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14th December 2018

By in Weekly News Review with 0 Comments

Top News for the Week


Malaysia says it will take steps to de-escalate situation

Malaysia said it will take all effective measures to de-escalate the situation on the ground and handle the ongoing maritime boundary dispute with Singapore in a calm and peaceful manner.

It also reiterated the importance of strong bilateral relations, and hoped that talks on resolving matters would start expeditiously, Malaysia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Singapore responded by saying it is “encouraged” that Malaysia has said it will take all effective measures to de-escalate the situation.

Singapore also welcomes the Malaysian government’s agreement that officials meet in the second week of January to exchange views on resolving the Johor Baru port limits issue, said the Republic’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).

Still, MFA said Singapore is “disappointed” that Malaysia is unable to accede to its proposal to revert to the pre-Oct 25 status quo. The Johor Baru port limits were unilaterally extended by Malaysia that day, with Malaysia claiming waters belonging to Singapore as its own.

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Six moneylenders with unique business models issued new licences

It is the first time in six years that MinLaw is issuing new moneylending licences since a moratorium was imposed in 2012.

The one-time lifting of the moratorium is part of an initiative to better protect borrowers through business-led improvements. The new models include more comprehensive use of data to assess creditworthiness, using digitalised processes to lower cost and giving better terms to those who repay their loans early or on time, MinLaw said.

All six firms have paid-up capital of at least S$1 million and demonstrated a track record in providing consumer credit, whether in licensed moneylending or in other sectors of consumer credit.

MinLaw said there are currently 162 moneylending outlets in Singapore. The new licensees will be allowed to operate for up to two years from next year, after which MinLaw will evaluate the results of the pilot and consider options for refining the moneylending regulatory regime.

Link to the story: licences


Trade tensions seen among 2019’s top business risks

Trade tensions between China and the United States, nationalist politics and increased environmental regulation are among the top risks for firms in 2019, according to specialist risk consultancy Control Risks’ annual look at the year ahead.

In Asia, pressure on China’s slowing economy will not bode well for commodity-focused economies such as Indonesia, Australia and Malaysia.

And countries in the Asia Pacific – including Singapore – will increasingly have to choose between the competing visions which China and the US have for Asia.

Another risk is that amid rising nationalist sentiment, multinationals will come under pressure. In Asia, as economies cool, politicians may “play the nationalist card” in areas such as foreign investors’ access to sectors, and preferential policies for local companies.

Climate change will not only bring business disruptions through extreme weather – from storms and floods to droughts and fires – but also encourage politicised environmental regulation.

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Economy watchers trim Singapore 2019 GDP forecasts

Singapore is headed for a slowdown, private-sector analysts said, while agreeing that the US-China trade war is the top risk to the economy.

Growth in next year’s gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to ease by a wider margin than was projected three months ago, according to the latest quarterly survey by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

The manufacturing sector – where the linchpin electronics segment has hit a bump – could continue to weigh down the Singapore economy, with the long-awaited recovery in construction perhaps unable to offer relief.

Economists trimmed their forecast for next year and predicted that Singapore’s growth will come in at 2.6 per cent, down from the 2.7 per cent forecast earlier.

For 2018, GDP growth is expected at 3.3 per cent, 0.1 point lower than the projection from a similar poll in September – even as 2018’s full-year estimate was bumped up from 3.2 per cent.

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Singapore shoppers 2nd in Asia-Pacific for buying foreign goods online

Online shoppers in Singapore are second only to their counterparts from Hong Kong in the Asia- Pacific when it comes to making purchases from overseas, particularly from Chinese websites.

An Ipsos study commissioned by PayPal found around 73 per cent of online shoppers here bought items from overseas in the past year, with 14 per cent shopping exclusively on foreign websites. Ipsos is a market research and consulting firm based in France.

The results showed that 75 per cent of shoppers in Hong Kong made cross-border online purchases. Ipsos surveyed more than 34,000 respondents in 31 markets from March to May this year for the study, including 1,000 from Singapore.

Clothing, footwear and accessories topped the list of most popular categories of items bought online, with around 70 per cent of respondents in Asia buying at least one item in the past year.

Global shoppers mostly went to online stores based in China, with respondents citing better prices as the primary reason.

