Hongkong Land

Corporate Scrooges make Central tree a ghost of Christmases past

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 November, 2009, 12:00am

Bah, humbug. That evidently was the sentiment when the Hong Kong Tourism Board went cap in hand to corporate sponsors for cash for a giant Christmas tree this year.

Families and tourists have traditionally flocked to Statue Square in Central to see a 10-storey-tall Christmas tree, usually erected through corporate largesse. But this year the boardrooms were full of Scrooges. Hongkong Land, the biggest landlord in Central, decided not to cough up more than HK$4 million to erect a tree for the board's WinterFest celebrations. Other normally deep-pocketed corporations shied away out of concerns their financial support would be wasted if people automatically assumed the tree was from Hongkong Land.

Hongkong Land reported a first-half net loss of US$402 million due to losses from the falling value of its properties. Excluding the revaluation loss, the underlying profit was US$281 million, up 16 per cent from a year earlier.

This is the eighth year the board has organised WinterFest and it has erected a tree every year except 2007, when it staged festivities and performances throughout the city instead. Hongkong Land sponsored the tree last year while New World Development was the first sponsor in 2002, when the tree was erected at Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai. New World owns the convention centre and Grand Hyatt hotel near the square.

'Given that most of the people who complain about us not having a Christmas tree are locals, shouldn't the government or the Home Affairs Bureau shoulder some of the cost if there are no corporate sponsors?' board chairman James Tien Pei-chun said.

Tien helped officiate at the tree-lighting ceremony yesterday at 1881 Heritage, a retail and hotel complex converted by Cheung Kong (Holdings) from the former Marine Police headquarters in Tsim Sha Tsui. The tree is unrelated to WinterFest.

The board has spent about HK$31 million to stage WinterFest this year, roughly the same as last year's event.