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13th September 2014

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Guangzhou Knowledge City sets model for Singapore-China projects: PM Lee

He says private sector should take lead and market decide demand for products

Source: Business Times / Top Stories

THE Sino-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City project, which is led by the private sector and is government-backed, will be one good model to follow for Singapore investment projects in China going forward, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said here on Friday.

"The hurdle to do government-to-government projects, like Suzhou (Industrial Park) and Tianjin (Eco City), will be higher in the future," he told reporters after visiting the mega industrial park designed for industries like information and communications technology, biotechnology, clean technology and next generation materials.

"Here (in the Sino-Singapore Guangzhou City), projects got to have a balance between private sector taking the lead and, finally, the market has to decide there's a demand for what the companies provide," Mr Lee said. "And on top of that, government will support the project with training, advice and guidance from the Singapore-Guangdong Cooperation Council which is co-chaired by (Singapore's Transport Minister) Lui Tuck Yew."

-By Chuang Peck Ming

PM Lee hopes for more economic cooperation opportunities with Shenzhen

Source: Channel News Asia / Singapore

SINGAPORE: Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who is in Shenzhen, on Saturday (Sep 13) met the city's Party Secretary Wang Rong. Mr Lee is in China for an official eight-day visit.

He told Mr Wang he was impressed with the city's transformation, and its continuing plans to expand and rejuvenate. Mr Lee said he hoped there would be more opportunities for economic cooperation between Singapore and Shenzhen.

The two leaders had worked together on the Suzhou Industrial Park, and called each other "old friends".

Shenzhen is one of China's richest cities, but also has its fair share of social issues, Mr Wang said, and so it is hoping to learn more from Singapore's policymakers.

This is Mr Lee's first visit to Shenzhen in more than 20 years. Earlier this week, Mr Lee visited the Sino-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City and other sites to understand the key developments there.

Mr Lee also visited the headquarters of Chinese online messaging giant Tencent in Shenzhen, and the site of Qianhai, a 15-square-kilometre project local authorities are hoping to turn into a financial services centre by 2020. 

- CNA/xq

PM: S'pore-Guangzhou venture raises bar for govt-to-govt projects

Source: Straits Times / Top of The News

THE successful progress of the private sector-led Guangzhou Knowledge City (GKC) has raised the bar for future government- to-government projects, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said.

Mr Lee, who visited the 123 sq km site for the first time yesterday, told reporters that the way both governments took a backseat - "supporting the project with training, with advice, with guidance" - has worked and that he is happy with the results.

Since both governments have limited resources, and the private sector has the resources and interest to do more, this is a good approach forward for Singapore.

But in a lunch meeting following the visit, the drawbacks of such an approach were conveyed to Mr Lee by Guangzhou Mayor Chen Jianhua, who asked that the GKC be put on the Sino-Singapore national bilateral agenda.

As a private sector-led project, the GKC is not on the permanent agenda of the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation, the highest platform for Sino-Singapore bilateral exchange.

This is unlike the Suzhou Industrial Park and the Tianjin Eco-City, Singapore's two government-to-government joint ventures with China, where investors can now raise yuan funding directly from Singapore.

This, Mr Chen said, cuts their financing costs to less than half those of GKC investors and puts the GKC at a "different starting point". Companies raising capital in the mainland typically face interest rates of 7 to 8 per cent. This falls to 2 to 3 per cent if they can borrow capital offshore.

Mr Chen said this was not a big issue in the past as investments in the GKC, which broke ground in 2010, involved only about 20 billion yuan (S$4 billion). But from now on, as the project gains momentum, the investments under discussion reach up to hundreds of billions of yuan, he said.

"So, the capital costs will be a deciding factor for the results and prospects of this project, and also the development speed," he said.

Officials said that the recent announcement of a third government-to-government project in China's western region also intensified the issue for Guangdong provincial authorities, which thought that the GKC's private sector-led model was now the norm for Sino-Singapore projects.

The idea was proposed by Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli last year. Singapore officials are now exploring several cities as the site and also in what form the project will take. Singapore's criteria are that it must be ground- breaking, commercially viable and supported by local authorities.

