Real News‎ > ‎2015‎ > ‎January 2015‎ > ‎

31st January 2015

Singapore Real Estate

More private properties being sold at a loss

161 loss-making secondary market deals last year, up from 103 in 2013

Source: Straits Times / Top of The News

MORE people here selling private homes suffered losses last year as prices across the island kept tumbling.

In the most extreme cases, sellers of high-end properties gave up hope of a rebound and absorbed losses of over $2 million.

And the attraction of renting out investment homes faded as the rental market softened too.

Data from SRX Property showed that 4.2 per cent of secondary market transactions, or 161 of them, last year suffered losses, up from just 1.96 per cent, or 103, in 2013.

In 2012, 1.5 per cent of secondary market transactions - including sub-sales and mortgagee sales - were loss-making, while the figure was 1.8 per cent in 2011. Sub-sales are sales made before the property is built.

The percentage of sellers in the secondary market who achieved capital gains has also fallen - from 97.8 per cent in 2013 to 95.4 per cent last year.

"Cooling measures really hit the market last year. Prices were dropping by then and owners could feel the rental market getting weaker. Perhaps for some owners, they couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel and decided to cut their losses," said SLP International executive director Nicholas Mak.

Most of the losses are likely to have been in the middle to high- end segment as those prices fell more drastically, said Mr Lee Liat Yeang, a real estate lawyer at Rodyk & Davidson.

The biggest losses were suffered mainly in districts 4, 9 and 10. Many of those properties had been acquired in 2007, or at the peak of the previous property boom.

"Those who bought before the Lehman Brothers crisis were hoping prices would go up or at least stay the same... But the high-end segment never really recovered after the crisis. After waiting for six years, they realised the prospect of recovery is still low, so they decided to move on," said Mr Lee.

Such fire sales seem to be gathering pace, with at least two large money-losing deals so far this year. This month, a 1,076 sq ft unit at The Clift in McCallum Street went for $1.9 million, at a loss of $965,600, or 34 per cent. A 1,808 sq ft unit at The Orchard Residences in Orchard Boulevard sold for $5.5 million, at a loss of $2.253 million, or 29 per cent.

A total of 19 properties were put up for auction sale by mortgagees this month, up from six in January last year and three in January 2013, noted Colliers International deputy managing director Grace Ng.

The number of loss-making sales is tipped to rise this year, as supply from newly completed condominiums will raise competition for tenants and rising interest rates may add to holding costs, said Mr Mak. In all, 21,359 private condos are pegged for completion this year, and 20,919 next year.

Ms Ng expects mortgagee sales to hit 200 this year, up from 159 last year, in view of continued cooling measures and challenging conditions. "Sellers will continue to face increasing difficulties in disposing of their properties in the resale market."

-By Rennie Whang

http://www.straitstimes.com/archive/saturday/premium/top-the-news/story/more-private-properties-being-sold-loss-20150131#sthash.pvJ7RnS7.dpuf


Rental yields of suburban, luxury homes stay stable

Impact on rents not as bad as fall in price amid weak leasing market

Source: Straits Times / Money

HOME values and rents might have fallen in the past year, but investors in suburban and luxury condominiums might still enjoy a silver lining.

Despite the weak leasing market brought on by a housing glut, the hit on rents has not been as acute as the dip in prices, a report by Knight Frank showed.

This has propped up rental yields - the percentage return investors achieve on their properties - in these markets.

In simple terms, rental yields are derived by dividing the rental income by the price of the property. The goal is to pay as little as possible for a rental property and get as much rent as the market will bear to earn a strong return.

Average prices of high-end homes fell 7.7 per cent in the fourth quarter to $2,133 per sq ft (psf) from a year earlier, Knight Frank's analysis of a basket of properties showed, while average monthly rents fell 7.9 per cent to $5.35 psf in the same period.

That translates to a fourth quarter rental yield of 3.02 per cent - from 3.01 per cent a year earlier.

At Ardmore Park, for instance, home values in the fourth quarter last year were about $2,700 psf - well down from $3,600 psf a year earlier, caveats lodged with the Urban Redevelopment Authority showed. Monthly rents at the 330-unit freehold development, however, still eked out a small gain from $5.80 psf to $5.82 psf.

