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5th April 2019 / Issue 14

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Top News for the Week



PM Lee convenes committee to review data security in public sector

A public sector data security review committee was convened by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to conduct a review of data security practices across the entire public service, following a series of recent data breaches.

Chaired by Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean, the committee will examine measures and processes related to the collection and protection of citizens’ personal data by public sector agencies, as well as by vendors who handle personal data on behalf of the government.

The move comes fresh from the latest data security lapse: a Health Sciences Authority vendor said that the personal information of more than 800,000 blood donors which was put online improperly for over two months was accessed illegally and possibly stolen.

Link to the story: public-sector


Coast-to-Coast Trail launched

The 36km Coast-to-Coast Trail, which stretches from Jurong Lake Gardens in the west to Coney Island Park in the north-east was launched linking parks such as Bukit Batok Nature Park, Botanic Gardens and MacRitchie Reservoir in one continuous route.

A park at Rower’s Bay in Lower Seletar Reservoir was also launched, forming part of the first 60km phase to be completed for the 150km Round Island Route park connector, which will be finished by 2035.

And by the end of this year, a new 1.5km park connector next to Rower’s Bay will be completed, with the rest of the loop around Lower Seletar Reservoir progressively planned and finished in the future, said the National Parks Board at the launch at Rower’s Bay.

More sections of the Round Island Route will be completed in the next few years.

By next year, Seletar Aerospace and Sengkang Riverside parks will be connected, and the public will be able to enjoy a 60km route between Rower’s Bay and Gardens by the Bay, via Sengkang, Punggol, Pasir Ris, Changi and East Coast Park.

By 2021, another 60km of paths between Gardens by the Bay and Rower’s Bay, part of which runs along the Rail Corridor, will be connected, making a loop of 120km.

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‘Possible’ to defer deadline for Singapore-JB RTS link

Responding to Malaysia’s request for six more months to deliberate on the Rapid Transit System (RTS) project to link Johor Baru to Woodlands, Singapore said on Thursday that it is “possible to defer project deadlines and review project parameters”.

This is “provided it is done within the framework of the RTS Link Bilateral Agreement (BA) and subject to (the) mutual consent of both countries”, Singapore’s Ministry of Transport (MOT) said in a statement.

The legally-binding bilateral agreement to build the 4km cross-border link – which would connect Woodlands North station on Singapore’s Thomson-East Coast MRT line to Bukit Chagar in Johor Baru – was signed in January last year.

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URA plan to retain Farrer Park’s sports heritage cheered

Farrer Park was featured, with its iconic swimming pool and former boxing gym to be retained to “preserve the sporting heritage of the area and inspire future generations of sportsmen”.

The area, which groomed many of Singapore’s sports stars from the 1960s to the 1990s, came under the spotlight when The Straits Times reported in March last year that the 9ha plot of land between Dorset Road and Northumberland Road, where the Farrer Park fields sit, was slated for housing redevelopment.

The area includes the currently vacant boxing gym – the Singapore Amateur Boxing Association moved out last April – and swimming complex, which is currently leased to former national swimmer Ang Peng Siong’s eponymous swim school. The area also includes eight tennis courts which are managed by national sports agency Sport Singapore (SportSG).

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Casino tax rates to rise; entry levies up by 50%

The government will be introducing a tiered casino tax structure with higher tax rates effective in March 2022, on the back of additional gaming provisions for Singapore’s two integrated resorts (IRs) as they commit to a S$9 billion investment to ramp up facilities and attractions over the next few years.

For the premium gaming segment, the tax rate for the first S$2.4 billion of gross gaming revenue

– or Tier 1 – will go up three percentage points to 8 per cent. For revenue exceeding S$2.4 billion, a tax rate of 12 per cent will apply.

For the mass gaming segment, the tax rate for the first S$3.1 billion for the mass gaming segment will go up 3 percentage points to 18 per cent. Revenue in excess of S$3.1 billion will be subject to a 22 per cent tax.

