Real News‎ > ‎2014‎ > ‎April 2014‎ > ‎

16th April 2014

Singapore Economy

Feb retail sales down 9.5% due to CNY effects

Seasonally adjusted, retail sales rose 3% in Feb from the previous month

Source: Business Times / Singapore

RETAIL sales in February slumped 9.5 per cent year on year, distorted by base effects from the Chinese New Year holidays which took place in February last year.

This year, Chinese New Year fell at the end of January.

Stripping out the sales of motor vehicles, retail sales were down 9.2 per cent, data released by the Department of Statistics yesterday showed.

Retailers of food & beverages, supermarkets, wearing apparel & footwear, department stores, motor vehicles and provision & sundry shops reported double-digit declines in sales ranging from 10.5 per cent to 33.7 per cent.

-By Nisha Ramchandani

Singapore Real Estate

Developers sold 480 private homes in March: URA

This compares with 739 units in February and 2,793 units in March 2013

Source: Business Times / Top Stories

[SINGAPORE] Developers sold 480 private homes in March, down from 739 units in February and 2,793 units in March last year.

This brings the first quarter's tally to 1,791 private homes sold, down from 2,568 units in Q4 2013 and 5,412 units in Q1 2013, Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) data shows.

The muted sales were partly due to the low launch volume in the first quarter. Only two new projects were launched in March: The Santorini in Tampines and Ascent@456 at Balestier Road - 724 units in all.

This brings the total launch volume in Q1 2014 to 1,964 units - "the lowest quarterly launch and sales volume since Q4 2008 and Q4 2009 during the global financial crisis", said Colliers International's director of research and advisory Chia Siew Chuin.

PropNex chief executive Mohamed Ismail said: "The tight supply situation is a result of developers adopting a deliberate stance to time their launches and possibly adjust their pricing strategy appropriately before putting their product on the market."

Jones Lang LaSalle national director Ong Teck Hui added that it can be "daunting" to launch new projects in the current difficult market, since new sales launches after the Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR) framework was imposed have not performed well.

"Of all the new projects launched after TDSR was implemented, only about a quarter achieved a good take-up of 70 per cent and above, but in subsequent months, most of these projects still struggle to sell their units."

This feeds back into the cycle. "The unsold units in projects previously launched also act as a deterrent for new launches as it only intensifies the competition amongst projects for a limited pool of buyers," he added.

Although The Santorini sold only 76, or 13 per cent, of its 597 units in March, it became the top-selling project. Median prices for its sold units average $1,100 per sq ft.

Amid the bleak data, some consultants saw a silver lining in the rest of central region (RCR) and core central region (CCR). Colliers' Ms Chia noted that sales in the city fringes and city area improved 44.3 per cent and 1.9 per cent respectively in March - due to homebuyers picking up units from earlier launched projects.

In the RCR, Eight Riversuites sold 44 units, Guillemard Suites 14 units, and Bartley Ridge 12 units; in the CCR, Hallmark Residences sold 13 units, Liv on Wilkie nine units and Goodwood Residences eight units.

Head of CBRE Research, Singapore, Desmond Sim, said "realistic pricing" has helped to move more units in the CCR, where there may be "probable renewed interest".

"This is where we noticed that a large proportion of CCR units have moved, with 150 units sold over a launch of 42 units (in Q1)," he said. Prices for these units have come down slightly from their original launch prices, but one - Hallmark Residences - saw the steepest discount of about 15 per cent on its launch prices.

Analysts are expecting buying activity to improve in April, with sales volume likely to climb to 500 to 800 units, going by healthy interest in new projects Commonwealth Towers and Lakeville in Jurong.

Other projects in the pipeline include The Crest and Highline Residences at Tiong Bahru, and The Sorrento at West Coast Road.

"Now that the TDSR has been in play for nine months, the dust has somewhat settled and buying volume is likely to improve in tandem with the anticipated launch of attractive and well-located residential projects," said Colliers' Ms Chia.

Mr Ismail said existing launches are still fairly muted compared to pre-TDSR days as buyers become more selective and await more attractive entry points.

But he believes that the underlying demand for real estate investment is still present, going by the encouraging sales performance of Rivertrees Residences and Riverbank @ Fernvale in the mass market segment, and Hallmark Residences from the high-end segment.

"Potential buyers could be waiting for good bargains to come, so the key is to find the right price point at which buyers are comfortable with."

The figures exclude executive condos (ECs), a private-public housing hybrid. Including ECs, developers moved 535 units in March, lower than the 787 units in February this year and 3,072 units last March.

URA will release the final Q1 2014 figures on April 25.

-By Lee Meixian

New private home sales fall 35% in March

Source: Channel News Asia / Singapore

SINGAPORE: New private home sales fell 35 per cent in March from February, according to data released by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) on Tuesday.

Year-on-year, the number of transactions in March fell 82.8 per cent.

More prudent buyers, cautious developers and fewer new launches have led to the lacklustre performance in new private home sales last month, said some property-watchers.

According to the URA, 480 new units -- excluding executive condominiums -- were sold last month.

This is a 35 per cent drop from February's 739 units, after a recovery from January's 572 units.

Christine Li, head of Research & Consultancy at OrangeTee, said: "March is typically a good month to launch projects because there is usually pent-up demand in the market after the festive season. If you look at March 2013, there were five big project launches.

"It didn't happen this time round because developers are a bit more cautious because of the Total Debt Servicing Ratio Framework (TDSR). The biggest hurdle for buyers today is to get the loan quantum they want. And because of that, I think developers try to stagger their launches."

Only two projects were launched last month.

One of them is The Santorini, located at Tampines Avenue 10. It is also the top performer in March, with 76 of its 597 units sold.

Trailing behind are older projects including the 862-unit Eight Riversuites. Launched in July 2012, the project moved 44 units last month.

March 2014 has also seen some rebound in sales volume for older projects, said property analysts.

And this is likely due to a fall in prices.

For instance, the median price for a unit at Eight Riversuites was at about S$1,300 per-square-foot when the project was first launched. It dropped to S$1,109 last month.

As for specific regions, URA figures showed that sales in the suburbs led the way last month, with 299 units sold, followed by 54 units in the Core Central Region and 127 units in the city fringe.

