building can fetch about $1,200 to $1,300 per sq ft (psf) of net lettable area.

This works out to about $220 million, assuming that the net lettable area is about 85 per cent of the building’s total gross floor area of 217,528 sq ft, he said.

He also noted that the last done transaction was at Chinatown Point, where almost a whole floor was recently sold for about $1,250 psf of net lettable area.

At this price level, Apollo Centre ’should be able to get a fairly good response from the market, and from local players looking for corporate offices’, said Mr Han.

Apollo Centre sits on a 54,560 sq ft plot with a 99-year lease that commenced in May 1983.

It is selling with tenancy, said Knight Frank, which added that the current occupancy rate is ‘very healthy’.

Asking rentals at Apollo Centre are believed to be about $7.50 psf per month.

Source : Straits Times - 17 Aug 2007

MRCB unit buys land for RM99mil

MRCB unit buys land for RM99mil
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KUALA LUMPUR: Excellent Bonanza Sdn Bhd yesterday bought two parcels of land totalling 95,131 sq ft at Kuala Lumpur Sentral from Kuala Lumpur Sentral Sdn Bhd for RM99mil.

Excellent Bonanza is 60% owned by Malaysian Resources Corp Bhd (MRCB) with the remaining 40% held by Aseana Properties Ltd, a property developer listed on the London Stock Exchange.

The land would be developed into a boutique business hotel and office towers. It will have a gross development value of at least RM620mil, said MRCB in a statement. – Bernama

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Equine’s big contributor in Crescentia Park

Equine’s big contributor in Crescentia Park
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SERI KEMBANGAN: Equine Capital Bhd is confident that its mixed residential and commercial development in Batu Kawan, Penang, will be a major revenue contributor for the financial year ending March 31, 2008.

Executive chairman Datuk Patrick Lim Soo Kit said there was great demand for landed properties in Penang.

“Land is scarce in Penang, therefore demand for new developments is very high,” Lim said after the company AGM yesterday.

He said the project, named Crescentia Park, would comprise double-storey linked houses, semi-detached houses, two-storey cluster linked houses and shop-offices.

The launch of the project, targeted by year-end, would be timely and strategic for the company intending to expand further into the recently-announced Northern Corridor.

From left: Equine Capital Bhd, executive chairman, Datuk Patrick Lim Soo Kit and Equine Capital Bhd, chief executive officer, Fung Yik Fai talking to reporters after the annual general meeting of the company on Thursday.
Lim also said Equine was leveraging on the Government's efforts to boost the property market with the implementation of new processes to expedite approval for development projects and the withdrawal of the real property gains tax this year.

This was in contrast to 2006 when market conditions were sluggish, resulting in fewer launches by Equine. Equine recorded pre-tax profit of RM7.2mil on revenue of RM74.74mil in FY07 compared with RM25.8mil and RM130.02mil respectively in FY06.

Lim said Crescentia Park on a 450-acre site, with an estimated gross development value of RM860mil, would take 10 years to complete.

The company was always on the lookout to buy land in the country but had no plans to venture overseas yet, he said. “Malaysia still offers tremendous potential and opportunities for growth.”

Hock Seng Lee set to clinch RM1b worth of projects

Hock Seng Lee set to clinch RM1b worth of projects
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MD: Impact of 9MP kicking in for Sarawak

KUCHING: Hock Seng Lee Bhd (HSL) is in the advanced stages of procuring some RM1bil of projects it has bid for under the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP), said group managing director Paul Yu Chee Hoe.

He said the projects included the proposed Kuching wastewater management project, Sibu flood mitigation project, a housing and educational institution project in Bintulu.

“We are seeing the impact of the 9MP kicking in for Sarawak with major infrastructure work taking off,” he said in a statement to announce the company’s first half-year financial performance yesterday.

Yu said the group was confident of achieving strong growth as it had secured projects of higher value, and was able to leverage on its land reclamation and marine engineering expertise.

Paul Yu Chee Hoe
The group secured some RM400mil worth of projects during the first six months of this year, bringing its total order book to RM930mil.

These new projects include reclamation and infrastructure works in Tanjung Manis, Mukah Division, a flood mitigation project in Miri as well as road and housing projects.

“With many projects in their demanding start-up phases now, the group can expect revenue to pick up as we head into 2008.”

He said group revenue for the second quarter jumped to RM62.8mil, up from RM59.6mil in the first quarter. It posted a pre-tax profit of RM13.5mil against RM11.7mil in the previous corresponding period.

Yu said the group’s wholly-owned property arm Hock Seng Lee Construction Sdn Bhd had achieved fast growth and contributed 23% to group turnover for the first half, up from 15% in the same period last year.

HSL has announced an 8 sen per share interim dividend to be paid on Oct 8.

Boustead a legacy with 179-year track record

Boustead a legacy with 179-year track record
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BOUSTEAD Holdings Bhd, a conglomerate with investments in nearly every sector of the Malaysian economy, can trace its roots way back to 1828 when Boustead & Co was founded by British trader Edward Boustead in Singapore.

Since its inception 179 years ago as a modest trading entity, the Boustead group has grown by leaps and bounds. Today, it is one of the fastest growing corporations in Malaysia.

A filepic of an Affin Bank branch. Boustead has about 21% stake in Affins holdings Bhd, which owns Affin Bank Bhd.
Boustead, which is 64%-owned by Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera (LTAT), has interests in various sectors, including plantation, trading, manufacturing, transportation, banking, insurance, shipping, construction, car rental, travel services, education and advertising.

The group has more than 80 listed and non-listed subsidiaries and associate companies. As at Dec 31, 2006 (FY06), the group had a paid-up capital of RM299mil while its shareholders’ fund stood at RM1.9bil.

Group managing director Tan Sri Lodin Wok Kamaruddin said Boustead is one of Malaysia’s oldest diversified conglomerates that can proudly trace its roots back to the 1800s.

“The entity was then a mere trading and shipping agency owned by shareholders who were mostly from Britain.

“Today, we are one of the country’s leading government-linked companies with LTAT as our major shareholder,” he told StarBiz.

For FY06, Boustead recorded a 52% jump in net profit to RM351mil from RM230mil in FY05.

Turnover stood at RM4.1bil against RM1.9bil in FY05. The group said its results were bolstered by performance in the fourth quarter, during which it recorded after-tax profit of RM270mil on turnover of RM959mil.

Lodin said the group currently has six core divisions – plantation, property, finance and investment, trading, manufacturing and services, and heavy industries – to drive its growth.

“The Boustead group boasts total assets in excess of RM4bil and more than 11,000 employees,” he added.

The plantation division has been, and is expected to continue to be, a major source of income for the group. Its main activities include planting and processing oil palm, rubber and cocoa, and operating oil-bulking installations.

Last year, the group bought two new mills, bringing a total of 11 mills in operation.

Boustead owns and operates The Royale Bintang Kuala Lumpur
Another significant driving force of the group’s growth is its property division, which oversees its large property holdings, real estate, resort development and construction activities.

Boustead owns a number of residential and commercial properties in major cities nationwide. Its property developments in Johor (Mutiara Rini) and Petaling Jaya (Mutiara Damansara) have been very successful.

Apart from its office towers, Wisma Boustead and Menara Boustead, the group also owns and operates two hotels – The Royale Bintang Kuala Lumpur on Jalan Bukit Bintang and The Royale Bintang Damansara in Mutiara Damansara.

The group’s comprehensive range of financial services has transformed Boustead into one of the major players in the fast-growing financial services sector and an active partner in the nation’s development.

This division adds an exciting new dimension to Boustead’s operations and is expected be a catalyst for stronger earnings growth.

Last month, the group announced plans to increase its stake in Royal & Sun Alliance from 35% to 80%. Boustead owns about 21% of Affin Holdings Bhd, which owns Affin Bank Bhd. It also has interests in Axa Affin General Insurance through Affin Holdings.

Boustead also has substantial interests in various manufacturing concerns, the most notable of which are UAC Bhd, Cadbury Confectionery Malaysia Sdn Bhd, Boustead Sissons Paints Sdn Bhd and Idaman Pharma Manufacturing Sdn Bhd.

The completion of the acquisition of a 70% stake in BP Malaysia Sdn Bhd signalled Boustead’s entry as a significant player in the downstream petroleum retail sector.

Boustead aims to grow this business further by tapping synergies within the group, expanding its network of petrol stations and stepping up its loyalty programme to secure more recurring customers.

Boustead’s shipping operation, which started in 1933, has emerged as one of the largest networks of branches in Malaysia.

Its shipping business encompasses shipping agencies for liner services, both containers and conventional, cruise ships and trampers; warehousing and forwarding; flexitank operations; ship management; brokerage and chartering; and marine cargo surveying.

Despite having been in the business for almost two centuries, the Boustead group would continue to strengthen its name and keep abreast of the latest developments, Lodin said.

