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14 June 2019 / Issue 24

By in Weekly News Review with 0 Comments

Top News for the Week


Property cycle stabilises, thanks to cooling measures

A new round of cooling measures were introduced last July to dampen demand in the property market.

Higher additional buyer’s stamp duty (ABSD) rates and stricter loan-to-value (LTV) limits on residential property purchases were imposed to dissuade buyers from overextending themselves financially, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong when the measures were announced.

The move came amid rising private home prices, which had soared 9.1 per cent over four quarters at the time.

The rule change meant that Singaporeans and permanent residents have to pay 5 percentage points more for stamp duties on buying their second and successive properties, while for foreigners, the ABSD applies even on the first property.

The proportion of a property’s value a buyer can borrow – known as the loan-to-value limit – was slashed by five percentage points.

With the property curbs, local banks DBS, OCBC and UOB found their home loans either reduced or remaining flat.

Home loan growth decelerated to 0.9 per cent in March, the weakest increase since at least 1992, according to data from the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

The cooling measures have stabilised the property cycle. Private home prices dipped 0.1 per cent in Q4 2018 after the curbs, the first time in six quarters. This was followed by a 0.7 per cent fall in Q1 2019.

However, new private home prices managed a 7.9 per cent gain last year, compared with a 1.1 per cent rise for 2017.

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Singapore condo resale prices up 0.4% in May, rising for fourth straight month

Singapore’s condo resale prices rose 0.4 per cent in May from April, rising for the fourth consecutive month, according to monthly figures from real estate portal .

The increase in May follows a 0.8 per cent gain in April, which was adjusted from its initial 0.9 per cent flash estimate.

Price gains of non-landed private homes were led by the city fringes, or rest of central region, which was up 0.8 per cent.

Prices in the core central region and outside central region areas were up a more modest 0.1 per cent and 0.2 per cent respectively.

Volume of sales increased by 3 per cent with 835 units resold in May, compared to the 811 units recorded in April. However, this was 46.1 per cent fewer units resold than in May 2018. Year-on- year, overall condo prices rose 2.3 per cent.

The upward price trend – which was more visible in the past four consecutive months when it grew by 2.2 per cent from January to May 2019 – showed that buyers and sellers were potentially becoming more comfortable with the cooling curbs.

Another possible factor is the new property launches, which are higher priced on a per square foot basis.

Links to the story: straight-month


Condo rents slip 0.3% in May, HDB rents inch up 0.1%

Rents for private non-landed homes were down 0.3 per cent in May from April, while rents for HDB flats rose slightly by 0.1 per cent, according to flash data .

The fall in rents for condominiums and private apartments in May followed a 0.5 per cent gain in April, which was adjusted from its initial flash estimate of 0.6 per cent.

The core central region saw the biggest decline in rents, down 0.8 per cent, followed by the rest of central region which was down 0.7 per cent. The outside central region bucked the trend and was up 0.5 per cent.

Overall, rents rose by 2 per cent versus the year-ago period.

The number of condo and private apartments leased in May edged down 0.2 per cent from April, with an estimated 4,801 units rented compared with 4,810 units in the preceding month. Year on year, units rented were 4.2 per cent lower than the 5,013 units recorded in May 2018. In the HDB market, rents rose 0.1 per cent in May, following a 0.1 per cent drop in April.

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Property tips and trends

The local private housing market has been a hotbed of activity in recent years, with feverish collective sales and fast-rising prices that were put to a halt by the Government’s cooling measures last July. However, sentiment has picked up and sales have been relatively resilient this year, with strong take-up rates for new project launches. Where does this leave prospective home buyers? Industry experts share their tips on buying property and what trends to look out for.

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APAC Realty invests in proptech startup

APAC Realty, which operates the ERA brokerage brand here and across the Asia-Pacific, has invested S$1 million in proptech startup Dots Connected via a three-year convertible note that comes with no interest.

A convertible note is a form of debt that comes with an option to be converted into equity.

Dots Connected owns UrbanZoom, an artificial intelligence driven auto-valuation platform for real estate; and UrbanAgents, an agent referral service.

Founded in 2018, UrbanZoom analyses data from public sources to predict the value of a residential unit, and claims an overall median error of less than 3 per cent. It plans to expand into neighbouring markets outside Singapore in the next few years.

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China buyer signs S$31.5m deal for 3 Orchard By-The-Park penthouse

A chinese citizen is understood to have been granted an option to buy a five-bedroom penthouse at YTL Land & Development’s 3 Orchard By-The-Park project for S$31.5 million.

This works out to S$4,805 per square foot for the 6,555 sq ft triplex unit. The psf price is the highest registered so far among the units which YTL has sold to date in the completed freehold development near the upcoming Orchard Boulevard MRT Station.

