Rising value of properties a real concern

The Government needs to address the issue of affordability of residential properties as persistently high prices have become an issue to many people.

“We have computed the affordability (issue). Prices have risen to a level that has created some concern. In fact the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in its Article 4 consultation report has mentioned that this is the main risk or vulnerability facing the Malaysian economy: overvalued house prices,” Ratings Agency Malaysia Holdings Bhd (RAM) chief economist Dr Yeah Kim Leng said.

“It is not a bubble yet largely because for certain segments the income level is sufficient to absorb those kind of (high priced) houses. But there comes a point where you will find declining demand largely because of rising vacancies or declining rental yields that will help to cap property prices,” Yeah told journalists at a press briefing yesterday after RAM's annual general meeting.

Yeah expected an eventual soft landing for the property market in Malaysia but also said that developers should be ready for any change in market dynamics.

“Developers must take the risk that should there be a slowdown or market crash (that) they are in a position to absorb it without creating problems for the banking sector or economy. But at this juncture we are quite comfortable that most developers are going in (to the market) with their eyes fully open,” Yeah said.

“Most of the property companies that we have rated (credit rating) are fairly strong in their credit quality. Overall we are looking at maybe certain smaller developers that will be at risk but by and large I think that the property market is in a sustainable basis. But watch out for too high prices that will create affordability problems,” he added.

Meanwhile, RAM's CEO Foo Su Yin said the agency expected corporate bond issuances for the whole of Malaysia will total between RM80bil and RM85bil this year from about RM70bil in 2011 noting that issuances had accelerated in the first four months in 2012 compared to the previous year.

“The issuance in the first four months of RM44bil has already exceeded what was (at the level) half year last year so the RM80bil-RM85bil is achievable this year. We expect most of the bond issuances to come from the infrastructure and the banking sector,” Foo said.

On another matter, Yeah said that the Malaysian economy should be fairly protected against any economic shocks that comes out of Europe due to the ongoing economic crisis there and that the first quarter economic growth may even beat analysts expectations.

“Domestic demand has been fairly robust and with slightly firmer exports we should be doing fairly well. Nevertheless the risks still remain substantial because of the, so-called, regime changes that had happened in Europe that put the whole Euro at risk. Malaysia has so far been able to ride through the soft patch in the global economy,” he said.

Meanwhile, on the issue of the growing government debt or also known as deficits of presently about 56% of GDP, Yeah said this figure may hover at about 56%-57% by the end of this year and said debt should ideally be used to finance productive investments to ensure future economic growth.

He also said the risks from the non-bank lending sector also known as the shadow banking system could be limited as its portfolio was relatively small compared to total bank loans portfolio and may not pose a systemic risk to the economy at this point in time.

“We may have however, isolated problems arising but it should not pose a systemic risk to the economy or banking sector,” he added. - By Daniel Khoo (The Star)

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