Monday, March 12, 2007

News Today

Smaller sites snapped up in new wave of collective sales
LARGE homes in prime areas may be all the rage, but some developers have quietly turned their attention to smaller sites outside the high-priced central districts. These bite-sized estates in popular residential suburbs are being swept up in a new wave... [Read more]

Bill to ensure quality control of medical implants
LENSES installed in the eye, stents to keep arteries open and pacemakers to keep the heart going - these previously unregulated medical implants are likely to come in for close scrutiny soon. The Health Products Bill tabled in Parliament on Monday... [Read more]

High-stakes race for duty-free shop space at Changi Airport
CHANGI Airport is gearing up for what the duty-free world calls the most eagerly contested battle for shop territory in 2007.More than five airport retailers have handed in their bids by 4pm on Friday to run one of Changi's most prominent... [Read more]

CapitaLand, DBS issues hog limelight
IN A week where CapitaLand and DBS Bank announced results that surpassed expectations, warrants on the two counters hogged the most active list. The property developer reported a 35.6 per cent jump in full-year net profit to $1.02 billion last Wednesday.... [Read more]

Wi-Fi thief's sentence lauded as 'practical'
BY SENTENCING a teenager to 18 months' probation and an accompanying Internet ban for piggybacking on his neighbour's wireless connection, the Community Court sent a clear signal that the teen's actions were wrong but not serious enough to warrant jail time,... [Read more]

Communities learn to speak language of trust - and more
SELLING Chinese fine furniture and antiques is a struggle for Madam Siti Aliwiyah. The 46-year-old assistant retail manager speaks little Mandarin and her problem is acute when the customers hail from Taiwan or China. Often, her explanations are lost on these... [Read more]

Review of 12 health-sector charities out
THE report card on 12 of Singapore's largest charities in the health sector is out - and while there are no shocking revelations, three key areas have been identified for them to work on. They have a six-month deadline to fix... [Read more]

Will Lions and fans incur Thai wrath?
I READ with concern the news that Thais burned an effigy of a Singapore leader outside the Republic's Embassy, in yet another protest following the diplomatic spat between the two countries. As our national soccer players are travelling to Bangkok this... [Read more]

Fuck you, just read something!
General insurers turn to Govt as workplace injury claims riseA SPATE of costly lawsuits by construction workers seeking bumper payouts has prompted general insurers to seek government action. General insurers have asked the Ministry of Manpower to increase the benefit limits... [Read more]

Jail term cut on appeal for 'Stone Age man'
A COURT case that had all the trappings of a Korean television drama closed with a slightly happier ending for its male protagonist yesterday, when his sentence was reduced on appeal. South Korean student Lim Young Rak was originally given an... [Read more]

Siblings want religion on birth cert changed
MALACCA - TWO ethnic Indian siblings who say they are Hindus are battling the authorities in Malaysia to change the religion stated on their birth certificates, a report said yesterday.Mr S. Jeevanathan, 22, and his sister S. Maneemegalay, 21, are listed... [Read more]

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Mortgage foreclosures worsening, Fed warned

WASHINGTON - UNITED States Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke and other policymakers were warned that rising mortgage foreclosures are likely to get worse, as the central bank reported the slowest pace of loan growth in four years.

At a meeting on Thursday of the Fed's Consumer Advisory Council, the officials heard anecdotes of default and families at risk.

Mortgage borrowing rose by US$792.5 billion (S$1.2 trillion) last year, the smallest gain since 2002, according to the Fed's quarterly Flow of Funds report.

The increase last quarter was the smallest since 1998, as two years of Fed interest-rate increases depressed loan demand and slowed the housing industry.

The Fed raised its benchmark rate to 5.25 per cent in June, compared with an average target of 3.2 per cent in 2005, a year when net new mortgage borrowing soared by a record US$1 trillion.

Economists surveyed by Bloomberg News expect the Fed will hold the rate through the third quarter, the median estimate shows.

Fed officials heard stories from Cleveland, Philadelphia, Denver and New York, where neighbourhoods are deteriorating as borrowers struggle to pay loans or abandon their homes in foreclosure, a process where lenders take possession of property.

