Saturday, April 30, 2011

Far East beats 11 rivals in Hillview site tender

Business Times: Fri, Apr 29
A STATE tender for a 99-year leasehold site at Hillview Avenue that can yield 400 or more apartments and some retail space attracted a strong turnout of 12 bids yesterday.


The highest bid was from Far East Organization for about $289.78 million or $672.61 per square foot per plot ratio (psf ppr). This was 2.7 per cent higher than the next highest offer of $655.05 psf ppr from a tie-up between Sing Holdings and Fragrance Group. The lowest bid of $408.05 psf ppr was from Hiap Hoe subsidiary Leng Hoe Development.


The 1.4 hectare site can yield a maximum gross floor area of 430,825 sq ft, of which up to 15 per cent or 64,583 sq ft is allowed for commercial uses for the provision of convenient retail amenities for Hillview residents.


Notwithstanding the site's 15 per cent retail component, market watchers could not help pointing out that the $673 psf ppr price fetched for the latest plot is among the highest for 99-year suburban sites which can be developed into private homes to be sold at state tenders recently.


Colliers International's director of research and advisory Chia Siew Chuin estimates the breakeven cost for a new project on the site at about $1,100 psf.


Another analyst suggested that given that agents are indicating prices of well over $1,000 psf for Wing Tai's Foresque Residences at Petir Road, a new project on the Hillview Avenue site, which is near the upcoming Hillview MRT Station, should be able to command a price premium.


Chng Kiong Huat, executive director, development & planning, Far East Organization, said: 'This is an excellent opportunity for us to create another exciting trans-urban village similar to the chic Greenwich Village and The Greenwich at Seletar Hills which was very well received by the market. The development will have a distinctive architecture that capitalises on the beautiful views of the surroundings.'


The commercial component in the proposed Hillview development will offer a variety of food and beverage options, as well as retail and lifestyle services.


'This will add new energy and vibrancy to the neighbourhood,' Mr Chng said.


Credo Real Estate executive director Ong Teck Hui too reckons the commercial component is likely to enjoy strong patronage from residents in the vicinity.


'There's a lack of such amenities in the immediate area. Currently, the nearest shops and eating places are at The Rail Mall, along Upper Bukit Timah Road, or within the HDB estates in Bukit Batok New Town,' Mr Ong added.


Far East's Mr Chng said the group is familiar with the Hillivew location, having developed a number of projects there.


These include Hillview Regency, Glendale Park and Hillvista. Far East also recently launched The Lanai and the nearby Junction 10 and The Tennery.


Bidders at yesterday's tender include Sim Lian; Centurion RE; a partnership between City Developments and Hong Leong Holdings; a Singapore Land-UOL Group tie-up; Tuan Sing; Frasers Centrepoint; Han Chee Juan's Teneriffe Development; and CEL Development.


Asset Legend Limited, which is not incorporated in Singapore, also took part in yesterday's tender.

Latest property measures more effective: NUS study

Business Times: Fri, Apr 29
(SINGAPORE) A study by NUS's Institute of Real Estate Studies suggests the two latest rounds of property cooling measures on Aug 30 last year and Jan 13 this year may have been more effective in taming prices of completed non-landed private homes than the earlier two series of tightening measures in September 2009 and February 2010.


NUS' overall Singapore Residential Price Index (SRPI) has inched up about 0.19 per cent on average per month since the January measures were introduced. It also increased only about 0.12 per cent on average per month from the time the end-August 2010 measures were introduced till December last year.


In contrast, the September 2009 and February 2010 cooling measures were followed by average monthly increases in the SRPI of 1.13 per cent and 1.23 per cent respectively.


The index covers only completed non-landed private homes.


Average monthly sales volumes of non-landed private homes - covering transactions in both the primary and secondary markets but excluding executive condos (which are a hybrid of public and private housing) - have shrunk to 1,391 after the latest Jan 13 cooling measures (based on URA Realis caveats data up to April 21).


