ANALYSTS said last night they expected the successful sale of a Sha Tin site at yesterday's Government land auction would lend support to the depressed property market and provide an optimistic note for residential lots going under the hammer in coming weeks. Earmarked for luxury residential development, the site was bought by privately-run Hang Tung Resources for $171 million after about 20 minutes of bidding. It was the first time Hang Tung had bought land at a public auction and its director Ivis Sze described the price as reasonable. An office site in Fanling was withdrawn from sale after failing to attract a bid, while an industrial site in Ap Lei Chau was sold at its opening price of $230 million. Government land agent Tim Mills, who conducted the auction, said the successful Sha Tin sale showed there was still life in the residential market. However, he said the Government had between 14 and 16 other sites for auction before the current land sales programme ended on March 31, and he expected mixed results. He said there were some mediocre sites among the batch, but he was generally optimistic the residential sites would sell. Donald Fan, director of Paliburg Development, which bought the Ap Lei Chau site, said the price fetched for the Sha Tin site was quite good and that developers still had confidence in the market. He also said that investment for the industrial site's development would exceed $1.5 billion. Flora Leung, director of the valuation department at A G Wilkinson & Associates, said smaller developers were eager to buy land, which reflected confidence in the market, although big developers were more selective. She expected the selling price of finished residential units at the Sha Tin site to be in the region of $7,000 to $8,000 per square foot. William Wong, a partner of Brooke Hillier Parker, said the focus of developers remained on the residential sector, and they were willing to buy sites with good locations and views, though not at excessive prices. 'But the biggest indicator of the auction is that the Government has accepted that it can no longer maintain the high land price policy,' he said. Michael Green, property analyst and executive director at Nomura Securities, said the Ap Lei Chau site was not particularly attractive in terms of location or shape, but the price it fetched was a bargain for the buyer. And he said the lack of a buyer for the Fanling office lot showed that larger developers were saving their money to bid for Mass Transit Railway Corp projects. He said the Fanling site was not as bad as some people had made out, being not too far from the Kowloon-Canton Railway network. But it would require a substantial amount of money to develop and Fanling did not have a proven history in the office market.