Area around Singapore River to be revamped for F1 night race

Area around Singapore River to be revamped for F1 night race

By Wong Mun Wai, Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 29 February 2008 1906 hrs


SINGAPORE: The area around the Singapore River is getting a new look to give it a night-time buzz, and lighting will be a key feature in the makeover.


The Read and Cavenagh bridges will be fitted with programmable lights that produce different colours and patterns. There will also be lights under the Clemenceau, Coleman and Elgin bridges.


Even the underpasses at Boat Quay, Empress Place and Clarke Quay will be fitted with programmable lights.


The river steps outside Central Mall and UOB Plaza will light up as well.


Floating lights in the shape of jellyfish will be making a splash on the river outside Empress Place. There will also be new street lamps and lights on the trees along the riverfront.


Work on the makeover starts in April and the Singapore Tourism Board is aiming to finish the first phase in time for the Formula One night race in September.


The first phase of infrastructure work stretches from the mouth of the Singapore River to the Cavenagh Bridge and Clarke Quay – about 2km out of the total 3km of works.


The second phase – from Robertson Quay to Kim Seng Bridge – will start in October 2008, and is scheduled to be completed in March 2009.


Source: Channel News Asia

Development charges to rise with biggest hikes in industrial and warehouse sectors

Development charges to rise with biggest hikes in industrial and warehouse sectors

By Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 29 February 2008 2002 hrs


SINGAPORE: Developers will have to pay more to redevelop non-residential sites such as hospitals, hotels, shops and warehouses.


They also have to pay marginally more to redevelop residential sites for condominiums.


This is according to the latest revision of development charge rates released by the Ministry of National Development (MND).


The biggest hikes came from non-residential sites, which include parcels for hotel and hospital, as well as industrial and warehouse use.


The industry and warehouse sector saw the development charge rise 16.8 per cent overall.


The most affected was the Tuas Area, which includes Kranji, Lim Chu Kang and Choa Chu Kang.


For hotels and hospitals, there’s been a 3.3 per cent rise all round.


According to consultants Knight Frank, this was likely fuelled by a hospital site at Novena Terrace and Irrawaddy Road that was sold to the Parkway Group for S$1.2 billion.


Knight Frank said locations with the biggest percentage increases include Sungei Seletar, Yio Chu Kang Road, Raffles City and Grange Road area.


Commercial sites will see their development charge go up by 1.5 per cent in general, moderating from the high of 42 per cent in September 2007.


Consultants CB Richard Ellis (CBRE) said the increases were seen in areas where there were recent land sale transactions.


These include the Serangoon Central, Toa Payoh, Braddell Road and Bishan region.


CBRE said the hike could be due to the recent award of a commercial site at Lorong 6 Toa Payoh.


For the closely-watched development charge for residential plots, rates have gone up 2.6 per cent overall compared with the last review in September.


The rise is seen to be not significant, given that the charge has been increased a few times in 2007 as a result of the booming private residential property market.


The Thomson, Ang Mo Kio Ave 6 and Choa Chu Kang Road areas saw the sharpest increase – with the charge rising nearly 29 per cent.


The increase was due to some collective sales done in the second half of 2007 in fringe areas such as the Thomson Road and East Coast areas.


Development charges are paid by developers to enhance the use of sites or build bigger projects on them.


The charges are revised every March and September and are based on recent land and property values. –CNA/vm


Source: Channel News Asia

URA launches sale of 11 land parcels at Sembawang Rd/Andrews Ave

URA launches sale of 11 land parcels at Sembawang Rd/Andrews Ave

Posted: 29 February 2008 2259 hrs


SINGAPORE : The Urban Redevelopment Authority has launched 11 land parcels at Sembawang Road and Andrews Avenue for sale for landed housing development.


This is the second phase of the planned Sembawang Greenvale estate.


It is one of the eight residential sites on the confirmed list announced under the Government Land Sales Programme for the first half of 2008.


