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HSBC Offers Fixed-rate Home Loans
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HSBC, Europe's biggest bank, is offering fixed-rate mortgages on the Chinese mainland, becoming the first foreign lender to introduce them to a rapidly growing home loan market.


The lender will give mortgages to non-local residents at fixed interest rates for the first 12 or 24 months of the loan. The lowest such rate for the first 12 months stands at 5.7 percent, the company said.


HSBC, which began offering the product yesterday, hopes the mortgages will woo non-local customers who have bought properties on the mainland but have suffered from several interest rate hikes to the US and Hong Kong dollars in the past year.


The US raised the benchmark one-year interest rate to 7.5 percent this month, from 5 percent at the beginning of last year. HSBC also raised the lowest mortgage interest rate from 5 percent to 7.75 percent during the same period.


Banks in China previously only offered variable-rate mortgages, which were usually adjusted annually or monthly.


A handful of local banks launched fixed-rate mortgages earlier this year, a move seen as a way to gain a slice of the growing home loan market.


"The product may help HSBC win overseas clients, especially from Hong Kong and Taiwan, whose interest in the mainland property market is reviving," said Li Xu, an analyst with Shanghai-based Hanyu Real Estate Consultant.


The interest of overseas buyers was said to be one of the main things that drove up housing prices in major cities like Shanghai and Beijing in recent years. But their buying spree began to slow last year when the central government introduced a series of measures designed to cool down the property sector.


Previously, reports from the Shanghai Banking Regulatory Bureau said the total volume of mortgages taken out by overseas residents shrank between last June and December.


"But overseas investors are still upbeat about the long-term return on investment in China's property market, given the nation's fast urbanization and expanding economy," said Liu.


Foreign banks like HSBC and Citigroup have been growing rapidly in China recently despite still being unable to conduct business in RMB with local residents.


The pre-tax profit of HSBC Group rose by 11 percent in 2005, reaching US$20,966 million. Its profit from the Chinese side of the business jumped nine-fold.


(China Daily March 29, 2006)


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