Hang Lung Properties said it would invest 4.5 billion yuan (HK$5.11 billion) to develop a 'world-class' shopping centre on a newly acquired commercial site in Dalian, its first land acquisition since February 2007. The company said it plans to develop the site, currently occupied by a sports stadium, into the city's largest shopping complex, with a total gross floor area of 220,000 square metres. Executive director Terry Ng Sze-yuen said Hang Lung won the site at an auction for 1.2 billion yuan or 5,382 yuan per square metre. 'Sky-high land values have kept us away from attending auctions for more than two years,' he said. 'Now is our best opportunity, as there are not many competitors.' Mr Ng said he expects the project, to be named Dalian Hang Lung Plaza, to provide an annual rental return of 5 to 8 per cent. As the city government needed about 18 months to deliver the site, he said it would be five years before the development would be operational. So far, Mr Ng said, Hang Lung had committed 25 billion yuan to develop six shopping complexes on the mainland, more than 60 per cent of its 40 billion yuan investment target. The other five, due to be completed between next year and 2012, are in Shenyang, Tianjin, Wuxi and Jinan. 'Frankly speaking, Hang Lung has no competitor at all, as domestic developers lack expertise in building shopping malls to international standards,' said Raymond Ngai of JP Morgan Securities. 'The local government prefers a landmark project to be developed in the city centre.' But he noted that developers' recent acquisitions in a variety of cities indicated a vote of confidence in the property market's prospects. In less than two weeks, Hang Lung, Greenland Group, Gemdale Corp and Shimao Property Holdings have spent more than 3.6 billion yuan to buy land in Shanghai and Qingdao. Greenland has secured a 186,500 sq metre residential development site on the outskirts of Shanghai for 957 million yuan in the city's biggest land deal this year. Another mainland developer, Gemdale Corp, outbid nine competitors to win an 83,645 sq metre residential site in Shanghai's Qingpu district for 560 million yuan, about 82 per cent above the opening bid. Shimao made its first acquisition in 15 months by securing a Qingdao commercial and residential site through a partnership for HK$920 million. Separately, Soho China yesterday announced the company had generated 635 million yuan from sales of Zhong Guan Cun Soho commercial project on the first day of sale. The average sales price of the office space was 33,000 yuan per square metre, while the average price of retail space was 90,000 yuan per square metre.