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Wealthy Chinese builders set records for residential land prices

Wealthy Chinese builders set records for residential land prices

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SINGAPORE — Chinese developers ploughed over US$5.1 billion (S$7.1 billion) into the Asia-Pacific residential market in the first three months of this year, a report from property consultancy Knight Frank showed yesterday.

In Singapore, the wealthy Chinese builders have set records for residential land prices, both in Government Land Sales (GLS) tenders and in the collective sale market, helping to boost sentiment in the housing sector but squeezing the profit margins of local builders. Upcoming executive condo  launches include Hundred Palms, Anchorvale Lane EC,  while existing ones include Parc Life  EC, Signature at Yishun,  Brownstone EC, Visionaire EC, Inz Residence EC, The Criterion EC and Northwave EC, The Terrace EC,  The Vales EC, , Sol Acres EC and The  Bellewoods EC. Hundred Palms Residences details and Hundred Palms EC show flat will be available shortly.

According to Knight Frank’s Asia-Pacific Residential Review, the growth in outbound activity by mainland Chinese developers has been one of the key trends over the past decade, with volumes going from practically zero in 2009 to more than US$2.5 billion last year. From 2012 to last year, their favourite destination was Australia (36.5 per cent) along with other key markets including Hong Kong (23.7 per cent), Malaysia (19.7 per cent) and Singapore (15.4 per cent).

Mr Nicholas Holt, Knight Frank’s Asia-Pacific head of research, said that following the flurry of cooling measures introduced in major mainland cities and the recently enforced capital controls, Chinese developers are expected to invest more money in Hong Kong and smaller Tier 3 mainland cities this year, besides overseas markets like Singapore.

The inflow of Chinese capital has made a big impact in Singapore: Last week, units of China’s Nanshan Group and Logan Property submitted the winning bid above S$1 billion for a land parcel in Stirling Road, the first time that a purely residential site on the GLS programme has exceeded that price quantum.

In May last year, Chinese developer Qingjian Realty bought the 358-unit privatised HUDC estate Shunfu Ville for S$638 million, marking the first large en bloc deal in nine years.

Within a couple of weeks of the Shunfu Ville deal, Qingjian sent in the highest bid of S$301 million for a mixed residential and commercial site in Bukit Batok.

“Along with emerging signs of recovery in Singapore, competition for residential land is set to heighten as both Singapore-based and foreign developers jump on the bandwagon, possibly prompting the unwinding of GLS supply and spurring collective sale activities,” said Ms Alice Tan, director and head of consultancy and research at Knight Frank Singapore.

Last year, some S$2.6 billion worth of transactions were reported in the Singapore residential GLS space, of which 58 per cent comprised Singapore developers while Japanese investors made up 24 per cent.

However, in the year to date in 2017, China and Hong Kong developers accounted for S$1.3 billion out of the S$2.1 billion transacted in residential GLS tenders, or a share of 62 per cent, the Knight Frank report showed.

Mr Desmond Sim, head of research for Singapore and South-east Asia at property consultancy CBRE, said: “The immediate impact is that the whole investor landscape is widened with more players in the field.

“With more players, prices will be competitive, especially from overseas players where the source of funding and debt may differ from the traditional developer profiles that the market was used to.”

Ms Christine Li, director of research at property consultancy Cushman & Wakefield, said: “The influx of Chinese capital will lead to increased competition for GLS sites and result in higher winning bid prices. As such, local developers will have to accept lower profit margins in order to place competitive bids against aggressive Chinese developers.”

While the record high land prices may signal that the bottoming of the housing market is getting more likely, a rebound will need to be underpinned by stronger macro-economic indicators, such as sustained economic growth and labour market confidence, Mr Sim added.

The influx of Chinese money into the property market here does not necessarily translate directly into higher home prices, analysts said.

Mr Ong Kah Seng, research head at property firm R’ST Research, said: “Chinese developers are coming here with a different objective. Singapore is a highly regarded residential property market and it reflects the expertise of developers in many ways. Chinese developers will want to have a footprint here to showcase their Singapore projects back home or other markets in the region and may not mind selling the units even at lower margins.”

Mr Alan Cheong, head of research at property firm Savills Singapore, said: “For developers, it is a bitter-sweet kind of a situation. Most developers have unsold inventory which may turn easy to sell as people will expect higher selling prices of future properties given the higher bids. Bitter, as developers will not like to lose out on prime land opportunities and will have to make higher bids to compete with Chinese players.”

Ms Li said that the Government is not expected to impose any new regulations on Chinese or other foreign investment in the Singapore property market.

This is because developers are already required to sell all units in their projects within five years to avoid the Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty remission clawback, which will limit the extent to which developers can pass on price increases to home buyers.

Buoyed by Chinese money, total cross-border residential land investment activity in the Asia-Pacific has risen by 136.9 per cent over the last decade to more than US$42 billion last year, compared to US$17.8 billion in 2007, the Knight Frank report showed.
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