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Australia, US agree to deal exempting Australian citizens from travel ban

SYDNEY: Australian dual-nationals will not be affected by U.S. President Donald Trump’s executive order blocking visitors from seven Muslim-majority nations, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Tuesday.

“Australian passport holders will be able to travel to the United States in the same way they were able to prior to the executive order,” Mr Turnbull told Sky News television.

“I’ve just received that official confirmation.”

(Reporting by Tom Westbrook)

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Channel NewsAsia Asia Pacific News

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Singapore's December manufacturing output jumps 21.3% from previous year

SINGAPORE: Singapore’s manufacturing output in December surged 21.3 per cent from a year ago, on the back of strong growth in electronics and pharmaceuticals output.

Excluding the more volatile biomedical manufacturing, output grew 16.1 per cent, according to data released on Thursday (Jan 26) by the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB). 

On a month-on-month seasonally-adjusted basis, industrial production rose 6.4 per cent in December 2016 compared to the previous month.

Overall, manufacturing output rose 3.6 per cent in 2016 over 2015.

STRONG ELECTRONICS, BIOMEDICAL PHARMACEUTICALS OUTPUT

Output from the key electronics cluster increased 49.4 per cent in December from a year ago. This was largely supported by the semiconductors segment, which saw output rise by 94 per cent. For the whole of 2016, output of the electronics cluster expanded 15.9 per cent compared to 2015. 

The biomedical manufacturing cluster, meanwhile, expanded 44.9 per cent year-on-year in December, said EDB. The growth was mainly due to the pharmaceuticals and medical technology segments, which expanded 53.8 per cent and 19 per cent respectively. The whole cluster grew 13.6 per cent in 2016 compared to the year before.

The precision engineering cluster saw an increase of 6.1 per cent in December compared to the same month last year. The machinery and systems segment grew 8.5 per cent with higher export demand for semiconductor related equipment, while the precision modules and components segment recorded higher output of industrial rubber, dies, moulds, tools, jigs and fixtures and metal precision components, added EDB.

In the chemicals cluster, output rose 4.1 per cent on a year-on-year basis in December 2016. This was supported by higher output in the petrochemicals (18.4 per cent), petroleum (16.7 per cent) and specialties (4.1 per cent) segments. For the whole of 2016, output in the cluster fell 0.9 per cent compared to 2015.

In 2016, the general manufacturing industries’ output declined 2.5 per cent from a year ago, although it grew 2 per cent year-on-year in December 2016. EDB said this was mainly attributed to the 22.8 per cent growth in the food, beverages & tobacco segment. However, growth in the cluster was moderated by declines in the miscellaneous industries (-10.6 per cent) and printing (-14.6 per cent) segments. 

Data showed that transport engineering remained a drag. Production in the marine and offshore engineering segment declined 26.1 per cent year-on-year in December, with lower output in oilfield and gasfield equipment as well as ship building and repair jobs. However, the aerospace and land transport segments grew 15 per cent and 11.5 per cent respectively.

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Channel NewsAsia Singapore Business News

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President Tony Tan, PM Lee offer condolences over Quebec shooting

SINGAPORE: President Tony Tan Keng Yam and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Monday (Jan 30) wrote to Governor General of Canada David Johnston and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau respectively, to convey their condolences on the deadly attack at Quebec’s Islamic Cultural Centre, which occurred on Sunday. 

Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had on Monday condemned the incident, calling it a “heinous attack”. 

In his letter, Dr Tan said Singapore “strongly condemns” the shooting. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Canadian people during this challenging period,” he said. 

President Tan’s letter to Governor General Johnston is reproduced below: 

His Excellency the Right Honourable David Lloyd Johnston
Governor General and Commander-in-Chief
Canada

Your Excellency,

I was deeply saddened to learn of the attack at the Islamic Cultural Centre in Quebec City on 29 January 2017. On behalf of the people of Singapore, I offer our deepest condolences and sympathies to the families of the victims.

Singapore strongly condemns the shooting which took place at a sacred place of worship during prayers. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Canadian people during this challenging period.

Yours sincerely,

TONY TAN KENG YAM

In his letter to Mr Trudeau, PM Lee said he was “shocked” by the shooting. “On behalf of the Government of Singapore, I offer our deepest condolences to the bereaved families,” he wrote. 

