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2nd August 2019 / Issue 31

By in Weekly News Review with 0 Comments

Top News for the Week

Residential

Piermont Grand EC sells 375 of 820 units on launch weekend

The first executive condominium (EC) launched this year, Piermont Grand, sold 375 of its 820 units in its launch weekend at an average of S$1,080 psf.

The 46 per cent sales rate, as of 6pm on July 28, made it “by far the best-selling property launch” this year, said developer City Developments (CDL) in a release on Sunday evening.

Developed by CDL and TID, Piermont Grand offers three-, four- and five-bedroom units, ranging from 840 sq ft for a three-bedroom unit to 1,701 sq ft for a five-bedroom premium penthouse.

Prices started from S$888,000 for a three-bedroom unit, S$1.34 million for a four-bedroom premium unit and S$1.508 million for a five-bedroom premium unit. Take-up was good for all unit types, said CDL.

Eligible second-time buyers accounted for about 65 per cent of the units sold during the launch weekend, or 245 units. Second-time buyers who are unable to buy during the launch period can make bookings for remaining units a month after the launch.

Links to the story:

https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/real-estate/piermont-grand-ec-sells-375-of-820-units-on-launch-weekend https://www.straitstimes.com/business/property/46-of-punggol-ec-sold-at-launch-despite-big-price-tag

 

Private home prices up 1.5% in Q2; 2019 could end in positive territory

Private home prices rose 1.5 per cent quarter-on-quarter in Q2 in the first increase since last July’s cooling measures, and analysts suggest that private residential prices for 2019 could grow slightly year-on-year on the back of new launches.

The 1.5 per cent increase, higher than the 1.3 per cent cited in the flash estimate of the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), was led by non-landed properties in the prime and city fringe districts.

After a 0.7 per cent decline in the first quarter, overall private home values in the first half of 2019 have risen 0.8 per cent. For Q2, private home prices rose 1.2 per cent year-on-year.

In the rest of the central region (RCR), successful launches such as Amber Park, Sky Everton, The Tre Ver and Parc Esta were singled out by analysts.

Some analysts also noted that interest from foreign buyers seems to have held up after the cooling measures, and that the protests in Hong Kong and Brexit in the United Kingdom could also be prompting high-net-worth buyers to turn their focus to markets such as Singapore.

Links to the story:

https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/real-estate/private-home-prices-up-15-in-q2-2019-could-end-in-positive-territory https://www.straitstimes.com/business/private-home-prices-rebound-15-in-q2

 

Sales of HDB resale flats up nearly 30% in Q2 but prices dip

The number of Housing Board resale flats that changed hands in the second quarter of this year rose nearly 30 per cent when compared with the first three months of the year, latest public housing figures show.

There were 6,276 resale transactions in the second quarter, up 29.8 per cent from the 4,835 in the first quarter, the HDB data showed. This year’s figure was also 5.6 per cent higher than the resale transactions in the second quarter of last year.

In addition, new changes now give property buyers greater flexibility in using their Central Provident Fund (CPF) and also to get bigger housing loans for their property purchases, as long as the property’s remaining lease covers the youngest buyer till the age of 95.

HDB data showed that the prices of resale flats dipped 0.2 per cent from the previous three months, making for the fourth straight quarter of decline.

Links to the story:

https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/housing/sales-of-hdb-resale-flats-up-nearly-30-in-q2-but-prices-dip https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/real-estate/hdb-resale-volume-jumps-almost-30-in-second-quarter

 

Completed condo prices drop 0.7% in June after two months of gains

Prices of completed private apartments and condominiums in Singapore dipped 0.7 per cent in June from the previous month, falling after two months of gains.

The figures are flash estimates released by the National University of Singapore (NUS) for its Singapore Residential Price Index (SRPI), which tracks prices of completed non-landed private homes.

Falls were observed for both apartments in the central region and non-central regions, which exclude small units, with prices slipping 0.7 per cent and 0.6 per cent respectively.

Prices of shoebox units meanwhile fell 0.9 per cent. Shoebox units are defined as no bigger than 506 square feet.

Year-to-date, overall prices were down 0.7 per cent, with prices of larger apartments dipping 0.5 per cent for the central region and 0.7 per cent for the non-central region. Prices of shoebox units fell 1.9 per cent.

On a year-on-year basis, overall prices fell 1.9 per cent, with prices of larger apartments declining

2.3 per cent for the central region and 1.6 per cent for the non-central region. Prices of shoebox units dropped 2.5 per cent.

Link to the story:

https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/real-estate/completed-condo-prices-drop-07-in-june-after-two-months-of-gains

 

Qingjian pays S$42.6m in Phoenix Road en bloc deal

A row of 99-year leasehold apartments and shops on Phoenix Road near Bukit Panjang has been sold en bloc for S$42.6 million in the property’s second collective sale attempt.

