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02 November 2018 / Issue 39

By in Weekly News Review with 0 Comments

Top News for the Week



Slowing down growth will not help create a more equal society: Josephine Teo

Deliberately slowing down Singapore’s economic growth will not help tackle inequality, but will instead make everybody worse off, said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo. “It will have the harshest impact on the bottom,” Ms Teo said. “Jobs will be lost and incomes fall for those at the lower end of the workforce, while at the top end, those with the talent or entrepreneurial ability to seize opportunities elsewhere will up and go.”

She pointed out that slowing down growth “so that those behind can catch up” may sound like an intuitive solution to inequality, but the evidence goes against it. Much of Singapore’s growth since 2000 took place between 2004 and 2007, when its gross domestic product (GDP) grew by an average of 8 per cent yearly.

Median income adjusted for inflation grew by 20 per cent during that decade, and “virtually all” of it happened during that four-year period. “By going for growth when the conditions allowed, we offset the downturns we experienced earlier in the decade,” Ms Teo said. “In the process, we reduced unemployment and raised wages for Singaporeans after the standstill in the first part of the decade.”

Links to the story: society-josephine-teo josephine-teo


Singapore pumps S$39m into energy research

Singapore is boosting its research and development (R&D) capabilities in energy through a further S$39 million in four initiatives.

The first, a S$20 million programme called Exploiting Distributed Generation (EDGE), will look at projects that explore ways to manage and integrate diverse, smaller energy systems with the national power system. To be administered by Energy Market Authority (EMA) and Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT), EDGE participants can also test-bed their solutions on the Pulau Ubin micro-grid to raise the commercialisation prospects of their research. Successful solutions can then be deployed on a larger scale at the upcoming SIT@Punggol campus micro-grid when it is completed in 2023.

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JTC, SP to develop smart grid in Punggol

JTC and SP Group have teamed up to develop and operate the first smart grid for business parks in Singapore.

The pair signed an agreement at the Asian Clean Energy Summit 2018, witnessed by Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Masagos Zulkilfi.

The agreement called for a smart grid to be developed and implemented in Punggol Digital District. It is estimated this development can reduce carbon emissions of the district by 1,700 tonnes annually, equivalent to taking 270 cars off the road.

The smart grid planned for Punggol will be integrated with the Open Digital Platform in the district. This will allow the exchange of data on buildings for the purpose of optimising electricity use.

Links to the story: at-punggol


DesignSingapore Council moves to EDB to help local firms expand overseas

In a move to help local companies tap design to expand beyond the country, Singapore’s national agency for design – DesignSingapore Council – will be transferred from the Ministry of Communications and Information to the Economic Development Board (EDB) from April 1 next year.

Design is increasingly important to drive business innovation and growth “against the backdrop of rapid technological advancements and growing customer sophistication”. DesignSingapore Council has encouraged small and medium-sized enterprises in the food, retail and info-comm services sectors to adopt design which has led to productivity growth and business improvements. With the transfer, EDB, a statutory board under the Ministry of Trade and Industry, will oversee and support the council’s work with industry and enterprise development priorities of EDB and Enterprise Singapore.

Link to the story: firms-expand-overseas


Digital mapping tool to track Singapore’s development

Then-and-now changes of 1836 and 2018 Singapore are easy to spot and analyse with the aid of a tool called Spatial Discovery by the National Library Board (NLB).

The tool at allows users to overlay old maps and adjust their transparency against present-day Google Maps.

The tool is the first of its kind in Singapore. It can retrieve more than 3,000 high resolution geo- referenced maps from the National Archives of Singapore (NAS) and National Library Collections. Some of these maps date back to the 1600s.

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Trade war fallout likely to hit Singapore soon, says MAS

Singapore has so far escaped relatively unscathed from the United States-China trade conflict, but this is set to change.

“The negative spillovers of the trade war are likely to impact the Singapore economy in the latter part of this year and beyond,” the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said in its half-yearly macroeconomic review.

As a result, Singapore’s economy is likely to expand at a slower pace for the rest of the year. While MAS expects full-year growth this year to fall in the upper half of its official forecast of 2.5 per cent to 3.5 per cent, it will moderate slightly next year, said the central bank.

“Although there has been some detente between the US and several of its trade partners, trade tensions remain at the forefront of consideration for global growth prospects,” it said.

The central bank pointed out that the trade war could also open up some opportunities for Singapore. But this had to be balanced against the negative fallout.

Links to the story: quarters


Pacific trade pact shunned by Trump cleared for Dec launch

A massive trans-Pacific trade deal cleared a final hurdle that paves the way for it to enter into force by the end of December, a pointed rebuke of US President Donald Trump’s protectionist policies from some of America’s closest allies.

Hours before an administrative deadline, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that his government had ratified the 11-country pact, meaning a quorum of more than half the members have formally signed on.

The so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) had a difficult birth and had appeared to be foundering when Mr Trump withdrew the US shortly after coming to office.

Even without the participation of the world’s largest economy, the deal has been described as a game changer.

Links to the story: launch


Pacific trade pact a boon to SMEs aiming to grow globally

A landmark trade deal set to take effect on Dec 30 may give small and medium firms a fighting chance when they expand abroad.

Tariff cuts, easier access to other countries’ markets and the right to bypass restrictions on foreign companies are some of the sweet spots in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

However, many are still largely uninformed about the CPTPP, and know neither its benefits nor the countries involved, several business owners told The Straits Times.

