Hong Kong telecoms giant bets on ePrix and fast evolving ‘smartphone on four wheels’
Largest communications operator confirms it will again sponsor the Formula E race around the Central Harbourfront
HKT is investing in technology you do not see coming – or cannot even imagine – but one you do see is electric cars.
Hong Kong’s largest communications operator confirmed on Tuesday it would return as title sponsor of the Hong Kong ePrix in December, despite the inaugural event losing tens of millions of dollars and being beset by teething problems.
That cost was brushed aside as “irrelevant” by Formula E chief executive Alejandro Agag last year and HKT is more than happy to keep investing in the future – and electric cars in Hong Kong.
HKT group managing director Alex Arena said it was always their “intention” to continue as title sponsor but they wanted to see what “lessons had been absorbed” and what improvements had been made.
“Last year was a bold experiment and everyone was feeling their way. We weren’t sure about the timing. It was early October and to be frank it was a bit hot. We wanted to see what the new line-up would be,” he said.
The introduction of the double-header – racing on Saturday and Sunday – along with the positioning of the event between the UBS Hong Kong Golf Open (November 23-26) and the Longines Hong Kong International Races (December 6 &10) made the event even more appealing.
“I don’t think anyone really knows how to track the cost benefit of this sort of sponsorship,” Arena said. “It’s multidimensional. HKT has well over a century of history in Hong Kong and is well plugged into the community at different levels.
“We bet on the future, this is what we do. We are spurred by technological change. We do all these crazy things like fibre optics across oceans. No one ever sees them but the world would stop without them.
“We have visions and see a lot of things coming – things that are hard for most people to conceptualise.”
Arena calls electric cars “a smartphone on four wheels” because of the clever innovation, technology and networking.
“I think a city like Hong Kong is going to be one of the first in the adoption of electric cars. We have to be because of our demographics and the way our community is structured.
“Our interest in Formula E is on many different levels so we are along for the ride.”
That interest could also extend to other sports after HKT sponsored the cycling world championships at the Tseung Kwan O Velodrome in April.
“We appreciate Hong Kong is not that high in the ratings of international sport – not consistently year round – so we want to participate in more sport,” he said.
That rating could improve significantly with the Hong Kong Jockey Club and Hong Kong Golf Club ensuring there would be no repeat of last year’s clash of dates in December.
The Hong Kong Open has moved to November and, with the ePrix in between, the city has a three-week sporting festival ranking with the best and turning Hong Kong into a “destination city”, said Jockey Club executive director Tony Kelly.
“Last year we had the golf and our racing on the same day and that was an issue,” Kelly said. “We could also see that Formula E was going to be a success and there was a risk all three could be in the same space and it would be a mess.”
Kelly said they collaborated so they “didn’t cut each others throats, in a loose sense” and now Hong Kong was a “destination city”.
He also urged the Tourism Board and hotel and restaurant associations to grab the opportunity and get involved as it’s in “everyone’s interests”.