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28th April 2019 / Issue 17

By in Weekly News Review with 0 Comments

Top News for the Week



Singapore will manage economic cycles: Heng

The Singapore economy will go through cycles and the government is prepared for that, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat told Singapore media in San Francisco on the sidelines of a tech forum on the last day of his 11-day trip to the US.

“If there is a need for us to use counter cyclical monetary and fiscal policy to manage that, we will,” he said in response to a question on whether there was concern over signs of a slowdown in the economy.

“But what is more important is for us to continue to focus on very major structural changes which are happening in the global economy and the Singapore economy,” he said.

“We must stay very focused on our industry transformation and looking at how we can create synergy, that’s one major area of work.”

The other area is to push ahead with technology innovation, he said, adding that Singapore has to be positioned as a global Asian node of technology innovation and enterprise.

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Heng Swee Keat to be sole DPM from May 1

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat will be promoted to Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) with effect from May 1, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.

Mr Heng will remain as Minister for Finance and continue to chair both the Future Economy Council and National Research Foundation. As DPM, he will be appointed Acting Prime Minister when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is absent.

Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam will relinquish their appointments as DPMs from the same date. They will both be appointed Senior Ministers and stay in Cabinet.

Mr Teo will continue as Coordinating Minister for National Security. Mr Tharman will be re- designated as Coordinating Minister for Social Policies, but will continue to advise the prime minister on economic policies.

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Singapore, US energy regulators to boost cooperation

Singapore’s Energy Market Authority (EMA) and the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will be enhancing their bilateral cooperation towards greater energy security and resilience.

The scope of their cooperation will cover three key areas: planning, reliability and cybersecurity of the electricity system; regulation of wholesale energy markets, including the role of energy storage systems and distributed energy resources in competitive energy markets; and cooperation at multilateral forums such as the Asia Pacific Energy Regulators Forum.

Activities between the two regulators will include knowledge-sharing and technical cooperation involving training and exchange programmes. There will also be joint research and organisation of multilateral workshops and seminars, as well as high-level consultations and dialogues between EMA and FERC.

The agencies have inked a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to provide the partnership framework.

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Singapore well placed to contribute to Belt and Road: PM Lee

Ties between Singapore and China have grown tremendously since they were established in 1990, and there is great potential for them to develop further, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said.

He drew attention to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), saying Singapore was well placed to make a “modest contribution” in this area.

He said Singapore hoped to be able to play a constructive role in financial services, third-country investments and human resource development.

PM Lee was speaking to Chinese state news agency Xinhua ahead of a visit to Beijing where he will attend the second Belt and Road forum, which starts tomorrow, along with almost 40 other heads of state and government.

He cited the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative (CCI)– a joint government project inaugurated in 2015 to improve transport and trade links with China’s less developed western regions – as one area where Singapore felt it could make a useful contribution.

The CCI aims to boost land-sea transport connectivity, linking up the overland and maritime trunks of the BRI and connecting western China to South-east Asia and the world via Singapore.

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New rail facility will aim to reduce MRT testing closures

Singapore will build an integrated train testing centre (ITTC) to put new trains and rail systems through their paces without the risk of disrupting service on operational lines.

To be located on a 50 ha site at the former Raffles Country Club in Tuas – which has been acquired for the suspended Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail project – the centre is expected to be the first of its kind in Asia when it is ready around 2022.

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan announced the plans during a visit to rail operator SMRT’s new North-South, East-West line operations control centre (OCC) in Kim Chuan depot on Wednesday morning.

SMRT’s North-South, East-West line OCC was previously at Victoria Street, where it had operated for 32 years. With its move, Kim Chuan depot is now the nerve centre for the two oldest lines as well as the Circle Line. The new OCC is 50 per cent bigger than the previous one in Victoria Street. The operator has also moved its headquarters from North Bridge Road to Paya Lebar Quarter.

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Bold leadership key to developing S’pore for the future: ESM Goh Chok Tong

Land-scarce Singapore must have bold and visionary leadership to overcome more complex urban development challenges in the years ahead, said Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong.

He highlighted the need for leadership that “weighs the people’s long-term interests against their immediate needs, and makes tough but balanced decisions”.

Mr Goh pointed to the Land Acquisition Act of 1966 – a “difficult but necessary policy” which allowed the Government to buy land for public redevelopment.

