Hong Kong is an amazing place. It’s so clean, modern, busy and efficient. I am here this week visiting clients and potential customers with our Asia regional team. As we share information on common clients we service, it’s amazing to see how small this world is and how many Hong Kong based investors own commercial real estate in Hawaii.
The Hong Kong commercial real estate market has some similarities to our market. The global financial crisis has impacted their market, and investment sales are following the same downward trend as the Hawaii market. Cap rates are up and rents are expected to ease off in the coming months. That’s where the similarities end. Rates of return in the first year of ownership (Cap rates) have gone from 3.5% last year to 5.0% this year. Borrowing costs are hovering around 6%, so investors for these top quality properties are willing to accept negative leverage, which is different from our market. With the mighty China adjacent, they feel a strong future to come even if there is a slight blip on the immediate horizon. The discussions here this week have been centered on a GDP that has slowed to a 9% annual rate and the question is, will China loan its 1 trillion dollars in excess capital to the IMF or will they use it in another way to increase their worldwide economic position?
There are still projects under development and construction here. It seems that they build skyscrapers here faster than anywhere, even Las Vegas! In front of our hotel is a construction site that, six months ago, was a part of the harbor. Next to the JW Marriott, there is a new luxury hotel just coming out of the ground that will be open next summer. We have been riding the ultra clean rail system all over the city and even out of town to Disneyland.
Retail projects are most successful in the busiest rail stations. With 75 story modern glass and steel towers feeding customers into these stations, the retail is magnificent. All the major brands are here. The most noticeable store type is much smaller than in the states. What these stores might lack in depth of merchandise they make up for in service. If the smaller store does not have your item they call out for it and promise to have it delivered to you by that night.
It’s great to travel and see the world. It reminds me of something a good friend of mine always says, “Some people have more money and more vision than us”. Seeing the growth, prosperity and continued development (even now) of massive architectural icons being built on what was ocean six months ago is motivating.