The rise of international e-commerce in Singapore is a positive sign at a time when countries are putting up more barriers as trade protectionist sentiments grow around the world, concluded a panel of industry insiders while discussing the PayPal report at Republic Plaza.

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Singapore’s consumer confidence hits 3-year high in Q3

Consumers remained pessimistic about their lot in the economy but felt a little bit cheerier in the third quarter.

In fact, confidence in the three months to Sept 30 rose to its highest level since it entered gloomy territory three years ago.

The Singapore Consumer Confidence Index was at 98 points for the quarter, up from 94 in the previous three months. Any score below 100 denotes pessimism.

The index has been in pessimistic territory – and below the global index level as well – since the fourth quarter of 2015, when it dipped from 101 points to 94.

Three indicators underpin the index: consumers’ perception of the state of their personal finances, local job prospects and their spending intentions.

Singapore recorded improvements in all three, both on year-on-year and quarter-on-quarter bases.

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Retail sales up 0.1% in October, way below forecast

Retail sales ticked up slightly in October but came in well below market expectations.

Takings at the till rose just 0.1 per cent over the same month last year – a far cry from the 1.9 per cent increase in September and a mile short of the 1.5 per cent tipped by analysts polled by Bloomberg.

Excluding motor vehicles, retail sales rose 0.5 per cent.

Car sales fell by 2 per cent year on year, noted the Department of Statistics.

However, takings at department stores dropped 3.6 per cent, and those at supermarkets and hypermarkets were down by 2.9 per cent compared with October last year.

Retailers of optical goods and books recorded sales declines of 1.9 per cent, while those selling recreational goods saw a drop of 1.8 per cent.

The total retail sales value in October was about $3.7 billion, with online accounting for an estimated 5.3 per cent.

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S’pore doing well in human capital: World Bank report

Singapore is generally doing well in investing in human capital and is well positioned to deal with the changing nature of work, experts and the World Bank said.

The World Bank noted that although there were concerns that technology would replace jobs, new platforms will create employment opportunities in fresh areas. “Robot density per worker in 2018 is the highest in Germany, Korea and Singapore. Yet in all of these countries, despite the high prevalence of robots, the employment rate remains high,” it said.

New platforms such as Grab expand job opportunities and Singapore is able to take on these changes.

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Job market picks up, but hiring may be easing

The labour market continued to improve in the third quarter of this year, but several indicators show that hiring may be slowing amid global uncertainties.

Between July and September, more people were employed here and fewer lost their jobs, compared with the preceding three months.

Official figures released by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) showed that total employment, excluding foreign domestic workers, grew by 16,700 from July to September. This was the fastest rate in four years, surpassing even the preliminary estimates of 15,200 released in October.

Observers said this is likely driven by good economic growth in the first half of the year.

But overall unemployment crept up slightly, and the proportion of residents who found work last quarter within six months of being retrenched slipped to 62 per cent, down from 64 per cent in the second quarter. Lower re-entry rates were seen across all age groups.

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Singapore property ‘standstill’ expected in 2019: analysts

Just when Singapore’s residential property market was reviving after a four-year slump, government moves to curb the exuberance might play spoiler going into the new year.

Home prices that are forecast to climb as much as 10 per cent this year could remain flat in 2019 and may decline as much as 3 per cent, estimates from property brokers compiled by Bloomberg News showed.

Home sales that lagged behind 2017 levels this year may once again be below that mark in 2019, according to forecasts.

The pace of residential property price increases is slowing after the government added measures to cool the market in July.

Additional guidelines that limit the number of “shoebox” apartments developers can build, plus anti-money laundering safeguards that restrict builders, are further constrictions.

The government said earlier this month it also plans to slow its release of land sales for residential use in the first half of 2019, citing a spike in supply and a cooling in demand.

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Housing demand could still fuel 2019 growth in Singapore

The local housing market could still support Singapore’s growth in 2019, despite the curbs unveiled this year, bank analysts said this week.

Standard Chartered’s (StanChart) global chief economist David Mann, who is based here, acknowledged that “there are lots of cross-currents” in the air, from dampeners like an electronics cycle slowdown to upsides like a ramp-up in investment diversions into Asean.

Domestic drivers could include “a relatively robust market demand for housing” that supports home prices as inflation grows while lauding shock cooling measures as a cap on “unnecessary speculative froth”.

Where Singapore is concerned, though, the house hews to the street’s view: It expects economic growth to cool to 2.6 per cent in 2019, from an estimated 3.3 per cent this year.

