Country Garden teams up with Shui On Land for upmarket development
Guangdong-based developer also studying acquisition of Dah Sing Life Assurance
Major Chinese developer Country Garden says it is actively seeking acquisition opportunities, buying a major stake in an upmarket development in Foshan by Shui On Land and “studying” the acquisition of Hong Kong’s Dah Sing Life Assurance.
“We just signed agreement with Shui On Land for the Foshan (Lingnan) Tiandi project and we will be the lead developer, ” Country Garden president Mo Bin said on Wednesday.
Shui On Land confirmed the company had signed a non-binding letter of intent with a potential buyer of Lingnan Tiandi Lot 4, adding the buyer was conducting due diligence work.
Market rumours put the cost at around 1.8 billion yuan (HK$2.1 billion). Mo declined to disclose the details but said an announcement would be made soon.
Mo said Guangdong-based Country Garden would cooperate with Shui On Land on more projects in the future.
Hong Kong-based Shui On Land, a subsidiary of the Shui On Group controlled by billionaire Vincent Lo Hong-sui, is known for its Tiandi luxury redevelopment projects in mainland cities, with the best known being Shanghai Xintiandi.
It has been struggling to make a profit in recent years due to slow sales and high relocation costs and has accelerated asset disposals to maintain operations.
The Lingnan Tiandi project has five phases and consists of residential, retail, hotel and office buildings.
Mo said that although Country Garden was less experienced in developing luxury products, it had advantages in controlling cost compared to Hong Kong developers.
Country Garden bought a plot of land in Guizhou from Socam Development, another member of Shui On Group, for HK$463 million last month.
In relation to the possible acquisition of the Hong Kong insurer, Country Garden’s chief financial officer, Wu Jianbin, said “there could be synergy between Dah Sing Insurance and our core business”.
The insurance arm of Dah Sing Financial Holdings is valued at about US$1 billion.
Country Garden achieved contracted sales of 140 billion yuan last year, up 9 per cent year on year – well down on the 21.5 per cent growth recorded in 2014.
The company has been focused on big residential development in third- and fourth-tier cities, where prices have hardly risen in recent years due to a huge supply glut.
“It is hard to see explosive growth again,” said David Hong, head of research at China Real Estate Information Corp, citing rising land prices and a slowing wider economy.
With the support of ample liquidity and cheap domestic funding, Country Garden has also been active in overseas expansion, having entered the Malaysian and Australian housing markets.
It plans to invest 250 billion yuan in its latest flagship project in Malaysia, “Forest City”, over 20 years.