Escalation of Wuhan virus threatens more retail sales loss in Hong Kong amid protests

Forcing developers and property agencies to be on high alert

Wuhan coronavirus alert concept. CristianStorto/Shutterstock

Property agencies and developers in Hong Kong have started to hasten their attempts to defend against the coronavirus from Wuhan, worried that it could affect home and retail sales in the long-term, reported the South China Morning Post.

The virus is another challenge the industry has to face, despite the fact that it has yet to recover from the impacts caused by the US-China trade war and anti-government protests.

So far, the human-to-human transmissible virus has already claimed 17 lives, with nearly 600 confirmed cases in China and several others in the Philippines, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, and even the US. In Hong Kong, the first two cases were just confirmed yesterday.

As it is still early in the stages to evaluate possible damage, this epidemic serves as a reminder of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003, which plagued 8,098 people in 37 countries, and claimed the lives of 299 people in Hong Kong.

Weber Lo, chief executive of Hang Lung Properties, revealed that they have doubled the frequency of their cleaning, particularly for developments in Hong Kong and mainland China. They have also required their staff to disclose if they or their family members feel sick.

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“Since mid-November, across the company, we have urged staff to take vaccination, including those who need to travel from Hong Kong to mainland or stationed in mainland and Wuhan,” said Lo.

CK Asset, the second-biggest developer in Hong Kong, said they would clean their sales venues every hour, deep clean their air conditioners regularly, and distribute masks and sanitisers to visitors.

Local agencies Hong Kong Property (Services), Centaline Property Agency, Ricacorp Properties, and Midland Realty shared that they would routinely clean their branches and inform sick staff to take their leaves to avoid infecting their colleagues.

With the future of the local real estate market looking bleak, senior research analyst of Asia real estate at Bloomberg Intelligence Patrick Wong has this to say, “Hang Lung Properties may be at greatest risk among Hong Kong landlords due to its sizeable exposure to China retail leasing, as it anticipates opening a new mall in Wuhan in mid-2020.”

“Several Hong Kong landlords with retail leasing businesses at mainland China shopping malls could suffer from falling rents due to the pneumonia outbreak in Wuhan,” he added.

He said that they should expect slow sales growth as people “reduce [their] shopping and dining outings.”