Singapore markets close in 6 hours 58 minutes
  • Straits Times Index

    3,257.99
    -25.36 (-0.77%)
     
  • Nikkei

    27,113.13
    -475.24 (-1.72%)
     
  • Hang Seng

    24,656.46
    0.00 (0.00%)
     
  • FTSE 100

    7,297.15
    -196.98 (-2.63%)
     
  • BTC-USD

    36,087.52
    +109.62 (+0.30%)
     
  • CMC Crypto 200

    821.53
    +10.93 (+1.35%)
     
  • S&P 500

    4,410.13
    +12.19 (+0.28%)
     
  • Dow

    34,364.50
    +99.13 (+0.29%)
     
  • Nasdaq

    13,855.13
    +86.21 (+0.63%)
     
  • Gold

    1,842.50
    +0.80 (+0.04%)
     
  • Crude Oil

    83.64
    +0.33 (+0.40%)
     
  • 10-Yr Bond

    1.7350
    -0.0120 (-0.69%)
     
  • FTSE Bursa Malaysia

    1,514.87
    -6.99 (-0.46%)
     
  • Jakarta Composite Index

    6,655.17
    -71.21 (-1.06%)
     
  • PSE Index

    7,252.64
    -40.88 (-0.56%)
     

Amazon leads tech invasion of Singapore offices that banks ruled

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·5-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • BABA
  • BABAF
  • AMZN
  • MFG
  • MZHOF
  • DBSDF
  • DBSDY
view Panoramic of the Singapore Skyline and Marina Bay, the marina is the centre of the economy in singapore, there are here all the building of all the majors bank and insurance.
SIngapore is seeing more tech companies take up more new office space. (PHOTO: Getty Creative)

By Faris Mokhtar

Bloomberg — In the financial mecca of Singapore, a new crowd is flocking to its offices: technology companies.

Steadily growing their footprint in recent years, tech behemoths are chipping away at the dominance of banks in the island-state’s central business district. Exemplifying the trend, Amazon.com Inc. recently leased space in Asia Square Tower 1, while ByteDance Ltd. secured floors in the landmark One Raffles Quay.

That’s good news for developers and real estate investors at a time when the coronavirus pandemic is upending work practices around the world, raising questions about the future of the office. Citigroup Inc., DBS Group Holdings Ltd. and Mizuho Financial Group Inc. are among banks that are trimming space in the Southeast Asian hub, accelerating a trend that began even before the health crisis.

The financial industry used to be the main driver of office demand in Singapore, taking up almost half of new space between 2004 and 2014. That share plunged to 26% between 2015 and 2020, according to estimates by real estate consultancy firm Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. Over the same period, the portion obtained by tech firms almost tripled to 22%.

Financial firms were forced to trim workspace because of the pandemic and “that’s probably not a great thing,” said Alan Miyasaki, head of Asia real estate acquisitions at Blackstone Group Inc. “But that vacancy was snapped up really quickly because there was a lot of these technology firms coming in.”

U.S. and Chinese tech giants are capitalising on Singapore’s position as a gateway to Southeast Asia’s 650 million smartphone-savvy population.

Amazon is taking over three floors that Citigroup is giving up, while TikTok parent ByteDance is leasing three levels at One Raffles Quay. Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. bought a 50% stake in a Singapore office tower in a deal valuing the property at S$1.7 billion (US$1.3 billion).

More may follow suit, including Indonesian upstarts Gojek and Traveloka and South Korea’s Coupang, according to analysts from Savills Plc and Knight Frank. And the hype over the region’s tech firms is mounting with Singapore-based Grab Holdings Inc. set to list in the U.S. in a deal valuing the startup at US$40 billion.

“We expect tech firms to remain a key driver of office demand in the near to medium term,” said Tay Huey Ying, head of research and consultancy at JLL Singapore.

Read More: Amazon to Take Office Space From Citigroup in Singapore

The tech invasion has so far had a limited impact on the scene in the financial district, where smartly dressed office workers remain the norm. But in one-north, a business park that’s home to firms like e-commerce giant Sea Ltd., there are signs of what’s to come if more tech firms set up bases downtown. The area is bustling with mostly younger workers dressed in T-shirts and baseball caps.

A similar trend is already playing out in the U.K. Technology and media companies accounted for 40% of office leasing in the City of London last month, the most of any sector, according to Savills. In the past nine years, banks slashed their London footprint by about six million square feet — the equivalent of a dozen Gherkin skyscrapers, according to broker CBRE Group.

Easy access to funding for tech firms including startups makes Singapore an appealing destination. And to draw top global talent, the government last November launched a program providing a two-year visa for tech entrepreneurs and investors.

The city-state’s famed low taxes, ease of doing business, political stability and access to talent are also attracting foreign firms, said Mark Addy, a partner at KPMG in Singapore.

Rents in Singapore are showing signs of a recovery after slumping during the pandemic-induced recession. The office rental index climbed 3.3% in the first three months, the first gain in seven quarters, according to Urban Redevelopment Authority data. A two-month lockdown contributed to an 8.5% drop in 2020.

Lower office supply may also boost rents. There is limited gross new stock coming in from 2021 to 2023 and some older buildings are being taken down or slated for redevelopment, said a spokesperson for CapitaLand Integrated Commercial Trust, which owns six office buildings in the financial district. Office supply will fall even after most of these redevelopments finish, and so rents should improve over time, the spokesperson said.

That bodes well for investors like Blackstone, which is looking to invest in more Singapore properties to capitalise on rising demand from the tech sector.

Developers aren’t panicking, either. Banks have been adjusting their footprints since the 2008 financial crisis, and as long as Singapore remains a viable business destination there will be demand for offices, the spokesperson for CapitaLand Integrated Commercial Trust said.

And while brick-and-mortar banking may be in retreat, fintech is a booming corner of the industry. Singapore’s major banks have piled billions of dollars in the past decade into improving financial technology and digitization while shrinking their physical branches. The financial sector is expected to add about 6,500 jobs this year—many in tech roles—according to the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

A boom in private banking is also likely to keep banks in the city center, with firms like Nomura Holdings Inc. seeking to capitalise on Singapore’s growing prominence as a wealth hub. Beijing’s tightening grip on Hong Kong also strengthens Singapore’s appeal for lenders.

“Singapore in contrast to the political unrest in Hong Kong is an oasis of calm,” said Justin Tang, head of Asian research at United First Partners.

Banks will just need to share their playground. “The pandemic has accelerated the proliferation of technology into our everyday lives,” Tang said. “The rise of technology firms is inexorable.”

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting