Amazon launches Prime Now in Singapore – and it’s taking on Alibaba

SINGAPORE, July 27 (Reuters) - Amazon launched its two-hour delivery service in Singapore on Thursday, marking the e-commerce giant's push into populous Southeast Asia and its first head-on battle with its Chinese rival, Alibaba Group Holding. While Amazon does deliver to Singapore, higher-end services had not been available, such as Prime services which include access to the company's video-streaming service. The Prime Now Singapore website, which went live on Thursday, promises delivery within two hours. In Asia, Amazon has largely sidestepped China and focused on India. But its arrival in Singapore, a tiny but wealthy English-speaking city state of just over 5 million people, has been hotly anticipated as a gateway to a Southeast Asian region of 600 million, where currently only a fraction of sales are conducted online. Industry executives are preparing for a battle of titans. Alibaba owns Southeast Asia-focused Lazada, and spent an extra $1 billion to boost its stake to 83 percent last month. Ahead of Amazon's arrival, it launched subscription-based customer loyalty programme LiveUp in Singapore in April, a venture which includes ride-hailing app Uber, video streaming service Netflix and local online grocer Redmart, which it owns. "Singapore will be a test bed," said Ajay Sunder, vice president of digital transformation at Frost and Sullivan. "I would give Amazon another two quarters, they should be rolling out soon in southeast Asia, at least the major cities." Frost forecasts online product sales in southeast Asia to grow to $71 billion by 2021 from $16 billion in 2016. HOME ADVANTAGE? Since launching five years ago, Lazada has expanded into six markets in Southeast Asia: Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. Besides financial support, Alibaba's investment has boosted Lazada's range of merchants and improved its logistics. Lazada and Alibaba could already be ahead, said Xiaofeng Wang, a senior analyst at research firm Forrester, with their longer experience of local customers, and with logistics and vendor systems. Amazon, though, has deep pockets, technological nous and an inventory of U.S. products, she added. But while Southeast Asia may be the last big battleground for e-commerce in Asia, it is not easy, with complex regulatory differences, language barriers and logistical barriers like the huge number of islands that make up the Philippines, or Jakarta's paralysing traffic. Internet connections can be slow or non-existent. Lazada has used third-party providers and developed its own logistics and warehouses. But the market is also fragmented, with several local players including Indonesia's Tokopedia, in which a source has said Alibaba rival, Chinese e-commerce group Inc, is considering an investment. Amazon's Prime Now is Amazon's express delivery service, which launched in New York City in December 2014 and has since expanded to several other major U.S cities, as well as European cities such as London, Berlin, Milan, and Madrid. "Prime builds loyalty, and same-day delivery adds to convenience factor," Frost's Sunder said, adding Amazon could try the service in the main Southeast Asian cities. "But Prime Now across Indonesia or across Thailand that will remain a distant reality given the logistical challenges."

Serangoon Ville sold en-bloc for S$499 million and it’s more than what owners expected

Privatised HUDC estate Serangoon Ville has been sold for S$499 million ($368 million) to an Oxley Holdings-led consortium. This is well above the S$400 million to S$430 million the owners were expecting when the property went on sale last month, reported The Business Times. The sale marks the sixth collective deal so far this year, according to The Straits Times, and is already double the three deals in all of last year. The buyer, joint venture firm Oxley Serangoon, is made up of partners including Oxley Holdings, Lian Beng Group, Apricot Capital and entities of KSH Holdings and Heeton Holdings. The consortium also has to pay S$195 million in estimated charges to top up the lease to 99 years and intensify the land use, added The Straits Times. Serangoon Ville comprises 244 apartments and maisonettes across seven blocks which sit on 296,913 sq ft triangular-sized plot. Unit sizes range from 1,625 sq ft to 1,733 sq ft. Owners are expected to pocket $2 million each on average, added The Business Times which spoke to ERA Realty, the firm which brokered the deal. Serangoon Ville was privatised in 2014 and has 69 years of lease left.

What's Happening

Is work stress driving you nuts? Only 51% of employers in Singapore are ready to help

The Straits Times
If you work in a fast-paced environment like Singapore, you're probably familiar with the symptoms of stress. Politics and workload are just two unavoidable ways that your job can stress you out. Stress is no laughing matter either. If not managed properly, it can be detrimental to both your physical and mental health. Stressed employees could also cost the company when workers become less productive, or cause them to need more time off, be compensated for stress-related illnesses, or worse - cause them to feel compelled to leave the firm. In a new study by Aon, a global professional services firm, 72 per cent of employers in Singapore said they considered stress and mental health an issue affecting productivity. However, only 51 per cent have emotional and psychological wellness programmes in place for their workers. Furthermore, only 62 per cent of Singapore organisations indicated that they have plans to implement such programmes in the future. It begs the question, are Singapore companies failing to promote mental health programmes among their workforce? Tim Dwyer, CEO of Aon health & benefits, Asia Pacific, thinks so. "Employers in Asia have proactively implemented physical wellness programmes, but have been unwilling to promote mental health ones. However, our recent study showed that Singapore employers now view their employees' health and well-being - both physical and mental - as a top three focus area," he says. We can only hope that Singapore employers will start to recognise mental health as an area of focus, and do more to keep employees sane at work.

