Thursday, January 21, 2016

China limits cash moves offshore - danger for property settlements

A story in today's Australian Financial Review is titled "China limits cash moves offshore" and show the risks for developers in relation to off-the-plan sales contracts.  The Chinese buyer may not be able to get the cash out of China, and then may not be able to settle the contract on completion of the building.  And try suing the Chinese buyer.  Some buildings under construction in Brisbane have more than 80% offshore buyers, so I suspect that some developers may run into troubles next year.

China limits cash moves offshore
AFR, 21 Jan 2016, p1

Shanghai | Chinese banks are delaying and even blocking some foreign exchange transactions under a decision by the central government to limit capital leaving the country, a move that could hurt demand for foreign assets including Australian property.

At meetings on Monday and Tuesday afternoon senior bank executives were told by the government to toughen up their capital controls.

While they haven't introduced new rules, one executive told The Australian Financial Review banks were using existing measures to slow the amount of money going overseas. The crackdown has seen more stringent checks for both companies and individuals.

"We are now refusing all foreign currency transfers where the documents are not fully complete … previously the requirements were not so strict," said a bank executive in Shanghai who asked not to be named.


An Australian real estate agent based in Shanghai, Scott Kirchner, said the tougher capital controls could "cause problems for Australian developers as clients may not be able to get their money out of China".

"I'm advising people not to sign a contract unless they already have their money outside China," said Mr Kirchner, a director of BellerChina. "There is lots of uncertainty at the moment and that might affect sales."

In China, individuals are restricted to exchanging the equivalent of $US50,000 in foreign currency each year.

American lawyer Dan Harris said on his blog on January 14 that his firm's China office had received more "money problem" calls in one week than it had received for the whole of the past year.

"If there is a common theme, it is that China banks seem to be doing whatever they can to avoid paying anyone in dollars," said Mr Harris from Seattle-based firm Harris Moure.  He said it had affected real estate agents and companies waiting for Chinese investment money.

Previously, one option for those interested in buying overseas property was to use the currency quotas of friends and family.

Alternatively, underground channels in Macau or Hong Kong were available to get money out of the country. Both these methods are now under increased scrutiny as the government tries to stabilise the yuan.

"They haven't introduced any new capital controls but the implementation of existing measures has been strengthened," said another executive, who works at one of China's big state-owned banks.

David Olsson, a China Practice Consultant at law firm King & Wood Mallesons, said Chinese banks "have clearly got some direction to look more closely at outbound capital flows particularly around Shanghai and Shenzhen".

He said it was not expected to affect legitimate outbound investment and Australia would continue to be a big beneficiary of Chinese investment in agriculture, services-related sectors and tourism."

1 comment:

RunnerUpGirl said...

I don't think that's relevant. It's a way to control thin "middle class" of China. People who buy property with bags of cash are not affected... they are too close to the gov't :-) But it's interesting to see what will happen in 12 months though