Tours policy boosts Star Cruises

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 April, 2009, 12:00am

Shares in Star Cruises, Asia's biggest cruise operator, soared as much as 64.63 per cent yesterday after Beijing announced a policy allowing mainlanders to join cruise tours from Hong Kong to Taiwan.

The stock jumped to a high of HK$1.35 before closing at HK$1.17, up 42.63 per cent, outpacing the 0.96 per cent rise in the Hang Seng Index.

After meeting Premier Wen Jiabao, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said over the weekend at the Boao Forum in Hainan that Beijing would allow cruise tours from mainland ports to stop in Hong Kong en route to Taiwan.

In February, Taiwanese authorities granted Star Cruises a one-year licence to operate the first direct cruise service between Xiamen and Keelung. The licence was approved on a case-by-case basis under the cross-strait direct sea link agreement. The regular service is expected to start in the first half of this year.

Although Hong Kong tourism chiefs said the policy would boost the city's cruise industry, Linus Yip, a strategist at First Shanghai Securities, said it was hard to tell the benefits for Star Cruises this early without knowing further details.

'I believe the surge in the share price may be a reflection of opportunistic trades, especially since there are capital inflows into the market these days,' Mr Yip said.

Star Cruises said in a filing with the stock exchange that it was not aware of any reason for the sharp rise in its share price and trading volume.

The firm said on its website that it was the leading cruise line in the Asia-Pacific operating five vessels.

The cruise operator posted a net loss of US$79.51 million last year, smaller than the US$200.8 million loss a year earlier. Of its total turnover of US$436.59 million, gaming revenue made up 49.77 per cent or US$217.3 million.

Its occupancy as a percentage of total capacity days was 85 per cent, down from 103 per cent a year earlier.