Investment that offers means to an end: yours

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 November, 2010, 12:00am

People plan throughout their lives - for their education, marriage, arrival of their first baby. Now a Taiwanese-based company is offering something else to plan for - your funeral.

Planning for the end will be the marketing message displayed on buses around the city when Hong Kong-listed funeral service provider Sino-Life Group launches a publicity campaign early next month.

In a bid to secure a piece of the city's booming market for funeral services, the company will begin selling a so-called 'lifetime service deed' - a pre-paid contract for your future funeral.

The idea of providing one-stop funeral services, including everything from transport and storage of the remains to memorial services and cremation, is not new. But Sino-Life is offering them in a contract ahead of your death.

The group's general manager, Andrew Mak, said buying such a service in advance will not only cushion the effect of inflation, but also spare families the burden of shopping around at a period of grieving. 'The earlier you prepare for it the better; with the same amount of money you may get much less when your time comes,' Mak said.

A basic contract costs HK$42,000, which covers collection of the body, a mourning service, make-up service, religious rituals, coffin and cremation. The company does not provide niches or cemetery places yet but is looking for appropriate sites.

The group's deputy general manager, Joan Wong, said the price was competitive.

'Most local travellers spent an average of between HK$30,000 and HK$40,000 on vacation last year,' Wong said. 'If they are willing to spend that amount just to relax they might as well spend a similar amount on their last and most important journey.'

With mortuary services in Hong Kong starting around HK$13,000 and running into millions in some cases, Sino-Life chairman Tony Liu Tien-tsai said the company was targeting the city's middle class.

'Hong Kong people are more sophisticated in this respect than the Taiwanese. We are optimistic we will enjoy better business growth here,' Liu said.

The company has secured between 15 and 18 per cent of the funeral service market in Taiwan since launching its service in 2000.

Liu said the group - which raised over HK$170 million in its initial public offering in Hong Kong in April - would seek to expand the business into the mainland when the Hong Kong operation was fully established.

The group's shares closed slightly lower at 93 HK cents yesterday.

Death by numbers

Hong Kong population: 7.06 million

Number of deaths in the city last year: 41,200

Price of a funeral service contract: 42,000

Sino-Life's market share of funeral service contracts in Taiwan: 15-18 per cent

Source: Census and Statistics Department, Sino-Life