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26th April 2014

Top Stories

Geylang's traditional character won't be lost amid modernisation: PM Lee

Source: Channel News Asia / Singapore

SINGAPORE: Geylang's traditional Malay character will not be lost, even as the area upgrades and modernises, and existing buildings are redeveloped, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Mr Lee was speaking at the 50th anniversary celebration of Pasar Geylang Serai, one of Singapore's oldest markets.

Opened in 1964, Mr Lee said the iconic market has come a long way, and thanked stallholders and residents for keeping the "gotong royong" spirit alive and well there.

He said that many events and activities are organised at the market by the Malay community, especially during Hari Raya, and that Singaporeans and foreigners alike have gone there to learn about and enjoy the Malay heritage, culture and cuisine.

He said both the market and the Geylang precinct as a whole will be upgraded and modernised.

Mr Lee also gave an update on construction plans being made by a workgroup chaired by Minister of State for National Development, Dr Maliki Osman, for the area's new civic centre -- Wisma Geylang Serai.

Mr Lee said: "Dr Maliki's workgroup has been very busy, and they are calling the construction tender later this year. I hope we can get a good offer, a good price, and a good contractor.

"And when the project is completed in 2017, I think it will be even better than before, with many interesting facilities and activities to bring the community together."

The event also saw the launch of a commemorative book on Pasar Geylang Serai. The book, titled "50 Years of Continuity Amidst Change", captures the spirit and history of the market as it evolved over the years.  

- CNA/ac

Woodlands “modern kampung” to foster greater community bonding

Residents in Woodlands are on their way to having a "modern kampung" in their neighbourhood as part of a vision to foster greater community bonding.

Source: Channel News Asia / Singapore

SINGAPORE: Residents in Woodlands are on their way to having a "modern kampung" in their neighbourhood.

National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan on Saturday officiated the groundbreaking ceremony for the new integrated development in Woodlands, which he also described as the Housing and Development Board's (HDB) version of a retirement village.

Named "Kampung Admiralty", it is part of a vision to foster greater community bonding among residents, as well as reignite the kampung spirit of yesteryear.

The development will be zoned into three tiers, and is touted to be a one-stop hub.

The bottom tier will feature retail shops and a community plaza, while the mid-tier will have a hawker centre with 50 cooked food stalls and about 900 seats.

A two-level medical centre that is the size of 100 four-room flats will also provide outpatient clinic consultation, day surgery, rehabilitation and diagnostic services.

The public can access these services after getting a referral from primary healthcare providers.

The top-tier will have two blocks of studio apartments comprising 100 elderly-friendly units. They will go on sale in July this year as part of HDB's Build-to-Order exercise.

The units will have new features such as a retractable indoor and outdoor clothes drying system and an induction stove.

Mr Khaw said: "In MND (Ministry of National Development), we are determined to help make families who want to stay together achieve their aspiration and the studio apartments upstairs, when completed, will be able to fulfil this mission.

“So in a way, this project is our version of what people have been talking about -- retirement village. This will be HDB's retirement kampung. We think it will be successful; we can then replicate it in other parts of the HDB towns."

Also on the top-tier are eldercare facilities and a childcare centre.

The eldercare facilities will provide both health and social care services which can support the needs of approximately 100 seniors per day.

The childcare centre will offer 200 childcare places, and provide full-day care, half-day care or flexi-care services for pre-school children, as well as a community park.

Sharon Tay, 50, who has been living in Woodlands for 17 years, said: "Our population is ageing so I think… it's good to have all these facilities."

Nikki Tay, a 34-year-old admin manager with two children living in Woodlands, said: "This area, the nearest hospital would be Khoo Teck Puat, so if there's another new medical centre, then anyone living nearby would benefit."

Kahbir Ramli, 19-year-old student and Woodlands resident for 10 years, said: "I can just… buy food from the hawker centre -- it's easier for me because the MRT is here."

To optimise land use, the project's basement will also have a car park and a more secure place for cyclists to park their bikes.

