Wealthy Hong Kong bankers ‘escape’ unrest in exclusive enclaves

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Wealthy Hong Kong bankers ‘escape’ unrest in exclusive enclaves

Some of Hong Kong’s wealthiest neighbourhoods, home to senior investment bankers and hedge fund managers, are escaping the full impact of the territory’s ongoing civil unrest, according to new property price data.

In Mid-Levels, for example, average prices rose 0.1% to HK$31,069 per square foot in August, even as Hong Kong’s protests became more violent, according to figures from Knight Frank and Midland Realty reported in the South China Morning Post. The district is full of upscale apartments, some of which are owned by senior bankers who enjoy the proximity to their offices in Central and the bars of Lan Kwai Fong.

The protests, however, are taking their toll on the overall property market and have helped to bring Hong Kong’s 10-year housing boom to an end. Prices of lived-in homes dropped 1.4% across Hong Kong in August, the steepest monthly fall this year, and the third consecutive month of declines.

The comparative good fortunes of some of Hong Kong’s exclusive districts – banker-friendly enclave Happy Valley enjoyed a 1% year-on-year price rise in September – is one of the reasons why finance professionals have yet to leave Hong Kong in large numbers.

Prices are holding steady or even increasing in rich residential areas partly because they have largely escaped the worst confrontations between police and protestors, according to Hong Kong banking professionals. The demonstrators have pro-democracy goals, not anti-capitalist ones, so the targets of their wrath are the government and mainland businesses rather than bankers and other wealthy people. Moreover, affluent parts of the territory, especially those on Hong Kong island, are often hilly and ill-served by MRT stations and major roads, making them awkward for protesters to travel to and retreat from.

Banking professionals say while they are avoiding weekend visits to entertainment districts like Causeway Bay (which has been the sight of several protests in recent months), they still feel cocooned from the unrest when in their own suburbs.

One trader says that on weekdays he’s not experiencing “any problems at all” in his working life. “I wouldn’t know the protests are happening aside from reading about them,” he adds, stressing that he’s not trying to downplay the significance of Hong Kong’s political crisis or its devastating effect on sectors such as retail and tourism. “On weekends, we just don’t go out in Central or places were the protests happen, which isn’t that big a deal,” he adds.

An expat banker, who lives in a wealthy New Territories neighbourhood, told us previously that his suburban location is far from the unrest, which he finds easy to avoid. He would contemplate leaving Hong Kong, however, if this ever changed.

Image credit: CHUNYIP WONG, Getty

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