Reality Check: Country Garden’s Surprising Decision to Sell Down an Incomplete Australia Project

WILTON, Australia

Chinese property giant Country Garden has stalled several overseas developments, including the stalled Wilton Greens project in Sydney. The project, which promises shady streets, sporting fields, bike paths, parks, and a new local school, is one of several stalled overseas developments the company is now seeking to offload as it struggles to pay creditors.

In Malaysia, its plans for the $100 billion Forest City development, billed as a paradise with turtles and white-sand beaches, are still far from completion. The lack of certainty around construction at the 433-hectare Wilton Greens project on Sydney’s outskirts comes as policymakers struggle to address the housing shortage in Australia’s largest city but struggle to provide the necessary infrastructure. The development is located 82 km from the city’s central business district and 15 km from the nearest public high school.

Wilton Greens, a project in Australia, promises a picturesque landscape with trees, flowers, and lakes, but the reality is far from that, according to urban planning professor Sebastian Pfautsch. The project’s success is attributed to China’s mega-developer’s ambitious global expansion, which has stalled due to rising interest rates, affecting demand and debt repayment. Country Garden, once China’s largest private developer, is struggling to meet offshore debt repayments amid liquidity issues.

The remaining 330 hectares of Wilton Greens, which include 2,400 vacant lots, are considered incomplete and unreliable, according to Suzy Brandstater, a former school teacher who sits on the council that approved the development. The issue is not unique to Country Garden, as local governments across Australia are struggling to provide essential infrastructure for outer suburban developments as buyers look for options further afield.

Two people who purchased blocks at Wilton Greens, Australia, were pleased with their purchase due to the increased land value, indicating that Country Garden will not necessarily lose money on the venture as it has elsewhere in the world. Unlike other global projects, Country Garden’s financial exposure in Australia is mostly land purchase price and costs associated with subdivision.

Individual property buyers are liable for unforeseen costs once their land sale closes. Country Garden Australia CEO Guotao Hu stated that the company’s Australian assets continue to perform well, and selling the remaining parcels of land is part of Risland’s approach to portfolio optimization. The Chinese firm did not disclose the purchase price when it announced the subdivision project in 2019, and it is uncertain whether a deal will occur.

AustraliaCountry Garden's Surprising Decision to Sell Down an Incomplete Australia ProjectReality CheckReality Check: Country Garden's Surprising Decision to Sell Down an Incomplete Australia Project