'We feel like a canary in a coal mine,' said Ms Stella Adams, executive director of the North Carolina Fair Housing Centre in Durham. 'It is sad for us to know that there are 1.2 million families at risk from foreclosure.'

Around 1.2 million foreclosures were reported nationwide last year, up 42 per cent from 2005, according to RealtyTrac, which has a data base on foreclosed properties.

Delinquency rates on real estate loans rose to 2.11 per cent for all banks last quarter, the highest in four years, according to Fed data unadjusted for seasonal patterns.

Much of the deterioration in mortgage quality was due to subprime loans, or credits to borrowers with little or poor credit history.

Some 2.2 million borrowers are at risk of losing their homes and at a potential cost of US$164 billion from subprime mortgages originated from 1998 to 2006 inclusive, according to a December study by the Centre for Responsible Lending, an advocacy group also based in Durham.

On Thursday, New Century Financial, the No. 2 US subprime lender whose shares have plunged by almost 90 per cent this year, halted new loans and lined up almost US$1 billion in new funding to help it stay in business.

Still, analysts do not anticipate that banks will begin to curtail credit more broadly because of problems in the market for riskier mortgages.

'Fixed-rate loans, which make up roughly two-thirds of US mortgage originations, should perform well in the absence of a major labour-market slump,' Goldman Sachs Group economist Andrew Tilton wrote in a note to clients on Wednesday.


Friday, March 9, 2007

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10 seconds...

MUNICH - BAYERN Munich's plan was to attack Real Madrid early.

'We wanted to make a statement,' said manager Ottmar Hitzfeld.

But, even he could not have planned for what happened at the kick-off.

Hasan Salihamidzic stole the ball from Real's Roberto Carlos and ran unobstructed down the right wing before crossing into the box.

There, Roy Makaay volleyed past goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

The time on the clock read: 11 seconds. Actually, less than 11 sec, according to most British newspapers.

The fastest goal in Champions League history helped hosts Bayern beat Madrid 2-1 and knock the Spaniards out.

It also left coach Fabio Capello fearing the sack.

'For them to score a goal like this was incredible,' the Real coach said. 'We gave them an incredible present, which was due to a mistake by Carlos.

'Who could have thought that something like that could happen? It's hard to turn things around after that.'

Carlos blamed the grass.

He said: 'We didn't concede because of a lack of concentration. It was because the pitch wasn't in good condition and the ball bobbled when I got it.'

Lucio doubled Bayern's lead in the 66th minute, nodding home a Willy Sagnol corner.

Ruud van Nistelrooy then pulled one back for Real with an 83rd-minute penalty.

The tie ended 4-4 on aggregate, but Bayern progressed on the away-goals rule.

Real face Barcelona in the Spanish league tomorrow, but sports director Predrag Mijatovic could not confirm that Capello would be in charge.

'At this moment, I can't guarantee that Capello will be sitting on the bench at the Camp Nou,' he said yesterday.

Capello said he was 'dependent on the club's decision,' while president Ramon Calderon wanted to see whether the Italian is 'strong enough' to carry on.

Real face the possibility of a fourth straight season without a trophy - the club's most barren spell since a six-year drought in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Already knocked out of the Copa del Rey, the ailing giants have only the league title to aim for this season.

They are fourth, six points behind leaders Sevilla, with 13 games remaining.

Calderon, who came to power last July, recruited Capello and guaranteed results would follow the signings of proven players.

The club believed they were laying the foundations of future success by signing a new generation with the likes of Jose Antonio Reyes and Mahamadou Diarra.

Eight months on, Real are left with empty promises.

The defeat by Bayern exposed their problems.

A shaky defence, an unimaginative midfield and a toothless attack all contributed to their destruction.

Real had plenty of time to turn the tie around but they were incapable of matching a mediocre Bayern.

Diarra and Bayern's Mark van Bommel were sent off with their second yellow cards for arguing on the edge of the box.

Real were not helped by the absence of the injured David Beckham, who set up two and had a hand in the build-up for a third goal in the 3-2 win in the first leg.