For mass-market condos, average values slipped 5.6 per cent to $1,020 psf while average monthly rents fell 6 per cent to $3.09 psf. Gross yields, as a result, held steady at 3.64 per cent in the fourth quarter from 3.65 per cent in the same period a year earlier.

But Ms Alice Tan, research head at Knight Frank, noted that investors who had picked up properties for a higher price a year ago would still face a squeeze in rental yields if leases were renewed in today's soft leasing market.

For the first time in four years, fourth-quarter rents fell 3 per cent while vacancy rates of private homes soared to 7.8 per cent - an almost 10-year high.

She added that yields are also affected by a property's tenure as freehold condos tend to fetch lower yields than their leasehold counterparts. Rents are typically determined by a unit's location, which excludes the premium investors have paid for the property's longer tenure, said Ms Tan.

City-fringe projects have taken the biggest hit. Average monthly rents in the fourth quarter slipped 8.9 per cent to $4.53 psf from a year earlier, as a deluge of 2,442 new mid-tier units heated up leasing competition last year.

Prices slipped just 4.9 per cent to an average of $1,570 psf, which dragged rental yields down from 3.61 per cent to 3.45 per cent.

But landlords of prime properties have also started to lower rental expectations since last October, noted Ms Tan, after prolonged vacancies.

"This may swing the demand back to city centre, and could happen very quickly in the next quarter," she said.

"Everyone is looking around because there's just a lot of supply."

-By Cheryl Ong

http://www.straitstimes.com/archive/saturday/premium/money/story/rental-yields-suburban-luxury-homes-stay-stable-20150131#sthash.Jg2KD1LC.dpuf


Developers pin hopes on CNY sales

Many keeping show-flats open; some launches planned for festive period

Source: Straits Times / Money

DEVELOPERS here are hoping festive cheer will help move homes in a sluggish market, so many show-flats will be staying open over Chinese New Year.

Several launches have also been planned around this period.

"The mood tends to be more relaxed as people have more time, and there's a feel-good factor," said ERA Realty key executive officer Eugene Lim.

City Developments is keeping it auspicious, holding a talk by a fengshui master today at the Jewel@Buangkok sales gallery. Fengshui tips for homes will be provided, and a forecast for the Year of the Goat.

CDL will also keep its show-flats open at The Venue Residences and Shoppes in Potong Pasir and at Coco Palms in Pasir Ris Grove.

A Far East Organization spokesman said it is likely to keep some sales galleries open this year, as it has in previous years, but has yet to decide which ones.

CapitaLand will open show-suites at Sky Habitat and Sky Vue and show-flats at d'Leedon and The Interlace from the third day of Chinese New Year, after closing on the eve and first two days.

EL Development, whose Symphony Suites preview starts in Yishun today, will be busy in the run-up to and during Chinese New Year. The official launch is scheduled for Feb 7.

"Interest seems healthy with more than 1,000 visitors at the show-flat in the past month... We expect most of the demand to come from families and young couples," said managing director Lim Yew Soon.

Prices range from $671,000 to $758,000 for a 689 sq ft two-bedder, while a 1,023 sq ft four-bedder is priced at $968,000 to $1.097 million.

The 660-unit project, with 11 residential blocks that are 15 storeys high, is designed for upgraders and families. It comes with full condominium facilities, including a 50m lap pool, gym, tennis court and jam room. It will also have its own childcare centre.

An earlier project that fared particularly well over Chinese New Year was Watertown in Punggol Central, which sold 224 homes during the period in 2012.

After Chinese New Year, buyers can check out Northpark Residences. Part of the integrated development at Northpoint City, it is due to launch in March.

 
-By Rennie Whang

http://www.straitstimes.com/archive/saturday/premium/money/story/developers-pin-hopes-cny-sales-20150131#sthash.yKHhPS7u.dpuf


Singapore banks able to hold up against property correction: Fitch

Source: Business Times / Companies & Markets

The property market correction in Singapore may place modest pressure on banking system loan quality but the three domestic banks - OCBC, DBS and UOB - should be able to withstand this, Fitch Ratings said in a report on Friday. "Fitch expects Singaporean banks' potential losses from mortgages to be minimal due to relatively healthy household balance sheets and adequate collateralisation," the credit rating agency said.