The estate will have a mix of landed housing including bungalows, semi-detached and terrace houses.


Phase 1 of Sembawang Greenvale, which consists of 12 land parcels with a total of 57 units, was successfully sold in October 2007.


The 11 land parcels under Phase 2 will be sold on 99-year leases.


A public auction will be held on April 22. – CNA/ms


Source: Channel News Asia

DC rate hike lower than expected

DC rate hike lower than expected


Average industrial rates up 16.8%, muted increases for most other uses




THE government yesterday announced modest, lower-than-expected increases in development charge (DC) rates for most use groups, except industrial.


‘Limited transactions in the past six months, amidst cautionary sentiment set about the US sub-prime debacle, were probably an important factor for the moderate gains this round,’ said Jones Lang LaSalle regional director and head of investments Lui Seng Fatt.


Knight Frank director Nicholas Mak said: ‘The government may feel that there has been no significant appreciation in land prices in the last few months.


‘And DC rates for most use groups – such as commercial, non-landed residential and hotel/hospital – were already at a higher base because of substantial hikes in the last revision.


‘Industrial DC rates, on the other hand, had seen only a marginal rise the previous round and hence saw the sharpest increase this time.’


DC rates, which are payable for enhancing the use of some sites or putting bigger developments on them, are revised twice yearly, on March 1 and Sept 1, and are listed according to use groups and 118 locations across Singapore.


From today, the average DC rate for commercial use has gone up 1.5 per cent – after the 42 per cent increase in the last round on Sept 1, 2007. The average rate for non-landed residential use has been raised 2.6 per cent, again much smaller than the 58 per cent hike previously, while the average rate for landed residential use has been left unchanged.


For hotel and hospital use, the latest DC rates are up 3.3 per cent on average, compared with a 23 per cent hike previously.


Industrial DC rates have jumped 16.8 per cent on average, against a 2 per cent rise previously.


JLL‘s Mr Lui said that the big hike in industrial DC rates is in tandem with growing demand for backoffice space as more firms relocate out of the CBD due to high rents.


For industrial DC rates, the biggest hike of 33.3 per cent was in the Jurong/Lim Chu Kang/Kranji location, which analysts attributed to JTC Corp’s sale of two industrial sites at Jalan Tepong and Pioneer Road/Tuas Avenue 11 at about double the land values implied by the previous September 2007 industrial DC rate for the area.


Similarly, the sale of an industrial plot at Commonwealth Drive/Lane at about four times the September 2007 DC rate-implied land value was probably behind a 32 per cent hike yesterday in the industrial DC rate for the area.


Industrial DC rates were raised by 22.2 per cent each in the Kallang Way/MacPherson/Aljunied, and Braddell/Potong Pasir/Woodleigh areas, based on JLL‘s analysis. The rate for West Coast Road/Jurong East was upped 20.7 per cent. Increases of 20 per cent were seen in locations such as Havelock Road, Telok Blangah, Tiong Bahru, Bukit Merah, Redhill, Alexandra and Henderson.


Commercial DC rates stayed put in Raffles Place, Marina Bay, Cecil Street and Robinson Road. Instead, the hikes were mostly outside the central business district, ‘reflecting the trend of office demand being pushed out of the CBD‘, Savills Singapore director Ku Swee Yong said.


The biggest increases, of 25 and 23.3 per cent, were in the Toa Payoh/Potong Pasir and Paya Lebar/Eunos areas respectively. The sale price of a 99-year commercial plot next to the HDB Hub in Toa Payoh in October and rising rents at SingPost Centre in Paya Lebar were likely reasons for the increases.


The Marine Parade and Tampines locations each saw a 19 per cent appreciation in commercial DC rates, apparently supported by the sale price of an office unit at Parkway Parade, and rental evidence at Tampines Mall and buildings in the Tampines Finance Park.


