MGPA raises US$5.2b for Asian, European property

MGPA raises US$5.2b for Asian, European property


HONG KONG – Property fund management firm MGPA has raised a US$3.9 billion fund to invest in Asia and another, worth US$1.3 billion for Europe, hoping to revamp buildings and pick up cheap assets as prices fall.


The company, 49 percent-owned by Australia’s Macquarie Bank, said in a statement it had tapped over 65 investors from North America, Australia, Europe and the Middle East.


Boosted by borrowing, the Asia fund will have US$15.6 billion of spending power. More than half its equity, about US$2.2 billion, has already been spent in Singapore, Japan, China and Thailand.


The fund will also look to pour money into South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan and Australia.


‘We’re witnessing less competition for deals, especially where high levels of leverage and financial engineering were driving certain buyers,’ said MGPA chairman and chief executive Jim Quille.


MGPA’s European fund will have US$5.2 billion of spending power, and has already bought residential assets in Wroclaw, Poland, and has a site for development in Athens, Greece.


‘We’ll be focusing on opportunities from dislocation and distress in Western Europe as well as continuing growth and convergence in Central and Eastern Europe,’ said Alex Jeffrey, MGPA’s chief executive for Europe. — REUTERS



Source: Business Times

MP REIT secures nearly 20% rent rise for 226,000 sq ft of space in Ngee Ann City

MP REIT secures nearly 20% rent rise for 226,000 sq ft of space in Ngee Ann City


SINGAPORE: Macquarie Prime Real Estate Investment Trust (MP REIT) has secured 19.75 percent higher rent from its tenant Toshin Development.


But when contacted, MP REIT declined to reveal details of the rent, saying it is confidential.


Toshin is the master lessee for about 226,000 square feet of retail space in Ngee Ann City.


The new rent will be locked in for three years from 8 June this year.


MP REIT says this is expected to account for a 7.2% increase in its annualised distribution per unit.


As at end March 2008, the Toshin master lease made up a quarter of the gross rent of MP REIT’s portfolio.


MP REIT owns about 27 percent of the strata title interest in Ngee Ann City, comprising 256,000 square feet of retail net lettable area and 141,000 square feet in office net lettable area.


The Toshin area is occupied by luxury retailers such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Piaget and Burberry. – CNA/ir


Source: Channel NewsAsia

Ascott opens more apartments

Ascott opens more apartments


Residence owner-operator Ascott Group has opened four new serviced apartments in the first two weeks of June.


The four new properties are located in Australia, Vietnam, Thailand and Qatar.


With the opening of these properties, Ascott has opened six properties in the first half this year.


The other two serviced apartments opened earlier were in the Chinese cities of Guangzhou and Suzhou.


Ascott plans to open another five properties in Bangkok, Chennai and Singapore by the end of the year.


The group, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of CapitaLand Limited, now has properties in 22 countries.


Source: 938Live

Private property sales jumped 52.6% last month

Private property sales jumped 52.6% last month


Sales of private residential units jumped 52.6 percent last month after declining in April.


Figures released by the URA today showed that 441 private homes, including executive condominiums, were sold in May.


That’s 152 units more than the 289 homes sold in April.


The prices fetched for some of the homes sold were slightly higher than the previous month.


Last month, the highest price sold for a unit at Scotts Square was 4,612 dollars per square foot.


This represents a 5 percent rise in price as the priciest unit sold at that development in April was 4,368 dollars per square foot.


The average median price per square foot for a unit sold last month also rose slightly, to around 1222 dollars, from 1159 dollars in April.


Source: 938Live

Here today, dust and rubble tomorrow?

Here today, dust and rubble tomorrow? 

With Singapore’s old landmarks under threat, YouthInk writers weigh in on how and why these architectural relics should be preserved



Don’t just conserve, educate the public too


BUILDINGS are not just bricks and clay; They tell stories. But only the few which hold significant tales of our cultural identity are conserved.


These are chosen for different reasons. Whether it’s the AIA Insurance Building, the first high-rise office building in Singapore, or shophouses in Chinatown, all conserved landmarks highlight an event in our history.


However, the Government cannot stop at the mere conservation of landmarks. They have to educate the public on why these buildings are conserved.


This should be done so that the landmarks do not become empty shells of a history that we do not appreciate.



Owen Yeo, 20, has a place to read Social Sciences in Singapore Management University.





