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17th May 2019 / Issue 20

By in Weekly News Review with 0 Comments

Top News for the Week



Ideas for new use of 6 sites going up for tender

The old Bukit Timah fire station is one of six sites around town – comprising existing state-owned buildings and state land – that are going up for tender, with bidders encouraged to propose innovative ideas for alternative use of the sites.

The tenders are offered under a programme called Reinventing Spaces into Vibrant Places, have been launched by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

The agencies hope members of the public, including business owners, architects and designers, will join forces and test business concepts in the selected spaces.

The first property up for tender comprises two shophouses that the SLA restored and converted into one unit, at 45 Sultan Gate in the Kampong Glam Historic District.

The remaining sites – the old Bukit Timah fire station; 30 Maxwell Road; 15-31 Hindoo Road; the old Kallang Airport in Stadium Link; and plots in Marina Bay – will go up for tender progressively. Three-year leases will be granted, with renewals for up to two terms.

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Call for ideas to rejuvenate Pasir Panjang Power District

Transform a vacant power district into a massive concert hall to showcase local acts, an exhibition space, or even an indoor garden with vertical farms.

These are some ideas that architects, artists and tertiary students have in mind to rejuvenate the 15ha Pasir Panjang Power District, which currently houses two power stations, oil tanks and ancillary buildings.

Late last month, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) launched a competition to seek creative ideas from the public to transform the heritage-rich power district into a waterfront destination in the Greater Southern Waterfront, which will extend from Pasir Panjang to Marina East.

Development will proceed in stages, starting with the power district in about five to 10 years. About 60 potential competition participants signed up for a site visit to the precinct to gain inspiration on converting the site into a place of work and play while preserving the district’s industrial heritage.

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Singaporeans must gird themselves for the long haul: Chan Chun Sing

As trade tensions worsen between the United States and China, Singapore must be prepared to deal with the challenges and Singaporeans need to follow developments closely and gird themselves “for the long haul”, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said.

Global businesses and consumer confidence will be affected by the ongoing trade conflict between the two giants, which will hurt global investments.

As a result, there will be a negative impact on jobs, Mr Chan said.

“Singapore cannot be immune from all this fallout. We need to watch closely what is happening. We need to prepare ourselves to deal with the impending challenges,” he said on the sidelines of the International Maritime Security Conference opening dinner.

Singapore needs to work with like-minded countries to uphold and update the global trading system, Mr Chan added. “This is why Singapore supports a rules-based, stable and predictable international trading environment, which has been crucial to our growth all this while.” Elaborating on the nature of the trade conflict, Mr Chan said it is serious because it does not just reflect short-term political and economic pressures.

The conflict is also a reflection of the deeper challenges the US and China are facing domestically, as well as the changes in how they view each other and want to relate to each other. In the US, many Democrats and Republicans see China as a strategic competitor. Meanwhile, many Chinese are wondering if the US will work to thwart its growth and development.

Links to the story: war-fallout-minister


Singapore to spend ‘billions’ on upgrading air traffic control hardware and training, says Khaw

Singapore expects to spend several billion dollars over the next few decades to upgrade Changi Airport’s air traffic management system and introduce other enhancements to ensure a high level of safety and efficiency.

Speaking at an industry conference in Beijing, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said the current air traffic management system, which cost over S$300 million, was commissioned in 2013. “We have started developing its next generation in order to avoid obsolescence,” he said.

The upgrades are important for safeguarding aviation safety as traffic numbers continue to grow, he said at the China Aviation Development Forum. “To manage increasingly crowded and complex airspaces, heavy investment in state-of-the-art technologies and systems, as well as investments in continuous training and upskilling, are critical.”

Links to the story: and-training-says management-expertise



Retail sales dip again in March – at slower pace

Retail sales continued to slide, with revenue down in March compared with the same month last year.

