Road above Circle Line construction site caves in

Road above Circle Line construction site caves in


SINGAPORE: A section of the road above a Circle Line construction site near Holland Road caved in on Saturday morning, creating a massive hole.


The hole, directly in front of two private houses along Cornwall Gardens Road, measured 8 by 7 metres and is 3 metres deep.


No one was injured but the road is temporarily closed to traffic.


According to the Land Transport Authority, tunnelling work about 25 metres under the road was in progress when it caved in. The tunnelling work is part of the last few stages of the Circle Line construction in the area, between Holland and Farrer Road stations.


LTA engineers and contractors have assessed the situation there and they confirmed that there is no risk to residents in the area. But LTA advises the public to avoid the road. Work is underway to fill up the hole and LTA is monitoring the situation.


LTA apologises for any inconvenience caused to motorists and residents in the Cornwall Gardens area.


One family, whose house is right in front of the cave-in, said they noticed a huge crack at about 8.30pm on Friday before that section of the road collapsed at about 5am the next day.


“This morning (when) I woke up… my little brother and I went out to look and there was a huge hole in the road about 20 feet long and maybe 10 feet wide and it is filled with water,” said 14-year-old Eliot Sperling.


Eliot and his brother, Owen, said that after the incident, their water supply and Internet connection was cut off.


Three other households in the area also lost their access to cable TV and Internet as the cables were severed after the accident.


938LIVE understands it may take weeks before the cable wires can be restored.


LTA has offered one of the affected families transport and temporary hotel accommodation to minimise further inconvenience.


This is not the first time roads have caved in near tunnelling works of the Circle Line.


Last year, the Building and Construction Authority issued a stop-work order for the Telok Blangah site after a stretch of the road, about 7 metres long, sank 20 centimetres. – CNA/938LIVE.


Source: Channel NewsAsia

Growth looks on track despite hike in inflation forecast

Growth looks on track despite hike in inflation forecast

Govt raises 2008 inflation estimate to 5-6%




(SINGAPORE) Inflation has hit 7.5 per cent and may average 6 per cent for the year, but economists believe the rising prices will not derail Singapore’s growth.


The government yesterday raised its forecast for 2008 consumer price inflation by half-a-point to 5-6 per cent, following a spike in the rate to 7.5 per cent in April – a 26-year high.


The revised forecast by the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) overshadowed the release of first-quarter GDP growth: at 6.7 per cent, Q1 growth is below market consensus and below the early official flash estimate of 7.2 per cent, though up from the preceding 2007 Q4’s 5.4 per cent.


MTI is maintaining the official GDP growth forecast of 4-6 per cent for the year, noting that the external slowdown is panning out pretty much as expected.


‘The critical uncertainty remains the US economy,’ MTI second permanent secretary Ravi Menon said at a news conference yesterday. ‘We’re looking at a recession or near-recession scenario that is not unlike the 2001 and 1991 experiences – may be close to about three quarters of weak or negative growth followed by steady recovery.’


The bottom line is: the US is already in a significant slowdown. While the worst seems over for US financial markets, a recurrence of Bear Stearns-type ‘financial accidents’ cannot be ruled out, MTI says. Another bout of financial turmoil would deepen and prolong the US economic slump.


Singapore faces both growth and inflation risks, ‘though probably the balance of risks has shifted towards inflation’, Mr Menon said yesterday.


‘Going forward, there remains a high degree of uncertainty on global food and energy prices,’ he added. ‘There could be some moderation in food prices towards the end of the year. On the flip side, unforeseen supply disruptions could just as well trigger a second round of increases in food prices.’


MTI’s latest forecasts see oil prices averaging US$110 per barrel over the year, up from US$94 in March and US$87 in February.


Over the next 2-3 months, Singapore’s inflation rate is expected to remain high – probably around current levels – but should start to ease in the second half of the year as the impact of the higher Goods and Services Tax (GST) wears off. At the same time, underlying inflation momentum appears to have plateaued, MTI notes.


