Hong Kong agencies Centaline, Midland see commercial property agents depart as deals plunge amid protests

By Lam Ka-sing kasing.lam@scmp.com / https://www.scmp.com/property/hong-kong-china/article/3036416/hong-kong-agencies-centaline-midland-see-commercial?utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=contentexchange&utm_source=EdgeProp | November 26, 2019 11:57 AM SGT
Two of Hong Kong's largest property agencies have either cut headcount or seen staff members leave amid a slump in commercial property transactions.
Centaline Commercial and Midland IC&I have both shrunk their ranks by about 40 people each, as the city's anti-government protests weigh on the sector. The total number of agents in Hong Kong fell 1.5 per cent to 39,526 last month from a peak of 40,142 in November last year, according to the Estate Agents Authority.
Daniel Wong, chief executive of Midland IC&I, said the departures had taken place over the past five months, and that further reductions would "depend on market sentiment".
"It started in June. Transaction volumes have shrunk a lot, and we could not support so many people. When the market booms, we will have an excess of staff [which gives us] more chances of striking deals. But some cannot strike a deal the entire year. This is a time to ask them to leave," he said. "Transactions will remain at a low level this month."
The number of office, retail and industrial property transactions this year will be even lower than the earlier forecast of 5,200, which is already lower than the record in 1996, according to Midland IC&I. Only 1,281 deals were seen between July and October, down 55 per cent on year.
Wong attributed the decline to US-China trade war and the social unrest, which led to the city's first recession in 10 years, as well as lacklustre global economy.
"Banks' tightening of mortgage is also a reason," Wong added. "Even some owners were willing to slash prices by 20 to 30 per cent recently, some deals could not be reached as the buyers could not have their mortgages approved."
Reed Hatcher, head of research at Cushman& Wakefield echoed the view that transactions would remain low.
"The outlook for investment in commercial property in Hong Kong is likely to remain muted over the remainder of the year ... under the current fog of uncertainty," Hatcher said.
Stanley Poon, Centaline...