“It was painful to land owners whose land was acquired and disruptive to the thousands of ordinary folks who had to be resettled.

“But it helped make Singapore what it is today,” he told some 150 government officers, business leaders and students at the Imagine 2060 symposium organised by the Asia Society and Aecom.

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Core inflation eases to 1.4% but overall price index rises to 0.6%

Core inflation eased last month after smaller rises in the cost of retail items as well as electricity and gas more than offset higher services and food inflation, according to data.

Core inflation, which strips out private transport and accommodation costs, eased to 1.4 per cent year on year, just under the 1.5 per cent recorded in February.

But overall inflation rose to 0.6 per cent compared with March last year, an uptick from the 0.5 per cent recorded in February.

Both figures came in lower than expected, with analysts polled by Bloomberg predicting 1.7 per cent for core inflation and 0.7 per cent for overall inflation.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) have revised the forecast for core inflation to 1 per cent to 2 per cent this year, down from 1.5 per cent to 2.5 per cent previously.

The revision reflects the fall in global oil prices late last year and a sharper-than-anticipated decline in electricity prices after the roll-out of the Open Electricity Market.

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Singapore SMBs most ‘digitally mature’ in region: Cisco

Small and medium businesses (SMB) in Singapore are the most digitally mature in the Asia-Pacific region, ahead of peers in countries such as Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, according to a new index by Cisco.

This is based on an assessment of firms’ digital maturity in four areas: technology adoption and application; digital transformation strategy and organisation; processes and governance; and talent. The APAC SMB Digital Maturity Index was developed by research firm IDC based on a survey with 1,340 respondents from 14 economies. It found that more than 60 per cent of SMBs in Asia- Pacific have started to embrace digitalisation.

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S’pore seeking to draw more electric car firms

Following Dyson’s plans late last year to manufacture its first electric car in Singapore, the city- state is now in talks with other makers of green vehicles to set up shop on the island.

Singapore is pitching its connectivity to global markets through free trade agreements, its highly skilled workforce and stringent protection of intellectual property, which is critical for the industry, according to the government agency set up to attract investments to the country.

Bringing in other electric car manufacturers will create scale for the sector in Singapore, which is also spurring the development of autonomous vehicles in the country.

The use of high-tech robotics and automation, as well as supply chain management and connectivity, could help dispel concerns over the high labour costs in Singapore.

Singapore does not have a single car manufacturing plant and is one of the costliest places in the world to buy an automobile. And not every electric carmaker is a fan.

Tesla tried to bring its cars to Singapore but was unsuccessful because the Government was “not supportive” of electric vehicles.

Singapore is also getting pushback from some companies for introducing a carbon tax.

The Government says it is to help meet its Paris Agreement obligations, but it would also in turn drive up costs compared with other Asian markets.

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R&D in nutrition, sustainability to drive disruption in food industry

Better food and beverage (F&B) could soon be served up, as companies here pick up on calls for healthier grub – and invest in innovation.

While it’s still early days, research and development (R&D) is catching on with both multinational consumer groups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), observers said.

Matthew Kovac, executive director of industry body Food Industry Asia, told The Business Times: “You have the majority of the big food companies with their R&D centres, and even others within the supply chain. You’ve got that big ecosystem and, of course, you’ve got an army of SMEs.” Now, the government is “trying to help and facilitate those more disruptive startups that can come up with new food products for the future”.

Food has been disrupted by issues such as food scarcity, climate change and sustainability, and by new business and delivery models, said consultant Valerio Nannini, former managing director of Nestle Singapore.

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Cybersecurity, big data among Singapore’s top tech jobs in 2019: Robert Half

Cybersecurity analysts, technology risk managers, data scientists, project managers and software developers are the most sought-after technology roles in Singapore this year, according to recruitment consultancy Robert Half.

IT professionals in those five positions can expect to receive salaries in the range of S$110,000 to S$150,000 per year, if they are at the 50th percentile of the industry – with an average level of experience and the necessary skills to meet job requirements, and in a role of average complexity. Demand is surging for cybersecurity specialists across all industries, amid growing awareness of cybersecurity threats and the introduction of new regulatory processes to combat those threats, Robert Half said.

In response, cybersecurity analysts can now expect salaries ranging from S$90,000 for candidates with less than average experience, to S$150,000 for those with significant and highly relevant experience.

