A property conglomerate owned by Hong Kong’s richest man is taking care to conserve its cash amidst the city’s current economic challenges, by putting staff at many of its hotels on unpaid, leave according to local media reports.
CK Asset Holdings, which is majority owned by Li Ka-shing and helmed by the billionaire’s son, Victor Li, has told management and staff at 10 of its hospitality properties in the city to stay away without pay, as ongoing protests in the city bring down hotel occupancy levels.
The reported move by CK Asset, which owns the Harbour Grand, Harbour Plaza, Horizon and Rambler hotel chains in the city, as well as the Sheraton Hong Kong Hotel, follows similar moves by the Mira Hong Kong and Intercontinental Hotel in the city.
Harbour Plaza, Rambler Managers Told to Take Off
According to an account in the Ming Pao daily, CK Asset is said to have requested its senior managers at 10 of its 15 hotels including its Harbour Plaza and Rambler properties, to each take one day unpaid leave during the remaining days of August and to take two unpaid days each during September.
Rank and file team members have also been given one unpaid leave day each per month during the period.
CK Asset’s latest measure came after the 492-room Mira Hong Kong, situated in the bustling tourist district of Tsim Sha Tsui had sent scores of housekeeping staff on involuntary holiday.
A few streets away in the same district, the 503-room waterfront InterContinental Hong Kong hotel has also asked permanent members of staff to take annual leave and unpaid leave to save money, the Hong Kong media has reported.
The furloughs have emerged as the government warns that the protests, sparked by a proposed extradition bill, had damaged the city’s economy. The rallies, which have continued for 11 weeks, frequently ended in violent clashes with policy, and twice caused the shut down of one of the busiest airports in the world.
Commerce minister Edward Yau Tang-wah earlier said that the number of inbound tourists arriving in Hong Kong dropped more than 30 percent during the first 10 days in August, and industry figures said the protests could be worse for Hong Kong than the 2003 SARS outbreak.
Superman Shows Off SuperStinginess
According to unnamed CK Asset hotel staff, the group, commanded all senior managers to take unpaid leave, a move which some have objected to.
“Each of the hotels has about seven or eight senior managers and with them on leave as well as those who have previously applied for holiday, we’ll be seeing a shortage of staff,” an unidentified source told the Ming Pao. “CK Asset has ample cash on hand. Even if the occupancy rates were affected by the protests, the company is still making money. To take advantage of its staff’s livelihood as a solution is simply disappointing.”
According to CK Asset’s interim report, revenue of hotel and serviced suite operation for the first half of 2019 was HK$2.374 billion, down 2.1 percent compared to the same period last year. The company’s earnings after depreciation of HK$197 million on its properties was HK$876 million — up 0.7 percent. The group’s average hotel occupancy rate during the period was 89.5 percent.
Li Ka-shing, known by locals as “Superman” for his money-making prowess last week broke silence to weigh in on Hong Kong’s months of protests by taking out front-page newspaper advertisements calling for an end to violence.
But the ambiguous wording of his ads, which contained the phrase “the best intention can result in the worst outcome,” seemed to favour neither the Hong Kong government, Beijing nor the protests, setting social media quickly abuzz with speculation that he was trying to walk a tightrope between all sides.