Hong Kong conglomerate Wharf Holdings is pinning its hopes on a rejuvenated property market in Hong Kong and China to drive growth this year, following a disappointing 12 months. “We are hoping to have a stronger year,” said Stephen Ng Tin-hoi, chairman and managing director of Wharf Holdings. “The market is seeing more transactions and price are stabilising.” The Japanese investment bank Nomura and S&P Global Rating expect Hong Kong property’s market to starting rising again after dropping for five straight months since August 2018. The company managed to sell only two houses and three flats at its flagship ultra-luxury project, Mount Nicholson, at The Peak in 2018, for HK$3.8 billion. The project’s reputation as Asia’s most expensive address lost some shine after a buyer reneged on a HK$721.88 million deal for a house. In contrast, five houses and 14 flats were sold in 2017 in the luxury project. On the mainland, the company recorded a 5 per cent drop in contracted sales last year to 22.8 billion yuan (US$3.4 billion). Amid Beijing’s cooling measures for the housing market, Wharf has set a 20 per cent lower sales target for the mainland in 2019. Ng was also not optimistic about the outlook for the logistics industry in the city amid a slew of uncertainties, including the US-China trade war, geopolitical tensions and Brexit. Wharf-owned Modern Terminals, the second largest container terminal operator in Hong Kong, in January formed a new super alliance with three other operators in an effort to boost the company’s business. The alliance, which includes Hongkong International Terminals owned by Tycoon Li Ka-shing’s Hutchison Port Holdings, and COSCO-HIT and Asia Container Terminals, will jointly operate and manage 23 of the 24 berths at the Kwai Tsing Container Terminal in Kowloon. But the alliance is being investigated by the Hong Kong Competition Commission, as it gives them near monopoly on the logistics operations. Harbour City landlord Wharf REIC says fate of Hong Kong’s retail market depends on outcome of trade war A softening housing market in Hong Kong and China, as well as a drop in its traditional logistics business caused Wharf’s core profit to fall 59 per cent year on year to HK$6.5 billion for 2018, according to a filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange. The company reported that had the real estate assets been spun off before 2017, its 2018 core profit would have decreased by 11 per cent. Wharf hived off six investment properties – shopping malls Harbour City, Times Square and Plaza Hollywood, office buildings Crawford House and Wheelock House and the five-star hotel The Murray – with a market value of over HK$230 billion into Wharf REIC in August 2017. The company generated revenue of HK$21.06 billion for the year, down 13 per cent from HK$24.32 billion in 2017, excluding income from Wharf REIC. A second interim dividend of 40 HK cents per share was declared, bringing the annual payout to shareholders to 65 HK cents per share. Wharf’s shares fell 2.5 per cent to close at HK$24.95 on Thursday before the results were announced.