Changi Airport’s Terminal 4 is all it’s hyped up to be – here’s what it looks like

Changi Airport's T4 is worthy of all the hype and more.
Business Insider/ Joey Lee
Everyone knows that when it comes to having the world’s best airport, Singapore is a hard one to beat. In fact, earlier this year (March 15), Changi Airport was conferred the Skytrax World’s Best Airport Award - a title it has defended for the past five consecutive years. So when you’re on top of your game, it is even possible to up the novelty factor and impress travellers even more? If you're one of the fortunate 200,000 who will attend the Changi Airport Terminal 4 open house from Aug 7 to Aug 20, you'll find out the answer to that question on your own. If you couldn't get your hands on the tickets to it because they've already been snapped up, fret not, we've got you covered with some highlights from the tour.
Changi Airport's latest addition has been unveiled after three years of being in the works.  A two-story building that's 225,000 sq m (approximately the size of 27 football fields), the new Terminal 4 (T4) can serve 16 million passengers a year, adding to the airport's current annual handling capacity of 66 million passengers. 
Business Insider/ Joey Lee
It is the first terminal to offer end-to-end Fast and Seamless Travel (FAST) for departing passengers. This means that if you're travelling through T4, there's added flexibility of doing a flight check-in at your own convenience without being bogged down by waiting times.  Confused? Don't be. Let us show you how it's done.  First, you retrieve your boarding pass at a automated check-in kiosk which you might have already seen or used at the other terminals. 
Business Insider/ Joey Lee
Next, proceed to the automated bag drop where your photo is captured and matched against your passport photo.  If you're wondering if the automated system allows you to get away with over-sized luggage, don't even try.  There are three Kinect cameras (yes, they're the ones used in your Xbox) used to corroborate a 3D image which will tell the machine whether your bag can go on the conveyor belt or not. 
Business Insider/ Joey Lee
The next step is to proceed to every Singaporean's favourite gate - the AIG (automated immigration gate) where you scan your passport and thumbprint before heading off to catch your flight. At T4, the ones used are a more technologically enhanced version, which films a video clip of your face while you're scanning your passport. 
Business Insider/ Joey Lee
The best frame of your face will then be selected (referred to as "photo of the day"), which is used for authentication at the boarding gate (pictured below).  This also means you don't have to get your passports ready for the flight attendant to check before boarding as you'll only be required to scan your boarding pass.  The facial recognition software will match the photo taken at the boarding gate to the one taken at the AIG and allow you through towards boarding. 
Business Insider/ Joey Lee
If you're like me, the biggest headache will be getting past security screening - I'm the careless sort, and have forgotten in the past about that stray water bottle until I got called over to sheepishly empty my bag. But not to worry, the new terminal has a spectacular "immersive wall" spanning across the entire security area for you to watch in awe of while you wait for your turn. This is supposed to lower stress levels of passengers through the sounds of soothing music and invigorating animated visuals.  The 70m by 5m wall is equipped with a LED display that showcases 17 different clips, each lasting about two to four minutes.  via GIPHY Another feature that drastically helps lower stress levels  - if at all - is the computed tomography (CT) scanners (they're the ones used for x-rays in hospitals) used at all security lanes to screen hand luggage.  If you're travelling through T4, never again will you have to pull off the feat of opening your backpack and taking out your electronic gagdets while simultaneously trying to take off your jacket and not hold up the queue.  With state-of-the-art 3D screening technology, you can leave your electronics and inside bags and not worry about the hassle. 
Supplied/ Changi Airport Group
Another impressive art feature is the Heritage Zone, which, at first glance looks like a facade of historic shophouses, similar to the ones lining the roads of Chinatown.  The façade's design is displayed chronologically, from the baroque design of the 1880s, to the Modern Decor of the 1930s. History lesson? Check.
Business Insider/ Joey Lee
See if you can spot homegrown food brands Old Chang Kee, Bengawan Solo and Bee Cheng Hiang (pictured above).  If you're a fan of their offerings, you'll be happy to know that their physical shops will be at T4. So you can sit back, relax with a curry puff, slice of cake or bak kwa, and enjoy a six-minute animated performance telling the tale of two Peranakan musicians.
Business Insider/ Joey Lee
True to Changi Airport's dedication to details, it's even incorporated culture into a toilet by outfitting the ones located at the Heritage Zone with a British colonial-style design. 
Business Insider/ Joey Lee
From the patterned floor tiles, pendant lamp shades and gorgeous Peranakan tile decor, T4 has really set the bar high in terms of toilet designs. Pretty swanky, right? My visits to the bathroom will never be the same. 
Business Insider/ Joey Lee
Nine airlines will operate at T4 - AirAsia Berhad, Indonesia AirAsia, Thai AirAsia, Philippines AirAsia, AirAsia India, Cathay Pacific, Cebu Pacific, Korean Air, Spring Airlines and Vietnam Airlines.  Together, they will serve an estimated eight million passengers a year, half of T4's full handling capacity. 
Business Insider/ Joey Lee
For the open house, some airlines like Korean Air (pictures below) will have some adorable art installations for you to up your Instagram game. 
Business Insider/ Joey Lee
At the end of the day though, T4 is at its heart, an airport designed to serve travellers.  But it's Changi Airport's level of diligence towards improving user experience and minimising the frustration people feel when having to catch a plane, that fills me with a sense of pride every time I touch down in Singapore.
Business Insider/ Joey Lee

