Previous month:
August 2005
Next month:
October 2005

September 2005

Won't get fooled again

Both the Standard and the SCMP report on the games played by Hong Kong property developers. 

From the SCMP (subscription required):

Cheung Kong (Holdings) executive director Justin Chiu Kwok-hung says prices for mid-end properties have peaked for the next six months, after the developer slashed prices on some high-floor units in its latest Tseung Kwan O project.

Other developers branded the recent price cuts as "bogus", and a strategy to talk down the market before next week's government land auction.

[..]

It is not the first time Mr Chiu has expressed pessimism about prices. In October last year, a day before the auction of the former quarters for married police officers in Ho Man Tin, he said the site was unlikely to fetch the $7 billion analysts and surveyors had been predicting. "If the site is sold for more than $7 billion, it will be difficult for developers to justify the cost," he said.

The developer then paid $9.42 billion for the 191,126 sq ft site.

Clearly a case of actions speaking louder than words. More from the Standard:

It is a common practice for Hong Kong developers to announce aggressive price expectations for new developments before official launches. The final price tags are often below the asking prices, which are seen as a test of the market.

Cheung Kong (Holdings) has lowered by more than 10 percent the aggressive prices it set last week for high-floor apartments at its Metro Town project in Tseung Kwan O after the units received a lukewarm response from buyers.

So they are trying to fool buyers into thinking that the new "reduced" prices are reasonable, and other developers into bidding lower for new sites.  Hmmm....


Storm needed

Hot Weather + No Wind = Horrible air quality Tc_0521_1

I work in a largely industrial area, and the fumes from lorries queuing up in the street (so that they can load or unload) make it even more unpleasant. Even going indoors doesn't always help - my lunch today came with a side serving of petrol fumes, pumped into the building by the aircon.

I don't normally say this, but Tropical Storm Damrey really can't come soon enough.

We need something to blow away all this pollution.


The Roland Report

Someone seems to have bought the Spike mailing list, and is using it to send out a daily email about Hong Kong listed companies.

It's the sort of stuff that Spike used to publish, but sadly, as I don't invest in the Hong Kong stock market, it isn't of any great value to me (so I won't be subscribing if I have to pay for it).  However, if anyone else is interested, you can email them at roland@rolandreport.com and I dare say they'll send you a few emails


KG 1378

Has anyone reading this ever complained about a taxi driver in Hong Kong?

I had a very bad experience with one driver, who asked me (in Cantonese) which way I preferred to go.  Being an idiot, I gestured to indicate that it was up to him to decide.  What I hadn't figured on was the possibility that he would take a route that was significantly longer, slower, and more expensive than normal.  Faster and more expensive I can live with, and slightly more expensive is OK, but 25% extra is just not acceptable.

To be fair, I have to say that this is one of a mere handful of bad experiences over several years, and I use taxis quite a lot.  It should also be balanced against several very helpful drivers I have encountered, notably one who returned my mobile phone to my apartment and refused to take any money. 


Now that's what I call competition

Anyone with a long memory for these things may recall a front-page story in the SCMP a few years ago about a proposed TV service to be provided by Hong Kong Telecom and Star TV (apparently Spike was involved in this in some way).  I think they even got a licence from the government to operate the service. Then PCCW bought HKT and decided not to go ahead with the deal (there's some history here, because Richard Li of PCCW had sold Star TV to Rupert Murdoch)

The management of PCCW later changed their mind and decided to offer a TV service over their broadband network (which, for some reason, didn't require a licence from the government).  I had assumed that this was mainly about attracting and retaining broadband customers, not about competing with Cable TV.

Not any more - a year ago they signed up ESPN and Star Sports and acquired various other Star-related channels, including Star Movies, that had previously been exclusive to Cable TV.  Star World, which is currently available free-of-charge via satellite in most apartment buildings is also available on Now, and will be exclusive from early next year.  Those with long memories will recall that Star Sports was also once a free-to-air channel, but has been subscription only for several years.   

In addition, Star Movies is already (as of this month) exclusive to PCCW, and the HBO channels will follow next July.  I'm not sure about current pricing, but they certainly were charging less than Cable TV for all the movie channels.  They also have other channels that aren't on Cable TV, such as BBC Prime and Disney Channel.    

Plus, they are adding more channels, including Sky News, Fox News and CNN Headline News.  In fact, they now seem to have all the channels that were promised as part of the old HKT offering, and more besides!

Cable TV do still have the English Premier League, but when the current deal expires it seems like a fair bet that Star and PCCW will be bidding aggressively for the rights.  Football fans would be very happy if we got the Star coverage coupled with the number of games currently available on Cable TV.  Well, I can dream, right?

The other big change is that the Now Broadband TV service has been made available separately from the Netvigator Broadband Internet service which must mean that they are serious about the TV business rather than using it as a value-added service. 

Which has to be good news for consumers!


Taking the Mickey

Hong Kong Disneyland sounds as if it will be great.  Two articles from Friday's SCMP offer some reasons.  First Bernard Chan's account of a visit to the park:

Hong Kong people who are worried that the new Disneyland represents only western culture can relax. After attending a rehearsal day last weekend, I can assure them they will feel very much at home when they visit the new theme park.

First of all, they can expect Causeway Bay-style crowds, as the first phase has capacity for just 29,000 visitors. During the parade down Main Street USA, you simply cannot move.

Also, it seems that visitors are being very "canny", to use the expression that the SCMP employed in their headline on another story, based on the experiences of Disney managers after a series of rehearsals:

  • Hongkongers can't get enough of taking photographs. But they don't want to pay for them and will photograph the monitor image of the Space Mountain ride, for example

  • Parents will also photograph their children standing next to a balloon seller but won't buy a balloon

  • At the Mad Hatter Tea Cups, they will get out just before the ride starts to take photographs, causing the ride to stop automatically

  • Groups occupy a table in a restaurant for the whole day as a base camp for their trip

I can hardly wait...


Lost in transit

Today's Sunday Morning Post has even more coverage of "the trial that gripped Hong Kong".  Mainly "news" about how New York papers reported the story (the tabloids ran sensational stories, the broadsheets were more sober, you'll be amazed to hear).

They also report that Nancy Kissel may have been planning to ship her husband's body to the States.  If so, I fear she may have chosen the wrong company - there was a time when a staple of the SMP was stories about relocation company losing or destroying the goods that had been entrusted to them.

I suppose another option was a DBS safe deposit box.