Chinese developers still going flat out with Johor's Forest City

Right: Reclamation work in Johor Baru in support of the Iskandar project, which has drawn Chinese developers. Their mega projects include R&F Properties' Princess Cove. Above: Country Garden's Forest City, whose show-flat drew Chinese visitors on Wed
Above: Country Garden's Forest City, whose show-flat drew Chinese visitors on Wednesday.ST PHOTOS: ONG WEE JIN
Right: Reclamation work in Johor Baru in support of the Iskandar project, which has drawn Chinese developers. Their mega projects include R&F Properties' Princess Cove. Above: Country Garden's Forest City, whose show-flat drew Chinese visitors on Wed
Reclamation work in Johor Baru in support of the Iskandar project, which has drawn Chinese developers. Their mega projects include R&F Properties' Princess Cove.ST PHOTOS: ONG WEE JIN

Beijing's capital controls not stopping construction work, show-flat visitor flow

Sales agents in uniforms like the iconic kebayas worn by Singapore Airlines stewardesses were busy escorting home hunters around an unexpectedly crowded show-flat earlier this week at Country Garden's mega Forest City project.

Despite reports of China's capital controls hitting Chinese buyers of the US$100 billion (S$142 billion) Forest City development, it appeared to be business as usual on Wednesday afternoon. About 200 people were at the show-flat when The Straits Times visited.

A sales agent said many had organised their own trips there.

Construction was also in full swing at project sites of Chinese developers - such as Country Garden's Danga Bay and Guangzhou developer R&F Properties' Princess Cove - in Iskandar Malaysia, the vast special economic development zone in southern Johor.

Country Garden was forced to close its show-flats temporarily in China earlier this month.

Dr Yu Runze, chief strategy officer of Country Garden Pacificview, declined to disclose this year's sales. He accepted that capital controls imposed by Beijing "will have an impact on Forest City".

"However, this is not a bad thing," he added. "We view this challenge as an opportunity to shift our sales strategy. It puts into motion our strategy to be more international," he said, noting the firm will open sales galleries in Myanmar, Vietnam, Taiwan, Dubai and Japan.

  • 500k

    Number of additional homes Iskandar needs to cater for its projected population of three million by 2025.

  • 700k

    The current housing stock, which excludes about 20,000 to 25,000 units being built by Chinese developers.

It had RM11.54 billion (S$3.6 billion) in sales last year and has reportedly sold at least 8,000 units in Forest City, the biggest of about 60 projects in Iskandar Malaysia.

Mr Christopher Yap, deputy general manager, sales and marketing of R&F in Singapore, said that while news of oversupply in Johor Baru had hurt buying sentiment, the company had achieved 60 per cent of total sales last year in just the first quarter. It has sold more than half its 3,000 or so units.

Naysayers may be sceptical about demand but he added that it is hard to project demand in Johor Baru because of the large undisclosed number of those who work in Singapore but live in Johor Baru.

At a press briefing on Wednesday, Iskandar Regional Development Authority chief executive Ismail Ibrahim also tried to allay fears of a housing oversupply.

He said that though there is a "temporary glut", Iskandar still needs 500,000 more homes to cater for its projected population of three million by 2025, up from its current 1.8 million.

The current stock is 700,000, he noted, excluding about 20,000 to 25,000 units being built by Chinese developers. The supply can "easily be taken up by future demand", he said, citing Iskandar's 7 per cent to 8 per cent growth rate.

"As for capital controls imposed by China, so far, none of the China-based developers are affected as construction is ongoing," he added, noting that "these are big-time and long-term investors".

In May 2015, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong noted in Parliament a "real concern" over future oversupply of properties in Iskandar Malaysia.

Data from Malaysia's National Property Information Centre then had shown nearly 336,000 upcoming private homes in the area.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 31, 2017, with the headline 'Chinese developers still going flat out in Johor'. Print Edition | Subscribe