'I'm worried because things have happened that I can't explain,' admitted Mijatovic.

'We were knocked out by a team that are not very good.'


China plans to boost start-ups, bond trading

BEIJING - CHINA may set up a second exchange for trading the stocks of start-up companies and expand corporate bond trading this year.

The move is aimed at providing more investment options to help investors manage risks, said the securities regulator.

'China needs more financial instruments to help investors cut risks,' said Mr Shang Fulin, chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission. He was speaking at the annual meeting of China's top legislature, the National People's Congress (NPC), yesterday in Beijing.

Mr Shang, regulator of Asia's third-largest stock market, is trying to force China's listed companies to be more transparent in the US$1.15 trillion (S$1.76 trillion) equities market.

Underscoring the challenge which he faces, China's key stock index plunged 9.2 per cent on Feb 27, sparking off a global sell-off in stock markets from Tokyo to New York.

The Chinese government must protect retail investors and prevent the market plunge from leading to bad loans, said the vice-chairman of the NPC's standing committee, Mr Cheng Siwei, in a Feb 6 interview in the Chinese-language Financial News.

Echoing Mr Shang's comments, the chairman of the Shanghai Futures Exchange, Mr Zhu Yuchen, also called for the introduction of more financial products including futures, options and yuan derivatives.

About 120 start-up companies already trade their stocks on a growth-enterprise exchange in Shenzhen.

A second such exchange in Shanghai would enable more companies that lack a profit track record to raise funds in a country that has 33 trillion yuan (S$6.5 trillion) in national savings.

'The experience with growth-enterprise markets around the region has been that they were fraught with challenges, so we have to put in all the risk management features to ensure that the exchange can enjoy a healthy start,' Mr Shang said.

The Chinese government also plans to allow more companies to sell corporate bonds and broaden the scope of trading in the market, he added without giving further details.


Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Not easy for Mardan to retain title

WHEN Mardan Mamat tees off at the Clariden Leu Singapore Masters tomorrow, he will find himself in a new position - having to defend a major title on home soil.

He said: 'It's something special - defending your title in your home town.

'I'm happy to be back but I've to learn more about being in this position, it's different.'

That is not all.

He will also be out to prove that last year's win was not a fluke.

Then, clinching the Singapore Masters made Mardan the first Singaporean to triumph on the European Tour.

While his historic win placed him in the spotlight, it has not catapulted him to stardom.

He said: 'My life has not changed. I still can't get new sponsors.

'Maybe the win is not good enough. I've got to work harder, win more.'

Since that victory, he has made only one top-10 finish, coming in third at the Bangkok Airways Open last June.

He missed the cut in eight of the other 15 tournaments, including last week's Johnnie Walker Classic in Phuket.

But he has chosen not to dwell on those misses.

He quipped: 'Did I miss those cuts? I don't know about that.'

Then, on a serious note, he added: 'I'm taking things positively now, thinking only about things that give me confidence.'

He also denied that he has been plagued by personal problems, which were highlighted in a report during last month's Indonesia Open.

He said: 'That was a misunderstanding. Nothing happened. I have no personal problems.'

Two other Ps - putting and positive thinking - hold the key to his title defence at this week's US$1.1million (S$1.7 million) event.

He said: 'I'm striking the ball well but need to make a couple of putts to deliver a good result.'


Mardan leads the Asian Tour in the Greens in Regulation, a statistic to determine on how many holes a player had the ball on the green in the prescribed number of strokes.

However, he is 132nd out of 137 when it comes to putting average.

He is confident he can deal with the pressure of being the home-favourite, saying 'It's always nice to be playing at home.

'I think I've been playing so many times in front of the home crowd so, by now, I should know how to overcome it.'

Retaining his Masters crown at the Laguna National Golf and Country Club will be much tougher this year.

The 204-man field is not only bigger, but also better than the previous year's.

Star names include world No 18 David Howell of England, his compatriot Lee Westwood, Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke, Wales' Ian Woosnam and Japan's Shingo Katayama.

But Singapore's top golfer remains undaunted.

He said: 'My preparations are getting along well. If I can hole the putts, I'll be able to do well and move up.'