The condominium has a total of 77 residences in three 25-storey towers.

Since last year, YTL has released one tower, Wood Tower, which has 30 units comprising two bedders, four bedders and the penthouse that has just been transacted.

Foreigners (excluding PRs) have picked up more than half of the units that have been sold.

It is understood that the buyer is not a Singapore permanent resident, which means that a 20 per cent additional buyer’s stamp duty would be payable.

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Expanded HDB scheme lets buyers book flats the next day

From next Tuesday, home buyers can book a Housing Board flat the day after they apply for one. On offer are 123 flats under the enhanced Re-Offer of Balance Flats exercise, which makes selected unsold flats from previous sales exercises available for booking at any time.

These unsold Build-to-Order flats were previously available only during semi-annual sales exercises.

Of the 123 flats, 105 are in mature towns such as Ang Mo Kio, Bukit Merah and Toa Payoh, and 18 are in non-mature estates like Bukit Batok and Jurong West, the HDB said.

However, some of the flats have ethnic restrictions: Chinese are eligible to apply for only 26 of the flats, while Malays can book 115 and Indians and other races, 119.

Size may also be an issue. Almost half of the flats – 57 of them – are three-roomers, while 17 are 3Gen flats which require parents to live with their married children under one roof.

The flat of choice for most first-time home buyers is a four-roomer, of which there are 23. There are also three two-room flexi flats, three executive flats and 20 five-roomers.

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Sim Lim Square to go online amid collective sale

Sim Lim Square is moving with the times with its soon-to-be-launched e-commerce platform for mall tenants.

The platform is still being tested and will launch on July 1, the centre’s management said.

The initiative has been in the works for a year and is not in response to the mall’s collective sale, it noted, adding that it would not comment on the amount invested to create the new marketplace. Local digital agency Addpetizer has built the online site, which is an opt-in initiative to develop new channels of reaching customers of Sim Lim Square’s tenants.

Tenants will get full autonomy to run their own e-commerce businesses on the marketplace, similar to how portals like Lazada, Amazon or Shopee work.

The mall has got around 50 tenants on board so far, with aims to convince 300 tenants that are Sim Lim Square’s “star retailers” out of a total of 480 to join the site.

Training sessions for all tenants are being conducted on the capabilities of e-commerce and how to manage an online shop.

This means more hands-on training for older tenants, said Mr Sean Chia, head of advertising and promotions at Sim Lim Square.

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Kheng Leong buys property in Jalan Besar conservation area for S$38.71m

A fully-owned unit of Kheng Leong Company, controlled by banking tycoon Wee Cho Yaw, has bought a building near Lavender Street for S$38.71 million which it plans to turn into apartments, with commercial units on the ground floor.

No 2 Cavan Road has “conserved building” status and is within the Jalan Besar Secondary Settlement conservation area. It is zoned “residential with commercial at first storey” with 3.0 plot ratio – under the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) existing Master Plan 2014 as well as the draft Master Plan 2019.

This means the property, which stands on a freehold land area of 20,100 square feet (sq ft), can have a maximum gross floor area (GFA) of 60,301 sq ft. The existing light industrial and warehouse property on site, which is understood to have been built in the 1950s, is underutilised. The front and side of the building, which are part two-storey and part three-storey, have to be conserved. The rear, which is one storey, can be extended up to six storeys, subject to approval from the URA.

The buyer is expected to pay a substantial development charge to the state in order to maximise the GFA permissible for the site.

Link to the story: s3871m


First quarterly drop in office rental index since 2017

The office rental index compiled by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) declined by 0.6 per cent in the first quarter of this year after rising for six consecutive quarters, the first quarterly drop since the second quarter of 2017.

This was mainly driven by the fall in the rental index in the fringe area, which showed a 1.2 per cent decline over the preceding quarter.

The rental index also weakened in the central area, a 0.4 per cent decline over the preceding quarter, recording the first drop after rising for six consecutive quarters.

The office price index, on the other hand, inched up faster than the quarter before. This is not surprising as interest in the sector has grown, brightening prospects of the sector.

This index showed a strong growth of 3 per cent quarter on quarter, the strongest quarterly growth since the third quarter of 2011.

The divergent performance of the office price and rental indexes could be a sign that tenants are showing some resistance to higher rents in view of the uncertainties in the business outlook.

As such, a flight-to-value strategy was adopted and leases in cheaper locations, particularly outside the core Central Business District (CBD), were inked instead.

The limited supply in the core and Grade-A office buildings in the CBD also incentivised tenants to look farther afield into the decentralised locations and/or less premium-grade office buildings. Some tenants might also be exploring more flexible options in the form of a co-working membership.

