Demand for shophouse units to remain strong in 2018: CBRE

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SHOPHOUSES are a unique and interesting asset class in Singapore. This asset class, comprising narrow small terraced houses with a sheltered 'five-foot' pathway in front, is an icon of Singapore's architectural history.

Many of these shophouse units were built prior to World World 2 and located in the old city centres.

Their rich historical heritage has resulted in many of them being gazetted for conservation, carefully restored and conserved according to regulatory guidelines.

Due to the rarity and cultural value of shophouses, interest in this asset class has been very consistent. Property companies and private equity funds have shown heightened interest in this niche market in the past year, and we expect interest levels to remain similar in 2018.

Ultra-high net worth individuals who take long-term views on preserving their capital in particular, are attracted to shophouses as they hold strong value. Investors can also use them for personal purposes.

Many of them see the intrinsic value in buying into a piece of heritage, and this asset is highly prized in land-scarce Singapore.

Freehold shophouses currently generate net rental yields in the range of 2 per cent to 3 per cent, while those for leasehold ones start from about 3 per cent onwards, depending on the property, tenure, and so on.

In terms of transaction prices, compared to 2016, the total transacted volume in terms of value and the number of transactions have increased in 2017, although this is still below the numbers locked in during 2013, which was considered one of the most active years historically for this asset class.

When available in the market, adjoining units of shophouses are increasingly popular as they are rarer to come by and the buyers can explore various usages for the premises by tapping the larger space configurations and economies of scale.

We have observed in the market that there are more estate sales among families who have owned the asset for generations and are looking to divest the shophouses and redistribute the funds. These families are focused on their non-property core business and are looking to make better use of their funds by cashing out.

Shophouse sellers also include funds who want to enjoy the capital upside from a purchase made five to 10 years ago.

The data on price movements only track general price movements, but in general, prices have remained stable, with a few stand-out assets traded at higher price points. Price points vary depending on the highest value and the best use in a specific location.

Shophouses which command a premium have a winning combination of a good location, solid frontage, a strong tenant profile, and the best use, be it for food and beverage, hospitality or retail use. Shophouses which have been upgraded through extensive asset enhancements, or have potential for further enhancement works to be carried out, also stand out.

Overall, investing in shophouses in Singapore is lucrative and future-proof due to the scarcity of this asset class that is able to hold its value even during economic downturns.

Source: Business Times, 3 Feb 2018

Chinatown Plaza up for collective sale, asking S$270m

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Edmund Tie & Company is marketing the property, as well as a redevelopment site in Geylang Lorong 18

CHINATOWN Plaza has been put up for a collective sale with an asking price of S$270 million, said Edmund Tie & Company, the marketing agent for the sale, on Wednesday.

The asking price equates to S$1,989 per square foot per plot ratio (psf ppr) of potential gross floor area (GFA) with no development charge payable.

The tender exercise closes at noon on March 15.

The prime mixed-use redevelopment site at the junction of Craig Road and Neil Road is zoned for commercial and residential use under the 2014 Master Plan of the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

It sits on a freehold site with a land area of about 3,154.3 sq m, and is near the Central Business District and the Keong Saik Road area, which is now dotted with food and beverage outlets, co-working spaces and boutique hotels.

Edmund Tie & Company said in a statement: "Subject to the authorities' approval, the site can be redeveloped up to its existing gross floor area of 12,610.89 sq m, exceeding the permissible plot ratio of 3.5 times as indicated in the 2014 Master Plan."

Swee Shou Fern, senior director of investment advisory at Edmund Tie & Company, said: "The developer-investor can pre-sell the residential units to capitalise on the upturn of the private residential market and hold the invaluable freehold commercial space for investment or as their corporate office.

"Given its city-centre location in a popular and vibrant enclave with proximity to MRT stations, the property is also ideal as serviced apartments or a hotel development, subject to planning approval."

Edmund Tie & Company disclosed that it is also the marketing agent for the sale of a 1,696.3 sq m redevelopment site in the Geylang neighbourhood.

The unnamed owner is putting the property up for tender, and has asked for S$36 million.

The site, which occupies the odd numbered lots 1 through 21 along Lorong 18 Geylang and offers a 60 m frontage, is being offered on a 99-year leasehold tenure.

