Victor Li's first land buy in HK since taking helm

Tycoon Victor Li, who took over CK Asset Holdings from his billionaire father Li Ka-shing in May, bought a development site above a subway station.
Tycoon Victor Li, who took over CK Asset Holdings from his billionaire father Li Ka-shing in May, bought a development site above a subway station.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

HONG KONG • Tycoon Victor Li made his first land purchase in Hong Kong since taking the reins of CK Asset Holdings from his billionaire father Li Ka-shing, splashing out on a development site above a subway station.

The price was not disclosed but Knight Frank estimated the value at HK$36.1 billion (S$6.3 billion). It was CK Asset's first victory in a public land tender in two years.

Thursday's deal shows the firm is not giving up on Hong Kong property after the younger Li took the helm in May, according to Ms Nicole Wong, regional head of property research at CLSA. That is despite CK running down its land bank for years. The purchase comes as runaway prices for Hong Kong residential and commercial properties stoke bubble fears in one of the world's least affordable cities.

"Their current land bank will run out in 2020," said Ms Wong. "It's decision time for them as to whether they want to stay, and they decided to stay."

The move contrasts with CK selling assets like The Center, the city's most expensive office tower, and pushing money into properties abroad, such as UBS Group's headquarters in London.

The site atop MTR Corp's Wong Chuk Hang subway station will feature residential units and a shopping mall. It attracted bids from leading developers including Sun Hung Kai Properties, Henderson Land Development, and Chinachem Group, according to the South China Morning Post.

The only mainland firm to show up, China Overseas Land & Investment, was a member of a consortium. That limited mainland interest contrasted with strong demand in the past.

"Mainland Chinese developers have purchased a lot of land plots in Hong Kong for the past two years," said Mr Thomas Lam, a senior director at Knight Frank. "They won't pay high prices for land anymore until they get cash from the sale of flats in the next two years."

BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 11, 2018, with the headline 'Victor Li's first land buy in HK since taking helm'. Print Edition | Subscribe