Govt adopts more ‘measured’ approach in latest land sales programme, says Mah Bow Tan

Govt adopts more ‘measured’ approach in latest land sales programme, says Mah Bow Tan


SINGAPORE : The National Development Minister, Mah Bow Tan, said the government decided on a more measured approach in its latest land sales programme, taking into account the country’s medium to long-term needs.


Speaking on the sidelines of a community event, he said the strategy is to ensure that there’s sufficient land set aside for development in the medium term, while at the same time, not forcing supply into the market.


13 new sites have been added, bringing the total number of sites earmarked for sale now to 40. The actual number of confirmed residential sites has also been cut – from eight in the first half to only four in the second half.


Analysts said this suggests a more prudent stance by the government, given the current cautious market environment.


Mr Mah however pointed out that taking both the confirmed and reserved list in total, there is sufficient stock in case demand goes up again.


“Right now, the demand is fairly slow and the market is fairly quiet, reflecting the… uncertainties in the economy. But there may be some demand waiting at the sidelines, we don’t know… If confidence returns fairly quickly, it’s possible for all these reserve sites to be triggered,” said Mr Mah. – CNA /ls


Source: Channel NewsAsia

Hong Fok tops up Concourse lease

Hong Fok tops up Concourse lease


HONG Fok Corporation has paid the government $83 million to top up the lease of The Concourse site at Beach Road to 99 years from March 13, 2008.


The lease will now expire in 2107. The original lease was valid for a further 71 years, till 2079.


The Concourse comprises a 41-storey office tower block, a five-storey office podium and an annex 11-storey retail-cum-residential block.


In January, Hong Fok announced that it had received the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s approval to redevelop part of the asset. The proposed redevelopment, which does not affect the office tower, will see the removal of the existing retail-and-residential block. ‘Plans are underway for a substantial residential development with sweeping waterway and city views,’ Hong Fok said yesterday.


Hong Fok also owns International Building on Orchard Road. In December last year, the company said that it plans to buy from the state an adjoining 9,023 square foot plot along Claymore Hill for $62.35 million.


On the stock market yesterday, the counter closed unchanged at 92 cents.


Source: Business Times

Firm pays $83m to top up Concourse lease

Firm pays $83m to top up Concourse lease


THE authorities have permitted a property investment and development firm to pay $83 million to top up a lease on a redevelopment site to 99 years, from the 71 years it had left.

The firm, Hong Fok Corporation, aims to redevelop part of The Concourse on Beach Road as a residential project with a sweeping waterway and city views.


Hong Fok director S.E. Cheong said in a statement yesterday that the top-up will give the firm greater flexibility in its redevelopment plans.


The lease top-up was approved by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and Singapore Land Authority, and took effect from March 13, it said. The original lease was due to expire in 2079.


The Concourse comprises a 41-storey office tower block, a five-storey office podium and an annexed 11-storey retail-cum-residential block.


Earlier in January, Hong Fok had obtained approval from the URA to redevelop part of The Concourse. The proposed redevelopment, which does not affect the office tower, will see the removal of the existing retail-cum-residential block.


Plans are under way for a substantial residential development, the firm said. It added that it will release more information on the proposed project later.


The firm has plans for two residential blocks of up to 40 storeys comprising 360 apartments. The showflat has been completed, and the project is ready for launch, sources said.


Source: Straits Times

Hospitality training for public at Ascott

Hospitality training for public at Ascott 

New centre to offer classes to its employees as well as others


FOR the first time, a big name in the hospitality industry is opening the doors of its training centre to the public.

The new Ascott Centre for Excellence, which is aimed at mid-career workers, will see employees of the Ascott Group studying subjects like guest interaction and risk management together with paying members of the public when classes start in October.


The centre will market its courses to small or mid-range hotels, which do not have the resources to run such programmes.


Indeed, general managers of boutique hotels which The Straits Times spoke to said the centre’s set-up helps to fill a gap in the industry, as they lack the large human resource departments or dedicated trainers found in larger hotels.


Tourism and hospitality training is among the most sought after in Singapore today, as the industry rides a boom fuelled by record arrivals. Prospects are even brighter with upcoming events such as the Formula One race and the opening of the integrated resorts.


Already, courses on subjects such as hotel management in the polytechnics are regularly oversubscribed.


The opening of the centre ties in with a push by the Government to improve continuing-education opportunities for workers here.


In February, the Ministry of Manpower unveiled its Continuing Education and Training masterplan which aims to increase the number of training places to 80,000 within the next decade.


Speaking as the guest of honour at the centre’s launch yesterday at its new Anthony Road campus, Education Minister Ng Eng Hen stressed the need for more collaboration between the public and private sectors to reach this goal.


‘Business cycles are more volatile and shorter, with greater potential to disrupt careers or make skills obsolete…The Government will do its part by providing funding and infrastructure development, but private companies know that it is in their interest to develop their own employees.’


