The office property market faces a crucial test of confidence after the Government decided to proceed with the auction next month of a large Hunghom commercial site. As some United States firms shelve expansion and suspend plans to lease office space in Hong Kong, analysts forecast a poor sale for the site given worsening sentiment. The Government yesterday gazetted the Hunghom site and two small residential lots for public auction on October 16. Chesterton Petty executive director Charles Chan Chiu-kwok said delaying the auction might be an option worth considering. The sale, if postponed to a later date, could fetch a better response, he said. The 0.99 hectare site was originally on the reserve list but put up for auction after a developer agreed to pay a minimum price and a HK$50 million deposit. Whether the sale could be deferred would depend on the agreement between the Government and the developer, Mr Chan said. The two residential sites in Sai Kung and Piper's Hill near Tai Po Road are too small to be indicators but Mr Chan said the Hunghom sale could provide a test of confidence, given its size. He expected bidding would be affected by US firms shelving expansion plans following the terrorism attacks in New York. 'However, the selling price will not be too low since the site has already secured a prospective purchaser willing to pay a minimum price agreed before [the terrorism attacks],' he said. SK Pang Surveyors managing director Pang Shiu-kee said the auction should proceed as planned. 'Delaying the sale merely due to weak market conditions will give the impression that the Government favours a high land-price policy,' Mr Pang said. Mr Pang said the bidding response would be poor and the Hunghom site's price lower than that of a neighbouring site sold for a disappointing HK$1.09 billion last month. The site can provide a floor area of 1.28 million square feet. Surveyors estimated the value at HK$1 billion. Meanwhile, Sun Hung Kai Properties (SHKP) said lease talks with several US firms for space in Two International Finance Centre in Central had stalled. An SHKP spokesman said the firms were concentrating on business operations in the US and it would wait for a better moment to resume talks.