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Property News Weekly Digest
〈Taipei Times, June 1, 2019〉Property prices in Hong Kong, the world’s most expensive real-estate market, yesterday reached an all-time high after relentless gains over the past three months.

Home values in the territory broke their previous record set in August last year, making a correction from the middle of last year through January look like a temporary blip, Centaline data show.

The Centa-City Leading Index, which measures values of used homes, stood at 189.42 for the week ended May 26, the highest ever. Prices have risen by 8.6 percent since the beginning of the year.

Home prices have rebounded on revived sentiment around low interest rates and limited supply.

UBS Group AG said last month that the property market in Hong Kong would remain bullish for another decade, thanks in part to the population influx from mainland China.

In some quarters, the demand has never let up.

At Wheelock Properties Ltd’s Montara project in the Tseung Kwan O area, 103 potential buyers have been vying for each unit, making it the most competitive project since 2013, the Hong Kong Economic Times reported on May 10.

It is grim news for those trying to get on the property ladder. Hong Kong already holds the mantle of the world’s least-affordable property market and this will make even basic apartments the preserve of rich people.

A CBRE Group Inc report in April found that the territory has the highest average home price at US$1.2 million, as well as the highest average prime property price at US$6.9 million.

〈Asian Post, June 1, 2019〉A measure of pre-owned home prices in Hong Kong rose at the fastest pace in more than six years in April, gaining for a fourth month, but analysts expect the increases to taper off as the US-China trade war cools buyers' enthusiasm.

The Rating and Valuation Department's index of used home prices rose 3.2 per cent to 390.5 in April, faster than the 3 per cent growth in March, it said yesterday.

The growth in the index is the fastest since February 2013, when a 3.23 per cent rise was recorded, said Derek Chan, head of research at Ricacorp Properties.

"The figure reflects the market before the trade war escalated, when market sentiment was good," Chan said. "Buyers entered the market enthusiastically so there was large growth."

Chan said the government was likely to monitor the market closely because in the past it had taken action whenever prices had gained more than 3 per cent for two consecutive months.

However, he expected growth to slow to less than 2 per cent in May amid souring sentiment as the trade war continued.

Home prices have now rebounded 8.7 per cent from January to April after a 9 per cent fall between August and December.

According to a separate gauge, they hit a record high for the week to May 26 when the Centa-City Leading Index broke through August's peak to 189.42.

〈Asian Post, May 31, 2019〉Hong Kong's justice minister is caught up in another controversy, this time over a declaration of interest involving her husband's luxury Mid-Levels properties.

Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah yesterday dismissed the need to declare the two properties to the cabinet, saying she had no personal stake in the flats, although the opposition camp accused her of double standards as she had registered another house solely owned by her husband.

Her decision to not disclose some of her husband's properties also contrasted with the views of a fellow Executive Council member, who said politicians had to go the extra mile and be transparent about their spouses' interests.

Cheng's husband, veteran engineer Otto Poon Lok-to, bought the two properties late last year. It also emerged that he could have saved more than HK$10 million worth of stamp duty on one of the flats.

A land search by the Post confirmed that Poon, a former president of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers, bought a flat on Albany Road, Mid-Levels, in his own name for HK$89.9 million in October.

The second deal was more complex. In December he took over sole directorship of Polycool Limited, a private company that bought a duplex on Robinson Road in Mid-Levels for HK$53.5 million in 2011.

The firm's only shareholder was an offshore firm registered in the British Virgin Islands. As the new director of Polycool, Poon effectively owns the duplex despite there being no change in property ownership on paper.

〈China Daily, May 29, 2019〉Property consultancy Knight Frank said it expects Hong Kong residential property prices to remain stable, while luxury and super luxury homes rise 5 percent this year.

SAR home prices recorded a cumulative increase of 5 percent in the first quarter, reflecting positive market sentiment, said Thomas Lam, executive director and head of valuation and advisory at Knight Frank.

Lam doesn't believe the government will launch new "spicy" measures to cool down the market in the next three to six months.

He forecast property prices will climb 5 to 8 percent if the trade conflict between China and the United States is resolved in the near term. If not, prices will decline up to 5 percent.

Lam said the residential market will be dominated by first-hand sales in the remainder of this year, and developers are adjusting their sales strategy, as some are leasing their projects or selling them through tender.

In the secondary market, a 545-square-foot unit at Fanling Town Center changed hands at HK$6.36 million, or HK$14,008 per sq ft, the first time prices at the project broke HK$6 million.

Separately, the one-month Hong Kong Interbank Offered Rate, which is linked to the mortgage rate, rose for the ninth straight trading day yesterday to 1.9564 percent -- a one-month high.

〈The Standard, May 29, 2019〉Henderson Land's (0012) wholly-owned subsidiary has won a residential site in Beijing with a bid of 3.03 billion yuan (HK$3.44 billion).

The deal was made at a price of 69,541 yuan per square meter after 24 rounds of bidding, representing a 23.31 percent premium. The site, as the company's first residential land in Beijing, has a land size for construction of 39,479 square meters.

The company's land bank in the mainland is not very large, with 38.8 million sq m of floor area, according to its 2018 report.

Hong Kong real estate tycoon Lee Shau-kee, the major owner and former chairman of the property giant, stepped down from his position on Tuesday due to his advanced age. Lee has built his empire since the 1970s with Henderson and another five listed companies which have a combined market value of HK$550 billion.