By: Zhou Yichen Gloria 周奕辰Edited by: Zhu Zijin Cora 朱子槿

Business

Standard Chartered restores dividend while yearly profit more than halved

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Zhou Yichen Gloria 周奕辰Edited by: Zhu Zijin Cora 朱子槿
  • 2021-02-26

Standard Chartered PLC (2888) reported on Thursday a 68% decrease in net profit in 2020, due to lower interest rates and higher credit impairments under the COVID-19 pandemic.  The net profit of the London-based bank fell to $751 million (HK$ 5.8 billion) in 2020. But the company would pay a $0.09 (HK$ 0.7) per share dividend and restarted a $254 million (HK$ 1.97 billion) share buyback scheme. Standard Chartered's Hong Kong shares fell more than 5% after trading opened on Friday, and closed at HK$51.05. "The resumption of dividends was announced in December last year, which was good news at the time and made the company's stock rise," said Jacky Luo, partner and director of several companies. "After the release of the 2020 results, the decline in the bank income and the similar forecast of this year's income to last year, will make some investors feel not so positive, adjust their expectations, and make corresponding judgments on changes." The bank, which does most business in Asia, reported a 57% pre-tax profit drop to $1.61 billion (HK$ 12.5 billion) in 2020 from $3.71 billion (HK$ 28.8 billion) in the previous year, due to a total charge of $895 million (HK$ 6.9 billion) related to restructuring, goodwill impairment, and other items. The operating income slipped by 4% to $14.75 billion (HK$ 114 billion), with net interest income declining 11% to $6.88 billion (HK$ 53.4 billion). The credit impairments of the bank in 2020 surged more than double to $2.29 billion (HK$ 53.4 billion), with the majority booked in the first half of the year. Despite profit decline, Chief Executive Officer Bill Winters was confident that the company would recover from the epidemic. "We are weathering the health crisis and geopolitical tensions very well," he said in a company statement. “Our strategic transformation …

Culture & Leisure

Anti-pandemic measures baffle florists in Lunar New Year Fair

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Cai Chuchu 蔡礎礎、Kwok Chiu Tung 郭昭彤Edited by: Zhu Zijin Cora 朱子槿
  • 2021-02-12

On Lunar New Year's Eve, buyers crowded the Mongkok Flower Market for last-minute shopping while the 15 government-organized festival flower markets were relatively quiet due to anti-pandemic measurements, which curtailed the number of stalls by half, limited visitors and slashed operating hours. The Hong Kong government once decided to stop organizing this year’s Lunar New Year Flower Fair but changed its mind to announce on Jan. 19 that the 15 flower markets would be opened for the festive period of seven days but with crowd-control measures. Many Hong Kong florists who planned to join the Lunar New Year Flower Market had already taken alternative plans including renting pop-up shops and selling online. “We have rented a shop for selling flowers, but the government suddenly changed after two weeks,” said Hung Chun-kit, 31, one of the florists. He said that they were not able to return the deposit to the shop owner and the government measurement made them lose their head. Even though the government exempted the rents for the 2021 Lunar New Year Flower Markets, it would not be enough to compensate florists’ extra costs and reduced sales. “The scale has been downsized with crowd-control measurement, customer flow is fewer than before. It is hard to gain profit even though the Lunar New Year Flower Market was uncharged, ” said Mr Hung. The scale of the fair had been down to 50%, the number of booths is limited. Therefore, florists continued to rent empty shops to sell flowers because these shops have no crowded-control measurements. “The government announcements are messing around our businesses, and this is an erratic situation for our industry,” said Tse Wong Siu-yin, 45, chairperson of Hong Kong Flower Retailers Association. Lam Sze-ching, 72, a florist who won the bid but did not join the fair while …

Business

Hong Kong hotels struggle to stay afloat despite staycation fad

Chui Yuk-hei, a 26-year-old event planner, checked into several luxury hotels in November. She enjoyed her stay at the Mandarin Oriental, the Peninsula Hong Kong and the Four Seasons. “I never tried them before because these top hotels were super expensive,” Ms Chui said, “but now they all offer affordable overnight staycation packages. It’s the best time to enjoy their services.” She spent about HK$9,000 on three hotels in total, less than half the original prices.  More Hong Kongers like Ms Chui are going on staycations, spending holidays in hotels this year. But amid the coronavirus gloom, staycations are not enough to boost revenues, and local hotels still face uncertainties. The fourth wave of Covid-19 infections started in the city in late November 2020. Before that, clusters of cases linked to staycations prompted the government to limit the number of guests in each hotel room to four people only. “Health concerns made many customers cancel their staycation, “ said Benson Soo Koon-chau, 46, manager of four-star One-Eight-One Hotel & Serviced Residences in Sai Wan.      “Staycation is a very up-and-down business,” Mr Soo said. “Many hotels’ staycation business has been largely affected. It’s unlike long-staying service, which people need to pre-pay, no matter whether they eventually check in or not.” One-Eight-One Hotel has increased the portion of long-term leases for customers staying longer than two weeks to earn more stable revenue, he said. “I won’t go on staycation any time soon. It’s not safe. Even before the fourth wave, I would check the health measures at each hotel first,” Ms Chui said.  The pandemic has hit hard on the city’s hospitality industry which already suffered from anti-government protests in 2019. The occupancy rate slumped to 39% in the first six months of 2020 from the previous year’s 90% for …