Despite regulatory uncertainties and the central government's campaign to cool the property market, overseas investors' buying interest in China has shown no sign of abating with sales of en-bloc properties surging 38 per cent last year. DTZ Debenham Tie Leung, in its latest research report Asia Pacific Property Market Overview, unveiled that the number of en-bloc property purchases by foreign investors jumped from 29 in 2005 to 40 last year. The total value rose 67 per cent to HK$17.7 billion. 'With both transaction numbers and the investment amount surging in tandem, we can no doubt conclude that foreign investors are keener to invest in this rapidly-expanding economy, partly riding on housing price hikes and the potential appreciation of the yuan,' said Francis Li, vice-chairman and head of investment of North Asia at DTZ. Shanghai and Beijing remain the most popular cities for en-bloc investment, accounting for 73 per cent of the total number of transactions last year, the same as 2005. 'Not surprising, Shanghai - the financial hub - attracted the most attention from investors with the number of transactions rising from 16 in 2005 to 26 in 2006, and its share of overall investment increasing from 47.1 per cent to 53.1 per cent,' Mr Li said. Mr Li said foreign investors' interest was also growing in the Pearl River Delta's key cities, Shenzhen and Guangzhou. In 2005 each of these cities registered only one investment transaction of en-bloc properties. But last year, Shenzhen saw four deals and Guangzhou five. Mr Li said that spectacular price rises in major cities boosted by strong investment demand had prompted investors to look for potential opportunities in southern China, in particular the PRD, a key manufacturing base which is enjoying rapid growth in exports and logistics development. 'We can see that foreign investors have started relocating part of their investment effort to the PRD,' said Alva To, director of consulting and research at DTZ. The central government revealed in the 11th Five-Year Plan that it would inject more resources to support the development of logistics, financial and services sector in the PRD. An investment of 350 billion yuan will go to the construction of a 1,000km intercity express railway, including the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong express rail link which will shorten the travelling time between Guangzhou and Hong Kong from two hours to one upon completion in 2010. Meanwhile, nationwide real estate investment last year with a unit value of US$10million or more totalled 322 cases, up 22 per cent while the total value grew 33 per cent to HK$157.74 billion. 'The money poured into each investment project also gets bigger, increasing by 9 per cent from an average of HK$449million in 2005 to HK$490million in 2006,' said Mr To.