The new centre, an expanded version of the group’s eight-year-old inhouse training institute, is the only one here that offers the Workforce Development Agency’s (WDA) full range of hospitality and accommodation service programmes.


Ascott Group’s employees will make up two-thirds of each intake of about 1,000 students. Members of the public can expect to pay fees starting from $3,000, according to WDA guidelines, although Singaporeans and permanent residents can apply for subsidies from the WDA.


Source: Straits Times

US sub-prime crisis: Two hedge fund execs nabbed

US sub-prime crisis: Two hedge fund execs nabbed 

They are accused of defrauding investors; 400 others charged with mortgage fraud


WASHINGTON – THE United States’ housing crisis has produced its first high-profile Wall Street arrests, while the Bush administration made a call to broaden the Federal Reserve’s powers over investment banks.

The government said it had also charged hundreds of people in a mortgage fraud probe.


Two former managers of Bear Stearns, itself a recent victim of bad bets on mortgage securities, were arrested and indicted on securities fraud charges in New York in connection with the US$1.4 billion (S$1.9 billion) collapse of two hedge funds.


Ralph Cioffi, 52, and Matthew Tannin, 46, each pleaded not guilty. In a scene reminiscent of Enron-era scandals, the men surrendered to officials and were paraded in handcuffs in front of onlookers en route to their arraignment on Thursday.


The two were charged with defrauding investors by hiding problems that had led to the disintegration of the two hedge funds last year.


That event raised fears about risky US sub-prime mortgages and helped usher in a global credit crunch that governments around the world are still sorting out.


With falling home prices and rising foreclosures, the US Justice Department said it had charged more than 400 people in a 31/2-month national probe.


Dubbed ‘Operation Malicious Mortgage’, it involved US$1 billion in losses and 144 cases, mostly of lending fraud and foreclosure and bankruptcy scams.


The department’s get-tough display came amid rising fears that the housing slump is pushing the US into a recession – an issue playing a prominent role in the presidential race.


US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson on Thursday urged that the Federal Reserve be given broad new powers over investment banks, following actions taken by the US central bank in March that changed its relationship with Wall Street.


In March, the Fed helped broker a takeover of Bear Stearns by JPMorgan Chase, and guaranteed a US$29 billion loan to facilitate the deal, out of concern that a Bear Stearns bankruptcy could trigger financial panic.


It was the first time since the Great Depression of the 1930s that the Fed, which regulates commercial banks, had stepped in to rescue a non-depository institution. The Fed also set up a special credit line to make emergency loans to major investment banks.


In an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal on Thursday, Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Christopher Cox said decisions must be made on whether and how long to maintain the emergency lending programme, which is scheduled to expire in autumn.


But it looked unlikely that Congress would tackle such complex structural issues this year, given the difficulties it was having agreeing on legislation to help home owners.


Meanwhile, the White House issued a surprise veto threat against a Senate Bill aimed at preventing hundreds of thousands of foreclosures.


Proponents say the Bill could save 400,000 home owners from foreclosure. But the Bush administration objected to a provision that would give state and local governments money to buy and fix foreclosed properties.




Source: Straits Times

Analysts expect no sale of hotel sites under Reserve List in Q3

Analysts expect no sale of hotel sites under Reserve List in Q3


SINGAPORE: Property watchers say they do not expect to see any sale of the hotel sites under the Reserve List during the coming quarter, because of the current cautious sentiment in the market.


Under the Government Land Sales programme for the second half of the year announced on Thursday, 10 hotel sites were up for sale but only one via the Confirmed List.


Hotel room rates have been rising as Singapore receives more and more visitors. But developers have not been jumping to lay claim to hotel sites put up for sale.


And the government is reacting to that. Under its Land Sales Programme for the second half, only one hotel site has been placed for sale via the Confirmed List, yielding some 700 rooms. That’s down from the two hotel sites in the first half and 1,670 rooms, also via the Confirmed List.


Nicholas Mak, director for consultancy & research at Knight Frank, said: “What the government is doing is that it is trying not to force feed the market, not to put out sites for sale when there may not be any genuine demand for such hotel sites.”


None of the sites earmarked for hotel development has been sold this year.


Property watchers say it is unlikely any hotel sites under the Reserve List will be triggered for sale in the coming quarter, given the current cautious sentiment in the property market.


Despite this, some 11,200 hotel rooms are expected to be completed between now and 2011, with some 1,800 expected to be ready by the end of this year.


Analysts say they are confident that there will be sufficient supply to meet demand when Singapore hosts the Youth Olympics in 2010, and when the integrated resorts open.


Mr Mak said: “On the whole, the total potential supply that is available from all the land (set aside) in the Government Land Sales programme for the next six months is about the same as what it was in the first half of 2008. So, they (the government) are not really reducing the potential supply but it is more of a case of shifting the potential supply to the more flexible system of the Reserve List.” – CNA/ir


Source: Channel NewsAsia