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7th December 2018

By in Weekly News Review with 0 Comments

Top News for the Week


Embrace, not obstruct, technological change: PM

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has called on countries to embrace technological change instead of yielding to their anxieties by obstructing it.

During a brief speech about the future of work at the Group of 20 summit, he urged governments to help workers displaced by new technology take on new jobs.

Companies and industries must adapt to new technologies and market conditions, while workers have to adopt the mindset of lifelong learning.

Singapore is attending the G-20 summit as a representative of Asean – which it chairs this year – at the invitation of this year’s G-20 president, Argentina. Singapore is also speaking on behalf of an informal coalition of small and medium-sized states known as the Global Governance Group.

Links to the story: to-take-place-pm-lee

Singapore extends port limits off Tuas, says will guard sovereignty

Singapore has extended its port limits off Tuas in response to Malaysia’s latest intrusion in its waters, warning it would not hesitate to take firm action to protect its territory and sovereignty if necessary.

“This extension is well within Singapore Territorial Waters and tracks the eastern boundary of the 1999 Johor Bahru Port Limits,” Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said in a prepared statement at a press conference.

He explained that Malaysia had unilaterally drawn and published the territorial water it claims in 1979. This included its claim on Pedra Branca as well as areas at the eastern and western approaches to Singapore.

Mr Khaw said the boundary lines Malaysia claimed at the western approach to Singapore have intruded into the Republic’s port limits. Singapore has protested to Malaysia to reject its claim on Pedra Branca and stated categorically that these new boundary lines violated Singapore’s sovereignty and were unacceptable. sovereignty

MAS unveils S$30m grant to bolster cybersecurity

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) launched a S$30 million Cybersecurity Capabilities Grant to raise the cybersecurity capabilities of the financial sector and help financial institutions develop local talent in cybersecurity.

Funded under the Financial Sector Technology and Innovation Scheme (FSTI), the grant will support the development of advanced cybersecurity functions within financial institutions.

MAS will co-fund up to 50 per cent of qualifying expenses, capped at S$3 million, for financial institutions to establish their global or regional cybersecurity centres of excellence in Singapore, and financial institutions with key global or regional cybersecurity functions and operations in the Republic to expand and deepen their cybersecurity capabilities locally.

It will also encourage Singapore-based financial institutions to upskill their local workforce through cybersecurity-related training programmes. This will help attract more cybersecurity professionals and expand the local talent pool in the financial sector.

Links to the story: launched

Cabinet reshuffle to take place after Budget 2019: PM Lee

Changes to the Cabinet to put younger ministers in key posts will be announced sometime after the Budget debate next year.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong indicated this timeframe for a reshuffle in an interview with Singapore media in Argentina, where he was attending the Group of 20 leaders’ summit.

The Budget debate ends in March, and Mr Lee hinted that the changes could be made in April or May.

But for the leadership transition to the fourth generation (4G) team to go according to plan, the People’s Action Party (PAP) must first win the next general election, Mr Lee added.

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat is expected to be deputy prime minister, the post which the second and third PMs – Goh Chok Tong and Mr Lee – held while they were earmarked for the top post.

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Plan unveiled to help the media industry become digital-ready

Small-and-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as well as professionals in the media industry can now access a step-by-step guide to see how they can develop their digital capabilities and get advice on how to thrive in the digital economy.

The Media Industry Digital Plan (IDP) was announced by Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information, and Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, at the opening ceremony of the Asia TV Forum & Market (ATF) and ScreenSingapore at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre. She said that the plan was created as the media environment continues to “evolve at a fast pace”.

She said: “We recognise the need for stronger, more agile companies and more higher skilled professionals to seize opportunities in Asia and beyond. Not only must we build creative skills, which remain important in the media sector, but also digital skills, so our media SMEs and professionals can thrive in an increasingly digital environment.”

At the core of this plan is something known as the digital roadmap, which includes a list of solutions to guide media industry SMEs and professionals in their adoption of technology at each stage of their growth. This can start at the basic level of an SME wanting to streamline operations for freelancer contracts and billing management, for example, or moving on to more advanced levels of creating artificial intelligence-enabled content.

