Thursday, April 22, 2010

New govt curbs won’t dampen demand: Mobius

Demand for housing in China will withstand government bank lending curbs, and further declines in the nation’s property stocks may be an opportunity to buy the shares, Templeton Asset Management’s Mark Mobius said.

‘We don’t see fundamentals of the property industry will change much because of these new policies,’ Mr Mobius, executive chairman at Templeton, said in response to questions.

‘We are in general still light on Chinese developers and if this correction brings valuations to more attractive levels, it would be a good opportunity for us to step up our positions.’

A measure of 34 property stocks on the Shanghai Composite Index has plunged 8.8 per cent this week after the government limited loans for third-home purchases, increased down payment requirements and raised mortgage rates. China’s cabinet has said stricter measures to control speculation are needed after property prices in 70 cities jumped a record 11.7 per cent in March.

Martin Currie’s Chris Ruffle said in an interview this week Chinese real estate stocks are becoming ‘more attractive’ as government measures drove valuations to a year-low and made interest rate increases less likely.

China Asset Management, the nation’s biggest mutual fund company, bought developers in its flagship fund in the first quarter, predicting ‘gentle’ tightening this year, according to its website.

Economists are split on the timing of the nation’s first interest rate increase since 2007. Royal Bank of Canada said higher rates are likely this quarter and could come this month, while Bank of America-Merrill Lynch sees no move until the fourth quarter.

The SE Shang Property Index has lost 19 per cent this year, the most among the five industry groups. It now trades at 22.8 times reported earnings, the lowest since March 2009, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

China on Tuesday ordered developers not to take deposits for sales of uncompleted apartments without proper approval and barred them from charging ‘abnormally high’ prices, stepping up efforts to prevent a property bubble. The Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development vowed to punish developers that ‘artificially’ create supply shortages.

China’s banking regulator also told larger banks to conduct quarterly stress tests on property loans and ensure the risks of such lending is strictly controlled, according to a statement on the China Banking Regulatory Commission’s website.

‘Recent policy changes on property and mortgages were introduced with the purpose of curbing speculation, but not hurting real demand,’ Mr Mobius said.

Shenyin & Wanguo Securities Co analysts led by Zhu Anping said on Tuesday investors should avoid property-related stocks because earnings at developers may deteriorate.

Mr Mobius said China will have ‘strong real housing demand growth’ over the next decade as more people move to the cities.

Source: Business Times, 22 Apr 2010

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