Mr Lee’s letter is reproduced below: 

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,

I was shocked by the deadly shooting at the Quebec City Islamic Cultural Centre on 29 January 2017 during evening prayers. Singapore strongly condemns the attack at a sacred place of worship that has resulted in the loss of innocent lives.

On behalf of the Government of Singapore, I offer our deepest condolences to the bereaved families. Our thoughts are with the Canadian people.

Yours sincerely,

LEE HSIEN LOONG

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister
Canada

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Channel NewsAsia Singapore News

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Chinese New Year rent-a-boyfriend Facebook 'ads' pop up in Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: While hiring boyfriends to bring home for Chinese New Year is a legitimate business in China, in Malaysia, men are offering themselves up for public hire as a joke – and in some cases, being taken seriously.

One of them is 26-year-old Zeann Jian, who had offered to play the role of dream boyfriend to introduce to “concerned” family members for RM88 (US$ 20) a day, RM188 (US$ 42) a reunion dinner or RM888 (US$ 200) for the entire festive season.

Among the services he offered, according to a Facebook post, were finishing leftovers from his date’s plate, answering difficult queries from aunties, calling his date’s parents Pa and Ma, providing a photo album of himself with his date and even pretending to be engaged to be married. 

Zeann had intended the post as a joke, but ended up receiving more than 100 messages from people – both male and female “from all races” – trying to hire him.

“It was a joke among friends. I wanted to lighten up the mood for Chinese New Year,” he told Channel NewsAsia.

Zeann’s post, which has been shared more than 4,000 times, has spanned other iterations from Malaysian men offering to be the ideal Chinese New Year partner. 

At least three other Facebook users have put up similar non-serious ads on their profile, promising to “chit chat with uncles (because most of their topics are not a problem for me)” and kill cockroaches, lizards and other pests that might come near the dinner table.  

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Temasek invests S$1.1b in Alphabet's Verily

SINGAPORE: Temasek will invest US$ 800 million (S$ 1.1 billion) in Verily Life Sciences in exchange for a minority stake in the life sciences company spun off from the Silicon Valley giant in 2015. 

The investment will help the US-based firm advance plans to commercialise healthcare solutions for global markets with its development partners. A majority of the funds will be pumped in “in the coming days” while the remaining investment is scheduled for the second half of 2017, said a press release from Verily on Thursday (Jan 26).

The Singapore investment company will also nominate a director to its operating board, it added. 

One of Verily’s ongoing projects is with Novartis, as they look to develop and commercialise their autofocus contact lens. According to Verily’s website, its smart lens programme includes creating a glucose-sensing lens for continuous monitoring of glucose levels as well as autofocus contact lens for those with age-related farsightedness. 

“Temasek has a history of thoughtful and enduring capital investments, including in life sciences and healthcare, and this commitment to a long-term collaboration with Verily is a meaningful affirmation of our strategy,” said Mr Andrew Conrad, CEO of Verily. 

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Critical for Singapore to continue to have a reliable news source: Chee Hong Tat

SINGAPORE: In the current environment where things happen very fast, it is critical for Singapore to continue to have a national broadcaster that people can turn to as a credible and reliable source of news.

Chee Hong Tat, Minister of State at the Ministry of Communications and Information, said this during a visit to Mediacorp on Saturday (Jan 28) to thank staff for working on the first day of the Chinese New Year and the good work carried out in the past year.

“I think it’s critical for us to continue to have a credible national broadcaster that Singaporeans can turn to as a credible and reliable source of news, and also to understand what’s happening around them both locally and (in) the region,” said Mr Chee.

He added that this is where a national broadcaster like Mediacorp can play a very important role: “We have to continue to work with Mediacorp, support capability developments so that we’re able to bring good quality programmes (and) good quality news through different platforms – whether it’s broadcast TV or online.”

Mr Chee also said that the Government will continue to work with Mediacorp in various areas such as in the digital space, looking at how to build up capabilities to be able to produce good quality content and news reports to strengthen Mediacorp’s role as Singapore’s national broadcaster.

“I think Mediacorp has done well in bringing good quality news and entertainment programmes to Singaporeans and now with news and entertainment shifting online, we have to continue to work hard to build up capabilities, on our online digital capabilities, so that we’re able to continue to reach out to Singaporeans through this platform,” he said.

