New centre to boost profile

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 December, 2008, 12:00am

Businessman Mohammad Shirazi and his colleague shook their heads in disappointment at what seemed to be a lost opportunity to reach the Hong Kong public.

They appreciated that other forces had been at play, not least spiralling investor confidence and warnings from economic analysts that boom times for the United Arab Emirates' showpiece cities were over. Well, at least for now.

In his company's booth at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre last month, Mr Shirazi was counting the cost of being at the heart of Asia's world city yet being so far from retail investors who may be interested in parking US$80,000 in an apartment on the Dubai coast instead of risking the money in volatile stock markets.

'You can't expect people to pay Euro1,000 [HK$9,954] to come to an exhibition,' Mr Shirazi, who runs Dubai-based MBM Real Estate Broker, said ruefully. 'Property in Dubai is still a good investment especially when compared to the prices in Hong Kong.'

But the delegates who browsed the vendors at the recent three-day real estate conference were mainly representing banks, investment funds and whole provinces. Next time, Mr Shirazi and his colleague agreed, there must be a better way of seeking business.

A new Dubai International Finance Centre facility in Hong Kong may not do much to help real estate brokers such as Mr Shirazi recoup lost commission, but the business centre in Wan Chai's Central Plaza Tower will go a long way to strengthen links between multinational companies operating between Hong Kong and the UAE.

Spread across three floors, the centre of executive suites, meeting rooms, private booths and individual workstations forms a network with DIFC Global centres London and Dubai. Companies receive a 'bespoke service' aimed at encouraging business and investment opportunities with a full range of technological and administrative support.

'DIFC Global provides a network of premium business environments that support enterprises in growing their international business,' a company spokesman said. 'DIFC Global provides services that enable companies to make forays into new markets with minimal investment.'

The centre is likely to be a boon for businesses eager for a share of the UAE market and Emirati companies looking for a foothold in the China market. However, more than 200 Hong Kong companies will be making their own foray into the Middle East this month at the Style Hong Kong Expo Dubai.

A spokesman for Hong Kong Trade Development Council, the event organiser, said: 'This showcase of Hong Kong products, the largest of its kind in the Middle East, aims to give buyers a flavour of the excellence and value of Hong Kong products.'

Style Hong Kong Expo Dubai (from December 15 to 18) is in its fifth year and last year saw about 13,000 traders and buyers visit more than 230 Hong Kong exhibitors.