Country Garden says some buyers of Malaysia project want to cancel deals

SHANGHAI/HONG KONG (Reuters) - Chinese property developer Country Garden 2007.HK said on Thursday a small number of apartment buyers at its $100 billion Malaysia project want to cancel their purchases, after Beijing's recent moves to tighten capital controls on overseas property investments.

China’s third-largest builder said in a statement it has received cancellation requests from fewer than 60 buyers. It said the buyers would be charged a penalty of 10 percent to 30 percent of deposits if they canceled the purchase or defaulted on payments.

Chinese buyers of overseas homes are in a quandary as Beijing imposed curbs on funds moving out of the country after the yuan plummeted to more than eight-year lows in December. That has squeezed their ability to pay property installments in foreign currencies, forcing some homebuyers to forfeit their overseas purchases.

Developers are also being hurt. Country Garden has halted selling the development - a mixed-use project called Forest City in Iskandar - inside China and said that it no longer will accept Chinese yuan as payment for the project.

And after selling over 15,000 residential units last year, the developer has said it now aims to have more diversified revenue from the project through sales and rental of offices, shopping malls, a hotel and a golf course.

On Thursday, the developer said in a statement it has ceased all travel-related support services for mainland Chinese traveling to Forest City.

Visits by Reuters to sales offices in Shanghai, including those of Country Garden and state-backed Greenland Holdings 600606.SS, showed the developers have more broadly stopped actively selling overseas projects to customers, instead referring potential buyers to travel agencies or to visit their own local offices overseas.

“We don’t do much marketing for overseas projects anymore, and we’re very careful with our advertisements; we don’t encourage consumers (to buy them),” said a sales person at the Greenland overseas showroom for projects in Australia, Britain, the United States, South Korea and Malaysia.

Overseas projects account for around 3 percent of Greenland’s sales, so the overall impact of capital controls on its revenues is limited, but it’s creating uncertainty over their longer-term business plans, industry executives said.

A source from a subsidiary of Greenland who saw a 2017 work plan said the group has no plans for new property projects overseas this year.

A second source said the group will focus on building existing developments this year and shift its marketing focus away from China to regions such as the Middle East and Japan. The developer entered new markets including Tokyo and San Francisco last year.

Greenland was not immediately available for comment.

On cancellations, the property firms face other headaches. Country Garden’s stance on penalties for cancellations has led to the formation of at least two online groups consisting of around 80 buyers in total, who are demanding refunds without paying penalties.

Reporting by Shanghai newsroom and Clare Jim in Hong Kong; Additional reporting by Engen Tham in Shanghai, Raffaele Huang in Hong Kong and Aradhana Aravindan in Singapore; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman