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News from China
More curbs to cool property frenzy
6th October 2016

 CHINA’S local governments are introducing measures to rein in soaring housing prices, with the southern cities of Guangzhou and Shenzhen the latest taking steps to cool overheated real estate markets, including higher mortgage down payments and home purchase restrictions.

A property boom has boosted China’s economy this year, fueling demand for items such as construction materials and furniture, but a growing buying frenzy is adding to worries about ever-rising debt and risks to the banking system.

The new measures are the latest steps to tighten credit flowing into the property sector as the government tries to balance the need to prevent bubbles while stimulating economic growth.

Prices for new homes in the booming tech center of Shenzhen rose 36.8 percent from a year ago in August, while Guangzhou’s home prices rose 21.1 percent over that period, National Bureau of Statistics data showed.

Other cities including Chengdu and Wuhan have already announced new restrictions on property purchases as the government tries to dampen prices stoked by property speculators in second- and third-tier cities.

The average new home price in 70 major cities climbed an annual 9.2 percent in August, up from 7.9 percent in July, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

Nomura analysts said the new measures in the big cities should prevent the market frenzy from spilling over into smaller cities.

“We also believe it unlikely that the latest tightening measures will cause the bubble to burst, sparking a collapse of home prices. We envision a more likely scenario to be a mild retreat or prolonged flattening of home prices in first-tier cities,” the Nomura analysts said in a note on Tuesday.

First-time home buyers in Shenzhen will face minimum down payments of 30 percent, but deposits for others will be raised to no less than 50 percent, according to a government document.

Down payments for second-home buyers in China’s southern Guangdong Province near Hong Kong will be increased to no less than 70 percent.

Guangdong’s capital city of Guangzhou has limited local residents to buying a maximum of two properties, according to a statement posted on Tuesday on the Guangzhou government’s website.

Non-local residents will be allowed to buy one property, if they can prove they have paid appropriate levels of tax or social security.

In last week, a total of 12 cities including Beijing, Hangzhou and Tianjin have restricted buyer qualifications, limited purchase amounts or raised down payments.

Last Friday Beijing raised the down payment for first-time buyers from 30 percent to 35 percent. The deposit for second home purchases must now be at least 50 percent.

Hefei, capital of east China’s Anhui Province, on Saturday decreed that the price of any property must remain unchanged for six months after registration.

Separately, Suzhou in China’s eastern Jiangsu Province has unveiled fresh measures, including higher downpayment requirements, to cool the housing market.

Rising property prices have been generating many headlines. Prices in megacities like Beijing and Tianjin have soared in the past two months, fueling talk of a property bubble.

The Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development on Monday said that 45 property developers or agents were being investigated for stoking speculation through false advertisements, rumors and breaches of presale rules.

Prices in 100 major Chinese cities rose 14.9 percent in the first nine months of this year, with August and last month seeing record month-on-month growth of more than 2 percent, according to the China Index Academy, a private property research institute.

Shrinking profits in the real economy and expectations of yuan devaluation have led to capital flooding into the property market, the academy pointed out.

Source: Shanghai Daily, October 6, 2016
Wharf sells telecom business
5th October 2016

 HONG Kong tycoon Peter Woo’s Wharf Holdings Ltd has agreed to sell its telecom business to a consortium of TPG Capital Management LP and MBK Partners for HK$9.5 billion (US$1.22 billion), a person familiar with the matter told Reuters yesterday. The field of contenders to buy the business had narrowed to the TPG-MBK group and telecom firm HKBN Ltd after Wharf received about half a dozen final bids earlier this month. TPG and MBK declined to comment, while Wharf didn’t immediately respond to request for comment. Woo’s Wharf Holdings owns Hong Kong marquee properties including the Times Square and Harbour City shopping malls. The division being sold includes Wharf T&T — Hong Kong’s second-largest fixed-line operator for businesses, according to the firm’s website — but it does not include television broadcaster I-Cable Communications Ltd.

Source: Shanghai Daily, October 5, 2016
Senior CPC official calls for enhanced dialogue among different civilizations
4th October 2016

 ATHENS, Oct. 3 (Xinhua) -- Senior Communist Party of China (CPC) official Liu Yunshan on Monday elaborated on China's concept of civilization, calling for all countries to learn from each other among different civilizations in a bid to achieve win-win outcomes.

Liu, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, put forward the ideas while delivering a speech at the China-Europe Civilization Dialogue held in Athens.

