Nurturing Young Leaders Lecture Series 2018 – Singapore Retail: Behind the Headlines

NUS Real Estate 

Nurturing Young Leaders Lecture Series 2018 

Topic: Singapore Retail: 

Behind the Headlines  


Retail forms a big part of Singaporean’s lives. Besides being the favourite pastime of most Singaporeans, it is a key contributor to Singapore’s economy. Together with the Internet, social media, has revolutionized the way in which retail is conducted. The speaker will walk you through the background of retail in Singapore  


Speaker: Jack Backen (Director of CISTRI) Several projects across the world, and conducted several different studies across the discipline


Jack Backen specialises in the economics behind property performance. With qualifications in economics, law and finance, Jack joined Urbis in 2005 and focuses on projects in Asia. He is one of the founding directors of Urbis’ newly established Singapore entity, Cistri.  

While Jack’s expertise lies in the retail sector, he also has wide experience across the office, residential and hospitality property sectors. He’s worked on projects in Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, China, Japan, Indonesia, Pakistan, New Zealand and Qatar. 

Jack provides in-depth economic research and analysis for projects of all kinds – including demographic analysis and change forecasting, property market performance forecasting, market demand studies, financial feasibility studies, highest and best land-use studies, and strategic master planning advice. He is also an active member of the International Council of Shopping Centers, and sits on its Asia-Pacific Research Committee. 


Nine global retail property trends: 

1.Digital disruption 


3.Consolidation and securitisation 

4.Over build 

5.The new anchors 

6.Experience and authenticity 

7.Retail/mixed use 

8.Understanding the consumer 

9.Working the asset harder 


On retail floor space in Singapore – How much is too much?  

  • According to studies, Singapore has much lesser floor space per capita as compared to America, KL, south korea etc.  
  • Having too much floor space may not be a good thing as it may indicate overbuilding 
  • Low supply of floor space may actually end up more productive floor space generating sales per square meter 


Who Shops as Orchard Road? 

  • Singapore has a dense core retail area in orchard 
  • More shopping areas being added in suburban areas 
  • The scale and density of retail core in Singapore is higher than other places in the world 
  • However, increase in suburban retail spaces dilute the core area, affecting several aspects such as sales per GFA 
  • Compared to other countries in terns of sheer density, Orchard Road is considered big  
  • In terms of big malls above 1mil square feet, Singapore is lacking compared to countries such as Dubai or Beijing. 
  • In comparison to Dubai, Singaporean malls are on a much smaller scale, where entertainment is down scaled 
  • While economists think that bigger spaces lead to lower rents, in reality, you actually draw in more retailers and customers when you get bigger 


Happenings in the Market 

The retail market has under performed in recent years. Why?  

Factors that affected the market:  

  • Inflation (RPI) flows through cost of goods, hence landlords built in inflation into their rent. Global RPI has fallen due to the capacity of producing goods in the world. Eg China has increased production costs [Symbol] manufacturing has moved from China to Bangladesh, and this process will continue shifting from one focus area to another 
  • As a result, there is no inflation in products, increasing the pressure on retailers to depend on sales volume to stay afloat, making things difficult. 
  • Population growth flows to retail sales through natural progression. Most sale growth was due to this natural progression. As Singapore has implemented immigration policies, it naturally affects the growth of the market 
  • Household income in direct link with sales 


What are the drivers? 

  • House Price Index casus people change their perception in purchasing power 
  • Employment: lower employment leads to lower spending due to lower confidence. When employment is high, confidence naturally increases 
  • Don’t discount these factors as they all have a big impact collectively on confidence and sales 
  • Ecommerce: 

The Australian example: 

Online expected to account for 17% of non-food retail market by 2025. This means that about half the impact on shopping centres from online retail has already occurred. Retail owners realised that there is still value in traditional shopping malls and that it still has the potential to grow.  

  • Significance of ecommerce in Singapore:  

Shoppers are spending lesser, affecting the industry more as compared to ecommerce. Additionally, travel spending has a large impact as compared to ecommerce as Singaporeans spend a lot overseas.  


Cistri’s View: 

  • Ecommerce is only ¼ of the problem 
  • There are other bigger factors affecting the market 
  • Overseas travel is still a bigger factor that is affecting the market. 
  • By international standards, ecommerce in Singapore is low compared to UK, US and Australia. 


How are Shops performing? 

What is the outlook for Singapore retailers? 

