Opinion

George Chen

Winners and losers as Hong Kong rents scale new heights

George Chen
Oct 27, 2011 05:52 UTC

By George Chen
The opinions expressed are the author’s own.

When you walk around Hong Kong’s Central commercial and business district these days, you may notice a number of stores are holding “removal sales”, which means they can no longer remain in the same location. The reason? In most cases, just blame soaring rents.

Many analysts have forecast declines in residential and commercial property prices in Hong Kong for next year, although at a stable pace rather than a sharp drop. This may be true for some suburban areas where purchase options are more plentiful than those in downtown areas, but until that happens, prices are likely to keep rising, at least for the rest of the year.

A couple of years ago, mobile phone industry leader Nokia took a moderately sized space on Russell Road in Causeway Bay just opposite Times Square, one of the busiest shopping districts in Asia, for its flagship store in Hong Kong. Local media said the store used to be one of Nokia’s busiest in Asia, thanks to mainland Chinese travelers. But the good old days are going to end soon.

The Hong Kong Economic Times reported on October 27 that British luxury brand Burberry had signed a new lease with the owner of a site currently occupied by Nokia. Burberry is said to have agreed to pay HK $6.5 million (about US $836,600) per month for the two-floor 5,200 square foot space,versus the HK $1.8 million that Nokia is paying.

When the news came out, the reaction from the market was quite naturally, “Wow”. One reader on Sina Weibo, China’s most popular micro-blogging service, wondered: “How many coats and bags will Burberry need to sell to cover the monthly rent?” In Hong Kong, a coat or bag at Burberry usually sells for about HK $10,000-15,000. You can do your own calculations.

Designed in New York, made in Dongguan

George Chen
Oct 24, 2011 09:26 UTC

By George Chen
The opinions expressed are the author’s own.

It could be the perfect story to show how China Inc and its American partner can work together for a win-win result, but Chinese consumers are having second thoughts on this.

Earlier this year, upscale U.S. handbag and accessory maker Coach said it planned to list in Hong Kong to reflect the growing importance of China’s luxury market. Coach didn’t give a timeframe for the IPO plan, but one thing is fairly certain – before Coach launches its IPO, its local partner in the small city of Dongguan, near Hong Kong, will aim to rise $200 million first.

The company, Sitoy (Dongguan) Leather Products has hired Bank of America-Merrill Lynch for a Hong Kong listing by the end of November. In IPO marketing materials distributed to potential investors, Sitoy described itself as the largest handbag OEM (original equipment manufacturer) in China, although it didn’t name any of its clients.

China is still waiting for inflation to peak

George Chen
Aug 31, 2011 06:44 UTC

By George Chen
The opinions expressed are the author’s own.

How time flies. It’s already the end of August and speculations naturally arise about what China’s inflation reading will be for this month.

The most optimistic view these days is that the August Consumer Price Index (CPI) could decline to below 6 percent. The most pessimistic view I’ve heard is that growth has slowed down in August, but probably only to 6.2 percent or 6.3 percent.

But, why should we care about the August CPI so much? One month cannot tell the whole story.

China’s toxic leaks and social unrest

George Chen
Aug 15, 2011 03:53 UTC

By George Chen
The opinions expressed are the author’s own.

What does PX mean? That’s the keyword for China from the past 24 hours.

State media reported that residents of Dalian were recently forced to flee when a storm battering the northeast Chinese coast, whipping up waves that burst through a dyke protecting a local chemical plant. The plant produces paraxylene (PX), a toxic petrochemical used in polyester.

On Sunday, some angry residents finally decided that instead of being forced to flee, the chemical plant should be relocated.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets to demonstrate and Dalian, known as one of the most beautiful coastal cities in China, made headlines all over the world.

Banking on a Triple-A rating (Part 2)

George Chen
Aug 8, 2011 05:35 UTC

By George Chen
The opinions expressed are the author’s own.