The property is in an area that was rezoned in 2015 from residential/institution to commercial/institution under the URA's 2014 Master Plan.

The asking price reflects a land rate of S$948 psf ppr for commercial use, with a gross plot ratio of 2.8 times, or S$704 psf ppr for institution use.

At a gross plot ratio of 2.8, the site can be redeveloped into an eight-storey development with maximum allowable GFA of 4,749.6 sq m.

However, an estimated development charge of S$12.5 million may be payable to redevelop the site for commercial use at that plot ratio.

No development charge will be levied if the site is retained for institution use.

The property may be developed for restaurants, shops, offices, commercial schools and association premises if approval is obtained from the authorities.

The tender closes at 3pm on March 22.

Source: Business Times, 1 Feb 2018

Singapore an emerging hot market for private equity real estate funds

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CBRE estimates that about US$6b may be deployed in the Republic between this year and 2020

The recovery in office rents here may be turning Singapore into one of the most popular markets in the region for private equity real estate funds.

CBRE estimates that some US$6 billion may be deployed in Singapore from this year to 2020, with about US$4 billion having been invested here by these funds between 2014 and the third quarter of 2017.

The latest quarterly figures from the Urban Redevelopment Authority last week showed office rents here rose at a faster clip in the fourth quarter and clocked a full-year increase of 0.4 per cent, in a reversal from an 8.2 per cent decline in 2016.

But CBRE also cautioned that pricing is beginning to reflect improved rental growth. In a report released on Wednesday, it projected that between 2018 and 2020, the top three recipients of capital from closed-end real estate funds focused on the Asia-Pacific would be Australia, Japan and China.

Between 2014 and Q3 2017, US$42 billion of capital was raised by such funds, which translates to around US$116 billion in purchasing power after factoring in leverage. Since then, US$63 billion (54 per cent) of the capital has been deployed, with the three countries bagging nearly 70 per cent of the total investment.

Core or core-plus funds have focused on Australia, but Japan is the second most popular destination for all types of investors as favourable lending terms are easily available.

China and Hong Kong attracted strong interest from value-add and opportunistic funds as low yields compel investors to move up the risk curve to achieve target returns.

This trend has also emerged in Singapore, where fund managers invest in office buildings with upgrading potential to capture occupiers' flight to quality, CBRE said.

CBRE Research estimates that funds possess US$53 billion to be invested in the region over the next three years. Of this, 70 per cent sits with opportunistic funds, 20 per cent with value-added funds, and the balance, with core or core-plus funds.

Core investments are seen as the least risky; they often target stabilised, fully leased, secure investments in major core markets. Value-added investments target properties with in-place cash flow, but seek to grow that over time by making improvements to or repositioning the property. Opportunistic real estate investments follow the value-add approach, but take on more risk.

Given the investment period of closed-end real estate funds, around US$22 billion will have to be invested in the next two years; if not, the funds would need to apply for an extension or return the capital to investors.

"The acute lack of stock and low property yields will necessitate greater creativity among fund managers and require them to move up the risk curve," CBRE said.

CBRE Research still expects Asia-Pacific prime office, retail and industrial yields to be stable this year.

On why Australia, Japan and China could again be the top Asia-Pacific destinations for capital deployment in the next three years, CBRE said that signs of a stabilising economy in China may encourage the return of funds to Tier-1 cities and beyond; Japan remains attractive due to the attractive yield spread, though a lack of stock for sale in Tokyo is a big hurdle.

In Australia, Sydney and Melbourne will remain the main focus for funds, but interest in secondary cities such as Brisbane and asset classes such as student housing is growing.

CBRE Research said it believes core-funds are looking mainly at office and logistics assets and niche sectors that provide long lease terms, such as data centres and cold storage.

For value-add funds willing to take on some leasing risk, CBRE Research said Kowloon East in Hong Kong, Seoul and decentralised areas of Shanghai offer opportunities. Such funds may also provide debt to real estate development projects or to completed properties.

As for opportunistic funds, they will have to be more creative in their strategy as it will become more challenging to achieve high returns by taking on development risk, CBRE said.

