HK frenzy raised eyebrows

Real estate investment trusts, or reits, are emerging in Hong Kong as vehicles for developers to offload assets with the lure of stable rental incomes and higher yields than bonds.

Following the dazzling success of the government's $22 billion Link Reit offering in November last year, more Hong Kong property companies are jostling to spin off their properties, both prime and sub-standard, to cash in on investors' enthusiasm.

Among those eyeing the market are Great Eagle Holdings, Henderson Land Development, Sun Hung Kai Properties, Wheelock & Co, Chinese Estates Holdings and Regal Hotels International Holdings.

At least $21.38 billion could be raised this year by these companies. The Link Reit, Prosperity Reit and GZI Reit, raised a combined $26.18 billion from their initial public offerings last year.

Hong Kong investors frenzy last year yielded huge profits for many but may have turned reits into speculative stocks.

The frenzy came after British hedge fund Children's Investment Fund Management (TCI), stoked investor interest when it bought 18.35 per cent of the Link Reit shortly after its listing in November, becoming a major shareholder. Link's share price soared 72 per cent above its $10.30 offer price to a record $17.75 on March 17.

This raised eyebrows at the Securities and Futures Commission, which told investors to be wary of property companies rumoured to be about to launch a reit.

The regulator also is believed to have also tightened the application procedures for real estate investment trusts to prevent market manipulation.

Another market concern in Hong Kong's reit fever is trusts that consists of mainland property assets which often have complex legal titles and tax issues attached.