Chinese investors snap up homes in Cambodia

A Parisian themed development, complete with a replica of the Arc de Triomphe, on Diamond Island in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Jan 5, 2018. PHOTO: NYTIMES

PHNOM PENH • To sell real estate in Cambodia, agents are brushing up on their Mandarin.

Across this traditionally low-rise Cambodian capital, a building boom is becoming more noticeable as it pushes higher into the sky, and its largest projects are often geared towards Chinese investors, who have only recently taken interest in the nation's real estate market.

Chinese investors are flocking to Phnom Penh, and they are viewed as the target market for many of its largest projects.

"Historically, Chinese investment in Cambodia has mainly been in infrastructure," said Mr Ross Wheble, the country manager for Cambodia at the real estate consultant Knight Frank. "It is only within the past 18 months that we have started to see the entry of Chinese developers and individual investors."

This year is going to be a big one in terms of high-end homes coming on line, Mr Wheble said. Last year, 3,488 high-end homes were added to the existing supply in Phnom Penh. "We forecast an additional 15,688 units to complete in 2018."

One of the largest companies vying for Chinese investors is the Prince Real Estate Group. It has multiple projects and owns one completed project, Diamond 1, on Diamond Island, a stretch of land next to the city's only casino that is buzzing with property projects aimed at Chinese investors and affluent Cambodians.

The showroom for the firm's 37-storey Prince Central Plaza even shares space with the chamber of commerce for the Chinese province of Fujian.

"In terms of purchasing, it's basically all Chinese," said sales agent Chen Jingjing, who noted that most buyers tended to come from Fujian and Zhejiang provinces, along with the cities of Shanghai and Shenzhen. About 90 per cent of the units were sold, with about half of the Chinese buyers paying cash.

Cambodia offers rapid economic growth, a young population and good returns on investment. Another major selling point for Chinese buyers is that Cambodia is a key participant in China's Belt and Road Initiative, an infrastructure initiative from President Xi Jinping that is harnessing hundreds of billions of dollars in state and private investment to bring South-east Asia, Central Asia, Europe and other regions closer to China.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2018, with the headline Chinese investors snap up homes in Cambodia. Subscribe