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The tripartite way to beat economic blues

Ahead of May Day, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say and Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) president Robert Yap on Wednesday separately called on labour, employers and the government to work together to pull Singapore out of the current economic funk and give the sluggish productivity movement an extra push.  Reminding the three parties that they have got Singapore out of economic slumps in the past - and emerged stronger - Mr Lim in his May Day Message said: "I believe we can do it again."

Singapore Economy

Labour pains flagged in central bank's macroeconomic review

Weakness in the labour market came to the fore in Singapore central bank's twice-yearly review of macroeconomic conditions, with slower wage growth and a rising resident unemployment rate expected this year.  But while softening labour demand and supply continue to dull inflationary pressures, they have already been factored in by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) in its latest policy move, said economists The Business Times spoke to.

Singapore's slow economic growth environment expected to continue: MAS

The slow growth environment is expected to continue for Singapore's economy as cyclical factors put a dampener on economic growth, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said in its biannual macroeconomic review on Wednesday (Apr 27).  The review contains MAS' analysis of macroeconomic developments affecting Singapore's economy.  Given a more modest pace of growth expected for Singapore's economy and core inflation, MAS moved to a neutral stance for its monetary policy, setting the rate of appreciation for the Singapore $NEER (nominal effective exchange rate) to zero.

Singapore sees broader weakening in economic activity

The global economic outlook has dimmed from six months ago, and this discernible weakness in growth expectations will weigh on Singapore's GDP this year more broadly than before, said the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) on Wednesday.  In its biannual macroeconomic review, the central bank stuck to an earlier guidance of 2016 GDP growth at between one and 3 per cent.  Striking a guarded tone, MAS warned of pockets of corporate stress, easing margins, and weaker business expectations, though the view does not suggest a recession.

$700 million investment in tourism: A shot in the arm for industry

On Monday, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran said that the Government was giving the tourism industry a $700 million boost for the next five years until 2020.  The money comes at a challenging time for the industry, which has seen slower growth in recent years as tourists tighten their belts ahead of a weakening global economy.  Growth is expected to slow to a crawl this year, with the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) forecasting a growth of zero to 3 per cent for visitor arrivals and zero to 2 per cent for tourism receipts.  But it is not all doom and gloom. There are bright spots, such as a burgeoning interest in outbound travel to the region and Asia's growing middle class, which will drive intra-Asia travel.

Singapore Real Estate

Blackstone to buy into three Sime Darby properties worth S$300m

Private equity giant Blackstone is understood to be stitching a deal to buy a majority interest in three Singapore properties owned by Sime Darby. It is expected to take a stake of about 75 per cent in entities owning the properties; the deal values the properties at about S$300 million. The yield, on an ungeared basis, is estimated at 6 per cent.  Sime Darby, the listed Malaysian plantation-based conglomerate, is selling the properties to reduce debt.  The properties are Sime Darby Centre at 896 Dunearn Road; Sime Darby Enterprise Centre, a light industrial building along Jalan Kilang off Jalan Bukit Merah; and Sime Darby Business Centre at 315 Alexandra Road (next to IKEA).

Courts' Causeway Point outlet gets versatile layout

Consumers at the newly revamped Courts store at Causeway Point will be seeing more frequent changes in layout and product placement with each visit.  The fourth floor outlet has been designed with modular elements that allow the megastore to move and change its displays, to cater to the changing needs of shoppers. For example, it has 20 tables in the IT section that can be switched out, to feature more laptops just before the back-to-school period for secondary and tertiary students.  This also allows the store to cater to larger products, such as speakers and printers when needed, without the need to adjust the display area permanently.

KepLand releasing new block at Highline condo

Keppel Land (KepLand) is launching its Highline Residences on April 30, with a new block which has 60 units released for sale. The developer had previously sold about 86 per cent of the 210 released units at private events held for registered prospects.  In September last year, KepLand said home buyers had picked up more than 80 per cent of the first 160 units released at its closed-door sales at an average price of S$1,900 per square foot (psf) after discount.  The developer had previously given an indicative price of S$2,000 psf for homes in the 99-year-leasehold condominium, which is located within walking distance from Tiong Bahru MRT Station.

4 blocks in Ang Mo Kio to be torn down

Ten years after they were first earmarked for redevelopment, four blocks of flats in the mature Ang Mo Kio estate are finally facing the wrecking ball.  Come February next year, Blocks 246 to 249 in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 2 and Avenue 3 will be torn down to make way for new homes, The Straits Times has learnt.  The open-air carpark between these yellow and white 12-storey blocks, which are 39 to 40 years old, will also be demolished.  Most of the soon-to-be-vacated site, just next to Mayflower Secondary School and across the road from Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, is zoned for residential use under the Urban Redevelopment Authority's latest masterplan in 2014.