-By Jamie Lee

http://www.businesstimes.com.sg/companies-markets/singapore-banks-able-to-hold-up-against-property-correction-fitch


Perennial leads consortium to acquire AXA Tower for S$1.17b

Source: Business Times / Companies & Markets

Perennial Real Estate Holdings Limited (PREH) has syndicated a consortium of investors to acquire AXA Tower at a property purchase price of S$1.17 billion, translating to S$1,735 per square foot (psf) of net lettable area. PREH's 31.2 per cent equity investment in the property amounts to about S$117.9 million. Its major shareholder Kuok Khoon Hong, a Singapore business tycoon who is also Wilmar International's chairman and CEO, will take up another 10.1 per cent interest in AXA Tower.

-By Lynette Khoo

http://www.businesstimes.com.sg/companies-markets/perennial-leads-consortium-to-acquire-axa-tower-for-s117b-0


PREH part of group in $1.17b purchase of AXA Tower

It will have managerial role and also explore ways to maximise asset's value

Source: Straits Times / Money

PERENNIAL Real Estate Holdings (PREH) has syndicated a consortium of investors to buy AXA Tower in the central business district for $1.17 billion.

PREH's own stake amounts to about $117.9 million.

HPRY Holdings, a shareholder of PREH owned by Wilmar International chief executive Kuok Khoon Hong, will hold another 10.1 per cent stake in the tower.

PREH did not name the other investors in the consortium in its statement yesterday.

"AXA Tower, with its strategic location, good connectivity and sizeable unutilised gross floor area (GFA), is an excellent asset with strong upside potential," said PREH chief executive Pua Seck Guan in the statement.

"PREH's significant investment in the iconic operating asset not only strengthens the group's foothold in Singapore, but also provides the group with an additional stream of stable income."

PREH will be appointed as the asset manager, property manager and project manager of AXA Tower, which will provide an additional stream of management fee income for the firm.

Based on the property's total net lettable area of about 674,000 sq ft, the acquisition price translates to about $1,735 per sq ft.

AXA Tower is a 50-storey prime landmark office development with some retail space, located along Shenton Way, Anson Road and Maxwell Road.

It has an unutilised plot ratio that translates to an additional GFA of over 212,000 sq ft.

The property is also allowed to house medical suites amounting to no more than 32,000 sq ft.

The consortium will explore the most efficient asset plan to make use of this additional GFA and permissible medical suite usage, to maximise the value of the asset, PREH said.

The consortium will also explore a strata sale of the office space at the property.

The transaction is expected to be completed by April.

PREH shares yesterday closed half a cent higher at $1.045.

PREH focuses on large-scale, mixed-use developments primarily in China and Singapore.

It developed two of China's largest high-speed railway commercial hubs - Chengdu East High Speed Railway Integrated Development and Xi'an North High Speed Railway Integrated Development.

In Singapore, the firm is invested in and manages prime properties located mainly in the Downtown Civic District and Orchard Road precinct, such as Chijmes, Capitol Singapore, TripleOne Somerset and the House of Tan Yeok Nee.

The group also has stakes in and manages 112 Katong mall and Chinatown Point.

-By Yasmine Yahya

http://www.straitstimes.com/archive/saturday/premium/money/story/preh-part-group-117b-purchase-axa-tower-20150131


Not all property owners have to buy fire insurance

Source: Straits Times / Singapore

FIRE insurance for properties is not mandatory, as with many other forms of insurance, Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee said in Parliament yesterday.

Instead, it is up to owners to ensure they have the financial means to repair their properties, should a fire occur, he added.

Mr Lee was replying to Mr Baey Yam Keng (Tampines GRC), who had asked why it was not compulsory for all residential and commercial property owners to buy fire insurance.

However, the junior minister also said Housing Board home owners who take up HDB loans are required to buy such insurance from an HDB-appointed insurer.

More than 80 per cent of HDB flats are covered by an appointed insurer, he said, adding that the proportion is likely to be higher as the board does not keep track of flats covered by other insurers.

More than half of such home owners do so voluntarily, even after they have finished paying up their HDB home loans.

Premiums for HDB's basic fire insurance, which covers a flat's basic structure and fixtures, are affordable, Mr Lee said.

For example, coverage for a four-room flat over five years costs $5.50 in total. A five-room flat over the same period costs a total of $6.60.

The HDB will buy insurance for those who forget to renew their policies but are still paying for their HDB loans, Mr Lee said, adding that the board will recover the premiums from them later.