Trade with other CPTPP member countries accounts for more than 20 per cent of Singapore’s exports. Singapore’s economy and exports are also expected to grow 0.2 per cent more by 2035 because of the treaty.

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Industrial output dips a surprise 0.2% in September

Singapore’s manufacturing output took a surprise fall in September, shrinking 0.2 per cent year- on-year in the first contraction since December 2017, preliminary estimates from the Singapore Economic Development Board

Excluding the volatile biomedical manufacturing cluster, output grew 1.9 per cent.

Economists had predicted that industrial production would slow further in the third quarter of 2018, but few had expected contraction.

On a seasonally adjusted month-on-month basis, manufacturing output saw the third month of decline in September, down 4.9 per cent and marking an acceleration from August’s 2.2 per cent fall. Excluding biomedical manufacturing, however, the fall was 2.4 per cent, an improvement from August’s 3 per cent slide.

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Fewer retrenchments seen in Q3, overall unemployment rate up slightly

Fewer people were laid off in the third quarter of this year, while overall unemployment crept up slightly, according to Ministry of Manpower (MOM) statistics.

But overall, the labour market continued to improve, with total employment growth more than doubling in this period, said the ministry.

There were 2,500 retrenchments over the past three months, fewer than the 3,030 in the three months before that, preliminary figures show. With restructuring, retrenchments can be expected to fluctuate. For the first three quarters of 2018, retrenchments were lower than the corresponding periods in the preceding two years.”

Unemployment held relatively steady as well, with the seasonally adjusted rate among residents unchanged at 2.9 per cent, and that of citizens remaining the same too at 3 per cent. The overall unemployment figure, though, edged up from 2 per cent to 2.1 per cent.

These rates remained either similar or slightly lower than rates in the same period a year ago. Given the growth in employment, the slightly elevated unemployment rates reflected the continued inflow of job-seekers into the labour market.

Total employment growth, excluding foreign domestic worker numbers, was 15,200, up from 6,500 previously.

This expansion was broad-based, with increases seen across various sectors including manufacturing, where the rise comes after 15 consecutive quarters of decline.

Links to the story: rate-up-slightly


Sentiment down in manufacturing and services sectors

Global trade tensions and the property cooling measures here have hit business sentiment in the manufacturing and services sectors, according to two reports.

One found that a net weighted balance of 3 per cent of services sector firms expect the business situation to improve in the period to next March compared with the previous six months. This is down from 9 per cent in both the third quarter and the same period a year ago.

The net weighted balance is the difference between the proportion of optimistic and pessimistic firms polled by the Economic Development Board (EDB) and the Department of Statistics.

The potential for a slowdown extends to the services sector, noting that trade tensions could also affect industries such as wholesale trade and finance.

The EDB singled out two kinds of manufacturers as markedly gloomy: the machinery and systems segment in the precision engineering cluster, and infocomms and consumer electronics firms. Both anticipate weaker orders amid growing trade concerns.

Links to the story: slowdown


Singapore firms upbeat about trade despite US-China rift

Despite ongoing trade tensions between the US and China, four in five Singapore businesses have a positive outlook on the international trade environment, according to the latest HSBC Navigator report.

This was just above the global average of 77 per cent, in the October edition of the twice-yearly report.

China also remains the top destination for Singapore firms, with 26 per cent of them naming it as one of their top three markets for expansion in the next three to five years. Malaysia and the US were the next most popular choices, each cited by 16 per cent.

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SGD ‘too strong’ relative to external and domestic factors

DBS Group Research downgraded its Singapore dollar (SGD) forecast as its analysts said the currency was “too strong” relative to external and domestic factors.

In a research note, FX (forex) strategist Philip Wee and economist Radhika Rao said they now believe that the USD/SGD will rise to 1.40 by the end of this year and stay above that level into 2019.

SGD policy band was just above 1.38 on Tuesday (30 Oct) morning, higher than the 1.3728 floor seen on Oct 12 when the SGD policy was tightened.

The USD is strong against currencies in the developed and emerging markets, thanks to factors such as rising US rates. In Asia, currencies such as the Thai baht and South Korean won have weakened to a low this year due to trade tensions between the US and China.

Link to the story: group-research


Broad weakness seen in business loans in Sept as MAS data shows 0.2% dip

Lending to several business segments slipped, or remained, in negative territory in September from a month ago, contracting overall bank lending for the month.

Preliminary data from the Monetary Authority of Singapore showed that business lending inched down 0.2 per cent to S$404 billion in September from August, swinging from a 0.6 per cent rise the previous month.

The broad weakness across business lending came as construction loans – the single-largest business lending segment – fell in September for the first time on a month-on-month basis since January this year. It stood at S$130 billion in September, down 0.1 per cent, reversing from a 2.5 per cent gain posted in August.

Links to the story: data-shows-02-dip


London, Singapore excel as fintech hubs

Singapore and London make for successful fintech hubs because of a confluence of five key factors

– markets, talent, capital, regulation and government support.

But the cities differ in the maturity and focus of their fintech scenes, which has led to different challenges in fund-raising and in contrasting approaches to policy-making.

Though London and Singapore are leading fintech hubs, both have their distinctions too, the report found. The UK represents a more mature fintech market than Singapore – startups in the Republic are still focused on building user bases and attracting early-stage investments.