Over 1,500 Singaporeans and Malaysians who invested $87 million in Australian property may never see that money again

More than 1,500 Singaporean and Malaysian investors could have lost over $87 million to an alleged Ponzi scheme. The scheme reportedly run by Macro Realty Developments was heavily marketed in Singapore and Malaysia from as early as 2014, encouraging investors to put money into property developments in Western Australia's Pilbara. According to The Straits Times, 981 investors in the scheme were from Singapore while 651 were from Malaysia. A smaller number of investors from Britain, continental Europe and Australia also put money in the scheme. Australia's ABC News reported that overseas investors were shown "slick" marketing material that depicted Pilbara as having a strong economy. Macro's boss, 37-year-old Australian Veronica Macpherson, is being accused of running the scheme which promised returns as high as 18 per cent. In reality, the places investors put their money in were not developed fully or at all, The Straits Times reported. Some investors trusted the scheme because they saw a video in which Macpherson can be seen chatting with former Western Australia Nationals leader Brendon Grylls in the Western Australia Parliament building. A source told ABC that many of the Malaysian investors were not wealthy or highly educated and had lost their life savings to the scheme. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) revealed in court documents that the Singapore police have also started investigations into Macro, ABC News said. [caption id="attachment_356543" align="alignnone" width="600"] Veronica Macpherson/ Facebook[/caption] In August last year, Australia's Federal Court ordered a freeze on her assets, and those of companies associated with the schemes, The West reported. A report in June this year by the same news website said that auditors found “a real prospect there will be insufficient recoveries to allow for any return to unsecured creditors”. ASIC has estimated that a group of companies Macpherson runs owes as much as $199 million. Court documents state that the alleged Ponzi scheme collapsed when Macro did not have enough new investors to meet its expenses, forcing it to stop payments to investors. Despite these accusations, Macpherson has denied running a Ponzi scheme. Before her legal woes, she was believed to have owned a $140,000 Maserati and lived in a New York apartment which cost $6,750 a month. ASIC is also investigating Macpherson over potential offences of stealing, fraud and forgery, ABC reported.

The Tesla Model 3 may be more of a luxury car than previously thought

Bearish UBS analyst Colin Langan (target price: $185; current Tesla share price: $342) thinks the Model 3 won't be all that mass when it comes to its market.

Durian prices suddenly fall a day after hitting 33-year high – here’s why

As volatile as the stock market, durian prices dipped by as much as $5/kg, one day after hitting a 33-year high.
You may have heard the news over the weekend that the price of a prized species of the King of Fruits spiked to a 33-year high. According to Chinese newspaper Shin Min Daily News on Sunday (July 23), the price of Mao Shan Wang (MSW), the most expensive variety of the fruit, hit $38 per kg and its other popular cousin, the Golden Phoenix reached $32 per kg. This climb in prices was attributed to adverse weather in Malaysia which led to a smaller yield than usual, decreasing the supply amid rising demand as the season approached. As volatile as the durian market seems, fans of the fruit can rejoice because prices have now dropped to the low thirties and is expected to remain so for the rest of the season. This is according to several durian sellers who gave price updates on their respective stall's Facebook pages which puts the price of MSW at between $31 and $33 per kg.
Ah Seng Durian dropped the price from $38/kg to $33/kg.
Screenshot/ Ah Seng Durian
The Durian Story slashed prices of at least $2/kg for its customers.
Screenshot/ The Durian Story
Sin Durian's prices for MSW dipped from $34 to $31.
Screenshot/ Sin Durian
As to why the price hiked in the first place, owner of Ah Seng Durian in Ghim Moh, Mr Steven Shui told Business Insider that a major event held over the weekend caused a surge in prices. He refused to disclose what the event was. In order to secure the supply needed for the event, suppliers had to buy the durians at higher prices from plantation owners which pushed the overall cost price up. In addition, Jonathan Tee from The Durian Story at Upper Paya Lebar disclosed that "MSW prices have been increasing due to the demand from China and Hong Kong" because "they are willing to offer more in terms of pricing and have bigger purchasing power." "Corporate events can also increase the price but it is only for that particular day," he added.
A post made by The Durian Story about fulfilling a client's event on July 23.
Screenshot/ The Durian Story 
In the coming months, durian sellers expect the prices of both varieties to be in the high twenties. For the MSW range, Mr Shui forecasted the price to be between $28 and $32 while Mr Sin, owner of Sin Durian, quoted a price range of between $24 and 28. Don't expect a drastic dip in prices so quickly though. Mr Tee said that the bumper harvest from Malaysia has been pushed back to December so until then, it seems like prices will remain relatively high.

