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Hong Kong Retailer Stocks Jump After City Eases Travel Rules

Hong Kong’s retail landlords are bracing for a further squeeze on the lowest rents in more than a decade as tenants seek relief in the aftermath of the city’s worst Covid outbreak.
Central Hong Kong. Shutterstock. (Shutterstock)

Hong Kong firms dependent on tourism rallied on Tuesday after the government said it was planning to relax travel restrictions across the border from as early as month’s end, signalling a possible rebound for a sector acutely impacted from the year-long pandemic.

From insurers to cosmetic firms, once-popular business segments may be among top beneficiaries as the government mulls reopening check points with the mainland that were closed a year ago due to Covid-19. Beauty retailer Sa Sa International Holdings Ltd. briefly surged by as much as 9.9 percent. Jewellery company Chow Sang Sang Holdings International Ltd. and Emperor Watch & Jewellery Ltd. advanced by at least 7.6 percent.

AIA Group Ltd., whose insurance agents were struggling to strike deals as clients were away, jumped by as much as 4.3 percent. In a note, Citigroup said the city’s plans are a “meaningful step” and will revive AIA’s Hong Kong Mainland China Visitor business. The insurer is the largest weighted stock on the benchmark Hang Seng Index.

The optimism comes after Hong Kong’s government said on Monday that it may expand access for more visitors from China, including exempting non-resident visitors from quarantine starting May. Such moves are key to reopening the city and boosting an economy that’s been starved of big-spending tourists. Hong Kong had about 97 percent fewer visitor arrivals in February than in the same month last year.

“The government’s latest action makes people more hopeful that the city’s economy will get better after more than a year of fighting against the pandemic,” said Castor Pang, head of research at Core Pacific-Yamaichi International Hong Kong Ltd. “We do not know when the border will be finally fully open. But at least people are more optimistic now,” Pang said.

By Jeanny Yu

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