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North Pole - the next hot real estate buy?


I RECEIVED an e-mail yesterday telling me why I should invest in a property in the North Pole.

Reason No 1: because it has a historically robust manufacturing industry, set for growth as the global population rises 1.1 per cent annually - equivalent to 75 million new customers per year.

Reason No 2: the local toy-making business is a key pillar of the world's children entertainment industry and has worldwide distribution capabilities.

Reason No 3: the current strength of the US dollar against the Chocolate Coin.

Market voices on:

And it went on, with reasons including a buoyant rental market supported by elves, excellent sleigh-based transport infrastructure with high-speed global connections, and its burgeoning thoroughbred reindeer breeding industry.

Of course, this was no serious marketing copy or press release, just a tongue-in-cheek Christmas greeting from a property investment firm self-reflexively making fun of how its own kind often promote their new developments to reporters and investors alike.

This property it was "selling" boasted high-quality reinforced gingerbread construction, with genuine candy cane finishing, private reindeer parking with every unit, and was situated close to - wait for it - the SOHO-HO of the North.

I forwarded it to my colleagues to spread the festive joy, expecting mere "LOL" replies, but received more than that: four reasons why not to invest in the North Pole, from the newsroom's funny man.

Top on the list and most crucially is this: the long-term global warming trend may reduce non-liquid floor area as ice caps melt.

Next: the questionable governance of Santa Claus's group of businesses.

Droning in the lingo of the "Risk Factors" segment of any listing prospectus, he wrote: "Single-shareholder structure without independent overview, opaque financials, and complicated cross-holdings suggest high governance risks."

Further, he asked: "Any balance sheet that relies on the valuation of biological assets needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. Have reindeer numbers been audited? Are there sufficient safeguards against disease wiping out the population?"

Maybe he has a point.

Remember the mystery deaths of millions of abalones at Oceanus Group's farms two years back, said to be due to poor nutrition? The fair value loss of these biological assets dragged the group into the red and triggered an internal probe.

Or the dig Muddy Waters took at Olam's valuations of its biological assets the same year? The US research firm had accused the agri-commodities trader of relying on non-cash accounting gains such as gains in biological valuation to boost its bottom line, though Olam maintained that its accounting was in line with Singapore financial standards, which are based on International Financial Reporting Standards.

Lastly, my colleague pooh-poohed the fact that the Arctic Circle has an allegedly buoyant rental market driven by elves.

Mixing up his genres now after having been subliminally sold by the movie posters at every alternating bus-stop, he said: "They are historically prone to epic bouts of violence against orcs, dwarves, dragons and the occasional all-seeing eye of doom.

"They do not believe in money, instead paying in little trinkets like mithril daggers. But with the fall of Sauron, those thingamabobs no longer fetch the premium that they once did on eBay."

The thing about being a real estate reporter is that every so often, overzealous property developers try to convince you that certain far-flung, sometimes unheard of, places are actually new red-hot destinations investors would be foolish to miss out on.

Not even that. Sometimes the projects are in familiar cities, near the central business district, by the river, near this university and that entertainment hub, and of course the developers would only have good things to say about their baby.

But it's like what they say about bikinis: what they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.

So I think I'll pass on that fictitious rare, freehold, high-yield studio apartment in the architecturally significant part of the Santa Claus estate which comes with spectacular views of the Northern Lights, thank you very much, and Merry Christmas!