Manufacturers and investment bankers are showing increasing interest in top-end residential properties in luxury districts amid low interest rates and limited supply. The heads of a crop of export-oriented firms had entered the luxury residential market as their wealth soared in the wake of robust earnings growth for their companies and surging share prices of industrial stocks, property agents said. Midland Realty director Vincent Chan said most buyers of top-end houses on The Peak or in Island South before 1997 were international funds for investment purposes. At present, most buyers were end-users, including owners of listed or privately run industrial companies who had made a fortune in their businesses in the past few years, he said. One example that indicated manufacturers' interest in luxury properties was the recent purchase by Yip's Chemical (Holdings) chairman Tony Ip Chi-shing of a detached house at Kelletteria for about HK$42.8 million, property agents said. Mr Ip was unavailable for comment. Kelletteria, newly built by Sun Hung Kai Properties, comprises five houses in Mount Kellett Road on The Peak, all of which have been sold. Ricacorp Properties sales director Eric Cheung said manufacturers would be the driving force behind the top-end luxury market in the second half. Investment bankers have also become a fresh buying force in the latest round of luxury residential sales. Property sources said HSBC Asset Management chief executive Blair Pickerell had paid HK$25 million for a 3,200-square-foot house with a sea view at La Hacienda in Mount Kellett Road. The development comprises 21 houses, with facilities such as a swimming pool and tennis court. A senior executive at Morgan Stanley recently paid more than HK$24 million for a townhouse at Watford Villa in Watford Road on The Peak, agents said. There are six houses in Watford Villa, which was built by the Lo family of Great Eagle Holdings in 1978. The present owner, investment fund JF Hong Kong, has appointed Centaline Property Agency to sell the project. Gary Ng, senior manager at Centaline's Shouson Hill branch, said investment bankers had been drawn to the luxury residential market by low interest rates, limited supply of quality luxury houses and attractive prices. Mr Ng said houses at La Hacienda were sold for almost HK$40 million when the market peaked in 1997. Houses of about 3,000 sq ft at Redhill Peninsula once sold for more than HK$60 million, but the prices are now down to below HK$20 million. Mr Chan said quality houses on The Peak or in Island South were in demand as supply was limited. He expected there would be 50 detached houses coming on stream next year, compared with 232 this year. A mere 14 would be completed in 2005, he said. Registered luxury property transactions on The Peak and in Island South reached 23 in the second quarter, compared with 11 in the first quarter. The biggest deal by value is the sale of a house at 110 Repulse Bay for HK$88.88 million or HK$14,500 per square foot.