China Merchants Group, which celebrated its 140th anniversary yesterday, said it would continue to invest in Hong Kong's logistics sector in light of growing domestic consumption on the mainland.
The year ahead would be challenging, especially for the shipping industry, due to the uncertainty in the global economy and excess capacity, said Fu Yuning, chairman of China Merchants. The port business, on the other hand, would be in a much better position as cargo demand would improve slightly.
Formed by Qing dynasty official Li Hungzhang in Shanghai in December 1872, China Merchants operated its the first commercial ship to Hong Kong in January 1873. The group set up a branch office in the city after that and moved its headquarters to Hong Kong in 1949. It is the oldest mainland enterprise operating in the city.
Fu said Hong Kong had played an important role in the opening-up policy of the past 30 years and it would continue to capitalise on the economic growth of the mainland.
"The economy of China is undergoing a transition period during which domestic consumption will be an integral part driving the growth," Fu said. "Hong Kong, with its status as a free port and free economy, will serve as a good supply chain base to support domestic trade on the mainland."
He said the company would continue to invest in and facilitate Hong Kong's position as a logistics and trading hub for China.
"We will continue to develop our logistic network through organic growth or acquisitions," Fu said.
Acquisition targets were mainly located in the northern, eastern and southern part of China, Hu Zheng, vice-president of China Merchants said. Hu ruled out any plan to acquire overseas logistics companies.
Fu, who attended the economic policy-setting conference in Beijing over the weekend, said that the uncertainties in the global economy had been a burden on the mainland's economy. "GDP growth will be slowed down but will still be healthy," he added.
Since Hong Kong's economy correlates heavily with the mainland, Fu also suggested growth in the city would slow down.