Many cyclists in the area currently park their bicycles in open areas. But when the new development is ready, they will have the additional option of parking their bicycles underground using a mechanical bicycle storage system.

The system will be able to hold about 500 bicycles and is a first in Singapore.

Construction work for the development is set to commence later this year.

- CNA/gn

Singapore Real Estate

City-fringe location keeps Bishan in strong demand

Source: Straits Times

Flurry of new launches in Bishan in the second half of last year generated healthy sales, but the cautious outlook pervading the property market is likely to cause prices in the area to moderate slightly, analysts said.

Private housing rental market seen being squeezed by 3 factors

They are record home completions, tighter inflow of expats, stricter property tax regime

Source: Business Times / Top Stories

THE private rental housing market is set to come under pressure on the back of record private home completions, a tighter inflow of expat tenants into Singapore and a stricter property tax regime.

Latest official statistics show that private residential rents slipped for the second consecutive quarter - easing 0.7 per cent quarter on quarter in Q1 2014. This was a slightly bigger drop than the 0.5 per cent dip in Q4 last year.

"What we have seen so far are relatively modest drops, until we feel the full effects of the new supply completions," said JLL national director Ong Teck Hui.

-By Kalpana Rahsiwala

HDB resale prices continue slide, down 1.6% in Q1

Downtrend expected to stretch further; but subletting deals hit record for a quarter

Source: Business Times / Top Stories

RESALE prices of public flats slipped for the third consecutive quarter, and analysts expect this downtrend to continue amid market caution and a large supply of new flats coming onstream.

Data from the Housing and Development Board (HDB) showed that resale prices in the first quarter fell 1.6 per cent from the previous quarter ago, following a 0.9 per cent dip in the third quarter and 1.5 per cent decline in the fourth quarter of last year.

Resale transactions fell 5 per cent in the quarter to 3,781.

-By Lynette Khoo

Did retail rents really dip in Q1?

Official rental index shows dip, but retailers disagree

Source: Business Times / Top Stories

THE Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has released, for the first time, what is said to be a more comprehensive set of data on retail space. But its rental index, showing rentals at retail malls in the Central Region dipping slightly in the first quarter, drew disbelief from retailers. Retailers and food & beverage (F&B) operators told BT that the marginal 0.3 per cent decline in the rental index from a quarter ago is puzzling, given that they have seen a steady rise in rents in their rental renewals with the landlords.

URA's rental index is flat from a year ago and rose 1.1 per cent over the past three years. The Central Region covers the core downtown area and city fringe areas such as Paya Lebar and Holland.

For the first time, URA's data includes non-shop space such as food and beverage, entertainment and health and fitness - which is applauded by analysts for factoring in a shift in leasing activity towards these sectors. But retailers felt that these figures still do not reflect what is truly happening on the ground.

"For every three years that our rents are being reviewed, rentals are going up steadily," said John Yek, managing director of RE&S Enterprises, which owns several Japanese restaurants islandwide. "For sure, they are not flat if I compare to three years ago."

Elim Chew, founder of fashion retailer 77th Street, said that rentals have soared over the past three years, prompting the company to close some outlets. The median rents may not take into account the component that tenants pay as a percentage of their sales.

Meanwhile, URA's retail price index for the Central Region showed a 3.2 per cent rise in the first quarter from a year ago and is unchanged from a quarter ago.

The discrepancy between the indices and ground sentiments could be due to the fact that the data looks at rentals and prices in the Central Region and excludes suburban malls in areas such as Jurong East, Tampines and Bedok, property consultants say.

More detailed information, however, is made available on commercial properties for free on URA's website. Office and retail rents can be searched by street name and includes far-flung areas where new malls have sprung up.

Alice Tan, associate director for consultancy and research at Knight Frank, noted that the indices may not be showing the full picture since suburban retail rents are excluded from the computation of the indices Ms Tan expects a 3-5 per cent decline in shop space rents this year from 2013 given the consolidation of business by retailers and stronger competition from upcoming retail malls in the suburban areas, including The Seletar Mall and Big Box that may open in the second half of this year.

