Real News‎ > ‎2014‎ > ‎May 2014‎ > ‎

5th May 2014

Singapore Economy

S'pore closer to infrastructure hub goal

Source: Straits Times

Seven global players in the lucrative infrastructure sector have decided to base key operations here. Their decisions, unveiled recently by the Economic Development Board (EDB), represent a major step forward in Singapore's push to become the region's hub for infrastructure development.

Singapore Real Estate

Barclays 'given up Marina office space'

Source: Straits Times

Barclays, the second-largest British bank by assets, has given up two storeys of prime office space in the new downtown financial district in Singapore, which has been leased to LinkedIn, said people familiar with the matter.

Barclays Said to Give Up Singapore Office Space for LinkedIn

Source: Bloomberg / News

Barclays Plc (BARC), the second-largest U.K. bank by assets, has given up two stories of prime office space in Singapore’s financial district, which has been leased to LinkedIn Corp. (LNKD), people familiar with the matter said.

Barclays returned about 60,000 square feet (5,575 square meters) at the Tower 2 of Marina Bay Financial Centre to the landlord, one of the people said, asking not to be named because the information is private. Barclays declined to comment in an e-mailed response.

The bank has been shuffling its real estate space in the city-state, where it’s moving employees from suburban offices to the Marina Bay area to cut costs. Monthly rents at the property in the central business district are now S$11 ($8.80) to S$12 a square foot, compared with S$10 to S$11 per square foot when Barclays moved into the building in 2011, said Donald Han, managing director of Chesterton Singapore Pte, a real estate consulting company.

“Social media companies like Facebook, LinkedIn are taking office space in the central business district in Singapore, whereas in other cities you won’t find them in the CBD,” said Chris Archibold, international director and head of markets at Jones Lang LaSalle Inc.’s Singapore unit. “They decided to be within the CBD in Singapore because they want to attract the best talent.”

Singapore Expansion

LinkedIn, the biggest online professional-networking service with more than 300 million members, opened its Asia-Pacific headquarters in Singapore in 2011. The company’s office is currently in the AXA Tower, in an older part of the central business district.

Roger Pua, a spokesman for LinkedIn in Singapore, declined to comment on the move. He said the company has 1 million users in the city-state and 50 million in the Asia-Pacific region.

LinkedIn last week gave a second-quarter sales forecast that missed analysts’ estimates. Second-quarter revenue will be $500 million to $505 million, the Mountain View, California-based company said. Analysts on average had been projecting sales of $505.5 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The Singapore offices of Facebook Inc. (FB), the world’s biggest social-networking service, and Twitter Inc. (TWTR), the microblogging company, are also in the central business district.

Most Affordable

Office rents in Singapore, ranked the most affordable of the top five major financial centers, including London, Hong Kong, Tokyo and New York, by Cushman & Wakefield Inc., are rebounding as robust demand amid high occupancy rates reinforce the bargaining power of landlords. Rents in Singapore’s central business district are expected to rise as much as 15 percent this year, broker DTZ Holdings Plc said April 3.

Barclays will terminate its lease on about 15,500 square feet of office space in a building in Tampines, an eastern suburb, and relocate the employees to Marina Bay Financial Centre by July, people familiar with the matter said last month. It follows a similar move by the bank earlier this year when it exited Changi Business Park, another suburban office in the island-state.

Barclays occupies about 290,000 square feet at Marina Bay Financial Centre, part of the 360-hectare (890-acre) Marina Bay development that Singapore started building in 2005 on reclaimed land located in the southern part of the country as its new financial district. The bank has another 96,000 square feet at One Raffles Quay, according to Barclays.

Reshaping Bank

Barclays Chief Executive Officer Antony Jenkins is reshaping his company’s investment bank amid pressure to cut costs, boost profit and focus on consumer and corporate banking. Jenkins will present a new strategic plan for the company this Thursday, May 8.

Barclays had 4,700 staff in Singapore, according to data provided by the bank in September 2012. In October 2013, it employed 3,500 full-time employees, according to a press release marking 40 years in Singapore.

Lester Lim, a spokesman for Raffles Quay Asset Management, which manages the property, didn’t respond to a phone call to his office or an e-mail. The office project was developed by Keppel Land Ltd., Hongkong Land Holdings Ltd. and Cheung Kong Holdings Ltd. (1), controlled by billionaire Li Ka-shing.

-By Pooja Thakur

Geylang Serai market to be linked to MRT station

Source: Straits Times 

By 2017, the five-storey, 10,000 sq m Wisma Geylang Serai will be built on the site of the now-defunct heritage attraction Malay Village. Besides shops and cafes, the new mall will house a community club, the South East Community Development Council (CDC) office, a Malay heritage gallery, and arts and culture groups.

Real Estate Companies' Brief

Straits Trading buys Suntec Reit units

Source: Straits Times

The Straits Trading Co, which is actively seeking new investment opportunities in real estate, has acquired a small stake in Suntec Real Estate Investment Trust (Suntec Reit). The real estate, hospitality and mining group said its subsidiary Straits Real Estate bought 35.1 million Suntec Reit units in a series of transactions for $60.2 million or about $1.72 each. They represent 1.4 per cent of all outstanding Suntec Reit units.

