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March 24, 2013

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Car plate prices break 90,000 yuan barrier

NEW policies to cool down car plate prices in Shanghai look increasingly likely, after prices at yesterday's auction exceeded 90,000 yuan (US$14,490) for the first time.

In the ninth consecutive month of hitting a record high, the average successful bid for a Shanghai car plate soared to 91,898 yuan - up 8,327 yuan from February.

This is more than enough to buy three cheap Chinese cars.

The lowest price, on an upward track for five straight months, reached 90,800 yuan, 7,500 yuan more than last month's figure, Shanghai Commodity International Auction Co said.

The percentage of successful bids, however, rose from 36.5 percent to 38.2 percent, as the number of bidders dropped slightly while the supply of car plates remained unchanged at 9,000.

City car plate prices have been on a steep upward trajectory this year, soaring 32.5 percent in just three months - more than for the whole of last year.

Determined to check price rises, the Shanghai government vowed last week to introduce new polices to cool down the market if existing ones failed to make an impact at this month's auction.

On Tuesday, Vice Mayor Jiang Ping outlined measures set for rollout.

These include: reserving new car plates for new cars only; separate auctions for private and corporate bidders; and including second-hand car plate trading in the bidding system for new ones.

The first measure is aimed at tightening enforcement of a minimum holding period before car plate resale, making it harder for scalpers to cash in.

The second is intended to make bidding less intense for private bidders, as corporate competitors are often more willing to submit high bids.

And officials are keen to bring together new and second-hand plate trading as they say the existing second-hand market - which is also booming - provides a reference point influencing trends for new plates.

A week ago, second-hand car plates were already costing more than 90,000 yuan. But yesterday, a new policy took effect prohibiting second-hand car plates being sold for more than the latest average price for a new one.

Jiang stressed that the government doesn't want to "control" prices. Instead, it wants to cool down the market by using the market's own forces.

But the market itself does need to be better regulated, he said. Jiang promised increased management of used car dealers to tackle illegal practices.


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