Home upgraders are setting the pace in the resurgent residential market while speculative investment and foreign buying remains suppressed, said Wing Tai Holdings chairman and managing director Cheng Wai Keung.
The result has been a "strange phenomenon", noted Mr Cheng, where prices in the general upgraders' market have been driven up to the point where they are now close to values in the costly Orchard Road fringe area.
Mr Cheng told the group's results briefing yesterday that in the past, prices in that fringe area "would most probably be 8 per cent higher" than the traditional upgrader zone.
But now the gap is closing, thanks to sales activity by upgraders, while the fringe area is flatlining due to a lack of investment buyers.
The recovery here looks like a two-speed one, so Mr Cheng is "still very uncertain" about the market outlook. "This is a very different and difficult period in my 40 years in the property market," he said. "It has stabilised but you are not sure if it will continue to be like that. But that does not mean that we do not look at property that will give us value."
Last month, Wing Tai and Keppel Land made the top offer of $446.3 million ($964.81 per sq ft per plot ratio) for a plot at Serangoon North Avenue 1.
The firm still posted robust numbers for the fourth quarter with net profit of $9.5 million, a jump of 406 per cent from the same period a year earlier. Full-year earnings surged 184 per cent to $20.1 million while turnover fell 52 per cent to $263.2 million for the 12 months to June 30.
AT A GLANCE
Q4 NET PROFIT:
$9.5 million (+406%)
$58.6 million (-58%)
Q4 TOTAL DIVIDEND PER SHARE:
6 cents (Unchanged)
Wing Tai sold 72 residential units in Singapore in the year for a sales value of $142 million. Including Malaysia and China, it moved 399 units for $357 million.
The firm has sold eight of the 43 units at its highly exclusive Le Nouvel Ardmore, and 43 per cent of the 469 units at joint-venture condominium project The Crest. It has made an impairment provision for The Crest relating to additional buyer's stamp duty payable.
The retail segment accounted for 55 per cent of the top line and an Ebit (earnings before interest and taxes) of $27.5 million.
Wing Tai has shut more than 30 per cent of it shops in the last two years, including 15 stores in the past 12 months.
Mr Cheng said: "E-commerce cannot explain why the retail market has performed so poorly."
Yet G2000 is performing well and "Uniqlo has not been affected at all", so consumers must be trading down, he said.
"For Wing Tai, we have gone through two years of a bad patch and now it has stabilised. But the top line continues to be under pressure," said Mr Cheng.
Full-year earnings per share was 2.59 cents, up from 0.91 cent a year ago.
Net asset value per share was $4.07 as at June 30, up from $4.04 as at June 30 last year.
A first and final dividend of three cents per share and a special dividend of three cents per share were declared, the same as last year.
The counter closed up one cent or 0.47 per cent to $2.13 yesterday before earnings were posted after market close.