Over the course of the last, booming decade, it would have been hard not to be bullish about Chinese property shares. However, with changing conditions in the market, the bears are firmly in control, and most agree that the next 12 months are going to be tough for China property stockholders.
As one of the very few voices of caution in the last decade of the China property market, BNP Paribas managing director and regional head of research Lee Wee-liat arguably missed the biggest boom on the planet. Now, once again counter to current wisdom, he is optimistic about the next 12 months.
In a report this week, Lee made a big call to buy into Chinese property stocks because he sees a potential upside of at least 60%, including dividends. This is because he believes that property prices will remain steady, or only fall as little as 5% as the supply of housing decreases faster than demand.
More importantly, leading private developers such as China Evergrande, Sunac, R&F and Agile Group, have continued to improve themselves financially by deleveraging and speeding up the sales of units for which they did not pay top dollar.
Lee predicts that the annual profits of such developers will grow between 20% and 30% ahead of predicted relaxations on property-buying regulations in the wake of Beijing’s efforts to boost domestic consumption and the Chinese economy amid the Sino-American trade war.
Since 2007, Lee has been notoriously bearish on the property market, first with Nomura and later with Samsung Securities.
In 2014, he issued a report “in search of growth in China’s top 100 cities” and found that 57 of the cities from Sanya, Hainan in the south to Harbin, Heilongjiang in the north had unhealthy supply-demand dynamics.
He became a bit more bullish when he raised price targets on real estate developers in August 2016 because of better profits, margins and balance sheets, though he resisted making a strong call on the sector.
But no analyst can always get predictions right. In September 2017, Lee said Hong Kong would continue to be a crazy market, with prices remaining high. A year later, the Hong Kong residential market began to fall after a great eight-year run.