According to consultancy JLL in a new report, property investment sales are set for a bull run after a spectacular start to the year. The positive outlook is being driven by the office, and possibly the retail and residential sectors.
The overall value of real estate investment deals soared 67 % in the first quarter to $4.99 B – of which $4.47 B was from the private sector.
Private investment sales of office property accounted for $2.12 B – the sector’s strongest first-quarter showing for the past 9 years. The $2.12 B figure was a 60.6 % rise from the fourth quarter, and more than treble that of a year ago. Last year’s private-sector investment sales stood at $19.06 B.
The top two office deals in the first quarter were entity sales. One was the sale of the entire interest in the holding company of PwC Building in Cross Street to an indirect unit of Manulife Financial Corporation for $760.6 M. The other was the divestment of the entire interest in Plaza Ventures – the owner and developer of GSH Plaza in Cecil Street – to Hong Kong-listed Fullshare Holdings for $725.21 M.
JLL noted the potential for the full-year sales of private office assets to surpass the $6.49 B recorded last year, considering the recent deal for One George Street and sizeable assets available in the market, including Asia Square Tower 2 in Marina Bay.
The residential segment, registered $1.69 B in private investment sales for properties valued at $5 M and above in the first quarter.
For retail and industrial sectors, private investment sales more than doubled that from the previous year in the first quarter: $280 M for retail and $390 M for industrial.
JLL predicts a bright investment sale outlook for the year, driven by the recent sale of the $2.2 B Jurong Point mall and upbeat sentiment in the private residential market. A growing appetite for collective sale sites by developers facing depleting land banks and limited supply of sites from the Government could also lend support to investment sales.
The Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) calls for greater land-use flexibility by allowing complementary activities to be located near each other– value chains and industries can be integrated and synergies enabled among developments in a precinct.
Given the blurring line between services and manufacturing, the CFE also proposed that flexibility of land use be allowed in industrial areas as this will open the way for businesses of different sectors and functions to co-locate, find synergies and catalyse innovation.
The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is working with state industrial landlord JTC and the Economic Development Board (EDB) under Ministry of Trade and Industry.
Industry players say Singapore may need to create more zoning categories or expand existing definitions of use for industrial space.
Another planning guideline – that of the “60-40 rule”, which requires at least 60 per cent of gross space in a building or strata unit to be used for industrial activities, with at most 40 per cent left for ancillary purposes – is another restrictive policy that needs review.
The government has, in the past, rolled out “white” sites and business park white zones in the Master Plan to offer developers some autonomy in deciding the most appropriate mix of uses for each site. However, it has remained prescriptive in listing permissible uses and planning specifications for these sites.
The US practises what is called “performance zoning”, under which land development and use are circumscribed by performance standards; for example, these standards can limit the intensity of development by stipulating the maximum level of noise or strain on the transportation system.
By the first quarter of 2018, all 10,700 industrial units and 540 land leases under the Housing & Development Board (HDB) will be consolidated under JTC, a single agency offering one-stop access to a full range of Singapore’s public-sector industrial facilities.
The properties will be transferred from HDB’s portfolio to JTC’s at net book value.
Minister for Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang said this will better support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in their business growth.
The government will be able to undertake more comprehensive master-planning of industrial estates across Singapore; the move will also facilitate more efficient clustering of complementary activities and integration of activities along the value chain.
JTC wants to bring HDB tenants under its fold to offer them the same support that JTC tenants under the parentage of the Ministry of Trade and Industry enjoy, and to enhance their productivity and transform them into more competitive enterprises. (HDB falls under the Ministry of National Development.
One common problem HDB industrial tenants face lies in finding adjacent space into which to expand; many end up taking space in multiple venues, sometimes across the island. What JTC can offer SMEs is contiguous large floor plates in its own facilities.
It can also help SMEs plan ahead, by charting their growth trajectories and anticipating their future needs. JTC can provide, not just bigger spaces, but also land for expansion.
Guoxin Manufacturing is one example of an HDB tenant that is moving into a 1,180 sq m space at JTC Space @ Tampines North; this is twice the amount of space it used to occupy over five different units in Tuas and Ubi.
All HDB tenants and lessees affected by the consolidation will continue to be served by the same team of 160 HDB officers, who will be transferred to JTC. JTC also gave the assurance that the contracted terms and conditions of their tenancies and leases with HDB will remain.