And Singapore’s exchange rate policy – which Mr Menon described as ‘the main policy tool right now in our arsenal’ to fight inflation – will have a moderating effect. If not for the appreciation of the Sing dollar – which rose about 11 per cent against the US greenback last year, and a further 4-5 per cent so far this year – Singapore’s 2007 inflation rate would have been 2-2.5 points higher, MAS deputy managing director Ong Chong Tee told reporters yesterday.


Economists said the official GDP growth forecast remains intact, even as growth estimates of non-oil domestic exports have been pared to just 2-4 per cent.


They reckon, however, that inflation could exceed the official estimates – and warn of a wage and business cost spiral. Overall unit labour costs surged 8.8 per cent in Q1, and manufacturing unit business costs rose 3.3 per cent.


According to estimates by HSBC’s Asian economists, if the CPI continues to rise just 0.6 per cent every month between May and December in seasonally-adjusted terms, inflation would average 7.5 per cent for the year.


Source: Business Times

Resale of homes dips to a new low

Resale of homes dips to a new low


Sales of previously owned homes in the US fell in April, matching a record low and signalling no let-up in the housing recession.


Purchases declined one per cent to a higher than forecast annual rate of 4.89 million from 4.94 million in March, the National Association of Realtors said yesterday in Washington. The median price dropped 8 per cent from April last year, the second-biggest decline.


Defaults on sub-prime mortgages have prompted lenders to restrict credit, while falling property values have given buyers who are still able to get financing reason to delay purchases. Mounting foreclosures will add to the glut of unsold houses on the market, prolonging the real-estate slump and hurting growth.


‘There is no indication that things are improving,’ said Christopher Low, chief economist at FTN Financial here, who forecast sales would drop to a 4.9 million pace. ‘Inventories will stay out of balance at least until the end of 2009 and prices will keep falling.’ Resales were forecast to fall 1.6 per cent to a 4.85 million annual rate, according to the median forecast of 67 economists in a Bloomberg News survey. Estimates ranged from 4.7 million to 4.95 million. April’s sales matched the pace reached in January as the lowest since comparable records began in 1999.


Sales were down 18 per cent compared with April 2007.


The number of previously owned unsold homes on the market at the end of April jumped to 4.55 million, up from 4.12 million in March. The total represented 11.2 months’ supply at the current sales pace, the highest on record and up from 10 months at the end of the prior month. The agents group has said that a five to six month’s supply reflects a balanced market.


The median price of an existing home fell to US$202,300 from US$219,900 in April 2007.


Existing home sales account for about 85 per cent of the US housing market while new home sales make up the rest. Monthly figures on resales are compiled from contract closings and may reflect sales agreed upon weeks or months earlier.


Purchases of new homes, which are recorded when a contract is signed, are considered a more timely barometer of the market. The Commerce Department’s report is due next week.


Yesterday’s report showed resales of single-family homes dropped 0.5 per cent to an annual rate of 4.34 million. Sales of condos and co-ops declined 5.2 per cent to a 550,000 rate.


Purchases decreased in two of four regions, led by a 6 per cent decline in the Midwest. — Bloomberg


Source: Business Times

Bukit Sembawang profit soars to $74.87m

Bukit Sembawang profit soars to $74.87m


BUKIT Sembawang Estates has recorded a net profit of $74.87 million for the year ended March 31, up 124 per cent over $33.42 million a year ago.


Turnover for the property developer came to $75.6 million, up 30.4 per cent over $57.97 million previously.


The substantial increase in profit for the year ended March 31, compared with the previous year, was due mainly to a one-time capital gain of $46.7 million from the sale of shares.


The company has recommended a final dividend of seven cents per ordinary share. The proposed dividend, if approved by the shareholders, will be paid on Aug 7.


Bukit Sembawang’s net profit for the fourth quarter, meanwhile, came to $3.5 million, down 77.6 per cent from $15.7 million a year ago.


Q4 turnover was down 25 per cent at $11.89 million from $15.86 million previously.


The company’s development profit for Q4 and the year ended March 31 consists of the recognition of revenue (based on percentage of completion method) for the housing units sold at Mimosa Terrace Phase 4 and Phase 6, Parc Mondrian and Paterson Suites.