This will be accompanied by a 50 per cent increase in casino entry levies for Singaporeans and permanent residents which kick in on Thursday. Starting Thursday, casino entry levies for Singaporeans and PRs went up from S$100 to S$150 for the daily levy, and from S$2,000 to S$3,000 for the annual levy, with a five-year moratorium in place.

Should the IRs fail to meet their investment commitments, then a flat tax rate of 12 per cent will be slapped on the entire revenue from premium gaming, and a flat tax rate of 22 per cent will apply for the entire mass gaming segment.

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Work begins on Phase 2 of used water superhighway

Work has begun on a massive underground sewerage superhighway in western Singapore – the most ambitious project of its kind here to date.

On track to be completed in 2025, the underground labyrinth of pipes will comprise 40km of deep tunnels and 60km of link sewers, traversing 100km across the western half of Singapore, including the downtown area and some new developments in the Jurong Lake District, Tengah Town and the Greater Southern Waterfront.

Used water will be conveyed via gravity to an integrated used-water and waste-management plant

– the future Tuas Nexus – for treatment and recycling into Newater.

Phase 2 will cost $6.5 billion, with $2.3 billion devoted to 19 tunnel-boring machines.

Link to the story:



PMET job cuts mostly in sectors going through restructuring

Nearly two-thirds of professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMET) layoffs in 2018 happened in sectors undergoing restructuring, said Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo.

The ministry is also closely monitoring certain PMET segments, such as older job seekers and the long-term unemployed, she added, noting that the resident long-term unemployment rate for PMETs was 0.8 per cent.

Mrs Teo said that some 5,400 local PMETs were let go last year. Manpower Ministry data had earlier shown that there were 6,980 retrenchments of PMETs in all for the year.

Mrs Teo cited the wholesale trade, financial and insurance services, information and communications and professional services industries as sectors behind most PMET job cuts.

Link to the story: restructuring


Singapore factory growth shows modest uptick

Singapore’s factories finally picked up the pace in March after months of battering from the global slowdown in electronics demand.

The Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), a key barometer of economic activity in the manufacturing industry, came in at 50.8 last month, up 0.4 point from February.

The electronics PMI also edged up, hitting 49.8 last month from 49.5 in February, but maintained the negative streak that started in November last year.

Singapore’s PMI figures follow the “tentative economic green shoots” seen in China’s and the United States’ manufacturing indexes last month.

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Economists see no further MAS tightening in April

With the United States Federal Reserve signalling a pause in interest rate hikes and both domestic growth and core inflation easing, economists expect the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to also pause at this month’s half-yearly policy review, with no further tightening as yet.

February’s core inflation reading was 1.5 per cent year on year, down from January’s 1.7 per cent. Last April, the MAS tightened monetary policy for the first time in six years, ending two years of neutral policy by moving to “a modest and gradual appreciation path” that lets the Singapore dollar rise against the currencies of major trading partners, within an undisclosed band. In October, the MAS tightened a second time.

But given both external headwinds and domestic conditions, economists do not see a third tightening coming.


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Prioritisation Matrix launched to help companies transform

Companies unsure of how to embark on their Industry 4.0 transformations now have a clearer guide in the form of a Prioritisation Matrix planning tool developed by the Economic Development Board and its knowledge partners.

Launched by Singapore’s Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon at the Hannover Messe tech show, the Prioritisation Matrix builds on the Smart Industry Readiness Index (SIRI) and accompanying Assessment Matrix established in November 2017.

Companies are first evaluated on their Industry 4.0 readiness levels across 16 dimensions using the existing Assessment Matrix. Then, the Prioritisation Matrix takes into account the Assessment Matrix scores, revenue-cost profiles, key performance indicators and proximity to the best-in-class in each to identify which dimensions they should focus resources on to gain the greatest benefits to their businesses.

Link to the story:


3 factors behind S’pore’s success as business hub

There are three key factors behind Singapore’s continued success as a global business hub, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said.

A successful and integrated South-east Asia is one factor.

