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SINGAPORE BUDGET 2020

Don't skimp on rent relief, Chan Chun Sing tells landlords

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As consumer businesses reel from the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing called on major landlords to "do their part" for affected tenants.

Singapore

AS consumer businesses reel from the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing called on major landlords to "do their part" for affected tenants.

Under the recent Budget relief for tourism-related sectors, commercial properties will get a 15 per cent property tax rebate that Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat has urged landlords to translate into lower rents.

But "it has come to our attention that there is an entire spectrum of responses", Mr Chan said on Tuesday.

While some landlords "have proactively gone out of their way to share the rebates", others "are still taking a bit of time to roll out their packages".

The Restaurant Association of Singapore (RAS) said on Sunday that not all food and beverage operators have seen the rental rebates promised by landlords - a matter that was then raised in Parliament by MP Liang Eng Hwa (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC).

But government agency Enterprise Singapore has been in "close consultation" with both the RAS and the Singapore Retailers Association as they work with landlords, "and I would like to urge all the major landlords to do their part together", Mr Chan replied.

Retail and food services are among the sectors that he earlier noted have taken a hit from Covid-19.

Calling the relationship between landlords and tenants a long-term one, Mr Chan also remarked that it "would be very short-sighted for landlords to try to stinge and save a bit, here and there, instead of passing on some of the benefits to the tenants".

"We are aware that there are some issues between the retailers and the landlords. Let me just say this: We are all in this together," he told the House. "The whole Singapore economy depends on businesses, landlords, retailers, everyone working together."

Even so, mall operators' responses in the light of the latest nudge were still mixed.

APM Property Management, which manages Suntec City, intends to fully pass on savings from the property tax rebate to eligible tenants as rental reductions for March and April.

Anthony Yip, deputy chairman of APM Property Management, said: "We are finalising the additional rental relief measures and will reach out to the affected tenants regarding the targeted measures as each individual tenant's businesses are impacted differently. We will progressively reach out to the affected tenants by this week and will inform all affected tenants before the end of March."

Lendlease is understood to be waiting for more clarity as to which of its properties will qualify for the property tax rebate, even as the landlord said again that it plans to pass on the property tax rebate to tenants - the same as what it last told The Business Times on Feb 24.

Other landlords, like Mapletree Commercial Trust and SPH Reit, also stuck to earlier responses on whether and how they have disbursed promised rental relief. The manager of SPH Reit is wholly owned by Singapore Press Holdings, which publishes BT.

Mapletree Commercial Trust had announced an S$11 million programme last Monday, largely consisting of rental rebates to retail partners at VivoCity. Rental rebates of up to half a month may be granted on a selected basis, the manager had said.

On the other hand, SPH Reit, in committing to passing on the full savings from the rebate last Thursday, had said its relief package for tenants would be "tailored" and "holistic".

Wheelock Properties (Singapore) did not respond by press time, while Marina Bay Sands declined comment.

- Additional reporting by Lynette Tan and Rachel Mui