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Raffles Place mall to draw eyeballs with new mega screen

SPHMBO, the outdoor advertising arm of media group Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), has entered a partnership with One Raffles Place to install a 100 square metre mega LED screen on the facade of the integrated commercial development.

The screen will be strategically located above the main entrance of the mall, overlooking Raffles Place Park, which is surrounded by the landmark properties Clifford Centre, Singapore Land Tower and The Arcade, SPH said in a statement on Friday.

One Raffles Place comprises two Grade A office towers and a six-storey shopping mall. It attracts shopper traffic of close to one million each month and is located near the Raffles Place MRT station.

SPHMBO specialises in large-format Out-of-Home advertising in the city centre that targets PMEBs. It is the sole media representative for the 2.3km underground pedestrian network connecting Ocean Financial Centre, One Raffles Quay, The Sail and Marina Bay Link Mall to Marina Bay Financial Centre.

Links to the story: one-raffles-place


Guoco Tower wins excellence award

Guocoland’s mixed-use Guoco Tower in Tanjong Pagar is the only Singapore winner out of 10 at the 2019 Urban Land Institute (ULI) Asia Pacific Awards for Excellence.

ULI hands the award out to projects that “showcase best land use practice from across the region,” according to a media release by the organisation.

Other winners this year include the Aoyama Building in Tokyo, Japan and COFCO Landmark Plaza in Beijing.

Projects were evaluated on, among other factors, the extent to which they have a positive impact in their communities, environmental sustainability and marketplace acceptance or financial success.

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Retail sales continue slump, down 1.8% in April

Retail sales slid for the third month in a row in April as cautious consumers cut back on shopping. Takings at the till fell 1.8 per cent compared with April last year – a stark divergence from the 0.2 per cent dip expected by analysts in a Bloomberg poll.

If motor vehicles were excluded, retail sales would have dropped 2 per cent year on year.

The retail slump is a general reflection of low consumer confidence and reluctance to spend amid global tensions arising from the trade war between America and China, economists said.

The biggest drops were in the computer and telecommunications equipment industry, with a decline of 6.7 per cent, while sales in the furniture and household equipment sector fell by 6.5 per cent.

Food retail takings fell by 3.5 per cent, a similar decline for sellers of optical goods and books, where takings were 3.2 per cent lower.

Sales by department stores retreated 3.1 per cent.

But sellers of wearing apparel and footwear saw takings rise 3.4 per cent compared with the same period last year.

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US burger joint Five Guys to open in Singapore

Move over Shake Shack. Another iconic American burger joint is coming to town.

The Five Guys franchise, slated to open its first outlet in the last quarter of this year, will be brought in by lifestyle company Zouk Group. It will add to the slew of high-profile openings in the food and beverage scene this year.

Five Guys was founded in Arlington, Virginia, in 1986, by the Murrell family and named after their five sons. It was run as a family business until 2003, when they went into franchising.

The brand now has more than 1,600 restaurants worldwide across the United States, Europe, Middle East and Asia. Its first Asian outpost in Hong Kong opened in November last year.

Five Guys is known for its customisable beef burgers as well as hotdogs, sandwiches and milkshakes. The menu in Singapore will be the same as that in the US and Hong Kong.

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Singapore and Australia to explore new areas of collaboration

Singapore and Australia are exploring new areas of collaboration such as cyber security, food security and the digital economy.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that while discussions on the digital economy are at an early stage, there is scope for the countries to deepen cooperation, particularly in areas such as e- invoicing, digital identities (IDs), e-payments and artificial intelligence (AI).

PM Lee cited this as an example of how Singapore and Australia are planning to take their partnership further, after a meeting with his counterpart Scott Morrison at the Istana.

Bilateral trade grew by 25 per cent year on year in 2018, and PM Lee hopes it will continue to grow, with the upgraded free trade agreement that went into force in 2017.

Tourism has picked up substantially, with more than 1.1 million Australian residents visiting the Republic last year and about 400,000 Singaporeans travelling the other way.

Links to the story: relationships-australia-pm


Next GE about supporting team that can take Singapore forward: PM Lee Hsien Loong

At the next general election, Singaporeans will have to identify and support a team that they feel will be able to move the country forward, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

He was commenting on the significance of the polls which will have to be held by April 2021, at a dialogue during the Business China Awards gala dinner last night.

“I think it is to show ourselves and show the world that Singapore is united and we understand what our safety, security and prosperity depend on, and are able to identify and support a team to help us move forward and get to where we want to be,” PM Lee said.