Traditionally, free core banking services and digital business models have led to startups struggling to create profitable models, which becomes a barrier to attracting scale-up investment. Because of the culture of “free” services, revenues have to be built either around transaction processing models, taking a small percentage of the transaction value, or around advertising based on data that is similar to other Internet business models.

B2B (business-to-business) payment is another promising avenue for blockchain application.

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Clean energy to boost business spending by S$180m a year: Masagos

New investments in Singapore’s fast-growing clean energy industry will generate S$180 million in annual business spending and create about 1,000 professional jobs in the next five years.

The clean energy industry will add as many as 2.2 million jobs in South-east Asia by 2030, up from about 600,000 in 2016.

Singapore has an ambitious target to increase the adoption of solar energy to 350 megawatt peak (MWp) by 2020, and to one gigawatt peak beyond 2020.

The first is an initiative led by the Economic Development Board (EDB) for a potential 100 MWp floating solar farm at Kranji Reservoir. The EDB has launched a two-stage request for information. In the first stage, it will invite proposals from private sector players to submit proposals on how they can harness solar energy from a large-scale floating solar PV system.

In the second stage, the selected end-user will be required to perform comprehensive studies to assess the possible environmental footprint of the proposed project, before any decision is made to deploy the solar PV system.

The second initiative involves PUB’s deployment of a 50 MWp solar farm at Tengeh Reservoir. This will be the first large-scale floating solar PV system in Singapore. The tender for its detailed design and deployment will be issued in 2019.

Links to the story: masagos


Ball’s in our court: what mega sports events bring to Singapore

Sunday 28 Oct marked one of the most exciting tennis matches in Singapore, as two of the world’s highest seeded female players battle it out for the magnificent Billie Jean King Trophy. It will also be the last time Singapore presents the trophy to the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Finals winner, as the Republic hands the baton of hosting the tournament over to Shenzhen next year.

The WTA Finals – the most important match in the WTA Tour after the four Grand Slams of Wimbledon and the Australian, French and US Opens – has afforded much benefit for Singapore, both culturally and economically over the last few years.

“Sport tourism draws overseas sport fans and helps to not only drive long-term visitor arrivals and tourism receipts, but also enhance our calendar of events,” says Jean Ng, director of sports at Singapore Tourism Board (STB).

Hosting the WTA Finals would also put Singapore, the 9th city to host the end-of-season tournament (and the first in the Asia-Pacific), and Asia on the map as a budding market with the capability to host major international sporting events.

WTA Finals organiser and promoter, media conglomerate Lagardère Sports, reports that the WTA Finals would have welcomed half a million people since 2014 to its matches and fringe events, by the end of 2018.

Sarah Clements, vice-president, tennis (Asia) at Lagardère Sports, adds that the 2017 event delivered a record US$372 million of year-round publicity and promotion for both sponsors and the tournament. Overseas attendees made up 15 per cent of attendance figures, and a larger number of foreign fans are coming to Singapore, staying longer and spending more. Also, patron satisfaction scores peaked last year, with more return attendees across all patron groups affirming improvements in attendance, match experience and event organisation.

Foreign press have covered the events extensively, putting Singapore in the spotlight of the world’s sporting arena. Social media posts from mega sports stars like Lewis Hamilton and Caroline Wozniacki also turned media attention to our little red dot.

Lagardère reports that the WTA Finals reaches nearly 30 million global television viewers each year, while social media video views have grown to 27.8 million in the last tournament. The WTA projected a broadcast viewership of 600 million for 2018, and digital viewership of 300 million, “up 20 per cent from last year”.

One of the biggest beneficiaries is the hospitality sector. STB’s Ms Ng elaborates that sporting events create opportunities for organisers to work with industry stakeholders to encourage repeat visits.

And the gains are not just monetary. Not only were dividends gained for Singapore, the WTA, their clients and partners, a pool of local experts were developed who will continue to contribute to Singapore’s success in staging international events.

Other high-profile events include the Singapore Grand Prix, HSBC Rugby Singapore Sevens, HSBC Women’s Champions, International Champions Cup and ONE Championship.

Looking to the future, STB aims to grow and cultivate a pipeline of diverse, world class sporting events that can bolster the events calendar and add to Singapore’s vibrancy and attractiveness as a lifestyle destination.

Link to the story:


Asians drive boom in global billionaire wealth

Billionaire wealth posted its “greatest ever” increase last year, rising 19 per cent to US$8.9 trillion, thanks to robust growth in the Asia-Pacific – in particular, China.

The global wealth is shared among 2,158 individuals, according to the UBS/PwC Billionaires Report 2018. In China alone, there were 373 billionaires last year. Asia is home to 814 billionaires, who grew their net worth by a third to US$2.7 trillion, driven mainly by China; Chinese billionaires’ wealth expanded by 39 per cent to US$1.12 trillion.

The number of billionaires in Singapore has remained stable at 22, with just one new addition – Min-Liang Tan, co-founder of gaming hardware company Razer Inc. His wealth is listed at US$1.1 billion, and he is the youngest at 40. He is also the only one who made his wealth in entertainment and media; most Singapore billionaires are in real estate and financial services.

Total billionaire wealth in Singapore grew by 9 per cent to reach US$64.5 billion. The top three industries driving the wealth were real estate, financial services and industrials. Nearly two thirds of Singapore billionaires are self-made, slightly below the 68 per cent in the US.