Link to the story: singapore

Nov condo resale prices reverse 3 months of slide with 0.2% gain

Resale prices of private non-landed homes in Singapore increased in November, following three straight months of declines after property cooling measures were introduced in July according to flash estimates.

Condominiums and private apartment resale prices strengthened by 0.2 per cent last month from October. This follows a 0.3 per cent drop in October, a figure revised from an earlier estimated decline of 0.4 per cent.

Before August, resale prices had an unbroken 12-month run to new highs. Now, year-on-year, they are still up by 8.8 per cent from November 2017, but are down 0.7 per cent from their peak in July when the additional property curbs were announced.

Buying activity in the resale market continued to remain lacklustre. An estimated 662 units were resold in November, a 4.6 per cent decline from the 694 units in October. Resale volume compared to a year ago was 55.4 per cent lower than the 1,483 units moved in November 2017.

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Singapore condo rents up 0.6% in November; HDB rents down 0.5%

The rental market for private non-landed property in Singapore picked up in November while it slowed for HDB properties, going by flash data.

Rents for condominiums and private apartments in November increased by 0.6 per cent from the previous month. The monthly decline in rents for October was raised to 0.9 per cent from 0.7 per cent estimated earlier.

They were unchanged in August.

Year on year, private rents are up by 0.3 per cent from November 2017. However, compared to their record high in January 2013, they are down by 19.6 per cent.

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Fintech workers helping to prop up private rental market

More hiring in the fast-growing fintech services sector has been holding up the rents for condominiums and private apartments.

Rentals for HDB properties, however, slowed last month according to flash data.

Rents for private, non-landed homes last month increased by 0.6 per cent from the previous month. Year on year, private home rents were up by 0.3 per cent last month. However, compared with their record high in January 2013, they were down by 19.6 per cent.

Although the leasing volume dipped by 11.8 per cent last month from a year ago, the number of units leased for the first 11 months rose 5.9 per cent to 51,757 units from 48,882 units in the same period a year ago.

Private rents in the prime or core central region (CCR) rose 1.8 per cent last month from a month ago, while rents in the city fringes or rest of central region (RCR) grew by 0.6 per cent.

However, rents in the suburbs or outside central region (OCR) fell by 0.3 per cent.

Year on year, RCR and OCR rents have risen 1.2 per cent and 0.8 per cent respectively, but CCR rents have dropped by 1.5 per cent.

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Landmark Tower buyer continues to seek funds to finance collective sale

The Singapore wealth management and real estate services company who is buying Landmark Tower is continuing to raise funds to finance its stake in the collective sale.

The joint venture had bought the Chin Swee Road site through a joint venture for S$286 million or $1,406 psf ppr, including the lease upgrading premium of S$57 million.

The fundraising target is S$55 million by the end of Q1 2019, the company told The Business Times.

The condo project will be launch in the second half of 2019, at a “low S$2,000 psf”.

Link to the story:    sale

En bloc hopefuls cut prices as reality bites

Amid a decidedly quieter collective sale market, some homeowners have become more measured in their expectations as seen by the downward price adjustments at some en bloc potentials.

The latest of these is Park View Mansions, which relaunched its tender at a reserve price of S$250 million, or 22 per cent lower than when it first launched earlier this year.

In late October, Gilstead Mansion relaunched its en bloc at S$65 million, or S$3 million less than its guide price in June.

At Park View Mansions, more than 80 per cent of the owners at the 191,974 sq ft development right by Jurong Lake Gardens consented to the new price, “in view of current market conditions”, marketing agent Huttons Asia said in a statement.

The new price translates to a land rate of roughly S$969 psf ppr, after taking into account an estimated differential premium and lease upgrading premium of some S$140.8 million.

Angela Lim, deputy head of investment sales, told BT that the first time round, there was interest but no bid higher than the reserve price.

She said developers had been “closely tracking” Park View Mansions’ progress of securing a lower reserve price for the past few months.

Terence Lian, head of investment sales for Huttons Asia, said in a statement: “The site presents an excellent redevelopment opportunity for developers as it is located right next to Jurong Lake Gardens. This is a rare piece of land which offers a seamless connection to the gardens and provides a natural environment, hence enhancing the well-being of residents.”