Links to the story: robert-half


Heng to Singapore firms: Be innovative, tech-savvy but leave no one behind

Singapore companies must take innovation and technology seriously, be able to change quickly – and yet not leave workers behind, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat told an audience at a conference in San Francisco.

Speaking at the two-day Bridge Forum CEO Summit, he said he was impressed by the innovative, entrepreneurial mindset of Silicon Valley-based businesses after having sat through presentations at the event.

“It’s quite critical… that our companies really go out to make all these changes quickly, and two, we should not leave our workers behind,” he told the audience of about 200.

The minister said: “If you look at the backlash against globalisation, it is in all the places where the workers feel that their interests have been compromised, that they have not been taken care of. People must believe the change is good for them.”

He said he was optimistic about Singapore as a country with respect for intellectual property, rule of law, a pro-business government and competitive tax rates, as well as its being a multi-racial, multi-cultural nation.

The idea is to connect nodes of innovation across the world, and particularly between Asia and the world, Mr Heng said.

“I hope Singapore can serve as Asia 101 for global companies seeking to get into Asia, and Global 101 for Asian companies looking to go out to the world.”

Citing Asia’s vigorous growth and noting that the fastest-growing region in the Internet economy is Asean, he said: “Asian economies are a lot more open and a lot more integrated, and powering ahead in terms of competitiveness.”

Links to the story: leave-no-one-behind


Technology will impact most finance sector jobs: Report

Many repetitive tasks done by workers in the financial sector will become obsolete in the wake of technological change so employees must reskill to keep up, a report noted.

It found that about 100 out of 121 positions – including credit and loan officers, fund accountants and product managers – have tasks that risk being merged or displaced by automation or enhanced by data analytics in three to five years.

The report also pointed to the skills that each role will need to cope with the changes brought about by technology.

A relationship manager, for example, now prepares thorough financial analysis and regular credit reviews in accordance with a bank’s guidelines to evaluate a customer’s credit risk.

But machine learning could eventually analyse large data sets from various sources, allowing banks to model credit risk more accurately.

So relationship managers must develop lateral-thinking skills that will help them connect the dots and stay focused on the big picture, said the report, which was commissioned by the Institute of Banking and Finance (IBF) and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

Another example is the formation of roles such as a bank’s digital ambassador who will take on tasks now done by a teller, customer service officer and relationship manager.

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NTUC working on retirement, re-hiring ages of 65 and 70

The tripartite workgroup set up to address issues for Singapore’s ageing workforce is now in the advanced stages of determining the new retirement and re-employment ages, NTUC Secretary- General Ng Chee Meng said.

Mr Ng, who was speaking at a media briefing on his joint Labour Movement May Day 2019 message with National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) President Mary Liew, said that NTUC hopes the ages can be raised to 65 and 70 respectively.

NTUC is part of the Tripartite Workgroup on Older Workers, which includes members from the Singapore National Employers Federation and the ministries of Manpower, Education and Health. Mr Ng, who is advisor to the workgroup, said NTUC is conscious of concerns about the impact on business costs, and will help older workers upskill and reskill so that they can contribute productively if they wish to continue working.

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Coastline Residences to launch this weekend at S$2,450 psf

Coastline Residences on Amber Road will be launched for sale this weekend at an average of around S$2,450 psf.

Three-quarters of the units in the freehold, 144-unit condo will have sea views. Unit sizes range from one-bedders at 452 sq ft and up, to three-bedders at 1,109 sq ft and up. There will be one penthouse.

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CDL chairman’s family, nephew buy two units at luxury condo

Billionaire property developer Kwek Leng Beng’s latest luxury condo project in Singapore has seen robust demand since its launch last month. It does not hurt that some of his own relatives have rallied to the cause.

Mr Kwek’s wife Cecilia and son Kingston spent $9.8 million on an apartment in Boulevard 88, according to a City Developments Limited (CDL) exchange filing late on Monday.

His nephew and CDL’s group chief strategy officer Kwek Eik Sheng snapped up another unit on one of the upscale project’s lower floors for a more modest $4.3 million.

According to data released by the Urban Redevelopment Authority earlier this month, 26 of the 35 apartments that were marketed last month were sold, including one penthouse that went for $28 million, or $4,927 psf. That is the highest price per sq ft for a new unit since June 2013.

