US Q1 commercial real estate activity fall

US Q1 commercial real estate activity fall


US commercial real estate activity fell during the first three months of this year and will likely continue on this track, a real estate trade group said on Wednesday.


The National Association of Realtors’ leading commercial real estate index fell 0.7 per cent, the third straight quarterly decline.


‘The moderate erosion in the index suggests that commercial activity, as measured by net absorption and the completion of new commercial buildings will be positive but somewhat weaker over the next six to nine months,’ said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun, adding that this falloff in private non-residential investment could subtract a third to half a percentage point from economic growth. — REUTERS


Source: Business Times

Banyan Tree signs contract for Angsana Resort & Spa in the Carribean

Banyan Tree signs contract for Angsana Resort & Spa in the Carribean


Mainboard-listed Banyan Tree Holdings has signed a management contract for an Angsana Resort & Spa in the island of Saint Lucia in the Caribbean.


Banyan Tree said the Angsana Resort & Spa Saint Lucia is the group’s fourth foray into the Caribbean.


Angsana Saint Lucia is an integrated resort project that will comprise a full scale resort with related facilities and amenities including a marina and a commercial centre.


The development which will also include residences for sale is slated for completion in 2011. – CNA/vm


Source: Business Times

Genting says Singapore casino costs under control

Genting says Singapore casino costs under control 


KUALA LUMPUR – MALAYSIAN casino operator Genting does not expect further cost over-runs for a casino it is building on Singapore’s resort island of Sentosa, the company’s chief executive said.

Resorts World at Sentosa Pte Ltd, a wholly owned unit of the Singapore-listed arm, Genting International , is building the casino at a cost of up to S$6 billion, about S$800 million, or 15 per cent, above its initial budget, due mainly to higher construction expenses.


‘At this point, we are staying at $6 billion. Concerns about cost over-runs for the project are unsubstantiated,’ Mr Lim Kok Thay, Genting’s Chairman and CEO, said on the sidelines of a tech conference.


‘Costs are under control despite high oil prices,’ he added.


Genting unveiled the higher price tag for the casino project last November and said it would cover the additional expenses through project financing at the resort level.


The raised budget covers the cost of six new attractions as well as improvements to transportation and access infrastructure, with higher building costs accounting for half of the increase.


Mr Lim said there was no need to raise any more funds for the project.


‘The recent financing we announced has catered for the increase in construction costs. All the financing are in place, there is no need for further financing,’ Mr Lim said.


In April, Resorts World at Sentosa said it had obtained a S$4 billion syndicated loan to fund the casino project.


In December last year, Genting International and sister company Star Cruises won the right to build and operate Singapore’s second casino resort.


The 49-hectare project will include a Universal Studios theme park, a giant oceanarium with 700,000 aquatic creatures, and six hotels with more than 1,800 rooms. The resort is scheduled to be completed in 2010.


Singapore’s first casino site, a 20.6-hectare piece of waterfront land at Marina Bay near the financial district, was awarded to Las Vegas Sands in May 2006.


The city-state legalised casino gaming in 2005 as part of its ambitious plans to double visitor arrivals to 17 million by 2015. — REUTERS



Source: Straits Times

Moves to crank up night-time buzz

Moves to crank up night-time buzz 


FORGET rushing home after work to watch television or sleep early.

Singapore’s urban planners want you to stay out late more and take in the city’s buzz after dark, when the weather is cooler.


The effort to cultivate more night owls islandwide starts with Singapore’s first Night Festival in July, when people can pay a midnight visit to a museum, dance the night away at a street party or take in an open-air performance.


And improved night lighting, new street fixtures and more public spaces for night activities will also follow in four key areas: Orchard Road, Singapore River, Bras Basah/Bugis and Marina Bay.


The blueprint for after-dark entertainment was unveiled last night by National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan at the Singapore Institute of Architects’ annual dinner at the Suntec convention centre ballroom.