He also pointed to the Jurong Lake District, slated to be Singapore’s second Central Business District.

The break-even could be S$1,450 psf according to Huttons’ estimate. The tender for Park View Mansions closes at 12pm on Jan 18.

Links to the story:  price  price

Condo management has no power to make by-law: Judge

A condominium management corporation took a unit owner to court to pay damages it had based on a condo by-law – but the High Court ruled that the MC did not have the power to make such a by-law in the first place.

Striking down the MC’s bid to seek some $344,000 from the owner, whose tenant had encroached on common walkway space, the judge said there was no provision under the Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act (BMSMA) for the MC to make such a by-law.

Instead, the BMSMA provides for the MCs to recover damages arising from breaches of by-laws by applying to the court, said Judicial Commissioner Dedar Singh Gill in judgment grounds.

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46 cases of fallen windows from Jan to Nov

There were 46 cases of fallen windows in the first 11 months of this year. In the whole of last year, there were 56 cases, and in 2012, there were 71, said the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) and the Housing Board in a joint statement.

Of the 46 cases so far this year, 23 involved casement windows while 19 were sliding windows. The remaining four cases involved other window types, such as louvre windows. There were no injuries reported in any of the cases.

The BCA and HDB said the windows in homes can deteriorate over time due to wear and tear. And without regular maintenance, they may potentially be dislodged or fall off.

The key cause of fallen casement windows is the corrosion of aluminium rivets, which means they are unable to hold the window panels firmly in place.

Since 2004, home owners have been required to replace all aluminium rivets in casement windows with stainless steel ones.

In the case of falling sliding windows, most were due to the lack of proper safety stoppers and angle strips to ensure window panels are kept within the tracks. Such panels may detach when home owners apply additional outward force when opening or closing the windows.

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HDB to launch around 15,000 new flats in 2019

The Housing Board (HDB) will launch about 15,000 new flats in 2019 in neighbourhoods like Sengkang, Jurong West and Kallang/Whampoa.

This includes around 2,000 flats with shorter wait times in Tengah, where prospective home owners can expect to collect the keys to their new flats in two to three years from the point of application.

“HDB will continue to monitor the housing needs of Singaporeans closely and calibrate our flat supply carefully to provide affordable and quality housing to all,” it said.

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Kampung Admiralty project attracts international attention

Kampung Admiralty, nestled in the Woodlands heartland, buzzes like any HDB community, but has lately become a destination from people from all over the world looking to learn about and photograph this retirement community.

Designed by local architecture firm Woha Architects, the village with its own amenities won World Building of the Year at the World Architecture Festival in Amsterdam last month.

It beat 535 projects from 57 countries; it also won the Mixed Use Completed Building category in the same competition.

The win has since catapulted the development into the spotlight on the world architecture map.

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2.75ha white site in Woodlands up for sale

A 2.75ha white site in Woodlands Regional Centre has been released for sale.

Analysts say the move by the Urban Redevelopment Authority is part of a government-led initiative to transform Woodlands into a commercial hub.

The mixed-use plot, which is on the reserve list of the Government Land Sales programme for this half of the year, has a maximum permissible gross floor area (GFA) of 115,747 sq m.

It is the first white site to be put up for sale in the Woodlands Regional Centre area, which will be developed into a commercial hub over the next 15 years.

Huttons Asia research head Lee Sze Teck said: “As this white site is on the reserve list, it gives the market the option of triggering it when the timing is right.”

Mr Lee said: “In the past, companies preferred to locate in the centre of Singapore for ease of business operations with clients, banks and government agencies, as well as the recruitment of workers.

“But, with the relocation of government agencies out of the CBD and transport connectivity to all parts of the island improving over the years, a central location is seen as less important to some companies.”

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Co-working space that’s run like a military outfit

A new co-working space in the heart of town that claims to operate with military precision is up and running.

The General Room at the TripleOne Somerset building in Somerset Road has been open for about a month, but will have its official launch next month.

It includes a hot-desking area, meeting rooms, an event space and a conference room.

Monthly prices start from $500 for a single desk to $4,000 for a private room with four desks. A

$50 day-pass is also available.

Businesses can list The General Room as their virtual office address with mailing and concierge facilities for $145 a month.

The facility was set up by LGB Somerset Investment, a unit of Malaysia-based LGB Group.