Mr Lee told Mr Chen that "as far as the (GKC) model is concerned, we should maintain it as a model that's led by the private sector and supported by two governments". He said he understood from the Chinese central government that the financial liberalisation in the two flagship projects was not a "special privilege" but a "pilot arrangement". "When the pilot is expanded, GKC should be at the head of the line."

GKC chief executive Chin Phei Chen told The Straits Times later that "while the project is private sector-led, government support to create the conditions for attracting investment and knowledge-intensive industries is critical for its success". The GKC is a 50-50 joint venture between Temasek-owned Singbridge International and the Guangzhou Development District Administrative Committee. Singbridge chairman and former deputy prime minister Wong Kan Seng is also on the trip.

-By Rachel Chang in Guangzhou, China

Singapore Real Estate

China developers' interest heating up

In Potong Pasir site tender, six offers came from Chinese players

Source: Straits Times / Money

Participation from Chinese developers is gathering pace if a tender for a Potong Pasir plot last month is anything to go by.

While it may mean a smaller share of the pie for local dvelopers, foreign competition can help raise competitiveness in the market, industry experts said.

In the tender for a 1.6ha commercial and residential site in Meyappa Chettiar Road, six offers came from Chinese players.

The mainlanders also led the competition with the highest four bids in a 15-way tussle.

MCC Land, a unit of the Metallurgical Corporation of China, pipped the competition for the prize with a top offer of $471.6 million - or $775 per sq ft (psf) per plot ratio (ppr). This was just 2.4 per cent more than the bid of $460.4 million - or $757 psf ppr - from Best Desire Investments, said to be controlled by Hong Kong's richest man Li Ka-shing.

Other Chinese contenders include a unit of the Nanshan Group based in Shandong and state-owned Greenland Group, according to earlier reports.

The involvement of Chinese developers here, though not unprecedented, is in part driven by tightened policies in the real estate market and frothy property prices back home, experts said.

After rising continuously since June 2012, prices of new homes in 100 cities in mainland China fell by 0.6 per cent in August for a fourth straight month, according to data from the China Index Academy.

"The attraction of overseas expansion is, in business speak, a lateral growth opportunity to help diversify their risks," said Dr Chua Yang Liang, head of South-east Asia research at Jones Lang LaSalle.

The pockets of Chinese developers are comparably deeper than developers here, said Mr Ong Kah Seng, director of R'ST Research, which could force local players to pay "hefty" prices or forgo a site. One reason is the availability of more financing options.

"If (Chinese developers) are able to have better access to ready financing, they can bid higher and provide projects with premium designs," said Mr Ong.

In a tender for a plum plot in Mount Sophia last September, a unit of Chinese firm Fantasia Holdings Group lodged the second-highest bid of $442 million with a Singapore-based private equity firm F&H Fund Management, just 0.06 per cent below the top bid from a consortium of Hoi Hup Realty, Sunway Developments and SC Wong Holdings.

Mr Nicholas Mak, research head of SLP International, noted that foreign developers compete in Government Land Sales tenders on the same terms as local players, which has resulted in more demand for land. This, he said, could either shore up the high land prices here, or at the very least, slow any decline.

However, foreigners will be penalised if they do not build and sell all the units within five years of buying the site.

Mr Ong believes their participation here gained momentum in 2010, after Qingdao Construction, part of the Qingjian Group, clinched a site in Pheng Geck Avenue for $113.7 million - now being developed into Nin Residence.

Other names that have become familiar in state land tenders in the past few years include Kingsford Development, whose 512-unit Hillview Peak has sold 161 units so far.

However, Mr Mak pointed out that the significant Chinese interest that emerged during the Meyappa Chettiar Road tender could have been due to the site's attributes, as mixed-use sites next to an MRT station are hard to come by.

"Foreign developers could just be cherry picking," he said.

"At the end of the day, they can't bid too aggressively all the time because they need to make a profit too."

-By Cheryl Ong

St Patrick's Road set to ride on 'MRT effect'

Upcoming MRT line in area will raise buying interest, capital gains: Experts

Source: Straits Times / Money

The residential enclave around St Patrick's Road in the prime District 15 looks set to be another long-term winner from the "MRT effect", consultants said.

