January 17-24, 2006
 
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"The most important characteristic of a chief executive of any region is that he or she should be a noble person."

- Li Ka Shing, business tycoon from Hong Kong, on the topic of the special administrative region's future chief executive. see more



Arabian delights


CHEF Tarek Mouriess carried about 10 kinds of ingredients in his suitcase on his flight to Shanghai to host an Arabic Food Promotion at the Hilton Shanghai.
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Bank pioneers fixed rate mortgage

By Wang Xu



China Everbright Bank has been given the go-ahead to offer fixed-rate mortgages to home buyers in Shanghai and Beijing, the nation's first lender to offer such products.

In the pilot programme, the Beijing-based lender set the interest rate at 5.94 per cent for 5-year maturities, and 6.18 per cent for 10-year maturities, slightly higher that the current floating interest rate, adjustable by year or even month. Local residents can apply for the loans directly from the property developer.

The benchmark floating rate for 5-year mortgages is 6.12 per cent. Lenders may offer first-time homebuyers up to 10 per cent discounts, lowering the rate to 5.51 per cent.

"The fixed-rate mortgage will appeal to customers who prefer stability," the bank said in a statement, adding it will also help home buyers hedge against possible hikes in interest rates.

Pudong Development Bank and China Construction Bank have also applied to regulators for permission to offer fixed-rate loans.

According to an online survey conducted by Insight CN, 41.9 per cent of the 990 respondents are in favour of fixed-rates, as they reduce possible risk.

Analysts say the practice may benefit home buyers in the short term as interest rates are expected to rise in the coming few years. China's interest rates have remained at a low level for a decade.

"Further interest rate rises are possible this year, as one way to stabilize housing prices. Unlike Shanghai, property prices in Shenzhen and Beijing have continued to rise even after the introduction of the macrocontrol measures," said Yang Hanliang, an analyst from Centaline (China) Property Consultants Ltd.

The People's Bank of China, the central bank, raised the benchmark interest rate from 5.31 to 6.12 per cent last March in a bid to rein in investment in some overheated sectors including steel, cement and property.

The National Development and Reform Commission, the nation's top economic planner, predicted earlier that housing sales will grow 20 per cent in 2006, compared with a 30 per cent gain in 2005. The commission also said any rebound in the property market was "unrealistic" in the next two years.

Although the introduction of the fixed-rates will appeal to applicants for mortgages, industry insiders say they will offer little benefit to the city's housing market, since most home buyers still expect further cutbacks in prices this year.

"Price still dominates what's going to happen in the market next," said Wu Yonggang, an analyst with Shanghai-based Guotai and Jun'an Securities Co.

Shanghai's property market began to slip from last June, when a series of austerity measures worked to kick speculators out of the game, with sales figures falling simultaneously with prices.

Last July, aggregate transactions in the residential sector plummeted to 778,000 square metres, around one-third of the average level in 2004.

 


Cai Shaoyao

Balance public opinion and judicial independence

 


Profle

End of the Dream
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Auto fans melt away
With the approach of the Formula One Grand Prix, Yu Zhifei, deputy general manager of the Shanghai International Circuit, was worried about how to attract enough spectators to the circuit and rev up sluggish fan interest in the event.
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Under artificial eyes

FOR most customers, CCTV (closed-circuit television) surveillance cameras installed in shops, banks, buses or metro stops and many other places, merit little attention. But for Xiao Gang, such cameras have become an agonizing and confusing problem.

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