The buyer was CNQC Realty (Treasure), a subsidiary of developer Qingjian Realty (South Pacific) Group.

The sale price is above the owners’ asking price of S$42 million, and works out to an estimated land rate of S$630 per sq ft per plot ratio (psf ppr) after factoring the estimated differential premium payable.

The site is zoned for residential use with a gross plot ratio of 1.4 under the Draft Master Plan 2019 by the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

Subject to relevant approvals, it could be redeveloped to offer about 80 residential units, with an average size of about 950 sq ft.

Links to the story:

https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/real-estate/qingjian-pays-s426m-in-phoenix-road-en-bloc-deal https://www.straitstimes.com/business/property/phoenix-rd-units-sold-for-426m-in-second-collective-sale-attempt

 

Watten Estate Condominium up for sale with S$536m reserve price

Freehold Watten Estate Condominium is up for collective sale on July 30 with a reserve price of S$536 million.

This translates to a land rate of S$1,738 per sq ft per plot ratio (psf ppr), sole marketing agent Huttons said. It was first put up for en bloc sale back in 2007, with a price tag then of S$480 million.

The 104-unit development is located in Shelford Road, and is zoned for residential use with a gross plot ratio of 1.4. It has a land area of 220,234 sq ft and a total allowable gross floor area of 308,341 sq ft.

According to Huttons, the site can be redeveloped into 242 modern resort homes with an average size of 1,270 sq ft (118 sq m). No development charge would be payable due to Watten Estate’s high baseline.

After factoring in the upfront non-remittable additional buyer’s stamp duty, Watten Estate is “attractively priced” at a land rate of S$1,825 psf ppr, Huttons said.

The public tender for Watten Estate Condominium closes on Oct 18 at noon.

Link to the story:

https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/real-estate/watten-estate-condominium-up-for-sale-with-s536m-reserve-price

 

Waterloo Street apartment site up for sale with S$145m asking price

Apartment development Min Yuan, a 27-unit residential with commercial on its first storey has been put up for sale with an asking price of S$145 million.

Including a payable development charge of around S$19.55 million, the land price works out to about S$2,678 per sq ft per plot ratio (psf ppr) for the 999-year leasehold site which spans about 14,629 sq ft.

Despite being zoned for “residential with commercial at first storey” use under the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) 2014 Master Plan, the site can be redeveloped to accommodate a hotel building at a plot ratio of 4.2, or with a maximum permissible gross floor area of about 61,443 sq ft.

The public tender exercise is slated to close on Sept 3 at 3pm.

Link to the story:

https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/real-estate/waterloo-street-apartment-site-up-for-sale-with-s145m-asking-price-0

 

Wing Tai chairman, wife, sell Nassim GCB site for record S$230m

A good class bungalow on a sprawling freehold site in the Nassim area has been sold for a record S$230 million.

The property along Nassim Road was sold by a private company owned by Wing Tai Holdings chairman Cheng Wai Keung and his wife, Helen. The price works out to S$2,721 per sq ft on the land area of 84,543 sq ft. Property searches list the buyer as SG Casa Pte Ltd.

A company search showed that its principal activity is in the category of trustee, fiduciary and custody services firms. However, sources suggest that the party behind the trustee company could be Facebook cofounder Eduardo Saverin, who resides here.

In absolute price terms, this deal topples the S$105.3 million paid last year by Tony Tung, the Singaporean chairman of Hong Kong-based Winson Group, for a bungalow on 42,515 sq ft of freehold land, also along Nassim Road. Winson Group is involved in oil trading, marine bunkering and oil storage and terminal facilities.

In terms of psf on land area, the latest transaction is among the highest achieved in a GCB Area. Last year, a record was set at S$2,729.52 psf by bungalow investor George Lim when he sold a newly-built bungalow that he developed in Jervois Hill, albeit on a much smaller plot of 15,094 sq ft.

Links to the story:

https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/real-estate/wing-tai-chairman-wife-sell-nassim-gcb-site-for-record-s230m https://www.straitstimes.com/business/property/wing-tai-boss-sells-nassim-rd-bungalow-for-record-230m

 

Is this the house that Jack Ma is building in Singapore?

The fraternity of Alibaba cofounders continues to grow its presence in Singapore’s high-end residential sector.

According to the grapevine, an entity linked to Alibaba Group Holding chairman and co-founder Jack Ma is developing a two-storey bungalow with a basement and swimming pool in the Victoria Park Good Class Bungalow (GCB) Area.

The house is being built on a nearly 30,000 sq ft, elevated and regular-shaped 999-year leasehold site in Victoria Park Close.

