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8th August 2019 / Issue 32

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Top News for the Week


Making sense of the rise in Singapore’s private property prices

Prices of private residential properties staged a remarkable turnaround in the second quarter of 2019, rising 1.5 per cent quarter-on-quarter to hit a five-year high. This upturn has caught many by surprise given that:

  • New cooling measures were imposed in July 2018;
  • Property prices eased for two consecutive quarters subsequently; and
  • There is a rising inventory of unsold private residential homes This can be put down to three reasons:
  1. Policy: Effects of Cooling Measures Tapering Off
  2. Higher Demand after Chinese New Year
  3. Unsold Supply Easing

If the sales momentum in the first half continues for the rest of the year, total developer’s sales in 2019 look set to break 2018’s level and hit 9,000 units. We could see prices increase up to 5 per cent for 2019, compared to a rise of 7.9 per cent in 2018.

Link to the story:



SingHaiyi’s Parc Clematis condo to open for booking on Aug 31

Property developer SingHaiyi Group’s 99-year leasehold Parc Clematis will be open for booking on Aug 31. The public preview will be held on Saturday, Aug 17.

Located at the former Park West residential site, the development consists of 1,468 units including 18 landed homes, and is said to be the developer’s largest project to date.

Pricing for landed units is not available but the project has nine 24-storey tower blocks with prices starting from about S$1,550 psf for a one-bedroom unit, S$1,540 psf for a two-bedder, and S$1,530 psf for a three bedder.

The development occupies a land area of 633,000 sq ft with a plot ratio of 2.1. Unit sizes range from 452 sq ft for a one-bedroom and 2,669 sq ft for the largest five-bedroom penthouse. Twelve terrace units start from 2,659 sq ft and six bungalow units are 3,832 sq ft each.

Link to the story:



Nouvel 18’s like exclusive honey to China bees

Mainland Chinese buyers continue to mop up luxe condo units in Singapore.

At the completed freehold Nouvel 18 project in the posh Ardmore Park area, they are the predominant nationality among the foreign buyers who have picked up about 90 per cent of the 17 units that have been sold since sales began on July 18.

As these foreign buyers are not Singapore permanent residents (PRs), they would have to pay 20 per cent additional buyer’s stamp duty, note market watchers.

The 17 units transacted are part of the initial batch of 30 units released on July 18. “The average selling price for the development is S$3,300 per sq ft. There is no deferred payment scheme,” said a spokesman for City Developments Ltd (CDL). The units sold comprised mainly three- and four- bedroom apartments, he added.

Link to the story:



Updated CPF, loan rules give HDB resale market ‘new lease of life’

Demand for older HDB flats in Singapore spiked in the second quarter this year, following policy updates that may have given a “new lease of life” to the overall HDB resale market.

Some 564 HDB flats that were 40 years old and above were sold in May-June this year, a 40 per cent surge from 403 units in the year-ago period, while resale transactions for flats between 30 and 40 years old rose 10.4 per cent to 1,219 units.

In early May, the government updated rules on Central Provident Fund (CPF) usage and HDB housing loans. Homebuyers now have greater flexibility to use their CPF to pay for the properties and may obtain larger housing loans as long as the remaining lease of the property can cover the buyer till the age of 95.

Total HDB resale transactions grew 29.8 per cent from the previous quarter to 6,276 units in Q2 this year – marking the first increase in sales volume since Q3 2018.

The policy changes were meant to improve the liquidity of the resale market and make it easier to buy and sell older flats.

As for younger flats below 10 years old, their sales volume also increased substantially in Q2, although this may be attributed more to a surge in housing supply of flats reaching their five-year minimum occupation period (MOP) rather than the policy changes. In terms of market share, older flats have also taken a larger slice of the pie during May-June.

