Cheung Kong

Cheung Kong, Sun Hung Kai laughing all the way to the bank in world’s priciest apartment market

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 July, 2017, 7:01pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 July, 2017, 11:03pm

Hong Kong’s residential property prices, which are the highest among the world’s major urban centres, have turned the city’s two biggest developers into winners, helping them beat their 12-month sales targets half way through the year.

Cheung Kong Property Holdings, the flagship developer of Hong Kong’s wealthiest man Li Ka-shing, more than doubled its first-half revenue to HK$27.75 billion (US$3.55 billion) from selling 1,565 units in eight wholly owned or joint venture projects, according to Centaline Property Agency’s data.

At Sun Hung Kai Properties (SHKP), first-half receipt rose 17.6 per cent to HK$22.1 billion, from the sale of 1,542 units, Centaline said.

The two developers sit atop a list of Hong Kong developers by sales, followed by Wheelock Properties, New World Development and Henderson Land Development. The city’s five largest builders sold HK$85.7 billion worth of apartments and villas between them during the first half, Centaline said. Six of the 20 best-performing stocks on the 50-member Hang Seng Index in the first half were developers, led by Cheung Kong’s 30 per cent return.

Cheung Kong’s shares were recently trading at a two-year high of HK$62.10, valuing Li’s company at almost HK$230 billion. SHKP shares have risen 19 per cent in the first half, trading at HK$119.20 in recent trading.

Hong Kong’s residential prices have soared 20 per cent in the past 12 months, buoyed by an environment of low mortgage rates and cheap financing. While strong revenues were affected by sales and construction schedules, they had been given a boost by the bubbling housing market, where up to 20 buyers queue up for every available unit in some projects, even after the city government tightened mortgage rules and closed a tax loop hole to deter speculators.

The developers had also been offering incentives, including favourable financing terms -- with rates below commercial bank loans -- and outright discounts to move their new launches along in the primary market, leaving the secondary market quiet.

Cheung Kong partnered with Centaline Mortgage Broker, the agent’s mortgage referral service, to offer buyers a mixed mortgage rate of 1.68 per cent per annum on its Ocean Pride apartments in Tsuen Wan. That’s the cheapest mortgage in Hong Kong, lower than banks’ mortgage rate of prime minus 2.75 per cent.

“The sales momentum has been slowing down in the past month after a boom in the first half,” said Derek Chan, head of research at Ricacorp Properties, an agent in the city.

The market may be hit by increasing supply of new homes coming on to the market in the second half, even though a sharp correction is unlikely as the pace of interest rate increase had been slower than expected, Chan said.

Still, Hong Kong’s property prices may drop, Citibank said, by as much as 20 per cent in the second half, as up to 24,000 new units are due to come to market, said the bank’s head of portfolio advisory Catherine Cheung.