Takings at the till dipped by 1 per cent but at least that was much improved from the revised 9.9 per cent year-on-year plunge in February. March’s figures also beat the 2.2 per cent fall forecast by analysts in a Bloomberg poll.

Sales were down 1.5 per cent if motor vehicles were excluded.

Links to the story: decline-eases


Number of Singapore billionaires falls to 39

Singapore’s billionaire population declined 11.4 per cent to 39 in 2018 from 44 in 2017, largely driven by negative equity market performance, according to research firm Wealth-X’s Billionaire Census 2019.

Singapore’s ultra rich shed 8.8 per cent of their wealth even as the city-state kept its 15th position in the country rankings for the most number of billionaires. Singapore billionaires’ combined wealth stood at US$84 billion in 2018.

Across Asia-Pacific, the billionaire population declined 13.4 per cent, with combined wealth down by 8.7 per cent.

The most notable declines came from China, India and Singapore. China’s billionaire population declined by 15.7 per cent, while India’s declined by 21.2 per cent.

In contrast to the buoyant wealth gains enjoyed in 2017, when almost every major asset class delivered strong returns, Wealth-X said 2018 proved more challenging for the global billionaire class. The total number of billionaires declined by 5.4 per cent to 2,604 individuals, only the second annual fall since the 2008 financial crash.

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Singapore firms scramble to mitigate trade war fallout as orders dive

Singapore businesses across various sectors from manufacturing to trading to services are feeling the heat from the extended US-China trade war as new orders dive – with some bracing for a decline in revenue this year.

Firms tell The Business Times they have put expansion plans on hold as they try to manage the disruptions by finding new markets to diversify their customer and supplier base, as well as moving up the value stream to create more price-inelastic products.

The latest round of tit-for-tat measures saw China raising the tariff rate on US$60 billion of imports from the US on Monday in response to the US’ tariff hike on US$200 billion of Chinese goods which kicked in last Friday.

Uncertainty arising from US-China relations has caused customers to take a wait-and-see approach by either ordering the minimum quantity required or stopping orders altogether.

Sales to China makes up about 25 per cent of the company’s business.

Ho Meng Kit, CEO of the Singapore Business Federation, urged businesses to leverage the free trade agreements that Singapore has with the US and China to benefit from savings or improved qualifying criteria.

“We anticipate the impact to be more widespread should the trade war escalate further, causing a sustained drop in global business and consumer confidence and slowdown in global trade flow,” he said.

Links to the story: orders-dive



New private home sales slip in April on fewer launches

April saw a big pullback in new home launches as developers turned cautious despite relatively resilient sales in March.

Only 444 private homes were released for sale in April – the lowest so far this year – down 75 per cent from the previous month’s 1,812 units, and 33 per cent less than the 664 units launched a year ago, according to data released by the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

Just three new projects were launched in April compared with 10 in the previous month.

In the absence of major launches, developers’ sales dropped about 30 per cent to 735 private homes in April, from the 1,054 units they moved a month ago, but almost the same as the 733 units booked in the same month last year. In all, the three new launches accounted for just 3.8 per cent of the 735 units sold last month, with the bulk of sales coming from earlier launches.

Reflecting the weaker sentiment, a total of 2,573 units were sold in the first four months of this year, while 3,433 units were launched.

This compares with the 2,360 units that were sold in the same four-month period a year ago, when 1,732 units were launched.

It is noted that most buyers remain price sensitive, with the lowest-priced projects in the suburbs or outside central region, such as Parc Botannia, and the lowest-priced projects in the city fringes or rest of central region, such as The Tre Ver, topping the charts.

“Early sales numbers for May indicates that it is likely to break April’s level,” said Huttons Asia’s head of research, Lee Sze Teck. “Based on caveats lodged with the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), we see more than 200 new sales in the first week of May alone. If the average monthly sales for the rest of 2019 can be maintained at April’s level, 2019’s sales will be similar to 2018.” Some 8,795 private homes were sold in 2018.

