Big Chinese investors rethink some US real estate bets

China to issue new controls over foreign investment

Clockwise: GM building, Rendering of proposed development at RKO Theater, John Liang, Zhang Xin, David La Rue
Clockwise: The GM Building, rendering of Xinyuan Real Estate's Flushing development, John Liang, Zhang Xin and David LaRue

Chinese developers who’ve made large bets in U.S. real estate are reassessing their strategies as the market tops out in some sectors.

This comes as the Chinese State Council is set to issue new rules to curb capital flight, according to the Wall Street Journal. They are expected to announce stricter controls over foreign investments exceeding $10 billion, and more than $1 billion for state-owned firms. This is in response to economic uncertainty and a weakening currency in China.

In the U.S., developers are getting wary. “I see a danger in the real estate market in the U.S.,” John Liang, Xinyuan Real Estate’s managing director of U.S. operations, told the Wall Street Journal. “With its seven- to eight-year cycle, you get a sense now that it’s peaking.”

Zhang Xin, chief executive of Soho China, whose family has a stake in the General Motors Building, also expressed concern. “The prices are very high right now,” she told the Journal. “I would be very cautious if I were to make a large investment in New York’s real estate today.”

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Some projects involving Chinese investors are already facing headwinds. A 15-building Brooklyn project developed by the Chinese state-owned Greenland Holding Group and Forest City Ratner is facing delays because of “unprecedented concentrations of new rental supply in Downtown Brooklyn,” Forest City CEO David LaRue told the newspaper.

Other projects are stalled due to conflicts and legal complications, such as the Rivington House project. Shenzhen-based China Vanke teamed up with New York developers Slate Property Group and Adam America Real Estate to build luxury condos at the former nonprofit nursing home, but the project has been met with fierce protest and is under investigation by federal prosecutors and the state attorney general.

The U.S. real estate market has seen a tremendous influx of Chinese capital, particularly in the last five years. It is unlikely to come to a full stop, but the wave may have crested. [WSJ]Chava Gourarie