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Property News Weekly Digest
〈Asian Post, June 5, 2021〉The recent surge in property prices and debt levels in China, and policymakers' response in tightening regulations, have sparked much speculation about the real estate market and its future.

In the second half of last year, average prices in China's top-tier cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou increased 10 per cent year on year. For premium properties, the price momentum is even stronger. Already, the four cities are among the most expensive globally, and their housing price-to-income ratios range from 31 to 44 times, below only Hong Kong's.

Moreover, credit risk keeps accumulating in the market. According to the People's Bank of China, new bank loans issued to households grew by 6 per cent last year to 7.9 trillion yuan (HK$9.5 trillion) from the year before, 75.6 per cent of which were long-term loans mainly for home purchases. There is also evidence that short-term consumer and small-business loans were used to buy residential property.

The worsening affordability measures and rising debt levels are signs of an inflating housing bubble. But an immediate burst seems unlikely. Despite the tremendous increase over the past two decades, Chinese property prices have not (yet) deviated significantly from economic fundamentals in two aspects.

〈Asian Post, June 4, 2021〉Cash and prizes totalling more than HK$73million are up for grabs for Hongkongers who get vaccinated against Covid-19, with businesses offering incentives such as a Tesla car, private flights to staycations and money.

Australia-based property firm Goodman Hong Kong is throwing a lottery for HK$1 million worth of prizes, including a Tesla Model 3 Long Range worth HK$500,000.

Those who love to fly can enter a Cathay Pacific Airways lottery to win a private party on board its new Airbus A321 neo aircraft within the city's air space, and 20 million Asia Miles.

Property developer Chinachem Group has put up HK$21.6 million worth of prizes including hotel staycations, dining incentives and cash vouchers, while Sa Sa International Holdings, which sells cosmetics and skincare products, will give away HK$1 million worth of cash vouchers.

The Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce will hold lucky draws with prizes totalling HK$20 million ranging from 500 MTR annual passes, Cathay's business class air tickets, hotel staycations, amusement park packages and other dining and shopping coupons.

Developer Hang Lung Properties has splashed out HK$10 million in cash and shopping coupons for staff and customers.

Shangri-La Group will open a lottery, with a winner to be awarded a year of free stays in any of its 100-plus hotels around the world.

Developer Sun Hung Kai Properties will roll out over HK$10 million worth of prizes for staff and the public via daily lotteries in July and August, with the grand prize being an iPhone 12 handset plus a year's free of charge mobile phone subscription service.

〈China Daily, June 3, 2021〉Researchers sceptical as survey finds low-income families in long wait for flats prefer not to share kitchens and other facilities with neighbours

Researchers have cast doubt on the government's strategy of using hotels and guest houses as transitional housing for low-income families in subdivided units, after a survey found residents did not like the idea of sharing kitchens and other facilities with neighbours.

The researchers were also concerned property owners would quit the scheme after the Covid-19 pandemic ended.

A team from the Open University of Hong Kong and the Lutheran Social Service conducted in-depth interviews with 15 families living in subdivided flats last December to understand their expectations and views on transitional housing.

"Hotels are now willing to lease their units to the government because business is bad during the Covid-19 pandemic," Professor Charles Kwong Che-leung, dean of arts and social science at the university, said yesterday. "But after Covid-19, if business goes back to normal, the supply for these units will decrease unexpectedly. Then we will have a problem of sustainability."

〈The Standard, June 2, 2021〉April saw 186 transactions, an 18 per cent increase over March, stretching a rally of three months and marking a 56-month high, official figures show

Hong Kong's street shop landscape has transformed dramatically following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, reflecting the changing fortunes of investors and industries amid the unprecedented dislocation it has caused.

Some investors, including property industry heavyweights, are buying shops at low prices while some are selling them, partly because some businesses are struggling.

According to the Land Registry, shop transactions rose for a third month in April, adding 18 per cent to 186 over March, and marking a 56-month high.

"Many of those active before the coronavirus outbreak are [now] selling shops. Very often, those who sell shops are in industries affected" by the pandemic, said Edwin Lee, founder and chief executive of Bridgeway Prime Shop Fund Management.

〈The Standard, June 1, 2021〉The Upper House hotel at Pacific Place renovated its 49th floor to set up Salisterra, a restaurant that specializes in Mediterranean cuisine.

The new place is brighter than it was previously, with a high table area and one for drinks. I was told the mood is different after dark because of its exquisite lighting.

It has now been operating for just over a month, and I was among a group invited by May Lam-Kobayashi, public affairs general manager for Hong Kong Swire Properties, to check it out.

Seafood being a mainstay on the Mediterranean menu, we had the "crusted fish." It is a meaty fish from cold waters coated with herbal jelly which hardened into a crust after baking, infusing the meat with the aroma of the spices.

As we were enjoying this delicious meal we talked about the real estate scene and recent top-level reshuffles at Swire Properties.

Present chief executive Guy Bradley will in a few months take over the "taipan" position from Merlin Swire, who is returning to London. Bradley will, in turn, be succeeded as CEO by Tim Blackburn, who now holds that position in the mainland.

The group has had many projects in the mainland in recent years, and you have to wonder if it is investing more heavily there.