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Singapore firms show resurgent interest in Vietnam

Singapore firms are looking towards Vietnam again, after an earlier wave of interest was disrupted by the global financial crisis and a domestic slowdown.

The pull factors this time around are Vietnam’s rising middle class, its business-friendly policies and expected gains from the United States-China trade tensions.

In a survey commissioned by Singapore Business Federation and HSBC, Vietnam was the third most popular Asean market for expansion among 1,036 Singapore-based firms.

Link to the story:



More HDB resale flats sold in Q3 as prices remain mostly flat

The HDB resale price index fell by about 0.1 per cent in the third quarter of this year, but while it undid a rise in the previous quarter, the minuscule change showed the resale market to be stable, said analysts.

While resale prices remained mostly flat, the number of flats sold rose by 18.9 per cent in the third quarter to 7,063 – the highest since the third quarter of 2010. This was a 21.6 per cent rise compared with the same period last year.

Analysts attributed the increase to buyers coming back to the market, attracted by the soft resale prices, and former owners of properties sold in collective sales buying HDB flats as replacement homes.

Huttons Asia research head Lee Sze Teck noted that it had been five years since resale prices peaked in the second quarter of 2013, “with no light at the end of the tunnel for the HDB resale market” because of the healthy supply of new flats.

He said that while the Government has tapered off the supply of Build-To-Order (BTO) flats, there is still a sizeable number of them.

“With demand still largely constrained to permanent residents, singles and second-timers, the resale market is unlikely to pick up any time (soon),” said Mr Lee.

The HDB also said it would offer about 3,800 BTO flats in Sembawang, Sengkang, Tampines, Tengah and Yishun next month. BTO flats in Sembawang, Seng-kang and Yishun will have a shorter waiting time of 21/2 years, instead of the typical three to four.

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Private property price growth eases in Q3 following cooling measures

Private homes prices grew at a slower pace in the third quarter as the latest property cooling measures kicked in, although the top end of the market proved to be more resilient.

Prices edged up 0.5 per cent – in line with earlier flash estimates – in Q3, compared to an increase of 3.4 per cent in the previous quarter, according to the latest report from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

Market watchers pointed to disruptions during the quarter, namely the July 6 cooling measures which brought higher additional buyer’s stamp duty (ABSD) and tighter loan-to-value limits, as well as the Hungry Ghost festival which generally sees slower sales.

In the third quarter, prices of landed properties – still seen as relatively attractive by some buyers

– rose by 2.3 per cent in Q3, easing from 4.1 per cent growth in Q2.

Prices of non-landed properties remained unchanged in Q3, versus a 3.2 per cent increase in Q2. By location, however, it was a mixed bag. Prices of non-landed homes in the core central region (CCR) rose by 1.3 per cent, up from a 0.9 per cent increase in the previous quarter.

Prices of non-landed properties in the rest of the central region (RCR) fell by 1.3 per cent, versus an increase of 5.6 per cent previously. Outside the central region (OCR), prices of non-landed homes dipped 0.1 per cent, reversing from the 3 per cent increase in the second quarter.

Huttons Asia research head Lee Sze Teck said: “Many were expecting the CCR to be hit hard by the cooling measures because of more punitive taxes on foreigners.

“However, the proportion of foreigners buying residential properties in Districts 9 and 10 rose to 18 per cent in Q3, “probably due to foreigners finding Singapore a value proposition compared to other cities.”

Links to the story: measures


Singapore ousts HK as No. 1 for luxury home-price gains

The tiny island nation of Singapore, nudging out Hong Kong. Luxury home prices in the country rose 13 per cent in the quarter ended Sept 30 from a year earlier, according to a study. Gains were driven in part by the limited availability of high-end properties.

Hong Kong fell to 14th place with third-quarter year-on-year price gains of just 5.5 per cent.

For those with less cash to splash, there is some good news. The price of luxury properties globally rose by 2.7 per cent on average across the 43 cities tracked, the weakest performance in annual terms in almost six years.

Cities in Europe had a rather mixed performance with some, such as Edinburgh and Madrid, doing quite well, which placed them among the top five.

Others like London moved into negative territory, with luxury prices dipping 2.9 per cent amid continuing uncertainty around Brexit. Paris and Berlin, meanwhile, saw gains of 5.6 per cent and

5.4 per cent respectively.

Dubai joined London among the decliners with prices falling 3.8 per cent, making it the fifth-worst performer. Tying for second-worst place were Stockholm, Istanbul and Taipei, all registering 6.3 per cent declines in the third quarter from a year earlier.

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Govt Land Sales programme releases sites in Kampong Java and Tampines for sale

Two residential sites – one in Kampong Java and the other in Tampines – have been released for sale under the Government Land Sales (GLS) programme for the second half of the year.

Together with the Marina View “white site”, the three sites make up the first GLS sites released since it was announced last month that from early 2019, the minimum average unit size will be raised, and the maximum number of units allowed in new private flat and condominium developments outside the central area would be lowered.

The revised rules will apply to new development applications for projects submitted on or after Jan 17 next year – and will likely apply to these three sites.

The Kampong Java site, released under the Confirmed List, spans 11,643 sq m and has a maximum gross floor area (GFA) of 32,602 sq m. It can yield 435 units, the Urban Redevelopment Authority estimates.

This site would be “a litmus test” of the market, given the revised unit size regulations with estimation of S$2,100 per square foot (psf) average selling price, and a land bid of S$1,350 psf ppr, or S$470 million.

