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Singapore Briefings: Dyson to build new manufacturing hub in Singapore

27 Nov 2020

British household appliances company Dyson is planning to build a new advanced manufacturing hub in Singapore. The plan is part of Dyson’s GBP 2.75 billion worth of investments across Singapore, UK, and the Philippines.

Luxury watch retailer Cortina Holdings proposes to buy Sincere Watches

18 Nov 2020

Luxury watch retailer Cortina Holdings (SGX:C41) which carries well-known watch brands such as Rolex and Patek Philippe has proposed to acquire privately-held rival luxury watch retailer Sincere Watches for SGD 84.5 million in cash according to an exchange filing.

Cortina said the proposed acquisition will provide it with exclusive distributorship rights to the Franck Muller brand in 12 countries within the Asia-Pacific. The acquisition will also give Cortina access to Sincere Watch’s portfolio of brands which includes luxury brands such as Omega, Panerai, Tudor, A. Lange
& Söhne, Franck Muller, IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Vacheron, Constatin and Audemars Piguet. Sincere Watch runs multi-brand retail under the Sincere brand in Singapore and Malaysia, and under the Pendulum brand in Thailand. In addition, it runs mono-brand boutiques for Franck Muller in Singapore and Australia, A. Lange & Söhne in Malaysia, as well as A. Lange & Söhne, Breitling and IWC in Thailand.

New private home sales dive 51.7% MoM in October after latest curbs

16 Nov 2020

New private home sales in Singapore plunged 51.7% to just 642 units in October from a more than two-year high of 1,329 units in September. Compared to last year, October new private home sales were down 31.1% YoY from the 932 units sold by developers in October last year according to figures by the  Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). The October decline put the brakes on a five-month growth momentum.  The decline is likely to have stemmed from new rules imposed by the URA on September 28, which restricted developers from re-issuing Options to Purchase (OTPs) to the same buyer of the same unit within 12 months after the expiry of the earlier OTP.  Developers are also restricted from providing upfront agreements to buyers to re-issue OTPs.

Digital wealth management startup StashAway expands to UAE

16 Nov 2020

Singaporean digital wealth management startup StashAway has launched in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), making it the first digital wealth manager get an asset management license from the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) with retail endorsement.

Singapore Airlines posts record 1H FY 2021 loss of SGD 3.46 billion

07 Nov 2020

Singapore’s flagship airline Singapore Airlines (SIA) posted a record loss of SGD 3.46 billion for the six months ended September 2020, as global air travel came to abrupt halt as a result of the Covid pandemic. The loss is a reversal from the SGD 205.6 million profit earned in the same period last year.

Passenger volume amounted to 155,000 during the 1H FY 2021, a 99.1% decline from the same period last year, when passenger volumes amounted to 19.1 million. Revenue fell 80.4% year-on-year (YoY) to SGD 1.63 billion during 1H FY 2021, from SGD 8.33 billion a year earlier.

The sharp decline in 1H FY 2021 profit was also driven by impairments for older generation aircraft (SGD 1.33 billion impairment), goodwill impairment (SGD 170.4 million impairment of the goodwill from SIA’s Tiger Airways acquisition in October 2014), and  retrenchment cost (SGD 41.7 million). Furthermore, SIA recognized mark-to-market losses of SGD 563 million from fuel hedges during H1. Fuel hedging activities have been paused since March.

US-Singapore Hustle Fund raises USD 30 million

05 Nov 2020

US and Singapore-based pre-seed venture capital investment firm Hustle Fund has raised USD 30 million the first close of its second fund. The fund, which started fundraising in May 2019, will focus on making investments in pre-seed software startups in Southeast Asia, US, and Canada.

GIC-backed data center provider SpaceDC opens new data center in Indonesia

04 Nov 2020

GIC-backed data center provider SpaceDC has opened its inaugural data center facility, JAK2, in Jakarta, Indonesia, in an effort to tap into the country’s rapidly growing digital market. Indonesia is Southeast Asia’s largest digital economy.

September bank lending falls for 7th straight month

31 Oct 2020

Singapore bank lending fell 0.05% month-on-month (MoM) to SGD 677.46 billion from in September, from SGD 677.86 billion in August, marking the seventh consecutive month of decline driven by falling business loans which more than offset rising consumer loans according to preliminary data from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). Compared to September last year, total bank lending was down 1% year-on-year (YoY) in September.

