Friday, September 7, 2007

100 of the best in MIPIM Asia awards

100 of the best in MIPIM Asia awards

One hundred of the most innovative and prestigious real estate projects in the Asia Pacific region are competing in the inaugural MIPIM Asia Awards. The Awards will be held prior to the November 28 opening ceremony for the second MIPIM Asia, the international Asia Pacific property market, to be held in Hong Kong, November 28-30, 2007.

Around 30% of the entries have been made in the ´Futura Projects´ category which recognises planning-stage projects for their architectural, technical or environmental qualities. In the running are projects from such well-known international companies as Edaw, Aedas Limited, Arquitectonica, Benoy, Omniyat Properties and Arup.

For Gilles Saint Georges Chaumet, Director of MIPIM Asia, "the success of these first MIPIM Asia Awards is driven by the remarkable dynamism in the region´s property sector. It also reflects the property industry´s interest in being highly visible at an event that brings together both regional players and leading international firms. The 2007 winners will truly be the best of the best."

Entries have flowed in from across the region with projects from 15 Asia Pacific countries. 29 entries concern projects located in China, followed by Singapore (13), Hong Kong (12), India (8), the United Arab Emirates (8), Japan (7), Australia (6), Thailand (4), South Korea (4), Vietnam (4) and one each for Macao, Indonesia, the Philippines, the Maldives and Sri Lanka.

The MIPIM Asia Awards jury will meet at the end of September to select three projects in each of the following seven categories: Business Centres, Shopping Centres, Mixed-use Buildings, Residential Developments, Hotels & Tourism Resorts, Green Buildings and Futura Projects.

The 21 nominated projects will be on view in a dedicated MIPIM Asia Awards zone throughout the event.

Chaired by Dr Robert Lie, CEO of ING Real Estate Investment Management Asia, Hong Kong, the jury of investors, developers and associations, comprises twelve of the leading property specialists operating in the Asia Pacific region: Michael Smith, Managing Director and Head of Asian Real Estate for Goldman Sachs Pte (Singapore), Thomas M. Pearson, Managing Director, Co-Head Global Real Estate Group - Asia, for Lehman Brothers Real Estate Ltd (Japan), Richard David, Managing Director, Treasury Holdings China Limited (China), Graeme Torre, Managing Director of AIG Real Estate (Hong Kong), Cheng-Soon Lau, Managing Director of INVESCO Real Estate - Asia (Hong Kong), Hiroo Mori, Senior Managing Director of Mori Building Co., Ltd (Japan), Nicholas Loup, Managing Director of Grosvenor Asia (Hong Kong), Reuben Chu, Chairman of the PGBC (Professional Green Building Council, Hong Kong), Peter Mitchell, CEO of the Asian Public Real Estate Association (Singapore), Dr Ronald Lu, President of the Hong Kong Institute of Architects and Hokyu Lee, Managing Director of the international property consultancy BHP Korea (Korea).

Strong sales at ’The Chava’

Strong sales at ’The Chava’

The Chava, the luxury apartment on Surin Beach, Phuket has received a lot of positive feedback from holiday home buyers and investors, with 65% of the units sold despite the recent property market slow down.

The luxury apartment market in Phuket is continuing to be strong compared to other segments and has become popular among holiday home buyers and investors who would like to buy a holiday home to suit their lifestyle and also earn from a rental return.

Mr. Larry Cunningham, CEO and developer of The Chava said: “We launched The Chava in May last year and have achieved sales of over 65% in fifteen months. Even though the Phuket property market has experienced a recent slow down, we continue to receive interest and positive feedback from potential buyers. We are confident that Phuket is still the most popular holiday home destination in Asia and buyers continue to show interest in buying quality apartments in prime locations”.

”The sales of our project was not only driven by the trend of increased interest in luxury apartments. Buyers and investors consider key factors such as location and quality before making a decision. At The Chava, apart from the great location on the popular Surin Beach, we invested a lot of time and money on architecture and design, and ensuring that all details of the residence are of the high quality our clients expect” Mr. Cunningham added.

The Chava project is worth 800 million baht and covers three rai overlooking Surin Beach. Surin Beach is an area well known with wealthy holiday makers from all around the world. In the nearby area of The Chava are high-end resorts such as Amanpuri, The Chedi, Twin Palms and Laguna Phuket. From the site, it takes only 10 minutes to golf courses, 15 minutes to marinas, and 15-20 minutes to entertainment, shopping centres and Phuket town.

The Chava recently launched the display apartment showcasing the quality and finishing of its unit and allows clients optional finishing or decorations for their own apartment.

The Chava consists of 45 contemporary, luxury apartments set within 5,000 sqm. of lush tropical gardens, which have been design by internationally acclaimed Paradise Designs. The Chava offers 16 unit types ranging from 151 - 332 sq metres with two to four ensuite bedrooms. Prices start from 15 million baht per unit. Ground floor units enjoy private gardens with plunge pools and the penthouse units enjoy superb sea views across Surin Beach.

In addition to a high quality build and superb architecture and design, The Chava also offers 24-hour service with concierge, valet parking and security surveillance.

All apartments include modern comforts of home and the latest in WiFi technology. Apartments are designed to create an interior courtyard sanctuary set around a magnificent 35 metre swimming pool with in pool daybeds, giving a resort-style apartment feel.

The Chava combines a distinctive lifestyle with a superb investment opportunity that maximizes both personal and financial returns. The Chava has appointed a leading property management group to manage and maintain the apartments and facilities to international five-star standards, making the investment safe and generating a return.

The project will be completed in mid 2008. The display apartment is available for inspection every day at The Chava, Surin Beach.

Jakarta: Local drive

Jakarta: Local drive
By Terry Blackburn

For many years, the real estate money in Jakarta has gone one way – out of the city into places such as KL, Sydney, Perth and especially Singapore, the overseas investment destination of choice for wealthy Indonesians. Now, though, some of the capital is beginning to flow in the opposite direction. Luxury real estate developers are targeting both local and adventurous foreign buyers, looking either for a home in the city or a long-term investment in one of the region’s emerging markets.

"In terms of price, Jakarta is much lower than Singapore and still somewhat lower than Kuala Lumpur or Bangkok. But in terms of quality, I think it does not differ a lot," says Anton Sitorus, Jones Lang LaSalle’s Head of Research for Indonesia.

The new luxury boom in the capital is being spearheaded by the likes of branded developments by St Regis and Kempinski, the eye-catching Regatta by Burj Al Arab designer Atkins, and the mixed-use Essence on Darmawangsa. Although foreign investors make up a small percentage of the market overall, they’re extremely active in the high end of the market.

"Approximately 40% of our buyers are from Korea, America, England, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Japan and China," admits Ivada L. Santoso, Marketing Director for the Essence on Darmawangsa.

This is a high percentage considering the restrictive investment laws, which make foreign ownership difficult. As in Bali and elsewhere in the country, various titles exist that allow foreigners to have long leases and effective control of land and property, as well as nominee schemes allowing companies to own properties.

In practice, where apartments are concerned in urban Jakarta, this generally means a long lease with an option to sell. "We accommodate the regulations by using an Option Agreement, thus the buyer has the right to sell the property, so there’s no difficulty in attracting foreigners," Ivada says.

However, many industry players believe the government could be doing more to attract foreign investors. "The private sector has frequently asked the government to provide more relaxed regulations concerning foreign ownership; to learn from Malaysia and Singapore," Sitorus says. "But so far, the government has only accommodated the regulation about land-ownership periods."

Downtown appeal

As with most other luxury products, the Essence on Darmawangsa is located in the south of the city, on the outskirts of the ‘Golden Triangle’ central business district. The project features three apartment towers and a five-star hotel set in 5.3 hectares of land, 70% of which will be dedicated to landscaped gardens and a water park.

Since launching in 2005, the development has recorded impressive sales for its two principle residential towers. "In our first two days of launching the Eminence Tower, we sold 60%," Ivada says. "At the moment, we have sold 95%. As for the South Tower, at the present time we have sold 50%."

Ironically, the accommodation boom in the CBD is helped along by Jakarta’s poor infrastructure, particularly its notoriously bad traffic and lack of a mass transit system, which ensures that the suburbs aren’t as an attractive an option as in other Asian cities.

"The Jakarta residential market will continue to be dominated by downtown and CBD apartments, partly driven by the global trend for ‘inner city living’," says Hary Jap, President of Indoproperty Real Estate. "The traffic jams and the high costs of landed property mean living in the suburbs is no longer suitable for most Jakarta people working in the CBD."

Sitorus concurs that the business district area is the most exciting area for new developments. "Projects in prime CBD areas that are offered between Rp300-700 million (US$33,000-$77,000) per unit, for one or two bedrooms, are what interests me most in the market right now," he says. "Due to the location, these projects have better prospects for rental or capital increment."

That said, the same infrastructure problems are also hampering the city in terms of foreign appeal, as Jap explains. "People soon learn that it’s all related to things not being well planned, even going back to the Dutch era, such as flooding and mass transportation. The government is now studying the traffic and looking at buses and water transportation, although these are yet to be proven as long-term solutions."

Upward curve

Despite these setbacks, the city’s real estate market as a whole has bounced back impressively since the 1997/8 crash. Surprisingly, the residential sector has already surpassed pre-1998 growth, while other sectors are developing more slowly.

During the last decade’s peak between 1995-1997, ‘new completions’ grew around 5,000 units per annum. Between 2004-2007, the figure is predicted to average out at about 10,000 units per annum. In other property sectors, the market has shown some positive growth yet is still below pre-1998 levels.

In fact, the residential market could be judged to be in better shape than ever, as it’s underpinned by local investment with a minimum of foreign speculation. "In the past, property demand was supported by high economic growth and strong foreign investment, but today property demand is primarily driven by local demand," Sitorus explains.

Like elsewhere in Southeast Asia, there’s much greater stability in residential property in the current growth cycle. Lessons have been learnt across the board, by the government, by investors and by financial institutions.