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Developers finding it tough to locate showflats on project site

Some developers are housing their showflats in unconventional places – from malls, industrial buildings, to even several kilometres away from the actual condo site.

A more crowded new launch landscape and slower residential sales could make this even more common. Developers also report facing rejections for their applications to authorities to use state land close to their site.

The sales gallery for SingHaiyi Group’s Bartley developments The Lilium and The Gazania is on the second floor of 16 Tai Seng Street, an industrial building in Paya Lebar.

Roxy-Pacific Holdings’ Arena Residences is in Guillemard, but the showflat is at Kallang Leisure Park.

Sustained Land’s One Meyer and Coastline Residences are in the east coast, but the showflat is near City Square Mall, off Serangoon Road.

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Mortgagee listings hit new high on loan rate hikes, weak rentals

Mortgagee sale listings in Singapore reached a record high in the first quarter of 2019.

Out of 362 auction listings, 159 were mortgagee sale listings, the highest ever recorded in a database stretching back to Q1 2011. The mortgagee listings were up 28.2 per cent from the previous quarter, and doubled from a year ago.

More than half came from the residential sector, but businesses also showed signs of strain, with industrial and retail mortgagee sale listings up 4.3 and 1.3 times year-on-year respectively to 39 and 32.

Forty-five were fresh listings, up 18.4 per cent from the previous quarter and up 28.6 per cent year- on-year. The remaining 114 listings were rolled over from the previous quarters.

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Pine Grove’s tender ends with no takers

Pine Grove’s S$1.86 billion mega collective sale tender ended with no bidders.

It has gone into the 10-week private treaty period. The private treaty period allows en bloc sites to negotiate with interested developers.

Pine Grove’s inability to find a buyer, particularly in the post-cooling measures era, will certainly be watched by other mega-sites on the market such as Braddell View.

Several other big sites are also up for the taking. This includes Singapore’s largest private residential site Braddell View, which launched for sale in end-March for S$2.08 billion, after securing the 80 per cent mandate close to Chinese New Year.

Earlier in April, Laguna Park in East Coast relaunched its tender at a reserve price of S$1.48 billion, after a previous attempt in September. Horizon Towers relaunched its tender for S$1.1 billion in January. That ended without a bid, same as its previous attempt.

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Le Arc in another en bloc bid at a lower S$18.5m price

Freehold property Le Arc Apartment off Geylang Road is up for collective sale again, with the owners now expecting a minimum offer of S$18.5 million.

The price translates to around S$847 per sq ft per plot ratio (psf ppr), or S$792 psf ppr inclusive of the 7 per cent bonus balcony area and estimated development charges of S$150,000.

If the en bloc goes through, each unit’s owner is expected to take home sale proceeds of S$1.6 million to S$1.8 million. Previously, the owners had expected higher offers in the range of S$20 million to S$22 million during an October 2018 en bloc attempt for the property situated at 6, Lorong 26 Geylang.

The property sits on a 7,859.9 sq ft site zoned for residential use, with a gross plot ratio of 2.8 under the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) 2014 Master Plan. It also has an allowable height of eight storeys, subject to URA confirmation.

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Smart designs in Punggol Northshore Residences

While on the train ride home, imagine talking to the air-conditioning unit in the living room to get it running so the flat will be cool by the time you get home.

Then, a swipe of the finger and the coffee machine is heating up the devil’s brew. Far fetched? The first smart-enabled public housing estate will be ready to be occupied next year.

While there are devices in the market that can already make everyday home appliances smarter, the 1,400 units in Punggol Northshore Residences will come equipped with the brains of a smart home – smart power sockets and high-tech distribution boards.

The Housing Board (HDB) gave The Straits Times a sneak preview of the standard smart fittings in its first smart town.

Punggol Northshore Residences will be HDB’s first smart-enabled town, with Tengah, in the western part of Singapore, coming up in the next six years or so.

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GuocoLand to redefine office leasing at Guoco Midtown

More companies, finding that they may need to scale up and down following business imperatives, are realising that the traditional long-term lease for their office space may hamper this.

Or they may want a long-term lease on the space for most of their core operations, but also the flexibility of taking on more space to start a new project.

GuocoLand, taking this into consideration, wants to be more flexible with its office tenants at its S$2.4 billion, mixed-use Guoco Midtown in Beach Road.