For non-landed residential DC rates, the biggest gain of 28.6 per cent was in Ang Mo Kio/Yio Chu Kang as well as an adjoining sector that covers Upper Thomson and Sembawang Hills. Far East Organization’s $601 psf per plot ratio top bid for a condo site next to Ang Mo Kio Hub in September last year – a record for 99-year suburban condo land – was the likely reason for the rate hikes.


The Telok Blangah and Tiong Bahru/Ayer Rajah locations each saw hikes of 22.2 per cent in non-landed residential DC rate. CB Richard Ellis executive director Li Hiaw Ho said that the increases were probably supported by the $639 psf ppr fetched for a 99-year condo site on Alexandra Road last year. Mr Li also pointed to the sale of a freehold site on Margate Road as the likely reason for a 21.4 per cent rate hike in the Mountbatten/Meyer/Broadrick area.


For hotel use, gains of around 9-10 per cent were seen in DC rates for the traditional hotel belts in the Orchard Road, Marina Centre and Singapore River locations, as well as places like Marina Bay, Bayfront and Fullerton Road.


‘The tourism boom is expected to continue as the Singapore government drives towards the 17 million visitors goal by 2015. Orchard Road remains Singapore’s main shopping belt, while upcoming developments in the Marina area such as the Marina Bay Sands integrated resort and the F1 race will further generate demand for hotels in the area,’ Mr Lui said.


The DC use group for hotels also includes hospitals and interestingly, the government did not raise the DC rate for the Irrawaddy Road location where a hospital site last month fetched a record price of $1,600 psf ppr from Parkway group.


A spokeswoman for the Chief Valuer said: ‘Parkway’s record bid was an isolated case. In general, there’s no compelling evidence that market values for hotel/hospital use in the area have moved up so much.’


Source: Business Times

More landed housing sites up for auction

More landed housing sites up for auction




THE Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has launched the second phase of Sembawang Greenvale after auctioning all parcels in Phase One last October.


In the first phase, 12 sub-divided landed housing plots near Sembawang Beach were auctioned for a total of $37.09 million, which works out to about $285 per square foot (psf) of land on average.


Phase Two comprises 11 land parcels for a total of 90 dwellings. Most of these will be terrace houses.


Knight Frank director (research and consultancy) Nicholas Mak says new terrace houses in the area are now selling for $1.7 million to $2 million.


The median unit price for landed housing in District 27, where Sembawang is located, increased 12 per cent quarter-on-quarter in Q4 2007, he said. ‘Therefore, in terms of bidding price, we expect the average land price of Greenvale Phase Two will be higher than that of Phase One.’


Mr Mak expects that terrace plots will fetch about $320-380 psf of land, and semi-detached plots about $300-350 psf of land.


Cushman and Wakefield managing director Donald Han believes demand for landed property will stay sound this year. But he also reckons current sentiment – hurt by the US sub-prime crisis – could see potential bidders for Sembawang Greenvale Phase Two discount their offers in the light of rising risks.


As such, he thinks bids could be 5-10 per cent below those received for Phase One.


Mr Han still believes there will be interest in the parcels, especially those that can yield more units, as developers will be able to ‘average down’ construction costs and increase profit margins.


Separately, URA said yesterday it has launched an industrial land parcel at Ubi Avenue 4/Ubi Road 2 for sale by public tender, after a developer committed to bid at least $14 million in early February.


Colliers International managing director Dennis Yeo estimated earlier that bids for the site could come in at $70-80 psf per plot ratio, translating to a breakeven cost of about $230-250 psf.


Source: Business Times

Jazzing up S’pore River’s sights and sounds

Jazzing up S’pore River’s sights and sounds


COME September, visitors will be treated to a new look and an enhanced experience of the sights and sounds of the Singapore River.


The Singapore Tourism Board (STB), together with the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), yesterday announced plans for a series of infrastructural developments as well the staging of new signature events to promote the nightlife alongside the river.


