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China's real estate woes sap property investment products – Financial Post

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SHANGHAI — Chinese investors are abandoning an age-old attachment to property investment products and seeking returns in equities and other corners of the capital markets, as the authorities crack down on the debt-fueled property sector.

The flow of cash into property investment products issued by trust companies has slumped since September, as embattled property giant China Evergrande Group’s debt woes deepened.

That in turn is shutting one of the remaining funding channels for property developers who are already suffering from strict lending curbs onshore and record borrowing costs in the offshore bond market.

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“Previous investment logic has collapsed,” said Shanghai businessman Desmond Pan, who is considering shifting millions of yuan in property trust products into Bridgewater’s China fund called All Weather Enhanced Strategy.

Sifting through a brochure with billionaire founder Ray Dalio’s smiling face and a smooth and rising performance curve, Pan reckons the multi-asset fund, with an annualized return of 19%, is a suitable investment substitute.

Chinese investors have long had a penchant for real estate investments but the money flowing into property investment products has been shrinking in recent years since Beijing started to curtail shadow banking in 2017. Evergrande’s default on wealth management products (WMPs) in September, which triggered investor protests in many cities, only accelerated that trend.

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At the end of June, trust money that invests in real estate totalled 2.1 trillion yuan ($329.3 billion), down 17% from a year earlier. In contrast, trust products investing in securities such as bonds and stocks jumped 35% to 2.8 trillion yuan, according to the China Trustee Association.

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The rotation of money picked up pace in recent months, with fundraising by property-related trust products slumping 38% in September from the previous month, and 55% in October, according to Use Finance & Trust Research Institute.

“Property-related trust products don’t sell these days, and we see clients step up shifting money into funds with relatively stable returns, such as fund of fund (FoF), and ‘quant funds’,” said a FoF manager at Shenwan Hongyuan Group, who declined to be identified as he is not authorized to speak to the media.

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Quant funds, or quantitative funds, employ software to automate investment decisions and often generate higher returns than bonds but carry less risk than stocks.

“Chinese policies are nudging capital away from real estate, which is absolutely positive news for the asset management industry,” said Jason Hsu, founder and chairman of Rayliant Global Advisors, which recently launched a multi-strategy hedge fund in China that uses quantitative analysis.

Shi Ke, a partner at Shanghai iFund Asset Management Co, a quant hedge fund house, agrees: “You need to cautious with property investment products. The risk of default is growing.”

According to Citi Securities, China’s quantitative private funds have grown to 1 trillion yuan ($154.6 billion) in recent months. That is almost 10 times their size in 2017.

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Besides trust products, real estate wealth management products sold through banks or independent wealth management companies have also suffered after defaults at Evergrande and more recently a liquidity crunch at developer Kaisa Group .

Jianda Ni, chairman of real estate-focused wealth management company Jupai Holdings, says there has been an irreversible shift of investment toward equities in sectors such as technology and new energy, and away from debt issued by developers.

The firm, which distributes products to fund projects by Yango Group Co, Kaisa and Guangzhou R&F Properties Co, said it continues to diversify its product line and introduce more equity, overseas and secondary market products.

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Rival Hywin Holdings Ltd, which distributes products to fund projects by developers including Evergrande, told Reuters in September it aimed to reduce its reliance on real estate by expanding new products and growing businesses offshore. When contacted for comment, it did not provide further details.

Liang Dongqing, head of wealth management service at China International Capital Corp (CICC), told a conference in October that while real estate remains the biggest component of the Chinese household balance sheet, the demographic and liquidity drivers behind China’s property bull cycle have gone.

“Guiding clients to shift some of their existing wealth away from real estate, and reallocate assets to share China’s future economic growth, represents the biggest opportunity for wealth managers over the next decade.”

($1 = 6.3776 Chinese yuan) (Reporting by Samuel Shen Additional reporting by Vidya Ranganathan in Singapore; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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Google real estate executive says 5% more workers coming in to office each week

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Alphabet Inc’s Google has seen an increasing number of employees coming in to its offices each week, particularly younger workers, the company’s real estate chief said during an interview at the Reuters Next conference on Friday.

On Thursday, Google indefinitely pushed back the mandated return date for employees due to concerns about the Omicron variant. The company had previously said its 150,000 global employees could be required to come in to the office as soon as Jan. 10.

Nevertheless, David Radcliffe, Google’s vice president for real estate and workplace services, said many Googlers are returning of their own volition. About 40% of its U.S. employees on average came in to the office daily in recent weeks, up from 20-25% three months ago, he said. Globally, 5% more employees are returning to offices week after week, he added.

“People are actually showing voluntarily that they want to be back in the office,” Radcliffe said. “We’re moving in the right direction.”

Younger employees and those who joined Google more recently have been coming in at higher rates, seeking opportunities to learn from colleagues, Radcliffe added.

Google expects workers in the office at least three days a week once it mandates a new return date.

Based on feedback from those already back, it is redesigning floor plans to increase private, quiet spaces for distraction-free individual work and adding conferencing and other collaboration areas in open spaces both indoors and outdoors.

Real estate and human resources experts have considered Google a trailblazer for the past 20 years in sustainable office design and variety of workplace perks, including free meals, massages and gyms.