David Poh, managing director of PropNex - David Poh & Associates, said: "You will see more launches in the suburban, that is why you are getting more response, more take-up rate there. Secondly, it is also because of the pricing. You realise that mid-to-high range properties, it is not something the man-on-the-street can afford."

Looking ahead, analysts said they expect buying activity to improve in the next few months, on the back of more new launches and interest seen in some upcoming projects.

Already, there is strong indication of interest for one such project located in Queenstown.

Developers Hong Leong Holdings of the 845-unit Commonwealth Towers said more than 1,500 people visited its show suites on the first-day preview and the opening hours had to be extended by another two hours.

But analysts said with the TDSR in place, buyers are expected to be increasingly price sensitive, and it is important for developers to price their projects optimally in order to achieve strong sales. 

- CNA/ac/de

Sales of new private homes sink in March

Analysts warn that low volumes could be the norm in coming months amid stand-off between buyers and sellers

Source: Today Online / Business

SINGAPORE — New private home sales sank back into the doldrums last month after showing some sign of life in February, and analysts warn that low volumes could be the norm in the coming months amid the continued stand-off between buyers and sellers in the housing market.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) yesterday said developers sold 480 private homes last month, a sharp fall from the 739 units they offloaded in February and the 2,793 units in March last year. The decline came although developers launched more units last month, with 724 homes offered for the first time, up from 691 in February.

More than 80 per cent of the newly launched homes were from the 597-unit The Santorini condominium in Tampines, developed by MCC Land. Only 76 units in the project were sold, as the developer had priced the homes higher than most prospective buyers were willing or able to pay in the current environment, contributing to the low overall monthly volume, analysts said.

“There were only two new projects that were launched: One of them is quite small and the other is The Santorini, whose pricing may have been perceived by some buyers as high. So, that resulted in the low take-up rate,” said Mr Nicholas Mak, Executive Director of Research and Consultancy at property firm SLP International.

Homes at the development were sold at a median price of S$1,108 per square feet, the URA data showed. Despite the poor take-up rate, The Santorini emerged as the best-selling project in terms of total units sold last month, followed by the previously-launched Rivertrees Residences and The Glades, where 35 and 27 homes were sold, respectively.

The other new launch, Ascent@456 at Balestier Road, failed to register any sale of its 28 units.

Analysts said repeated rounds of property market cooling measures and loan curbs, especially the introduction last June of the total debt servicing ratio (TDSR) framework, have made prospective buyers much more selective. As such, developers will continue to find it difficult to sell new units unless they are willing to price them attractively.

“Nowadays, it is extremely rare to find projects that can be sold out within two months. It now takes longer to sell out. We see big projects with more than 500 units sell 20 to 30 per cent at the launches, then 30 to 40 units each month after that,” Mr Mak said.

Ms Christine Li, Head of Research and Consultancy at OrangeTee, said the market for new home sales is expected to “gradually improve” in the coming months when more attractive projects, such as Lakeville condominium at Jurong Lake District, hit the market. However, the sales volume is unlikely to breach the 1,000-unit level that were the norm in pre-TDSR days.

“Sales will probably improve from the January-to-March period because projects in the pipeline generally have good attributes in terms of location. But the improvement will be gradual, and hitting 1,000 a month is very tough unless the project is very, very attractively priced,” Ms Li said. She predicted developer sales to range from 600 to 800 units a month in the following months.

Ms Chia Siew Chuin, Director of Research and Advisory at property firm Colliers International, saw “little respite” for the private residential property market in the short term.

“This is in view of the continued enforcement of the cooling measures, the tentative recovery of the global economy, as well as long-standing concerns of potential interest rate increases and a mounting supply of homes,” she said.

“In light of the various headwinds, the theme of affordability will persist and home buyers are expected to remain highly selective in their purchases,” she added.

Real Estate Companies' Brief

CapitaLand, CMA soar on delisting offer for latter

CapitaLand shares surge 6.5%; CMA leaps 21% to hit 52-week high

Source: Business Times / Companies

SHARES of CapitaLand and its 65.3-per cent subsidiary CapitaMalls Asia (CMA) surged yesterday on news of the parent's $3.06-billion delisting offer for CMA.

While the move is good news for CapitaLand's shareholders since it is earnings-accretive and increases the return on equity, it is unclear if shareholders of CMA will accept the offer, which is at a narrow premium to CMA's IPO price, analysts say.

Following the lifting of their trading halts yesterday, CMA soared as high as $2.21 before closing 21 per cent up at a 52-week high of $2.19, while CapitaLand shares rose 6.5 per cent to close at $3.11 after hitting $3.12.

CapitaLand's cash offer for CMA at $2.22 per share represents a 23-per cent premium to CMA's closing share price of $1.80 last Friday and a 27-per cent premium to the past one-month volume weighted average price (VWAP) of CMA shares.

-By Lynette Khoo

CapitaMalls Shares Jump on S$3.06 Billion Offer: Singapore Mover

Source: Bloomberg / Personal Finance

CapitaMalls Asia (CMA), Singapore’s largest mall operator, had the biggest gain since going public in 2009 after CapitaLand (CAPL) Ltd. offered to buy the rest of its mall unit to consolidate some businesses and boost returns.

CapitaMalls Asia surged 21 percent to S$2.19, the largest advance since November 2009 at the close of trading. CapitaLand, Southeast Asia’s biggest developer, jumped 6.5 percent to S$3.11. The developer bid about S$3.06 billion ($2.4 billion), or S$2.22 a share for CapitaMalls Asia, a 23 percent premium to the closing price on April 11. Trading resumed today after shares of both companies were halted before the announcement.

“CapitaLand’s offer to take CapitaMalls private is a win-win for both CMA and CapitaLand,” said Tricia Song, Singapore-based analyst at Barclays Plc. “Regaining full control of CapitaMalls should allow CapitaLand more flexibility, including the ability to streamline its organizational structure.”

CapitaLand, which owns 65.3 percent of CapitaMalls Asia -- whose Singapore malls include ION Orchard and Plaza Singapura along the city’s famed Orchard Road shopping strip -- sold shares in the unit in 2009, raising S$2.8 billion. The latest deal will help CapitaLand’s increased emphasis on mixed-use developments, those that include residential, commercial and retail projects, according to Standard Chartered Plc.

