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."

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.

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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.

Hong Kong and China investors put over $2 billion into Singapore office assets in first half of 2017

Southeast Asian property is hot. A new report by professional services and investment management company JLL revealed that commercial transactions in Singapore were dominated by Hong Kong groups in the first half of 2017. According to the data, Singapore picked up over US$2.2 billion of investments into office assets, and over US$1.45 billion into residential land from Hong Kong and China investors in the 1H2017. Office investments include FWD Insurance taking a 50% stake in One George Street; Hongkong Land’s investment in a 33% stake in the Central Boulevard site; and other Hong Kong and China investors’ acquisitions of Tripleone Somerset and GSH Building.
FWD Insurance bought a 50% stake in the One George Street building in May this year.
Lianhe Wanbao
Nanshan Group and Logan Property Holdings also invested over S$1 billion in a government land sale site at Stirling Road; while MCL, a subsidiary of Hongkong Land, paid S$766 million for an enbloc redevelopment site in Eunos. Real estate transaction volumes in Singapore rose by 6% year-on-year in the first half of the year, as investor sentiment turned positive after CBD office rents bottomed earlier than expected, the report said. “Singapore remains a key market for many investors due to its long-term positive fundamentals," Regina Lim, JLL's head of capital markets research in Southeast Asia, said. “Looking ahead, buyers will continue to bargain-hunt in Singapore,” she added. While office take-up in more mature markets such as Singapore and Kuala Lumpur remained weak in 2016, they saw significant pick-up in tenant demand in Q2 this year, with office rents increasing. Due to stronger than expected rental growth, JLL upgraded Singapore's office rental forecasts for 2018 by 10 %, and prime office rents are expected to rise 20 % over the next four years. Marina One, the largest single office development in Singapore that is completing in Q3 this year, is already 70% pre-committed. During the first half of 2017, occupied office space in Southeast Asia increased by 4.6%, compared to 4% in 2016, thanks to leasing demand by e-commerce firms, business services and financial firms. Large-scale Chinese groups are also showing interest in Indonesia, Vietnam and Philippines, the data shows. “These investors are keen to tap Indonesia’s attractive economic and demographic profile. In Jakarta, we expect advance purchases of office assets under construction to remain the most likely point of entry. We anticipate continued interest in industrial and logistics assets in the next six to twelve months, as they’re seen as an avenue to leverage the growth in manufacturing and e-commerce in Southeast Asia,” said Ms Lim. Nonetheless, while investors are looking on the bright side, consumer sentiment across the region is still weak. Indonesia’s retail sales grew at 4.7 % year-on-year in Q1 this year, down from 10.5 % in 2016. In Singapore, retail sales have declined for three years but saw a marginal improvement, growing by 0.6 % in January to May 2017.

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.

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.

5 ways you can dine at fancy Singapore restaurants for half the price

[caption id="attachment_354314" align="alignnone" width="1002"] Open Door Policy, a restaurant at Tiong Bahru.[/caption]
The Straits Times
Eating out in Singapore can be very expensive. A simple bowl of congee in a Chinese restaurant in town can cost as much as $12 if you include GST and service charge. On average, you can expect to spend between $20 to $30 per person when dining out in Singapore. But this is Singapore after all, where we always hope to get more bang for the buck. The good news is that businesses are well aware of that, and have come up with all sorts of ways for kiasu Singaporeans to get the best deals - you just have to know where to look. 1) On your mobile Using mobile apps to score discounts is so common now that there is no longer any excuse for you to be paying full price for your meals outside. One of the most widely-used apps is The Entertainer, which offers 1-for-1 deals on a large number of participating restaurants including Peperoni Pizzeria, Open Door Policy, Kith Cafe and a whole lot more. This year, the fee for a one-year sign-up is $125, but those who purchased the product in 2016 managed to snag it at an early-bird price. Its sister app, Cheers, also offers 1-for-1 deals on drinks at bars and restaurants across Singapore. Another highly-rated app called Eatigo offers discounts at popular restaurants like Paul and Crystal Jade. Unlike The Entertainer, there is no prerequisite fee you have to pay, but the discounts offered can range from 10% to 50% depending on the restaurant and time slot you choose. 2) On food websites If you’re already using websites like Chope and HungryGoWhere to make reservations for your dinner dates, you should also utilise their exclusive promotions pages for dining offers. Some of these restaurants are newcomers but many are also highly-rated establishments. [caption id="attachment_354316" align="alignnone" width="808"] Screengrab of HungryDeals[/caption] Food reservation sites also offer discounts for special events like wine tastings and champagne brunches, as well as special occasion meal packages such as Christmas and Valentine’s Day set meals. So you see, there really is no need to break the bank to impress someone you like. It’s the quality of the date that makes the experience. 3) Through reward programmes The next time you’re at your favourite restaurant, check with service staff if the restaurant is a participant in any rewards or deals programmes. Many Japanese restaurants, for example, are enrolled in the J Passport programme. Members of J Passport are offered sign-up promotions and have access to regular discounts at participating restaurants. If you frequent a certain mall or area, you can also sign up for memberships specific to that place. For instance, Ion Orchard’s Ion+ Rewards programme and Suntec City’s Suntec Rewards programme both offer exclusive discounts on shopping and dining via their respective mobile apps. You can also earn points with dollars spent, and redeem these points for prizes or other privileges at the malls. 4) Via credit card promotions Credit cards in Singapore offer a wide range of perks, and if you dine out often, you should consider signing up for a card with restaurant-related benefits. If you opt to have the latest promotions emailed to you, you will receive regular updates on the latest deals offered by your credit card company. Many times, these discounts can go up to 50% with 1-for-1 offers at high-end restaurants. While you may not utilise these deals for every meal, such promotions can come in handy when you want to have a nice meal for special occasions like a family gathering or a big birthday celebration. 5) On coupon sites Coupon websites may have gotten some flak previously, but if you are careful with your purchases, the deals can still be pretty sweet. Fave, which was previously known as Groupon, received a fresh makeover in recent months and is now easier to navigate than before. Some of the deals offered in the last couple of months include a 55% discount for a Peranakan buffet dinner at Hotel Grand Pacific, and 78% off the usual price of a lobster and sushi meal at Amara Hotel’s Santaro By Gion. And if you are an online shopper, you may have realised that online mall Qoo10 also has a deals section where you can buy restaurant vouchers at cheaper rates. On this site, you can read real user reviews of the deals offered before deciding whether or not to buy it. So if you find a deal is not as good as it seems, you can take your money somewhere else.

Scoot to fly to 5 new destinations including Honolulu – its first US stop

Budget airline Scoot will fly to five new destinations by June 2018 including Honolulu - the airline's first US destination. This revealed at a media conference in Singapore on Tuesday (July 25) to announce the completion of the integration between Scoot and Tigerair, which began last May to pursue a single brand and operating licence under the enhanced Scoot brand. The other new destinations are Harbin, Kuching, Kuantan and Palembang, which bring Scoot's total destination count to 65 across 18 countries. These include those previously operated under the Tigerair network. The last Tigerair Singapore flight left Changi Airport for Tiruchippalli in India on Monday at 11.05pm, said a statement. Scoot also revealed its new uniform designs for its crew members, adopted a new slogan "Escape the Ordinary",  and rolled out its first A320 aircraft - previously operated by Tigerair - repainted with a new Scoot livery.
Scoot rolled out its first A320 aircraft repainted with a new livery
The current Tigerair fleet will be progressively repainted and the livery change is expected to be completed by the middle of next year, added the statement.