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A Silicon Valley of the East: Penang’s thriving start-up community

PENANG, Malaysia: It is barely ten in the morning but the Piktochart office in Bayan Lepas, southern Penang, is already buzzing. A yoga class has just ended, and staff are getting to work in the large, open-plan office painted a cheery shade of yellow. But if a break is needed, a massage chair, foosball table and lots of board games are kept in an adjacent space.

For co-founder Goh Ai Ching, creating a great company culture and a healthy work-life balance is key. “I came from a corporate background and I really didn’t feel very good about having to deal with one and a half hour-long PowerPoint presentations,” she said. “Six years ago when I quit my corporate job in Kuala Lumpur, I wasn’t quite sure what start-up I wanted to do. But the number one thing I was sure about was that I didn’t want to drag my feet to work every day.”

Piktochart has set aside a space in their office for staff to take a break if needed. (Photo: Lianne Chia)

The slower pace of life and more family-friendly environment that Penang offers is one reason why Ai Ching chose to return to her hometown to set up Piktochart, an infographic design platform for non-designers. And despite being based in what some may call a “second city” in comparison to places like Kuala Lumpur or Singapore, Piktochart has grown from strength to strength: in just four years, the platform boasts more than 5 million users from 184 countries.

Piktochart is not alone: a growing number of successful start-ups appear to be making Penang their home base.

COMPARATIVE ADVANTAGES

Being away from the hustle and bustle of the capital city has helped Ai Ching stay focused. “When I lived in KL, commuting from place to place for meetings could take up my whole day, and being away from all that helps distract us less, which is really important when building a business,” she said.

Being in Penang also helps stretch her dollar further, she added.  “In KL I spent all my money on food, drinks, cafes and going out…it was really expensive to live there.

“Rent here is also much less than in KL…my friends tell me that in KL, I can expect to pay on average, 5 times more per square foot.”

And while being away from the buzz of larger cities may not be everyone’s cup of tea, Ai Ching said this has worked in her favour when it comes to manpower.

“I found that in KL, poaching and job-hopping is so common,” she said. “But if somebody has made the choice to relocate to Penang they’re likely very serious about Piktochart, and our retention figures are good and healthy.”

Penang can also be a “safer” place for start-ups to test their ideas before moving on to larger, more competitive markets, according to Leong Shir Mein of online food delivery portal DeliverEat. “It’s not easy to convince people to part with their money in Penang,” explained Shir Mein. “This is a good learning platform to leverage before being eaten alive in places like KL”.

Shir Mein and her husband, Tan Suan Sear, developed an automated food delivery system with three apps, for customers to place their orders with various restaurants, for restaurants to know what to prepare, and for delivery riders to let them know where to pick up and drop off the food orders. Today, DeliverEat is Penang’s market leader in food delivery.  

Riders from DeliverEat set off on their food delivery runs. (Photo: Lianne Chia)

But far from playing second fiddle to larger cities like KL, Penang has its own unique selling point: a strong base in manufacturing and hardware.

SILICON VALLEY OF THE EAST

The establishment of a free trade zone – now called the Free Industrial Zone – in Bayan Lepas more than 40 years ago drew many big name multinationals like Intel, AMD and Hewlett Packard to set up shop in Penang. This strong base in manufacturing has, according to state investment promotion agency InvestPenang, led to Penang becoming known as the “Silicon Valley of the East” – and also stood the city’s thriving start-up community in good stead.

“In the past, a lot of our focus was on manufacturing, and a lot of our start-ups were in manufacturing,” explained InvestPenang’s general manager Loo Lee Lian. “The engineers who were working in the MNCs felt that they could do things on their own better than being employed by the MNCs, so they came out and started their own manufacturing companies.”

Its background in technology has, according to local start-up community builder Curry Khoo, made Penang one of the “best places to run start-ups in hardware and the Internet of Things”.

SOLVING ITS OWN PROBLEMS

It was a bumpy road for Khoo when he began his first start-up back in 2000. “It was really not easy,” he said. “Even though we were funded by corporates, we didn’t even last a year.”