This is especially so for the next election as the country is preparing for a leadership change and it is crucial that the transition goes well, he said in response to Business China director Robin Hu, who moderated the 45-minute dialogue.

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Free community water park for children opens in Yishun

A large community water park has opened in the north of Singapore.

Oasis Waterpark @ Nee Soon East was officially launched by Nee Soon GRC MP Louis Ng, together with about 1,000 residents.

The water park is beside Block 307, Yishun Central, about 10 minutes’ walk from Yishun MRT station.

It is free for the public and opens daily from 9am to 10pm.

Nee Soon East constituency office said it is the only community water park that provides comprehensive family-oriented facilities in the heartland.

The water park has an area of 5,600 sq m. It consists of three main zones of water play, including a circular 3.5m-tall water curtain, and features giant boardgame pieces. The play pool is suitable for children aged two to 12.

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International collaboration needed for sustainable development: DPM Heng

Offering business opportunities such as new infrastructure development, the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA) is one example of how Singapore can partner other countries to pursue sustainable development, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat said on Friday morning.

He was speaking to some 800 delegates at the FutureChina Global Forum, organised by Business China and part of Ecosperity Week.

Collaboration between nations was one of three broad ways that Mr Heng laid out for working towards a sustainable future, along with enabling all societal sectors to contribute, and grooming the next generation of talent and leadership.

The world is facing major challenges in sustainable development that, if not properly handled, “could potentially unravel the progress that the world has made over the past few decades”, he said, highlighting the two areas of tackling climate change and economic development.

Links to the story: development-dpm-heng  heng


Urban farm cert for Sky Greens’ organic vegetables

Buyers of mini-vegetables from the first vertical farm here can now be assured the greens are grown without the use of artificial fertilisers or pesticides.

Sky Greens, an urban farm in Lim Chu Kang, has received certification under the world’s first national standard for organic vegetables grown in urban environments. The standard was developed here to address key challenges such as limited land, lack of soil and water, and higher operating costs due to energy consumption and manpower constraints.

Sky Greens received the Singapore Standard 632 (SS 632) certification for organic primary produce from Control Union Certifications. It was developed by the Food Standards Committee under the Singapore Standards Council. Urban farms worldwide, including importers, exporters and retailers, can apply for the SS 632 certification.

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How S’pore can aid sustainable growth in Asia

Singapore can contribute to sustainable growth in Asia by helping to strengthen the region’s resilience to natural disasters, said Acting Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat.

To this end, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is developing the market for insurance- linked securities as an alternative risk financing solution, he said.

These can help provide financing quickly in the wake of regional disasters or catastrophic losses. Mr Heng, who is Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, said that only about 5 per cent of economic losses in developing Asia are currently insured, despite the fact that natural catastrophes have increased in intensity and frequency due to climate change.

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Singapore, UK ink deals to deepen cooperation between both financial hubs

Singapore and the UK inked agreements to enhance cooperation in data connectivity, talent development and green finance between the two financial centres.

These agreements were made at the UK-Singapore Business Summit held in London to mark the Singapore Bicentennial.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) concluded a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the City of London on key areas of financial cooperation. These include facilitating data flows, enhancing cross-border “know-your-customer” processes, developing skills and competencies in the financial sector, and promoting green finance.

The agreement was signed by Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for Social Policies, and chairman of MAS, and Peter Estlin, Lord Mayor of the City of London.

Links to the story: both-financial-hubs


Q3 hiring prospects in S’pore to stay stable: Survey

Singaporean employers remain optimistic in their hiring plans for the third quarter of this year, new research shows.

Fifteen per cent of employers intend to increase their staffing levels, while 3 per cent anticipate a decrease, and 77 per cent forecast no change to their payrolls, according to a survey released by recruitment company ManpowerGroup Employment today.

The remaining 5 per cent did not know.

The resulting net employment outlook for the upcoming quarter is forecast to remain relatively stable at +12 per cent, improving by one percentage point from the previous quarter, but remains unchanged compared with the same period last year.

Employers in all seven industry sectors expect to add to payrolls in the third quarter of this year, with those in the public administration and education sector reporting the strongest hiring outlook of +22 per cent, a jump of 5 percentage points from the previous quarter.

Links to the story: in-asia-pac


Q3 business outlook ticks up after falls in 3 straight quarters

A buoyant services sector helped to offset trade-war uncertainties – and to support improved business sentiment, says the latest Business Optimism Index by the Singapore Commercial Credit Bureau (SCCB).

Business sentiment among Singapore firms edged up slightly for the first time after three consecutive quarters of decline. Sentiment came in at +6.91 percentage points for Q3 2019, up from +5.08 percentage points in Q2.

Looking at Q3 year on year, however, the index lost ground: The figure for Q3 2018 was +10.58 percentage points.

