Mainland banks move into Melbourne market

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 February, 2013, 9:02pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 February, 2013, 8:40pm

Asian banks have emerged as one of the more active tenancy groups in Melbourne in recent times, with mainland Chinese financiers leading the pack.

The focus on Australia follows the scaling back by some stressed European lenders of their exposure to Australia as a result of the Eurozone debt crisis. This has left a financing gap that a range of Asian banks are seeking to capitalise on by establishing operations in Melbourne.

Mainland Chinese banks have been particularly active and are providing an alternate source of capital to the big four Australian banks for both developers and investors. These include the China Construction Bank that this year expanded its presence in Australia after signing a five-year lease at 410 Collins Street in the Melbourne CBD.

That location is already home to other international banks, including the Chinese bank ICBC, which recently fitted out its new Melbourne flagship location at 379 Collins Street.

We expect a spate of additional Chinese banks to secure space in the Melbourne CBD over the next 12 to 24 months, in a trend similar to what we have seen with international fashion and luxury retailers who have been strategically positioning themselves in the marketplace over the past year.

The interest follows a surge in investment in Melbourne involving mainland Chinese investors and developers.

The overseas banks are at a distinct advantage to provide funding to overseas developers as they understand the risks associated with foreign pre-sales to individual apartment buyers and can quantify the risk much more succinctly than the local big four banks.

Melbourne is also being recognised by mainland Chinese groups as a key destination for business investment.

Over the past two years in excess of A$450 million (HK$3.6 billion) in Melbourne property deals have been finalised with mainland Chinese groups involving both investments and development sites, with the next five years expected to yield even stronger levels of interest, specifically from Chinese buyers.

The interest is coming from varied areas of China, including Guangzhou, Shanghai, Nanjing, Guan Dong, Beijing and Wuhan, with the strength of the Australian dollar not being a deterrent for significant deployment of Asian capital for various projects in Melbourne.

At least 11 new projects in Melbourne with the potential to provide 3,000 apartments are linked to Chinese developers, all involving land that has been acquired over the past 24 months.