Business loans fell 0.3% MoM to SGD 421.28 billion in September from SGD 422.54 billion in August. Loans to financial institutions were down 1.9% MoM to SGD 99.38 billion, the second straight month of decline. Loans to building and construction businesses – which account for the biggest share of business lending – rose 0.7% MoM in September to SGD 150.91 billion.

Compared to September last year, business loans were down 0.2% YoY.

Consumer loans inched up 0.3% MoM to SGD 256.28 billion in September, driven by housing loans and share financing. Housing loans, which account for three-quarters of consumer loans rose for the first time since January, up 0.1% MoM to SGD 199.09 billion in September. Housing loans are likely to have benefited from greater buying activity after the end of the circuit breaker period, which helped pushed Singapore’s new private home sales to a two-year high in September. 

Share financing loans rose 6.9% MoM to SGD 1.87 billion from SGD 1.75 billion in August.

Compared to September last year, consumer loans were down 2.5% YoY.

Department store Robinsons closes doors for good

30 Oct 2020

One of Singapore’s oldest department store operators Robinsons is shutting down for good after 162 years in the country, as the Covid pandemic dealt a double whammy amid the ongoing struggles faced by department store operators worldwide to adapt to changing consumer behaviors as a result of rising e-commerce.  Robinsons said that it had begun the liquidation process for its last two stores in Singapore – one located at The Heeren, and the other at Raffles City Shopping Centre. Australian advisory firm KordaMentha are the appointed liquidators.

Robinsons plans to do its best to transfer its 175 employees to other brands owned by its parent company, Dubai-based Al-Futtaim Group, which owns franchises such as Marks & Spencer and Zara.

Advanced materials startup gush raises SGD 4.65 million pre-Series A

26 Oct 2020

Singaporean advanced materials startup gush has raised SGD 4.65 million in its pre-Series A funding round led by TNB Aura. Existing backer Fidelium Group and strategic investors RSP Architects, SEEDS Capital, TRIREC and several unnamed individuals participated in the round. 

Private home prices up 0.8% QoQ in Q3 2020

24 Oct 2020

Private home prices in Singapore rose 0.8% quarter-on-quarter (QoQ) amid the pandemic-induced recession, accelerating from the  0.3% rise in Q2 2020, and a 1% drop in Q1 2020 according to data from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). With the third quarter increase, Singapore’s private home prices are up 0.1% for the first nine months of 2020.

The increase was driven by landed homes and increased buying activity in the city fringes and suburbs after the nationwide two month circuit breaker ended in on June 1. For the nine months ended September 2020, nearly 80% of private home buyers were Singaporean, the highest proportion since 2010. However, the number of foreign buyers of Singapore private homes nearly doubled to 225 in Q3 2020, from 119 in Q2, possibly due to more foreigners setting up operations in Singapore and record low interest rates. Bulk of the foreign buyers were China, while buyers from Malaysia, India, USA, and Indonesia accounting for the rest.

Singtel’s NCS acquires digital services startup 2359 Media

22 Oct 2020

Singaporean telecom giant Singapore Telecommunications’s (SGX:Z74) ICT subsidiary NCS has acquired a digital services consultancy startup 2359 Media for an undisclosed sum. 2359 Media will be part of NCS’ NEXT digital arm, and the acquisition will offer NCS clients an expanded range of digital services such as  design thinking, rapid prototyping, cloud native application development, and creation of innovative digital solutions.

Plant-based food startup Eat Just plans to build first Asia factory in Singapore

21 Oct 2020

American plant based food startup Eat Just has launched a new Asian subsidiary in partnership with Proterra Investment Partners Asia. The partnership will involve the construction and operation of Eat Just’s first  factory in Asia, which will be in Singapore. As part of the deal, Proterra will invest USD 100 million while Eat Just will invest a maximum USD 20 million for the plant. The completed factory will have the capacity to manufacture “thousands of metric tons of protein”. The partnership will  also focus on building the supply chain for their flagship product, a liquid vegan egg product made from mung beans.

65% rise in Industry 4.0-related projects in Singapore

19 Oct 2020

The Covid pandemic has served as a catalyst for Industry 4.0 in Singapore, with companies in the country’s manufacturing sector embarking on more than 1,300 Industry 4.0-related projects to digitize and transform their businesses with assistance from Enterprise Singapore during the eight months to August 2020. This represents a rise of about 65% compared to the same period last year.  Projects were mainly focused on technology deployment and automation, process redesign, and implementation of digitalization solutions such as  human resource systems.

Manufacturing is a key part of Singapore’s economy, with the sector contributing about 20% to the country’s GDP.

