SOEs barred from realty

09:38, March 19, 2010      

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More than 70 State-owned enterprises will be withdrawn from the real estate sector once their current development projects are complete, China's State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Com-mission said Thursday.

The latest attempt to cool the red-hot real estate sector would be of little use, analysts say.

The super-wealthy centrally administered enterprises are blamed for a land-acquisition frenzy that is seen as having further pushed up soaring housing prices.

The latest such lavish purchases were made in Beijing at a record price of around 11 billion yuan ($1.6 billion) by three State enterprises Monday, a day after Chinese lawmakers closed their annual assembly, which intensively discussed how to contain property prices.

One tract of the land, located in Wangjing, inside the northeast fifth ring road, sold for 27,000 yuan ($3,970) per square meter, even higher than the price of finished apartments in the area. It reportedly instantly drove up the resale prices of homes nearby.

Average wage earners in the nation complain that home prices have been rising out of their reach, despite a set of government policies meant to rein in speculation and asset bubbles. The National Bureau of Statistics said housing prices increased by 10.7 percent last month from a year earlier.

Without specifying a date, the commission, the governing body of more than 100 enterprises run by the central government, said 78 state companies, whose main businesses were not property development, will be put under "adjustment and restructuring as soon as projects including developments on land in their possession and on existing commercial developments are complete," said commission spokesman Du Yuanquan at a press conference Thursday.

A total of 16 enterprises approved by the commission in 2003 to mainly operate in the real estate sector, will remain in the business, Du said. The 16 companies' net profit was 18.8 billion yuan in 2009, accounting for 94 percent of the real estate earnings of all central government enterprises.

Property sales by State-owned enterprises last year totaled 220 billion yuan, accounting for 5 percent of the national total, while the total area of property sold by those enterprises was 28 million square meters, 3 percent of the entire commercial space sold in China, the commission said in an online statement.

The commission declined to give details on the fate of the 78 outgoing companies, whose contribution to net profits of all State property developers was only 4 percent.

In a new regulation passed last week, the Ministry of Land and Resources demands developers pay a 50 percent down payment on land acquisitions within a month of signing the contract. To participate in auctions, buyers are also ordered to pay a deposit that equals 20 percent of the minimum price for the land.
Wang Zhongfu, of the Central University of Finance and Economics, said the withdrawal of State-owned enterprises wouldn't help to trim prices.

"It doesn't stop the remaining firms from spending hugely on land. Instead, it only leads to the concentration of capital, making them even richer," Wang said, urging such property developers to commit to offering more affordable housing rather than cashing in.

Liu Weixin, of the China Society of Urban Economy, said a large proportion of the 4-trillion-yuan government stimulus investment went to State-owned enterprises, many of which poured the money back into the property market.

"Speculation in the real estate market with stimulus money is detrimental to the development of the sector," Liu said. "These large enterprises would corner their privately owned counterparts, which make up 70 to 80 percent of property developers."

Revenue from land sales is a major source of local government fiscal income and developers prefer to construct large-sized residential apartments as well as high-end realty projects in a bid for greater profit, Liu noted.

That view was echoed by Yin Kunhua, president of the Shanghai Real Estate Management Institute, who called on Stated-owned enterprises not to enter into sectors that require full market competition.
"Some SOEs grabbed enormous profits in the property sector because their official background makes it much easier for them to obtain land and credit," Yin said.

A rise in property prices has fueled concerns that an asset bubble is building that could eventually burst and hurt the wider economy.

Governments unveiled a series of measures to dampen the overheated property market, including re-imposing a sales tax on homes sold within five years of their purchase and raising the down payment for a second house or more with bank loans.

Beijing Municipal Government said it will allot at least 25 million square meters of land for housing, half of which will be used for affordable housing

The People's Bank of China, the central bank, raised the deposit reserve requirement ratio in January, and in February.

Source: Global Times
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