Complete Property Market Updates of Singapore

July 10, 2008

Saved… but it’s a numbers game

Filed under: General,Land Sale,Property Deal — Propertymarketupdates @ 4:46 am

Once the tallest building in S-E Asia, the old Asia Insurance Building was saved when its new owners were granted an extra 14 per cent in floor area

IT WAS the first modern high-rise building in the Collyer Quay area and once the tallest building in Southeast Asia. Yet the groundbreaking Asia Insurance Building faced an uncertain future a few years ago.

Its original owner, the Asia Insurance Company, opposed the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s suggestion to conserve the property because that could hurt its chances of a sale. The 53-year-old, 20-storey building was eventually sold to service residence operator The Ascott Group in 2006 for $110 million.

That gave the building a second lease of life.

Ascott chose to ride on the building’s heritage and refurbish it to provide 146 serviced apartments for top business professionals. The URA sweetened the deal by allowing it to expand its floor space by 14 per cent. This let it make enough adjustments to add 6 per cent more floor space and squeeze in about 20 more units, a substantial bottom-line boost, given daily rates ranging from $780 for a studio to $2,300 for a two-bedroom apartment.

This made conserving the building a no-brainer for Ascott.

Designed by the late architect Ng Keng Siang, it had a brass mail chute similar to one found in the historic Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York. Large parts of its facade were clad in Italian Travertine marble. Its stone panels at street level were made of Nero Portaro, a black marble from Sicily that comes with gold and whitish veins.

It would have been hard to build something as iconic within the tight 969 sq m site at the junction of Finlayson Green and Raffles Quay, Ascott’s senior vice-president for product and technical services, Mr Jean-Claude Erne, tells The Straits Times. Demolishing it for a new one would also have added up to a year in the construction process.

Refurbishment turned out to be no mean feat though. First, the old building had two separate lift cores, which had to be carefully moved to a centralised area for more efficient access for residents.

The 1950s brass-handled window panes were too thin to block out noise from the busy junction. Instead of replacing the windows entirely, Ascott mounted thicker glass on the original frames and hired a specialist to seal them securely.

The original building also had no carpark, and Ascott needed to cater to its car-owning clientele. It got around the problem by carving out a new driveway at its ground-floor entrance and offering valet parking instead.

No luxury residence would be complete without a swimming pool. Ascott put one on its rooftop by reinforcing the structure to take additional weight.

Finally, Ascott wanted to the tie its interior decor to 1950s Singapore without being too kitschy.

It commissioned artwork from local artists like Han Sai Por, Goh Beng Kwan and Tan Kian Por in the lobby as well as rooms, keeping sepia-toned pictures of old Singapore to lift lobbies on the building’s upper levels.

All in, Ascott spent about $60 million refurbishing the building, which opens for business in October.

While Mr Erne expresses pride about the final product, he admits its success came about ultimately because the numbers worked out in Ascott’s favour.

He says: ‘It’s almost an organic process. Whatever the building or site has, you see how best to make it work, and (from the) extra gross floor area that comes about as part of the process, we try to maximise every inch that we can sell to customers.’


It would have been hard to build something as iconic within the tight 969 sq m site. Demolishing it for a new one would also have added up to a year in the construction process.

Source : Straits Times – 7 Jun 2008


Nassim Park Residences: Wee family goes condo-shopping

Filed under: General,Property Deal — Propertymarketupdates @ 4:42 am

Its members pick up three units in Nassim Park Residences for $40m

MEMBERS of the Wee family have bought three units at Nassim Park Residences near Botanic Gardens for a total of nearly $40 million, a filing by UOL Group to Singapore Exchange (SGX) on Wednesday shows.

Wee Ee Cheong, CEO of United Overseas Bank and son of UOL chairman and controlling shareholder Wee Cho Yaw, picked up a penthouse for $18.33 million or $2,670 per square foot (psf).

