BANK of East Asia (BEA) has recorded a modest increase of its China property mortgage business because of increased activity in the property market. Mr Tong Chin-pang, head of China property section at the bank, said activity, particularly in the southern areas, had increased in the first four months of this year after a period of consolidation last year. Accordingly, the bank's mainland mortgage business had surged by about 10 per cent in the past four months, compared with the same period last year, he said. Despite the boost, he emphasised that China property business still accounted for a small slice in the bank's total loan and mortgage exposure. Mr Tong said BEA was optimistic about the property market in China, but said it would continue to be very selective in participating in the mortgage business. He predicted that property prices would continue to rise, particularly in southern China, but rises would be steady. The bank's mainland mortgage business currently concentrates on office and residential projects, but the bank intends to extend to retail property developments, which are becoming increasingly popular.