"After the crises, the financial sector is wiser in giving loans to developers, which was one of the main causes of the crises," Jap says. "It’s safe to say that the main difference after 1997 is that more projects are financed by the consumer. The projects offered are more consumer centred, compared to the ‘new town opening’ style before the crises. Location choice is more sensitive. The consumers are more sceptical towards big-scale projects, and developers’ good names and corporate branding are big issues now."

Brand building

Branding is being utilised in two ways, both through the power of big international names such as St Regis and Kempinksi, and through commissioning internationally renowned architects and designers to work on prestige projects. The latter trend is exemplified by Regatta, which launched in April 2006 and is set to fulfil its self-titled ‘icon’ status due to its distinctive curved design by WS Atkins, the firm behind Dubai’s Burj Al Arab hotel.

Like its famed elder sister, Regatta will follow a nautical theme and feature an aerodynamically shaped hotel as its centrepiece, set to be one of the most striking landscape features overlooking the Java Sea, while series of 10 apartment towers will sport the same curves. Indeed, the name Regatta was inspired by the vision that the towers will"“symbolise tall ships sailing around the ‘lighthouse’ represented by the hotel". All the apartment towers will be named after major port cities of the world, and each is orientated toward their corresponding city.

Badan Kerjasama Mutiara Buana (BKMB), the local developer of Regatta, is betting big on Jakarta’s continued growth with its coastside location outside the CBD, which is linked by toll road access.

Launched in April, the St Regis Hotel and Residences, Jakarta is set to be completed in 2011 and will have 284 residential units for sale. As with most luxury developments in the city, the project will be mixed use, including a hotel, but will have the added advantage of having one of Starwood’s most prestigious brands behind it.

“The strategic location of the project in the heart of Jakarta, combined with the bespoke service of the St Regis brand, will make this property an extremely attractive choice for discerning travellers,” Ross Klein, President of the Luxury Brand Group, said at the launch. “Offering premium hotel accommodation and luxurious residences, St Regis Hotel and Residences, Jakarta will be a welcome addition to the city’s booming financial district and will help meet the surge in demand from multinational corporations as well as Jakarta’s growing numbers of tourists.”

With all this new stock arriving on the market, speculative investors and non-owner occupiers should still be wary, as one sector of the market that has been sluggish over the last few years is rentals of luxury apartments.

“The luxury rental apartment market depends, to a certain extent, on the expatriate market, but since the growth of expats in Jakarta remains slow, demand is also limited, not to mention the competition from luxury houses,” Sitorus says. “On the other hand, new supply has grown quite significantly, boosted by condominium developments, thus triggering higher competition. Going forward, we expect the market to face higher vacancy rates and limited rental growth.”

Jap agrees, but also highlights the potential of strong capital gains. “I always doubt that the luxury rental market can beat or even be at the same level as the ordinary rental market. The reason is very simple: the target is the upper end of the pyramid, which is rare, and usually luxury means adding more price at the same utility level. This is why we usually get lower rentals [psf] for bigger units,” he says.

“In my opinion, it’s better to expect higher capital gains for this kind of market, since rarity is the keyword here. Compared to neighbouring countries, investing in Jakarta is still considered very cheap by regional currency standards and brings a good return. Most investments bring handsome capital gains during a short period of time.”

Verve Suites launch Vibe Tower

Verve Suites launch Vibe Tower
By Pete Wong

Bukit Kiara Properties (BKP) recently soft launched the second block of its Verve Suites project in Mont’Kiara. Named Vibe Tower, the block was almost 70% sold on day one of its soft launch, despite the asking price of between RM597-760psf. Prices in the surrounding area average between RM500-600psf, while the nearby Casa Kiara II project starts from RM426psf.

BKP is counting on its solid reputation as a niche developer and the fact that all units are fully furnished with designer fittings, enabling buyers to literally move in after collecting the key. The downside is that each unit will look exactly the same as the other few hundred units on the block.

BKP is a maestro of sorts when it comes to marketing and brand building. By staggering the launch of the four towers within its Verve Suites project, investor interest is sustained over a longer period and the developer is able to adjust its pricing accordingly based on demand and prevailing market sentiments. The first block, Viva Tower, was launched in early 2006 and is almost sold out.

In terms of ideas, Vibe Tower seems to have outdone Viva. The entire rooftop, called Hypercubes Lounge (pictured), has been turned into an entertainment and relaxation area. While a rooftop lounge area with glass-edged swimming pool is nothing new, BKP tops it up with smaller plunge pools, private jacuzzis and glass-enclosed dining room cum kitchen with retractable roof, among other attractions.

Investors who missed out on choice units in the first and second blocks need not worry. Word has it that the third block will be released soon, although it’s expected that the asking price will inch up for each new release. The developer is expected to save the best for last, as the fourth and final block is located furthest away from the high-tension cables that encircle the condominiums around the area.

Potential investors should note that while every block will have their own unique features, residents are free to utilise the facilities on every block, which means, when fully completed, there could be 1,500 residents queueing up to use the two tennis courts, gym, pools and other facilities. One potential concern is that there’s just one access road to the Verve Suites, and traffic can get quite hectic, especially in the nearby international school vicinity during school hours.

Verve Suites sits on commercial land, which means there will be no handing over of title deeds to unit owners and no chance of a resident committee with mandate being set up in future. BKP will manage the property and decide on the maintenance fees in perpetuity.

However, BKP has a good track record established by the founding Group Chairman, Dato’ Alan Tong Kok Mau, dubbed the ’condo king’ and attributed with putting Mont’Kiara on the property map. BKP’s careful management of its branding and reputation has been outstanding, and to increase the capital values of Verve Suites, BKP will build a Performing Arts Centre on the retail front of the project.

Even though apartments are small, ranging from 633-890sqft for standard units, and the price per square foot relatively high, the entry price of around RM400,000 is still within the budget of many young professionals and working couples. There’s also the attraction of an expected high annual rental yield, with current estimates around 12%.

Gauging from the popularity of Verve Suites, investors are prepared for the slight inconveniences and more than willing to pay a premium to have a Mont’Kiara address and the perceived notion of a quality lifestyle within the popular expatriate enclave.

Elsewhere in Mont’Kiara …

One of the more interesting pieces of news of late is Mycom’s announcement to develop a huge 10-acre tract in the Mont’Kiara vicinity in a joint-venture deal with London-based Westcity Plc, part of an upcoming supply of new residential and retail units that should put a check on the soaring prices of properties in the area.

Ireka Group has recently unveiled Seni Mont’Kiara, its third project in the area. Sitting on about nine acres of elevated freehold land, probably the highest in the vicinity, the development will feature 605 large units in two 40-storey towers and two 12-storey blocks, and is set to be distinguished by a permanent art gallery. Grand views of the city skyline are promised for most units, which start from 2,400sqft.

Meanwhile, BTC Development is planning to launch landed homes on a three-acre freehold plot in Mont’Kiara in the second half of 2008. BTC’s Development Manager Hii Ik Tiing said the company will offer over 30 units of two and three-storey townhouses, semi-detached homes and bungalows at prices starting from RM500psf.

Singapore hits 12-year high

Singapore hits 12-year high

Singapore´s Consumer Price Index (CPI) hit a 12-year inflationary high of 2.6% in July as the increased Goods and Services Tax (GST) were felt alongside soaring housing costs and inflated food prices.

The CPI rose by 2.1% over June 2007 and 2.6% slump, compared with July last year, Singapore´s Department of Statistics said in a statement on Thursday. It also noted that housing costs reflected the most growth at 4.9% due to higher electricity tariffs, rental prices and maintenance charges but upward movement was seen in all areas.

The increase surpassed the expectations of Dow Jones economists who estimated a 1.8% rise in a Newswires poll. July´s figures represent the fastest CPI increase since January 1995. Food prices, including vegetables, fruit, fish and milk powder increased 1.4% while health care rose 2.2%

Higher fees at universities and commercial institutions led to a 2.1% increase in the education and stationary sector, at a time when Singapore´s government has been debating the construction of a new university to meet consumer demand. The GST increase from 5% to 7% on July 1st was likely a contributing factor, the Department acknowledged.

Asian tourism joint venture

Asian tourism joint venture

Tourism officials from Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam have gathered at a meeting in Cambodia´s Sihanoukville to look into ways to boost the development of tourism in the three countries´ common sea area.

Cambodia´s Secretary of State for Tourism, Thong Khon, said after the meeting that participants had agreed upon measures to strengthen cooperation among the three countries. This new project has come to light after neighbouring Asian cities sense that boasting their tourism would lead to greater investment into property areas within their countries.

High on the agenda of the meeting were discussions on the training of human resources for sea tourism, linkage tours between tourism destinations in the three countries, as well as the exchange of experience and tour operation management in the tourism sector. The second meeting of its kind is scheduled to take place in Thailand in 2008.

Industrial property markets upbeat

Industrial property markets upbeat

CB Richard Ellis Reports Asian Industrial Property Markets Remained Largely Upbeat In The First Half of 2007

The second quarter continued to record upbeat performance in most of Asia´s industrial property markets, buttressed by sustained growth in the manufacturing sector and robust demand in logistics facilities. Industrial land prices in China appreciated further following the establishment of a system of minimum industrial land prices and the implementation of mandatory use of market mechanisms in the primary sales of industrial land.

In Japan, vacancy at large-scale multi-tenant distribution centres in and around Tokyo edged up by 50 basis points over the quarter to 8.9 per cent, as continued demand from 3PL operators was offset by the completion of new facilities. With a strong development pipeline, competition among landlords to attract tenants intensified, resulting in downward pressure on rents. Despite weaker market conditions, logistics assets continued to attract interest from both overseas and domestic private funds, and market sentiment suggests that the perceived risk premium for the sector is diminishing on the back of its growing acceptance as an investment class.

Average rents for all industrial space in Singapore continued to increase in the second quarter of 2007, with high-tech space posting its highest quarterly increase in five years. Rents are expected to rise further due to supply constraints in the office market and increasing demand amid optimism about business conditions.

The combined effect of the newly opened Hong Kong-Shenzhen Western Corridor and booming trading activity in Hong Kong has ensured that demand for local industrial properties persisted and property values continued to rise in the second quarter. However, limited stock and multiple ownership of local industrial properties made large-scale acquisitions difficult and smaller industrial buildings made up most of the quarter´s en bloc transactions.