How should we decide which places to keep?


SINGAPORE‘S emphasis on the preservation of our important landmarks and historic buildings seems very parochial.


On the one hand, there are commendable projects such as the restoration of colonial government quarters and houses, like at Seletar airbase and Townerville.


It is nostalgic to see these houses still around, well maintained and well used by the families who rent them.


On the other hand, there are pieces of our past that have been lost. The National Library was demolished to make way for the Fort Canning Tunnel. The Fullerton Building, once home to the nation’s first General Post Office, the Singapore Club and the Chamber of Commerce, has been transformed into a hotel. Chijmes, a former convent school, is now a popular entertainment and nightlife venue.


There must be a better way to determine what is worth preserving to benefit future generations.



Tabitha Mok, 21, is a fourth-year medical student at the University of Western Australia.





Embrace our cultural history in architecture


AS I walked along the uneven sidewalks of Bangkok, it struck me that the city’s unabashed grime – the litter, flies and mongrels – was part of its character. There is a certain realism about its imperfections that makes for a very seductive personality.


In Singapore, city planners seem to have been over-zealous in their pursuit of cleanliness, perfection and comfort at the expense of the nation’s culture and history.


The National University of Singapore, for instance, always has some construction work going on, whether it is to upgrade facilities or to build larger, sleeker buildings.


Contrast that with Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University, where some buildings are not re-built; only maintenance work is done.


While NUS students enjoy the modern facilities on campus, there isn’t the same sense of pride and history when they talk about it, as compared to the Thai students, who have proudly shown me their traditional, stupa-roofed buildings, complete with tales of the campus history.


Perhaps, contrary to what the authorities seem to think, Singaporeans may prefer older buildings which reflect our cultural history much more than modern ones.


There are so many modern, cosmopolitan cities in the world. If Singapore begins to look just like any of them, without buildings of unique and authentic cultural history, how can Singaporeans feel at home?



Lee Xin En, 21, is currently on an exchange programme at Thammasat University in Bangkok. She is a South-east Asian Studies major at the National University of Singapore.





Establish more museums instead


IT IS impractical to try and conserve all of Singapore’s historical landmarks, given our land constraints.


Why not have more museums instead?


Museums take up less space, but still preserve our heritage.


Furthermore, they are tourist attractions and very educational.


This idea has been employed by Japan’s Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum and California’s Heritage Square Museum, both of which showcase historic buildings.


Why not Singapore too?


Admittedly, the experience of visiting a landmark first-hand cannot be replaced. But given Singapore’s constraints, museums may be a more viable option.



Anna Wong, 22, is a third-year psychology student at the National University of Singapore.





Put old landmarks to good use


RECENTLY, I was miffed to discover the fates of two of my former schools – Serangoon Garden South (SGSS) and Westlake Secondary.


The former was bought over by the French school, while the latter remains vacant.


Established in the 1940s, SGSS was situated in two estates. Exit through the main gates and you entered a pleasant ‘village’ of houses, five-foot walkways and cobblestone roads. Go through the back and you reached typical heartland with good food and ambience.


Though saddened by their disappearance, I am happy that one of them was revived by the French school. It is a chance for new experiences to be forged.


Another example of this is the Bencoolen area, which used to be filled with older folk visiting the temple there. Now, it has been given new life with arts and business students who have formed new attachments to old surroundings.


What makes a place more meaningful is what you do with it.


Aisha Mostafa, 22, is an art honours graduate from the University of Huddersfield.


Reminders of a city’s spirit and longevity


GREAT cities are not just fleeting centres of commerce sprouting one gleaming tower after another. They are built on the backs of fierce grit and tenacity.


Old buildings represent that resilience. These buildings should be preserved where possible, as they are a mirror into a city’s soul, echoing its past, good and bad times, reminding its inhabitants that their city is eternal.



Eef Gerard Van Emmerik, 19, has a place to read Law in Singapore Management University.




Source: Straits Times

US downturn may stretch: Paulson

US downturn may stretch: Paulson


(OSAKA) Soaring oil prices could prolong a US economic downturn triggered by a housing market slump and credit crisis, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson warned on Saturday.


Speaking after a meeting of Group of Eight (G-8) finance ministers, Mr Paulson repeated that he backed a strong dollar and dismissed any suggestion that the dollar’s depreciation was helping push up global energy prices. The US economy grew at an annual rate of 0.9 per cent in the first quarter. Growth should pick up this year, Mr Paulson said, although falling home prices, financial market turmoil and energy costs would all weigh on the economy.