Looking ahead, it expects profit for the current year to be lower, given that the current sentiment in the residential property market remains cautious.


Yesterday, Bukit Sembawang shares closed unchanged at $9.30.


Source: Business Times

New office space will be snapped up: Mah

New office space will be snapped up: Mah


DON’T worry. The looming flood of new office space will be snapped up so Singapore won’t suffer from over-supply, says National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan.


“We take a medium-to-long term view of projections,” said Mr Mah. “All the supply will be taken up.”


As much as 10 million square feet of new office space could be available from 2010 to 2012, said Mr Donald Han, managing director of Cushman and Wakefield in Singapore, citing research from the Urban Redevelopment Agency.


However, annual demand for new office space over the past 10 years was 1.8 million to 2.2 million square feet, Mr Han said.


At the moment, demand is high and supply low. But this is about to change.


Occupancy costs rose to a record last year, boosted by demand from banking and business services and the limited supply of top-tier office space.


High rents prompted the Government to release more land for offices and developers to build as much as 6.5 million square feet of space that will be available in 2010 and 2011.


Despite the slowing economy and high inflation, CapitaCommercial Trust chief executive Lynette Leong said demand for office space remains strong.


“We have tenants who want more space but we can’t give it to them,” said Ms Leong. Most of these are financial institutions looking to expand, she said.


“The big question is really what happens after 2010,” said Cushman’s Mr Han. “I think as long as developers and owners of office projects are realistic in terms of rents, there will be take-up, but the pricing will be on the side of the tenants.”


Landlords may have to settle for office rents as much as 20 per cent lower than the $18 to $20 per square foot currently paid for so-called Prime Grade A office space, Mr Han said. – Bloomberg


Source: Today Newspaper

Live, Work, Play at a neighbourhood near you

Live, Work, Play at a neighbourhood near you


With Draft Master Plan, ambitious concept is taken further afield to Kallang and Paya Lebar




(SINGAPORE) The Urban and Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) Live, Work and Play mantra has been so successful in the Downtown Core precinct – as evidenced by the rapid development of offices, condos, hotels and leisure hotspots – that plans are now underway to export the concept to outlying districts in earnest.


The URA has already rolled out ambitious plans to transform Jurong East into a bustling sub-metropolitan hub of parks, offices, hotels, edutainment centres and homes.


Now, with the launch of the Draft Master Plan 2008 yesterday, it has included similar blueprints for Kallang and Paya Lebar as well.


The three new hubs – Jurong Lake District, Kallang Riverside, and Paya Lebar Central – all have one objective in common, and that is to balance the elements of Live, Work and Play.


Speaking at the launch of the Draft Master Plan 2008 exhibition at URA Centre yesterday, Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan highlighted three key objectives of the latest Master Plan. Of these, it was the need to ‘enhance accessibility and reduce commuting by bringing jobs closer to home’ that underscores the need for the three new hubs. Not surprisingly then, Mr Mah added that public transportation has been ‘prioritised’ .


The other two objectives are to ‘ensure that we have enough land to support economic opportunity’ , and to ‘provide quality housing and leisure options for our people’.


Currently, the three areas have the potential to be sub-metropolitan hubs as they are, or will be, transportation nodes with the completion of existing and future rail, bus and road networks.


However, looking at each area reveals that at least one of the three important ingredients of Live, Work and Play is missing.


In the current Jurong East, for instance, there lacks a central office zone even though it has a relatively large population catchment area. As such, URA has designated 500,000 square metres of office space, 250,000 sq m of retail and entertainment space, 2,800 hotel rooms, but just 1,000 units of new homes for Jurong Lake District.


Also bringing jobs closer to home is Paya Lebar Central, which is in the centre of another large population catchment area.


Here, URA is planning for 294,000 sq m of office space, 200,000 sq m of hotel and retail space, but no new housing.


Kallang Riverside, which is on the fringe of the city is, however, relatively under-populated and will have space for 4,000 new waterfront homes and 3,000 hotel rooms. Being a much larger area and close to the new Sports Hub, it will also have 300,000 sq m of office space and 300,000 sq m of hotel, retail and entertainment spaces.


So, will it work?


