Business / Companies

Property portals rise on recovery in real estate

(Agencies) Updated: 2016-03-30 08:11

Property portals rise on recovery in real estate

Homebuyers at a property expo in Shanghai. [Photo/VCG]

Real estate Web portals Leju Holdings Ltd and SouFun Holdings Ltd are standing out among US-traded Chinese stocks, rebounding as government stimulus and a recovering property market improves the outlook for growth.

Leju has surged 44 percent over the past month in the best performance on the Bloomberg China-US Equity Index, which gained 4.6 percent during the same period. SouFun has rebounded 25 percent from this year's low in February. Both were among the 10 worst-performers on the gauge this year through early February, slumping at least 40 percent while the benchmark slid 23 percent.

The turnaround comes amid monetary stimulus from the central bank and an easing of housing market regulations. The companies are also benefiting from government policies geared toward increasing the role of privately owned technology and service businesses in China's economic development, said Brendan Ahern, managing director at Krane Funds Advisors.

"Companies like SouFun are going to orient toward those tier-one cities where you see a fairly robust real-estate market rebound," said Ahern, who invests in Chinese Internet companies, including SouFun. "Within China, you have a massive adoption of the Internet that plays into the real estate market as well, particularly in major cities."

Slumping home prices in smaller cities weighed on earnings last year. SouFun, the country's largest property website, posted its first annual loss since at least 2008, data compiled by Bloomberg showed. Leju, which ranks second, posted adjusted net income that dropped 37 percent to $57.4 million.

The momentum behind the stock rallies picked up as data showed a recovery in China's property market accelerated, led by gains in major cities. Steps the government has taken to encourage home buying have included a reduction of minimum down payments and cuts in deed and business taxes on home transactions.

Prices in Shenzhen, a southern business hub neighboring Hong Kong, posted a 57 percent of jump in February from a year earlier, while those in Shanghai increased 21 percent, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics.

The two cities have since announced a series of measures to cool the market.

Property-related services are "showing sustainable rates of growth", which has led to "fierce competition among existing market leaders and new entrants, especially since 2014", Nomura Holdings Inc analysts led by Jeffrey Gao wrote in a February research report on the industry. SouFun, which controls 56 percent of China's online property advertising market, and Leju, which has 29 percent, are well-positioned to adapt to that environment, in which consolidation "is inevitable".

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