“We will continue to seize opportunities and build on our existing track record. We recently undertook a series of strategic corporate initiatives across our core divisions to sustain positive long-term growth and enhance shareholders' value.

“With our low gearing and strong shareholders’ funds, we are confident the group will remain stronger many decades down the road,” Lodin said, adding that Boustead was always on the lookout for synergistic business opportunities to complement its existing portfolio of businesses.

Its financial stability, sound management practices and broad technical expertise give the group an edge in today’s increasingly competitive corporate environment.

Boustead offers existing and potential partners the strength of its corporate name, backed by more than 170 years of excellent track record and solid business expansion.

Hunza engages British consultant for project

Hunza engages British consultant for project
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PENANG: Hunza Properties Bhd has engaged a well known British property consultant and a local research house to advise on its Gurney Paragon project in Kelawei Road.

Executive chairman Datuk Khor Teng Tong told a press conference a local research company was now compiling all the necessary data for the British company.

“The report, about 80% done, contains information on the income and purchasing patterns of those staying in the Pulau Tikus neighbourhood, covering Kelawei Road, Gurney Drive, Cantonment Road and Burma Road.

“The property consultant will then recommend the kind of retail and food and beverage tenants we should bring in for the shopping mall,” he said.

He said once construction commenced next year, it would take about 22 months to complete.

On the Gurney Paragon and Infiniti condominiums (in Tanjung Bungah), Khor said Hunza had generated about RM80mil from unit sales in the two projects.

“Construction has started for both projects and scheduled for completion in about 36 months,” he said.

For the year ended June 30,2007, Hunza posted RM39mil in net profit on RM60mil in revenue, compared with RM19.8mil and RM34.8mil respectively in the previous year.

Khor said the group proposed a rights issue with warrants which entailed the issuance of up to 39.4 million rights shares on the basis of one new share for every four shares held together with up to 39.4 million warrants on a basis of one free warrant for every right share subscribed.

“The rationale for issuing new shares is to raise funds for the group’s on-going projects. The proposed exercise will be completed in early 2008,” he said.

Alila Hotels selling boutique villas in Bali

PERCHED 100m above the Indian Ocean, the view from the villas promises to be dramatic. As far as the eye could see, the gleaming blue sea stretches out into the far horizon. Waves beat persistently against the foot of the limestone cliffs, as though demanding entry into the world of man.

This is Alila Uluwatu, a Shangri-la-like hideaway reminiscent of the utopia in James Hilton’s novel The Lost Horizon. The only difference is, this will be for real.

Unlike the mainstream hotels, the likes of so many international chains, Alila Uluwatu is a boutique designer hotel. But unlike its other hotels, this will be the first time the Alila Hotels and Resorts Private Ltd ( is adding a residential component to its resort business.

The Singapore-based hotel operator has two other resorts in Bali, Alila Manggis and Alila Ubud, but these do not come with units for sale. The company also runs Alila Jakarta, a city hotel in Jakarta and a service apartment. The hotel operator is managing other hotels in Vietnam, Thailand, China and Maldives.

International sales and marketing representative Jasmine Teow says it has become a growing trend for hotels operating in Bali to have a parallel residential component due to the popularity of the island as a tourist destination.

Hence, it is putting up for sale 28 three-bedroom villas for sale with a starting price of US$2mil each. Teow says several of the units have been sold. Besides the three-bedroom villas, the 13.5-ha Uluwatu project will have five cliff-side villas and 50 one-bedroom villas, both of which the company will manage. The project also has a spa and other food and beverage facilities.

“We are known for our designer boutique hotels. The emphasis here is personalised, exclusive service amid an ambience that comes with character. What we are selling essentially is an experience,” says Teow.

Contemporary design in cultural Bali
She says there are three types of buyers – those who love Bali and have made this their annual holiday destination, investors and retirees.

The company has so far marketed the project in Hong Kong, Singapore and Jakarta since early 2006.

The marketing team in association with Colliers International was in Kuala Lumpur earlier this week for private appointments with potential buyers.

“Under the deal, Malaysians sign a long-lease agreement of 100 years. Indonesian law does not allow a foreigner to have freehold properties unless the buyer has an Indonesian spouse and the property is bought under the spouse’s name so this is an opportunity,” she says.

Teow says land values in Bali are generally forecast to grow at rates of 25% to 30% yearly. At any time during the construction process, usually nine to 18 months there, buyers are free to sell. In line with expectations of notable real estate agencies in Bali, conservative forecasts expect the villa prices to increase by between 10% and 20% yearly in the mid-term.

“In a fast rising market, this means a property could have a value well in excess of purchase price with returns already evidenced of up to 25%, giving buyers ample opportunity for capital appreciation,” she says.

A buyer will have to pay 30% of the purchase price of US$2mil over a period of three consecutive months, says Teow.

In a cash deal, the remaining outstanding balance will have to be paid for in the fourth month. Under a second payment option, the remaining 70% balance can be spread out in equal instalments, interest free, over the 18-month construction period or whatever the remainder of the construction period at the time of the purchase.

Under a third payment option, financing is provided up to 50%, with the first 10% due over three consecutive months and the next 20% payable in equal instalments, interest free, over the construction period. The remaining 50% will begin on completion of the villas with a maximum tenor of five years. There will be 60 equal monthly instalments of principal plus interest (in US dollars) at a rate of 12%. Design and layout plans are finalised during the initial three months.

“We have a generic layout and design and there will not be too drastic changes to it. There will be a furniture and fittings package on top of the furniture which are already included in the price,” says Teow.

The project is currently about 50% complete with 50 units of one-bedroom villa. A show villa for the three-bedroom unit is also ready. The three-bedroom villa sits on a land area of between 20,000 to 30,000sq ft with a built-up of about 8,000sq ft, each with a 60 ft x 13 ft pool. There is a monthly maintenance of about US$600 for the external upkeep of the villa.

The overall look and style is open contemporary with quite a bit of water features.

Teow says the developer PT Bukit Uluwatu Villas is moving away from the traditional Balinese style with the alang-alang (thatched roof) offered by an adjacent resort Bulgari. The Indonesian company is headed by Franky Tjahyadikarta and his partner while the architect is Australian-based Kerry Hill Architecture, which is also involved with the Alila Ubud and Alila Manggis resorts.

Teow says buyers have the option to return the unit to the operator in order for them to rent out the place on a 50/50 profit sharing basis.

“If an investor buys a unit and eventually wants us to operate it, we will check the place and replace any furniture or fittings which we feel are necessary to achieve that certain ambience and atmosphere,” says Teow.

The project is located on Dreamland Beach, where another resort Bulgari, which charges US$1,000 a night is located. Teow says there are other resorts coming up along the same stretch but they will not be close to each other due to the ruggedness of the terrain.

“We generally think of a beach as a place where one goes for a swim. This beach that Alila Uluwatu is located on is accessible via a lift as it is 100m below. It is more suitable for surfing, not swimming,” she says.

The project is located at the southern tip of Bali, in Pecatu, part of the Bukit area under the Badung Regency, about 20km from Ngurah Rai Airport, about 40 minutes away.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

RB Land aims high with Signature Series Homes

RB Land aims high with Signature Series Homes
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KUALA LUMPUR: RB Land Holdings Bhd is targeting to sell all units of its newly-launched Signature Series Homes in Bayu Segar, Cheras, by year-end.

Managing director Datuk Soam Heng Choon said the company had received overwhelming response for its limited-edition homes during a launch on Saturday and sold 50 of 96 semi-detached houses in two days.

“We have sold nearly 80%, or 30 units, of semi-detached homes in phase one and about 30%, or 20 units, in phase two,” Soam said at a briefing yesterday.

Datuk Soam Heng Choon with a model of the Bayu Segar Signature Series Homes
The two-phase 16.5-acre freehold development also comprises four three-storey bungalows.

With a contemporary design, the semi-detached houses are priced from RM1.46mil to RM2.73mil while the bungalows, with a built-up area of 5,900 sq ft each, range from RM2.6mil to RM3.2mil.

“About 90% of buyers are residents from Cheras, aged 35 and above,” Soam said.

The high-end gated and guarded Bayu Segar has a gross development value of RM150mil. Construction work has started and the project is expected to be completed in July 2009.

“There is always demand for high-end properties because house owners always like to upgrade,” he said, adding that buying houses was also a form of investment for many.

Soam also said residents were concerned about security, thus “gated and guarded” was the main selling point for the Bayu Segar development.

Bayu Segar is also strategically located with easy access from major highways like the Kesas Highway, Middle Ring Road II, Seremban Highway and Federal Highway, he added.

Crescendo sets sights on Iskandar region

Crescendo sets sights on Iskandar region
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JOHOR BARU: With the Government's plan to turn the Iskandar Development Region (IDR) into a commercial hub, Crescendo Corp Bhd will be busy in the next couple of years developing its industrial land.

