Property news round up 10 June 2018


Two Serangoon condos garner healthy first-weekend sales

TWO property launches in Serangoon over the weekend garnered good response, testament to the still-improving sentiments in the residential property market, despite the fact that both projects were located just couple of hundred metres apart from each other. Affinity at Serangoon by Oxley Holdings, to be constructed on the former HUDC estate Serangoon Ville site, sold 112 units out of the 300 that were launched in its phase one. Oxley’s director of marketing and sales Eugene Lim said that the transacted units were spread evenly across various configurations – from one-bedders to four-bedders-plus-study apartments.

112 Affinity at Serangoon units sold over the weekend

AFFINITY at Serangoon, a development by a consortium led by mainboard-listed Oxley Holdings, sold 112 of the 300 units offered in Phase I over its official launch weekend on June 2-3. They were sold at an average price of S$1,575 per square foot (psf), the developer said on Monday. Affinity is a 99-year leasehold development comprising seven blocks with 1,012 one- to four-bedroom apartments and 40 strata landed houses. The 27,584 square metre site is located at the former HUDC estate Serangoon Ville at Serangoon North Avenue 1, which was purchased by the consortium in July 2017 at S$835 psf per plot ratio. Affinity has a gross floor area of 77,235 sq m and an estimated gross development value of S$1.4 billion.

Penthouse sale in Manhattan sets new record

A PENTHOUSE sale at the Getty, a brand-new boutique condominium hugging the High Line in West Chelsea, has set a record for Manhattan’s downtown. The sponsor unit, which encompasses the top three floors of the geometric glass building on West 24th Street and 10th Avenue, closed at US$59.06 million, according to property records, which also made it the most expensive transaction in New York City for the month of May. The previous record for a single residence downtown was another Chelsea penthouse – one at Walker Tower, on West 18th Street – that sold for US$50.9 million, in January 2014.

Curbing housing frenzy in Vancouver

BETWEEN multi-million-dollar teardowns, blocks full of backyard cottages and towering condominiums that are sold and resold several times before they are even built, there is no shortage of anecdotes about the current housing frenzy in Vancouver. Here is a new one: The Canadian city is so expensive that politicians want to tax its real estate market into submission, and many homeowners – who will lose money if home prices fall – think it’s a great idea. House and condominium prices in Vancouver are up by close to 16 per cent over the past year and about 60 per cent over the past three, according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver. Part of the reason is the attraction of Vancouver itself, and not just among Canadians. Between its natural beauty, its temperate climate and the country’s liberal immigration policies, the city has become a magnet for foreign buyers, especially from China.

Keppel Land targets to cut carbon emission intensity

KEPPEL Land, the real estate arm of conglomerate Keppel Corp, has set a target to reduce carbon emission intensity to 40 per cent below 2010 level by 2030. This translates to a cumulative reduction of almost 140,000 tonnes of carbon emissions, which will yield potential savings of more than S$75 million from 2010 to 2030, the company said in its latest sustainability report. Keppel Land said it will develop high-performance commercial buildings, improve energy efficiency of its existing buildings and tap on renewable energy to achieve this goal.

UK builders hold on to modest recovery

BRITAIN’S construction industry in May maintained its modest recovery from a hit during the snowy start to 2018, but worries about Brexit were causing some projects to be put on hold, a survey showed on Monday. Adding to other signs that Britain’s overall economy was picking up after a January-March slump, the IHS Markit/CIPS UK Construction Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) held at 52.5, unchanged from April’s modest growth rate after a sharp contraction in March. That was above the median forecast of 51.9 in a Reuters poll of economists.

Wyndham pushes for Asia growth with new regional chief

WYNDHAM Hotels & Resorts is planning to deploy more brands in much of Asia-Pacific in a bid to build up scale in the region, the new president and managing director of its South-east Asia and Pacific Rim business Ooi Joon Aun told The Business Times in an exclusive interview. (see amendment note) His appointment was announced on Monday, shortly after the spin-off of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, formerly known as Wyndham Hotel Group, from Wyndham Worldwide, was completed. Wyndham Hotels & Resorts now trades on the New York Stock Exchange, along with Wyndham Destinations, the new name for Wyndham Worldwide.