  • URA rent index: both orchard and suburban rents have fallen sharply over the past 5 years 
  • Retailers can only spend a certain percentage of sales on rent, as they are unable to profit when it is too costly 
  • When rent exceeds a certain percentage (Occupancy cost ratio), smaller scale retailers would tend to leave  
  • Rental and sales are largely linked. 
  • If the sales productivity continues to increase, the rent will eventually follow, however rent is usually a lagging factor and requires time to bounce back 


What is the answer? 

  • Singapore is lacking floor space 
  • Sales growth has been anemic – more cyclical than structural 
  • It is easy to blame ecommerce, however it is only the tip of the iceberg  
  • Lack of global inflation is also a major issue 
  • However rents keep increasing, while sales were stagnant, putting pressure on retailers 


What is the outlook? 

  • Rent growth cannot return until sales growth does 
  • Economy is showing signs of recovery 
  • But expect it to be bumpy 
  • Optimistic outlook for the market

Buying Your First Flat

Many Singaporeans dream of having their own HDB, but what are the things that we have to consider before buying a flat?

First, there are a wide range of housing options available: Build-to-Order flats (BTO), Resale Flats and Executive Condominiums (EC).  The main supply of HDB flats come in the form of BTOs, which are new flats that are launched quarterly in non-mature estates. When purchasing a BTO, it usually takes some time for the buyer to receive the flat as new launches are usually still uncompleted or under construction. However, due to the affordable prices, it usually is popular amongst first time buyers. If one is considering buying a BTO flat, simply head on to the HDB website at and sign up for the HDB eAlert Service which gives alerts on upcoming launches through e-mails and SMS. The best part? This service is completely free of charge!

The process of buying a BTO is as follows:

The quarterly launch period usually takes place around the span of 1 week. Once interested, the buyer can indicate the type of flat and the respective estate in the HDB application (application fee is $10). After which, there will be computer balloting and when the buyer is successful, will be invited down to book the flat. There is a $2000 option fee and a HDB Loan Eligibility (HLE) letter must be present when coming down. Next, an agreement for the lease is to be signed where the downpayment is paid, which can be up to 20% of the price of the flat. The downpayment can either be paid by CPF or cash. The HDB loan will then be reviewed for disbursement and the buyer will be invited down to collect the keys, where the payment of the balance of purchase price will take place; either by cash, CPF or by a loan.

For a Resale flat, there are a wide range of flat types, design and location as these flats are bought from current owners and the prices are a result of negotiation between the buyer and the seller. Renovations done may be much lesser as compared to a BTO flat. Also, with the HDB resale portal, there will be no need to engage an agent or salesperson.

For ECs, these projects are developed and sold by private developers and will be fully privatised after 10 years. Some considerations when buying the ECs are price and waiting time, as these ECs are generally more expensive and might not be completed at the time of purchase.

However, who is eligible to purchase a flat?

For a subsidised flat, there needs to be a minimum of 1 Singapore Citizen (SC) and 1 Singapore Permanent Resident (SPR), whereas for a non-subsidised flat, at least 2 SPRs are required. A family nucleus is necessary, otherwise buyers will be opted under the Single Singapore Citizen scheme. Owners of private residential properties can only apply for a HDB 30 months after the sale of that property, and must be disposed within 6 months after purchase of a non-subsidised resale flat. The income ceiling of a buyer will also be taken into consideration.

Is there any way I can check for my eligibility online?

Yes, the HDB website also has an eligibility check, simply just key in your information and your results will be generated.

What are the subsidies that are offered by HDB?

You can refer to HDB’s slide here:

hdb .JPG

Also, here are some of the conditions for the respective grants:

 Additional CPF Housing Grant (AHG):

  • Have worked continuously for 12 months and employed at the time of application

Special CPF Housing Grant (SHG):

  • A new flat
  • 4 room or smaller
  • Non-mature estate

CPF Housing Grant for Resale Flats:

  • For 4-rooms or smaller, if both buyers are SCs, a $50,000 grant is given
  • For 5-rooms or larger, if buyers are SCs/SPR, a $40,000 grant is given
  • If a single household, the grants are half the respective amounts

Are there some priority schemes offered?

Yes, there are 3: Parenthood Priority Scheme, Married Child Priority Scheme, and Multi-generation Priority Scheme.

The Parenthood Priority Scheme applies for first time married couples with a child who is a SC under 16 years old, or expecting their first citizen child.

The Married Child Priority Scheme applies for flat buyers living near their parents, within 4 km their parents’ home.

The Multi-generation Priority Scheme is a joint application for parents and married children within the same BTO project.

For new flats that are not prepared, the Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme (PPHS), provides rental flats below market prices for temporary accommodation after booking a new flat. This applies to married/courting couples and divorced or widowed parents with children.