The monthly sales volume following last August's tightening package was 2,490 units, while the figure after the February 2010 cooling measures was 2,907.


'We're now seeing the cumulative effect of continuing tightening measures implemented since September 2009,' said an analyst.


Associate Professor Lum Sau Kim of NUS's Institute of Real Estate Studies and Department of Real Estate said: 'The policy interventions sought to tighten leverage and dampen speculative build-up in the housing market.'


'Other than the February 2010 measures, the rate of price appreciation for non-landed private homes and sales volumes have declined following each policy date. However, these declines have been temporary and suggest that other drivers of home price and transaction activity may have overwhelmed the macro-prudential measures,' she added.


Market watchers recapitulated some of the factors that continue to fuel interest in Singapore's property market despite steps by the authorities to try to dampen the market: high liquidity, diversion of hot money from overseas markets like China and Hong Kong to Singapore's real estate market, the low interest rate environment and the appeal of property as a hedge against inflation.


DTZ's head of consulting & research (SE Asia) Ong Choon Fah said: 'Usually there will be a knee- jerk reaction every time there is a policy as market participants start to evaluate the likely impact. They want to wait for a while to see what happens and if nothing much happens, they start to enter the market again.'


Mrs Ong also recalled that the government began implementing the cooling measures in a very calibrated way starting with increasing land supply. 'But when these didn't seem to produce the desired result, they started to address the demand side as well and that's when we began seeing a more significant impact on the market.


'And as we start to see all the supply materialising both in terms of marketing of new projects and physical completion of projects launched earlier, reality will hit home. A lot of people bought properties for investment and will need to find somebody to lease them or sell them to.'


NUS's latest flash estimates for its March 2011 SRPI also showed that prices of completed apartments and condos fared better in suburban locations than in the poshest areas.


The SRPI sub-index for the Central Region, which covers districts 1-4 and 9-11, dipped 1.9 per cent month-on-month in March, according to NUS's flash estimates. This sub-index has appreciated 2.6 per cent since the end of last year and 8.6 per cent year on year.


In contrast, the sub-index for the Non-Central region, where suburban mass-market condos are located, appreciated 1.7 per cent month on month in March. The flash estimate for March was up 3.8 per cent year to date and 14.4 per cent year on year.


As a result, the overall SRPI rose 0.1 per cent month on month in March; the March flash estimate reflection price gains of 3.3 per cent year to date and 11.9 per cent year on year.


Meanwhile, Frasers Centrepoint and Far East Organization have sold 336 of the 500 units released at their Eight Courtyards condo in Yishun since they began previewing the project on April 15. The average price is $795 per square foot. The 99-year leasehold project has 654 apartments.

Thakral's property ventures going well

Business Times: Fri, Apr 29
CONSUMER electronics distributor Thakral Corporation revealed yesterday that it has successfully repositioned its real estate division, and its projects in Australia are going well.


'We have just closed two transactions that we have announced last week,' said Jaginder Pasricha, managing director (real estate and corporate), referring to the Australia Towers and the Emerant Lane transactions.


Thakral was a partner in the first stage of developing Australia Towers - the first residential development built in Sydney Olympic Park - having invested A$4 million (S$5.4 million). They now plan to participate in stages two and three of the project, which comprises 551 residential and commercial units in two towers.


They have invested up to A$1.35 million in ongoing project Emerant Lane at Sydney, and are expecting to top up their investment up to A$8.4 million. The project's total end value is set at A$53 million, and Thakral expects it to be completed by 2013.


Thakral is also working on the Harbour One project in Melbourne, which is now in advanced construction stage. The 302 apartments have been completely pre-sold.


Thakral is also in talks with MAB Corporation, the Australian developer of Harbour One, about an upcoming project near the Harbour One site. 'We have two towers coming up there, about 500 apartments. They've launched the sales eight weeks ago and have already sold more than 60 per cent,' said Mr Pasricha.