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Finance ministers focused on preparing for a downturn: Heng

Finance ministers from the world’s 20 largest economies were concerned about the state of financial markets this year, and some of their work at the Group of 20 summit at the weekend focused on preparing for the eventuality of a downturn, said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat. “We have had a prolonged period of economic upturn. The question is, when is the downturn coming? And how do we prepare for that?” Mr Heng said in an interview with Singapore media after the summit in Argentina, which he attended. Singapore was invited as chairman of Asean this year.

Mr Heng said that the finance ministers focused on three major areas, the first of which was short-term risk in the global financial system.

The second area of focus was on building a more resilient financial system with “safety nets” on a national, regional and global scale.

The third area listed by Mr Heng was developing the financial system to support structural changes in various economies.

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S-E Asia GDP growth to slow in 2019 amid trade war: ICAEW

Economic growth across the South-east Asia region is expected to slow in 2019 to 5 per cent, after an estimated 5.3 per cent in 2018, according to the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales’ (ICAEW) latest Economic Insight report on the region.

Singapore specifically is expected to experience the sharpest downturn, with gross domestic product (GDP) growth set to moderate from an expected 3.3 per cent in 2018 to 2.5 per cent next year, as US-China tensions and the resulting slowdown in Chinese demand continue to weigh on growth.

Many of the region’s economies are small open economies heavily dependent on exports, with a high level of exports to China, noted ICAEW. In particular, Malaysia and Vietnam are both highly exposed to China with total exports to China in value-added terms accounting for 10.7 per cent and 10.3 per cent of GDP respectively in 2017. Of this, more than half were to meet Chinese domestic demand.

On the other end of the spectrum, Indonesia and the Philippines will be the least affected by the trade tensions. And, while growth is set to ease in Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines in 2019, they will still be among the top 10 fastest growing economies globally.

Link to the story: icaew

StanChart to cut Dubai, Singapore jobs

Standard Chartered Plc is cutting jobs in Dubai and key markets including Singapore as it looks to curb expenses, people familiar with the matter said.

Some senior roles are included in the cuts, the people said, asking not to be identified because the emerging-markets lender’s strategy isn’t yet public. As many as 100 positions may be impacted in Dubai although the number hasn’t been finalised, two of the people said.

The eliminations also include leadership at the firm’s priority banking operations, which offer personalised wealth-management services, one of the people said.

The staff reduction is coming as Standard Chartered chief executive officer Bill Winters is looking for ways to reignite growth. The bank is weighing a plan to simplify its structure, reduce funding expenses and free up liquidity, people familiar with the matter said earlier last week.

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S’pore factory growth slows for third month

Manufacturing growth slowed for a third consecutive month in November to record its lowest reading since July last year.

The key electronics sector marked its first contraction as well after 27 consecutive months of growth, said the Singapore Institute of Purchasing and Materials Management (SIPMM).

The overall Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) dipped 0.4 point from October to 51.5. A reading above 50 indicates growth.

This was in line with economist expectations, according to an earlier Bloomberg consensus forecast.

The lower PMI reading last month was due to slower growth in new orders, new exports, factory output, inventory and employment levels, said SIPMM, which publishes the index based on a survey of over 150 industrial companies.

Despite slower growth, the employment index recorded its 15th month of consecutive expansion.

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Singapore is Asia’s second most costly city for rich Asians: Julius Baer report

Boosted by a stronger Singapore dollar and costlier luxury goods and services overall, the Republic is now Asia’s second most expensive city for luxury living, up from third place last year.

This finding came from private bank Julius Baer’s latest wealth report, which tracks luxury spending by Asia’s high-net-worth individuals, defined as those with net investable wealth of US$1 million or more, excluding the property that is their main residence.

Singapore is also Asia’s third most expensive city to secure a luxury property. Julius Baer said that the demand for luxury homes in Singapore is being driven by foreigners, especially those from China, Malaysia and Indonesia, as is the case in Hong Kong and Shanghai.

But for the global elite, luxury homes in Singapore still remain “relatively more affordable than in cities like Hong Kong or New York for a similar, if not higher, standard of living”.

In contrast, Kuala Lumpur remains Asia’s cheapest city for luxury goods and services, particularly residential property, hotel accommodation, wine, jewellery, pianos and cars, compared to other Asian cities.

