Singapore developers end year on poor note

Property stocks suffer on Straits Times Index amid lower home sales and slower price gains

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 January, 2014, 4:20am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 January, 2014, 4:20am

Singapore's developers posted the worst performance on the benchmark Straits Times Index for last year after recording the biggest gains in 2012 as property curbs drove home sales lower and slowed price rises.

Property stocks in Singapore, ranked the most expensive city to buy a luxury home in Asia after Hong Kong, may further languish this year after the government took measures to cool prices. Home sales may decline 10 per cent in 2014 while prices are expected to drop for the first time in two years, according to broker Chesterton Singapore.

The property curbs, which included stamp duties and other taxes on home purchases, led Citigroup and UBS to rate the city's residential developers underweight in the past two months.

CapitaLand and City Developments, the nation's two biggest listed developers, were among the three worst performers on the index after being in the top 10 last year.

"We would remain cautious of developers with exposure to the residential sector, given that demand for primary units has cooled," said Tim Gibson, head of Asian property equities at Henderson Global Investors.

The city state began introducing residential curbs four years ago. The government intensified efforts last year as prices jumped to a record, driven by low interest rates, demand from Singaporeans to upgrade from public housing, as well as purchases by overseas buyers.

The measures included a cap on debt at 60 per cent of a borrower's income. That policy and other curbs have moderated property transactions and housing loan growth, the Monetary Authority of Singapore said in its annual review of financial stability last month.

City Developments, Singapore's second-largest developer, said in November that developers were beginning to cut prices in existing and new projects and take lower profit margins.

Desmond Sim, associate director at CBRE Research, said sales of new private homes could drop to 15,000 units last year from 22,197 in 2012.

Wilson Liew, an analyst at Maybank Kim Eng Securities, wrote in a December 17 research note that higher borrowing costs, falling public housing resale prices, slower population growth and a record number of apartment completions suggested that residential demand will wane.

The decline in property stocks pushed the Straits Times Index 0.4 per cent lower last year, the only drop among developed markets in 2013.

City Developments fell 25 per cent, making it the second-worst performer on the index and reversing a 45 per cent gain in 2012.

CapitaLand declined 18 per cent, the third-worst on the measure this year after a 67 per cent advance in 2012. Four of the 10 poorest performers on the benchmark were property companies. The property index slid 10 per cent last year, after surging 48 per cent in 2012.

Developers may get a reprieve as the government cut the number of sites it plans to sell in the first half of this year, according to SLP International Property Consultants, citing its analysis of data from the Urban Redevelopment Authority.