Another key factor to Singapore’s success, said Mr Chan, is its domestic capabilities, and one important area is a collaborative business culture.

The third key factor for Singapore’s success as a business hub, he said, is an open and connected rules-based trading system.

Link to the story:


S’pore is top digital society in survey of 14 countries

Singapore has emerged as the top digital society, with more citizens trusting technology and reaping its benefits, compared with their counterparts in the United States and China, according to a study of 24 countries.

But the study, done by British media and digital marketing communications company Dentsu Aegis Network, also found that a higher-than-average number of Singaporeans are aware of the negative effect technology can have on their well-being.

After Singapore, the US came in second, followed by China and Denmark. Last year, Britain took the top spot. The US came in second, and China third.

Link to the story:



URA launches Bugis site, postpones tender of One-North parcel

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has launched the tender of a site on Tan Quee Lan Street under the Confirmed List of the first half 2019 Government Land Sales (GLS) programme. The 99-year leasehold site sits on a site area of 11,530.9 sq m and has a maximum gross floor area of 48,430 sq m. It can potentially yield up to 580 residential units. The site has a maximum building height of 30 storeys for a high rise zone and six storeys for a low rise zone.

Meanwhile, the tender for a residential site at one-north Gateway under the Confirmed List, which was originally scheduled for this month, will be postponed to June “to facilitate a review of planning parameters and tender conditions for the site,” URA said

The tender for the Tan Quee Lan Street site will close at 12 noon on Sept 5. Its closing will be batched with another site at Bernam Street which is scheduled for sale in May under the first half 2019 GLS programme, said URA.

Links to the story: launch-to-june


OCBC said to be seeking buyer for Mt Elizabeth property

Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC) is looking to sell a 22-storey freehold serviced- residence development at 2, Mount Elizabeth Link, sources told The Business Times.

The district 9 property housing 72 serviced apartments is leased to Frasers Hospitality, which operates it as Fraser Residence Singapore.

The property’s existing gross floor area of about 104,400 sq ft (subject to a final survey) is around

2.95 times the site’s land area of 35,385 sq ft. This is higher than the 2.8 plot ratio indicated for the residential-zoned site in Master Plan 2014 and Draft Master Plan 2019.

Link to the story:


Feb home loans shrink for first time since 2006

Housing loans in Singapore hit another low in February, with mortgages contracting over the month for the first time since April 2006, preliminary data from the Monetary Authority of SIngapore showed.

Mortgages booked in February on a net basis came in at S$203.8 billion, falling from S$204.3 billion in January. From a year ago, housing loans in February continued to grow, but at its slowest yet of 1.2 per cent since BT began compiling bank lending data from 1991.

With housing loans making up three quarters of consumer lending, overall consumer loans from a year ago grew at its weakest on BT’s record. Consumer loans grew just 0.5 per cent in February from a year ago, to S$264.96 billion, decelerating from 0.8 per cent year-on-year growth in January.

Link to the story:


Prime areas lead slide in private home prices in Q1

Apartments and condos in the prime areas or Core Central Region (CCR) led declines in private home prices in the first quarter of this year.

Compared with the other submarkets, CCR has been the hardest hit by last July’s hike in additional buyer’s stamp duty (ABSD) rates, which impacts investors and foreigners more severely.

Based on the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s flash estimate data for the first quarter of 2019, the price index for non-landed homes in the CCR fell 2.9 per cent quarter-on- quarter – the sharpest quarterly drop since the 5.2 per cent slide in Q2 2009 in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. The latest decline in the index, combined with the 1 per cent fall in the preceding quarter, takes the total decline to 3.9 per cent from the recent peak in Q3 2018.

URA’s overall private home price index too contracted for the second consecutive quarter. The 0.6 per cent (flash estimate) decline in Q1 2019 was a bigger drop than the 0.1 per cent q-o-q dip in the preceding quarter.

Weaker sentiment in the residential market is likely to persist in the near-term and may discourage buyers from committing early for fear that prices could erode further in the coming quarters.

