Occupy Central to hit Hongkong Land, Wharf Holdings hardest, UBS says
Key protest organiser says UBS report will put pressure on government to offer genuine reform
Jeffie Lam and Peggy Sito
Hongkong Land and Wharf Holdings will suffer the most should the Occupy Central movement carry out its threat to block streets in the heart of the city, a study by investment bank UBS says.
That is because Hongkong Land offices are concentrated in the central business district, while Wharf owns shops targeting tourists in Tsim Sha Tsui and Causeway Bay.
Swire Properties, Hysan Development and The Link Reit will be less affected because of their properties' geographic locations and target customers, the report adds. The study was the first UBS has conducted on the impact on business of the civil disobedience campaign.
A key organiser of Occupy Central said he expected the report to pressure the government because it showed their efforts had caught the attention of foreign investors.
"The administration should offer the city genuine universal suffrage to prevent, or at least scale down, Occupy Central," Chinese University sociologist Dr Chan Kin-man said.
Chan doubted the report's accuracy, noting that UBS had not contacted the movement's organisers before the research was published.
Daniel Wong, chief executive of Midland IC&I, agreed that Hongkong Land could be affected the most because it owned a lot of shops in Central. "But Occupy Central is a short-term movement. The impact will be insignificant," he said.
Occupy Central is a plan to mobilise more than 10,000 people to block streets in Central if the government fails to deliver a satisfactory political reform proposal for the election of the chief executive in 2017.
The report said the protest would bring instability to business activities, particularly for companies whose core offices were in the district. Shopping facilities that targeted foreign tourists would be hit, it added.
Hongkong Land owns at least 13 business and retail buildings in Central, including all three Exchange Squares, the Landmark Atrium, and the Landmark Mandarin Oriental.
The impact of the movement would not be confined to Central because if it was prolonged it would also discourage tourism, the report said. As a result, Wharf, which owns two of the city's most popular shopping malls, Harbour City and Times Square, would also be hit.
Citing the recent unrest in the Thai capital Bangkok, UBS said a prolonged political incident could cause stock market volatility and warned that it might take a long time for the city to regain the confidence of foreign investors and travellers.