In this development to be completed in 2022, GuocoLand will set aside 15 per cent of the 650,000 sq ft of net lettable area (NLA) of office space as flexible, adaptable space. This will include two floors for tenants to use to establish “innovation labs” or start-ups.

GuocoLand has not decided whether it will run this space or team up with flexible working operators.

The developer said the floor plates of the offices are built to be flexible and can be sub-divided, and that it will work with tenants to design and sub-divide the floor space according to their needs. The squarish floor plates range from 27,000 sq ft to 30,000 sq ft in size.

The office block has 30 storeys, and a total gross floor area of 770,000 sq ft.

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Metro JV acquires Grade-A Tampines office building

Metro Holdings unit Metrobilt Construction has entered a 50:50 joint venture to acquire 7 and 9 Tampines Grande, a premium Grade-A office property. While the purchase price was not disclosed, sources put the figure to be S$395 million. Metro’s 50 per cent capital commitment for the investment is about S$45.6 million.

Situated in Tampines Regional Centre, the property comprises two blocks of eight-storey office towers linked by an entrance lobby with retail, as well as food and beverage outlets on the ground floor. It has a site area and gross floor area of approximately 86,110 sq ft and 361,660 sq ft respectively. It has a total net lettable area of approximately 288,000 sq ft and has achieved a committed occupancy rate of about 91 per cent.

Tenants include conglomerates and firms from the technology, financial services and insurance industries, including Hitachi Asia, Aldwych International, NCR Asia-Pacific, AIA Singapore and Sysmex Asia-Pacific.

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Realty Centre in Tanjong Pagar sold for S$148m, below reserve price

Realty Centre, an office building in Tanjong Pagar, has been sold for S$148 million in the year’s first commercial en bloc sale, although the figure falls short of the reserve price.

The freehold 12-storey office building up for collective sale with a reserve price of S$165 million in January.

The buyer is Singapore-listed The Place Holdings, which intends to redevelop the property into a mixed-use commercial and residential tower subject to regulatory approvals.

Realty Centre has a land area of about 11,000 sq feet and is zoned for commercial use under the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s 2014 Master Plan. It has a plot ratio of 5.6 and a maximum storey height of 35 storeys.

Under the recently announced CBD Incentive Scheme, Realty Centre falls under the Anson precinct. This means that the property is expected to enjoy bonus plot ratios of between 25 per cent and 30 per cent if there is a change of use to either residential and commercial (+25 per cent) or residential with commercial on first storey (+30 per cent).

Links to the story: 148m


Three adjoining office units at Peninsula Plaza up for sale

Three adjoining office units at Peninsula Plaza will be put up for sale in an expression of interest exercise, at a guide price of S$9.29 million. The exercise closes at 3 pm on May 29.

The units are located on the 12th storey, with areas of each unit ranging from 1,001 sq ft to 1,776 sq ft. The 999-year tenure units have a combined area of 4,262 sq ft.

The indicative price of S$9.29 million works out to S$2,180 psf based on the strata area. Peninsula Plaza is a mixed-use development comprising a six-storey retail podium and a 24-storey office block. It is also a short walk from City Hall MRT interchange station, which serves the East- West and North-South lines. Prominent landmarks nearby include the National Gallery, St Andrew’s Cathedral and the Supreme Court.

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Bayer moving to Paya Lebar Quarter; taking up 31,000 sq ft

Pharmaceutical firm Bayer will shift its main office to Paya Lebar Quarter (PLQ) at the end of the year, joining other companies which have taken up space in the mixed-use development such as SMRT.

The Business Times understands that Bayer – which is moving from OCBC Centre – is taking up 31,000 sq ft at PLQ. Bayer did not respond to queries from BT by press time.

Already at PLQ is SMRT, which has shifted its headquarters from North Bridge Road to PLQ’s Tower 3 where it has taken up 97,000 sq ft. BT has also reported previously that IWG’s Spaces will have a 52,000 sq ft co-working space at PLQ, while Great Eastern has leased 125,000 sq ft in Tower 3 and NTUC Income, 55,000 sq ft in Tower 2, respectively.

Decentralisation activity may increase owing to high rents in the CBD, as this enables cost- conscious occupiers to reap substantial savings by shifting their non-client facing functions to the city fringe or suburbs.