It also does not help when there is a steady stream of new launches in the pipeline due to the five- year (sales) deadline for developers – which means buyers are also spoilt for choice.

Moving forward, the less-than-ideal take-up rates at some recent launches are likely to nudge developers to price projects more sensitively in the coming months if they want to move units and better manage sales inventory.


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HDB resale prices down 0.3% in Q1

Housing and Development Board (HDB) resale flat prices dipped 0.3 per cent in the first quarter of 2019 compared with the quarter before, according to the latest flash estimates.

The resale price index was 131, down from the 131.4 in the fourth quarter of 2018. The final figures, with more detailed public housing data, will be released on April 26.

Although prices have continued to fall for a third consecutive quarter, the quarter-on-quarter change is still considered moderate and the decline is at a slower pace when compared to a year ago at 0.8 per cent.

There may be more positive sentiment for the HDB resale market in the coming months, she added, as the government makes changes to the Central Provident Fund loan rules on the purchase of older flats.

In May, HDB is also expected to offer about 3,400 Build-To-Order flats in Kallang/Whampoa, Tengah and Woodlands. There will also be a concurrent Sale of Balance Flats exercise.

Link to the story:


HDB resale volume up 26.1% in March

The volume of Housing and Development Board (HDB) resale flats grew by 26.1 per cent in March, marking the highest jump in eight months since August last year.

There were 1,657 HDB resale transactions in March, up from the 1,314 units sold in the previous month, according to flash estimates from a real estate portal. However, resale volume in March was 12.7 per cent lower than the 1,897 units transacted in the same month last year.

The data also showed that resale prices had inched up by 0.2 per cent in March, compared with February. But this was still a 1 per cent decline from last March, and down 13.7 per cent from its peak in April 2013.

Link to the story:



Beyond the core: Singapore’s office decentralisation

When property developer Ho Bee Land bought a commercial site at North Buona Vista Drive for S$410.99 million in 2010, observers said then that the resulting office product would be untested for the area. The project, sited outside the Central Business District (CBD) in a university and R&D enclave, was targeted at multinationals keen to set up headquarters near their research facilities. But as Ho Bee tells The Business Times, getting corporates to sign up “was not easy, as one-north is not known as an office location. We struggled initially.” As the one-north MRT station and retail mall Star Vista were built up, Ho Bee’s move paid off. Since completion in 2013, that building, The Metropolis, has contributed significantly to the company’s annual bottom line, with rental income accounting for 42 per cent of its revenue in FY2018. Today, The Metropolis is fully occupied.

The Metropolis is one of several “decentralised” office spaces in Singapore that have sprung up over the years, as the government continues its efforts to build employment areas outside the CBD

– in line with a decades-long policy to put more jobs outside the city centre. Plans are already in the works for three major economic gateways in Singapore’s east, west and north, including a second CBD in Jurong Lake District.

Taking things a step further, the government just this week announced plans to encourage more non-office use into the CBD, which could change the make-up of the country’s traditional business hub and lead more office tenants to move outwards.

Offices outside the CBD see good take-up rates today, though industry players say a cocktail of considerations – ranging from cost to occupier profile – weigh on corporates’ minds.

Link to the story:


UBS said to be mulling move to 9 Penang Rd

UBS is understood to be mulling a consolidation of its Singapore office footprint by relocating from One Raffles Quay and Suntec City into 9 Penang Road, which is coming up on the former Park Mall site opposite Dhoby Ghaut MRT Station.

This could potentially be one of the biggest office leasing deals on the island in recent years if the bank decides to lease the entire development in Penang Road comprising about 352,000 sq ft net lettable area of office space and 15,000 sq ft of retail space.

BT understands that a relocation from Singapore’s financial district would be motivated not so much by financial savings but a desire by the bank to operate in a campus-style facility, occupying the whole building and even having its own canteen with its own chefs cooking for UBS staff.