STB spokeswoman Margaret Teo said: ‘The Singapore River has the potential to stand out as a a distinctive 24-hour entertainment lifestyle destination.


‘Plans lined up will add to the precinct’s overall appeal and augment our international standing as an exciting, dynamic and vibrant city and a leading events and entertainment capital in Asia.’


There are three parts to the plans. The first is a series of infrastructural changes which will see more night-lighting, street furniture such as benches, signage and storyboards, in addition to new bumboat landing points and ticketing kiosks.


The lighting plan will see new ambient and programmable lighting for the Read and Cavanagh bridges, that would be able to change to suit various festive occasions. Underbridge lighting along the Clemenceau, Coleman and Elgin bridges will be another feature, besides floating ‘jellyfish’ lights on the river and enhanced landscape lighting along the three-kilometre stretch.


The URA will soon be launching a tender for the construction of a mobile floating stage at Boat Quay, which will accommodate a range of arts and cultural performances, concerts and dance acts.


The next approach will involve STB working with stakeholders of the various quays to create an annual events calendar for the area.


The highlight will be the Singapore River Festival, an annual event held in conjunction with F1 Singapore GP seasonal festivities spanning the two weeks leading up to the race.


At other times, each quay is expected to organise an event that mirrors its unique character. For example, the Empress Place event might have a greater focus on the arts, heritage and culture while the Clarke Quay event will play up its entertainment nightlife facade.


The final part of the plans is a continued partnership between the public and private sectors, such as 24-hour licensing for round-the-clock operations or even government seed money for lifestyle events by the entertainment industry.


The first phase of infrastructural works will be completed by September, with the second phase to be launched in October with expected completion next March.


Source: Business Times

Local banks face challenging 2008

Local banks face challenging 2008




WHEN UNITED Overseas Bank (UOB) released its fourth-quarter and 2007 results last Wednesday, the last of the three local banks to do so, they were pretty much like those of its rivals. It scored on some points and fell flat on others. In other words, nothing to shout about. The negatives included the taking of more impairment charges for its collateralised debt obligations (CDO) exposure and a 14 per cent increase in operating expenses quarter-on-quarter. Positives included higher net interest income and strong growth in non-interest income.


What did set UOB apart from DBS Group Holdings and OCBC Bank was the way that the top brass of the family-run bank was insulated. At the results briefing, analysts and reporters were seated before senior managers led by chief executive Wee Ee Cheong marched in. When it was over, the audience was asked to remain seated to let Mr Wee and his team leave first – much like the instructions one hears at events graced by dignitaries of state.


That aside, instead of posting stellar results for 2007 – which after all was a buoyant year for Singapore and the regional economies – the three banks got caught, although on a relatively much smaller scale, in the US sub-prime mortgage and CDO fallout. Perhaps it is the price of diversification, of venturing into newer markets and other asset classes, and not just relying on the domestic economy.


But all three banks also ended 2007 more closely tied to Singapore – and not just to the property sector.


Since starting some 10 years ago on their overseas acquisitions, their offshore contributions are far from satisfactory.


In 2007, Singapore accounted for 70 per cent of profits at UOB and OCBC, while it was 67 per cent for DBS.


As for the banks’ property exposure, OCBC Bank is the most connected. About 60 per cent of its loans is to real estate. UOB is next with 52.7 per cent and DBS Group Holdings has the lowest exposure, at 49 per cent. Housing loans, the least risky of property related loans, made up 26 per cent in OCBC’s case, and 24 per cent for DBS and 23.9 per cent for UOB.


It is not unusual that the banks, which are only as good as the economy, have skewed their fortunes to the property sector.


Singapore has enjoyed a construction and property boom in the past 24 months, fuelled by wealthy foreigners buying homes, several mega projects including the two integrated resorts and increased demand from multinationals for offices and commercial space as they make Singapore their regional headquarters.