They forecast that the upcoming Thomson-East Coast Line will bring increased buying interest and capital gains in the wake of the area's greater accessibility.

The line, which will be fully operational by 2024, will have a station in Marine Parade near St Patrick's Road so travel time to the central city and the northern part of Singapore will be cut significantly.

The neighbourhood could do with a shot in the arm. It is not a hive of activity now, with only a few units changing hands over the past year, due in part to stringent curbs on home loans which kicked in last year.

However, rents for private homes have been fairly stable in the past year, said Mr Nicholas Mak, executive director of research and consultancy at SLP International.

He noted that the area's investment outlook is promising, with a good range of amenities as one of its main draws.

Besides having popular schools in the vicinity, the area is also served by the Parkway Parade and 112 Katong malls, as well as "plenty of good cafes and restaurants", said Mr Mak. "East Coast Park is also located within walking distance, which easily serves as an escape for residents to get closer to nature, the beach and the breeze," he added.

In the same vein, Mr Wong Xian Yang, a manager of research and consultancy at OrangeTee, pointed out that few other places in Singapore boast such close proximity to similar amenities.

Upcoming projects in the district include 70 St Patrick's in St Patrick's Road, a freehold development comprising 186 apartments on a 137,563 sq ft site, and Amber Skye in Amber Road, which will house around 109 freehold apartments over 40,708 sq ft.

Existing private projects include St Patrick's Residences, a freehold development in St Patrick's Road that was completed last year.

Resale prices have averaged $1,268 per sq ft (psf) over the past 12 months, according to Squarefoot Research.

Resale prices at freehold Grand Duchess at St Patrick's, which was completed in 2010 with 121 units, have averaged $1,371 psf over the past 12 months.

However, buyers may not be keen on new launches in the short term, given the slow-moving market and strict financing conditions, said Ms Lee Lay Keng, regional head of research at DTZ.

Mr Wong advised investors to keep their eyes out for good bargains in older developments as owners who are unable to find tenants or who get fed up with construction work may sell up.

"A site that is within walking distance of the MRT will be easier to rent out, and usually for a higher rent, compared with others which do not share the same attribute," he added.

-By Jacqueline Woo

Plaza Singapura through the years

Source: Straits Times / Life!

Yaohan in Singapore

The highlight of the new mall back in 1974 was the Yaohan department store, an anchor tenant that took up 140,000 sq ft over three floors. It was the Japanese brand's first outlet in Singapore and it sold everything from groceries to clothes to golf clubs.

Its foodcourt, which was an unusual concept in malls then, was the most popular stop. Queues of shoppers lined up to buy Anpan, sweet Japanese buns filled with red bean.

Sculptures by local artist Ng Eng Teng

Visitors to the mall then will remember the sculptures of two women facing each other on the second floor.

The mall's first owner, DBS Land, commissioned the sculptures, named Contentment and Wealth, for the opening.

The two pieces - of one woman with hands touching her neck (Contentment) and the other feeling her tummy (Wealth) - were donated to the National University of Singapore Museum in 1997 when the mall closed for a major renovation.

Changing facade

Plaza Singapura has kept up with the times by revamping its facade. Up till the late 1990s, it had a white-and-brown facade.

The building, designed by BEP Akitek, was praised for having a carpark at the back which led directly to the shops at every floor, and a front plaza which could be decorated elaborately for festivals.

After its massive 14-month renovation in 1997, Plaza Singapura took on a glass facade, through which shoppers on Orchard Road could see the stores inside the mall.

For its most recent makeover in 2012, when it extended to include The Atrium@Orchard, changes were made to its exterior as well.

The 170m-long frontage is one of the longest on Orchard Road and has wave-like extensions on its facade.

A colourful sculpture by Italian artist Mauro Peruchetti, called the Jelly Baby Family, fronts the mall.

Meet and greet with celebrities

It is not uncommon to encounter screaming fangirls at Plaza Singapura on occasion. Numerous celebrities, from gongfu superstar Jackie Chan to Korean heart- throb Siwon of Super Junior fame, have met their fans there.