Most office leasing observers were somewhat startled that UBS, which is also Asia’s largest wealth management bank, is considering moving out of the financial district into Penang Road, which is not a typical headquarters location for a major bank. That said, 9 Penang Road is a stone’s throw from the prime Orchard Road shopping belt and the location offers good connectivity: Dhoby Ghaut station is an interchange for the North-South, North East and Circle lines.

Currently UBS leases around 230,000 sq ft at One Raffles Quay’s North Tower and about 90,000 sq ft at Suntec City.

Link to the story:


Uber’s Singapore hub a signal more will follow

Singapore is poised to draw in more unicorns – private companies valued over US$1 billion – as a launchpad for regional expansion with its favourable business climate and access to talent, say market watchers.

This sentiment was strengthened as US ride-hailing giant Uber became the latest unicorn to designate Singapore as its regional base. Uber launched its Asia-Pacific (APAC) hub at its new premises at Frasers Tower, currently housing about 165 employees.

Despite having no immediate plans to relaunch its services in Southeast Asia, Uber is planning to hire both specialist and entry-level talent for its regional business teams and corporate functions in Singapore.

Like Uber, several other unicorns have picked Singapore as their launchpad into the Asia-Pacific. Payments infrastructure firm Stripe announced in September last year that Singapore will be the site of its APAC engineering hub, while Airbnb’s Cecil Street office already serves as its APAC headquarters.

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Frasers Property in talks to sell Frasers Tower

Frasers Property said on Thursday that it “has been in discussions with certain parties who have expressed interest” in its Frasers Tower office property, located at 182 Cecil Street.

According to media reports, the indicative price would likely come up to just under S$3,000 per sq ft, giving the building an estimated value of US$2 billion. Frasers Property declined to confirm the figure.

Today, the property boasts 93 per cent tenant occupancy, with asking rents reportedly in the range of S$11 to S$13 a month.

Frasers Tower has a net lettable area (NLA) of around 663,000 sq ft, and approximately 22,000 sq ft NLA for retail. This comprises a 38-storey Premium Grade-A office tower and an adjacent three- storey cascading retail podium with a roof garden. It also features a park with a restaurant located within the park and a three-storey basement car park.

The building also has a BCA Green Mark Platinum rating.

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IndoChine Supertree at Gardens by the Bay to shut at the end of April

IndoChine Supertree, the elevated restaurant and bar seated atop the 50m-high Supertree at Gardens by the Bay, will serve its last meal at the end of April.

The renewed lease for the restaurant and bar was supposed to expire at the end of October last year, and the six-month extension was the result of a negotiation between the owners and Gardens by the Bay

Gardens by the Bay plans to convert the space into an observatory deck.

Gardens by the Bay told CNA Lifestyle that given the limited capacity on the Skyway, converting the dining space occupied by Indochine into a public observatory deck “will allow greater accessibility”.

Link to the story: 11408192


Grab aims to double workforce to 3,000 by 2020

Ride-hailing company Grab will be doubling its Singapore workforce to 3,000 by the time it moves into new headquarters next year.

“The new building will allow us to put our growing team of up to 3,000 Grabbers under one roof,” Grab chief executive officer Anthony Tan said at a groundbreaking ceremony. “It is an affirmation of our long-term investment in Singapore.”

Grab will also add 1,000 technology jobs across its research and development centres in Bangalore, Beijing, Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Seattle and Singapore. The jobs will include data scientists, artificial intelligence researchers and engineers, Mr Tan said. Grab currently has 6,000 employees globally.

Located along Media Link in one north, Grab’s new S$181.21 million headquarters is expected to be completed by the end of next year. The 42,310 sq m building will house the firm’s largest research and development centre.

Link to the story:


US e-scooter giant names Singapore as HQ for Asia-Pacific

American e-scooter giant Lime has chosen Singapore as its Asia-Pacific headquarters, with the decision announced internally two weeks ago.

The move could see the company, which is valued at over US$2.4 billion (S$3.25 billion), increase its team in Singapore by as much as three-fold by the end of the third quarter.