The new bungalow being built there is slated for completion in the fourth quarter of next year, going by information on a signboard at the site.

Link to the story:

https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/real-estate/is-this-the-house-that-jack-ma-is-building-in-singapore

 

Commercial

Positive office market numbers, but clouds loom

The latest official data points to overall positive indicators for the Singapore office market, but some analysts see warning signs.

Firms are assessing the full impact of the trade war, with more opting for renewals rather than committing capital expenditure to expand or relocate is observed. There has also been some right- sizing in the banking sector, as well as consolidation and a drive towards space efficiency in the business consultancy, pharmaceutical and fast-moving consumer goods sectors.

The rental index compiled by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) for office space in the central region of Singapore rose 1.3 per cent in the second quarter of this year over the previous three months.

This came on the back of the continued tightening of supply, with the island-wide vacancy rate of office space falling to 11.5 per cent as at the end of Q2 2019 from 11.8 per cent at end-Q1 2019. Island-wide net demand of office space, as reflected in the change in occupied space, was 35,000 sq m net lettable area (NLA) in the second quarter, up from 19,000 sq m in the previous quarter. The stock of office space increased by 7,000 sq m NLA, compared with the drop of 6,000 sq m NLA in the previous quarter.

Link to the story:

https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/real-estate/positive-office-market-numbers-but-clouds-loom

 

M+S confirms S$1.58 billion Duo sale to Allianz-Gaw team-up

The national joint venture between Malaysia and Singapore is divesting part of a signature mixed- use project in the Republic’s Ophir-Rochor precinct.

M+S Pte Ltd will sell the office and retail areas of Duo for S$1.575 billion, or S$2,570 per sq ft (sq ft) of net lettable area, the developer said in a statement. The land has a 99-year leasehold tenure.

The Duo sale – to Allianz Real Estate and Hong Kong private equity firm Gaw Capital Partners – comprises Duo Tower, an office block with 570,000 sq ft of prime Grade-A commercial space, and Duo Galleria, which has 56,000 sq ft of retail space.

But Andaz Singapore – a Hyatt-branded luxury hotel that occupies the top 15 floors of Duo Tower – will remain in M+S’s hands after the deal.

Links to the story:

https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/real-estate/ms-confirms-s158-billion-duo-sale-to-allianz-gaw-team-up https://www.straitstimes.com/business/ms-selling-office-retail-areas-of-duo-complex-for-16b

 

Commerzbank arm sells 71 Robinson Rd to Sun Venture unit for S$655m

Commerz Real has sold its 71 Robinson Road property to SV Robinson for S$655 million. SV Robinson is a real estate investment company which is a member of the Sun Venture group of companies.

The sale was done through its open-ended real estate fund hausInvest,. The purchase price translates to around S$2,756 psf, based on a net lettable area (NLA) of 237,644 sq ft.

The move comes weeks after a report on Sun Venture being granted exclusive due diligence with a view to buy the 15-storey office block, The Business Times understood at the time.

It was also reported that the property is running at full house with an average monthly passing rent in the low-S$10 psf range, with tenants including CommerzBank, Visa, Ogilvy and WeWork. WeWork has leased three floors since 2017.

The building has 13 storeys with around 22,000 sq m of office space, along with two storeys with parking spaces. It sits on a site at the corner of Robinson Road and McCallum Street, and has nearly 74 years’ balance lease. It was completed 11 years ago and deemed to have Grade A specifications.

Link to the story:

https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/real-estate/commerzbank-arm-sells-71-robinson-rd-to-sun-venture-unit-for- s655m

Retail

Jewel, revamped Funan boost net absorption of retail space

Strong net absorption of retail space in the second quarter led to a one percentage point drop in the island-wide vacancy rate for retail space, but the outlook for this property segment remains weak. Official data shows that the net absorption of retail space – as reflected in the change in occupied space – was 74,000 sq m in net lettable area (NLA) island wide, making it the highest in 18 quarters. The strong take-up seen in the two recently opened malls – Jewel Changi Airport and Funan – likely boosted net absorption in the second quarter.

As a result, the islandwide vacancy rate of retail space eased to 7.7 per cent at the end of Q2, from

8.7 per cent at the end of the preceding quarter.

The average vacancy rates of retail space in Orchard Road have largely stayed in the healthy range of 5 to 6 per cent since the fourth quarter of 2017.

Link to the story:

https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/real-estate/jewel-revamped-funan-boost-net-absorption-of-retail-space

 

New shops at Jewel Changi Airport

It has been 3½ months since Jewel Changi Airport opened to much fanfare.

Since then, the entertainment and retail complex has seen a daily average footfall of about 300,000 visitors, said a Jewel spokesman.

The spokesman declined to reveal exact figures for the opening weekend, but added that the airport complex expects the annual footfall to range from 40 million to 50 million, of which two-thirds will comprise local residents.