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Lyon fancied to overcome Roma

LYON - LYON will try to put Saturday's crowd trouble in their derby at St Etienne behind them as they tackle Roma today.

The pair meet in their second-leg Champions League last-16 match.

Lyon's match at St Etienne was held up for 20 minutes, after fans threw smoke bombs onto the pitch with the hosts 0-3 down in the second half.

Lyon could be facing sanctions from the French football league if their fans are found to have had a part in the incident.

The European fixture will be a welcome distraction as the French champions bid to reach the quarter-finals for the fourth successive year.

Lyon are the favourites after holding Roma to a 0-0 draw in the first leg in Rome's Olympic Stadium.

One problem Lyon face is an unsettled side, with coach Gerard Houllier constantly tinkering with his starting XI.

He will have to do so again as key midfielder Jeremy Toulalan is suspended.

Roma's recent Champions League history has been far from glorious but Brazilian midfielder Mancini believes Lyon will bring the best out of them.


Monday, March 5, 2007

News Today

Iranian bombs smuggled into Iraq, says coalition
BAGHDAD - UNITED States-led coalition forces in Iraq presented yesterday what officials said was 'a growing body' of evidence of Iranian weapons being used to kill coalition soldiers.A senior defence official from the Multi-National Force told a briefing that 170 coalition... [Read more]

New Delhi to develop port in Myanmar
NEW DELHI - NEW Delhi will invest US$130 million (S$200 million) to develop Myanmar's Sittwe port that will give India's landlocked north-east access to a new trade route to South-east Asia, an Indian official said yesterday.'We signed an initial agreement recently... [Read more]

Third party liability: Deadline looms for Durai
FORMER National Kidney Foundation (NKF) chief executive officer T.T. Durai has until tomorrow to decide if he wants to contest the move by two former NKF directors to name him as a third party in the charity's lawsuit.If the former directors,... [Read more]

Case File
JAILED FOR STEALING GOODS FROM OWN WORKPLACEAN ELECTRICAL fitter was jailed for two years yesterday for breaking into and stealing $32,624 worth of goods from his company's office. On Sept 28 last year, Lim Se Hing, had hidden himself on a... [Read more]

Five car bombs rock Baghdad
PHOTO: AP An Iraqi can only look on in despair at a building in flames after a car bomb attack yesterday in central Baghdad, Iraq. Five car bombs exploded simultaneously around the Shorja wholesale market, killing at least 71 people and... [Read more]

T-bird lands here Top US business school sets up office
T-BIRD may be a name Singaporeans are familiar with only from the Grease movies of the 1970s and 1980s. But those in business academia and human resource circles here welcome the presence of the American business school, Thunderbird, in Singapore.Thunderbird -... [Read more]

Disease threat in Jakarta
A medical team treats a Jakarta flood victim amid a deepening crisis brought on by the worst floods to hit the Indonesian capital in five years.At least 44 deaths have been blamed on the flooding, and officials fear that toll could... [Read more]

Rushdie now lecturing at varsity
AUTHOR Salman Rushdie has started a five-year appointment with Emory University in Atlanta as a lecturer, a day before the 18th anniversary of the death threat that catapulted him into worldwide fame.The author of The Satanic Verses will lecture students for... [Read more]

Always prepared for emergencies
FLASHBACK to March 26, 1991, when Singapore Airlines flight 117, en route from Subang Airport in Kuala Lumpur to Singapore, was hijacked by four Pakistani men. Eight harrowing hours later, Singapore Armed Forces commandos stormed the plane. Within 30 seconds, the... [Read more]

Madrid's black day
ON MARCH 11, 2004, 10 backpack bombs ripped through four packed commuter trains during morning rush-hour. Nearly 191 commuters were killed and about 1,700 others injured.The attack has been called modern Spain's most traumatic event since the 1930s civil war.... [Read more]

Growing trend
AD AGENCY Y&R Singapore stepped up its PR efforts this month by hiring Mr Justin Low, 30, from Grayling Public Relations to manage its publicity affairs. Mr Charles Sng, who specialises in marketing communications at headhunting firm Aquent, says it is... [Read more]