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Singapore malls foot traffic almost back to normal: CapitaLand

Shoppers at Westgate shopping mall on Feb 16, 2020. Customers are once again going shopping with foot traffic especially in the suburban malls almost back to normal, said Lee Chee Koon, CapitaLand group chief executive.

CUSTOMERS are once again going shopping with foot traffic especially in the suburban malls almost back to normal, said Lee Chee Koon, CapitaLand group chief executive on Wednesday.

It's about 5 per cent down from before the Covid-19 outbreak, he said at the company's Q4 results briefing.

When Singapore on Feb 7 raised the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (Dorscon) level from yellow to orange amid indications that the disease was spreading in the community, foot traffic dropped by 50 per cent, said Jason Leow, CapitaLand president, Singapore & International.

Two weekends ago on Valentine's Day, people found it hard to get restaurants bookings.

Last weekend on Feb 22, foot traffic has gone up back to about 95 per cent, he said.

While there is some impact on its lodgings business in Singapore from Covid-19, it has been mitigated by two factors - its customers are corporate and their stay is longer, said Kevin Goh, chief executive officer of The Ascott Limited. 

Its lodgings business is slightly less affected than hotels as a whole, he said.

Elasticity of demand by corporate travellers is tighter than leisure travellers.

In Singapore, the occupany at Ascott Orchard is about 70 per cent, he said.

In China, things are also getting back to normal,  said Mr Lee. This morning he was told that there are massive traffic jams in Shanghai and Guangzhou. 

The group's office and business parks in China have opened since Feb 17. About 70 per cent of companies have reopened though only about half of their staff are back at work, said Lucas Loh, CapitaLand China president. This is also similar to CapitaLand's own China staff where its offices are operating at half strength.

In China, life is progressively going back to normal, and most of the group malls cater to local demand, he said. So he expects shopper traffic to bounce back more quickly as it depends less on foreign traffic.

As of now 12 of its malls in China are still closed.

CapitaLand said net profit almost doubled to S$926.6 million for its fourth quarter ended Dec 31, 2019, from S$475.7 million a year ago

It said that the 94.8 per cent rise in net profit for the quarter was mainly due to better operating performance, higher gains from asset recycling and revaluation of investment properties.

Earnings per share stood at 18.4 Singapore cents for the quarter, up from 11.4 cents a year ago. Revenue for Q4 rose 46.3 per cent to S$2.38 billion, from S$1.62 billion a year ago, mainly due to the consolidation of Ascendas-Singbridge and Raffles City Chongqing, as well as higher contributions from Singapore and China malls and lodging properties in the US.

The company has proposed a final cash dividend of S$0.12 per share for the full year, unchanged from a year ago.

Separately, CapitaLand on Wednesday morning announced a pay cut for board members and senior management, as "a show of togetherness and solidarity" with stakeholders amid the virus outbreak.