ERA Daily Research - 8 July

BTO flat buyers affected by Covid-19 construction delays may be able to cancel booking without penalties

The Straits Times, 7 July 2021, Wed 12:45pm

By Michelle Ng  

Home buyers affected by Build-To-Order (BTO) construction delays may be able to cancel their flat booking without penalties. They can appeal, and the Housing Board will consider each case depending on the individual circumstances.

For instance, there could be buyers hoping to cancel their BTO booking to get a resale flat to meet urgent housing needs, the Ministry of National Development (MND) said in various written parliamentary replies on Monday (July 5).

"We recognise the challenges faced by flat buyers given the Covid-19 situation and HDB will consider waiving forfeiture based on an assessment of the flat buyers' specific circumstances," said MND.

Typically, buyers who cancel their flat booking will have to forfeit either their option fee which ranges from $500 to $2,000, or the 5 per cent of the flat purchase price paid in advance, depending on which stage of the process they are in.

In addition, they have to wait out a one-year period before they can apply for another subsidised unit, either BTO or a resale flat with grants.

"These measures are in place to ensure that buyers are serious when they buy a flat and do not deprive others with urgent housing needs of the opportunity to do so," said MND.

However, if buyers are successful in their appeal, the HDB will waive the financial penalty and the one-year wait-out period.

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Singapore office market abuzz with investment sale activity

The Business Times, 8 July 2021, Thu 5:59am

By Kalpana Rashiwala

INVESTMENT sale activity for Singapore office properties is headed for a recovery, with a flurry of potential deals under way.

These include One George Street and Twenty Anson. Suntec City has also seen strata office deals lately.

Outside the financial district, observers say it is just a matter of time before the owners of Lazada One, at 51 Bras Basah Road, explore the possibility of a sale.

Savills Singapore's managing director of investment sales and capital markets, Jeremy Lake, said: "The outlook for the office investment market is compelling for investors. Rents are expected to start rising again in the second half of the year, and prices have already started to firm up in anticipation of the rental recovery.

"We are talking to a growing number of investors who are keen to buy offices in Singapore, now that there is light at the end of the tunnel for the office market."

Data compiled by JLL Research, which cover transactions of S$5 million and above, show that so far this year, some S$1.94 billion in office assets have changed hands. The figure for the whole of last year was S$2.3 billion

In 2019, prior to the Covid outbreak, the figure was S$7.6 billion.

A bidding process is in progress for One George Street, located about 400 metres from Raffles Place MRT station. The Business Times understands that initially, potential buyers were being quietly engaged for the 50 per cent stake in the 23-storey office building held by CapitaLand Integrated Commercial Trust (CICT).

More recently, word in the market is that the remaining half stake in One George Street, held by insurer FWD Group, has also been offered alongside CICT's stake to potential bidders, who are expected to submit their offers later this month.

One George Street's net lettable area (NLA) is about 445,735 sq ft, based on information on CICT's website.

The property is on a site with 99-year leasehold tenure that started in January 2003, leaving a balance of about 80.5 years. Observers say the building could fetch between S$1.25 billion and S$1.29 billion, or S$2,800-S$2,900 per square foot on NLA.

Over at the other end of the Central Business District, near Tanjong Pagar MRT station, AEW's Twenty Anson has been put on the market. CBRE and JLL have been appointed to market the building through an expression-of-interest exercise that will close late this month.

The guide price is understood to be S$630 million or S$3,050 psf on NLA of about 206,200 sq ft. The net yield is understood to be in the high-2 per cent range.

There is untapped gross floor area (GFA) of about 34,400 sq ft.

Twenty Anson is a 20-storey building on a site with 99-year leasehold tenure that began in November 2007, which leaves about 85 years on the lease. AEW bought the property in 2018 for S$516 million or S$2,503 psf.

The owner of 112 Robinson Road, a freehold 14-storey office building, is said to be seeking a price of around S$3,000 psf. Based on the NLA of about 92,205 sq ft, this would amount to S$276 million. The existing GFA of about 115,000 sq ft reflects a plot ratio of almost 11.8. This exceeds the 11.2 plot ratio assigned for the 9,780 sq ft site under the Urban Redevelopment Authority's latest Master Plan.

Market watchers say the ARA Asset Management and Chelsfield joint venture that owns Lazada One, formerly known as 5One Central, may be getting ready to put the property on the market next year.

It bought the asset in January 2019 and is now busy refurbishing it. Committed occupancy now stands at over 90 per cent.

The joint venture is said to be eyeing about S$3,000 psf for the 11-storey property, which has about 241,000 sq ft of space, comprising a street-level retail podium and offices above. However, a spokeswoman for the ARA-Chelsfield joint venture said that as the property is being refurbished, "a sale is not actively considered for now".

Lazada One is flanked by Bras Basah MRT station on the Circle Line and Bencoolen station on the Downtown Line. The asset's refurbishment, aimed at making it more environmentally friendly, started last August and is scheduled for completion in the fourth quarter of this year.

Following that, Lazada/Alibaba Group will move in from Axa Tower, which is slated for redevelopment. Flexible space operator JustCo is already in Lazada One and this potentially provides flexibility for Alibaba Group to take additional space if needed.

Over at Cecil Street, LaSalle Investment Management is understood to be taking the majority stake in a consortium spearheaded by TE Capital, which is in exclusive due diligence to buy PIL Building. The price is expected to be in the S$320-S$330 million range. Some market watchers say the consortium could be eyeing the prospects of selling strata commercial units in the new development on the site.

