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Tmall.com, the business-to-consumer platform owned by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, rolled out a financing service on Wednesday to help car purchasers in China get unsecured loans of up to 60,000 yuan ($9,606).

The new service underscored the Hangzhou-based e-commerce conglomerate’s strong ambition to conquer a new sector – the online car market.

Tmall has gained fame mainly through the sales of clothes and shoes online.

“China is the world’s largest car market with a total sales of more than 20 million units last year. The number of cars sold through online platforms is quite small compared with the giant size of the market,” said Wang Licheng, a senior executive of Tmall, which allows brands to sell directly to customers.

Vehicle shoppers can apply for interest-free loans that allow them to pay off their balances over as long as 18 months, depending on their shopping records and creditworthiness on Tmall and Taobao, Alibaba’s online marketplace.

Participating automakers include Shanghai General Motors, which operates Tmall.com flagship stores for the Chevrolet and Buickbrands,andSAICMotorCorpLtd,formerlyShanghaiAutomotiveIndustryCorp.

The program is the latest move by Alibaba to leverage its strengths in data and finance to tap into new markets. On Tuesday, Alibaba introduced a program that provides loans to small and medium-sized enterprises in China.

The car loan program is run by the Small and Micro Financial Services Group, a company spun out of Alibaba Group that includes Alipay. It operates the popular Yu’ebao money market fund. Rather than funding the loans itself, Small and Micro Financial Services acts as an intermediary to verify the creditworthiness of loan applicants.

During a promotion from July 25 to Aug 11 last year, 17 vehicle brands with Tmall.com storefronts sold 3,400 cars valued at 80 million yuan through the website.

However, most of the online vehicle transactions do not really qualify as pure e-commerce, because the buyers generally make down payments online, then go to physical locations to make the remaining payments, said Pan Wei, analyst with the Beijing-based Internet consultancy Analysys International.

There are many online platforms that aim to build automobile e-commerce “empires”, but most merely serve as online media outlets that feed vehicle-related information to potential buyers, said Pan.

Autohome Inc, a leading online portal for vehicle information, formed a strategic partnership with JD.com, Alibaba’s largest competitor in China, in June to develop automobile e-commerce and to facilitate real transactions online.

Pan said that Alibaba enjoys a strong advantage in automobile e-commerce as it has integrated financing service on its online platform.

“But the move doesn’t guarantee a promising future as most people still aren’t used to buying high-priced items such as cars online,” he said, adding that it will take a lot of time for consumers to form this habit and for online retailers to create new methods to increase user loyalty.

China’s millionaire machine slows

China’s millionaire machine has slowed, suggesting that the country’s economic weakness is reaching the top of the economy.

China’s millionaire population grew 3.6 percent last year, adding 100,000 millionaires and bringing its total millionaire count to 2.9 million, according a new report by the Chinese wealth website Hurun. The growth rate marks a sudden slowdown from the double-digit millionaire growth in China in recent years.

By contrast, the U.S. added 640,000 millionaires last year, bringing its total to 9.63 million, according to Spectrem Group. Spectrem defines millionaires as households with investible assets of $1 million or more. 

A man exercises in front of residential buildings along the Shing Mun River in the Sha Tin area of Hong Kong, China.

Jerome Favre | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A man exercises in front of residential buildings along the Shing Mun River in the Sha Tin area of Hong Kong, China.

The number of Chinese worth $16 million or more grew 4 percent to 67,000, according to the report from Hurun and the Industrial Bank. 

Of the 100,000 new millionaires, 30,000 were in Shanghai, 17,000 in Guangdong and 15,000 in Beijing. Beijing still has the most millionaires in China, with 490,000, according to the report.

The report also looked at the health and hobbies of Chinese millionaires. It said the overall “spiritual satisfaction” of Chinese millionaires is relatively high, while the richer millionaires show even higher degrees of satisfaction.

But China’s notorious pollution levels are reaching the penthouses: 87 percent of Chinese millionaires are dissatisfied with pollution levels.

Chinese millionaires spend an average of three hours a week exercising, with jogging, badminton and swimming listed as their top three forms of exercise.