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Perennial-led consortium to sell Chinatown Point Mall for $520m

Perennial Real Estate Holdings (Perennial) and its consortium of investors, including Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), are selling their stakes in Chinatown Point Mall for $520 million in total, the listed companies announced.

This includes the divestment of their entire interests in the retail mall, and four strata office units in Chinatown Point, an integrated development located in the heart of the Chinatown precinct, within Singapore’s central business district.

Perennial is the largest investor in Chinatown Point Mall with a 50.64 effective interest, and its proportionate stake of the net proceeds is expected to be about $125.3 million, subject to final adjustments, the company said.

Links to the story: for-s520m


Turf City operators asking for lease to be extended

Five sports and recreation operators at Turf City have formed a collective to seek lease extensions as they enter the final 18 months of their time at the Bukit Timah site.

The group comprises representatives from sports operators Centaurs, Tanglin Rugby Club and The Cage Sports Park, kindergarten operator Blue House International, and horse riding centre Bukit Timah Saddle Club.

It plans to request a lease of at least six years on a three-year renewal basis, with hope for longer. The collective intends to share its feedback with the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), which launched its Draft Master Plan 2019 last month.

The 140-hectare site, about the size of 200 soccer fields, has been slated for residential use since 1993.

Home to the Singapore Turf Club from 1933 to 1999, Turf City now hosts some 30 types of sports and recreational activities, including rugby, football, karting, tennis and horse riding events.

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Phase 1 of mega Tuas port on track to open in 2021

Reclamation works for the first phase of the mega Tuas port project are on track to finish in 2021, with the last of the caissons installed.

A caisson is a gigantic box-like structure that forms wharves. It’s 40 metres long, 28 metres wide, 28 metres high and weighs 15,000 tonnes. A total of 221 caissons have been installed since April 2016 for the Tuas Terminal Phase 1 project.

The installation of the final caisson on Tuesday, witnessed by Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan, also marks the completion of a 8.6- kilometre seawall – one of the key works in the project.

Works on the first phase of the Tuas port project started in February 2015 and they include the reclamation of 294 hectares of land, installation of the caissons for the seawall and dredging as well as soil improvement work. These are to be completed in 2021 at a cost of S$2.42 billion.

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Industrial property market to hold firm in 2019, business parks seen as bright spot

The industrial property market appears to have bottomed out, with analysts projecting a stable market outlook for this year and citing business parks as a likely outperformer.

Rentals and prices of industrial space in Singapore were relatively stable in the first quarter of 2019 compared with the preceding quarter, according to the latest data from industrial land and infrastructure agency JTC Corp.

The price index edged down 0.1 per cent, while the rental index was flat. Compared with a year ago, the price index was unchanged while the rental index eased 0.2 per cent.

Meanwhile, the occupancy rate of the overall industrial property market for the first quarter was flat over the previous quarter, but rose 0.3 percentage point year on year to 89.3 per cent owing to improved occupancy in single-user factories, business parks and warehouse spaces.

For the rest of 2019, another 1.2 million sq m of industrial space is estimated to come on stream, representing 3 per cent of current industrial stock. Of the 1.2 million sq m, 80 per cent is single- user factory space.

Link to the story: as-bright-spot


Dowa launches new Modern Asia Environmental Holdings in Singapore

Japanese waste management and recycling solutions provider Dowa has announced the formation of the new Modern Asia Environmental Holdings (MAEH), the result of a merger of existing Dowa facilities in Singapore, Technochem Environmental Complex Pte Ltd (Technochem) and Dowa Eco-System Singapore Pte Ltd (ESG).

The merged entity will offer incineration, recycling and precious metal recovery capabilities under one umbrella.

Technochem specialises in water treatment, industrial cleaning services, incineration of waste and the sale of solvents and chemicals. It also runs Dowa’s first vertical combustion incinerator outside Japan, and the first of its kind in South-east Asia, where most incinerators tend to lie flat.

This incinerator occupies a smaller physical footprint than most, and uses a super-low air ratio combustion method to reduce fossil fuel consumption.

ESG, meanwhile, focuses on precious metal recovery using a hydrometallurgy process. This enables it to recover gold, silver and palladium from electronic waste, such as printed circuit boards.

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CapitaLand sells self-storage business StorHub for S$179.5m

CapitaLand has sold a group of companies that own and manage its self-storage business, StorHub, for an aggregate S$179.5 million to an unrelated and undisclosed buyer.

