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Tycoon's Apple price-cut joke leaves a sour taste

Tycoon's Apple price-cut joke leaves a sour taste

Write: Torr [2011-10-08]

Tycoon's Apple price-cut joke leaves a sour taste

Pan Shiyi, China mainlands's real estate tycoon. [File photo]

A well-known Chinese property tycoon who joked that Apple should slash its prices as a tribute to Steve Jobs has been inundated with criticism from web users.

Irate microbloggers said it was rich for developer Pan Shiyi to be making quips urging others to lower prices when property is so expensive.

Initially, on his microblog on Sina.com, the chairman of SOHO China had expressed his sadness at the death of Apple co-founder Jobs.

But then on Thursday morning Pan took a less reverential tone.

"Apple Inc should mass produce iPhones and iPads with a price tag of less than 1,000 yuan (US$157) and that will be the 'best' tribute paid to the late Jobs," wrote Pan.

In response, a Chinese microblogger known as "Tangluoding 9983" asked SOHO China to release property costing 1,000 yuan per square meter when Pan dies.

"More than 1 billion people would remember you if your company could do this," the blogger joked.

Pan later deleted his microblog entry. Then on Thursday night he blogged that Jobs' death brought huge grief to him, and also sympathized with home buyers.

"I can fully understand your love and respect for Jobs and how unhappy you are at the country's high home prices," wrote Pan.

"What I really want to express is that a person's value lies in how much he has contributed to society and how many people have benefited from his service.

"With Jobs' death, we lost a great leader of innovation."

China has expanded property control measures this year, raising down-payment requirements and mortgage rates in a bid to rein in home prices.

However, prices have stayed high in big cities and have tended to rise further in smaller cities.

"People were annoyed, not because Pan joked about Apple, but because the country's house prices are too high," said a web user known as "Vampire Mochang." "Pan is correct, as everyone wants iPhones to be cheaper. But his comments have aroused people's anger at soaring property prices."

In the recent article, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said controlling measures were at a critical stage and the nation needed to focus efforts on curbing house price increases in second- and third-tier cities.

"We must unswervingly curb irrational housing demand, continue to strictly implement differential housing loans, tax policies and restriction on purchases," Wen said.

Smaller cities should restrict the number of homes each family can own, said the State Council.

In Shanghai, property turnover remained lackluster in the traditional peak season of September and October. Only 203 homes worth around 260 million yuan were sold at a holiday property fair this week.

The four-day fair attracted 130,000 visitors - more than a similar event held in May.

But a wait-and-see attitude prevailed among potential buyers as developers still seemed reluctant to offer significant price cuts, despite sluggish sales in recent months.

"High property prices are not a problem that can be solved by Pan alone," said Eric Chen, a 28-year-old Shanghai engineer. "Tightening policies need to be strengthened."

"People don't expect housing prices to drop to 1,000 yuan but they at least hope that prices won't rise further," added Chen.