World’s Most-Loved Property Stocks Tap Indonesian Building Boom

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Construction in Indonesia
Construction workers labor on a building towering above the business district in Jakarta, Indonesia, on June 17, 2014. Photographer: Dimas Ardian/Bloomberg

Falling interest rates, an expanding population and a government-sponsored building boom are turning Indonesia into the world’s favorite place to buy property stocks.

Developers on the Jakarta stock exchange, including PT Lippo Cikarang and PT Alam Sutera Realty, have the highest average analyst ratings among global peers and the most buy recommendations of any industry group in Indonesia, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The Jakarta Construction, Property & Real Estate Index has advanced 25 percent over the past 12 months, twice as much as the nation’s benchmark index.

Indonesia’s central bank cut borrowing costs in February for the first time in three years, improving the outlook for Southeast Asia’s largest economy as President Joko Widodo seeks to lift growth to 7 percent. Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund and Indonesia’s state pension system are both increasing investments in the nation’s property market as Widodo boosts infrastructure spending and the world’s fourth-biggest population keeps expanding.

“We are overweight on the property sector and continue to be positive,” said Arief Wana, a director at PT Ashmore Asset Management Indonesia in Jakarta, which oversees the equivalent of $690 million, including the nation’s top-performing equity fund in 2014. The firm added Alam Sutera to the top five holdings of its Dana Progresif Nusantara fund in December.

Rising Prices

The Jakarta property gauge rose 0.1 percent on Monday. Alam Sutera gained 0.8 percent while Lippo Cikarang rose 0.4 percent.

The average consensus rating on Indonesian property companies with at least five analyst recommendations is 4.32, on a scale where 5 equates to a unanimous buy rating. That compares with 4.13 in the U.S. and 4.1 in China. Shares in the Jakarta property index will probably climb 14 percent over the next 12 months, according to price targets compiled by Bloomberg.

The gauge is valued at about 13.9 times estimated earnings. That’s a 11 percent discount versus the broader Jakarta Composite Index, compared with an average premium of 11 percent since Bloomberg began tracking the data in 2006.

Indonesia’s new-home prices probably climbed 5.7 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, following a 6.3 percent gain in the final quarter of last year, according to a February survey by the nation’s central bank.

Best Time

Property companies will be beneficiaries of Widodo’s infrastructure spending plans, estimated at $433 billion through 2019, CLSA Ltd. wrote in a March 31 report. They’re also among the biggest winners from the central bank’s interest-rate cut as financing costs fall, according to Ashmore’s Wana.

“This is the best time to be in the property business in Indonesia,” Rainier Gunawan, a principal for realtor Ray White Indonesia in Jakarta, said in an interview.

A rising supply of property may weigh on the market, according to Jones Lang LaSalle Inc., a Chicago-based property brokerage. About 1,500 new condominium units may open up in 2015, subduing rents, while office vacancy rates will probably rise into “double-digit territory” in 2015 as more than 260,000 square meters (2.8 million square feet) of Grade-A office space enters the market, the firm estimates.

Indonesia’s property stocks still have room to rally, according to Steven Gunawan, an analyst at PT Batavia Prosperindo Sekuritas in Jakarta. His buy recommendations include Alam Sutera.

GIC Pte, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, and a partner agreed in November to invest $500 million in property projects in Indonesia, focusing on Jakarta’s central business district. BPJS Ketenagakerjaan, Indonesia’s state pension fund, said last month it plans to increase its investment in affordable housing by fivefold to fulfill demand from low-income workers.

The population of Jakarta is forecast by the government to climb to 12.5 million by 2030, from about 9.7 million now. The urban growth rate in Indonesia, which has a total population of around 250 million, is the third-fastest among emerging Asian economies after Thailand and China, according to the World Bank.

“The size of our population, combined with the urbanization rate, will keep demand for property strong,” Batavia’s Gunawan said.

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