Lime Singapore general manager Ashwin Puru-shottam told The Straits Times that Singapore was chosen because of its high revenue potential, progressive government and developed infrastructure.

“We will be basing a significant chunk of our regional headcount here and that means we are here to stay at all costs,” said Mr Ashwin. “Our goal is to become the preferred first-and last-mile option.”

He added that the move will result in a significant increase in the size of the firm’s teams to manage local and regional operations.

Link to the story:


ExxonMobil expanding Singapore complex to raise cleaner fuel output

Exxonmobil committed to a multibillion-dollar expansion of its Jurong Island integrated manufacturing complex.

The expanded facilities will enable the oil company to convert fuel oil and other bottom-of-the- barrel crude products into higher-value lube base stocks and distillates.

The American oil and gas giant expects the project to significantly increase site downstream and chemical earnings potential.

The investment will raise the facility’s capacity to produce an additional 20,000 barrels per day of its Group II base stock oil and 48,000 barrels per day of cleaner fuels with lower-sulphur content.

Links to the story: fuel-output of-singapore-complex


Thyssenkrupp to set up 3D printing innovation centre in Singapore

German multinational conglomerate Thyssenkrupp will be setting up an innovation centre for additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, in Singapore, its first outside Germany.

The future Singapore Additive Manufacturing TechCenter Hub, which the Singapore Economic Development Board supports, will serve as regional hub for the company’s Mülheim TechCenter, the company said.

The centre aims to unlock the potential of additive manufacturing for customers locally and across the Asia-Pacific. Together with the existing TechCenter in Germany, it will focus on 3D printing solutions in metal and plastic technologies for customers in automotive, capital goods, chemical, mining and other heavy industries.

The centre will benefit Singapore by creating jobs for Singaporeans that expose them to more advanced technologies, and could result in products useful in Singapore as well as other parts of South-east Asia.

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Singapore IRs bet on S$9b expansion; exclusive licences extended to 2030

Singapore’s two integrated resorts (IRs) are set to invest S$9 billion in expansion, with the exclusivity period for both casinos being extended past the original 2017 expiry date to end-2030 instead.

The committed investments – which will include a 1,000 room all-suite tower at Marina Bay Sands (MBS), a 15,000-seat arena and extensions to Universal Studios Singapore – are for non-gaming facilities, although both IRs will also receive additional gaming provisions.

Subject to payment of land costs, Marina Bay Sands (MBS) has the option of an additional 2,000 sq m of Approved Gaming Area, and Resorts World Sentosa (RWS), another 500 sq m.

The IRs plan to invest S$4.5 billion each. MBS will build a fourth tower next to the existing three, on some eight acres of current state land that will have to be purchased at market price. Designed by the same architect, Moshe Safdie, it will also be topped by a sky roof and include a luxury all- site hotel with some 1,000 rooms. The tower’s centrepiece will be a 15,000-seat arena focused on entertainment. This will fill the market gap between the 55,000-seat National Stadium and the 12,000-seat Singapore Indoor Stadium, and help attract more A-listers to perform here.

The tower will also have additional MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) space, for an increase of about 30 to 40 per cent. The new facilities are expected to create 1,500 to 1,800 new jobs, with two-thirds likely to go to locals. MBS said it could not share a timeline for completion as yet.

RWS’s expansion, comprising multiple attractions, will add some 50 per cent or 164,000 sq m of gross floor area. This will be largely through intensification of existing land, with the original plot ratio of 0.7 being increased to 1.0.

Some 2,800 new jobs are expected to be directly created. New experiences will open each year starting from 2020, with full completion anticipated around 2025.

These include two new areas at Universal Studios Singapore: a Minion Park based on the popular yellow characters from the Despicable Me franchise, and Super Nintendo World, with attractions based on the console games such as Super Mario.

The SEA Aquarium will be expanded to about three times its current size, taking over the existing Maritime Experiential Museum space to create the Singapore Oceanarium.

The waterfront promenade will be redeveloped with dining options, two new hotels providing about 1,100 rooms, and a 37m-tall public attraction with free evening light shows.

The first attraction to open, likely by end-2020, will be an “adventure dining playhouse”. Replacing the Resorts World Theatre, the pirate-themed experience will combine immersive dining and performance.

MICE facilities will also be expanded. And a new driverless transport system will shuttle visitors along the Sentosa Boardwalk in about 1.5 minutes, with an estimated capacity of nine million passengers a year.

The IRs’ plans are part of a broader tourism push, including the development of the Greater Southern Waterfront – of which Sentosa is a part – as well as Mandai ecotourism and the rejuvenation of Orchard Road.

Links to the story: extended-to-2030 mbs-11409002 visitors-create-jobs  MBS


Good things worth waiting for, says MBS chief

MBS president and chief executive George Tanasijevich said in an interview with The Business Times on Thursday: “Good things are worth waiting for, and we’re very pleased to have this opportunity.”

The American, who is also the managing director of global development at LVS, also hailed the government’s decision to extend the casino duopoly until the end of 2030.

“As an investor, you’re always looking for certainty. You want a predictable environment, and to understand what you’re going to face in the future as much as possible,” he said.

He noted that the reasons for an exclusivity period were both important and appropriate when the casino licenses were first awarded – and remain relevant today.

In its initial announcement, LVS did not state exactly when the new tower would be complete; it only said that work would “quickly begin”. “Under the agreement (with the Singapore government), we have to get everything done in eight years, but that’s not the date we’re looking at,” said Mr Tanasijevich. “We’re going to move as fast as we can.”

He expressed confidence that MBS would be able to fill the extra inventory of 1,000 hotel suites. Since 2010, MBS’ 2,561 rooms and suites in its three towers have had annual occupancy rates of between 94 and 99 per cent.

Link to the story:


Expanded IRs ‘to help fill incoming MBS, RWS hotel rooms’

Brand-new attractions and additional exhibition space at the integrated resorts (IRs) should generate additional demand for the new hotel rooms that will be injected into the market by the two IRs in the coming years, analysts say.

Marina Bay Sands (MBS) will add a fourth tower featuring 1,000 rooms – all suites – next to its existing three hotel towers; this will beef up its inventory of 2,561 hotel rooms.

Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) will build two hotels in the luxury and upscale segments, adding around 1,100 rooms to its existing 1,600.

Noting that the hotels at MBS and RWS generate most of their demand from on-site facilities and attractions, an analyst said: “It is likely that the demand will continue to grow as the IRs expand their offerings.

By bringing in new attractions and meeting spaces, the IRs should not only attract new visitors but also spur return visits to Singapore. The enhanced offerings at the two IRs are expected to bump up international visitorship by 500,000 annually.

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Investment commitment well-timed and necessary

The S$9 billion investment that Singapore’s integrated resorts (IRs) are set to make is both well- timed and necessary if the island is to defend its position as a prime gaming playground, particularly as competition from neighbours intensifies.

When Marina Bay Sands (MBS) and Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) opened in 2010, Singapore was a relatively early mover in the region. But since then, the Philippines has emerged as a fast- growing player, with the casino industry’s gross gaming revenue expected to reach a record 217 billion pesos or S$5.6 billion this year.

Competition continues from established gaming markets such as South Korea and Australia, while Japan has the potential to be a fearsome new entrant, with three IRs to be allowed.

The first IR licences in Japan may be awarded as early as 2020, with the first resort potentially opening by 2024 or 2025. In light of this, Singapore’s IR rejuvenation comes at an ideal time.

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Sentosa to woo night visitors with lifestyle destination

A new lifestyle quarter featuring eateries, shops, event spaces and waterfront accommodation is set to open in Sentosa by the end of the year as part of plans to increase the resort island’s night offerings.

Called Siloso Green, it will take over the 24,500 sq m space vacated by Underwater World in 2016, and have a shipping container theme.

Bars, food trucks, innovative business concepts and live music under the stars are among the draws of the new attraction, Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC) said.

