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Prime properties in for 5% fall in ’08: UBS

Bank expects modest 0-5% growth in mass and mid-tier segments

ANALYSTS from Swiss bank UBS believe Singapore’s property market will ‘remain intact’, but they are nonetheless projecting a drop of 5 per cent in prime property prices for the year.

In the more affordable mass and mid-tier segments, where prices increased at a slower pace, UBS expects a modest growth of between 0-5 per cent in prices this year.

In its report on the Singapore property market, UBS says that in light of the uncertainty over the global economic outlook, buyers are likely to defer purchases of new property for at least six months. UBS said that demand ‘is highly dependent on the market’s outlook for the next three or four years, when the projects are completed’.

It added that with supply of new homes on the rise, there could be pressure on developers to reduce launch prices to ‘stimulate demand’ – and some developers may start cutting prices as early as the second quarter of this year.

While the larger developers are expected to have more holding power, smaller ones could feel the strain of holding costs sooner. UBS estimates that of the units to be launched between this year and 2010, around 9 per cent are held by small, unlisted developers. Still, it said that there is little evidence to suggest that the market will be affected if small developers ‘capitulate and cut prices aggressively when holding costs build up’.

In its report on the current property market conditions, UBS made comparisons with the previous property slump of 1998. ‘Markets appear to be pricing a 70 per cent fall in Singapore residential prices, similar to 1998,’ it noted.

But UBS said: ‘We think the residential market in 2008 will not replicate the 1998 scenario where launch prices fell by 50 per cent in a year, and stock prices fell by 75 per cent.’

It added that expected GDP growth of 3.5 per cent should keep population inflow positive, which combined with negative real interest rates and low unemployment should underpin resale prices.

‘Even if job growth were to halve in 2008 to 90,000-100,000, this could still mean housing demand for at least around 15,000-18,000 units, assuming half the newly- weds (23,000 per annum) want to move out, and around 6,000 new households – of new permanent residents and expatriates – relocate to Singapore,’ UBS added. It pointed out that the figure is much higher than the expected number of home completions – 8,700 in 2008 and 16,000 in 2009.

As such UBS believes that current share prices for listed property developers have been ‘over-corrected’.

‘Allgreen’s price ($1.17 per share currently) attributes no value to its residential (portfolio), while City Development’s price ($12 per share currently) implies a 70 per cent writedown in unsold land,’ said UBS.

UBS said that it has adjusted the revalued net asset value and earnings per share for Allgreen, City Developments, CapitaLand and Keppel Land, and given current price levels ‘we have retained our Buy ratings on all these developers’.


Source: Business Times 5 Feb 08


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