Bad times throw up good opportunities for CapitaLand

Bad times throw up good opportunities for CapitaLand


As credit crunch lays rivals low, it’s ready to swoop on bargains in next 2 years: CEO




A LOT of opportunities will be thrown up in the real estate market in the next two years and CapitaLand is well placed to take advantage of them, chief executive Liew Mun Leong says.


‘There will be distressed properties, distressed companies. We can probably buy land cheaper and even acquire companies,’ said Mr Liew in an interview with BT this week.


He said the current credit crunch is making borrowing very difficult for real estate companies whose balance sheets are not too strong. Meanwhile, it is also difficult to tap the capital market for funds.


‘If banks are now restricting their exposure to you in direct lending, and the capital market is now very cautious, then funding becomes a problem,’ he said. ‘For us, we are very well capitalised. Banks still trust us to do the normal borrowing. Our gearing is only 0.47. For every 0.1 increase in gearing, we can raise $1 billion. And we can still have access to the capital markets.’


CapitaLand group chief financial officer Olivier Lim pointed out a big difference between now and the Asian financial crisis 10 years ago: then, the cost of funds was going up; now, it is going down, with the US Federal Reserve continuing to ease interest rates. ‘So those who have access to funds are getting them cheaper,’ he said.


Added Mr Liew: ‘At the end of the day, some of our competitors will be weakened. And our relative combat power – to use a military term – will be stronger.’ With lower land costs and lower financing costs, CapitaLand will also be able to maintain its margin, he added.


In fact, CapitaLand currently has ready ammunition at its disposal.


In the last nine months, it raised $2.3 billion in convertible bonds, at 2.9 per cent and 3 per cent. And the conversion premium was pretty high.


In addition, CapitaLand has $12 billion worth of investible private equity funds for the different sectors of the market.


Mr Liew said CapitaLand’s failure to clinch the integrated resort (IR) projects might have been a blessing in disguise.


‘If we had a few billion dollars of debt for that kind of big-ticket item, in the current credit crunch landscape, I think it’s going to be a big burden on the balance sheet,’ he said.


Mr Liew does not think there will be a quick rebound from the current credit crunch.


He said: ‘The problem is getting worse. If you’d asked me last month, I would have said it’s still not so bad. This month, it’s worse. I can’t pretend to know when it will be over; some people say a few years. It’s like a sick man – the fever is rising, and now, worse, there’s diarrhoea. We need to stop the diarrhoea first, and then wait for the fever to go down. All I can say is, it’s not a pretty picture.’


CapitaLand, said Mr Liew, will continue to invest despite the strong headwinds ahead. It was through investing in the bad years of 2001 and 2003 that CapitaLand reaped record earnings in the last two years.


‘You have to invest. It takes time to plant the seeds and reap the rewards. Our fruits in the last two years were planted in those bad times when we had the perfect storm of the dotcom bust, the bombing of the US World Trade Center, Sars, the Iraq war and the two Bali bombings,’ he said.


Mr Liew’s vision is for CapitaLand to be the Nokia or Nestle of Singapore – that is, a truly international company.


‘In 5-10 years’ time, I aim to have CapitaLand as the top three or top five real estate companies in Asia; we are now Number 9 or 10. I want all our overseas businesses to be run by the locals. And I want each of our major markets to have a representative on our board of directors.


‘Singaporeans will look for new businesses to grow the group, look at asset allocation and have an overview of the various businesses,’ said Mr Liew.


Source: Business Times

Realising the Marina Bay vision

Realising the Marina Bay vision


CHING TUAN YEE and BENJAMIN NG reflect on the planning of Singapore‘s most ambitious urban project and highlight the exciting developments in store for Singaporeans and visitors alike


THE vision for Marina Bay is that of a high-quality, 24/7 live-work-play environment, one that encapsulates the essence of the global city Singapore is envisaged to be.


Waterfront business districts such as Canary Wharf in London and Pudong in Shanghai have come, in recent years, to signify urban progress and prosperity. They have raised the international profile of their respective cities while spurring growth and investment.