Links to the story: report

SMEs expect lower turnover in 2018; sentiment weighed down by trade war: survey

More small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore are expecting a decline in turnover this year, citing the challenging business environment as the main culprit for the dampened outlook, weighed down at least partially by the US-China trade war.

The 2018 SME Development Survey by DP Info found that 15 per cent of SMEs project revenues to fall this year, up from 11 per cent in 2017, and 12 per cent in 2016. Only two in five SMEs expect turnover growth in 2018.

The survey conducted between June and August this year, which was also when the US-China trade spat began in earnest. According to the study, one in five SMEs said that they were affected by the ongoing trade conflict between the US and China.

Among those impacted, 54 per cent said that it would affect the competitiveness of exports, while 40 per cent said that it reduces overseas sales. Some 28 per cent of SMEs said that it would affect or delay their internationalisation plans.

Links to the story: war-survey

Trade war drives companies to review business plans

In the face of trade tensions between the United States and China, members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore (AmCham Singapore) are delaying or cancelling investment plans, looking to other markets, and tweaking supply chains.

Helping members cope is the chamber’s top priority for 2019, said AmCham Singapore chairman Dwight Hutchins of a survey on the impact of the trade war.

Of 179 member firms who responded to the November survey, 68 per cent said they were reviewing their business strategies in response to the trade war. The most common move, taken by half of these firms, was delaying or cancelling investment decisions. Firms are also looking for alternatives, whether by increasing their presence in other markets (40 per cent) or adjusting supply chains by sourcing components or assembly outside China (38 per cent) or outside the US (30 per cent).

Some firms are mulling more dramatic moves, with 15 per cent considering relocating some or all of their manufacturing operations out of China, 10 per cent considering a similar move out of the US, and 5 per cent considering exiting China altogether.

Link to the story: amcham

Global economic recovery will be hit if trade row escalates: WTO

All countries will lose in a global trade war, the head of the world’s trade referee warned in a speech.

The outcome in all simulations is that trade and economic growth will slow down and that all countries, without exceptions, will lose out in a global trade war, Mr Roberto Azevedo, director- general of the World Trade Organisation said.

That is a warning the International Monetary Fund has also issued. Mr Azevedo stressed that most of the job losses are due to technological change, rather than trade.

Trade is “an engine of growth, productivity, innovation, job creation”, he said.

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Private housing supply to be cut

Private housing supply for the first half of next year under the Government Land Sales programme will be cut by nearly 20 per cent, the Ministry of National Development (MND) said.

It cited concerns over the large supply pipeline from buoyant collective sales during this cycle, slower demand in the wake of the July property cooling measures and rising global economic uncertainty.

MND said it is releasing 6,475 private residential units for the upcoming land sales programme – the lowest supply since the first half of 2007, when 5,475 units were offered. The upcoming supply is 19.5 per cent lower than the 8,040 units released in this year’s second half.

The ministry said the supply pipeline now stands at 45,000 units. In contrast, developers’ demand for land is moderating, and overall transaction volumes have fallen following the cooling measures.

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Variety of choice sites on H1 slate; seven of total 14 sites are new

In all, there are five sites on the confirmed list and nine on the reserve list. Seven of the total 14 sites are new.

Some property consultants rate the most attractive plot as the one along Tan Quee Lan Street, on top of the Downtown Line Bugis MRT Station. It was just made available for application on the current-half reserve list but is being transferred to the H1 2019 confirmed list. The move indicates the authorities’ desire to build on the rejuvenation momentum in the area – referring to the completion of DUO and South Beach, and the upcoming Guoco Midtown.

The Tan Quee Lan site can generate some 580 homes and about 2,000 sq m gross floor area (GFA) of commercial space.

Another favourite is a land parcel in one-north Gateway that can yield 170 homes, making it a relatively small and palatable offering. The site is next to one-north Residences. Lee Sze Teck, head of research at Huttons Asia, said the timing of this site’s offering is opportune, given that the number of residences in the locale has remained stagnant while the number of professionals working there have been rising over the years.

The Canberra Link executive condominium (EC site) is expected to be hotly contested, given the tight supply for this public-private hybrid housing. The site is next to another EC plot that was awarded in September for S$558 psf ppr and attracted nine bids.