But the property cycle looks like it has peaked or is peaking. Some forecasts for the worst-case scenario are that luxury home prices could fall by 20-30 per cent this year, assuming that the sub-prime problems don’t end. On the other hand, the optimists said that this sector could enjoy another 10 per cent gain in prices.


In the commercial sector, already some property consultants are saying that transactions have begun to stall as banks turn more conservative.


The heads of the three local banks have said that 2008 will be challenging, given the prospects of a US recession. But there will still be loans growth, particularly from mortgages as deferred payment projects come up for financing.


But bank earnings will come under pressure even as mortgage volume growth remains strong, said Morgan Stanley in a note yesterday.


‘While we expect loan growth to remain strong for most of 2008, it won’t be enough to drive earnings growth for the banks,’ it said.


Hopefully the US slowdown will be brief, otherwise the ripple effects globally will be felt, including in Asia and Singapore. If there is a sharp recession in the US, China and India will not be the saviours to world growth. As Morgan Stanley Asia head Stephen Roach often says, ‘Chindia’ still consumes only one-sixth of what the US does.


‘It’s mathematically impossible to see a major decrease in US consumption being made up by the Chinese and Indians,’ he said.


DBS has already said that it is keeping an eye on exporters in southern China, some of whom are their customers. A US recession will impact Singapore and the banks might then feel the impact on their asset quality. If this becomes severe, they might have to take impairment charges which will hit bottom lines.


Source: Business Times

Small development tax increase sign of property slowdown

Small development tax increase sign of property slowdown


Weekend • March 1, 2008


Cheow Xin Yi



In the latest signal that the market for private homes has cooled, the Ministry of National Development (MND) yesterday announced minimal changes in the development charges for residential sites.


A tax on property developers for site enhancement, the development charges payable in the next six months for non-landed residential sites were raised on average by a marginal 2.6 per cent.


The latest hike, which the MND said was calculated after having “taken into account current market values” following a half-yearly review, compares with a 58-per-cent rise in the same category last September.


On average, development charges were raised 1.5 per cent for commercial sites such as those for offices and shopping centres, 3.3 per cent for hotel and hospital sites and 16.8 per cent for industrial and warehouse sites. Charges in the other categories, including landed residential, remained unchanged.


“It is encouraging to know that the Government has made minimal changes to the development charges for residential use, a reflection that it is mindful of the current market sentiment and the uncertainties ahead,” said Mr Li Hiaw Ho, executive director of CBRE Research.


Mr Donald Han, managing director of Cushman and Wakefield, attributed the virtually “flat” rates to the lacklustre market for private homes, as well as sales of residential sites, in recent months. He noted that the property market started deteriorating in December as sentiment turned cautious amid uncertainty over the extent of the fallout from the sub-prime crisis in the United States and stock market volatility.


Statistics from the Urban Redevelopment Authority showed that the number of new private homes sold in December shrunk by half from the month earlier, while January numbers were flat. Fewer units were also launched by developers in the past two months.


The double-digit rate of increase in development charges for industrial sites was “a good indication of healthy demand for such land as well as a continued stream of foreign investments into Singapore’s manufacturing sector”, said Mr Li.


Source: TodayOnline

URA auctions 11 land parcels in Sembawang

URA auctions 11 land parcels in Sembawang


Weekend • March 1, 2008


Cheow Xin Yi



The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is auctioning 11 land parcels along Sembawang Road/Andrews Avenue as part of its plans for a landed housing estate in the area.


The plots constitute the Phase 2 development of the Sembawang Greenvale project, and can accommodate 90 dwellings, comprising of one bungalow, 16 semi-detached houses and 73 terrace houses. Phase 1 of the project, which consists of 12 plots along the same stretch of road and accommodates 57 dwellings, was fully sold last October.


Property watchers said yesterday’s announcement of the URA tender would likely draw interest from small property developers, contractors and engineering firms, despite projected slower economic growth and a volatile stock market.


