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Developers turn to mining amid housing tightening

06-19-2011 13:48 BJT

BEIJING, June 19-- As home sales continue to fall amid strict tightening measures on the property market, some Chinese real estate companies believe they have found an alternative way out of the market uncertainty: mining.

By June at least 15 property developers, buoyed by rising metal prices and great potential returns, have tapped the mining industry with a total investment of 19.26 billion yuan (2.98 billion U.S. dollars), according to the China Mining Association (CMA).

Most of the investments went to mines that produce gold, lead, zinc and molybdenum, according to the CMA.

The change of developers' investment strategy came after it became harder for them to cash in on the housing market, which has been weighed by a series of government measures since last year to cool down the hot market.

The measures include higher down payment requirements, interest rate increases, home purchase restrictions, price controls, third-home purchase bans and a real estate tax trial in the cities of Shanghai and Chongqing.

Ma Zhipeng, a spokesman of the China Beijing International Mining Exchange, said China's current anti-inflation monetary tightening and the rising prices of mineral products and other commodities would inevitably induce real estate developers to seek higher returns from other sectors.

From January to May, land sales in 128 Chinese cities dropped 5 percent year-on-year to 665.9 billion yuan (102.45 billion U.S. dollars), while residential land sales fell to 519.3 billion yuan, according to data from the CEBM Group Ltd., a Shanghai-based real estate investment advisory firm.

"For those developers with sufficient cash in hand, it is natural for them to enter the mining market for greater profits," he said.

According to financial statements by housing companies, more than half of property developers enjoyed a profit margin of around 60 percent on their investment in mining, while about one third posted a 20-percent return on mining-related investments. Only a few companies suffered losses.

For example, the Shenzhen-listed Shandong Zhongrun Investment Holding Group, swung back to profit last year after a losing streak of two years, boosted by its investment in the mining industry, according to the company's annual report.

The Jinan-based house developer invested 500 million yuan last November to set up a subordinate company to carry out mining development.

A handful of house developers, such as Zhuhai Port and Shanghai Wanye Enterprises, also joined the wave looking for investment in mines.

Analysts urged caution, however, saying mining may not save some housing developers squeezed out by the country's tightening measures over the housing market because of underlying risks.

"The risks can be huge as the country has imposed stricter control over the mining industry, and getting a mining license isn't as easy as before," said Shi Jingxi, a member of the CMA.

Shi said factors regarding technology, environmental protection, community relations, logistics and price fluctuations of mineral products may also jeopardize developers' investment in mining.

Developers' input in mining would remain a good investment only if the current commodity price increases can last, he added.

Editor:Sun Luying |Source: Xinhua

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