Links to the story:

https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/real-estate/updated-cpf-loan-rules-give-hdb-resale-market-new-lease-of-life- orangetee



Belmont Road GCB relaunched for sale at lower guide price

The sprawling Good Class Bungalow (GCB) at 80 Belmont Road owned by The Stratech Group’s Chew family has been relaunched for sale by private treaty after it failed to sell at an auction. It now has a lower asking price of S$40.8 million.

The freehold property was first put up for sale during an auction held on July 23 at Amara Singapore hotel, with a S$42 million guide price. The property is valued at S$42 million.

The two-storey GCB has a gross floor area of 15,714 square feet and sits on a two-tiered land with a lift, playground, basketball court and swimming pool. It also has ample parking space to fit up to 10 cars.

Based on the new S$40.8 million guide price and 27,000 sq ft in freehold land area, this works out to a price tag of around S$1,511.11 per square foot (psf). The earlier S$42 million guide price reflected S$1,556 psf.

Link to the story:



A look at defect resolution in condos

Cracks and leaks, rotting timber, foul smells, flooding in public areas – these are a few of the reported defects that have surfaced at private condos over the decades. With the allegations come accusations, which inevitably put developers, main contractors and homeowners at loggerheads. In 2018, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) – the body that addresses complaints concerning structural safety of buildings – received 170 reports of “feedback on quality and defects from homeowners”, BCA says. It did not give data for previous years.

A defect occurs when something is built not in accordance to specification and codes of practice, or is not built to be “fit for its purpose”.

These defects can affect safety, functionality and performance, and aesthetics. Experts say defects can be attributed to many reasons, including an architect’s insistence on a certain material or design to lack of skill by workers or rush jobs, and accountability and liability can be hard to pinpoint.

So when homeowners discover defects, their best hope is that the problem can be easily resolved. In Singapore, developers are responsible for any defect that occurs in the units, the project and common property for typically 12 months – what’s known as the Defects Liability Period (DLP). Within that period, the homebuyer can report defects due to defective workmanship or materials not in line with what was promised in the sale and purchase agreement; and have it made good by the developer at its own cost.

Link to the story:



Some single unwed parents under 35 allowed to apply for subsidised flats

Single unwed mothers under the age of 35, which precludes them from housing benefits such as being able to apply for a Housing Board flat and getting grants as a first-time buyer.

But there are exceptions, even as some quarters press for these to be the norm.

Figures from the Ministry of National Development (MND) show that since 2014, 28 single unwed parents were allowed to apply for a subsidised two-room flexi flat.

This works out to about a quarter of the 121 who had appealed.

A breakdown of the figures was made public for the first time last month in Parliament, in response to a question from MP Louis Ng.

Separately, MND told The Straits Times that 33 out of 57 requests from single unwed parents to buy a resale flat before they turn 35 were approved.

Link to the story:

https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/some-single-unwed-parents-under-35-allowed-to-apply-for-subsidised-flats- on-appeal


US fund manager in exclusive due diligence for Bugis Junction Towers

A sale may be in the works for Bugis Junction Towers.

The Business Times understands that Angelo Gordon, a US-headquartered global alternative investment manager, is doing exclusive due diligence with a view to buy the 15-storey office block above the Bugis MRT Station.

Market watchers expect the price to be around S$2,200 per sq ft of net lettable area (NLA), which would work out to an absolute price of about S$547 million.

The property, owned by Keppel Reit, was valued at S$515 million at the end of last year, reflecting S$2,069 psf on NLA of 248,853 sq ft.

Talk in the market is that the price would translate to a net yield in the low 3 per cent range based on income from the existing leases. Bugis Junction Towers is currently running at full occupancy. Enterprise Singapore, the anchor tenant, has a long lease. Other tenants include InterContinental Hotels Group and coworking space provider UCommune.

Bugis Junction Towers is part of a mixed development that also includes a mall owned by CapitaLand Mall Trust and the InterContinental Singapore, owned by Frasers Hospitality Trust. The entire complex is on a site with a balance leasehold tenure of 70 years.

