S&P affirms Spore’s AAA rating

S&P affirms Spore’s AAA rating 



Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services has affirmed its AAA sovereign credit ratings on Singapore, citing that the outlook is stable.


The ratings agency said the ratings reflect Singapore’s enduring fiscal and external strengths and competitive economy, while taking into account the challenges it faces as a small and open economy.


Singapore‘s general government surplus is estimated at 8.8 percent of GDP in fiscal 2007 and averaged 8 percent of GDP between 2003 and 2007.


S&P analyst Phua Yee Farn said this level of surplus, one of the highest in the world, provides strong fiscal flexibility, which is needed for structural reforms.


Mr Phua said the ratings on Singapore are also supported by the repbulic’s strong record of political stability and prudent macroeconomic management.


Given its small and open economy, Singapore is more exposed to exogenous shocks than some of its peers.


S&P said the sound and stable financial system, which has ample liquidity, good capitalization levels, and effective regulation, helps mitigate the potential risks from exogenous shocks.


Source: 938 live

Upcoming cruise centre in Marina South drawing interest from industry players

Upcoming cruise centre in Marina South drawing interest from industry players


SINGAPORE : The upcoming cruise terminal in Marina South is drawing a lot of attention from industry players.


And with the appointment of the new terminal operator expected by third quarter of this year, some in the industry are wondering if they could have a piece of the pie.


Cruising is becoming more popular nowadays.


And with the new cruise terminal up by 2010, Singapore is expected to double its capacity to cope with the increasing number of cruise passengers.


But industry players are wondering who the new terminal operator will be.


According to them, one likely contender is the Singapore Cruise Centre – which is currently operating Singapore’s cruise terminal at HarbourFront.


Cheong Teow Cheng, President, Singapore Cruise Centre, said, “We want to do our best and be recognised as the cruise terminal operator of choice, so hopefully whatever we do, for example, upgrading the current terminal, would put us in good stead when the tender for the new operator is out.”


The Singapore Tourism Board is expected to announce its decision by the third quarter this year.


Some industry players like cruise liners said they are open to opportunities to be involved in the running of the new cruise centre.


Dario Rustico, Director, Sales and Marketing, Costa Crociere, said, “It is important to involve cruise operators in managing the terminal, because they can bring their expertise and experience from all over the world”.


Jackson Loy, VP, Sales and Marketing, Star Cruises, said, “If it’s not the Singapore Cruise Centre operating it, then probably some joint venture between operators of cruise lines, cruise liners, cruise line operators themselves together with shipping related enterprises. It could be a joint venture.”


The new terminal will help Singapore achieve its target of 17 million visitor arrivals by 2015. – CNA/ms


Source: Channel NewsAsia

Mandarin Gardens’ management panel steps down over enbloc disputes

Mandarin Gardens‘ management panel steps down over enbloc disputes


SINGAPORE : Enbloc sales woes and unhappiness at Mandarin Gardens have left the condominium without a management committee for the past week.


The previous committee refused to be re-nominated for elections at its Annual General Meeting last Sunday.


Since then, no one is taking charge of the day-to-day management at the condominium on Siglap Road.


Channel NewsAsia understands that the entire management committee stepped down because of disputes with the estate’s enbloc sales committee.


Apparently, the enbloc sales committee pushed through resolutions which are unfavourable to the entire estate, through its control of proxy votes.


When contacted, the Strata Titles Board said such cases are rare, but it is unable to do anything at this point.


Under the law, all residents are jointly responsible for any liabilities incurred by the condominium during this period. – CNA/ms


Source: Channel NewsAsia

RESIDENT: I’ll complain to your school

Samseng students torment residents at Bedok Reservoir void deck ‘They smoke, gamble, litter and pee there’


RESIDENT: I’ll complain to your school


STUDENT: So what? Go ahead


NOTHING, it seems, can get rid of them.


02 May 2008


NOTHING, it seems, can get rid of them.


Not the numerous warnings by their school.


Not the countless complaints by residents, even to the police, over the past two years.


The students from a nearby school continue to hang out at the void decks around Block 717 at Bedok Reservoir Road every day after school.


Still in their uniforms, they play cards, ball games and generally make a nuisance of themselves by shouting and running around.


Some of them smoke openly despite being obviously underaged.


As one resident puts it, they behave just like samseng (Malay for gangsters).


They usually congregate there around 2pm, and often hang around till about 6pm. On occasion, they have remained there till after 9pm.


One resident, who wanted to be known only as Mr Lim, said he has complained regularly to the school over the past two years, and started emailing the school photographs of the students last year.




But the problem just won’t go away.


