Hong Kong demonstrations hit the tourist economy

Anti-extradition bill protesters walk through Sham Shui Po neighborhood in Hong Kong. (Reuters)
Updated 12 August 2019

Hong Kong demonstrations hit the tourist economy

  • A Hong Kong Tourism Board spokesperson said the number of forward bookings in August and September has “dropped significantly,” suggesting the economic toll will linger throughout the summer season

HONG KONG: Empty hotel rooms, struggling shops and even disruption at Disneyland: Months of protests in Hong Kong have taken a major toll on the city’s economy, with no end in sight.
City leader Carrie Lam has warned that the international financial hub is facing an economic crisis worse than either the 2003 SARS outbreak that paralyzed Hong Kong or the 2008 financial crisis.
“The situation this time is more severe,” she said. “In other words, the economic recovery will take a very long time.”
The private sector, in particular the tourism industry, has begun counting the cost of more than two months of demonstrations that erupted in opposition to a bill allowing extraditions to China but have morphed into a broader pro-democracy movement.
The figures are stark: Hotel occupancy rates are down “double-digit” percentages, as were visitor arrivals in July. Group tour bookings from the short-haul market have plunged up to 50 percent.
“In recent months, what has happened in Hong Kong has indeed put local people’s livelihoods as well as the economy in a worrying, or even dangerous situation,” warned Edward Yau, Hong Kong’s secretary for commerce and economic development.
The city’s tourism industry says it feels under siege.
“I think the situation is getting more and more serious,” said Jason Wong, chairman of the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong.
The impact is so bad that travel agents are considering putting staff on unpaid leave as they try to weather the storm, he warned.
Images of increasingly violent clashes between masked protesters and police firing tear gas in the city’s streets have made global headlines, with protesters announcing new demonstrations throughout August as they press their demands.
A Hong Kong Tourism Board spokesperson said the number of forward bookings in August and September has “dropped significantly,” suggesting the economic toll will linger throughout the summer season.
A string of travel warnings issued by countries including the United States, Australia and Japan is likely to compound the industry’s woes.


Gulf Marine CEO quits after review sparks profit warning

Updated 22 August 2019

Gulf Marine CEO quits after review sparks profit warning

  • Tensions in the Arabian Gulf, a worrisome global growth outlook and uncertainty over oil prices have recently dampened investor confidence

DUBAI: Gulf Marine Services said on Wednesday Chief Executive Officer Duncan Anderson has resigned as the oilfield industry contractor warned a reassessment of its ships and contracts showed profit would fall this year, kicking its shares 12 percent down.

The Abu Dhabi-based offshore services specialist said a review by new finance chief Stephen Kersley of its large E-class vessels operating in Northwest Europe and the Middle East pointed to 2019 core earnings of between $45 million and $48 million, below $58 million that it reported last year.

A source familiar with the matter told Reuters that Anderson, who has served as CEO for 12 years, was asked to step down. Anderson could not be reached for comment.

The company, which in the past predominantly operated in the UAE, expanded operations and deployed large vessels in the North Sea and Saudi Arabia nine years ago and listed its shares in London in 2014.

Tensions in the Arabian Gulf, a worrisome global growth outlook and uncertainty over oil prices have recently dampened investor confidence.

The North Sea has seen a revival in production in recent years due to new fields coming on line and improved performance by operators following the 2014 oil price collapse.

Still, the basin’s production is expected to decline over the next decade, according to Britain’s Oil and Gas Authority.

“(The CFO’s) review has coincided with a pause in renewables-related self-propelled self-elevating support vessels activity in the North Sea, which will impact several of the higher day-rate E-Class vessels,” Investec wrote in a note.

Gulf Marine appointed industry veteran Kersley as chief financial officer in late May as it sought to halt a slide which has seen the company’s shares fall nearly 80 percent last year and another 23 percent so far this year.

The company said market conditions remained challenging and that it was still in talks with its financial advisors regarding a new capital structure.

“Management, the new board and the group’s advisors, have been in negotiation with the group’s banks on resetting its capital structure and progress has been made,” it said in a statement.

Last year, Gulf Marine said contracts were delayed into 2019 as the company was seen to be in breach of certain banking covenants at the end of 2018.

The company said it was still in talks with its banks and individual lenders with hopes of getting a waiver or an agreement to amend the concerned covenants.