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Sky's the Limit for the Chinese City of Wuhan and Its Phoenix Towers

TAIPEI, Taiwan (TheStreet) -- You might not have heard of Wuhan before, but you'll be hearing a lot about it soon, because it's set to become the home of the world's tallest towers.

U.K.-based Chetwoods Architects has disclosed plans to build twin, eco-friendly towers, each 1 kilometer tall, in Wuhan, which is the chief transit and industrial center of central China. The structures, called the Phoenix Towers, would be taller than the current world record holder, the Burj Khalifa, which soars 828 meters above the sand in Dubai.

Completion of the Phoenix Towers is likely to stimulate interest among multinational real estate companies in central China's burgeoning cities.

Eastern Chinese metropolises such as Beijing and Shanghai are reaching building saturation, but inland cities with populations in the seven or eight digits such as Wuhan, Changsha and Chengdu are not.

"The missing piece of the jigsaw in terms of how (foreign developers) see the China market is some city or market in the center of China," says James Macdonald, head of Savills Research in Shanghai.

Chetwoods Architects, based in the excited-about-China U.K., is working with Chinese conglomerate the Huayang Group to build the Phoenix Towers, local media in China say. They presented plans to the city about six months ago.

The architect's Web site depicts the project as pair of red-hued, translucent, steeple-like spires, evidently part of a mixed-use commercial compound. They would cover 47 hectares on an island in one of Wuhan's numerous lakes near central China's chief university district.

The towers would burn biomass, run on wind turbines and come with suspended air gardens, the architect's Web site says. They also would recycle water. Parts of the project would use lightweight solar panels, pollution-absorbent coating and thermal chimneys, local media say. That's all ideal for controlling pollution, a spiraling national priority enshrined in China's 12th Five Year Plan announced in March.

Chetwoods declined to elaborate on its plans for this report. But it's sure to get attention from around the industry. Wuhan and other inland China cities are outpacing China's 7%-plus annual economic growth, so developers, architects, engineers and contractors such as ThyssenKrupp Elevator would be digging a hole not to notice.

Although most inland China developers are local, Hong Kong and Singapore money already have risen to the occasion as property prices rise around the nation despite government price controls.

In Wuhan, Singapore's CapitaLand (C31.SI) and New World Development (0017.HK) of Hong Kong have finished high-end commercial projects. Hong Kong-listed Hutchinson Whampoa (0013.HK) is working on one in Wuhan, and Kerry Properties (0683.HK), from the same territory, is planning one.

These developers will learn early on who to talk to for no-hassle permits, joint venture partnerships and deals on local supplies. American developers such as Simon Property Group (SPG) and a subsidiary of Taubman Centers (TCO) may be too late if they decide to swing inland from projects they're pursuing now in coastal cities.

China-savvy green building contractors such as Siemens may also find money growing on trees in central China as the government's environmental policies get only stronger.

"Wuhan has recently been redesignated an environmental city of the future by the regional and central governments," the Phoenix Towers architect notes on its Web site.

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At the time of publication the author had no position in any of the stocks mentioned.

Ralph Jennings is on LinkedIn.

This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.


TheStreet Ratings team rates SIMON PROPERTY GROUP INC as a Buy with a ratings score of A-. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

"We rate SIMON PROPERTY GROUP INC (SPG) a BUY. This is based on the convergence of positive investment measures, which should help this stock outperform the majority of stocks that we rate. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its compelling growth in net income, revenue growth, notable return on equity, expanding profit margins and good cash flow from operations. Although no company is perfect, currently we do not see any significant weaknesses which are likely to detract from the generally positive outlook."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has significantly exceeded that of the Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) industry average, but is less than that of the S&P 500. The net income increased by 20.6% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, going from $283.97 million to $342.48 million.
  • Despite its growing revenue, the company underperformed as compared with the industry average of 10.3%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly increased by 8.1%. Growth in the company's revenue appears to have helped boost the earnings per share.
  • Current return on equity exceeded its ROE from the same quarter one year prior. This is a clear sign of strength within the company. In comparison to the other companies in the Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) industry and the overall market, SIMON PROPERTY GROUP INC's return on equity significantly exceeds that of the industry average and is above that of the S&P 500.
  • 49.06% is the gross profit margin for SIMON PROPERTY GROUP INC which we consider to be strong. It has increased from the same quarter the previous year. Along with this, the net profit margin of 24.95% is above that of the industry average.
  • Net operating cash flow has increased to $661.45 million or 20.15% when compared to the same quarter last year. Despite an increase in cash flow, SIMON PROPERTY GROUP INC's cash flow growth rate is still lower than the industry average growth rate of 30.28%.

At the time of publication, the author had no position in any of the stocks mentioned.

This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

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