Of the total aggregate, S$167.5 million is in outstanding shareholder loans owed by the group of companies to StorHub Group Pte Ltd and has been assigned to the buyer, who will pay in stages. StorHub Group will continue to be wholly owned by CapitaLand post-divestment.

The remaining S$12 million is the equity component for the shares of the group of companies, which will be paid in stages and is subject to post-completion adjustments.

According to CapitaLand, the transaction is based on an agreed value of S$185 million for StorHub’s portfolio of 12 self-storage properties – 11 storage facilities in Singapore and one in Shanghai. They have a total lettable area of about 800,000 sq ft.

Links to the story: 1795m


Huawei opens cloud and AI innovation lab

Chinese tech giant Huawei announced the launch of a cloud and artificial intelligence (AI) innovation lab in Singapore and pledged to commit “hundreds of millions” to investments in the Republic and the Asia-Pacific market in the coming years.

The main aim of the new lab, which will be available for everyone to use, is to promote the adoption of cloud and AI technologies in Singapore, said Mr Edward Deng, president of Huawei Cloud Global Market.

Mr Deng told reporters on the sidelines of the Huawei Cloud Summit 2019 that the open lab mechanism has been shown to be very effective in China, Hong Kong and Europe.

It is meant to serve developers, university students and companies, as well as provide a platform to launch projects for public benefit, he said.

Links to the story: singapore



New GPS-based procedures for Seletar Airport to be rolled out

The new Global Positioning System (GPS)-based instrument approach procedures for Seletar Airport will be rolled out within six to 12 months, Malaysian Transport Minister Anthony Loke said.

He was speaking at a joint press conference with Singapore’s Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan after a welcome ceremony for Malaysian carrier Firefly’s inaugural landing at Seletar Airport.

Mr Khaw said regulators from both countries will be meeting to discuss the new GPS approach procedures, which will replace Instrument Landing System (ILS) procedures at Seletar Airport which Singapore has withdrawn.

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Ensuring Singapore’s aviation sector stays strong, viable

Not since the Trump-Kim summit last June has Singapore hogged international headlines. The opening of Jewel Changi Airport, after a six-day public preview for half a million people who had signed up for free tickets, made news across the world.

With 280 shops and dining outlets, a 40m indoor waterfall, a forest, and a playground equipped with sky nets and mazes that will open in June, Changi Airport has outdone itself, said many visitors.

The $1.7 billion 10-storey Jewel complex next to Terminal 1, a joint venture by Changi Airport Group (CAG) and CapitaLand, is more than just a mega mall or playground. It is an investment to grow traffic by making Changi Airport more attractive to travellers, built on the understanding that continual upgrades and enhancements are critical to secure Singapore’s status as a key air hub in the region.

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Will Jewel be Changi’s game-changer?

Even as CAG estimates that about 40-50 million visitors will throng Jewel each year, it is betting that 60 per cent of those visitors will be Singapore residents.

Hong Kong’s Sky City, which is positioned as an integrated destination with retail, F&B, entertainment, hotels and offices, will be opened in phases over 2023 to 2027.

Competition in the region, it goes without saying, is heating up. Traditionally, airports in Hong Kong, Bangkok, Dubai and South Korea are seen as Changi’s biggest competitors. But that is changing too, with Chinese airports increasingly posing a bigger threat, such as the new

Guangzhou Baiyun Airport and Beijing’s mammoth second international airport, Daxing International.

Daxing Airport is due to open its doors later this year and is gunning to be one of the world’s largest, with at least seven runways and a capacity of 100 million passengers.

Another potential threat includes the introduction of non-stop services as next-generation aircraft make it more feasible to operate such ultra-long-haul routes profitably.

With an eye on expansion and easing traffic congestion, Changi is already developing a third runway, due to come onstream in the early 2020s, as well as its biggest terminal yet, Terminal 5. The behemoth project will allow Changi to handle an initial capacity of 50 million more passengers per year when it opens its doors in around 2030, boosting the airport’s total passenger capacity to at least 135 million passengers annually.

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Singapore hotels don’t kid around when it comes to family vacations

When it comes to family vacations, the kids are often the boss – and Singapore hotels are pulling out all the stops to woo them, realising that kids could well be the make or break factor for many potential guests.

