WSJ: “Lennar Corp., one of the U.S.’s largest home builders, is in talks with the China Development Bank for approximately $1.7 billion in capital to jump-start two long-delayed San Francisco projects that would transform two former naval bases into large-scale housing developments, according to people familiar with the discussions.
The negotiations aren’t final and the financing arrangement could still fall through. But if completed, the deal would reflect a changing dynamic between the U.S. and Chinese economies, as an American company turns to China for help funding a long-delayed and partially publicly funded project that otherwise wouldn’t get done.
The developments, Treasure Island and Hunters Point Shipyard, also have the potential to alter San Francisco’s housing market by providing nearly 20,000 new homes, a sports arena and millions of square feet of office and retail space in a market that is land-constrained and has had limited new construction. The city has committed hundreds of millions of dollars, in the form of tax-increment bonds, to the projects, which in total are expected to cost $10.5 billion over the next few decades.
In recent years, Chinese state money—in large part provided by CDB and its counterpart the Export-Import Bank of China—has been pivotal in funding major infrastructure and resource projects around the world, but the bulk of that activity has been in developing countries in Africa, South America and Asia.
That has resulted in the construction of dams, airports, railways, highways and sports arenas that otherwise wouldn’t get built, primarily in developing countries. Funding is typically conditional upon Chinese developers and contractors being used to build the projects. And in order to keep costs down, and in many cases to ensure the necessary expertise, at least a portion of the workforce is flown in from China.
This would be difficult or impossible in San Francisco, where local regulations and deals cut with local governments generally require developers to use local labor and pay prevailing wages.
The CDB and the Lennar partnership have been in discussions to include China Railway Construction Corp., a state-run contractor, in the development of Treasure Island and Hunters Point, according to people familiar with the matter. While it is unclear what CRCC’s role would be, the company could serve as an adviser or in an consulting role, or could possibly even invest in a local construction company that employs U.S. workers, these people said.
With Chinese firms increasingly eyeing opportunities in the U.S. and other developed markets, CDB will likely find itself being approached to fund more deals in the U.S. People familiar with the negotiations said CDB was using the Treasure Island and Hunters Point projects—which both include “green” building and affordable housing components that are of interest to Chinese builders—as a test case to become familiar with what’s required for doing such deals in the U.S.”