Complete Property Market Updates of Singapore

June 27, 2008

Raffles Hotel won’t be sold after all

Filed under: General,Hotel — Propertymarketupdates @ 3:42 am

Consortium that inked in-principle deal declines to say why sale fell through

A PLAN to sell the historic Raffles Hotel again has fallen through.

The Business Times (BT) yesterday reported that a consortium led by former Credit Suisse banker Mark Pawley, which had inked an in-principle deal to buy the hotel earlier this month, was ‘very disappointed’ with the outcome.


WHAT A PITY: ‘This would have involved an assured distinct identity for Raffles Hotel as a flagship for Singapore in the international hospitality industry and a rejuvenation of the hotel.’ – SPOKESMAN FOR THE CONSORTIUM, expressing disappointment over the failure to buy Raffles Hotel (above) — ST FILE PHOTO

Its spokesman confirmed that the deal was off.

‘This would have involved an assured distinct identity for Raffles Hotel as a flagship for Singapore in the international hospitality industry and a rejuvenation of the hotel,’ the paper quoted her as saying.

Citing confidentiality clauses, she declined to give reasons why the deal soured.

But she denied that there was any issue with the source of the funding, which is believed to be a family trust linked to a European family.

If the deal had gone through, the 121-year-old historic hotel and its adjoining shopping arcade would have changed hands for the second time in three years.

The agreed price was reportedly about $650 million – more than triple the $200 million paid by its American and Middle Eastern owners in 2005.

This was seen as a reflection of the strong boost in demand for hotel space in Singapore in recent years, with the country’s fast-growing visitor arrivals.

Mr Pawley is the chief executive of Singapore-based Oxley Capital Group, a private investment house focusing on real estate and private equity.

While he was head of the Asian real estate, gaming and lodging business at Credit Suisse Investment Banking in Asia, he was involved with the $1.7 billion sale of the entire Raffles Holdings’ hotel portfolio – including Raffles Hotel in Singapore – to United States-based private equity firm Colony Capital in 2005.

Colony later merged that portfolio with Fairmont Hotels & Resorts’ assets to create Fairmont Raffles Hotels International (FRHI). Colony reportedly holds about a 40 per cent stake in FRHI, while Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s Kingdom Hotels International owns the rest.

On May 8, FRHI announced that it had reached an in-principle agreement to sell off Raffles Hotel. But as with its past real estate transactions, any hotels sold would continue to be part of the company’s hotel collection.

FRHI’s hotel management arm, Raffles Hotels & Resorts, also secured a long-term management contract to manage the hotel, reportedly for 40 years.

Market watchers told BT that most existing hotel groups would think twice about buying a hotel with a long-term management contract from the seller. They speculated that this clause might have scuppered the deal.

Source : Straits Times – 31 May 2008

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$17m widening of CTE to begin on Monday

Filed under: About Singapore,General,Regulators — Propertymarketupdates @ 3:33 am

1st phase to last till end-2009, but delays to traffic will be minimal

WORK will begin on Monday to widen the Central Expressway (CTE), but officials say the construction will cause minimal delays on Singapore’s busiest thoroughfare.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) will add a fourth lane on both sides of a 1.5km stretch between Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1 and Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3.

The work, which will cost $16.9 million, is scheduled to last till the end of next year. The LTA said for most of that time, the expressway’s six lanes will remain open.

However, it will close after 11pm on some nights for repaving and to remove an overhead pedestrian crossing.

This is the first phase of a plan to ease congestion on the CTE, which is plagued by traffic jams during morning and evening peak periods.

The Ministry of Transport hopes the work, together with the opening of the Circle Line, Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway and North-South Expressway, will ease congestion on the north-south stretch.

The LTA also plans to expand another 5.5km section of the CTE from the Pan-Island Expressway to Yio Chu Kang Road by 2011.

As part of the project, a new sheltered overhead bridge – replacing the old uncovered bridge – will be built to connect Housing Board blocks with the Serangoon Gardens private estate.

To keep the racket down, the LTA will use noise reduction blankets on its hoardings and put noise guards on machinery.

The authority will also use, for the first time, a more costly method of installing pipes running under the roads.