Home owners who want greater coverage would buy insurance for their personal property and renovation work, he added.

As for non-HDB property, Mr Lee said management corporations must have insurance for strata-titled developments, which include condominiums, under the Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act.

"Regardless, I encourage all owners to ensure their properties are adequately insured against damage caused by unfortunate accidents like a fire," he said. "It would be prudent to do so."

Last year, the Singapore Civil Defence Force doused 4,724 fires in properties, vehicles and open spaces - 588 more than the previous year. Most of the increase was attributed to a spike in vegetation fires during a dry spell in the first quarter. Fires in homes dropped 2.2 per cent to 2,888 cases last year, while those in non-residential premises rose by 6 per cent.

-By Rachael Au-Yong

http://www.straitstimes.com/archive/saturday/premium/singapore/story/not-all-property-owners-have-buy-fire-insurance-20150131#sthash.23c3YHon.dpuf


Pioneers lauded ahead of HDB's 55th birthday

The Housing and Development Board turns 55 on Feb 1, and National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan took the opportunity to thank pioneers at the agency for their contributions.

Source: Channel News Asia / Singapore

SINGAPORE: The Housing and Development Board (HDB), which turns 55 on Feb 1, was named one of the top 10 events that meant most to Singaporeans, according to a recent survey by the Institute of Policy Studies, and National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said he was "glad" the agency's role has "resonated strongly".

In a blogpost on Saturday, Mr Khaw said the early years were "exceptionally challenging" for HDB and its first chairman, Mr Lim Kim San, helped break new ground and laid a strong foundation which successive generations of HDB staff were able to build upon.

Among that pioneer generation of HDB staff is Mr James Bong, who is now 89. He joined HDB as a Resettlement Officer, and faced "strong resistance" from squatters then.


(Photo: Ministry of National Development's Housing Matters blog)

"In those years, squatters were common in Singapore, and living conditions were squalid.  The most immediate and important task then was to resettle and rehouse the squatters in better HDB homes," he wrote. "While resettlement from slums to modern HDB now seems obviously positive, convincing the people then to move into high-rise flats was an arduous task."

"Officers like Mr Bong faced strong resistance from the squatters as it meant changes to where they lived, how they lived and where they worked.  Tremendous patience and a human touch were needed," he added.

Mr Khaw said the impact of these pioneers' contributions will long be remembered, as they laid the solid foundation from which the ministry can move public housing to "even greater heights". Plans for upcoming Bidadari and Tampines North, for example, show the transformation of HDB towns in the past 55 years - "a transformation I am sure our HDB pioneers will feel proud of", he said.

"I think we have not disappointed them and I hope to continue to build upon their vision, to achieve greater success. Thank you HDB pioneers and happy birthday, HDB!" the minister said.

- CNA/kk

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/pioneers-lauded-ahead-of/1628296.html


After twists, turns and heat, Dr Lam cheers clarity

Columbarium controversy: MP explains how he came to defend tender

Source: Straits Times / Top of The News

THE authorities had assured him that commercial firms could bid for land marked for religious purposes, said the Member of Parliament at the forefront of the Sengkang columbarium controversy.

That is why he defended the tender in a dialogue with residents earlier this month, said Sengkang West MP Lam Pin Min in an interview with The Straits Times yesterday.

But it was revealed in Parliament on Thursday that, unlike previous bidders, funeral service provider Eternal Pure Land (EPL) did not have any religious links.

"I... asked HDB and URA whether a commercial entity is allowed to participate in a tender process for a place of worship, and I was informed that it had been done before," he said, referring to the Housing Board and the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

Previous tenders by commercial players had been affiliated to a religious organisation but EPL is a pure profit company.

"EPL told us that they were in the process of discussing with some religious organisation to work out some of the temple- related activities," he added.

The Government has since admitted that it was a mistake to award the tender to EPL.

National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said on Thursday that the ministry would stop the commercial columbarium.

The authorities will also review the tender process to plug this loophole where commercial firms muscle into places of worship.

The decision has been cheered by Dr Lam, who is also the Minister of State for Health.

He has been feeling the heat from some residents and netizens since news of the planned columbarium broke a month back. They were upset that a site planned for a Chinese temple would also have a columbarium, especially one operated for commercial interests.

They started an online petition against it, garnering more than 1,000 signatures. It prompted Dr Lam to hold a dialogue on Jan 4.

