Mid-sized Hong Kong property firms are picking up residential plots at heavily discounted prices from cash-strapped mainland Chinese developers who are speeding up asset sales to repay debt. Far East Consortium International recently snapped up two land parcels, one of which was from the heavily indebted Kaisa Group Holdings . “We may allocate more resources to increase our land bank in Hong Kong after we cashed in on our overseas property investments,” Chris Hoong Cheong Thard, managing director of Far East Consortium. Since 2015 the developer has diversified its property investments in various markets like Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and Britain, maximising its investment opportunities by taking advantage of different property cycles. Highly indebted Chinese developers, from China Evergrande Group to Kaisa, have been trying to buy time with partial repayments and debt restructurings in recent months as they have faced a liquidity crunch after Beijing instituted new rules design to stem speculative bubbles in the residential property sector Last week River Riches, a 50:50 joint venture between Far East and New World Development affiliate Modern Culture acquired a plot in Kai Tak, the site of city’s former airport, from Kaisa. The duo paid HK$7.9 billion for the land, much lower than the plot’s audited value of HK$9.8 billion. “We struck the Kai Tak deal very fast,” he said, adding that the price works out to HK$13,829 per square foot. It was about 5 per cent lower than the HK$14,497 per square foot for a neighbouring site that was sold to a consortium of Wheelock Properties, New World, Henderson Land Development and Empire Group in November 2018. The joint venture between Far East, controlled by the family of David Chiu, and New World, which is majority owned by the family of the Cheng Kar-shun, is not new. The pair jointly developed the Artra residential project in Singapore, selling all 400 units when it was launched in October last year. Far East Consortium’s mortgage arm eyes market Down Under In Australia, Far East and the Cheng family’s private investment arm, Chow Tai Fook Enterprises, were part of a consortium that won a contract to develop a multipurpose resort development in Brisbane, Queensland, in 2015. The A$3.6 billion (US$2.6 billion) Queen’s Wharf Brisbane will be fully operational in 2024. On Monday, Far East announced its net profit jumped 206 per cent to HK$1.07 billion for the six months to September. The hefty increase in earnings was partly due to the sale of its four-star hotel Dorsett City London for £115 million (US$153.2 million) and improvement in hotel operations after shifting of focus to quarantine stays. Far East also bought another residential parcel in Lam Tei, Tuen Mun, from the family of “shop king” Tang Shing-bor who died in May, Hoong said, without disclosing the price. The Tang family has been selling down its portfolio at deep discounts, after its hospitality business collapsed because of the social unrest in 2019 followed by the coronavirus outbreak. Far East’s previous land acquisition came three years earlier in August 2019 when it won a hotel site in Kai Tak for a lower-than-expected HK$2.45 billion. Located next to the proposed Kai Tak Sports Park, the firm said it planned to develop a four-star hotel with 300 to 400 rooms and an office tower at a total investment of HK$4.5 billion, including the land cost. The Kai Tak plot acquired from Kaisa will yield a total gross floor area of 574,733 sq ft, with flats likely to go on sale as early as 2023, Hoong said. Centaline Surveyors said mainland developers have built up a strong presence in Hong Kong’s property market, either by taking part in government tenders or acquiring old buildings for redevelopment, in the past five to seven years. Acquiring land from struggling mainland Chinese developers “will become an alternative for land replenishment among Hong Kong developers who have strong balance sheets”, said Victor Lai Kin-fai, managing director of Centaline. China Aoyuan Group said it sold a 86 per cent stake in the 54-year-old Yin Yee Mansion at Robinson Road, Mid-Levels, for HK$900 million through its wholly owned subsidiary Aoyuan Property (Hong Kong) to Sharpview Investment Development, according to a filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange on November 14. The mainland developer said the group expect to recognise an estimated loss of HK$176.6 million from the deal. “Offloading assets will be one of the fastest ways for cash-strapped developers to raise cash flow,” said Michael Lee, associate director of professional real estate advisory and valuation at Prudential Surveyors.