Financial controller Chow Kok Hiang said demand for industrial properties in the south Johor economic zone was likely to increase soon as local and foreign manufacturers had shown interest to set up operations there since the launch of IDR in November last year.

“The company has 3,300 acres of undeveloped land in Johor, of which 2,000 acres are located within the IDR,” Chow told StarBiz.

He said in the IDR, 1,400 acres of Crescendo land had been slated for residential and 600 acres for industrial properties.

Chow said the company would give priority to developing industrial properties. This was because there was an oversupply of houses in the Johor Baru district and developers were quite cautious of launching new units, he said.

Chow Kok Hiang with a picture of one of Crescendo’s projects
He said in two to three years, the IDR and the two Integrated Resort projects in Singapore would show some progress, thus pushing up property prices in Johor Baru.

“Now is the best time to buy industrial land in the IDR as the rate is still low, even when compared with land in Shah Alam,” Chow said.

He added that with good economic performances on both sides of the Causeway, more parties would be willing to invest in manufacturing.

Chow said Crescendo was now developing its 500 acres of industrial land in Gelang Patah with an estimated gross development value of RM1.2bil.

He said its Nusa Cemerlang Industrial Park (NCIP) project in the Nusajaya township was part of the IDR and it would keep the company busy for 10 years.

So far, 25% of phase one – consisting of 146 factories – were already sold and, upon completion, NCIP would have 380 factories, Chow said.

“Singaporeans made up 60% of our buyers and we expect more small and medium companies from the republic to relocate to the Gelang Patah area,” he said.

Its proximity with Singapore and the Port of Tanjung Pelepas and easy access to the North-South Expressway make Gelang Patah attractive to investors, he added.

Sunrise poised for RM2bil sales

Sunrise poised for RM2bil sales
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Unbilled sales largely from 10@Mont’ Kiara and Solaris Dutamas

By C. S. TAN

PETALING JAYA: Property developer Sunrise Bhd is building up one of the biggest reserves of unbilled sales in the country.

The company's unbilled sales rose to RM1.3bil as at end-June from RM1.1bil at end-December and RM720mil at end-June last year.

The larger contributions to these unbilled sales came from its 10@Mont' Kiara (MK10) condominium and Solaris Dutamas commercial projects, with unbilled sales of more than RM500mil each, analysts said.

Unbilled sales are similar to order books of construction companies in that both refer to sales secured from customers but not booked as revenue in the profit and loss account yet.

Typically, unbilled sales are booked as sales revenue as construction of the project progresses.

»RM100mil per acre has been achieved with our recent launches« DATUK MICHAEL YAM
Sunrise's unbilled sales could rise to RM2bil this year if the upcoming marketing launch of 11@Mont' Kiara (MK11) was successful, analysts said.

Sunrise managing director Datuk Michael Yam told StarBiz recently that the company would launch MK11 before the end of the year. The selling price for MK11 had yet to be determined.

“Costing, especially construction costs, is being finalised but the selling price will be in line with current market prices in the Mont' Kiara and Hartamas area.

“In tandem with the bullish sentiment and positive factors, particularly for prime high-end residential properties, registration has been very good, not only among our repeat customers but also from Singaporean prospects,” he added.

Analysts said they understood MK11 would be a condominium comprising only 338 units but the project value would be high as the average unit would be priced at about RM720 psf, and for a 2,700 sq ft unit, the price tag would be RM1.9mil.

Yam said that MK11, which would stand on 6.7 acres, was estimated to have a gross development value (GDV) exceeding RM650mil.

Those were interesting numbers, analysts said, because it showed that Sunrise had reached a stage in which it could realise a GDV or total sales of about RM100mil an acre.

Yam confirmed that rate of GDV. “It depends on the location, type or mix of development and price point. In general, RM100mil per acre has been achieved with our recent launches,” he said.

That is a high level of added value because, in contrast, a township developer would require 50 acres or more in a good location to produce a GDV of RM100mil.

Sunrise developed Mont' Kiara into an exclusive area that has become synonymous with luxurious condominiums. “We still have 85 acres undeveloped in the area,” Yam said.

Noting that, analysts believe if the company continues to achieve a GDV of RM100mil an acre, the rest of its land-bank offered the potential of a GDV totalling RM8.5bil.

That could increase further if the market for luxurious properties retains buoyancy.

If Sunrise launches MK11 at an average RM720 psf, that would not even set a record in the area, although it is a rich price.

The record still stands in the Sunway Palazzio condominium that was priced at RM846 psf. That is being developed by Sunway City Bhd in the Sri Hartamas suburbs that are adjacent to Mont' Kiara.

Aseambankers said in a note that Sunrise had four new property projects that would be launched in its current financial year ending June 30, 2008.

These are MK11, MK20, MK28 and Residence 2 bungalows and, together, the GDV would be about RM2bil.

Oilcorp Bhd, an integrated holding company, aims to launch three new property development projects with a gross development value (GDV) of about RM1.2

KUALA LUMPUR: Oilcorp Bhd, an integrated holding company, aims to launch three new property development projects with a gross development value (GDV) of about RM1.2bil over the next four to five years.

Executive director Pua Yow Liang said yesterday the projects were at KL Sentral, Genting and Pulau Indah.

He said for the project in KL Sentral, the company had teamed up with Amanah Raya Development Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Amanah Raya Bhd, to jointly develop a 35-storey office tower and a 33-storey hotel block called D'Tiara Office and Hotel Suites with a GDV of RM330mil.

The corporate office building was being completely underwritten by Amanah Raya, which meant Amanah Raya was the guaranteed purchaser for the office block.

Pua was speaking to reporters after the signing ceremony between Oilcorp and Amanah Raya for the joint development and underwriting of D'Tiara Office & Hotel Suites.

From left: Amanah Raya group MD Datuk Ahmad Rodzi Pawanteh, Amanah Raya chairman Datuk Dusuki Ahmad, Oilcorp chairman Mohamed Taib Mahmood and Oilcorp MD Sunny Ng
He said the suites would be available for sale soon, priced between RM360,000 and RM600,000 per unit.

“For the hotel suites, we will offer an attractive leaseback programme which will guarantee 7% a year returns for five years with an option to renew for another five years,” Pua said.

Construction work will begin next month, with completion expected in late 2010.

The property division has been one of Oilcorp's main divisions since its listing on the Bursa Malaysia main board in 2003 and the division contributed almost 20% to the group's revenue last year.

Oilcorp hopes this contribution will increase gradually with the development of new property projects.

Pua said the company had a 330-acre landbank at Pulau Indah and Genting and had no intention of expanding this at the moment.

“We feel our current landbank is sufficient for us to develop over the next eight to 10 years,” he added. – Bernama

Gamuda Bhd plans to build US$964mil (RM3.35bil) worth of projects in Vietnam's capital, a Hanoi government official said.

KUALA LUMPUR: Gamuda Bhd plans to build US$964mil (RM3.35bil) worth of projects in Vietnam's capital, a Hanoi government official said.

The company would build a US$711mil complex on a 327ha site that would include a hotel, convention hall, villas and apartments, as well as a US$253mil water-treatment factory to supply the development, said Trieu Dinh Phuc, director of planning and investments.

Gamuda has asked for an additional 73ha for the 50-year project, according to Phuc.

Asian developers, including SP Setia Bhd, are expanding into Vietnam to benefit from economic growth.

Vietnam's gross domestic product may grow as much as 8.3% this year, outpacing 5.6% expansion in South-East Asian economies, the Asian Development Bank said this month.

The project may more than double Gamuda's sales in Vietnam to RM8bil from RM3.5bil, Danny Goh, a Kuala Lumpur-based analyst at Credit Suisse, said in a report.

“We have turned more bullish on the stock,'' Goh said in the report.

He raised his price estimate on Gamuda to RM10.60 from RM9.50 and kept his “outperform'' rating. – Bloomberg

Mulpha International Bhd, plans to launch the first gated residential project in Kulim, Kedah next year.

BUTTERWORTH: Golden Cignet Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Mulpha International Bhd, plans to launch the first gated residential project in Kulim, Kedah next year.

Golden Cignet director Sam Yong said the project, comprising 254 units of bungalows, was equipped with a recreational clubhouse and around the clock security.

A mixture of single- and double-storey bungalows, they are priced from RM200,000 and are targeted at the middle-income executive with a salary of RM3,500.

“The launch is to cater to the increasing demand for affordable landed properties in Seberang Prai and Kulim. The demand is spurred by the implementation of the Second Link and the Northern Corridor Economic Region projects, which will stimulate developments in the agricultural and industrial sectors,” he told StarBiz.

The gated bungalow project is part of the Desa Aman township scheme, launched in 1997, by Golden Cignet Sdn Bhd.