But at the session, he was perceived to be defending EPL rather than siding with his constituents. Some pointed out that he was sitting at the same table as representatives from Life Corporation - the parent firm of EPL. They were also unhappy that he highlighted the modern look of the temple.

Dr Lam clarified yesterday that he had not been taking sides and he did not understand why the seating arrangements had become an issue. "My purpose there was first to facilitate the dialogue session, to clarify the misinformation of what was posted online, and to allow residents to raise their concerns to me and the relevant agencies," he said.

"Usually for a dialogue session, this is how it's done."

He said he did not scrutinise whether a commercial entity which bid for land for places of worship had to have religious ties.

He was not aware of the rules and was not part of the tender process, he said, adding that the rules had "very fine details".

Asked if it had been a stressful time for him, he replied: "Definitely. No one wants anything to happen in their constituency."

He said the residents were relieved that action had been taken. "I'm just happy that a decision has been made... to not have a commercial columbarium there.

"I'm also just happy that many of the residents who are concerned can have their fears allayed because, at the end of the day, this is a positive outcome for many of the residents."

-By Lester Ho

http://www.straitstimes.com/archive/saturday/premium/top-the-news/story/after-twists-turns-and-heat-dr-lam-cheers-clarity-20150131#sthash.yoksQaTz.dpuf


Companies' Brief

Reits retreat as Fed statement raises rate fears

Source: Business Times / Companies & Markets

There were two events this week worth discussing - the US Federal Reserve's first Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting of 2015 and the Monetary Authority of Singapore's (MAS's) move on the currency front to reduce the slope of its policy band that has led to the Singapore dollar (SGD) weakening.

-By R Sivanithy

http://www.businesstimes.com.sg/companies-markets/reits-retreat-as-fed-statement-raises-rate-fears


Frasers Hospitality Trust

Source: Straits Times / Money

FRASERS Hospitality Trust met forecast in its maiden results.

The trust reported gross revenue of $50.2 million for the period from July 14 to Dec 31. Net property income was 2.3 per cent higher than projected, at $41.8 million, due to lower than expected owner's expenses.

This, together with lower interest expenses for the period, translated to a higher distributable income of $35.7 million, which exceeded forecast by 5.3 per cent.

Distribution per unit amounted to 2.97 cents.

http://www.straitstimes.com/archive/saturday/premium/money/story/company-briefs-20150131#sthash.AcWOlbLA.dpuf


CapitaLand

Source: Straits Times / Money

CAPITALAND'S wholly owned serviced residence business unit, The Ascott, has secured a contract to manage its first serviced residence in Turkey.

Slated to open next year, the 159-unit Somerset Maslak Istanbul has a prime location in one of Istanbul's main business and leisure districts.

http://www.straitstimes.com/archive/saturday/premium/money/story/company-briefs-20150131#sthash.AcWOlbLA.dpuf


Global Economy & Global Real Estate

Park Ave to get first new tower in decades

Norman Foster-designed skyscraper more than double the height will replace existing one at prime New York site

Source: Business Times / Real Estate

http://www.businesstimes.com.sg/real-estate/park-ave-to-get-first-new-tower-in-decades


Bluebeard, Blind Princess, Putin Pals Liven Up Met: Hoelterhoff

Source: Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) -- An elevator into the subconscious and a hunted fawn took us into a dark, strange world inhabited by a serial killer and a blind princess as the Metropolitan Opera presented a double bill of Tchaikovsky’s “Iolanta” and Bartok’s “Bluebeard’s Castle” on Thursday.

Thrillingly staged by Mariusz Trelinski, a Polish director making his Met debut, the evening featured Anna Netrebko, Nadja Michael, Mikhail Petrenko, Valery Gergiev and one unexpected Ukrainian protester.

As Netrebko and the “Iolanta” cast were bowing to great applause, he presented the Russian diva with an anti-Putin poster. Unsurprisingly, she wasn’t fazed one bit. Like conductor Gergiev, Netrebko is friendly with Russia’s No. 1 opera fan, cool to criticism -- and possibly not heavily invested in oil.