Singapore’s OCBC quarterly profit jumps to 3-year high on wealth management

SINGAPORE, July 27 (Reuters) - Singapore's Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp quarterly net profit beat expectations with a 22 percent jump to its highest level in almost three years, boosted by its wealth management and insurance business. Kicking off the results season for Singapore banks, the city state's No. 2 lender said on Thursday its overall loan portfolio remained sound and its non-performing loans ratio was stable over the last three quarters. "Strong business momentum was achieved across all three business pillars – banking, wealth management and insurance," CEO Samuel Tsien said in a statement. "Income growth was broad-based, lending activities were up, assets under management continued to rise, and underlying insurance business growth continued." OCBC's net profit came in at S$1.08 billion ($796 million) in the three months ended June, versus S$885 million a year earlier. That compared with an average forecast of S$988 million from five analysts compiled by Reuters. Income from wealth management unit rose 52 percent, helped by its $225 million acquisition of Barclays' Asia wealth management business, which it completed in November. Net profit at OCBC's insurance arm more than doubled to S$279 million.

All gone: McDonald’s Nasi Lemak Burger and Chendol McFlurry sell out in less than 2 weeks

The Dinosaur McFlurry and new Eggcellent McSpicy
McDonald's Singapore
There's bad news, and then there's good news. Singapore's new favourite burger has sold out, much to the dismay of fast food fans across the island. McDonald's Singapore said in a note to the media on Tuesday (July 25) evening that the Nasi Lemak Burger was no longer available, less than two weeks after it was first launched on July 13. Click here to read about our taste-test of the Nasi Lemak Burger and Chendol McFlurry. Among the limited-items released, the Chendol McFlurry and Bandung McFizz are also sold out and no longer available at all McDonald's outlets. [caption id="attachment_346705" align="alignnone" width="1000"] McDonald's Nasi Lemak Feast[/caption] In its statement, the fast food giant said it "will certainly consider suggestions to bring it back sometime in the future”. But in the meantime, fast food lovers have something else to get excited about - the Eggcellent McSpicy and Dinosaur McFlurry. Launched as a new twist on the McSpicy burger, the Eggcellent McSpicy features a fried egg added on top of the McSpicy chicken thigh. It will be sold at $5.75 a la carte, or from $7.40 as part of an Extra Value Meal. And while the Chendol McFlurry remain irreplaceable in many fans' hearts, the Dinosaur McFlurry, priced at $3, has come to save the day. A word of warning though - both items are available for a limited time only, so it's best to get them before they sell out. On top of that, the restaurant chain will be dropping the price of its Vanilla Cone to 50 cents in celebration of National Day from Aug 4 to 10. During the same time period, past and present NS men can also redeem a free Apple Pie or Hot Fudge Sundae with every Extra Value Meal purchased after breakfast hours.

Noble Group shares halve after profit warning, asset sales

SINGAPORE, July 27 (Reuters) - Shares in Noble Group fell sharply in early trade on Thursday after the embattled commodities trader issued a profit warning and announced plans to sell assets and cut staff numbers as it seeks to slash its debt. Singapore-listed Noble's stock nearly halved to a low of S$0.295, the weakest in more than one month. Noble's market value has shrunk to S$479 million ($353 million), from $6 billion in February 2015. Late on Wednesday, Noble unveiled plans to sell its U.S. gas and power business to Mercuria for $248 million and also put its capital-intensive oil liquids business up for sale, leaving it focused on "hard commodities", essentially coal. Noble has struggled to repair investor confidence following setbacks over the past two years after Iceberg Research questioned its accounts in early 2015 and a sharp commodity market downturn. Noble has stood by its accounts.