Two of his siblings bought a sky unit each in the five-storey freehold condo at about $10.6 million each. Wee Ee Chao, who sits on the UOL board, bought a unit with his wife Jennifer for $3,308 psf, while his sister Wei Chi snapped up a unit for herself for $3,293 psf.

The SGX filing also showed that UOL director Alan Choe’s son Jonathan, through his company Montgomery Hills, bought a ground-floor unit, that comes with its own pool, for nearly $11.5 million or $2,513 psf.

Buyers of the four units received a special 2 per cent discount. More than 40 units have been sold in the development, which has a total 100 units, since its preview began the week of Vesak Day.

The average price achieved is said to be somewhere in the $3,000-$3,200 psf band, although analysts expect the developer to raise prices slightly when the project is officially launched next week. The project is being marketed by CB Richard Ellis and Savills.

The units in the development are priced at $10 million and above, with each having at least four bedrooms.

Nassim Park Residences has drawn a good mix of local and foreign buyers, and market watchers attribute its encouraging take-up to its ‘reasonable pricing’.

‘Had this project been launched a year ago, it could have been priced in the mid to high-$3,000 psf range, on average,’ a market watcher said.

UOL is developing Nassim Park Residences jointly with Kheng Leong group (a privately owned vehicle of the Wee family) and Japan’s Orix Corporation, on the former Nassim Park condo site that UOL bought in August 2006 for $380 million.

Its land cost worked out to about $1,131 psf of potential gross floor area inclusive of an estimated development charge of $8 million at the time. The breakeven cost then for a new development on the site was estimated at $1,600-1,700 psf.

UOL has also sold over 40 units of its 88-unit Breeze by the East condo along Upper East Coast Road near The Bayshore since it began selling the project around mid-April.

The five-storey freehold project was initially priced at about $950 psf on average, but this has since been raised to $980 psf, BT understands.

Even so, the pricing is considered attractive compared with the $1,600-$1,700 psf average price that Tiong Aik picked for its 20-storey freehold Parc Seabreeze in the Marine Parade/Joo Chiat area in early May.

Tiong Aik has since withdrawn the project from the market.

Source : Business Times – 7 Jun 2008

July 2, 2008

CWT in for $85.7m gain from warehouse deal

Filed under: Commercial,General,Property Deal — Propertymarketupdates @ 4:24 am

LOGISTICS group CWT Ltd stands to realise a gain of $85.7 million from the sale of one of its biggest warehouse facilities in Singapore.

The company yesterday said it has entered into a conditional agreement with a buyer to sell and lease back its newly-completed Logistics Hub 2 in Tanjong Penjuru.

CWT did not disclose the name of the purchaser but said it is a ‘property fund’ focusing on the Asia-Pacific region. The sale price for the proposed transaction is $115.2 million.

Upon completing the sale, CWT will lease back the building for five years with an option for an additional three-year period.

The firm said in a statement it expects to realise a gain of about $85.7 million from the transaction, based on the aggregate net book value of $28.1 million.

Of the gain, $55.5 million will be recognised as a one-time gain and the balance of $30.2 million will be accounted as a deferred gain to match off against the leaseback commitment.

To illustrate the financial impact, CWT said profit attributable to shareholders in FY2007 after the sale and leaseback would be $90.29 million, compared with $34.79 million before the transaction.

CWT said it plans to use the proceeds to reduce its bank borrowings, to fund its local and regional expansion, and for working capital.

The deal is subject to the approval of JTC and company shareholders. In addition, due to the nature of the warehouse, CWT must complete an environmental baseline study and submit the results to JTC and other relevant parties before the sale can go through.

The company currently owns two integrated logistics hubs in Tanjong Penjuru, which combine to provide nearly 850,000 sq ft of warehouse space for handling hazardous materials and chemical goods.

Both facilities were launched in March this year following an investment of more than $80 million.