He also said: 'We won't see the full impact of the returns of the contribution of this (property) business to the group until next year.' Thakral shares closed unchanged at 2.5 cents yesterday.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Mah on need to strike balance in home prices

Business Times: Thu, Apr 28
NATIONAL Development Minister Mah Bow Tan yesterday stressed that he is trying to strike a balance between first-time home buyers' concerns about housing affordability due to the recent rise in prices on the one hand, and ensuring that those who already own homes do not see the value of their homes devalued unnaturally, on the other.


'Balancing these two is a tricky business but it is something we are trying very hard to do,' Mr Mah said yesterday. He also acknowledged that housing is a 'hot-button issue' this election, at a short door-stop interview yesterday morning as he walked into Dunman Secondary School, the nomination centre for Tampines GRC.


Elaborating on this topic at a media briefing after nominations closed - with his five-member People's Action Party (PAP) team pitted against National Solidarity Party (NSP) in Tampines GRC - Mr Mah said: 'I have these two objectives - one to make sure that homes are affordable to first timers, and two at the same time to make sure that people who already own their homes do not see the value of their homes go down unnaturally. If they go up and down with the market, that's fine, but to unnaturally depress the home prices that's not something we want to see.


'Just to concentrate on one thing, affordability alone, without considering the impact on the other objective is not giving the whole picture.


'But we have been doing a lot in terms of affordability and we will continue to do so. We have increased the housing supply and moderated the demand. We are monitoring the situation as carefully as we can, so we cool and we do not crash the market,' Mr Mah said.


Despite the difficult balance between the two objectives, the minister emphasised: 'My assurance to Singaporeans is that we will always have the interests of both groups in mind - first-time buyers of flats and after they have become buyers of flats they join the second group, the owners of flats.'


'NSP is focusing on one group but failed to mention what they would like to do for the second group,' the minister added.


NSP secretary-general Goh Meng Seng, who is leading his party's five-member team for the contest with PAP for Tampines GRC, said in his address to supporters after the nomination results were released: 'Whether the sons and daughters of this land could continue to get a cheap roof over their heads, generations after generations, will depend on your vote.'


Mr Mah, during the press briefing after that event, was exasperated with Mr Goh's recent statement, in response to Mr Mah's examples to demonstrate housing affordability for first-time HDB flat buyers, that 'paying nothing as a deposit for a new flat or covering monthly mortgages with CPF contributions does not mean public housing is affordable'.


Mr Mah said yesterday: 'If being able to use less than a quarter of your income (to service your monthly mortgage instalment) and no cash to finance your flat is not considered affordable, what exactly does Mr Goh define to be 'affordable housing'?'


He urged NSP to come up with its definition of affordability. Otherwise the goalpost keeps shifting in the discussion on affordability. For his part, Mr Mah has defined affordability in terms of the deposit for a first-time HDB flat purchase and the monthly payment for the mortgage.


'I explained earlier that eight out of 10 new flat buyers last year used 25 per cent or less of their salaries to service their monthly mortgage (instalment). And they need not work for more than two or three years in order to build up their CPF for the deposit. And I also explained why this is possible, because of the grants that we give to young couples, especially the middle and lower-income young couples,' Mr Mah said.


Mr Mah also said the Opposition's aversion to the government's concept of HDB flats as both a roof over the head as well as an asset for Singaporeans would be akin to treating HDB flats as an expenditure item or rental housing. 'Without the hope of appreciation (in value), housing is then just an expenditure item, rather than an investment - no different from long-term rental. . . The government's position is very clear: Homes as a roof as well as an asset. . . Which is better for Singaporeans? Let's leave it to Singaporeans to give us their feedback.'


Reports by Winston Chai, Felda Chay, Chen Huifen, Chuang Peck Ming, Victoria Ho, Joyce Hooi, Lynn Kan, Lynette Khoo, Jamie Lee, Lee U-Wen, Michelle Quah, Nisha Ramchandani, Kalpana Rashiwala, Uma Shankari, R Sivanithy, Ven Sreenivasan, Conrad Tan, Michelle Tan, Mindy Tan, Teh Shi Ning, Anna Teo, Emilyn Yap

Better gains by SingLand fail to lift UIC

Straits Times: Thu, Apr 28
INCREASED unit sales and a higher completion rate at its Trizon project nudged first-quarter net profit up 2 per cent at developer Singapore Land (SingLand).


