Xi Jinping's anti-corruption campaign

Macau luxury watch expo axed as China's anti-graft campaign drives VIPs away

Luxury watch expo called off, with backers blaming Xi Jinping's crackdown on corruption, while top auction houses see spring sales slump

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 April, 2015, 2:39am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 June, 2018, 10:15am

The effects of President Xi Jinping's crackdown on graft continue to be felt beyond mainland China, with organisers of a luxury Macau watch show axing the event due to poor expected turnout, while auctions in Hong Kong are also apparently falling victim to the drive.

Vincci Tung, manager of the European Asian Watch, Jewellery and Antique Coins Show in Macau, told the South China Morning Post the event, originally scheduled for next month, was cancelled because of the campaign, calling its impact "tremendous".

A dramatic decrease in VIP customers visiting Macau’s casinos … led to a chain reaction

"We cannot deny the obvious - that a dramatic decrease in VIP customers visiting Macau's casinos has led to a chain reaction, weakening overall high-end luxury product sales," Tung said.

A statement on the event's website said: "Admission of audience and benefits to vendors are of utmost concerns for us. We shall be re-scheduling for future show dates."

The Communist Party forbids cadres from gambling, but until Xi stepped up his campaign, the rules were loosely enforced in Macau. Gaming revenue for the city is predicted to slump 9 per cent this year, after falling 2.6 per cent last year - the first decline since the government began compiling such data in 2002.

Auction houses in Hong Kong, meanwhile, also appear to be feeling the heat. Top auction houses saw sales during their flagship spring sales plunge this week, a result some observers say was partly due to the mainland's anti-graft campaign.

Sotheby's led the rout with a more than 20 per cent year-on-year drop in sales at an auction that featured about 1,300 fewer lots than last year.

The company took in US$346 million - down from US$438 million last year - in a scaled-back series that did not feature any record-breakers.

A company spokesperson said it was "pleased" with the results, but did not say what was behind the declining sales and number of lots.

China Guardian, which specialises in antiques and art, saw its sales drop 27 per cent to HK$253 million.

Mark Saunderson, director of the Asia Contemporary Art Show, said it was likely the anti-graft drive was behind the falling sales, with buyers more hesitant to splash out on big items.

Poly Auction represented a bright spot for Hong Kong's annual spring sales. The subsidiary of the Chinese state-run Poly Culture Group brought in HK$1.1 billion, matching last year's tally.

More than 7,000 officials had been punished for gambling since Xi launched his campaign, Xinhua reported last October.

Li Gang, the director of Macau's liaison office, said last month measures were in place to ensure that officials who head for the city "would be discovered".