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Soho ready for commercial acquisitions

SOHO China Ltd, the biggest property developer in Beijing's central business district, will likely announce a string of acquisitions this year after asset values fell by almost half, Chief Executive Officer Zhang Xin said.

The Beijing-based company plans to focus on buying already-built shopping malls and offices, Zhang said yesterday at a press conference in Hong Kong, where Soho is listed. Foreign funds and local builders are the main sellers, she said.

"Last year, we went to sleep because of the price moves - now we are awake," Zhang said. "This is the best time to make acquisitions."

More than half of the potential sellers with whom Soho is in talks are foreign funds, Bloomberg News reported.

Soho is shifting to commercial property from residential projects because of the "unclear" future of China's housing market, it said when announcing earnings on Thursday. Home prices in China fell 1.2 percent last month from a year earlier as the economy slowed, according to government figures.

The company will buy large distressed commercial projects, half-built or completed, in Beijing and Shanghai as their prices have "fallen the steepest and are under the greatest pressure," according to Thursday's filing.

"We will make big acquisitions this year, whether it's 5 billion yuan (US$731 million) or 20 billion yuan," Soho Chairman Pan Shiyi said at yesterday's briefing. "In last year's market, whatever we did would have been wrong."


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