Source : Business Times – 4 Jun 2008

July 1, 2008

Fusionopolis Phase 1 nearly sold out already

Filed under: Commercial,General,Property Deal,Regulators — Propertymarketupdates @ 3:35 am

The 120,000 sq m complex will be opened in October

IT HAS yet to be named, but the first phase of Fusionopolis – a complex with two towers and a podium – is almost fully taken up already, ahead of its official opening slotted for this October.

RICH TENANT POOL: The Asian Food Channel, the Thales Technology Centre and NRG Engineering have already moved into Fusionopolis. Upcoming tenants include the Institute for Infocomm Research. — PHOTO: JTC

The soaring complex, which comprises two towers – one with 24 floors and the other, 22 floors – and a podium, will be named next month.

The complex is one of 10 buildings that make up Fusionopolis, a 30ha purpose-built infocommunications and media research and development site at the one-north area off Buona Vista Road.

According to a JTC Corporation spokesman, ‘nearly all of the 120,000 sq m of space in the complex has been taken up’.

Three tenants have already moved in: the Asian Food Channel, the Thales Technology Centre and NRG Engineering.

Other tenants that will be moving into the complex include some of the nation’s top high-tech research institutes, such as the Data Storage Institute, the Institute for Infocomm Research and the Institute of High Performance Computing.

Besides offices and five floors of retail and food and beverage outlets, including supermarket chain Cold Storage’s newest Market Place outlet, JTC has set aside space for sports and lifestyle activities.

There will be rooftop pools, fitness clubs and a theatre devoted to experimental art forms – all designed to cater to the needs of those working and living there.

To accommodate staff living in the complex, there will also be 50 serviced apartments. Each ‘work loft’ will be about 60 sq m in size.

They are part of the architect’s vision of creating a ‘work, live, play, learn’ environment for the complex, which was designed by the late, internationally renowned Dr Kisho Kurokawa.

This design and vision, said the JTC spokesman, will hopefully ‘foster synergistic collaborations between the public and private research institutes and energise the vibrant infocomm and media industry’.

Industrial landlord JTC charges rental rates of $4.67 per sq ft for the business park.

Fusionopolis Phase 2A, with 103,000 sq m of floor space, will have dry and wet laboratories, as well as Singapore’s largest clean-room facility, when it is completed next year.

Phase 2B, which is also scheduled to be completed by next year, is a 16-storey mixed office and retail building with a maximum gross floor area of 50,271 sq m.

JTC has shortlisted 10 building names following an online competition, and it is expected to announce them next month.


The complex will offer tenants and visitors not only offices, retail shops and food outlets, but also space specially allocated to sports and lifestyle activities.

There will be rooftop pools, fitness clubs and a theatre devoted to experimental art forms.

For staff living in the complex, there will be 50 serviced apartments, done up as ‘work lofts’.

Source : Straits Times – 2 June 2008

June 27, 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

June 24, 2008

Nassim condo turns in surprisingly good sales

Filed under: Developer News,General,Property Deal,Property Investment — Propertymarketupdates @ 3:29 am

A LUXURY condominium in the posh Nassim area has turned in surprisingly good preview sales, even as property analysts are predicting a sharp slowdown in the high-end home segment.

Buyers have taken up 38 units at Nassim Park Residences, forking out a whopping $10 million or more for each apartment, sources said.

The 100-unit development, which United Overseas Land (UOL) is building on the former Nassim Park site in Nassim Road, is understood to be priced upwards of $3,000 per sq ft (psf).

The project consists of only four-bedroom and penthouse apartments. Each of the four-bedders is believed to be at least 3,000 sq ft in size, while the penthouses are between 6,000 sq ft and 7,000 sq ft.

UOL declined to comment on the figures yesterday, but sources said the developer might not release some of the units and instead keep them for its own use.

Nassim Park Residences is the first major luxury development to be released for sale this year. Most other launches, especially large, high-end ones, have been held back as developers wait out the market gloom.

