Hong Kong's Property Shadow Leaves Singapore Developers Ahead

  • Analysts, investors favor Singapore firms as market perks up
  • Hong Kong property market poses risks after record climb

Hong Kong's property stocks may be cheaper than Singapore's, but that doesn't make them more attractive. That's because more analysts fear that Hong Kong real estate is teetering on the edge of a slump, while Singapore's market shows signs of bottoming out. Bloomberg's Sree Vidya Bhaktavatsalam reports on 'Bloomberg Markets: Asia.' (Source: Bloomberg)

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Hong Kong’s property stocks are cheaper than Singapore’s, although not cheap enough to account for the risk that the world’s least affordable city could have a housing crash.

That’s according to analysts and money managers from Nomura Holdings Inc. to Janus Henderson Group Plc. In Singapore, some are seeing signs of a market bottom after years of home price declines. Hong Kong, where any let-up in government cooling measures looks unlikely in the short-term, may be teetering on the edge of a slump, with Morgan Stanley among those seeing a risk of multiyear declines.

The upshot: while Hong Kong developers’ shares are cheaper across a range of measures, their Singapore peers look more attractive.

“The consensus is that Hong Kong’s housing prices may have more downside risk than upside,” said Joyce Kwock, an analyst at Nomura Holdings.

One valuation gauge shows that Hong Kong developers are trading at larger discounts to net asset value than peers in Singapore, with shares of Henderson Land Development Co. at about a 54 percent discount compared with City Developments Ltd.’s 20 percent, according to Bloomberg calculations based on data from Nomura.

A price-to-book comparison also shows Hong Kong property companies at lower valuations than their Singapore peers.

But the Singaporean market -- especially the residential part -- “looks like it’s at the start of a multi-year upside cycle,” said Xin Yan Low, a property securities analyst at Janus Henderson Investors. “We don’t think it looks expensive as of now.”

Singaporean real estate owners and developers have outperformed this year, gaining 33 percent in their first rally after four years of declines, compared to a 24 percent increase for Hong Kong peers, based on Bloomberg Intelligence indexes.

Developer CapitaLand Ltd. said that property investors see Singapore as more attractive than Hong Kong, London or cities in Australia. CapitaLand and City Developments both say that Singapore’s residential market may be “bottoming out.” Hong Kong home prices have shot ever higher, bouncing back from the global financial crisis and periodic bouts of government cooling, while Singapore residential prices have declined 12 percent from a peak, dropping for 15 straight quarters.

A 70 percent divergence in home prices in Singapore and Hong Kong over the past six years is due for a reversal, according to Morgan Stanley. Singapore developers score better in terms of affordability for buyers, a tight home supply, and a potential easing of policy measures, the bank said in a note.

The bank’s analysts forecast Singapore residential property prices to rise 5 percent in 2018. In contrast, Hong Kong’s multiyear price decline could start with a drop of 5 percent this year.

— With assistance by Livia Yap

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