With an atrium big enough to hold thousands - and with many more lining up along the railings on the upper floors - stars such as K-pop girl group 4 Minute, who were here in 2012, and Chinese singer Faye Wong in 2004, were met with a fantastic reception.

Changes at other malls

Source: Straits Times / Life! 

Shaw Centre and Shaw House

The physical revamp at neighbouring buildings, Shaw Centre and parts of Shaw House, has been completed. What is left is the wait for new tenants to move in.

Shaw House houses Japanese department store Isetan, while Shaw Centre had some retail tenants such as Mango and a number of food and beverage outlets, including restaurants from the Les Amis Group.

The timely makeover sees the 39-year-old Shaw Centre integrate better with Shaw House.

The latter was first built in 1958, but demolished in 1990 to make way for the present Shaw House, which was completed in 1993.

The renovation, which started last year, saw some major changes. The buildings are now linked by a new basement foodcourt, Food Republic, which opened in June.

In the same month, the 1,000 sq m Urban Plaza at Shaw House was also completed and has water features and seating areas.

A number of events have already been held there, such as the X-Men: Days Of Future Past South-east Asian premiere and Guardians Of The Galaxy South-east Asia red carpet.

At Shaw Centre, the ceiling height has been changed and the floors levelled and renumbered to match those of Shaw House, so that shoppers can easily walk between the two buildings.

Some hoarding is still up at Shaw Centre as new tenants start to move in. Here, design features include two- storey floor-to-ceiling glass retail frontage and verandahs - all meant for concept and flagship stores.

Shoppers can look forward to brands such as Polo Ralph Lauren and an SK-II Boutique Spa, which are new tenants.

The mall expects tenants to wrap up their renovation work by the end of next month or early November.

The management declines to reveal who the other tenants are.

The Centrepoint

Department store Metro will become the anchor tenant at The Centrepoint, following the departure of Robinsons.

Metro will take over the retail space previously occupied by Robinsons, which closed its branch there in May after its lease ended.

A spokesman for Frasers Centrepoint Malls, which manages the mall, says Metro will open in November. It will take up 130,000 sq ft of space over six floors.

The Centrepoint opened in 1983 and is fondly remembered as a haunt for the Centrepoint Kids, youth who hung out there in the 1980s after school.

Over the years, the mall has also attracted shoppers because of the Cold Storage supermarket, Marks & Spencer department store, and beauty services and furniture stores.

Its last major revamp was in 2006, when the mall added a 63,224 sq ft wing.

Enhanced upgrading and the 'flat' effect

Schemes unlikely to add to resale value, consultants say

Source: Straits Times / Singapore

FLATS that fall under the newly-enhanced upgrading programmes might be more attractive to buyers but, given today's muted market, experts do not expect much impact on their resale prices.

"When prices are overall heading south, resale flat values are unlikely to see significant premium over those which have yet to be upgraded," says R'ST Research director Ong Kah Seng.

SLP International Property Consultants head of research Nicholas Mak agrees, saying: "At best, it might slow down price declines."

On Wednesday, the Housing Board said it was speeding up one upgrading programme, extending another and introducing a third.

The Home Improvement Programme, which spruces up individual units, will benefit 50,000 flats a year, up from 35,000 before. The Neighbourhood Renewal Programme will cover flats built till 1995, thus including 100,000 more households, and the new Selective Lift Replacement Programme will replace 750 old lifts with modern ones.

Property agents say being selected for such programmes can make flats more attractive - but not immediately.

"It's a selling point," says ERA Realty agent Noel Lu. But that is only if the seller has already paid for the scheme, he adds. Flat owners are billed only after upgrading is completed.

The announcement of upgrading could improve a flat's "sale potential", but benefits are greater after the works are completed, says HSR International Realtors agent Karen Yeong.

And some buyers might shun flats where upgrading is not yet completed, as they fear dust and noise, says Dennis Wee Realty agent Mindy Soh.

In the 1990s, the Government pushed HDB upgrading as a way to improve or preserve the value of older flats. Studies by academics such as National University of Singapore professor Lum Sau Kim show that upgraded units did fetch higher prices.

