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Property News Weekly Digest
〈The Standard, May 13, 2022〉Renavation planned for the 435-room Bay Bridge Lifestyle Retreat, while the 214-room Grand City Hotel in Sai Ying Pun set to become co-living flats

Two hotels changed hands in deals worth more than HK$2.3 billion on Wednesday, as cash-rich investors swooped in to pick up assets from the slumping hospitality industry in Hong Kong, betting on an improvement in the sector once Covid-19 is contained and the city’s borders are reopened.

Shun Ho Construction (Holdings), the wholly owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Magnificent Hotel Investments, has agreed to buy Bay Bridge Lifestyle Retreat, a 435-room waterfront hotel in the western New Territories overlooking Tsing Ma Bridge, for HK$1.42 billion, according to a filing made to the Hong Kong stock exchange on Wednesday.

Weave Living, a Hong Kong-based operator of shared living spaces, said later in the day it had acquired the former Grand City Hotel in Sai Ying Pun, in partnership with Angelo Gordon, a global privately held investment firm, from Magnificent Hotel for HK$900 million.

The Bay Bridge transaction is the biggest hotel deal by a local buyer since the acquisition of Inn Hotel Hong Kong at 60 Portland Street in December 2018 for HK$1.1 billion, according to JLL Hotels and Hospitality Group.

"We are the first local firm to buy a hotel property for such a large amount of money. It shows our confidence in Hong Kong’s tourism industry, which is bound to recover after the border with the mainland reopens," William Cheng, Magnificent Hotel’s chairman, told the Post.

〈The Standard, May 12, 2022〉The average waiting time for public housing is at a 23-year high of 6.1 years, with 245,000 families waiting in the queue.

That's according to the Housing Authority's latest statistics at the end of March, which is a rise from the six-year wait at the end of December that was already double the government's target of three years.

And that came even though the 245,200 applications for rental housing in March is down around 3,300 applications compared to December numbers.

Of the applications, 147,500 were general ones, which is 4,500 less, while the other 97,700 were from non-elderly singletons - 1,200 applications more.

The authority said the increase in average waiting time was due to people moving into several large-scale public rental estate projects in the first quarter, including Queens Hill Estate in Fan Ling and Hoi Tat and Pak Tin estates in Sham Shui Po.

According to its calculation, the waiting time for applicants is calculated into the average waiting time after they are assigned a public rental housing flat.

〈Asian Post, May 11, 2022〉Foreign buyers return to property market in April, after Q1 pullback

AS quarantine-free travel returns, private home purchases by foreign buyers are expected to gradually gain momentum, although analysts also flagged headwinds such as economic uncertainties and currency fluctuations as factors to watch.

According to data collated by OrangeTee & Tie, non-landed private home purchases by foreign buyers nearly halved after a fresh round of property cooling measures were unveiled in December, from 277 units in Q4 2021 to 146 units in Q1 2022. As part of the measures to cool the red-hot property market, foreign buyers now have to pay a 30 per cent Additional Buyer's Stamp Duty (ABSD), up sharply from 20 per cent previously.

OrangeTee's senior vice-president (research & analytics), Christine Sun, said: "Some buyers may have been deterred by the higher taxes and bigger cash outlay."

Nicholas Mak, ERA's head of research & consultancy, pointed to other factors which also contributed to the pullback in transaction volumes, namely geopolitical tensions, rising interest rates and a dearth of major launches.

〈China Daily, May 10, 2022〉New property transactions in nine cities within the Greater Bay Area are expected to rise by up to 5 percent this quarter, driven by factors such as easing policies and lower mortgage rates.

The cities, especially Guangzhou and Foshan, have seen greater relaxation of curbs in the property sector that will boost the market and experts expect transactions in the GBA will rise by 3.5 percent to 5 percent in the second quarter compared to the previous period, says an executive of property agent Talent Asia GC company.

Guangzhou has relaxed the price cap on first-hand residential properties since the beginning of the year while local banks have also sped up mortgage lending, with loans generally completed within one month, said Zheng Shulun, a senior executive from a unit of Centaline Property.

The property market in Guangzhou has also slightly rebounded on easing measures, with a seasonal boom seen after the Chinese New Year, but the measures are still not strong enough and many prospective buyers are still adopting a wait-and-see approach, Zheng said.

As for Shenzhen, although it has not relaxed sale and purchase restrictions this year, there is also a certain degree of easing in home mortgage loans.

〈The Business Times, May 9, 2022〉CHINA'S property sector -- which accounts for around a quarter of the economy -- continues to reel as Beijing struggles to balance the taming of heavily-indebted property developers and its strict zero-Covid policy which is restricting travel in its 2 largest cities.
Shanghai, China's largest city with about 28 million people, has been locked down since March 28, while the capital city of Beijing, with a population of 21 million, began tightening restrictions at the end of April.

New-home sales in 23 major cities tracked by China Real Estate Information Corp fell 33 per cent by area over the crucial 5-day Labour Day break compared with a year earlier.

"So, you can imagine the central bank may be lowering mortgage rates, and cities may be relaxing purchasing restrictions. But if you can't go out of your apartment, it doesn't help. You don't have transactions," said Hui Shan, chief China economist at Goldman Sachs Research.

China's top 100 developers reported sales volume contracted by 56.5 per cent on year in March, down further from the 43.4 per cent contraction in Jan-Feb.

Land sales, which are regarded as a leading indicator for the property sector, continue to contract in terms of volume and value.

Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst of Asia Pacific, at Oanda, said: "China's private developer leverage saga has been knocked off the headlines but remains a slow-moving train wreck that is also being exacerbated by the zero-Covid policy."