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HSBC: HK at risk of property bubble

08-03-2010 11:18 BJT

Hong Kong may experience a property bubble if home prices keep rising, said Peter Wong, HSBC Holdings Plc's chief executive officer for the Asia-Pacific region.

"Property prices are at a fairly high level right now," Wong said in an interview with Bloomberg Television today. "If it continues to increase, it may form a bubble."

The Hong Kong government is trying to curb a 42 percent surge in home prices since the beginning of 2009 amid concern that housing is out of reach of ordinary residents. Home prices may rise another 10 percent in the second half of the year if interest rates remain at two-decade lows and the local economy keeps growing, property consultant Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. said this month.

HSBC has had the largest share of new mortgages among banks in Hong Kong since May, according to mReferral Mortgage Brokerage Services.

The bank's Hong Kong mortgage portfolio is "quite secured" and has a loan-to-value ratio of below 40 percent, Wong said.

HSBC, Hong Kong's biggest bank by customers and deposits, yesterday said first-half profit doubled as its North American unit returned to profit for the first time in three years. Asia remained the bank's "bedrock of profitability," with pretax profit in the region rising 30 percent to $5.86 billion, according to Chief Executive Officer Michael Geoghegan.

Wong said today he expects the region to sustain the same level of growth in the second half of this year as it did in the first.

Geoghegan moved to Hong Kong in February, leaving Chairman Stephen Green in London, as the bank focuses on emerging markets and plans an initial public offering in Shanghai next year.

Global growth is likely to remain constrained because of "anaemic growth" in western nations, Geoghegan said yesterday in the bank's earnings statement, while he was "bullish" on emerging economies.

Editor:Xiong Qu |Source: China Daily

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