Projects which have already started selling in May or are likely to launch this month include Amber Park in East Coast, Olloi Condo at Changi Road, The Woodleigh Residences in Bidadari Estate, The Gazania and The Lilium at How Sun and Parc Komo in Changi.

Links to the story: month-sales


Singapore condo resale prices up 0.9% in April

Resale prices for non-landed private residential units rose 0.9 per cent in April 2019, for a third straight month-on-month rise, according to flash estimates.

For the first four months of the year, non-landed resale prices were up about 2 per cent, according to data from the real estate portal.

Year-on-year, resale prices were up 3.6 per cent, with the core central region, rest of central region and outside central region recording increases of 3.1 per cent, 2.4 per cent and 4.5 per cent, respectively.

Volume, however, remained “well below” 2018’s, with the number of units resold in April falling

48.4 per cent year-on-year to 830 units. However, this was 3.4 per cent higher than March’s 803 resale units, and was the highest volume since the latest property cooling measures were implemented in July last year.

April’s volume was within expectations and was likely below April 2018’s numbers due to cooling measures introduced in July 2018.

New and upcoming property launches could have also “excited” the resale market and drove the gradual increase in price.

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Singapore condo rents up 0.6% in April, HDB rents down 0.1%

Rents for non-landed private homes in Singapore rose 0.6 per cent in April from March, while rents for HDB flats dipped 0.1 per cent.

Year on year, rents for condominiums and private apartments rose 2.4 per cent; all regions recorded increases.

The core central region (CCR) rose by 2.8 per cent, rest of central region (RCR) by 2.3 per cent and outside central region (OCR) by 2.0 per cent.

But as of last month, private home rents were down by 17.2 per cent from their high in January 2013.

In another sign of the soft market, the number of leasings dropped by 5 per cent to 4,970 units in April from 5,229 units in March.

Year on year, volume was 3.6 per cent lower than the 5,157 units rented out a year ago.

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HDB launches tender for Canberra Link executive condominium site

The Housing Board (HDB) has put up an executive condominium site in Canberra Link for sale by public tender.

In the announcement on Thursday (May 16), the HDB said that the 16,690 sq m site could potentially house 385 residential units.

It has a maximum permissible gross floor area of 38,387 sq m, a maximum building height of 45m to 55m above mean sea level, and has a lease period of 99 years.

The site falls under the confirmed list of the first half of the 2019 Government Land Sales Programme.

The HDB, which is the Government’s land sales agent, said in its statement that the tender will close at noon on July 3.

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70 units at The Woodleigh Residences sold to date

The Woodleigh Residences has sold a total of 70 units following its launch weekend, said co- developers Japan-based Kajima Development and Singapore Press Holdings (SPH).

Many of the condominium units sold were two- and three-bedroom units, with prices starting at S$1,733 psf. Three of the units were four-bedroom residences, which achieved a high of S$2,331 psf.

Many of the two-bedroom residences were bought by young couples and smaller families, and the larger units were purchased by multi-generational families. The developers did not say how many units were released for sale during the launch.

In November last year, 50 units of The Woodleigh Residences were released for sale during a soft launch, of which around 30 were sold, achieving an average price of above S$2,000 psf.

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Freehold Parc Komo priced at average S$1,450 psf; public preview opens May 18

The property development division of Chip Eng Seng Corporation unveiled its Parc Komo mixed development in Changi.

CEL Development said the freehold project is inspired by the Japanese concept of Komorebi, which celebrates the blend of nature and order.

It has an average price of about $1,450 psf and occupies a land area of about 202,000 sq ft with 10 five-storey blocks totalling 276 units. There are also two levels consisting of 28 commercial units. Apartment sizes range from 452 sq ft for a one-bedroom apartment to 1,905 sq ft for the largest five-bedroom luxury penthouse.

The pricing starts at $663,000 for a one-bedroom unit, $871,000 for a two-bedder and $1,294,000 for a three-bedroom unit.