Unlike the usual ‘cut-and- cover’ method, where motorists have to be redirected to their lanes, the pipes are laid underground without the need to tear up lanes.

Source : Straits Times – 31 May 2008

Evergro to raise $170m through rights issue

Filed under: Developer News,General — Propertymarketupdates @ 3:28 am

EVERGRO Properties, a subsidiary of Keppel Land, plans to raise about $170 million through a renounceable rights issue.

Evergro also intends to carry out a capital reduction exercise to write off accumulated losses of $36.5 million.

The fund-raising involves the offer of 761.8 million new shares on the basis of three rights shares for every two existing shares held.

Evergro, formerly known as Dragon Land, will announce finalised details of the rights issue ‘in due course’, and determine the issue price closer to the launch date.

It expects the issue price ‘to be at a discount of up to 15 per cent to the then-prevailing market price’. Shares of Evergro closed unchanged yesterday at 23.5 cents.

The China-focused property developer expects to receive net proceeds of about $169 million, of which 71 per cent will go towards land acquisition.

Evergro has a landbank of about four million square metres, and is looking to purchase around 10 per cent more land. In particular, the company will focus on land acquisition in Jiangsu for more residential and mixed-use projects.

Further residential developments around a golf course in Tianjin will take up another 11.8 per cent of net proceeds.

The remaining 17.2 per cent will be set aside for working capital needs. According to Evergro’s CEO Goh Toh Sim, the availability of land acquisition opportunities will determine how long proceeds from the rights issue will last.

Jittery stock market conditions have not deterred Evergro from conducting a rights issue. Mr Goh noted that there is strong genuine demand for mid-to-high end homes in China. Also, the stable property market presented a good buying opportunity.

‘For land acquisitions, you will not want to do it when the market overheats,’ he said.

Keppel Land, which holds a 71.37 per cent interest in Evergro, has made an irrevocable undertaking to subscribe for its full entitlement and make excess applications. Hence, all rights shares will be fully taken up.

Evergro also announced plans to reduce its issued share capital by $36.5 million, to write off accumulated losses of the same amount in their entirety.

‘This is to better reflect the financial position and share capital of the company as well as cancel or reduce any issued share capital which has been lost or is unrepresented by available assets,’ said the press release. The exercise will not involve share cancellation.

Source : Business Times – 31 May 2008

Pacific Star to buy MEAG stake in PRMH

Filed under: General,REIT — Propertymarketupdates @ 3:24 am

SINGAPORE-BASED Pacific Star has agreed to buy the 25 per cent stake held by MEAG Munich Ergo AssetManagement GmbH (MEAG) in Prime Reit Management Holdings Pte Ltd (PRMH).

PRMH owns 100 per cent of Macquarie Pacific Star Prime Reit Management Pte Ltd, the manager of Singapore Exchange-listed Macquarie MEAG Prime Reit (MMP Reit). It is also the sole owner of Macquarie Pacific Star Property Management Pte Ltd, the property manager of MMP Reit.

Pacific Star’s existing stake in PRMH is held through its associated company Investmore Enterprises Ltd. The purchase will increase Pacific Star’s interest in PRMH to 50 per cent, the same level as the interest of the Macquarie group.

Said Alfred Lim, chief corporate officer of Pacific Star: ‘Reit management is a core business of Pacific Star. The purchase reaffirms Pacific Star’s firm commitment to the growth of the Singapore Reit industry.’

Pacific Star manages a suite of funds, namely the 1.2 billion euros (S$2.45 billion) Asia Real Estate Income Fund (Areif), the US$600 million Baitak Asian Real Estate Fund (a joint venture between Pacific Star and Kuwait Finance House), the US$750 million Asian Real Estate Prime Development Fund which invests in prime development projects in key Asian cities and the US$500 million PS Arrow Vietnam Fund (a joint venture with Alony Hetz of Israel).

Pacific Star recently announced plans to launch the US$2 billion Pacific Star Fund Select Concept targeting Asian real estate under an umbrella fund structure. Earlier this year, Pacific Star acquired Singapore Power Building for Areif.