 

"The dialogue held in Athens centres on how to enhance mutual learning among civilizations, which will give a positive push for deepening mutual trust and jointly building China-Europe civilization partnership," said Liu, who is on an official goodwill visit to Greece starting on Sunday.

Greece is the birthplace of European civilization, while China is an important representative of Eastern civilization, and the long history of communication between the Chinese and European civilizations has constitute the historical progress for the development of China, Europe as well as the world, said Liu.

Liu said China has always adhered to a concept of civilization featuring the ideas like diversity, treating each other on an equal footing, harmony and sharing, defusing confrontation and learning from others.

With regard to difference among civilizations and conflicts between each other, Liu urged the countries to conduct more communications, dialogues and consultations in the spirit of openness and inclusiveness.

We should engage in dialogue but not confrontation, replace "civilization clash" with "civilization harmony", said Liu.

Liu said China's Belt and Road initiative has made satisfying achievements, and China-Europe comprehensive strategic partnership has become increasingly enhanced.

He added the two sides should take new opportunities to promote China-Europe civilization exchanges and jointly building a community of common destiny for mankind.

Liu made a four-point proposal to further China-Europe civilization dialogue in terms of strategic trust, cultural exchanges, non-governmental exchanges and pragmatic cooperation.

Liu also called for the integration of China's Belt and Road initiative with Europe's development strategies so as to produce more cooperative outcomes.

On the same day, Liu unveiled a China Culture Center in Athens.

During his stay in Greece, Liu is expected to meet Greek leaders on bilateral relations.

Source: Xinhua, October 4, 2016
Yuan joins elite club of reserve currencies
3rd October 2016

 THE yuan’s inclusion in the International Monetary Fund’s elite reserve currency basket on Saturday was hailed by Chinese businesses and analysts as a “historic moment.”

“Ten years ago, the yuan could hardly go out of the country. But now China’s opening-up and huge economic size has made it more and more popular in the international market,” said Lu Jian, vice president of Guangdong Guangken Rubber Group Co Ltd.

Early this year, Guangken Rubber launched a US$270 million bid for Thailand’s Thai Hua Rubber, the world’s third-largest rubber producer.

The company then sought loans from domestic and overseas banks, with some offering to fund its bid in yuan.

The acquisition in yuan helps reduce foreign exchange risks as well as fund-raising costs, said Lu.

“Ten years ago, all our overseas business was conducted in the US dollars and we often did not have yuan clearing banks. It’s quite a different scenario now,” he said.

Today, China has 21 overseas yuan clearing banks across the world.

“Despite the fluctuations in the exchange rate, the international market has not lost interest in the yuan and on the contrary, global demand is increasing,” Lu said.

On Friday, the IMF announced the launch of its new Special Drawing Right basket, including the yuan, effective from Saturday, saying it was a “historic milestone” for China, the IMF and the international monetary system.

The inclusion makes the yuan one of the five reserve currencies fully endorsed by the 189-member organization, joining the US dollar, the euro, the Japanese yen and the British pound.

Now, the yuan accounts for the third-largest share of the new SDR basket with 10.92 percent, following the US dollar’s 41.73 percent and the Euro’s 30.93 percent.

“The yuan’s inclusion reflects the progress made in reforming China’s monetary, foreign exchange and financial systems and acknowledges the advances made in liberalizing and improving the infrastructure of its financial markets,” IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said.

The yuan has moved into the top 10 but still trails the other major currencies, according to the Bank for International Settlements.

Created in the 1960s, the “Special Drawing Right” is a unit of account used by the IMF as a foreign exchange reserve asset and is not a freely traded currency. To help manage financial crises, the IMF issues loans to member countries denominated in SDRs.

In July 2009, China approved pilot program for cross-border trade settlement in yuan, embarking on the internationalization process of the currency.

The yuan was the fifth most active currency for global payments by value in July, with a share of 1.9 percent, an increase from 1.72 percent in June, according to data from global transaction services organization SWIFT.

China’s central bank said on Saturday that the country will continue to push forward financial reforms and market opening after the yuan’s inclusion.

Zhang Lijun, a partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers China, said the yuan’s inclusion was of similar significance to China’s joining the World Trade Organization.

“The two cases also have showed that China helped to improve rather than topple global rules and this has positive significance for the coordination of global economic governance,” said Zhang.

Source: Shanghai Daily, October 3, 2016

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