City Developments Ltd (CDL), which helped kick-start Marina Bay with The Sail, had initially planned the project as being half-commercial. Even then, many market watchers thought that only a complete office would work. Going against conventional wisdom of the time, it was eventually designed as two residential towers in 2003.


Looking back, CDL managing director Kwek Leng Joo, says: ‘Ultimately, we strongly believed that developing the very first residential development in the vicinity – a truly iconic one for that matter, would be most synergistic and truly reflect the ‘Live’ component of URA’s vision.’


That Marina South remains largely untouched in the Draft Master Plan 2008 suggests that there is more emphasis on decentralisation compared to the previous Master Plan which emphasised the Downtown Core.


Knight Frank managing director Tan Tiong Cheng said: ‘With the new Master Plan, there is a drive to develop areas with potential that have not been previously emphasised.


‘Marina South will be quite easy to roll out because it sits on vacant state land. And when sites are available, they should sell quite fast.’


URA’s decentralisation strategy was first adopted in 1991, with the Concept Plan that maps out the long-term 40-50-year vision.


The Master Plan, which translates the Concept Plan strategies into detailed statutory land use plans to guide development over periods of 10-15 years, is reviewed every five years and may have different priorities.


The Master Plan 2008 also goes some way in addressing the widening gap between high-end and mass market homes.


Jones Lang LaSalle’s head of research (South-east Asia), Chua Yang Liang, said: ‘The strategy is really a bi-polar one.’


He explained that the Master Plan has to deal with planning issues that involve communities revolving around manufacturing in the north, and wealthier communities who are choosing to move downtown, especially to waterfront homes in the south. And recently, the disparity between high-end waterfront homes at Sentosa Cove and those in the heartlands has widened.


As such, Dr Chua notes that much of the new housing that has been highlighted in the outer regions all face the water.


‘This emphasis on providing more waterfront homes would greatly enhance social equity by making such homes more affordable to the regular guy on the street and not limited to just the affluent,’ he added.


If water is the new social glue, then the Rail Transit System (RTS) is its life blood.


Industry players are perhaps a little disappointed that not much has been done by way of increasing plot ratios, a move that usually adds zest to the property market.


But Savills Singapore director (marketing and development) Ku Swee Yong notes that property values, and possibly even plot ratios, tend to rise around new MRT stations.


And with the RTS already reported to be doubled from 138 km today to 278 km by 2020, with an addition of over 40 new stations, Mr Ku is hopeful that the next Master Plan review could see more plot ratio goodies. ‘I think URA might just be waiting for the new infrastructure to be completed,’ he added


Source: Business Times

Plot ratio increases not needed for now

Plot ratio increases not needed for now


THERE are no major plot ratio revisions in the latest Draft Master Plan because there is no need.


Speaking on the sidelines of the launch of the Draft Master Plan (MP) 2008 exhibition, Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan said yesterday the intensity of plot ratios has to be, ‘consistent with the land use’.


‘You look at plot ratios when you want to accommodate a certain quantum of population. And if you add it all up and you find that it is sufficient for the population you are planning for, then there is no need to increase it,’ he said.


Mr Mah’s comments come at a time when many Singaporeans are still grappling with the figure of 6.5 million for the long-term projected population, announced last year.


However, looking at the figure for planned-for new housing in MP 2008, the increase in population does not seem to be expected any time soon.


MP 2008 allows for 327,200 new homes in Singapore. Interestingly, MP 2003, which was planned before the 6.5 million target was revealed, allowed for 371,000 homes, 13.4 per cent more than MP 2008.


Also, in 2003 the population was 4.1 million, of whom 700,000 were not Singaporean.


In 2008, the population increased to 4.6 million, of whom one million were not Singaporean.


Asked about the fall in the number of planned new homes, a spokesperson for the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said: ‘The 5.5 million population in Concept Plan 2001 and 6.5 million population for the Mid-Term Concept Plan Review are planning parameters to ensure we have sufficient land for the long term.’


URA added: ‘In the medium term, around 350,000 dwelling units is a comfortable, reasonable number for land safeguarding purposes, which still allows some flexibility to meet market demand. Both MP 2003 and MP 2008 have safeguarded about 350,000 dwelling units.’