Link to the story:

https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/companies-markets/us-fund-manager-in-exclusive-due-diligence-for-bugis- junction-towers


Moving out sale as Times bookstore at Centrepoint prepares to close

Times Bookstores is closing its Centrepoint branch on Sept 23 as part of an “ongoing renewal of store locations from time to time”, said a spokesman for the chain.

It is the latest in a slew of closures on Singapore’s book scene that has included Books Kinokuniya’s Liang Court outlet in April, Popular’s Thomson Plaza outlet in June and MPH’s last two local outlets. MPH’s Raffles City store closed on July 28 and its Parkway Parade branch will close on Sept 1.

Times Centrepoint opened in 1983 and was, at the time, one of the biggest bookstores in Singapore at 8,000 sq ft. It expanded across three floors in 2002 in an ambitious overhaul that included a Magnolia Snack Bar, but later downsized again.

Times has six remaining outlets in Singapore. It closed its Tampines One branch in August last year but opened its first standalone multi-category concept store for children, Times Junior, in Jewel Changi Airport in April.

Times also has outlets at Paragon, Plaza Singapura, Jelita, Marina Square and Waterway Point; and sells online at GoGuru.com.sg

Link to the story:



Largest FairPrice store opens in VivoCity

FairPrice’s newest store is also its largest, with features such as an in-house vegetable farm, an ice cream truck, a play castle for children and spaces to repair baggage as well as bicycles.

The 90,000 sq ft FairPrice Xtra hypermarket and Unity Pharmacy officially opened its doors yesterday. The size of two football fields, it spans two floors of VivoCity mall.

Singapore’s largest retailer said the store was designed to better meet customers’ changing lifestyles and needs, and provide a unique brick-and-mortar shopping experience amid stiff competition from online grocers.

Shoppers at the VivoCity outlet can have their food prepared for them – from cut vegetables to marinated meat and grilled seafood – for them to take home and cook without fuss. There are also dining areas for those who want to eat at the store while grocery shopping.

In addition, shoppers can buy loose quantities of grain, nuts, spices and pasta – instead of those prepacked in larger amounts.

Link to the story:



Take long-term view in economic strategies: Chan Chun Sing

Singapore has to adopt a targeted and long-term perspective in its economic strategies, even as it tackles short-term headwinds posed by the challenging global environment, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing.

The Government is monitoring developments closely as Singapore’s economic growth slows, and stands ready to support Singaporeans – particularly the most vulnerable – should conditions worsen, he said yesterday.

But one has to first be clear about the cause of the “illness” to deliver the right medicine, he added, as he set out why the current downturn is unlike past financial crises.

Speaking at a National Day dinner, Mr Chan also made the point that a key factor behind Singapore’s success is that the country has constructive politics and a government with coherent policies.

He noted that during the Asian financial crisis in 1997 and the global financial crisis between 2007 and 2008, Singapore’s economy experienced sharp but short downturns triggered by a sudden loss of confidence in global financial markets.

The current downturn is driven by weaker external demand and a deepening slump in the global electronics cycle, he said, worsened in part by the uncertainty caused by the US-China trade conflict.

The downturn in electronics has also spilled over to sectors such as precision engineering and wholesale trade, said Mr Chan. But concurrent structural changes are complicating matters, he said, pointing to longer-term shifts in supply chains and productions patterns, a pull-back from globalisation and an erosion of the multilateral trading system. It will take a much longer time for the global economy to settle into a new equilibrium, he said.

Rounding up, Mr Chan expressed confidence that Singapore will be able to weather the uncertainties and achieve even more, if Singaporeans can continue to work together and build on the country’s core strengths.

Link to the story:



Minister calls for closer partnerships between govts and academics

Global economic and social volatility makes this an opportune time for closer partnerships between governments and academics, said Education Minister Ong Ye Kung.