Pie chart showing Singapore's nominal GDP by industry in 2019. Singapore's manufacturing sector was the largest contributor to GDP was a 20.9% share followed by wholesale and retail trade with a 17.3% share, business services with a 14.8% share, finance and insurance with a 13.9% share, other services Industries 11.3% share, transportation and storage with a 6.7% share, information and Communications with a 4.3% share, ownership and dwellings with a 3.8% share, construction with a 3.7% share, accommodation and Food Services with a 2.1% share, and utilities with a 1.2%. Data from the department of Statistics Singapore.
Amid the Covid-induced economic slowdown, manufacturing has emerged as a bright spot in Singapore’s economy. Singapore’s Q3 2020 GDP contracted 7% YoY, a drastic improvement from the previous quarter when the country’s economic output shrank 13.2% YoY in, largely driven by the manufacturing sector which rose 2% in Q3 2020, reversing from the 0.8% YoY decline the previous quarter. By comparison the country’s construction sector shrank 44.7% YoY in Q3 2020 while the services sector tumbled 8% YoY.

September new private home sales hit 2-year high

15 Sep 2020

New private home sales reached 1,329 units in September, a 5.6% increase month-on-month (MoM) from August when new private home sales amounted to 1,258 and a 4.65% increase YoY when new private home sales amounted to 1,270 in September 2019 according to data from the Urban Redevelopment Authority. September’s new private home sales volume was the highest since July 2018, when 1,724 units were  transacted. The figures exclude executive condominiums which are a public-private housing hybrid.

Malaysia budget airline AirAsia’s fintech venture BigPay expands into Singapore

28 Sep 2020

Malaysia’s AirAsia’s fintech venture, BigPay, is expanding into Singapore. BigPay also plans to launch new business lines such as loans, insurance and wealth management in the coming months, as well as expand to other South East Asian markets in early 2021.

Singapore’s total population drops for the first time in 17 years

25 Sep 2020

Singapore’s total population has fallen for the first time in since 2003, falling 0.3% to 5.69 million as of June from a year ago largely due to a reduction in foreign employment in the services sector, according to Singapore’s annual population report. Total population, which include citizens, permanent residents, foreign workers and students, last fell in 2003 to 4.11 million from 4.18 million the year before. The non-resident population was 1.64 million as of June 2020, a decrease of 2.1 per cent from June 2019 and the lowest since 2015. By visa type, work permit holders saw the largest decrease. “These trends were largely due to Covid-19 related challenges, brought about by weak demand and travel restrictions,” according to the report.

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Singapore Economy: Current State, And Prospects

Pie chart showing Singapore's nominal GDP by industry in 2019. Singapore's manufacturing sector was the largest contributor to GDP was a 20.9% share followed by wholesale and retail trade with a 17.3% share, business services with a 14.8% share, finance and insurance with a 13.9% share, other services Industries 11.3% share, transportation and storage with a 6.7% share, information and Communications with a 4.3% share, ownership and dwellings with a 3.8% share, construction with a 3.7% share, accommodation and Food Services with a 2.1% share, and utilities with a 1.2%. Data from the department of Statistics Singapore.

Like many other countries that have been economically affected by the COVID crisis, Singapore, Southeast Asia’s fifth largest economy, has officially entered into a technical recession with the economy contracting 13.2% year on year during the second quarter of 2020 and The Straits Times Index entering bear territory as well with a decline of nearly 20% this year.

By industry, 70% of Singapore’s nominal GDP is from the services sector and about 26% from the goods-producing sector (Manufacturing, Construction, Utilities).

Pie chart showing Singapore's nominal GDP by industry in 2019. Singapore's manufacturing sector was the largest contributor to GDP was a 20.9% share followed by wholesale and retail trade with a 17.3% share, business services with a 14.8% share, finance and insurance with a 13.9% share, other services Industries 11.3% share,  transportation and storage with a 6.7% share, information and Communications with a 4.3% share, ownership and dwellings with a 3.8% share, construction with a 3.7% share, accommodation and Food Services with a 2.1% share, and utilities with a 1.2%. Data from the department of Statistics Singapore.

Of the services sector, the largest sub-sector is the Wholesale & Retail Trade sector which accounts for 17.3% of Singapore’s GDP, followed by Business Services accounting for 14.8% and Finance and Insurance accounting for 13.9% of Singapore’s GDP in 2019. The largest services subsector – Wholesale and Retail Trade – was heavily hit by the COVID pandemic when Singapore, like many other countries around the world, went into lockdown with retail sales declining 52% year on year on May 2020 and 27.8% year on year in June 2020.