To extend those sustainability and wellness benefits to remote work, Google has encouraged employees to buy carbon offsets and non-toxic furniture for their home offices. It also has provided free cooking classes and discounts to fitness studios near workers’ homes.

“It was amazing how many employees had really never cooked themselves,” Radcliffe said.

 

(Reporting by Paresh Dave in Oakland, Calif., and Julia Love in San Francisco; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall and Matthew Lewis)

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Calgary real estate is on a late-year roll – Western Investor

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With $468 million in sales – not counting the $1.2-billion Bow office tower purchase that has yet to close – in the third quarter (Q3) 2021, Calgary is on track to top $2 billion in commercial and industrial real estate sales this year, according to Altus Group.

Meanwhile housing sales in November reached 2,110 transactions, just shy of the record for the month set in 2005, as the sales-to-new-listing ratio hit a blistering 100 per cent.

Altus reports that the Calgary’s commercial real estate market recorded 115 transactions for a total investment volume of $468 million in the third quarter, bringing the total investment volume for the year close to $2 billion. The total sales volume was up 37 per cent from the first three quarters of 2020.

Industrial sales led the commercial and industrial assets investment parade in the third quarter, with 27 transactions valued at $188 million. This sector was dominated by two substantial distribution logistics centre deals. These were the $69.7 million purchase of a Canadian Tire 496,000-square-foot distribution centre by Skyline Commercial Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT); and the $32.18 million sale of the Valad Construction headquarters industrial and office complex to Nexus REIT.

The ICI (industrial-commercial-institutional) land sector was the second most active in terms of dollar volume with 38 transactions amounting to $83 million, up 62 per cent from Q3 of 2020.

The multi-family rental apartment sector saw 15 transactions totalling $82 million, a 70 per cent increase from the same point last year, and only a marginal decrease from the previous quarter.

The retail sector tallied $44 million in transactions amounting to a 110 per cent increase from Q3 2020.

The biggest retail sale was the $8.35 million purchase of the Hansen Ranch Plaza, a near-12,000-square-foot retail centre in northwest Calgary, bought by local investors.

“Calgary’s beleaguered office market has remained flat, with five transactions amounting to $15 million, a negligible change from the same quarter last year,” noted Ben Tatterton, manager of data solutions at Altus, who prepared the Calgary report with national research manager Krut DSesai.

The landmark sale of the Bow office tower will be registered in a future quarter, Altus noted.

The two-million-square-foot Bow tower was purchased in August from Toronto-based H&R REIT by Oak Street Real Estate Capital, of Chicago, for $1.216 million, in a deal expected to close by the end of this year.

The Calgary Real Estate Board (CREB) reported a rush of home buyers in November.

“Lending rates are expected to increase next year, which has created a sense of urgency among purchasers who want to get into the housing market before rates rise,” said CREB chief economist Ann-Marie Lurie. She added that supply levels have tightened, causing prices to rise.

The benchmark composite home price in November was $461,000, up nearly 9 per cent from November of 2020, according to Lurie.

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Saskatchewan real estate market conditions making it hard for buyers: realtors – Globalnews.ca

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Saskatoon real estate agent Warren Ens says the current real estate market conditions in Saskatchewan aren’t for the faint of heart.

“The really good houses, you pretty much have to go the exact same day as (they’re) listed, and even then you probably are going to get into a bidding war,” he said Friday.

Read more:

Saskatoon real estate market slows but still healthy, says realtors association

He adds that bidding wars over Saskatoon homes are happening at a rate he has never seen in his 11 years working in Saskatchewan.

“(Last) Friday I got into two bidding wars with two different clients,” he laughed. “That’s not something you see too much of.”

A new report from RE/MAX shows this is the case across the country, making it harder for first-time homebuyers to get into the market.

Read more:

Canada’s housing market hotter than ever — and investors are playing a big role

RE/MAX Canada Regional Executive Vice President Elton Ash says this competition could continue.

“In March, we’re anticipating the Bank of Canada to start edging the overnight rate up with inflation concerns and that sort of thing,” he said Thursday. “That’s going to push buyers suddenly, because they’ve been looking and they’re going to want to lock in at a lower rate.”


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He said buyers from all across Canada are now seeing the value of an affordable new house in the Prairies.

“People are looking at that and saying, ‘Hey, yeah I might today be working in Toronto but I can work remotely and I can move back home to Saskatchewan where prices are much more affordable; family life will be better and I can work remote,’” Ash explained.

Read more:

Toronto-area home sales top November record, prices reach all time high

Ens says he’s seen this play out in his day-to-day job, with plenty of newcomers in the last year.

“We’ve seen people from Toronto, Chilliwack, B.C., places like that that are coming here,” he said.

From his perspective, the report is accurate in its prediction that houses will likely only continue to slowly increase in price, but he says a seller’s market won’t always make things easier.

Read more:

‘Not as crazy as it seems’: How COVID-19 gave rise to home-buying sight unseen

“When you have bidding wars and you have multiple offers it sounds great for a seller,” he explained. “But it’s also very tricky because you could actually lose all the offers because you do something wrong.”

The bottom line, he says, is that Canada is a seller’s market — and Saskatchewan is selling fast.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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