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Eurokars Group buys 23 Leng Kee Rd for S$33m

Motor trade entrepreneur Karsono Kwee’s Eurokars Group is expanding its property ownership in the prime Leng Kee motor belt.

Eurokars is understood to be buying 23 Leng Kee Road for S$33 million from Yong Lee Lee & Company. Eurokars Group already operates out of the building, which among other things houses the showroom and service centre for Mazda, for which the group is the authorised distributor in Singapore.

23 Leng Kee Road is on a site with a land area of nearly 40,000 sq ft; the site has 99-year leasehold tenure starting July 1954, which leaves about 34.5 years’ balance lease.

Under the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s Master Plan 2014, the site is zoned for Business 1 use with 2.5 plot ratio (ratio of maximum gross floor area to land area). Typically, clean and light industrial and warehouse uses are allowed in Business 1 zone.

The acquisition will further boost the group’s dominance in terms of property ownership in the locale.

Eurokars Group is the largest privately-owned car agency in Singapore. Besides Mazda, it represents Porsche, Rolls-Royce, Mini and McLaren here.

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New food, retail options as part of Great World City revamp

Japanese supermarket Meidi-Ya and renowned ramen restaurant Hototogisu Ramen are among the new additions to Great World City that will open in the coming months with the completion of the mall’s first phase of refurbishment.

The $50 million facelift, which began in April, will see the mixed-use development in River Valley add 50 new tenants and three main access points to the upcoming Great World MRT Station on the Thomson-East Coast line.

Hototogisu Ramen, popular for its clam and pork broth, will open its second outlet in Singapore at the mall this month. Other new eateries include Mavrx Coffee Bar, Din Tai Fung, Tim Ho Wan, Ho Fook Hei Soy Sauce Chicken, Imperial Treasure Steamboat, Ya Kun Kaya Toast and Four

Seas Fish Grill. Meidi-Ya supermarket will open in June next year, complementing anchor tenant Cold Storage.

Several existing tenants including Toys ‘R’ Us, Food Junction and Amazonia have been relocated within the mall. Family entertainment centre Amazonia, located on level three, will reopen this month with a new Northern Lights concept, indoor trampoline and virtual reality zones, the statement said. Japanese apparel retailer Uniqlo and pet care retail chain Pet Lovers Centre also opened in September.

The mall’s food and beverage offerings will increase from 20 per cent to 30 per cent of net lettable space when works are completed by the third quarter of 2020.

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Sheng Siong sets up cash recycling machines

Supermarket operator Sheng Siong has set up cash machines at two of its stores to help customers withdraw money from their bank accounts and to “recycle” its earnings.

Called $tm, they are the first cash recycling machines in Singapore that do not belong to a financial institution, and allow users to only withdraw funds from their bank accounts. Unlike regular automated teller machines (ATMs), $tm cannot be used for other purposes such as fund transfers. The operator tops up the green $tm machines, which are smaller than bank ATMs, with cash from the supermarket’s sales, and the cash is “recycled” when customers withdraw money.

The supermarket operator plans to set up $tm machines at all its Singapore outlets by next June. It has 54 supermarkets now.

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More using QR code for making payments, study shows

Paying for purchases via a QR code has quickly gained traction among consumers in Singapore, and this has largely benefited small merchants, a new study showed.

The study by the National University of Singapore found that the amount and number of PayLah transactions jumped after DBS Bank added this mode of cashless transaction in April last year.

The monthly transacted amount rose from some $600,000 in April last year to more than $1.6 million in December last year. In the same period, the number of transactions tripled from about 6,000 to some 18,000.

When QR code payment technology was introduced, “the monthly transaction amount and count start to trend up almost immediately”, said researchers involved in the study.

“In contrast, the (automated teller machine) withdrawals stay flat all over the year, which suggests the rise of mobile wallet transactions is not simply driven by a reduction in cash usage,” they added.

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100% local bus a milestone for Singapore industry

Bus manufacturer SC Auto revved up the local automotive industry when it launched the first fully designed and built bus in Singapore.

Called SC Neustar, the vehicle marks the first time the company has built an integral bus – which refers to a vehicle where both the chassis and body are put together by a single manufacturer – although SC Auto has been building bus bodies since 1992.

This comes after home appliance maker Dyson announced in October it would have a factory manufacturing electric cars in Singapore by 2020 – the first time in more than 30 years that cars will be built in the Republic.

