Friday, 20 July 2018

Demand for banking and real estate workers in Australia is plummeting

JUL 19, 2018, 8:59 AM
Chris Hondros/Getty Images
Growth in Australian job advertisements continues to slow.
Ads placed on Seek’s platform grew by 8.3% in the year to June, down from the average of 13.9% seen in 2017.
Demand for banking and real estate workers has tumbled over the year, fitting with the downturn in the housing market.

While Australian companies are reporting record levels of job vacancies, growth in job advertisements continues to weaken, pointing to a slowdown in hiring in the months ahead.

And in the real estate and finance industry, advertisements are declining sharply, fitting with the downturn underway in Australia’s housing market.

According to Seek’s latest employment report, total advertisements placed on its platform grew by 8.3% in the year to June, continuing to decelerate from the levels seen throughout most of last year.

“While yearly national job ad figures remain positive, it is significantly lower than the national average for the preceding year at 13.9%, marking the first month of non-double-digit year-on-year growth since May 2017,” said Kendra Banks, Managing Director of Seek Australia and New Zealand.

As seen in the chart below from Seek, while a majority of industries have recorded growth in advertisements over the past year — led by mining and those dominated by the public sector — an increasing number are now recording negative annual growth, led by weakening demand for banking and real estate workers.

Advertisements for banking and financial services positions tumbled 16% over the year, while those in real estate fell by 13%.

That’s a clear sign the downturn in Australia’s housing market is having impact on demand for workers, something that appears unlikely to change anytime soon given widespread expectations that housing market conditions are likely to remain soft for the foreseeable future.

Ads for designs and architecture workers also slid by 10% over the year.

At the other end of the spectrum, firmer commodity prices are clearly helping to lift demand for workers, albeit off a low base.

Many industries either within or closely linked to the public sector are also recording strong growth in advertisements.

The data from Seek includes duplicate job advertisements and refreshed job ads, meaning it does not always match the movement in new advertisements placed during a given month.

Australia’s June jobs report will be released later today. In line with the moderation in job advertisements, economists expect a solid 16,500 increase in employment, leaving the unemployment rate steady at 5.4%.

Australian Housing Costs Rival New York’s, but Boom May Be Ending

A view of Dover Heights and neighboring areas of central Sydney, Australia. Housing prices have slipped slightly this year in the city after a steep run-up in recent years.CreditCameron Spencer/Getty Images

By Isabella Kwai and Adam Baidawi NEY — The home wasn’t perfect. The two-bedroom townhouse lacked parking and a backyard. Its proximity to a major road and a train station made for noisy evenings.

But like many young Australians, Georgia Blackie felt she needed to buy it or rent for the rest of her life.

She lives in Melbourne, one of the world’s wildest and most expensive real estate markets. The values of dwellings there have risen by more than 50 percent in the last six years alone. In Sydney, Australia’s other big real estate capital, the increase has been even higher. The two cities are among the world’s least affordable for housing, according to one survey, worse than famously pricey places like New York and London. Mortgage debt puts Australian households among the world’s biggest borrowers.

Lately it has cooled off, though, and people like Ms. Blackie may pay the price.

She and her partner closed on the townhouse last August for 720,000 Australian dollars, or about $533,000. But since the market’s peak in November, neighborhood home values have slipped about 6 percent.

“If property prices do go backward,” said Ms. Blackie, a 31-year-old lawyer, “where does that leave you?”

A real estate bacchanalia in recent years in Sydney and Melbourne turned some homeowners into millionaires and left many millennials believing they would never be able to afford homes, sometimes leading to riftsbetween the two groups. Now the market’s party is taking a pause.

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Nobody is predicting an American-style housing crisis just yet. In fact, many economists predict that housing prices will soon rebound.
Construction in Melbourne, one of the world’s wildest and most expensive real estate markets.CreditMick Tsikas/Reuters

But a sustained slump could crimp consumer spending and pressure homeowners who borrowed too much under generous mortgage terms at a time of stagnant wage growth. Global interest rates are rising too, which means many Australians could be facing higher interest payments, thanks to the popularity of adjustable-rate mortgages.