Different Market

Taking the unit private would raise the earnings per share of CapitaLand Group by about 22 percent for the year ended Dec. 31, and improve the return on equity of the group to 6.7 percent from 5.4 percent for the same period, the developer said yesterday in a statement.

“The market has changed,” CapitaLand President Lim Ming Yan said at a press conference in Singapore yesterday. “Earlier companies were pure play residential, now companies are emerging that are doing mixed developments, which include homes, offices and malls. This move will help us compete better.”

Such projects include Project Jewel, a new development at Singapore’s Changi airport where a parking lot is being turned into a shopping mall and hotel, and the Atrium@Orchard, which has retail and office space along Orchard Road.

CapitaMalls Asia owned 105 shopping malls valued at S$34.3 billion as of Dec. 31, the company said in a presentation in March. The mall owner reported a 17 percent increase in fourth-quarter profit to S$216.4 million from a year earlier. CapitaMalls Asia holds S$1 billion in cash with a net gearing of 22 percent, according to a Feb. 14 report from OCBC Investment Research.

Earnings Growth

Singapore malls contributed 55 percent to its profit for the year ended Dec. 31 at S$405 million, followed by China, where its malls helped add S$262 million, or 35 percent of the company’s profit, CapitaMalls said. Malls in Singapore and China accounted for 86 percent of the company’s assets.

CapitaLand in February said fourth-quarter profit fell 46 percent after it recorded a loss on the sale of a stake in Australand Property Group and lower revenue from its Singapore home sales. Net income declined to S$142.9 million in the three months ended Dec. 31, from S$262.7 million a year earlier.

The transaction shows that CapitaLand couldn’t put the money to better use at a time when property markets in Singapore and China are starting to show some weakening, according to Samsung Asset Management Co.

‘Financial Engineering’

Singapore’s home sales dropped to the lowest this year in March as loan curbs crimped demand from homebuyers, a government report showed today. Chinese developers will probably face more challenges this year because of an oversupply of housing in smaller cities, according to a Bloomberg News survey.

“The company is effectively undertaking financial engineering to enhance returns,” Alan Richardson, an investment manager at Samsung Asset in Hong Kong, said in an e-mail. “The problem is these returns are still unsatisfactory relative to the cost of equity and suggests a lack of investment opportunities in an adverse environment of declining property prices in Singapore and slowing growth opportunities in China.”

CapitaLand’s offer works out to be about 1.2 times CapitaMalls Asia’s book value, which is cheaper than the 1.5 times book value when it listed in 2009, according to brokerage UOB Kay Hian Pte.

The offer is being managed by Credit Suisse Group AG and Morgan Stanley, according to the statement.

-By Pooja Thakur

CapitaMalls Asia shares surge after S$3b buyout offer by parent company

Source: Today Online / Business

SINGAPORE — Shares of mall operator CapitaMalls Asia (CMA) surged more than a fifth yesterday after parent company CapitaLand made an offer to buy out the rest of the unit to consolidate business operations and boost earnings.

Shares in CMA, whose assets include ION Orchard and Plaza Singapura, rose to a high of S$2.21 each when trading resumed yesterday, after Monday’s suspension for the buyout announcement. That reflected a 22.4 per cent intraday gain — the biggest since it went public in November 2009 — before the shares closed at S$2.19, up 21.3 per cent from the previous close.

Meanwhile, CapitaLand’s shares rose 6.8 per cent to a high of S$3.12 each before closing at S$3.11, reflecting a 6.5 per cent gain.

CMA and CapitaLand were the most actively traded stocks by value on the Singapore Exchange (SGX) yesterday. About 185.2 million CMA shares worth S$405.9 million and 50.5 million CapitaLand shares worth S$155.6 million changed hands.

Most analysts viewed CapitaLand’s S$3.06 billion offer positively: Singapore’s largest listed property developer currently owns 65.3 per cent of CMA and intends to buy the remaining shares at S$2.22 a share, with the intention of taking it private.

Barclays analyst Tricia Song said the offer is a “win-win” for both companies and an opportunity for CMA’s minority stakeholders to “realise value” as the shares have been trading at an average of S$1.83 since its initial public offering (IPO).

“Although it has been only three-and-a-half years since the spin-off of CMA, CapitaLand is offering to privatise it at a price slightly higher than its IPO price. Regaining full control of CMA should give CapitaLand more flexibility, including the ability to streamline its organisational structure,” she said.

Maybank analyst Wilson Liew also favoured the buyout, calling it a smart move. “If the privatisation is successfully executed, it would be one of Capita-Land’s most astute acquisitions, allowing it to leverage CMA’s retail expertise while keeping it as a key earnings driver … We believe streamlining of the business will be positive for Capita-Land, as it will be more synergistic to pursue integrated developments under a combined entity, rather than a consortium of related listed entities.”

Mr Liew added that the transaction would allow CapitaLand to make good use of proceeds raised from the sale last month of its stake in Australand, which amounted to nearly S$1 billion.

CapitaLand President and Group Chief Executive Lim Ming Yan said on Monday that integrating CMA into the group’s operations is a strategic move to allow the firm to react to changing market conditions more quickly and be more nimble in taking up integrated development opportunities.

The deal, if successful, will raise the company’s earnings per share for FY2013 by about 21.5 per cent and improve return on equity as at end-December from 5.4 per cent to about 6.7 per cent on a pro forma basis.

OBS, Wheelock offer $3.50-a-share for HPL

Market watchers suggest rival offer from Fu family could be in the offing

Source: Business Times / Top Stories

[SINGAPORE] Ong Beng Seng and Wheelock Properties yesterday jointly launched a $3.50-a-share cash offer for Hotel Properties Ltd (HPL), reviving market talk that the company would redevelop its substantive and adjacent assets along Orchard Road.

Announcing the offer on behalf of offer vehicle 68 Holdings, Standard Chartered Bank said 68 Holdings has agreed to buy almost 42 per cent of HPL for about $750 million from Mr Ong, his wife and his associates, and Wheelock, thus triggering a mandatory offer for the rest of the company.

Explaining the deal, 68 Holdings said: "OBS, as the co-founder of HPL, David Ban and Wheelock Singapore have been long-term shareholders of HPL and they share a common vision and strategy for HPL. They have therefore decided to consolidate their shareholdings in HPL so as to be in a position to cooperate and implement their shared objectives for HPL and to enhance value over time."