Earnings for the three months to March 31 came in at $48.8 million while revenue climbed 29 per cent to $138.3 million.


Apart from higher sales, SingLand said better occupancy rates and food and beverage revenue from its Pan Pacific Singapore, Mandarin Oriental and Marina Mandarin hotels also helped lift earnings.


The group also increased its investments in associated companies, particularly in Shanghai Jin Peng Realty.


SingLand also spent $1.2 million upgrading investment properties during the first quarter.


Earnings per share rose 1.7 per cent from a revised 11.6 cents last year to 11.8 cents while net asset value per share moved up from $10 as of Dec 31 to $10.11.


SingLand shares ended eight cents higher at $7.18 yesterday.


But the developer's first-quarter results were unable to lift the bottom line of parent company United Industrial Corporation (UIC).


UIC's first quarter earnings fell 21 per cent, from $59.1 million to $46.9 million, while revenue slid 23 per cent to $195.5 million.


UIC said the lower numbers reflected the decline in sales following the completion of the One Amber, Grand Duchess and Tianjin Jun Long Square projects.


Although occupancy rates have improved, the company's rental income fell $1.3 million to $73 million. Revenue from its hotels gave a small boost in earnings, with contributions from Westin Tianjin hotel improving by $3.3 million to reach $4.3 million. Revenue from Pan Pacific Singapore climbed $3.1 million to $28.5 million.


Earnings per share fell from 4.3 cents to 3.4 cents while net asset value per share rose from $2.71 as of Dec 31 to $2.76 per share.


UIC remains upbeat about the months ahead. It said that while more new and secondary office space will come onstream, the office rental market is expected to improve.


It added that the retail leasing market is likely to remain stable, especially in the suburban malls.


UIC shares closed five cents lower at $2.81.

Realise how important this GE is: PM Lee

Business Times: Thu, Apr 28
A STRONG contest from the Opposition will help voters crystallise issues and realise what is at stake, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.


'It's good that we are contested, and contested strongly,' said Mr Lee, secretary-general of the People's Action Party (PAP), which will take on the opposition for all but five of 87 parliamentary seats in the general election on May 7.


'(The Opposition) have said they will fight to win, and we will fight to make sure they do not win,' said Mr Lee at a media conference yesterday, flanked by deputy prime ministers Wong Kan Seng and Teo Chee Hean as well as Education Minister Ng Eng Hen.


Still, a stronger Opposition will 'galvanise a response from the ground', 'force voters to sit up, pay attention and decide' what to do to make sure their future is safe, he said.


He thinks that this wider contest should drive voters' attention to the one issue that he himself urges voters to focus on, ahead of the many issues bound to arise in the nine days of campaigning kicking off today. And that is captured in the PAP's slogan: 'Securing our future together.'


Reiterating this, in reply to questions on opposition veteran Low Thia Khiang's move from his Hougang single-seat ward to Aljunied GRC, he said: 'What we would like to tell Singaporeans is that when you vote, think carefully because it affects your property value, it affects your neighbourhood, it affects your country, it affects your future.'


He dwelt briefly on the Workers' Party's slogan, saying that a 'First World Parliament' is something which 'does not exist anywhere - it's a slogan the Workers' Party has come up with and sounds good'. But a first-class system is one that has a Parliament with high-quality debate; a government which delivers responsible, capable leadership; and which encourages responsible participation in politics, he said.


In his view, constitutional changes allowing for up to 18 non-PAP voices in the next Parliament via the Non-Constituency Member of Parliament and Nominated Member of Parliament schemes, should 'hold ministers to account' while returning the PAP to power with a strong mandate.