But Suntec Real Estate Consultants director of research and consultancy Colin Tan points out that although resale prices have fallen, they are still at historic highs. "When prices are so high, (upgrading schemes) don't really make an impact."

Upgrading is more about benefiting residents who stay put, he adds.

Housewife Elyn Goh, 39, agrees. She does not plan to sell her three-room Yishun flat, which was upgraded under the Home Improvement Programme in April. And under the accompanying Enhancement for Active Seniors scheme, she and her husband, also 39, opted for senior-friendly features such as grab bars. "Just thinking ahead," she says.

-By Janice Heng

Green haven in heart of city

Source: Straits Times / Money

The Marina One integrated development that opens for a preview period today aims to be a haven for nature as well as for people.

At least 250 species of plants will be part of the 3.67 million sq ft project.

The 65,000 sq ft garden will be the largest within a development in the city.

"Today, buildings are starting to disappear into this sort of mountain of greenery, or are becoming mountains of greenery in their own right," said Mr Henry Steed, design director at ICN Design International, which is heading the landscaping efforts at Marina One.

In line with the Urban Redevelopment Authority's move to encourage developers to plan for more green spaces, its developer M+S has planned for 1.7ha of green communal spaces to replace land that has been displaced by the development of Marina One.

Public spaces will also be a feature at the building, where up to four events can be held at the same time, said Mr Steed.

The 99-year-leasehold development in the Marina Bay area will have two 30-storey office towers with 1.88 million sq ft of net lettable area, as well as two floor plates measuring 100,000 sq ft - one of the largest in Asia.

Its 1,042 homes, ranging from one- to four-bedders, are expected to go for an average price of $2,600 per sq ft.

Only one of the two 34-storey residential blocks is expected to be put up for sale today.

-By Cheryl Ong

Real Estate Companies' Brief

Keppel Land

Source: Business Times / Wealth


OCBC Investment Research | Sept 12

Close: S$3.46

Views, Reviews & Forum

Fighting fit at 40

Plaza Singapura, which turns 40 this year, is still giving its competitors a run for their money

Source: Straits Times / Life!

En route to the photo studio on his wedding day, Mr Hsien Yong Seng made a pit stop at Plaza Singapura Shopping Centre.

There, together with relatives who had flown in from around the world to celebrate his big day, Mr Hsien and his wife had shots taken outside the mall in full wedding gear, with the blockish building in the background.

It was 1975, just a year after the mall at the end of Orchard Road had opened to much fanfare. Singaporeans were enamoured with it and trips there were a big deal.

Mr Hsien, now 65 and a retired treasury officer for a finance company, recalls: "Plaza Singapura was on the way to the photo studio in Middle Road. It had a nice outdoor space and we liked the scenery, so we thought it was a good place to take a picture.

"Over the years, especially after my children were born, we often shopped at Yaohan there while my daughter had art classes at Yamaha. My friends would also send their children there, so we would meet while they were at class."

His two children are now in their 30s. He adds: "I remember the long queues for the 10-cent Anpan buns and sushi at Yaohan. Plaza Singapura became the place to go to if we needed anything such as gifts and new clothes."

The mall turns 40 this year and despite fierce competition from bigger and shinier shopping centres along Orchard Road, it continues to stand tall and appeal to shoppers of all ages.

It has also outlasted a number of its peers in town, such as Specialists' Shopping Centre and Scotts Shopping Centre, which have since bitten the dust.

Many shoppers like Mr Hsien fondly remember Plaza Singapura - it is affectionately called PS or Plaza Sing - for being one-of-a-kind when it opened in 1974. Then, it was one of the first shopping centres in Singapore and one of the largest at the time.

At the time, other malls along Orchard Road included home-grown department store Tangs, which opened in 1958. Down the road, Specialists' Shopping Centre, built in 1972, was home to the John Little department store. It has since been demolished and Orchard Gateway, which opened earlier this year, now stands in its place.

But unlike these malls, which had a single tenant or just a few tenants, Plaza Singapura changed the Orchard Road retail scene. Retail units and dining spots shared the 480,000 sq ft space and the mall pioneered the concept of anchor tenants.