Yesterday's announcement said 68 Holdings has agreed to acquire 41.91 per cent of HPL, comprising 213.98 million shares at $3.50 each. Of this, 18.44 per cent is from Mr Ong and two companies controlled by him, Reef Holdings and Como Holdings, and 20.16 per cent from Nassim Developments. The remainder is from Mr Ong's wife, Christina; and David Ban and his wife, Pat; and Tan Zing Yan.

The offer vehicle is 60 per cent owned by Cuscaden Partners Pte Ltd and 40 per cent by Nassim Developments. Cuscaden, in turn, is 90 per cent owned by Mr Ong. Mr Ban owns the rest. Nassim Developments is an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of Wheelock Properties (Singapore).

Mr Ong, who is managing director of HPL, had set up HPL with his late father-in-law, Peter Fu Yun Siak. Mrs Ong and her three sibilings Peter Fu Chong Cheng, David Fu Kuo Chen and Juanita Fu Su Ying have a deemed interest of about 21.7 per cent in HPL. Mr Peter Fu Chong Cheng has an additional stake of about 7.1 per cent deemed interest, taking his total stake to nearly 29 per cent.

Interestingly, apart from Mrs Ong, yesterday's announcement did not indicate whether 68 has received an undertaking from the Fus to accept the offer.

The offer will be conditional on the consortium securing more than 50 per cent of the company.

Yesterday, Wheelock was up 7 cents at $1.815. HPL rose to $3.53 from $3.13 last Friday. Trading was halted on Monday. Some 2.96 million shares changed hands. Although this is a sharp increase from last Friday's 77,000 shares, they represent just 0.6 per cent of the issued shares.

Market watchers said this could be a sign shareholders are waiting for the independent financial adviser's view. Or perhaps they believe a counter-offer could be made - from the Fu family that owns nearly 29 per cent of HPL. A clearer picture could emerge in the days and weeks ahead.

68 Holdings intends to retain HPL's listing; however, if the free float falls below 10 per cent, it will reassess its options.

Gaining majority control would make it easier for the consortium to realise HPL's potential. The announcement immediately revived talk of HPL eyeing redevelopment of its adjoining assets 

in Orchard Road - the Hilton and Four Seasons hotels, Forum the Shopping Mall and HPL House. There was previously even speculation that HPL could persuade the authorities to sell to it the Angullia public carpark next door for a bigger redevelopment. Wheelock Place, an office and retail property, is separated from HPL's assets by the Angullia carpark.

Since Wheelock bought a stake in HPL in 2006, speculation has been rife that Wheelock could partner HPL to redevelop HPL's Orchard Road assets.

Wheelock estimates the gain on disposal of its HPL shares at $40.15 million. Its total cost of the shares is understood to be about $1.86 per share.

Cuscaden Partners and Nassim Developments each has the right to require 68 Holdings to effect a pro-rata in-specie distribution of all its assets to its shareholders on or after the fifth anniversary of the close of offer. If a deadlock occurs, each of them will have the right to require 68 Holdings to effect a distribution in-specie of all its assets to its shareholders on a pro-rata basis.

-By Kalpana Rashiwala

Wheelock, tycoon offer to buy Hotel Properties

Source: Today Online / Business

SINGAPORE — A consortium that includes Singapore tycoon Ong Beng Seng and Wheelock Properties (Singapore) has offered to buy out Hotel Properties in a deal valuing the company at about S$1.8 billion, the latest in a string of acquisitions by large shareholders seeking to gain full control of property assets.

68 Holdings has agreed to acquire nearly 214 million shares, or a 41.9 per cent stake, in Hotel Properties at S$3.50 each, based on stock filings. The group plans to make a cash offer for all the remaining shares it does not own.

“The partnership between Ong Beng Seng and Wheelock will work out well,” said Mr Terence Wong, Head of Research at DMG & Partners Securities. “Hotel Properties has underperformed compared to their potential, so this venture will help in co-development of properties.”

Hotel Properties, which owns the Hilton and Concorde properties in Singapore, has 28 resorts and hotels in countries such as the United States, Malaysia and the Maldives. It also develops luxury condominiums in Singapore and Thailand. The decision to combine will help “enhance value over time”, the companies said in the statement.

Together with a business partner, Mr Ong — who is also Managing Director of Hotel Properties — owns the majority of Cuscaden Partners, which, in turn, holds 60 per cent of the venture making the bid. Wheelock’s Nassim Developments owns the remaining 40 per cent stake in 68 Holdings. Agencies

Hotel Properties Climbs on S$749 Million Offer: Singapore Mover

Source: Bloomberg / News

Hotel Properties Ltd. (HPL), owner of the Four Seasons hotels in Singapore and Bali, jumped the most in almost five years after founding shareholders agreed to buy the stock they don’t own for S$749 million ($597 million).

The shares surged 13 percent to S$3.53 at the close of trading in Singapore, their biggest gain since May 2009. A company led by Managing director Ong Beng Seng and Wheelock Properties Singapore Ltd. (WP), which jointly own 41.91 percent through six stakeholders, offered to buy the shares at S$3.50 each, according to a statement to the Singapore stock exchange.

Hotel Properties, which also owns the Hilton and Concorde properties in Singapore, has 28 resorts and hotels in countries including the U.S., Malaysia and the Maldives. It also develops luxury condominiums in the island-state and Thailand. The decision to combine will help “enhance value over time,” the company said in the statement.

“The partnership between Ong Beng Seng and Wheelock will work out well,” said Terence Wong, head of research at DMG & Partners Securities Pte in Singapore. “Hotel Properties has underperformed compared to their potential so this venture will help in co-development of properties.”

Wheelock Properties rose 4 percent to S$1.815, the biggest increase since March 2012.

Ong owns the majority of Cuscaden Partners Pte, which in turn holds 60 percent of the venture making the bid, according to the statement. Wheelock’s Nassim Developments Pte owns a 40 percent stake in the joint venture.

-By Pooja Thakur

Keppel Land Q1 profit down 9.2% to $87.7m

Lower contributions from associates and absence of a tax writeback hit results

Source: Business Times / Companies

KEPPEL Land's net profit for the first quarter ended March 31 slipped 9.2 per cent to $87.7 million, dragged down by lower contributions from associates and jointly controlled entities and the absence this time round of a tax writeback.