Wee Hur to acquire Sydney property for A$52m

MAINBOARD-LISTED Wee Hur Holdings revealed on Monday evening that Wee Hur PBSA Master Trust, through its wholly owned sub-trust WH Gibbons Trust, has signed a put and call agreement on the proposed acquisition of a property in Sydney for A$52 million (S$53.13 million). The property developer owns a 69 per cent stake in Wee Hur PBSA Master Trust. The property – 13-23 Gibbons Street – is a 32-unit freehold residential block in Redfern with a site area of about 1,365 sq m. In a filing with the Singapore Exchange, Wee Hur said that it intends to redevelop the property into purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA), which can hold about 515 beds.

Katong Plaza to be put up for collective sale at S$188m

FREEHOLD Katong Plaza will be launched for collective sale on June 7, 2018, with a S$188 million expected price, sole marketing agent Huttons Asia said on Tuesday, with the public tender closing at 2pm on July 16. The expected price – of which 80 per cent goes to commercial owners and 20 per cent goes to residential owners – translates to S$1,969 per square foot per plot ratio (psf ppr) for the mixed development, with S$13 million development charge added. The building’s 132 commercial units have a total strata area of 38,643 square feet, while its 14 residential units have a total strata area of 19,612 sq ft, Huttons said.

Pomex Court sold for S$37.6m

POMEX Court, a three-storey, freehold, walk-up residential development in the Joo Chiat area, has been sold for S$37.6 million through a collective sale. The price works out to S$1,014 per square foot per plot ratio. No development charge is payable, said Alvin Er, key executive officer of Century 21 House & Home Property, who brokered the sale. The District 15 is being bought by K16 Development, the shareholders of which are Irawan Gawain and Yang Hui’en. Completed in 1986, Pomex Court is on a 26,471 sq ft site at 50 Lorong 101 Changi. The existing development comprises 19 units. All owners have agreed to the collective sale.

‘Proptech’ firms angle for riches in US real estate

NEW technology such as machine-learning algorithms coupled with improved heating and cooling units that can be controlled by software helped cut electricity consumption at Rudin Management, a large New York City landlord, by 41 per cent since 2005. Rudin’s Nantum operating system can now predict when to adjust building temperatures according to the flow of people leaving and entering a property because it stores information instead of dumping all the data at day’s end. The advent of smart building technology is one of the ways scores of property-focused startups known as “proptech” firms are trying to tap growing reams of data in commercial real estate to increase productivity.

Shenzhen to cap private homes at 40% of supply

THE Chinese southern boomtown of Shenzhen, famed for its eye-watering home prices, has set an unprecedented goal of capping the number of new private homes, as the government focuses on rolling out more affordable public housing. Shenzhen plans to build 1.7 million new apartments by 2035, of which only around 40 per cent can be private homes, the city’s housing authority said in a statement on its website on Tuesday. Heeding President Xi Jinping’s call for houses that “are for living in, not speculation”, local governments are starting to roll out policies to ensure multiple sources of home supply and channels of financial support.

Tianjin vows to fight property speculation despite growth woes

CHINA’S growth-starved city of Tianjin will increase scrutiny of home buyers and their eligibility, hitting back at criticism it was skirting the curbs in place designed to fend off property speculators. Tianjin, just 30 minutes south-east of the capital Beijing by high-speed train, has seen a sharp decline in real estate transactions due to restrictive policies drawn up to keep speculators at bay. Despite a burgeoning high-tech industry, economic growth has slumped. Tianjin’s US$290 billion economy – bigger than Vietnam’s – expanded just 1.9 per cent in the first quarter, the worst among all of provincial-level regions.

Brexit puts a ceiling on London housing demand, prices

PRICE rises in Britain’s overvalued housing market will lag inflation this year and next and in London prices are likely to fall in 2018 as Brexit keeps a lid on demand, a Reuters poll has found. The survey of 30 housing market specialists taken in the past few weeks, predicted home prices will rise on average 1.7 per cent nationally this year – much slower than the predicted 2.5 per cent increase in consumer prices. In London, where foreign investors have fuelled skyrocketing prices, they will fall a modest one per cent this year. If realised, it would mark the first annual decline for nearly a decade – after the global financial crisis hit.

