Property to remain sluggish: analysts

BLEAK LANDSCAPE::Capital flight, combined with a lack of available products for life insurers seeking investments, is likely to keep the market down

By Crystal Hsu  /  Staff reporter

Mon, Jan 06, 2014 - Page 13

The nation’s commercial property market is likely to remain sluggish this year after retreating to a five-year low last year, as tightened investment terms continue to weigh and global funds pull out of Asian markets in anticipation of the tapering of the US quantitative easing (QE), analysts said.

Commercial property transactions totaled NT$88.3 billion (US$2.94 billion) last year, down 11.85 percent from a year earlier and the softest since the global financial storm struck in 2008, international property service provider DTZ said.

“The landscape looks bleaker ahead” as the tightened yield requirement will continue to sideline domestic life insurance companies, while funds flow back to developed markets in pursuit of higher returns amid the scale-down of quantitative easing, DTZ research director Wendy Hsueh (薛惠珍) said.

Life insurers accounted for nearly 20 percent of trading last year, compared with 60 percent a year earlier, due to a purchase ban for the first nine months and a lack of products that meet the 2.875 percent yield threshold, Hsueh said.

Mercuries Life Insurance Co (三商美邦人壽保險) last month managed to buy an office building in Taipei’s Neihu District (內湖) from Elitegroup Computer Systems Co (精英電腦) for NT$6.68 billion, and Nan Shan Life Insurance Co (南山人壽) acquired a retail complex in Greater Taichung for NT$4.89 billion.

A capital flight may take place in the first half, said Charlie Yang (楊長達), director of real-estate appraisal for DTZ, as parties may seek to win the year-end elections by pledging to rein in property prices.

“Talks of unfavorable measures suffice to weaken sentiment and some customers have indicated plans to make moves before it is too late,” Yang said.

CTBC Financial Holding Co (中信金) is scheduled to auction off its headquarters in Taipei’s prime Xinyi District (信義) next month and relocate to Nanking District (南港).

Land deals fared better, with trading volume rising to a three-year high of NT$191.5 billion last year, as major players settled for superfices rights.

Cathay Life Insurance Co (國泰人壽), the nation’s largest insurance firm by market share, won the rights to a plot measuring 149,000 ping (491,700m2) in Ruifang District (瑞芳), New Taipei City, for NT$6 billion. It intends to build a large warehouse complex there as land supply in central locations is dwindling.

Colliers International Taiwan, the local office of a US property consulting firm, expects superfices rights to play an important role this year amid government efforts to revitalize idle assets, after driving 20 percent of transactions last year.