Its revenue grew 37.6 per cent year-on-year to $284.9 million due largely to contributions from its China residential projects.

But the period registered a 26.3 per cent decline in the share of results of associates to $46.7 million, due mainly to lower contributions from Marina Bay Suites and Plot R5A of The Botanica in Chengdu which were respectively completed in June and March last year.

Taxation for the three months was $24.3 million against a tax credit of $4.8 million a year earlier. This was mainly because in the first quarter of 2013, there was a write-back of tax following finalisation of prior years' tax of several companies in Singapore.

-By Lynette Khoo

Keppel Land profit in Q1 falls 9.2%

Source: Today Online / Business

SINGAPORE — Keppel Land said yesterday it will continue to deepen its presence in its core markets of Singapore and China while strengthening its position in growth markets Indonesia and Vietnam, after reporting that its earnings fell 9.2 per cent in the first quarter.

Net profit for the three months ended March fell to S$87.7 million, from S$96.6 million last year, due to the absence of a tax writeback, Keppel Land said in a statement after markets closed yesterday. Of that, S$26.7 million came from overseas, up 63.8 per cent on-year.

Revenue jumped 37.6 per cent to S$284.9 million, due largely to contributions from China, where it sold 570 residential units.

This is fewer than the 850 units it sold on the mainland during the same period last year, but the company managed to achieve a higher sales value due to more luxury projects being sold, it said.

In Singapore, Keppel Land sold 54 homes in the first quarter, down from 59 units in the same period last year, as take-up fell due to mortgage restrictions imposed by the Total Debt Servicing Ratio framework and the Lunar New Year holiday.

Most of the sales were from The Glades in Tanah Merah. The group plans to launch its CBD-fringe project, Highline Residences, located near Tiong Bahru MRT Station, in the second quarter this year.

Keppel Land’s announcement came as Urban Redevelopment Authority data showed that sales of new private homes in Singapore had backtracked last month after showing some signs of life in February, with analysts expecting interest to remain weak in the coming months given the continuous cautious sentiment in the market.

The company said it will continue to monitor any risks to the group, including political and economic uncertainties as well as unfavourable regulatory measures, and will take the necessary actions to mitigate them.

Two new senior appointments at CDL

Source: Business Times

City Developments (CDL) has made two new appointments to its senior management team. Sherman Kwek - son of CDL's executive chairman Kwek Leng Beng - has been appointed chief investment officer of CDL in addition to his role of CEO of CDL China Limited, a subsidiary of CDL. At the same time, Kwek Eik Sheng - son of Kwek Leng Joo, CDL's deputy chairman - has been made CDL's chief strategy officer.

Croesus Retail Trust

Source: Business Times / Singapore Market

Croesus Retail Trust (CRT) offers higher-than-market distribution yields, estimated at 8.34 per cent. We benchmark CRT to its rightful competitors - Japan Reits. Based on current data, Japan Reits are trading at an average distribution yield of about 4.2 per cent. Additionally, 95 per cent of all Japan Reits are found within a tight distribution yield range, between 3.1 per cent and 4.9 per cent.

Singapore's Hospitality Sector

Source: Business Times 

2014 is shaping up to be better for hoteliers than previously thought. New hotel completions, based on our channel checks, are expected to be fewer than expected, as almost one-third of the planned hotel pipeline or about 987 rooms may be delayed till 2015. This means that actual supply growth may only be about 3.5 per cent y-o-y, with openings mainly skewed towards the end of 2014.

Global Economy & Global Real Estate

Ascott makes foray into Tokyo

Source: Business Times / Companies

CAPITALAND is making an investment in the future of Tokyo as a business and residential centre via its wholly owned subsidiary, The Ascott, which has signed a master lease agreement with Mitsubishi Estate Company to provide serviced apartments in the Japanese capital.

The move comes at a time when the world's third-largest economy is recovering from years of stagnation and when land prices in Tokyo and other leading Japanese cities have begun rising after a very lengthy period of decline.

The Business Times understands that at least one Singapore-based resort hotel group is also considering investments in Japan as the level of interest from Asia and elsewhere in the Japanese property market increases.

The 129-unit Ascott Marunouchi Tokyo residential apartment development in Tokyo's prime commercial centre is due to open in 2017, ahead of the 2020 Olympics to be held in the city.

-By Anthony Rowley in Tokyo

March CPI up due to costlier food, rentals

Source: Business Times / World

[WASHINGTON] US consumer prices rose slightly more than expected in March, suggesting a disinflationary trend had run its course.

While the increase last month should allay concerns among some Federal Reserve officials that inflation was too tame, price pressures remain subdued enough for the US central bank to keep interest rates low for a while.

The Labor Department said yesterday its Consumer Price Index increased 0.2 per cent in March, as a rise in food and shelter costs offset a decline in gasoline prices. The CPI index had gained 0.1 per cent in February.

In the 12 months till March, consumer prices increased 1.5 per cent after rising 1.1 per cent over the 12 months till February.

NYC Landlord Gets Stock Listing in Latest for REIT Empire

Source: Bloomberg / Personal Finance

New York landlord led by Nicholas Schorsch became the first publicly traded real estate company focused solely on the city with its listing on the New York Stock Exchange today.

New York REIT Inc. has bought properties valued at about $2.7 billion, mostly in Manhattan, since 2010, when it began as a nonlisted real estate investment trust sponsored by Schorsch’s AR Capital. Schorsch is the biggest fundraiser in the nontraded REIT industry. About $350 million in purchases are planned for this year as the company expands its holdings, which include a stake in Worldwide Plaza, a 49-story office tower on Eighth Avenue in Midtown. The shares began trading at $10.70 and closed at $10.75.

New York REIT, formerly American Realty Capital New York Recovery REIT (NYRT) Inc., started buying property during the earliest stages of the city’s comeback from the financial crisis. Since then, investor demand in Manhattan, perceived as one of the world’s safest real estate markets, has pushed up values of commercial buildings, which have recouped most of their value lost in the crash.

“There should be some nice locked-up gains in those properties,” said Dan Fasulo, a managing director at New York-based research firm Real Capital Analytics Inc. The REIT was “able to pick up some properties in some pretty hot submarkets in Manhattan just before things took off.”