‘While we are still working through housing and capital markets issues, and expect to be doing so for some time, we also expect to see a faster pace of US economic growth before the end of the year, while recognising that the recent increase in oil prices risks prolonging the US economic downturn,’ Mr Paulson said.


The impact of high energy and food costs on global growth were the main theme of talks between Japan, the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Russia.


While Italy and France played up the role of speculation in sending commodity costs skyward, Mr Paulson said that oil prices were being driven by the fundamentals of supply and demand.


‘At its heart, this run-up in price reflects long-term trends in global supply and demand and strong economic growth coinciding with a period of minimal investment in oil production.’


Mr Paulson said that in his talks with G-8 finance ministers, a number of them said that high commodity prices were being used as a hedge against inflation.


‘I don’t believe that is related to the dollar,’ he said in reply to a question on whether the falling US currency was a major factor behind soaring oil prices.


Mr Paulson noted that since February 2002 the dollar’s value had fallen about 25 per cent but oil prices had gone up 500 per cent in the same period.


‘In terms of financial investors, speculation and the role that that plays, we’re looking at that but all the evidence points to supply and demand,’ he said, making the point that he did not believe the dollar was a key culprit for costlier energy.


Mr Paulson said that there was a tendency to look for someone to blame for costly energy. ‘It is very easy for people who want to look for some short-term solutions and I think there’s a danger if people say that all it is is speculators.’


There has been no significant increase in global oil production capacity in the past 10 years and significant new investment to boost production was required, Mr Paulson said.


There were no short- term solutions but said oil users should ‘avoid subsidies and other market-distorting policies’ while suppliers needed to open up their economies to more oil-market investment, he said. ‘Producers need to increase output and capacity,’ he added.


Mr Paulson said that wealthy countries should offer emergency food assistance to help the hungry and developing countries should replace general food subsidies with better-targeted ones and drop export restrictions.


The G-8 finance chiefs met to set an agenda for a July meeting of political leaders from their countries, which will also take place in Japan.


Mr Paulson acknowledged that oil and food price inflation were turning people against globalisation, the term used to describe increasingly intertwined worldwide markets.


‘A shift inward would lead to economic stagnation and would cost millions of jobs, deter foreign investment, curtail growth, and increase the cost of many goods and services purchased by American households,’ he said.


There was support among the G-8 for a proposed Clean Technology Fund that would help poorer countries buy state-of- the-art anti-pollution equipment and so reduce greenhouse gases that damage the environment.


The fund, up to US$10 billion, is to be financed by both developed and developing nations. Mr Paulson said that the Bush administration was asking Congress to approve US$2 billion for it over three years. — Reuters


Source: Business Times

Buyback activities surge as stock prices plunge

Buyback activities surge as stock prices plunge

Directors of several firms buy shares for the first time since listing



SC Global Developments


Property developer SC Global Developments bought back shares for the first time since buybacks were introduced by the Exchange in June 1999 with 485,000 shares purchased from June 5 to 13 at an average of $1.24 each. The trades, which accounted for 11 per cent of the stock’s trading volume, were made on the back of the 49 per cent decline in the share price since December 2007 from $2.45.


Aside from the repurchases, there were acquisitions by Legg Mason Inc and Ardesia Developments Pte Ltd earlier this year. Legg Mason reported an initial filing on April 22 of 668,000 shares at $1.39 each, which increased its deemed holdings to 20.2 million shares or 5.1 per cent of the issued capital.


Ardesia Developments Pte Ltd, on the other hand, purchased 4.3 million shares on Feb 1 at an estimated price of $1.78 each, which boosted its direct stake to 51.7 million shares or 13.1 per cent. The shareholder previously acquired 3.6 million shares on Dec 11, 2007 at an estimated price of $2.30 each, 5.2 million shares on Nov 20, 2007 at an estimated price of $2.50 each, and 1.2 million shares on Aug 10, 2007 at an estimated price of $2.65 each.


The group became a substantial shareholder on June 22, 2007 following the purchase of an initial 37.4 million shares or 10 per cent at $3.00 each.


SC Global Developments announced its first quarter results on May 13 with net profit up by 19 per cent to $19.165 million for the three months to March 31, 2008. The stock closed at $1.20 on Friday.