SC Neustar has a 20-year lifespan and meets Euro 6 emissions standards. Its lightweight build is also said to offer better fuel savings and to lower cost of operations.

The new bus will be built both at SC Auto’s facility in Senoko – which has been doubled to more than 18,000 sq m in anticipation of demand – as well as at a $30 million facility in Myanmar, which is expected to be ready early next year to address growing demand for buses there.

Links to the story: demand-for-coaches

KONE boosts presence here with new HQ

Finnish elevator maker KONE has expanded its presence in Singapore with a new, 25,000 sq ft Asia-Pacific headquarters as it seeks to ride on growing demand from the region.

The facility is home to the company’s regional headquarters and its Singapore country office, in addition to a round-the-clock customer call care centre as well as a facility that will display the company’s latest technologies for prospective clients. The company, which has been in Singapore for four decades, previously occupied an 18,000 sq ft office at Lorong Chuan.

KONE declined to comment on how much was being invested in the new facility in Singapore.

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Singapore start-up Gogoprint buys Indonesian printing business

Singapore-based Gogoprint has acquired Prinzio, an Indonesian printing start-up specialising in commercial printing outsourcing.

Gogoprint said Prinzio has been operating in Indonesia since 2016 and is backed by principal investor East Ventures.

The start-up has worked with clients including Google, e-payments platform Ovo and e-commerce firm Tokopedia.

Gogoprint said it singled out Prinzio due to its strong business-to-business customer base and core emphasis towards customer loyalty. The firm plans to invest in Prinzio’s sales and marketing efforts.

Gogoprint and Prinzio have partnered about 100 print vendors and served more than 2,500 customers from all over Indonesia this year.

Gogoprint said the primary focus next year is to expand the business through online marketing efforts, broader and deeper offline efforts in consumer education, product portfolio extension and platform improvements.

Link to the story: business

Neste invests 1.4b euros, builds new Singapore plant

Finnish energy giant Neste revealed that it will pump 1.4 billion euros (S$2.2 billion) to increase its biofuel production capacity in Singapore by up to 1.3 million tonnes per annum.

It is the single biggest investment in Neste’s history, president and chief executive Peter Vanacker told media at a webcast briefing from Finland.

“The decision is based on a growing global market demand for low-carbon solutions,” he said. “We are already a global leader in renewable products produced from waste and residues. This investment marks an important step in the execution of our profitable growth strategy globally,” he said.

Neste will build a new plant here with a production capacity of up to 1.3 million tonnes per annum. The new production line will begin in 2022 and will have 100 new employees. Over 6,000 people will be employed for the construction process which will start in 2019.

It will be located next to another existing Neste facility in Tuas, which currently hires 120 people. The S$1.2 billion existing facility went onstream in 2010 and has a capacity of one million tonnes per annum. The plants take up 19 ha each.

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Stanley Street shophouse up for sale

A freehold shophouse at 28 Stanley Street has been put up for sale in an expression of interest exercise.

The four-storey conservation shophouse features a roof terrace balcony and occupies a land area of 1,729 sq ft with a gross floor area of about 6,485 sq ft.

Foreigners are eligible to purchase the Stanley Street property, which is zoned commercial, and no additional buyer’s stamp duty or seller’s stamp duty will be imposed.

The shophouse is a stone’s throw away from Telok Ayer MRT station. The expression of interest exercise closes at 2pm on Wednesday (12 Dec).

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Some HotelQuickly users hit by room cancellations

Dozens of international travellers were left in the lurch last month when their bookings through third-party booking site HotelQuickly were cancelled without notice.

A check on HotelQuickly’s Facebook page found dozens of similar complaints. In a Nov 19 post, it said some reservations were cancelled “due to a situation with a hotel supplier”, and that it was working on assisting those affected.

HotelQuickly did not respond to e-mail queries and could not be reached at its Singapore registered address at Hong Leong Building.

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Online property sales booming in China

From a three-storey villa in Chongqing to a rundown factory in Jiangsu province, you can search, find and buy it without leaving your living room in China.

Online distressed property sales are booming in the world’s largest bad-debt market. Global funds like Oaktree Capital Group and Bain Capital are getting in on the action, but the Internet has meant even individuals or smaller companies can snag a bargain. Banks, real estate firms and people saddled with debt they cannot service are facing either forced sales or are keen to offload assets for quick cash.

