Mainland developers including Poly Property, China Resources accelerate sales to shore up cash flow to minimise impact of Covid-19

Sandy Li

Some of China’s biggest developers are set to accelerate sales and shorten their construction cycles to shore up cash flow in response to the economic fallout from the Covid-19 outbreak.

Four mainland Chinese builders reported higher profit growth for 2019 on Thursday, but said they are braced for hard times ahead as the deadly epidemic squashes market demand. Many property developers have seen sales plummet in the first two months of 2020.

Poly Property Group, whose property sales fell 25.6 per cent to HK$3.48 billion in January and February, revealed its plan to shift inventory faster when it reported profit growth of 71 per cent to HK$3.83 billion in 2019, according to a filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange on Thursday.

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“The group will put great efforts into de-stocking, in particular, commercial properties and parking spaces and other products which have longer sales cycles, in order to improve liquidity,” said chairman Zhang Bingnan in the company statement.

To enhance competitiveness, Poly said it would be “strictly controlling the development schedule of

projects and converting new land reserves into saleable products.”

The group’s revenue jumped 71.9 per cent to HK$39.94 billion, thanks to its Kai Tak project Vibe Centro, the first development operated by the company in Hong Kong. Poly announced a final dividend of 20.9 HK cents for last year, a 70 per cent increase from 2018.

China Resources Land saw core profit, which excludes revaluation gain from investment properties, rise 12.2 per cent to 21.65 billion yuan for 2019.

Its revenue jumped 21.9 per cent year on year to 147.74 billion yuan.

“The group will continue to improve its operational efficiency, accelerating asset turnover of both land bank and the commercial inventory,” said Wang Xiangming, the company’s chairman.

China Resources Land reported a 33.5 per cent fall in propery sales by value to 11.05 billion yuan in January and February, from the same period last year.

It proposed a final dividend of 93.7 yuan cents, equivalent to HK$1.026 per share, down 1.3 per cent from the final dividend of 2018.

China Overseas Land & Investment, ranked 10th by sales, saw its core earnings increase 10.1 per cent to 34.3 billion yuan last year on turnover of 163.6 billion yuan, 13.6 per cent higher than 2018.

It will declare a final dividend of 57 HK cents, up from 50 HK cents in 2018.

China Overseas said it had offered rent discounts of over 20 million yuan in its shopping malls to relieve pressure on its partners as of the end of February.

The epidemic, which has claimed more than 3,200 lives and infected at least 81,000 people in China, has dragged down the country’s economic growth, and threatens to trigger an unprecedented global economic crisis.

“The group maintains the prudent financial strategy it has always pursued, with abundant funds, financial stability and significant counter-cyclical,” said China Overseas’ chairman Yan Jianguo in a company statement.

China Overseas had cash reserves of 95.5 billion yuan as of February.

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Guangzhou R&F Properties, ranked 20th by sales, said it would adopt “an even more prudent approach in terms of capital expenditure” after reporting net profit increased 16 per cent to 10.09 billion yuan last year, on revenue of 90.8 billion yuan, up 18 per cent from a year earlier.

“Land banking will be more selective,” said chairman Li Sze Lim in an exchange filing.

In a post-results conference call on Thursday, he said almost 90 per cent of the firm’s sales offices had reopened, and construction resumed, in March.

“Sales have rebounded significantly from January and February. We will speed up sales in the coming months,” he added, without elaborating.

China’s property sales dropped nearly 40 per cent year-on-year in the first two months of the year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, as authorities in at least 60 cities banned sales offices from opening their doors to the public at the height of the coronavirus.

Credit rating agency Moody’s revised downward its forecast for the mainland property market.

“We expect the coronavirus outbreak in China will weaken property sales in the near term – we expect national property sales’ value will decline slightly in 2020, compared with our original expectation of largely flat growth for the year,” said Franco Leung, associate managing director of corporate finance group at Moody’s Investors Service.

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