More night-time events are also on the cards for this year, including the Skechers Sundown music festival next month and the AIA Glow Festival in May.

There are also efforts to draw more locals by increasing the affordability of Sentosa’s offerings. Sentosa sees about 19 million visitors a year, and about 30 per cent of them are locals.

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ITAP 2019 to get boost from Jurong Innovation District

The second edition of Industrial Transformation Asia Pacific (ITAP) this year will be strengthened by the addition of the Jurong Innovation District (JID) as part of a larger strategy to build on connections made at the trade show, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon told The Business Times.

The event, which will be held in Singapore in October, is the Asian version of Hannover Messe, organised in partnership with Hannover Messe organiser Deutsche Messe. In 2018, it attracted 15,000 unique visitors from 55 different countries and featured over 360 exhibitors from 23 countries.

This year, the event will be expanded to accommodate more exhibitors and visitors, and these participants will be able to interact further after ITAP through the JID, a greenfield development run by JTC to house ecosystem players including system providers, research institutes and manufacturers and encourage co-creation and innovation.

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US pending home sales fell by more than expected in Feb

Contract signings to purchase previously owned US homes fell more than estimated in February, suggesting that the prior month’s surge resulted from pent-up demand and that a sustainable recovery may take more time.

The index of pending home sales fell 1 per cent from the prior month, after a downwardly revised

4.3 per cent increase in January, according to data released on Thursday from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) in Washington. The gauge fell 5 per cent from a year earlier following a 3.3 per cent annual decline.

The data adds to a mixed picture of the US housing market, which has struggled with elevated prices and limited supply.

A separate report this week showed new-home groundbreakings fell in February by the most in eight months, while other data indicate existing home sales rebounded last month to the best pace in almost a year.

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China home prices expected to rise as credit conditions improve: poll

Home prices in China are expected to rise more this year than predicted just a few months ago, as Beijing urges banks to ramp up lending and lower interest rates to boost the slowing economy, a Reuters poll showed.

Strong underlying demand for housing and the relaxation of home purchase restrictions in some cities are also likely to support prices, even though sales are still expected to slow.

China’s average residential property prices are forecast to rise 5 per cent in 2019 from a year earlier, up sharply from a gain of just 0.5 per cent expected in the previous survey in December, according to the poll of 17 property analysts and economists.

Property investment is now expected to rise by 7 per cent for the year, from 4 per cent in the last poll, as some developers have shown more confidence in the market as domestic financing conditions improve.

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Further delay likely for China’s property tax law

China’s long-overdue plan to roll out a property tax, to curb speculative buying as well as to boost local government revenues, came under the spotlight again during the recent annual parliamentary session in Beijing.

Several senior officials signalled that work on passing a law to collect property tax would be sped up, sparking speculation that draft legislation could be put up for review this year and triggering a drop in Chinese property shares.

But, given a slowing economy and the ongoing trade war with the United States, analysts say it is unlikely that Beijing will push forward with the law in the near term.

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Australia home prices down in March; pace of decline slows

Australian home prices fell again in March as credit conditions remained tight and investors stayed away, although the pace of decline slowed as more auctions found buyers.

The report showed home prices nationally fell 0.6 per cent in March, from February when they dropped 0.7 per cent. That was the smallest monthly fall since October. Values were down 6.9 per cent on a year earlier.

The index has fallen in 15 of the past 17 months, wiping out more than two years of gains. Values in the combined capital cities fell 0.7 per cent in March, after a 0.9 per cent drop the previous month.

The slower pace of decline came as auction clearance rates have picked up over the last month or so, particularly in the hardest-hit markets of Sydney and Melbourne.

Prices fell 0.9 per cent in Sydney in March, and 0.8 per cent in Melbourne. Values nationally have fallen 7.4 per cent from their peak in October 2017, although they are still almost 16 per cent higher than five years ago.

Any improvement would be welcomed by the central bank, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), which is concerned that a further substantial fall in prices would undermine household wealth and spending.

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Lee Sze Teck Head, Research


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