In Mainland China, the second quarter saw full implementation of the policies requiring industrial land to be sold through public bidding, auction and listing. Industrial property rents and prices in cities under survey generally continued to increase or remained stable.

In Beijing, the average industrial rent was RMB 52.1 per square meter, an increase of 2 per cent compared with the first quarter. The price of industrial land, at RMB 1,200 per square meter, registered 4.1 per cent growth compared with the previous quarter. The land use rights of 120 industrial sites in Shanghai were transferred under the new regime during the second quarter. Industrial land prices rose 2.2 per cent quarter on quarter to RMB 898.8 per square meter (RMB 83.5 per square feet), while the average facility rent increased 0.8 per cent to RMB 31.5 per square meter (RMB 2.9 per square feet) per month. Guangzhou´s industrial property market was relatively stable during the second quarter. Both the average rents and land prices for industrial property remained the same as the previous quarter, with rents averaging RMB 25.2 per square meter per month and prices averaging RMB 445.3 per square meter. Chengdu´s industrial sector continued to develop rapidly in the second quarter of 2007, with concentrated industrial development zones attracting increasing numbers of enterprises.

In Vietnam, the value of Ho Chi Minh City´s industrial output increased by 12.6 per cent quarter on quarter in the first half of 2007, but at a rate slightly lower than the 13 per cent growth rate during the same period last year. Lawsuits regarding leather and footwear exports to Europe and garment and textile exports to the United States have led to the loss of some major contracts, one cause of the drop in the growth rate. However major high-tech investments and industrial park development projects were announced during the quarter. Hanoi´s second quarter GDP growth of 11.2 per cent was the highest in the past five years. During the first half of 2007, an estimated US$120 million of investment capital entered industrial parks, 71 per cent of the amount in the same period of 2006, with the decline due to lack of available space. The total income of FDI enterprises in industrial parks increased sharply as WTO commitments enabled direct transactions with overseas partners with preferential tariffs and trading rules.

The prospect of a general election in Thailand at the end of the year or in early 2008 acted to slightly improve market confidence in the second quarter, while the government´s approval of tax incentives for automakers investing at least THB 5 billion in eco-car manufacturing spurred investment in the sector. However sales of industrial land in the second quarter remained subdued and the full impact of these positive developments is only likely to be felt from the second half of the year onwards.

Activity in the semiconductor, manufacturing and electronics sectors continued to dominate activity in the Philippines´ industrial property markets. Amid a shortage of traditional office space, the majority of ICT/ITeS companies have relocated to business and industrial parks to take advantage of the flexibility and incentives they offer. There has also been strong demand for industrial properties from shipbuilding, logistics and utilities companies, due to the present upbeat demand conditions.

Investment in Vietnam complex by US

Investment in Vietnam complex by US

Vietnam´s President Nguyen Minh Triet has applauded a plan by the Gillmann Group, Fidelity Ventures and partners from the US to invest in a US$5 billion recreational complex in southern Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province.

While receiving Gillmann Group CEO Fred Gillmann, Fidelity Ventures President and Director Xuan Vu (Peter) Nguyen and partner representatives here yesterday, President Triet said Vietnam has spared no efforts to improve its investment environment as it looks to attract more foreign investment to the countrys already significant economic progress.

"An increasing number of foreign investors have flocked to Vietnam in the recent past, creating an impetus for the investors themselves as well as their Vietnamese partners," he

The State leader also pointed to Vietnam´s accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) as another advantage for foreign investors and hoped that Gillmann Group and Fidelity Ventures would be successful in Vietnam.

The two guests briefed President Triet of their ambitious plan, saying Vietnam possesses wonderful beaches where resorts and recreational centres should be built to bring in more foreign holidaymakers.

Malaysia contractor wins KL build

Malaysia contractor wins KL build

Putrajaya Perdana Bhd just announced its wholly-owned subsidiary, Putra Perdana Construction Sdn Bhd, has accepted a letter of award from Bandar Raya Developments Bhd to move forward with the luxurious condominium development in Taman Bukit Bandaraya, Kuala Lumpur for RM279 million.

The project involves the construction of 229 condominium units, a five-level basement parking lot and amenities, one three-storey clubhouse and three three-storey houses outfitted with swimming pools inn Jalan Menerung in Taman Bukit Bandaraya, it said in a statement to Bursa Malaysia on Aug 28th.

The date of site possession is 25th August 2007 and the date of completion is on 3rd July 2009. The project is expected to have a positive impact on the earnings and net assets of the group for the financial years ending 31 March 2008 to 2010.

L&G stake bought by HK tycoon

L&G stake bought by HK tycoon

A property tycoon from Hong Kong, Tan Sri David Chiu, recently emerged as an 8.35% shareholder in Kuala Lumpur-based property developer Land & General Bhd (L&G).

It is thought that L&G´s relatively low share price and landbank in Bandar Sri Damansara, Kuala Lumpur and Tebrau, Johor could have been the reasons for Chiu´s recent investment.

Mayland Parkview Sdn Bhd purchased 50 million shares in L&G according to an announcement to the Bursa Malaysia. Mayland Parkview is linked to Malaysia Land Properties Sdn Bhd (Mayland) which was set up by Chiu nearly two decades ago and operates as a property development and investment group.

Mayland has a landbank also, with some prime plots in Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru. It is thought that some of these, and properties owned by Mayland, may be transferred to Land & General

Thai resort properties launch in China

Thai resort properties launch in China

Engel & Völkers, one of the leading European real estate companies will unveil a number of its high-end luxury lifestyle properties in Hua Hin at the China International Luxury Property Show to be held on September 7-9,2007, in Shanghai, China.

Engel & Völkers is the leading real estate agency for luxury property worldwide. The Engel & Völkers network operates over 300 residential shops and commercial offices in 24 countries on 4 continents. Engel & Völkers’ Hua Hin Office will spearhead for the first time the launch of resorts properties from Hua Hin, Thailand to the mainland China market.

Hua Hin’s proximity to Bangkok has allowed the coastal village to become a favorite retreat for Thailand’s royal family. With white sandy beaches and rolling foothills, Hua Hin’s location offers the best of Thailand’s tropical climate and scenic landscapes. More and more people, not only the Thai elite, including expatriates, diplomats and retirees are recognizing the great potential of Hua Hin as second home town or a weekend retreat.

Engel & Völkers Hua Hin is set to launch Black Mountain Golf Course Homes, Panorama Pool Villas and KM Beach Condominiums as well as Hua Hin Boulevard into the China Market.

The open exhibition is to be held at the Shanghai International Convention Center. After China, an open exhibition of resort properties represented by Engel & Völkers Hua Hin will also be held in Dublin, Belgium and Hong Kong in the following months. Executives from Engel & Völkers Hua Hin will be on hand and available to meet with interested parties looking to invest.

The recently opened Black Mountain Golf Course is now launching the first phase of its residential development overlooking the magnificent golf course including 43 villas priced from US$1.2m to US$1.4 million, as well as a 120 unit condominium complex (From US$310,000 to US$800,000) and a condotel is also in the planning.

Panorama is a resort project with 65 individual Thai / Balinese inspired pool villas priced from US$270,000 to US$900,000 with 5 star resort facilities including club house and business center at your fingertips.

For investors looking to buy multiple units in one complex KM Beach Condominiums offers 36 beachfront condos from US$240,000 to US$450,000 per unit whilst Hua Hin Boulevard is a mixed development in the heart of Hua Hin consisting of a 78 unit condominium complex as well as a 4-storey shopping plaza. Prices for the condominium units range from US$90,000 to US$250,000 and guarantee great returns on investment within the first two years.

“Engel & Völkers Hua Hin is very excited in bringing high quality resort projects of the Hua Hin area to Shanghai. Our focus is on mid to high-end developments with outstanding capital appreciation and diversity. Our portfolio covers different market segments such as golf course projects, beachfront or resort developments and land plots. Engel & Völkers feels honored to be bringing the charms of Hua Hin to Shanghai giving investors the opportunity not only to invest into an emerging market with interesting capital gains from increasing property values that also lets owners use their investment for holidays or solely as rental property” says Bruce Davison, Managing Partner of Engel & Völkers Hua Hin, who will be attending the exhibition.

The Landmark Scheme wins award

The Landmark Scheme wins award

Hongkong Land has announced that The Landmark Scheme was named one of the five winners in the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Awards of Excellence: Asia Pacific. The US$210 million Scheme, formally completed in November 2006, has helped strengthen Central´s reputation as the heart of the city and reinforced The Landmark as a premier address in Hong Kong for world-class shopping,
dining and business.

The Awards for Excellence programme has been recognising superior achievements of excellence in land use planning since 1979. This is the third year of the Awards for Excellence programme in the Asia Pacific region. Five projects in three countries were selected as winners: one from Australia; two from Hong Kong; and two from Japan. The five winners were chosen from a field of 12 finalists.

Projects were evaluated based on financial viability, resourcefulness of land use, design, relevance to contemporary issues, and sensitivity to the community and environment. According to ULI, The Landmark Scheme "propels to the lead an already popular retail centre... Now, one hectare of valuable land gathers on one block luxury retail with offices and a 113-room hotel."

In a little over three years, Hongkong Land executed a comprehensive development and refurbishment programme that enhanced the surrounding cityscape and brought even more of the best in urban lifestyle to Hong Kong. A redesigned atrium for The Landmark, Asia´s first Harvey Nichols store, the new Landmark Mandarin Oriental hotel, more premium office space through the development of York House, and enhanced indoor and outdoor access are just a few of the programme´s components.

"We are delighted to be one of just five developments recognised by the Urban Land Institute in Asia this year," said Y K Pang, Chief Executive of Hongkong Land. "This award validates everything Hongkong Land set out to achieve with The Landmark Scheme—making one of the world´s best luxury developments even better, and helping strengthen Central´s status as the place to be."