Cautious consumers, falling retail sales, high cost and strong dollar leading to empty malls

Empty shopfronts and hoardings are not what you would expect to see at newly renovated shopping complexes, and even less so along Singapore's premier shopping street. Yet that is what you will find when you walk into many of the malls in town.  From Orchard Road to the Marina Bay area, malls are struggling with too much retail space, as landlords scramble to attract and retain tenants.  Stretches of vacant units can be seen in Claymore Connect, the former Orchard Hotel Shopping Arcade. It reopened last October after a revamp and two F&B units have already opened and shuttered in the four-storey mall.

Singapore fashion label Raoul closes boutiques to focus on wholesale business

Once considered one of Singapore's most promising fashion brands, Raoul is the latest casualty of the current tough retail climate.  In February, it shut its Paragon store, the last remaining one in Singapore for the brand. Owned by fashion and lifestyle group FJ Benjamin, its closure came after M)phosis, another home-grown label, also shuttered all its stores here last November.  When contacted, FJ Benjamin's chief operations officer Douglas Benjamin would only say: "We didn't want to keep the Paragon store open and pay the rents that were being asked. Right now, we are focusing on our wholesale business in the United States and Europe."

Style news: Audemars Piguet reopens at Liat Towers

Luxury Swiss watch brand Audemars Piguet reopened its flagship boutique at Liat Towers on Tuesday after 10 months of renovation.  The 10m-tall facade of the Orchard Road boutique is inspired by the trees in the forests of Le Brassus, a village in Vallee de Joux, Switzerland, where the 141-year-old brand was founded.  The three-storey, 2,100 sq ft boutique is divided into two main areas: The Manufacture, where timepieces are displayed alongside a watchmaker's corner; and The House, where customers can relax over coffee or champagne at the full-service bar.

No Tenants … And No Shoppers

The Straits Times, E-Paper, Page 60-61

Companies' Brief

Far East H-Trust warns of challenging operating environment

Far East Hospitality Trust (Far East H-Trust) chalked up a slightly higher distribution of 1.08 Singapore cents in Q1FY16 but warned that the local hospitality sector continued to face challenges from the injection of supply from new hotels and weaker corporate demand.  The distribution per stapled security (DPSS) for the quarter ended March 31, 2016 was up from 1.07 cents in the corresponding quarter a year ago. The DPSS is payable May 31.  Gross revenue was flat at S$27.37 million, while net property income edged up 0.8 per cent to S$24.68 million. Income available for distribution rose 1.3 per cent to S$19.44 million.

First Sponsor's Q1 profit rises 14%

First Sponsor Group on Wednesday reported a 14 per cent year-on-year rise in net profit to S$12.23 million in the first quarter ended March 31, 2016, despite a 260 per cent surge in revenue, as margins slipped with the emergence of problematic loans in its property financing business.  Its revenue surged to S$45.56 million during the quarter, underscored by an increase in revenue from the sale of properties by S$36.3 million and rental income from investment properties of S$2.6 million, offset by a decrease in revenue from property financing of S$6.1 million.

AA Reit posts higher Q4 DPU; warns of pressure on rents

Distribution per unit (DPU) at AIMS AMP Capital Industrial Reit (AA Reit) for the fourth quarter ended March 31 rose one per cent to 2.95 Singapore cents, from 2.92 cents for the corresponding quarter a year ago.  Gross revenue edged up 0.7 per cent to S$30.29 million, and net property income was 0.3 per cent higher at S$20.37 million.  In quarter-on-quarter terms, however, Q4's gross revenue was 6.9 per cent lower than Q3's S$32.55 million. This was mainly due to lower occupancies in December 2015 for Penjuru Lane and Pandan Crescent properties, as well as lower contribution from the property at 8 & 10 Tuas Avenue 20 due to "the fire incident," said the industrial landlord.

Global Economy & Global Real Estate

Higher rents, new properties lift Ascendas India in Q4

Bank of England won't hesitate to act on housing risks: deputy chief

Lone Star raises US$5.9b for real estate pte equity fund

Opening of new mall to add to South Africa's retail space glut

Brazil recession likely to fuel higher mortgage defaults: Moody's

America is finally putting the home foreclosure crisis behind it

Heilongjiang cuts land sales, offers buyers subsidies

Australian lenders clamping down on foreign buying of homes

Aussie banks rein in home loans to foreigners

Luxury Renters in New York Finally Have Leverage to Negotiate

$25 Million St. Barth's Estate Comes With a Mountainside Tennis Court

China's corporate debt problem needs urgent attention: IMF

Rent boosts MGCCT's Q4 earnings

The Business Times, E-paper, Page 6

Britain's high-street retailers face shopping slump