“And then we realised that places like Singapore, KL and even other cities in the US are successful because they have strong communities with meet-ups, support, and this also attracts talent and investors to the cities.”

So instead of travelling to other cities to attend networking events, conferences and meet-ups, Khoo decided to take matters into his own hands and bring the events to Penang. That was how his movement, Tech Events 4 Penang (TE4P) was born in 2012.

Born and bred in Penang, Curry Khoo is a mainstay of the start-up community in the city. (Photo: Lianne Chia)

Today, the self-styled tech hippie is a mainstay of Penang’s burgeoning start-up community. And having solved one problem in Penang’s start-up ecosystem, he’s now moving to plug another gap with his new initiative, Second Startup.

“Now that the local tech community is up and running by itself, it’s time for us to level up,” he said. “If we look at the really new, early-stage start-ups, where is their support, and who do they go to? Corporates usually prefer to look at those who have a bit of traction because if the start-up is too new, the risk is too high.

We want to focus on empowering the early-stage start-ups…this is where I’d like to come in.”

MORE SUPPORT

An increased interest from investors and overseas start-ups in Penang has given the government confidence to pump in even more support for start-ups, added Khoo. 

At the federal level, the Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC) hopes to create a supportive, collaborative and inclusive start-up ecosystem that is accessible by everybody nationwide. It runs initiatives like the e@Stanford programme, which gives Malaysian entrepreneurs the chance to visit Stanford and Silicon Valley for two weeks to learn from industry experts and expand their network.

There is, according to MaGIC, a “growing demand and strong participation” from people in Penang for its programmes.

The CRADLE fund, which is an agency under the Ministry of Finance, was also established to provide funding to early-stage start-ups in Malaysia.

It was this support that Shir Mein from DeliverEat said helped tremendously.

“When we first started out, we didn’t know much..we just Googled funding in Malaysia, and landed on CRADLE,” she said.

“It forced us to refine our ideas further, and actually sit down and do a business plan,” she added. “If we had not gotten the grant we probably wouldn’t have done so much homework, but it’s good homework to do and better to do it earlier rather than later.”

Co-founders of DeliverEat Tan Suan Sear and Leong Shir Mein. (Photo: Lianne Chia)

NEXT STEPS

Inspired by Singapore’s JTC Launchpad, the Penang state government started @CAT, an accelerating platform for emerging tech start-ups and entrepreneurs, in 2015. “We converted the top floor of a very old historical building into a co-sharing space, which we let at very minimum or zero cost for community events,” said InvestPenang’s Ms Loo. “We also have a lot of events and conferences that are going on, where we try to showcase the Penang start-ups as well.”

She added that looking ahead, InvestPenang sees many opportunities in the Internet of Things, hardware and software integration. “Penang could use the intelligence from the manufacturing sector that has been a base for us over the last 40 years, then develop that together with the Internet of Things, so we could be a hub for that.”

But beyond this, Khoo believes there is untapped potential in the area of medical tourism. “Medical costs are getting higher and higher, and even in this small city, we have 4 to 5 private hospitals here,” he said.

“It makes sense for a lot of people to come down here for their medical activities, and then you extend your stay to enjoy the food and street art in George Town.”

He’s also hoping to find a way to merge creative art with technology through refurbishing an old bus depot in the heart of George Town. The space, Hin Bus Depot, currently houses several art galleries and cafes.

Curry hopes the refurbished Hin Bus Depot will give tech start-ups and creative people the chance to network under the same roof. (Photo: Lianne Chia)

“We want to get two different crowds coming under the same roof…the geeks and nerds together with all the creative people,” he said. “We’ll provide them with tools and networks like mentorship, funding and connections.”

“When we have different people from different backgrounds under the same roof, amazing things could start to happen.” 

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What’s brewing: Capsules serve up competition in Singapore’s coffee market

SINGAPORE: These days, Ms Crystal Ling’s morning coffee comes in the form of a teal-coloured, bucket-shaped capsule.

By popping it into a Nespresso machine in her office’s pantry, black coffee covered by a light caramel-coloured froth fills her espresso cup in about 40 seconds.

“I like dark espresso that’s a bit bitter. There’s a café near my office that has what I want but at S$ 7 a cup, it’s not something that I should be having every day,” said the 27-year-old marketing executive, who is contemplating getting her own coffee machine.

