Political rows hurting investment, says tycoon

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 October, 2013, 4:32am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 October, 2013, 4:32am

Property tycoon Gordon Wu Ying-sheung lamented yesterday that Hong Kong's mounting political arguments were discouraging investment while the government's property-cooling measures were hindering the development of business.

The warning from the Hopewell Holdings chairman came amid speculation that Asia's richest man, Li Ka-shing, might be pulling out of the city.

"It seems Hong Kong is no longer progressing on livelihood issues, and arguments occur whenever the government wants to do something. If there are so many opposition voices, how can you govern effectively?" Wu said.

"Because the investment environment has changed, we cannot [invest] so boldly; we can only 'cross the river by feeling the stones' and keep watching the environment."

Wu, vice-president of the Real Estate Developers Association, was speaking on the sidelines of Hopewell's shareholder meeting.

His remarks follow reports earlier this month that Li, chairman of Cheung Kong (Holdings) and Hutchison Whampoa, is expected to raise more than HK$100 billion by spinning off Hongkong Electric and Watsons to fund the purchase of telecommunications companies in Europe.

Wu said Hong Kong should also be aware of competition from Shanghai, which launched a free-trade zone last month.

It must consider whether its infrastructure for the financial and tourism industries was adequate to sustain economic growth, he said.

On the housing market, Wu said that increasing housing supply would be a better curb on prices than the government's new stamp duties.

"[The buyers' stamp duty] doesn't make sense, he said.

"If you are afraid of property speculation, why can't you impose stamp duty on profit derived from speculation? Now you are hitting everybody in the boat."

The 15 per cent buyers' stamp duty was imposed a year ago on overseas and corporate buyers, and property developers and agents have blamed it for hurting their businesses.

Wu reiterated that Hong Kong should consider ways to make better use of the city's land, but it needed to strike a balance between environmental conservation and housing needs.