February 17, 2017

Most industry watchers are betting on the odds that the government will let market forces play out before intervening in the property market. Deputy Head of Real Estate Sandra Han discusses with The Straits Times

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Deputy Head of Real Estate Sandra Han was quoted in The Business Times article titled “Lifting of property cooling measures seen unlikely”. The article was first published in The Business Times on 17 February 2017. Lifting of property cooling measures seen unlikely Industry watchers expect the government to let market forces play out before intervening Source: The Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Date: 17 Feb 2017 Author: Lynette Khoo THOSE hoping for any lifting of property cooling measures may be in for a non-event if the projection of market experts rings true. This is because most industry watchers expect the government to let market forces play out before intervening. Also, tax consultants are not expecting major revisions to other property taxes, though some hope that the government will see it fit to re-introduce tax remission for vacant properties given the tough rental market and review property tax on vacant private land. This echoes some of the recommendations made by the Real Estate Developers' Association of Singapore. "Given the rising vacancy rates and the less-than-promising market outlook, perhaps the government can consider reinstating vacancy refunds for a period of time, say for five years," said Lim Gek Khim, an Ernst & Young tax partner. "This would provide some relief to owners of unoccupied property during challenging times." Since Jan 1, 2014, property owners can no longer claim the so-called "vacancy refunds" on property taxes for unoccupied properties (both residential and non-residential). The change coincided with the introduction of a new and more progressive property tax schedule on residential properties that year. Citing headwinds in the rental market with the increase in newly completed properties, Dentons Rodyk & Davidson senior partner Lee Liat Yeang noted that re-introducing the tax remission for vacant properties will help to mitigate the hardships of cash-strapped property owners. "The government should also consider more tax incentives to developers who develop and build housing using prefabricated prefinished volumetric construction (PPVC) methods and/or who invest money to incorporate more energy saving facilities in the development." Most industry watchers are betting on the odds that the government will stand pat on maintaining property cooling measures in their current form, amid early signs of a recovery in the private residential market characterised by an improvement in transactions and moderating price declines in 2016. Through selective discounts, deferred payment schemes or bulk sale to third-party or parent company, developers have also been able to move sales in projects affected by the qualifying certificate (QC) conditions and the additional buyer's stamp duty (ABSD). "For these reasons, it is expected that the government will let market forces play out before further intervening in the property market," said Sandra Han, deputy head of real estate practice at RHTLaw Taylor Wessing. The QC conditions, which affect foreign and listed developers, require them to finish building their projects within five years of acquiring the site and sell all the units within two years of completion; otherwise, they incur extension charges for unsold units. Since late 2011, developers also have to sell out a project within five years to qualify for ABSD remission. Credit Suisse estimates QC charges and ABSD remission clawback for developers this year to be S$800 million in total. Still, removing ABSD entirely at this point is undesirable from the government's standpoint, Ms Han said. "It will only lead to greater volatility in the property market, sensing the pent-up demand from long-term property investors. It would not be surprising if the upcoming Budget leaves nothing on the table for property investors to look forward to," she added. But Mr Lee felt that if the government chooses to keep the ABSD, it should consider reducing the rates for Singaporeans. "The loan-to-value ratio should be relaxed for the second and subsequent housing loans since excessive borrowing will not be possible with the total debt servicing ratio in place." KPMG Singapore head of real estate Tay Hong Beng reckoned that if there is to be anything at all on cooling measures in the Budget, it will likely be a gradual lifting of measures that is done in phases. He said: "A phased approach will help manage potential pricing spikes due to a sudden increase in demand and facilitate a smooth transition for the property market."
February 16, 2017

“Tower Transit’s willingness to try and find alternative jobs for the affected parties does not “detract from or waive its breach” of the employment agreement”, Employment and Labour Relations Partner Vernon Voon shares more with The Straits Times

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Partner Vernon Voon was featured in The Straits Times article titled “Tower Transit pulls back job offers for six bus captains”. The article was first published in The Straits Times dated 15 January 2017. Tower Transit pulls back job offers for six bus captains It offers to help them find other jobs; MOM says firm acknowledges lapses in HR process Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Date: 15 February 2017 Author: Zhaki Abdullah Bus operator Tower Transit said it "inadvertently" hired more bus captains than it needed between December and January, during its recruitment activities. Six had already signed employment contracts with the Anglo-Australian firm when they were told the offers were being rescinded. One bus captain was informed by e-mail just two weeks before he was due to start work this month that the company had reached "full staff capacity" and was "unable to proceed" with its job offer. The man, who did not want to be identified, said the recruitment drive was "misleading" and that those who had quit their previous jobs after getting offers were "left stranded and distressed". A Tower Transit spokesman told The Straits Times the company has since tried to help the men who were affected. "It's a situation that has caused them distress, and we're doing everything we can, including direct referrals to other organisations, to help them find similar positions," he said, adding that only three had responded to the offer of help. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said Tower Transit had acknowledged "lapses" in its human resource process and told the ministry it would compensate the affected parties, though no details were given of what this would be. "Affected individuals who have any queries may approach MOM or the unions, if they are union members, for advice and assistance," said a ministry spokesman. Both employers and employees should commit to the terms and conditions of the employment contract once it is signed, said Mr Melvin Yong, executive secretary of the National Transport Workers' Union (NTWU). "If either party has to revoke the contract, due notification, explanation and compensation should be given," said Mr Yong, who is also a Member of Parliament for Tanjong Pagar GRC. He added that the NTWU can help affected employees by linking them up with the Employment and Employability Institute for job placement assistance. Tower Transit's willingness to try and find alternative jobs for the affected parties does not "detract from or waive its breach" of the employment agreement if it did not comply with the provisions surrounding its termination, said lawyer Vernon Voon. The employment and labour relations partner at law firm RHTLaw Taylor Wessing noted: "In the event that an alternative job is offered, that will only go towards mitigation of the damages that the affected parties have suffered as a result of the company's breach in not observing the terms of the agreement regarding its termination." Tower Transit became the third public bus operator here in 2015.
February 7, 2017