Source: Business Times

Greenspan says credit crisis easing

Greenspan says credit crisis easing


MEXICO CITY – UNITED States financial markets, roiled by the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage market, have shown a ‘pronounced turnaround’ since March, says Mr Alan Greenspan, the former US Federal Reserve chairman.

The worst of the credit crisis is over, or will be soon, and there is now a ‘reduced possibility’ of a deep recession, he said in remarks via satellite to a conference in Mexico City last Friday.


Mr Greenspan’s comments contrast with his view in February that the odds of a recession were ’50 per cent or better’ and that the slump could be deeper than the previous two contractions.


The former Fed chief said that tax rebates to US consumers are bringing about increased sales. ‘There is a sense it is buoying the retail market,’ he said, adding that the US economy has shown a ‘remarkable resilience’.


A government report this month showed that US retail sales in May rose 1 per cent, twice as much as economists had forecast, as consumers spent rebates provided under a government economic stimulus plan.


Mr Greenspan said housing remains a ‘critical problem’ and financial markets may not recover fully until home prices stabilise, ‘perhaps by the end of the year’.


The US economy grew at an annual 0.9 per cent pace in the first quarter of the year, the government said late last month, in an upward revision that calmed the nerves of some economists.


The Commerce Department initially pegged first-quarter gross domestic product growth at 0.6 per cent, the same lacklustre pace as in the fourth quarter of last year.


The revision, in line with expectations, bolsters the stance of some economists who believe the world’s largest economy will avoid a recession despite a deep housing slump, a related credit crunch and soaring oil prices.












There is a sense that US tax rebates are buoying the retail market, says Mr Greenspan.



Source: Straits Times

S’pore continues to do well in global rankings

S’pore continues to do well in global rankings 

These high grades help boost investor confidence and draw foreign investment


HARDLY a week goes by without a global survey ranking nations on one economic feature or another and Singapore certainly seems to come out well in most.

At least three reports this year have given the country top marks in many areas of economic influence, including the ease of doing business, legal and political framework, economic stability and government efficiency.


And last week, Singapore leapfrogged major rival Hong Kong in a ranking of the most influential commercial centres around the world.


At first glance, the reaction by many might be: ‘So what, they are just surveys and mean little in the real world.’


But industry players told The Straits Times that Singapore’s high marks do much to boost investor confidence as well as attract foreign investment and more multinationals to set up operations here and so increase opportunities for local enterprises.


Ms Thong Pao-Yi, the Economic Development Board’s executive director for communications, said: ‘Naturally, these rankings will help us in our investment promotion or talent attraction work.’


Ms Chew Mok Lee, the group director of enterprise promotion at Spring Singapore, agreed: ‘The favourable ranking will help boost confidence in engaging Singapore businesses as partners, suppliers and even customers.


‘Our reputation as a pro-business country will be a key differentiating factor for businesses to leverage in terms of an ideal gateway to the region.’


That can have only beneficial spin-offs for Singaporeans, said Mr Mark Ellwood, the managing director of recruitment firm Robert Walters Singapore.


‘Companies that set up operations here will have to find local talent, train them and impart knowledge, which will naturally increase the overall quality of the labour force.’


The key surveys this year have been varied in focus sand findings, but Singapore’s consistently high rankings indicate it is firmly on the right track in a competitive environment.


One such poll was the MasterCard Worldwide Centres of Commerce Index, which is said to be used by multinationals to help guide investment decisions.


It ranked Singapore as the second most influential centre in Asia, just behind Tokyo, and the fourth most influential in the world.


It is up two places from last year’s inaugural ranking and ahead of Hong Kong.


The survey also found Singapore was the easiest of 75 cities polled in which to do business.


And in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report, Singapore topped Asian countries, narrowly trumping Japan.


In its related study, the Logistics Performance Index that ranks 150 countries according to how easy it is to ship goods across borders, Singapore was No. 1 in the world.


According to the 2008 findings of the World Competitiveness Yearbook published by Swiss business school IMD, Singapore is the second most competitive economy after the United States.


The 20-year-old study assesses how a nation creates and maintains an environment that sustains business competitiveness. Singapore scored 99.33 points, up from 99.12 last year, with the survey organisers tipping that it may topple the US from top spot in coming years.


Singapore has topped international surveys and rankings for at least a decade.


