Swire Group, whose activities span property, aviation, beverages, marine services, and trading and industrial, is a Hong Kong listed conglomerate. It is the parent of Hong Kong carrier, Cathay Pacific Airways, and Dragonair, and Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Co (Haeco) is a subsidiary. Swire Pacific and Swire Properties are the main listed arms of the group, which also owns Swire Hotels.
Swire Properties and Hong Kong Ferry thrive on new rules
Swire Properties and Hong Kong Ferry studied the regulations to revise all marketing material
While their rivals have repeatedly complained against the government's tougher rules on new home sales, Swire Properties and Hong Kong Ferry have taken an entirely different tack.
Instead of griping about the new regime, under which developers are required to specify the size of flats in terms of "saleable area" rather than "gross floor area", the two companies promptly revised their marketing materials to comply with the new rules.
As the Residential Properties (First-hand Sales) Ordinance took effect on April 29, Swire's Dunbar Place in Ho Man Tin and Henderson Land Development's Green Code project in Fanling stuck out in the crowd, becoming the only two housing projects - out of about 60 - to offer flats for sale the very first day of the new regime.
The reason why other developers adopted a holding pattern was understandable. Under the new rules, those found to be in violation are liable to imprisonment for up to seven years and a fine of up to HK$5 million. With most developers unclear about the new rule, they decided discretion was the better part of valour.
Swire clearly thought otherwise. In a written reply to a query from the South China Morning Post, its general manager, residential, Adrian To, said the company had started making the necessary adjustments to market Dunbar Place from the moment the government laid down the new rules a few months earlier.
"As it is a new ordinance with no precedent cases, we spent additional time to study all the relevant materials - from guidelines, drafted notes to frequently asked questions (FAQ) - in order to fully familiarise ourselves with the new rules and regulations," To said. "We worked closely with our legal advisers and with architects and surveyors throughout the process to ensure that all information in our sales materials were in line. We went the extra mile to make sure we got everything right.
"But without any precedent cases, trust me when I say that our team burned the midnight oil on many occasions over the preparation period and worked extra hard to prepare the marketing materials.
"It was a challenging exercise - the brochure we produced runs close to 80 pages and nearly 35,000 words. But the outcome speaks for itself - the documents were examined by the authorities and with a couple of minor adjustments were determined to have met the ordinance's requirements."
To said the ordinance provided a new set of rules by which the industry had to play and that it affected developers as much as real estate agencies and buyers.
"Any change requires time to adapt but in the long run, these rules should not make a major difference to our sales strategy or overall business operations," he said.
Thomas Lam Tat-man, a general manager at Henderson Land, said marketing materials for Green Code, developed by subsidiary Hong Kong Ferry, had been aligned with the requirements of the new ordinance once it secured pre-sale consent from the government in March.
"But at that time, the practice note [a government advisory on new rules] and FAQ hadn't been issued. So, we were constantly reviewing the contents in order to comply with the guidance," Lam said.
The three big changes concern sales office, show flats and sales brochures.
"Our sales department was divided into three teams, each responsible for one area and attending the workshop organised by the government. So we had to review our marketing materials as we learned more details from the workshops organised by the government to explain the new rules," Lam said.
"We have been working overtime for months to make sure the new rules don't disrupt sales and we can make a smooth transition. We still have to work on the sales brochures of 20 more projects."