China property

Greenland accelerates push into financial services

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 November, 2016, 9:00pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 November, 2016, 11:01pm

Chinese property giant Greenland Holding Group is accelerating its drive into financial services, building a network that spans brokerages, investment banking, private equity funds and insurance.

Greenland said it was confident it could break into these new areas and challenge incumbents by drawing upon support from its property business.

“Only companies with an annual revenue more than 100 billion yuan can build a financial empire that can make money from the broader market,” Geng Jing, chairman of Greenland Financial Holding Group, a subsidiary of the Greenland Group, said at the China Real Estate & Finance Forum on Thursday. “Those with revenue below 100 billion yuan could only make money from their own property business [by internal funding].”

The parent company in the first nine months of the year generated revenue of 172 billion yuan through property sales, according to China Real Estate Information Corp.

Greenland had ranked as China’s largest property developer by sales in 2014, but slipped to fourth this year.

Meanwhile, revenue was up 22 per cent from a year earlier, lifted by the property bull market, but its profit margin was eroded by soaring land prices, which explains why the company is seeking out new businesses.

The financial holding company established a securities unit in Hong Kong in September, and is applying for an investment banking license. The Hong Kong securities company will also set up overseas real estate investment trusts, or Reits, it said in an earlier statement.

Greenland’s financial services arm in China is engaged in businesses that include micro lending and asset management. It also has stakes in a few city-level commercial banks.

“If we are optimistic about a project, we can do debt-financing or equity-financing through private equity funds. If the projects run into trouble, our vast property business can take over the asset, which provide a guarantee to investors,,” Geng said.

The group’s private equity unit has invested in non-property sectors that are related to the commercial property business, he said.

IMAX China Holding opted to accept investment from Greenland’s private equity unit because the tie-up would also the cinema company access to Greenland property division which operates several malls. A rival investment offer from China Vanke was turned down because its property assets are primarily residential, Geng said.

Focus Media, China’s largest outdoor advertising agency, accepted Greenwood as an equity investor in part because of synergies related to its property division. The benefits included access to display advertising space located in elevators at residential projects linked to Greenwood.

“Greenland’s properties actually are a platform, opening up to unlimited financial services opportunities,” Geng said, adding that financial services already contributed one-third of the conglomerate’s profit.

Not everyone is convinced the company’s diversification will be a success. Moody’s Investors Service downgraded Greenland and its Hong Kong offshoot’s rating and outlook to “negative” in May, citing its high debt leverage and the volatile nature of its non-property businesses.