HK Developers Plunge on Henderson Land Inquiry, Asian Markets Lower

Hong Kong sky scrapersAsian markets closed lower Wednesday. China's Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.6% to 3,109 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index also dropped 0.6% to close at 21,239. In Japan the Nikkei 225 Index dipped 0.1% to end the day virtually unchanged at 21,239.

Hong Kong real estate developers took a hit today after Henderson Land was ordered to explain why 24 out of 25 of its recent sales at the swanky 39 Conduit Road building have not actually changed hands. According to the South China Morning Post, the remaining 24 apartments are under agreement for some HK$3.18 billion ($410 million) through deals with at least four buyers. According to the paper, the buyers had requested that the deadline for payment be extended. This is the same building where a flat reportedly sold for a record-setting $11,334 per square foot last October.

The tower is located in Hong Kong's Mid-Levels with easy access to the nifty escalator service that whisks bankers down the mountain towards the International Financial Center building for the morning commute, and then changes direction to take them back up in the evening. It has its own ballroom and fitness center, including a swimming pool. Flats on the building's 88th floor are not actually 88 stories up, since the developer skipped 42 floor numbers, including unlucky ones like 14 that stands for death, in order to have an 88th floor. In China the number 88 is considered lucky, representing double fortune.

Today Henderson Land plunged 4.2%,
Hang Lung tumbled 3.1%, Sun Hung Kai fell 2% and Cheung Kong lost 0.9%.

Hong Kong-listed China Oilfield Services, which services the oil industry by providing geophysical, drilling and transportation services, sank 6.9% and CNOOC dipped 1.1%.

Chinese steel companies lost value with Baoshan Iron & Steel falling 1.6% and Hebei Iron & Steel dropping 1.1%. Meanwhile, Jiangxi Copper retreated 0.9% and Zijin Mining dipped 0.7%.

Banking shares fell in China where Bank of China plunged 1.8%, both China Merchants Bank and China Construction Bank lost 1% and Industrial & Commercial Bank slipped 0.8%.

In Japan, banks closed lower with Mitsubishi UFJ and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial both sliding 1.4% and Mizuho Financial declining 0.5%. Brokerage Nomura fell 1.9%.

But electronics companies were among the worst performers with Toshiba losing 1%, Camera makers Nikon and Olympus both dropping 0.7% and Panasonic slipping 0.6%. Sony slid 0.8% and its rival game maker Nintendo tumbled 1.3%. Bloggers speculated that Nintendo's March 23rd newsflash saying it will be releasing a new 3D hand held game console by March 2011, could have been nothing more than a stunt to boost its share price. But the technology does seem to exist, and now that the word is out, who's going to go out and buy all of the current models?
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