Links to the story: opens-may-18


Condo design for Pearl Bank site unveiled

A beacon comprising two curved towers linked at the roof by sky bridges will replace the Pearl Bank Apartments landmark in Outram.

Even as some members of the public come to terms with the loss of the 38-storey horseshoe-shaped block, the new design, with its “clear and simple form”, ensures the continuity of a distinct punctuator on Pearl’s Hill, said its architect, Dr Christopher Lee, in an interview with The Straits Times.

The upcoming structure, which will house 774 residential apartments – almost triple the original 288 units – has a plot ratio of 8:1.

The unit types will range from studio apartments to penthouses, from about 430 sq ft to 2,800 sq ft.

The 39-storey condominium, to be ready by 2023, will be called One Pearl Bank. It is a 99-year leasehold property.

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New HDB rules may hit young buyers more

Some young buyers are already walking away from homes they were hoping to buy, after changes to how much of their Central Provident Fund (CPF) monies can be used to buy ageing Housing Board flats.

A real estate agent felt it acutely when three of his clients, all of whom had said they would purchase older HDB flats in Tampines and Jurong West, phoned him to put a brake on completing the deals.

The Government said it wanted to put more weight on whether a property’s lease can cover buyers into their old age, instead of looking only at how many years are left on the lease.

Buyers can now buy flats with less than 60 years left on the lease without any CPF restrictions, as long as the lease lasts them till age 95. They would also be entitled to the maximum HDB loan of 90 per cent of the purchase price or valuation, whichever is lower.

On the one hand, this benefits middle-aged buyers by giving them more financing flexibility to buy older flats. But for younger buyers, it could mean paying more cash than before – a luxury young entrants to the workforce may not have. Also, it may be harder for this group to withdraw more from their CPF accounts at age 55 than if they had got a flat that covered them for life.

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Pintec Technology launches global expansion from new HQ in Singapore

Chinese fintech solutions provider Pintec Technology has made Singapore its international headquarters (HQ) to expand the global business and be closer to its joint venture (JV) partners. It also has plans to set up a research and development centre in the city-state to develop cutting- edge technologies for international markets.

Pintec’s president Zhou Jing said on Wednesday at the opening ceremony for the startup’s base in the Republic: “The new international headquarters marks a key milestone of Pintec’s international strategy to explore opportunities to replicate our success in China to overseas markets, enabling Pintec to better fulfil the global demand for responsible and sustainable inclusive financing solutions.”

The company, which was incorporated in 2016 and debuted on Nasdaq in 2018, will leverage its cloud computing, Big Data and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies and scalable SaaS (Software as a Service) model to provide overseas markets its financing solutions, including point- of-sale financing solutions, personal and business instalment loans, as well as wealth management and insurance products and services.

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US cloud data security provider Druva opens office in Singapore

American cloud data protection and management company Druva has opened an office in Singapore to support Asia-Pacific enterprises.

Druva will focus on expanding its headcount and tripling revenue in the region within the next 12 months, it said in a media statement.

It will “deliver enhanced support through focused, local expertise and a partner network of more than 600 existing customers in Asia-Pacific”, it added.

The IT company counts mainboard-listed China Aviation Oil Corp and Nanyang Technological University as clients in Singapore.

According to Druva, the Asia-Pacific region has one of the fastest growing technology markets in the world, with market research firm IDC forecasting a 32.6 per cent compound annual growth rate for cloud services revenue between 2016 and 2021, exceeding the worldwide average of 21.9 per cent.

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WeWork’s S-E Asia MD upbeat on Singapore ops, eyes growth in region

WeWork Singapore is operationally profitable and its focus is on growth in the region, said the co- working space provider’s South-east Asia managing director Turochas Fuad.

Mr Fuad, who declined comment on the IPO, told The Straits Times last Friday: “Most of our buildings in Singapore, if you look at just the building economics, they are healthy (and) profitable.”