Elsewhere, some smaller projects have also seen brisk sales after discounts were offered. Over the Vesak Day weekend, Macly Group sold 60 per cent of the 102-unit Vutton in Novena at a 10 per cent discount off list prices, or about $1,100 psf to $1,400 psf.

Source : Straits Times – 28 May 2008

Developer joins bid for Shaw Brothers

Filed under: Developer News,General,Property Deal — Propertymarketupdates @ 2:42 am

Yeung Kwok-keung has HK$3b loan from chairman of Henderson Land

A GUESSING game over who will bid for Run Run Shaw’s flagship Shaw Brothers intensified over the weekend as a property developer emerged as a prime contender.

Businessman Yeung Kwok-keung has received HK$3 billion (S$523.2 million) in financing from Henderson Land Development chairman Lee Shau-kee to make a bid for Shaw Brothers, according to local press reports.

Mr Yeung is chairman of mainland property company Country Garden (Holdings), and his apparent interest in the media firm has perplexed some observers, fuelling speculation that he may be a front man for another interested party.

Earlier this month, media tycoon Mr Shaw announced that he is looking to sell his stake in entertainment flagship Shaw Brothers, the largest shareholder of Hong Kong’s No 1 broadcaster.

According to an announcement by Shaw Brothers, the 100-year-old media veteran is in talks with ‘representatives of interested parties’ regarding a possible sale.

Mr Shaw holds 75 per cent of Shaw Brothers, a holding company with a 26 per cent stake in Television Broadcasts (TVB), Hong Kong’s leading broadcaster.

Shaw Brothers said that no agreement has been reached on a sale, but press reports have tipped a number of private equity firms to be interested in the stake, including the Tianjin-based Bohai Fund and the Blackstone Group, run by former financial secretary Antony Leung.

The apparent interest of Country Garden’s Mr Yeung is one of the less obvious ones, although there are suggestions that he may be interested in the property assets of the company. Shaw Brothers has a large property jointly held in Clearwater Bay in the New Territories.

It is understood that the company has for some time been trying to get planning permission to develop the large plot into a residential area.

‘He (Mr Yeung) is a property developer, so it’s natural for him to be interested,’ said Allan Ng, executive director of investment bank BOC International. ‘But that piece of land has taken the company years to get government approval for redevelopment.’

One of the main stumbling blocks has been to improve road access to the site, which is situated along a busy stretch of road in the New Territories.

Henderson’s Mr Lee told reporters that his loan to Mr Yeung did not reflect any interest to become involved in the operations of Shaw Brothers or TVB.

A sale to a Hong Kong or Chinese bidder, however, would ease any concerns which Beijing might have that the stake remains in local hands.

In 2006, a bid by PCCW boss Richard Li to sell to foreign investors was thwarted after politics seemed to come into play.

It has long been expected that Mr Shaw would seek to offload his stake in the media company, given recent bouts of ill health. In 2006, the tycoon was believed to have discussed a possible sale with a consortium of local tycoons.

Analysts had suggested that Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp and Malaysian broadcaster Astro could be potential buyers, but were given slim chances because of their foreign status.

TVB in March announced that its net profit last year rose 6 per cent to HK$1.26 billion as advertising revenue increased against the backdrop of a robust economy.

The company also recorded a one-off gain of HK$140 million during the year from a sale of a 20 per cent stake in unit TVB Pay Vision Holdings Ltd. Turnover during 2007 was HK$4.33 billion, up 3 per cent from 2006.

Revenue from terrestrial television broadcasting rose to HK$2.37 billion from HK$2.2 billion the previous year.

Source : Business Times – 27 May 2008

June 19, 2008

Plot ratio increases not needed for now

Filed under: Commercial,General,Property Deal — Propertymarketupdates @ 5:23 am

THERE are no major plot ratio revisions in the latest Draft Master Plan because there is no need.