An extra 900 hectares of land added for park space in MP 2008 suggests Singaporeans will not be crowded out soon.


Mr Mah added: ‘Land scarcity is always an issue with Singapore. Yes, we are short of land, but, no, we are not short of space. By creative and innovative planning, we can make a lot of difference.’


Source: Business Times

Spotlight falls on Paya Lebar Central as suburban star

Spotlight falls on Paya Lebar Central as suburban star




PAYA Lebar Central is set to become the next suburban commercial hub under the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) Draft Master Plan. And if market observers are right, the area may emerge as the newest hot spot for backroom operations and small and medium enterprises (SME).


Unveiled by Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan yesterday, the 2008 Draft Master Plan is an elaborate land use guide for Singapore in the next 10 to 15 years. To sustain economic growth and bring jobs closer to homes, the plan carves out Paya Lebar Central, Kallang Riverside and Jurong Lake District as the latest commercial and mixed-use hubs.


Paya Lebar Central will stand out as a commercial node with a unique cultural identity. The URA will set aside 12 hectares of land with about 5.32 million square feet of commercial floor space for development. Of this, office space will take up 3.16 million sq ft, while hotel and retail spaces will occupy another 2.15 million sq ft.


For new growth areas such as Paya Lebar, plot ratios may increase, said Mr Mah, who spoke to reporters after the launch of the Plan.


In terms of connectivity, Paya Lebar Central is a 10-minute drive from the Central Business District (CBD) and is linked to major expressways and roads. Come 2010, the area will become more accessible when the new Paya Lebar MRT interchange station for the Circle and East-West lines opens.


There are also plans to re-align a stretch of the Geylang River so that it runs through new commercial developments along Tanjong Katong Road. The riverbanks will be ideal for office, retail and hotel developments.


Real estate experts believe that Paya Lebar Central’s proximity to town may draw backroom operations from banks and multinational corporations.


‘Just six MRT stations from Raffles Place, Paya Lebar Central may be even more attractive … compared with the Tampines Regional Centre or the Changi Business Park,’ observed director of marketing and business development at Savills Singapore Ku Swee Yong.


Sharing this view was Colliers International’ s director of research and advisory Tay Huey Ying. Ms Tay also noted that ‘Paya Lebar Central will be a suitable commercial hub for SMEs, especially for those which support light industries in the area’.


For these SMEs, deputy managing director of Knight Frank Danny Yeo said: ‘Rental rates in the CBD may be too high, and some have set up offices in industrial buildings instead. Hence, the creation of a commercial hub at Paya Lebar Central will be helpful.’


According to Mr Yeo, office rents in the Paya Lebar region range broadly from $6 to $8 per sq ft per month currently. A Jones Lang LaSalle report in April noted that the CBD core Grade A gross effective office rent stood at $17.35 per sq ft per month in the first quarter.


Mr Mah reassured those who were worried about a potential excess of office space from the upcoming hubs. ‘We can set land aside but it is the private investor who will make the final decision,’ he said.


He also did not think there would be an oversupply of office space in the foreseeable future, up to 2010 or 2011. ‘Based on projections … we expect that all the supply that we have already put in place will be taken up.’


Beyond its business appeal, Paya Lebar Central will also charm with its distinctive Malay character. A new pedestrian mall will be created along Geylang Road to provide more space for stalls during the annual Hari Raya bazaar. The new Geylang Serai Market will also add to the local heritage when it is ready in 2009.


Next to the market, a new civic centre and plaza will become focal points for community facilities such as a library, and for events such as bazaars.


To make it easier for workers and shoppers to get around Paya Lebar Central, there will be more covered walkways, underground paths and overhead bridges in the area.


With upcoming commercial and cultural activities in Paya Lebar Central, market observers expect to see three- to four-star hotels coming up to cater to mid-tier tourists and business travellers. URA estimates that the area can accommodate 1,400 hotel rooms.