'It will enable the government, I hope, to have a firm mandate . . . You want a government that is able to fly like a fighter pilot, not fly like an A380 Airbus.'


Tackling multiple questions on Steve Tan's abrupt withdrawal from the race yesterday, he said that Mr Tan's 'personal matter' cropped up at the last minute and the party decided that the change had to be made, 'awkward as it is'. Uncertainty is inherent in any process of choosing complex human beings, he said. 'There's no process which is 100 per cent accurate. And even if you're accurate now, something may happen later on and we'd have to revise our assessment.'


He stressed that Chia Shi-Lu's smooth ride into Parliament as part of the PAP's Tanjong Pagar GRC team does not tarnish the credibility of the GRC system, which is important not just to ensure minority representation, but also to 'make all parties focus on multiracial policies'. Dr Chia replaces Mr Tan.


Mr Lee added that it was the opposition candidates' failure to file papers in time that led to a walkover in Tanjong Pagar. He is also not worried about first-time voters, as Singapore is a 'property-owning democracy' with citizens who have a stake in Singapore. This gives him confidence that whether people have voted before or not, their motivations and incentives are 'aligned with good outcomes for the country'.


For the battle ahead, his advice to the PAP candidates has been to 'fight on the issues - this should be a clean fight'.


Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Vivian Balakrishnan was recently accused of 'smear tactics' by the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) after he flagged a video of the SDP's Vincent Wijeysingha at a gay forum and questioned the SDP's agenda.


While not commenting directly on the matter, Mr Lee said: 'Character is not irrelevant . . . but this is not a matter of personal attacks on people; this is a matter of trying to decide who are qualified to represent the voters.'


The SDP issue is not an issue in this election at all, he said. 'This election is not about 377A or gays; this election is about the future of Singapore and how we ensure that future of Singapore.


'The fact is that people now have to take a stand and decide where they are, I think that emphasises how important this election is. It's not masak-masak (child's play); it's for real. It has very serious consequences.'

CapitaLand posts $101.5m Q1 profit

Business Times: Wed, Apr 27
PROPERTY giant CapitaLand reported first-quarter 2011 net profit of $101.5 million, which is 3.4 times the restated Q1 2010 net profit of $29.8 million. The latter was previously reported at $115.4 million.


The restated Q1 2010 net profit figure takes into account the retrospective adjustments relating to Financial Reporting Standard INT FRS 115 - Agreements for the Construction of Real Estate - which took effect on Jan 1, 2011.


The group said it will continue to adopt the percentage of completion method of revenue and profit recognition for units sold in development projects under the progressive payment scheme in Singapore.


For projects sold under the deferred payment scheme in Singapore (such as The Orchard Residences) as well as all overseas development projects, revenue and profits will be recognised when the units are handed over to buyers.


CapitaLand booked Q1 2011 revenue of $611.5 million, up 39 per cent from the restated figure of nearly $440 million in the same quarter last year. This was due chiefly to higher contribution from the group's development projects in Singapore, China and Australia. These include residential projects such as The Interlace and The Wharf Residence in Singapore; Beau Residences and The Riviera in China; as well as commercial, industrial and residential projects in Australia.


At earnings before interest and tax (Ebit) level, the group made $283.5 million in Q1 2011, up 46 per cent over Q1 2010. The improvement was largely fuelled by higher profits from development projects, higher portfolio gains and lower forex losses.


In Q1 2011, the group booked a net portfolio gain of $16.4 million mainly from realisation of available-for-sale reserves in respect of LFIE Holding Limited following CapitaLand China Holdings increasing its stake in LFIE from 6.95 per cent to 44.98 per cent. LFIE Holdings' shareholders include Fung Properties China, an investment arm of the privately held Fung Holdings Limited.


The latter belongs to the families of the controlling shareholders of Li & Fung Group. CapitaLand's investment is not related to the publicly listed companies of the Li & Fung Group. LFIE is developing 7,800 homes on a 1.1-million-sq-m waterfront site in Guangzhou.


