A little-known Chinese developer has splurged $3.3 billion on land in the past nine months, outbidding some of the country's largest real estate companies even as property sales slow and home builders scrabble for cash.
Excellence Real Estate Group, a private developer based in the southern boom town of Shenzhen, has spent 15.7 billion yuan ($2.5 billion), around three-quarters of the total, on three commercial plots in or near the Qianhai economic zone, a proposed $45 billion financial district about an hour by car from Hong Kong.
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Its investments in Shenzhen, where prices surged about 20 percent in February from a year earlier, have thrown a spotlight on the company at a time when credit in the world's second-largest economy is tightening as the economy slows.
"It's a huge gamble," said Song Yanqing, president at Beijing-based property services company Rand Consultation, warning that Excellence could face funding risks if prices fall.
"It is betting on the assumption that there won't be any fluctuations in the Chinese property market."
Excellence was founded in 1996 by Li Hua and his older brother Li Xiaoping, a member of Guangdong province's political advisory body.
The brothers are well-connected. President Xi Jinping's brother-in-law, Deng Jiagui, shared director posts with the pair on a company called Excellence Effort Property Development Ltd, according to Hong Kong corporate records.
The three were listed as directors until 2012, when the company was dissolved, documents show. There is no evidence those business ties would have benefited Excellence Real Estate Group in land auctions.