“Desa Aman is a self-contained township, complete with amenities and facilities. All the Desa Aman properties are affordably priced without compromising on quality, size and design.

“It is the only development scheme in Kulim which provide 24-hour uniform security services,” he said.

Bungalow made for gracious living

This house is built with the future, and the present, in mind.

It is designed and fitted out to be enjoyed for the present with its Swarovski chandeliers, da Vincci furnishings and branded kitchen; and the different areas put together with an eye on the future.

Says the hostess: “I imagine myself at 90, wheelchair bound living with my son and his family.

"I will not be able to climb the spiral marble stairway, which means I must have a room on this level.

"Limited mobility means limited access.

"So the bedroom, bathroom, small dining-cum-entertaining area and the TV room must be within reach.

"Doors and corridors must be wide enough for a wheelchair to turn around,” she says, as she recalls the designing process.

The cosy living area with a picturesque view of the double freeway as its main focal point
"And so she and her husband went about building their home in Tropicana Golf and Country Resort in Petaling Jaya, without a budget in mind.

"The result is that the cost went on ballooning.

“I was too busy to really shop around and when the sales and marketing people came, I chose the best, from the roof tiles to the kitchen cabinets and appliances, from the bathroom fittings right down to the door locks,” says the owner.

Man may plan, seldom do they have the last word.

After living here just four years, the family is now ready to move.

The formal dining area which seats eight
The children are abroad.

And five bedrooms seem too many.

Because the family had built the place with a view to stay, a lot of attention and foresight had gone into design, layout and detailing, right down to the tiled wash area for the mop “so that the domestic helpers need not have to carry the pail of water around.”

A long and broad driveway curves to the back of the house hiding prestigious cars from view.

The entire driveway is pebble-washed with drainage.

Branded cabinets and appliances in the dry kitchen area

The guest room, where the owner imagined she would be staying with her faithful wheelchair, overlooks the pool and front gate.

Beside it is a small area – “for my future meals and chatting with guests” – and across the corridor, wide enough for two wheelchairs to manoeuvre along, is the TV room.

She had planned this part of the house to be her domain, because after this come two flight of steps leading to the living area.

She even built a wall aquarium where a lone arowana now resides.

“It is expensive to have an aquarium set in a wall but I wanted to be able to see who is at the front gate when I am in this little area, without having to go to the front door.”

While much thought has gone into how this house will be used in the future, she is also enjoying the present.

The long driveway curves to the back of the house hiding cars from view

Because the house faces the double freeway of the Tropicana golf course, she has maximised the view of the greens.

As one passes the foyer entrance, skip two steps up passing the marble spiral staircase on to the living area, one is immediately drawn to the view of the golf course.

This is the focal point throughout this house, be it in the living area, upstairs in the master suite or downstairs in the lower ground pool-cum-entertaining area.

The manicured front garden with chengal fencing
A timber patio is adjacent to the living area, thereby continuing the scenic horizon.

Three of the four living room walls come with glass sliding doors.

The patio adds to the size of the living area while at the same time gives a dimension of variety and contrasts.

Timber eaves with red tiles and chengal flooring contrast with the cream Italian marble on the living room floor.

The spiral marble stairway with a Swarovski chandelier and louvered windows to bring in the light
The dry kitchen is located on the same floor with German branded kitchen cabinets and Bosch griller, hot plate and steamer all fitted onto an island top.

Adjacent to it is the wet kitchen and utilities corner.

The wash area is huge, with anti-slip tiles and secured with wrought iron “so that the domestic help can go about their chores safely, without having to go out to the gardens until the sun comes up.”

There is a third kitchen on the lower ground floor, next to the poolside entertaining area, for catering purposes.

The aquarium which is set into the wall, with a view of the front gate
This area overlooks the gardens and the golf course. Twenty tables, to accommodate 10 each, may be packed into this lower ground multi-purpose area, says the hostess.

“We have put up safety benches by the side to prevent children falling into the pool so these benches have dual roles,” she says.

This poolside entertaining area is separated from the driveway and parking area by an indoor courtyard.

Three cars can fit into the covered area and another six in an open area, which also overlooks the golf course.

The golf view continues on to the patio. Its timber flooring adds contrast to cream marble flooring of the living area, which is to the right
The family rooms, study and gym are located upstairs.

The study is strategically located, with windows that look out to the front gates as well as the pool.

“The study is the brain of the house.

"It is a room where one is able to know who has come or gone out of the house, or who is in the pool,” says the hostess.

Upstairs, a second set of security door is located at the top of the stairs.

The master suite door offers a third tier of security.

“We really have thought of everything.

"And we have not factored all this into the price of the house,” says the hostess.

Rhythm Avenue service apartment

ALL buyers of the stalled Rhythm Avenue service apartment in USJ19 are urged to make arrangements to settle the amount due to ensure the success of the rehabilitation progress of their houses.

The project, which was stalled from 2000, has been revived through a rehabilitation programme by its financier AmBank.

In addition to bearing the cost to revive the project, the bank will also bear the additional construction cost to complete the project.

“The buyers have to pay an additional 15% of the cost of their units. Only 967 of the 1,163 have agreed to do so.

“However, up till now 376 have not made their payment and this is not fair to the others,” said Subang Jaya state assemblyman Datuk Lee Hwa Beng.

He added that the buyers who had agreed to take part in the rehabilitation scheme still owed the bank RM2.5mil in arrears.

Lee, who visited the project site recently, urged all the buyers to settle their dues by Sept 30.

“Those who want to take part in the scheme now have to write a letter of appeal and pay an additional 20% instead of 15% for those who joined earlier.

“But if they still refuse to take part then the bank has the right to recover the amount owed,” said Lee.

Earlier he attended a briefing session on the progress of work and status of the development by Pricewaterhouse Coopers Advisory Services Sdn Bhd executive director Subra E. Gounder. Price Waterhouse Coopers is the receiver for Rhythm Avenue.

Also present during the briefing were AmBank Group’s general manager (loan rehabilitation) Yip Kong Leong, SMLAND Ground director Eric Ong and some of the buyers.

The Rhythm Avenue project was to have been completed in 2001. It consists of 277 retail units.

Currently, work on the apartments are nearing completion and the project is moving into its next phase, which involves physical completion, inspection by authorities, application for certificate of fitness/delivery of vacant possession, payment of progress billings and revival expenses before key delivery.

DEVELOPERS managed to sell 72 homes for more than $4,000 per square foot last month

DEVELOPERS managed to sell 72 homes for more than $4,000 per square foot last month - four-and-a-half times the 16 homes they sold at this price in June, latest figures show.

According to Knight Frank’s analysis of official data released yesterday, the big jump came as a result of the launch of Scotts Square by Wheelock Properties (Singapore).

Sixty-four of the total 150 units in the project sold by the developer in July were in the above $4,000 to $4,500 psf price band, while the other 86 units were sold in the above $3,500 to $4,000 psf range.

The median price for the 150 units sold at Scotts Square was $3,959 psf, with the lowest price being $3,638 psf and the highest $4,428 psf, according to the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) data on the number of homes in uncompleted projects launched and sold by developers in July.

Other projects that saw primary market sales at above $4,000 psf last month include The Orchard Residences, The Marq On Paterson Hill and Cliveden at Grange.

‘These were the same developments that contributed to the number of units that were sold above $4,000 psf in June,’ Knight Frank said.

The median price for the 25 units sold by City Developments for Cliveden in July was $3,729 psf, with the range of prices being $3,265 psf to $4,162 psf.

SC Global sold two units at The Marq in July, at $4,908 psf and $4,978 psf.

The Orchard Residences saw six primary market transactions last month at prices ranging from $2,808 psf to $4,577 psf, with a median price of $4,047 psf.

Soon Su Lin, chief executive of Orchard Turn Developments, the project’s developer, confirmed that the company has sold a penthouse for $5,500 psf - a new record for a condo in Singapore - but that the transaction was registered only in early August.

Examples of projects with primary market transactions at median prices above $3,000 psf in July include The Lumos at Leonie Hill, Parkview Eclat at Grange Road and Paterson Suites at Paterson Road/Lengkok Angsa.

The URA data also showed there were some projects with transactions at much lower prices in other segments of the real estate market.

GuocoLand sold 19 units at The Quartz in Buangkok at a median price of $648 psf, with the actual prices ranging from $554 to $749 psf.

Five homes at Suffolk Premier were sold at $481 to $753 psf and six units at La Casa in Woodlands fetched $506-561 psf. Far East Organization sold 13 units at The Lakeshore near Boon Lay MRT Station at $684-866 psf.

Brisbane Development sold six cluster landed homes at the freehold Illoura project at Old Holland Road at $970 to $1,175 psf while Clydesbuilt Capital found buyers for two freehold strata-titled detached homes at Lornie 18 at $1,150 psf each.