Source : Business Times – 30 May 2008

Stamford Land profit up 29% on tax credit

Filed under: Developer News,General,Tax Matters — Propertymarketupdates @ 3:22 am

THANKS to a deferred tax credit of $14.82 million, Stamford Land Corporation saw a 28.7 per cent rise in net profit to $42.94 million for the financial year ended March 31.

Stamford said the deferred tax credit arose from recognition of unrecorded tax losses carried forward as ‘the anticipated future taxable profit will allow the deferred tax assets to be recovered’.

Revenue for the year dipped 7.3 per cent to $276.1 million and pre-tax profit fell 14.6 per cent to $28.5 million as the group had a lower inventory of completed residential properties for sale compared with last year.

Earnings per share rose to 4.97 cents from 3.86 cents.

Its hotel segment achieved a 17 per cent increase in revenue to $232.2 million due to better occupancy and room rates and translation of revenue denominated in Australian dollars and New Zealand dollars into Singapore dollars at higher exchange rates.

The trading segment posted a 22.6 per cent growth in revenue to $14.82 million due to higher contribution from the group’s travel and interior decoration companies.

But growth in these segments was offset by a 66.8 per cent slump in revenue in the property development and investment segment to $28.96 million as fewer units of Stamford Marque remained for sale.

Stamford Land is optimistic about the outlook for the hotel industry in Australia in view of limited new hotel rooms coming on stream, likely further improvements in revenue per available room, and continued strength in the Australian dollar.

‘The group expects positive results from its hotel owning & management segment in the next reporting period and the next 12 months,’ it said.

On the residential front, Stamford Land said its Stamford Residences Auckland is expected to be completed in October this year and it will recognise income from the sale of this project accordingly.

It has pre-sold over 70 per cent of the Stamford Residences and Reynell Terraces, Sydney, which is scheduled for completion in August 2011.

‘The trading segment is expected to further improve on its performance on the back of the strong Singapore economy,’ it added.

Stamford Land has proposed a final dividend of 1.5 cents per share and a special dividend of one cent per share. It paid out an interim dividend of 1.5 cents per share on March 12.

Shares in Stamford Land closed trading yesterday at 67 cents, down one cent.

Source : Business Times – 30 May 2008

HDB resale price growth expected to remain low

Filed under: General,HBD Reviews — Propertymarketupdates @ 3:20 am

Moderate 4-10% growth seen for 2008: Knight Frank

THE rate of price increase of Housing and Development Board (HDB) resale flats will further decelerate in the next six to nine months, resulting in a relatively moderate 4-10 per cent growth for the whole of 2008.

Knight Frank director (research and consultancy) Nicholas Mak added: ‘If the local economy were to slip into a recession in 2008, overall prices of HDB resale flats could vary between a 2 per cent contraction and a 3 per cent growth for the year.’

Knight Frank’s projections are based on HDB’s resale price index, which increased in Q1′08 by 3.7 per cent over the previous quarter. But Mr Mak explained that price movements in the resale market are difficult to project because data on average valuations are not available even if median prices, which is likely to include cash-over-valuation (COV), is.

As such, Mr Mak expected that median COV of all resale flats, which fell to $21,000 in Q1′08 from $22,000 in Q4′08, could continue to fall this year.

Another possible cause for lament is that potential HDB upgraders – a significant factor in private mass market housing – could disappear in sync with falling HDB resale transactions.

In Q1′08, transactions fell about 6 per cent to 6,358 units from 6,748 units in Q4′07.

Knight Frank also believed that HDB upgraders have been supporting the private secondary market, which saw 3,521 units transacted in Q4′07.

While it did not have precise numbers of HDB upgraders buying into the secondary market, it noted that in Q4′07, the greatest number of private secondary market transactions occurred in the Outside the Central Region (OCR), and was ‘attributable to the HDB upgraders bracket’.

And Knight Frank believed that there could be an emerging resistance to swelling home prices.

In January, Knight Frank noted that City View @ Boon Keng, under HDB’s Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS), pushed prices to $727,000 for a five-room unit. While the launch generated a lot of buzz, at end March 2008, 250 of the 714 flats available were still unsold.

