| HONG KONG
HONG KONG May 13 Shanghai's top real estate
agent has been forced to downsize, hurt in part by a delay in
commission payments from property developers in a market facing
increasing liquidity pressure and a slowdown in sales.
Hong Kong-based Centaline Property, which has around 470
branches in Shanghai, told Reuters it has imposed a hiring feeze
in the commercial capital and has been reviewing leases at some
of its branches since the fourth quarter of last year.
"For agents and shops that can't meet quotas, we would let
staff go through natual attrition and stop renting," said
Clement Luk, Centaline's chief executive of east China.
"April's transactions in Shanghai were around 20 percent
lower than March; looking at the momentum now, April may not be
the bottom yet, May and June could still be on a downtrend."
Another leading agent in Shanghai, Dooioo Real Estate, said
it was also cutting staff, although it still planned to increase
its number of branches in the city to 250 by the end of the year
from 206 now.
Chinese media reported on Monday that the two real estate
agents were cutting staff by 5 to 10 percent, citing internal
sources. Dooioo said its staff cuts would be less than that
figure, while Centaline said only it was letting staff go.
China's real estate industry is facing mounting pressure as
banks make it harder for developers and homebuyers to borrow
loans amid government curbs on speculative investments.
Price corrections are also spreading to top-tier cities,
with the problem of excess supply emerging in Beijing and the
southern city of Shenzhen, according to China Real Estate
Information Corporation (CRIC), a property data provider.
While Shanghai's inventory level remains healthy, its supply
of unsold housing as of the end of April climbed 48 percent from
a year ago, and its area of residential property sold last month
dropped 18 percent from March and dropped 16 percent from a year
Falling property prices and a resulting sharp drop in
construction activity threaten what had been one of few bright
spots in the world's second-largest economy, which has been
showing signs of losing steam.
China's government has spent more than four years trying to
tame record home prices on concerns that they were stoking an
(Reporting by Clare Jim; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Kim