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〈Asian Post, Jan 14, 2017〉SINGAPORE investors ploughed more capital into real estate in the Asia-Pacific last year than a year earlier, with land and offices topping their list of purchases, even as their acquisition fervour back home continued to ease.

Data from Real Capital Analytics (RCA), which tracks portfolio or standalone acquisitions of at least US$10 million, showed that outbound real estate investments in the region by Singapore investors rose 31.8 per cent to US$9.7 billion, while domestic investments slipped 20.7 per cent to US$4.8 billion.

The S$4.1 billion acquisition of commercial property Century Link in Shanghai Pudong by a fund set up by Singapore-listed ARA Asset Management with China Life and South Korea's Peninsular Investment Partners stood as the biggest single-property purchase in the region last year.

"With cooling measures still in force in their home market, Singapore developers have continued to look for opportunities abroad," said Cushman & Wakefield managing director for Asia-Pacific research Sigrid Zialcita. Depreciation risks of the yuan also spurred more real estate deals by Chinese investors outside the country, RCA data shows. Their outbound real estate investments in the Asia-Pacific surged 66.2 per cent to US$13.4 billion, while their investments within mainland China grew 6.9 per cent to US$337.7 billion.

Amid lingering concerns over yuan weakness, well-capitalised Chinese developers piled into land and office deals in Hong Kong, setting new price benchmarks there. Being at the doorstep and having a currency pegged to a strengthening greenback, Hong Kong ticked all the boxes, Ms Zialcita said.

While the broad outbound trend among Singapore and Chinese investors is likely to persist in the medium term, global macroeconomics will dictate investment dynamics and allocations this year, she added. "If the Fed hikes rates continually, the strengthening US dollar could benefit the region as Asia-Pacific investors focus their firepower at home, and the region will also offer more value to European and US investors." Chinese and Singapore investors were the region's dominant real estate investors, making up a third of total foreign investments in the region, according to Cushman & Wakefield. Notably, China and Singapore were also the top two Asian sources of foreign capital in the US and Europe last year.

Real estate investments by Chinese investors in the Americas jumped 57.1 per cent in 2016 to US$16.3 billion, RCA data shows. Ms Zialcita reckoned that Singapore developers, Reits and institutional investors will remain the most active outbound investors and are looking to raise their exposure in the emerging markets of India and South-east Asia. Chinese insurers are also expected to shore up their overseas real estate allocation, which now represents only 2 per cent of their total assets, below the 15 per cent ceiling. "

〈Macau Post, Jan 13, 2017〉Real estate Realtor Ricacorp (Macau) Properties Ltd anticipates this year’s housing transactions could probably surpass 10,000 even though home prices may post an increase of up to 10 pct from last year. Local residents wanting to buy their own homes and more supply this year may be the reason why.

Local property agency Ricacorp (Macau) Properties Ltd predicts the city’s housing market will be able to achieve over 10,000 transactions this year, with a growth of some five to 10 per cent in home prices.

Jane Liu, the managing director of the agency, said in a press briefing yesterday that the city’s housing market is expected to perform slightly better than last year, for which some 9,900 home transactions are expected to have been recorded, an increase of 72 per cent year-on-year.

“But we still hold a cautiously optimistic outlook for the city’s housing market,” said Ms. Liu.

The realtor expects the implementation of the free yacht travel scheme, the ability of Macau-licensed cars to drive in Hengqin, as well as the future opening of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai- Macau Bridge this year, will help stimulate the local home market.

But she added there might be some factors impacting negatively on the property market this year, such as the global economy possibly being affected by the inauguration of new U.S. president Donald J. Trump, China’s regulations on restricting property purchases in the Mainland, as well as the depreciation of the renminbi.

Nevertheless, Franky Fong, a regional director of the agency, added that the recent increase in U.S. interest rates would only have a mild impact on the local property market, given that the increase is minimal.

“The increase in interest rates in the U.S. is small and will not have much negative impact on the mortgage payments by local property buyers to the banks,” Mr. Fong said.

〈China Daily, Jan 12, 2017〉The New Year stocks rally seems unstoppable. The benchmark indicator of Hong Kong stocks has been going up for four consecutive trading days on increased turnover. Analysts expect the gauge to break through the psychological 23,000-point barrier before taking a breather.

It seems investors have largely put behind them the negative factors that had weighed down share prices across the board late last year.

Unlikely as it may seem, property stocks are leading the charge, ignoring warnings of rising interest rates that could dampen demand and, more importantly, the prospect of an oversupply of new apartments that could depress the earnings of major developers.

