If Festival Walk could talk, it would not have much positive to say about the past two months. Last month, the upmarket Hong Kong shopping and commercial complex reopened its doors after being closed in November to repair damage sustained during one of the city’s ongoing protests.
The closure was a thorn for Mapletree, the property arm of Singapore state investment firm Temasek Holdings, given the impact on the share price and the rating of its REIT which contains the mall. Mapletree originally bought the complex from Hong Kong-based developer Swire Properties for HK$18.8 billion ($2.41 billion; €2.17 billion) in 2011. It was the firm’s first commercial property acquisition in the city.
The shopping center of the complex is home to more than 200 retail stores and restaurants, a multi-screen cinema and one of Hong Kong’s largest ice rinks. There is also 220,000 square feet of office space and 830 car park spaces. Located between two universities in the residential district of Kowloon Tong, the complex was built above a multi-modal transportation hub comprising direct rail connections to mainland China, the city’s mass transit railway system, a bus terminal and local taxi station. It attracts the surrounding middle-class residents as well as university students and tourists from mainland China.
Given its relevance for Mapletree’s REIT, any operational disruption was always going to be damaging financially. That was proven when, on November 12, protesters caused extensive damage to the mall component, destroying safety railings on various levels and setting fire to the Christmas tree display, which was enough to see it closed for repairs. As a consequence, tenants were waived their rental fees for the duration of the closure period, according to another report by the South China Morning Post.
The share price of the REIT dropped by 4.92 percent from S$1.22 to S$1.16 on November 13, the day following the vandalization, compounding an already dissipating stock value since the onset of the protests in June. Since then, shares in the REIT have changed hands for more than 10 percent less.
If that was not enough, after the vandalism in November, rating agency Moody’s downgraded its outlook on the REIT from stable to negative in December. It was a stark reminder of what can happen to investment vehicles when there is a heavy reliance on a single asset.
1998 The seven-story complex opened at the start of the recovery from the Asian financial crisis the previous year. It was constructed by Swire and Chinese conglomerate Citic Pacific for a reported HK$5 billion after the pair bought its site from the government in 1993 in a 50:50 venture.
2006 Swire bought out Citic Pacific for approximately HK$6.2 billion to obtain complete
2011 Swire sold the complex to Mapletree for a reported HK$18.8 billion. It was the most expensive single property transaction in the city’s history, according to the city’s South China Morning Post newspaper. Offloading Festival Walk was the fastest way for Swire to fuel the group’s rapid expansion plans in mainland China, the group said, adding it would record a HK$1.63 billion profit from the sale of the complex.
2019 Festival Walk was the sole Hong Kong asset in Singapore-listed Mapletree’s North Asia Commercial Trust. It was also its biggest, accounting for approximately 50 per cent of MNACT’s revenue and asset value, according to a Moody’s report published in December 2019. Including Festival Walk, the trust, listed since 2013, comprises nine properties also in China and Japan, with a combined value of approximately S$7.7 billion ($5.7 billion; €5.1 billion) as of September 30, 2019. On November 12, protesters stormed and damaged the mall component of the complex, causing it to close for repairs. On November 13, the share price of Mapletree’s REIT dropped by 4.92 percent; in December, Moody’s downgraded its outlook from stable to negative.