Monday, October 26, 2020
Martin Hennecke

Covid-battered Wharf REIC bleeds $4.4b
Harbour City and Times Square operator Wharf Real Estate Investment Company (1997) recorded a net loss of HK$4.45 billion in the first half, while offering cash relief of over HK$1 billion to tenants during the period when total retail sales in Hong Kong plunged by about one-third from a year before. In comparison, Wharf REIC recorded a net profit of HK$6.99 billion during the same period last year. Wharf REIC chairman Stephen Ng Tin-hoi said landlords are experiencing issues such as payment of salaries, debt, rates and government rent - making it is impossible to rely solely on the landlords to "save the earth." Underlying net profit in the first six months plunged 26 percent year-on-year to HK$3.84 billion. First-half revenue plummeted by 20.27 percent to HK$6.77 billion from a year before. Basic loss per share was HK$1.47, with Wharf REIC declaring an interim dividend of HK$0.78 per share. Operating revenue from its flagship shopping center Harbour City in Tsim Sha Tsui declined by 30 percent. The retail occupancy rate of Harbour City fell to 90 percent at the end of June from 97 percent at the end of last year. This came as local retail sales plunged by 24.8 percent year-on-year to HK$26.5 billion in June, but the rate of fall moderated compared to a 32.9 percent year-on-year decline in May. For the first half, total retail sales decreased by 33.3 percent compared to the same period in 2019. Sales of jewelry, watches and clocks, and valuable gifts sank by 56.5 percent year-on-year in June, and sales of medicines and cosmetics fell 57.4 percent. A government spokesperson pointed out that with inbound tourism remaining at a standstill, local consumption affected by July's surge in local Covid-19 cases and the resultant tightening of social distancing measures, the operating environment for the retail trade has become more austere again. Separately, fashion retailer I.T (0999) said same-store sales in Hong Kong and Macau for the three months ended May 31 plunged by 49.1 percent year-on-year. I.T also said it incurred a net loss in the first quarter compared to net profit from the corresponding period last year.

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