Sentiment in five of the six indicators used for the index was more positive in Q3 2019 than the quarter before. The five indicators are sales, profits, employment, new orders and inventories.

Links to the story: quarters


Economists trim Singapore’s 2019 growth forecast to 2.1%

Trade protectionism remains the top growth risk cited by private-sector economists, who have further trimmed their 2019 forecast for Singapore to 2.1 per cent, in the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s (MAS) quarterly survey of professional forecasters.

Down from 2.5 per cent in March’s survey, the latest figure falls within the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s forecast range of 1.5 to 2.5 per cent, which was lowered in May from the previous range of 1.5 to 3.5 per cent.

But the picture could change drastically if downside risks materialise. “Singapore will likely slip into a recession if the United States and China cannot reach a trade deal and Trump decides to hike tariffs on the remaining import items from China,” said Maybank Kim Eng economists Chua Hak Bin and Lee Ju Ye, who otherwise forecast 1.6 per cent growth.

The trade war is also broadening to the use of export controls aimed at China technology companies such as Huawei, which will further intensify the disruption to the tech supply chain, they added.

Furthermore, the manufacturing-led slowdown is broadening to services, including wholesale and retail trade, transport and storage, as well as finance and insurance, they said. “Tourism was a bright spot in 2018 but is starting to also slow on the back of weaker visitor arrivals, especially from China.”

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Retrenchments up in first quarter, led by manufacturing: MOM

Retrenchments in Singapore rose in the first quarter of the year, driven by manufacturing losses and hitting mainly production and related workers from electronics, said the Manpower Ministry (MOM).

The number of retrenched employees stood at 3,230, up from 2,510 in the previous quarter and also higher than a year ago, the ministry said in its latest labour market report.

Retrenchments in electronics made up 18 per cent of the number, followed by services industries such as wholesale trade, as well as transportation and storage.

“While restructuring and reorganisation remained the main reason cited by establishments for retrenchments, there was a rise in the share of retrenchments from the previous quarter due to high costs and the downturn in the industry,” the report said.

It added that among retrenched residents, professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) continued to make up the majority at 69 per cent. This is because they form a higher share of the workforce and are more prone to retrenchments.

Total employment continued to grow by 10,700 excluding foreign domestic workers, driven by the services sector and higher than a year ago. But employment dipped in manufacturing for the second consecutive quarter, led by cutbacks in electronics. The electronics cluster posted its largest employment contraction in six years.

Links to the story:  mom


Global trade may drop 17% in full trade war: WTO

In a full-blown trade war, where tariffs were to go back to levels that existed before the multilateral trading system was created, global trade would plummet 17 per cent – more than it fell during the Great Recession of the late 2000s.

Mr Keith Rockwell, director for information and external relations at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), told a three-day workshop for regional parliamentarians that this was the dip its economists had estimated, with trade-restrictive measures on the rise.

While such measures are applied regularly, they have not been of the magnitude put in place recently.

These tensions and tariffs have caused the International Monetary Fund to trim its global growth forecast from 3.7 per cent to 3.5 per cent, with the US-China trade conflict alone enough to knock

0.3 percentage points off the global gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020, said Mr Rockwell. “If the two sides carry through with their threats to wipe out all bilateral trade via prohibitive tariffs, this could have the impact of knocking off even more,” he added.

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Monetary loosening ‘may be enough for Asia-Pac economies for now’

Most Asia-Pacific economies may not resort to fiscal stimulus unless a full-blown trade war between the United States and China comes to pass, say economists.

Last week, China indicated that it has “tremendous” room for monetary and fiscal adjustment if trade tensions worsen. But although manufacturing figures have weakened across the region, fiscal moves have been taken mainly by markets closer to the trade war, such as South Korea.

Malaysia and the Philippines have already cut their policy rates; China and the Philippines have also cut reserve requirements for banks.

But things could change if trade tensions continue to take a toll – and certainly if talks sour.

More governments and central banks across Asia are expected to introduce stimulus measures and ease monetary policy as the US-China trade war takes its toll on growth and exports. Asean governments with the fiscal space should accelerate their infrastructure build-up and boost public investment.

Link to the story: economies-for-now-0


Flat global growth for 2019, but no recession, says Aberdeen

Aberdeen Standard Investments’ chief economist anticipates neither a US recession nor a Chinese credit crisis, but forecasts flat global growth for 2019.

Correspondingly, central banks need to loosen fiscal policy, said Jeremy Lawson, who also heads the global investment company’s Research Institute.

Mr Lawson was careful to emphasise that he sees a slowdown and not a recession in the US. “I think that market participants are obsessing too much about the slope of the yield curve at the moment,” he said at an event.