Over the years, Hongkong Land has demonstrated its commitment to improving and enhancing Hong Kong´s CBD through its ambitious programme "Brand CENTRAL." This ongoing effort aims to further boost Central´s reputation as the head of the city through additions and refurbishments to some of the city´s most well-known shopping and business addresses, including Charter House, Exchange Square, Prince´s Building and Alexandra House, as well as the surrounding cityscape. Hongkong Land initiated The Landmark Scheme in August 2003 as the latest phase of this programme.

The ULI is a non-profit education and research institute supported by its members. Its mission is to provide leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide. It was established in 1936 and has more than 37,000 members representing all aspects of land use.

Frasers opens third Bangkok property

Frasers opens third Bangkok property

International serviced apartment developer Frasers is set to open its third Bangkok property, Fraser Suites Sukhumvit.

The 118 unit development, on Sukhumvit Soi 11, will open its doors to guests in October. Jacqui Cuthbertson, general manager of the development, says Fraser Suites Sukhumvit will provide both corporate and leisure guests with a high quality beautifully designed living space, suitable for both long and short-term stays.

“I think what’s important about this property is the design aspect of it and the facilities that we offer. We understand as Frasers that living in a foreign country is not just about the apartment that you’re living in. It’s also about the home environment, so the facilities that we’re offering always add value to the guest’s life when they’re in a foreign country.”

Rates start at Bt4,500 a night, and Frasers is offering discounted rates for long term guests. Facilities include a gym, swimming pool, sauna, restaurant, room service, meeting rooms which seat up to 20 people and a business centre. Apartments range in size and include 52sqm studios, 72sqm one-bedroom suites and 160sqm three bedroom penthouses. All units feature fully-fitted kitchens, washer/dryer and a full size fridge/freezer.

Cuthbertson says they expect the property to do well, as the very nature of the Sukhumvit area is that it attracts both types of travellers – corporate and leisure.

“We understand that serviced apartments are becoming the first choice for so many types of travelers so that it’s really sometimes the first option rather than a hotel for tourism and corporate travelers,” she said. “Because we’re targeting both markets we can be quite flexible and adapt our services to suit both types. There’s more space.”

Fraser Suites Sukhumvit is the Singapore firm´s third Bangkok property, joining Fraser Place in Langsuan and Fraser Suites in Sathorn.

“Frasers is always looking for new opportunities, especially where the market is strong,” said Cuthbertson. “In the first two developments we are achieving very high occupancy rates, which are proving to be sustainable all year round. Now Frasers has three very good locations throughout the city. It’s a great portfolio to offer all our guests.”

As for the current state of the serviced apartment market in Bangkok, Cuthbertson says Frasers is in a good position to continue to prosper, despite the high number of firms that enter the market every year. In fact, they even welcome the competition.

“It keeps us on our toes and raises the standard of quality, so that can only be a good thing for our guests.”

New foreign ownership law in Cambodia?

New foreign ownership law in Cambodia?

Cambodia´s private sector has urged the government to allow foreign ownership this week saying an open-minded real estate market would promote economic growth. The Cambodian investment law was amended back in 2005 to allow foreign ownership of permanent fixtures, but as yet has not been enforced. The non-implementation of the act has in fact rendered the amendments as a forgotten law, and as such has now become out dated. In the current legal understanding, the old law will only allow a property investment in the name of a Cambodian national but with the pressure from the private sector to increase wealth, urgent action will be required.

Chris Green, Head of Research at Obelisk International says ‘The key improvements to the property investment law would open up a whole new economic world to the country of Cambodia. These measures would not only further develop Cambodia´s property investment market, but the new interest from those investors who want to take advantage early, will not only create a boom putting Cambodia on the map, but will also make the country more competitive with its neighbours.’

American lawyer and chairman of the International Business Club, Bretton Sciaron comments on the property investment news ‘There are several reasons for urgent action, this is already a sector of the economy that is dynamic, but foreign ownership of apartments, condominiums and other such structures on the land will help spur further economic growth. Such a regulatory development will provide a dramatic indication that Cambodia has an investor-friendly environment.’

Vast new building projects have increased over the past few years, including a great number of satellite cities worth billions of dollars that when completed will fundamentally alter the appearance of the capital. After years of disorder within Cambodia, the country is now turning things around as a growing economy posting a steady 11% growth over the last three years, fuelled by a strong tourism industry and clothing manufactures.

Cambodian Commerce Minister, Cham Prasidh said that Cambodia still relies on international aid for half of its annual budget, but must now diversify by seeking more varied foreign investments. ‘There are other sectors we are trying to encourage, but we have to find out what are the sectors where we can be competitive. If we try to produce the same thing as Thailand or Malaysia, it will be very difficult’.

Changing face of foreign owners

Changing face of foreign owners
Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop


Along with Malaysians and Indonesians, an increasingly diverse group of nationalities are buying into Singapore, reflecting its ambition to become a genuinely global city.

Malaysians and Indonesians have traditionally been the dominant foreign buyers of property in Singapore and they still remain at the top of the list. However, over the last year, their shares of the property market bought by foreigners have been diminishing in favour of other nationalities.

According to Donald Han, Managing Director (Singapore) of Cushman and Wakefield, requests for information are coming fast and furious from Middle Eastern, Indian and Korean investors, although investors from different counties are looking at different sectors of the market.

While the deeper-pocketed Middle Eastern buyers are more interested in District 9 and the Orchard Road areas, the Koreans, who typically have a US$1-$3 million budget, are looking at the fringes of the central core area. Indians generally target the mid-market to upper-tier market and are willing to go further into the suburbs like Clementi, Yishun and Bukit Batok, while Europeans tend to go for projects that are under construction.

“Europeans are playing the rising market. They’re not looking into yield but strictly looking into being an absentee investor. When the property is ready, they might offload it instead of having the headache of finding a tenant,” Han explains.

Data from the URA shows that the number of Korean purchasers increased 132% in 2006, while the number of French increased by 138%. Indian buyers were up 72%, while American buyers were up 67% and Australian buyers were up 45%. However, it should be remembered that some of these figures may be skewed by low base figures, professionals said.

“Singapore has long been a favoured country for foreign investors,” notes Chia Ngiang Hong, Group General Manager of City Developments Limited. “However, we’re also experiencing increased interest from many first-time foreign buyers as well as many from non-traditional markets. This is a positive sign that Singapore is developing into a global city for investors. It marks its success of transforming into one of the most attractive and exciting cities to live and work in.”

Global appeal
The latest URA data shows that foreign buying interest has remained strong so far this year. Purchases by foreigners made up 29% of total purchases in the first half of 2007, said Tay Huey Ying, Director of Research and Consultancy at Colliers International.

Between January 2006 and June 2007, 33.6% of foreign purchases were for properties in districts 9 and 10, while 12.1% of foreign purchases were for properties in District 15. In terms of pricing, 6% of all foreign purchases were for properties priced at S$5 million and above, and 39% were for properties priced between S$1.5 million and S$5 million, Tay revealed.

Given the ongoing restrictions on landed properties, the majority of the properties purchased were condominium units. Even so, there has also been a growth in the number of buyers for landed properties.

Based on DTZ Debenham Tie Leung’s analysis of caveats captured by the URA’s Realis database, foreigners bought 2,008 non-landed private homes in the first quarter of this year, accounting for 30.3% of the total condos/apartments bought in the period, while foreigners (mainly Permanent Residents) bought 93 landed homes, only 8.4% of the total of 1,108 landed homes purchased.

While buyers from Indonesia and Malaysia remain the dominant players in the current market, the share of the top-five nationalities (68%) continued to slide, a trend that started in 2005. “This shows that private residential properties are attracting interest from other nationalities and that Singapore is becoming more international,” points out Ong Choon Fah, Executive Director at DTZ Debenham Tie Leung.

Developers are also reporting anecdotal evidence of the increase in these new buyers. At the launch of luxury boutique development Parkview Éclat, foreigners represented 83% of buyers, with some South Asian owners, the second-largest group of buyers, taking on more than one unit, said Eddie Chow, a Senior Executive at the Hong Kong Parkview Group.

Spreading the message
To cater for this wider international demand, developers are now going further afield in their road shows and spending top dollar on their show flats. Kan Kum Wah, Head of Residential Marketing for Marina Bay Financial Centre, revealed that this year’s current marketing plans include exhibitions and talks at luxury property conferences in Hong Kong (twice), Shanghai and Dubai, to build interest and awareness ahead of their second residential tower planned for later this year or early next year. When the Marina Bay Residences’ first tower was launched last December, around 40% of the buyers were from overseas.

Kan said the presence of this new type of buyers was to be expected given the rapid expansion of the banking and financial sector due to Singapore’s growing reputation as a financial hub. He also pointed to a new trend, also evidenced in Parkview Éclat: the rise of the multiple home owner.

“These buyers typically own multiple homes in multiple destinations,” Kan said. “I envisage the buyers of high-end developments in Singapore owning homes in other vibrant cities like Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo and Dubai. These buyers are attracted by location, being near leisure and business districts, as well as quality and exclusiveness. Price is not the major concern with this type of buyer, and many are prepared to write blank cheques up to a pre-arranged price.”

Foreign investors are not only buying for investment but also to live in, property experts point out. Ong noted that foreigners have become more active in the resale market where they now account for 32% of resale apartment transactions. Unlike new projects, these homes are usually ready for lease immediately. Tay anticipates buying interest from foreigners will grow from strength to strength in the coming years.

“Singapore’s journey as a global property market has just only begun,” she said. “As such, we believe that to date, only a small fraction of the world’s high net worth individuals have invested in Singapore’s residential property market. We’re of the opinion that as Singapore’s reputation as an attractive country for investment, particularly due to our economic makeover, reaches out to an even wider global market, more foreigners can be expected to purchase residential properties in Singapore.”

Biggest UK property firm mulls break-up

Biggest UK property firm mulls break-up
September 7th, 2007 · No Comments

(LONDON) Paul Myners, chairman of Britain’s biggest listed property firm Land Securities, has ordered the group to examine a possible break-up, the Daily Telegraph said yesterday.

The move is one of the options being looked at as part of a wider strategic review in response to poor share price performance, the paper said, without citing sources.

A break-up is likely to involve the demerger of the firm’s property outsourcing business Trillium, it said.

