China’s top developers plan to invest more in land
Chinese real estate developers surveyed by Reuters mostly plan to increase their land investments in 2017 as they shrug off record prices and government tightening measures while seeking to expand their market share.
The 10 companies contacted by phone and messaging represent half of the top 20 Chinese developers and together have close to $300 billion in annual sales, mainly of apartments.
Eight of them said they were increasing their budgets, by between 10-50 percent, and the other two said they would sustain their spending at 2016 levels. Company officials responding to the survey asked for anonymity, many citing corporate quiet periods ahead of quarterly results. The developers are buying land in Tier 1 cities, which are Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen, or in Tier 2 cities, such as Suzhou, Wuhan and Hefei, but most are shunning smaller Tier 3 and Tier 4 cities. That could increase the price differential between the major cities, where demand is robust and land is in short supply, and the rest.
“Because of the tightening, home sales will not be as crazy as in 2016, but it’s a good time for us to buy more land because we sold most of the inventory last year,” said a company official at one developer based in the southern city of Shenzhen, where home prices are among the most expensive in China. “Developers need to keep the growth momentum and so we need to keep buying aggressively … The theme for this year is land investment.”
Increasing market share helps the big players to gain more economies of scale, putting them in a better position to control labor, materials and marketing costs. Companies are snatching up land amid intensifying competition that is expected to squeeze out some of the country’s smaller players. Citi estimates China’s top 20 developers will control 45 percent of new home sales before 2020, up from 26 percent in 2016.
The plans for more land buying contrast with expectations for a slowdown in the growth in overall national real estate investment in 2017, compared with a 6.9 percent rise last year. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences forecasts China’s property investment will rise 5.4 percent in 2017.