The Tampines site along Ave 10, released by the HDB for an executive condo (EC) development, spans 24,939 sq m, and has a maximum GFA of 69,829 sq m. The site can accommodate 695 units, though the number will be capped at 700.

Huttons Asia’s Lee Sze Teck said: “Tampines is the first regional centre in Singapore and a sought- after place to live in. The parcel sits in a mature estate with amenities like Our Tampines Hub, connectivity options like the Tampines Downtown line and green spaces like Bedok Reservoir.” Both sites have 99-year leases. Their tenders close on Jan 15, 2019.

Links to the story: tampines-for-sale


Analysts expect Marina View site to create buzz

Cooling measures or not, the Marina View white site made available for application under the Government Land Sales (GLS) reserve list will be keenly deliberated on by developers, thanks to

its central location and its potential to yield several hundred hotel rooms amid the easing supply of future hotel rooms.

The site could fetch top bids of between S$1,380 and S$1,650 psf ppr; this translates to S$1.5 billion to S$1.8 billion if it were to go on the market now, consultants told The Business Times. If triggered for sale, the site could attract anywhere from four to eight bids, some reckon.

Located in Marina Bay, the white site is envisaged as a mixed-use development which could yield about 905 residential units and 540 hotel rooms, supported by retail and food-and-beverage use. The 99-year parcel comprises two plots – a 7,817.6 sq m land parcel, and an underground space 18 sq m in size. In all, the site has a maximum gross floor area (GFA) of 101,629 sq m.

The most comparable land sale to Marina View was the white site at Central Boulevard, which was sold in November 2016 to IOI Properties Group for about S$2.57 billion, which worked to a land rate of S$1,689 psf ppr.

Link to the story:


Focus on needs when buying first HDB home

Before Ms Rachel Au-Yong bought her first home, she and her husband viewed 43 Housing Board (HDB) flats. After much consideration, they settled on a four-room unit in a mature estate, which they moved into in August. She was speaking to about 300 people on what to look out for when buying their first HDB home.

During the 90-minute session, Ms Au-Yong took the audience through the different steps of buying a flat, whether it is a Build-to-Order (BTO) or a resale unit.

She also touched on factors to consider, such as location, surrounding amenities and tenure of the unit.

She said she would not recommend that people buy flats with the assumption that the units might undergo redevelopment programmes.

She ended the talk with one piece of advice. She said: “Don’t get locked into the idea that your first home must be your forever home. “Focus on what you need in the horizon of five years.”

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New integrated development The Woodleigh Residences unveiled

The Woodleigh Residences, a new integrated development in Bidadari Estate, was unveiled ahead of its soft launch and preview for the public.

Members of the public may view the showroom flats and express their intention to purchase at the soft launch.

The development comprises 667 two-, three- and four-bedroom units. Prices will start at S$1,873 per sq ft. The mixed-use commercial and residential development also includes a private onsen or Japanese-style hot spring overlooking Alkaff Lake and Bidadari Park.

Unit sizes for two-bedroom apartments range from 570 sq ft to 743 sq ft, with a starting price of S$1.088 million.

Three-bedders are between 850 and 958 sq ft, with deluxe options going up to 1,119 sq ft. These units will be sold at a starting price of S$1.664 million.

Meanwhile, the four-bedroom apartments are between 1,270 sq ft and 1,475 sq ft, and priced from S$2.55 million.

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Elias Green condo up for en bloc sale with S$780m reserve price

Elias Green in Pasir Ris is the latest condominium to hit the en bloc market in search of a buyer. The condo is going for S$780 million, according to marketing agent PropNex Realty’s Richard Hau.

Should they find a buyer, the owners of the 516,877 sq ft development could each walk away with proceeds ranging from S$1.7 million to just below S$2 million.

The 419-unit, 99-year leasehold condo, which was completed in 1994, has an allowable gross floor area (GFA) of 723,627 sq ft and a plot ratio of 1.4, which translates to roughly S$1,078 psf ppr. The tender for the site closes on Jan 11, 2019.

Links to the story


Home-sales platform paves way for paperless transactions

A home-sales platform has launched Singapore’s first fully digitalised sales-booking platform, which could save developers and property agents hundreds of thousands of sheets of paper during the sales process for one project alone.

The digital platform enables developers’ agents to transact on their iPads “anytime and anywhere”. The user interface is designed as though an agent is booking a cinema ticket on behalf of the buyer he or she is serving. To home buyers, it means better convenience and a smoother buying journey, aside from reduced waiting time.

It uses 3D technology, virtual reality and other technology to digitalise information about new projects and unsold units, so that property agents and home buyers can visualise and experience their purchase when they buy off-plan.

Park Colonial, the Woodleigh project developed by CEL Development, Heeton Holdings and KSH Holdings, was the first to use the digital booking engine. Since early August, close to 100 sales have been made on it.

Roxy-Pacific’s Arena Residences, which is slated to begin sales on Nov 2, will also use it.

Links to the story



Office rents up in Q3 but retail rents slip

Rents for offices and retail space went in opposite directions in the third quarter, reflecting the varied fortunes of the sectors.

It was good news for office landlords, with rent in the central region rising 2.5 per cent in the three months to Sept 30 over the second quarter, Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) data.

But the rental index of retail space in the central region slipped 1.2 per cent from the second to the third quarter. This follows a 1.1 per cent decline from the first quarter to the second.