Investment Yield

In the first quarter, Manhattan office prices averaged $696 a square foot, up from $314 a square foot in the second quarter of 2010, when New York REIT began operations, according to Real Capital. In the same period, the average capitalization rate, a measure of yield for real estate investors, dropped to 4.4 percent from 6.6 percent. A cap rate, derived by dividing a property’s net operating income by its purchase price, falls as prices rise.

New York REIT focuses on owning high-quality office and retail properties that are 80 percent or more occupied at the time of purchase, according to its annual report.

The company has an option to buy the rest of Worldwide Plaza and is seeking more retail real estate, office buildings that have space for stores, and parking garages, according to Schorsch, who is chairman and chief executive officer. The REIT won’t be competing with investors including sovereign-wealth funds for Manhattan’s most sought-after skyscrapers, he said.

“We’re not trying to buy trophy buildings on Park Avenue,” Schorsch said in an interview. “There’s no money in that.”

Three Players

While other public REITs are heavily invested in New York, Schorsch’s company is the only one that exclusively owns buildings in the city. Ninety-six percent of its 3.1 million square feet (288,000 square meters) of real estate is in Manhattan and the rest is in Brooklyn and Queens, according to a March 31 regulatory filing.

The beginning of share trading is “one of the most unusual deals because there’s only been three New York-centric REITs ever listed,” Schorsch said, referring to SL Green Realty Corp. (SLG) and Empire State Realty Trust Inc. (ESRT), which both own buildings outside the city. “There’s plenty of room in every market for three top players.”

The companies have outperformed the broader U.S. REIT market. Empire State Realty, owner of Manhattan’s iconic Empire State Building, climbed 14 percent since its initial public offering in October 2013. SL Green rose 13 percent in the same period, compared with a 6.7 percent advance for the 141-company Bloomberg REIT Index.

Times Square

Among New York REIT’s $1.8 billion of deals last year was the purchase in December of 1440 Broadway, a 25-story office building near Times Square, for $528.6 million.

In October, it bought a 49 percent stake in Worldwide Plaza for $220 million in a transaction that gave the REIT an option to acquire the remaining share in three years. The 1.8 million-square-foot tower, between West 49th and West 50th streets, is about 91 percent leased to tenants such as Nomura Holding America Inc. and law firm Cravath Swaine & Moore LLP.

New York REIT has overvalued its portfolio, given the location and age of the properties, according to Ian Goltra, a money manager at Forward Management LLC in San Francisco. Investors may have more success buying shares of other REITs that have buildings in New York, such as Boston Properties Inc. (BXP) and Vornado Realty Trust (VNO), he said.

‘Fully Priced’

“The stock is fully priced where it trades today,” Goltra said in a telephone interview. “The upside in the New York market can be better captured in SL Green or Boston Properties or Vornado.”

Forward, which has more than $5 billion of assets under management, owns shares in those three companies and none in New York REIT, Goltra said.

New York REIT plans to boost income by increasing occupancies at its properties and raising rents where leases are below market rates, according to Schorsch.

“It’s an extraordinary time in the market,” he said. “We think there’s a lot of upside.”

Office rents in Manhattan are climbing as employment improves and growing technology and media companies seek more space. Landlords sought an average of $65.10 a square foot in the first quarter, up 8.6 percent from a year earlier, according to brokerage Studley Inc. The availability rate, a measure of empty space and offices scheduled to become vacant in the next 12 months, was 11.4 percent, down from 12.6 percent.

Growth Potential

New York REIT, which will be listed under the symbol NYRT, has diversified in Manhattan by buying in submarkets that have good growth potential, said Woody Heller, an investment-sales broker at Studley, which arranged the purchase of an office building on West 38th Street for Schorsch’s company.

Among the landlord’s properties is 218 W. 18th St., an office building in midtown south, the area where demand from technology firms has helped tighten vacancies and push up rents. The 166,000-square-foot property is 84 percent occupied.

Buying real estate in New York isn’t without risk. Office-building values in Midtown fell 55 percent from the highs of the commercial-property boom to the bottom in 2009, according to an index by Newport Beach, California-based research firm Green Street Advisors Inc. The gauge has gained back most of those losses, coming within 9 percent of its 2007 peak last month.

Shareholder Liquidity

REITs performed poorly in the real estate crash and recession, including those focused on New York. SL Green, the city’s largest office landlord, is trading 35 percent below its February 2007 peak of $156.10. The Bloomberg REIT index has lost about 20 percent since then.

Nontraded REITs, which mainly attract money from individual investors, have a finite life and eventually have to provide liquidity to shareholders. That can happen through a sale of the company or a stock-exchange listing.

American Realty Capital Healthcare Trust Inc. (HCT), an owner of senior housing, medical-office buildings and hospitals, began trading on April 7 on the Nasdaq Global Select Market after starting out as a nonlisted REIT sponsored by AR Capital.

Schorsch is also chairman of American Realty Capital Properties Inc. (ARCP), which first sold shares to the public in September 2011 and had a stock-market value of $67 million at the end of that month. Through acquisitions, the company grew to become the biggest U.S. landlord of single-tenant buildings -- those leased to businesses such as drugstores and fast-food restaurants -- with a market value of $10 billion.

Spinoff Planned

American Realty Capital Properties plans to spin off to shareholders its multitenant shopping center business, which will own 11.8 million square feet of properties initially. The new publicly traded company, American Realty Capital Centers Inc., will seek to expand through individual and portfolio purchases as well as mergers and acquisitions, according to David Kay, president of American Realty Capital Properties.

“There’s plenty of product out there,” Kay said in an interview. “You’ll continue to see us grow that portfolio at a pretty aggressive pace.”

-By Brian Louis

Europe Property-Loan Sales Seen Up 65% as Debt Crisis Recedes

Source: Bloomberg / News

European real estate loan sales will increase 65 percent to a record 50 billion euros ($69 billion) this year as a receding debt crisis prompts investors to set aside more money for purchases, broker Cushman & Wakefield Inc. said.

The broker raised its forecast by 25 percent after transactions so far this year reached 29.8 billion euros, almost equal to all of 2013, according to a report today. This year’s total was boosted by the liquidation of the Irish Bank Resolution Corp., formerly Anglo Irish Bank Corp.