“The landed segment is still a very stable market and the sites are targeted at local buyers, especially displaced owners from collective sales. But there is a strong chance that developers will factor in the current market uncertainty, and this will translate into a lower price,” said Mr Donald Han, managing director of Cushman and Wakefield.


Mr Han expects prices to be 5 to 10 per cent lower than those transacted at last year’s auction, which fetched an average $285 per sq foot of land.


Mr Nicholas Mak, director of research and consultancy at Knight Frank, however, is more optimistic. He noted that the median unit price for landed housing in the area had increased 12 per cent in the fourth quarter of last year from the previous three months.


Mr Mak expects prices in Phase 2 to be higher than those of Phase 1, and fetch $320 to $380 psf for terrace plots, $300 to $350 for semi-detached plots, and $200 to $260 for L-shaped bungalow and semi-detached plots.


Source: TodayOnline

Makeover to add night buzz to S’pore River

Makeover to add night buzz to S’pore River


Walkways, trees and water will be bathed in light in time for upcoming river-centred activities


By Lim Wei Chean & Tessa Wong


THE Singapore River is getting its biggest makeover since 1999, when $16 million was spent to improve the pedestrian walkways there.


Work, to begin next month, will be geared towards creating a night-time buzz along the historic, 3km stretch from the river mouth inland.


The makeover – the first comprehensive one of the waterfront attractions – will be anchored by new lighting which will evoke the magic of being out at night:


The trees on the water’s edge will be lit up and ‘jellyfish’ lights will gleam on the water; the sidewalks will be bathed in subtle light and landing points for river taxis will also be lit.


The lights on the bridges will even be programmable to match festivals or seasons.


New street furniture and street signs will be put in place to create a backdrop for a line-up of river-centred activities like the Singapore River Festival in September, a two-week jamboree that will feature a mega-concert, river float parade, outdoor parties and other events.


By the time the inaugural Formula One Grand Prix race rolls around – also in that month – the work will be two-thirds done.


Asked why the focus is on creating buzz for the riverfront by night, Mrs Cheong Koon Hean, chief executive officer of the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), explained that Singapore’s sweltering daytime temperatures are not conducive to walks by the river, ‘so it makes sense for us to create a vibrant night life’ for the cooler evenings.


Indeed, although the Singapore River has for years been touted as one of the ‘must-see’ free attractions, a 2006 survey by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) revealed that only 7 per cent of tourists polled visited it.


The same survey had the Orchard Road shopping strip topping the list of free attractions, with 73 per cent of polled tourists beating a path there, and 51 per cent to Chinatown.


Neither the STB nor URA could be persuaded to say how much the improvements, first announced in 2006, will cost, but STB‘s assistant chief executive of leisure Margaret Teo let on that the project will ‘run into the millions’, although it would still ‘cost less than’ the $40 million poured into renovations for Orchard Road.


The budget nonetheless reflects the latest effort to rejuvenate the riverfront, which was given a $170 million clean-up in the 1980s to get rid of its pong and to lift it above being a waterway for Singapore‘s early commerce.


While riverfronts in other countries are key attractions for tourists and locals, the fortunes of the attractions on the banks of the Singapore River have waxed and waned.


Boat Quay itself has undergone smaller-scale revamps; the constant flux in shops and restaurants there hint at businesses’ low staying power.


Mr Mohan Mulani, the chief executive of Harry’s Holdings which owns Harry’s Bar there, said: ‘One gets the feeling that Boat Quay is very rundown. It is like the necklace of Singapore, and it could be a beautiful necklace shimmering by the water.’


A revamp is long overdue, he added.


Businesses like his will be included in a programme by the STB and URA to provide seed funding to merchants there to develop events on the river all year round.


Cruise operators will also be increasing river taxi and cruise services along the river.


Equity salesman Teo Kian Boon, 30, hopeful that the makeover will make a difference, said: ‘Maybe all these will finally turn us into Venice of the East.’


Source: Straits Times