Letter to Unitholders

 

Dear Unitholders

We are pleased to present Frasers Centrepoint Trust and its subsidiaries' (“FCT” and the “Group”) Annual Report and Sustainability Report for the financial year ended 30 September 2021 (“FY2021”).

APTITUDE AND FORTITUDE THROUGH THE CHALLENGES FROM COVID-19

It has been 20 months since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation and it has since reshaped the world, countries, businesses, and how we re-think the future. At the same time, the devastating impact of COVID-19 has also demonstrated the devotion to duty, and courage of our people at different levels and in so many ways. Our frontline colleagues at mall management, customer service, security staff and cleaning service providers worked tirelessly to ensure our properties remain safe for shoppers and tenants. Colleagues in other roles such as asset management, finance and property management, provided unwavering support to our business, our tenants and to our frontline colleagues, even as they struggled with increased workloads and family commitments. We are heartened by the display of aptitude and fortitude of our people and we are proud of them. We have emerged stronger as an organisation as we move towards the re-opening of the economy.

FY2021 PERFORMANCE REVIEW

Performance boosted by acquisition of the remaining 63.11% interest in AsiaRetail Fund Limited (the “ARF Acquisition”)

FCT has delivered a good set of results for FY2021, helped by contributions from the ARF Acquisition completed on 27 October 2020. The ARF Acquisition added five retail properties and one office property to our assets under management and contributed 11 months of income in FY2021.

Revenue and net property income for FY2021 more than doubled to new highs of S$341.1 million and S$246.6 million, respectively, and NPI margin for the year recovered to 72.3%, from 67.5% in FY2020. Distributable income for FY2021 doubled to S$204.7 million from S$101.1 million in FY2020. The improved full year financial performance was attributed to the ARF Acquisition and lower rental rebates granted to tenants this year, which was partially offset by the loss of contribution from the properties divested during the year. The distribution per unit (“DPU”) for FY2021 is 12.085 Singapore cents, which is 33.7% higher year-on- year, and higher than the FY2019 DPU (before COVID-19) of 12.07 Singapore cents.

Portfolio re-constitution in FY2021

Post-ARF Acquisition, five retail properties, namely, Tampines 1, Century Square, Tiong Bahru Plaza, White Sands, Hougang Mall and one office property Central Plaza were added to the FCT property portfolio. During the year, we divested three retail properties, Bedok Point, Anchorpoint and YewTee Point, in line with FCT’s strategy of portfolio re-constitution. FCT’s retail portfolio now consists of nine suburban retail malls1 with at least 150,000 square feet of net lettable area each, all of them located next to or above MRT stations and/or at bus interchanges. They serve a combined catchment population of 2.6 million. The completion of the portfolio re- constitution consolidates our core competence and market strength as a leading suburban retail REIT in Singapore.

Healthy financial position with gearing at 33.3%

FCT’s financial position remains healthy with gearing level of 33.3% and average all-in cost of borrowing stable at 2.2%. Total assets as at 30 September 2021 stood at approximately S$5.9 billion, an increase of approximately S$2.0 billion due to the ARF Acquisition but partially offset by the divestment of Bedok Point, Anchorpoint and YewTee Point in FY2021. Net asset value per unit as at 30 September 2021 was up 1.3% to S$2.30 as compared to a year ago. The largest mall, Causeway Point, saw a 0.5% uplift in its appraised value to S$1,312 million, while two other properties Changi City Point and Yishun 10 Retail Podium saw declines in their appraised values. The appraised values of all other properties were unchanged compared with the previous year.

Operating performance remained resilient

FCT’s portfolio performance remained resilient in FY2021. The committed occupancy of the retail portfolio as at 30 September 2021 improved 0.9 percentage- point quarter-on-quarter to 97.3%. On a comparable basis, the four properties: Causeway Point; Northpoint City North Wing; Changi City Point; and Waterway Point, registered increased occupancy of between 2 percentage points and 5 percentage points from the previous year. The improvement in portfolio occupancy was in line with the pickup in leasing activities as Singapore continued to re-open, though many retailers remained cautious.

Retail portfolio tenants’ sale up 10.6% year-on-year

The retail portfolio tenants’ sales in FY2021 grew 10.6% year-on-year to S$2.08 billion, largely due to the low base effect as FY2020 sales were significantly affected by the Circuit Breaker2. Tenants’ sales in FY2021 were affected by a series of tightened safe management measures during Phase 2 and Phase 3 Heightened Alerts and the subsequent Stabilisation Phase in September 2021. During the first six months of FY2021 (October 2020 to March 2021), tenants’ sales hovered near pre-COVID levels.

The Retail Portfolio tenants’ sales in the first four months in FY2021 (October 2020 – January 2021) were tracking close to the same period in FY2020. However, tenants’ sales recovery started to lose momentum as Singapore transited to Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) in May 2021 due to rising community COVID-19 cases and tightened restrictions.

Sales were further affected by a series of tightened safe management measures during the Phase 3 and Phase 2 Heightened Alerts and subsequent Stabilisation Phase commencing from 27 September 2021. The adverse impact on sales from the various measures were felt in general although the impact varied across trades and businesses. Tenants’ sales started to recover in August and September 2021, when dining in was allowed and group size for vaccinated persons was increased from two to five.

Shopper traffic at 50-70% of pre-COVID level

Overall shopper traffic in FY2021 was between 50% and 70% of the pre-COVID level. On a comparable basis, the aggregate shopper traffic of Causeway Point, Northpoint City North Wing, Changi City Point and Waterway Point was reduced by about 14% to 83.4 million from 96.6 million in FY2020.

The recovery of tenants’ sales and shopper traffic will depend on how COVID-19 develops, for better or worse, and the government’s response.

