Hong Kong regulator's probe will not stop Sunac's proposed buyout of rival

Greentown China says proposed buyout by a mainland home-building rival is still on, despite first-half profit fall and regulatory investigation

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 August, 2014, 1:10am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 August, 2014, 2:19pm

Mainland luxury-home builder Sunac China said it is still keen on buying 24.3 per cent of rival Greentown China even after the latter yesterday reported a 67 per cent year-on-year plunge in first-half net profit.

The proposed HK$6.3 billion all-cash deal announced in May will probably be closed before its original deadline of December, Greentown chief executive Shou Bainian said at an earnings briefing.

He was responding to media reports that the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) has asked whether Sunac, Greentown founder Song Weiping and Shou are acting in concert.

If so, Sunac would be required to offer to buy all remaining shares of Greentown, which will cost another HK$20 billion at the current price of HK$12 a share.

"We are not parties acting in concert," said Sun Hongbin, chairman and founder of Sunac.

"Even if the SFC rules so, which I think is very unlikely, we will not give up the deal because many investors are willing to make the required offer and take the company [Greentown] private," he said.

Sunac shares yesterday ended down 2.5 per cent at HK$6.17 while those of Greentown opened down 1.6 per cent but closed flat at HK$7.93.

The acquisition deal, which has yet to get the regulator's nod, will see Song, his wife and Shou sell a combined 24.3 per cent stake in Greentown to Sunac. Wharf holds the same amount of Greentown shares and will be one of the two largest shareholders if the deal goes through.

"It is good that Wharf intends to hold the stake for long, as I have always seen it as the best partner," Sun said, adding that a strong developer like Wharf might keep the shares "until after I die" while private equity funds would exit after five or seven years.

Sun will become a co-chairman of Greentown together with Song on completion of the transaction and would then be appointed as chairman next March while Song becomes an honorary chairman.

Greentown's core net profit, which excludes revaluation gains, fell 59.2 per cent even as its revenue rose 23 per cent to 12.6 billion yuan in the first half as high land costs and low selling prices squeezed margins.

The poor performance was mainly caused by an aggregate loss of 121 million yuan by joint ventures and associates compared with a gain of 685 million yuan during the first half of last year, Greentown said in a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange.

The Hangzhou-based developer's gross profit margin in the first half fell to 24 per cent from 29.7 per cent a year earlier.

The result was widely expected after the company issued a profit warning early this month.