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Depreciation of RMB may prompt property sales

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Core Tip:The recent depreciation of the renminbi against the US dollar will see more foreign funds selling their assets in Beijing, especially those with holding periods that were extended for another short period of time, industry experts say.
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The recent depreciation of the renminbi against the US dollar will see more foreign funds selling their assets in Beijing, especially those with holding periods that were extended for another short period of time, industry experts say.

In the past week, the yuan dropped 1.5 percent against the US dollar, the largest weekly decline since August, 2015.

Chief economist for ANZ greater China region Liu Ligang said the short-term volatility of the yuan is partly due to rising anxiety over the weakening of the currency, triggering capital flight.

"A weakening yuan is also influenced by the start of a new rate-hike cycle in the United States and a slower Chinese economy, with growth in 2015 expected to register its slowest pace in a quarter of a century," Liu said.

Head of Capital Markets for North China at international consultancy firm JLL Kevin Qin said the Chinese yuan's inclusion into the SDR (Special Drawing Rights) in December is expected to result in more movement in the exchange rate. And changes to the US dollar exchange rate will affect investor behavior in 2016.

"In the case of foreign funds already holding assets in China, they will want to off-load their assets as soon as possible since the currency exchange is not in their favor," said Qin.

This could result in more buy opportunities as buildings appear for sale on the market. That may be good news for other funds, which are already under pressure to invest in value-add opportunities. More foreign investors will look at China."

At the same time, a weak exchange rate may trigger more outbound investment by investors that want to preserve the value of their portfolios by getting more exposure to other currencies.

"We've found an increasing number of smaller property developers and entrepreneurs quickening their pace in investing in the US and Europe, expanding to other non-traditional hot cities like Miami, Berlin and Frankfurt," said Grant Ji, head of China Capital Markets of Savills. "Buying US assets is a more lucrative choice."

No major en bloc deals were recorded in the fourth quarter of 2015, the quietest quarter of the year as limited tradable assets and high pricing expectations on available assets greatly restricted deals.

Office space remains the hottest sector in Beijing, much of this interest has shifted outbound as investors look to diversify – JLL's research shows uncertainty in the China market under the economic slowdown has made it harder for investors to reap the same rewards as previously.

While the office rental growth outlook has softened, pricing has not yet taken this into account, and prices remain extremely high.

"Even investor who made bad decisions used to be saved by the good market and favorable currency situation, but that's no longer the case," said Qin. "Decisions are a lot more complicated now; while there is still interest in the market, there is also hesitation as investors want to see cash flow stability and a clear exit strategy."
 

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