Charlotte So

Cosco Pacific said its net profit shot up 105 per cent to US$702.7 million last year and the company is considering making more port acquisitions abroad at a time when the mainland's container throughput growth is slowing.

Beijing-based Air China said net profit sank 32 per cent last year to 3.26 billion yuan (HK$4.07 billion) as revenue per passenger slid and air cargo operations bled from soft demand and overcapacity in the industry.


Joseph Lau Luen-hung yesterday resigned from the post of chairman of Chinese Estates after being convicted in Macau last week of bribing officials and money laundering, passing on the baton to his son Lau Ming-wai.

Tycoon Li Ka-shing has sold the bulk of his stake in a port terminal, disposing of another asset in Hong Kong and raising fresh questions about his oft-repeated claim that he has confidence in the city and will not withdraw.

Hong Kong port operators urged the government to press harder on consolidating about 70 hectares of land next to its terminals to eliminate congestion and raise their capacity after a round of alliances in shipping lines will further stretch the limits of the already crowded port.

The Hong Kong government plans to set up an inter-departmental body to provide a one-stop shop for the maritime sector, which has steadily lost ground to Singapore as a maritime hub over the past few years.

Hutchison Port Holdings Trust, which operates ports in Hong Kong and Shenzhen under Hutchison Whampoa, saw its earnings sink 25 per cent last year to HK$1.67 billion because of a big dip in its Hong Kong operation and the one-off concession to liners after a damaging strike last summer.

An index of business conditions in Hong Kong spiked in January to its highest level in almost two years, driven by robust activity from the mainland and improved business conditions in the city, although businessmen remained cautious given uncertain economic conditions in the US and China.

Hong Kong used to be a major transit point for the kangaroo route between Europe and Australia, but the city is in danger of losing its shine as a hub for the extra-long flight with the rise of Middle East carriers in the Australian market.

Beijing's ban on fortune-telling books is a disaster for fung shui masters but a windfall for online bootleggers. Fortune-telling books, which are traditionally the biggest selling item in China around this time of the year, are under an apparent ban on the mainland following a campaign against superstition ordered by President Xi Jinping.

China's status as the world's factory is facing a spirited challenge by would-be contenders for the crown in low-end production from rivals near and far, especially in fast-growing Africa.

China Merchants Group will take advantage of merger and acquisition opportunities in the mainland's fragmented logistics and infrastructure sector as local governments deleverage, said the company's chairman, Fu Yuning.

A dogfight is looming in the horizon as more budget carriers come on stream, bringing them head-to-head with the likes of Cathay Pacific Airways, China Southern Airlines and Air China.

Embattled mainland shipbuilders see some cheer this year as new orders on dry bulk vessels jumped in the fourth quarter, spurred in part by a rebound in freight rates and the prospect of economic expansion this year.

Jetstar Hong Kong is in talks to sell some of its fleet of new Airbus 320 planes and lease them back in a bid to cut the crippling costs of a prolonged delay in securing an operating licence in the city, people familiar with the negotiations told the South China Morning Post.

Container shipping firms are hoping for a better year as freight rates rebound in the lead-up to the Lunar New Year holiday and the nagging problem of overcapacity eases during the year.

Last mile transport is the greatest challenge for logistics companies on the mainland, while high road tolls and unregulated penalties have forced them to think of ways to lower costs.

Luxury-branded merchandise shipped into the new free-trade zone in Shanghai could stand to benefit from a reduction in red tape and speedier release of products if customs and quarantine inspection policies in the zone are changed.

A vote on the disputed location of the depot for the train meant to serve the new terminal at the Hong Kong International Airport's third runway is due to be taken by the Airport Authority board this week

Sa Sa International, the largest cosmetic retailer in the Asia-Pacific, says the Hong Kong market has yet to peak with a shift in the ages of customers in the city.

Shares in Haier Electronics rose as much as 15 per cent yesterday after its Goodaymart logistics arm agreed to sell a strategic 10 per cent stake to mainland e-commerce giant Alibaba for HK$1.86 billion, in yet another example of mainland appliance manufacturers and e-commerce operators reshaping the competitive landscape before an expected boom in online shopping.

Department store stocks slipped yesterday after Fitch Ratings tipped a gloomy outlook for the industry next year due to competition and the shift of shoppers to other retailers.

Michel Firino Martell's name may sound familiar to lovers of quality spirits. His family founded the world-famous cognac brand three centuries ago. Now Michel is seeking to make his own mark in the world of wine and spirits.

The international tranche of Kerry Logistics Network's HK$2.2 billion initial public offering is three times oversubscribed, according to market sources.

Hong Kong manufacturers want to strengthen co-operation with the authorities in the Pearl River Delta as part of the push for a free-trade zone involving Hong Kong, Guangdong and Macau.

Kerry Logistics Network said that it will expand its operations to serve online retailers on the mainland as the country moves to end the year as the largest e-commerce market.

Budget carrier Hong Kong Express Airways is struggling to keep its costs down as planned. The airline, which switched to a low-cost business model on October 27, says turnaround times for its aircraft were about 45 minutes since it launched its service, compared with the best practice of 25 minutes in the industry.

Mainland exporters are positive but cautious about the trade outlook next year, with 67 per cent of those surveyed by an online trade portal saying exports will rise but not by more than 20 per cent in the first half of next year.

The HK$5.56 billion initial public offering of Qinhuangdao Port, the world's largest coal port, has been fully covered by investors in its international tranche as it kick-starts its Hong Kong share sale today, market sources said.

A group of 10 investors, including Norway's sovereign wealth fund and Och-Ziff Capital Management Group, have committed to buy about US$1.1 billion into China Cinda Asset Management as part of its Hong Kong initial public offering, people familiar with the matter said yesterday.