“Because these capsules need to be used with the Nespresso machine, I’m thinking of having one at home. My parents say it’s an expensive toy but I think ultimately, it will be cheaper than what I have been spending at cafes previously… The capsules cost less than S$ 1 each and for that price, it’s not bad.”

Banking on novelty, convenience and an array of flavours, coffee capsules and machines, such as those from Nestle’s high-end brand Nespresso, are fast winning over local consumers like Ms Ling. According to research house Euromonitor, single-serve pods – including soft pods made from filter paper and hard pods that are often known as capsules – have been the fastest growing segment in Singapore’s coffee market since 2011, outpacing other segments with average year-on-year growth of nearly 5 per cent in terms of retail value. In comparison, the instant coffee segment grew an average of 2 per cent year-on-year during the same period.

Within this burgeoning segment, Nespresso, which first entered the local market in 2008, remains the dominant player. Nestle’s younger and cheaper range of single-serve coffee Dolce Gusto follows behind in terms of market share, helped by its lower pricing and wider variety of retail channels, noted Euromonitor’s research analyst Andrea Lianto.

Nescafe Dolce Gusto’s latte macchiato series. (Photo: Tang See Kit)

And even amid an increasingly sluggish economy, industry observers remain upbeat that the coffee-in-a-capsule segment will continue to outperform the broader coffee market in the upcoming years.

“With higher disposable income, increased need for convenience and growing interest in high-quality coffee, coffee capsules still have room for growth in Singapore,” said Ms Lianto. “(Industry players) need to educate and convince consumers about the convenience and quality of capsules so that consumers are compelled to pay a premium for the product. The sustainability of capsules also depends on players’ efforts to maintain consumers’ excitement in the category, for example through new flavour launches.”

This optimism is also shared by the market players.

Nespresso Singapore, for instance, believes that its price adjustment in November means that its capsules have become an “affordable luxury experience” that consumers can have on a daily basis. 

“Even with the slowdown, people will still want to enjoy life and have moments of indulgences… if you look at the new Nespresso capsule prices, you will realise that a cup of Nespresso coffee is now an affordable luxury that you can have every day,” country manager Matthieu Pougin told Channel NewsAsia. “This is what we see in our boutiques as well. Even with the economy slowing down over the past two years, people continued to shop at our boutiques.”

Over at Nescafe Dolce Gusto, expectations remain for the brand to see more than 5 per cent growth in the coming years. The Nestle range, which stands for “sweet flavour” in Italian, has logged double-digit growth year-on-year since its foray into Singapore six years ago.

“The Singapore economy is facing some of its toughest challenges now (but) for the coffee capsule segment, there should still be good growth,” said Mr Chow Phee Chat, the brand’s head of business in Singapore. “Currently, the capsule segment remains one of the smallest within the market so we do project that it will still be growing very fast.”

BREWING COMPETITION

But for these brands, a slowing economy that could tighten consumers’ purse strings is not just the only potential challenge looming ahead.

While Nestle’s dual-brand strategy has continued to ensure its dominance in the Singapore capsule market, it is a different picture globally.

Keen competitors such as US single-serve coffee company Keurig Green Mountain and other upstarts that have begun making less-expensive capsules compatible with Nespresso machines, have been eating into Nestle’s global market share. According to Euromonitor, the Swiss food giant controlled 11.1 per cent of the global coffee capsule market in 2015, down from 13 per cent in 2011.

Nescafe Dolce Gusto follows behind Nespresso in terms of market share in the Singapore market. (Photo: Tang See Kit)

In Singapore, a handful of homegrown instant beverage makers like Owl International and Boncafé have rolled out their respective capsule ranges, and there are other brands of Nespresso-compatible pods that can be easily purchased online. While alternative options have emerged, Ms Lianto said the “minimal presence” of these selections means Nestle will likely be unrivalled for now.

But that does not mean that local capsule coffee lovers have not begun exploring other options.

Ms Lim Shiyun, who owns a coffee machine from Nespresso, has bought capsules from other brands such as local café chain The Providore. “I’m quite adventurous when it comes to coffee. Since these capsules work with my Nespresso machine, there’s no harm trying out new flavours,” the 29-year-old said.