"Moderation in rentals for overall retail space could be less pronounced at 1-2 per cent this year compared to shop space because of stable demand for F&B and entertainment spaces," Ms Tan said.

With some malls in the downtown area undergoing asset enhancement works, leasing activity may cool in the second quarter before picking up, she added.

Desmond Sim, head of CBRE Research Singapore, noted that there is still strong tenant demand, with tight occupancy rates seen in shopping malls operated by real estate investment trusts or Reits.

Though the vacancy rate for retail space has risen to 5.8 per cent in the first quarter, from 4.5 per cent in the preceding quarter, it is partially due to some projects being awarded TOP (temporary occupation permit) towards the end of this quarter, Mr Sim said. The stock of retail space increased by a net 19,000 sq m in the first quarter.

Some large-format tenants also closed their stores in the first quarter but these vacated spaces have secured new tenants or are currently undergoing asset enhancement, he added.

On the whole, landlords have not raised rents significantly beyond inflation rate, Mr Sim observed.

Retailers hold a different view, however. R Dhinakaran, managing director of Jay Gee Melwani Group, a retailer of international names in lifestyle and apparel, said that shop rentals have increased for the group islandwide. Rentals account for more than half of the group's overheads and its margins are squeezed, he said.

To cope with rising rentals, Ms Chew of 77th Street said that the company has moved into wholesale distribution, e-commerce and consultancy work for overseas brands. According to her, local retailers may be paying much higher rents on a per square foot basis in some malls than the international brands, which are more sought after by the landlords.

Kurt Wee, president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, noted that retailers and F&B players "have no bargaining power" and regulation is required to protect them from unreasonable tenant clauses.

URA data shows that there are 928,000 sq m of new gross retail space in the first quarter, of which 634,000 sq m is under construction. Some 256,000 sq m of gross retail space is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

-By Lynette Khoo

Lian Beng buys $46.2m Leng Kee plot

Listed construction firm to enter car business via JV with parallel importer VinCar

Source: Business Times / Top Stories

LISTED construction company Lian Beng Group has successfully bid $46.2 million for a property in the prime Leng Kee Road motor belt and is going into the automotive business.

The company has tied up with well-known parallel import company VinCar to form Wealth Assets Pte Ltd, a joint venture company which is 80 per cent owned by Lian Beng.

Wealth Assets plans to develop the land at 24 Leng Kee Road when the purchase is approved by the Housing Development Board.

-By Samuel Lee

Real Estate Companies' Brief

SingLand turns around as it heads for the exit

Source: Business Times / Companies

SOON-to-be-delisted Singapore Land is heading for the exit with a glimmer of hope, finally getting back on the growth path in the first quarter after six months of decline.

And hoping to keep all of that upside for itself is parent United Industrial Corp (UIC), which also reported a positive first quarter just two days after succeeding in its bid to take SingLand private.

SingLand posted a 10 per cent increase in net profit to $54.5 million, or 13.2 cents per share, for the three months ended March 31. It was the first quarter of growth since the second quarter of 2013.

-By Kenneth Lim

CapitaLand's Q1 profit down 1.7% at $182.8m

Singapore unit the only one that failed to record higher revenue

Source: Business Times / Companies

CAPITALAND yesterday reported a 1.7-per cent drop in first quarter net profit to $182.8 million. Revenue, too, dipped 3.4 per cent to $612.6 million, for the quarter ended March 31.

This was mainly due to a 37.7 per cent drop in revenue from CapitaLand Singapore to $196 million, the only unit that failed to record higher revenue.

"(This was because) sales from Urban Resort Condominium and The Interlace tapered off after obtaining Temporary Occupation Permit in 2013. There was also the absence of rental income from TechnoPark@Chai Chee which was divested in November 2013," it said.