What is the most important thing when buying a flat?

The most important thing to do is to plan for the purchase. Many of us have an idea of what we want in a HDB flat. A balcony? A large living room? Expensive location? There are many considerations, but what is important is financial planning.

It is simple as ABC! Ability, Budget, Credit.

  • Ability to pay.

Ask yourself, how much is  my household’s monthly income and expenses? Buyers should have a stable income and the ability to make long term loan repayments. Expenses include, typical household expenses; such as food, transport and medical expenses, housing expenses; such as monthly mortgage payments and utility bills and future expenses; due to lifestyle changes and unforeseen circumstances. Another question is how much extra cash do I have to pay monthly loan instalments?

  • Budget your finances.

Usually, people engage in backward budgeting, which is looking at the price of the flat you want first, then decide on how much you need. However, we encourage looking at how much you have, then deciding on the flat that you want. This way, you will be able to know that you can afford the flat that you are deciding on.

We can assume that the price of a flat is equal to the sum of CPF savings, cash savings and housing loans. We remove housing grant out of the equation as it depends on a case by case basis and will only be confirmed after the application. Other costs that one must take note of are stamp costs and legal fees, which can only be paid using CPF savings or cash.

  • Securing Credit.

Ask, what are the mortgage terms and conditions? Well, here are the eligibility conditions for a HDB loan:

  1. Singapore Citizen
  2. 12,000 family income ceiling
  3. Non-ownership of private residential property
  4. Have not disposed of a private residential property over the past 30 months
  5. Have not taken 1 HDB concessionary loan and last disposed a private residential property
  6. Only one owner-operated market stall/commercial/industrial property
  7. Up to 2 concessionary loans

Buyers need to obtain a HDB loan eligibility (HLE) letter before committing to buy a flat. This letter can be applied online and acts also as a financial tool which tells you more information on the loan that you are able to take.

The loan amount, interest rate (fixed or variable) and repayment period also has to be taken into consideration when obtaining a housing loan. The fixed interest rate of a HDB loan is 2.6%, 0.1% above the CPF interest rate. The repayment and loan amount has an impact on the total period, the smaller the loan, the shorter the period.

In total, there are 6 steps when applying for HLE:

hdb 2.JPG

Instalments are capped at 30% of applicants’ monthly income and there is a maximum repayment period of 25 years or until the age of 65, whichever is earlier. Loans are also assessed on an individual’s age, income and financial commitment.

Another useful tool is the HDB map service, which is able to tell you the remaining lease left on a property, which affects housing prices. For houses that have below 60 years of lease, there are tightened terms with regard to the granting of HDB loan and the usage of CPF monies.

All in all, with the right financial planning tools and mindset, this dream of owning a HDB flat will be as easy as A,B,C

Nurturing Young Leaders Lecture Series 2018 – Internationalisation of Real Estate Transactions and Real Estate Funding

Internationalisation of Real Estate Transactions and Real Estate Funding
Date/Time: 22 March 2018, 12pm – 1pm
Venue: NUS School of Design & Environment, Lecture Room LR427

Since the Global Financial Crisis, investment capital into real estate has increased significantly, and investors are seeking better investment yields beyond their traditional geographical markets and real estate asset classes. Real estate funding has similarly become increasingly internationalised and complex. Given the differing regulatory, legal and operating environments in various geographical markets, appropriate real estate funding strategies and structures are crucial to the success of real estate investments and in achieving the targeted returns.

Mr Andrew Melvyn Sim


Andrew is a Deputy Business Head with the Real Estate Department at
OCBC Bank. In his current role, he leads and drives the Bank’s real
estate funding business in the region with a focus in Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand. With more than 17 years of accumulated experience in banking and transaction advisory, Andrew is a corporate real estate funding specialist, having led, structured and executed various real estate funding transactions for various corporate customers and real estate funds across different countries. Prior to joining OCBC Bank, he was at KPMG Business Advisory involved in merger & acquisition transaction advisory and due diligence. Andrew has a Master of Science in Real Estate from the National University of Singapore and a Bachelor of Science (First Class) in Banking & Finance from the University of London. He is a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

Key Messages
Three Pertinent Areas to Look at in Real Estate Investment
1. Internationalisation of Real Estate Investments
2. Developments in Real Estate Funding
3. New Trends Potentially Influencing the Future of the Real Estate Industry

Internationalisation of Real Estate Investments
Investment capital allocations in real estate assets have increased since the Global Financial Crisis, with more investors going beyond traditional markets in search of higher investment yields.

