US sub-prime crisis hurting Asian property: GIC

US sub-prime crisis hurting Asian property: GIC


By Fiona Chan


THE sub-prime crisis in the United States is starting to weaken Asian property markets, said the real estate arm of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) yesterday.


GIC Real Estate president Seek Ngee Huat told a regional property conference that the impact of the crisis could hasten downtrends in the Asian property markets, according to a report by news agency Reuters.


‘The contagion effects of the sub-prime crisis can potentially accelerate the downward spin of the property cycle,’ he said in a keynote speech at the Financial Times Asia Property Summit.


‘Some market weakening is being sensed in Asia, particularly in Japan and in Australia.’


In Australia, house prices are growing more slowly and demand for mortgages fell 6.1 per cent in March from February, according to the Reuters report.


It added that in Japan, the stock of unsold apartments is rising, while housing starts fell 15.6 per cent in March from a year ago.


Housing starts – the number of new private homes under construction – are used as an indicator of the state of an economy.


On the bright side, the sub-prime carnage presents opportunities for well-positioned players, Dr Seek said.


But he added that any interested party would face competition from other institutional investors.


‘As always, weak markets favour those with the capacity to take strategic positions, and so the sub-prime meltdown presents threats as well as opportunities, ‘ he was quoted by Reuters as saying.


Morgan Stanley has estimated that GIC manages more than US$330 billion (S$456.8 billion) of assets. This makes it the world’s third-largest sovereign wealth fund, behind the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and Norway’s Government Pension Fund.


GIC Real Estate is also one of the top 10 property investors in the world, with more than 200 investments across more than 30 countries.


Its multibillion- dollar portfolio includes the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney and the Westin Paris in France, among other buildings.


In his speech, Dr Seek said that GIC began by investing in developed markets. It only started to focus on emerging markets in Asia in the mid-1990s.


Source: Straits Times

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