-By Lee Meixian

CDL Hospitality Trusts DPS for Q1 up 2.2% at 2.75 cents

Source: Business Times / Companies

CDL Hospitality Trusts's (CDLHT's) income available for distribution per stapled security climbed 2.2 per cent to 2.75 cents in its first quarter ended March 31, 2014. Correspondingly, distribution per share for Q1 increased 2.2 per cent to 2.75 cents. Net property income rose 4.1 per cent to $36.7 million, on the back of a 15.3 per cent increase in revenue to $43.8 million, mainly due to its Maldives resorts, which recorded year-on-year revenue per available room (Rev-PAR) growth of 10.4 per cent.

GuocoLand back in black for Q3 with net profit of $21.5m

Source: Business Times / Companies

Guocoland returned to the black for its fiscal third quarter, posting a net profit of $21.5 million, or 1.72 cents per share, for the three months to March. The property developer recovered from a year-ago loss of $13.3 million as higher recognition for Goodwood Residence and Sophia Residence in Singapore and Seasons Park in China helped revenue to almost treble.

Frasers Centrepoint unit acquires Spain's Teycotel BCN

Source: Business Times / Companies

Frasers Centrepoint subsidiary FCL Ltd has fully acquired Spanish company Teycotel BCN for 948,000 euros (S$1.642 million). Teycotel BCN is the owner of Hotel Porta Marina in Barcelona, Spain. Teycotel BCN also holds all the shares in Teycotel Gestio Hotels, the hotel's operator.

GPH chairman acquires 75.94% stake in hotel chain

Source: Straits Times

Mr Koh Wee Meng, chairman of Global Premium Hotels (GPH), has amassed a 75.94 per cent stake in the company after the close of his offer on Thursday. On March 13, Mr Koh announced an offer to acquire shares in GPH for 33 cents each though he said he intended to maintain the company's listing status.

Ascott Residence Trust

Source: Straits Times

Ascott Residence Trust (Ascott Reit) reported revenues and gross profit of $80.4 million and $39.2 million respectively, which is a 16 per cent improvement on a year on year (y-o-y) basis. Performance was largely driven by a expanded portfolio from acquisitions made in China and Japan in 2013.

Ascendas Reit

Source: Straits Times

Ascendas Reit (A-Reit) delivered a firm set of fourth-quarter results. Net property income grew by 12.2 per cent year on year to $112.3 million, driven mainly by contribution from The Galen, Four Acres Singapore, Nexus@one-north and A-Reit City@Jinqiao.

Capitamall Trust

Source: Straits Times

First-quarter results were in line. Revenues came in at $165 million (up 6 per cent year on year) and net property income at $114 million (up 5 per cent year on year). Earnings growth was driven by higher occupancies at Plaza Singapura and Atrium@Orchard, as well as completion of Phase 1 of the IMM building.

Views, Reviews & Forum

Privatisation revitalising property counters

Source: Straits Times

Long-neglected property counters are getting a new lease of life thanks to the wave of privatisations. United Industrial Corporation (UIC) started the ball rolling on Feb 24 with its offer to take Singapore Land private. Then came CapitaLand's offer on April 14 to buy out all of CapitaMalls Asia (CMA).

Global Economy & Global Real Estate

Housing market in America back on the slide

March resales down 7.5% at 20-month low, February new home sales slump 14.5%

Source: Business Times / Wealth

AFTER a roller-coaster decade of boom-bust-boom, the US housing market is going downhill just when many economists thought that annual sales would be heading up. Sales of previously owned properties in March tumbled 7.5 per cent from a year earlier to the slowest pace in 20 months, while purchases of new houses sank 14.5 per cent from February, according to reports this week.

Mortgage applications to buy homes plunged 19 per cent from a year earlier, indicating slowing demand during what is typically the busiest season for deals.

The housing market's underlying fragility is emerging as outside influences that fuelled a two-year rebound are receding. Mortgage interest rates are rising from record lows as the central bank withdraws its stimulus, and investors, who had helped drive national prices up more than 20 per cent as they went on a buying spree, are now retreating.

-From Los Angeles, US

HSBC's London HQ in Canary Wharf on sale for record $2.3b