In the meantime, keeping the buzz alive is a second wave of retail additions to the 10-storey complex, which opened on April 17.

From May to last month, more than 10 new shops have opened at the 90,000 sq m of mall space dedicated to retail. These include Anello, Apple, Fila, Sketchers and Urban Revivo.

Link to the story:

https://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/fashion/new-shops-at-jewel-changi-airport

Government

Government details two key job moves to help workers progress

The job market will be challenging in the months and years ahead, but Singaporeans will be able to progress in their careers so long as the country can do two things consistently well, said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo.

These are creating good jobs and transforming them to keep up with industry needs and workers’ aspirations, she said in a speech outlining the approach of the country’s fourth-generation (4G) leadership to ensure Singaporeans can navigate economic restructuring and benefit from job opportunities.

In the short term, if Singapore faces a general downturn, the response will depend on the causes and impact. A downturn on the scale and scope of the one caused by the global financial crisis in 2008/2009 appears very unlikely, she said.

Singapore’s economy today is well diversified and while sectors like electronics have weakened, others like information and communications are holding up well.

Preliminary data released showed that unemployment for Singaporeans rose and employment growth slowed in the second quarter of this year, though retrenchments dipped. Employers are more cautious in hiring.

Link to the story:

https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/govt-details-two-key-job-moves-to-help-workers-progress

 

Measures ready to help firms, workers in downturn: Heng

Singapore has a package of measures ready to help businesses and workers should the world economy take a nosedive.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, in disclosing it, said the trade row between China and the United States has cast a pall on the global economy and the Cabinet has been discussing Singapore’s recent slowdown.

Mr Heng, who was speaking to visiting Malaysian journalists, said: “We are ready with a package to help our businesses and help our workers should the global economy take a sharp downturn. We always have to be prepared.”

But Singapore is not expecting a full-year recession at this point, he had said earlier this month.

Link to the story:

https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/measures-ready-to-help-firms-workers-in-downturn-heng

 

Singapore will develop local workforce as it welcomes foreign talent: Chan

Singapore will continue to develop the skills of its local workforce and maximise the potential of the best in the country while, at the same time, welcoming talent from overseas to work alongside Singaporeans in globally competitive teams.

These elements are part of Singapore’s talent strategy outlined by Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) Scholarship Award Ceremony at the Matrix building in Biopolis.

He said that the first and most important element of the strategy is to “cultivate and grow our Singaporean talent pool”.

In today’s economy, Singaporeans must be lifelong learners and continuously upgrade their skills, and Mr Chan cited the SkillsFuture Training Subsidy as one way through which the Government is supporting companies and workers with training options and subsidies to stay relevant.

Singapore also invests to stretch the top tier to excel to their full potential, and the A*Star scholarships are part of the wider national strategy to do so, said Mr Chan.

Singapore will continue to build a strong local talent base in areas such as science and technology, where currently 70 per cent of research scientists and engineers are citizens or permanent residents.

Links to the story:

https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/spore-will-develop-local-workforce-as-it-welcomes-foreign-talent-chan https://www.straitstimes.com/business/starter-kit-to-help-firms-train-staff-for-jobs-of-tomorrow https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/government-economy/singapore-must-step-up-to-global-rivalry-for-talent-chan- chun-sing

 

Singapore to host over 50 countries at signing of namesake treaty

Representatives from more than 50 countries, including the US and China, will gather in Singapore on Aug 7 for the signing of an international treaty on mediation, adopted by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly and named after Singapore in December 2018.

About 25 of the attending countries have indicated that they will be signing the UN Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation, also known as the Singapore Convention on Mediation, said Minister for Law K Shanmugam.

Drafted and negotiated by a working group chaired by a Singapore official, the convention sets out a framework for internationally accepted mediation rules. Crucially, it adds teeth to the negotiation process by allowing the courts to enforce cross-border commercial mediated settlement agreements more readily.

Mediation, which involves a neutral mediator working with two parties to come to an agreement, is valued as an alternative to litigation and arbitration since it preserves relationships and is faster and cheaper. However, it has been limited by the fact that mediated settlement agreements are only contractually binding and not directly enforceable in court.

Links to the story:

https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/government-economy/singapore-to-host-over-50-countries-at-signing-of- namesake-treaty

https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/54-nations-to-attend-spore-convention-on-mediation-signing

 

Economy

Unemployment for S’poreans up amid cautious hiring

Unemployment for Singaporeans crept up as the pace of employment growth slowed in the second quarter of this year, amid trade tensions and global uncertainties.

However, retrenchments dipped, preliminary data released by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) showed.

MOM said the figures suggest “that most employers are not laying off existing workers but exercising greater caution in hiring, even when they have unfilled vacancies”.

