Chinese offshore investment

Chinese firm in talks to buy Australian property developer Meriton

Owner of Australia's biggest homebuilder Meriton looks to sell as Sydney flat prices surge

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 October, 2014, 4:37am
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 April, 2015, 5:44pm

Billionaire Harry Triguboff is in talks with a Chinese company to sell Australia's biggest homebuilder, which he founded more than 50 years ago.

"It's of great interest for me to sell" Triguboff, 81, said in Sydney, adding that he last met with the interested buyer last week. He declined to identify the company. "I showed them my valuation, they're looking at their valuation; that's what we're doing now."

Asian developers including China's Greenland and Singapore-based Frasers Centrepoint are seeking to tap into a 12 per cent surge in Sydney flat prices. Meriton has capitalised on the price gain by buying A$1 billion (HK$6.83 billion) of land since January 2013.

The closely-held firm, based in Sydney, has had its busiest year on record, starting work on more than triple the number of dwellings in the 12 months through to the end of June from the previous year, according to a company spokeswoman.

Triguboff, who was born in Dalian, Liaoning province, and grew up in the Russian community of Tianjin, is Australia's fourth-richest person with a net worth of US$5.3 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He is talking with only one potential buyer, he said, and will sell only if the Chinese acquirer is willing to take over all of Meriton.

Greenland, China Vanke and Xinyuan Real Estate are among Chinese developers venturing overseas as the mainland housing market falters and the government eases restrictions on foreign investments by domestic companies. They are also following local buyers who are migrating.

Meriton sells about 15 per cent of its flats to Chinese buyers, according to company figures.

The developer owns enough land to build about 15,000 flats, up from a traditional pipeline of about 8,000, company figures show. More than 2,000 of those will be built by the end of 2014.

Meriton, which has A$275 million of debt, started work on 7,929 dwellings in the year through to the end of June, up from 2,573 over the previous 12 months, according to company figures. It owns or manages about 2,200 units as long-term accommodation, and rents out 3,200 serviced apartments.

Even if he sells Meriton now, Triguboff has no plans to retire.

"I want to work for a bank to fix up their problem loans because they don't know how to do it," he said.