Wheelock's new flats in Tseung Kwan O get tepid reception as protests keep chipping away at sentiment

By Lam Ka-sing and Holly Chik / https://www.scmp.com/business/article/3026800/wheelocks-new-flats-tseung-kwan-o-get-tepid-reception-protests-keep?utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=contentexchange&utm_source=EdgeProp | September 18, 2019 2:47 AM SGT
A batch of new flats at a project in Tseung Kwan O failed to hit the mark with investors on Wednesday as sentiment continues to dwindle amid violent protests that show no sign of abating.
By 8.10pm Wheelock Properties had managed to sell just 177 out of 318 units that went on sale at its Marini and Grand Marini projects.
Just 12 days earlier, buyers had snapped up 435 of 500 flats in the first batch at Marini. The contrast shows the alarming rate at which market sentiment is falling as the massive street rallies stretch into their 14th week.
The demonstrations, initially against a now-abandoned extradition bill but now calling for broader democratic reform, have come on top of the protracted US-China trade war which had already drained appetite for property in Hong Kong.
The prolonged political tension has now started to be reflected in the city's economy, said analysts.
Within the last week, buying sentiment has been further eroded by Fitch Ratings' downgrade of Hong Kong's outlook, and a report suggesting the city is losing its appeal with expatriates because of the turmoil.
Applications for general employment visas dropped 7 per cent in August from a year earlier, after rising on an annual basis for most of 2019, according to official figures cited by Bloomberg on Saturday.
"I'd be surprised if the market sentiment was still positive," said Raymond Cheng, head of Hong Kong and China research and property at CGS-CIMB Securities.
He estimated that property prices will drop about 10 per cent in the rest of the year assuming there is no significant improvement in the political situation.
"It was expected that the flats won't be sold out," said Sammy Po, chief executive of Midland Realty's residential department. He predicted that around 60 per cent of the flats, about 190 units, would be sold by the end of the day.
Not everyone was deterred by the political unrest paralysing the city.
One buyer, who gave his surname...