Goldin Financial Holdings has agreed to sell a residential site on Hong Kong’s former airport at a HK$2.6 billion ($340 million) loss, as the company seeks to free up cash amid a downturn in the Asian financial hub.
The financial conglomerate, which revealed last month that it had accepted an offer for the site, announced to the Hong Kong stock exchange today that it had entered into an agreement with an unnamed buyer to sell the undeveloped Kai Tak plot known as New Kowloon Inland Lot 6591 for HK$7.04 billion.
The deal comes sixteen months after Goldin paid HK$8.9 billion to acquire the 9,708 square metre (104,496 square foot) piece of the former runway in November 2018, and marks the second time the company has given up a Kai Tak plot in just under a year.
COVID-19 Means Cash is King
The financial conglomerate said the company is adopting a prudent approach amid a weakening global outlook and is selling the plot in order to shore up its cash reserves given the “uncertain outlook in the property market and the overall economic downturn in Hong Kong”.
As the COVID-19 pandemic amplifies a slump initially sparked by last year’s anti-government protests, capital values in Hong Kong’s luxury residential market have slid by 8.6 percent since reaching a peak one year ago, according to a report released last week by JLL.
Goldin said in its bourse filing that the proceeds from the disposal will be used to “reduce the group’s borrowings” and improve the “financial flexibility” of the company controlled by mainland billionaire Pan Sutong.
Although the buyer is only identified in the disclosure through its BVI-registered company Top Family Group, Goldin had said in an announcement on 6 April that it is a “well-established integrated company principally engaged in property development and related businesses”.
Buyer Remains Anonymous
Based on the plot’s approved gross floor area of 574,728 square feet (53,394 square metres) of new homes, the unidentified buyer has agreed to pay HK$12,250 per square foot of built area – a 21 percent markdown on the HK$15,497 per square foot Goldin had paid for the East Kowloon-facing plot.
Market insiders have indicated that the residential site’s new owner may be from mainland China, with other possible contenders including Hong Kong developers New World Development, Empire Group Holdings, Henderson Land Group and Wheelock Properties, which in 2018 jointly acquired an adjacent plot.
CK Asset Holdings – which has yet to secure a site on the former airport – has denied being the buyer, according to local media reports last month when Goldin first revealed that it had received an offer for the site.
Giving Up a Second Site in Kai Tak
The disposal by Goldin comes just under a year after the company forfeited a HK$25 million deposit when it walked away from the HK$11.1 billion purchase of a Kai Tak commercial site.
While the company cited Hong Kong’s economic and social instability as motivation for that 2019 decision, Goldin’s sale of its Kai Tak residential project can be seen against a backdrop of challenging financial conditions for the investment firm.
Just six weeks ago, Goldin recorded a loss of HK$482 million for the second half of 2019 across its businesses, which range from financial services to wine production.
Luxury Property Transactions Fall 50%
With the city caught in the grip of an economic downturn worsened by the coronavirus pandemic and last year’s anti-government protests, Hong Kong’s residential developers, including Sun Hung Kai and CK Asset, have postponed project launches as buyers disappear from the market.
Transaction volumes for luxury apartments in Kowloon – where Kai Tak is located – fell by 50 percent in the first quarter of the year compared with the previous three months, according to Savills, while home prices on the peninsula dropped 4.5 percent over the three-month period.
“We expect volumes to continue to bear the brunt with prices enjoying a certain level of support from low interest rates and low levels of new completions,” said Savills’ senior director of research and consultancy in Hong Kong Simon Smith, who added that some distressed selling had been in evidence during the first three months of the year.
Notorious for being the most expensive city in the world to buy a home, Hong Kong saw its home prices drop at the third fastest rate globally during the period from January through March, according to Knight Frank’s Prime Global Cities’ Index released earlier this month.
The measure of major housing markets globally showed that residential prices in Hong Kong dropped by 2.6 percent during the first quarter, compared to the last three months of 2019.
Asian cities ranked as the five fastest falling markets worldwide, with Bangkok, where prices plunged dropped 5 percent and Singapore, which saw its housing rates drop by 4.2 percent, leading the way down. Kuala Lumpur and Seoul rounded out the five worst performing housing markets.