Richest self-made billionaires in Asia

Patrik Stollarz | AFP | Getty Images

They read an average of 10 hours a week, but richer millionaires read 15 hours a week.

“Chinese millionaires are setting aside more time than I expected towards reading and learning, as well as exercise,” said Hurun Report Chairman and Chief Researcher Rupert Hoogewerf.

The top three hobbies of the Chinese rich are fine dining, travel and exercise. Millionaires traveled an average of once a year and spent an average of $10,000.

—By CNBC’s Robert Frank

Top US & Foreign Buyers of Property in Hawaii 美国夏威夷房地产物业的外国买家报告

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The New Buzzword for Wealthy Chinese – Balance

China luxury lifestyle

As the Chinese become more affluent, they are seeking new ways to find balance and enjoyment in their lives.

The need to balance their personal and professional lives is of great concern to China’s young professionals. Sixty-three percent of Chinese surveyed by CNRS said that their lives were “getting really busy” and 44 percent worried that they weren’t taking care of themselves well enough because of their busy lives. Furthermore, nearly 22 percent of China’s total population said that they believed in separating their work and leisure. All of this balance anxiety has led to an uptick in the buzz volume of “Balanced Life” on Chinese microblogs, a 42,275 percent increase between 2011 and 2013.

According to WPP’s 2014 China Consumption Trends study, the hectic modern world is driving many Chinese consumers to exercise, cultivate healthier eating habits, and worry about their carbon footprint. Cars like the new Range Rover Sport, which consumes 22 percent less fuel than its earlier model and reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 15 percent, are growing in popularity.

“People are buying the concept of a balanced lifestyle,” the study says. “As the Chinese population becomes more affluent, they face ever growing pressures, from competition at work to food scandals and pollution.”

The “Rainbow Clan” lifestyle is also gaining traction in China. This concept refers to a group of people who scrupulously maintain their work-life balance; they “have a healthy diet, do physical exercises regularly, get enough sleep and work with high efficiency.” Items on the online shopping platform Tmall are now being branded for Rainbow Clan members.

China’s growing affluence has also led to the emergence of a foodie culture in China. According to data from CNRS and CIC, 56 percent of Chinese consumers like to try new foods (an increase of 9 percent between 2011 and 2012) and 41 percent of consumers “label themselves as culinary lovers.”

Technology is playing a key role in China’s culinary boom. Popular competitive cooking shows like Master Chef, an overseas sensation that DRAGON TV has reedited for China, have fed Chinese enthusiasm for cuisine, and series like A Bite of China and One City Has Its Own Flavor showcase food across the country. Cookbook and restaurant apps have also spiked in popularity, and make it easier for consumers to prepare meals or pick a good place to eat.

Which home will sell for $100 million in 2014? 夏威夷房地产

Which home will sell for $100 million in 2014?

By: | CNBC Reporter and Editor
         

Source: Sotheby’s International Realty
The De Guigne Estate, Hillsborough, Calif.

At least a half dozen homes in America are priced at $100 million or more.

The question is which—if any—will actually sell for nine figures in 2014?

The $100 million sale seems to have become an annual rite of passage for the luxury real estate market since the end of the financial crisis, a number that seems to sum up both the rising wealth of the super rich and their growing appetite for trophy properties.

(Read more: Billionaires go where? 8 towns that will shock you)

In 2011, Yuri Milner bought a mansion in Los Altos Hills, Calif., for $100 million. In 2012, Stan Kroenke bought a $132.5 million Montana ranch. And this year, a mansion in Woodside, Calif., sold to an unnamed buyer for $117.5 million.

There is no shortage of homes officially listed for $100 million or more. And there are even more $100 million-plus “whisper listings”—homes that aren’t publicly on the market but are quietly seeking buyers at that price.

Yet most homes priced at $100 million or more end up selling at a fraction of that price. The Versace mansion in Miami, also known as Casa Casuarina, was on the market this year for $125 million. It sold at auction for $41.5 million. The Candy Spelling Estate in Bel-Air, Calif., was listed for $150 million, but sold to heiress Petra Eccelstone for $85 million.

