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Thread: DJ FOCUS: Singapore's Property Market Gets A Reality Check

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    Default DJ FOCUS: Singapore's Property Market Gets A Reality Check

    DJ FOCUS: Singapore's Property Market Gets A Reality Check

    By Patricia Kowsmann
    Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES


    SINGAPORE (Dow Jones)--Singapore's red-hot property market may be ready for a reality check.

    For most of last year Singapore developers were on a sale spree, as demand drove property prices to multi-year highs while new projects were being launched almost daily, making the island nation one of the darlings of the Asia property boom.

    But weakening demand, rising construction costs and inflation are threatening to bring the skyrocketing market closer back to earth. Even though nobody expects the market to collapse, 2008 is likely to prove tough for the sector, analysts warn.
    "At the same time last year, things were a bit crazy, to say the least. Prices were going straight through the roof, there was a lot of euphoria," said Joseph Tan, senior strategist at Fortis Bank in Singapore. "But the slowdown in the equities market, in the U.S. and Singapore economy has definitely taken some shine off the (property) market."
    According to property consultancy firm Knight Frank, developers launched 410 new private housing units in January, down from 445 units in December and a monthly average of 500 private units in the first 11 months of 2007.

    "The relatively thinner volume in January was a result of some developers delaying their project launches," said Nicholas Mak, head of research at Knight Frank.

    The number of units sold also dropped in January and December, to 316 and 304 respectively, from above 500 sold monthly in the first 11 months of 2007.

    Mak said median prices for new residential units fell in Januaryto S$1,088 per square foot from S$1,124 in December. Not a single unit was sold in January for above S$4,000 per square foot, compared with five in December and 72 in July, one of strongest months of last year.

    Analysts say the market is likely to go down further, causing property prices to fall for the year after rallying in the past two years.

    "My most bullish outlook for the entire year is that property prices will be flat. Being realistic, we are expecting a 10% to 20% price decline across all segments," said CLSA analyst Yew Kiang Wong.

    About 85% of Singaporeans live in public housing built by the government's Housing and Development Board. Private developers compete to provide housing for the remaining 15% of Singapore nationals, along with a sizable foreign population.

    Private-home prices rose 31.2% in 2007, fueled by the country's ambition to become a business and entertainment hub in Asia.

    With demand on the rise, developers fought for land through collective sales and site offerings from the government. Singapore turned into a construction site, and many projects were sold out within hours of being launched.

    In an effort to cool the sizzling market, the government implemented measures including raising a tax charged on developers and withdrawing a scheme that allowed buyers of uncompleted properties to defer part of the progress payments.

    The scheme, implemented when the island's property market crashed in 1997, fueled speculation among investors who secured properties with minimum downpayments and quickly resold them.

    "Looking forward, the current weakness in the U.S. housing market and economy and the tight credit environment will likely cast a cloudy outlook over the general economy and business conditions for at least the first half of 2008," Richard Hu, chairman of CapitaLand Ltd. (C31.SG), Southeast Asia's largest property developer by market capitalization, said recently.

    Signs of a slowdown are already emerging.

    Shares of property developers briefly fell Tuesday following news that Kuwaiti firm Kuwait Finance House K.S.C. (KFIN.KW) didn't exercise options to buy 97 units of a condominium being developed by Singapore's GuocoLand Ltd. (F17.SG) for S$818 million.

    GuocoLand said Monday that the parties are in discussions for new options for units in the development, adding that the residential property market "appears to be cautious in Singapore."

    Market heavyweight, City Developments Ltd. (C09.SG) also said recently that it may delay launches of new projects while the market is subdued.

    When exactly property demand will pick up is everyone's guess. Some developers have suggested business will get back on track in the second half of this year, but some analysts and economists disagree.

    "We don't believe this is a half-year thing. It is the start of a more prolonged recession that will have an impact on developers down the line," said CLSA's Yew.

    The analyst is also bearish on the office market, which boomed last year as demand from companies trying to expand outpaced supply.

    "We believe the tightening credit environment will slow down any aggressive headcount expansion plans in the financial services sector, resulting in an anemic demand for office space over the next two years," he said.

    Inflation is also becoming a problem for the Singapore government, which has relied on foreigners to increase the island's population to over six million, from 4.6 million, over the next 20 years. Traditionally, foreigners are the first to leave a country when the cost of living becomes a problem.

    Inflation reached a 25-year high of 6.6% in January.

    "Although general affordability is still better than that of 1996, our ground feel suggests that foreigners are starting to show resistance to rising costs of living in Singapore," CIMB analyst Donald Chua said in a Jan. 29 note.

    But not everything is gloomy. Developers are likely to post strong earnings for the year, as they will continue to recognize profits from sold projects.

    In addition, the slower rise last year of the mass property market means there is still room for growth in that segment.

    "Because of the low interest rate environment and high rental costs, people might still be buying completed properties in the resale market and especially in the end that is more affordable," said UOB Kay Hian analyst Vikrant Pandey.

    "But overall, in terms of the residential property prices, I am quite bearish, especially when talking about subsales and new sales."

    -By Patricia Kowsmann, Dow Jones Newswires; 65 6415 4157; [email protected]
    Last edited by mr funny; 11-03-08 at 16:51.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: DJ FOCUS: Singapore's Property Market Gets A Reality Check

    What tightening credit environment? Are those economists analysing the wrong country?