The Singapore example is in Marina Bay. A seamless extension of Singapore‘s flourishing central business district spanning 360 hectares of prime land for development, Marina Bay is our city’s most exciting and ambitious urban project that will support our continuing growth as a major business and financial hub in Asia.


Set by the water’s edge and with our signature city skyline as a backdrop, Marina Bay is envisioned to be a Garden City by the Bay, a 24/7 destination presenting an exciting array of opportunities for people to explore new living and lifestyle options, exchange new ideas and information for business, and be entertained by rich leisure and cultural experiences in a distinctive environment.


The groundwork for the expansion of the existing CBD (Central Business District) and its transformation into a waterfront business district focused around Marina Bay had been laid as early as the late 1960s. Land adjacent to the CBD was reclaimed in phases between 1969 and 1992.


The Master Plan for Marina Bay focuses on encouraging a mix of uses (commercial, residential, hotel and entertainment) to ensure that the area remains vibrant around the clock.


The concept of ‘white’ site zoning also gives developers more flexibility to decide on the mix of uses for each site, including housing, offices, shops, hotels, recreational facilities and public spaces.


To cater for good connectivity and seamless extension, the development parcels at Marina Bay were planned based on a grid urban pattern which extends from the existing road network within the CBD. This grid creates a flexible framework with a series of land parcels that can be amalgamated or sub-divided to meet different requirements as well as changing demands and allow the phasing of developments.


Creating signature districts


In the planning of Marina Bay, specific attention was paid to creating value. The land parcels are located within a series of distinctive districts, each focusing around attractive public open spaces and tree-lined boulevards which will provide signature address locations for developments.


Along the waterfront and fronting key open spaces, building heights are kept low. This maximises views to and from individual developments further away from the waterfront, enhancing their attractiveness and creating a dynamic ‘stepped-up’ skyline profile as well as more pedestrian scaled areas.


The successful development of Marina Bay is supported by state-of-the-art infrastructure. To date, the government has pumped in more than $4.5 billion to facilitate development of the area.


A Common Services Tunnel housing electrical and telecommunication cables and other utility services underground is being built, making repeated road diggings a thing of the past. An extensive road and rail network has also been planned, with three MRT stations to be built in the area as part of the new Downtown rail line.


A new vehicular and pedestrian bridge will link Bayfront to Marina Centre. The 280m pedestrian linkway – the longest in Singapore – will sport a dynamic double helix structure. Together with a new waterfront promenade, this will create a continuous walking loop connecting up the necklace of attractions and open spaces around the Bay.


Another key infrastructural project is the Marina Barrage. When officially opened in 2009, it will turn the existing water body into Singapore‘s first reservoir in the city. This will serve as a new source of fresh water for Singapore and a new lifestyle attraction allowing for a variety of water-based activities and events to take place. It will also house Singapore‘s tallest fountain project.


The softer touch


Having provided for much of the ‘hardware’ for the new business district, it became clear that URA had to go beyond its traditional roles of urban planning and land sales management. To this end, the Marina Bay Development Agency was set up within URA to focus on the ‘software’ for developing the area. Since then, URA has embarked on a full spectrum of marketing, promotion and place management activities to showcase the uniqueness of this new destination.


To generate more buzz, a calendar of events and activities for public spaces and water bodies has been put in place in partnership with various agencies and the private sector. Signature events, like the Marina Bay Singapore New Year’s Eve Countdown, have become a new urban tradition. Marina Bay has also become the definitive venue for a host of sporting events like the F1 Powerboat Race, the Oakley City Duathlon and the Great Eastern Women’s 10km run.


The shape of things to come


While it will take more than a decade for the entire area at Marina Bay to be fully developed, a host of projects that will offer people from all walks of life exciting and attractive options to live, work and play are already taking shape. These upcoming developments have contributed significantly towards enhancing the area’s reputation as a location that offers something for everyone: a tropical living environment among lush greenery; a bustling global business hub and a lifestyle locale presenting a kaleidoscope of entertainment and leisure choices.


LIVE – by the Bay. Marina Bay has fast become one of the city’s most popular and prestigious residential addresses, with a number of outstanding projects already under construction.