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Keen developer interest expected for Bugis GLS sites

Bugis’ rejuvenation will deepen with two rare residential Government Land Sales (GLS) sites there launched for sale and analysts believe the area’s potential will draw keen developer interest. The location of these two plots within the Central Area also makes them unencumbered from the recently revised development control guidelines, which pare down the maximum number of units allowable for the two other GLS sites launched at Geylang and Dairy Farm.

One of the Bugis sites is on Middle Road and has been launched under the Confirmed List. Spanning about 80,300 sq ft, the site which is zoned residential with commercial at the first storey can yield an estimated 375 homes.

Just a stone’s throw away is a site on Tan Quee Lan Street, launched under the Reserve List. The site is about 124,100 sq ft, also zoned residential with commercial at the first storey, and can yield about 580 homes.

Analysts predict a winning bid of between $1,300 and $1,550 psf ppr for the Middle Road plot.

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Builders venture abroad for new income streams, to diversify

Singapore property developers have been diversifying into new markets and business segments in recent years after several rounds of property cooling measures, which have contributed to a tougher operating environment.

Following the most recent measures, developers that The Business Times spoke to nonetheless still see Singapore as a core market and will continue to look for opportunities here, in addition to overseas.

In July, the government announced a hike in the additional buyer’s stamp duty rates and tightened loan-to-value limits on residential property purchases. Meanwhile, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has revised the guidelines for the maximum allowable dwelling units in private residential developments outside the Central Area to curb the number of shoebox units in new projects. The guidelines kick in from Jan 17, 2019.

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OCBC neutral on residential property, predicts -3% to 2% price change in 2019

OCBC analysts are taking a cautious stance on Singapore’s residential property sector in 2019 on expectations of low-to-negative growth in private home prices.

The brokerage’s latest report on the sector projected 2019 price growth to range between -3 per cent and 2 per cent, with an expectation of 10,000 to 12,000 private transaction unit sales next year.

OCBC stated that negative demand drivers might outweigh the positives in 2019. Negatives will stem from moderating economic growth, continued impact from property cooling measures and continued tight immigration policies.

It noted that Singapore’s economy is projected to expand at a pace of 1.5 per cent to 3.5 per cent in 2019, slower than the 3 per cent to 3.5 per cent growth expected in 2018.

On the positive front, OCBC said investors can look forward to a stable resident household formation and wage growth, redeployment of proceeds from collective sales and increased pool of demand from Housing and Development Board (HDB) upgraders.

It sees a spike in the number of public housing units eligible to be sold in 2019, with approximately 30,200 HDB and Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) flats reaching their

minimum occupation period (MOP) next year – significantly higher than the yearly average of 10,900 from 2012 to 2018.

Link to the story: change-in-2019

Teeing off for the last time at Toa Payoh Golf Range

Toa Payoh Golf Range was informed by the authorities that the 2.9ha site has been zoned for residential use.

The Toa Payoh Golf Range was built after Haw Par Leisure won its Housing Board tender in 1992. Group Exklusiv took over the lease at the start of the millennium, before it was awarded to Poh Bros in 2008.

In recent years, numerous golf courses and ranges have closed, including Raffles Country Club this year and Jurong Country Club last year, as well as driving ranges like Nature Park Driving Range (2015) and Queens Golf Range (2009).

In 2014, the Law Ministry said Keppel Club will not be able to renew its lease when it expires in 2021. Marina Bay Golf Course faces a similar fate in 2024, as will Orchid Country Club in 2030. Tanah Merah Country Club and National Service Resort and Country Club (Changi) will be offered new leases, but they will be downsized as parts of the sites will be affected by Changi Airport’s expansion plans.

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Former Midas chairman’s bungalow fetches S$30.8m in mortgagee sale

Some notable bungalow deals have taken place recently in Good Class Bungalow (GCB) Areas as well as in the Sentosa Cove waterfront housing locale.

In a deal involving a mortgagee sale, a bungalow along Cluny Road owned by Chen Wei Ping, the former executive chairman of embattled Midas Holdings, is being bought by the family of Philip Ng, chief executive of property group Far East Organization, for S$30.8 million.

The price the Ngs are paying in the latest transaction reflects S$1,901 psf on the freehold land area of nearly 16,200 sq ft. This pricing is seen as attractive by analysts, given that the house stands on elevated grounds on a quiet cul-de-sac near the Lermit Road locale within the Cluny Park GCB Area.

