Property curbs could be lifted this year: CDL's Kwek Leng Beng

Among the assets monetised in the fourth quarter were 7 & 9 Tampines Grande, adding to the rise in CDL's earnings. The developer expects a challenging year, but feels it can hold up well, given the expansion of its footprint abroad.
Among the assets monetised in the fourth quarter were 7 & 9 Tampines Grande, adding to the rise in CDL's earnings. The developer expects a challenging year, but feels it can hold up well, given the expansion of its footprint abroad. PHOTO: CDL

Longest losing streak in 17 years suggests that Govt will act soon, says Kwek Leng Beng

The sustained decline in residential prices here - now mired in their longest losing streak in 17 years - may prompt the Government to lift some property curbs this year, said City Developments (CDL) executive chairman Kwek Leng Beng.

"They will press the button at the right time, although developers are hoping they will do it sooner rather than later," Mr Kwek told Bloomberg after the company's earnings briefing yesterday.

"I think they will do something this year, that's my speculation, as there are a lot of mid- and low-end homes coming up. I suspect it will be the abolishing of the buyer's stamp duties."

Mr Kwek was likely referring to the additional buyer's stamp duty (ABSD), introduced in December 2011, requiring buyers who own more than one home to pay a levy.

Developers who bought land to develop and who cannot sell all new units within five years must also pay a levy.

Mr Kwek's comments follow hard on the heels of those by Mr Augustine Tan, president of the Real Estate Developers' Association of Singapore, who said last week that it would be timely for the Government to consider a calibration of the cooling measures.

  • AT A GLANCE

  • NET PROFIT:
    $410.5 million (+6.6%)

    REVENUE:
    $855 million (+1%)

    FINAL DIVIDEND:
    12 cents per share (unchanged)

Home values have dropped 8.4 per cent since the third quarter of 2013, while sales have nearly halved from that year.

Mr Kwek expects prices for both mid- and low-end homes to see further declines and that the high-end market will remain subdued.

CDL, however, has held up well amid the challenging market conditions, thanks to the "strength of the diversification strategy" as it looks overseas, said chief executive Grant Kelley.

The property and hotel heavyweight reported a 6.6 per cent rise in earnings to a record $410.5 million for the fourth quarter to Dec 31, boosted by gains from monetising three prime office assets. Revenue rose 1 per cent to $855 million.

The assets monetised were 7 & 9 Tampines Grande, Manulife Centre and Central Mall (Office Tower) through a second Profit Participation Securities investment platform in December last year.

Net profit for the full year inched up 0.5 per cent to $773.4 million despite a 12.2 per cent fall in revenue to $3.3 billion that was largely due to the absence of revenue recognition from executive condominium (EC) projects.

Earnings per share for the quarter came in at 44.4 cents, up on the 41.6 cents previously. Net asset value per share rose to $9.89 as at Dec 31, from $9.25 a year earlier.

The developer has proposed a final dividend of eight cents per share, together with a special final dividend of four cents per share.

While CDL expects to see a challenging year ahead, amid the dim global growth outlook, Mr Kwek said that the group is "well-poised to deploy our strong balance sheet towards investments in a period of market dislocation... while maintaining discipline in our investments.

"We remain focused on expanding our international property development footprint and growing our funds-management platform."

CDL shares closed five cents or 0.7 per cent higher at $7.09 yesterday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 26, 2016, with the headline 'Property curbs 'could be lifted this year''. Print Edition | Subscribe