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Old October 31st, 2010, 04:59 AM   #1061
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Contract for sludge treatment facility in Tuen Mun signed
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Government Press Release







The Environmental Protection Department (EPD), after going through an open tender procedure, has awarded a contract to design, build and operate a sludge treatment facility at Tsang Tsui, Tuen Mun, to VW-VES (HK) Limited, a subsidiary of Veolia Environnement. Representatives of the two sides signed the contract today (October 27).

In addition to being a major treatment facility applying advanced technology, the plant will have leisure, educational and landscaped facilities for the public.

The sludge treatment facility will be equipped to treat 2,000 tonnes of sludge a day at maximum capacity. When it comes on-stream in 2013, it will be able to reduce the volume of sludge by up to 90%.

One of its features is the incorporation of architectural and landscape elements. The wave-form and streamlined design of the main building, which has incorporated the Tuen Mun District Council's (TMDC) views, will reflect and integrate the seaview in front and ridge lines at the back so that the plant will blend well with the surrounding scenery. Upon completion, it will become a unique landmark in the district.

The plant's outdoor landscaped and ecological gardens will provide visitors with a green open space and a natural environment, as well as providing a habitat for water birds.

The building will also house an Environmental Education Centre (EEC) with an exhibition room, an Internet/interactive area, a lecture theatre and a conference room. Visitors will be able to view the operation of the plant through a dedicated visitors' gallery with information on sustainable waste management at the EEC.

The contract for the sludge treatment facility was signed by representatives of the EPD and VW-VES (HK) Limited today in the presence of the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau.

"By adopting a brand-new design concept, this sludge treatment will combine advanced technology and world-class management in treating sludge in a manner compatible with sustainable waste management. We will ensure that the facility will be run with world-class management upon its completion. We will also strengthen links with the community and play our role in environmental education," an EPD spokesman said.

This green facility will adopt state-of-the-art thermal incineration technology to ensure that the sludge treatment meets the highest environmental protection requirements and the strictest emission standards. Thermal energy generated from incineration will be turned into electricity to fully meet the energy needs of the facility, including the operation of the EEC, a seawater desalination plant that will produce potable water, and indoor heated pools. Surplus electricity will be exported to the power grid.

Design and construction of the plant has commenced. It is expected that about 600 jobs will be created during the construction period and 60 staff will be required when it comes into operation. Priority for employment will be given to Tuen Mun residents.

In response to the TMDC's request, the EPD will set up an air quality monitoring station in Tuen Mun town centre to provide objective data on the local air quality so as to ensure that the operation of the facility will not affect the surrounding environment. Addressing the TMDC's concerns, the EPD will also report to the council regularly on progress on the facility's construction and its operational plan.

When completed, the facility will process sludge generated from the Harbour Area Treatment Scheme and 10 other regional sewage treatment works, reducing the load on landfills. It is estimated that the emission of greenhouse gas can be reduced by up to 260,000 tonnes per year.

Upon completion of the Harbour Area Treatment Scheme Stage 2A and the extension and upgrading of some existing sewage treatment works, the total amount of sludge generated in Hong Kong will substantially increase from the current 800 tonnes per day to about 1,500 tonnes per day in 2014.
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Old October 31st, 2010, 08:47 PM   #1062
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LCQ8: Stonecutters Island Sewage Treatment Works and West Kowloon Refuse Transfer Station
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Government Press Release

Following is a question by the Hon James To Kun Sun and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau, at the Legislative Council meeting today (October 20):

Question:

From time to time in recent years, I have received complaints from residents of the Stonecutters Island and the Yau Ma Tei Typhoon Shelter areas about odours frequently coming from the sea water. Moreover, although government officials said at the meeting of the Panel on Environmental Affairs (EA Panel) of this Council on January 25 this year that an analysis of the water quality at the outfalls of the Stonecutters Island Sewage Treatment Works (SCISTW) indicated that the residual chlorine content was within acceptable limits, it was recently reported in a weekly magazine that the outcome of the tests and investigation conducted by it showed that the sewage discharged from SCISTW and the operation of the West Kowloon Refuse Transfer Station (WKTS) had led to water and air pollution in the district, and the hydrogen sulphide content in the air of the district had exceeded the standards of certain states of the United States. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) focusing on the investigation outcome in the aforesaid report, whether the authorities had, in the past five years, conducted similar studies; if they had, of the outcome; if not, whether they will conduct such studies; whether they will re-examine if the operations of SCISTW and WKTS have led to air or water pollution in the West Kowloon district, and whether they will re-assess the impact of such facilities on the health of members of the public;