Views, Reviews & Forum

Buying studio unit one of several ways for seniors to monetise flats

Source: Today Online / Voices

We refer to Mr Jack Koh Chin Guan’s letter “Studios for seniors are too restrictive” (April 30).

There are various monetisation options for elderly flat owners to unlock the value of their flats and supplement their retirement income, should they need to.

For example, if the financial consideration is paramount, they could consider subletting a spare room or subletting their whole flat while staying with their children. In this way, they can collect rental income while enjoying family support.

For those who wish to live in the same flat and estate, they could consider the enhanced Lease Buyback Scheme if they are eligible.

If they prefer to live independently, they may wish to move to a studio apartment or a smaller flat and take up the Silver Housing Bonus if eligible.

Each monetisation option has its unique set of features. The elderly should choose one that best meets their needs and priorities.

Since its introduction, the studio apartment has been a well-received housing option, with the majority of units taken up at each launch.

Mr Koh may have concluded that the take-up rates are low by looking at the current units available for the three recent studio apartment projects.

We would like to clarify that these are not the final take-up rates. The selection exercises of these projects have just begun and only a small proportion of the studio apartment applicants have been invited to select a unit thus far. The actual take-up rates for each project will only be known at the end of the selection exercises, in about two months’ time.

-By Lily Chan-Wong Joo Choo, Director (Policy & Property), Housing And Development Board

Global Economy & Global Real Estate

US construction jobs making a comeback

Sector's rebound from housing crash reflects pick-up in economic growth

Source: Business Times / World

[LOS ANGELES] When the US economy crashed in 2008, following the implosion of the housing market, Dave Klein's southern California construction company almost folded. Overnight, he went from employing 40 construction workers to four. Some returned home to El Salvador, others to Mexico. Several left the state to find work in pork and chicken factories in the Midwest.

But in the past two months, Mr Klein said, some of them have returned as he has started hiring again - moves that reflect a recent trend in the US construction industry as the American economy continues to pick up steam.

"There is a little bit more money out there, and there are a lot of apartments being built," Mr Klein said. "So things are getting a little better. Some of these guys went into the restaurant industry, but they are coming back. Or friends of friends are."

The US construction industry has seen its largest gain in jobs since the start of this year, and the highest number since 2009, according to preliminary figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics last Friday.

-From Los Angeles, US

Globalisation still favours richest countries

Source: Straits Times

Myanmar lights up UPP prospects

Malaysian entrepreneur Tong Kooi Ong looks to frontier markets for more rewarding returns, reports ANITA GABRIEL

Source: Business Times / Companies

MALAYSIAN entrepreneur Tong Kooi Ong is making bite-size corporate moves into Singapore by snapping up stakes in smallish firms and rendering them turnaround material.

One of them is pulp maker UPP Holdings, a firm majority-owned by Singapore billionaire and close pal Peter Lim, which he bought into two years ago. Mr Lim is now UPP's second largest shareholder, next to Mr Tong who owns 28 per cent.

Based on his track record in Malaysia, Mr Tong's moves are well worth watching - very closely. The energised businessman who also owns the media group that publishes The Edge in Singapore and Malaysia, is gifted with turning modestly sized outfits not bigger, but strikingly nimble and innovative, making them stand out against their lumbering, staid rivals.

Case in point: Malaysia's PhileoAllied, a niche bank he founded in the 1990s which shook up the sector with its swift moves into online services and was later gobbled up by the country's largest lender Maybank under a forced consolidation. Later, he led niche property builder Sunrise Group, known for its upscale Mont Kiara development in Kuala Lumpur. He did that job so well that it didn't take too long for another state-controlled giant UEM to swallow up Sunrise, retain Mr Tong on the board (until late 2012) and rename the merged entity UEM Sunrise. The group is the flagship developer of Malaysia's booming Iskandar.

Most Asian companies eye Myanmar opportunities: UOB

Source: Business Times / Singapore

SEVEN in 10 Asian businesses are eyeing Myanmar as an untapped investment hotspot, according to a UOB survey.

The survey, conducted between February and March, polled 108 corporate banking and commercial banking customers across Asia. The respondents had an average turnover of more than $50 million.

The survey found that 46 per cent of respondents viewed Myanmar as an opportunity to provide goods and services to the country's growing middle class, while 41 per cent cited the significant opportunities as a result of Myanmar's rapid transformation.

Ivan Chu, business operations manager of Soon Hong Seng Pte Ltd, a hardware and safety equipment supplier, said: "Myanmar's fast-growing economy and its need for infrastructural development mean that there is a ready market for our hardware tools and safety products.

BOE seen reining in house prices soon

Deputy governor tells bankers it would be dangerous to ignore rise

Source: Business Times / World

[LONDON] The Bank of England's starkest warning so far about Britain's booming house prices is likely to be followed by cautious measures, possibly as soon as next month, as policymakers test out their new powers.

Deputy governor Jon Cunliffe told bankers late on Thursday that it would be "dangerous" to ignore the rapid rise in house prices, which are up nearly 11 per cent over the past year - the kind of increase last seen on the eve of the financial crisis.

Two other senior BOE officials expressed similar worries when quizzed on Wednesday by lawmakers.

The focus is squarely on the June 17 meeting of the central bank's Financial Policy Committee, which was set up to prevent a repeat of the kind of recklessness in the banking sector that helped push Britain into a damaging recession.

-From London, UK