It brought in Yaohan, a Japanese retail company to set up its first outlet in Singapore - its premises comprised a department store and supermarket. Elsewhere in the mall, Ponderosa restaurant, Doremi cafe and Times the Bookshop were favourite haunts of shoppers.

Ms Melissa Ang, general manager of Plaza Singapura, says: "DBS Land, the developer then, was able to see the trend ahead, that this is going to be the shopping centre prototype - having an anchor tenant, with speciality shops and restaurants... everything was under one roof and of such a large scale. It was a pull and revolutionised the way people shopped."

Another draw was the carpark that was linked to the mall at every floor - a novel concept at that time.

Besides Yaohan, other brands also set up shop in Singapore for the first time.

Optical retailer Paris Miki, one of the mall's oldest tenants, started out with a 1,000 sq ft store on the first floor. Singapore was the second location, after Paris, to have a store by the Japanese label.

Mr Denule Nai, 44, sales manager of Paris Miki, says: "We were next to Yaohan and we got the spillover crowd from there. Many Japanese tourists would also come to buy spectacles from us. Being here for so long, we have third- and fourth-generations of families coming to see us."

The store has since moved to a 732 sq ft unit on the third floor and has one employee who has worked there since 1979.

Plaza Singapura was also a go-to place for building and homeware items. But while many of these retailers such as lighting shop Million Electric have moved out, long-time tenant Equip-Design & Supply, which sells luxury locks on the fifth floor, has stayed put.

Second-generation owner Alvin Loh remembers the "kampung feel" of the mall. The 43-year-old, who runs the shop with his younger brother, says: "From the time I was eight, I would be in the store. All the retailers knew one another and I could just wander down the corridors, go into the next shop and the staff would give me a drink."

Part of the mall's charm through the years is that it has always been family- oriented, says Ms Ang. "We've established ourselves as that from Day One. It's not a luxury mall. But we've also brought in international labels which shoppers like, such as Uniqlo, and we're still a destination for necessities."

In Singapore where malls continue to sprout both in the suburbs and the city centre every year, Plaza Singapura is doing well - it had 2.5 million visitors every month last year.

Local research start-up Bimar, which tracks consumers' behaviour and footfall (the number of people entering a shop or shopping area at a given time) here, noted earlier this year that when compared with Ion Orchard, Takashimaya and Tangs, Plaza Singapura garnered 24 per cent of the visiting population among the four malls. It also estimated that the mall gets an hourly footfall of more than 20,000 people on a normal working day.

Bimar's chief operating officer Chiara Bertoldini says: "According to the results from our crowd remote monitoring system, Plaza Singapura - although older and away from the heart of Orchard Road - can easily compete with the popular neighbouring malls. The result is unsurprising, considering the mall's popularity among families, young adults and teenagers, and the fact it hosts a lot of international brands and famous dining places."

The mall's strong following has much to do with its continual upgrading. Its first major makeover came in 1997 and cost $85 million. It shut for 14 months to overhaul its facade and relooked its tenant mix.

While the mall looked new when it reopened, Ms Ang says the challenge was to bring back old customers who had gravitated towards other newer malls then. "The mall was closed for a long time, so we had to win back shoppers."

It was also a difficult time as Plaza Singapura's big draw, Yaohan, had pulled out in June 1997.

But it bounced back with new anchor tenants such as Japanese retailer Daimaru, which opened in 1998, and a 700-seat foodcourt and local furnishing giant Courts. A further boost came from Golden Village Entertainment, which took up much of the seventh floor with 10 screens in 1999, making it the second largest cinema for the chain, after its VivoCity outlet.

Echoing the sentiment among the other tenants, Golden Village's chief executive officer Clara Cheo says: "Plaza Singapura might be at the end of Orchard Road but it has a massive interchange train station. And there are many tertiary institutions around here. Nothing beats its location in drawing the crowd."

When the North East Line was built at the Dhoby Ghaut MRT station, the mall had a small-scale renovation between 2002 and 2003 to improve connectivity between the mall and the station. New tenants were also brought in - almost half of the 230 stores were new.