Said Mr Lim, 48: ‘The problem has got worse. I don’t mind them hanging around, but they are gambling and smoking in their school uniforms.


‘It reflects badly on their school.’


The IT consultant said the closed-circuit TV (CCTV) cameras installed by the town council have had no effect.


‘When they leave, you can see cigarette butts, empty drink packets and cup noodle containers scattered all over the place,’ he said.


Mr Lim once told a student to pick up his rubbish but he refused.


‘I told him I would inform his school and he said, ‘So what? Go ahead’. When I threatened to take a picture of him with my phone, he reluctantly picked it up.’


Residents call the police at least once a month when the students get too rowdy. The police were there twice last week, said Mr Lim.


He has called the police several times before, especially when older youths join in the gambling sessions.


Mr Lim said that following his complaints, the school told him it had taken disciplinary action and counselled the students.


‘But a few days later, the students were at it again. I have given up complaining,’ he added.


This year, the students started gathering at neighbouring Block 718 as well and are usually joined by students from another nearby school.


The New Paper spoke to 10 residents and all but one were annoyed by the students.


Customer service officer Rosita Rasli, 47, who was on medical leave that day, said she had trouble resting because of the noise.


‘In the past, some of them even used the staircase landing as a toilet. I work during the day and I’m worried for the safety of my children,’ she said.




Another resident, Madam Gladys, said the students sometimes hang around till 11.30pm.


‘We can’t go to sleep. They scream, shout and run everywhere. We can’t blame the school as they have warned the students.’


Mr Lek Yong Heng, 59, who runs a provision shop, claimed the students have stolen tidbits from his racks outside his shop.


He said the school principal and discipline master occasionally turn up to chase the students away, and have told him to call them if the students cause any problems.


He added: ‘They behave like samseng. It’s quite a turn-off.’


When The New Paper approached a group of students last week, they ignored us and continued with their card game.


They later said they were there because their co-curricular activity (CCA) had been cancelled. (See report on facing page.)


When contacted last week, the school’s principal said he was trying to solve the problem.


‘We have stepped up patrols in the neighbourhood,’ he said, adding that staff, including himself, take turns to do so almost every day.


He said the school was working with the neighbourhood police post, the residents’ committee and town council to stamp out the problem.


‘There are times when we request the town council for CCTV clips so we can identify the students. We also work with the NPP to find out the current situation in the neighbourhood and to give talks to our students,’ he added.


The school has also told shop owners in the vicinity to alert them of any trouble.


The principal, who was posted to the school this year, said it needed time to resolve the problem through educating its students and gaining their trust.


He said its efforts have been ongoing for the past two years, and there has been a marked improvement in the number of students caught smoking.


Students caught smoking undergo counselling together with their parents.


They also attend the school’s smoking cessation clinic to help them kick the habit.


He said complaints from the public have also dropped and stressed that it was only a minority of students who are causing trouble.


He appealed to residents to contact the school to give exact locations andthe timing of the students’ misbehaviour so it can follow up on the problem.


‘We have invited some of them to work with us in the past, but many want to remain anonymous,’ he added.





STUDENTS: Gamble and smoke? No, we don’t


WHEN The New Paper approached a group of students hanging around a void deck last week, they basically ignored us and continued their game of chor dai ti (also known as Big Two in English).


Several boys and a girl sat together at a round table, while another boy was standing.


Most were in their school uniform.


Asked if they knew that residents had been complaining about them, one nonchalantly said yes, without looking up from his cards.


Though he denied that they were gambling, they were later overheard discussing how much they owed each other from their card game.


Has their school warned them?


‘They said not to make too much noise,’ said the boy who was standing.


And the police?


‘They said the same thing,’ he added.


The student claimed they were there because their CCA was cancelled for the day.


They preferred to hang around at that void deck as there is a provision shop where they can buy food and drinks.


Although a few were spotted smoking cigarettes earlier, the student denied that they smoked.


When told of this, the school principal said he would obtain the CCTV clips from the town council.


He subsequently told The New Paper that the students captured in the footage had been identified.


‘We have brought them in together with their parents over the past few days and have been counselling them,’ he said.


Mr Lim, one of the residents who had complained about the students, noticed the change in the neighbourhood over the past week.


He said yesterday: ‘I’ve not experienced such peace in a long time.


‘It has been a great change, and I hope it will last.’


Source: The New Paper

Slowdown may stretch into next year: PM Lee

Slowdown may stretch into next year: PM Lee


For S’pore, much depends on the shape of the US downturn – whether it’s V, U or L




(SINGAPORE) To the eternal optimists who think that the Singapore economy will rebound from its lean patch in the months to come, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong offered a sobering projection: he expects the slowdown to continue into next year.