Other recent transactions in GCB Areas include a property in Bishopsgate which went for S$26 million or S$1,571 psf and another along Cassia Drive (in the Raffles Park GCB Area) that fetched nearly S$18.39 million or S$1,731 psf. There was also a S$22 million or S$1,554 psf deal in Oei Tiong Ham Park.

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Exec flats prop up HDB resale prices in Nov

Resale prices of Housing Board flats rose 0.2 per cent last month after a slight dip in October as the number of transactions fell again.

The price rise was most significant for executive flats at 2.5 per cent, while the cost of four- roomers dropped 0.3 per cent and that of five-room units fell 0.5 per cent, from flash estimates.

Resale prices of three-room flats remained unchanged although costs in mature estates rose 0.6 per cent, and dropped 0.1 per cent in non-mature areas.

Compared with November last year, however, resale prices last month were 1.7 per cent lower. They were also down by 14.1 per cent from a peak in April 2013.

The number of resale transactions continued to fall last month, with 1,881 HDB resale flats sold – down from 1,994 in October and 1,999 in September, and lower than the resale volume in November last year as well.

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Judge orders condo owner to restore balcony’s design

The High Court has ordered a condo unit owner to reinstate the original design of the balcony area after ruling that her renovations had breached relevant rules and affected the overall aesthetics of the building’s facade.

The court, in the rare case, clarified that though the works were carried out within the unit she wholly owns, it did not follow that she fully controls the unit, given that there are community interests.

The owner is appealing the decision.

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Singapore on radar for foreign institutional investors again

After years of lacklustre foreign institutional interest in the Singapore commercial property market, Singapore is appearing on investors’ radar again.

Inflows from foreign institutional investors – equity and pension funds, insurance, sovereign wealth funds among others – between 2016 and 2018 have amounted to US$5.3 billion (S$7.3 billion) in transaction value, well up on the US$1.1 billion recorded in the 2010 to 2015 period. In 2015, foreign institutional buyers stayed out of the market due to weakness in the Singapore office sector.

Supply overhang coupled with a sub-2 per cent gross domestic product growth had taken a toll on the commercial property market, with office and retail rents sliding and vacancy rates rising. Weak demand persisted into the early part of 2016 despite some early shoots of recovery in the global economy.

However, 2016 saw a return of foreign institutional investors as the office market started to stabilise, resulting in a surge in transaction value to US$4.3 billion. The annual transaction value decreased to a more sustainable pace at US$1.5 billion last year and US$1.6 billion so far this year.

The charge in 2016 was led by Qatar Investment Authority’s acquisition of Asia Square Tower 1 for $3.4 billion. Then last year, Manulife bought PWC Building for $747 million and insurer FWD Group bought a 50 per cent stake in One George Street for $591.6 million.

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Keppel Reit divests 20% stake in Ocean Financial Centre to Allianz for S$537.3 million

Keppel Reit is selling a 20 per cent stake in Ocean Financial Centre to Allianz Real Estate for S$537.3 million, but will retain a majority 79.9-per cent interest in the property, its manager Keppel Reit Management said.

This is the German insurer’s property investment arm’s first core office investment in Singapore. The agreed purchase price of S$537.3 million is 16.8 per cent or S$77.1 million higher than the historical purchase price of S$460.2 million, and net gain is estimated at S$6.9 million after deducting transaction costs, said the Reit manager.

Ocean Financial Centre is a 43-storey Grade A office tower located at the intersection of the Raffles Place and Marina Bay financial precincts, with retail component on its ground floor and basement level. The property, with its distinctive plant-covered external walls, has a total net lettable area of 877,635 sq ft, and a committed occupancy rate of 95.5 per cent as at Sept 30.

Links to the story: s5373-million

Site of Queenstown cinema and bowling centre up for tender

A six-storey commercial building with shops, restaurants and a cineplex may sit on the site where the iconic Queenstown cinema and bowling centre used to be, at 250 Commonwealth Avenue.

The prime commercial development site was launched for sale by tender. Located at the corner of Commonwealth Avenue and Margaret Drive, the vacant plot is about 300m from Queenstown MRT station and has a land area of 32,305 sq ft.

Written permission has been granted for it to be developed into a six-storey commercial building with basement carpark spaces.