‘The issue that arises is the validity of the pricing of such DBSS flats. Keeping in mind that there are more of such developments proposed in places like Ang Mo Kio, Bishan, Toa Payoh, Simei and Bedok, and given that they are still bound by public housing rules such as the income ceiling of buyers, one could begin to wonder about the intrinsic affordability of public housing initiatives,’ Mr Mak said.

Source : Business Times – 30 May 2008

Wheels come off Raffles Hotel deal

Filed under: General,Hotel,Property Deal — Propertymarketupdates @ 3:18 am

Proposed sale to consortium fails to materialise

The proposed sale of Raffles Hotel is off.

A spokeswoman for the consortium led by former Credit Suisse banker Mark Pawley that was to have bought the Singapore icon confirmed yesterday: ‘We regret to say that the sale will not be completed as planned. The consortium is very disappointed with the current outcome as we had hoped for a win-win solution involving all parties.

‘This would have involved an assured distinct identity for Raffles Hotel as a flagship for Singapore in the international hospitality industry and a rejuvenation of the hotel. We will continue to actively explore other opportunities to contribute to Singapore.’

She declined to give reasons for the deal not being completed, citing confidentiality clauses. The deal was reported to have been in the range of about $650 million and would have included the adjoining shopping arcade. But when asked about talk that there might have been some issues with the source of the money for the purchase, she replied strongly: ‘The source of the money has always been the same. This has never been an issue and there is no basis for these allegations.’

On suggestions that the consortium might have faced funding problems, the spokeswoman said: ‘We have the money. To say otherwise is baseless.’

BT understands that the completion of the sale was expected yesterday. The in-principle agreement for the deal was announced on May 8.

Fairmont Raffles Hotels International (FRHI), the owner of the landmark hotel and adjacent shopping arcade, was to have secured a very long-term management contract, reportedly for 40 years, to manage the hotel under its hotel management arm, Raffles Hotels & Resorts.

Colony Capital holds about 40 per cent in FRHI while Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s Kingdom Hotels International owns the rest.

FRHI’s May 8 statement had said that similar to its past real estate transactions, any hotels sold would continue to be part of the company’s hotel collection and managed under long-term management contracts. Industry observers say that this is crucial to FRHI’s plans to spin off and float a hotel management arm.

‘Most existing hotel groups would be reluctant to purchase a hotel with a long-term management contract from the seller. And frankly, Fairmont Raffles would jealously guard their proprietary management systems from any potential hotel owner that is also in the business,’ a market watcher said.

Source : Business Times – 30 May 2008

Blending the old and new

Filed under: General,Property Add Value — Propertymarketupdates @ 3:16 am

SEAMLESSLY merging two buildings into one, while balancing the old with the new, is the challenge facing the architectural team behind the $320-million National Art Gallery, set to open in 2013.

On Wednesday, it was announced that France’s Studio Milou Architecture, in collaboration with Singapore’s CPG Consultants, won the bid to design the gallery which is to be housed in the former Supreme Court and City Hall buildings, both of which front the Padang.

The museum will showcase South-east Asian and Singapore art.

‘Finding a way to keep the character of the buildings while making it a modern art gallery is the task ahead,’ Mr Jean-Francois Milou, 54, lead partner of Studio Milou Architecture, tells Life!.

Mr Lee Soo Khoong, 48, CPG’s senior vice president and the appointed local architect for the project, adds: ‘The overall result must have harmony, grace and beauty.’

Then there’s the challenge of turning two buildings into one.

To do this, Mr Milou is linking the two historically significant buildings at the roof level with a linear draped canopy and a glass ceiling.

He explains that the mesh-like canopy will filter out sunlight entering the rooftop, but there will still be natural light coming in.

‘I’m more worried about too much sunlight coming in, rather than too little,’ he adds.

The two buildings will also be linked at the new basement, which will serve as the entrance to the art gallery.

‘Visitors will enter here before they proceed to the exhibition space,’ he says. The basement will house a gallery shop and ticketing counters.

Mr Milou is a graduate of the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. This is his first major project in Asia, although he has worked as a consultant for Unesco and for the French government on projects in India, Nepal and Indonesia.

Notable museum projects done by his firm in his home country include the Burial Mounds Museum in Bougon and the National Automobile Museum in Mulhouse.