While an inverted bond yield curve is a popular bellwether for a recession, Mr Lawson argued that after factoring in the term premium, the US Treasury yield curve is actually flattened but still positive.

Link to the story: aberdeen


Intra-Asean flows gain ground even as US, China trade blows

Even as all eyes are trained on US-China trade tensions and the possibility of a global recession, trading within the region has been trending upwards.

Data from the Asean Secretariat shows that intra-Asean merchandise exports have consistently accounted for the largest share of merchandise value among intra-Asean and dialogue partners.

In 2000, intra-Asean merchandise made up 22.6 per cent of merchandise-export value. In 2005, it had risen to 25.3 per cent; in 2010, 25.2 per cent; and in 2017, 23.5 per cent.

In terms of imports, intra-Asean contributed 21.4 per cent in 2000, 24.5 per cent in 2005, 25.0 per cent in 2010 and 22.3 per cent in 2017.

Singapore was the largest exporter and importer within the Asean trade market, with shares of 29.0 per cent and 25.4 per cent of the Asean total respectively in 2017.

A report by Nomura on June 3 noted that many Asian economies have benefited from the trade diversion. The report, which studied a full year’s worth of trade data, identified Vietnam has having been the largest beneficiary by far, gaining 7.9 per cent in gross domestic product (GDP) as a result of the trade diversion.

Link to the story: blows


Bosses, staff agree on need for work-life harmony: Poll

Employers and employees have become more aligned in their views on the need for work-life harmony.

A growing share of managers and human resource professionals believe that staff should be given flexibility to manage their own time and schedule as long as they can meet work targets.

At the same time, more employees feel they have been given that flexibility.

These findings are among the results of a survey out today, which examines how attitudes towards work-life harmony and flexible work arrangements have changed in recent years.

It found that 89 per cent of bosses polled last year backed work-life arrangements to help staff cope with the demands of work and personal or family life. This was up from 86 per cent in 2014. And 75 per cent of employees, up from 69 per cent, agreed that their supervisors were open to flexi-work when required.

A total of 83 per cent of bosses polled said staff should have the flexibility to manage their time as long as they meet work targets and deadlines, up from 80 per cent in 2014.

It also went the other way, with 82 per cent of employees saying their supervisors gave them that flexibility, up from 76 per cent in 2014.

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Changi has world’s 2nd most valuable airport brand: report

Singapore’s Changi International Airport has the world’s second most valuable airport brand value of US$754 million and also the world’s strongest airport brand, according to a report by consultancy Brand Finance.

In terms of brand value, Changi was outranked by London’s Heathrow Airport, which the report deems to have a brand value of US$919 million. Korea’s Incheon International Airport came in third, with a brand value of US$737 million.

Brand value is calculated based on likely future revenues attributable to a brand by calculating a royalty rate that is charged for the use of the brand. This includes the value of the trade mark and associated marketing intellectual property.

In terms of airport brand strength, however, Changi clinched the top spot with a Brand Strength Index (BSI) score of 86.9 out of 100.

Hong Kong International Airport and Incheon Airport ranked second and third globally in terms of brand strength, with BSI scores of 86.26 and 85.85, respectively.

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CDL makes 2nd bid to privatise Millennium & Copthorne Hotels

City Developments (CDL) is making a second bid to take over Millennium & Copthorne Hotels (M&C), for a maximum cash consideration of £776.29 million (S$1.35 billion) this time with the blessing of key minority shareholders.

The Singapore-listed developer said that the move, made through an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary, is aimed at boosting recurring income and enhancing underperforming assets in an increasingly challenging global hospitality environment.

Under the deal, the subsidiary, Agapier Investments Limited (Bidco), will acquire 34.8 per cent of M&C not already held by CDL, at 685 pence for each share. The offer is final and will not be increased, CDL said. Currently, CDL owns 65.2 per cent of M&C, which has a portfolio of more than 140 hotels in over 26 countries.

Links to the story: share


SATS opens private-jet centre at Seletar Airport

In-flight catering services provider SATS has opened its Business Aviation Centre (BAC) at Seletar Airport, providing personalised concierge, lounge and passenger services to private-jet customers, SATS said in a media statement.

The centre offers passengers discretion, privacy and speed, via its dedicated services for baggage handling, security screening, immigration clearance, and quarantine. This ensures the customers get a “seamless passage” through the airport, SATS noted.

Private-jet travellers can also enjoy fine dining in the skies, special dietary meals, express laundry services and a personal shopper.