(b) whether the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) has regularly monitored the contents of air pollutants (including hydrogen sulphide, etc.) in the vicinity of the aforesaid two facilities; if it has, of the locations of the monitoring points; of the relevant data obtained in each of the past three years, and whether such data exceeded any international standards;

(c) of the monitoring results of the marine monitoring stations set up by EPD around the aforesaid West Kowloon waterfront in each of the past three years; whether it had detected any deterioration in the water quality and conducted relevant investigations to ascertain if the odours from the sea water are related to water quality;

(d) of the number of complaints received by the authorities in each of the past three years about the air or water quality near SCISTW, WKTS or the Yau Ma Tei Typhoon Shelter/the West Kowloon waterfront, and among them, the number of such complaints which had been substantiated; whether government departments such as EPD and the Marine Department, etc. had prosecuted or penalized the persons or organizations involved; if they had, of the penalties imposed;

(e) whether the Government had, in the past three years, carried out regular inspections on illegal connection of sewers for discharging sewage in the West Kowloon district; if it had, of the number and locations of sewers which were proved to be illegally connected but have not yet been removed so far, as well as the number and locations of sewers which illegally discharged sewage into the harbour; and whether the Government has any plan to remove all the illegal sewers;

(f) focusing on the current odour problem in the West Kowloon district, what improvement plans the Government has, including whether it has carried out any dry weather flow interceptions works in respect of the odour problem at the Yau Ma Tei Typhoon Shelter (YMTTS), and whether it has implemented any environmental measure for the operations of SCISTW and WKTS;

(g) given that in its "Harbour Area Treatment Scheme (HATS) Stage 2A Environmental Impact Assessment Study ? Investigation" report submitted in June 2008, the Drainage Services Department (DSD) recommended enclosing or covering all the identified odour sources in the preliminary treatment works and SCISTW and discharging them into the atmosphere after treatment, when such recommendation can be implemented; given that the authorities stated at the meeting of EA Panel of this Council on July 5 2005 that in the event that the water quality objectives could not be met due to an increase in the population during the implementation of HATS Stage 2, consideration would be given to proceeding to secondary sewage treatment, whether the Government has studied the feasibility of providing secondary sewage treatment; and

(h) according to the information of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, a large flood relief box culvert was built underground in the central part of the open space at Hoi Fan Road of Tai Kok Tsui, and the culvert with its surrounding area of 33 metres in width is classified by DSD as a drainage reserve on which quite a number of manholes for repair are distributed, of the current operation of the culvert (including the areas from which flood water is collected and where flood water is discharged), and whether water quality monitoring is conducted in the district?

Reply:

President,

(a) In early 2006, DSD commissioned an environmental impact assessment (EIA) study on HATS Stage 2A. The EIA study, completed in mid-2008, was endorsed by the Advisory Council on the Environment and approved by the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) in October 2008. The EIA study included an impact assessment of the odour from the Stonecutters Island Sewage Treatment Works (SCISTW). With mathematical models, it made predictions about the odour from the SCISTW upon the completion of the HATS Stage 2A extension and improvement works. The modelling results indicated that after implementing various odour control and mitigation measures (including covering up all the odour sources and installing deodourising devices) as recommended in the EIA study report, the level of odour in the vicinity of the premises that might be affected would meet the requirement set out in the Technical Memorandum on EIA Process.

The Government has attached great importance to the environmental performance of the SCISTW and West Kowloon Refuse Transfer Station (WKTS). On odour management at the SCISTW, the DSD has been upgrading relevant facilities, and has carried out a series of enhancement works over the past few years to step up odour control and mitigation measures, so as to minimise the potential odour nuisance to the public. They include the installation of chemical deodourising spray systems at all the sludge cake unloading bays and sedimentation tanks, the provision of biofilters at the vertical discharge chambers of the sedimentation tanks, and the provision of mobile deodourisers for equipment under maintenance to control any potential odour from such equipment.

