As a veteran investor in property, Edwin Leong Siu-hung has had his share of requests for investment tips in the property market.
But this year, the billionaire developer is advising small investors to buy shares, instead of bricks and mortar, for a higher return. "If you are a small investor, buy shares … don't gamble in the property market," said Leong, the chairman of unlisted developer Tai Hung Fai Enterprise.
Leong, who recently joined Forbes list of Hong Kong's richest with net worth of US$2 billion, said: "I am sure you won't regret it. That's the best advice this year."
Having shunned stocks for over a decade, Leong said this year he changed his strategy and put his money back into the stock market.
He bought shares of HSBC, China Construction Bank and CSOP FTSE A50 China ETF, an exchange-traded fund that invests primarily in A shares on the mainland, believing the stock market is likely to perform well this year and provide him with a yield of at least 4 per cent to 5 per cent.
"But if you buy property, it doesn't give you [a yield of] 5 per cent. No way," he said.
Leong said that last year he still suggested that people put 70 per cent of their assets into property and the rest in cash or shares, but now was not the right time for making big money or speculating in the property market.
"I've got so many agents coming to me selling this and that. But none of them … is going to be low risk and high return," he said.
"Unless you've got some land bank, if you start off now with cash and buy [property] at such a high price, the risk and reward don't make sense."
Leong still advises first-time buyers to purchase a flat if they can afford it, because "once you have a residence, you can concentrate more on work. You don't have to worry about rent and prices, because it's nothing to do with you".
He expects home prices to remain stable this year.
Leong, who founded Tai Hung Fai in 1977, has been dubbed the "king of shops" because of his success in investing in retail property.
His business has branched out to other areas, such as serviced apartments and industrial and residential property.
Leong's latest move towards diversification has been to enter the hotel industry, investing HK$1 billion in a four-star boutique hotel on 246 Queen's Road East in Wan Chai that officially opens today.
The 138-room property, managed by InterContinental Hotels, will start operating by April, with an average room rate of HK$2,500 per night.
"We try to be more diversified," he said. "If I do an office building on that site, it won't be first-class. If I build residential, I will lose the land [to buyers of the homes]. The next alternative is a hotel," he said. "I want to preserve the site, and to do a hotel."