Operations at BAC are managed by SATS Seletar Aviation Services (SSAS), a joint venture consisting of SATS and Swiss global business aviation services provider, Jet Aviation, as well as Universal Aviation, the ground support division of US-headquartered Universal Weather and Aviation.

Open all day, the centre has a reception area, a lounge, meeting rooms, individual workstations, massage chairs, toilets with showers, and a prayer room.

SSAS has handled more than 4,000 flight movements since its first flight at Seletar Airport on Nov 19, 2018. Of these, close to 70 per cent are attributed to business aviation, SATS said.

SATS also said the number of flights for business aviation is expected to grow 3-5 per cent year on year.

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Shell expands Bukom refinery storage by around 1.3m barrels

Shell has increased the storage capacity at its Singapore Bukom refinery by nearly 1.3 million barrels by building two large crude oil tanks.

Increasing its storage capacity on the island gives the oil major greater flexibility in optimising its oil-trading activities; the move is also aimed at sharpening the company’s competitiveness through storage and logistics investment in its core refineries, on the back of expected increases in demand for oil products in the region and globally over the next two decades.

Shell names Singapore is its largest petrochemical production and export centre in the Asia- Pacific.

The company is also investing in storage and logistics for its other large, complex and integrated sites in Rotterdam and the US Gulf Coast.

Shell built the storage tanks using an automated welding technology, reducing welding time by 60 per cent and reducing costs.

This is not the first time it has invested in storage capacity in its Singapore petrochemical complexes.

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ExxonMobil completes expansion of S’pore refinery

American oil and gas giant ExxonMobil has completed an expansion at its Singapore refinery in Jurong to upgrade the production of its proprietary EHC Group II base stocks, it said in a media statement.

Base stocks or base oils are used commonly for blending finished lubricants used to oil engines in vehicles, ships, planes and industrial plants. They are produced from refining crude oil.

The expansion will enable customers to blend lubricants that satisfy more stringent specifications, help lower emissions, improve fuel economy and low-temperature performance, ExxonMobil said.

Construction of the expansion started in 2017 and was completed safely and on schedule with one million workforce hours. At peak construction, more than 300 workers were employed.

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JTC to launch tender for Tuas South Link reserve list site

JTC will launch a tender for an industrial site in Tuas South Link 3 (Plot 19) after having received an application with a committed bid price of not less than S$2 million.

As the minimum price committed to by the applicant was acceptable to the government, the site is being released for public tender, JTC said on Friday.

The identity of the applicant was not disclosed.

The site, which has a 20-year tenure, has a site area of 0.45 hectare, a gross plot ratio of 1.4 and is zoned for Business-2 use.

JTC will launch a tender for an industrial site in Tuas South Link 3 (Plot 19) after having received an application with a committed bid price of not less than S$2 million.

As the minimum price committed to by the applicant was acceptable to the government, the site is being released for public tender, JTC said on Friday.

The identity of the applicant was not disclosed.

The site, which has a 20-year tenure, has a site area of 0.45 hectare, a gross plot ratio of 1.4 and is zoned for Business-2 use.

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Group of 5 Kampong Glam shophouses on sale at indicative price of S$23.8m

Five adjoining freehold shophouses situated in the Kampong Glam conservation area have been put up for sale via an expression of interest exercise, at an indicative price of S$23.8 million for the entire portfolio.

This works out to S$2,970 per square foot (psf) said the sole marketing agent.

As the property is also zoned as full “commercial” under the 2019 Draft Master Plan, there will not be any additional buyer’s stamp duty or seller’s stamp duty, with the opportunity being open to both local and foreign buyers.

The shophouses are located at 17, 19, 21, 23 and 25 Baghdad Street, with individual land titles all held by a single owner.

The property occupies a combined land area of around 4,892 square feet (sq ft), with a prominent 60-metre triple-road frontage onto Baghdad Street, Bussorah Street and one side lane.

The shophouses have areas ranging from 1,375 sq ft to 2,416 sq ft, contributing to a total floor area of about 8,013 sq ft. The shophouses are also fully tenanted with existing food and beverage approvals, which is “rare in today’s market”.

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2 freehold commercial shophouses at Neil Rd, Jalan Besar up for sale

Two freehold commercial shophouses located separately at 148 Neil Road and 114 Jalan Besar have been put up for sale via an expression of interest exercise.

The two-storey Neil Road shophouse has a guide price of S$15.5 million. It includes a basement and attic level, and sits on a freehold site of about 1,587 square feet (sq ft), with a total built-up area of about 4,197 sq ft.

The two-storey Jalan Besar shophouse has a guide price of S$5.65 million and occupies a land area of about 1,173 sq ft, with a built-up area of around 1,901 sq ft.