He told the Singapore Economic Review Conference that the changing global economy – with trade disputes, low interest rates and technological contests – provides challenges for governments. “Democratic governance will be put to the test, made more difficult by falsehoods that will cloud pertinent information and data, thus hampering collective decision making,” he added.

The three-day biennial conference will be attended by about 330 leading economists and business people, as well as past and present policymakers from nearly 40 countries.

Speakers at the opening plenary session discussed the threats to the global economic system, including the impact of populist politics, ageing populations and the potential slowdown of China’s economy.

Link to the story:

https://www.straitstimes.com/business/economy/minister-calls-for-closer-partnerships-between-govts-and- academics


Plan to transform Kallang into vibrant precinct by 2025

The area around Kallang is set to be further enhanced as a destination for sport and world-class entertainment after Sport Singapore (SportSG) announced plans to develop the precinct by 2025. In a bid to inject vibrancy into the area, six developments will be built to complement the $1.33 billion Singapore Sports Hub, which includes the 55,000-seater National Stadium, OCBC Aquatic Centre and Singapore Indoor Stadium.

In a first for Singapore, a velodrome looks set to be built to cater to the community and serve as the national training centre for track cycling. The indoor track would be part of the Youth Hub, which would be developed with the National Youth Sports Institute and include spaces for non- traditional sports like speed climbing and parkour.

The other five are the Kallang Football Hub, Singapore Tennis Centre, Benaan Kapal Green, Alive Gateway and Loop, and a redevelopment of the Kallang Theatre. The entire project is called Kallang Alive.

Located at the Kallang field, the football hub will house the national training centre and ActiveSG Football Academy.

The new tennis facility, which will have open and sheltered courts, will also function as the national training centre and ActiveSG Academy.

The iconic Kallang Theatre and its adjoining areas will be redeveloped into an integrated sport, entertainment and lifestyle centre. Among the ideas proposed for the facility are a multi-purpose arena capable of hosting e-sports events, a themed hotel and an international sports medicine centre.

Link to the story:



Yishun integrated transport hub to open on Sept 8

The Yishun integrated transport hub (ITH) – Singapore’s 10th – will open on Sept 8.

The facility will have an air-conditioned bus interchange, as with all ITHs, and is connected to Yishun MRT station and Northpoint City shopping mall. It will also be fully barrier-free.

A Land Transport Authority spokesman said: “It has dedicated boarding points at each berth and graduated kerb edges to facilitate boarding by passengers in wheelchairs.

The Yishun ITH has parking for around 600 bicycles, as well as upgraded facilities for bus captains and other staff, including an air-conditioned staff canteen, dedicated staff toilets and a lounge.

To improve safety, the bus interchange is equipped with a reverse-warning system to the detect movement of buses from their parking bays into the driveway.

With the opening on Sept 8, the stopping points of all the bus services that currently operate from the temporary Yishun bus interchange will be adjusted accordingly.

Other ITHs in operation are in Ang Mo Kio, Bedok, Boon Lay, Clementi, Joo Koon, Sengkang, Serangoon, Toa Payoh and Bukit Panjang.

Several other ITHs are planned for, including in areas such as Beauty World, Bedok South, Hougang, Jurong East, Marina South, Pasir Ris, Tampines North and Tengah.

Link to the story:



46 countries sign mediation treaty named after S’pore

A landmark United Nations treaty that aims to promote the use of mediation in settling cross- border commercial disputes was signed by 46 countries, with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong hailing it as a powerful statement in support of multilateralism.

The Singapore Convention on Mediation, the first UN treaty to be named after Singapore, provides a uniform international framework to enforce mediated agreements. Its aim is to give businesses more confidence in opting for mediation to resolve disputes, ultimately facilitating international trade.

Singapore was the first to put ink to paper, followed by some of the biggest economies in the world including the United States, China and India. Delegates from 70 countries gathered in Singapore for the historic occasion, which also saw an orchid named the “Aranda Singapore Convention on Mediation”.