As for the WKTS, EPD has adopted a series of odour control measures including the air purification system for filtration and deodourisation in the waste tipping hall. The tipping hall itself is designed with negative air pressure to prevent odour from emitting to the surrounding areas. The tipped waste will be compacted and containerized in sealed containers for onward transportation to the strategic landfill by marine vessels. This method of transporting waste can minimize the environmental impact to the surrounding environment and waste will not be exposed to the atmosphere in the entire waste handling procedure. As all sewage generated from the WKTS will be discharged into sewers after proper treatment, the operation of the WKTS would not pollute the surrounding sea water. The EPD will monitor the existing operation and strengthen the environmental management of the WKTS to ensure compliance with a series of stringent environmental parameters.

(b) An odour monitoring system has been put in place at the SCISTW. The DSD measures the odour at the boundary of the plant and at the locations of the sedimentation tanks every month. Based on the analysis of the DSD, the concerned level of hydrogen sulphide has not constituted undesirable impact to the nearby residents. In response to the complaints from nearby residents, the DSD had also measured hydrogen sulphide levels at the neighbouring premises and the data showed that the nearby residents had not been affected. The DSD will continue to closely monitor the odour from the treatment works.

Odour control at the WKTS is monitored independently by air specialists from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. They monitor the odour at the periphery of the WKTS at irregular hours on a daily basis. Based on the data, no anomaly has been detected.

(c) The EPD has set up a marine monitoring station off the coast of West Kowloon to monitor the water quality. The monthly data cover the measurement and records of various physical and chemical properties, including dissolved oxygen, ammonia nitrogen, inorganic nitrogen and E. coli. The compliance rate of major water quality indicators is assessed annually based on the data collected. The monitoring results over the past three years (2007-2009) show a continuous improvement in marine water quality. The compliance rate of marine water quality for 2009 exceeds 90%, comparing favourably with the 2008 figure. The EPD has not received any complaint about odour from the marine water. According to a performance verification on HATS Stage 1, effluent discharged from the SCISTW has not affected the local water quality, marine sediment and benthos. Upon the commissioning of the advance disinfection facilities of the SCISTW in early 2010, the E. coli level in marine water on the western side of Victoria Harbour fell by 60%.

(d) The number of complaints about air and water pollution received by the EPD, DSD and MD between January 1, 2008 and September 30, 2010 is shown in the tables below:

Quote:
Air Pollution 2008 2009 2010
Complaints (as at 30.9.2010)
----------- ------ ------ ------------------
Stonecutters    9     11    18
Island
Sewage Treatment
Works (SCISTW)

West Kowloon    8     2     8
Refuse Transfer
Station (WKTS)

Yau Ma Tei     0     3* 4*
Typhoon Shelter
(YMTTS)/West
Kowloon
waterfront (WKW)
*Complaints were related to black smoke from vessels and not related to odour.

Quote:
Water Pollution 2008 2009 2010
Complaints (as at 30.9.2010)
--------------- ----- ----- -----------------

SCISTW 0 0 0
WKTS 5 0 2
YMTTS/ WKW 2 4 2
The relevant Government departments have followed up with all the above complaints. For those individual cases that were related to the operational issues, the EPD has requested the concerned operator to take immediate measures for improvements. In the subsequent inspections, it was found that the problems had ceased. For the majority of the remaining complaints, the sources of pollution could not be identified after taking follow-up actions. Relevant government departments will continue to closely monitor the situation.

(e) The EPD has conducted regular inspections of mis-connected sewers in West Kowloon. The numbers of confirmed cases and locations of mis- connected sewers over the past three years (from January 1, 2008 to September 30, 2010) are shown in the table below:

Quote:
Cases of Rectified Cases for
mis- cases which follow-up
connection action is
being taken
---------- ---------- --------------
Yau Tsim 27 11 16
Mong District

Sham Shui 13 3 10
Po District
The EPD, in collaboration with other government departments, will continue to follow up on each case with a view to rectifying all the mis-connections.

