Wharf says retail sales at Hong Kong’s Harbour Centre, Times Square improved in first quarter

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 May, 2017, 7:58pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 May, 2017, 10:48pm

Wharf (Holding), the Hong Kong conglomerate whose interests include property, telecommunications and infrastructure, saw retail sales at its two major shopping malls in the city register slight growth in the first quarter.

Stephen Ng Tin-hoi, Wharf chairman and managing director, said sales at Harbour City in Tsim Tsui and Times Square in Causeway Bay have stabilised and recorded a small increase in the first quarter.

“We have received positive sales feedback from our tenants in April. It reflects our performance is better than the overall retail market,” he said, without providing figures.

Sales of luxury goods improved as foot traffic increased, but he said the trend needs to be observed for several more months before being able to confirm whether the “darkest days” for Hong Kong’s retail market have come to an end.

Hong Kong retail sales growth turned positive in March for the first time in more than two years, with 3.1 per cent month on month growth, according to figures released by Census and Statistics Department.

The expansion, the first since February 2015, came in the same month as an uptick in tourism figures, with visitor arrival numbers surging 8.8 per cent, the biggest growth in more than two years.

Last year, tenants’ sales at Harbour City dropped 9.9 per cent to HK$27.7 billion and those at Times Squares saw an 11 per cent fall to HK$8.1 billion, according to Wharf’s 2016 results announcement. The company said both malls showed signs of stabilisation in the second half of last year.

For property development in mainland China, Ng said the group may need to revise downward its sales target in the face of increasing difficulties in land replenishment as competition intensifies.

He did not reveal the new sales target.

Wharf delivers 25pc rise in annual core earnings

Last year, Wharf reported a 25 per cent gain in core earnings due to rising property income from Hong Kong and the mainland.

The company said revenue from mainland property, inclusive of joint ventures and associates, increased 12 per cent to HK$30.6 billion in 2016.

In March, Wharf revealed that it has begun to study the possibility of separately listing some of the group’s investment properties.

Ng said the company is studying the commercial viability of such a move and how shareholders could benefit from spinning off its investment property assets, including shopping malls and office buildings.

Wharf said the book value of the group’s investment property portfolio amounted to HK$319.3 billion as of December 31, 2016.

Ng, who is also chairman of i-Cable Communications, urged shareholders to attend the pay-television provider’s annual general meeting on May 29.

Hong Kong pay TV broadcaster i-Cable takes ‘important step’ to stay afloat

The meeting will seek shareholder approval regarding the proposal by Forever Top, led by property businessman David Chiu Tat-cheong, to rescue the financially struggling broadcaster.

Forever Top said it had agreed on a deal with Wharf (Holdings), i-Cable’s parent, for an equity injection of HK$1 billion to strengthen the broadcaster’s financial position.