Singapore-based Hook Coffee, for one, produces Nespresso-compatible capsules with sustainably-grown coffee beans sourced from around the world. Founded in early-2016, the online business also sells specialty coffee in other brewing methods such as French press and drip bags, and offers a coffee subscription service.

Founders Ernest Ting and Faye Sit told Channel NewsAsia that they introduced capsules to their product line-up last June and since then, sales have been in line with expectations. Given rapid growth in the local capsule market, Mr Ting said the new venture was a no-brainer even if there were significant challenges involved for the young firm.

Founders of Hook Coffee, Ernest Ting and Faye Sit. (Photo: Tang See Kit)

For one, the production of capsules involved much more extensive research and development (R&D), compared to other brewing methods.

“Each pod contains 5.5 grams of coffee and to get the same body and flavour in 30 seconds of extraction time, is very challenging. The roasting technique and the blends have to be precise; even the grinders are different so it’s a very complicated process and a huge amount of R&D investment that goes into making just one pod,” Mr Ting explained.

That is why the introduction of new capsule flavours have been slower than other brewing options, which usually sees new additions once a month, he added.

Meanwhile, to prevent wastage, an average of 10,000 capsules are filled during each production cycle. With such a large-sized production, it is crucial for the start-up to get things right before the release of every new flavour, Ms Sit told Channel NewsAsia. “Especially for a small market like Singapore, a large production batch is also tricky so we have to be really careful and do a lot of market research.”

Despite the difficulties, the two young entrepreneurs still think their five-figure investment into capsules has been worthwhile and remain optimistic on sales, even as competition seems to have been turned up a notch after the market’s biggest player, Nespresso, lowered the prices of its coffee range.

“Twenty per cent of our total sales right now are capsules. That’s the same as our drip bags and achieved within six months… As more people want convenient options, we think there will be an increase,” said Mr Ting.

The 25-year-old added: “Interestingly, when Nespresso lowered their prices, we maintained ours but we didn’t see a drop in subscribers. In fact, it increased slowly so we think consumers are coming to us because we offer a more artisanal option.”

Hook Coffee invested a “five-figure sum” to add Nespresso-compatible capsules to its product line-up. (Photo: Tang See Kit)

PRICE CUTS, NEW PRODUCTS TO GET A SHOT IN THE ARM

Still, industry observers said the nearly 30 per cent price reduction follows Nespresso’s recent adjustments in other markets, and will give the high-end brand a shot in the arm when it comes to competing with lower-priced rivals. For instance, Ristretto and Espresso capsules that were S$ 0.91 each are now S$ 0.68, cheaper than Dolce Gusto’s Espresso Intenso that retails at S$ 11.90 for a box of 16.

Describing Singapore as a “unique market” where “coffee is part of the people’s DNA”, an increasingly discerning taste for coffee among local consumers has spurred Nespresso’s growth over the past eight years, said Mr Pougin. However, he denied that increasing competition was a catalyst for the recent price adjustment, adding that “Nespresso continues to grow in (Singapore) regardless of competition”.

“We didn’t make the decision to decrease the price because of competition,” Mr Pougin told Channel NewsAsia. “The reason we did that is because we have been here for more than eight years and we now have the ability and want to offer the Nespresso experience to a bigger group of consumers.”

Meanwhile, Nescafe Dolce Gusto said it has “no plans to relook (at) its pricing”, primarily because the brand’s competitive edge remains in its capsule beverages that go beyond coffee and its diverse retail locations such as supermarkets.

“We have a place in the market. We offer a variety of beverages not just for coffee enthusiasts… (but) also tea and hot chocolate. We are a coffee system that not only offers good quality coffee, but beverages for the whole family,” said Mr Chow, who added that the brand’s new varieties including healthier options such as its unsweetened Latte Macchiato will continue to “surprise consumers”.

In the meantime, Dolce Gusto is also betting on new coffee systems to help it keep up with competition. The brand’s latest “Eclipse” machine comes with an unconventional circular design and a touch screen interface.

Nescafe Dolce Gusto follows behind Nespresso in terms of market share in the Singapore market. (Photo: Tang See Kit)

DIVERSIFY INTO CAPSULES? MAYBE NOT YET

Nonetheless, there is at least one beverage maker who is opting to sit out of the hype for now.

