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Property Still a Focus for Foreign Capital
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China's booming property market is attracting more and more international capital, a recent report has showed.

Released by international real estate money management and services firm, Jones Lang LaSalle, the report said that foreign investors are buying commercial property in China for investment purposes at an ever-increasing pace.

"China's real estate markets recorded transactions totaling US$9 billion, up 69 percent on last year, despite government measures to cool them," the report said.

Cross-border investment accounted for 60 percent of the total volume, which was dominated by Singaporean and global funds, the report said. It also stated that the transaction volumes had been revised to exclude the investment-grade residential sector.

The report focuses on the commercial real estate sector, which is popular with interregional investors, and excludes multi-family residential real estate.

Terence Pang, head of China Investments with Jones Lang LaSalle, said the transaction volumes did not include monies used to buy land and also excluded individual buyers.

Wang Yong, a researcher with the China Index Academy, one of the country's largest property research organizations, said that while foreign capital accounted for the lion's share of the high-end real estate, it only represented a small percentage of the total investment in China's real estate sector.

Although Wang said there were no exact figures available, he estimated that foreign capital accounted for between 3 and 5 percent of the total investment in China's property market.

"Even in the commercial sector, foreign capital does not account for too large a portion," he said.

And even in Shanghai, where many international real estate companies have their headquarters, the proportion is not that high, he said.

"Many domestic real estate giants are gaining momentum in the high-end property market, like in the top-notch office building sector," Wang said.

The large influx of foreign capital into China's real estate market is believed to be one of the key reasons for driving up prices. A series of restrictive measures have been adopted by the central government and a revised guideline is due to be released by the Ministry of Commerce in the first half of this year. This is expected to levy even more restrictions on foreign investment.

Wang said these measures would most likely be aimed at restricting secretive foreign investors from bidding up property prices, not foreign companies that abide by the rules.

Statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics said the country's real estate sector absorbed a record US$8.23 billion in foreign direct investment last year, up 51.9 percent year-on-year.

(China Daily March 27, 2007)

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