FEC International buys Royal Oak Residence for S$93m

HOT on the heels of other recent property dealings here in the prime district, Hong Kong-listed Far East Consortium International (FEC) has just acquired 21 Anderson Royal Oak Residence after about two years of entertaining offers. FEC’s indirect wholly-owned subsidiary Advance Delight Global Limited has agreed to purchase all of the issued and paid-up capital of Highest Reach Investments Limited, which owns through subsidiaries the freehold, 34-unit site at 21 Anderson Road, it said on Wednesday in a statement. FEC will pay about S$93 million and assume Highest Reach’s existing bank loan under a credit facility of approximately S$103 million.

Airbnb culls Japan listings ahead of new rental law

RENTAL platform Airbnb has suspended a large majority of its listings in Japan ahead of a new law that goes into effect next week regulating short-term rentals in the country. The law, which will be implemented from June 15, requires owners to obtain a government registration number and meet various regulations that some owners have decried as overly strict. “This weekend we reached out to those hosts who have not obtained their notification number to let them know that they will need this to accept any new bookings,” said Airbnb spokesman for Asia-Pacific Jake Wilczynski. “We have informed those hosts that we are in the process of turning off future listing capabilities.”

Ascendas-Singbridge, Temasek to invest 20b rupees in Indian logistics, industrial centres

ASCENDAS-SINGBRIDGE and principal investor Temasek will together invest some 20 billion rupees (S$398.24 million) in projects in warehousing and manufacturing hubs in the key Indian cities of Mumbai, National Capital Region, Pune, Chennai, Bangalore and Ahmedabad, among others. The initiative falls under the auspices of Ascendas-Firstspace, a 2017 joint venture between Ascendas-Singbridge and Indian industrial real estate specialist Firstspace Realty, whose mandate is to deliver “state-of-the-art logistics and industrial facilities across major warehousing and manufacturing hubs in India”. It will undertake the investment strategy for the new Ascendas India Logistics Programme. The programme aims to develop a portfolio of 13 to 15 million sq ft of space, and to date has two seed assets with 1.25 million sq ft of operational space and over four million sq ft in development potential, Ascendas-Singbridge said in a media statement.

Three freehold plots up for sale

THREE freehold plots, two of which are in prime districts, have been launched for sale, adding to the buffet of choice sites that developers looking to grow their landbanks can pick from. Elizabeth Towers, the largest of the three, is a high-rise residential redevelopment in Mount Elizabeth in District 9 with a reserve price of S$610 million, which translates to a land rate of approximately S$2,416 per square foot per plot ratio. The launch of the sale was announced on Wednesday by Knight Frank Singapore.

Co-working spaces to help EDB match talent, attract foreign firms

THE Economic Development Board (EDB) is in discussions with co-working spaces here, including US co-working giant WeWork, to explore partnerships to help Singapore better talent match in technology fields and bring more companies to set up shop here. Assistant managing director at EDB Kiren Kumar said this at the official opening of WeWork’s second space here at 71 Robinson Road on Wednesday. “(Co-working spaces) have a view of potential companies coming in, and a view as to the type of skills that are needed and we have a view of the supply side, so how can we work together to have that match-up so as to ensure that Singapore continues to be an important talent engine for the South-east Asia market to succeed?” he said.

WCG to net A$147m in Australia sales proceeds

SINGAPORE-headquartered property group World Class Global (WCG) expects to recognise A$147.3 million (S$150.1 million) in sales proceeds from the first-phase handover of its Australia 108 skyscraper residence in Melbourne, subject to the settlement by purchasers of 277 completed residential units in the development. These are expected to contribute positively to its financial performance in the second and third quarters of its financial year for 2018 ending Dec 31, barring unforeseen volatility in the Australian dollar/Singapore dollar exchange rate, it said in a Singapore Exchange announcement.