Source: Straits Times

LaSalle-SIA ‘glass gem’ bags top building award

LaSalle-SIA ‘glass gem’ bags top building award 


It scoops Building of the Year title handed out by Singapore Institute of Architects

By Jessica Lim 


THE new LaSalle-SIA campus complex, a striking array of glass and stone facades linked by bridges, scooped top honours at the Singapore Institute of Architects (SIA) awards ceremony on Wednesday night.


A panel of five named the complex as Building of the Year and made its designers, RSP Architects Planners and Engineers, the stars of the show at Suntec Convention Centre ceremony.


‘We wanted the LaSalle building to integrate with the grain of the city and be dynamic; we accomplished this and we are very happy about the win,’ said the company director Pok Siew Fatt.


SIA handed out 21 awards – selected from 157 submissions – including for the best project below $1m in construction cost and the top residential project as well as for interior architecture.


The judging panel included SIA president Tai Lee Siang; the head of National University of Singapore’s architecture department, Professor Wong Yunn Chii; and renowned architect Mok Wei Wei.


They evaluated submissions on points such as sustainability, elegance of construction and attention to detail.


Source: Straits Times

Plans to up countryside charm in two areas

Plans to up countryside charm in two areas 


Lim Chu Kang, Kranji to be developed into ‘weekend refuge’, with farm stays and spas

By Lim Wei Chean 


FANS of the lush farms in Lim Chu Kang and the serenity of Kranji’s Sungei Buloh Nature Reserve can look forward to more outdoor activities in Singapore’s small slice of countryside.


Under a plan unveiled by National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan on Wednesday, Lim Chu Kang and Kranji have been earmarked for several new leisure activities, from kayaking to farm stays.


The goal is to turn the areas into a ‘weekend refuge’ for urbanites, said Mr Mah.


The blueprint is part of a bigger five-year review of the masterplan for Singapore’s development, which will be announced tomorrow.


It will include a new emphasis on the laidback countryside charm of Lim Chu Kang, now dotted with 115 fish, goat and vegetable farms.


Three new sites will be released for the ‘agri-tainment’ business, a sector that includes farm stays, countryside spas and centres that teach urban dwellers the appeal of farming.


Source: Straits Times

URA unveils new island-wide leisure plan

URA unveils new island-wide leisure plan 


A NEW island-wide leisure plan that showcases a diverse range of leisure opportunities for all to enjoy, from vibrant and exciting activities to the quiet retreats, was unveiled by National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan on Wednesday night.

Besides new green spaces, the Leisure Plan presents a whole host of other recreational options, from more upcoming water activities in selected rivers and reservoirs across the island, new sporting facilities close to homes, to lifestyle hotspots and many things to do in the city.


Mr Mah highlighted details of the plans in his keynote address to the Singapore Institute of Architects 47th annual dinner at the Suntec Convention Centre Ballroom before an audience of 1,000 architects and industry players.


The Leisure Plan is part of the draft masterplan 2008 to sustain economic growth and enhance the quality of living environment for Singapore.


The ideas and opportunities in the new plan show how Singapore can further enhance its living environment by making the most of its assets, capitalising on its unique identity and heightening the sense of greenery, said a statement from the Urban Redevelopment Authority on Friday.


The Leisure Plan builds on the previous Parks and Waterbodies and Identity Plans developed by URA in 2003.


Since then, many of the proposals in these plans have been implemented.


‘This is the first time that an island-wide plan has been drawn up to showcase greater variety and quality of recreational choices round-the-clock, island-wide, for people of all ages,’ said the URA.


‘Besides new green spaces, the Leisure Plan presents a whole host of other recreational options, from more upcoming water activities in selected rivers and reservoirs across the island, new sporting facilities close to homes, to lifestyle hotspots and many things to do in the city.’


Key highlights of the Leisure Plan:


The existing park connector network will be tripled from 100 km today to 360 km.


A first-ever 150-km round-island route for people to stroll, jog or cycle around the entire country. Park connector network will be expanded with seven loops and five links. More park spaces will be added – from about 3,300 hectares today to 4,200 hectares, offering a greater variety of experiences for all.