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    Default Re: DJ FOCUS: Singapore's Property Market Gets A Reality Check

    "Because of the low interest rate environment and high rental costs, people might still be buying completed properties in the resale market and especially in the end that is more affordable," said UOB Kay Hian analyst Vikrant Pandey.
    Affordability is a big issue and it varies from investor to investor ,but affordability and value for money will eventually show the direction...

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    Thumbs up Re: DJ FOCUS: Singapore's Property Market Gets A Reality Check

    Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered
    "Because of the low interest rate environment and high rental costs, people might still be buying completed properties in the resale market and especially in the end that is more affordable," said UOB Kay Hian analyst Vikrant Pandey.
    Affordability is a big issue and it varies from investor to investor ,but affordability and value for money will eventually show the direction...
    How about those thousand of enblockers who will be getting $$$ in Mar 08.
    Can they don't buy? Are they going to stay at hotel 88 and wait for the prices to come down? There is no turning back from them. Anyway, they have got so much $$$ profits from their enbloc sale last year. Unless they all want to downgrade to HDB, topang with sisters, brothers, etc. I think their best option will be to buy outside the central area, ie. suburban.

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    Default Re: DJ FOCUS: Singapore's Property Market Gets A Reality Check

    http://www.reuters.com/article/reute...BrandChannel=0

    Opportunistic investors recoil from Asia property
    By Dominic Whiting, Asia property correspondent

    HONG KONG (Reuters) - Opportunistic investors are pulling back from Asian property because they see more scope for picking up distressed assets in the United States and Europe, and loans are harder to get in Japan, one of their favorite markets.

    Hedge funds have stopped dabbling in property in the region, fund managers say. And although private equity players will continue to develop property in India and China, they are more likely to buy buildings on the cheap in the West than in Asia.

    "Six months ago it was quite straight forward, we didn't have to answer questions about why to invest in Asia," Guy Cawthra, Asia fund strategist at Morley Fund Managers, told a recent conference in Hong Kong.

    "Now investors say 'we might not want to invest in Asia, we want to invest in Europe, the UK and the U.S.'."

    In the wake of the 1997-98 economic crisis, Asia, in particular Japan and South Korea, drew a raft of investment from funds run by the likes of Morgan Stanley (MS.N: Quote, Profile, Research), General Electric (GE.N: Quote, Profile, Research) and private equity firms such as Carlyle Group CYL.UL.

    Many made fat profits on a revival by Asian property markets, which are now mostly strong because of a shortage of new supply and still buoyant economies.

    Researchers at consultants Jones Lang LaSalle forecast Tokyo office prices will steady this year after a 28 percent jump in 2007, while Seoul, Hong Kong and Singapore and Shanghai are still on the up.

    Better opportunities now lie elsewhere for investors who think they can spot a market trough and ride a recovery.

    Because of tight credit and a worsening economy, U.S. commercial real estate values could fall by 20 percent in the next five years from their 2007 peak, JPMorgan analysts forecast, causing losses of about $120 billion, including on commercial mortgage-backed securities.

    London office values have dropped 12 percent from a peak in the middle of last year, and they will be pressured further by forecasts of a 10 percent decline in rental values through 2009.

    "I think a lot of investors will return to home markets," said Bart Coenraads, head of real estate at Fortis Investments. "Some will try to buy distressed core and refinance it. They could make good returns."

    COLD FEET

    Last year, total direct investment in the Asia-Pacific region jumped 27 percent to $121 billion -- a sixth of the global total -- with about half invested in Japan, which has been popular for its rock-bottom interest rates.

    However, Japanese banks are getting cold feet on property, analysts say, only giving loans worth 60-70 percent of a buildings value, compared to 80-90 percent a couple of years ago.

    Lower debt gearing is likely to crimp returns for equity investors. But having spent years setting up teams, private equity funds are unlikely to withdraw completely from Asia, said Tim Bellman, global head of strategy for ING Real Estate.

    Many, such as Morgan Stanley Real Estate Funds, no longer see themselves as "opportunistic", and are in Asia for the long haul.

    "Funds have been raised and platforms are set up, and they don't want to unwind them overnight," Bellman said. "But at the margin, opportunistic investors who looked at Asia are finding those opportunities back home."

    Morgan Stanley is building housing in China and taking stakes in Indian developers in a high-risk, high-return strategy. But the U.S. investment bank also bought the Tokyo headquarters of Citigroup (C.N: Quote, Profile, Research) last month, indicating it is still interested in "core" assets that are low risk but give modest returns.

    Meanwhile, Carlyle is shunning a Tokyo office market it believes is too expensive and is buying shopping malls and homes for the elderly.

    But in a sign that deals are getting tougher in Japan, Keith Greengrove, a managing director at Lehman Brothers, said his efforts to buy a collection of offices in Tokyo were scuppered in February by arduous loan conditions.

    "There's no property finance available in Japan today, no market for primary or secondary paper," Greengrove told the Hong Kong conference.

    "We tried to buy a big class B portfolio, with good tenants and a good sponsor, but there was only one potential lender," he said. "We're going to wait for the debt markets to shape up."

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