On top of that is the lackluster economic scene that’s showing no sign of improving. The nagging slowdown in exports growth and the persistent decline in retail sales could lead to falling wages and rising unemployment.

The only bright spot, if you can call it, is the strength of the Hong Kong dollar, which has been appreciating in tandem with the greenback against most other regional currencies. An appreciating currency is not necessarily a good thing because it has the effect of eroding Hong Kong’s competitiveness against rival regional economies. But, the strong currency has been a magnet for overseas capital that has been widely credited for keeping local stocks and properties on the boil since the second quarter of last year.

Among the various stock-market sectors, utilities, as expected, is the only one that has been falling behind in the latest rally. The reasons are obvious. Investors normally buy utilities for their consistent dividend yields. But, the attraction is losing its shine as interest rates climb. The average dividend payout of utility stocks pales in comparison to bond yields which have surged sharply in recent weeks.

If you find property stocks too risky at current prices, your safest bet should be banks which stand to gain much from higher interest rates. But, if the property market tanks, as some analysts have warned, no one will be spared. Barring that, banks should do well.

〈The Standard, Jan 11, 2017〉Grade-a commercial office supply is forecast to rise significantly this year, with some 3.45 million square feet of new floor area coming on stream - the highest since 2008.

Summarizing data from various real estate consulting agencies, about nine commercial projects are expected to be completed this year.

Kowloon East will be the main hub of new office supply in 2017, with five projects providing 2.28 million sq ft of space.

The project in Kwun Tong being built by Singapore-based Mapletree Investments at the intersection of Hang Yip Street and Wai Yip Street will be the largest - providing about 665,000 sq ft of new office space.

In nearby Kowloon Bay, the project at the junction of Wang Chiu Road and Lam Lee Street, acquired last year by Kingston Financial Group (1031) chief executive Pollyanna Chu Yuet-wah from Swire Properties (1972) for HK$6.65 billion, is also expected to be completed this year, throwing 555,000 sq ft of office premises onto the market.

Meanwhile, other new projects slated for completion in Kowloon East include Sun Hung Kai Properties' (0016) 33 Tseuk Luk Street project, and its joint project with Wong's International (0099) - One Harbour Square Phase 2 - in Kwun Tong.

The increased supply of premium office space will offer more options for corporations, with a growing number of financial institutions flocking to Kowloon East. A few years ago, Manulife and Citibank bought commercial buildings from Wheelock's (0020) One Bay East project in Kwun Tong.

In 2016, JP Morgan preleased about 225,000 sq ft of office floor area at another Kwun Tong commercial property, being co-developed by Link REIT (0823) and Nan Fung Group, at 77 Hoi Bun Road.

〈The Standard, Jan 10, 2017〉Ex-chief executive Donald Tsang Yam- kuen may have taken a holiday with Wave Media investor Bill Wong Cho- bau in a luxury mainland hotel "a week or so'' after the company was granted a digital broadcasting license by the Executive Council, the prosecution told the High Court.

On the second day of his opening statement, Queen's Counsel David Perry said Tsang as the chief executive, together with the Executive Council, officially granted the digital audio broadcasting license to Wave Media in the Exco meeting on March 22, 2011.

On April 11, 2011, Tsang wrote a letter - with a copy sent to Wong - to Wong Shun-yuen of the Regency Hotel Shantou, whom Perry alleged was related to Bill Wong, expressing his gratitude for the "enthusiastic and hearty hospitality during [our] visit to Shantou days ago.''

"My wife and I are blissfully pleased with the sumptuously decorated Regency Hotel which offers services and food meeting the highest standard of quality,'' Tsang wrote in the letter. Bill Wong was also the boss of East Pacific Group Limited, which owned the three-story East Pacific Garden flat in Shenzhen which Tsang negotiated to rent in the same period, the court heard.

Perry said that Wong Shun-yuen was not only connected to Bill Wong's East Pacific Group ,but his signature also appeared in documents of Bill Wong's Bank of China account. According to travel records, Tsang and his wife Selina Tsang Pou Siu-mei left Hong Kong for the mainland on March 31, 2011, while Wong left a day earlier, Perry said.

The Tsang couple returned to Hong Kong on April 4, while Wong returned on April 2. "They spent time together - a week or so after the Executive Council made the decision confirming that Wave Media will get the broadcasting license,'' Perry said. The court also heard that, after Exco approved in principle to grant the license to Wave Media on November 2, 2010, Tsang and his wife - together with another Wave Media shareholder, David Li Kwok-po - returned to Hong Kong and arrived within seconds of each other on November 7 at the Hong Kong and Macau Ferry Terminal.