Written by Michael Cranston, AFR July 2017
At least 10 Chinese investors and developers who are yet to make their mark on Australia’s property scene are preparing to make an entry despite a recent slowdown in corporate activity driven by China’s upcoming National Congress and tougher foreign investment restrictions imposed by Chinese regulators.
New federal and state taxes on foreign buyers and tighter lending restrictions have also created negative sentiment for potential Chinese developers and investors. However, JLL’s head of China desk, Michael Zhang, said many Chinese real estate companies were still very serious about investing here.
“Australia continues to be a major investment destination for Chinese capital and many Chinese real estate companies are serious about having some footprint in Australia,” Mr Zhang said.
In a report called The Future of Chinese Residential Developers in Australia, JLL conducted analysis into the 10 largest residential developers yet to enter the Australian market.
Among the top 10 are Hong Kong-based Sun Hung Kai with a market capitalisation of $56 billion and Henderson Land, which recently paid a record $4 billion for a car park in Hong Kong. Other names include Evergrande and transportation business China Merchants Group.
“Some of the Chinese residential developers on this list are already showing interest in the Australian market or are involved in Australian industries outside of the residential real estate sector,” JLL senior analyst for residential research in Sydney and author of the report, Vince De Zoysa, said.
“We have already seen some of these firms enter Australia through other industries, in particular infrastructure. This allows them to establish a local presence in Australia in their core industry before moving up the risk and reward curve into residential development.”
A key driver for these developers will be the health of the foreign retail buyer market for new apartments in Australia. The federal budget changed the rules so that developers selling new multi-storey dwellings are now capped at vending 50 per cent of the total development to overseas buyers. Foreign owners will also start to incur a capital gains tax of 12.5 per cent when selling their main residential asset.
Interest from China remains high
“Despite increased taxes, tighter lending measures on development finance and limited availability of senior debt to overseas developers, the level of interest remains high for Chinese developers,” Mr Zhang said.
While Juwai.com has recently forecast Chinese buyers to spend $104.5 billion on global property this year, a significant fall from last year’s record high of $133.7 billion, Mr Zhang said that was not representative of a new wave of Chinese developers and investors.
“Australia continues to be a major investment destination for Chinese capital,” he said. “Australia’s average deal size is smaller than that of the US and the UK, which makes investing here accessible to investors of all sizes.
“Increasingly Chinese developers are seeking ready-to-go opportunities with existing DA or planning outcomes, thereby minimising planning risk and bringing clarity on project life cycle.”
Chinese corporate activity has slowed recently as a result of the upcoming 19th National Congress to be held in October. The tougher foreign investment restrictions imposed by Chinese regulators on $US1 billion-plus deals are still in place.