Chinese shopping couriers become major flat buyers

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 May, 2014, 2:03am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 May, 2014, 2:03am

The booming online shopping market on the mainland has fuelled the growth of courier companies over the last few years and has turned them into the buyers of some of the most luxurious houses in Hong Kong.

Property agents said Zhang Xiaojuan, vice-president of Shanghai YTO Express (Logistics), one of the three major courier companies on the mainland, bought a house at Sun Hung Kai Properties' pricey Shouson Peak on Monday. With a 5 per cent discount offered by the developer, the price was around HK$287.46 million or HK$79,784 per square foot.

The four-bedroom house, which includes a swimming pool, a garden and two parking spaces, has a saleable area of 3,603 square feet. Since Zhang is not a local resident, she has to pay more than HK$67.55 million of buyer's stamp duty and ad valorem stamp duty.

You can imagine how good the business of [China’s] courier companies is

The mainland buyers in the luxury residential market have rebounded over the last two months, said Eric Cheung, a director of Ricacorp Properties.

"All of my friends go shopping in Taobao and get a courier to transport to Hong Kong. And the sales performance of Taobao is so strong. Then you can imagine how good the business of mainland courier companies is," Cheung said.

Figures from the government showed that online sales on the mainland grew 42.8 per cent year on year to 1.88 trillion yuan (HK$2.36 trillion). There were 9.2 billion items delivered by express in 2013, with about 60 per cent related to online shopping.

Zhang is not a newcomer to the Hong Kong property market. She sold a flat at The Arch at Kowloon Station for HK$99 million early this year and still owns three flats at the project.

Shanghai YTO Express was established in 2000 with a staff of 17. But it now has more than 120,000 staffers, thanks to the popularity of online shopping portal Taobao in recent years. One of its major sources of income is transporting Taobao goods to the mainland and to Hong Kong buyers. It charges Hong Kong buyers as little as HK$40 for the first 5kg.

Wang Wei, founder of SF Express, the largest privately owned express delivery company on the mainland, also bought a luxury residential site at 55-55A La Salle Road in Kowloon Tong for HK$350 million in early 2010.

A few years ago, the most active participants in the Hong Kong luxury residential market were the major shareholders of mainland developers and retailers.

"They were active previously as the property sales on the mainland were strong and they generated a large fortune from public offering of their companies. Since mainland property sales were weak in recent years, they are less active than before," said Koh Keng-shing, chief executive of consultant Landscope Christie's International Real Estate.

He said that around 80 per cent of the buyers who bought luxury flats worth more than HK$100 million were mainlanders before Beijing introduced cooling measures in February last year.

"But now it has dropped to over 50 per cent," he said, adding that mainland buyers will continue to decrease if the slowdown in the mainland economy continued.