Mr Desmond Ng, managing director of local instant coffee brand Gold Kili, told Channel NewsAsia that the rising popularity of coffee capsules has had little impact on sales. The 32-year-old household brand also has no plans to follow in the footsteps of other homegrown beverage makers, given that coffee capsules remain “a non-mainstream option” for now and there are consumers who are not willing to splurge on a coffee machine. “As such, a packet of instant coffee, which is usually four times cheaper than a capsule costing around S$ 1, remains more attractive to price-sensitive consumers,” Mr Ng added.

Gold Kili also prides itself on its traditional brew that is achieved by roasting a mixture of Arabica and high-caffeine Robusta coffee beans with sugar or caramel. Even amid the rise of Western-style coffee that uses just Arabica beans, Mr Ng believes that the traditional brew will continue to have its loyal following.

Eurmonitor’s Ms Lianto agrees: “Instant coffee targets a different segment of consumers through a much lower price point than capsule coffee. On average, one serving of instant coffee costs less than one-third of one serving of capsule coffee.

“As such, many instant coffee consumers, especially those who are price-sensitive, find themselves reluctant to shift completely to capsule coffee for their regular caffeine fix.”

However, Gold Kili’s Mr Ng is not ruling out expansion plans to tap on new emerging trends in the local coffee market, such as coming up with specialty coffee bags to attract younger consumers.

“Capsule machines remain expensive and with capsules far from being the mainstream option for consumers, we won’t be heading in that direction for now,” he told Channel NewsAsia. “But we are considering Western-style coffee bags to cater to the tastes of younger consumers. We think there’s still a gap in this market and there’s a business opportunity for us.”

Follow See Kit on Twitter @SeeKitCNA

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Private home prices fall 3.1% in 2016

SINGAPORE: Private home prices in Singapore fell 3.1 per cent in 2016, with both landed and non-landed properties witnessing a drop in prices, according to the latest figures by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) on Thursday (Jan 26). 

The private residential property index also saw a 0.5 per cent dip from 137.9 in the third quarter to 137.2, which is the 13th consecutive quarter of decline. 

For the prices of non-landed private residential properties, there was a month-on-month increase of 0.1 per cent in the Core Central Region (CCR), while prices in the Rest of Central Region (RCR) slid 2 per cent. Prices for those in the Outside Central Region (OCR) declined by 0.6 per cent month on month, figures showed.

For the whole of 2016, prices the non-landed properties segment fell by 2.6 per cent, with the CCR, RCR and OCR declined by 1.2 per cent, 2.8 per cent and 3.4 per cent, respectively. 

As for prices of landed property private homes, it rose 0.8 per cent in the fourth quarter, but decreased 4.5 per cent for the whole year, URA said. 

Rentals for 2016 also fell 4 per cent, compared with the 4.6 per cent decline the year before, it added. 

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Jackie Chan teams up with Bollywood for 'Kung Fu Yoga'

MUMBAI: What do you get when Hong Kong martial arts expert Jackie Chan collaborates with a host of Indian film actors? An action-adventure movie titled ‘Kung Fu Yoga’ of course.

Screen legend Chan was in Mumbai this week to promote his latest flick – a slapstick comedy by Hong Kong director Stanley Tong that also features Bollywood’s Sonu Sood.

‘Kung Fu Yoga’, which is released in China this weekend and in India on Feb 3, centres on two professors who embark on an epic journey to find lost treasure.

Chan plays Chinese archeologist Jack, who pairs up with Indian professor Ashmita, played by Amyra Dastur, for their elaborate adventure in the Chinese and Indian co-produced film.

Their search takes them to Dubai, India, and Tibet where they are ambushed by Sood’s character, the descendant of a rebel army leader, according to movie website imdb.com.

They manage to escape though, presumably using a combination of short, sharp kicks and slaps mixed with some planks and perhaps a downward-facing dog.

Chan, 62, told reporters during his visit to the home of Hindi cinema that he dreams of making a very different type of movie – a Bollywood romance.

“It’s one of my dreams, I want to do it. Ask some Bollywood director to hire me. No more action for me, I want to do dance and do a love story,” the Press Trust of India quoted him as saying on Monday.

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