Category Archives for Investment

Singapore Savings Bonds – a new investment option for retail investors

The Government and Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) are planning to introduce Singapore Savings Bonds (SSB), a new type of bonds to help individual investors get a better return on their savings.

“In short, the Singapore Savings Bonds will offer the higher returns of a long-term bond and give what investors call a term premium, while retaining the flexibility of a shorter-term deposit, and the safety of an instrument guaranteed by the Government,” – Senior Minister of State for Finance Josephine Teo

While details about SSB are still being finalised, here’s what we know about this product:

  • It is a low-cost investment made widely available to retail investors to encourage individuals to save and invest to meet their long-term financial goals and retirement needs.
  • SSB will be principal-guaranteed by the Government which means the investor’s original outlay is fully protected.
  • Bond-holder will be able to sell the bond and get his money back in any given month without incurring a penalty.
  • SSB will pay higher coupons if the bonds are held longer unlike conventional bonds where the same coupon rate is paid each year.

Given that my current portfolio is 100% equities instead of an 80-20 split between equities and bonds, I certainly look forward to rebalancing my portfolio after SSB becomes available.

In my opinion, SSB has a steep hill to climb in order to be well-received by retail investors.

Offer higher interest rates than the regular bank deposits

I don’t think this will be difficult seeing how the average interest rates that banks are offering for deposits are very low. The highest bank deposit interest rate offered in the market right now is the OCBC 360 deposit account where account holders can earn up to 3.05% per year in interest by performing these tasks every month:

  • Crediting their salary to the account
  • Spending at least $400 on an OCBC credit card
  • Paying any 3 bills using OCBC online or GIRO

If SSB could offer an interest rate of approx. 2.5-3.5% per year, I’m pretty confident that investors would move their deposits from OCBC to SSB because it is much more simple. I for one would love to not have to spend at least $400 on my OCBC credit card if I don’t have a need to.

Be more attractive than Singapore Government Securities (SGS) bonds

Singapore Government Securities (SGS) are marketable debt instruments of the Government of Singapore. These debt instruments take the form of either Treasury bills (T-bills) or bonds and are backed by the full faith and credit of the Singapore Government.

They are offered in the following options:

  • 3-month Treasury Bill
  • 6-month Treasury Bill
  • 1-year Treasury Bill
  • 2-year SGS bond
  • 5-year SGS bond
  • 7-year SGS bond
  • 10-year SGS bond
  • 15-year SGS bond
  • 30-year SGS bond

The SGS bonds and Treasury bills are not widely marketed and I’m quite sure that the average investor would not have the knowledge on how to go about applying for one. I personally have participated in a 1-year Treasury Bill auction many years ago when the interest rates offered back then were quite attractive. In recent years, the interest rates offered for SGS bonds and Treasury Bills have been rather unattractive for me to make the effort to add them into my portfolio.

Our senior minister has mentioned that SSB offer interest rates close to long-term SGS bonds and would not have any lock-in periods tagged to them. Awesome! The next hurdle to cross would be to make SSB easy to buy (and sell). The best way to do this would be to allow investors to purchase SSB through internet banking platform of local banks and making payments with their deposit accounts.

Remain simple to understand and sustainable in the long run

With lofty ideas such as to offer interest rates close to long-term SGS bonds and allowing investors to get their money back any time without penalties, this product will need to be well-planned and given a thorough scrutiny to ensure that it is self-sustainable and not become a ponzi scheme.

As an investor, I would want to know how the money in the bond is being invested in order to generate the returns promised. As they say, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

If done correctly, the SSB could become a disruptive innovation that forces the fixed-income market to improve on its offerings in order to retain its investors. Banks may be pressured to increase their interest rates for deposit accounts to keep account holders from withdrawing their money to buy SSB. Bond issuers will have to think out of the box in order to entice investors in parking their money in their bonds.

The Buyer’s Guide for Cambodia property investment

I have received a request from a reader who was interested in finding out more about buying a property in Cambodia as a foreigner and what are the charges and taxes involved.

Below is a summary of the charges and taxes involved in my purchase of a SOHO unit in The Bridge Cambodia.