“Iolanta” is unappreciated outside Russia, where fairy-tale operas devoted to snow maidens, wizards and submerged cities are a beloved part of the repertoire. Tchaikovsky’s music is often surgingly melodic, but the story is mawkish, morbid, slight: Iolanta doesn’t know she is blind, though she bumps into furniture. Her lovingly oppressive father hides her away in a deep forest surrounded by attendants who are under strict orders to keep her in the dark.

Danger, Desire

A Moorish doctor, a lusty tenor and God’s love open her eyes.

Trelinski and his chief designers -- Boris Kudlicka (sets) and Bartek Macias (video) -- float free from the plot into a poetic realm infused with feeling, menace, magic.

Suspended trees dangle their roots over Iolanta’s white cube of a room. Puffs of star matter drift down when she sleeps. Intruders bring danger and desire. Her comfortably limited world disappears when Iolanta opens her eyes. She sees that red is the color of roses as well as the blood dripping from the gutted deer whose trembling appearance opens the opera.

At the end, a bewildered Iolanta joins a jaunty ensemble praising the Creator. Will she live happily ever after? Trelinski thinks not and brings many elements of the same moodscape into “Bluebeard’s Castle.”

Groaning Walls

In an effective addition to Bartok’s brooding score, Trelinski gives amplified voice to the castle. The place creaks and groans as Bluebeard comes home on a pitch-dark night. Right behind is Judith, who has left her husband and family.

In one of the show’s memorable moments, she steps out of a vintage car whose headlights briefly illuminate the castle’s dank interior and evoke the film noir genre that inspires Trelinski.

A huge steel door descends as the outside world disappears. Judith, trapped, clings ever more hysterically to Bluebeard’s side in the pathetic notion that all he needs is some talk therapy and a devoted woman to set him right.

Over the course of an hour, they roam the castle as she cajoles Bluebeard into opening rooms he wishes to keep secret: a bloody armory, a pool of tears, a torture chamber. A flickering image of a huge eye peering through a lock reflects her obsession. It ends badly.

Behind the last door are the dead wives.

White Nightgown

Both operas make poetic use of video in a way I’ve rarely seen on the opera stage. And both had superlative casts. Netrebko’s blooming soprano and dignity -- even in a billowy white nightgown -- humanized the princess. Piotr Beczala’s tenor gleamed as Vaudemont, who lights up her life. The lower realms of song were nicely represented by baritone Aleksai Markov as a charming duke and bass Ilya Bannik as her neurotic father.

Gergiev, often more drowsy than dreamy in “Iolanta,” reveled in the greater orchestral complexities of “Bluebeard,” blasting open the fifth door that reveals Bluebeard’s real estate and riches, which in this production includes a chic bathroom where soprano Michael luxuriated happily wearing very little.

Petrenko, one of Russia’s great basses, exuded menace with every slow step and every gesture of his gloved right hand. Michael, a fearless performer with a radiant top, flung herself around the walls all night until it was time to disappear into eternal darkness. Bluebeard, alone, shovels a new grave.

‘Merry Widow’

Then there was the Met’s flat new production of Franz Lehar’s 1905 “The Merry Widow,” which tottered in on New Year’s Eve. Led by a gently inadequate Renee Fleming, the cast looked like it might repair to a rest home after the exhausting Can-Can finale.

“Widow” unfolds at the Parisian embassy of the grand duchy of Pontevedro, which is going bankrupt. Can a plan to marry the newly rich Hanna Glawari to Danilo, a boozing count who prefers the girls at Maxim’s, keep the place dancing?

Broadway’s Susan Stroman made a double debut as director and choreographer, possibly one job too many. The plot may be slight, but this is a big ensemble show.

Nothing was as memorable as ‘Springtime for Hitler,’’ the very funny dance number from “The Producers” that launched her career.

Mean Moody’s

The Fuhrer, by the way, would have loved this period production with its acres of painted sets and high-stepping cocottes. He adored “Widow” as much as Wagner’s “Meistersinger” and declared Lehar’s wife an “honorary Aryan.” An inspired director might have added a little edge and sense of the terror to come. Stroman and her helpers (Julian Crouch, sets; William Ivey Long, costumes) spent millions on chandeliers and sequins.

I hope the mean men from Moody’s, who recently downgraded the company to BAA1 from A3 for excessively generous spending, aren’t planning another visit anytime soon.

Performed in the cringe-inducing English edition by Jeremy Sams of London and last year’s unamusing “Fledermaus” production, “Merry Widow” seemed as long as the Austro-Hungarian empire. Time to tear up the work permit.

