Electronics man pays HK$16.5m to drive off with No18 car plate

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 February, 2008, 12:00am

A record price of HK$16.5 million was set for a car plate with the number '18' in a tightly contested auction yesterday.

The plate, which replaced '9' as the most expensive for sale in Hong Kong, was bought by an electronics businessman, surnamed Cheung, after 43 rounds of bidding.

Emperor Group chairman Albert Yeung Sau-shing bought the '9' plate for HK$13 million in 1994. He pocketed another number, '29', for his collection yesterday, bidding HK$7 million.

The enthusiastic response from the auction was contrary to the fading interest in the Personalised Vehicle Registration Marks Scheme, launched in 2004-05 by Henry Tang Ying-yen when he was the financial secretary.

HK$33 million was collected in the sale of 38 plates. Proceeds, with expenses deducted, will go to the Lotteries Fund.

Mr Cheung said his new purchase would be a 'good companion' to another car plate of his, 'XX 18'.

'I do not mind spending more money on something I like.'

The number 18 is auspicious among Hong Kong Chinese. It is pronounced similar to the Cantonese phrase 'must get rich'.

The number used to belong to the late Lo Tak-shing, a former executive councillor and vice-chairman of the Basic Law Consultative Committee. He died in 2006.

Car-plate trader Chan Ming-choi, of 118 Professional Lucky Number, said the sale prices for the '18' and '29' plates were not surprising as numbers of that kind were rare.

'These were the only two numbers left between 2 and 99 for car plates,' he said.

'The competition for these numbers was particularly fierce because they were auspicious.'

The number 29 might have attracted professionals such as doctors because it sounds like 'easy to be cured' in Cantonese.

Mr Chan also said the booming economy was a factor in the prices the car plates fetched.

The Personalised Vehicle Registration Marks Scheme, which had raised HK$57.8 million in eight auctions last year in its first year of operation, has seen public interest decline.

The government had set an annual target of HK$70 million to be generated.

The first auction's most expensive car plate was inscribed '1 L0VE U' and sold for HK$1.4 million. Since then, a plate inscribed 'FC' sold for HK$450,000, and one marked 'BRUCE LEE' sold for HK$40,000 to one of the late movie star's fans.

Driven up

HK's most expensive car plates

18 $16.5 m

Number Price (HKD)

9 $13m

2 $9.5m

29 $7m

1 LOVE U $1.4m

TVB $800,000

33 PORSCHE FERRAR1 $700,000

JW HSBC $500,000

FC COOL $450,000

JP CM $400,000

RC $360,000

K1NG $300,000

BENZ $280,000