This year may mark a peak for loan sales after deals soared in the first several months, Federico Montero, corporate finance partner at Cushman & Wakefield said in a statement.

“We won’t see a quarter like this for quite some time,” Montero said. “Investor appetite is at an all-time high, with plenty of capital still to deploy.”

Holders of property loans including Ireland’s National Asset Management Agency are accelerating sales as economies in continental Europe show signs of emerging from the worst of the sovereign-debt crisis. Investors have set aside as much as 125 billion euros to invest in European real estate and credit linked to property, Cushman & Wakefield estimates.

Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, the lender 80 percent owned by the U.K. government after a bailout, may sell as much as 11 billion pounds ($18.4 billion) of loans in the next three years, according to the report. Permanent TSB, a Dublin-based lender, plans to sell almost 10 billion euros of assets “in the near future,” the broker said.

Lone Star Funds and its partners are the biggest buyers of real estate loans in Europe so far this year, spending 12.9 billion euros, Cushman & Wakefield said.

-By Patrick Gower and Neil Callanan

Confidence Among U.S. Homebuilders Increases Less Than Forecast

Source: Bloomberg / Luxury

Confidence among U.S. homebuilders rose less than forecast in April as sales and prospective buyer traffic stagnated, showing the residential real estate market struggled to improve after a harsh winter.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment gauge climbed to 47 this month from a revised 46 in March that was weaker than initially reported, figures from the Washington-based group showed today. Readings greater than 50 mean more respondents report good market conditions. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey called for 49.

Tight credit for some home buyers and limited availability of lots are restraining builder sentiment months after snow storms and freezing temperatures held back construction. At the same time, historically low mortgage rates and hiring gains helped drive an increase in the outlook for sales, the report showed.

“Builder confidence has been in a holding pattern the past three months,” NAHB Chairman Kevin Kelly, a homebuilder and developer from Wilmington, Delaware, said in a statement. “As the spring home-buying season gets into full swing and demand increases, builders are expecting sales prospect to improve.”

Estimates (USHBMIDX) in a Bloomberg survey of 49 economists ranged from 48 to 54. The March reading was revised from a prior estimate of 47.

The group’s gauge of prospective buyer traffic held at 32 in April, while the index of current single-family home sales was unchanged at 51.

The measure of the six-month sales outlook improved to a three-month high of 57 in April from 53.

By Region

Builder confidence deteriorated to an 11-month low in both the Midwest and West. Sentiment climbed to a three-month high in Northeast and was unchanged in the South.

Borrowing costs, which climbed in the second half of 2013, are starting to stabilize. The average 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage was at 4.34 percent in the week ended April 10, down from 4.41 percent the prior week, according to data from Freddie Mac in McLean, Virginia. The average from July through December was 4.37 percent.

Warmer temperatures and sustained gains in employment and consumer confidence are keeping mortgage lenders such as San Francisco-based Wells Fargo & Co. upbeat about the market’s prospects.

“The housing recovery remained on track, and should benefit from the spring buying season,” Chief Executive Officer John Stumpf said on an April 11 earnings call. “I’m optimistic about future economic growth, because consumers and businesses have continued to improve their financial conditions.”

A report tomorrow is projected to show housing starts rebounded to a 970,000 annualized pace in March, the first increase in four months, from a 907,000 rate the prior month, according to the median forecast of economists surveyed before figures from the Commerce Department. Starts averaged a 929,000 pace last year.

-By Michelle Jamrisko

Canada Home Buyers Back in Market in March After Winter

Source: Bloomberg / Luxury

Canadian existing home sales rose at their fastest pace in seven months in March, led by transactions in Alberta, as buyers returned to the market following a winter slowdown.

Sales increased 1.0 percent in March from the previous month, the Canadian Real Estate Association said in a statement today. The number of homes sold jumped 7.3 percent in Calgary and rose 8.8 percent in Edmonton, Alberta’ capital.

The data suggest Canada’s real estate market is recovering from the impact of one of the harshest winters in decades, which had compounded a broader weakening in the industry. The winter in Toronto, Canada’s largest city, was the coldest since 1976-77, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“There’s little doubt that winter’s icy grip prompted many potential home buyers to put off house hunting,” Gregory Klump, the Ottawa-based realtor group’s chief economist, said in a statement.

The real estate group had reported four straight months of declines between October and January, before the market began picking up in February.

From a year earlier, sales in March rose 4.9 percent, the group said. The average price of a home sold in March fell 1.4 percent from February to C$394,848 ($359,018).

While existing home sales increased, new home construction has seen a slowdown. Housing starts dropped 18 percent in March to the lowest annual pace since the 2009 recession, Canada Mortgage & Housing Corp. said April 8.

-By Theophilos Argitis and Greg Quinn

Former U.S. Embassy Property Collapse in London Kills Worker

Source: Bloomberg / Luxury

A building on London’s most expensive square that used to belong to the U.S. embassy partly collapsed yesterday, killing a 33 year-old man who was working on the site.

A 29 year-old worker suffered minor injuries in the accident at the Grosvenor Square site and has been discharged from a hospital, the Metropolitan Police said in an e-mailed statement today. Both men were on the building’s second floor when it collapsed, according to the statement. Work on the project has been suspended, the construction company carrying out the job said.

“We are, of course, working closely with the investigating authorities to ensure that a full inquiry is conducted into this tragic incident,” Declan Sherry, chief executive officer of construction company McGee, said in a statement.

Grosvenor Square is in Mayfair, an area popular with hedge funds and embassies and known for luxury stores and hotels such as the Connaught. An apartment on the square was offered for 5,130 pounds ($8,570) a square foot last month, a record for the district, according to brokers Wetherell and Knight Frank LLP.

The U.S. embassy no longer owns nor uses the building at 20 Grosvenor Square, known as the Old Navy Annex, and its London embassy is housed in a building opposite, Lynne Platt, a spokeswoman at the embassy, said by telephone.

New Owner

The Abu Dhabi Investment Corp. bought the Annex for 250 million pounds last year, the Guardian newspaper reported. Finchatton, a London-based developer, was appointed development coordinator for the project in May 2013, according to its website.

A spokeswoman for the Abu Dhabi Investment Corp. declined to comment.

