Sun Hung Kai Properties

Patience pays off for Hang Lung

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2007, 12:00am

Long Beach secures higher prices

The sight of eight completed high-rise residential blocks standing vacant on the waterfront at Tai Kok Tsui for three years has no doubt had residents in the area wondering what could be wrong with the 1,829 units in the development.

The answer is nothing. Nothing, that is, except the price target set for the development, known as the Long Beach, by its developer, Hang Lung Properties.

Rather than release the units into a bear market for property three years ago, Hang Lung decided to hang on until it judged the time was right to sell - a common strategy of developers caught in this dilemma.

And now the time is right, it has decided.

Following the jaw-dropping HK$5.71 billion or HK$8,836 per square foot bid for a residential site in Aberdeen at an auction last week, Hang Lung took the Long Beach out of mothballs and offered it for sale.

The results were instantaneous. Terry Ng Sze-yuen, an executive director at Hang Lung, said on Sunday that a first batch of 28 units was offered at an average of HK$7,000 per square foot on Friday.

By Sunday, revenues of HK$1.8 billion had been taken from the sale of 350 units and an additional 50 units were now on offer at a 3.5 per cent higher price of HK$7,500 per square foot.

Mr Ng said a Korean fund had bought 50 units at the weekend.

In anticipation of even further rises in home prices, the developer has indicated it would release only 480 units in Long Beach for sale this year, while the remaining 1,349 units would be launched over the next two years.

The project's low development cost allowed Hang Lung to hold on to the units and overcome the high opportunity cost of not releasing them for sale.

In December 2000, Hang Lung, through Amoy Properties, bought the site for HK$2.58 billion or HK$1,582 per square foot.

By comparison, a neighbouring site was sold in June this year for HK$5.56 billion or HK$6,066 per square foot to Sun Hung Kai Properties.

Manfred Ho, an analyst at BNP Paribas, said the development would have incurred annual interest expenses of about 4 per cent a year while Hang Lung held it from sale.

The cost of the development, which was completed in 2004, was HK$3,000 per square foot. This would have translated into a total bill to Hang Lung for the project of HK$4.8 billion, including a HK$2.58 billion land cost.

Assuming 4 per cent annual interest expenses, the three-year holding cost of not releasing the units would have amounted to about HK$570 million.

Today, with the units being sold for HK$7,000 per square foot - a level much higher than it might have achieved three years ago - a handsome profit was on the cards for Hang Lung, said Mr Ho.

Based on the prices of units sold at the weekend, Mr Ho estimated the project would fetch HK$11 billion if all the units were sold, or a gross profit margin of 60 per cent.

According to agents, investors, who were less price-sensitive than end-users, accounted for 50 per cent of the weekend buyers.

Kenneth Lam Wai-man, a sales director at Centaline Property Agency's West Kowloon branch, said the long completion date being offered by the developer was the drawcard for the project.

Hang Lung offered a long completion period of up to 12 months, allowing time for short-term speculators to resell the flats even before arranging a mortgage loan.

Buyers opting for this payment scheme would receive up to 4.5 per cent cash rebates if they changed their mind and completed the purchase of their units in six months instead.

'It provides greater flexibility for investors,' Mr Lam said, pointing out that they could save investors' transaction costs if they found a buyer within six months.

Another attraction of the project was that 70 per cent of the units at Long Beach enjoyed a sea view overlooking Stonecutters Island.

'The developer is pitching the project higher than the prevailing secondary transaction prices as the majority of units enjoy a sea view,' said Donald Cheng, a sales manager at Midland Realty.

Mr Cheng said transaction prices for projects at Olympic Station such as Island Harbourview were HK$5,567 per square foot, while flats at Park Avenue were HK$5,693 per square foot and at Central Park, they were HK$5,800 per square foot.

However, two-bedroom flats at these projects, with an average age of six years, had no sea view, he said.