May resale prices for flats dip 1.8% y-o-y: SRX

RESALE prices of Housing Board flats rose 0.5 per cent in May from April, according to flash estimates released by real estate portal SRX Property on Thursday. Prices in May have dipped 1.8 per cent from the same month last year, and are down 13.1 per cent since the peak in April 2013. There was also a 5.3 per cent drop in the number of resale flats sold last month to 1,753 units from 1,851 units in April. Resale volume was down 52 per cent compared to the peak of 3,649 units sold in May 2010.

Beyond a new CEO, a reset for CapitaLand?

CAPITALAND’S announcement last Friday evening that its president and group chief executive officer Lim Ming Yan would be retiring at the end of this year surprised quite a few in the market. BT’s check with equity analysts covering the company drew few comments. However, some sources suggest that Mr Lim could have come under pressure from the board over the returns that the group has been generating, including the vital metric of return on equity (ROE). To his credit, Mr Lim did manage to bump up the ROE to 8.5 per cent for the financial year ended Dec 31, 2017, meeting the target of delivering a sustainable ROE of over 8 per cent in the medium term mentioned in the 2014 annual report. This followed ROE of 6.6 per cent in FY2016, 6.1 per cent in FY2015, 7.1 per cent in FY2014 and 5.4 per cent in FY2013.

Better sales likely despite dismal June launches

THE availability of options from upcoming property launches in District 19 this year and benchmark pricing may have caused a slow-down in purchases last weekend. Of course, one should not rule out the effect of the school holidays on the subdued take-up rates at the latest property launches. The market may also be finding it hard to digest simultaneous launches of large projects in the same weekend. But most market watchers posit that buying demand remain strong and transactions should pick up after the June school holidays are over.

House-price inflation in Asia ‘under control’

COOLING measures and an accommodative monetary policy have helped to control house-price inflation in Singapore among other Asia-Pacific nations, a housing report published by S&P Global Ratings (S&P) on Thursday has found. The study noted that mortgage credit expanded across the region, albeit at a slower pace compared to six months ago, while monetary policy remains highly accommodative – which has lowered mortgage interest rates, and eased mortgage financing conditions. “At the same time, cooling measures have been imposed to tame house prices in place in several markets in the region. These policies have had some success in controlling house price inflation in China and Singapore,” economists at S&P said.

Singapore ‘will be top urban real estate market in Asean, regardless of Obor’

THE recent cancellations of several mega-projects in Malaysia, including the high-speed rail connecting Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, and the China-backed East Coast Rail Link, have not derailed China’s One Belt, One Road (Obor) project. This is according to a research report by Andrew Haskins, Colliers International’s executive director of research, released on Thursday. The massive Obor initiative, which aims to connect over 60 countries through the Silk Road Economic Belt (by land) and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (by sea), will still be beneficial to the investment sector of many countries in South-east Asia, said Colliers.

Low Keng Huat buys 3 plots in Cairnhill for S$100m

SINGAPORE-listed property developer Low Keng Huat on Thursday said its subsidiary Glopeak Development has entered into an agreement for the purchase of 67 Cairnhill Road and two adjacent plots – lots 836C and 844T of Town Subdivision 27 – for S$100 million. The freehold site has a land area of 1,839.5 sq m, or 19,800 sq ft, is zoned for residential use under the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s 2014 Master Plan and has an allowable gross plot ratio of 2.8 times. The site is also situated adjacent to Cairnhill Mansion at 69 Cairnhill Road, for which Low Keng Huat inked a S$362 million deal for an en bloc purchase in February 2018.

Foreign property buyers target NZ’s economic and scenic hotspots

FOREIGNERS bought almost one in five of the residential properties sold in downtown Auckland in the first quarter, official figures showed on Thursday, compared to just three per cent throughout New Zealand. The data, released by Statistics New Zealand, shows foreign buyers targeted hotspots such as the economic hub of Auckland and the southern tourist destination of Queenstown, stirring debate around the causes of soaring house prices. The majority of overseas buyers were from China and neighbouring Australia, according to Statistics New Zealand.

Rental property site raises US$40m for expansion

RENTAL property listing service Spotahome has raised US$40 million in a funding round led by Silicon Valley-based Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. The company, which lets people rent homes the way they book hotel rooms, provides floorplans, photographs and extensive videos of the properties it lists, and also gives landlords software that helps streamline management of multiple premises. “Real estate was one of the first industries that came online,” said Mood Rowghani, a Kleiner Perkins general partner, “but it has been slow to innovate”.

