Chiwayland bullish on prospects in China, Australia and US

An artist's impression of Chiwayland's maiden project in the US - a mixed-use development in Los Angeles, which will comprise 60 residential units and a 250-room hotel.
An artist's impression of Chiwayland's maiden project in the US - a mixed-use development in Los Angeles, which will comprise 60 residential units and a 250-room hotel.PHOTO: CHIWAYLAND INTERNATIONAL
Mr Qian Jianrong.
Mr Qian Jianrong.

Chiwayland International is maintaining full confidence in China's property market, despite talk of a possible property bubble.

The mainboard-listed developer plans to continue ramping up its pipeline of projects in its home market in the mainland.

It also has bold plans for the Australian and the United States markets, which will underpin its strategy to make non-Chinese revenue half of the group's total in five years.

But that strategy does not mean Chiwayland is slowing down in China, chairman and chief executive Qian Jianrong told The Straits Times. "Part of our recent push is to gear up for education project development in China. Within the next five years, we intend to develop 10 schools that target the demand from affluent Chinese households."

The first of these projects - The Overseas Chinese Academy in the Suzhou Industrial Park - will begin construction in October, to be completed in November next year.

LOOKING TO EXPAND

We are assembling a full US team right now, which will have its eyes on cities in California, Dallas and New York. My challenge to the team is this: Next year, we want to have five projects in the US.

MR QIAN JIANRONG, Chiwayland's chief executive, on the developer's future plans.

In the residential segment, Chiwayland has up to seven new launches lined up for the second half in Suzhou, Nanjing and Xuzhou.

Meanwhile, two projects in Suzhou will be completed for handover in the fourth quarter. Chiwayland is counting on the handover to turn company earnings back into the black, after announcing a net loss of 54.13 million yuan (S$10.95 million) for the six months to June 30, owing to a lack of new project delivery in the second quarter.

Property projects in major Chinese cities are enjoying a market boom, following recent rate cuts by the central bank. This has prompted some analyst warnings of an imminent housing bubble, but Mr Qian shrugged off these concerns.

"With a decade-long view, I can say China will remain a robust market. Part of it is due to urbanisation. China is not even 50 per cent urbanised. The significant intercity migration flow and upgrade buyers will also support demand.

"Monetary policies may delay or spur buying, but the demand itself does not change," Mr Qian added.

"Looking back 10 to 20 years, every single year, we heard economists say: China's property market is imploding. But it hasn't, because while there is speculation, there is also tangible demand. For Chiwayland, I think a domestic growth of 30 to 40 per cent annually is very doable."

Chiwayland was listed on the Singapore Exchange in August 2014 after a reverse takeover of RH Energy, creating the current Shanghai-based developer.

The management has repeatedly pledged to internationalise, eyeing Australia as its second major market. It has since unveiled seven projects in the country, with the first of them, Vivir in Brisbane, completed for handover in the first quarter. It is now 93 per cent sold.

Three more projects are being developed, with sales levels ranging from 30 to 80 per cent. Another two - both in Sydney - will be officially launched in the second half of this year. "Our focus in Australia is on meeting the domestic and immigrant demand for suburban housing in key cities, chiefly Sydney. My target is for us to maintain consistently a pipeline of around 10 projects in Australia."

The third piece of Chiwayland's growth strategy will be the US, where its maiden, mixed-use development in Los Angeles was announced just last month.

"We are assembling a full US team right now, which will have its eyes on cities in California, Dallas and New York. My challenge to the team is this: Next year, we want to have five projects in the US."

At the same time, the management is keeping an eye on its capital structure. The slew of activities has pushed Chiwayland's development debt to 4.72 billion yuan, against cash and equivalents of 2.24 billion yuan. Equity raising and bond issuance are all options Chiwayland will consider, its chief financial officer Chua Hwee Song said, adding that the stress will ease once the new launches start selling.

Chiwayland shares last closed at 11.9 cents, up 0.85 per cent since the first-half results were announced on Aug 5.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 22, 2016, with the headline 'Chiwayland bullish on prospects in China, Australia and US'. Print Edition | Subscribe