Activity in the strata office market was given a boost lately with Suntec Reit's sale of six office floors in the Suntec City mixed development.

BT understands that an entity linked to SilkRoad Property Partners is the buyer in the S$197 million transaction involving a floor in Tower One and five levels in Tower Two. The price works out to S$2,510 psf on strata area of 78,491 sq ft; the net property income yield is 3.1 per cent. Savills Singapore brokered the deal.

The property agency also acted for the buyer in another deal in Suntec Tower Two; this is for a low floor which fetched S$38.3 million or S$2,663 psf on 14,381 sq ft strata area. The buyer is understood to be a private fund from Hongkong. The floor was sold by IMC Shipping.


Heartland malls in areas with less retail space per capita may recover more quickly

The Business Times, 8 July 2021, Thu 5:50am

By Fiona Lam

THE recovery of suburban malls will likely be uneven across different locations in Singapore, due to the varying tenant mixes, shopping experiences and catchment sizes.

Retail spaces in predominantly residential zones may emerge as more resilient amid limited competition, said the National University of Singapore's Institute of Real Estate and Urban Studies (IREUS), going by its analysis of retail space per Singapore resident in each area.

The overall retail sector has been reeling from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, with many shopping centres seeing lower footfall. As a whole, heartland malls have fared better than those along the Orchard Road shopping belt and in the central business district, which continue to be affected by the absence of tourists as well as thinner office crowds due to remote working.

"However, this simple dichotomy belies the fact that suburban malls are not a uniform category whose members share identical attributes," IREUS deputy director Lee Nai Jia said.

He expects the retail space per Singapore resident to correlate inversely with the malls' rate of recovery, all things being equal. "More retail space per capita essentially entails more competition for consumer spend, and vice versa," Dr Lee added.

Generally, areas with substantially more retail space per capita have large working populations or are made up of more established housing estates. These include established regional centres such as in Tampines and Jurong East, as well as fringe areas like Bukit Merah, Kallang and Geylang, IREUS noted.

Established regional centres tend to have more retail space per resident, compared to other planning areas with similar residential population sizes. For example, when it comes to locations with more than 200,000 residents each, Tampines has 10.4 square feet (sq ft) of retail space per capita, almost double the 5.7 sq ft in Jurong West.

And in planning areas that each house 50,000 to 100,000 residents, Jurong East has 24.6 sq ft of retail space per capita, more than double the 11.3 sq ft in Bukit Timah.

"Both Tampines and Jurong East have significant working populations, which is a market segment with purchasing power," Dr Lee said.

Fringe precincts such as Bukit Merah, Queenstown, Kallang and Geylang have been attracting companies, even though they are not regional centres. A substantial number of employees are thus also in these areas.

For instance, major commercial developments Paya Lebar Quarter and SingPost Centre are located in the Geylang planning area, Harbourfront Centre and Harbourfront Towers One and Two are part of Bukit Merah, while Mapletree Business City is in Queenstown.

Also, areas with more established housing estates, such as Bukit Timah and Clementi, tend to have more retail space than emerging ones like Sengkang. The Sengkang planning area has one of the lowest amounts of retail space per capita, although this may change after Sengkang Grand Mall is completed.

"With the work-from-home trend, suburban malls in areas with less retail space per capita - about 4-8 sq ft - will be more resilient, with higher revenue and occupancies, aided by lower competition," Dr Lee said. Emerging regional centres Woodlands and Punggol are examples, where the malls may see a quicker recovery.

Some areas saw a decline in retail space per capita due to an increase in the residential populations. That suggests these areas may have the potential for more retailers, he noted.

In places with more retail space, such as those above 10 sq ft per capita, retailers' tenant mixes and marketing positioning to boost footfall will be "more critical than ever" given the greater competition, said Dr Lee.

Meanwhile, he pointed out that the bulk of the upcoming pipeline of retail space will be part of integrated developments. In these cases, the commercial component adds value to the residential portion, which in turn helps ensure the retail component "enjoys a certain level of support from consumers".

These upcoming malls include The Woodleigh Mall, Sengkang Grand Mall, and the retail component of the Pasir Ris 8 project.


Fall in marriages and divorces in Singapore last year due to Covid-19 pandemic

The Straits Times, 8 July 2021, Thu

By Theresa Tan

The Covid-19 pandemic upended thousands of weddings and even divorce plans last year, with the number of unions registered showing the biggest drop since 2000.

On the flip side, the number of couples who ended their marriages also fell to its lowest since 2006.

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Rising property prices a key driver in wealth inequality, ills of ‘hereditary meritocracy’ exist: Ravi Menon

Today Online, 7 July 2021, Wed

By Janice Lim

A key driver in worsening wealth inequality in many parts of the world is the rising price of property and it is a worrying trend, the head of Singapore’s central bank said.

Mr Ravi Menon, managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), was speaking on Wednesday (July 7) at a lecture series organised by the Institute of Policy Studies, a think tank under the National University of Singapore (NUS).

He said: “Market processes are allocating an increasing share of national income to income from property and other financial assets and a reducing share to income from work.

“This is a development that we should be deeply concerned about.”

Wealth inequality, too, can undermine meritocracy, a social system where people gain success or are rewarded based on their abilities, hard work or talent. 


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