While the economy is on track to hit 4-6 per cent growth this year, Mr Lee sees its momentum slowing in the next few quarters as the United States economy limps along, dragged down by still-unfixed sub-prime mortgage problems.


And whether it’s a V-shaped or U-shaped downturn in the US, it could extend the slowdown in Singapore’s economy into 2009, Mr Lee told some 1,500 unionists yesterday at a National Trades Union Congress May Day Rally.


‘The first quarter is good,’ he said. ‘Second, third, fourth quarters – prepare ourselves that it will slow down. And the slowdown may last into next year.’


It could be worse if the US falls into an L-shaped economic trajectory – the gloomiest scenario, when there is a severe and extended downturn in the US, like the decade-long recession Japan went into in the 1990s.


‘If that happens, then America is in trouble,’ Mr Lee said. ‘So too Europe, so too Japan. And Singapore will be caught up in this and we will be in serious difficulties too.’


But he noted that most analysts don’t think this is on the cards.


The best scenario for the US is a V-shaped downturn – a quick recession followed by a quick rebound – which is also the best scenario for Singapore, Mr Lee said. ‘But it is hoping for the best’.


He said the US could easily slip into a U-shaped downturn because its underlying housing problems remain unsolved. The actions taken so far have only postponed the problems into the future.


‘The property prices have to go down further,’ Mr Lee said. ‘When they go down, the banks will have more problems. When the banks have problems, they shrink. That will cause the economy to have more problems.’


In a U-shaped downturn, the bottoming will last longer and the US economy will take some time to sort itself out – perhaps until 2009, according to him.


‘This could well happen and then Singapore too will be slowed down significantly,’ Mr Lee warned.


‘But whatever it is, we have to stay on our guard and stay prepared,’ he said. ‘Overall, I would expect V-shaped if we are lucky (or a) U-shaped downturn in the US – better plan on that.’


Whatever shape the US downturn takes, Mr Lee said the impact on the Singapore economy will be uneven. Construction, marine engineering, ports and shipyards will be ‘all right’, according to him.


‘Construction will be okay because we have so many things building in Singapore,’ Mr Lee said.


‘Marine engineering will be okay because the shipyards are doing well. Ports will be okay because the port is highly competitive and bringing in a lot of business.’


But tourism, financial services and perhaps information technology will feel at least some pain.


All this suggests that Singapore’s year-on-year economic growth in the coming quarters will fall below the surprisingly strong 7.2 per cent gain estimated for Q1.


‘Essentially, Singapore has to be prepared for fairly rough weather ahead,’ said Manu Bhaskaran of Centennial Group, a US-based economic consultancy.


He sees a prolonged period of ‘meagre’ economic growth in the US – and Europe and Japan are not going to take up the slack, because the leading indicators for these two large economies also point to a slowdown, according to him.


Mr Bhaskaran said Singapore has built up some resiliency in its services sector, which puts it in a better position than before to absorb the impact of a US recession. But even then, it remains an open economy and a downturn in the US, Europe and Japan at the same time will hit Singapore


Source: Business Times

Private banks roll out special units targeting mega-rich

Private banks roll out special units targeting mega-rich


Individuals with over US$30m in investible assets are moving more wealth to Singapore


By Grace Ng


MORE private banks in Singapore are rolling out new special units to cater to Asia’s super wealthy – a lucrative but largely under-served segment.


Banks observe that the region’s mega-rich, who have well over US$30 million (S$41 million) in investible assets each, are moving more wealth to Singapore.


They do this to diversify their wealth beyond traditional ultra-high net worth banking hubs like Switzerland and Hong Kong.


The super wealthy grew in number to well over 17,500 in 2006 across the Asia-Pacific region, up 12 per cent from the previous year, according to a Capgemini/Merrill Lynch report.


While there is no official data for the amount of assets ultra-rich clients booked in Singapore, one senior banker reckons growth rates may be anywhere from 10 per cent to 25 per cent for some banks last year.


Ultra-high net worth clients in Asia who book assets in Singapore are largely entrepreneurs from Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, China and India. Banks say this is a particularly lucrative segment as the clients require a wide range of services, from investment banking to asset management.


They also tap the banks’ expertise in key areas such as setting up a family office, a private company that manages investments and trusts for a wealthy family, as well as in specialised lending, private equity and philanthropic advisory service, said Mr Rajesh Malkani, head of Standard Chartered Bank’s (Stanchart’s) private bank in South-east Asia.