If many households are forced to sell, “to me that’s the biggest match that could ignite things,” said Richard Holden, a professor of economics at the University of New South Wales.

While price increases elsewhere in recent years have been more modest, Sydney and Melbourne account for the lion’s share of Australian real estate. They make up about 40 percent of the population and a majority of the property market value. Home values in both cities dropped last year, in some places in Sydney by more than 10 percent, according to Corelogic, a property data provider. So far this year they have dropped more than 2 percent in Sydney and almost 2 percent in Melbourne.

The decline has a number of causes, including new restrictions on foreign buyers, which hindered wealthy émigrés and investors from China. But a major factor is that Australians probably could not take much more. Prices, many experts say, simply rose too high too quickly.

“We are on the edge of a precipice,” said Martin North, principal analyst for Digital Finance Analytics, an independent research and advisory firm. “All of the forces that have driven the home sector and the debt sector higher in the last 20 years are all coming to a critical inflection point.”

All of this has taken some air out of what some experts describe as a bubble, as a recent Saturday-morning auction in the Sydney suburb of Ryde showed.

The owners of a three-bedroom villa there were hoping it would fetch A$1.25 million. In June 2017, as many as 90 percent of homes put up for auction each week were sold. These days, less than half are selling.

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A roundabout in southern Sydney. The city, along with Melbourne, has long been a center of fevered real estate buying and selling.CreditCameron Spencer/Getty Images

When the auctioneer asked for an opening bid, he received only tight-lipped smiles and an awkward silence. A kookaburra cackled. No sale was made that day.
“It’s a bit nerve-racking,” said Chris Jabbour, a young real estate agent who welcomed people through the door before the auction. “You don’t really know what’ll happen next.”

So far, the economic damage has been minimal. Mortgage delinquency rates were largely stable last year, according to S & P Global, a ratings firm, though they are expected to rise this year. Moody Analytics, a financial intelligence firm, forecasts that home prices will resume rising by year’s end.

Still, signs of stress are showing. Mr. North, the analyst from Digital Financial Analytics, estimates that of 3.5 million mortgages where the owner lives in the home, almost a third of the households have incomes close to or less than their expenditures. He predicts that at least 50,000 homeowners may default in the next 12 months.

The long run-up in housing prices mirrors Australia’s boomtime economy, which has not seen a recession in more than a quarter-century. Demographics helped Sydney and Melbourne in particular, as the cities attracted both Australians and immigrants.

The run-up has put local home buyers under pressure. After Switzerland, Australia has the highest ratio of household debt to economic output among a group of nations that includes the United States, Europe, China and other Asian countries, according to the Bank for International Settlements, an organization that links up central banks. About one-quarter of Australian households have less than one month’s extra put aside in savings to make the next mortgage payment, the country’s central bank said in February.

Domain, an Australian real estate website, found in June that the average Sydney couple would take nearly nine years to save for a 20 percent deposit on an entry-level home near the city’s central districts.

Foreign nationals and the practice of real estate service

July 18, 2018 | 9:45 pm
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Taxwise Or Otherwise

By Al Whilan A. Baljon

The real estate industry is rapidly changing. Shared workspaces and serviced offices are sprouting to meet demand for mobility, connectivity, and flexibility. Townships and mixed-use developments are sprawling inside and outside Metro Manila. Aggressive government infrastructure projects and road network expansions advance real estate development.

This growth must ideally be complemented by skilled real estate service practitioners. Currently, aspiring real estate service practitioners (i.e., brokers, appraisers, and consultants) must graduate from a four-year degree program and pass the related licensure examination. Unlicensed real estate service practitioners may suffer a penalty of not less than P200,000 or imprisonment of not less than four years, or both, upon the discretion of the court.

Real estate services may be performed through a corporation. However, authorized persons acting for the corporation must be composed of duly registered and licensed real estate brokers, appraisers, or consultants, as the case may be.

Foreign citizens may also practice real estate services in the Philippines, subject to conditions imposed by the Professional Regulations Commission (PRC) and foreign treaties on reciprocity. A special/temporary permit may be issued to foreign citizens whose services are urgently needed in the absence or unavailability of local real estate service practitioners.