The Sail @ Marina Bay will be the tallest residential development in Singapore at 245 metres when it is completed in 2009. It boasts two towers – one at 70 storeys and the other at 63 storeys. Meanwhile, the Marina Bay Financial Centre incorporates the 55-storey Marina Bay Residences, comprising 428 luxury apartments, and the Marina Bay Suites, a 66-storey development offering 221 exclusive bayside units.


WORK – by the Bay. With its prime location in the heart of Singapore‘s future downtown, Marina Bay continues to be a magnet to global investors and tenants seeking premium office space in a prime location.


The development of Marina Bay will help to further position Singapore as one of Asia‘s leading financial centres, doubling the size of the existing financial district. The new growth area set aside for the seamless extension of the existing financial district is more than twice the size of London‘s Canary Wharf and will provide some 2.82 million square metres of office space, equivalent to the office space within Hong Kong‘s main business district, Central.


Already, a nucleus of office developments is forming with the development of One Raffles Quay, the soon-to-be-completed Marina Bay Financial Centre, and the two recently sold sites at Marina View. Several global banks and multinational corporations, including UBS, Deutsche Bank, DBS and Standard Chartered, are already located or will be locating in these developments.


PLAY – by the Bay. The ‘fun’ factor at Marina Bay is expected to be raised to a new high when the Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort opens its doors in 2009. With its impressive design featuring a sky park and three soaring 50-storey hotel blocks with landscaped balconies, the area’s most anticipated project will add a new dimension to our city skyline.


The integrated resort is poised to be a world-class development that will house a casino, two theatres, 110,000 sq metres of meeting and convention facilities, as well as about 2,500 hotel rooms. Other attractions at the integrated resort include restaurants in the form of two floating crystal pavilions and an ArtScience Museum, the rooftop of which becomes an amphitheatre with tiered seating.


Building on Singapore‘s green legacy, three world-class waterfront gardens of about 100 hectares have been planned for the area. With the first phase of the project slated for completion in 2010, the Gardens at Marina Bay will be another unique destination attraction for those visiting Singapore and a green sanctuary for people living and working in the city.


Each garden will feature a distinctive design and character. All three gardens will also be interconnected via a series of pedestrian bridges to form a larger loop along the whole waterfront and linked to surrounding developments, open public spaces, transport nodes and attractions.


Focal point for the community


Marina Bay is a prime example of a visionary masterplan that is not only well on its way to becoming a new focal point for the local community, but it has also drawn worldwide attention and interest. Testament to this is its achievement in attracting close to $16.5 billion worth of private investments to date from international investors and developers from the US, Hong Kong, Australia, Europe as well as the Middle East.


Moving forward, Marina Bay will continue to be the centrepiece of Singapore‘s urban transformation, providing the city with the opportunity to attract new investments, visitors and talents.


The URA, as the Development Agency for Marina Bay, is committed to our long-term and strategic plans to meet the area’s future development needs. We will continue to adopt a holistic and integrated approach in designing the area with people in mind, work with partners and communities to implement key infrastructure, and carry out active promotion and place management activities. We will also engage investors to garner more interesting business concepts and ideas. This will take us closer to our vision of making Marina Bay a choice destination for all, one that promises Singaporeans and visitors alike a brand-new, live-work-play experience.


Something for everyone: Set by the water’s edge and with the city skyline as a backdrop, Marina Bay is envisioned to be a Garden City by the Bay, a 24/7 destination that presents an array of opportunities for people to explore new lifestyle options, exchange new ideas and information for business, and be entertained by rich leisure and cultural experiences


Ching Tuan Yee is Executive Architect, Urban Planning Section, Urban Redevelopment Authority, while Benjamin Ng is Place Manager, Marina Bay Development Agency, Urban Redevelopment Authority


Source: Business Times

The house that Teo helped to build

The house that Teo helped to build


A former architect turned his vision of a dream home into reality. GEOFFREY EU reports


RICHARD C H Teo’s new house along a popular residential street in the Holland Road area is a tale of two halves and – in a manner of speaking – two architects as well. As a trained architect who hasn’t practised in over two decades, he nevertheless had some ideas of his own when he purchased a plot of land to build his new family home on. In RT+Q Architects, he found a firm that was able to turn his vision – a building of two distinct halves divided by a central hallway – into a pleasant reality.


