CDL boss prepared to delay launches in subdued market
Some projects can be held off till 2009, he says, as full-year gain swells to $725m

Fiona Chan
The Straits Times
Friday, 29 Feburary 2008

The property market may have stalled for now, but City Developments (CDL) executive chairman Kwek Leng Beng is not too worried.

He said that if necessary, he can hold off launches of new developments until next year.

‘Rather than launch today when the market is subdued, I would rather start construction on some projects first’ and launch them when demand picks up, Mr Kwek said yesterday.

‘If today there are not many buyers, this means that pent-up demand is building up, which can be very powerful.’

CDL plans to launch more than 400 units in four projects by June, assuming market conditions do not worsen.

It will release the 77 units at Shelford Suites in Bukit Timah, which is said to have been ready for launch for some time.

The group also intends to launch 100 units of the 228-unit Quayside Isle @ Sentosa Cove, and another 100 at a new development on the former Lock Cho Apartments in Thomson Road, which will have 336 units.

The fourth project is a joint venture at Pasir Ris Drive 1. About 150 of its 724 units are targeted for release by June.

Even if the launches end up delayed, CDL may first start construction on Shelford Suites and the Thomson Road project, said Mr Kwek.

This could also bring in more upfront cash for the group when it does sell the homes. Buyers have to pay 30% in cash after foundation work is done, compared with only 20% if no construction has started.

Mr Kwek’s comments yesterday came on the back of a sterling year for CDL last year.

The developer, Singapore’s second-largest, said full-year net profit more than doubled to a record $725 million. Revenue rose 22% to $3.11 billion.

Earnings per share more than doubled to 78.3 cents for the year. Net asset value per share rose to $5.72 as at Dec 31, from $5.21 a year ago.

Last year, CDL booked profits from projects such as St Regis Residences, Tribeca and The Sail @ Marina Bay.

But it has yet to recognise any profits from One Shenton, The Solitaire, Cliveden at Grange and Wilkie Studio - which account for about $1.7 billion of sales. In all, the group sold 1,655 homes last year for a record $3.4 billion.

CDL’s hotel and office properties are also enjoying high occupancy rates in the buoyant market. Its offices are almost 96% occupied, compared with a market average of 92%.

The group has also not adopted the same approach to revaluing its properties as some of its competitors, which have reported huge revaluation gains. With these gains, its profit would have surged to $2.8 billion, it said.

The group is recommending a final cash dividend, tax-exempt, of 20 cents a share in total.

Latent Demand

‘If today there are not many buyers, this means that pent-up demand is building up, which can be very powerful.’

Mr Kwek, on why he would rather begin construction on some projects, and launch them later on when demand picked up.