Grensburg Investment sold 65 units at Fontaine Parry at Poh Huat Road at $591-994 psf.

United Engineers sold 365 homes at The Rochester in the one-north precinct at $905 to $1,680 psf.

CapitaLand sold 55 units at The Seafront On Meyer at $1,364-$2,182 psf. Knight Frank’s analysis shows that developers sold a total of 1,378 uncompleted homes in July, up nearly 20 per cent from the figure for June.

The total number of uncompleted homes launched in July increased 15.7 per cent to 1,315 units over the same period.

Source : Business Times - 16 Aug 2007

PROPERTY company Heeton Holdings may partner a foreign fund to develop a $72.8 million redevelopment site on Grange Road that it has just acquired.

PROPERTY company Heeton Holdings may partner a foreign fund to develop a $72.8 million redevelopment site on Grange Road that it has just acquired.

Heeton’s chief operating officer and executive director Danny Low yesterday said three foreign funds had initially approached Heeton. He would not say which fund it had decided to partner as details are still being finalised. He said the fund is not yet exposed to Singapore real estate.

Asked if the potential partner might be affected by the current global credit squeeze, Mr Low said it was not, and that confidence levels, as far as Singapore projects were concerned, were still high.

He added: ‘If they have the funds to invest, they will have to invest it. And in Singapore, the fundamentals are strong.’

A partner with deep pockets is part of Heeton’s growth strategy, especially as property development is a key revenue generator. Its 53-unit The Lumos at Leonie Hill has just been soft launched and is already 40 per cent sold. Thirty per cent of the sales were to foreigners.

Mr Low expects to launch another project in Pasir Panjang in November.

Heeton, which also owns investment property including Sun Plaza in Sembawang and six wet-market buildings, now aims to generate 30 per cent of its revenue from overseas projects. Earlier this year, it launched a 300-unit residential development in Damansara Heights, Kuala Lumpur, with partners AIG, the global insurance company, and Malaysia’s Lion Group.

It has two projects in Bangkok and is looking for a development site in Vietnam.

Its latest site on Grange Road - Grange Court - is expected to be launched in Q2 2008. Heeton was the highest of about five bidders, all boutique property developers. And the price paid works out to $1,706 per square foot per plot ratio excluding development charge. The break-even price is about $2,500 psf.

Mr Low said the company expects to build a 50-unit development on the site with a focus on smaller units, which sell faster nowadays since they are more affordable.

Source : Business Times - 16 Aug 2007

Sales and prices of new homes continued to climb last month, with 1,378 properties sold, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA)

Sales and prices of new homes continued to climb last month, with 1,378 properties sold, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) reported yesterday.

The number of properties sold last month was almost 20 per cent more than the 1,150 new homes sold in June, URA figures showed.

Projects with the highest sales last month included The Rochester at North Buona Vista and Reflections at Keppel Bay.

The data also revealed that the number of new homes sold continued to outpace new launches, according to property firm Knight Frank, indicating that the stock of unsold new homes is dwindling.

The number of units sold last month at above $4,000 per sq ft (psf) jumped more than four times from the June figure, thanks mainly to the launch of Scotts Square along Scotts Road.

There were 72 units that crossed this mark last month, compared with 16 in June.

But most homes sold last month were much cheaper. About 30 per cent, or 406 properties, went for $1,000 psf or less, according to the URA.

Another 601 homes were sold at between $1,000 psf and $2,000 psf, while 154 homes fetched between $2,000 psf and $3,000 psf.

There were 145 homes that sold for $3,000 psf to $4,000 psf.

Some excitement stirred the market yesterday when the URA’s data turned up what appeared to be a record home price. It showed that a unit at Leonie Parc View along Leonie Hill Road had reached $5,236 psf, an all-time high for a home in Singapore.

But a Straits Times check with the project’s developer, Soilbuild, revealed that human error had been behind the ‘record price’. In fact, the highest price achieved at Leonie Parc View was $3,489 psf.

Source : Straits Times - 16 Aug 2007

The property boom seems bulletproof against the sub-prime fallout in the United States

The property boom seems bulletproof against the sub-prime fallout in the United States and the share market mayhem for now, but speculators seem more reluctant to pick up properties.

Experts said real estate sentiment is not as bullish as a few months back. But that is partly because of the widespread feeling that the Government may intervene to cool what some thought was an overheated market.

The turmoil in share markets has reinforced that mood and introduced a greater dose of reality but experts feel the real estate market is still sound.

‘People are selling down the stock market but the physical property market’s fundamentals are intact,’ said Mr Ku Swee Yong, the director of marketing and business development at property consultancy Savills Singapore.

Yesterday, the Straits Times Index plummeted again with property stocks taking a beating. City Developments’ share price was down 50 cents to $14.10, while CapitaLand’s stock shed 35 cents to $6.90.

‘People are reacting to the stock market’s reaction to the sub-prime fallout,’ said Knight Frank managing director Tan Tiong Cheng. ‘There’s a domino effect.’

The problem is no one knows how bad the crisis is. ‘When you don’t really know what’s going on, it is best to delay any major commitments until the picture is clearer,’ said Mr Tan.

Some global funds, even if they have not been directly affected by the US sub-prime mess, may stay out of the Singapore property market for a while, industry observers say. Some offshore funds have had difficulty getting financing, said one, while others will continue to fund property investments but on more restrictive terms.

Genuine home buyers would not be affected but property investors would be more conservative in their approach, Mr Tan said.

Many investors and speculators have been ploughing the easy money made from the stock market bull run into real estate. The fear is that liquidity will be hit if the market selldown continues.

Savills’ Mr Ku said demand for property has exceeded supply so far, adding that there is a temporary lull partly because it is the seventh month and partly because of the stock market’s tumble.

Many developers prefer not to launch projects in a big way during the Hungry Ghost month because superstitious buyers will stay away.

Nevertheless, the perception of risk has risen generally with the global credit crunch, said OCBC analyst Winston Liew.

‘That could lead to higher interest rates, which would in turn hit the physical market,’ he said.

Higher interest rates would raise the borrowing costs of developers and buyers as well as affect asset values.

For now, with the mood turning more cautious, home owners involved in collective sales holding out for more money might think it wiser to sign on the dotted line, said Colliers International’s executive director of investment sales, Mr Ho Eng Joo.

Another expert said that if the US sub-prime fallout - which is not a major issue in Singapore - does lead to more caution while driving away excessive speculation, then the market will only become healthier.

Source : Straits Times - 16 Aug 2007

The subprime crisis half a world away — coupled with the Hungry Ghost Festival in Asia — may mean a quieter month for property agents in Singapore.

The subprime crisis half a world away — coupled with the Hungry Ghost Festival in Asia — may mean a quieter month for property agents in Singapore.

August — traditionally a slower month because of superstitious house-buyers — will be hit by the double whammy of poor purchasing sentiment that’s spilling over from the US because of the subprime saga, said analysts.

Developers are likely to delay launching condo projects as they wait for the jittery stock markets to settle, said Mr Nicholas Mak, Knight Frank’s director of consultancy and research.

This was also what happened during the February/March stock market correction, he noted. “The market correction in February did not present any systemic risk, but this time round with the subprime issue popping up now and then, it appears the market is more volatile, and that can make developers more cautious.

“If you look at the number of property advertisements that usually appear mid-week for launches on the weekends, it now appears to be very quiet,” he pointed out.

Already, Singapore property mogul Kwek Leng Beng is reportedly seeing some foreign investors deferring their purchases on concerns over the subprime mortgage woes.

This cooling down period comes after a month of stellar private home sales in July.

The latest Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) figures on the sale of new private homes showed 1,378 units, or almost 20 per cent more units, were sold in July compared to that of a month earlier.

Overall, the median price achieved for a unit in July was $1,609 per square foot (psf), a 22.2 per cent increase from the previous month’s $1,317psf.

The figures, released yesterday, are the second update since the URA first started unveiling more comprehensive data last month to inject more transparency to the market.

Most interestingly, it showed that the number of units sold above $4,000 psf soared by more than 356 per cent to a new record of 72 units, compared to just 16 units in June.

“This is a significant milestone in the evolution of Singapore’s private residential market given that before June 2007, units that were sold above $4000 psf were almost non-existent in Singapore,” said Mr Mak.

The super-luxurious Scotts Square development alone posted 150 sales, of which 64 were sold at between $4,000 psf and $4,499 psf, with the remaining 86 units sold between $3,500 psf and $3999 psf.

The Marq On Paterson Hill scored $4,044 psf in June and $4943 psf in July - the highest median price achieved in the two consecutive months.

Other properties in the $4,000 psf-club includes The Orchard Residences and Cliveden at Grange.

Said Colin Tan, head of research, Chesterton International: “The prices were on the whole better, and the volumes were also better. It’s consistent with the trend of the last quarter and it reflects the fact that Singapore is doing quite well selling itself a place to invest.”