However, as business activities resumed in June 2020 (in phases), retail sales jumped 51% in June 2020, with almost all subsectors in Singapore’s Wholesale and Retail Trade sector enjoying gains, reflecting an unleashing of pent up consumer demand. In fact, sales in the Watches & Jewellery industry jumped a whopping 1,236.9% month on month, a spectacular gain for an industry considered to be non-essential, and the demand for which is highly elastic which suggests Singapore’s consumer spending power and consumer confidence have been little affected by the Covid pandemic so far.

Bar chart showing the percentage change in retail sales by industry in Singapore for the month of June 2020. Department store sales increased 319.3% month on month but declined 69.5% year-on-year. Supermarket and hypermarket sales declined 3.3% month-on-month but grew 43.4% year on year. Mini Mart and convenience store sales declined 0.1% month-on-month but increased 8.7% year on year. Food and alcohol sales increased 34.3% month on month but declined 45.7% year on year. Motor vehicle sales grew 212.4% month on month but declined 47.8% year on year. Petrol service stations sales grew 51.9% month on month but declined 33.6% year on year. Cosmetics, toiletries and medical goods sales increased 34.2% month-on-month but declined 33.1% year on year. Wearing apparel and footwear sales increased 251.1% month-on-month but declined 63.4%. Furniture and household equipment sales increased 125.1% month on month but declined 19.9% year-on-year. Recreational goods sales increased 126.3% month on month but declined 40.7% year on year. Watches and jewellery sale increased 1236.9% month-on-month but declined 53.5% year-on-year. Computer and telecommunications equipment sales increase 49.7% month on month and also increased 20.9% year on year. Optical goods and book sales increased 228.3 percent month on month but declined 39.4% year on year. Sale in the other categories grew 90.5% month-on-month but declined 42.5% year on year. Data the department of Statistics Singapore.

Domestic wholesale sales dropped 9.6% year on year in the first quarter of 2020 while foreign wholesale sales dropped 12.2% year on year in the first quarter of 2020 as all domestic and foreign trade except essential industries such as food decelerated sharply during the Covid lockdown. Consequently, wholesale sales declines were registered in all sub-sectors in the domestic Wholesale Trade sector except Food, Beverages & Tobacco which grew 3.5% year on year during the first quarter of 2020, and General Wholesale Trade which rose by 1.4% year on year during the same period.

Bar chart showing the percentage change in domestic wholesale trade sales by industry in Singapore for the month of June 2020. Food, beverages and tobacco sales increased 4.6% quarter-on-quarter and increased 3.5% year on year. Household equipment and furniture sales fell 9% quarter-on-quarter and fell 16.4% year on year. Petroleum and Petroleum products sales dropped 1% quarter-on-quarter, and 10.4% year on year. Chemicals and chemical products sales increased 5.9% quarter-on-quarter and fell 7.7% year on year. Electronic components sales dropped 2.8% quarter-on-quarter and dropped 17.5% year-on-year. Industrial and construction machinery sales declined 6.3% quarter on quarter and dropped 15.2% year on year. Telecommunications and computer sales dropped 4.3% quarter-on-quarter, and fell 9.9% year on year. Metals, timber and construction sales fell 1.6% quarter on quarter and dropped 15.3% year on year. General wholesale trade dropped 3% quarter on quarter and increased 1.4% year on year. Ship chandlers and bunkering sales dropped 0.7% quarter on quarter and dropped 10% year on year. Transport equipment sales dropped 9.5% quarter-on-quarter and dropped 10.5% year-on-year. Other wholesale trade sales dropped 0.9% quarter-on-quarter and dropped 3.6% year-on-year. Data from the department of Statistics Singapore.

As global trade slowed and global supply chains nearly ground to a halt, all sub-sectors within Singapore’s Foreign Wholesale Trade sector saw year on year declines in the first quarter of 2020 and all except Other Wholesale Trade saw quarter-on-quarter sales declines.

