HK won't have property crash, says brokerage

THERE will be no property crash in Hongkong, says brokerage Wardley James Capel (WJC).

The brokerage said property values had already declined 18 per cent and the mass residential market was close to the bottom of a cyclical trough that was triggered in the second half of last year.

A property collapse on the scale of the decline in values of the early 1980s would only be triggered by a political shock on the scale of the Tiananmen Square massacre of June 1989.

Analyst Herbert Chung said the WJC model took into account a number of negative factors, including the retention of the 70 per cent mortgage limit, a two per cent rise in United States interest rates and the possibility of speculators dumping flats.

Mr Chung said purchase volumes had fallen from last year's abnormally high levels, but further declines did not threaten a property collapse.

Instead the dampening of demand by end-users and the imposition of the 70 per cent limit on lending since November 1991 meant there was substantial pent-up demand for flats.

Over the period, affordability has improved as wages have increased and property values dipped.

Meanwhile, the brokerage challenged government statistics on predicted supply this year, saying property developers' completion schedules for this year and next suggested actual supply would be 80 per cent of current government forecasts of 23,370 in 1993 and 28,262 in 1994.

The brokerage has based its assumptions on the current decline in mass residential prices on information from Hang Seng Bank, one of the largest lenders in the sector, Wayfoong Property Valuation and Government Land Office records.

''We believe this is an opportune time to recommend buys on the property developers, because a lot of the bad news is already in the price and their valuations are attractive,'' said Mr Chung.

Cheung Kong was recommended as it was 14 per cent below estimated net asset value, selling at 5.7 times prospective 1993 earnings and 4.9 times 1994 earnings. Its land bank was said to be 18.6 million square feet.

Sun Hung Kai Properties, said to have the largest land bank, 35.6 million sq ft, was trading at a 16 per cent discount to net asset value and had prospective p/es of less than nine for the next two years.

New World Development had a land bank in Hongkong of 10.5 million sq ft and 44 million sq ft in China. The company was on a 30 per cent discount to net asset value and prospective p/es for the next two years of less than 10.

Mr Chung said the brokerage was expecting a revival in the property sector in Hongkong in the second half of this year or early next year.

''Market timing is difficult, as usual,'' he said. ''We suggest slow accumulation to capture the market upswing expected in 1993.'' In addition, the companies concerned have increased their exposure to China. ''The evolution of the property giants - now becoming South China-based conglomerates - is likely to result in an upward re-rating of these companies in the longer term,'' said Mr Chung.