The approved gross floor area (GFA) is 96,914 sq ft. No development charge is payable.

The property is expected to fetch above $200 million, or about $2,063 psf of the approved GFA. The plot has a 99-year lease that commenced on Jan 1, 1975.

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Prime unit at Coronation Shopping Plaza up for sale

A prime ground-floor strata commercial space at Coronation Shopping Plaza has been put up for sale at a guide price of $35 million.

The freehold property, which has a strata floor area of around 603 sq m or 6,491 sq ft, occupies a corner with direct street-level access from Bukit Timah Road and Coronation Road.

The unit is currently tenanted to HSBC Bank and Starbucks.

Aside from visibility at street level, the shopping mall attracts high footfall from visitors from the surrounding affluent residential estates and schools, the marketing agent added.

The tender exercise will close on Jan 18 at noon.

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Singapore’s premium office space seen to be cost effective

Singapore is a “cost-effective office location” as premium office space in Hong Kong remains the world’s priciest for the fourth year running.

In Singapore, the rental for such office space averages US$108 (S$148) psf, about a third of that in Hong Kong’s Central district at US$338 psf.

The high rental costs in Hong Kong are attributed to Chinese firms snapping up grade A office space there.

Singapore was ranked 10th in the list of most expensive premium office markets in Asia, up from 14th place last year.

Singapore stacks up very competitively given that it is a global hub for multiple high-value industries and offers a high-quality standard of living, yet is cheap relative to other global hubs.

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London fintech Revolut to launch in Asia-Pacific; regional HQ likely in Singapore

London-based fintech Revolut announced that it will debut in the Asia-Pacific in the first quarter of next year, and has already been granted the necessary licences to operate in Singapore and Japan.

Its Asia-Pacific headquarters “will most likely” be based in Singapore, with a number of key personnel responsible for business development, public relations and compliance already hired in the region, it said.

Users of Revolut’s app can spend abroad in more than 150 currencies with no fees; they can also hold and exchange 24 currencies in-app and make free domestic and international money transfers at the real exchange rate.

Links to the story: in-singapore

New Shaw Tower to blend in with Ophir-Rochor makeover

The redevelopment of Shaw Tower was motivated in part by its owner’s hopes that the new building and neighbouring GuocoLand’s Guoco Midtown on Beach Road will be up around the same time, as part of the rejuvenation of the Ophir-Rochor corridor.

To that end, the 42 year-old Shaw Tower will likely be torn down and a new 35-storey grade A office and retail building completed in its place by 2023. Some 150 tenants have been given advance notice to relocate elsewhere on or before June 30, 2020.

Guoco Midtown will comprise 770,000 sq ft of premium grade A office space; 30,000 sq ft of retail and entertainment and more than 200 homes.

The new Shaw Tower will have 400,000 sq ft of office space and 30,000 sq ft of retail space, subject to planning approval.

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Real estate goes data-heavy in a disrupted world

In the last few years, technology has brought about a wave of disruption. From transport to retail, financial services to real estate, disruption has become the new norm.

While the gravity of disruptive forces varies across industries, there remains a unanimous element – data. Closer to home, the use of data has been identified as a cornerstone of the Asean Smart Cities Network, the region’s geopolitical masterplan for smart and sustainable urban development with the use of technology as an enabler to improve people’s lives. In fact, the fusing of technology and data has given rise to a dynamic new sub-sector of real estate, PropTech.

The facts augur well for PropTech and its role within the Asean Smart Cities Network. With 400 million Internet users, favourable demographics where 70 per cent of the population are below 34 years old and massive urbanisation with the rise of mega cities such as Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Manila, Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City – this initiative could not have come at a better time. Furthermore, with Singapore acting as a sandbox for PropTech due to its intense focus on becoming a smart city and its leadership in the innovation space across Asean, the future looks bright for PropTech.

Commercial real estate providers are looking at data sets to build specific solutions and provide more actionable intelligence for clients. For example, PropTech solutions now extend to harnessing sales and leasing and sales activity, asset management data and portfolio valuation data.

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Going niche to drum up mall business

The future of strata-titled malls is fast taking shape: out go rows of old-school mom-and-pop shops selling textiles, shoes, clothes and provisions; in come gleaming art galleries, bustling co- working spaces and even boutique cinemas.