Distressed property listings on Alibaba’s Taobao auction site, the country’s largest, rose 88 per cent in October from a year earlier as the company expanded its offerings by working with courts and asset managers. Across all auction sites in China, distressed real estate listings surged to a record

1.3 trillion yuan (S$258 billion) this year. But such transactions are not without risk.

Some buyers have bought distressed property online only to realise significant taxation costs were not listed on the site. One man in Shenzhen bought a home in March for 3.7 million yuan and later discovered an additional 2.4 million yuan owing in value-added taxes, local media reported at the time.

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China property market likely to cool further in 2019; curbs may be eased

China’s massive property market is expected to cool further in 2019, with smaller price rises and falling home sales adding to pressure on the world’s second-largest economy, a Reuters poll showed.

Smaller cities, which have seen sharper price gains this year, may face greater risks of a slump as economic activity slows and financing conditions remain tough for smaller developers.

China’s average residential property prices are forecast to rise 2 per cent in the first half of 2019 from a year earlier, and just 0.5 per cent for the full year, a survey with 16 property analysts and economists showed.

Analysts have downgraded their estimates since the last Reuters poll was conducted in September, when prices were expected to rise 3.3 per cent in the first six months of 2019.

Housing sales are expected to fall 5 per cent in 2019, the latest poll showed, with property investment slowing to 4 per cent.

Despite gradually slowing from its peak levels in mid-2016 as authorities sought to cool price rises, the sector has remained relatively buoyant due to strong underlying demand for housing and few alternatives for investment.

Link to the story: eased

Be prepared for housing price dive, Australia told

Soft landings in housing markets are rare and Australia should be ready to respond to the risk of a significant price dive, the OECD said.

In its latest survey of Australia, the Paris-based group forecast economic growth of 2.9 per cent next year, leading to a gradual pickup in wages and inflation. While it said the housing market’s cooling was so far orderly, it warned that high property prices and household debt were potential instabilities.

“Risk of an overshoot in the price correction – a hard landing – remains,” the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said in its report. “Estimates of housing valuation are highly uncertain” and “past OECD work has found soft landings are rare”.

Australia’s house-price decline is centred on Sydney and Melbourne and reflects credit curbs and increasingly nervous buyers. But unusually, the drop is happening against a backdrop of record- low interest rates and strong hiring; whereas historically, property downturns occurred when rates were high, growth was slowing and unemployment rising.

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Australia growth to be hit by housing ‘perfect storm’

Australia’s tumbling property prices could shave up to 1.2 percentage points from economic growth in 2019 as the decline hits housing construction and consumer spending.

Prices will drop a further 10 per cent next year, taking their peak-to-trough fall to 20 per cent as a “prefect storm” smacks housing. It is also predicted that the Reserve Bank of Australia will cut

interest rates in the second half of 2019 and end the year with a cash rate at 1 per cent from the current 1.5 per cent.

The positive feedback loop of recent years of rising prices bringing higher demand and further price gains has given way to a negative feedback loop of falling prices leading to reduced demand and further declines. This could all be made worse if immigration levels are cut sharply.

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Manhattan rents drop in November after 2 months of increases

Manhattan’s apartment renters got a break in November, with leasing costs dropping after two straight months of increases.

The median face rent – before landlord concessions are factored in – fell 1.3 per cent from a year earlier to US$3,318, appraiser Miller Samuel and brokerage Douglas Elliman Real Estate said in a joint report.

It was the fourth annual decline in the past sixth months and followed surprise hikes in September and October.

Landlords were willing to sacrifice higher rents to keep their buildings full. That’s because a persistent oversupply of newly built apartments is forcing them to compete for tenants.

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Brexit worries push UK house price gauge to six-year low

A measure of British house prices hit a six-year low in November as the approach of Brexit put off buyers and sellers, a survey of property valuers showed.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) said its house price balance sank to -11 in November from -10 in October, its lowest since September 2012, before Britain’s economy began to shake off the after-effects of the global financial crisis.

Price falls were most acute in London and the south-east of England where property prices are highest, exposing them to higher purchase taxes on expensive homes as well as worries about the impact of Brexit on the capital’s financial services sector.

Economists taking part in a Reuters poll had predicted the balance to remain at -10.

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By: Lee Sze Teck (Huttons Research)

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