Lai See

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 November, 2007, 12:00am


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Financial Times forsakes view to save on soaring IFC rents

The Financial Times is moving out, over and up.

Next month, the FT will say goodbye to the splendid harbour view from the 29th floor of Two International Finance Centre as the pink paper's Asia headquarters relocates two blocks west and 30 stories up - to the 59th floor of The Centre - a week before Christmas.

The venerable British daily's cushy waterfront digs were always borrowed space on borrowed time. When the paper expanded to launch its Asia edition during a Sars-plagued 2003, it managed to bargain down rent at the newly opened IFC II to as low as HK$30 per square foot. But over the past four years, rents at the tower have skyrocketed to top HK$160 per square foot.

Moving two streets away is one small step for the newspaper and one giant leap for its bean counters. Property agents reckon gross rents at Cheung Kong's The Centre are about HK$40 per square foot which isn't bad for Central (even though it's closer to Sheung Wan).

With rents in the core financial district continuing to climb, it appears only the richest of media companies will be able to hang on. Perhaps it is only a coincidence but tycoon Li Ka-shing appears to be the only developer offering news organisations shelter from certain banishment to Island East (home to this newspaper, Reuters, Ming Pao, the Hong Kong Economic Times and the Hong Kong Economic Journal) or Kowloon.

Unless you work at Bloomberg, which remains ensconced in the swanky setting of Mr Li's Cheung Kong Centre, the slog to the FCC after work just keeps getting longer.

Batman steals show at event

Financial seminars usually open with mundane greetings, a nod to the sponsors and a run-down of the agenda.

Not so this conference organised by Metro Radio yesterday on the 71st floor of IFC II where the host kicked off by saying: 'Batman could be here in any minute.'

Indeed, within 10 minutes the Caped Crusader made his presence felt. Members in the audience craned their neck for a view of the Batman film crew's C-130 Hercules as it blasted by, flying low across Victoria Harbour. Even the financial seminar's TV cameraman did a quick turnaround to capture some footage deemed more exciting.

Apparently, Batman will continue patrolling the skies over Central for the rest of the week.

A notice near the escalator at IFC II reads: 'Aerial shooting will be conducted between November 7 and November 12. For details please contact our concierge.'

HSBC takes high-flying cue

The surprise fly-by of the Batman crew even gave HSBC economist George Leung Siu-kay something to offer the bulls.

Known for his consistently cautious macroeconomic outlook, Mr Leung actually joined the rest of the panel in voicing hopes for the strong market carrying into next year. 'Today I am not talking about a soft landing but I can talk about high-flying,' he quipped.

Blair graces property for a fee

How much money does it take to get Tony Blair (below) to pay a visit to your property development in Dongguan? The answer: about US$500,000.

According to mainland website, China Everbright Group paid the princely sum to the former British prime minister to secure his presence in a VIP tour of its property site at Songshanhu.

In his first visit to the mainland since leaving office, Mr Blair supposedly thrilled his mainland hosts by boasting that his sister-in-law is Chinese and his seven-year-old son is learning Putonghua.

A China Everbright staffer was reported as saying that Mr Blair also would be given a Dongguan villa worth as much as 38 million yuan. A generous offer to be sure but 10 Downing St this is not.

Lai See wonders what this might auger for the mainland's red-hot real estate market, given Mr Blair's notorious track record of buying at the peak and just before the fall.