The shophouse has permanent food and beverage (F&B) approval for its ground floor and recently underwent asset refurbishment works. Refurbishment works include the installation of a new M&E (mechanical and electrical) and air-conditioning system, as well as refreshed building interiors.

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How a real estate concept as old as the Middle Ages can still backfire

The contemporary version of fractional ownership started with time-sharing in the 1960s, when the first properties opened across Europe and later in Hawaii. The idea – that people could buy designated weeks that they could use at a resort or trade for other destinations – spread to vacation spots around the United States, Mexico and Europe. By the 1990s, large hotel operators like Marriott and Hilton had gotten into the business.

But like many real estate ideas, time-sharing went out of fashion. As it lost a bit of its allure, fractional ownership came on the scene in the 1990s. At the high end, condos were replaced by luxury ski chalets and beachfront villas.

The industry is now organised into three subsectors: fractional ownership, private residence clubs and destination clubs. According to Ragatz Associates, which tracks the industry, the first two are basically the same, but private residence clubs are a more upscale version of fractional ownership. Destination clubs are more like country club memberships, in which people pay an initiation fee for access to rent and stay in luxury homes.

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Australia seizes 3 properties from Chinese national

The Australian government has confiscated three properties from a Chinese national after a joint money-laundering investigation with China.

The Melbourne real estate was owned by a 32-year-old Chinese national who had been using an assumed name and had relocated to the Caribbean, the Australian Federal Police said on Saturday in a statement on their website.

A two-bedroom apartment, a five-bedroom house and a property that used to house a supermarket were collectively valued at A$4.2 million (S$4 million) and will be sold. The proceeds will be used for law enforcement initiatives, the police said.

Police said the pair laundered the money by setting up shell companies to buy Australian real estate, jewellery and vehicles. The assets were frozen in November, and the Supreme Court of Victoria ordered the forfeiture of the three properties last Friday.

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UK house prices show biggest annual rate of rise since 2017

British house prices rose at the fastest annual rate since the start of 2017 during the three months to the end of May, mortgage lender Halifax said on Friday, though it added the figure was flattered by weak growth a year ago.

Halifax said house prices in the three months to May were 5.2 per cent higher than in 2018, up from 5 per cent annual growth in the three months to April, their highest since January 2017 and beating a forecast in a Reuters poll of economists.

Britain’s housing market has slowed since 2016’s Brexit referendum, driven by price falls in London and neighbouring areas, exacerbated by higher purchase taxes on homes costing over £1 million (S$1.7 million) and on second homes and small landlords.

Halifax said prices rose 0.5 per cent on the month in May, in contrast to predictions of a fall, and April’s monthly house price growth was revised up to 1.2 per cent (from 1.1 per cent).

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New York City is getting taller and taller

New york has long been a city in the clouds, but with 16 buildings around 500 feet or taller slated for completion this year, 2019 could be the American city’s busiest year ever for new skyscrapers. For many years the city’s skyline was primarily defined by the Empire State and Chrysler buildings, both more than 1,000 feet tall and built in the early 1930s. But New York’s horizon has been in perpetual flux now for the better part of a decade.

There are currently nine completed towers in New York that are more than 1,000 feet tall, and seven of them were built after 2007.

Nearly twice that many – another 16 such towers – are being planned or are under construction, according to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, a Chicago-based nonprofit that tracks high-rise construction.

But there are signs that the supertall boom may be slowing, at least in the short term. Much of the recent development was driven by the luxury condo market, which peaked around 2016, and there is a glut of new unsold apartments.

At the current pace of sales, it would take nine years to sell those 9,000 unsold units. Enough time, perhaps, for developers to plan the next wave of mega-towers.

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Robot bricklayers to 3D printing – how tech can transform housebuilding

A robotic bricklayer, 3D printing and furniture that can be stowed away at the wave of a hand could all help to address the global deficit in affordable housing, according to a study.

Nearly 90 per cent of the world’s cities cannot provide affordable homes for their citizens and millennials are spending more on housing than any previous generation, said the report, compiled by the World Economic Forum (WEF) and consultants PwC.

That is not sustainable, according to the report’s lead author Alice Charles, who said better land management practices and improved efficiency in the construction industry could make urban housing more affordable.

The cost of construction could be brought down significantly by new technologies such as a robotic bricklayer being used in the United States that can build a wall up to 10 times faster than a human counterpart, she said.

Large-scale 3D printing has advanced to the point that companies in the United States, China and the Netherlands are working on housing projects, she said.

Some can produce a home in 24 hours for just a few thousand US dollars, according to the report, which cites a 2017 study of 30 African cities that found construction can make up nearly three- quarters of the cost of a project, pushing up prices.

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By: Lee Sze Teck Head, Research




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