Singapore trusts are becoming popular, with many ultra-high net worth clients using these for estate planning, he added.


One sign that Singapore is increasingly becoming popular as a booking centre for the super wealthy is that banks here are setting up dedicated units and teams to serve them.


New players, such as Australia-based Macquarie, which is purely focused on clients with at least US$30 million in investible assets, recently made Singapore its regional wealth management base.


Other niche players already in the country, such as Pictet & Cie, mostly serve clients with at least US$100 million already with the bank.


Just a few months ago, Stanchart, which set up its private banking headquarters in Singapore in July last year, saw the need to set up a ‘specific ultra-high net worth proposition’, said Mr Malkani.


He said the growth of this segment had ‘exceeded expectations’, as Stanchart’s private bank was able to tap its large base of relationships with entrepreneurs who had been using its expertise and network in Asia, Africa and the Middle East for decades.


Major banks acknowledge that they have not focused enough resources on Asian clients in the past, so this segment is still under-served in Singapore.


Citi Private Bank relocated Mr Akbar Shah to Singapore less than a year ago to head its mega-wealth division in the Asia-Pacific, setting up a new team to serve clients with a net worth of more than US$250 million each.


The team had been operating in Hong Kong for many years, but Citi decided it was time to use Singapore as another base.


‘Many of these clients are from Indonesia and other South-east Asian countries, but there are also several Middle Eastern and European investors who are more keen to explore business opportunities in Asia and are also looking to place part of their liquid assets here,’ said Mr Shah.


Citi’s rivals are matching its moves.


UBS has a dedicated ‘competency centre’ in Singapore to create services and products just for its ultra-rich clients.


Credit Suisse is on the lookout for senior bankers to help it ‘sharpen its penetration for ultra-high net worth clients’, said Dr Francois Monnet, the head of private banking for South-east Asia and Australasia.


The margins earned from serving ultra-rich clients may be thin – thinner than for those in the high net worth segment, say bankers.


The average size of each transaction or trade, however, is considerably larger, said Citi’s Mr Shah. So banks stand to earn hefty revenues from just one transaction for an ultra-high net worth client.









‘Many of these clients are from Indonesia and other South-east Asian countries, but there are also several Middle Eastern and European investors who are…looking to place part of their liquid assets here.’


MR AKBAR SHAH, who was relocated to Singapore to head Citi’s mega-wealth division in the Asia-Pacific.


Source: Straits Times

Up to $150k for guaranteed place at Canadian school

Up to $150k for guaranteed place at Canadian school


By Jane Ng


ANOTHER international school has announced that it will guarantee places for students in return for up to $150,000, making it the third school to embrace hefty placement fees.


The Canadian International School is hoping to tap into the growing number of companies looking to secure places in good schools for the children of expatriate employees.


Eight per cent of the places at the school will be available under this scheme. It currently has about 1,700 students and will increase the numbers to more than 2,000 by August.


Principal Glenn Odland said the plan was a ‘response to market conditions’.


‘This programme is designed to allow corporations or individuals, who need to be able to guarantee places for students, to purchase such a guarantee,’ said Dr Odland.


This would make it easier for firms to hire senior-level executives who have children of school-going ages.


For corporations, the price of a guaranteed place is $150,000 for the first child and $130,000 for the second.The scheme is open to individuals as well, at $100,000 a child.


The school joins the United World College (UWC) of South-east Asia and Tanglin Trust School, which earlier announced similar plans.


The rising expatriate population is causing a squeeze on places in international schools. The number of foreigners here went up from 798,000 in 2005 to 875,500 in 2006.


Many international schools report long waiting lists.


The Canadian International School has received 30 per cent more applications than there are spaces available for its August intake.


The UWC has 1,000 on the application list for its interim Ang Mo Kio campus, which can take in 440 students, and the average waiting time for its Dover campus is four years.


A Tanglin Trust School spokesman said about 80 of 2,250 places at the school will be taken up by the guarantee scheme, which was launched in January.


The places have been bought by both individuals and companies, and the school has no immediate plans to increase the number of spots.


The UWC, whose guaranteed places are sold only to companies, declined to reveal the exact number of places taken up and would say only that it was ‘very pleased with the general level of interest and uptake of the scheme. Demand has exceeded our expectations’.


Not all parents are going for such a scheme though; some are just joining the waiting list early.


Mr Niraj Parekh, 31, an investment banker, registered his then two-month-old daughter Isha at the UWC in November last year. He said it was a matter of being practical.


‘The school said it’s a first-come-first-served situation, so we take comfort in the fact that we’re doing the best that we can for our daughter,’ said Mr Parekh, whose spouse Rashmi is a housewife.