As for the region, he said work is “just starting”, and WeWork will continue to invest in expansion plans.

WeWork has 10 spaces in Singapore, including one opening soon at Funan, near City Hall MRT.

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Many still flocking to Jewel, but crowd control in place

More than three weeks after its official opening, Singapore’s newest mall, Jewel Changi Airport, is still drawing the crowds, but those heading there any time soon should not find themselves overwhelmed by human traffic.

Closed-circuit television (CCTV) analytics and other technology are being used by Jewel to manage crowds in real time, with staff heading down to busy areas as soon as they are highlighted. A spokesman said that simulated trials for crowd control, the experience from the six-day preview which saw about 500,000 visitors, and the opening on April 17 have also helped them effectively manage human traffic flow.

Staff have been working with tenants to manage their queue system and explore spaces that can be used for queueing, while more staff are deployed over the weekends to handle larger crowds.

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HSBC opens a Jade in Jewel

Jade Centre at Jewel Changi Airport was officially opened on May 9.

HSBC is also the naming rights partner for the 40-metre high HSBC Rain Vortex at Jewel, which is the tallest indoor waterfall in the world. This is the British bank’s second Jade Centre in Singapore, adding to the one located at its recently revamped flagship branch at Claymore Road. Jade is HSBC’s affluent proposition for customers who have at least S$1.2 million in cash and/or investments with the bank. It is designed to allow relationship managers to better engage high net worth customers given their complex wealth needs.

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Honestbee to end food delivery service in Singapore

Troubled grocery and delivery start-up honestbee will be ceasing its food delivery service here as part of the company’s ongoing strategic review as announced.

Its food delivery arm, which has about 1,200 restaurant partners, will stop on Monday, while its laundry service will also be suspended temporarily, honestbee said in a statement.

Its food takeaway service, launched in February to allow users of the honestbee app to order from partner restaurants for self-collection, will also be shut.

Honestbee announced last month that it would be suspending some of its overseas operations and cutting about 10 per cent of its global headcount amid reports that it was facing financial trouble and looking to sell.

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FCT to buy a third of Waterway Point from Frasers Property for S$440.6m

Frasers Centrepoint Trust (FCT) is looking to acquire a one-third interest in Waterway Point, a large suburban mall located in Punggol, from its sponsor Frasers Property in a S$440.6 million deal.

At the same time, FCT is launching an equity fund-raising exercise; S$245.3 million of the total proceeds from that will go towards partly financing the acquisition, it announced.

The acquisition will be done via a sale-and-purchase agreement with Frasers Property’s wholly- owned unit FCL Emerald (2) Pte Ltd, which currently holds a third of the total issued units of Sapphire Star Trust (SST), an equal three-way joint venture between the vendor, Far East Civil Engineering and Sekisui House to develop the property.

FCT’s total outlay for the acquisition is estimated at S$440.6 million. This comprises S$240.8 million for FCL Emerald’s total issued units in SST; S$191 million for a one-third share of a unitholder’s loan previously extended to SST; S$8,700 for one-third of the issued share capital of FC Retail Trustee, the trustee-manager of SST; and S$8.8 million in acquisition-related fees and expenses.

Link to the story: for-s4406m


Data centre operator loses $24m suit

A data centre operator that could not maintain promised service levels for clients during a power outage sued the engineers that had designed its power supply system.

But Global Switch (Property) Singapore (GSS) failed in its bid to seek some $24 million in damages from the consultant engineers, Arup Singapore, over alleged breach of duties.

The case is believed to be the first reported lawsuit relating to the design and electrical calculation of the power supply in a data centre.

GSS is part of the Global Switch group, which owns and operates data centres in cities including London, Sydney and Singapore.

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HK property prices are set to rise for another decade: UBS

Prices are set to rise for another decade in the world’s least affordable property market, Hong Kong, according to UBS Group.