Source: Business Times, 5 Feb 2018

Office demand strong in Downtown Core; rosier hopes for 2018

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THE Downtown Core area, which includes the financial district, was the star in terms of net office demand in the fourth quarter as well as the whole of last year.

The area saw net demand - as measured by the change in occupied space - of 43,000 square metres (about 463,000 sq ft) in Q4 2017. This was the highest in more than five years (since Q3 2012), based on property consultants' analysis of latest figures by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). For full-year 2017, net demand in the Downtown Core area rose to slightly over 1 million sq ft - three times the 333,700 sq ft in 2016 and the highest since 2012's 1.42 million sq ft.

Cushman and Wakefield research director Christine Li said: "The take-up rates for new projects such as Marina One, Duo, Frasers Tower and Paya Lebar Quarter have been phenonemal."

THE Downtown Core area, which includes the financial district, was the star in terms of net office demand in the fourth quarter as well as the whole of last year.

The area saw net demand - as measured by the change in occupied space - of 43,000 square metres (about 463,000 sq ft) in Q4 2017. This was the highest in more than five years (since Q3 2012), based on property consultants' analysis of latest figures by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). For full-year 2017, net demand in the Downtown Core area rose to slightly over 1 million sq ft - three times the 333,700 sq ft in 2016 and the highest since 2012's 1.42 million sq ft.

Cushman and Wakefield research director Christine Li said: "The take-up rates for new projects such as Marina One, Duo, Frasers Tower and Paya Lebar Quarter have been phenonemal."

The group is forecasting a further rise of about 10 per cent in 2018. "With both the global and local economies on a firmer footing and business confidence strengthening, the pace of rental growth will accelerate this year," she said.

JLL is forecasting a 10 to 15 per cent increase in CBD Grade A office rents this year following an 8 per cent gain last year.

URA data released on Friday showed that the office market continued to improve in the fourth quarter of last year.

URA's rental index of office space in the Central Region rose 2.6 per cent quarter on quarter in Q4 2017 - a slightly faster pace of increase compared with the 2.4 per cent gain in Q3 2017.

For the whole of 2017, the index inched up 0.4 per cent. For 2016, it was a drop of 8.2 per cent.

URA's price index of office space in the Central Region rose 2.7 per cent quarter on quarter in the fourth quarter - after rising 0.4 per cent in the previous quarter.

For the whole of 2017, prices of office space fell 2.4 per cent, a slower pace of decline than the 2.8 per cent drop in 2016.

Total pipeline supply islandwide at the end of Q4 2017 was 6.4 million sq ft of gross floor area (GFA) of office space, slightly lower than the 6.5 million sq ft at end-Q3 2017.

The amount of occupied office space increased by 592,000 sq ft in net lettable area in Q4 2017, compared with a rise of about 107,600 sq ft the previous quarter.

The stock of office space fell by about 43,100 sq ft in Q4 2017, compared with a rise of about 980,000 sq ft in the previous quarter. As a result, the islandwide office vacancy rate eased to 12.6 per cent, as at the end of Q4 2017, from 13.3 per cent at the end of the previous quarter.

Duncan White, Colliers International head of office services, said: "Vacancy rates should reduce gradually over 2018-2019, from the oversupply situation of 2016/17.

"Continued expectations of new demand throughout 2018 and healthier global economic views will further boost confidence among landlords and occupiers and lift market sentiment. We also expect to see more international companies homing in on Singapore amid rosier economic prospects."

Alan Cheong, Savills Singapore research head, said the strong rental rise has reduced fears of further yield compression for office space.

"There is now even the possibility that over the course of this year, yields may not only stabilise, but instead rise by 25 basis points. This is because we believe that rents for the Savills basket of Grade A CBD office space can rise by 10 per cent in 2018 - with price increases lagging."

This rental rise is only indirectly due to demand-led factors. Landlords of new or soon-to-be-completed buildings have seen much of their space being taken up by tenants moving from older buildings.

"This trend began around the middle of 2017 and was augmented by the tenants in the TMT (telecommunications, media and technology) and disruptive business model segment, including co-working space providers, Uber and Grab, for example.

"These types of businesses have taken up large amounts of offfice space in new Grade A buildings as well as the secondary stock left behind in older buildings by tenants moving to newer office towers."

