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Shrinking Spaces, Rising Costs: Hong Kong Residents Feel the Crunch

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The average area per capita dropped 29.3% from 2013 to 47.8 square feet in 2015 – not much bigger than a king-size bed.

Isabella Steger reports: For some of Hong Kong’s poorest residents, the tiny subdivided apartments they call home are shrinking– and becoming less affordable.

With the city’s real estate among the most expensive in the world, many low-income Hong Kong residents — sometimes entire families — have been forced to live in so-called subdivided units. These apartments have been modified by landlords to fit multiple tenants and aren’t strictly illegal, but are subject to different structural and fire-safety requirements.

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According to a study jointly conducted by the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Institute of Future Cities and a concern group for people living in subdivided units, tenants of subdivided units now pay on average around 41% of their income towards rent, compared to 29% two years ago. The average rent is about HK$3,924 (US$506) a month, the study said.

A general view of old residential flats, which contain subdivided units, at Sham Shui Po, one of the oldest districts in Hong Kong February 4, 2013. Reuters

Rents in more central areas of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon far exceed those of the New Territories, where many poor families are forced to live despite long and expensive commutes.

[Read the full story here, at China Real Time Report – WSJ]

According to the study, a 90-square-foot subdivided unit in the downtown Tsim Sha Tsui district could command HK$5,500 (US$710) a month, which works out to be about HK$61(US$7.87) a square foot a month. In a 2011 Wall Street Journal story, a family of four paid HK$4,000 (US$516) a month to live in a 150-square-foot subdivided unit in the low-income district of Sham Shui Po in Kowloon. The unit housed a stove, desk, fridge and bunk bed.

Michelle Wong, a single mother, plays with her two-year-old daughter in the bedroom of an 80 square-foot (8 square meter) sub-divided flat, which she rents for HK$3,000 ($387) per month at Sham Shui Po, February 4, 2013. Reuters

Spaces are also getting tinier in subdivided units, according to the study. The average area per capita dropped 29.3% from 2013 to 47.8 square feet in 2015 – not much bigger than a king-size bed. Read the rest of this entry »

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Hong Kong’s Memory Hole

The right to privacy is usurping the public right to know in Asia’s financial hub.

Financial hubs depend on the free flow of information, and nowhere more so than in Hong Kong, gateway to the opaque China market. So a recent case in which an appeals board upheld the censorship of a court judgment to protect the supposed privacy rights of the litigants sets a bad precedent. The territory is following Europe’s lead toward extreme privacy protection at the expense of access to information.

“The right to be forgotten affects more than media freedom. It prevents investors and entrepreneurs from conducting due diligence and managing business risks, and helps people hide from public scrutiny. That may be good for the reputations of the rich and powerful, but it will hurt Hong Kong’s reputation for transparency.”

Luciana Wong Wai-lan, who now serves on several government advisory panels, participated in a matrimonial case in the early 2000s. In 2010 Ms. Wong requested that the court remove the judgments from its online reference system. The court made them anonymous, but hyperlinks to the judgments placed on the website of local shareholder activist David Webb still revealed her name.

[Read the full story here, at WSJ]

Ms. Wong wrote to Hong Kong’s privacy commissioner for personal data in 2013, and the commissioner ordered Mr. Webb to remove the links pursuant to Data Protection Principle 3 (DPP3) of the Personal Data Privacy Ordinance. Read the rest of this entry »


[PHOTOS] iPhone 6s Goes on Sale in Japan

Apple fans in Japan finally got a chance to get their hands on the iPhone 6s Friday…

Japan was among the 12 countries and territories where the iPhone 6s went on sale Friday. The new models were available by reservation only in China, Hong Kong, Japan and U.S. stores in tax-free states.

Despite the rainy weather in Tokyo, fans turned out to try the new 6s, including some wearing iPhone-shaped hats….(read more)

Source: Japan Real Time – WSJ


[VIDEO] Occupy Hong Kong: Dreams Deferred 

For more than 10 weeks last fall, thousands of protesters occupied Hong Kong’s streets and demanded true democracy. A year later, the movement appears to have stalled.


Capital Flight from China

Lots of money is escaping China’s porous capital controls

The man who calls himself Jack is a caricature of a small-time gangster. Sporting a chunky Louis Vuitton belt, a gold necklace and gold-rimmed sunglasses, he chomps on a Cuban cigar. He says he has come to a pawnshop across the street from the Ponte 16 casino in Macau, a gambling Mecca and former Portuguese colony that is administered separately from the rest of China, only for its fine Cohibas. But when asked for advice about how to exchange yuan held within China for foreign currency—a transaction officially limited by China’s capital controls—he breaks into a laugh and flashes a Chinese bank card. “Just swipe it,” he says. “However much money you have in your China account, you can transfer it here.”

[Read the full text here, at The Economist]

Macau’s role as an illicit way station to move cash out of China, away from the government’s prying eyes, is nothing new. In recent months, though, things have been busier than normal. Capital outflows were already on the rise because of worries about the economy. During the summer, after the stockmarket crashed and the government let the yuan weaken, they soared. Official data indicate that more than $150 billion of capital left China in August—a record (see chart).

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Faced with this exodus, the government launched a crackdown on underground banks, which run money across borders and arrange for matching onshore and offshore transactions. Police raided Macau’s pawnshops and arrested 17 people for laundering money. That appears to have slowed things down. When your correspondent visited pawnshops in Macau this week and asked whether they could help him shift 1m yuan ($157,000) out of China—three times what one can legally withdraw in a year—most demurred. Read the rest of this entry »


Top Hong Kong Stock? Umbrella Maker

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Hong Kong is having another umbrella moment.