HNA to sell US building to Samsung for US$320m

HNA Group sold a Minneapolis office tower to a unit of South Korea’s Samsung Group for US$320 million, according to a person familiar with the matter. The building at 33 South Sixth Street, which counts Target Corp as its biggest tenant, was sold to Samsung SRA Asset Management for about US$5 million more than what HNA paid for less than two years ago, the person said, asking not to be identified discussing a private matter. Representatives for HNA and Samsung SRA declined to comment.

Airbnb sets up US$10m fund for travellers affected after new Japanese law kicks in

RENTAL site Airbnb said on Thursday that it had been forced by the Japanese authorities to cancel thousands of reservations ahead of a new law regulating short-term rentals, and apologised for the “extraordinary disruption”. “This stinks – and that’s an understatement,” Airbnb said in a statement, adding it would fully refund cancelled reservations and was also creating a US$10 million fund to compensate affected travellers. The popular holiday rental site had already suspended the listings of owners who had not obtained a registration number required under the law that comes into force on June 15.

Chinese developers bet on higher returns with mezzanine loans

CHINESE property companies are increasingly tapping expensive mezzanine loans as they seek out higher returns, a trend that could undermine government efforts to cool the country’s booming real estate sector and rein in debt. Many developers are turning to offshore mezzanine loans as government measures to tighten credit and clamp down on shadow banking in China are increasingly felt, according to lenders. Others are taking out the loans for M&A activities or to raise working capital that would allow them to prolong construction periods in hopes that the government will lift price caps on new projects, the lenders say. For more than a year, China has limited financing for and capped the selling prices of new apartments to rein in an overheated property sector. That has left many developers, especially small to medium-sized ones, struggling to find cash to stay afloat.

Jervois Hill bungalow sold for record S$2,729 psf on land area

A NEWLY built freehold bungalow in Jervois Hill is being sold for S$41.2 million, which works out to about S$2,729.52 per square foot on land area of 15,094 sq ft. This is a record price in terms of psf on land area for a transaction in a Good Class Bungalow Area – busting the previous high of S$2,350 psf set last year for a bungalow in Cluny Hill near the Botanic Gardens. That deal, which amounted to an absolute price of S$35.5 million, was for a bungalow on freehold land area of 15,105 sq ft. The Jervois Hill Bungalow transacted recently is being sold by seasoned bungalow investor George Lim, who developed the property on a plot that he bought for S$25.8 million or S$1,709 psf in 2012.

Unlock the potential of data to transform buildings and cities

THERE was plenty of buzz surrounding Innovfest Unbound, South-east Asia’s largest innovation festival that was held last week in Singapore. It was an opportunity to talk about and showcase new technologies, from the most cutting-edge applications of artificial intelligence and facial recognition, to thinking about tomorrow’s cities and workplaces. It was clear through these discussions that the bedrock of technological innovation is the use and management of data. We live in a world where many believe that “data is the new oil”, but that aside, it has become an essential tool for businesses to report and make decisions.

HK developers have a shiny new plaything

HONG KONG developers have a shiny new target in their sights: China’s office market. And while the prices they are paying may be breaking records, the prospects for commercial property on the mainland have rarely looked better. Hang Lung Properties last week paid 10.7 billion yuan (S$2.2 billion) for a prime plot in southern Hangzhou, home of Alibaba Group Holding, beating out more than 300 other bidders, including the tech giant itself. Hang Lung’s bid was more than twice the asking price and the sale marked the company’s first acquisition of land in China since 2013. Shui On Land, meanwhile, is in the final stages of bidding for a plot near Shanghai’s Xintiandi entertainment district.

France’s Unibail-Rodamco takes over Australia’s Westfield

FRENCH group Unibail-Rodamco, Europe’s biggest commercial property company, said on Thursday that it has completed the acquisition of Australian mall operator, Westfield. The completion of the US$24.7 billion takeover creates a new company, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, with businesses around the world. Originally unveiled last December and approved by Westfield shareholders last month, the deal is the biggest-ever corporate takeover in Australia.