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Sun Hung Kai's Adam Kwok calls on HK govt to help struggling hotels

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Adam Kwok (centre), executive director of Sun Hung Kai Properties, at the opening ceremony at Alva Hotel By Royal in Hong Kong. He said the authorities should refer to the stimulus policies employed during the 2003 Sars epidemic.

Hong Kong

A MEMBER of the wealthiest family in Hong Kong has called on the government to help its hotels as the city's economy sags under months-long pro-democracy protests.

"We strongly urge the government to help the hotel industry," Sun Hung Kai Properties executive director Adam Kwok said in a rare public address. "We really need it".

He was speaking at the media launch for a new Sun Hung Kai property, Alva Hotel by Royal. He said hotel revenue for the company as a group had fallen by as much as 40 per cent in November and December due to the unrest. For the entire second half of 2019, hotel revenue is forecast to be down around 30 per cent.

At US$38 billion, the Kwok family is Hong Kong's wealthiest clan, according to a Bloomberg Billionaires Index ranking of Asia's richest families. Their business empire is among the most exposed to anti-government protests that threaten to upend the city's status as a global business hub.

The unrest has left Hong Kong’s economy on the verge of its first annual contraction in a decade and caused tourism to dry up. Arrivals fell 44 per cent in October compared with the same month of 2018, and the hotel occupancy rate averaged 68 per cent. Retail sales have also plunged.

Mr Kwok said authorities should refer to the stimulus policies employed during the 2003 SARS epidemic.

Asked why Sun Hung Kai was going ahead with the new hotel opening, Mr Kwok said the property had been in the pipeline for a long time. Total investment for Alva Hotel by Royal is around HK$2.8 billion (S$0.49 billion).

"We are in a difficult time but we give our full heart to operate," he said. "With this hotel, we are offering good quality at a very affordable price. People will come."

Sun Hung Kai, Hong Kong's biggest developer, is not forcing staff to take unpaid leave or laying employees off, Mr Kwok said.

"Hong Kong and mainland China will continue to be our focus of investment," he said. "I'm confident about the future of Hong Kong. People will come back."

Mr Kwok is one of the next-in-line heirs for Sun Hung Kai. His grandfather Kwok Tak-seng, a grocery wholesaler from Guangdong, immigrated to Hong Kong after the war and co-founded the property developer in 1963. The patriarch's three sons, Raymond, Walter, and Thomas, ran the family business after he died. BLOOMBERG