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ALTERNATIVES

Latest capital controls won’t choke off Chinese overseas real estate investments – CBRE

The impact of the latest round of capital controls announced Aug. 18 by China's State Council in curbing Chinese overseas direct investment into real estate could be relatively light, said a report by global commercial real estate services firm CBRE Tuesday.

Controls imposed since late 2016 to staunch capital flight and bolster the yuan in currency markets saw Chinese overseas direct investments to real estate for the first half of 2017 plunge 82% from the year before to $25.6 billion, according to China's Ministry of Commerce.

While the guidelines announced Aug. 18 by the State Council and the National Development and Reform Commission included "property" in the list of "restricted" sectors facing more scrutiny, Henry Chin, CBRE's Asia-Pacific head of research, said the fallout on investment flows was likely to be "more nuanced."

The State Council made it clear that overseas property investments tied to China's globe-spanning "Belt and Road" infrastructure development initiative would continue to be encouraged, as would investments tied to high-tech industries or high-end manufacturing.

The initial restrictions imposed at the end of 2016 has affected the "composition of buyers," the CBRE report noted.

First-half investments by Chinese sovereign wealth funds more than doubled from the year before to $13.3 billion, while acquisitions by state-owned enterprises tumbled 66%.

Still, the latest hurdles can be expected to have some impact in discouraging Chinese investment flows into overseas real estate, the report said.

While China will remain the largest Asia-Pacific source of capital for global commercial real estate investments, "the pace of capital deployment is likely to slow as investors adjust to the new rules and fine-tune their investment strategies," wrote Mr. Chin.

"Nevertheless, CBRE Research expects to see robust investment by sovereign wealth funds and a renewed focus on investment related to the Belt and Road initiative," he concluded.

Meanwhile, the hurdles for overseas investments can be expected to boost investments by Chinese investors in the domestic property market, boosting the number of deals at home while supporting property prices, the CBRE report predicted.

Even so, the impact won't be overwhelming. The domestic property investment market will continue to be shaped by broader macroeconomic trends and fundamentals, the report said.