The richest man in China, Wang Jianlin, made his ~$30 billion fortune by developed huge malls and office complexes across China but he now says Chinese real estate is the "biggest bubble in history."
Certainly, one has to look no further than our post from yesterday entitled "Viral Surveillance Video Reveals A Shocking Scene From China's Housing Bubble" to get a sense of just how "bubblicious" the China property market has become. Below is footage from a surveillance camera that caught the moment a new real estate development in east Hangzhou opened for sale on September 24th.
The big problem, according to Jianlin, is that prices keep rising in major Chinese cities like Shanghai but are collapsing in thousands of smaller cities where huge numbers of properties lie vacant. Per an interview with CNN, Jianlin notes that rising household debt is a major issue fueling the bubble but Chinese officials have been reluctant to restrict leverage due to the fear of the economic consequences.
"I don't see a good solution to this problem," he said. "The government has come up with all sorts of measures -- limiting purchase or credit -- but none have worked."
It's a serious worry in China, where the economy is slowing at the same time as high debt levels continue to increase rapidly. There are massive sums at stake in the real estate market: direct loans to the sector stood at roughly 24 trillion yuan ($3.6 trillion) at the end of June, according to Capital Economics.
"The problem is the economy hasn't bottomed out," Wang said. "If we remove leverage too fast, the economy may suffer further. So we'll have to wait until the economy is back on the track of rebounding -- that's when we gradually reduce leverage and debts."
Jianlin has been warning of a bubble in Chinese real estate for a while which has prompted his recent buying spree of international assets. So far in 2016, Jianlin has been gobbling up U.S. based media companies including the Hollywood studio Legendary Entertainment, the movie theater business Carmike Cinemas and he is currently in talks to buy Dick Clark Productions.
Meanwhile UBS China Economist, Tao Wang, says the China real estate bubble isn't a concern because it hasn't yet pushed household debt to alarming levels...
Not yet a bubble that's about to significantly damage the economy. The recent property market frenzy has not yet spread to a great many cities, pushed household debt up to alarming levels, or led to strong construction growth.
...Even though her charts seem to paint a slightly different picture.
Property prices seem to be surging across the board...
...while buyers are relying on a record amount of leverage to fund purchases...
...pushing household consumer debt closer to 250% of disposable income...
...all while there is seemingly 4-5 years worth of incremental residential supply under construction.
But we'll take Wang's word for it...probably nothing to see here.