Hongkong Land is sharpening its focus on Beijing's premium residential market after an encouraging response to Central Park, its three billion yuan (about HK$2.81 billion) joint-venture residential project in the capital. Hongkong Land, with venture partner Vantone Group, has generated about US$24 million in the past two weeks from the sale of an initial batch of 100 units at Central Park - its first development in China. Hongkong Land executive director Robert Wong Yau-chung said: 'The market response in Beijing is much better than our expectation. 'It seems natural for us to enhance our investment in property development in China.' The group had not set a budget for mainland development. 'There is no problem for us to further develop one or two more projects [in Beijing]. Shanghai will be more suitable for commercial development,' Mr Wong said. The group targeted Shanghai last year, and negotiated some yet to be committed property developments. Mr Wong said the experience in Beijing had convinced the group that residential developments had a strong potential market as the ranks of the middle class swelled. Research by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences showed about 15 per cent of the working population in China, or about 100 million people, were earning 60,000 yuan a year or more. The Beijing residential market was maturing and demand was also expanding following China's accession to the World Trade Organisation and success in winning the bid to host the 2008 Olympic Games. 'The strong market response is unexpected as we sold all the units we planned for sale in a year within two weeks,' Mr Wong said. He said a further 100 units would be released for sale before completion and 30 would be sold in Hong Kong on May 2 at an average price of US$148 per square foot. The price has increased slightly from the initial batch, Mr Wong said. He expected a continuous rising price trend for future sales. Central Park is in the planned central business district in Chaoyang and provides a total developable area of 3.44 million square feet, or 2,000 units. Mr Wong said the development comprised four phases and would be completed by 2007. Phase one with a floor area of 1.4 million sq ft provides 599 units ranging from 948 sq ft to 6,456 sq ft is scheduled for completion by 2004. The developer might retain 100 units for long-term leasing, Mr Wong said, adding that rental yield for Central Park could reach 12 per cent to 15 per cent. He said the investment for phase one was about US$100 million and he expected to generate more than one billion yuan if all units were sold. 'General profit margin for mainland property development will exceed 30 per cent, compared with about 20 per cent for developments in Hong Kong,' Mr Wong said. He said the construction cost for Central Park was about 372 yuan per square feet.