Business

Factory output rises 
11.9% last month

Surge in electronic, biomedical sectors help set fastest pace since March 2014


Singapore's factory output jumped 11.9 per cent in November over the same month last year, the fastest pace since March 2014 and better than October's revised 1.3 per cent expansion.

A surprise surge in electronics and biomedical productions lifted the headline figure way above private sector economists' forecast for a 1.6 per cent contraction.

Excluding output from the volatile biomedical cluster, last month's output still grew 
6.4 per cent from a year ago, Economic Development Board data showed yesterday.

The pickup in activity closes a choppy year for the economy and is likely to keep Singapore from slipping into a technical recession, after contracting 2 per cent in the third quarter compared with the preceding three months, economists said.

"Manufacturing's contribution to fourth-quarter growth will be bigger than previously expected and will help push up full-year growth," said CIMB Private Bank economist Song Seng Wun.

RISE

Biomedical manufacturing output rose 34.8 per cent in November from a year ago, on the back of a 36.1 per cent rise in drug production, as well as a 30.8 per cent jump in medical technology output.

Electronics output - Singapore's biggest manufacturing cluster - grew 24.2 per cent in November from a year earlier, with semiconductors output up 49.6 per cent.

Four of Singapore's six manufacturing clusters, including the precision engineering and chemicals segments, were in expansion mode last month.

Still, the recovery was not as broad-based as economists would have liked to see, with general manufacturing output shrinking 0.9 per cent in November from a year earlier.

Transport engineering contracted 14.8 per cent, dragged down by a 23.6 per cent fall in marine and offshore engineering output.

Mr Song added: "Electronics seems on track to pick up even more in the coming year, especially on the back of a stronger United States economy. Let's keep our fingers crossed."

11 sites for sale in first half of 2017

There are 11 sites in the Industrial Government Land Sales programme for the first half of next year - six confirmed plots and five on the reserve list.

The six confirmed parcels have a total site area of 3.27ha and a tenure of 20 years. Four are in Tuas South Link, one in Tampines North Drive and one - at 0.8ha, the largest of the seven sites - in Jalan Lam Huat.

Ms Christine Li, director of research at consultancy firm Cushman and Wakefield, said: "The Government continues to roll out smallish industrial sites to meet the needs of end-users. All the sites come with 20-year lease tenure, which is targeted at industrialists rather than developers."

The reserved sites have a total area of 7.98ha and tenures of either 20 or 30 years.

There were 12 sites offered in the second half of this year - seven confirmed and five on the reserve list.

MANUFACTURING

Ms Li said that despite the dip in manufacturing activities, the Government has reduced the total number of confirmed list sites by just one and cut the total gross floor area by about 7.5 per cent.

She said that this was done to ensure adequate supply in the market for industrialists, "who need their own industrial space to get ready for the upturn once the global economy is on a stronger footing".

"The continued supply seems timely for the industrialists because... when the industrial prices are high and there is a strong participation of the Industrial Government Land Sales tenders, it could be difficult for them to secure sites at a more reasonable price," she said.

The Trade and Industry Ministry said in a statement yesterday that the Government will continue to release "sufficient" land for "an adequate supply of industrial space". - THE STRAITS TIMES

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