Given the advent of international real estate brokerage and consulting corporations in the Philippines, can foreigners invest in corporations engaged in the business of real estate services?

According to an opinion by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), no foreign participation is allowed in this industry. Hence, corporations engaged in the practice of real estate service should be 100% owned by Filipinos based on the provisions of the 1987 Constitution, earlier versions of the Foreign Investment Negative Lists (FINL), and previous decisions of the SEC.

While the SEC took note of the 10th FINL which expressly allows foreigners to participate in real estate services, it did not adopt the shift to a liberal policy; instead, the SEC sought clarification from the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the lead agency tasked to endorse the amendments to the FINL. Incidentally, the issue may be settled in the forthcoming 11thFINL, which is currently under review by the Office of the President.

At present, the Senate is also planning to review Republic Act 7042, or the Foreign Investments Act of 1991 — the law which requires the formulation of the FINL. The Senate wants to determine whether the 27-year-old law is still “appropriate to the present times” and whether the Philippines is reaping the rewards envisioned by our lawmakers when it was drafted.

The penalty for violating the Foreign Investments Act is steep. Any person who participates, aids, or abets any violation of the law shall be subjected to a fine not exceeding P100,000. If the offense is committed by a juridical entity, the fine will be assessed as a fraction of 1% of total paid-in capital but not more than P5,000,000. The president and/or officials responsible for the violation shall also be subjected to a fine not exceeding P200,000.

In reviewing the Foreign Investments Act, the Senate must also look at Commonwealth Act No. 108, or the Anti-Dummy Law, which prohibits foreigners from being appointed or elected to management positions in wholly or partially nationalized industries. The Senate should review whether foreign practitioners can be allowed to hold management positions in corporations practicing professions.

Historically, government intervention tends to increase given the passage of time. However, the current administration’s policy towards liberalization of foreign investment is obvious in how it is openly encouraged. Perhaps this is its way of attracting foreign investors to activities which significantly contribute to the economy. The shift in policy may also be an implied admission that a prohibitory nationalistic policy is a handicap in the current global marketplace.

In fact, the Office of the President issued Memorandum Order No. 16, directing NEDA and its member agencies to exert utmost efforts to lift or ease foreign equity restrictions in various areas. This includes the “practice of professions where allowing foreign equity participation will redound to the benefit of the public.”

Understandably, local professionals are concerned about the influx of foreign practitioners — being competitors in their area of expertise. But lest we forget, competition is necessary for a healthy and vibrant economy. After all, they can bring their skill, knowledge, and experience to complement the local work force.

Ultimately, we have to accept that foreign real estate brokers, appraisers, and consultants are drivers of foreign investment, as well as real estate innovators who can introduce foreign practices and trends in the local market. However, most of them will not be coming to hand out flyers on the street — but participate in large real estate service corporations in the country.

The views or opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Isla Lipana & Co. The content is for general information purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for specific advice.

Al Whilan A. Baljon is a Senior Consultant at the Tax Services Department of Isla Lipana & Co., the Philippine member firm of the PwC network.

First sign of relief as analysts forecast Hong Kong’s residential property fever to break in second half

Property analysts warn of rising headwinds that will spur a wave of deflation for the city’s property market in the second half

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 July, 2018, 9:03am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 July, 2018, 4:28pm


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Hong Kong’s runaway home prices may finally see some cooling in the second half, according to analysts.

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Residential home prices are likely to drop 7 per cent in the July to December period, as new supply launches and a downbeat stock market weigh on confidence, according to Citibank, the first major financial institution to call for the onset of a correction this year.

However, it is not clear whether prices will end up in negative territory for the year, as home prices rocketed 13 per cent in the first half, outpacing Citi’s expectation for a 10 per cent rise.

“Any major Hong Kong stock market correction could also kick-off a home price correction in the second half,” said Ken Yeung, a property analyst for Citi, in a report released early this week. “The summer holidays mark the start of a traditionally low season for transaction volumes. With home prices up 47 per cent since their low in March 2016 and more new launches expected in the second half of 2018, homeowners could be increasingly tempted to lock in the huge gains clocked over the past few years.”

Hong Kong’s proposed vacancy tax could have this one unintended consequence

Prudential Brokerage associate director Alvin Cheung Chi-wai also cautioned of a trend change in real estate.

“There could be room for a small adjustment, a 5 per cent drop at the most in the second half, taking into account the interest rate increase and the fact that fewer and fewer people can afford to buy and thus cannot enter the market,” he said.

Recent measures announced by the government, including a vacancy tax on property developers who hoard empty, unsold flats, will also help to ease supply bottlenecks.

“The vacancy tax and new housing policies will affect the sales and pricing strategy of new launches going forward,” said Denis Ma, head of research at consultancy JLL, in a report on Tuesday.

Developers have sped up product launches ahead of the vacancy tax, which could be equivalent to 4 per cent to 5 per cent of the value of the property. The proposal has yet to be approved by lawmakers in the Legislative Council.

Meanwhile, Wheelock Properties offered flexible mortgage options to help drum up sales at The Savannah development in Tseung Kwan O, in a move designed to entice buyers for homes unlocked by the tax.

Mortgages of up to 70 per cent of the value of a home are available for luxury units at The Savannah, under the special loan scheme supported by the developer.

Villas in the development are expected to fetch about HK$60 million (US$7.64 million) each, or about HK$30,000 per square foot. In this case, buyers could borrow up to HK$42 million, or about HK$12 million more than the standard loan available under rules set by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority.

Opinion: Hong Kong’s stamp duties have worked to stabilise the housing market

“Banks can only provide mortgages with a loan-to-value ratio of 50 per cent for flats worth more than HK$10 million, according to the Monetary Authority,” said Sharmaine Lau Yuen-yuen, chief vice-president of mReferral Mortgage Brokerage Services.

“If the buyers already own other properties, the ratio will be further reduced by 10 per cent. Then you need at least HK$6 million in cash to buy homes worth more than HK$10 million.”

Cheung said highly leveraged buyers would “face a higher risk of having difference in the flat value collected [by lenders] should home prices reverse the rising trend amid a potential rise in interest rates.”

Hong Kong’s secondary property market has risen for 26 consecutive months, according to government data.

“Hong Kong’s home price is not just high, it is insanely expensive,” said Nicole Wong, regional head of property research, CLSA. “We could only hope that some accidents happen which suddenly reverse the growth. For example the trade war between US and China continues to worsen and impact the city’s economy or the increase of interest rates is bigger than expected.”

Friday, 29 June 2018

Australian housing sales' continuing decline, in one chart

Best Asia Real Estate Editors Comments:

As I have been predicting since last year Australian real estate in most major cities, except perhaps Perth is on it's way down.

I just returned from Sydney, and can can confirm that the real estate market is pretty gloomy.

This real estate downturn in Austrian real estate may take longer and be more dramatic than normal.

Why, because I find most Australians believe that even if they are in a downturn they feel it will be short and they better just hold.

I on the other hand believe this is going to be a very dramatic downturn, similar to what we had in Bali in 2014 

Before it's all over prices may drop 20 to 50%. 

Probably the more expensive the property the more it will drop.

Australians who have substantial equity in real estate, especially baby boomers, should consider selling now and moving to greener pastures such as Bali only 2.5 to 5.5 hrs away.

They can buy a brand-new 200 m² private two-bedroom private villa with private swimming pool in a great area for as little as $200,000. Also the cost of living is 63% less than Sydney.

Bali Luxury Retirement Villas Starting at A $198.000

Bali Luxury Retirement Villas Starting at A $198.000

Bali Luxury Retirement Villas Starting at A $198.000

 Contact me for more information about this opportunity that is not even published yet.

Right now, and largely reflecting the housing market slowdown seen in Sydney and Melbourne over the past 12 months, not only are transaction volumes below the average seen over the past decade, they're also moving back towards levels last seen during the global financial crisis. Rob Homer
by David Scutt

If the chart below is anything to go by, times are getting tougher for any individual, business or government that relies upon turnover in Australia's housing market.