While U.S. and Europe continue to receive significant real estate investment interest, it is because of the economic growth of Asia and attractive real estate investment opportunities in some of the developing cities, that are attracting more attention and increasing real estate investment capital flows. Urbanisation and agglomeration are key demand drivers for real estate. People reap the benefits of living in key metropolitan cities – shorter commutes and being in closer proximity to job and business opportunities. The positive effects of urbanisation on real estate demand is healthy in Asia, with more investment being channelled into infrastructure improvements to cope with
the growth of these cities and enhance their attractiveness.


Developments in Real Estate Funding
As real estate investments internationalised, appropriate funding strategies which takes into consideration different legal, regulatory and operating environments are needed. The need to work with experienced funding partners with good knowledge of these different geographical markets is also crucial. The depth and scope of domestic funding options in a particular country might be limited, and/or the cost of funding may be higher. There may also be local regulatory constraints in the area of funding options.

With the emerging interest of ‘alternative asset classes’ like Data Centres, Student Housing and Senior Living in Asia, the real estate funding providers may have to enhance their knowledge and capabilities in order to support such transaction opportunities.


New Trends Potentially Influencing the Future of the Real Estate Industry 

The internet of things and the rapid development and adoption of technology are shaping changes in the demand and how it is used. More notably, primary factors driving these changes:

  • Technology Companies, Unicorns, Start-ups.
  • Changing workspace environment – an increasing preference of the new generation – “Millennials and Gen Z” for a more casual, interactive and flexible work environment.
  • PropTech – Adoption of technological
    platforms which facilitate the operation and management of real estate assets – including sales, leasing, monito
    ring of construction progress in real time, tracking, monitoring of buildings for repairs and the automation of certain real estate investment decisions.


Concluding Remarks
Real estate funding is a vital component of the real estate transaction process. It may be better to engage funding partners early during the transaction process so that appropriate funding structures can be put in place taking into account local regulatory, legal and operating conditions.

Students thinking of going into the real estate industry are advised to adopt a wider geographical perspective as real estate investments are increasingly internationalising and so are the job opportunities.

The views presented above and during the lecture are solely based on the personal opinion of the presenter and is under no circumstances a representation of the view of the company he works for, any organisation or interest groups he is a part of, and/or any form of advice to be relied upon.

The details presented were prepared based solely on information available from public sources and/or personal observations without independent verification on its accuracy and completeness.

Nurturing Young Leaders Lecture Series 2018: Corporate Real Estate A ‘Real World’ Overview

Speaker: Mr Ching Meng-Cheng
Date.Time: 22nd February 2018, 12pm-1pm


In this increasingly fast-paced and ever-changing global landscape, corporations are anticipating and responding to their properties’ needs as a result of business growth, expansion and contraction. Corporate Real Estate plays a significant role in providing a conductive working environment, creating new business opportunities, spearheading the company’s long-term agenda, and managing risks. On 22nd February, Mr Ching Meng-Chew gave us a sneak peek into the importance and roles of CRE. His seminar has shown us how CRE operates in the business world and in major companies such as Unilever, which he is currently working under, from an end to end delivery standpoint.

What is CRE?

Pro-active planning, with areas in portfolio strategy, asset management, facility/property management.

The need for CRE

CRE formulates strategies for corporations to manage their assets. Through appropriate and proper asset management, such as refurbishment and upgrading of properties, it adds value to the assets. As such, CRE can ultimately enhance the company’s financial position to acquire higher liquidity and cashflow.

CRE also helps to reduce unnecessary operating costs and maximize efficient use of expenses. Providing conductive workplaces, thus creating opportunities for collaboration and innovation to bring the best work deliverables are another aspect which CRE offers. At the same time, it also optimizes under or over utilization of space for their operational needs.

CRE can support new business opportunities through acquiring real estate properties that are efficient and fit for their purposes. Increasing flexibility is vital to business expansion or market existence. For instance, lease agreements are now opened to have exit clauses or business expansions in contracts.

 “Be courageous, don’t be shy” – Ching Meng-Chew

As the Regional Director for Workplace and Travel Service for Unilever, he is responsible for Unilever’s CRE across the Asia Pacific including countries from East Asia to South Asia to South East Asia Australasia.