Speaking on the sidelines of the launch of the Draft Master Plan (MP) 2008 exhibition, Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan said yesterday the intensity of plot ratios has to be, ‘consistent with the land use’.

‘You look at plot ratios when you want to accommodate a certain quantum of population. And if you add it all up and you find that it is sufficient for the population you are planning for, then there is no need to increase it,’ he said.

Mr Mah’s comments come at a time when many Singaporeans are still grappling with the figure of 6.5 million for the long-term projected population, announced last year.

However, looking at the figure for planned-for new housing in MP 2008, the increase in population does not seem to be expected any time soon.

MP 2008 allows for 327,200 new homes in Singapore. Interestingly, MP 2003, which was planned before the 6.5 million target was revealed, allowed for 371,000 homes, 13.4 per cent more than MP 2008.

Also, in 2003 the population was 4.1 million, of whom 700,000 were not Singaporean.

In 2008, the population increased to 4.6 million, of whom one million were not Singaporean.

Asked about the fall in the number of planned new homes, a spokesperson for the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said: ‘The 5.5 million population in Concept Plan 2001 and 6.5 million population for the Mid-Term Concept Plan Review are planning parameters to ensure we have sufficient land for the long term.’

URA added: ‘In the medium term, around 350,000 dwelling units is a comfortable, reasonable number for land safeguarding purposes, which still allows some flexibility to meet market demand. Both MP 2003 and MP 2008 have safeguarded about 350,000 dwelling units.’

An extra 900 hectares of land added for park space in MP 2008 suggests Singaporeans will not be crowded out soon.

Mr Mah added: ‘Land scarcity is always an issue with Singapore. Yes, we are short of land, but, no, we are not short of space. By creative and innovative planning, we can make a lot of difference.’

Source : Business Times – 24 May 2008

313@Somerset to open by end of next year

Filed under: Commercial,General,Property Deal — Propertymarketupdates @ 4:33 am

It will have eight floors of mid to upper-range fashion, food, lifestyle shops

COME the end of next year, shoppers at Orchard Road can expect a new eight-storey shopping mall with around 180 stores, right at the doorstep of Somerset MRT station.

Developed by Australian group Lend Lease Retail, 313@Somerset will have a total of 294,000 square feet of retail space, offering a fashion, food and lifestyle mix from the mid and upper-mid range of retailers.

‘Our vision for the centre is to be the leading retail destination for the mid to upper-mid range of fashion and food that’s going to deliver a superior customer experience,’ said the development director of Lend Lease Retail Asia, Michael Kenderes.

The total cost of the new shopping mall is estimated to be $1 billion, and Lend Lease Retail had started marketing to potential tenants six months ago. According to Mr Kenderes, response from interested retailers has been extremely positive.

‘They like our tight focus on positioning in the market,’ he explained.

The group is currently in different stages of negotiations with around half the tenants in the building and have reached some binding commitments, although it declined to reveal any anchor tenant.

It expects to fully lease all its units by the end of the six months before the shopping mall’s launch.

The mall’s largest retailer is set to be a food court operator at a food loft on level five, with about 28,000 sq ft of space. About a third of the retail space will go to food and beverage outlets.

‘We are engaged with all the Singaporean retailers in the mid-range fashion offer. There are some from Australia that are interested to come in, and some other international brands from both the US and Europe that we’re talking to,’ revealed Mr Kenderes.

313@Somerset will not have any major anchor tenant, but instead will focus on mini anchor tenants, including international retailers.

‘Lend Lease Retail is looking to leverage on its global relationships with retailers as our partners and to encourage new-to-market retailers to join us,’ Mr Kenderes commented.

The new mall was also awarded the Green Mark Platinum from the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) – the highest sustainability recognition in Singapore.

Some of the key initiatives that will be incorporated into 313@Somerset include using solar panels to help power its carpark and the recovery of waste heat for use within the centre.

In total, the energy saving measures will reduce energy consumption by 30 per cent.

