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China's property market no longer 'red hot but deep cold'
[DAVOS] China's property market is no longer "red hot but deep cold", elites gathered at the Davos forum heard on Wednesday, as fears grow that a real estate slump could accentuate slowing growth in the giant Asian economy.
"China's urbanisation-led growth is almost coming to an end. Very little money is going into buying new land and building new buildings because so many buildings have been built," said Zhang Xin, chief executive and co-founder of real estate giant SOHO China.
"Real estate has moved from red hot to deep cold. This is the cold, cold sector of the economy. No money wants to go into real estate," Ms Zhang said.
"Developers like me which used to spend so much time buying land and building buildings, now are also moving on the consumption side," she said.
That means finding more creative ways to rent out office space, for instance.
"Can I come up with a new product that can suit the new generation, the mobile generation?" she said.
China's property slump has fuelled fears that it could further slow economic growth at a time when the world is looking at the Asian giant to provide momentum.
Chief economist at consultancy IHS, Nariman Behravesh, said: "China is going through a housing crunch and it's bringing growth down. What we don't know is when it will stop."
After a decade of breakneck rises in property prices - with rates more than quadrupling in Beijing and Shanghai from 2003 and doubling across the country - the sector has recently come to a screeching halt, with prices falling in the second half of 2014.
In a bid to cool the market in past years, China has introduced market control measures including limits on buying second and third homes.
But local authorities rely on the property sector for a significant proportion of their income, and cities began rolling back some of the measures this year as China's economy slowed and the central government relented.
The central bank in September eased mortgage policies for the real estate sector and last month announced a surprise interest rate cut - the first in more than two years - that analysts said would benefit home buyers the most.
Axel Weber, former Bundesbank chief, suggested however that the slowdown in the real estate market is to be expected and not a cause for concern.
"China's building boom has been going on for a long time," he said, adding that the prices are now undergoing correction.
He also predicted that investments are simply going to switch from property to stocks.
"There's big inflows of overseas funds into China. The flow of money will move from the property markets to equity markets so a major rally should continue in China," he said.
Chinese central bank chief Zhou Xiaochuan also did not appear to be too worried about the trend.
"Generally we see there may be a cyclical adjustment," he said, adding that the central bank "will basically keep monetary policy stable".