While the trend for retail looks to be going south, it is looking up for offices.

The 2.5 per cent gain was well ahead of the 1.6 per cent quarter on- quarter increase in the previous quarter.

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Co-working space a living lab for solutions

Members of co-working space provider District6 would have recently seen their environs outfitted with gadgets and gizmos ranging from the latest large-format monitors from Dell to ceiling sensors that detect occupancy levels by facility management solutions company, Pointgrab.

Besides Dell and Pointgrab, other participants include office furniture company Humanscale which is piloting a new app by adjusting users’ chairs, desks, computers, and monitors according to the latest research in ergonomics.

Others include startup uHoo, which is collecting data on air quality from its sensors installed in District6; and adaptable office designer and manufacturer Haworth, which wants to learn whether co-working members would pay a higher membership fee for better furniture and workplace solutions and has installed ergonomic seating and quiet areas, with sensor technology to collect data on usage.

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Co-working company WeWork opens 3 new S’pore offices

Co-working giant WeWork has opened three new offices here to bring its Singapore presence to nine locations with 4,000 members.

The offices are at Suntec Tower 5, City House and 8 Cross Street.

WeWork Suntec Tower 5 spans the 17th and 18th floors of Suntec City with 700 desks. WeWork has four floors with 600 desks at City House in Robinson Road, and 1,200 desks across four floors at 8 Cross Street.

WeWork will be a game-changer in accelerating the future of work within Suntec City’s diverse business ecosystem, bringing along a fresh injection of vibrancy and dynamism.

New locations are also slated to open in Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Manila by the year end.

Links to the story: offices city-and-8-cross-st-0


Sky pool, rooftop bar at new co-working space in Cecil Street

Hong Kong-based co-working outfit Campfire Collaborative Spaces is muscling in on Singapore’s shared office space, with the start-up announcing it has leased all 16 floors at 139 Cecil Street.

The site is an 11-storey building undergoing major renovation to add five more floors, which Campfire said will include a roof terrace with an “industry-first sky pool, rooftop bar, outdoor dining area and cabanas” for members.

Upon completion in the third quarter of next year, its 85,000 sq ft of space will make it Campfire’s largest site globally.

The mixed-use development will also house food-and-beverage and retail outlets, a full-service gym and parking spaces.

Events, conferencing, education, well-being and recreation facilities will also feature, besides a wide range of private and shared offices.

Campfire was founded 2½ years ago and now has 20 co-working sites across four countries occupying over 580,000 sq ft.

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Maybank Singapore eyes wealth business with new Orchard branch

Maybank Singapore is about to begin a new phase as it incorporates locally, 58 years after the bank first began operating in the city-state.

Malaysia’s largest bank will have its first presence in Orchard Road, Singapore’s premier shopping belt and tourist attraction.

The Orchard Road branch will be its first branch across the Maybank network to combine a café with banking services. The café will be opened daily, while banking services will be available daily except on public holidays.

Having a presence on Orchard Road allows the bank to serve the banking needs of a diverse client base, especially the private banking individuals and millennials who frequent downtown area. Being on Orchard Road will also help the bank grow its private banking business.

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Engie moves Asia-Pacific headquarters from Thailand to Singapore

French energy company Engie announced that it will move its Asia-Pacific headquarters from Thailand to Singapore, in a bid to focus on supporting regional governments and businesses in sustainable growth opportunities.

Expected to be fully operational by mid-2019, the new headquarters will be located at Golden- Agri Plaza along Pasir Panjang Road, together with Engie’s other business units; these include Engie Services, Engie Factory, Engie Lab and Engie Axima.

Engie’s new headquarters will grow its workforce to “further establish the city state as the authority in clean-energy management in the region”.

Engie now has 4,000 employees in the region, and plans to double the number in the next decade. Globally, it has 150,000 employees in 70 countries.

Link to the story: singapore


Golden Mile Complex may stay – even with en bloc

The iconic step-terraced Golden Mile Complex building could be spared from the wrecking ball – even if it finds an en bloc buyer at its reserve price of S$800 million.

An outline application has been submitted to retain the existing 16-storey building and add a new block next to the building, subject to authorities’ approval.

The proposed plan for Golden Mile Complex comes amid debate about the importance of several post-independence landmarks like People’s Park Complex and People’s Park Centre to public memory amid the en bloc fervour.

The Beach Road commercial property has a land area of approximately 1.3 hectares and is zoned for commercial use.

The differential premium and lease upgrading premium to intensify the land use and to top up the lease to 99 years respectively will depend on the developer’s proposed land use mix.

The tender exercise will close on Jan 30, 2019.

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International Plaza planning collective sale

International Plaza in Tanjong Pagar, one of Singapore’s biggest integrated developments built in the 1970s, is looking to launch a collective sale in excess of $2.6 billion – potentially the biggest in the country.

The 50-storey leasehold commercial-cum-residential building, with a gross floor area of 1.44 million sq ft, has 51 years left on the lease.

Sitting on a land area of 75,089 sq ft, the 1,160-unit development was completed in 1976 and is zoned commercial. It has 263 shops on the first three floors, 689 offices from the 5th to 36th floors, and 208 apartments, including two penthouses, from the 37th to 50th floors. The building currently houses CNBC and the Honorary Consulate of Malta.