Bar chart showing the percentage change in foreign wholesale trade sales in Singapore during the month of June 2020. Food, beverages tobacco wholesale sales dropped 4% quarter-on-quarter and 2% year on year. Household equipment and furniture wholesale sales dropped 0.5% quarter-on-quarter and 6% year on year. Petroleum and Petroleum products wholesale sales dropped 14.1% quarter-on-quarter and 18.6% year on year. Chemical and chemical products wholesale sales dropped 9.9% quarter-on-quarter and 10.9% year-on-year. Electronic components wholesale sales dropped 0.5% quarter-on-quarter 3.4% year-on-year. Industrial & Construction machinery wholesale sales dropped 7.9% quarter-on-quarter and 18% year on year. Telcommunications and computers wholesale sales dropped 4.1% quarter-on-quarter and 6.6% year-on-year. Metals, timber and Construction wholesale sales dropped 7% quarter on quarter and 4% year on year. General wholesale trade dropped 14% quarter on quarter and 12.7% year on year. Ship chandlers and bunkering dropped 9.7% quarter on quarter 0.6% year-on-year. Transport equipment wholesale sales dropped 9.2% quarter-on-quarter and 22.2% year-on-year. Other wholesale trade was unchanged quarter-on-quarter and dropped 0.5% year-on-year. Data from the department of Statistics Singapore.

Singapore’s Manufacturing sector, the single largest GDP contributing sector, accounting for 20.9% of Singapore’s nominal GDP in 2019, was also affected by the COVID crisis with manufacturing output declining 8.1% in May 2020 and 6.7% in June 2020. Excluding biomedical manufacturing, manufacturing output grew 2.1% in June 2020 clearly benefiting from the gradual lifting of lockdown measures.

Line chart showing Singapore's manufacturing output on your growth during the month of April May and June 2020. Singapore total manufacturing output increased 12% in April 2020, dropped 8.1% in May 2020 and dropped  6.7 percent in June 2020. Excluding biomedical manufacturing Singapore's manufacturing output dropped 2.7% in April 2020, dropped 10.3% in May 2020, and increased 2.1% in June 2020. Data from Singapore economic development board.

With SMEs accounting for 99% of Singapore’s 273,100 business establishments and 72% of Singapore’s 3.52 million employees, the economic slowdown caused by the nationwide lockdown has dented SME finances causing Singapore’s unemployment rate to rise to 2.9% in the second quarter of 2020, the highest in more than a decade, and up from 2.4% in the previous quarter. The number of bankruptcy applications also reached an all-time high in March this year, though the number rapidly declined in the months after as the Singaporean government swiftly put relief measures in place through the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act.

On the bright side, at less than 3%, Singapore’s unemployment rate is still on the lower end of the unemployment scale compared to the rest of the world; Singapore’s neighbor in the north, Malaysia, registered an unemployment rate of 5.3% in May 2020, up from 5% in April 2020. Additionally, Singaporean households are relatively financially stable with household debt being well covered by financial assets which suggests the general population is reasonably well placed to weather an economic storm.

Line chart showing Singapore household debt as a percentage of household financial assets. Singapore's household debt as a percentage of household financial assets at 23.81% in the first quarter of 2020, 24.07% in the fourth quarter of 2019, 24.64% in the third quarter of 2019, 25.05% in the second quarter of 2019, 25.72% in first quarter of 2019, 26.65% in the fourth quarter of 2018, 26.78% in the third quarter of 2018, 27.03% in the second quarter of 2018, 27.19% in the first quarter of 2018, 27.39% in the fourth quarter of 2017, 27.62% in the third quarter of 2017, 27.67% in the second quarter of 2017, and 27.94% in the first quarter of 2017. Data from the department of Statistics analysis from LD investments.

Singapore’s strong fiscal position also helped it maintain its AAA sovereign debt rating despite the government rolling out large stimulus measures (as much as 12% of GDP) to support the economy from the Covid impact. By comparison, Australia saw its credit rating outlook revised to negative by S&P Ratings.

The bigger potential risk to Singapore’s recovery is a downturn in the global economy and international trade, as well as economic downturns among key trading partners such as China, the United States, and Malaysia which will have a knock-on effect on Singapore’s economy as well.

China is Singapore’s biggest merchandise trade partner as of 2019.

Bar chart showing Singapore's top five merchandise trade partners in 2019. With a total  merchandise trade value of S$ 137.3 billion, Mainland China was Singapore's top merchandise trading partner in 2019, followed by Malaysia with S$ 113 billion, the United States with S$ 105 billion, The EU with S$ 93 billion, and Taiwan with S$ 66.5 billion.

And the United States is Singapore’s biggest services trade partner as of 2018, according to official data.

Bar chart showing Singapore's top five service trade partners in 2018. With a total service trade value of S$ 75.3 billion, the United States was Singapore's top services trading partner in 2018, followed by Japan with S$ 37.4 billion, Mainland China with S$ 35.3 billion, Australia with S$ 27.3 billion, and Ireland with S$ 23.3 billion.