Real Estate

Hong Kong developer stocks ripe for picking?

Is it time to buy into Hong Kong property stocks?

After 10 years of rising home prices, Hong Kong's real estate market is poised for a correction.

A possible rise in interest rates by the U.S. Federal Reserve next year coupled with the Hong Kong government's plans to boost housing supply should see to that, analysts say.

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Many believe Hong Kong's linked exchange-rate system is the main culprit behind asset price inflation brought about by ultra-low interest rates in the U.S. and its quantitative easing program.

According to the Centa-City Leading Index, a widely used indicator of residential price trends in Hong Kong, home prices in the Asian financial hub are a mere 5 percent off their all-time highs.

Commercial and residential buildings sit in Hong Kong, China.
Jerome Favre | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Earlier this month, comments from Fed chief Janet Yellen suggested U.S. interest rates could start to rise six months after the central bank ends the scaling back of its massive monetary stimulus program.

That could have repercussions for Hong Kong because the city's currency is pegged to the U.S. dollar and that means monetary policy in Hong Kong is more or less tied to that in the U.S.

Following Yellen's remarks, Hong Kong property counters saw a mild 2 percent correction. Property stocks are now collectively trading about 8 percent off their 52-week lows.

The Centa-City Leading Index.

Analysts believe that while physical property prices will soften further over the next 24-months, developer stocks have already priced in higher rates and are ripe for the picking.

In a CNBC survey of analysts, Cheung Kong Holdings was the top choice at a number of brokerages. Barclays and Morgan Stanley are 'overweight' on the stock. The British bank cites a strong balance sheet and diversified income source as reason for its rating on Cheung Kong, one of Hong Kong's leading multi-national conglomerates.

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In a recent report, Morgan Stanley said Cheung Kong is attractive even when the Hong Kong residential market is not.

With a low gearing of 2.3 percent, the property giant has the strongest balance sheet amongst its peers, giving it the biggest war chest for potential land banking and acquisitions. Morgan Stanley also says Cheung Kong is able to perform in a tough operating environment.


China Overseas Land is the favorite with BNP Paribas and CLSA. China's biggest developer by market value saw a sharp share-price correction post results in mid-March, which analysts attribute to a misunderstanding over its core earnings and overblown concerns over margins.

Both houses rate the stock a 'buy', as the company consistently maintains earnings and sales growth of at least 20 percent per annum and a strong balance sheet. BNP Paribas says another plus could include an asset injection from its parent company.


And even after year-to-date gains of some 80 percent, China South City still looks cheap according to the French brokerage.

Boosted by Tencent's $193 million dollar injection, both China Overseas Land and China South City companies are expected to cooperate on e-commerce and warehousing and logistics services.

BNP says the tie-up with the internet company will see China South City benefit from better branding and stronger investment income. Rental income is expected to triple by 2016. The stock is called to trade north of HK$6.00 per share. The stock closed by 0.28 percent on Monday.