Lee Nai Jia, Edmund Tie & Co research head, said landlords of older offices may continue to face pressure in retaining tenants. "The current market makes it prime for older office buildings to be redeveloped. We anticipate more interest, especially for the collective sales of such properties."

Source: Business Times, 27 Jan 2018

CCT eyes office market recovery in 2018/19

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OFFICE landlord CapitaLand Commercial Trust (CCT) said it is looking to ride the office market recovery, but remains mindful of potential negative rental reversions this year.

Its existing portfolio has lease expiries representing 8 per cent of monthly gross rental income this year and another 31 per cent next year.

But several things are looking up for the office sector, said Kevin Chee, chief executive of the Reit manager. Limited new office supply till 2021, high levels of pre-lease commitments for properties completing this year and the continued backfiling of vacancies in some of older buildings bode well for the office rental cycle.

"This will allow us to leverage the rising market rents," he told analysts at a briefing on Thursday.

But the full impact of negative rental reversions from 2017 is expected to flow through this year due to the high rental rates of expiring leases in some of its buildings.

Mr Chee added that in pursuing growth, CCT will evaluate investments outside Singapore; within the country, opportunities may be limited because assets are tightly held and highly sought-after.

CCT reported on Thursday a 13 per cent drop in distribution per unit (DPU) to 2.08 Singapore cents for the fourth quarter ended Dec 31.

This was due to the dilutive effects of a rights issue, conversion of convertible bonds and issuance of units in management fees.

On an adjusted basis, the DPU would have grown 6.1 per cent.

Gross revenue and net property income for the fourth quarter slipped 3.8 per cent to S$86.3 million and 4 per cent to S$68 million respectively.

These were hit by sales of its stakes in One George Street, Golden Shoe Car Park and Wilkie Edge. Higher income from CapitaGreen and contribution from newly acquired Asia Square Tower 2 mitigated the impact.

For the year, DPU was down 4.6 per cent to 8.66 cents; on an adjusted basis, it would have risen 5 per cent.

During fiscal 2017, CCT signed some 666,000 sq ft of leases, of which 38 per cent were new leases. Mr Chee said the Reit continues to see leasing demand from banking, insurance, finance services, technology, and the energy and commodity sectors.

Meanwhile, it has started a pilot project at Twenty Anson, where it converted one floor into office suites with meeting facilities and collaborative spaces.

Mr Chee said that this is expected to generate 10-15 per cent rental premium when fully filled.

The redevelopment of Golden Shoe Park remains on track and its groundbreaking is scheduled to take place in February, he added.

As at end-December, CCT's monthly average office portfolio rent grew by 5.9 per cent from a year ago to S$9.74 per square foot (psf).

Its portfolio committed occupancy rate stood at 97.3 per cent, well above the market rate of 93.8 per cent.

The committed occupancy at Asia Square Tower 2 rose to 90.5 per cent as at end-December (from 88.7 per cent when it was acquired by CCT in November 2017); asking rents hover at S$11.50-12.50 per square foot per month.

Mr Chee said that the filing up of vacancies at Asia Square Tower 2 will generate additional income for CCT.

CCT's distribution of 4.1 cents for the second half of 2017 will be paid out on Feb 28. Its units closed a cent lower at S$1.90 on Thursday.

Source: Business Times, 26 Jan 2018

Office rentals rose 2.6% q-o-q in Q4 2017, taking full-year gain to 0.4%: URA

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THE URBAN Redevelopment Authority (URA) released data on Friday morning showing that the office market continued to improve in the fourth quarter of last year.

Rentals of office space rose 2.6 per cent in the fourth quarter over the preceding quarter - a slightly faster pace of increase compared with the 2.4 per cent gain in the third quarter of 2017, the URA said on Friday morning.

For the whole of 2017, office rentals inched up 0.4 per cent, contrasting with the drop of 8.2 per cent in 2016.

URA also said that prices of office space increased by 2.7 per cent in the fourth quarter, after rising 0.4 per cent in the previous quarter.

For the whole of 2017, prices of office space fell 2.4 per cent - a slower pace of decline compared with the 2.8 per cent drop in 2016.