The unemployment rate for Singaporeans rose for the third consecutive quarter to 3.3 per cent last month, up from 3.2 per cent in March. This is after seasonal variations were taken into account. The rate for Singaporeans and permanent residents combined rose to 3.1 per cent, up from 3 per cent, while the overall unemployment rate was unchanged at 2.2 per cent.

Meanwhile, layoffs fell to 2,300 in the three months from April to June, down from 3,230 in the preceding quarter and 3,030 in the second quarter of last year.

Links to the story:

https://www.straitstimes.com/business/unemployment-for-sporeans-up-amid-cautious-hiring https://www.straitstimes.com/business/tough-slog-ahead-for-job-seekers-say-experts https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/government-economy/q2-unemployment-up-for-singaporeans-amid-subdued- hiring

 

Singapore June factory output down 6.9%, less than expected

Singapore’s industrial output fell 6.9 per cent in June, deepening from May’s 2 per cent fall and marking the fourth straight month of year-on-year decline, according to preliminary estimates from the Singapore Economic Development Board.

This was a smaller decline than economists’ expectations of an 8.5 per cent fall. Excluding the volatile biomedical manufacturing sector, however, output fell 9.9 per cent.

Biomedical manufacturing also cushioned month-on-month numbers. On a seasonally adjusted monthly basis, overall manufacturing output rose 1.2 per cent in June compared to May. Excluding biomedical manufacturing, it fell 2.9 per cent.

June’s weak industrial production data “adds to a growing body of evidence” for the view that the Monetary Authority of Singapore will likely ease policy in October, said Barclays economist Brian Tan. He expects the official growth forecast range to be lowered in August, possibly to around 1 to 2 per cent, down from the current 1.5 to 2.5 per cent.

Links to the story:

https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/government-economy/singapore-june-factory-output-down-69-less-than- expected

https://www.straitstimes.com/business/factory-output-down-69-biggest-drop-in-312-years

 

EU to strip 5 countries, including Singapore, of some market access rights, says FT

The European Commission will deem that Canada, Brazil, Singapore, Argentina and Australia do not regulate credit ratings agencies with the same rigour as the EU, the Financial Times reports citing a document.

The decision would withdraw some market access rights of the countries, removing a status that makes it possible for European banks to rely on the ratings.

This will be the first time that the access rights have been withdrawn, though temporary permissions for Switzerland were allowed to lapse earlier.

According to FT, about 40 equivalence provisions are scattered throughout different EU financial regulations and are intended to make sure that trading platforms, brokers and other companies based in non-EU financial centres can serve European clients, so long as they are subject to strong regulation and supervision. The provisions are used by more than 30 countries.

Link to the story:

https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/government-economy/eu-to-strip-5-countries-including-singapore-of-some- market-access-rights-says-ft

 

EU’s move to strip market access likely to have little impact on Singapore

Credit rating agencies in Singapore are not expected to have their business affected by the European Commission’s decision to strip five countries of some market access rights, the Singapore authorities said.

The European Commission confirmed it has deemed that Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada and Singapore no longer regulate credit rating agencies as rigorously as the European Union does.

But the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), which regulates the four credit rating agencies here, said agencies here will continue being able to access the EU market through a separate endorsement regime, which they already operate under. This has been confirmed by the EU Commission, MAS added.

Links to the story:

https://www.straitstimes.com/business/eus-move-to-strip-market-access-likely-to-have-little-impact-on-singapore https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/government-economy/ec-drops-equivalence-status-singapore-credit-agencies- can-still-access-eu-says

 

New pilot scheme to help high-growth tech firms bring in EP talent

Under a new pilot, qualifying technology firms will have the Employment Pass applications of “core team members” facilitated, to help them get the talent needed to set up new teams here, the Economic Development Board (EDB) and Enterprise Singapore (ESG) said.

EDB managing director Chng Kai Fong said Tech@SG “will not only give tech companies the confidence to hire the tech talent they need” but also create opportunities for Singaporeans to work in globally competitive teams alongside top engineers and entrepreneurs from around the world. Expected to start in the fourth quarter of 2019, the two-year pilot of Tech@SG aims to help tech firms grow in Singapore and expand in the region, by giving them access to required business networks and talent.

It is aimed at high-potential companies in growth areas such as digital, medtech, biotech, cleantech, agritech and fintech.

Tech@SG will connect such firms to Singapore’s innovation and startup ecosystem, and facilitate the entry of core team members. The teams which such firms set up here would include professionals with skills in “frontier technology” such as data science, artificial intelligence (AI), cybersecurity, and the Internet of Things.