This bright new retailing world is emerging as they look at strategies to survive in a challenging environment where buyers are shunning bricks-and-mortar outlets in favour of online sites.

Owners and analysts say the key is to have a theme that the shops can all revolve around, rather than having a random tenant mix.

The theme at Katong Point in Joo Chiat Road is “experiential retailers”, where customers visit shops not just to pick up items but also for hands-on activities.

While Katong Point has a more niche theme catering to creatives and start-ups, King Albert Park is revamping itself to become a family-friendly mall with a focus on health and wellness, education, food and beverage, and lifestyle and entertainment.

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Sistic closes counters at 11 shopping malls

Buying concert tickets over the counter just got harder as Sistic closed around a quarter of its authorised agent counters islandwide on Nov 30.

Of Sistic’s 39 counters, 11 were closed – at Bedok Mall, Bishan Junction 8, Bugis+, Bukit Panjang Plaza, IMM, JCube, Lot One, Plaza Singapura, Tampines Mall, The Star Vista and Westgate.

Mr Joe Ow, 41, Sistic’s chief executive, told The Straits Times that an increasing number of customers prefer buying tickets online and are opting for e-tickets.

More venues have also opted to use scanners for e-tickets as scanning is a more efficient solution, giving promoters real-time and more accurate data of their eventgoers compared with ticket stubbing.

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Record stores with more than music

While streaming music has become the norm, music fans who prefer the warmth and tactile feel of physical formats have never had it so good.

The number of record stores specialising in vinyl, for example, has increased from fewer than 10 to more than 30 in the last six years, say industry insiders.

The rise has led to stores that do more than just sell records, CDs and cassettes. They are often one-stop shops where you can catch live performances, have coffee made by a barista or order a drink from the bar.

Despite its growing popularity, collecting vinyl is still a niche hobby, which is why music store owners are getting creative with the way they operate their businesses.

Having live performances gives music lovers another reason to go to a physical store instead of just shopping online.

Some music stores are even producing their own content. The combination of coffee, craft beer and records often leads to long chats among music fans at Choice Cuts Goods + Coffee, a cafe- music store in Katong.

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Meidi-Ya and famed ramen eatery to open in Great World revamp

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

The S$50 million facelift, which began in April, will see the mixed-use development in River Valley add 50 new tenants and three main access points to the upcoming Great World MRT station along the Thomson-East Coast line. The Great World MRT stop is due for completion in 2021.

The mall has remained open during its redevelopment, which will take place over two years and will be completed by 2020.

The first phase, which will be completed this month, includes an additional entrance along Kim Seng Promenade, a line-up of new retail and dining options and the relocation of existing tenants.

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E-cigarette company Juul Labs, industrial cannabis grower CannAcubed set up base in Singapore

An e-cigarette company that has been accused of fanning the flames of the underage smoking epidemic in the United States has set up its regional headquarters in Singapore.

This is despite the fact that some products sold by firms like Juul Labs were recently banned here when the Government outlawed the sale, purchase and use of all e-cigarette products in February.

CannAcubed’s arrival here comes against the backdrop of countries in the region, like Thailand and Malaysia, exploring legalising cannabis for medical purposes.As for Juul, the firm told The Sunday Times that it has “no intention to sell, market or distribute our product in markets – such as Singapore – where the law does not permit such activity”.

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Industrial building’s collective sale gets nod from top court

The top court gave the go-ahead for a rare collective sale of an industrial building when it dismissed a bid by the lone objector to block the $430 million deal.

Unit owner Low Kwang Tong claimed the collective sale committee had acted in bad faith in determining the size of his share of the collective sale proceeds under the agreed method of apportionment.

But the Court of Appeal comprising Judge of Appeal Tay Yong Kwang and Justices Belinda Ang and Quentin Loh found the trial judge had been correct in granting the collective order.

The eight-floor Citimac Industrial Complex is a freehold building near Tai Seng MRT station comprising a factory, warehouse and showroom units. It was sold to a foreign developer last year.

Owners of the 110 strata units ranging in size from about 160 sq m to 500 sq m could get between $2.1 million and $10 million per unit.

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Singapore sprouts innovation centres

Some professionals can now do so in dedicated “innovation centres”, which are springing up islandwide. At least 25 such facilities have opened since last year, with the help of the Economic Development Board (EDB).