First there was the umbrella movement last year when young people took to the streets to defy China’s plan for watered-down democracy. Now there is an umbrella maker that’s stunned the stock market.

“It is a bit crazy. The fundamentals do not justify the current stock price.”

— Hannah Li, strategist at UOB-Kay Hian

Jicheng Umbrella Holdings Ltd.1027.HK +13.29% is an unlikely title holder of Hong Kong’s best performing newly listed stock in 2015. At its initial public offering back in February, it received little interest with bankers pricing it at the low end of an indicated price range. But once it got trading it went through the roof, and at one stage last month it rose nearly 20-fold from its IPO price and is still up 14-fold as of Friday.

“It is a bit crazy,” said Hannah Li, strategist at UOB-Kay Hian. “The fundamentals do not justify the current stock price.”

The rally means the company is worth 9.1 billion Hong Kong dollars ($1.17 billion), and is trading at a price-earnings ratio of 100, far higher than the 11.2 for the average of stocks in the Hang Seng index.

[Read the full text here, at WSJ – China Real Time Report]

Exactly why investors are so keen on an umbrella maker to give it a sky high valuation is puzzling, while its shareholder structure looks even more bizarre. The Securities and Futures Commission, Hong Kong’s market regulator, issued a warning Thursday to investors that just 17 shareholders hold over 99% of the company’s shares (the major shareholder owns 75% of the company). This means a buyer could easily push the stock up substantially as there’s so few owners of the shares.

Ms. Li said while Jicheng’s business is in good shape, the small number of shares held by public shareholders is a major reason for the rally. Read the rest of this entry »


超富裕 HONG KONG PAYDAY, BABY!

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HONG KONG—Shares in blue chip firms Cheung Kong Holdings Ltd and Hutchison Whampoa surged on Monday after Asia’s richest person, Li Ka-shing ,announced the reorganization of his empire into two new companies.

By the close of trading in Hong Kong Monday, Mr. Li and his family’s stakes in Hutchison and Cheung Kong were valued at US$19.9 billion combined, up 14.5% from US$17.4 billion Friday. Cheung Kong soared 14.7% to close at 143.2 Hong Kong dollars (US$18.47) Monday, outperforming the benchmark Hang Seng Index’s 0.5% gain, while Hutchison Whampoa jumped 12.5% to close at HK$98.35.

Mr. Li, 86 years old, said Friday the real-estate assets of Cheung Kong and Hutchison will be carved out into a new company listed in Hong Kong, to be called CK Property. Read the rest of this entry »


Hong Kong’s Top 10 Box Office Hits of 2014

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Dean Napolitano and Joyu Wang report: The blockbuster “Transformers: Age of Extinction” topped Hong Kong’s box office in 2014, a year in which big-budget Hollywood tentpoles again dominated local cineplexes.

The fourth installment of the “Transformers” franchise pulled in HK$98.2 million (US$12.7 million), according to Hong Kong Box Office Ltd. That far outpaced “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” which came in second and earned HK$56.6 million.

Rounding out the top five were other effects-filled Hollywood movies: “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” came in at No. 3, followed by “Interstellar” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past.”

Sandra Ng with Anthony Wong in a scene from ‘Golden Chickensss.’ Treasure Island Production Ltd

Sandra Ng with Anthony Wong in a scene from ‘Golden Chickensss.’
Treasure Island Production Ltd

Director Michael Bay’s “Transformers: Age of Extinction” was something of a hometown film: A major part of the action takes place in Hong Kong, including the movie’s climax, in which much of the city is destroyed in a battle between giant robots

The movie held its world premiere at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, with stars Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer and Nicola Peltz hitting the red carpet while admiring the city’s dramatic skyline.

The cast also included popular Chinese actress Li Bingbing in a co-starring role, while other Hong Kong and Chinese actors took minor roles. Still, the movie failed to match 2013’s top hit, “Iron Man 3,” which made HK$106.4 million….(read more)

Top 10 Films by Box-Office Receipts in Hong Kong in 2014

  1. “Transformers: Age of Extinction” – HK$98.2 million
  2. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” – HK$56.6 million
  3. “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” – HK$54.7 million
  4. “Interstellar”* – HK$51.1 million
  5. “X-Men: Days of Future Past” – HK$50.8 million
  6. “Golden Chickensss” – HK$41.3 million
  7. “Maleficent” – HK$40.9 million
  8. “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” – HK$36.97 million
  9. “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb”* – HK$36.5 million
  10. “From Vegas to Macau” – HK$33.6  million

Read the rest of this entry »


Hong Kong billionaire offers £40 million marriage bounty for gay daughter

One of Hong Kong’s richest men has offered a reward to the man who can woo his lesbian daughter

Cecil Chao Sze-tsung, a property magnate, announced the HK$500million bounty this week after reports that his daughter Gigi Chao, 33, a University of Manchester graduate, entered a civil partnership with her long-term girlfriend in France.

“I don’t mind whether he is rich or poor,” Mr Chao said. “The important thing is that he is generous and kind-hearted.”

“Gigi is a very good woman with both talents and looks,” the doting father said. “She is devoted to her parents, is generous and does volunteer work.”

“Gigi is a very good woman with both talents and looks”

It was reported that Miss Chao entered the partnership with Sean Yeung, her girlfriend of seven years, who also uses the name Sean Eav, on April 4…

More via >> The Telegraph