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News from China
Cities rush to join rental campaign
3rd November 2017

 MAJOR Chinese cities, developers and the financial sector are moving quickly to join a government-led campaign to develop the rental housing market.

This comes as the country’s top authorities aim to provide a long-term solution to an overheated real estate market by encouraging more people to rent rather than buy.
For a long time, soaring property prices have put urban residents under pressure, making housing affordability a growing problem for policy-makers.
Now the government wants to further tap the rental market to stabilize home prices and curb speculation, and a key is providing tenants with the same access to public services and decent living conditions that owners enjoy.
A new house rental policy in Beijing came into effect earlier this week, guaranteeing the education rights of tenants’ children and allowing those renting government-subsidized housing to have their hukou (household registration) registered and transferred to their rented homes.
In the southern city of Guangzhou, a policy released on Monday made clear that the per capita residential area in a rented house should be no smaller than 5 square meters to ensure a healthy and safe environment for tenants.
At least 10 cities have allocated land for rental housing construction, according to data from Centaline Property.
In Beijing, authorities plan to supply 6,000 hectares of land for residential housing by 2021, 30 percent of which will be for rental houses.
China Vanke, the country’s top property developer, had offered 12,000-18,000 apartments for long-term leasing as of July, aiming to increase the number to 100,000 by the end of the year, according to company Chairman and CEO Yu Liang.
Alipay, the leading mobile payment platform, announced last month that it would enable users in eight cities to rent houses through the platform without having to pay deposits, based on their credit records.
Financial innovation is catching up to give rental property managers new access to funding.
A “quasi” real estate investment trust was approved last month to allow a Beijing-based condominium manager to offer retail investors securities backed against income from rental apartments, the first financial product of its kind in China.
All these new measures are part of a plan to improve affordability and stabilize home prices in the medium to long term, according to a report from global rating agency Moody’s.
Zhang Dawei, a Centaline Property analyst, said the development of rental housing could help “avert drastic ups and downs in the property market and reduce irrational demand.”
China’s once-sizzling property market has shown signs of cooling as prices have faltered in major cities amid tough government curbs. Central authorities have reiterated on many occasions that “housing is for living in, not speculation.”
For many new settlers in the cities, owning a house is too expensive while renting means less comfort, frequent moving, lack of public services and dealing with dishonest agents.
Moody’s said the push to boost rental housing was unlikely to affect sales for property developers over the next six to 12 months, citing “the general desire of the Chinese to own their homes.”
China’s rental housing market will reach 4.2 trillion yuan (US$635 billion) in revenue by 2030, up from 1.3 trillion yuan now, according to a research report from Orient Securities.
However, development of the market will require “continued government support to ensure the long-term effectiveness of aims such as cheaper land prices, facilitating funding channels and investment capital recycling, and promoting equal rights for owners and tenants,” it said.
Source: Shanghai Daily, November 3, 2017
New home sales fall amid historically low supply
2nd November 2017

 NEW home sales plunged in Shanghai last month amid historically low supply, suggesting extremely sluggish sentiment among both home buyers and real estate developers as tightening measures continued to bite.

The area of new homes sold, excluding government-funded affordable housing, dropped 36.9 percent from September to 335,000 square meters, Shanghai Centaline Property Consultants Co said in a report released yesterday. Year on year, that saw a dive of 61.4 percent.
“It must be the worst performing October in history and probably the lowest monthly volume registered in the city since 2012,” said Lu Wenxi, senior manager of research at Shanghai Centaline. “That was roughly equivalent to the weekly volume in 2016, hindered most by extremely slack new supply.”
Around the city, only one project totaling 7,400 square meters of new houses were released in October, down 96.7 percent from September. That was partly caused by the Mid Autumn and National Day holidays, which both fell last month.
The new homes were sold for an average 48,171 yuan (US$7,246) per square meter, a month-on-month rise of 5.3 percent.
Nine of the 10 most sought-after projects cost between 30,000 yuan and 60,000 yuan per square meter, with the remainder priced at below 30,000 yuan per square meter, according to Centaline data.
In addition to sluggish new supply, a lackluster existing property market also affected transactions in the new housing market.
“As rein-in policies to curb speculation remained unchanged, the local existing home market also suffered a major retreat,” said Zhang Yue, chief market analyst at Shanghai Homelink Real Estate Agency Co. “Many buyers seeking new houses won't be able to enter the market until their old properties are sold.”
The city’s new home inventory now stands at around 5.11 million square meters, or over 33,000 units, down from 6.03 million square meters, or about 40,000 units, by the end of June, according to Homelink data.
Source: Shanghai Daily, November 2, 2017
Waymo ready to put driverless vehicles on roads
1st November 2017

