ParknShop not for sale 'at present' says top executive

Parent group A S Watson plans to transfer supermarket staff to new subsidiary company

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 July, 2013, 4:55am

ParknShop will not be sold at present, a top executive at A S Watson Group said, adding that strategic reviews like the one it was conducting at the supermarket chain were periodically done in its stores worldwide.

Malina Ngai Man-lin, director of group operations, investments, international buying and communications, yesterday said the group had planned to reorganise the chain six months ago, but did not do so earlier as it was focused on expanding.

A S Watson & Co, ParknShop's parent company, is a member of tycoon Li Ka-shing's Hutchison Whampoa group. Its recent move to transfer ParknShop's 10,000 employees to a new subsidiary called ParknShop (HK) sparked rumours that Li was preparing to hive off the chain from his business empire and to exit the Hong Kong market.

"I can only tell you it's a 'no' at present," Ngai said, referring to reports that ParknShop might soon be sold.

Hutchison Whampoa last week confirmed it was conducting a strategic review of ParknShop to optimise value for shareholders. Li also said last Saturday that he had no plans to withdraw from Hong Kong.

At a charity event yesterday, Ngai said A S Watson Group had expanded so much in recent years that it was now time for the city's ParknShop branches to be put under a separate entity.

New regulations to be implemented within Hong Kong would affect the retail business, and so the supermarket chain needed reorganising, she said. She declined to elaborate on the regulations she was referring to.

Meanwhile, 86 per cent of all ParknShop employees have signed consent forms agreeing to the transfer on August 1, with salaries and benefits remaining unchanged. Ngai said even if the remaining 14 per cent refused to sign the forms, they would keep their jobs. The employees were initially given until today to give their consent, but the deadline has since been scrapped.

Since the forms were issued, about 400 ParknShop staff have sought help from the Federation of Trade Unions, while about 430 contacted the Confederation of Trade Unions.