Li Ka-shing foresees HK realty recovery

Hong Kong's richest man Li Ka-shing expects property prices in the city will rise "a little bit" this year, even as the government takes steps to cool the world's costliest real estate market.

The government in November increased the stamp duty to 15 per cent for all residential purchases, excluding first-time buyers who are permanent residents.

The curbs initially sent developer stocks tumbling-including shares of Li's Cheung Kong Property Holdings Ltd-as investors assessed the effect the new rules would have on turnover and value.

CK Property shares are down about 15 per cent since the tax was increased.

Yet private housing prices in November surged to the highest since data was first made available in 1979, the city's rating and valuation department said on Dec 30.

The Centaline gauge of secondary home prices rose to 146.3 in the week through Dec 25, just shy of the record 146.92 set in September 2015.

Li expects the real estate market still has room to increase.

"I believe it will rise a little bit, but it won't be outrageous," he said, speaking to reporters before the start of the annual dinner for his group of companies.

China Overseas Land & Investment Ltd offered its latest apartments in the former Kai Tak airport area with average prices 20 per cent higher than those it sold in August, according to a report.

The price hike comes after HNA Group's unit made record bids for land sites in the area by spending a total of $1.8 billion in the last two months.

Li said he sees CK Property's recurring income increasing 50 per cent in the next two to three years, although he isn't too optimistic about the economy in 2017.

"It won't be an easy market amid rising interest rates, but I personally still have confidence," he said.

The real estate developer reported profit before investment property revaluation for the six months ended June 30 was HK$8.3 billion (S$1.54 billion) from HK$5.54 billion a year earlier.

Li, 88, arrived in Hong Kong from the war-ravaged Chinese mainland in 1940 and started his fortune making plastic flowers to export to the West.

His business has grown beyond Hong Kong, spanning from property to supermarket chain and telecoms.

The Bloomberg Billionaires Index values his wealth at $29.4 billion.