Links to the story:

https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/government-economy/new-pilot-scheme-to-help-high-growth-tech-firms-bring- in-ep-talent

https://www.straitstimes.com/tech/pilot-scheme-to-facilitate-hiring-of-foreign-talent-in-tech-firms

 

Sentiment tanks, services firms less upbeat in H2: surveys

Business sentiment for the second half of 2019 sank among manufacturers and services firms in Singapore on the back of global trade tensions, according to two surveys.

The surveys, which polled businesses on their outlook for July to December 2019, were released by the Economic Development Board (EDB) for the manufacturing sector and the Department of Statistics (Singstat) for services. A weighted 22 per cent of manufacturers expect a softer business outlook, while only a weighted 11 per cent anticipates business conditions to improve.

Overall, this equates to a net weighted balance of 11 per cent of manufacturers predicting a declining business situation. This was a sharp dive from a year ago, which saw a net weighted balance of 7 per cent of firms which expected an improvement for the same period in 2018. It also worsened from the previous quarter, where a net weighted balance of one per cent anticipated a better business outlook between April and September 2019.

But according to the EDB survey, not all is doom and gloom in the manufacturing sector. The biomedical manufacturing cluster is the most optimistic, supported by the pharmaceuticals segment which anticipates higher export demand for biological products.

In contrast, the chemicals, electronics and precision engineering clusters are the most downbeat. The chemicals cluster is concerned about declining refining margins and weaker demand, particularly China. In electronics and precision engineering, the weaker outlook is mainly due to the subdued demand for semiconductors and semiconductor-related equipment, as well as uncertainties from the US-China trade conflict that has broadened to the global technology sector. In a separate survey by Singstat, it was found that the business expectations of services firms have also moderated for the second half of 2019, even though it remained in positive territory.

Some 12 per cent of firms foresee slower business, while 14 per cent of firms are optimistic about business conditions. This results in a net weighted balance of 2 per cent of firms predicting a more favourable business outlook – weaker than the 9 per cent recorded for the same period last year. It also eased from the 4 per cent seen in the previous quarter.

Within the services sector, the accommodation and food & beverages (F&B) services are the most upbeat, mainly due to the year-end festive season and the upcoming Formula One night race in September 2019. Meanwhile, the retail trade, wholesale trade and financial & insurance industries are the most pessimistic, partly due to the trade conflict.

Links to the story:

https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/government-economy/sentiment-tanks-services-firms-less-upbeat-in-h2-surveys-0

https://www.straitstimes.com/business/economy/polls-manufacturing-sentiment-sinks-services-less-optimistic

 

Singapore household average incomes, living standards up over five years: survey

Families from all income groups in Singapore are earning more compared to five years ago, and the increases are mostly ahead of the pace of rise for their spending, according to a government survey.

Overall, the average monthly household income rose to S$11,780 from S$10,470 in the previous survey conducted between 2012 and 2013. This works out to an average annual increase of 2.4 per cent a year in dollar terms. If inflation is taken into account, the rise is 2.2 per cent a year.

Spending on goods and services went up to S$4,910 a month from S$4,720 five years before, a growth of 0.8 per cent a year.

The latest Household Expenditure Survey, which is conducted every five years by Singstat, also found that the standard of living has gone up for households. The survey is based on data collected in 2017 and 2018 for Singaporean and permanent resident households.

Links to the story:

https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/government-economy/singapore-household-average-incomes-living-standards- up-over-five-years-survey

https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/household-incomes-living-standards-have-gone-up https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/higher-living-standards-across-all-income-levels

Hospitality

STB chief aims to grow, anchor Mice events for the long haul

The government wants to bring in the world’s top conferences and exhibitions to Singapore, but it’s not just a numbers game.

Rather, said Singapore Tourism Board (STB) chief executive Keith Tan, it is far better to see how best to grow and anchor these events here for the long haul, and ensure the foreign delegates themselves have such a memorable experience that they will return – be it for work or leisure – in future.

He cited the biennial Singapore Airshow – the largest aerospace and defence event in Asia – and the annual Shangri-la Dialogue as examples of world-class events that have entrenched themselves in the local Mice (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) calendar. “Out of every 10 CEOs who come here (for events), hopefully two or three of them will think of Singapore when they want to set up a regional headquarters. Or if they plan to host an offsite meeting for their top management and directors, or even for their next big family vacation,” said Mr Tan in his first full interview with The Business Times.

The latest data shows that, despite the uncertain global economic outlook, there are more high- profile Mice events making their way to Singapore in the next few years, with some involving thousands of attendees who will spend millions during their stay in the Lion City.

In October 2020, gamescom – the world’s largest computer and video games festival – will make its Asia debut in Singapore.

This event has been held in the German city of Cologne since 2009 and it has grown to be Europe’s leading business platform for the games industry with over 300,000 attendees every year.