As at the end of 2017's fourth quarter, there was a total supply of about 597,000 square metres (sq m) of gross floor area (GFA) of office space in the pipeline, slightly lower than the 607,000 sq m of GFA in the previous quarter.

The amount of occupied office space increased by 55,000 sq m (nett) in Q4 2017, compared with the rise of 10,000 sq m (nett) in the previous quarter.

The stock of office space fell 4,000 sq m (nett) in Q4 2017, compared with the rise of 91,000 sq m (nett) in the previous quarter. As a result, the island-wide office vacancy rate eased to 12.6 per cent as at the end of Q4 2017 from 13.3 per cent as at the end of the previous quarter.

Source: Business Times, 26 Jan 2018

Singapore office rents expected to lead increases among Asian cities

SINGAPORE office rents are set to post the biggest gains among Asian cities as an increase in demand runs into moderating supply, according to Cushman & Wakefield Inc.

Office rents in all major Asian cities, with the exception of Tokyo, are set to rise over the next two years, according to forecasts from Cushman. Singapore will lead the pack, with rents forecast to surge 25 per cent, more than double the 12 per cent growth forecast in Hong Kong's central business district.

"The best is yet to come for the office leasing market," said the Singapore-based Sigrid Zialcita, managing director for Asia-Pacific research at Cushman. "Conditions haven't looked this good since the spurt in the aftermath of the financial crisis."

The extra office space that tenants will rent in major cities tracked by Cushman in the Asia-Pacific region will surge to 120 million square feet in 2018, the highest level according to data going back to 2005. In Singapore, the rent recovery is set to gain traction as supply begins to moderate this year. Rents are forecast to climb to US$100.80 per square foot in 2019 from US$80.53 psf in 2017, according to Cushman's forecasts. BLOOMBERG

Source: Business Times, 23 Jan 2018

Singapore office rents seen rising twice as fast as Hong Kong

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[SINGAPORE] Singapore office rents are set to post the biggest gains among Asian cities as an increase in demand runs into moderating supply, according to Cushman & Wakefield Inc.

Office rents in all major Asian cities, with the exception of Tokyo, are set to rise over the next two years, according to forecasts from Cushman. Singapore will lead the pack, with rents forecast to surge 25 per cent, more than double the 12 per cent growth forecast in Hong Kong's central business district.

"The best is yet to come for the office leasing market," said the Singapore-based Sigrid Zialcita, managing director for Asia Pacific research at Cushman. "Conditions haven't looked this good since the spurt in the aftermath of the financial crisis."

The extra office space that tenants will rent in major cities tracked by Cushman in the Asia Pacific region will surge to 120 million square feet in 2018, the highest level in data going back to 2005, according to Zialcita.

In Singapore, the rent recovery is set to gain traction as supply begins to moderate this year. Rents are forecast to climb to US$100.80 per square foot a year in 2019 from US$80.53 per square foot in 2017, according to Cushman's forecasts.

Source: Business Times, 22 Jan 2018

Last working lift gives out at 22-storey building

Workers at the 22-storey Golden Mile Tower are being forced to pant and puff their way up the stairs after the last working lift in the building broke down.

Two of the Beach Road building's four lifts have been closed for upgrading for almost two months, while a third stopped working two weeks back, the workers at the building told The Straits Times.

This had left just one functional lift to service the entire building - until it gave way last Thursday.

When contacted, the building management did not confirm the duration of each lift's closure but a circular dated on Monday was put up at the lift lobby informing workers of the latest breakdown.

The circular added that lift contractor Kone is "working around the clock" with its subcontractor to push forward the completion of upgrading works at one of the lifts, and it should be operational by this Friday or earlier.

This has given little consolation to the workers at the building.

Madam Goh Kah Chu, 69, takes about 15 minutes to get to her office on the 18th floor and has to take regular breaks during her walk up to rest and catch her breath.

"My muscles will be painful but I just climb slowly," said Madam Goh, who works as an administrator in a logistics firm. She added that all four lifts have been out of operation at the same time on at least three occasions in the past two years.

"Usually at least one lift will be repaired within a day," she said. "This is the longest that all the lifts have been out of operation."