Big-name anchor tenants included French supermarket giant Carrefour, Japanese electronics store Best Denki as well as the Robinsons Group's John Little and Marks & Spencer stores.

Almost a decade later, the mall underwent another facelift - this time for 21 months and at a cost of $150 million - and was extended to include space from its neighbour, The Atrium@Orchard. CapitaMall Trust, which owns Plaza Singapura, bought The Atrium@Orchard from the Government in 2008.

Aside from a facade change, 80 new shops were added, including several first-in-Singapore concepts such as Tim Ho Wan, the one-Michelin-star dim sum restaurant from Hong Kong. When the restaurant opened in April last year, it caused a frenzy and brought back long queues the mall is familiar with.

Mr Michael Chuang, general manager for business development and project management at PJ Partners, which runs Nana's Green Tea on the third floor of the new wing, says: "As a cafe, we need a lot of foot traffic and high turnover of customers. Plaza Singapura is a reputable mall which can draw crowds, unlike our previous outlet in JCube, where we were not getting our target customers."

But as the mall celebrates its milestone, associate professor of marketing education Seshan Ramaswami at Singapore Management University cautions that in a tough retail market, the mall cannot rely on its heritage alone.

"The challenge is to constantly reinvent itself, by staying relevant to its target market," he notes. "Malls in the heartland, such as nex in Serangoon Central, can potentially take away weekend crowds of families. So Plaza Singapura needs to consistently create events and atrium attractions, and partner entertainment providers to give people a reason to make that trip from the suburbs."

But for those who grew up with memories of the mall, Plaza Singapura will always hold a soft spot in their hearts.

Property agent Shahlan Saim, 45, used to work at Yamaha in 1991, where he sold musical instruments for four years. The highlight of his time there was meeting stars and musicians, including American rapper M.C. Hammer, who made a stopover in Singapore on the way to Brunei. He even snagged a photo with the star.

Mr Shahlan, who now visits the mall once a month, says: "When I started working there, it wasn't as crowded as in its early days. There were newer, cooler malls which came up, such as Far East Plaza. But I loved Plaza Singapura then because it was just fun working there. Even now, it's still my favourite mall."

-By Natasha Ann Zachariah

Global Economy & Global Real Estate

Lessons from economic bubbles

Cautiousness has caused the US Federal Reserve to reinforce investor complacency and recklessness. By Jesse Eisinger

Source: Business Times / Wealth

CENTRAL bankers have been attacked, justifiably, for having done little to quash the great credit bubble that led to the 2008 financial crisis.

They could have raised rates sooner, more quickly and higher (although that's a blunt instrument). They could have used their bully pulpits more (although that's a weak instrument). They and fellow banking regulators could have tightened rules (but that's a fantasy if you are captured by industry).

Now things look quite effervescent if not completely bubbly. Measures of systemic risk, according to the Volatility Lab of the Stern School of Business at New York University, are down from their mid-2008 peaks but still high.

Vancouver prime property market sizzles, thanks to China cash

But side-effects felt from latest wave linked to Beijing's anti-graft crackdown

Source: Business Times / Wealth

CHINESE investors' global hunt for prime real estate is helping drive Vancouver home prices to record highs and the city, long among top destinations for wealthy mainland buyers, is feeling the bonanza's unwelcome side-effects.

The latest wave of Chinese money, linked in part to Beijing's anti-graft crackdown, is flowing into luxury hot spots. But it has also started driving up housing costs elsewhere in a city which already ranks as North America's least affordable urban market.

For decades, Vancouver, along with Hong Kong, Sydney and Singapore and, more recently, New York and London has been attracting Chinese and other Asian buyers.

-From Vancouver, Canada

Cofco Land to Buy Real Estate Units for $1.61 Billion

Source: Bloomberg / Luxury

Cofco Land Holdings Ltd. (207), a Hong Kong-based developer backed by China’s government, agreed to buy the builders of the mainland Joy City properties for HK$12.5 billion ($1.61 billion).

The developer is buying companies owned by its parent, Cofco Corp., that built the mixed-use projects in Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Yantai and Shenyang. Cofco Land plans to sell debt and issue shares to pay for the acquisition, according to a Hong Kong stock exchange filing late yesterday.