Source: Business  Times

Kallang to be turned into a lifestyle hub

Kallang to be turned into a lifestyle hub


Called Kallang Riverside, it will have new homes, hotels and offices




THE spotlight has turned from Marina Bay to the greater surrounding district, as the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) lays out plans to turn Kallang into the next waterfront lifestyle precinct.


Called Kallang Riverside, the new growth area is planned as a ‘lifestyle destination’ and set amid parks and a beachfront promenade, revealed Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan.


Under the plan, the 64-hectare Kallang Riverside will also become the next commercial hub housing new residences, hotels and offices along the waterfront.


Speaking at the launch of the Draft Master Plan 2008 exhibition, Mr Mah said: ‘Even as we plan for growth area, we are clear that economic growth should not be at the expense of the quality of our living environment. ‘


The Kallang River takes centre stage in the blueprint.


The west side of the river will become an enclave for 4,000 new homes. True to beachfront living, these homes will have a range of storey heights which step down to the waterfront for residents to enjoy scenic views. CB Richard Ellis Research executive director Li Hiaw Ho notes that plot ratios in this area range from 3.5 to 5.6.


There will also be a new linear park, Central Green, linking Lavender MRT station to the waterfront. New homes in the area may go ‘fenceless’ to blend in with the lush park setting.


Apart from residences, Kallang Riverside will welcome a mix of office, retail and entertainment developments as well as 3,000 hotel rooms. There are plans to upgrade the Kallang Riverside Park with beachside lagoons and recreational facilities.


URA will also conserve the historic Kallang Airport and adapt it to new uses.


In total, about 6.46 million square foot of commercial floor space will be available. Half will go to offices and the other half to hotel, retail and entertainment developments.


Located on the fringe of the CBD, Kallang Riverside does seem attractive.


Knight Frank director of research and consultancy Nicholas Mak also noted that property prices are lower in Kallang. However, he believes that prices will rise as Kallang Riverside develops, though it is too early to tell what the extent of the rise could be.


According to URA’s website, the median price for The Riverine by the Park in Kallang reached $1,588 per square foot in July 2007, while that for One Shenton near Marina Bay was $2,007 psf.


As for the hotel cluster, what sort of potential would Kallang Riverside hold? Singapore Tourism Board deputy chairman and CEO Lim Neo Chian believes that sports tourism could develop in the area.


‘The Boston Marathon, for instance, attracts thousands of people. We could have a similar marathon that includes Kallang and Marina Bay,’ said Mr Lim. He added that STB was working with the Singapore Sports Council to create such events.


So far, most industry observers have reacted positively to the plans for Kallang Riverside. Jones Lang LaSalle head of research (South-east Asia) Chua Yang Liang said: ‘The development plan to watch out for will be Kallang Riverside. This area has great potential.’


Savills Singapore director of marketing and development Ku Swee Yong believes that the extension of waterfront facilities to Kallang Riverside puts the Marina Barrage to efficient use – the barrage is expected to stabilise water levels in the Singapore River and also create more pristine water conditions at the Kallang River. Cushman and Wakefield managing director Donald Han said: ‘It looks like where there is water, there is a concerted government effort to create nodes.’


Yet, with Paya Lebar Central coming up as a commercial hub as well, Dr Chua pointed out that ‘the release of commercial sites will have to be carefully monitored to avoid siphoning the development energy out of Marina Bay’.


Shedding some light on the timeframe for site releases in Kallang Riverside and Paya Lebar Central, URA CEO Cheong Koon Hean said: ‘Probably within the next one to two years, we should be developing infrastructure . . . and probably releasing the first site.’


Source: Business  Times

Property prices expected to moderate

Property prices expected to moderate


THE Singapore property market has peaked and prices can be expected to moderate in the next two years, the Government said yesterday.


Prices had surged in the past two years because of a supply-demand imbalance, said Mr Ravi Menon, the Second Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Trade and Industry.


‘The market has been tight across various segments as supply was slow to respond when demand surged in the past couple of years,’ he said yesterday.


However, he felt that the market had already reached its peak.


‘There is supply coming online in the next few years that will offset some of the demand, and expectations are for moderation over the next one or two years.


‘This will provide some relief in terms of cost pressures, which is important when it comes to controlling inflation.’


Source: Straits Times