Well-spread lease renewal profile

FCT has a well-spread portfolio lease expiry profile with low concentration risk. FCT has about 36% of its leases (by gross rental income) expiring in FY2022. As at 30 September 2021, one-quarter of the renewals were under advanced negotiation or under documentation.

We expect tenants to remain cautious in their lease negotiations, considering market uncertainties and the uneven pace of recovery among the retail trade sectors. The uncertainties in market conditions would likely exert pressure on asking rents for new and renewal leases. We continue to adopt differentiated approaches and exercise flexibility in our lease negotiations. This will allow tenants to assess their situations before committing to new leases and also allow us as a landlord to price our rents accordingly.

SUSTAINABILITY A CORE IN FCT’S STRATEGY

The Board views sustainability as a core of FCT’s business strategy. As part of Frasers Property Group (“Frasers Property”), the management team works closely with the Frasers Property’s sustainability leadership and working teams to attain net-zero carbon, achieve Green Mark certification for our properties, and improve the health and well-being of our people and stakeholders.

Details are outlined in the Sustainability Report which is an integral part of this Annual Report.

Eight of nine properties are BCA Green Mark certified Gold or Above

During the year, we attained several key achievements. We completed certification or re-certification of several properties in our portfolio during the year. At present, eight of our nine retail properties are BCA Green Mark certified Gold or above, with four of the properties being certified Green Mark Platinum. Work is in progress to get the remaining property, Hougang Mall, to be Green Mark certified in due course. The proportion of Green Mark certified properties by gross floor area in FCT’s portfolio is approximately 94%. This exceeds one of our sustainability goals to green certify at least 80% of our owned or managed properties by 2024.

Five stars rating in GRESB Assessment 2021

FCT has participated in the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (“GRESB”) annual assessment since 2019. The GRESB assesses and benchmarks the Environmental, Social and Governance (“ESG”) performance of global funds, companies, and assets within the real estate sector. We are happy to report that FCT has scored the highest rating of 5 Stars in the 2021 GRESB assessment, a significant improvement from the rating of 3 Stars in the previous two years. It has also improved its total score to 92 points, from 69 points a year ago.

SUPPORTING OUR TENANTS TO TRANSIT TO OMNICHANNEL RETAILING

The protracted COVID-19 situation and safe management measures have adversely affected tenants’ businesses and shopper traffic to our malls. In this challenging time, we see omnichannel retailing as a viable way to help cushion the impact on our tenants and to generate additional sales. As part of the tenants’ support scheme, Frasers Property Retail and FCT have provided support and waivers of fees for tenants who wish to onboard to the Frasers omnichannel retail platforms, namely the Frasers eStore and the digital food and beverages (“F&B”) app, the Makan Master. They allow our tenants to tap into the near 900,000-strong membership base of the Frasers Experience loyalty programme to extend their digital outreach.

Our malls as last mile fulfilment hubs

The proximity of our malls to homes is a competitive advantage as “last mile fulfilment hub” for online orders. This is especially so for F&B, where time to delivery is critical. Shoppers can order their food from their favourite store in a mall near them, and have the options to dine in, takeaway or have food delivered to their doorstep. All these options are now possible on our digital food concierge, Makan Master. Our shoppers are embracing it; sales on Makan Master went up seven-fold since it was launched last year, and average order size has doubled. From the landlord’s perspective, we are able to increase the sales productivity of our real estate, because of the additional digital outreach via online sales. Our F&B tenants enjoy additional sales from the online channel to augment their sales from dine-in customers. The tenants also benefit from our partnership with logistics service providers, as our economies of scale drive down the cost of delivery.

STAYING VIGILANT ON FUTURE GROWTH

While our immediate focus is to improve the operations and financial performance of the enlarged FCT portfolio, we will continue to explore and evaluate acquisition opportunities that are yield-accretive, strengthen business fundamentals and contribute to growth. Potential opportunities include Northpoint City South Wing, which is owned by Frasers Property and the TCC Group, as well as third-party owners looking to sell their retail assets. At the same time, FCT will also continue to refine its portfolio, to optimise returns for the Trust and its Unitholders.

GOING FORWARD

While the suburban retail sector in Singapore has remained relatively resilient through the various COVID-19 phases, the endemic continues to pose uncertainties for FCT’s business and financial performance. The easing of the safe management measures by the authorities will help to support the recovery of tenants’ sales and shopper traffic at our malls. In the near-term, the Manager will continue to focus on managing the operating and financial performance of FCT’s portfolio, taking into consideration the evolving COVID-19 situation.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

In closing, we thank our board members for their stewardship and advice, the management and staff for their commitment and hard work. We are grateful to our stakeholders, including our Unitholders, tenants and shoppers as well as our business partners for their confidence and support.

We thank Ms Tay Hwee Pio, who relinquished her role as Chief Financial Officer in July 2021 for her invaluable contributions in the past nine years. The Board wishes Hwee Pio all the best in her future endeavours.

Stay safe, stay healthy.

Cheong Choong Kong
Chairman

Richard Ng
Chief Executive Officer

  1. These nine malls are Causeway Point; Northpoint City North Wing (including Yishun 10 Retail Podium); Changi City Point; Waterway Point (FCT owns 40% interest in Sapphire Star Trust which holds Waterway Point); Tampines 1; Century Square; Tiong Bahru Plaza; White Sands; and Hougang Mall.
  2. The Circuit Breaker, announced by the Government on 3 April 2020, was implemented between 7 April 2020 and 1 June 2020. https://www.moh.gov.sg/news-highlights/details/circuit-breaker-to-minimise-further-spread-of-covid-19

Have a question? Get in touch