Isha will enter the school in 2012 when she turns five.


Source: Straits Times

Temp office site in Newton draws four bids

Temp office site in Newton draws four bids


By Joyce Teo


A TENDER for a second temporary office site on Scotts Road and Anthony Road has attracted less interest than the first site adjacent to it.


Temporary sites are being offered for development as offices as part of efforts to ease an office space crunch.


Sun Venture (S) Investments, a development and property asset management company owned by interior design firm DB&B, put in a bid of nearly $33 million.


This price translates to $226 per sq ft (psf) of gross floor area, which is about 7 per cent lower than UOB Kay Hian’s recent bid of $242.50 psf for the first transitional plot at the same location.


Nevertheless, these bids remain above the top bid of $219 psf for an earlier transitional site in the area – Scotts Spazio, which is just across Scotts Road – that was released in August last year.


The second plot on Scotts Road and Anthony Road has a size of 97,284 sq ft and, like the first, comes with a 15-year lease. The other bidders were Scotts Development ($219 psf), Centurion Scotts ($171 psf) and Hersing Corporation ($157 psf).


All four also participated in last week’s tender for the other transitional plot, which attracted eight bids. Sun Venture was the second highest bidder in that tender, with a bid of $208 psf.


Last week’s tender would have weeded out those who could not pay, said Cushman & Wakefield’s managing director, Mr Donald Han.


The Government has now offered four transitional office sites, which would yield about 650,000 sq ft of space, said Mr Nicholas Mak, Knight Frank’s director of research and consultancy.


Office rents have shot up significantly on tight supply in the past two years, though growth has slowed.


Separately, the Government has made available a commercial site in one-north for application. Developers who are keen have to commit to a minimum bid before the site can be put up for sale.


If triggered, the fairly large plot – it allows for a total gross floor area of 1.29 million sq ft – could attract bids of between $300 psf and $400 psf, said Mr Han.


Source: Straits Times

Credit crisis more than half over, says US Treasury chief

Credit crisis more than half over, says US Treasury chief


WASHINGTON – TREASURY Secretary Henry Paulson has said the credit crisis, now in its ninth month, is probably more than half over, retaining his forecast for the United States economy to keep growing.


‘We are closer to the end of this problem than we are to the beginning,’ he said in a Bloomberg Television interview on Wednesday.


Even with ‘headwinds and despite some of the things that we are going through, this economy is still growing, albeit modestly’, he said.


Mr Paulson joins the heads of Wall Street firms, including JPMorgan Chase and Lehman Brothers, in viewing the credit turmoil as nearer an end.


The Treasury chief said a government report on Wednesday, which showed that the US economy had grown only 0.6 per cent in the first three months of the year, had not altered his assessment.


‘There inevitably will be some more bumps in the road before we get through this’ credit turmoil, Mr Paulson said. He conceded that ‘we are in a tough quarter right now’.


Hours before his comments, the Federal Reserve cut its benchmark interest rate by a quarter percentage point to 2 per cent, its seventh reduction since September last year.


The Fed said the ‘substantial’ amount of easing would help foster growth.


In the interview, Mr Paulson said he had ‘great confidence’ in the Fed, declining to comment specifically on the rate-cut decision. He did indicate that the central bank’s initiative to lend directly to primary bond dealers had eased some concern in financial markets.


Source: Straits Times

Don’t tar all with same brush

Don’t tar all with same brush


I ENJOYED the Saturday Special package of features on the real estate sales industry (April 19).


But I was disappointed and dismayed by the statement by Dr Yu Shi Ming, head of the real estate department of the National University of Singapore (NUS), when he was quoted as saying: ‘Every time people think of real estate agents, they think ‘unscrupulous’, ‘untrained’, ‘unprofessional’ and ‘unethical’.


My mother was upset and embarrassed after reading Dr Yu’s hurtful remark and asked if I, a real estate agent, was also unscrupulous, untrained, unprofessional and unethical.


I assured my mother I belong to the vast majority of real estate agents who abide by the core value of sales, including always trying to achieve the greatest savings for my customers and always ensuring that my customers will need to ‘move house’ only once when they relocate from one place to another.


Such deals are often complicated and require agents to have good people skills, good coordination skills, an eye for the nitty-gritty, patience and a cool head.


Most real estate agents, though poorly educated, will not say things without first thinking how the words we use will hurt the feelings of others, especially their parents.


I may not be as highly educated, but I have learnt the virtue of not making sweeping generalisations against others from my primary school teacher – who, like me, was not as well educated.


Doreen Chan (Ms)


Source: Straits Times