‘Re­bound may per­sist for 2 more years’

New Straits Times - - Business -

HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s rich­est man sig­nalled that the prop­erty re­bound that has been push­ing up prices in the world’s most ex­pen­sive hous­ing mar­ket could per­sist for as long as two years as grow­ing de­mand out­weighs gov­ern­ment curbs.

“I can­not see how prop­erty prices would fall in the com­ing one to two years,” said Li Kash­ing, the 88-year-old head of Che­ung Kong Prop­erty Hold­ings and CK Hutchi­son Hold­ings, dur­ing his an­nual earn­ings press con­fer­ence on Wednesday. “The force from buy­ers is very strong.”

The resur­gent home mar­ket has posed a headache for the lead­ers here and stoked ris­ing dis­con­tent among the city’s res­i­dents. Af­ter a short­lived dip, home prices have soared in the past year to hit records. Ex­ist­ing house prices have ad­vanced 17 per cent from a low point a year ago, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­taline Prop­erty Cen­taCity Lead­ing In­dex.

The gov­ern­ment in Novem­ber im­posed higher stamp du­ties tar­geted at all but first-time lo­cal buy­ers in an ef­fort to rein in prices. The curbs have done lit­tle to cool de­mand, with buy­ers flock­ing to newly built units amid re­bates and dis­counts from de­vel­op­ers.

Hous­ing costs have dogged Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Le­ung Chun­y­ing over the course of his five years in power. As the city’s elec­tion draws near, the two lead­ing can­di­dates to re­place Le­ung have both sin­gled out un­af­ford­able hous­ing as an is­sue, sig­nalling that new mea­sures may be rolled out to ad­dress ris­ing prices. A com­mit­tee of 1,200 busi­ness and po­lit­i­cal elites will vote later this month on who will be­come the next chief ex­ec­u­tive.

Among those vot­ing will be Li and his sons, but he dodged ques­tions on Wednesday as to who he would cast his bal­lot for.

Li’s for­tune has stayed re­silient as Hong Kong’s ro­bust prop­erty mar­ket boosted stocks of listed de­vel­op­ers. His wealth has ad­vanced by US$2.1 bil­lion (RM9.3 bil­lion) this year to US$30.7 bil­lion.

The ty­coon was less op­ti­mistic about the state of the econ­omy, which he de­scribed as be­ing in its worst shape in two decades.

He said tourism-re­lated in­dus­tries in Hong Kong had de­te­ri­o­rated in the past year and within his retail op­er­a­tions world­wide, Hong Kong’s per­for­mance was among the worst.

Sep­a­rately, Li’s two main com­pa­nies raised their div­i­dend pay­ments as he fol­lowed through on a pledge to share­hold­ers af­ter com­plet­ing the big­gest-ever re­or­gan­i­sa­tion of his busi­ness em­pire.

Li said there was a high chance he would con­tinue to raise div­i­dend pay­ments. Bloomberg

Li Ka-shing

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