A three-year deal was inked with China’s Alibaba to co-market Singapore, the two integrated resorts said they will embark on a massive expansion in the coming years, and new plans were announced to rejuvenate the Orchard Road shopping belt.

Link to the story:

https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/government-economy/stb-chief-aims-to-grow-anchor-mice-events-for-the-long-   haul

 

Gaming doing well, but IRs coming into their own as truly integrated resorts

The recent commitment by Singapore’s two integrated resorts (IRs) – Marina Bay Sands (MBS) and Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) – to expand their footprint is a big plus for the country’s efforts to bring in quality tourism.

“I welcome the new investments, they are much needed,” said Singapore Tourism Board (STB) chief executive Keith Tan. “The fact that not a single government dollar is being put in, it means that (parent companies) Las Vegas Sands and Genting have done their sums and believe it is financially viable to do this.”

In April this year, the two IRs announced a slew of expansion plans worth a combined S$9 billion. Among other things, MBS will add a new 15,000-seat indoor arena and a fourth hotel tower, while RWS will extend its Universal Studios theme park to include two new attractions – Minion Park and Super Nintendo World.

This latest investment is almost two-thirds their initial investment back in 2006, which was about S$15 billion at the time.

Over at MBS, the new hotel tower will feature only luxury suites, which means they will be sold at a certain price point that will appeal to the more affluent traveller.

Link to the story:

https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/government-economy/gaming-doing-well-but-irs-coming-into-their-own-as- truly-integrated-resorts

Industrial

JPTT secures PetroChina as anchor customer

Jurong Port Tank Terminals (JPTT) has been fully leased, with Chinese oil and gas company PetroChina taking up 100 per cent of its Phase 1 tank capacity, said Jurong Port chief executive officer Ooi Boon Hoe at JPTT’s opening ceremony.

JPTT is a joint venture owned by Jurong Port and Oiltanking and is expected to solidify Singapore’s position as Asia’s regional petrochemical hub.

The completion of Phase 1 of the project offers 252,000 cubic metres of clean petroleum storage capacity and occupies 12 hectares of land at Jurong Port.

Mr Ooi, who is also the chairman of JPTT said that Jurong Port is currently in “deep discussions” with its partners regarding Phase 2, which will take around 18 months to complete.

The second phase will offer an additional 310,000 cubic metres, bringing the terminal’s total storage capacity to over 550,000 cubic metres.

Links to the story:

https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/government-economy/jptt-secures-petrochina-as-anchor-customer https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/first-phase-of-jurong-port-tank-terminals-opens

 

JTC launches Tampines site for tender; Tuas site up for application

JTC launched two sites – one at Tampines for tender, and another at Tuas for application – under the second half of the 2019 Industrial Government Land Sales (IGLS) programme.

The launch is part of the government’s efforts to offer more choices for industrial development, JTC said. Both sites have a lease tenure of 20 years, and have been zoned “B2” for heavier industrial use.

The site at Tampines North Drive 5, which is available for tender, is the first of four confirmed list sites for the second half of the 2019 IGLS programme. It has a site area of 0.49 ha and a gross plot ratio of 2.5. Tender for the Tampines site will close at 11am on Sept 24.

Separately, the other site at Tuas South Link 3 has been released under the reserve list, and is now available for application. The development has a site area of 0.47 ha and a gross plot ratio of 1.4. It is also the fourth of six reserve list sites for the second half of the 2019 IGLS programme. A site on the reserve list is triggered for launch if a developer’s indicated minimum price in its application is acceptable to the government. This is opposed to confirmed list sites which are launched according to a schedule, regardless of demand.

Link to the story:

https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/real-estate/jtc-launches-tampines-site-for-tender-tuas-site-up-for-application-0

 

Singapore to house Neste’s biggest renewable products plant

Finnish energy giant Neste will be expanding its existing facility in Tuas, making Singapore the site of the firm’s largest renewable products plant. It will account for about half its global production capacity of 4.5 million tonnes annually by 2022.

The expansion will increase renewable fuel output from 1 million tonnes per year to 2.3 million, while the plants in the Netherlands and Finland account for the rest of its production capacity. With the new facility, Singapore will also become Neste’s first site to produce renewable jet fuel at a commercial scale as the company expands its product slate beyond renewable diesel.

This was announced by Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for Social Policies Tharman Shanmugaratnam in his speech at Neste’s foundation stone ceremony to mark the extension of the new production line. In his speech, Mr Tharman said that the upcoming expansion will create over 100 local jobs, and commended the firm for its commitment and emphasis on training.

The expansion follows an investment of S$2.1 billion by Neste. Construction of the expanded plant started earlier this year and is expected to be ready in the first half of 2022.