The U.S. embassy building on Grosvenor Square was sold to a unit of Qatar’s sovereign-wealth fund in 2009, and the embassy is moving to Wandsworth, south of the River Thames.

-By Angelina Rascouet and Emma Ross-Thomas

Masco Bulls Eye Second Leg of Housing Rebound: EcoPulse

Source: Bloomberg / Personal Finance

Shares of Masco Corp. (MAS), maker of faucets and cabinets, are poised to beat the market as investors bet on rising sales of new and existing U.S. homes.

Housing-market turnover is the “macro variable that really drives Masco’s stock,” according to Walter Todd, who oversees about $950 million as chief investment officer at Greenwood Capital Associates in Greenwood, South Carolina. As a result, investors who are “positively inclined” about further improvements are considering shares of the Taylor, Michigan-based company, he said.

“The thought process behind buying this stock now is the housing recovery will have another leg up,” Todd said, adding that he currently holds shares of the manufacturer.

Masco’s products, which include Delta faucets, KraftMaid cabinets and Behr paint, sell at home-improvement retailers such as Home Depot Inc. (HD) and Lowe’s Cos. (LOW) The company, which declined to comment, is scheduled to release first-quarter results on April 24. The implied one-day stock-price move after it reports earnings is 4.7 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The company’s stock -- which closed at $21.53 yesterday -- has stalled in the past year amid “considerable moderation” in new construction, said Mike Wood, an analyst in New York at Macquarie Group Ltd.

Lagging Behind

Its shares have risen 6.8 percent since April 12, 2013, lagging behind the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index’s 15 percent gain as of 10:56 a.m. in New York. Sales of existing homes and new one-family houses totaled about 5 million in February on a seasonally-adjusted annualized basis, down from almost 5.4 million the same month a year ago, according to data from the National Association of Realtors and the Department of Commerce.

While Masco’s stock has “flatlined” for almost a year, investors now are signaling some optimism, according to Jim Stellakis, founder and director of research at Greenwich, Connecticut-based research company Technical Alpha Inc. Shares rallied 3.5 percent on Feb. 11, the day after the manufacturer reported fourth-quarter income of 15 cents a share, less than the 16-cent consensus of analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

“Investors are giving the company the benefit of doubt, even with this earnings miss,” Stellakis said. This shows they’re valuing it higher; other bullish signs will be if the stock trades above a May 2013 peak in the short term and an April 2010 level longer term on a relative basis, he said.

Outperform Recommendation

Wood maintains an outperform recommendation on Masco largely because he believes its sales will beat expectations as housing -- and particularly new construction -- shows signs of accelerating. This segment could grow in the “low teens” this year, according to his forecast.

Meanwhile, repair and remodeling work already has rebounded and could increase 8 percent in 2014, with the prospect of an upward bias based on information from electrical-equipment and lighting distributors about the sales environment, Wood said. By comparison, Macquarie’s March survey of buy-side investors showed they expect a 7 percent increase, up from a 5 percent forecast in September.

Home renovations are “perhaps more meaningful” to companies such as Masco, Todd said. “As people see the value of their home go up, they get more comfortable spending on that asset.”

Todd’s fund holds manufacturers Fortune Brands Home & Security Inc. (FBHS), PGT Inc. (PGTI) and American Woodmark Corp. (AMWD), in addition to retailers Home Depot and Lowe’s.

Rising Investment

Private-residential fixed investment -- including construction and major replacements -- rose about 13 percent from a year earlier to an annualized $531.5 billion for the three months ended Dec. 31, according to data from the Commerce Department. Advance first-quarter figures are scheduled to be released April 30.

Even so, “a lot of optimism is already baked into the price” of housing-related stocks, said Marty Leclerc, founder and chief investment officer of Barrack Yard Advisors, which oversees $270 million in Bryn Mawr,Pennsylvania. Masco needs to double its earnings -- an estimated $1.11 a share in 2014 -- to return to its 2006 level of $2.22, while the stock is trading at 29 times its price-to-earnings ratio, he said. That compares with a multiple of 18 for the S&P 500, according to his calculations.

Housing Crash

In addition, confidence among U.S. homebuilders rose less than forecast in April, as sales and prospective buyer traffic stalled. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment gauge climbed to 47 from a revised 46 in March that was weaker than initially reported, data from the Washington-based group showed today.

Masco doesn’t meet Leclerc’s criteria for investment and he’d consider holding it only if he thought housing was going to rally back to “exuberant” levels last seen in 2005-2006, he said. Sales of new and existing homes peaked at about 8.5 million on a seasonally-adjusted annualized basis in July 2005, before this market crashed.

Without signs of such a “gangbusters” recovery, housing-related stocks are “very speculative ways to play this theme,” Leclerc said. If investors think household formations will increase, Target Corp. (TGT) may provide a more attractive opportunity because it sells home furnishings, he said.

Housing Collapse

While many investors won’t be compelled by valuations for Masco and some of its competitors, these companies are “much better today for coming through the housing collapse,” Todd said. “They got lean and mean with their cost structures,” giving them earnings leverage.

There are other reasons to be bullish. Amid a backdrop of increased turnover in existing homes and construction of new ones, consumers are trading up to higher-end products and Masco is “positioned to capitalize on this,” Wood said. Strength in residential remodeling is Wood’s “top investment theme” now, benefiting Masco and Deerfield, Illinois-based Fortune Brands, maker of cabinets, plumbing supplies and windows.

After harsh winter weather stymied first-quarter activity, “there’s a pent-up nature to demand right now,” Wood said.

Masco expects “positive trends” to continue, including new construction, repair and remodel activity, home-price appreciation and big-ticket spending, Chief Executive Officer Keith Allman said on a Feb. 11 conference call.

JPMorgan Chase & Co., the biggest U.S. bank, also is optimistic. “We have growing confidence in the economy,” Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon said in an April 11 statement. “Housing has turned the corner in most markets.”

Wood forecasts Masco’s sales this year will exceed the $8.8 billion consensus of analyst estimates, which would be about 8 percent higher than 2013 revenue. Meanwhile, Todd is looking ahead to the second half of this year for further improvements.

“We like the home-improvement story in 2014,” Todd said.

-By Anna-Louise Jackson and Anthony Feld