Sunday, February 26, 2012

Ongoing Evidence of Yuan-sanity


The queue for single $100 notes last week outside a Bank of China branch in North Point, where customers could buy two bills each.
Photo: David Wong

Despite concerns about economic slowdown in Mainland China due to the tightening of the real estate market and global concerns about the Eurozone, mainland money continues to slosh around Hong Kong, increasing pressure on local supply-demand balances. The following headlines recently appeared in the South China Morning Post:

Private Jets Face Squeeze at Airport. It seems Hong Kong’s world-class airport doesn’t have enough parking spaces for its most elite travelers.
Hong Kong’s Luxury Boat Business Suffers for Lack of Berths. Ditto for those who like to cruise the seas in style and luxury.

HK Shop Rents Set to Top Fifth Avenue. You knew this was coming, even for mass-market clothing retailers. How much is Forever 21 paying in rent for its first Hong Kong store? Try $1.4 million per month. That’s a lot of printed Tee’s.

Batches of uncut HK$100 centenary notes expected to fetch 10 times sale price. The Bank of China is issuing two million limited-edition commemorative bank notes to celebrate its centenary. The bills are “legal tender but not intended for general circulation”. There were long queues outside the Bank branches - some customers waiting overnight - to purchase or subscribe to purchase these items. Why go through the trouble, you may rightly wonder? So they can be re-sold for up to 10x the purchase price, mainly to Mainland buyers, of course. Money for nothing? Why not. Hongkongers have been known to periodically queue for long hours for all sorts of things that can be flipped for a quick profit, including the iPhone 4S upon its release in 2011, or plastic Snoopy dolls donned in multi-national costumes that came with McDonald’s meals in 1998.

At the same time, SCMP also ran a headline that, in Beverly Hills in the US, luxury homeowners are “strategically” defaulting on mortgages on homes that are no longer worth the millions that were paid for them - The Rich Homeowners Who Just Walk Away. A tale of two cities…