International law firm RHTLaw Taylor Wessing announces new Partner and Foreign Lawyer hires

Leading international law firm RHTLaw Taylor Wessing announced today the addition of Partner (Foreign Lawyer) Mr Gerallt Wyn Owen, Mr Ben Constance, and Foreign Lawyer Mr Gilad Shay.  The new hires complement the Firm’s focus on developing industry-focused capabilities for clients and will help enhance a reputation for understanding clients’ businesses and for delivering innovative services that anticipate their needs. All three lawyers also have proficiencies in handling complex cross-border transactions.  RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Managing Partner Mr Tan Chong Huat commented, “We are excited to welcome our three new hires - all exceptional lawyers in their field. Their individual expertise will be a welcomed addition to our global team and will continue to strengthen the services that we can offer clients. They boast world class capabilities in their respective industries, blending well with the Firm’s vision of being an international law firm based in Asia. Gerallt, Ben and Gilad will contribute invaluably as expert legal advisors and will be seen as “go-to” industry practitioners by our clients. This is a significant addition to our bench strength.”  Gerallt is a senior international corporate crime and regulation lawyer with more than 21 years of experience. His strengths are in domestic and international investigations, fraud, corporate and financial crime, anti-corruption, anti-money laundering, disciplinary proceedings and regulation. Gerallt has previously been listed as one of 'The Lawyer - Hot 100'. He was also recommended by Chambers & Partners Global 2014 and 2015 for dispute resolution in both Singapore and the UK, in addition to being ranked by Who’s Who Legal as one of the top ten most highly regarded business crime defense lawyers in the world based outside the UK/US. Gerallt will be part of the Firm’s Litigation & Dispute Resolution Practice.  Ben joins the Firm’s Corporate Practice, bringing with him close to 15 years of experience in handling matters relating to cross-border M&A, equity capital markets and general corporate law. He has advised on transactions in Asia, Australia and throughout the Middle East in various sectors including banking and financial services, hospitality, information technology and energy. Ben has written various articles for International Law Office, Dubai SME magazine, Allorya.com and Australian Business Council Dubai. With over 10 years of experience, Gilad is an addition to the Firm’s Capital Markets, Corporate and Intellectual Property & Technology Practices. He has extensive experience in cross-border commercial and technology-focused transactions, M&A deals, joint ventures and in advising on intellectual property matters. He is especially engaged in matters relating to Israel, Singapore and the ASEAN region and has advised Fortune 500 companies, investors and start-ups. Gilad was part of the professional team in the first Initial Public Offering of an Israeli technology company on the Singapore Stock Exchange in over a decade. --- This press release is featured in the following news reports: "SG: RHTLaw adds Withers’ head of international regulatory" - Asian Legal Business, 7 February 2017
February 3, 2017

Managing Partner Tan Chong Huat shares with The Business Times how leaders should use social media strategically

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing’s Managing Partner Tan Chong Huat shared his views in this week’s topic in the Business Times’ weekly column, Views from the Top. This article was first published in The Business Times on 06 February 2017. Sharing insights and influencing people FEB 6, 2017 5:50 AM THIS WEEK'S TOPIC: How should leaders - political or business - employ social media as strategic tools? Tan Chong Huat Managing Partner RHTLaw Taylor Wessing LLP SOCIAL media's power to persuade and influence is clearly evident with the newly minted US president and his election campaign, and what a cracker of a week this has been. With Donald Trump getting Twitter-happy and running his country and conducting diplomacy with a press of a few buttons on his mobile phone, the time is right to look at social media etiquette for business establishments. First, remember there is nothing secret or sacred in the online space. Anything and everything you post can come to haunt you one day. Second, keep your views professional. Try and avoid personal takes. Third, be clear about the different platforms and what you want to use them for. Twitter is for short-burst teaser announcements like new product launches. Facebook is for longer posts that can elaborate on what you have tweeted. And finally, KISS...Keep It Short and Simple. The thing that got Mr Trump elected is not so much his shoot-from-the-hip style of tweeting but his data-driven approach to social media. His hiring of the digital agency Cambridge Analytica, the same agency that helped bring about Brexit, was the secret weapon that his uncouth communication style has successfully masked. The lesson here really is the use of the platforms as a treasure trove of user data and to strategically target them based on their bias and nuances. A wise man will make tools of what comes to hand...in this case the wisdom verdict is still out there.