From CoreLogic, it shows the amount of settled housing transactions in Australia on a six-month moving average basis.

For clarity, CoreLogic says off-the-plan sales are not counted until completion, meaning there will be some upwards revision to recent sales volumes given the high volume of units currently under construction across the country.

Right now, and largely reflecting the housing market slowdown seen in Sydney and Melbourne over the past 12 months, not only are transaction volumes below the average seen over the past decade, they're also moving back towards levels last seen during the global financial crisis.

The amount of settled housing transactions in Australia on a six-month moving average basis. CoreLogic

"Nationally, 465,788 settled house and unit sales transacted over the 12 months to May 2018 with the annual number of settled sales 7.7 per cent lower over the year," says Cameron Kusher, research analyst at CoreLogic.

"The monthly data points to a declining trend in transactions with settled sales now sitting lower than the decade average."

Explaining the decline in the national measure, CoreLogic says settled transactions fell heavily in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane — Australia's largest housing markets — compared with the levels seen in the year to May 2017.

Over the past year, settled sales fell by 13.5 per cent in Sydney, 12.9 per cent in Melbourne and 12.1 per cent in Brisbane.

They also slid by 7.4 per cent in Hobart, 5.8 per cent in Darwin and 10 per cent in Darwin over the year compared with the prior 12 months.

Only Adelaide and Perth, at 2.5 per cent and 1 per cent respectively, saw sales increase from 12 months earlier.

Given the likelihood the recent Sydney and Melbourne-led national price downturn will continue in the period ahead, Kusher says settled sales will probably fall further, creating challenging market conditions for those reliant upon turnover in the housing market.

"With dwelling values now falling and tighter credit conditions it is reasonable to anticipate that transaction volumes will continue to trend lower," he says.

"Fewer sales means less turnover, which means less commission and less stamp duty revenue for state governments."

This story first appeared in Business Insider. Read it here or follow BusinessInsider Australia on Facebook.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Alexa for Hospitality - bringing the voice-activated device into hotel rooms.


News | Technology
Amazon finally talks about travel, launches Alexa for Hospitality
By Kevin May | June 19, 2018

Amazon's first official foray into the travel industry for a few years is here: Alexa for Hospitality - bringing the voice-activated device into hotel rooms.

The ecommerce giant's Echo will now allow guests to ask questions about hotel information, contact guest services, play music in their room and tap into other hotel-related services.

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The service is initially available to hoteliers by invitation-only, Amazon says, with Marriott International being one of the product's launch customers for deployment at a number of its properties in the Marriott, Westin, St Regis, Aloft and Autograph Collection brands.

In addition to connecting with hotel-based services and tools, guests can talk to Alexa to take control of in-room services such as lights, thermostats, blinds and entertainment.

Existing Alexa "skills" can also be customized by the property for inclusion on each device.
Roll-out and additional features

Amazon, which hopes to see the first devices put into use during the summer of 2018, says it will later allow guests to connect their existing Amazon accounts to the in-room devices so that they can play music from their own playlists or listen to audiobooks.

The Alexa for Hospitality service is also being extended to vacation rental companies (RedAwning) for inclusion in their properties.

The new Alexa devices have been created by Amazon to connect with in-house hotel technology and platforms, Amazon says, "eliminating the need to retrofit or upgrade existing investments".

In addition, features for hotels developed by existing providers such as DigiValet, Intelity, Nuvola or Volara, will allow guests to make requests on those platforms via the in-room devices.

Amazon vice president, Daniel Rausch, says: "Customers tell us they love how easy it is to get information, enjoy entertainment, and control connected devices by simply asking Alexa, and we want to offer those experiences everywhere customers want them.

"Alexa for Hospitality makes your hotel stay a little more like being at home and gives hospitality providers new ways to create memorable stays for their guests."

Marriott says many of its guests are already using voice-activated technology in their homes, so it wants to "extend that convenience to their travel experience".

Jennifer Hsieh, vice president customer experience innovation at Marriott International, says: "Guests of Charlotte Marriott City Center and Marriott Irvine Spectrum will be among the first to experience a curated list of Alexa for Hospitality features.

