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JTC will still provide affordable industrial space: Hng Kiang

THE JTC Corp is not deviating from its role to provide affordable factory space, said Minister for Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang yesterday in response to a question on whether JTC is shifting its focus with its recent plans to divest its industrial properties into a real estate investment trust (Reit).

This concern was triggered by the recent appointment of Mapletree Investments Pte Ltd (Mapletree) to establish and manage a proposed Reit which will acquire some $1.4-1.6 billion worth of JTC’s high-rise ready-built properties.

Member of Parliament Inderjit Singh raised the concern that this move will further raise the costs of industrial space here. He questioned the role of JTC, saying the earlier spinning off of Ascendas Reit has led to an increase in prices for industrial space. A-Reit, Singapore’s second Reit, was set up by JTC unit Ascendas five years ago and has since expanded by acquiring industrial buildings.

‘If we allow market forces to determine our industrial land prices, then businesses engaged in certain strategic sectors may no longer be able to compete with companies in competing economies which may not be at our stage of development and may offer companies more attractive land costs,’ Mr Singh said. He gave the example of China, where industrial land is more attractively priced.

In response, Mr Lim said: ‘JTC’s role remains the same. You must look at JTC’s role in two key areas – land and prepared industrial estates like flatted factories.’

For the flatted factories space, JTC is a small player in the market with a market share of around 20 per cent and hence takes its pricing cue from the market.

‘It is this sector that we are divesting because we believe that industrial space in Singapore is fairly competitive market,’ Mr Lim added. ‘So JTC need not stay in this area. JTC will concentrate on land.’

While the pricing of JTC’s industrial factory space is determined by the market, the pricing for land is benchmarked against competitive locations.

Mr Lim said the JTC is very careful ‘to make sure that we do not price ourselves out of the market.’

Source: Business Times 4 Mar 08

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