Its chief executive Francis Salway said in June at the Reuters Real Estate Summit that he would not rule out spinning off some of its units, including Trillium, whose contribution to group earnings was likely to grow to 20-30 per cent from around 16 per cent now.

But he said then that the company would stick to a diversified business model, with its emphasis on both office and retail property, despite a view among some fund managers that Reit shareholders were better served by firms that specialised by property type.

Land Securities shares have fallen around 20 per cent so far this year.

Source: Reuters (Business Times 6 Sept 07)

HK not hit by sub-prime woes: central bank

HK not hit by sub-prime woes: central bank
September 8th, 2007 · No Comments

(HONG KONG) Information provided by locally incorporated banks indicates that their aggregate exposure to the US sub-prime mortgage market will not have systemic implications for Hong Kong’s banking sector, according to Hong Kong Monetary Authority chief executive Joseph Yam.

In his weekly Viewpoint column published on the Hong Kong central bank’s website on Thursday, Mr Yam said, however, that banks and other market participants should watch for risks and uncertainties.

‘Thanks in part to comparatively slower development of the credit derivatives market in Hong Kong, the risk arising from exposure to securities and credit derivatives with a sub-prime component is closely monitored by banks in Hong Kong,’ he said.

‘While some in the market are hoping for more government intervention in the form of interest-rate cuts or government-sponsored entities buying more mortgage-backed securities to keep the market going, others are projecting that the US mortgage credit quality will weaken further in the second half of 2007 or even well into 2008 as more sub-prime adjustable-rate mortgages reset to higher floating rates.’

He said the outcome of the sub-prime mortgage problem and its effect on the global economy are still unpredictable, and market participants should watch developments closely.

Source: Xinhua (Business Times 8 Sept 07)

Home shopping scales new heights

Home shopping scales new heights
September 8th, 2007 · No Comments

Two new stores widen consumers’ choices in picking the finest for their personal and office spaces as well as travels

FROM fashion, WingTai Asia Group subsidiary Wing Tai Branded Lifestyle has expanded into a retail segment that one would have expected it to move into much earlier.

As a leading Singaporean property developer, one would have thought that Wing Tai’s retail arm might have added furniture and home decor stores to its retail offerings long ago.

But better late than never, as they say. And now that Wing Tai Branded Lifestyle has stepped into this space, it’s not pulling any punches.

Zone Singapore is a one-stop store for home, bathroom, kitchen and office ware - the first franchise store in Asia for a Danish brand founded by Poul Jepsen.

Making its debut at Raffles City, the 2,500 sq ft store is set up to furnish all areas and rooms of a house. The 2,000-plus products are categorised into PersonalZone (bath accessories), LivingZone (living area), FoodZone (kitchen) and WorkZone (office).

Zone has teams of designers in Denmark, Hong Kong and China that conceptualise Scandinavian-style products.

The focus is on classic functionality and quality, says Mr Jepsen, who was in Singapore for the launch of the Raffles City store this week. ‘But we also want to reach out to the younger crowd, so there’s a variety of new materials used, like rubber and silicone.’

Mr Jepsen founded the brand in 1991, having grown up as part of a family with a homeware business.

Helen Khoo, executive director of Wing Tai Branded Lifestyle, says that Zone is an extension of the group’s lifestyle activities. ‘Shopping for the home has also become like buying fashion. Home furnishing is an expression of the owner’s personality. We had to look for the right partner to bring in - and Zone was just what we were looking for.’

Zone is run on a franchise basis, a proven and systematic retail model. ‘We’re not wasting a lot of time and effort reinventing the wheel,’ says Ms Khoo. ‘We just need to understand local consumers’ needs.’

Zone is distributed in the United States and some European countries and has standalone stores in Cyprus, Greece, Sweden, Bahrain, Dubai, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Hong Kong.

The company aims to have 100 stores by 2011.

In Singapore, Wing Tai Branded Lifestyle plans to set up three to five stores over the next two years, plus at least one in Kuala Lumpur by next year.

With products ranging from a slim satin-steel sugar dispenser at $12.50 to a saucepan with lid at $702 and a sevencm satin-steel York candlestick holder at $22 to a coconut designer vase at $162 as well as cotton washcloths at $8.50 to five-litre stainless steel pedal bins at $192, Zone is pretty much the equivalent of a high street fashion brand for homeware.

‘The choice of Zone as a partner reflects WingTai’s retail outlook,’ says Ms Khoo.

‘We started with mass brands that are affordable and accessible, like G2000, before we moved up the market to UK high street brands. Now, we’re concentrating on the mid to mid-high range of brands. We’re moving in sync with our property arm,’ which is now building luxury properties.

Mr Jepsen chose Wing Tai Branded Lifestyle as its local partner because of its retail experience.

‘We also prefer to partner with fashion retailers because they understand the way we display our products,’ he says.

‘Like fashion, we’ll have new products in the shop every month to create the demand among consumers.’

Zone is located at Raffles City, #03-25.

Source: Business Times 8 Sept 07

Horizon Towers deal in limbo as sales committee quits

Horizon Towers deal in limbo as sales committee quits
September 8th, 2007 · No Comments

(SINGAPORE) The majority sellers of Horizon Towers were supposed to get together last night to resolve a problem, but things ended up being possibly worse.

The sales committee quit last night at the meeting held at Holiday Inn Park View Hotel, and even up to 11pm, no new committee had been formed, BT understands.

The majority sellers who arrived with their lawyers in tow were supposed to decide how to respond to a lawsuit which they face brought by Hotel Property Ltd (HPL), Morgan Stanley Real Estate managed funds and Qatar Investment Authority after the en bloc sale of their Leonie Hill property fell through last month.

The Strata Titles Board (STB) refused to grant a collective sale order, saying that Horizon Towers had filed a defective application. HPL and its partners are suing the majority sellers for failing to file a proper application.

HPL and its partners in February signed a deal with 84 per cent of the owners of Horizon Towers to buy the property en bloc for $500 million, for redevelopment. There have been media reports that some sellers regretted their decision to sell at that price when neighbouring developments later sold for twice as much per square foot.

Last night’s meeting plunged into limbo when the sales committee quit. Sellers who appeared at the meeting said volunteers were being asked to serve on a new sales committee, and that two men stepped forward on condition they would be granted blanket immunity from legal proceedings.

However, they did not get their condition, and no conclusion was reached.

BT understands that by the time the meeting started, there were only three people left on the committee as the other members had quit in the past weeks. This fails to meet the quorum needed of five people on the committee.

Throughout the meeting that started at 8pm and was scheduled to end by 11:59pm yesterday, groups of people and individuals were seen leaving the ballroom at different times to discuss and to smoke.

The meeting was tightly monitored by about six security officers who made sure only majority sellers were allowed into the ballroom. Applause interspersed with cheering was heard at different intervals of the meeting.

The majority owners whom BT spoke to estimated there were more than a hundred people who turned up.

They had a mixed response regarding the outcome. One man seemed upset that the sales committee had quit and said: ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen now. Who cares?’ Another seemed pessimistic about the chances of another committee being formed: ‘Who would want to be on the sales committee now with the threats of legal suits?’

At press time, the meeting was still going on, BT understands.

Source: Business Times 8 Sept 07

Wing Tai leads 800m yuan development in Chengdu

Wing Tai leads 800m yuan development in Chengdu
September 8th, 2007 · No Comments

Consortium to carry out 900,000 sq ft project due for completion in 2011

A CONSORTIUM led by Wing Tai Holdings will develop an 800 million yuan (S$161.1 million) real estate project in Chengdu, China.

Under a memorandum of understanding that Wing Tai signed yesterday with China’s Chengdu Jinli Group, the consortium will own ‘more than 60 per cent’ of the joint venture, which means its investment will be at least 480 million yuan.

The project, in Chengdu’s city centre, will have a gross floor area of about 900,000 sq ft. It will comprise hotel/ serviced apartment, residential, office and retail space.

This is the consortium’s first move to create a real estate development and investment platform in China after it was set up earlier this year.

Wing Tai said in May that it would lead a multinational consortium to invest in and develop about US$1 billion of real estate in China.

The company entered into a strategic relationship with Germany’s SEB Immobilien-Investment, Forum Partners of the US and Israel’s Eilam Group.

The consortium said then that it would inject a total of US$450 million into the venture.

Wing Tai said that it will lead the consortium in identifying business opportunities and managing the venture and its assets.

It also said that the venture with the three investors is in line with its strategy to embark on a pan-Asian drive to increase its overseas earnings.

The consortium is now looking at other Chinese cities to expand into. The Chengdu project is expected to be completed in four years.

‘I am confident that we will successfully develop a premier real estate model that will serve and benefit Chengdu in its rapid economic development and growth as one of China’s leading cities,’ said Wing Tai chairman Cheng Wai Keung.

Wing Tai’s shares closed six cents higher at $3.36 yesterday. The stock has climbed 47.4 per cent this year.

Source: Business Times 8 Sept 07

ON the back of good demand for industrial space, JTC Corporation yesterday launched a 235,400 sq ft land parcel at Pioneer Road/Tuas Avenue 11

ON the back of good demand for industrial space, JTC Corporation yesterday launched a 235,400 sq ft land parcel at Pioneer Road/Tuas Avenue 11 for sale, and market watchers estimate that the site could fetch as much as $7.6 million - or $23 per square foot per plot ratio (psf ppr).

JTC launched the site after it received a bid of $5.9 million on July 18. Observers, however, said that the site could fetch more than the initial bid.

Savills Singapore’s director of industrial business space Dominic Peters pointed out that in February, an industrial site at Tuas Bay Drive/Tuas South Avenue 3 was awarded for $23 psf ppr. That site had a 60-year lease.

While the lease for the site launched yesterday is for 30 years, Mr Peters expects the site to fetch $20-23 psf ppr due to good demand. The price translates to between $6.6 million and $7.6 million.

‘We anticipate very strong demand from end-users,’ he said. Companies in certain sectors - such as oil & gas and construction - are doing well at the moment and could be interested in the site, he said.

