Kuala Lumpur is still the most competitively-priced city for Asia’s richest people – this is how the prices of luxury items compare between the cities

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The New Paper

Singapore is now the second most expensive city for luxury living, second only to China’s Shanghai, according to the Julius Baer Wealth Report: Asia 2018.

The city state moved up one notch on the report’s Julius Baer Lifestyle Index from last year, beating Hong Kong, which fell from first to third place.

Among the 11 cities – Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai, Mumbai, Taipei, Jakarta, Manila, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, and Tokyo – Kuala Lumpur was the most competitive, retaining its position from 2017.

The index compares a basket of 22 goods and services across these 11 cities. This year, it also included a new His & Hers Index, which compares the cost of grooming for wealthy women and men across Asia.


Julius Baer

As the most expensive city, Shanghai has the highest prices for six of the 22 items measured – hospital room, watch, handbag, wine, jewellery and skin cream.

Singapore was the most expensive place for just two out of 22 items on the list – car and degustation dinner. The cost of the basket of goods and services measured in Singapore rose by 5.4 per cent year-on-year, led by strong price increases in hotel suite (+11.8 per cent) and golf club membership (+26.1 per cent). The strong increase in the club membership was due to the country club not issuing any more new memberships, the report noted.

While Kuala Lumpur was the least expensive, it is also the most expensive place for another six items on the index – property, hotel suite, wine, jewellery, piano and cigar. The same basket of goods and services in Kuala Lumpur registered a fall in price of 3.2 per cent, largely caused by a steep decline in the prices of luxury vehicles.

Luxury homes

Homes at Sentosa Cove, a luxury residential enclave in Sentosa.
The Straits Times

Prices of luxury residential properties in Asia continued to climb this year, on the back of attractive interest rates and limited supply. In Asia, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Singapore were the most expensive cities for luxury property.

While luxury residential property is the third most expensive in Singapore, the city’s luxury homes “remain relatively affordable than in cities like Hong Kong or New York for a similar if not higher standard of living,” the report said.

In Hong Kong, property prices climbed to US$54,307 per sqm, well above Tokyo’s US$40,878 per sqm and Singapore’s US$26,528 per sqm.

Kuala Lumpur, which was the most competitively-priced city, registered average luxury property prices of US$3,680 per sqm.

Luxury cars and jewellery

The interior of a BMW 730i M Sport 55807.
The Business Times

As expected, Singapore remained the most expensive city to purchase a BMQ 7-series car. The new Vehicular Emissions Scheme also resulted in higher taxes on the emissions-heavy sedan, causing prices to surge by 4.3 per cent to US$435,105. This was 32 per cent higher than the second most expensive city, Shanghai.

In comparison, prices in Kuala Lumpur fell 24.3 per cent to RM138,971.

“The Malaysian government’s generous incentives for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) caused a precipitous drop in prices. This in turn led BMW to phase out the 740Li model, replacing it with the 740Le plug-in hybrid model,” the report said.

Kuala Lumpur also registered the most competitive prices for jewellery, at US$41,818 for the Cartier Love Bracelet in white gold and diamond-paved. Singapore was seventh on the list, with a listed price of US$44,426.

Luxury meals

Kobe beef sliders from Cut, a high-end steakhouse by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck.
The Straits Times

In 2018, Singapore also displaced Hong Kong as the most expensive city in Asia to enjoy a fine dining meal.

At US$283, Singapore’s high dining prices are caused by the high cost of quality ingredients airfreighted from around the world, as well as rental costs and higher fixed costs such as labour pricing and foreign labour restrictions, the report added.

Kuala Lumpur, which came in at eighth on the fine dining list, had a registered price of US$143, while Manila was had the lowest price of US$100.

Luxury prices rising

Describing Asia as a “powerhouse of global wealth creation”, Julius Baer’s report said the cost of luxury living in Asia rose by 2.91 per cent on an aggregate basis in US$ terms in 2018, higher than the 1.42 per cent gain in 2017.

According to the bank, the region’s pool of investable assets held by High Net Worth Individuals (HNWI) will grow 160 per cent this decade to reach US$14.5 trillion by 2020.

“Following a strong recovery since 2015, global luxury consumption is expected to moderate alongside a cooling Chinese economy. Yet the longer-term outlook remains rosy premised on structural demand from Chinese millennials and a more prominent female presence in the luxury market,” Julius Baer’s report said.

Julius Baer

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