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The next hot thing

Published on Friday, 12 Apr 2013
Denis Ma

Investors in Hong Kong started parking their cash - almost literally - last year by buying up parking spaces in high-rise apartment blocks, expecting market demand to drive price levels right off the charts. Those with deeper pockets were paying as much for parking spaces as could be spent on comfortable homes many in other parts of the world.

Shortly afterwards, Cheung Kong Holdings started selling hotel rooms at its Apex Horizon project in Kwai Chung, raising HK$1.4 billion through the sale of all of the project's 360 rooms.

What will Hong Kong's highly creative speculators find irresistible next? Denis Ma On-ping, local director of Greater Pearl River Research at Jones Lang LaSalle, thought that higher transaction costs brought about by government efforts to lower property prices would keep speculators away from real estate - at least for the time being.

"From speaking with our investor clients, some have indicated that though the higher transaction costs will keep them out of the market over the near term, their greater concern is the lack of certainty in the government policy going forward," Ma says. "With the rules of the game changing frequently, few are now willing to buy into the market."

That doesn't mean, however, that speculators will stop speculating.

"In an effort to circumvent the higher stamp-duty rates, we could see more property being sold via the sale of holding companies," Ma says. "The risks and costs involved in auditing the company balance sheets, though, could overshadow any potential savings that could be gained."

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