The plan will also create more leisure destinations with unique offerings for Singaporeans and tourists.


For example, the Kranji and Lim Chu Kang area will become a unique countryside destination close to nature. There will be new park lands and agritainment attractions, enhancements to existing attractions, such as the Sungei Buloh and Kranji Reservoir, and greater access to the nature areas, the waterfront and the farms.


To add greater buzz and nightlife in the city, more programmes will be developed especially in Orchard Road, Singapore River, Bras Basah. Bugis and Marina Bay.


There will be night festivals coming up like the Singapore River Festival organised by the Singapore Tourism Board, starting in September this year. The National Heritage Board is also developing a Night Festival in the Bras Basah and Stamford Road area over two weekends in July.


There will be a weekend street theatre, live music, dance performances and interactive programmes. This will position the precinct as a venue for large-scale night events and create synergy between existing developments such as the Stamford Green, National Museum and SMU.


‘The Plan will provide for both active and passive recreation. We have also come up with new ideas on how to create a 24/7 city,’ said Mrs Cheong Koon Hean, URA’s Chief Executive Officer.


‘It is not just about providing space and facilities to play, it is also enhancing the variety and quality of leisure options we have round-the-clock, where there is something for everyone.’


Source: Straits Times

UBS sells subprime, Alt-A debts to Blackrock

UBS sells subprime, Alt-A debts to Blackrock 


ZURICH – SWISS banking giant UBS said on Wednesday it had completed the sale of 15 billion dollars (S$20.5 billion) of subprime and Alt-A US residential mortgage-backed securities to a fund managed by BlackRock.

‘Risk reduction remains a critical part of our ongoing financial restructuring and this sale is a big step towards further reducing our positions in this asset class,’ said Marcel Rohner, chief executive of UBS.


Mr Rohner had earlier confirmed the sale, but did not reveal details.


The positions with a nominal value of about 22 billion dollars were sold at a discount of 15 billion dollars to the newly created distressed asset fund.


UBS said that most of the positions are subprime and Alt-A – which is in between prime and subprime, and the remainder is prime.


The bank also said the fund purchased the securities using about 3.75 billion dollars in equity raised by BlackRock from investors and a multi-year collateralised term loan of about 11.25 billion dollars provided by UBS.


The transaction has closed, added the bank.


UBS, which has been forced to take massive writedowns due to the crisis, reported net loss for the first three months of the year of 11.54 billion Swiss francs.


It has written down over 37 billion dollars since the subprime crisis started. — AFP


Source: Straits Times

BERG Propulsion opens new facility in Tuas

BERG Propulsion opens new facility in Tuas


SINGAPORE : Swedish company BERG Propulsion has opened a new manufacturing facility – its first outside Sweden – in Singapore.


Located at Tuas, the new plant will manufacture controllable pitch propellers (CPP) for the maritime and offshore industry.


CPP systems give highest propulsive efficiency for most types of ships at any speed and load condition. It also improves the manoeuvrability of a vessel.


According to BERG, its investment in Singapore is expected to hit S$56 million over the next five years.


The new 10,000 square metre facility will allow the company to double its output in order to meet the needs of its growing customer base.


It will also be the international headquarters for BERG’s sales and marketing division. – CNA/ms


Source: Channel NewsAsia

No bids received for Race Course Rd/ Bukit Timah Rd hotel site

No bids received for Race Course Rd/ Bukit Timah Rd hotel site


SINGAPORE : The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has said it did not receive any bids for the hotel site at Race Course Road/Bukit Timah Road when the tender closed at noon on Wednesday.


URA added that it will announce its plans for the site after a decision has been made.


URA launched the hotel site for sale by public tender in February this year.


It was one of the two hotel sites to be sold through the confirmed list under the Government Land Sales Programme for the first half of this year.


URA said the site is located above the Little India MRT station and has an area of about 0.9 hectare and a maximum permissible gross floor area of 31,440 square metres. – CNA/ms


Source: Channel NewsAsia