The 13-member CSC was elected at the first extraordinary general meeting (EOGM) on Oct 20, with a second EOGM planned next April to confirm the appointment of a marketing agent and lawyer, as well as the reserve price and terms and conditions of the collective sale deal.

Owners of the 689 offices at International Plaza can expect to get between $1.2 million and $5.5 million.

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78 Shenton Way being sold to PGIM Real Estate

US-based PGIM Real Estate is understood to have entered into a deal to buy 78 Shenton Way from a fund managed by Alpha Investment Partners.

The headline price for the property, which comprises two office towers, is close to S$1,900 per square foot on net lettable area (NLA) of about 362,000 sq ft, The Business Times understands. This would translate to around S$680 million for the property, which is on a site with a balance lease term of about 64 years.

78 Shenton Way is at the fringe of the Central Business District office market but could be the gateway to the proposed Greater Southern Waterfront city that will come up on some 1,000 hectares of land to be freed up when port terminals including those at Tanjong Pagar and Pasir Panjang are relocated to Tuas.

Another positive for 78 Shenton Way will be the completion in 2025 of the Prince Edward Station under Circle Line 6. One of the station’s entrances will be right next to 78 Shenton Way.

This station will be part of an extension that will close the loop for the Circle Line by connecting Harbourfront and Marina Bay stations.

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New VivoCity library will draw 1.5m visitors

Bukit Merah Public Library will reopen as library@harbourfront in VivoCity on Jan 12.

The library on the third storey of the sprawling shopping mall will draw three times as many visitors as before, the National Library Board (NLB) said this week, reiterating its view that the move will make the library easier to reach by public transport.

News of the relocation, first announced in July last year, sparked an online petition as well as complaints from netizens.

They said the new location on the island’s southern tip – more than 3km away, and not as close to residential estates – would leave behind the current library’s user base of students and the elderly. At 3,000 sq m, library@harbourfront will be Singapore’s largest shopping mall library. It will have 16 eNewspaper stations, a children’s area, a multipurpose zone and a reading lounge with 120 seats. Visitors can also expect a refreshed collection of 200,000 books, similar to the size of the collection at Bukit Merah Public Library.

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New family playground at Changi Airport’s T3

A new hangout area about the size of a basketball court, with a stepped amphitheatre and a large ultra high-definition screen for movies and football matches, is being built at Changi Airport’s Terminal 3.

There will also be a garden and shops added to the currently unused space at Basement 2.

When the new atrium space is ready by around Christmas, it will be big enough for about 200 people, said Mr James Fong, vice-president for landside concessions at Changi Airport Group.

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Prices of consumer goods lower here, but no clear link to e-shops

Prices of consumer electronic goods have been pushed down and margins may be thin, but e- commerce may not be to blame, a recent study by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has found.

Instead, prices have generally fallen over the years as the technology to produce the goods improves.

Online sales, as of August, make up 4.6 per cent of all retail sales, and this is expected to grow further, said MAS.

Around 55 per cent of Internet users said they purchased goods online last year, compared with 8 per cent in 2012, according to an annual poll by the Infocomm Media Development Authority.

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Century Warehouse in Pasir Panjang up for collective sale at S$57m

Century Warehouse, a freehold industrial warehouse in Pasir Panjang Road, will be launched for a collective sale at S$57 million.

The S$57 million price tag would translate to a land rate of S$750 psf ppr.

The eight-storey building with a basement carpark is zoned B1, or for light and clean industrial use, with an allowable gross plot ratio of 2.5. The site spans about 30,402 sq ft, with a strata area totalling 56,539 sq ft.

The tender for Century Warehouse will close on Nov 30.

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Katoen Natie’s upgraded facility begins operations

Singapore’s largest single-unit rooftop power facility has started operations at a warehouse in Jurong Island. Katoen Natie, a leading European green energy developer, officially launched the upgraded facility. The facility can now produce 6.8 GWh of power annually, up from 1.5 GWh previously. (see amendment note)

Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat said at the launch event that the power generated by this upgraded facility will satisfy the needs of over 1,500, four-room HDB flats.

Katoen Natie also stands to cut its carbon emissions by over 2,800 tonnes annually with its increased solar power output in Singapore.

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P&G pumps another US$30m into its Singapore digital innovation centre

Procter & Gamble (P&G) is investing an additional US$30 million in its digital innovation centre in Singapore, one year after pumping in an initial US$100 million.

The consumer giant’s E-Centre 2.0, which it launched last year with the Economic Development Board (EDB), is an expansion of its digital innovation programme with the EDB.

Part of the new funds will go to its first digital omni-channel retail centre, i-Singapore Digital Omni-channel Centre (i-SIDOC), which enables P&G to work with regional retailers to create actionable knowledge and retail solutions in multi-channel consumer shopping.

The platform will be located with the company’s Singapore Innovation Centre and omni-channel store. The funds will also support new supply chain projects and a new team of data scientists.

Through the E-Centre, P&G supports partners and employees by equipping them with relevant skills to leverage digital technology and solve business problems.

Links to the story: innovation-centre


ExxonMobil commits US$10m as founding partner of SgEC

ExxonMobil has committed US$10 million in funding over five years as founding partner of the new Singapore Energy Centre (SgEC) led by Nanyang Technology University and National University of Singapore.

This is the first research centre partnership for the supermajor outside the US, and will focus on scaling up new energy solutions. It aims to overcome the dilemma of fuelling economic expansion and mitigating risks of climate change especially in fast-growing Asia.