"We will be evaluating guest feedback and adoption to inform how we expand the skills, features, and functionality offered through Alexa in our hotels."
Travel focus?

Amazon has been widely tipped for some time to take advantage of its dominant position in ecommerce and make a move on the travel industry.

Ill-fated attempts at hotel sales were introduced and quickly withdrawn during 2015.

But many have suggested that the opportunity is too big to ignore and either voice-related services or other products are simply a matter of when rather than if.

A recent study by OAG found that 44% of consumers would be comfortable booking their trips with Amazon, beating the next web giant in the list (Facebook) to a distant second place with 14%.
All about Amazon

Episode 9 of PhocusWire's PundIT Show podcast took an in-depth look at the Amazon opportunity in travel.

Artificial Intelligence

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Bali and The world Celebrates Islam's Most Important Day, Idul Fitri

We wish all Muslims in Bali, Indonesia and the world 
A very happy Idul Fitri June 15th. 2018

Selamat Hari Raya Idul Fitri 1 Syawal 1439 H

Mohon Maaf Lahir Dan Batin, 

PT. B.A.L.I., PT. Bali Luxury Villas, Best Asia Real Estate & Bellefontaine Family

Eid al-Fitr

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"Hari Raya" redirects here. For Feast of the Sacrifice which is also known as Hari Raya in several countries, see Eid al-Adha.
عيد الفطر
Eid al-Fitr (ʻĪd al-Fiṭr)
Feast of Breaking the Fast
Celebrating Eid in Tajikistan 10-13-2007.jpg
Eid al-Fitr meal, Tajikistan
Official nameArabicعيد الفطر
‘Īd al-Fiṭr
Also calledThe Sugar Feast, the Sweet Festival, the Lesser Eid, the Ramadan Feast, the Feast of Fasting,
Observed byIslam and Muslims
SignificanceMarks the end of Ramadanfasting
CelebrationsFamily and friends visits, traditional sweet dishes, using perfume, wearing new clothes,giving gifts, etc.
ObservancesZakat al-Fitr charityEid prayers
2016 date July   6th (± 1 day)

Eid al-Fitr (Arabicعيد الفطر‎ ʻĪd al-FiṭrIPA: [ʕiːd al fitˤr], "festival of breaking of the fast"), also called Feast of Breaking the Fast, the Sugar FeastBayram (Bajram), the Sweet Festival or Hari Raya Puasa[1] and the Lesser Eid, is an important religious holidaycelebrated by Muslims worldwide that marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month offasting (sawm). The religious Eid is a single day during which Muslims are not permitted to fast. The holiday celebrates the conclusion of the 29 or 30 days of dawn-to-sunset fasting during the entire month of Ramadan. The day of Eid, therefore, falls on the first day of the month of Shawwal. The date for the start of any lunar Hijri month varies based on the observation of new moon by local religious authorities, so the exact day of celebration varies by locality. However, in most countries, it is generally celebrated on the same day as Saudi Arabia.
Eid al-Fitr has a particular Salat (Islamic prayer) consisting of two Rakats (units) and generally offered in an open field or large hall. It may be performed only in congregation (Jama’at) and, has an additional extra six Takbirs (raising of the hands to the ears while saying "Allāhu Akbar", literally "God is greatest"), three of them in the beginning of the first raka'ah and three of them just before Ruku' in the second raka'ah in the Hanafi school of Sunni Islam.[2] Other Sunni schools usually have twelve Takbirs, seven in the first, and five at the beginning of the second raka'ah. This Eid al-Fitr salat is, depending on which juristic opinion is followed, Fard (obligatory), Mustahabb (strongly recommended, just short of obligatory) or mandoob (preferable).
Muslims believe that they are commanded by Allah, as mentioned in the Quran, to continue their fast until the last day of Ramadan[3] and pay the Zakat and fitra before offering the Eid prayers.

Demand for banking and real estate workers in Australia is plummeting

DAVID SCUTT JUL 19, 2018, 8:59 AM Chris Hondros/Getty Images Growth in Australian job advertisements continues to slow. Ads placed on Se...