Vincent Ong, the vice-president of marketing of Club Med’s East and South Asia and Pacific, said: “Children do actually hold a very influential role in driving their families’ decisions about where to go and what to do. Research has shown that parents don’t actually feel like they are on a vacation unless the well-being of their children are taken care of.”

And so, hotels and resorts are splurging to add kids-centric attractions that range from kids-themed rooms and pool zones, “camping” areas to scavenger hunts, sandcastle-building and special children’s brunches.

The target audience are not just Singapore staycationers but visitors from all over the world. One way hotels are keeping kids engaged is by making play a priority.

In February, Shangri La Rasa Sentosa Resort and Spa launched Nestopia, an open-air play space. Located on Siloso Beach, Nestopia features 17 play sections with netted obstacle courses connecting three giant nests and two of the longest slides in Sentosa.

Another motivation for such offerings is hotels view child inclusivity as a means of building long- term relationships with clients.

Link to the story: family-vacations


Genting has a tough act to follow in IR 2.0

Grow bigger and you won’t have to face new competitors until 2030 at the earliest. That sums up the challenge put before the casino duopoly by Singapore’s planners.

So Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) and Marina Bay Sands (MBS) have each agreed to invest S$4.5 billion more in their integrated resorts (IRs) here over the next five years.

But the sheer scale of the upgrade took some stock watchers by surprise. As pundits contemplate the level of underlying demand to soak up the new capacity, the market seems to have picked a winner.

Citi Research analysts expect MBS to steal more market share from RWS once its expansion is complete. MBS has a 58 per cent share of the market now while RWS has 42 per cent. In the long term, this could shift to 63:37 in favour of MBS, Citi reckons.

Word is that RWS had to fight hard to get Singapore’s planners to approve its proposal for a new driverless transport system. To be completed in 2024, it will carry up to 1,800 passengers per hour in each direction across the Sentosa Boardwalk for a more efficient last mile connectivity to RWS. The existing Sentosa monorail run by Sentosa Development Corp carries up to 4,000 passengers per hour per direction.

Another limiting factor for both RWS and MBS has been the number of rooms they have available in their hotels, which drives footfall to their casinos.

RWS’s hotels had an average occupancy rate of more than 94 per cent last year. Occupancy over at MBS was 96.7 per cent.

MBS currently has 2,600 rooms in three hotel towers. It plans to add another 1,000 suites in a fourth tower, or an increase of 38 per cent.

In comparison, RWS currently has 1,570 rooms at RWS (excluding 557 rooms at Genting Hotel Jurong). The addition of up to 1,100 luxury and upscale rooms by 2025 would be a 70 per cent increase, and incremental gaming revenue could be in that region.

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US new home sales hit 1½-year high in March on lower mortgages, prices

Sales of new US single-family homes rose to a near 1½-year high in March, boosted by lower mortgage rates and house prices.

The third straight monthly increase reported by the Commerce Department suggested some recovery was under way in the housing market, which hit a soft patch last year against the backdrop of higher borrowing costs and more expensive homes.

New home sales increased 4.5 per cent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 692,000 units last month, the highest level since November 2017. February’s sales pace was revised down to 662,000 units from the previously reported 667,000 units.

The median new house price dropped 9.7 per cent to US$302,700 in March from a year ago, the lowest level since February 2017. The drop was because of an increase in the share of homes sold in the US$200,000 to US$300,000 price range.

Link to the story: mortgages-prices


London has record number of unsold homes under construction

New homes in London used to fly off the shelves even before construction was finished. Now the capital faces a record glut of unsold units as the housing slump deepens.

The number of unsold homes under construction increased to 31,508 units as of March 31, the highest level recorded since Molior London began compiling the data a decade ago.

The borough of Tower Hamlets, home to the Canary Wharf financial district, had the largest number, followed by Greenwich.

Developers began work on record numbers of luxury apartments in the years leading up to 2015, hoping to cash in on a wave of overseas money targeting London property.

Since then, the city’s high-end residential market has been hit by a series of property tax hikes, capital controls and Brexit uncertainty, deterring investors and leaving developers holding empty units that are too expensive for average Londoners. The average asking price for new homes in London rose slightly in the first quarter to a record £909 (S$1,600) per square foot – 74 per cent higher than in 2010, according to Molior. The most expensive borough is Kensington and Chelsea.

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By: Lee Sze Teck Head, Research




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