Hong Leong Group may double property investments in China to RM31 billion

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian conglomerate Hong Leong Group's unit GuocoLand Ltd may double its real estate  investments in China to some 66 billion yuan (RM31 billion) within two years in anticipation that lawmakers move to cool the property market in the world's third largest economy will create viable investment opportunities, Bloomberg reported.

The company had indicated a year earlier that it intended to pump in 33 billion yuan in new commercial  real estate there. Violet Lee, managing director of Singapore-based GuocoLand's China operations was quoted as saying that the group planned to boost its investments in integrated projects within major cities as well as provincial  centres and grow its landbank.

"We should very easily double that," Lee said.

She also said  the company planned to take advantage of the withdrawal of the 78 state-owned companies where  real estate is not a core business, from the property market in China as directed by the government.  

According to GuocoLand's website, the firm has an established presence in China since its foray there in 1994.  The group has undertaken residential, commercial, retail and hospitality projects across  major cities such as  Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing and Tianjin

Notable projects by the developer there include the Dongzhimen mixed development in Beijing, involving some  600,000 sq m in combined gross floor area. The project with residential, commercial, retail and hospitality  components also includes an inter-modal transportation hub.

In Shanghai, GuocoLand is the developer of the luxury condominium project - Central Park, near the city’s prime  entertainment area.

Policymakers in China are embarking on serious measures to curb a potential real estate bubble there. Home  prices in China have gone up so much with no sign of easing anytime soon, making property prices less affordable  for the general public.

This has led the central government to initiate tighter credit policies and more tax levies to deter speculators  from driving property prices higher.  According to the National Bureau of Statistics, China’s urban property  prices rose 11.7% in March, the biggest annual gain since July 2005.

Lawmakers have indicated that second-home buyers seeking credit must fork out at least a 50% downpayment, up  from the previous 40% of the property price.

More recently, real estate developers were ordered not to take pre-payments from buyers for uncompleted  residential units without official approval.

Lawmakers are also deliberating on the idea of forbidding insurers to park their money in residential and  commercial properties, and undertake property development.

Meanwhile, GuocoLand's achievements in China has not gone unnoticed. Guoson Centre, the group's flagship project  in China, was awarded the 5-star Award for “Best Mixed Use Development in China” at the 2010 Asia Pacific  Property Awards held on April 16 in Hong Kong.

Guoson Centre, a mixed development located in Beijing and Shanghai, comprises residential, commercial,  hospitality and retail components.

The 600,000 sq m Guoson Centre at GuocoLand's Dongzhimen mixed development in Beijing is home to Asia’s largest  transportation hub and will feature on-site check-in and customs service. The 500,000 sq m Guoson Centre in  Shanghai sits near the Honqiao transportation hub,.

“We are not going to make Guoson Centre just another development centred around a transportation hub. It will  introduce the transportation hubs as a vibrant part of the development, to make it ‘come alive’!

"Only when connectivity, both internal and external, is natural and humanised, can the whole development be able  to provide people with incomparable convenience and efficiency and become a part of their life,” said Lee.

GuocoLand Ltd also has existing operations in Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam.

The Asia Pacific Property Awards is held in association with Bloomberg Television and is part of the  International Property Awards to identify the best real estate professionals across the globe.
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