S’pore hotel assets prove big draw for investors

Investors are snapping up hotel assets in Singapore, where the average daily room rate is the highest in Asia, driven by a record number of leisure and corporate visitors.

Eleven hotels valued at S$2.45 billion were sold in Singapore last year, four times the total in 2012, said property broker Savills.

“We are seeing some pretty aggressive bidding just to get into Singapore,” said Mr Robert McIntosh, executive director at broker CBRE Group’s Asia-Pacific hotel business here. “Some of the landmark iconic properties, which are extremely well sought-after, aren’t driven just by income but by long-term capital gains.”

Among properties bought by foreign investors were the 308-room Grand Park Orchard hotel and its retail podium Knightsbridge. It was acquired for S$1.5 million per room by Chinese steel tycoon Du Shuang-hua through his Singapore-based company Bright Ruby Resources, Knight Frank said in its third-quarter 2013 report.

And in December, Tokyo-based Daisho bought the newly-opened Westin hotel from a fund owned by BlackRock for about S$468 million, or S$1.5 million per room, said CBRE.

Tourist arrivals in South-east Asia’s biggest financial centre is forecast to grow as much as 8 per cent to a record 16.8 million this year from last year, while tourism revenue may climb by as much as 5 per cent to S$24.6 billion, the Singapore Tourism Board has said.

“Singapore is a very strong market and one of our top markets in Asia,” said Mr Michael Issenberg, Accor chairman for the Asia-Pacific region. “Demand is high, as Singapore does a great job with the conferences, leisure and corporate sectors, and a lot of airline business. It’s got a good mix.”

Accor will open its Sofitel So brand in the business district next month and its first ibis Styles brand in Singapore in 2016, while InterContinental opened its Holiday Inn Express in the city’s nightlife hub of Clarke Quay last month.

Demand is also being supported by local investors chasing the assets. Ascendas Hospitality Real Estate Investment Trust bought the Park Hotel Clarke Quay for S$300 million from Parksing Property, a member of the Park Hotel Group, said a joint statement from the companies in June.

“This is a small little island, so there is a scarcity of assets and land,” Mr Tan Juay Hiang, chief executive of Ascendas Hospitality Trust, said in a phone interview. “There is more certainty in investing here than in other parts of Asia.”

Singapore accounted for 16 per cent of a record 143 hotel deals valued at US$13.4 billion (S$16.8 billion) in the Asia-Pacific region last year, said CBRE. This is an increase from a 6.8 per cent share of deals in Asia in 2012, CBRE data showed.

But in a sign of caution, there were no hotel transactions reported in the quarter ended in March, because of the gap between buyers’ and sellers’ expectations on price, said CBRE.

While the total number of deals in Singapore should come in higher this year than last year, the price paid per room may decline slightly and the number of high-value transactions could drop as it becomes increasingly challenging for investors to find prime hotel assets, said Mr Akshay Kulkarni, regional director of hospitality for South and South-east Asia at Cushman & Wakefield in Singapore.

Revenue per available room, or revpar — an industry measure of occupancy and rate — in Singapore also declined 1.4 per cent last year amid an increase in supply, said Mr Kulkarni.

Singapore added 3,900 rooms last year — the most in three years — and is forecast to add 2,037 rooms this year, said CBRE. Another 3,000 are expected to be added next year, which could lead to a decline of as much as 5 per cent in revenue per available room, said CBRE’s Mr McIntosh.

Still, demand for hospitality assets will remain intact, with investors unlikely to be concerned by lower returns.

“Singapore hotel investments remain on the radar of many core investors,” Mr Kulkarni said. “While yields may look low, one must not forget that this is a long-term play with capital appreciation as the bigger game.” Hotel yields ranged from 3 per cent to 4.5 per cent last year, Mr Kulkarni said.

Mr McIntosh concurred. “The sheer weight of capital trying to find a home” is driving hotel acquisition, he said. “Investors are ready to accept yields of sub-4.5 per cent even for three-star properties.”

Source : Today – 30 Apr 2014

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