Complete Property Market Updates of Singapore

March 31, 2008

FCT to buy $480m malls from parent

Filed under: General — Propertymarketupdates @ 4:10 am

FRASERS Centrepoint Trust (FCT) , which owns suburban malls, said yesterday that it would buy three properties worth $480 million in two years, funded mostly through loans as investor appetite for new equity dries up. ‘Right now, the capital market is not there unfortunately, but the banks are still lending and I’ve got the debt headroom to go much higher,’ Christopher Tang, CEO of Fraser Centrepoint Asset Management, told Reuters.

FCT is acquiring the three suburban malls from parent Frasers Centrepoint, the property arm of conglomerate Fraser and Neave, and is prepared to raise its debt gearing from 29 per cent to 45 per cent to do so, he said. ‘Our long-term target is always about 30-35 per cent but we’re now prepared for short periods of time to go as high as 40-45 per cent, until the capital market works through its issues.’

FCT’s share price rose up to 3.3 per cent in late session trading before ending 0.9 per cent up in line with the broader market. Rival retail Reits CapitaMall Trust was up 1.2 per cent, while Suntec Reit lost 0.7 per cent.

Poor market conditions have caused Reits such as MacarthurCook Industrial and Allco Commercial to scrap plans for fund-raising by issuing new shares. With the Reits’ ability to fund their growth and repay existing debts squeezed, analysts such as Goldman Sachs and UBS are predicting that smaller Reits such as MacarthurCook will become acquisition targets.

Mr Tang said that FCT’s balance sheet remained strong with most debts due in 2011, and FCT had an A3 corporate rating from Moody’s. He declined to say if he was planning to acquire another Reit, but did not rule it out. ‘I think, as a strategy, it’s something that most people would not rule out. It’s obviously another way of growing. M&A will probably be an area that will have more activity in the Singapore Reit market in the future. Like in the United States and Australia, it’s an inevitable phase for the market that there will be consolidation from time to time.’

Mr Tang remains bullish about the outlook for suburban malls, despite concerns that consumers would cut expenses amidst fears of a slowing global economy and surging inflation. ‘Even in the worst of times, during the Sars period in 2003, our occupancy never dropped because suburban malls are non-discretionary spending and it rides economic cycles very well,’ he said. — Reuters

Source : Business Times – 28 Mar 2008

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