The Hong Kong Lands Department announced that a tender for a Sha Tin Town Lot on Lai Ping Road in the city has been awarded to tycoon Li Ka-shing’s Cheung Kong Property Holdings (HKEX: 1113) subsidiary Rich View Investments, the highest bidder on a 50-year land grant, at a premium of HK$1.95 billion (US$252 million).

CK Property outbid 17 other bidders for the property, including a joint venture by mainland China’s largest developer China Vanke (HKEX: 2202) and Asia Cassava Resources (HKEX: 841), the largest exporter of dried cassava chips in Thailand, as well as competing bids from major Asian real estate companies such as Sun Hung Kai Properties (HKEX: 16), and Wheelock Properties, which made headlines in February when it sold a Mount Nicholson luxury residential property on The Peak, Hong Kong’s iconic natural landmark and exclusive residential retreat, for HK$830 million (US$107 million).

This marks Li Ka-shing’s first government land site purchase in four years, after paying 33 percent more than the high-end of market expectations, according to the South China Morning Post.

The move comes after CK Property said last month it was spreading its reach globally to find opportunities in other business areas, given the challenges it faces in identifying investments with reasonable returns in Hong Kong’s current property market.

Local market analysts were divided over whether the move indicated Li Ka-shing has regained his confidence in Hong Kong.

“CK Property has been offering new projects for sale and it’s time to replenish its land bank,” said Thomas Lam, senior director and head of valuation & consultancy at Knight Frank Hong Kong. CK Property’s aggressive bid, to a certain extent reflects its “confidence in Hong Kong,” Lam told SCMP.

However, according to Nicole Wong, regional head of property research at CLSA, a leading global Asian investment firm based in Hong Kong, this deal is meant to show CK Property is flush with cash, rather than an indication of confidence in Hong Kong.

“This land acquisition just involved HK$1.9 billion. It is an insignificant amount when compared with his sale of The Center,” Wong said, referring to the iconic 73-story office building in Central Hong Kong put up for sale last month at a price of HK$35 billion (US$4.5 billion), by Hong Kong’s wealthiest person, and the second wealthiest in Asia.

Joseph Tsang, managing director of international property consultant JLL Hong Kong, concurred with her assessment, also seeing no change in Li Ka-shing’s outlook for the city.



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