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| 19 September, 2018

Chinese buyers snapped up $720mln of Dubai properties last year

Growth rate of overseas property buying by Chinese investors slows as capital controls kick in

Dubai's skyline

Dubai's skyline

Getty Images/CaoWei

Chinese buyers purchased properties in the United Arab Emirates worth at least 2.64 billion UAE dirhams ($720 million) last year, according to Chinese property portal Juwai.com.

The company's 2018 Chinese Global Property Investment Report stated that although Chinese buyers pulled back from property investment in North America (down 31.9 percent to $41.8 billion) and Australia (down 23.2 percent to $18.4 billion), global investment in overseas property increased by 18.1 percent year-on-year to $119.7 billion, despite the Chinese government tightening capital controls to prevent domestic capital flight.

In an emailed response to questions from Zawya, Carrie Law, CEO and director of Juwai.com, said: "Capital controls did have an impact in 2017, in part by shifting a share of Chinese buyer demand from higher-priced countries like Australia and North America to lower-priced destinations in Southeast Asia.

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"With buyers uncertain about their ability to move money, they opted for lower purchase prices and lower monthly mortgage payments."

Sales to other parts of Asia quadrupled to $32.9 billion, the report said, while sales to Europe experienced similar growth rates to hit $25.5 billion.

Law also argued that it was "possible to overstate the impact of capital controls", citing recent UBS research which stated that two-thirds of the Chinese overseas buyers who were surveyed argued that capital controls had not affected them.

Sales to the rest of the world increased by 3 percent to $1 billion, with the bulk of this comprising the $720 million of UAE deals, according to Juwai.com.

There is no like-for-like figure for prior-year UAE sales as reports did not break down individual countries, a spokesman told Zawya.

Juwai.com's figures were based on its own estimates, extrapolated from numbers provided by the Dubai Land Department, which stated earlier this year that Chinese nationals were among the top 10 buyers of Dubai property, responsible for around 2.5 percent of investments from foreign buyers, which last year was valued at 107 billion dirhams.

The company also said its UAE figures were based only on transactions in Dubai, as it did not have enough data for other emirates.

“This year, we think Dubai’s reputation as a safe harbor from global political strife may lead to investment growth," Law said in a press release accompanying the firm's report. "In 2018, we expect investment to grow at a moderate rate, which is in line with Beijing’s goal of managed, rational overseas investment.

“UAE, and especially Dubai real estate, is increasingly attractive to Chinese investors. The UAE is an important link in the Belt and Road Initiative," Law added.

Eastern promise

Dubai-based developers have increasingly targeted Chinese buyers for off-plan real estate as demand has slowed from other markets. Dubai Land Department data published in July showed that the number of property transactions carried out in the emirate in the first half of this year fell by 22 percent to 27,642. The value of deals also fell by 16 percent to 111 billion dirhams.

The Dubai Land Department and several of the emirates’ major developers took part in a three-day Dubai Property Show marketing to Chinese buyers in Shanghai, which concluded earlier this month.

Fidu Properties, a Dubai-based brokerage which targets Chinese buyers, announced in a press statement earlier this week that it is set to open a second office after being involved in a 500 million dirham transaction with Emaar Properties, although it did not disclose the nature of the deal, or its role in it. The company did not respond to a request from Zawya to clarify its role in the deal.

The firm opened its first office in Dubai in January.

(Reporting by Michael Fahy; Editing by Mily Chakrabarty)

(michael.fahy@thomsonreuters.com)

© ZAWYA 2018