Link to the story:



Singapore PMI contracts for third month in a row

Manufacturing sentiment remained gloomy in July, with concerns like the escalating US-China trade war weighing on the sector.

The Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) – a key barometer of activity among manufacturers – came in at 49.8 last month, the third straight month of contraction, though it was up 0.2 point from June. A reading above 50 indicates expansion, and one below points to a general decline.

“The global trade uncertainties have (led to) costly disruptions to current supply chains faced by local manufacturers,” said Ms Sophia Poh, vice-president for industry engagement and development at the Singapore Institute of Purchasing and Materials Management (SIPMM), which compiles the index.

July’s slight uptick was due to a marginal expansion in new orders and factory output, as well as continued growth in new exports, the SIPMM said.

The PMI for the key electronics sector was slightly better as well – it came in at 49.3, up 0.1 point from June but still registering its ninth month of contraction.

Links to the story:

https://www.straitstimes.com/business/economy/spore-pmi-contracts-for-third-month-in-a-row https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/infographics/singapore-factory-output-in-contraction-mode-for-3rd-month


Q1 receipts fall 4.8% amid economic uncertainty

Spending by visitors to Singapore fell 4.8 per cent to S$6.5 billion in the first quarter of 2019 from the same period last year, although international arrivals ticked up by one per cent to 4.7 million. Poh Chi Chuan, Singapore Tourism Board (STB) director of digital transformation, said that visitors may have been more conscious about spending due to ongoing risk and uncertainties in the global economy.

This includes the US-China trade tensions, Brexit and currency fluctuations against the Singapore dollar, he said.

Tourism receipts fell from several markets such as China (minus one per cent), India (-6 per cent), the United Kingdom (-4 per cent), Malaysia (-34 per cent) and the Philippines (-18 per cent).

China remained the top market when it came to tourism receipts, contributing S$1.09 billion. Next came Indonesia at S$732 million and India at S$338 million.

Growth was observed in four out of STB’s top 10 markets, namely Indonesia, Japan, the United States and South Korea.

A slight increase in visitors who spent less time in Singapore due to the way their travel itineraries were structured was also seen. These visitors include day trippers, those who twin Singapore with other destinations, and cruise passengers.

On the outlook for the sector, Mr Poh said: “We remain cautiously optimistic about our tourism performance this year, taking into account global factors that might affect consumer confidence and travel sentiments.”

Links to the story:

https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/government-economy/q1-receipts-fall-48-amid-economic-uncertainty https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/more-tourists-in-q1-but-they-spent-less


SMEs need to contribute more to Singapore economy: Chan Chun Sing

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore need to pull their weight in raising their contribution to the Singapore economy, by being much more productive and efficient.

This was the prognosis from Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, who noted that while SMEs here make up 99 per cent of all businesses and employ 72 per cent of the workforce, collectively, they only contribute 47 per cent of Singapore’s gross domestic product.

Among the ways that SMEs can raise their game is through digitalisation, he said.

Google and UOB announced a free programme to train 400 SME leaders in using digital tools to solve business issues, from generating digital marketing strategies and implementing data-driven HR solutions, to using other kinds of software to boost their efficiency.

The SME Leadership Academy, supported by government agencies Digital Industry Singapore and SkillsFuture Singapore, will be a 11/2-day programme involving interactive discussions and lessons by business leaders from Google, UOB and other organisations.

Mr Chan also stressed that SMEs should look to expand their markets beyond Singapore, in order to grow and contribute more to the local economy.

In that aspect, digital technology can also lend its benefits, such as enabling businesses to “scale cross-border and reach out to markets without having to do the conventional scaling in terms of brick-and-mortar scaling, or even in terms of number of employees,” Mr Chan pointed out.

Links to the story:

https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/government-economy/smes-need-to-contribute-more-to-singapore-economy- chan-chun-sing



HK protests to hit retail, tourism, but limited effect on Singapore: economists

Prolonged protests in Hong Kong are likely to hit the market’s retail and tourism sectors in particular, say economists, who see a limited impact on Singapore in the short term.

