Stanley Ho

Stanley Ho reverses protest against land sales system

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 November, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 November, 2001, 12:00am

Real Estate Developers' Association (Reda) president Stanley Ho Hung-sun has stepped back from his negative stance towards the controversial application list land-sale system, in an apparent bid to avoid a split among developers.

Mr Ho said in a statement prepared by Reda yesterday that he was happy with the system.

The remarks were in stark contrast to his earlier calls for developers to stop applying for land from the system in order to stabilise the property market. Mr Ho said previously that low land prices would be negative for the market.

The change came after several leading developers, such as Sun Hung Kai Properties, Wharf (Holdings) and Hang Lung Development, expressed reservations about his comments.

They openly supported the application system, which they described as a fair and suitable mechanism.

Under the system, the Government releases land on to the market when a developer agrees to pay a minimum price. The system was reintroduced after a long absence to supplement the scheduled auction and tender system in early 1999, following a nine-month land-sales suspension.

Speaking in his capacity as Reda president, Mr Ho said in yesterday's statement: 'I have been asked recently by some of our members to appeal to the Government to put a moratorium on land sales just to give some breathing space for the recovery of the property market.

'[Reda] had previously recommended to the Government not to accept bids for sites on the application list which are below a reasonable floor price set by Government as, after all, these are public assets.

'As far as the application list system is concerned, I am happy with it. It has been working well.'

The statement made no mention of Mr Ho's previous appeals for developers not to apply for land on the list. He was not available for further comment.

Mr Ho, chairman of Shun Tak Holdings, said on Monday that he would try to persuade other Reda members to support his proposal at an association meeting scheduled for yesterday.

However, a Reda spokesman said there was no meeting scheduled or held yesterday.

The Reda statement also said: 'Referring to recent press reports that developers are split on the subject of the application list system under the Government's land sale programme, [Reda] confirms that there is no split whatsoever among developers.'

Hang Lung Development chairman Ronnie Chan Chichung, a key Reda member, confirmed the association did not have a meeting yesterday.

He repeated that it was impossible for developers to reach a consensus not to apply for land from the application list. However, he said it was good to have different views.

Analysts said the dispute between Mr Ho and the larger developers reflected that land supply had become an increasingly sensitive issue.

The Government has sold nine sites through the application list since 1999.

Secretary for Planning and Lands John Tsang Chun-wah said the existing land sale mechanism has been operating well. 'There are not many mechanisms better than the one we have, which is highly transparent and market-oriented,' he said.