Singapore property curbs set to stay in 2017, CapitaLand CEO says

Mr Lim Ming Yan, president and CEO of CapitaLand.
Mr Lim Ming Yan, president and CEO of CapitaLand.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE (BLOOMBERG) - Singapore's residential property curbs are set to stay in place for at least another year amid signs the city's housing market is stabilizing, the chief executive officer of Southeast Asia's biggest developer said.

"We see volume picking up and the price declines have slowed," Lim Ming Yan, the president and CEO of CapitaLand, said in a Bloomberg Television interview on Wednesday (Feb 15).

"We see this trend continuing for 2017. There is no compelling reason for the government at this point to make major changes," to property curbs, he said.

Lim was speaking after CapitaLand said net income climbed 74 per cent to S$430.5 million in the three months ended Dec 31. Revenue rose 7 per cent to S$1.9 billion. For the year, net profit rose 12 per cent to S$1.2 billion.

CapitaLand shares rose 0.9 per cent at 12:56pm in Singapore, extending this year's gain to 16 per cent.

CapitaLand's Singapore home sales more than doubled to 571 units during the quarter, and sales in China rose 14 per cent. Singapore and China accounted for 84 per cent of annual group earnings before interest and tax, up from 79 per cent the previous year.

"Singapore and China continue to be CapitaLand's core markets, while we scale up in markets such as Vietnam," Lim said in the earnings statement.

The developer has more than 8,000 homes ready to be sold in China and expects to hand over 6,000 this year, the company said.

Singapore home prices fell 3 per cent in 2016, the third straight annual decline, as the government held steadfast on its cooling measures. Prices fell for a 13th straight quarter in the three months ended Dec 31, the longest streak since data was first published in 1975.

The existing stock of unsold homes may take three years to sell, according to Augustine Tan, president of the Real Estate Developers' Association of Singapore.

The government has signaled it is reluctant to ease property curbs, including capping debt repayments at 60 percent of a borrower's income and higher stamp duties, as it wants to avoid overheating the market again.

Singapore home sales rose 18 per cent to 381 units in January from a year earlier, the best yearly start since 2014, data released on Wednesday by the Urban Redevelopment Authority showed.

Lim said the global environment is uncertain and volatile, with the biggest risk being how the China-US relationship develops. President Donald Trump has threatened to slap tariffs on Chinese goods and label the nation a currency manipulator. He further antagonized China by calling into question the 'One China' policy after a telephone call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, before a soothing phone conversation with China's President Xi Jinping last week.

"These are the two largest economies in the world, so if there are on good terms many other businesses can grow, but if they are not on good terms then we have to be mindful that there could be situations we will have to manage," he said.