 GOOGLE’S self-driving car spin-off is accelerating efforts to convince the public that its technology is almost ready to safely transport people without any human assistance at all.

Waymo, hatched from a Google project started eight years ago, showed off its progress on Monday during a rare peek at a closely guarded testing facility located 193 kilometers southeast of San Francisco. That’s where its robots complete their equivalent of driver’s education.
The tour included giving more than three dozen reporters rides in Chrysler Pacifica minivans traveling through faux neighborhoods and expressways that Waymo has built on a former Air Force base located in the Californian Central Valley city of Atwater.
The minivans smoothly cruised the roads — driver’s seat empty and passengers in the back — at speeds of up to 56 kph. By contrast, the Waymo-powered minivans that have been driving volunteer riders in the Phoenix area still use safety drivers to take over control if something goes wrong.
But Waymo’s real goal is to get to the point where people in cars are nothing but passengers.
Waymo CEO John Krafcik said the company will be making some cars and freight trucks totally driverless fairly soon, though he didn’t provide a specific timetable.
“We are really close,” he said. “We are going to do it when we feel like we are ready.”
Since Google began working on self-driving cars in 2009, dozens of established automakers such as General Motors and Ford Motors have entered the race, along with other big technology companies, 
including Apple and ride-hailing service Uber. The competition is so fierce and the stakes so high that Waymo is currently suing Uber, alleging that one of its former managers stole its 
trade secrets and took them with him when he joined Uber in 2016 as part of an elaborate scheme. The trial in that high-profile case is scheduled to begin in early December.
Source: Shanghai Daily, November 1, 2017
China’s big 4 state banks post profit growth in Q3
31st October 2017

 CHINA’S big four state-owned banks yesterday reported profit growth across the board in the third quarter.

Net income at the four lenders — the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Bank of China, China Construction Bank, and Agricultural Bank of China — all grew in the low single digits for July-September year on year, according to filings with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
ICBC, the world’s largest bank by assets, reported a net profit of 75 billion yuan (US$11.3 billion) for the third quarter, up 3.35 percent anually.
Quarterly results for BOC were hurt by impairment charges and it reported the lowest net profit growth of the four, up just 0.10 percent year on year to 41.82 billion yuan
Net earnings for CCB climbed to 62.9 billion yuan for the quarter, up 4.1 percent annually.
AgBank’s net profit rose 4.89 percent year on year to 51.42 billion yuan.
Lending income at CCB, BOC and ICBC all grew more than 10 percent for July-September compared to the same period last year. BOC led the pack, with growth in lending income for the three months up 15 percent.
“This quarter represents the banks’ efforts to boost results to complete full-year targets,” Hao Hong, chief strategist and head of research at Bocom International Holdings Co in Hong Kong, told Bloomberg News. “Banks are loosening credit despite all the talk about deleveraging.”
BOC was the only one of the big four banks to see its non-performing loan ratio tick upwards for the quarter, rising to 1.41 percent at the end of September, from 1.38 percent at the end of June.
The ratio is a focus for analysts worried about the rapid rise of debt in the Chinese economy.
AgBank has the highest non-performing loan ratio of the four banks, standing at 1.97 percent at the end of the third quarter, down 0.4 percentage points compared to the end of 2016.
AgBank, ICBC and BOC published their earning reports yesterday, while CCB released its results last week.
Source: Shanghai Daily, October 31, 2017

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