There’s a saying in Hong Kong property circles that if the city’s richest man, Li Ka-shing, is selling, you don’t want to be the buyer.
Now, a group of investors who paid $5.2 billion for Li’s stake in The Center almost three years ago -- making it the world’s most expensive skyscraper -- is finding out why. After initially making quick profits flipping floors in the 73-story tower, the combination of anti-government protests, the coronavirus pandemic and escalating U.S.-China tensions has seen vacancies surge, rents drop and dealmaking dry up.
Just one sale has been made this year -- at a 35% discount to early 2019 prices, according to property-data provider Real Capital Analytics. Almost one-fifth of the building is empty -- one of the highest vacancy rates in Hong Kong’s sought-after central business district -- and rents are down about 20% from a year ago.