With the protests having lasted two months and an attempted general strike, Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam warned that the city was being pushed “to the verge of a very dangerous situation”.

Preliminary estimates put Hong Kong’s second quarter gross domestic product growth at 0.6 per cent year on year, the slowest in a decade.

Q2 figures have been attributed as a consequence of the trade war. Apart from demand for trade and financial services weakening, property and equity prices fell in the second half of last year, dragging down consumption.

It is expected that transport disruptions and strikes to lead to a further slowdown in the third quarter. While the quantitative impact of the protest is hard to measure, the damage to investor sentiment, tourism, retail, and property is “enormous”.

Should social unrest persist and US-China trade war keep escalating in the rest of this year, the growth may decelerate further.

Economists named tourism and retail as the sectors likely to be hardest hit. Retail sales were down

6.7 per cent month on month in June, the largest sequential fall in more than seven years.

Link to the story:

https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/government-economy/hk-protests-to-hit-retail-tourism-but-limited-effect-on- singapore-economists



Shell exploring solar for Bukom refinery

Royal Dutch Shell is considering installing solar panels to power its Bukom refining site in Singapore, said a company spokesman.

The Bukom manufacturing site includes a 500,000 barrels-per-day refinery, which is Shell’s largest wholly owned refinery.

It has so far identified three manufacturing and logistics sites in Singapore’s western regions of Tuas, Jurong Island and Pandan to install a solar photovoltaic power generation system, with a combined peak capacity of about 3MW.

The first and largest of the three Shell solar farms, which will go live next month, will have more than 6,500 panels placed above a lubricant plant in Tuas. The solar farm is expected to produce about 3,300 megawatt-hours of renewable energy every year.

The generated solar energy will be used to help power operations at the Tuas lubricants plant, the company said, adding that this can result in the avoidance of a third of the greenhouse gas emissions from the plant’s electricity use, which is equivalent to taking about 700 cars off the road for one year.

Installations at Shell’s sites in Pandan and Jurong Island are expected to start late this year and early next year, respectively, the company said. Shell said that as part of its efforts to try low- carbon solutions, the company has signed a memorandum of understanding with Singapore’s Energy Market Authority to jointly work on energy storage systems.

Links to the story:



UK house prices show surprise drop in July

British house prices unexpectedly dropped for a second month in a row in July, figures from a mortgage lender showed, adding to signs that households are growing warier of making major financial decisions ahead of Brexit.

House prices fell 0.2 per cent on the month, compared with economists’ forecasts in a Reuters poll for a 0.3 per cent rise. The annual growth rate for the three months to July dropped to 4.1 per cent from 5.7 per cent, also a sharper decline than expected.

The most recent official data, for the 12 months to May, showed annual house price increases of

1.2 per cent, and that prices in London fell by the most since 2009.

Link to the story:



Toronto home sales soar in July amid housing supply crunch

Toronto home sales and prices continued to move higher in July amid tight supply. Sales in Canada’s biggest city jumped 24 per cent to 8,595 from the same period last year, the Toronto Real Estate Board said in a report.

On a seasonally-adjusted basis, sales rose 5.1 per cent from June, the most since the end of 2017, before harsher mortgage-lending rules were introduced.

The benchmark price, which accounts for the type of home sold, rose 4.4 per cent to C$800,900 (S$832,825), largely driven by gains in the condo segment.

Toronto sales have been rebounding all summer from a slump earlier this year amid tighter borrowing conditions that came into play in 2018. Meanwhile, housing supply is still limited, driving prices higher for most segments.

New listings rose 3.7 per cent to 14,393 in July compared with last year, while active listings were down by 9.1 per cent. The average price of a home rose 3.2 per cent from last year to C$806,755. The average was down from June’s level of C$831,737.

Link to the story:








Lee Sze Teck Head, Research




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