China’s real estate investment slows as caution sinks in

Real estate worries are adding to broader economic growth worries in China. (AFP)
Updated 19 October 2018

China’s real estate investment slows as caution sinks in

  • Property increases downside risks to economy
  • September new construction starts up by a fifth

BEIJING: Growth in China’s real estate investment eased in September and home sales fell for the first time since April, as developers dialled back expansion plans amid economic uncertainties and as additional curbs on speculative investment kicked in.
A cooling market could increase the downside risks to the world’s second-largest economy, which faces broader headwinds including an intensifying trade war with the United States.
However, while analysts acknowledge increasing caution in the property market, they say investment levels are still relatively high, suggesting a hard landing remains unlikely.
Growth in real estate investment, which mainly focuses on residential but also includes commercial and office space, rose 8.9 percent in September from a year earlier, compared with a 9.2 percent rise in August, Reuters calculated from National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) data out on Friday.
“I think overall, China’s real estate market is still resilient, and the decline in sales is within our expectations,” said Virginia Huang, Managing Director of A&T Services, CBRE Greater China.
“There is no sign that the government has relaxed their control, but it still has many methods and tools to support the market if the economy deteriorates rapidly,” Huang said.
Real estate has been one of the few bright spots in China’s investment landscape, partly due to robust sales in smaller cities where a government clampdown on speculation has been not as aggressive as it is in larger cities.
The market has struggled as authorities continued to keep a tight grip over the sector, ramping up control in hundreds of cities. Transactions fell sharply over the period dubbed “Golden September and Silver October,” traditionally a high season for new home sales.
Property sales by floor area fell 3.6 percent in September from a year earlier, compared with a 2.4 percent gain in August, according to Reuters calculations, the first decline since April. In year-to-date terms, property sales rose 2.9 percent in the first three quarters.
China’s central bank governor Yi Gang said last week he still sees plenty of room for adjustment in interest rates and the reserve requirement ratio (RRR), as downside risks from trade tensions with the United States remain significant.
The government has implemented four RRR cuts this year, releasing hundreds of billions in new liquidity to the market.
China has for several years pushed a deleveraging campaign to reduce financial risks, clamping down on shadow banking and closing many “grey” financing channels for real estate firms.
For many highly leveraged developers, there are already signs of increasing caution as exemplified by a surge in failed land auctions due to tight liquidity and thinning margins.
New construction starts measured by floor area, an indicator of developers’ expansion appetite, rose 20.3 percent in September from a year earlier, compared with a 26.6 percent gain in August, Reuters calculations showed.
That’s against the backdrop of seemingly looser funding conditions for China’s real estate developers, who raised 12.2 trillion yuan ($1.76 trillion) in the first nine months, up 7.8 percent from the same period a year earlier, the NBS said.
The growth rate compared with a 6.9 percent increase in January-August period.
“Many developers will face lots of maturing debt by the end of this year, and there are perceived risks in the economy, so they will be more cautious,” Huang said.
China’s housing ministry is considering putting an end to the pre-sale system that developers use to secure capital quickly, in an effort to crack down on financial risks in the property sector.
China’s home prices held up well in August, defying property curbs. But analysts expect additional regulatory tightening and slowing economic growth will soon take the wind out of the property market’s sails.
The National Bureau of Statistics will release September official home price data on Saturday.


Saudi fund shells out to help US cellular seafood pioneer

Updated 27 February 2020

Saudi fund shells out to help US cellular seafood pioneer

  • KBW Ventures joins ‘visionary’ $20m backing for San Diego food innovator

JEDDAH: A California innovative food company that produces seafood directly from fish cells is stepping up expansion plans with backing from “visionary investors” including KBW Ventures, the Saudi investment fund founded by Prince Khaled bin Al-Waleed bin Talal.

BlueNalu, based in San Diego, on Wednesday announced the completion of its $20 million Series A round of funding.

The financing will allow the company to develop a pilot production facility in San Diego, expand its worldwide staff, implement strategic alliances for global operations and prepare for its market launch.

The Series A round is co-led by Stray Dog Capital, CPT Capital, New Crop Capital and Clear Current Capital, each of which took part in BlueNalu’s seed round. The company secured $4.5 million in 2018 and has attracted investors from 11 nations so far, demonstrating global interest in the firm’s potential.

New investors include KBW Ventures, which supports innovative companies, such as BlueNalu, that have potential for growth and can sustainably feed the world.

BlueNalu’s A round attracted a significant number of strategic investors offering expertise and infrastructure in supply chain, operations, sales, marketing and distribution.

Strategic investors include global supply chain leaders that will provide guidance and raw material expertise to BlueNalu. These include Nutreco, a global leader in animal nutrition and aquafeed, and Griffith Foods, a global product development partner to the food industry, with expertise in market insights, food science, culinary and sensory optimization.

Strategic investors also include organizations with expertise in operations, sales, and distribution, including Pulmuone, a leader in healthy lifestyle and sustainable food products with distribution in Asia and North America; Sumitomo Corporation of Americas, a global investor and supplier of goods and services, including foods; Rich Products Ventures, the corporate venture arm of Rich Products Corporation, a leading supplier of icings, cakes, pizza, desserts, appetizers and bakery products.

FASTFACTS

• BlueNalu announced the completion of its $20 million Series A round of funding.

• The financing will allow the company to develop a pilot production facility in San Diego, expand its worldwide staff, implement strategic alliances for global operations and prepare for its market launch.

• The company secured $4.5 million in 2018 and has attracted investors from 11 nations so far, demonstrating global interest in the firm’s potential.

“BlueNalu has made considerable progress toward bringing cell-based seafood products to the world,” said Lou Cooperhouse, the company’s president and CEO.

“We have designed and executed a platform technology in which we will ultimately offer a broad array of sustainable cell-based seafood products to consumers, and our team has been extremely focused on implementing systems and processes that will be needed for cost-effective, large-scale production.

“We are thankful to the committed group of visionaries who participated in our earlier financing round and have invested again in this round, and we are eager to form partnerships with these five strategic investors, so that we can launch our cell-based seafood products in nations around the world,” he added.

“BlueNalu has demonstrated global leadership in cell-based seafood, and has the team, expertise, strategy and networks that are key to its success,” said Chuck Laue, co-founder and chair of Stray Dog Capital.

“As global demand for seafood continues to increase, and our supply continues to be compromised, we are excited at the potential for BlueNalu to play a significant role in feeding the planet in the decades to come.”

“BlueNalu has achieved a number of milestones in a short period of time, and we are proud to have backed this company since its origins,” said Chris Kerr, chief investment officer of New Crop Capital.

“We have seen extremely rapid global growth in plant-based foods, and BlueNalu is clearly at the forefront of this next generation of alternative proteins that many are predicting will have considerable growth and significant market penetration in the coming years.

“BlueNalu will offer a sustainable solution to consumers, free of mercury and environmental contaminants that will support the health, sustainability and biodiversity of our ocean. This is clearly a win-win-win for human health, sea life and for our planet,” he said.