In 1995, it ranked first in Fortune magazine’s list of best cities for business and led the World Economic Forum’s competitiveness ranking.


So does this mean Singapore could one day be Asia’s leading business centre?


Mr Lawrence Leow, the president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, said: ‘For foreign businesses that are thinking of setting up in Asia, Singapore will become a more attractive option than other Asian cities.


‘These are strengths that Singapore can leverage on to become the centre of all Asia.’



Source: Straits Times

It’s musical chairs for international schools

It’s musical chairs for international schools


WHEN the Canadian International School announced that it had secured a site in Jurong to house students from three of its campuses, a silent cheer went up from some other international schools.

They immediately began strategising expansion plans, including the possibility of taking over those campuses at Toh Tuck, Bukit Tinggi Road and Kampong Bahru.


This ongoing game of musical chairs has been played among international schools in recent years.


Since the spike in the expatriate population in Singapore from 798,000 in 2005 to 875,500 in 2006, popular international schools have been running at full capacity and watching waiting lists lengthen as they seek ways to expand.


‘When you’re bursting at the seams, you want to quickly find another campus so that you can clear the waiting list and give the students a place to study,’ said one principal.


Many of the campuses occupy leased sites belonging to the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) or to private owners.


The Canadian school’s Bukit Tinggi campus, with about 500 students, received at least three enquiries in the past year from other expatriate schools and private firms wanting to start schools.


The same went for its Toh Tuck campus, which has 900 students and is leased from the SLA.


While the campus may only be vacant from 2010, others see no harm in putting their bid down for it.


‘It’s important to be watchful for opportunities and get your name into the game quickly. Location is of course paramount, you don’t want to have your campuses all over the place,’ said Mr Glenn Odland, principal of the Canadian school, whose newest campus opened in Tanjong Katong last year.


A tad too late in making enquiries was its neighbour at Bukit Tinggi Road, the German European School.


It would have been the perfect solution for the 30-year-old school, which was looking for a second campus to house its primary level children, said principal Gunter Boos, with a tinge of regret.


With a total enrolment of 1,075, it is over the capacity of 800 that its lush, green campus off Bukit Timah was built to take.


It has also had to keep 65, mostly primary-level pupils, on its waiting list for the past six months.


It may have found a solution though, in a disused school campus at Jalan Jurong Kechil, a 10-minute drive away, and will move its primary school – both German and English sections – there next month.


Its secondary and kindergarten sections will remain at the current site, which will allow them room to expand.


With a total capacity of 600 at the new school, there will be some space for growth when the current 450 pupils start lessons there.


This interim solution will remove its waiting list for the next three years but the principal is still on the lookout for a site nearer the existing campus.


Another growing international school, the United World College, has already announced plans for a second campus in Tampines to accommodate 2,500 students in 2010. Others are thinking up innovative ways to create more room in their existing schools.


It has been almost two years now that the German European School has been running over capacity, so it has borrowed six classrooms, an auditorium and carpark lots from another neighbour, the Institution of Engineers.


Given its modest cafeteria, the students’ lunch breaks are staggered into three slots to make sure that everyone has a seat for meals.


At the Canadian school, timetables are designed to ensure that classrooms are rarely empty. Teachers and students move around for lessons to make the best use of any free classroom.


Personal computers have been replaced by laptops which are put on trolleys for use in any classroom. This has proved so successful that there are now six ‘mobile computer labs’.


The French School, Lycee Francais de Singapour, on the other hand, has already increased its enrolment by 60 per cent over the last four years to its current 1,390 students.


To create 26 additional classrooms, it will demolish and rebuild its kindergarten block. The new block will


allow the school to take in 2,000 students in 2011.


In the interim, the kindergarten and part of the primary school will move to temporary premises.


Not many schools are like the Tanglin Trust School at Portsdown Road or the Australian International School at Lorong Chuan, both of which have enough space to expand on site.


The Tanglin Trust, with an enrolment of 2,250, wants to expand its senior school, with the total intake expected to hit just below 3,000 in the next five years.


The school has just built an additional floor onto its existing senior school to house eight new classrooms and is adding another building to house more senior school facilities that will be ready next year.


The Australian school, meanwhile, is furnishing its new $45 million junior school campus, built next to its existing campus in Lorong Chuan.


It will welcome about 800 pupils in July.


Source: Straits Times