The site has a 1.4 plot ratio, giving it a gross floor area of 329,600 sq ft. It is zoned for ‘Business 2′ use, which means it can be used for clean, light and general industrial purposes, and warehousing.

The land parcel was on the Reserve List before its sale was triggered by the $5.9 million bid. Now, it is being launched under the Confirmed List.

The government had previously announced that it will launch two industrial sites under the Confirmed List and seven industrial sites under the Reserve List in the second half of 2007 under its Government Land Sales programme.

The tender for the site will close at 11 am on Oct 18.

Source : Business Times - 7 Sept 2007

Horizon Towers sales committee tried to scupper the en bloc sale by rallying the rest of the majority sellers

Several members of the Horizon Towers sales committee tried to scupper the en bloc sale by rallying the rest of the majority sellers into going back on their collective agreement, according to an affidavit filed in the High Court yesterday by the buyers.

The claim is one of several in the late-night filing made yesterday by Hotel Properties Ltd (HPL), Morgan Stanley Real Estate-managed funds and Qatar Investment Authority.

HPL and its partners had in February signed a deal with 84 per cent of the owners of Horizon Towers to buy the Leonie Hill property en bloc for $500 million. The sale fell through last month when the Strata Titles Board (STB) refused to grant a collective sale order, saying that Horizon Towers had filed a defective application.

HPL and its partners, through their lawyers Allen & Gledhill, are suing the majority sellers for failing to file a proper application.

In its affidavit - a copy of which was obtained by BT - HPL and its partners alleged that some members of the Horizon Towers sales committee tried to defeat the collective sale by encouraging the other majority sellers to go back on the agreement.

The affidavit said an anonymous circular was sent to all residents of Horizon Towers in late April. The circular said: ‘If enough like-minded owners rescind the agreement and the majority falls below 80 per cent, the application to the STB can be repealed . . . With cohesive cooperation, this movement can be successful.’

The circular included a blank ‘Letter to rescind participation in the collective sale agreement of Horizon Towers’ and urged owners to send their replies to two mailboxes - which the affidavit claims belong to two current members of the sales committee.

The affidavit also quoted from other anonymous flyers sent to the residents of Horizon Towers, which said the sellers were being paid a ‘paltry sum’ for their development.

HPL and its partners charge that some of the sellers want to back out of the deal because they were unhappy with the price offered for the development.

There had been several media reports that some sellers regretted their decision to sell Horizon Towers to HPL and its partners for $500 million, when neighbouring developments - such as The Grangeford - subsequently sold for double the per-square-foot amount.

The buyers’ case is that the majority sellers of Horizon Towers did not do their utmost to submit a proper application for a collective sale order to the STB.

They said the sellers filed the application only in April - two months after the deal was signed, and just four months ahead of the deadline for the completion of the sale. The buyers said this was a ‘breach of (the sellers’) express obligation to apply expeditiously for the collective sale order’.

They also claim the sellers were ambivalent about the dates for the STB hearing and were slow in releasing documents which the objectors - the minority sellers who objected to the en bloc sale - had requested.

This affidavit comes just ahead of a meeting today of all the majority sellers of Horizon Towers. They are meeting to decide how they should respond to HPL’s suit.

The sellers need to decide if they should accede to HPL’s demand that the sellers extend the deadline of the sale by four months, appeal against the STB’s decision and file a fresh application to the STB, if necessary. Alternatively, they can contest the suit.

Source : Business Times - 7 Sept 2007

Naumi, the latest name in boutique hotels, opens in Singapore next week, with room rates ranging from $390 to $1,200.

Naumi, the latest name in boutique hotels, opens in Singapore next week, with room rates ranging from $390 to $1,200.

Located next to Raffles Hotel in Seah Street, the 40-room Naumi will offer mostly deluxe suites costing $500 a night - about the same as a room at a five-star hotel. But Naumi is a different proposition. Owned by the Hind Group, its managing director Surya Jhunjhnuwala says that the hotel will provide ‘highly personalised’ service.

The initial staff-to-guest ratio is one to one - and Mr Jhunjhnuwala still expects this to increase. His family owned the Imperial Hotel off River Valley Road between 1977 and 1999 before selling it. ‘We have always been keen to get back into the hospitality business,’ he says.

This time, Hind Group wants to focus on the boutique segment. Mr Jhunjhnuwala says that the target is to have hotels with a total of 1,000 rooms within three years, with the ideal size for a Naumi hotel being 30-70 rooms.

The group will look for opportunities in China, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Thailand and is still looking in Singapore. But it is not likely to find anything for $18 million - the price it paid for the Metropole Hotel in April 2006, which was converted into Naumi in eight months.

Indeed, it could sell the hotel now and make a tidy profit. But Mr Jhunjhnuwala says that although there is ‘a price for everything’, selling Naumi is not the plan at present. The old Metropole Hotel was gutted and given a hip makeover by award-winning local firm Eco-id Architecture and Design at a cost of more than $10 million or an estimated $250,000 a room.

Naumi is by no means Singapore’s first boutique hotel. Establishments such as The Scarlet, Hotel 1929 and the New Majestic Hotel are already popular with the fashion-conscious crowd.

But Mr Jhunjhnuwala says Naumi is less ‘thematic’. He is confident it will provide at least a 5 per cent return on investment.

Source : Business Times - 06 Sept 2007

A Goldman Sachs-linked fund is believed to be the buyer of Chevron House (formerly Caltex House)

A Goldman Sachs-linked fund is believed to be the buyer of Chevron House (formerly Caltex House) whose sale by CapitaLand and its partners was announced last week. The deal values the leasehold Raffles Place office block at $730 million or a record $2,780 per square foot (psf) of net lettable area. CapitaLand last week declined to identify the buyer.

Market watchers noted that Chevron House will be Goldman Sachs’ second major acquisition of an office property in Singapore. A Goldman Sachs real estate fund bought DBS Towers 1 and 2 on Shenton Way in November 2005 for $690 million, or around $800 psf of net lettable area.

‘They could reap a nice profit if they decide to sell DBS Towers 1 and 2 today, given that they bought the asset during the early days of the office market upcycle,’ an industry observer noted.

Industry watchers said that capital values of offices in Singapore today are around two-and-a-half times what they were in the final quarter of 2005 so based on that, DBS Towers 1 and 2 should be able to command around $2,000 psf or possibly even more, given the shortage of offices.

This is despite the leasehold tenure of the property. The older 49-storey Tower 1 was completed in 1974, while the 34-storey Tower 2 was completed 13 years ago. The property has parking for about 400 cars.

Goldman Sachs bought the property from DBS, which leased back the office space it then occupied in the two towers for an initial eight-year term, with an option to renew the lease for two three-year periods, according to an earlier news report.

As for Chevron House, the change of ownership is taking place through shares in Savu Properties Ltd. Basically, CapitaLand, IP Property Fund Asia and NTUC Income Insurance Co-operative are selling their respective stakes - of 50 per cent, 25 per cent and 25 per cent - in Savu, which owns Chevron House, which stands on a site with a remaining lease of about 81 years.

CapitaLand said in its release last week that the completion date for the deal is Sept 24, and that upon completion, it will recognise in its group consolidated accounts a gain of about $150.8 million.

CapitaLand also owns a 50 per cent stake in neighbouring Hitachi Tower, where an exclusivity period has been granted to a potential buyer to conduct due diligence after discussions with the previous top bidder hit some snags, BT understands.

If the latest negotiations for the 999-year leasehold Hitachi Tower succeed, a new benchmark price is expected to be achieved for a Singapore office block.

Source : Business Times - 06 Sept 2007

After the breathless rush earlier in the year, there was just a single collective sale in August - that of Margate Mansion at a modest $58 million.

After the breathless rush earlier in the year, there was just a single collective sale in August - that of Margate Mansion at a modest $58 million.

In contrast, the first seven months of 2007 saw a total of 62 collective sale transactions worth about $11.86 billion, based on industry figures compiled by Credo Real Estate. This reflects an average of around nine deals each month, worth almost $1.7 billion between them. The impact of the sub-prime mortgage woes in the US and the stock market rout that followed was obvious.

Credo managing director Karamjit Singh observed that the Singapore property market usually tends to take a breather in the third quarter.

But he expects the pace of collective sale transactions to pick up again in Q4 - assuming that the sub-prime crisis does not escalate further. Still, he does not expect activity to be as intense as in the first seven months of this year, before the current lull set in. ‘Any recovery in land buying would be resuming from a high base. Some developers have already bought sites, so their appetites are satiated and they would need to offload some new projects before they replenish their landbanks,’ Mr Singh added.

CB Richard Ellis executive director Jeremy Lake expects the number of collective sale transactions to average about two to three per month for the rest of the year. Contributing to this trend are high asking prices on part of the owners and upcoming changes to the en bloc legislation that could lengthen the gestation period before sites can be launched for tender.

Both Mr Lake and Mr Singh believe that benchmark prices may still be achieved for residential land in the months ahead. ‘The critical factor will be how the end-product market fares. If developers see strong home buying at their launches, they will keep replenishing their landbanks. If not, developers may be more selective about their land acquisitions,’ Mr Lake says.

DTZ Debenham Tie Leung director (investment advisory services) Shaun Poh reckons that over the next couple of months one is unlikely to see any benchmark residential land prices being achieved through en bloc sales. He felt that deals were likely to be in the $50 million to $100 million range and the buyers were likely to be smaller developers and contractors.

On a more positive note, Cushman & Wakefield managing director Donald Han felt that the current lull in the collective sales market presented buying opportunities. ‘For investors who’ve missed out on the action earlier, especially international funds, because the pace of transactions was too quick for them to do due diligence, this is the best time to come in and negotiate - on their (buyers’) terms,’ Mr Han added.

Credo’s Mr Singh noted that fundamentals in the property market were still very strong. ‘There’s still an undersupply situation, created by strong home buying since 2005 and exacerbated by the strong wave of en bloc sales which will cause a temporary withdrawal of supply as sites sold through collective sales are redeveloped. International funds are still prepared to invest in Singapore property because this place seems to have some exciting years ahead,’ he said.

