Excellence Real Estate bets US$3.3b in defiance of slowing market

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 April, 2014, 1:21am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 April, 2014, 1:21am

A little-known Chinese developer has spent US$3.3 billion on land in the past nine months, outbidding some of the country's largest real estate companies even as property sales slow and home builders scrabble for cash.

Excellence Real Estate Group, a private developer based in Shenzhen, has spent 15.7 billion yuan (HK$19.7 billion), around three-quarters of the total, on three commercial plots in or near the Qianhai economic zone, a proposed US$45 billion financial district not far from Hong Kong.

Its investments in Shenzhen, where prices surged about 20 per cent in February from a year earlier, have thrown a spotlight on the company at a time when credit is tightening as the economy slows.

"It's a huge gamble," said Song Yanqing, the president at Beijing-based property services company Rand Consultation, warning that Excellence could face funding risks if prices fall.

"It is betting on the assumption that there won't be any fluctuations in the Chinese property market."

Excellence was founded in 1996 by Li Hua and his older brother Li Xiaoping, a member of Guangdong province's political advisory body.

The outlook for the Chinese property market has been hit in recent months due to tighter credit on the mainland and a slowing economy.

A slowdown in home prices and reports that developers have cut prices to boost sales have also rattled investors.

Excellence insists its investment strategy makes sense.

"It's not a huge gamble. It's a decision we made after judgment. We just focus on core areas. As Li Ka-shing used to say, 'location, location, location'," said Li Dapeng, brand manager at Excellence, referring to Asia's richest man.

Last July, Excellence made headlines when it outbid some of the mainland's largest developers, such as China Vanke and China Resources Land, to win the first two land auctions in Qianhai for a record-breaking total of 12.4 billion yuan.

The company's spending since July is equal to 134 per cent of its 2013 revenue, compared with the industry average of 35 per cent of revenues on land.