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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Pension funds invested in Chinese property could face ‘choppy waves’

Pension funds involved in Chinese real estate investment may see disruptions, an event was told. 


Offshore windfarm/ renewable energy in Baltic Sea, off Copenhagen, Denmark © Shutterstock
PwC believes once renewable energies reach maturity, subsidies will be reduced. © Shutterstock

Leo Johnson, partner at PwC, said 81% of pension funds are invested in the Chinese housing market and they could experience “waves that could start to get a bit choppy”.

Speaking at a pensions event in London organised by PwC, Johnson said: “The demographics would make you think this is going to be a great market because the population is increasing, and the population is urbanising, there’s going to be a demand for cities”.

But he warned this could lead to oversupply of properties. He said: “If you kick the tyres on it, what you see is you’ve got some trends that suggest they’re overbuilt and there’s empty housing stock. You’re seeing a market that’s starting to look like 80 years’ worth of oversupply already.”

He added the rising cost of Chinese labour was causing manufacturers to offshore, which in turn led to job losses.

Johnson added the Chinese housing market had seen further disruptions due to recent 3D-printing technology, which could produce “two-bedroom bungalows for $10,000”.

Johnson said another “megatrend” in pension funds was falling returns on investment in fossil fuels, an industry that currently receives $5.3tn of annual governmental subsidy globally. He said investment in oil and gas would only help investors to break even. 

He said by contrast, renewable energy would provide greater returns due to technological advancement and falling prices. 

“By 2020, 80% of the world’s population will be living in places where renewables will be below cost parity with fossil fuels. Those, by the way, will also be places where there is population growth, where there is economic activity,” he said.

Johnson believed once renewable energies reach maturity, subsidies would be reduced.