Links to the story:

https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/energy-commodities/singapore-to-house-nestes-biggest-renewable-products-  plant

https://www.straitstimes.com/business/companies-markets/energy-giant-expands-spore-footprint

 

Training, solution centre launched for energy, chemicals, pharma sectors

A one-stop training and solution centre to support key process industries in Singapore. It was set up by Singapore Polytechnic (SP) and US-headquartered technology and engineering firm Emerson.

Located in the polytechnic, the Energy and Chemicals Training Centre (ECTC) will train students and employees from more than 30 companies from the energy and chemicals, pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical sectors over the next two years.

The ECTC is meant to close critical-skills gaps, harness advanced digital technologies, boost productivity and optimise resources, SP and Emerson said in a joint statement.

Link to the story:

https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/government-economy/training-solution-centre-launched-for-energy-chemicals- pharma-sectors

Overseas

Investment in Britain’s residential property up 150% despite Brexit

The uncertainties of Britain’s impending departure from the European Union has not stopped investors from backing the UK’s residential sector.

Total investment volumes in the UK’s multifamily sector rose by more than 150 per cent to 6.8 billion euros (S$10.37 billion) in 2018.

London helped lead the charge, with investment volume nearly doubling to 2 billion euros compared to 2017.

That has helped the British capital rise to become the fourth-biggest European city for multi-family investment, behind Berlin, Copenhagen and Paris.

Investment in European multifamily properties rose by 40 per cent to 56 billion euros in 2018. The market has proved popular among investors because of the stable cash flow from such buildings and a shortage of supply in Europe’s top-tier cities.

Still, the UK’s charge may be shortlived as the uncertainty around Brexit continues to mushroom.

Link to the story:

https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/real-estate/investment-in-britains-residential-property-up-150-despite-brexit

 

Hong Kong home prices fall for first time in 6 months in June

Hong Kong’s private home prices fell for the first time in six months in June as consumer confidence was shaken by prolonged Sino-US trade tensions and growing social unrest at home. Prices in one of the world’s least affordable property markets fell 0.8 per cent in June from a month earlier, compared with a revised 1.3 per cent increase in May, government data showed.

The city’s open economy is being hard pressed by the year-long US-China trade war, China’s economic slowdown and more recently mass demonstrations against the city’s government.

Some Hong Kong tycoons have started moving personal wealth offshore before June amid concerns over proposed extradition legislation which would have allowed local people to be sent to mainland China for trial.

Hong Kong’s residential sales volume tumbled 43.6 per cent in June from May to a four-month low, according to Land Registry data early this month.

Strikes and demonstrations could continue for months, further weighing on home prices, some realtors say.

Link to the story:

https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/real-estate/hong-kong-home-prices-fall-for-first-time-in-6-months-in-june-0

 

Dalian takes unusual steps to contain home prices

Dalian, one of the most developed cities in China’s north, is going to unprecedented lengths to keep a lid on home prices.

According to an official news agency report that quoted a local-government statement, all home builders in the city must now seek sales approval by inputting an apartment’s proposed price into a centralised computer system. Prices must be lower than the bottom price for similar dwellings sold in May and June, and any higher prices won’t be entertained.

There’s also a limit on what’s too low – selling an apartment for more than 5 per cent cheaper is prohibited as well. Dalian’s government will even bring in a third-party appraisal firm to help developers do their math, and those that don’t follow the system will be banned from the city.

It’s yet another example of the sometimes extreme lengths authorities in China will go to control the nation’s real-estate sector. Other restrictions have included banning anyone not born in a particular city from purchasing property there, or barring anyone who’s single or even just getting a divorce.

Link to the story:

https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/real-estate/dalian-takes-unusual-steps-%C2%A0to-contain-home-prices

 

Australian home prices find a floor; outlook improves

Australia’s hard-hit property markets of Sydney and Melbourne enjoyed a second straight month of gains in an early sign that rate cuts were feeding through although slow wage growth and record household debt means that boom times are still distant.

An end to the long downturn will be relief to the central bank, which cut interest rates in June and July to a record low one per cent.

Yet, despite data showing that home prices across Australia’s major cities rose 0.1 per cent last month, economists are not too hopeful of a solid turnaround.

Record high household debt-to-income ratio together with stricter bank lending rules and an increasing supply of new apartment units are likely to keep the lid on home prices, further easing pressure on construction activity.

Even so, the early signs of house-price revival were seen as a mild positive for Australia’s retail sector, which is reeling from a protracted slowdown.

An end of the long property market downturn could be a lifesaver for Australia’s struggling economy, given how erosion of housing wealth undermined consumer confidence and spending power.

Link to the story:

https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/real-estate/australian-home-prices-find-a-floor-outlook-improves

 

 

 

 

 

By:

Lee Sze Teck Head, Research

 

 

 

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