Ho Bee in no hurry to get residential sites

Business Times: Thu, Nov 17
HO BEE Investment is looking for opportunities to pick up sites in the Singapore residential property market in six to nine months’ time. The last time it bought such a site was in early 2008. ‘Right now, there is a lot of uncertainty; nobody can …

HO BEE Investment is looking for opportunities to pick up sites in the Singapore residential property market in six to nine months’ time. The last time it bought such a site was in early 2008.

‘Right now, there is a lot of uncertainty; nobody can fathom what will happen in Europe or the US. Hopefully, things will become clearer in six to nine months and by then, land prices will be more stabilised…more realistic, more reasonable and we can pick up some good residential sites in Singapore,’ said Chua Thian Poh, chairman & CEO of Ho Bee Group, in a recent interview with BT.

Mass-market condo prices look like they are headed down due to a moderation in land bids for 99-year leasehold sites at state tenders in recent months, said Mr Chua. The extent of price decline will depend on how external factors pan out but the outlook is bleak, he added.

As for the high-end residential sector, its performance will depend more on the world economy and not just the local economy. But even in times of trouble, Singapore’s high-end residential sector could shine if the rich seeking a safe haven in this part of the world decide to park their money in the Singapore market, reasons Ho Bee executive director Ong Chong Hua.

He cites the case of London. ‘When there is trouble in Europe, in the Middle East, money will just flow into London and its high-end property market. Even though prices are very high, there’s no yield, the rich will just park their money. They don’t even stay there.

‘So potentially Singapore will still have these (high net-worth) people coming in, although in a good market they will be coming in droves rather than in drips and drabs, which is what we are seeing now.’

The last time the group bought a residential site in Singapore was in early 2008 when it picked up the Pinnacle Collection plot on Sentosa Cove in partnership with Malaysia’s IOI Properties.

Explaining why Ho Bee has been less enthusiastic about chasing private housing sites in Singapore after the property market began to recover in 2009 post-global financial crisis, Mr Chua explains that back then, the group had ‘quite a bit on our plate and we did not want to get more land when we had not fully sold our Singapore residential projects on existing sites’.

‘We didn’t get residential sites but for investment property we got a commercial site in Buona Vista where we are developing The Metropolis at a good entry price and this will also bring value to the company.’

The Metropolis is a Grade A office project that will have two office towers (21 and 23 storeys high) and retail space, directly linked to the Buona Vista MRT Station on the Circle Line.

The project will have a total net lettable area of about 1.08 million sq ft (including 22,000 sq ft of retail space). It is slated for completion in the second half of 2013.

 
Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd.

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