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MarketScreener Homepage  >  Equities  >  Hong Kong Stock Exchange  >  BOC Hong Kong (Holdings) Limited    2388   HK2388011192

BOC HONG KONG (HOLDINGS) LIMITED

(2388)
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26.85 HKD   -0.56%
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As recession takes hold, Hong Kong banks worry about risk of easier mortgage rules

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11/13/2019 | 10:09pm EST
FILE PHOTO: Woman stands outside a shop in an alley in Sheung Wan in Hong Kong

Even as Hong Kong has reduced down-payment requirements to help young professionals and families to buy homes, banks are beefing up mortgage application standards to ensure that a recession does not saddle them with bad loans, bankers and mortgage brokers said.

Last month, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, struggling to restore confidence in her administration after five months of civil unrest, approved rules allowing first-time homebuyers to borrow as much as 90% of a HK$8 million ($1 million) home's cost.

Earlier, such a high ratio was only permitted on properties worth half as much. The move increased sales of used homes.

But as the protests take a heavy toll on the special administrative region's economy, banks fear a deepening recession, unemployment and bankruptcies, which could make it hard for borrowers to pay them back, two bankers said.

Historically, mortgage delinquency is rare in Hong Kong, with a rate of about 0.02%.

HSBC, one of the top mortgage lenders in Hong Kong, recently issued a guideline that buyers cannot have a mortgage payment that exceeds 65% of their monthly income, must hold a full-time job and own no other property, said two industry sources.

Lenders including HSBC, Standard Chartered and Bank of China Hong Kong also plan to increase interest rates for mortgages and reduce cash rebates to borrowers in the months ahead, two bankers said.

The cash rebate - essentially a discount - has come down to as low as 0.5% now, compared with an average of 2% earlier this year. Some banks are planning to phase it out completely, they said.

"We have to use all the tools... to protect our profitability and asset quality in this environment. You will see more measures in the next few months," said a Hong Kong-based banker with a European bank.

All of the bankers, industry sources and mortgage brokers declined to be named as they were not allowed to speak to the media.

HSBC said in a statement that it had continued to accept new mortgage applications "as usual" since the announcement of the new easing initiatives, and applications are considered on a case-by-case basis.

Standard Chartered said it would continue its "prudent approach to risk management and returns" and would closely monitor the market situation to review its strategy. Bank of China Hong Kong did not respond to a request for comment.

Some banks in Hong Kong have raised interest rates for new mortgages twice since August by a total of 25 basis points, even as they cut their best lending rates recently for the first time since the global financial crisis.

A month after Lam's announcement, property agents said most buyers of small to medium-sized flats are borrowing more of the value of the home, while their financial power appears to be weaker than previous customers'.

"We got more enquiries from clients who were not clear about their repayment capability," said Cookie Wong, a managing director of Ricacorp Mortgage Agency. "Some of their income only reaches the bottom line of the requirements, unlike before, when those buying the HK$10 million flats were much more cash sufficient."

Hong Kong's home prices fell 4.1% from June to September, but are still up 5.9% this year.

"The government measure is like giving a credit card to the primary school students, who shouldn't be buying homes. When they buy at this expensive level, they'll be trapped once prices fall," said a representative of a property developer, who declined to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the media.

Some analysts, however, say that as long as the banks keep stringent borrowing standards, there will be little systemic risk, and borrowing costs are unlikely to rise sharply in the near term.

"We do not expect the banking sector to materially relax its underwriting standards. We consider Hong Kong's banking industry risk to be the lowest among its peers," rating agency S&P said in a report on Oct. 29.

(Editing by Gerry Doyle)

By Clare Jim and Sumeet Chatterjee

Stocks mentioned in the article
ChangeLast1st jan.
BOC HONG KONG (HOLDINGS) LIMITED -0.56% 26.85 End-of-day quote.1.13%
HSBC HOLDINGS PLC -1.75% 529.3 Delayed Quote.-10.58%
STANDARD CHARTERED -3.55% 570.6 Delayed Quote.-19.90%
THE BANK OF EAST ASIA, LIMITED 2.06% 16.84 End-of-day quote.2.06%
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Financials (HKD)
Sales 2019 59 136 M
EBIT 2019 42 402 M
Net income 2019 32 775 M
Debt 2019 -
Yield 2019 5,60%
P/E ratio 2019 8,81x
P/E ratio 2020 8,80x
Capi. / Sales2019 4,85x
Capi. / Sales2020 4,68x
Capitalization 287 B
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Number of Analysts 12
Average target price 32,33  HKD
Last Close Price 27,10  HKD
Spread / Highest target 43,9%
Spread / Average Target 19,3%
Spread / Lowest Target -4,80%
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NameTitle
Ying Xin Gao Vice Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer
Lian Ge Liu Chairman
Xiang Qun Zhong Chief Operating Officer
Yang Sui Chief Financial Officer
Beng Seng Koh Independent Non-Executive Director
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