25 years of Singapore-China diplomatic relations

One Belt, One Road, many opportunities

China's foray into South-east Asia through its "One Road" thrust bodes well for CapitaLand's businesses in the region, says the property giant's president and group chief executive Lim Ming Yan.
China's foray into South-east Asia through its "One Road" thrust bodes well for CapitaLand's businesses in the region, says the property giant's president and group chief executive Lim Ming Yan.ST PHOTO: ALICIA CHAN

CapitaLand says it can contribute and benefit from China's new growth strategy

Property giant CapitaLand is well- poised to ride on the new growth strategy that China is building around two of its ancient trading routes.

Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed the "One Belt, One Road" initiative in 2013. This seeks to improve connectivity across 65 countries over three continents via an overland belt that links China with Europe and a sea route that passes through South-east Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

CapitaLand president and group chief executive Lim Ming Yan said the firm, which first ventured into China about 21 years ago, will be able to "contribute and benefit" from this growth driver, both within and outside the country.

The developer has a presence in several major cities such as Chengdu, Chongqing and Xi'an in western China, where the overland belt begins.

It plans to work with Chinese companies to invest in major markets on the sea route, as well as in Australia, Europe and the United States.

"Development of China is not just in the coastal region, eventually it will go to central China and the western part of China," said Mr Lim. The "One Belt" strategy will stimulate growth in the western region, creating demand for real estate and serviced apartments and increasing overall consumer spending, he noted. He added that CapitaLand is well-positioned to take advantage of opportunities.

"Development of China is not just in the coastal region, eventually it will go to central China and the western part of China," said Mr Lim.

The "One Belt" strategy will stimulate growth in the western region, creating demand for real estate and serviced apartments and increasing overall consumer spending, noted Mr Lim, who added that CapitaLand is well-positioned to take advantage of opportunities.

China is one of its two core markets and the group's largest outside of Singapore. Its business in China comprised 45 per cent, or $20.7 billion, of the group's total assets of $45.6 billion as at June 30, excluding treasury cash.

CapitaLand has built up a diverse portfolio in the country, including serviced residences and mixed-use developments, since 1994.

It is the largest foreign real estate player in China by gross floor area. It owns or manages more than 160 properties in 48 Chinese cities worth $31.9 billion.

Mr Lim thinks that China's foray into South-east Asia through its "One Road" thrust bodes well for the group's businesses in the region.

The Chinese initiative calls for improving connectivity through infrastructure building. This will help uplift the economies in the region which, in turn, will create more demand for real estate development.

Opportunities can also come in the form of partnerships with Chinese companies in these markets.

Mr Lim pointed out that CapitaLand has already started working with a number of Chinese construction companies in Vietnam, which had previously done "good work" for it in China.

"We are now quite happy to work with them outside of China."

It is also in talks with Chinese companies to collaborate on a pilot project in Jakarta.

Mr Lim, who spent nearly a decade developing CapitaLand's business in China, said that many Chinese companies are starting to look at investing in real estate projects outside the country.

"This is where CapitaLand really differentiates (itself) from many other companies. We have a significant presence globally.

"Going forward, we'll also be happy to work with partners from China to invest in the other regions, whether in Australia or Europe or the US."

While some of these Chinese developers may not yet be ready to commit to large-scale projects outside the country, some smaller players such as retailers have made the move to partner CapitaLand to go overseas.

Haidilao, the immensely popular hotpot chain from China, is one such retailer that CapitaLand has brought out to Singapore.

"They were in our malls in China, and they are now doing good business here in Singapore," said Mr Lim.

He conceded that not all the Chinese retailers are interested in expanding overseas as the domestic market is already big enough for them. But for those that are ready to do so, CapitaLand will be able to help them penetrate markets through its network of malls in key gateway cities in South-east Asia and other parts of Asia.

"This will give us a network, and offer value to the Chinese retailers and to the Singapore retailers, for example, if they want to go to China," Mr Lim said. "We can also offer value to international retailers who are able to offer something different to the Chinese consumers."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 06, 2015, with the headline 'One Belt, One Road, many opportunities'. Print Edition | Subscribe