The agency’s support for innovation centres is similar to schemes for other forms of investment, such as capability development grants and facilitating tie-ups with local partners. Other facilities not funded by the EDB include credit agency Experian’s “Experian X Labs” and a new space for engineering firm Palomar Technologies.

Logistics multinational Kuehne + Nagel opened its Asia-Pacific innovation centre in March with an eye towards a three- to five-year set of research projects on smart warehouses.

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Singapore poised to reap the benefits of mobility

Dyson’s announcement that it will build its electric car in Singapore highlights not only the city state’s capabilities in research and development and advanced manufacturing but also underscores its role in the age of mobility we are now entering.

Notable advancements in technology, coupled with increasing urban populations and environmental challenges, are all combining to create this transformational shift in how we move between places.

The revolution in smart mobility is driven by four factors – the electrification of vehicles, driverless transport, ride sharing and connectivity. Each of these developments presents opportunities for Singapore to grow its economy for decades to come. It also presents a new investment universe for investors in this market.


World’s most popular travel destinations of 2018

Jerusalem is poised to lead growth in inbound arrivals, making the Israeli city one of the world’s most popular travel destinations in a year in which Japan and India continued to lure visitors, Euromonitor International said.

Arrivals to this year’s top-100 city destinations are poised to increase by 7.5 per cent overall, with city hubs extending their importance for the global travel industry.

Porto, named Europe’s leading destination at the 2018 World Travel Awards, is another city to watch, according to Euromonitor. The Portuguese city is predicted to benefit from a 7 per cent increase in arrivals in 2018, and has advanced 42 slots in the rankings since 2012 to reach the top 100 this year.

Hong Kong leads the list of cities with the most arrivals. It’s forecast to receive 29.8 million people in 2018, 7 per cent more last year. Bangkok, London, Singapore, Macau, Paris, Dubai, New York, Kuala Lumpur and Shenzhen, China, round out the 10-most popular destinations, according to Euromonitor.

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Pending US home sales down to 4-year low in October

Contract signings to purchase previously-owned US homes unexpectedly fell by the most since January, reaching the lowest level since mid-2014 amid mounting evidence that the housing market is struggling.

The index of pending home sales dropped 2.6 per cent, after a 0.7 per cent gain the previous month, according to data released by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) in Washington. That missed the median estimate in Bloomberg’s survey calling for a 0.5 per cent rise. The gauge was down 4.6 per cent from a year earlier on an unadjusted basis, following a 3.3 per cent decrease.

The results underscore the challenges as elevated prices and rising mortgage rates are keeping more Americans on the sidelines of the housing market.

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New Zealand’s Central Otago, whose ski fields, vineyards and golf courses have made it a popular bolthole for the world’s mega-wealthy, may be showing the effects of the South Pacific nation’s crackdown on foreign home owners.

Average asking prices for homes in the South Island’s Central Otago-Lakes District fell 19 per cent to NZ$857,011 (S$810,385) in November from the previous month after New Zealand implemented legislation restricting foreign ownership.

New listings in the region – whose property owners are reported to include hedge-fund pioneer Julian Robertson and Hong Kong-based financier Michael Nock – fell 4.6 per cent, according to  a report.

There were 10,431 homes for sale in the country’s most-populous city, or 5 per cent more than a year earlier. Nationally, asking prices for properties averaged NZ$653,575 last month, down 3.3 per cent from October.

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Australia house prices fall the most since global financial crisis

Sydney’s property downturn accelerated in November, propelling nationwide house prices to the biggest monthly drop since the global financial crisis, as credit curbs and buyer nerves continue to bite.

Nationwide home values fell 0.7 per cent last month, led by a 1.4 per cent drop in Sydney and one per cent in Melbourne, according to data released.

The drop takes the total decline in Sydney since the July 2017 peak to 9.5 per cent, on the cusp of overtaking the 9.6 per cent top-to-bottom decline recorded during the last recession 27 years ago. This decline is even steeper than the 1989-91 fall, showing how quickly sentiment has flipped.

November is usually the start of the peak selling season in Australia, so the deepening downturn points to continued weakness ahead.

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By: Lee Sze Teck (Huttons Research)

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