BOC Aviation, the largest aircraft leasing company in Asia, is lobbying the Shanghai government to relax restrictions on offshore financing in the free-trade zone.

Rock lobsters have been frequent flyers in the past two years on Air New Zealand’s service from Auckland to Shanghai, the only destination it serves in mainland China.

Airlines are being urged to diversify their sources of funding for new planes. With a surge in demand for aircraft finance poised to drain liquidity in the markets, carriers are being encouraged to turn to bonds.

Mainland retailer China Resources Enterprise's net profit fell by nearly a fifth even as sales grew in the third quarter as rising labour costs dented margins.

The central government has vowed to accelerate the development of low-cost carriers by liberalising airfares and setting up a special terminal for budget airlines in Beijing.

Online shopping and the launch of new personal electronic products in recent weeks have helped spur demand for express and air cargo early in the fourth quarter, boosting hopes of a sustainable rebound in the air cargo market next year.

Currently, there is only one budget carrier, Spring Airlines, operating on the mainland, home to the second-largest aviation market in the world.

Yuan appreciation helped shore up earnings at Air China and China Eastern Airlines in the first nine months of the year, with analysts predicting that fourth-quarter business could benefit from a recovery in business travel.

Cosco Pacific, one of the world's largest container leasing companies, saw its net profit jump 2.3 times year on year to US$640.4 million in the first nine months on one-off disposal gains.

A shortage of building materials and antiquated construction methods in Yangon, Myanmar's largest city, have played a role in the skyrocketing rents in the city, says Hong Kong brick maker Dixon Chan.

Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Co (Haeco) has expanded into the United States by acquiring Timco Aviation Services for HK$3 billion, bringing it one step closer to its ambition to be a global player in aircraft maintenance.

The sustained recovery in premium air traffic may be a positive sign for world trade growth in the months ahead, the International Air Transport Association said yesterday.

It might be well past mid-autumn but it could well be spring for Hong Kong's luxury property market, with two projects in West Kowloon well received by local buyers over the weekend, thanks to pricing at the low end of the secondary market and deal sweeteners.

Shanghai and Tianjin are jostling to be the mainland's aircraft financing hub, with the world's second-largest aviation market expected to see US$480 billion worth of aircraft acquired in the next 20 years.

The German government hopes to attract more Chinese logistics companies to invest in the country at a time when trade between the two sides is increasing.

Alibaba has paved the way for a listing in the United States, with a spokesman for the mainland e-commerce giant saying yesterday that both the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq had accepted its special partnership structure, which would let its top executives nominate the majority of board members.

It is well before dawn and box after box of Louis Vuitton bags are being moved out of a gigantic warehouse in Tai Po, a regional distribution centre for the luxury brand. Their destination includes retail outlets as far away as Ulan Bator.

A consultation paper on a system that would allow workers to negotiate contract terms with their employers was floated this week after a brief consultation in 2011. The Federation of Hong Kong Industries has responded by warning that if a collective bargaining system is implemented, it would add to the woes of Hong Kong manufacturers and force some of them out of business.

Many buyers and exporters at the Canton Fair say they are expecting the yuan to strengthen further in the next 12 months, threatening to dampen trade sentiment in the world's second-biggest economy.

The number of exhibitors at the autumn session of the mainland's largest trade fair, opening today, has fallen the most since 2009 due to a subdued global economy and weaker currencies in emerging markets.

A prolonged down-cycle in the air cargo market has taken a heavy toll on demand for new freighter aircraft, with Airbus receiving zero orders so far this year.

China Resources Enterprise (CRE), the state-backed retail and beer conglomerate, is evaluating options for its meat distribution unit in Hong Kong that could include a sale, said two people with knowledge of the matter.

A United Nations-brokered deal on carbon emissions that could cost the aviation industry billions of dollars a year might get the go-ahead despite objections from China and India, which say Asian airlines would be unfairly hit.

NW Hotel Investments, the hotel arm of New World Development, has seen the average room rate for its three Hong Kong hotels soften due to the renovation of the Grand Hyatt, which started at the beginning of the year.

NWS Holdings, an infrastructure arm of New World Development, says it is seeking to acquire new toll roads on the mainland.

Scoot, a Singaporean long-haul low-cost carrier, will join the competitive Hong Kong-Singapore route from November, banking on the growing popularity of budget airlines in Asia.

Shares in Shanghai-listed Hainan Airlines dropped 3.6 per cent yesterday as concerns about the financial strength of its parent, HNA, were heightened by the seizure in South Korea of a cruise ship owned by the group.

Rising competition from ports being built in India could pose a threat to cargo throughput at a new US$500 million container port in Colombo, Sri Lanka, 85 per cent-owned by China Merchants Holdings (International), which also operates the port.

Fashion brands from Hong Kong, Europe and the United States could gain from a possible free-trade agreement between Sri Lanka and mainland China that would remove all tariffs on goods from the island nation.

In a fresh attempt to stop a budget airline from taking off in Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific Airways said yesterday that it has filed an objection to Jetstar Hong Kong's application to run scheduled services in the city on the ground that it violates the Basic Law and is not a genuine local carrier.

Sinopec Shanghai Petrochemical, one of China's top five refiners, is considering investing as much as 20 billion yuan (HK$25.3 billion) on a one million tonne paraxylene project that could reduce the country's reliance on imports of the raw material for making polyester.

The drop in air fares on the mainland will narrow in the second half of the year as demand on domestic routes shows signs of a rebound, Air China said.

Container manufacturers wobbled along with shipping lines amid an unsteady global economic recovery in the first half, with the outlook for the second half equally uncertain.

Yuan appreciation has continued to help mainland carriers stay afloat, with Air China yesterday reporting a 9.7 per cent increase in first-half net profit to 1.14 billion yuan (HK$1.43 billion).