Overall, private home prices have risen some 13 per cent in the first six months of this year.

“In this current up-cycle, I think there has been more investment buying rather than speculative buying. Because we do not hear of so many stories of people buying properties, and then maybe flipping it within a week,” he added.

And while the number of new private homes transactions may slow down this month, analysts don’t expect prices to go down as well.

“It will probably show up as lower sales volumes rather than lower prices,” said Mr Tan.

“The gestation period of property development in general is about two years, so prices will be a little sticky coming down. Developers are not likely to rush to lower prices at the slightest problem.”

Source : Today - 16 Aug 2007

FRASERS Centrepoint says it has sold 37 per cent of the 417-unit condo, Soleil @ Sinaran near Novena MRT Station, at staff and VIP previews last week.

FRASERS Centrepoint says it has sold 37 per cent of the 417-unit condo, Soleil @ Sinaran near Novena MRT Station, at staff and VIP previews last week.

The average price for the 99-year leasehold project is understood to be somewhere in the $1,400 psf to $1,500 psf range.

Frasers Centrepoint declined to comment on the pricing yesterday, ahead of a soft launch tomorrow for those who have indicated interest in the project.

BT understands the project is being marketed by Savills Singapore and Knight Frank.

The condo has two 36-storey blocks including units with one, two, three and four bedrooms. Some of the two-bedders come with lofts.

The project’s four penthouses will each have five bedrooms.

‘Soleil @ Sinaran will feature a flagship partnership with Aramsa Spas under which residents will be able to enjoy private spa treatments at their doorstep,’ Frasers Centrepoint announced.

The condos, designed by Architects 61, will feature spa cabanas as well as entertainment pavilions where parties can be held in a poolside setting.

The entire 20th floor will be dedicated to a sky terrace with an outdoor and indoor gym and a sky garden.

Soleil is being developed on a site that Frasers Centrepoint clinched at a state tender that closed in July last year.

Its top bid of $238 million worked out to a unit land price of $507 per square foot of potential gross floor area.

Source : Business Times - 15 Aug 2007

‘There is still plenty of liquidity around,’ City Developments’ executive chairman Kwek Leng Beng

‘There is still plenty of liquidity around,’ City Developments’ executive chairman Kwek Leng Beng said yesterday. But foreign funds seeking investment property are likely to proceed more carefully given the escalation of the US sub-prime woes, he noted.

Mr Kwek was speaking at a press conference to announce CDL’s 2007 second-quarter results, which saw revenue rising 28.8 per cent year-on-year to $775.2 million and net profit up more than four-fold from $44.9 million to $194.4 million.

On a half-year basis, revenue soared 35.1 per cent to $1.54 billion, an all-time high for the property developer. Six-month net profit jumped 272.3 per cent to $320.5 million.

Unlike most property companies, CDL did not factor investment property revaluation gains.

Speaking for the first time on the impact of the US sub-prime crisis and the ensuing credit squeeze, Mr Kwek said that he has seen fewer funds making enquiries about CDL’s burgeoning investment property portfolio. ‘Before, they would come knocking everyday,’ he said.

This interest in office buildings has been boosted by rising rental returns and CDL revealed yesterday that its Republic Plaza had recently achieved a new record rent of $17.50 psf per month and is now asking for over $18 psf per month.

Related links: Click here for City Developments’ half-year financial report Financial statement Other corporate results reported on Aug 14 Consolidated corporate resultstable

For H1 2007, profit before tax for the rental properties segment, which includes office space, was $27 million, a year-on-year increase of 800 per cent.

Mr Kwek also said that CDL was considering but not in a hurry to sell its office buildings, or for that matter, launch an office real estate investment trust (Reit) of its own.

For the same period, profit before tax for its property development segment was $238 million, a rise of 266 per cent.

Interestingly, CDL is not rushing to sell off Cliveden at Grange either, its latest luxury condominium offering.

Saying that prices for luxury condos are not likely to keep increasing on the same steep curve it has been charting for the last 12 months, Mr Kwek revealed that he was considering retaining two blocks of Cliveden for rental purposes and long-term investments.

He added: ‘(Luxury prices) won’t be going up in a straight line anymore until things stabilise.’

The luxury end of the market has been largely driven by foreigners. Mr Kwek said that he had spoken to some of his foreign high net worth clients and they have told him the sub-prime crisis is not a ‘big issue’ for them. ‘They feel it will affect the private equity firms more,’ he said. However, he added: ‘It is fair to say some will be cautious and may defer their decision to buy now.’

Mr Kwek was much more bullish on the mid-tier residential segment in which he still sees upside. ‘It has not reached the previous peak yet,’ he said.

CDL is planning to launch four developments in the second half of the year including the 40-unit Wilkie Studio in the Mount Sophia area; a 77-unit project at Shelford Road; the 228-unit Quayside Collection at Sentosa Cove; and a 336-unit project at Thomson Road.

CDL also spent about $1 billion in the first half of the year increasing its landbank, and is consequently raising its gearing ratio to 56 per cent, up from 54 per cent in 2006.

Its residential landbank is now at about 3.5 million sq ft while its total landbank is close to 4.5 million sq ft.

Of the potential gross floor area of 8.9 million sq ft, about 80 per cent can be for residential development.

The positive outlook, boosted by earnings, has prompted CDL to declare a special interim dividend of 10 cents per ordinary share. The payment date will be released at a later date.

CDL closed yesterday at $14.60 per share, down 10 cents.

Source : Business Times - 15 Aug 2007

While agreeing that the bull market is intact for long-term investors, analysts say it would be prudent to revisit your asset allocation

While agreeing that the bull market is intact for long-term investors, analysts say it would be prudent to revisit your asset allocation in the wake of the sub-prime crisis, reports GENEVIEVE CUA

The fallout from the crisis in sub-prime mortgages in the US has sparked a rout in credit and equity markets in recent days. The biggest question in investors’ minds must be whether the bull market in asset prices, fuelled by ample liquidity and relatively low interest rates, is over.

In this edition of Executive Money, strategists, analysts and fund managers share their views.

For long-term investors, the consensus is that the bull market is intact - but the consolidation may not be over. So far on a year-to-date basis, equity market indices based on the MSCI, remain positive, with gains of up to 24 per cent between January and Aug 13.

For some time now, strategists have been telling investors to take some profits off the table, while staying invested. Now is not the time to panic, but it would be prudent to revisit your asset allocation. An asset class that has risen over the years could now comprise an outsize share of your portfolio. Here is what the experts say.

Lim Heong Chye, APS Komaba Asset Management:

‘The uncertainty may drag on for a while. Sub- prime mortgages actually comprise a small portion of the entire US mortgage backed securities market. But once they were packaged into collateralised debt obligations (CDOs), the contagion could spread into credit related issues - as it has today.

In credit markets, the only safe place is Treasuries. There will be volatility in the coming weeks, especially for credit issues lower than investment grade. In our fund we hold a lot of cash now, about 20 to 30 per cent. We’re looking to deploy the cash into issues where we see value. We bought some government bonds.’

David Bensimon, technical analyst and trader:

‘Ultimately there is no change to the larger picture. 2007 is a consolidation year. We haven’t finished the consolidation across a range of markets. My price target for the Straits Times Index is to go down to 2800. I’m looking for the S&P 500 to move to 1,360 and ultimately to 1,260. There is a structural difference between today’s environment and the past. In the past three years, the market drops have been 6 to 7 per cent.

There is a process of a re-pricing of risk to appropriate levels across a range of financial markets - interest rates, equities, commodities and currencies - because of the recognition that yields were not high enough to reflect the level of risk. With central banks moving to support the market, the perception has not been that the banks are solving the problem, but that there must be a bigger problem.

Between 2008 and 2010, we’ll see a resumption of tremendous prosperity. We really are living in a prosperity-driven era of growth. We’re going to see substantial further gains. But this year is one of transition, and that has not finished. For stock markets, it’s almost just beginning.’

Dr Shane Oliver, AMP Capital Investors head of investment strategy and chief economist:

‘While shares have had a good bounce in recent days and there are signs that the credit market turmoil may be settling down, it’s too early to say the falls in shares are over.

While the ride is likely to be rough over the next few months and further declines are possible, the recent slump in share markets should not be seen as the start of a bear market. The historical record indicates that corrections of up to 20 per cent are not unusual in the context of cyclical bull markets, so investors should not get too alarmed by the recent turbulence.’

HSBC Investments:

‘Markets are now pricing a high probability that the Federal Reserve will cut US interest rates soon. In July this year we became concerned over a financial accident occurring in the second half of 2007. As a result, we have been cutting back our equity exposure since mid-July.

We do not think the current volatility will last long and would look to increase equity exposure on weakness. Global equity valuations remain reasonable by historical comparison, and corporate earnings remain robust. As the economic cycle remains healthy, the longer term trend for equities is expected to be up.’