Mr Teo spent the early years of his career as a government architect – he worked on projects such as Changi Airport‘s Terminal 2 and the Hon Sui Sen Memorial Library at NUS. He then became a manager with the GIC and is now the president of a fund management company specialising in the real estate sector.


‘I’ve always loved architecture and design, and my second love was finance, so I married the two with my career,’ says Mr Teo, who was based in the San Francisco Bay Area for several years before returning here about 15 years ago, when he says that the Asian property market was coming of age. He and his family, including wife Cecilia and three sons (ages 20, 16 and 12), lived in a tropical-style semi-detached home in the Bukit Timah area. The house was attractive and comfortable to live in, but he says he always had a desire to build a full-size bungalow.


‘We found the land (about 9,000 square feet) in 2005, and we chose an architect that was in line with our lifestyle – open, livable, modern contemporary – and the result was a collaboration that went through a few regurgitations,’ he says. ‘This house is the result of three components – a good architect, a good client and a good contractor.’ Indeed, the six-bedroom, 7,000-square-foot house was finished on time – within 13 months – and on budget. ‘It was a very good exercise in terms of trying to get what you want, and also what the architect wants.’


In keeping with a style of architecture that appears to be much in demand these days, the Teo residence features clean lines, high-ceilinged spaces and various glass walls that can be opened up to cross-ventilate the house and bring the outdoors in. There are also aluminium roofs and strategically placed feature walls. A swimming pool is set in one corner of the garden, which adjoins a plot of State land that – with its coconut trees – somehow recalls bygone kampong days.


The design allows for plenty of natural light in the house, and there are also ‘see-through’ elements such as first floor bridges with glass floors across the central hallway. Possibly the most elaborate design feature is a spiral staircase that rises from the basement entertainment room to the ground floor entrance lobby and the bedrooms above. The staircase spine was carved out from a single steel pipe.


Upstairs, the bedrooms are built around the double height living area. With nooks for workstations and lounging around, there is also room enough for each occupant of the house to have a little privacy. Downstairs, the living and dining areas are inviting spaces that open out to an outdoor deck and the garden beyond. The open-style kitchen has a counter that can seat six, for casual dining or hanging out. An Asian kitchen is used for the heavy-duty culinary chores. Materials used throughout the house include flamed black granite floors from Shanxi province. Meanwhile, interesting detailing includes movable aluminium sunscreens and exterior timber walls.


‘This house has been built for tropical living, says Mr Teo. ‘There are lots of components of tropical architecture and tropical elements that have been modernized. The house has character, there is a sense of openness and serenity and you just feel as if the feng shui is good.’ He adds: ‘There’s no fuss about it. I didn’t want an elaborate, difficult space to live in. Architecture is for the living – it must do something the occupants feel comfortable in, and I feel this house manages to achieve that.’


The owner says he avoided a ‘designer’ interior because he wanted the architecture to speak for itself. Still, the interiors are simple and appealing, conducive to a casual and contemporary lifestyle. Furnishings are mainly contemporary, and works by Asian artists adorn many of the walls. Mr Teo says he started buying paintings several years ago, and also commissioned a Vietnamese artist to do a series of three paintings to hang on a prominent first floor wall space.


The sounds of water and music permeate the house on most evenings, although there is also a full drum set, along with a pool table and large-screen television in the basement ‘romper’ room.


‘One of the first considerations was that our eldest son plays the drums – with three boys, we had to find a way to contain them somehow,’ says Mr Teo. ‘The test of this house is how it relates to the children.’ He adds that all the children have become attached to it in the three months since the family moved in. ‘They each had a say in how to create their own space – in some sense, it was an exercise well worth doing.’


The Teos are more than pleased with their new home, and so it is no surprise that it is filled with positive vibes. ‘The moment you come in, you are engulfed in space,’ he says. His wife, who originally wanted to sample apartment living, says the house is equipped with all the facilities of a nice condominium, ‘except for a tennis court’. Adds Mr Teo: ‘To be able to say I helped to create something, to feel that sense of achievement – that’s the architect in my blood.’


Source: Business Times