Source : Business Times – 23 May 2008

June 16, 2008

CapitaMall snaps up Atrium@Orchard for $840m

Filed under: Commercial,General,Land Sale,Property Deal — Propertymarketupdates @ 3:48 am

It has plans for dramatic makeover with 100,000 sq ft of new retail space

THE Dhoby Ghaut shopping area will soon be jazzed up now that CapitaMall Trust (CMT) has bought a prime building there for $839.8 million – right next to Plaza Singapura, which it already owns.

A makeover is already under way at one end of Orchard Road with the upcoming Ion Orchard. Further along, Somerset Central is set to transform the Somerset area. Now, it is Dhoby Ghaut’s turn.

SEAMLESS SHOPPING EXPERIENCE: This artist’s impression shows how the planned integration of Plaza Singapura and The Atrium@Orchard will create 170m of prime retail frontage along Orchard Road. — PHOTO: CAPITALAND

CMT, the owner of retail malls such as Tampines Mall and Junction 8, said yesterday it had acquired The Atrium@Orchard from the Government.

The building, with two office towers of 10 and seven storeys, will boast an extra 100,000 sq ft in retail space, including the vast ground-level atrium and the area connecting it to Plaza Singapura. The Atrium is linked to the Dhoby Ghaut MRT interchange.

CMT’s plans mean shoppers can look forward to large covered spaces, better links between The Atrium and Plaza Singapura, and more shops as CMT moves to integrate the two buildings.

CMT wants to attract overseas brands or local players such as watch shops or jewellery shops that might be keen to open flagship stores there given the extensive 170m prime frontage.

The chief executive of CapitaMall Trust Management, Mr Pua Seck Guan, said: ‘We have strengthened our foothold in the downtown area of Orchard Road.’ CMT already co-owns Raffles City with CapitaCommercial Trust.

The office development at The Atrium has about 20 tenants, including Temasek Holdings, Barclays Capital and MTV Asia. It was put up for sale by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA).

Already, government approval has been given to cover the state land or open space in front of Plaza Singapura.

Now that CMT is acquiring The Atrium, more ambitious plans are in the works, such as a fully sheltered link between the two buildings.

Also, the second floor of The Atrium will be connected to the corresponding floor of Plaza Singapura, Mr Pua said.

CMT is exploring if it would be possible to build more links between the higher floors or between the basements of the two buildings.

For retailers looking to sport an extra eye-catching presence, CMT plans to offer a striking design of duplex or double-storey stores.

With the integration, shoppers will also benefit from the direct links to the MRT station from The Atrium. Once the Circle Line is up and running, the Dhoby Ghaut station will offer commuters the convenience of three MRT lines.

In total, CMT’s plans involve adding about 100,000 sq ft of retail space and taking away about 55,000 sq ft of office space. Mr Pua did not disclose the construction costs, but analysts said they could come to a few hundred dollars per sq ft (psf).

Once completed in about three years’ time, the development will boast a total lettable area of about 900,000 sq ft, making it one of the largest developments on Orchard Road.

There are concerns that the added retail space will come onstream in uncertain economic times, but Mr Pua said ‘there is no sign of a consumer slowdown at the malls’.

Some analysts also have concerns about the purchase because the current yield from the property is just 2.1 per cent, because of the low rentals inked by SLA.

However, Mr Pua said that with leases up for renewal, ‘there is the potential to double the average office rental of the property by 2010′.

He is confident that increasing the ground floor space will improve the rentals. Units on the ground floor of Plaza Singapura command over $20 psf in rent.

CMT’s purchase will be funded mostly by a $650 million convertible bond issue. Fully underwritten by Goldman Sachs, the issue will have a coupon rate of 1 per cent and a conversion premium of 20 per cent to 35 per cent.

CMT units were halted from trading yesterday afternoon before the news was announced.

Yesterday morning, they closed down 12 cents at $3.51.

Source : Straits Times – 23 May 2008

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