Robin Parbrook, Schroders head of Asia ex-Japan equities:

‘We expect Asia to be correlated to any short-term sell-off in global equity markets. But we continue to believe that buying Asia on weakness is the correct strategy. The region has a strong long-term growth outlook, and Asia’s dependence on the US economy for its growth has been much reduced.

While the current problems are worrying in terms of risk appetite (and the subsequent risk of market volatility), they do not undermine the fundamental investment case for Asia. The corporate sector in Asia is in good shape. Balance sheets are strong, cash flows are buoyant, dividend payouts have been rising and capital expenditure plans to date have been relatively disciplined. Economically and politically, the region also looks sound. With the macro-economic risks looking relatively benign in the region itself, we view a 15-20 per cent pull back from recent highs as a good entry point for long-term investors.’

Prudential Asset Management:

‘The recent sell-offs have been less dramatic than previous ones. Are investors really worried, or are they merely ‘testing’ the solidity of the underlying demand by aggressively selling? We think it is the latter.

Strong Asian growth will continue to support corporate earnings in this region. Corporate credit quality especially in Asia remains solid. 2007 may ultimately prove to be no more than a ’speed bump’.

Short-term valuations may look high but Asia’s valuations are not that high when looking at the longer term and comparing them against world levels. The Asian re-rating story is not over.’

Chen Zhao, managing editor, BCA Research (global investment strategy):

‘Market sentiment is still very fragile and emotional, as investors have been spooked. We urge clients to maintain composure. We should always be ready to buy when there is blood on the street.

The key point is that unless one believes the blow-up in the sub-prime mortgage market could significantly alter the underlying trends in the global economy and stock prices, the recent downturn in equity prices is in the very late stages and might have entered its final capitulation phase.

To be sure, like any bottoming process, this one will be volatile. But the prudent strategy is not selling into strength. Rather, investors should wait for opportunities to buy.’

Clariden Leu investment strategy team:

‘Equity markets in the emerging economies held their ground remarkably well in the recent correction. After a well-earned breather in the summer, marked by heightened volatility, equity markets will resume their climb.

We recommend maintaining an overweight in equities and expanding it on price setbacks. Our preferred markets are Europe and selected emerging markets. In the light of further rises in interest rates, we remain underweight in bonds and overweight in the money market.’

Source : Business Times - 15 Aug 2007

The office market continues to sizzle, with an expression of interest for Hitachi Tower at Collyer Quay said to have resulted in a top indicative bid

The office market continues to sizzle, with an expression of interest for Hitachi Tower at Collyer Quay said to have resulted in a top indicative bid of over $3,200 per sq ft based on existing net lettable area, sources say.

The figure is a record for office space, surpassing the figure of about $2,650 psf set earlier this year for 1 Finlayson Green.

Shortlisted bidders for the 999-year leasehold Hitachi Tower are now likely to conduct due diligence before finalising their offers, observers reckon.

Bids are believed to have been received mostly from overseas parties. The 37-storey building has about 280,000 sq ft net lettable area. So assuming a top bid of say $3,200 psf, the price would work out to around $900 million.

CapitaLand owns 50 per cent of Hitachi Tower and National University of Singapore the other half.

A similar exercise is said to be going on for Chevron House next door, which is believed to have attracted a top bid of about $2,800 psf.

The 99-year leasehold Chevron House - formerly known as Caltex House - is owned by CapitaLand (50 per cent), IP Property Fund Asia (25 per cent) and NTUC Income Insurance Co-operative (25 per cent).

The former Pidemco, now part of Capitaland, bought the two buildings from entities linked to Ong Beng Seng in 1999.

The spread in top bids between Chevron House and Hitachi Tower is due to the difference in tenure and the orientation of the properties. Also, some leases at Chevron House are believed to have caps on rental increases, which limits the ability of the building’s owner to take advantage of booming office rentals.

More office blocks continue to be offered for sale. Colliers International yesterday launched a tender for The Globe at Cecil Street, with an indicative price of $100 million.

The property, being offered for sale by owner Prosper Realty, is being pitched for its redevelopment potential. The $100 million price tag reflects a unit land price of $1,178 psf of potential gross floor area, including two payments the buyer will have to make to the state - an estimated $12.5 million differential premium to build a bigger project on the site and a premium of $9.6 million to top up the 9,080 sq ft site’s lease to 99 years from the remaining 75 years.

Under Master Plan 2003, the site is zoned for commercial use with an 11.2-plus plot ratio. Colliers says the successful buyer can apply for additional gross floor area (GFA) of up to 2 per cent. This will boost the plot ratio to around 11.42, allowing a 30-storey office block with 103,694 sq ft of GFA.

Colliers has also been marketing Keck Seng Tower in Cecil Street. The tender closed last week, attracting three bids above $200 million or $1,700 psf based on the existing net lettable area. The property is on a 17,322 sq ft site with a lease balance of 72 years.

Yesterday Colliers launched a tender exercise for Cassia View, a 20-storey freehold apartment block in Guillemard Road completed about eight years ago.

Owner Melody Development is offering the property - comprising 68 apartments and four penthouses - with vacant possession. The indicative pricing is $80 million or close to $900 psf based on the total strata floor area of 89,361 sq ft. ‘The buyer could refurbish the property into a serviced residence or hostel. The location is popular among expats and travellers looking for affordable accommodation,’ Colliers executive director (investment sales) Ho Eng Joo says. The tenders for Cassia View and The Globe close on Sept 12.

Source : Business Times - 15 Aug 2007

The Mount Faber area is to be rejuvenated before the planned integrated resort opens at Sentosa

The Mount Faber area is to be rejuvenated before the planned integrated resort opens at Sentosa, Channel News Asia reports.

The announcement came yesterday from Loo Choon Yong, chairman of Sentosa Development Corporation at the opening of the island’s latest attraction, the Asian Tour headquarters.

The Asian Tour is the official regional sanctioning body for professional golf in Asia, which aims to expand tournament golf.

The Asian Tour now includes 27 events offering a total of US$27 million in prizes.

Dr Loo was reported as saying that the tourism board and the ministry of trade and industry were ‘asking us to prepare a master plan to look at how we can develop the foothills in Mount Faber; how we can incorporate it into the whole neighbourhood’.

He said: ‘Sentosa is an exciting place, so is VivoCity and St James Power Station. There is residence, there is activity and nightlife, so I think the Faber foothills present opportunities.’

Options being looked at for Mount Faber include recreational activities, dining outlets and accommodation, the report said.

Source : Business Times

Occupancy cost in prime Singapore office locations has risen 54 per cent in the first six months of the year.

Occupancy cost in prime Singapore office locations has risen 54 per cent in the first six months of the year. Though the cost is still lower than in Hong Kong, the increase here is still the fastest in the Asia-Pacific region.

DTZ Debenham Tie Leung defines occupancy cost as the average total cost of leasing prime net usable space of 10,000 sq ft within a prime CBD location. It includes rent and outgoings, such as maintenance costs and property tax, if these are normally payable by the occupier.

And according to DTZ, average occupancy cost has more than doubled from a year ago in the Raffles Place and Marina Centre zones where average rents are now S$13.10 psf per month and S$11.80 psf per month respectively.

However, DTZ’s report does show that Grade A office rents in general are still competitive compared to other regional cities at S$10.89 psf per month.

And although DTZ believes that ‘unrelenting office demand’, will see occupancy cost keep rising, its executive director Ong Choon Fah said: ‘A lot of corporates still see value in operating out of Singapore.’

Demand for office space has been ‘extremely strong’ from the financial sector but Mrs Ong notes that this has also begun to ‘trickle down’ to other support sectors, boosting demand further.

Supporting this is DTZ’s data which shows that Grade A vacancy rates in Singapore is the lowest at 2.6 per cent after Delhi at 0 per cent, followed by Shanghai (2.8 per cent), Tokyo (2.96 per cent) and Hong Kong (3 per cent).

Asked to comment on the figures for occupancy cost in Singapore, a URA spokesman said that the statistics were computed based on DTZ’s knowledge of rental transactions for a selected basket of prime office buildings as well as their estimates of ‘achievable rentals’ where there were no actual transactions done in certain buildings.

URA, which had also consulted DTZ on its figures, added: ‘The inclusion of pre-committed space may result in instances of double-counting of occupied office space, as the tenants may be vacating other office buildings when they shift to their new premises.’

Noting that different methodologies may result in different statistics, URA also noted that DTZ estimates that office occupancy rates for prime office buildings in Raffles Place, Marina Centre and Orchard Road for Q2 2007 were 97.4 per cent, 98.9 per cent and 96.9 per cent respectively.

By comparison, URA’s office occupancy rate figure for Category 1 office buildings in the Downtown Core - which includes Raffles Place and Marina Centre and Orchard Planning Area - was 95 per cent for the same period, and computed based on the physical occupancy of space.