Upon selection of property

  • Booking Fee USD1000/S$1250 (one-time payment)

Sale & Purchase Agreement (SPA) will be provided to you within 14 days

  • Upon signing SPA, 10 % of the Purchase Price (minus Booking Fee) to be paid to developer
  • Legal fees of around S$50 – S$150 to be paid if using Notary Public Fee for Witnessing Signature
  • Legal fees of >US$300 to be paid if using a Cambodian lawyer (optional)

Deferred Payment Scheme

For my property purchase, I will have to pay 10% of the Purchase Price every 6 months in cash until I have completed paying 50% of the Purchase Price. Upon completion, I will need to pay the remaining 50% of the Purchase Price (either in cash or mortgage loan) and Stamp Duty Fees (Transfer Fee for Hard Title) of 4% of property value.

Taxes

  • 0.1% per annum tax on Immovable Properties (value determined by Immovable Property Assessment Committee)
  • 10% per annum tax on Gross Rental Income
  • Capital Gain Tax not applicable for individuals and 20% for corporates
  • 10% VAT (one-time) is absorbed by Developer
  • VAT On Resale (one-time) applicable only for VAT registered companies

If you have more questions about investing in properties in Cambodia, please feel free to contact me.

My first investment in overseas property and it’s in Cambodia!

Last week, I made a downpayment for my very first property investment in a country that most investors in Singapore have probably never considered before – Cambodia. My property of choice was a  freehold small office/home office, also known as SOHO in a 45 storeys tall mixed residential and commercial development mixed development in Phnom Penh called The Bridge Cambodia.

Why Cambodia?

Cambodia is one of the countries that I have shortlisted as a potential destination for retirement. The country has a rather impressive average of 7.8% GDP over the last 12 years. With 100% foreign ownership, competitive wages and tax incentives, Cambodia is ready for business. While most Singaporean investors are looking at investing in properties in Australia, Malaysia and the United Kingdom, I decided to jump on the Cambodia wagon to capitalise on first mover advantage and the low property prices in Cambodia.

How I selected my investment property in Cambodia?

When I was doing my research about investing in properties in Cambodia, I learnt that many property developments were
badly hit during the global financial crisis and some of them remained uncompleted to date. While this did not scare me away from investing in Cambodia, it was clear that the selection of a trusted property developer is of utmost importance.

Looking at the list of property developments that are in the market, I shortlisted The Bridge Cambodia because it is jointly developed by two prominent property developers – Singapore-based Oxley and Cambodia-based Worldbridge Land. Oxley Holdings Pte Ltd has a strong track record as a property developer and is listed in Stock Exchange of Singapore.

I went for the cheapest unit available

Coming from a low income family, I didn’t have a lot of capital in the bank. While I want to begin my first foray in the world of property investment, I don’t want to lose everything in one go.

After examining the entire development, I decided on a SOHO unit that costs around 110,000 USD that is able to house a small room for the Director and 2-3 office tables for Executives. This set up is perfect for foreign companies who are coming in with a small footprint to establish their presence in Cambodia.

6% guaranteed rental yield is a good start

One of the reasons why I was interested in The Bridge Cambodia is because the developer  offered a guaranteed rental yield of 6% for the first 3 years. While 6% rental yield is quite decent, the average rental yield in Cambodia is around 10%. It makes me wonder if I could get a higher rental income if I rented it myself or had a local property agent rent the property out on my behalf. That said, with no connections to trusted local property agents, I would play it safe and let the property developer manage the property for me.

How does this property investment change my investment strategy?

Previously, I have been making regular investments into the Nikko AM Singapore STI ETF with a good portion of my monthly income. With this property investment, I will stop making the regular investments in the equities market and hold on to the cash to meet the deferred payment required for the property.

My plan is to try to complete the property purchase with cash and try not to take a mortgage loan because the interest rates charged by Cambodian banks for mortgage loans are too high for my comfort.

Are you looking to invest in properties in Cambodia?

Are you also interested in investing in Cambodia properties and would like to get more information?

Please contact me with your questions and I’ll try my best to answer them and connect you to my trusted property agent to get you started.