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Singapore developers make waves abroad

Publication Date : 04-08-2014


More Singapore developers are vying for some of the world's most sought-after real estate in cities such as New York and Sydney, as cooling measures here continue to bring down home prices.

These firms are making waves in these pricey, mature cities where land and development opportunities are scarce.

In its first foray into the United States, Keppel Land announced last Tuesday that it had ploughed S$70 million (US$56.18 million) into a residential project in Manhattan's upscale Upper East Side neighbourhood.

The freehold building, at the corner of 59th Street and Third Avenue, will be developed by Macklowe Properties, a New York real estate developer that has built other luxury projects such as the Metropolitan Tower.

"We are opportunistically venturing into selected key global cities for sites at good value and with strong attributes, and where we will partner established operating partners," Ang Wee Gee, chief executive of Keppel Land, told The Straits Times.

However, he was unable to share more details on the project.

The investment comes amid sluggish growth back home.

Toby Dodd, managing director of Cushman & Wakefield, said that Singapore developers continue to invest overseas where there is room for gains in rental and capital values and limited government intervention.

Keppel Land follows in the footsteps of other Singapore players that have made their mark in the Big Apple.

The Kwee family's Pontiac Land Group, for instance, injected US$200 million into a 72-storey condo in Midtown Manhattan last October in its first overseas venture.

It is partnering the Goldman Sachs Group and Houston-based property firm Hines to develop the project.

A Pontiac Land spokesman said that the firm expects to have the ground-breaking ceremony on Aug 27 at the site of the 1,050 ft skyscraper, at 53 West 53rd Street in Midtown Manhattan.

Doris Tan, regional director of international property services at Jones Lang LaSalle, noted that a tight supply of homes and the healthy rental market in Manhattan present attractive investment opportunities.

But the chance to develop homes in one of the most coveted districts in the world is also hard to ignore, said both developers. Pontiac Land said of its Manhattan investment:

"We were drawn to its extremely desirable residential address - its privileged proximity to the Museum of Modern Art and the property is within walking distance to Central Park."

Singapore architect Chan Soo Khian, the founder of SCDA Architects, will also be adding his touch to the Manhattan skyline with his Soori High Line boutique residential development in the Chelsea district.

This is his first project in the United States, which will be developed by Blackhouse Oriel Development, a real estate firm based in New York and Singapore, of which Chan is a part.

On the other side of the globe, property bigwigs are also heading to Australia, investing hefty sums into Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.

In the past year alone, Far East Organisation has shelled out A$753.4 million (US$703.1 million) for eight developments spanning 1.79 million sq ft. These include the Clocktower square complex mixed development in Sydney's Central Business District, bought for A$72 million (US$67.12 million) last October.

Separately, local real estate billionaire Koh Wee Meng, who controls the Fragrance Group, has invested US$156 million in four projects in Australia, earlier reports noted.

One of his latest, located in 70 Southbank Boulevard, is expected to be the tallest building in Melbourne at 319m when completed in 2019.

Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy and chief economist at AMP Capital Investors, said that the end of Australia's mining boom has brought on lower interest rates and a weaker Australian dollar, which in turn is beneficial for the economy.

With an undersupply of homes in the past 10 years, with just 20,000 to 30,000 units added yearly, Australia presents an attractive investment proposition to developers, he said.

Also, mortgage rates are about 5 per cent, low by Australian standards, compared with a high of 9.6 per cent in 2008.

"The end of the mining boom has helped to rebalance the economy, which in turn has helped construction rebound - which is why some developers like the Australian market."

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