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Wealthy Chinese snap up foreign islands in online auction

Friday, March 6, 2015 - 16:53

[BEIJING] Four islands in Fiji, Greece, Britain and Canada were put up for sale on China's largest online shopping platform Taobao this week, and three of them sold within hours.

The auction started at 10am on Tuesday and when it ended 12 hours later, a construction magnate in Yunnan province had bought the islands in Greece and Canada for 6.2 million yuan (S$1.36 million) and 1.7 million yuan respectively, according to Beijing-based Ilongterm, the real estate company that held the auction.

A businessman in Zhejiang province bought the island in Fiji for 5 million yuan, The three islands had a starting price of only 1 yuan. The island in Fiji was sold on a 99-year lease while the others were freehold.

The island in Britain had a starting price of 4 million yuan and was not sold. "We chose to work with Taobao as a strategic partner, because it is undoubtedly the most influential online shopping platform in China right now," said the marketing manager of Ilongterm who asked for anonymity due to company regulations."Our bidders in this auction were long-time users of Taobao who have spent about 10 million yuan on it so far." Taobao started auctioning for overseas properties on Dec 12."We are catering to the rising demand for overseas properties among these groups and we are sure to offer more such projects in the future," said Taobao in a written reply.

Any Chinese citizen who put up a 1,000-yuan deposit was qualified to bid in Tuesday's auction. At least 48 people submitted bids.

Ilongterm will take the winning bidders to their islands for on-site inspections and the completion of procedures such as paying taxes, commissions and legal expenses.

The company will also auction more overseas properties on Taobao later this month and in May.

According to Lin Dong, founder of the China Island Owners Association, wealthy Chinese have shown growing interest in overseas islands in recent years. Last year, wealthy Chinese bought at least seven islands abroad.

Islands in China come with many restrictions on their use and a lease of just 50 years while most overseas islands are sold freehold.

REUTERS