“The enlarged group will strengthen its leading position as a mixed-use complex and commercial-property developer,” Cofco said in the filing. Also, the company “will have a larger property portfolio with a potential to attain a more steady and sustainable return.”

Cofco Corp., China’s largest grain trader, gained control of Cofco Land, previously called Hong Kong Parkview Group Ltd., last year in a HK$14.2 billion transaction. Cofco Land said that the deal announced yesterday strengthens its position as the parent’s overseas-listed real estate platform.

The sellers in yesterday’s transaction are a unit of Achieve Bloom Ltd., Cofco Land’s immediate controlling shareholder, and a unit of Cofco (Hong Kong) Ltd. All of the companies are controlled by Cofco Corp.

-By Joshua Fellman

Chinese Billionaire Guo Returns to Competition for Club Med

Source: Bloomberg / Luxury

Fosun International Ltd. (656), controlled by Chinese billionaire Guo Guangchang, made a last-ditch bid for French resort company Club Mediterranee SA that trumps an offer from Italian investor Andrea Bonomi.

The offer of 22 euros a share, made along with partners, values Club Med at 839 million euros ($1.08 billion) including convertible bonds, the bidders said in a statement. Bonomi’s Global Resorts group offered 21 euros on June 30 in an offer that values the company at about 790 million euros.

French regulator Autorite des Marches Financiers, or AMF, had set today as the deadline for any bid rivaling that of Global Resorts. The Fosun offer is the Chinese company’s third attempt in 15 months to secure ownership of the resort operator. Fosun and Axa Private Equity, now called Ardian, offered 17 euros a share last year and later raised the bid to 17.50 euros.

“We are presenting the highest offer and the best liquidity for all the company’s shareholders,” Jiannong Qian, head of the Gaillon Invest II investment vehicle associated with Fosun, said in the statement. “The offer is based on a long-term industrial plan. It is in line with Club Med (CU)’s strategy and is supported by the management.´´

Global Resorts can submit a new bid, as long as it tops the Fosun offer by at least 2 percent, according to AMF rules. Fosun said today it would welcome more investors, leaving open the possibility that Bonomi could join the Chinese company’s bidding group. The Italian investor owns almost 10 percent of Club Med, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Considering Options

‘‘We have noted the offer and we will now look at our options,” said David Stuerken, a spokesman for Global Resorts.

The offer was made by Fosun and Ardian, as well as Club Med management, Beijing UTour International (002707) Travel Service Co., and Cia de Seguros Fidelidade Mundial SA, a Portuguese insurance company controlled by Fosun, according to the statement. Fosun will own 85.1 percent of the vehicle, U-Tour 7.5 percent, Ardian 5 percent, and Club Med management 2.5 percent, based on acquiring 50 percent of the shares.

Club Med shares were suspended in Paris today after Fosun bought 2.98 million shares from Ardian for 22 euros apiece. Fosun now owns 18.3 percent of Club Med and 24.4 percent of the voting rights, according to the AMF.

Club Med shares surged to their highest price in 5 1/2 years after Global Resorts’ offer, and have risen 22 percent in Paris this year, for a market value of 764 million euros.

Offer Period

While the AMF will define an offer period in light of today’s bid, Fosun said it expects it to be Oct. 17 to Nov. 20. The regulator may also set a deadline for a potential counter-bid by Global Resorts or other parties.

Fosun started buying Club Med shares in 2010 and began a strategic partnership with the operator to lure more Chinese vacationers to its resorts.

Since 2010, Guo’s closely held Fosun Group has spent more than $3.7 billion on foreign acquisitions, including U.S. and European fashion labels, a Hollywood film studio and skyscraper One Chase Manhattan Plaza in New York’s financial district. The billionaire said in a recent interview that he’ll continue a global acquisition spree with the aim of doubling assets to about $100 billion within five years.

Societe Generale SA (GLE) acted as exclusive financial adviser to Gaillon Invest II. DLA Piper and Darrois Villey Maillot Brochier acted as legal advisers.

-By Richard Weiss