Monday 10 December 2018

Free BMWs on offer as Chinese builders hunt for homebuyers

Meltdown: The offer of a free BMW 3 Series for buyers of townhouses in Shanghai is just one of a number of incentives being rolled out by developers in cities across China
Meltdown: The offer of a free BMW 3 Series for buyers of townhouses in Shanghai is just one of a number of incentives being rolled out by developers in cities across China
Shanghai

Bloomberg News

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 Co. 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 10pc discount on the 3.1 million yuan (US$450,000) price of the 89-square-metre apartment.

At China Evergrande Group's 646 nationwide projects, a basic 11pc price cut widens to as much as 26pc once extra perks, such as discounts to buyers referred by Evergrande employees or previous buyers, are thrown in. A further incentive: The developer is accepting an initial down-payment of just 5pc, compared with the usual 30pc deposit required by local governments.

The giveaways and discounts suggest debt-laden developers are pulling out all stops to raise revenue, with the sector facing a record $23bn maturity wall in the first quarter of 2019 acccording to Bloomberg's calculations, or as much as $43bn if bond investors demand early repayment of some notes.

Compounding that is China's determination to keep a lid on home prices, which is making it harder for firms 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 Inc. in Beijing. "They need discounts to boost sales and collect cash."

Developers in neighbouring 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.

At China Merchants Shekou's 'Harmonious' development, prospective buyers have signed up for just 25 of the 350 apartments, local land registry filings show. Only eight buyers signed up for Gezhouba Real Estate's 223-unit 'Magnolia Garden' project in Shanghai's west. In the city's north, Sanxiang Impression Co.'s 161-unit complex enticed just five people.

"Property projects are no longer an easy sale," Cushman's Wei said. "We may soon see this prolonged upbeat property season behind us."

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