The firm also recently won an architectural competition to readapt a 19th-century building into a cultural and leisure centre.

Local partner CPG Consultant is no stranger to conservation work. Some of its projects include the National Museum of Singapore, The Arts House at Old Parliament House and the Singapore Art Museum.

The design of the new art gallery is getting strong interest from the arts community.

Mr Milenko Prvacki, 67, dean of the faculty of fine arts at Lasalle College of Fine Arts, hopes the architectural team will ‘use creativity to transform the spaces and not let the historical baggage that comes with each space constrain their designs’.

Visual artist Jeremy Sharma, 30, hopes the exhibition space will be big enough to accommodate big works so that artists can play with the space.

Mr Milou assures that this will be done.

Key features of the two buildings such as the facades, the main staircases, the main courtroom in the Supreme Court and the surrender chamber in City Hall, will be kept.

The architect says he will also retain the existing finishes and ambience of the two buildings. The only big change he will make is in City Hall, where the third and fourth storeys will be combined into a double volume exhibition space.

The art gallery will have about 10,000 sq m of exhibition space, ‘where people can wander about on their own’, he says.

When completed, he hopes the gallery will appeal to people of all ages.

He says: ‘Those of my generation will be able to see the complexity and elegance of the project, while the young generation will be impressed by its design.’

Source : Straits Times – 30 May 2008

Directors’ Trades: Ho Bee

Filed under: Developer News,Financing,General — Propertymarketupdates @ 3:08 am

HO BEE DIRECTOR RAISES DIRECT STAKE

MR DESMOND Woon Choon Leng, executive director at Ho Bee Investment, has been snapping up shares in the property developer this week.

On Tuesday, he bought 150,000 shares on the open market at 95.8 cents apiece.

Then on Wednesday, he bought another 250,000 shares on the open market at 93.7 cents apiece.

Ho Bee’s share price fell nine cents, or more than 9 per cent, during five straight days of losses that ended on Wednesday. The counter rose one cent to close at 93 cents yesterday.

These two transactions raised Mr Woon’s direct stake to 1.55 million shares, or 0.21 per cent, of the firm’s issued share capital.

In March, Ho Bee chairman and chief executive Chua Thian Poh bought 300,000 shares at 89.5 cents apiece through Ho Bee Holdings, further raising his deemed stake to 476.4 million shares, or 64.61 per cent, of issued share capital.

Ho Bee’s first-quarter results, announced earlier this month, were hurt by a drop in home sales. It reported a 62 per cent plunge in its net earnings to $26.1 million for the quarter ended March 31.

Revenue also fell 62 per cent to $94.2 million, mainly due to the lower recognition of revenue from its property development project, The Coast at Sentosa Cove.

While it warned that the property market is expected to remain soft in the near term, it expects earnings to be supported by recognition of income from the sale of its residential projects, which include Vertis at Amber Gardens and Quinterra in Holland Road, in the next few years.

Source : Straits Times – 30 May 2008

UBS chief says worst of crisis is over

Filed under: Financing,General,USA — Propertymarketupdates @ 3:06 am

The head of embattled Swiss bank UBS said yesterday that the worst was behind it after it was recently forced to write down about US$37 billion (S$50.7 billion) of assets hit by the United States sub-prime crisis.

‘I definitely think that the worst is behind us,’ UBS chief executive Marcel Rohner told Swiss newspaper Le Temps. ‘There will certainly be plenty of things for banks to clear up over the next two years, but as far as systemic risks are concerned, we’ve got over the hardest part.’

He added that UBS’ investment banking arm had ‘developed some questionable economic activities’ in the run-up to the sub-prime crisis. ‘We made the mistake of adopting an imitation strategy to try and catch up with our competitors in fixed income operations.’

Earlier this month, it posted first-quarter losses of 11.5 billion Swiss francs (S$15.1 billion). The bank faces fresh problems after a former member of its private banking team was detained in the US as part of a tax evasion probe.

The bank decided to shut down its cross-border private banking business for US customers in November last year, but recently, Bradley Birkenfeld, a former senior banker, was indicted for helping wealthy Americans to evade paying income tax on their investments.

Source : Straits Times – 30 May 2008

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