'FED UP' WITH LIFT BREAKDOWNS

Mr Patrick Wong, 63, climbs the stairs twice a day to get to his building consultancy firm on the 11th floor. "It's very tiring," he said.

"They (the building management) promised us it will be fixed by Friday. We will see then if it really happens."

When The Straits Times visited the building at lunchtime yesterday, all four lifts were barricaded, two of them with signs that they are being closed for upgrading.

About 30 people were seen going up and down the stairs between 11.30am and 12.30pm.

The ageing building was completed in 1974.

"Everyone is very fed up," said lawyer Edmund Hendrick, 57, who works on the 16th floor.

"It's been going on for so long. Something should have been done a long time ago."

Building manager Fong Kah Wai said the lifts are about 25 years old and have parts that are obsolete. He declined to comment further until the technical report is out.

Workers in the building said the lifts have been facing several technical issues. Last November, Ms Queenie Chong, 22, said she was in the lift when it dropped three floors and came to a stop in between the fifth and sixth levels.

"We were in the lift for about 15 minutes before someone on the fifth floor prised open the lift doors from outside," said the account assistant who works on the 22nd floor.

She added that since she began working in the building last September, she has had to use the stairs about seven times.

"Sometimes (I use the stairs) because only one lift is in operation and I need to wait about 10 minutes for an available lift."

Kone could not be reached for comment.

Source: Straits Times, 17 Jan 2018

More than half of office space leased at Paya Lebar Quarter

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Paya Lebar Quarter (PLQ), a $3.2 billion mixed-use development by Lendlease, has secured tenants for more than 50 per cent of its office space, including some potential deals that are under final offer or in a stage of advanced negotiations, ahead of the offices' scheduled opening in the third quarter of this year.

This was announced at the topping-out ceremony of one of the three office towers yesterday, which was attended by Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong.

With approximately 1 million sq ft of total office space, Lendlease expects 10,000 employees to be working at PLQ's offices when they are fully occupied.

Prospective tenants include both local and multinational corporations in the finance, technology and real estate sectors.

Lendlease declined to disclose the confirmed tenants.

It did say that up to 15 per cent of available office space will also be used to house co-working facilities, which will allow smaller start-ups to network and work with established companies on special projects.

The average leasing price is $7 to $8 per sq ft, said Lendlease Asia chief executive Tony Lombardo.

According to CBRE's fourth-quarter figures, the average leasing price for Central Business District (CBD) offices is $9.40 per sq ft.

Ms Ng Hsueh Ling, managing director for Singapore at Lendlease, who is the former chief of Keppel REIT, said that prices have bottomed, due to high economic growth and low supply. 

Industry watchers are generally bullish on PLQ's ability to attract companies.

CBRE managing director Moray Armstrong said: "There is much noise from corporates around themes such as attracting the best talent, focus on lifestyle and wellness, collaboration and alike. PLQ's office component delivers on all counts."

CBRE is the leasing agent for the office component of PLQ.

DBS Bank analyst Derek Tan said PLQ may pose some form of competition to CBD office space if Lendlease is able to position the property as a viable alternative.

It was also announced that more than 40 per cent of retail space of PLQ Mall has been pre-committed.

Confirmed tenants include FairPrice Finest supermarket and Kopitiam foodcourt. Other offerings include a multi-screen cinema, fashion and lifestyle stores, and restaurants with al fresco dining concepts.

Advocating al fresco dining, where meals are served outdoors, is one of the initiatives Lendlease hopes will boost community engagement. "Al fresco dining gives Singaporeans the opportunity to engage with others and be outdoors a bit more," said Mr Lombardo.

This in line with Mr Wong's speech at the ceremony. He said he hopes the developers will take the lead to engage with the community and inject "life" into the development. He added: "With the right programming, good infrastructure, coupled with its distinctive cultural and heritage offerings, I am confident that Paya Lebar Central will be an attractive destination to both Singaporeans and tourists."

Correction Note: An earlier version of this story said Ms Ng Hsueh Ling is the managing director at Lendlease Asia. She is the managing director for Singapore at Lendlease. It also said that 40 per cent of retail space of Paya Lebar Square has been pre-committed. It should be PLQ Mall instead. We are sorry for the errors.

Source: Straits Times, 16 Jan 2018