CapitaLand Group president and CEO Liew Mun Leong said the group's core markets of Singapore, China and Australia accounted for 96 per cent of group Ebit in Q1 2011.


Ascott, the group's serviced residences arm, saw revenue fall 10.1 per cent year on year to $82.1 million in Q1 2011. Ebit fell 59.8 per cent to $3.6 million. The declines were on the back of lower share of contribution from the 28 properties divested to Ascott Reit in Q4 2010.


The group said it remains on track to launch 1,700 homes in Singapore this year from projects including The Interlace, d'Leedon and a new condo at Bedok Town Centre.


The group's net debt-to-equity ratio dipped from 0.28 at March 31, 2010 to 0.2 at March 31, 2011.


Cash and cash equivalents fell 12.6 per cent from $7.2 billion at Dec 31, 2010 to $6.3 billion at March 31, 2011. The latter figure includes cash balances of $3.2 billion held at CapitaLand Limited and CapitaLand Treasury.


'The strong balance sheet puts the group in good stead to seek investments in fast-growing Asian countries, in particular China, for sustainable growth in 2011,' CapitaLand said.


Earlier this month, CapitaLand acquired a 40 per cent stake in Surbana Corporation to complement and accelerate the growth of its value housing business. On INT FRS 115, CapitaLand said the implementation of the standard will result in the accounting recognition of the group's overseas development projects in a manner that may not reflect the sales and construction progress of those projects.


'In particular, the new standard will result in income recognition that is lumpy and back-ended, thus creating more volatility in profit recognition even though the underlying projects' cash flows have not changed. It also does not reflect the gradual reduction of risk and the increase in economic value from these underlying projects as they are built and sold over their development phases.'


Earnings per share rose from 0.7 cent in Q1 2010 to 2.4 cents in Q1 2011. Net asset value per share dipped from $3.29 as at Dec 31, 2010 to $3.27 as at March 31, 2011.


On the stock market yesterday, CapitaLand closed one cent lower at $3.40.

2nd bid by Laguna Park owners to sell en bloc

Straits Times: Wed, Apr 27
RESIDENTS at Laguna Park condominium have voted for a collective sale, two years after an earlier bid was called off.


The Straits Times understands that the sales committee secured the 80 per cent mandate last Thursday.


While a new asking price has not been fixed yet, it is believed owners of the 528 units have been told they could receive up to $2.3 million per unit.


That would make the price for the 99-year leasehold estate in Marine Parade around the $1.2 billion they demanded in 2009.


A potential deal for the former HUDC estate then was called off when the sales committee was too pressed for time trying to get the minimum consent level from owners for a proposed lower price.


Owner Yup Kim Tai told The Straits Times she would be happy regardless of the outcome of the sale, saying: 'I'm old and I want to buy a smaller place. If we get the money, I'll do that, if not, well I've lived here since the (estate was built) so what's another few years.'


Sources say the tender for the 677,463 sq ft site could possibly be rolled out as early as the middle of next month.


There have been a number of large estates put up for sale en bloc in the past three months.


Pearl Bank Apartments at Outram was put on the market for $750 million while the owners of Pine Grove condominium in Ulu Pandan are asking $1.7 billion.


The tender for Pine Grove closed on April 19, but the marketing agents have not revealed the outcome.


The tender for Pearl Bank closes on May 25.


Hawaii Tower and Tulip Garden, with reserve prices of $700 million and $650 million, respectively, have yet to seal any concrete deals.


Property market observers doubt any collective deal will surpass the $1 billion mark this year.


The East Coast area has seen some success but on a smaller scale. Two condominiums near Laguna Park - Marine Point and Amber Glades - were sold earlier this year for under $120 million each.


Some analysts say developers may be shying away from larger sites, preferring smaller, more affordable plots that carry a lower risk if the market turns.


Mr Nicholas Mak, SLP International's research head, said: 'The amount of money you pay for such big sites could be used to buy maybe two other sites under the Government Land Sales Programme.


