THE jury will be out for some time to come on whether Wharf was right to freeze sales at its Telford House development as the property market bull run evaporated. Wharf says that total building costs were $1,600 a square foot for the project and sales prices of $5,400 were achieved through the first half of 1994. About 47 per cent of the development was sold at or about those levels and then the Government's anti-speculation measures were introduced and the property market followed share prices down. It was at that stage Wharf decided not to back away from its prices. The result was lower profit in the second half of 1994 than in the first half. In the first half of this year the property market has continued to be slack and half of Telford House continues to sit on Wharf's books. Now, the board at Wharf has decided that the best solution to the problem is to seek short-term tenants for half of what remains. But will Wharf's tactics of digging in heels and waiting for the market to revive prove correct? Certainly, Swire Pacific seems to have done well by adopting a pragmatic approach to its Robinson Place development. As prices fell, so Swire continued to sell. That helped supply profit growth of about 40 per cent at Swire, as it announced last week. By contrast, Wharf saw operating profits slashed in two, although it claims that if sales were stripped out from last year's first half, then growth of nine or 10 per cent would be seen. The question to ponder is this: what is the opportunity cost of holding the property? On the one hand, there is no sense in selling to a falling market, but it can also be said that in Hong Kong what goes down must come back up.