About Unilever:

  • Has over 100 million sqft of real estate
  • 4 billion (€) of assets by book value
  • 7 billion (€) turnover in 2017
  • Owns world largest ice cream and tea brand
  • Types of products sold: home care, personal care, food, refreshments
  • Examples: AXE, Dove, Walls, Lipton, LUX, Magnum, LifeBuoy, T2 snacks

The motives to acquire some of the products seemed deliberate for this transnational consumer goods company as it hopes to create a sustainable living commonplace for people. It also strives to make profits in a sustainable way. For example, the detergent products sold consume less water and materials, and the suppliers are to cultivate palm oil in sustainable way.

To provide a sustainable living commonplace, Unilever launched the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan as its business strategy, which helps to drive profitable growth for its brands, save costs, fuel innovation and build trust. It has helped more than 1 billion people across the globe in improving their health and well-being. Moreover, its strategic vision is to grow business while decoupling the environmental footprint from its growth, minimising the production of greenhouse gases and water wastage. Livelihoods of millions of people are also enhanced through the positive social impacts of this plan. Unilever places a strong emphasis on workplace fairness with no racial and religion discrimination and strong gender equality.

As mentioned earlier, Unilever has over 100 million sqft of real estate. Unilever’s CRE consolidates its corporate headquarters. At the same time, it controls its supply chain in factories and focuses mainly on 4 different categories of products, mainly household, personal care, refreshment and food. Furthermore, recipes created by chefs, using Unilever food products, are also turned into a purchasable good. The company allows workers to buy residential houses using company’s money as well, which in turn earn greater profits when they are put up for sale.

There are 4 strategic roles in Unilever’s CRE namely: portfolio strategy, asset management, program management and property management. Portfolio strategy is a company’s business strategy, which grooms workers in their roles. With mergers and acquisitions, Unilever acquires companies to filter out duplication of products and align the portfolio with the business strategy and high-level acquisitions. Asset management targets space optimisation and refines freehold and leasehold transaction. Meanwhile, program management looks at newly built constructions, upgrading/refurbishment projects and reinstatement. Lastly, property management addresses its business continuation, employee health and safety, and sustainability and energy efficiency.

28276645_1358749380896336_432042458431515720_nSaid Mr Ching: “Talk less, listen more. Never get complacent and never talk for the sake of talking” and “Take every setback as learning and earning respect by being yourself”. These are some of the quotes he had shared on how to be successful in the corporate world.

Additionally, Unilever is offering students internship program to nurture them in CRE. The interns would work on projects in two aspects:

  1. Real estate (strategy and asset management)
  2. Service Delivery (project management and property management)

Once again, BEMS wishes to thank the guest speaker, Mr Ching Meng-Chew, and Unilever for this enriching and meaningful seminar.




BEMS REality Dialogue: Digital Space, Media Business & Real Estate


On digital space: “If you can capture the eyeballs, you essentially hold the space.” – Mr. Jeremy Sim

On society’s maturity to navigate topics: “Distinguishing reality from facts will be especially difficult for the younger generation that grew up with social media like Facebook.”- Mr Jeremy Sim


  • On what is going to trend in media: “As a youth, as yourself what do you want to see? Lifestyle related? Entertainment?” -Mr. Kannan Chandra
  • On Social media: “Social media is an echo chamber, it reflects a lot of the views, amplifies it, but it might not reflect the whole situation.” – Mr Kannan Chandra
  • On how to distinguish fake news: “Fake news is everywhere, once news is published with an opinion, it already has a slant to it. However, each platform will offer their own alternative views.” – Mr Kannan Chandra
  • On the state of Singapore’s Media Clusters: “Infrastructure is still provided in a very top down approach.” – Mr Kannan Chandra


  • On a real estate company’s success: “Being ahead of the curve is essentially characterised by three things: positioning, great products, having the right people to deliver to products.” – Mr Darren Chew
  • On real estate company innovation: “If you want the company to change, you need to start by changing the blood of the company. Degrees are not so relevant but people with hybrid skills.” – Mr Darren Chew


  • On society’s maturity to navigate topics: “Distinguishing reality from facts will be especially difficult for the younger generation that grew up with social media like Facebook.”- Mr Jeremy Sim


  • On the impact of Technology on Media and shorter consumer attention spans “Even with all the technological change that changes the way we tackle the media, it doesn’t change the fact that you still need that good story.” – Mr. Jeremy Sim
  • On the aspirations of Singapore media companies: “When I ask them, their aim is to capture Singapore and Johor! But the ripe market are really overseas in Vietnam, Myanmar and China. There are cinemas popping up every day in Vietnam with low quality movies just people just demand entertainment!” – Mr Jeremy Sim
  • On the Impact of Technology on Ideas: “The cycle where an idea becomes reality is continuously shortened by waves technology improvements.” – Mr Jeremy Sim