Here are some of the candidates, and their likelihood to break the $100-million mark next year.

Copper Beech Farm, Greenwich, Conn. Asking Price: $140 million.
Copper Beech is a stunning piece of land, with 50 acres and 4,000 feet of water frontage, in one of America’s richest neighborhoods. But brokers say it’s mainly a development play, since the house is not all that spectacular. The question is whether a developer would be able to spend $100 million, build homes on the site and still make enough of a return.

Owlwood Estate in Holmby Hills, Calif. Unofficial Asking Price: $150 million.
California seems to be the land of $100 million sales recently, and this home could be a contender. It’s not officially listed, but brokers say the Tuscan estate, with 10 acres and a classic 12,000-square-foot mansion could well trade for nine figures.

The de Guigne Estate, Hillsborough, Calif. List Price: $100 million.
This 47-acre property has been owned by the same family—the de Guignes—for more than 150 years. The 16,000-square-foot home and grounds are just 20 minutes from San Francisco, making it ideal for a newly minted tech billionaire or foreign buyer interested in a foothold in the tech world.

(Read more: Lamborghini unveils the Huracan)

Steve Cohen Duplex, New York City. List Price is $115 million.
Embattled hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen is selling this massive duplex at One Beacon Court in Manhattan. The apartment spans about 9,000 square feet with double-height windows and big views of the city. There are more and more sky-high duplexes coming on the market in the city, but brokers say Cohen’s pad is a solid contender for a nine-figure sale.

The Residence at River House, New York City. List Price $130 million.
River House is an unusual offering, to say the least. It’s a five story building that currently serves as a private club and would need a huge investment to turn into a new private residence. But it’s a colossal 62,000 square feet and has a riverfront garden and 62-foot indoor swimming pool. Probably only a Middle East royal or a Russian oligarch would consider the purchase.

Crespi Hicks Estate, Dallas. List Price $135 million.
Private equity chief Tom Hicks is asking $135 million for his 25-acre estate in Dallas. It’s a unique property, with more than 40,000 square feet of living space. But breaking the $100 million would be a big leap in the Dallas market.

—By CNBC’s Robert Frank. Follow him on Twitter @robtfrank.

 

China’s Super Rich to Rise By 80% in Next Decade

china wealthy

According to a report by Knight Frank LLP, the number of Chinese super-wealthy, those who own more than US$30 million in assets (excluding their main residence), will grow by 80 percent over the next decade , Global Times reports.

China will have over 14,200 ultra-wealthy individuals by 2024, which will rank China 13th in the world in terms of the number of multi-millionaires. This would place Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing as third, fifth, and sixth, respectively, as the cities with the most ultra-wealthy people.

According to Thomas Lam, the head of research and consultancy at Knight Frank, “The Chinese mainland will have a growing presence on the list. And Hong Kong will enjoy the advantage of being the unofficial bridge that connects the Chinese mainland and the rest of the world in the next decade.”

The rise of the super-wealthy in China is also driving up the prices of luxury real estate both in China and abroad. In fact, high-end residences in Beijing increased in price 17 percent in 2013 to reach US$17,100 per square foot after only a 2 percent gain in 2012.

The high-end real estate boom has also carried over into international markets. According to Knight Frank, China’s super-rich contributed 13 percent of the United States’ and 30 percent of Australia’s inbound capital to each country’s property development markets in 2013.

“The economic meltdown in 2008 and 2009 dealt a hard blow to high-end residential and commercial properties in North America and the UK,” said Thomas Lam. “While a buyer needs to pay 70,000 yuan to 80,000 yuan per square meter for prime office space in Beijing, he only has to pay 30,000 yuan to 40,000 for a similar property in the US or Europe. That motivates multi-millionaires to buy abroad.”

So far, the Chinese real estate investments are concentrated in second-tier foreign cities such as Houston, Texas and Birmingham, England. The only thing holding back these investors is a lack of understanding of local property markets and laws, and many of these Chinese investors are looking for foreign partners for assistance in these areas.