Who is perhaps the most hated man in Washington as well as on Wall Street these days?

Your guess? Not Muammar Gaddafi, not some Al-Qaeda extremist, not Kim Jong-il, but a man named David Beers. You may never have heard of David Beers but every financial policymaker in the world knows his name.

A Wall Street veteran and a graduate of the London School of Economics where he has endowed a scholarship in his name, he is the global head of sovereign credit ratings for Standard & Poor’s. For a Reuters story in details, click here.

Banking on a Triple-A rating

George Chen
Aug 4, 2011 04:00 UTC

By George Chen
The opinions expressed are the author’s own.

You may think I am overly cynical today but let me first ask you a simple-yet-complicated question — what is fair?

Global ratings agency Moody’s said yesterday that the United States will retain its top AAA credit rating after President Barack Obama signed a bill to raise the federal debt ceiling. However, we heard very different opinions from China on the credit rating of the world’s No.1 economy.

A Chinese ratings agency yesterday downgraded the U.S. from A-plus to A, saying the deal to lift the debt ceiling would not solve underlying U.S. debt problems or improve its debt-paying ability over the long term.

A turning point for China?

George Chen
Jul 28, 2011 02:48 UTC

By George Chen
The opinions expressed are the author’s own.

Is the train crash tragedy becoming a turning point for China’s political and economic development?

Frustrations among the Chinese public have been growing rapidly — at least on the internet if not yet in the streets. People are particularly unhappy with the way the Ministry of Railways has dealt with the train accident, which so far has cost 39 lives.

It has now turned into a full-blown crisis. Shen Minggao, chief Greater China economist for Citigroup, said in his latest research note to clients that the train tragedy could become “a turning point in the China growth model.”

Not just an accident

George Chen
Jul 25, 2011 04:11 UTC

By George Chen
The opinions expressed are the author’s own.

We’ve talked about whether China’s economy will have a soft or hard landing. In fact, what China needs is a pause. Lots of things in China may be moving way too fast. Including our trains.

On Saturday, at least 35 people died when a high-speed train smashed into a stalled train in eastern Zhejiang province, raising new questions about the safety of the fast-growing rail network. For a Reuters story, click here.

In my view, the train crash does not only raise doubts about China’s big ambitions and effort to build its high-speed train network. It also adds to people’s frustrations over the way the country is administered. Some political commentators have said the “accident” was not really an accident but an incident, which in the end may have corruption, irresponsibility and bureaucracy to blame for.

Put a pause on China concept stocks

George Chen
Jul 22, 2011 04:02 UTC

By George Chen
The opinions expressed are the author’s own.

Two Chinese dotcom companies have apparently become the latest victims of the growing market concern about China “concept” stocks in the wake a series of accounting scandals.

Online video firm Xunlei Ltd and Chinese e-book firm Cloudary Corp have postponed their U.S. fundraising plans. They both blamed volatile global markets. Volatile markets? Really? Aren’t the markets always volatile?

More or less, to some extent. We still see other companies lining up to list in the U.S. although the near-term outlook for China IPOs to land in the U.S. market doesn’t look too bright. In return, such concerns — warranted or not — are growing about Chinese companies listing in Hong Kong and Singapore.

Will Beijing be Italy’s White Knight?

George Chen
Jul 13, 2011 03:54 UTC

By George Chen
The opinions expressed are the author’s own.

Let’s talk about Italy.

Italy is about art — Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo Buonarroti and more names. Italy is about luxury — Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo and more brands. Italy is also about food.

But, right now, Italy is about debt — huge national debt that is putting the entire eurozone or even the rest of the world into market panic. So, who’s going to rescue Italy?

Perhaps Chinese investors. They are focused on Italy these days because the deepening debt crisis there has become a negative external factor dragging down the benchmark Hang Seng Index for two straight trading sessions. At the beginning, people were not fully aware of the situation, as some thought Italy could not be Greece.

  •