Shares in listed Hong Kong shopping-centre owners buffeted by protests

Shares in listed Hong Kong shopping-centre owners have been buffeted in the wake of escalating pro-democracy protests. 

According to local business media, Swire Properties, which owns Pacific Place, saw its shares drop 8.1 per cent on Wednesday, while Wharf, which owns the Harbour City and Times Square complexes, lost 7.1 per cent. 

Pacific Place was closed for a day after protests in June, which ended with police firing tear gas to disperse crowds. Harbour City has been unaffected to date, however there are growing concerns that visitor numbers may be affected by widespread international coverage of the protests, despite their largely peaceful nature overall. Harbour City is heavily dependent on tourists, especially mainlanders. 

A Pacific Place spokesperson suggested the protests have had minimal effect. “Over the last few weeks, there have been intermittent disruptions which have affected operations at Pacific Place Mall. However, we were able to resume normal operations shortly afterwards.”

The share price of Sun Hung Kai Properties, which owns the Yoho Mall and New Town Plaza, and of Link REIT, have also fallen, but by a far lesser rate. 

Dennis Cheng, senior sales director at agency Ricacorp (CIR) Properties, said the impact from protests is “more serious” than from the US-China trade war. 

Raymond Cheng, head of Hong Kong and China research and property at CGS-CIMB Securities, said that after more than a month of regular protests investors have seen them get more serious.

“The market is a little worried about retail sales because the protests may affect the number of mainland visitors coming,” he said. “Foreign governments have warned Hong Kong may not be a safe city to visit amid the rallies. Investors immediately think the direct impact of the protests is on the retail sales and traffic in shopping malls.”

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