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China's tightening moves to speed up property sales

HONG KONG: China's series of policy tightening measures to prevent a property bubble from bursting will likely speed up sales of some projects as prices in top tier cities fall, analysts and industry executives said on Monday, Oct 11.

Since April, China has announced a range of measures to curb the sector that is in danger of overheating, including raising downpayments for home purchases and requiring banks to conduct stress tests in case of sharp housing price declines.

Earlier on Monday, sources told Reuters China has raised reserve requirements for six large commercial banks by 50 basis points on a temporary basis, a surprise move to drain cash from the economy, but avoid over-tightening.

"Some developers would speed up project sales from the second half of this year to the first half next year so as to reduce their reliance on loans from banks with the government's measures to reduce liquidity," Evergrande Chief Executive James Xia told a news conference on Monday.

Last week, Shanghai issued new rules to limit home buyers to one new apartment and will impose a revised land appreciation tax. A newspaper also reported that Shenzhen would prohibit local families from buying a third home and those who don't pay local taxes would be barred from buying any unit.

Property tax expected

China will likely introduce a property tax on a trial basis to further clamp down speculation in the sector, especially in first tier cities where prices remain high, though the market is mixed on when the tax might be launched.

Xia said there was a slim possibility that the trial property tax would be introduced this year, though Nie Meisheng, president of the semi-official China Real Estate Chamber of Commerce, told a forum in Beijing earlier on Monday that it would be launched in months.

With the government's series of measures announced this year to cool the property sector, housing prices in top-tier Chinese cities will probably fall by 10 percent over the next 6-12 months, ratings agency Standard & Poor's said.

China's housing prices in top cities, such as Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, had fallen by about 10 percent as of the end of August from a peak in April, before the impact of tightening measures started to have a negative impact on the market, S&P credit analyst Bei Fu said.

"We expect such corrections to deepen in the next 6-12 months," Fu said in a media teleconference after the ratings agency issued a report on China's property sector, although she added that the corrections would not be as sharp as in 2008.

"In 2008, we've actually seen probably a 20, 30 percent downward correction in a timeframe of six to nine months. So this time, it's going to more moderate, kind of gradual downward adjustment," she said. Some analysts expect the impact of tightening moves impacting the property market for several months to come.

"We are not so optimistic on the short-term, believing that the government will not easily surrender its current tightening efforts, which have a lagging effect, and will be felt more acutely in the first half of next year," said Wee Liat Lee, regional head of property at Samsung Securities. -- Reuterss
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