Inflows of residents will be key as the Greater Bay Area project integrates a group of mainland Chinese cities with Hong Kong, property analyst John Lam wrote in a research report.

The extra buyers will be “more than enough” to outweigh waning housing demand from an ageing local population, he wrote.

That would extend a relentless climb that has seen the city’s property prices triple during the past two decades.

The UBS report comes as three straight months of gains make it look as though a slide in home values from August 2018 through January 2019 was just a temporary blip.

Mr Lam estimates annual housing demand in the city to be 60,000 units over the coming decade, well above the government’s long-term supply target of 45,000 units per year.

The market has rebounded in recent months as sentiment revives on low interest rates and limited supply.

People are flocking to purchase homes because of their fear of higher prices in the future.

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More mainland Chinese want to buy HK property: UBS survey

Hong Kong is the most favourable offshore real estate market for mainland Chinese, despite an escalation in US-China trade tensions and concerns over a controversial extradition law that will extend Beijing’s power over the city, UBS said on Tuesday.

These two developments are expected to have limited impact on Hong Kong’s housing prices, UBS said, forecasting an uptrend in the next decade as increasing numbers from the mainland choose to live or invest in the financial hub with one of the world’s most expensive real estate markets.

Around 12 per cent of respondents in the latest UBS survey said they intended to purchase a Hong Kong property in the next two years, up from 7 per cent in a September 2018 survey. The percentage was also the highest since the first survey conducted in 2015. The latest survey polled around 3,500 respondents.

The ongoing trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies could put further pressure on China’s yuan, but it may drive more Chinese to park their money in Hong Kong property to ward off capital depreciation, UBS head of Hong Kong and China real estate research John Lam told a news conference. He said a prolonged US-China trade row would lead to a property market correction but it would be shorter than the price dip last year.

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London luxury home prices hit by longest slump in decades

The sale prices of top-end homes in the British capital have been falling for nearly four years, weighed down by a cocktail of tax hikes, a crackdown on money laundering and a glut of new properties.

The ongoing uncertainty surrounding Brexit has only made things worse, and the recent decision to delay the divorce until the end of October means sellers’ long wait for the bottom will likely continue.

Link to the story:


New home prices in China grow at solid pace

New home prices in China grew at a solid pace in April as Beijing sought to boost economic activity, though rapidly rising prices may prompt some cities to tighten policies to contain a potential bubble.

Beijing has repeatedly called on local governments to take more responsibility in keeping the frothy market under control.

But pent-up demand for housing, easier credit conditions and some local governments relaxing purchase restrictions may be further fanning price gains in a market where fear of missing out is strong.

Average new home prices in China’s 70 major cities rose 0.6 per cent in April, unchanged from the pace of growth in March, according to Reuters calculation of data released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

On the whole, it logged the 48th straight month of price increases. Most of the 70 cities surveyed by the NBS still reported monthly price increases for new homes, and the number was up to 67 from 65 in March, signalling broadening strength in the market.

On an annual basis, home prices rose 10.7 per cent in April, picking up from a 10.6 per cent gain in March.

Link to the story:


It’s a buyer’s market in Bangkok as glut worsens

A glut of condominiums as Thailand’s economy wavers and stricter mortgage-lending rules kick in is creating a buyer’s market in Bangkok.

Some 65,000 new apartments were added to the city last year, an 11 per cent increase over 2017 and the most since 2009.

Demand, however, is tepid with developers reporting take-up rates of just 55 per cent and average asking prices decreasing 6 per cent year-on-year, a report showed.

Revised mortgage-lending rules that came into effect in April may also limit the appeal of real estate because they restrict how much money some second-home buyers can borrow.

The South-east Asian nation’s capital is also being impacted by a drop in Chinese visitors.

Chinese investors have historically made up the bulk of foreign property buyers in Thailand, but their presence has waned as China’s economy slows and capital controls limit outflows.

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Lee Sze Teck Head, Research




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