URA also said that based on Iras’ records of rental contracts signed in Q2 2007, the median rental for Category 1 office buildings was S$10.33 psf per month.

DTZ said that although the increase in occupancy cost was the greatest in Singapore, occupancy cost is still the highest in Hong Kong at US$180.27 psf per year where base Grade A rents in the Central and Admiralty areas is S$20.09 psf per month.

This is followed by Tokyo at US$119.30 psf per year with base rent at S$150.55 psf per month, and Singapore at US$102.61 psf per year with a base rent of S$10.89 psf per month.

Source : Business Times - 14 Aug 2007

HONG KONG-BASED property developer Hillcrest Capital will make its maiden move into Singapore with 21 Anderson, a luxury residential development

HONG KONG-BASED property developer Hillcrest Capital will make its maiden move into Singapore with 21 Anderson, a luxury residential development on Anderson Road.

The project, which is expected to be launched early next month, will have 34 units spread over 10 floors.

‘We are very bullish on the property market in Singapore,’ Hillcrest’s managing director Lyon Lau told BT.

The company bought the Anderson Road site in February this year from Habitat Properties for about $112 million. This is thought to have worked out to $1,519 per square foot (psf) based on a total strata area of about 73,710 square feet.

In an unusual move, Hillcrest decided not to tear down the old apartment block on the site.

Instead, it is keeping the main structure but changing the building’s facade, layout and interior design and increasing the floor area. This means it can have 21 Anderson ready for occupation as soon as mid-2008.

Usually, developers take two or three years to demolish and rebuild a project.

‘We will have a time-to-market advantage,’ Mr Lau said.

He expects the project to attract interest from people who have sold their homes in collective sales and need replacement properties quickly.

Prices at 21 Anderson will be ‘competitive’, Mr Lau said. Units could go for about $3,000 psf, BT understands.

Hillcrest is looking for other projects in Singapore - residential developments in the prime districts and commercial buildings.

At 21 Anderson - designed by local firm Architects and Design Consultancy - each unit will have its own balcony and lift and will be equipped with designer furnishing and appliances.

Source : Business Times - 14 Aug 2007

Easy credit in the US led to rapid expansion. Now some banks are worried about unpaid loans

Easy credit in the US led to rapid expansion. Now some banks are worried about unpaid loans

Are we approaching ‘the great unwind’?

The economy, stock and property markets are all doing fine. But something feels wrong.

For one thing, stock market volatility has increased. Last week, the Straits Times Index rose and fell more than 100 points.

It was the same for the US Dow index with swings of 200 points.

In the past 30 years, the world’s economy has taken three big hits. We will check them out and then ask: ‘Are we headed for hit number four?’


Crisis #1: The US Savings and Loan (S&L) crisis of the 1980s.

S&Ls are like banks but specialise in US home loans. Many took in deposits costing 3 per cent and used the money to make risky real estate investments earning more than 15 per cent.

Investors didn’t care about the risks since their deposits were guaranteed by the US government. They were certain to get their money back.

The government eventually cracked down and regulated S&Ls more closely but it was an expensive lesson.

The US paid over $100 billion to bail out depositors of the more than 1,000 S&Ls which failed.

The crisis contributed to a worldwide recession in 1982.

Crisis #2: The Asian currency crisis began on 1 Jul, 1997 when Thailand announced its US dollar reserves had fallen to zero. That shocking news led to a sell-off of the Thai baht.

It drew in currency speculators which triggered a sell-off of all Asian currencies. Hardest hit was the Indonesian rupiah. The crisis was largely confined to Asia. Singapore managed to sidestep the most devastating effects.

Still, the Straits Times Index dropped to a low of 805 on 4 Sep, 1998. The index now trades at around 3,400, a rise of 300 per cent in nine years.

Crisis #3: On 10 Mar, 2000 the US Nasdaq stock index hit a high of 5,048.

From there, high-tech counters began their long slide downhill. This became known as ‘the burst of the Internet bubble’.

It took 2 1/2 years for the Nasdaq to finally hit bottom at 1,114 on 9 Oct, 2002, a drop of 80 per cent.

Since then, the Nasdaq has risen to 2,600 for a gain of more than 100 per cent. It is now half-way back to its former high of 5,048.

The sell-off contributed to the worldwide recession in 2002.

Crisis #4?: Are we headed towards a fourth economic crisis?

If so, June 2000 will mark its beginning. That was when the US Central Bank cut its key short-term lending rate to 1 per cent and kept it there for one year.

Only Japan had such low rates and easy credit terms. It was unprecedented in the US, and it has led to an expansion that some say is another bubble ready to burst.

The low rates gave rise to hedge funds, private equity and a slew of creative financial products that seem to make risks disappear.

It all works as long as credit is easy and asset prices rise.

The first prick at the bubble came two months ago when US finance companies stopped making home loans requiring:

(i) no down payment and,

(ii) no proof of income.

Now, US borrowers must have a job before they can get a home loan. Gee, what will they think of next?

Are S’pore banks safe?

LAST week, we saw our three local banks explain their exposure to the risky sub-prime US housing market.

Banks own debt that is based on these loans. One local bank said it expects to lose about $50 million.

That is a lot of money and it shouldn’t have happened. But the amount is manageable.

DBS, UOB and OCBC have just reported earnings for the last three months.

Each earned over $500m. It means a $50m loss is only 10 per cent of one quarter’s earnings.

Singapore dollar deposits are guaranteed by the Singapore Deposit Insurance Corporation (SDIC) for up to $20,000 minus your outstanding loans from the bank.

The amount covers more than 80 per cent of depositors at full banks and finance companies.

Bigger deposits are not guaranteed. But in the remote chance of a bank crisis, I doubt that the Singapore Government would let a local bank fail.

The damage to the economy would be too great.

As for foreign banks, most are larger than our three local banks which would seem to make them even safer. Not true. While the SDIC guarantee applies, the parent bank does not guarantee local deposits.

We saw this in Argentina’s banking crisis in December 2000. At the height of the crisis, depositors tried withdrawing their US dollars all at once. The banks ran out of money and closed their doors.

The big foreign banks were not obligated to make good on deposits at their affiliates and, of course, they didn’t. Billions of dollars were lost in this country of 36 million people.

The conclusion is deposits at foreign banks may face a slightly higher risk than at the three local banks.

By Larry Haverkamp (Doc Money)

Source : New Paper - 14 Aug 2007

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) (Picture)said Friday that global financial market turmoil sparked by the troubled US mortgage sector manageable

WASHINGTON : The International Monetary Fund (IMF) (Picture)said Friday that global financial market turmoil sparked by the troubled US mortgage sector and a related credit crunch should be "manageable."

The multilateral lender said global economic growth should not be derailed by the mortgage and credit jitters, which have triggered sharp falls on US, European and Asian stock markets.

"While the situation is still evolving, we continue to believe that the systemic consequences of the reassessment of credit risk that is taking place will be manageable," said IMF spokesman Masood Ahmed.

"The fundamentals supporting strong global growth remain in place, and the re-establishment of credit discipline that is occurring is a healthy development," the spokesman said.

He said IMF officials were closely tracking market developments around the globe.

The spokesman said interventions by a number of central banks, including the US Federal Reserve, which injected 38 billion dollars into the US financial system Friday, should help calm markets and soothe rattled investors.

The IMF had predicted a so-called "correction" in global credit markets, and senior fund officials have said in recent days that the financial jitters show investors are more risk averse.

"Market discipline, when it arrives, is almost inevitably uncertain in terms of timing, somewhat uneven in terms of impact and to the outside observer inevitably appears a bit messy," IMF deputy managing director John Lipsky told a meeting of Asia Pacific finance ministers last week. - AFP /ls

Go-kart racing may be a possibility at Marina Bay

SINGAPORE: Go-kart racing may be a possibility at Marina Bay, said Parliamentary Secretary Teo Ser Luck at the inaugural go-kart event in Sengkang West on Sunday.

But what is definite for now is that go-karting will be introduced in the heartlands, leading up to the Formula One race in Singapore in September next year.

As part of Sengkang West National Day Carnival, a street was closed to allow go-karting within an HDB estate.

Mr Teo said: "When you have a go-kart carnival like that, you will have display booths. We can then bring in the F1 literature and information to the heartlands and let them understand it better and appreciate the F1 race that's coming up next year.

"The possibility is there for any heartlands that have their roads available. We'll plan it out as soon as we can."

To make go-karting possible along the Sengkang Eastway, MPs from Ang Mo Kio and Pasir-Ris-Punggol GRCs collaborated and tested the circuit themselves.

Organisers spent about three months putting this event together and because it was using a public street near flats, they had to get permits from authorities like the Housing and Development Board and the Traffic Police.