Discounts drive into homes market

Business | Bloomberg 14 Sep 2018

Chinese property developers are offering free luxury cars and hefty discounts to lure buyers as lending curbs and funding constraints squeeze their finances.

China Merchants Shekou Industrial Zone Holdings is giving away a BMW Series 3 or X1 to buyers of a three-bedroom unit or townhouse at its Shanghai development. The car, or cash equivalent, equates to about a 10 percent discount on the 3.1 million yuan (HK$3.55 billion) price of the 89-square-meter apartment.

At China Evergrande Group's (3333) 646 nationwide projects, a basic 11 percent price cut widens to as much as 26 percent once extra perks, such as discounts to buyers referred by Evergrande employees or previous buyers, are thrown in.

An initial down-payment of just 5 percent is required, compared with the usual 30 percent deposit required by local governments. Developers are bridging the gap by offering multiyear installment plans as a way of getting around higher thresholds aimed at deterring property speculators.

The giveaways and discounts suggest debt-laden developers are pulling out all stops to raise revenue, with the sector facing a record US$23 billion (HK$180.52 billion) maturity wall in the first quarter of 2019. At the same time, China's determination to keep a lid on home prices has made it harder for developers to generate swift cash from sales.

"Financing is becoming hard for everyone, even including the giant players," said Sabrina Wei, head of northern China research at Cushman & Wakefield in Beijing. "They need discounts to boost sales and collect cash."

Developers in neighboring Hong Kong are also offering perks such as free holiday and travel packages and easy credit to lure buyers in a sign one of the world's hottest property markets may finally be cooling.

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