Source : Business Times - 06 Sept 2007

Republic will power ahead with 7.5-per-cent growth this year.

WITH just four months to go before 2007 draws to a close, private-sector economists have given the economy the thumbs up, predicting that the Republic will power ahead with 7.5-per-cent growth this year.

This is up from an estimate of 6 per cent in the last Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) survey in June.

And next year, Singapore could enjoy economic growth of 6.5 per cent, up from a previous estimate of 5.8 per cent.

Interestingly, this optimism comes through even though the survey was done amid the stock market volatility last month over the United States’ sub-prime concerns.

The survey was released yesterday, almost a month after the Government raised its GDP targets to between 7 and 8 per cent on the back of a buoyant second-quarter showing.

The 18 economists raised their median growth forecasts for all sectors, except for marginal downgrades for the hotel/ restaurant industry and non-oil domestic exports.

Most notably, the construction sector is expected to gain 15 per cent for the year — up from 10 per cent in the previous forecast — overtaking financial services as the main engine of growth.

The MAS distributed the survey on Aug 13, just as global stock markets plummeted from fears of a worldwide credit crunch caused by rising default rates in the US housing market.

Citibank economist Chua Hak Bin attributed the optimism to an exceptionally strong second quarter showing here and the limited impact of the US housing recession.

He said: “One argument is that there are multiple growth drivers, and some of these drivers are actually because of the strong investment rebound. And the investment would continue regardless of what happens to external demand.”

But experts are split on whether the US housing slump — said to be the worst in 16 years — will affect the broader economy and spiral to Asia.

UOB economist Alvin Liew cautioned that the effects of US sub-prime crisis “have yet to unravel”.

Said Mr Liew: “There’s still a lot of uncertainty. But the US Federal Reserve has already shown the commitment to come in to ease liquidity.”

Last month, the Fed cut the rate on direct loans to banks in an effort to increase liquidity as investors shunned assets linked to sub-prime mortgages.

And last Friday, Fed chairman Ben S Bernanke said the central bank will do what is needed to stop the credit market rout from wrecking the six-year expansion — a move that some experts think will involve the cutting of interest rates, currently at 5.25 per cent, at a highly-anticipated meeting on Sept 18.

Said Citibank’s Dr Chua: “Once the Federal Reserve cuts interest rates, I think the market will probably stabilise.”

He also pointed out that the US consumer market was not as heavily hit this time, compared to the previous US housing recessions that took place at both ends of the 1980s, when both the mortgage rate and unemployment figures hit double digits.

Still, any slowdown in the US will also be buffered by the rosy economies elsewhere, particularly in China, said Mr David Cohen, director of Asian economics forecasting at Action Economics.

He added: “The fact that the rest of the world is pretty healthy right now is helping to boost US exports.”

Which is why economists are predicting a smooth end to the year, with continued growth in all the sectors — even as the US sub-prime woes loom large.

As Mr Liew put it: “We already have three quarters of growth in the bag. I don’t see how we can drop off to below 7-per-cent growth.”

Source : Today - 06 Sept 2007

Taking a cue from the government, private-sector economists have bumped up their forecasts of Singapore’s 2007 economic growth to a median of 7.5 per

Taking a cue from the government, private-sector economists have bumped up their forecasts of Singapore’s 2007 economic growth to a median of 7.5 per cent, with the most optimistic gunning for 8.1 per cent.

The 7.5 per cent forecast from 18 respondents to the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s quarterly survey of professional forecasters last month is 1.5 percentage points higher than the May poll’s results - and smack in the middle of the latest revised 7-8 per cent official growth forecast.

The 2007 growth forecasts from the latest MAS poll - which range from 6.7 to 8.1 per cent - are heavily skewed towards the high end.

The survey respondents put a near-50 per cent chance on the economy growing 7 to 7.9 per cent this year and a 23 per cent probability that growth will be in the 8 to 8.9 per cent range.

The economy grew 7.6 per cent in the first six months of 2007, and the forecasters expect the pace to continue in the second half.

The economists see third-quarter growth at a median 7.8 per cent, and fourth quarter at 7.6 per cent. Growth this year is expected to be driven by two resurgent sectors in particular - financial services and construction.

The forecasters see financial services growing a median 12.2 per cent in Q3 and 13.5 per cent year-round.

For construction, the estimates are a median 15 per cent growth, for both Q3 and year-round. The sector grew 17.6 in Q2, when overall GDP expanded a blistering 8.6 per cent.

Among other key indicators, the economists forecast inflation to come in at 1.5 per cent this year and the jobless rate to edge down to 2.5 per cent by year-end.

Next year, GDP growth is projected to moderate to 6.5 per cent. This too has been raised from an earlier estimate of 5.8 per cent in the previous survey. The economists reckoned that the Singapore economy will most likely grow between 6 and 6.9 per cent.

Source : Business Times - 06 Sept 2007

MACARTHURCOOK Industrial Reit (MI-Reit) said independent revaluations of six of its properties have resulted in the total value

MACARTHURCOOK Industrial Reit (MI-Reit) said independent revaluations of six of its properties have resulted in the total value of its initial portfolio of 12 properties standing now at $346.8 million, a rise of $30.6 million or 9.7 per cent.

MacarthurCook Investment Managers (Asia), the manager of MI-Reit, has a policy of revaluing properties in the portfolio on a rolling basis throughout the financial year and in accordance with the property fund guidelines.

The initial portfolio of the real estate investment trust, which was listed on April 19 this year, comprises 12 industrial assets across Singapore with a combined value of $316.2 million at the date of listing.

The largest rise in valuation came from UE Technology Park - MI-Reit’s largest property by value - which saw a revaluation gain of $23.9 million, or 21 per cent.

The revaluations of all the six properties were conducted by CB Richard Ellis.

Just last month, Singapore’s fourth listed industrial Reit said it was extending its investments into offices and technology parks by agreeing to buy Plot 4A, International Business Park from Eurochem Corporation (a member of Tolaram Group), for $91 million.

MI-Reit invests primarily in industrial real estate assets in Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and China.

Last month, the Reit reported a distributable income of $3.9 million for its first quarter ended June 30.

Distribution per unit (DPU) was 1.52 cents, which, was 3 per cent higher than the forecast DPU of 1.47 cents.

Source : Business Times - 05 Sep 2007

INCITY Lofts, an eight-storey block of small office, home office (Soho) units at Beach Road

INCITY Lofts, an eight-storey block of small office, home office (Soho) units at Beach Road completed about three years ago, is being offered for sale at a minimum price of $70 million or $1,149 per square foot (psf) of strata area.

The land lease tenure of the site has been extended to a full 99-year term starting April 2004, after the building was completed.

InCity Lofts, at 700 Beach Road, is being sold by its developer, In-Space Pte Ltd, whose shareholders are said to include Wee Chwee Heng of Kumpulan Akitek.

InCity Lofts comprises a ground-floor retail unit as well as 54 Soho units - ranging from studio units to maisonette penthouses - spread across the second to eighth levels of the building, which has a roof-top pool. There are also 24 surface and covered carpark lots on the ground level of the development.

‘The majority of the units in the development are leased; and leases are mostly short-term, hence the new investor can reposition or re-let the building and ride on the strong office rental market,’ said Cushman & Wakefield managing director Donald Han, whose firm is marketing the InCity Lofts en bloc sale through an expression of interest exercise that closes on Sept 28.

Nearby commercial buildings like The Concourse are operating near full occupancy with asking rents for office units in the region of $10 psf a month, Mr Han said.

Assuming InCity Lofts units are rented out conservatively at $6 psf a month and based on a minimum price of $70 million, the net yield for an investor works out to over 5 per cent a year, he added.

‘This is a top-end yield play for investors looking for an aggressive rental with capital appreciation growth,’ Mr Han said.

InCity Lofts has a land area of 18,401 sq ft and a fully built up plot ratio (ratio of maximum potential gross floor area to land area) of 4.15.

Source : Business Times - 05 Sep 2007

Banks are tightening up on the way they lend money for buying homes while the property market is coming off the boil, housing agents report.

Banks are tightening up on the way they lend money for buying homes while the property market is coming off the boil, housing agents report.

With the world’s financial markets in turmoil, following a crisis in US mortgage lending to people with bad credit records, bankers in Singapore say that when it comes to assessing home loan applications, the ability of borrowers to pay is paramount.

The trouble in the financial markets, coupled with the ‘ghost month’ here which makes the third quarter traditionally a slower period for home sales, has led to asking prices easing, especially in the secondary market, agents say.

Citigroup economist Chua Hak Bin says: ‘Banks have definitely become more cautious.

‘Just look at The Straits Times classifieds - they’re flooded with speculators trying to offload.’

Dr Chua reckons that property prices have cooled about 5-10 per cent.

Knight Frank managing director Tan Tiong Cheng has a different take on the situation; he says prices from actual deals that he has seen have not slipped. ‘That impression may have come from those ridiculous (asking) prices,’ he said.

He said the apparent increased wariness of bankers was a reaction to the volatility in the stock market which was affected by the US sub-prime mortgage crisis. And bankers’ ‘natural instinct’ is also to be more prudent, said Mr Tan.

Generally, banks continue to finance a maximum of around 80 per cent of the value of a property, despite rules allowing up to 90 per cent funding. And some housing agents say banks have become stricter in valuations and are lending less than 80 per cent of the value of the property.

‘Banks control the valuations,’ said one agent.

The agent said feedback from buyers is that banks can’t match the valuations and they have to cough up more cash for the purchase.

Especially at times of rapidly changing prices, the notional value of a property as set by expert valuers can be adrift from what buyers are actually called on to pay.

Banks say they rely on their panel of experts appointed from property consultant firms for valuations.

Some also have in-house valuers to provide a view of the overall market.

‘In general, we will take the valuations by the appointed valuer as fair value,’ said Gregory Chan, OCBC Bank head of consumer secured lending.

‘However, where new benchmark pricing is concerned, we will take the average. Although valuation is a key component, a borrower’s creditworthiness remains the primary consideration in determining loan eligibility and some factors taken into account include income level, credit history and repayment ability.’

