Developers are back in the market to rebuild mainland land banks run down during a two-year freeze imposed on new investments in response to government austerity measures and declining sentiment.

Their return has been triggered by signs of a rebound in demand and balance sheets, bolstered by strong flat sales recorded in the first four months of the year.

As a result, heavyweights at home and abroad have regained their appetite for land in first and second-tier cities, with Hong Kong-listed developers such as Hang Lung Properties and Shimao Property Holdings; and mainland-listed firms Greenland Group and Gemdale Corp paying a combined 3.6 billion yuan (HK$4.09bn) for sites in Dalian, Qingdao and Shanghai.

South China Morning Post