The SgEC is a consortium funded by industry members which leverages the combined expertise and capabilities of the two universities to co-develop early stage and near-term energy solutions for the manufacturing sector.

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J&J drug unit to leverage Singapore’s biotech hub

Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) regional pharmaceutical head believes that Singapore offers innovation, research and development tie-up opportunities, even as wider insurance coverage in the Asia-Pacific is expected to fuel growth for drugmakers.

Ong Ai Hua, the group chairman for Janssen Asia Pacific, the pharmaceutical arm of J&J, told The Business Times that “our focus in Singapore is on innovation – not so much on manufacturing”. Last year, J&J reported US$36.3 billion in full-year pharmaceutical sales, with the Asia-Pacific generating about one-tenth of that.

J&J’s 15,800 sq m regional headquarters in Science Park, which opened in May, houses more than 1,000 employees – and positions in supply chain, finance, regulatory compliance and an innovation lab are “areas where we foresee growth”.

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Singapore infrastructure a draw for pharma giants

In 50 years, Singapore has undergone significant transformation from a developing country into a thriving metropolis. Today, with its robust physical and regulatory environment, global connectivity and skilled talent pool, this city-state is a multidisciplinary hub for businesses looking to access emerging market opportunities across the region.

The nation’s strong foundation in research and development (R&D) has drawn significant investments from research institutes and biopharmaceutical companies. In the span of a decade from 2005 to 2015, there has been a 30 per cent increase in the number of clinical research programmes conducted in Singapore.

As more companies embark on drug discovery and translational clinical research in Singapore, the implications on its manufacturing output cannot be overlooked. Today, six out of the top 10 drugs globally are made in Singapore.

There are three important factors that will further spur Singapore’s success and growth in the biomedical and science technology sector: advanced manufacturing capabilities, demand for novel, personalized medicine and building human capital.

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Two shophouses in Duxton Hill and one on Stanley Street sold for S$37.3m

Entities connected to veteran property investor Stanley Quek are understood to be selling a pair of adjoining shophouses in Duxton Hill and a shophouse in Stanley Street in separate deals totalling S$37.3 million.

The pair of shophouses at 40 and 41 Duxton Hill are changing hands at S$24.8 million. They are on two separate land lots, but the units are linked, forming a distinctive corner shophouse lot.

Both shophouses are on sites with 99-year leasehold tenures, and have about 69 years left on the lease. The two units have a total land area of 2,539 sq ft; their total built up area is estimated at about 8,900 sq ft sq ft across four levels and an attic. Based on the annual gross rental income from these units, which are fully leased, the transaction price is understood to reflect a gross yield of about 3.7 per cent.

A separate entity majority owned by Stanley Quek is selling 10 Stanley Street on vacant possession to 8M Real Estate. The freehold property is on a 1,426 sq ft site and spans four levels and an attic. 8M Real Estate is expected to refurbish the property and lease it out.

Separately, a row of four adjoining two-storey shophouses at 39, 40, 41 and 42 Duxton Road has been put up for sale. The asking price is S$23.8 million.

The properties are on four separate land lots, each with about 68 years left on the lease. The total land area is about 4,336 sq ft; their combined built-up area is about 8,100 sq ft.

Link to the story: s373m


UK to extend scheme to assist first-time property buyers until 2023

The UK government gave its clearest signal yet that first-time buyers are its housing priority while landlords remain in the cross-hairs.

Contrary to fevered speculation that the generous Help to Buy policy might meet its demise, the government will actually extend its interest-free loans to 2023, with some tweaks that focus the policy more specifically on debut home buyers.

From April 2021, a two-year scheme will be introduced, which will have regional caps on the value of the property which can be bought, all of which will be lower than the current £600,000 rate, except in London.

Rental investors, meanwhile, were hit with the removal of lettings relief, a break that reduces capital gains tax for homes that have at some point been rented out.

Only properties where the owner remains in occupancy and rents out a room will be exempt.

The measures reflect the Conservative government’s determination to increase home ownership for younger voters, a goal that has been out of reach in part because of price inflation caused by wealthy pensioners investing in rental property.

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HK home prices cool for 2nd straight month

Private home prices in Hong Kong fell for the second straight month in September as a global stock market rout and an intensifying Sino-US trade war soured sentiment in the property market. The fall last month followed the decline in August, the first in 29 months in one of the world’s least affordable property markets.

In September, prices eased 1.4 per cent from August, government data showed, accelerating a decline from August’s revised 0.08 per cent slip.

However, prices are still elevated having risen 10.2 per cent so far this year, and surging 14.1 per cent in year-on-year terms in September.

Analysts now expect a 10 to 15 per cent decline in property prices next year.

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Australia’s October home prices slide, weakest since 2012

Australian home prices slipped again in October, falling for the 13th month in a row with losses in Sydney and Melbourne deepening amid tightening credit conditions.

An index of home prices nationally dropped 0.5 per cent in October from September, leading to an annual fall of 3.5 per cent, the weakest since February 2012.

Values in the combined capital cities fell 0.6 per cent in the month and 4.6 per cent for the year. Prices outside the cities eased 0.2 per cent in October, but were still 0.8 per cent higher from a year earlier.

The slowdown has been greatest in Sydney where home prices skidded 7.4 per cent on the year, though Melbourne was catching up with an annual drop of 4.7 per cent.

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By: Lee Sze Teck Head, Research





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