Helen Neo, Maybank Singapore head of consumer banking, said the bank does not discriminate against high-end properties, especially where purchase price is supported by valuation.

‘However, we would take a more conservative stance in terms of loan quantum should the purchase price exceed valuation significantly,’ she said. ‘However, for loans amount of $2 million and below, we require the borrower to use our in-house valuer.’

A DBS spokeswoman said: ‘In assessing loan applications, we accept valuations professionally done by reputable certified valuers who are on the DBS panel. In addition, we consider the buyer’s ability to repay and the purpose of the purchase.’

At DBS’s second-quarter results briefing in July, chief executive Jackson Tai said the bank had been taking a ’stringent view’ on credit quality and had ‘avoided any concentration’ in a single development or district.

At the very high end, foreigners make up a significant portion of buyers - and banks have been seeing more of such borrowers.

Edmund Koh, DBS’s head of regional consumer banking, said there had been an increase in foreigners taking up loans, from 5.6 per cent of the total new loans book last year to 7.8 per cent for the year to date. United Overseas Bank executive vice-president Eddie Khoo disclosed last month at the bank’s secondquarter results that foreigners account for about 10 per cent of home loans. Overall, too, the bank was being cautious, given the market conditions.

‘As you know, property prices are moving up quite rapidly,’ said Mr Khoo. ‘But what’s good is that we are seeing less than 10 per cent of loans being booked (with) more than 80 per cent financing. We have a good portion of customers putting in more cash and equity in the purchase of property.’

Dr Chua said that banks were becoming more cautious in extending property loans to foreigners, especially in cases where prices were sizzling and people were buying for investment.

Anecdotally, he was aware of several cases where people could not get valuations to match their purchase prices.

For the mid-tier segment and if it is for owner occupation, banks are still more relaxed in their loan criteria, Dr Chua said.

Latest official data show that borrowing by homebuyers was up 8.1 per cent in July, accelerating from 6.9 per cent in June.

Mortgage growth had been sluggish for several months despite the Singapore property boom.

In the 11 months to March, mortgage growth in Singapore remained under 3 per cent even though home sales surged.

A key factor for this is the popularity of deferred payment schemes offered by developers, and many of these projects are approaching completion.

Dr Chua expects mortgage growth to reach double digits by the end of the year.

UOB and DBS said their Singapore mortgage book grew at 15 and 14 per cent respectively in the first half of this year.

There is little similarity between US lending practices and those in Singapore, where the banks have a good buffer in their exposure to mortgages. Although the Monetary Authority of Singapore eased financing limits from 80 per cent to 90 per cent two years ago, most banks said the bulk of their loans are booked at not more than 80 per cent financing.

They also said that investment properties do not account for more than 20 per cent of total loans.

Source : Business Times - 05 Sep 2007

THE Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has put a residential site at Enggor Street on the Confirmed List of the Government Land Sales Programme

THE Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has put a residential site at Enggor Street on the Confirmed List of the Government Land Sales Programme for the second half of 2007.

Previously on the Reserve List, the site - Enggor Street (Land Parcel A) - is now almost certainly assured of a faster sale as it no longer requires a committed minimum bid before being put up for public tender.

The site has an area of about 0.30 ha and can generate a maximum permissible gross floor area of about 25,504 sq m (274,522.5 sq ft), and is zoned for residential use with commercial use on the first storey.

CBRE Research executive director Li Hiaw Ho notes that transactions in June and July showed that prices for units at the neighbouring Icon ranged from $1,150 psf to $1,700 psf while those at The Clift ranged from $1,400 psf and $2,100 psf.

‘The subject site can be developed into 260-300 apartments and assuming that it will take up the commercial option for the first storey, we expect that the site could fetch a price of $180 million to $200 million or $655 per square foot per plot ratio (psf ppr) to $715 psf ppr,’ said Mr Li.

‘At this level, the residential units could be launched at around $1,300 psf to $1,400 psf,’ he added.

In May, the URA announced that it would temporarily disallow the conversion of office use in the Central Area, which includes the CBD, to other uses like residential apartments until Dec 31, 2009, to curb further depletion of the existing stock of office space.

The move put on hold the strategy to revitalise the CBD by encouraging owners to redevelop their old office buildings.
Mr Li notes that the core CBD area has traditionally been a place for business and as such, human activities tend to be confined to business hours on weekdays.

But revitalisation of the CBD could continue regardless of the temporary halt on office conversions.

Already being built are Icon, Lumiere, The Clift, and One Shenton.

‘With the live-in population of the core CBD areas increasing in the foreseeable future due to the influx of residential developments, more complementary uses of retail, food and beverage and entertainment might prove to be sustainable on weekends and after hours,’ he added.

Source : Business Times - 05 Sep 2007

THE rejuvenation of Tanjong Pagar, right on the doorstep of the Central Business District (CBD),

THE rejuvenation of Tanjong Pagar, right on the doorstep of the Central Business District (CBD), is gathering steam, with a new residential site launched for sale yesterday.

It could feature one of only a few new condominiums to be built downtown for the next two to three years, property watchers say.

The 0.3ha land parcel in Enggor Street, behind Far East Organization’s Icon condominium, is earmarked for a residential development with shops on the first floor.

Right next door is another residential plot, of 0.28ha, which will be put up for tender later this month.

The release of these two sites comes after four other plots in the vicinity were sold over the past few months.

These are two office sites along Anson Road - on either side of Gopeng Street - and two hotel sites between Tanjong Pagar Road and Tras Street, near Amara Hotel.

A seventh plot, at Bernam Street opposite Fuji Xerox Tower, will be made available in December.

Together, these upcoming developments will inject more life and add more definition to Tanjong Pagar. The site released yesterday can host a 50-storey condominium. Similarly, 50-storey buildings can be built on the office plots.

Of the two hotel sites, one can be built up to 30 storeys while the other can accommodate a building of up to 20 storeys.

With the release of the new residential sites in Enggor Street, more inner-city dwellers will also be drawn into the neighbourhood, said property consultants.

Currently, the only two residential projects in the immediate area are Icon and Lumiere, which sits on the former HMC Building in Parsi Road.

Developers and investors keen on the city-living concept may be particularly interested in the two new sites, because the Government recently stopped allowing the conversion of office buildings to homes in the CBD.

This means that the two residential plots in Enggor Street are part of the few possibilities for a condominium downtown until at least end-2009.

Other options are the ‘white’ sites in the Marina area, which can host some homes.This policy may be what the Government is banking on to offload the Enggor Street sites, which have been sitting on its reserve list for land sales for at least four years with no takers.

The two were offered as a single parcel until late last year, when they were divided to make them more attractive. In June, the two sites were transferred to the confirmed list to be put up for sale at a fixed date regardless of bidder interest.

The site put up for public tender yesterday has a 99-year lease and can be built up to 274,523 sq ft of gross floor area. A condominium with about 255 units can be built on the plot.

A development on the parcel ‘will be attractive to urbanites working in the CBD’, said Mr Li Hiaw Ho, executive director at property consultancy CB Richard Ellis.

‘Investors are likely to benefit from the pool of expatriates looking to rent homes in the CBD,’ he added.

He expects the site to fetch $180 million to $200 million, or $655 to $715 per sq ft (psf) per plot ratio.

Based on this, the finished units could be launched for sale at $1,300 to $1,400 psf, he said.

Recent transactions at the Icon have ranged from $1,250 to $1,928 psf. The last recorded sale of a Lumiere unit was in May, for $1,602 psf.

Source : Straits Times - 05 Sep 2007

Their homegrown firm, Woha Architects, received the prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture yesterday in Kuala Lumpur for its residential project

ARCHITECTS Wong Mun Summ and Richard Hassell have reason to shout Woha.

Their homegrown firm, Woha Architects, received the prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture yesterday in Kuala Lumpur for its residential project 1 Moulmein Rise.

This is the first winning project from Singapore.

The award was established by the Aga Khan, spiritual leader of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, in 1977.

Attention is given to buildings that use local resources and technology in an innovative way and to projects likely to inspire similar efforts elsewhere.

The 28-storey 1 Moulmein Rise for property firm UOL Development, which was completed in 2003, boasts solutions to deal with high-rise living in the tropics.

One example is the use of monsoon windows, which are special horizontal windows in each apartment to let in the breeze but keep out the rain.

Other tropic-friendly features include designing the condominium to have a north-south facing (to avoid direct sunlight) and overhangs to provide shade.

Of the win, which is 13-year-old Woha’s top international award to date, Mr Wong said it is meaningful because ‘it looks at what the building does for the end-user, rather than just on how the building looks’.

UOL chief operating officer Liam Wee Sin said the award is international recognition for the company’s commitment to design excellence in the homes it builds.

The award has a triennial prize fund of US$500,000 (S$760,000), making it the largest architectural prize.

The prize money is split among the nine winners this year.

This is not the first time a homegrown company has won such recognition though.

In 2001, Singapore-based architect Kerry Hill won the award for designing The Datai resort in Langkawi.

The awards are handed out every three years. This year, 343 projects were presented for consideration and 27 were reviewed on site by international experts.

The award is governed by a steering committee chaired by the Aga Khan. Members include German architect Omar Akbar, Swiss architect Jacques Herzog and American art historian Glenn Lowry.

The steering committee selects the master jury for each award cycle.This year’s nine winners include the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Ethiopia, a school in Rudrapur, Bangladesh and the University of Technology Petronas in Malaysia.

The award ceremonies have been held in settings selected for their architectural and cultural importance to the Muslim world, such as Istanbul’s Topkapi Place in 1983 and the Alhambra in Granada, Spain in 1998.

This year’s ceremony was held in Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Twin Towers, a 2004 award-winner.

The awards were handed out by Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi and the Aga Khan.

Of Woha’s winning design, Ms Brigitte Shim, an architecture professor from the University of Toronto and a master jury member, said: ‘Woha’s way of handling the residential units and the site is sophisticated and elegant.’

Asked how they will celebrate, Mr Wong said: ‘By working harder.’

Mr Hassell said they do not know exactly how much of the prize money they will get but it will be used to fund research or set up a research grant.

Source : Straits Times - 05 Sep 2007