'Another factor developers will have to consider is that there are a lot of new homes slated to come onstream in the next few years so they might not want to get caught up in that either.'

44 units at Ho Bee's One Pemimpin sold

Business Times: Wed, Apr 27
PROPERTY group Ho Bee Investment, which posted a 30.8 per cent year-on-year hike in first-quarter 2011 net profit to $54.5 million, has sold 44 strata units at One Pemimpin, a high-tech industrial project, since it began to preview the project last month. The 999-year leasehold units are mostly 1,000-1,200 sq ft and are priced at about $800 per sq ft on average.


Ho Bee Group chairman & CEO Chua Thian Poh said sales from this industrial project, together with progressive income recognition from residential projects sold, would contribute to the group's earnings for the rest of this year.


On Sentosa Cove, where the group has developed more condos than any other developer, Ho Bee's joint-venture project with Malaysia's IOI Group Seascape obtained Temporary Occupation Permit in February this year. So far, 38 of the project's 151 units have been sold.


Ho Bee began previewing the project last year at an average price of about $2,800 psf and is expected to soon begin an official launch, marked by the start of an advertising campaign.


Ho Bee has another tie-up with IOI for a 302-unit condo development on the Pinnacle collection site at Sentosa Cove. This has yet to be released for sale. The project is expected to be completed in 2013.


For the first quarter ended March 31, 2011, Ho Bee booked an $18.1 million gain from the sale of investment properties - comprising two retail units at Samsung Hub and an industrial building, Platinum 28. The divestments helped to provide a fillip to Ho Bee's bottom line despite a 14.9 per cent drop in revenue to $78.6 million.


The weaker topline was due to lower revenue recognition from property development. The Orange Grove and Trilight are the residential development projects which contributed to Ho Bee's revenue in Q1 2011.


Ho Bee is developing an office project at One-North which is slated for completion by Q4 2013.


Earnings per share rose from 5.7 cents in Q1 2010 to 7.4 cents in Q1 2011. Net asset value per share climbed from $2.01 at Dec 31, 2010, to $2.08 at March 31, 2011.


On the stock market yesterday, Ho Bee closed two cents lower at $1.46.

Bedok Point officially opens; it's 98% leased

Business Times: Wed, Apr 27
BEDOK Point, which officially opened yesterday, is 98 per leased at an average rent of $11 per square foot (psf), owner Frasers Centrepoint said yesterday.


The mall, which is located next to Bedok Town Centre, is the developer's newest neighbourhood mall. It has some 80,985 square feet of nett lettable area spread over five storeys.


Since its soft opening in December last year, Bedok Point has attracted over 900,000 shoppers every month, said Frasers Centrepoint chief executive Lim Ee Seng.


'Bedok is also home to one of the largest groups of Singapore residents (numbering 294,500 to be exact) who have not enjoyed the presence of a proper mall throughout these years,' Mr Lim said.


With Bedok Point, Frasers Centrepoint, which is the property arm of Fraser and Neave, now has nine shopping malls in its portfolio.


Another two malls are in the development stage. Christopher Tang, chief executive of Frasers Centrepoint's commercial arm, said that Changi City Point, which is located next to Singapore Expo MRT Station, will be ready by the end of the year.


The group will also build a mall at Punggol Town Centre. Frasers Centrepoint, Far East Organization and Japan's Sekisui House won the site in a government land tender in February this year.


Bedok Point is expected to be injected into the listed Frasers Centrepoint Trust by the end of this year. Mr Tang added that he expects the number of shoppers who visit the mall each month to climb.


More than 40 per cent of the space at the mall is occupied by food and beverage tenants. In recognition of the supper culture of the food-loving Bedok community, all cafes and restaurants on level one of Bedok Point will stay open until 1am on weekdays and 3am on weekends for hungry night owls.

HDB issues data to show affordability of new flats

Straits Times: Wed, Apr 27
THE Government yesterday moved to address the growing debate on the affordability of new flats by issuing fresh data and an online video.


