China’s real estate investment slows as caution sinks in

Real estate worries are adding to broader economic growth worries in China. (AFP)
Updated 19 October 2018

China’s real estate investment slows as caution sinks in

  • Property increases downside risks to economy
  • September new construction starts up by a fifth

BEIJING: Growth in China’s real estate investment eased in September and home sales fell for the first time since April, as developers dialled back expansion plans amid economic uncertainties and as additional curbs on speculative investment kicked in.
A cooling market could increase the downside risks to the world’s second-largest economy, which faces broader headwinds including an intensifying trade war with the United States.
However, while analysts acknowledge increasing caution in the property market, they say investment levels are still relatively high, suggesting a hard landing remains unlikely.
Growth in real estate investment, which mainly focuses on residential but also includes commercial and office space, rose 8.9 percent in September from a year earlier, compared with a 9.2 percent rise in August, Reuters calculated from National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) data out on Friday.
“I think overall, China’s real estate market is still resilient, and the decline in sales is within our expectations,” said Virginia Huang, Managing Director of A&T Services, CBRE Greater China.
“There is no sign that the government has relaxed their control, but it still has many methods and tools to support the market if the economy deteriorates rapidly,” Huang said.
Real estate has been one of the few bright spots in China’s investment landscape, partly due to robust sales in smaller cities where a government clampdown on speculation has been not as aggressive as it is in larger cities.
The market has struggled as authorities continued to keep a tight grip over the sector, ramping up control in hundreds of cities. Transactions fell sharply over the period dubbed “Golden September and Silver October,” traditionally a high season for new home sales.
Property sales by floor area fell 3.6 percent in September from a year earlier, compared with a 2.4 percent gain in August, according to Reuters calculations, the first decline since April. In year-to-date terms, property sales rose 2.9 percent in the first three quarters.
China’s central bank governor Yi Gang said last week he still sees plenty of room for adjustment in interest rates and the reserve requirement ratio (RRR), as downside risks from trade tensions with the United States remain significant.
The government has implemented four RRR cuts this year, releasing hundreds of billions in new liquidity to the market.
China has for several years pushed a deleveraging campaign to reduce financial risks, clamping down on shadow banking and closing many “grey” financing channels for real estate firms.
For many highly leveraged developers, there are already signs of increasing caution as exemplified by a surge in failed land auctions due to tight liquidity and thinning margins.
New construction starts measured by floor area, an indicator of developers’ expansion appetite, rose 20.3 percent in September from a year earlier, compared with a 26.6 percent gain in August, Reuters calculations showed.
That’s against the backdrop of seemingly looser funding conditions for China’s real estate developers, who raised 12.2 trillion yuan ($1.76 trillion) in the first nine months, up 7.8 percent from the same period a year earlier, the NBS said.
The growth rate compared with a 6.9 percent increase in January-August period.
“Many developers will face lots of maturing debt by the end of this year, and there are perceived risks in the economy, so they will be more cautious,” Huang said.
China’s housing ministry is considering putting an end to the pre-sale system that developers use to secure capital quickly, in an effort to crack down on financial risks in the property sector.
China’s home prices held up well in August, defying property curbs. But analysts expect additional regulatory tightening and slowing economic growth will soon take the wind out of the property market’s sails.
The National Bureau of Statistics will release September official home price data on Saturday.

UAE passenger jet makes long haul journey on locally produced biofuel

Updated 17 January 2019

UAE passenger jet makes long haul journey on locally produced biofuel

  • The biofuel was produced from plants grown in a local saltwater ecosystem in Abu Dhabi
  • It can be refined using existing infrastructure and used with current engines and airport fueling systems

DUBAI: Etihad Airways flew the first commercial flight powered by locally produced sustainable fuel Wednesday, Emirati airlines Etihad Airways reported on their website from an announcement by the Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium (SBRC).

The Boeing 787, flying from Abu Dhabi to Amsterdam, used biofuel produced from the oil of Salicornia plants, which are grown in the Seawater Energy and Agriculture System (SEAS), in Masdar City near the UAE capital - Abu Dhabi.

The SEAS project is the world’s first desert ecosystem made specially to produce fuel and food in saltwater.

While Etihad is not the first airline to use biofuel in its aircraft, it is the first time in the UAE for the source of the biofuel to be grown and produced in the country.

“Etihad’s flight proves SEAS is a game-changer that can substantially benefit air transport and the world,” said Vice President of strategy and market development for Boeing International Sean Schwinn.

“The research and technology being developed shows significant promise to transform coastal deserts into productive farmland supporting food security and cleaner skies.”

The biofuel can be produced using existing refinery facilities, it can be blended with regular jet fuel, and used with existing aircraft, engines and airport fueling delivery systems

Biofuels were introduced for commercial flight use in 2011.

Since then nearly 160,000 passengers have flown on flights powered by a blend of sustainable and traditional jet fuels.

The water used for the SEAS project is drawn from fish and shrimp farmeries that produce food for the UAE.

The system is expected to expand to cover 2 mln square meters over the course of the next few years.