You would think that Fleming, a high-IQ diva in the twilight of her career, might have more interesting ways to spend her time than wearing feathers on her head and singing that familiar tune about a coy wood sprite.

Baritone Nathan Gunn was a lackluster Danilo, a role usually defined by suave charm and hair gel. Unlike his clown pants, his voice was at least a size too small. Kelli O’Hara added a bit of Broadway pizazz in her Met debut as Valencienne, a flirtatious wife whose loss of a fan counts as a subplot. Conductor Andrew Davis took the scenic way to Maxim’s.

“Iolanta” and “Bluebeard’s Castle” will be telecast into 2,000 movie theaters in 70 countries on Feb. 14.

Manuela Hoelterhoff is executive editor for Global Cities at Bloomberg News. Any opinions are her own.

-By 

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-01-31/bluebeard-blind-princess-putin-pals-liven-up-met-hoelterhoff


Steven Cohen in Deal to Buy Beverly Hills Estate Listed for $35 Million

Source: Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) -- Billionaire Steven A. Cohen agreed to buy a newly constructed nine-bedroom mansion in Beverly Hills, California, listed for $35 million, according to a person with knowledge of the purchase.

The person asked not to be named because the sale isn’t final and the transaction is private. The person didn’t disclose the price Cohen agreed to pay for the property, which features 13 bathrooms and parking for as many as 30 cars.

Cohen, with a net worth of about $11 billion, owns Stamford, Connecticut-based investment firm Point72 Asset Management. His real estate holdings include a $60 million home in East Hampton, New York, that he purchased in 2013, and a penthouse apartment at Manhattan’s One Beacon Court that’s for sale for $82 million.

The website for Ginger Glass, an agent with Coldwell Banker who has the Beverly Hills listing, showed Friday that there’s a “sale pending” for the house. The home was developed by her husband, Gala Asher’s Dream Projects LA.

The listing, which was taken down Friday afternoon, described the property as a “resort-style estate” with a modern design and 12,664 square feet (1,176 square meters) of living space. The master suite has three fireplaces. Underwater music plays in the saltwater pool.

Cohen’s spokesman, Jonathan Gasthalter of Sard Verbinnen & Co., declined to comment. Glass declined to comment, according to Holly Taylor, a spokeswoman for Coldwell Banker with public relations firm Rogers & Cowan. Westside Estate Agency in Beverly Hills represented the buyer.

The home is one block from the Beverly Hills Hotel. That property, owned by the Brunei Investment Agency, faced celebrity protests last year because the sultanate enacted Islamic criminal law seen as discriminating against women and gays.

Cohen started Point72 last year to manage his fortune after his hedge-fund firm, SAC Capital Advisors, pleaded guilty to securities fraud and paid a record $1.8 billion fine to settle insider-trading charges. His planned purchase of the Beverly Hills estate was reported yesterday by Variety’s Real Estalker blog.

-By John Gittelsohn & Katherine Burton

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-01-30/steven-cohen-said-in-deal-to-buy-beverly-hills-estate


Cencosud Rallies Most in Three Years as Mall Unit IPO Considered

Source: Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) -- Chilean retailer Cencosud SA climbed the most in three years after it announced it may sell a stake in its shopping-center operations in Latin America.

Shares rose for a fourth straight day, climbing 11 percent to 1,551.10 pesos in Santiago, the most on a closing basis since August 2011, before trading of Cencosud was suspended. Chile’s IPSA equity index climbed less than 0.1 percent.

The Santiago-based company said in a statement Friday that it’s considering an initial public offering of shares in the shopping center division as a way to capitalize on its real estate holdings in Chile, Peru and Colombia. The valuation is in the preliminary stages, and Cencosud would maintain a majority stake, the company said.

“An IPO of the unit will allow it to free up value,” Miguel Moreno, an analyst at Santiago-based LarrainVial SA, said by phone. “Cencosud has things such as its operation in Argentina that have been weighing down on the stock.”

Cencosud also provided projections for 2015. The retailer forecast sales of $19.3 billion to $21.1 billion, little changed from the 12 months ended Sept. 30. The company operates malls, supermarkets, department stores and home improvement centers in five Latin American countries.

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http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-01-30/cencosud-rallies-most-in-three-years-as-mall-unit-ipo-considered


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