The Housing Board (HDB) provided new calculations to show that average prices of new flats last year remained within reach of first-time home buyers in different income groups.


Key to the affordability of new flats is the Government's Additional Housing Grant (AHG), which is given to most first-time buyers with a household income of less than $5,000 a month.


And in a move that lent a personal touch to his message, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan appeared for the first time in a video message posted on his ministry's website assuring Singaporeans that housing will remain affordable.


He acknowledged in the five-minute video that 'the question that people are asking, and worried about, is whether... they can continue to afford good-quality homes'.


'Here, I would like to make this categorical assurance and commitment that we will continue to provide good-quality, affordable homes for as many people as possible, through good times and bad,' he said.


'And not only provide the homes but sustain the value of those homes over time, as our economy grows (and) as Singapore grows. That is the commitment that this government makes.'


His comments add to a debate on public housing that has become one of the hottest topics this General Election.


Opposition parties have called for new flat prices to be further reduced, with some suggesting that they be pegged to the median incomes of Singaporeans or to the cost of building them.


Meanwhile, the HDB provided new data that supports Mr Mah's claim on Sunday that most first-time buyers of new flats will need to fork out little or no cash to pay for their new HDB flats.


He cited the example of how a couple below the age of 30, who earn a combined $4,000 a month, need to work for only half a year to buy a new four-room HDB flat with no cash upfront and less than $50 in cash in monthly home loan payments.


These numbers have since been questioned by some ST Forum letter writers and netizens online.


Some have calculated that for such a couple to fork out so little cash after working for only six months, an HDB flat they buy has to be priced at $110,000, whereas the average price of a new four-room flat is around $270,000.


In its response to media queries yesterday, HDB said that Mr Mah's calculations are correct because they include an Additional Housing Grant (AHG) of $10,000 which is given to a household that earns between $4,001 and $4,500 (See table).


It produced more examples to show that because of the AHG, which can go up to $40,000 depending on the household income, couples buying two- or three-room flats and earning $1,500 and $2,300 a month respectively do not even need to wait a single month to be able to make the down payment for their new flats.


Mr Mah added in the video yesterday that he hopes 'Singaporeans do not forget the fundamental principles that have brought us to where we are today, which is a home-owning society'.


The principles he mentioned referred to home ownership as compared to rental, homes as an asset and homes for the masses, he said, adding: 'No other country has the same extent of home ownership that we have.'


jcheam@sph.com.sg

High hopes for newly opened Bedok Point mall

Straits Times: Wed, Apr 27
A SHOPPING centre that was developed out of the old Bedok and Changi theatres was officially opened yesterday.


Bedok Point mall is the first such facility in the Bedok Town Centre, one of Singapore's oldest residential estates.


It is also the ninth in the portfolio of property giant Frasers Centrepoint Malls (FCM).


Some shops opened about four months ago but yesterday's ceremony signalled that the entire five-storey complex is open for business.


FCM said the mall's 80,985 sq ft of net lettable


area is 98 per cent occupied, with food and beverage tenants taking up almost 40 per cent of the space.


The surrounding neighbourhood has a captive shopper catchment of more than 294,000 residents, said FCM, and attracts over 900,000 shoppers a month.


The cafes and restaurants on the first level will open until 1am on weekdays and 3am on weekends.


FCM said rents are comparable to other malls in the area.


The chief executive of Frasers Centrepoint Commercial, Mr Christopher Tang, said Bedok Point tenants pay around $11 per sq ft (psf) a month.


Tenants at the company's other suburban malls such as Yew Tee Point pay around $12 psf.


CapitaLand announced last year that it will build a mixed-use mall near the Bedok Bus Interchange.


Mr Tang told the media yesterday: 'If you look at Bedok, it is relatively under-provided for (in terms of retail malls). So if you introduce another mall, it will just add to the vibrancy of the neighbourhood.'


FCM expects to open its Changi City Point mall at the end of the year.


It also has plans to complete a riverside mall called Punggol Point by 2014.


CHERYL LIM

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