CapitaLand reopens all China malls, posts rise in residential sales

Some 80% of stores in CapitaLand's malls and business parks in China in operation as at end-March; about 95% of its office tenants have also resumed operations


PROPERTY group CapitaLand has reopened all its malls in China that were previously shut due to the country's coronavirus lockdown.

The group's four malls in Wuhan - the epicentre of the outbreak - reopened on April 2 after receiving clearance from local authorities.

About 80 per cent of stores in CapitaLand's malls and business parks in China were in operation as at end-March, the property giant said in a bourse filing on Monday.

In a separate filing, CapitaLand Retail China Trust (CRCT), a China-focused real estate investment trust (Reit), said its portfolio had seen improvements in business activity and footfall in March as compared to February.

Tan Tze Wooi, chief executive of the Reit's manager, said the Reit was "very encouraged" by the return of tenants and shoppers, adding that it would work closely with retailers to meet pent-up demand through targeted offerings and attractive promotions.

He said: "In the last few years, we have actively shaped the portfolio to become more resilient by diversifying our presence across more cities and diversifying our tenant base across different trade categories.

"While we expect short-term volatility to our business due to Covid-19, we maintain our long-term collaborative stance with our business partners and a positive view of the China market."

Apart from mall tenants, about 95 per cent of CapitaLand's office tenants have also resumed operations, with over 65 per cent of tenants' employees returning to the office, the property developer said.

On the residential front, CapitaLand's sales offices across China reopened in March, with residential sales for the month exceeding 1.3 billion yuan (S$263.6 million). This is more than 5.5 times its sales for January and February combined.

Its La Botanica township in Xi'an, launched on March 24, sold all 288 units in four days for a gross sales value of 405 million yuan, it said.

Other notable sales it made in the first quarter of the year include Jing'an One in Shanghai, and Citta Di Mare and La Riva in Guangzhou. The three properties netted the company 336 million yuan, 390 million yuan and 288 million yuan in sales, respectively.

CapitaLand group China president Lucas Loh said Chinese homebuyers have become more discerning since the virus outbreak. Nevertheless, he said, the company recorded healthy figures since reopening sales offices, indicating a sustained underlying demand for new homes.

CapitaLand said most of its projects under construction have resumed work, and it is now focused on catching up with its annual sales and handover targets.

In a video message accompanying the release of its 2019 annual report, CapitaLand's group chief executive Lee Chee Koon said the company remained well capitalised with committed facilities and available cash on the liquidity front.

"I believe companies with the most resilient businesses, deepest pockets and longest investment horizons will emerge the most formidable after the crisis," he said. "CapitaLand has the firepower to survive this cold winter."

Mr Lee added that the unprecedented situation had also created "'never-seen-before' opportunities".

"While we brace ourselves for the worst, we will not lose focus on what needs to be done in terms of growth and diversification," he said.

"Capitaland has a strong balance sheet and we stand ready to move forward on the right market opportunities with the right partners."

Mr Lee also promised to use some of the company's financial girth to "do the right thing".

To date, CapitaLand has comitted S$100 million to support its retail tenants as well as governments and healthcare communities of the markets where it operates. Through its philanthropic arm CapitaLand Hope Foundation, it has also pledged S$2.3 million in donations to support healthcare workers and affected communities.

CapitaLand also announced that it has received approvals for a two-month extension - till June 30 - to hold its annual general meeting .

CapitaLand shares rose 4.6 per cent or 12 cents on Monday to close at S$2.740 each. It was among the most heavily traded of the Singapore-listed stocks for the day.

Units of CRCT gained 6.6 per cent or seven cents to close at S$1.130 each.