Guangzhou-based Times Property defies competition in China market

Chairman bullish on prospects and will stay focused despite tough market

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 March, 2015, 6:01am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 March, 2015, 6:01am

Times Property Holdings, a Guangzhou-based developer, sees better times ahead despite rising competition and will keep ploughing into urban redevelopment projects regardless of the fall of Kaisa Group Holdings, company founder and chairman Shum Chiu-hung said.

Kaisa, once the No1 homebuilder in Shenzhen, is embroiled in an anti-graft probe linked to a former senior local official when the firm was investing heavily in lucrative redevelopment projects in the past decade.

"This is only a company-specific case," Shum said. "There seems to be many difficulties [in the redevelopment market] now, but I think it'll get better with the policy becoming clearer and more transparent."

Urban redevelopment projects contributed 21 per cent to Times Property's sales last year and helped push the company's gross profit margin to 30.6 per cent from 24.1 per cent in 2013.

However, the political aspects of such projects have amplified investors' worries about the real estate industry's outlook at a time when many developers agree the sector's golden era has gone as growth in housing demand slows.

We can't stand out at a time when everyone can make money. Orderly competition fits me better
Shum Chiu-hung, Times Property chairman 

They are trying to diversify revenues. But focus is the key word for Times Property.

"Our golden age has just started," said Shum, who is also the company's chief executive.

He said people might need different kinds of homes in the next decade, which would create demand. And the markets Times Property was operating in now, including Guangzhou and neighbouring cities, had big and growing populations that would create room for its further growth.

The company's contracted sales grew 38 per cent last year to 15.2 billion yuan (HK$18.8 billion) and it is aiming for a moderate increase of 10 per cent this year so that it can spend time improving management efficiency.

"We can't stand out at a time when everyone can make money. Orderly competition fits me better," Shum said, adding that the rising market share of stronger players recently was a sign of a maturing industry.

However, limited size and high leverage were a draw, Fitch said in a report, giving the company a B-plus rating. The net gearing ratio of Times Property rose to 94 per cent last year from 93 per cent in 2013.

Shum said the ratio was reasonable as the firm was still expanding rapidly, although he admitted there was room to lower it.

Times Property raised US$280 million on Monday by issuing a senior note due 2020 at a coupon rate of 11.45 per cent a year to refinance existing indebtedness and expansion.

Ratings agency Standard & Poor's assigned a B rating to the note, one notch lower than the company's long-term corporate credit rating, noting that the new issuance would extend the developer's debt maturity.

In C-Suite, Shum Chiu-hung explains why Times Property is focusing on existing markets.