China's harsh measures to cool its booming property market is having limited impact on prices, property developer SOHO China's (0410.HK) chief executive said, underscoring the government's difficulty to curb credit growth on all fronts.
On Wednesday, China unveiled new measures to curb property prices, including higher mortgage downpayments for second home buyers and requiring local governments to set price control targets in line with local income levels in 2011.
Since late 2009, China has imposed a slew of controls, including higher downpayments and mortgage rates, and asking banks to curb lending to the property sector.
China is coming to a point whereby increasingly, there are very few industries that have profits and typically, capital is always chasing profits, Zhang Xin, CEO of major commercial developer SOHO China, told Reuters at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
The Chinese market economy is becoming stronger in the sense that it's now stronger than the government thinks. That's why these austerity measures have not been so effective, said the 45-year-old billionaire.
China has been trying to restrain inflationary pressures on all fronts of the economy, including limiting bank lending and keeping food and property prices in check, but there are little signs of success so far.
The country's top banking regulator Liu Mingkang said in Davos that new bank loans in January were usually higher, responding to reports that lending has soared in the new year despite efforts to restrain it.
In the property sector, Zhang said developers were still enjoying stellar sales despite the cooling efforts.
You would expect the market to completely collapse, but just look at all the listed real estate developers, nearly everybody reported a record year, said Zhang, a former Goldman Sachs (GS.N) employee who made a cameo appearance in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.
The Beijing-based company plans to spend 10 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) to acquire land this year, roughly last year's level, Zhang said.
SOHO China expects its contract sales to grow by a slower pace this year than last year as it holds on to more real estate for leasing, said Zhang, who co-founded the company with her husband Pan Shiyi.
Contract sales are recorded when buyers sign contracts to purchase property and are often an indication of how actual sales will perform.
Unaudited contract sales by the company in 2010 reached about 23.8 billion yuan ($3.6 billion), growing 82 percent from a year earlier, it said this month.
I don't think this is sustainable, the Cambridge University graduate said.
We are also at the point of moving toward gradually holding more properties instead of selling every single square meter.
SOHO China's Hong Kong-listed shares ended down 1.86 percent on Wednesday, lagging the benchmark Hang Seng index's .HSI 0.23 percent rise.
For full coverage, blogs and TV from Davos go to www.reuters.com/davos