Midland Falls on Realtors’ Branch Closure Worry: Hong Kong Mover

Midland Holdings Ltd. (1200), the biggest realtor listed in Hong Kong, had its biggest drop in three weeks after saying the city’s property brokers may close as many as one-third of their branches.

Midland fell 4 percent, the most since Feb. 25, to HK$3.38 at the 4 p.m. close of trading. The shares have lost 8.7 percent this year, compared with a 2.5 percent decline in the benchmark Hang Seng Index.

Hong Kong’s property brokers may cut as many as a third of their branches and agents if government curbs on home prices continue, the company’s chief analyst Buggle Lau said in an interview yesterday. The city’s government has imposed a raft of measures, including a tax on foreign buyers and higher mortgage down-payment requirements, in the past six months to contain prices that have doubled since early 2009.

Midland had its rating cut to sell from neutral by Bocom International Holdings Co. analyst Alfred Lau. Property transaction volumes will decelerate because of government measures, Lau said in a note to clients today.

Only one transaction of existing homes was recorded in 10 of Hong Kong’s biggest private residential developments tracked by Centaline Property Agency Ltd. over the weekend of March 16 and 17, the realtor said.

About 12,000 agents could lose their jobs, said Lau. The comments were first made by Midland Deputy Chairman Angela Wong at a March 15 briefing, according to local media including the South China Morning Post.

Midland on March 15 reported 2012 net income nearly doubled to HK$250 million ($32 million) on higher commission fees.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kelvin Wong in Hong Kong at kwong40@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andreea Papuc at apapuc1@bloomberg.net

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