Hongkong Land leaves Two IFC out of its bird's-eye view of Central but wants it included in a beautifying project It seems as if an early autumn chill has settled on Hong Kong's core business district. A prominent property has been left out in the cold. In a recent re-definition of what counts as Central, Hongkong Land has excluded the city's newest and tallest building from its own map of the business district. Conspicuously absent from the map is the 88-storey Two International Finance Centre (Two IFC), built by a consortium led by Sun Hung Kai Properties and Henderson Land Development, arch-rival of Hongkong Land. The property sits above Hong Kong Station and is adjacent to Exchange Square. However, Two IFC's absence from the map does not mean it will be excluded from a beautification project that Hongkong Land has proposed for Central. Hongkong Land is pushing ahead with its Central Cityscape project, aimed at transforming Central into a 'Wall Street meets Fifth Avenue pedestrian hub'. According to Hongkong Land's latest statements, the company is willing to work with all key stakeholders in the district, and had no intention of excluding any parties. However, the map has met with mixed reactions. Some industry observers said that omitting Two IFC from the map made business sense for a company that felt seriously threatened by the giant building. Last week, Hongkong Land lost a major tenant, UBS, at One Exchange Square. The banking group, which occupies 146,000 square feet of office space across 10 floors at One Exchange Square, is due to move to Two IFC, where it will rent more than six floors. 'It is absolutely normal [for Hongkong Land] to exclude its direct competitor Two IFC from the map,' said Adrian Ngan Wai-hung, head of regional property at BNP Paribas Peregrine, But will the Hongkong Land map of Central have the potential to influence multinationals making a decision on where to locate their headquarters? According to Morgan Stanley managing director Peter Churchouse, there is no legal definition of what constituted core Central. He recalled that in 1984, when Exchange Square was being built, people felt the building was too far away from core Central . 'At the time, people thought Exchange Square would never work,' Mr Churchouse said. He believed the same perceptions applied now to Two IFC. 'It does not matter what you define as your own commercial interest. They are all working on what the market will pay,' he said, adding that 'money, money and money' was the main consideration for corporations that were considering moving to new premises. 'It is also difficult for big tenants to get bulk spaces, such as 150,000 square feet to 200,000 square feet,' Mr Churchouse said. Location, telecommunications facilities and parking space were all factors that affected such decisions, he said. A move could cost a bank as much as HK$12 to HK$15 per square foot per annum, he said, adding that corporations had to make it worthwhile for landlords to offer lower rentals and rent-free periods. 'Will Hongkong Land's initial boundary change people's perceptions? Not at all. It is just a line in the sand,' Mr Churchouse said. A Sun Hung Kai Properties spokesman believed Two IFC had a prime Central waterfront location. Asked whether SHKP would participate in Hongkong Land's beautification plan, the spokesman said: 'We will study the details.' Meanwhile, a Hongkong Land spokeswoman said: 'When we initiated the scheme in 2001, Two IFC was a new development; it seemed likely that they would have included landscaping considerations. 'We will work with all key stakeholders in the district,' she said. One IFC and Hong Kong Station were included in the initial beautification scheme, she said. 'When developing the proposal, we consulted with key stakeholders in the district, including private enterprises and quasi-government organisations,' she said. Responses to the scheme had been positive, the Hongkong Land spokeswoman said, adding that key issues such as funding and maintenance had to be worked out. The borders of the beautification zone are Hong Kong Station, Garden Road, Wellington Street/Queen's Road Central and Gilman's Bazaar. Hongkong Land unveiled the proposal last week when it announced a HK$7.8 million pilot scheme to plant trees in front of Prince's Building and in Statue Square. Centaline Property Agency chairman Shih Wing-ching said he was not surprised by Hongkong Land's initial scheme to exclude Two IFC. 'Hongkong Land has no obligation to improve its rival's environment. You cannot expect Hongkong Land to beautify Mongkok,' Mr Shih said. However, Mr Churchouse believed that part of the reason Two IFC had not yet been included in the scheme was because the property was still incomplete. 'I suspect Two IFC has some kind of proposal for landscaping.' Allan Zeman, chairman of Lan Kwai Fong Holdings, said it made sense for Hongkong Land to draw boundaries where they had properties. 'Should they include Two IFC? I don't think so. I think they are doing enough,' he said. He believed developers should join in efforts to beautify Hong Kong so that, at the end of the day, all could benefit. Professional Property Services chairman Nicholas Brooke said Hongkong Land wanted to position itself as a responsible landlord in Central. 'Its strategy is to demonstrate that they care about Hong Kong, and that they are keen to attract big tenants,' he said.