Hong Kong property investment abroad doubles

Cooling measures at home and the recovery by markets worldwide trigger an outflow of US$4b for 29 office properties costing US$2.5m or over

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 June, 2013, 5:34am

Investments by Hong Kong-based fund managers, institutions and individuals in commercial properties around the world have almost doubled in the last 12 months.

The capital exodus has been triggered by the government's property-cooling measures and a recovery in global markets.

Figures retrieved on Monday from the database of global property research firm Real Capital Analytics show that investments totalling US$4.09 billion poured out of Hong Kong in the past year to purchase 29 office properties worldwide with price tags of US$2.5 million or above.

That figure was up nearly 90 per cent from US$2.16 billion year-on-year, while the number of transactions was up 164 per cent from 11 deals.

London was the top destination for the investment flows, with seven office premises purchased by Hong Kong funds in the last 12 months totalling US$1.02 billion, followed by Singapore at US$884 million.

Richard Kirke, managing director of the Hong Kong office of Colliers International, said policy restrictions on the property market in Hong Kong and the mainland had driven Chinese investors to foreign markets, where yields were higher.

"There is also good evidence that the market is recovering in the United States and in London," Kirke said, while the slowdown in the mainland's economy was also affecting investment decisions. Jones Lang LaSalle said prime office yields in New York and London were around 4.6 per cent and 4.0 per cent respectively in the first quarter of this year, compared with 2.9 per cent in Hong Kong.

Kirke said overseas retail and residential properties were also in demand among many Chinese investors. He believed the outflow of capital would continue, given that stamp duties in Hong Kong can be as high as 8.5 per cent, compared with between zero and around 4.5 per cent in other overseas markets.

To curb price growth, the Hong Kong government introduced a series of measures including a new 15 per cent buyer's stamp duty on certain buyers in October. In February, it stepped up its campaign to curb property demand and price-growth by imposing more controls, including a doubling of stamp duty.

Denis Ma On-ping, director of research at Jones Lang LaSalle for the Greater Pearl River Delta region, said several factors - including the government's cooling measures - had seen inquiries for international residential properties rise by 10-15 per cent since late February.

"The relative strengthening of the Hong Kong dollar against currencies such as the British pound and Japanese yen; a higher number of projects being launched on the market in cities such as London and New York; and a greater emphasis among developers to target buyers from Asia has also contributed to the pick-up in demand," he said.

London had become a popular destination for Hong Kong investors, said Knight Frank's head of research for Greater China, Thomas Lam.

Prices of prime London properties are expected to grow by 6 per cent a year in the coming years. Hong Kong, however, is forecasted to see a decline of between five and 10 per cent in home prices this year.

In the US, an improved economy has lifted the housing market, said Weimin Tan, managing director of Castle Avenue Partners at Rutenberg Realty in New York. More foreign buyers began entering the market in February, he said, and about 60 per cent of his clients were now from Hong Kong or the mainland.

Grace Mak, private client executive director at National Australia Bank, said the softening of the Australian dollar had also driven more Hong Kong investors to look at the market there.