China Buying More Global Property

Analysts at Savills Research in China note that more Chinese investors, both at the individual and commercial level, are buying up more property in international markets than ever …

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Analysts at Savills Research in China note that more Chinese investors, both at the individual and commercial level, are buying up more property in international markets than ever before. Chinese investors first flooded nearby Singapore and Hong Kong with investment dollars, but after tight controls and waning opportunity in the homeland, now many are seeking properties in gateway cities and communities elsewhere. The firm estimates that China’s investment in U.S. properties has risen from $900 million in 2010 to $5.6 billion in 2012 and is on track to exceed those numbers this year. For more on this continue reading the following article from Property Wire.

Investment by Chinese firms in overseas real estate have grown spectacularly over the last three years, up from US$900 million in 2010 to US$5.6 billion in 2012, according to new figures.

This year investment volumes have already exceeded those levels thanks to many high profile deals in key gateway cities, says the latest report from Savills Research China, with key cities like London, New York and Sydney regarded as safe investments.

The firm adds that this trend is likely to continue for many years to come as China further integrates with the rest of the world and new sources of capital gain traction in overseas markets. Investment volumes could conservatively continue to grow at 20% per annum over the next decade.

After being a net recipient of investment for more than two decades, China is beginning to send its money offshore. This process started with individuals picking up investment and self use residential properties, and continued as developers snapped up prime development sites and insurers and sovereign wealth funds purchase prime assets and strategic property portfolios.

Chinese individuals have long been subject to stringent capital controls, yet as the economy grows and integrates with the rest of the world much of this money finds its way into the property markets, the favored investment product of many Chinese.

While the percentage of Chinese nationals investing overseas is small, the absolute number compared with the population of some of the first markets they invested in is huge. For example, property markets in Hong Kong and Singapore were inundated with wealthy Chinese buyers from 2008 to 2012, resulting in such a rapid growth in prices that the governments had to enforce tough stamp duties in order to restrain the amount of money flooding in.

Chinese investors have now moved onto other markets where, although they account for a relatively small portion of buyers, their numbers are rising rapidly, according to James Macdonald, head of Savills Research, China.

He points out that Chinese nationals are seeking capital security, access to education and healthcare, permanent residency and citizenship. At the same time, a much stronger renminbi has made post global financial crisis investment opportunities seem much more affordable.

Also, with the slowing of the domestic market and the increasing risk profile of the China market, Chinese developers and investors are looking to diversify their portfolios to include overseas properties.

Each entity has adopted different approaches. Developers have typically looked to join with a local partner, focusing on gateway cities, with most developments including residential components. Insurance companies, just starting to invest, look like they will be focusing on established income-producing commercial developments. Sovereign wealth funds are co-investing in logistics portfolios in key trading partners’ countries, while also pursuing alternative asset classes like student housing in the UK, as well as more traditional core commercial assets.

‘What is being seen at the moment is the opening salvo or the exploratory foray for what is expected to be a much bigger wave of capital in coming years,’ explained Macdonald.

Chinese investors are eager to gain exposure to safe haven, high yield, and stable price property markets in the west. Key investors at the moment are insurance companies, sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) and developers.

Insurance companies have RMB7.7 trillion assets under management with potentially up to 10% able to be invested in property. Ping’an Insurance was the first Chinese insurance company to invest in overseas property markets with the acquisition of Lloyds Building in London for US$392 million (RMB2.4 billion).

China’s SWFs have a similar amount of assets at US$1.2 trillion (RMB7.4 trillion). CIC and SAFE, both ranked in the top five SWFs in the world, have been particularly active.

Both China’s Public Pension Fund and National Social Security Fund are currently barred from investing in property, but could bring a great deal more money into the market, should deregulation occur.

The top 10 developers in China ranked by sales in the first half of 2013 generated RMB487.4 billion (US$79.5 billion) in revenue, selling more than 46 million square meters in the first six months of the year. Developers such as Greentown, Vanke, Wanda, and China Overseas Land & Investment are already making sizeable investments in key gateway cities such as Los Angeles, New York, London and Sydney.

Savills Research China says that the flow of capital may come in fits and starts, and is dependent on several conditions, including opportunities in the home and overseas markets, the government regulatory framework and priorities, the development of internal mechanisms, and the existence of manpower.

‘However, as China’s importance on the global stage continues to grow and China’s involvement in international affairs deepens, so will the expansion of Chinese companies, developers and investors as they continue to evolve,’ Macdonald points out.

This article was republished with permission from Property Wire.

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