(f)&(g) The Government has installed six dry weather flow interceptors in the storm water drainage system along the upstream area of YMTTS. They are located at the junctions of Nullah Road/Nathan Road, Portland Street/Nelson Street, Soy Street/Portland Street, Dundas Street/Portland Street, Waterloo Road/Dundas Street, and Public Square Street/Reclamation Street. These interceptors serve to intercept effluent flow in dry seasons. The recently completed Feasibility Study of the Review of West Kowloon and Tsuen Wan Sewerage Master Plans recommends a series of works targeting YMTTS to mitigate the existing water pollution and the associated odour problems. They include a trial scheme for providing an odour removal system at Cherry Street Box Culvert. Detailed design of the scheme will commence soon.

The EPD reviews regularly the WKTS’s operation and steps up odour management and inspection within the WKTS to ensure compliance with environmental standards. Apart from the air purification system for filtration and deodourisation in the waste tipping hall, we also require washing up of the bodies of refuse collection vehicles before leaving the WKTS to prevent pollution of the surrounding area.

To solve the odour problem at the SCISTW, the DSD has been upgrading its facilities. A series of enhancement works have also been implemented over the past few years to step up odour control and mitigation measures, so as to minimise the generation of odour. The mitigation measures include:

(1) the installation of chemical deodourising spray systems at all the sludge unloading bays and sedimentation tanks;

(2) the provision of biofilters at the vertical discharge chambers of the sedimentation tanks; and

(3) the provision of mobile deodourisers for equipment under maintenance to control odour from such equipment.

As a long term solution to the odour problem at SCISTW, in October 2009, the DSD awarded a works contract on providing covers for all the exposed sedimentation facilities, including sedimentation tanks, flocculation tanks, main distribution channels, effluent drop shafts and launders to eliminate odour from such facilities. The contract also includes the provision of air extraction systems and deodourising devices to extract and purify the air from the covered areas before discharge to meet the operational safety and maintenance requirements. The works progress has been good and we expect that all the covering works will be completed in phases by year 2012.

Apart from the above covering works for all the exposed sedimentation tanks at the SCISTW, the extension of the SCISTW includes providing deodourising devices in all the pump rooms and sludge treatment facilities to enhance the deodourising performance.
The Government commissioned a consultancy study in June 2010 on the planned secondary sewage treatment works under the HATS Stage 2B, including the review on the water quality, population projection and sewage flow and load. The study will put forward recommendations on planning, funding arrangements, design and construction for HATS Stage 2B. The Government will make reference to the findings of the study in drawing up the schedule for the implementation of HATS Stage 2B; and

(h) The box culvert system near the open space at Hoi Fan Road, Tai Kok Tsui is in operation and effective in relieving floods. It runs from Cornwall Street near Chak On Estate to the southwest along Nam Cheong Street, passes through Tung Chau Street Park, Nam Cheong Park and the open space at Hoi Fan Road, and discharges at the seawall outlet between Hampton Place and The Long Beach. It collects rainwater from Shek Kip Mei, Sham Shui Po and Tai Kok Tsui for direct discharge into the sea. The EPD has set up a marine monitoring station off the coast of West Kowloon to monitor the water quality regularly. The relevant water quality monitoring results are shown in our reply in paragraph (c) above.
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Old October 31st, 2010, 10:59 PM   #1063
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Sha Po Tsai Village flood probe ends (28.10.2010)
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Old November 1st, 2010, 06:33 PM   #1064
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New curbs may hit auction price
The Standard
Monday, November 01, 2010







An Inverness Road site to be auctioned on Wednesday is expected to bring the government up to HK$2.96 billion, but new rules governing how much developers can build above the gross floor area may lower prices.

Five surveyors forecast the 75,843-square-foot site bordering Kowloon Tong and Kowloon City will fetch between HK$2.5 billion and HK$2.96 billion. With a plot ratio of three, gross floor area amounts to 227,529 sq ft.

Developers on average build up to 20 percent more than the gross floor area, with the extra space allocated for a carpark, clubhouse or other amenities.

But from April 1, these facilities can take up no more than 10 percent over GFA.

Ringo Lam Chun-chiu, valuations director at AG Wilkinson & Associates, said the winning developer is "quite unlikely" to get a building plan approval before April 1.

The site's value therefore decreases by about HK$250 million to HK$2.75 billion, with an accommodation value of HK$12,086 per square foot, he said.

Given the site's special zoning, the winner will have to hand in a detailed master layout plan.

"Unless the developer is very capable, the whole process will normally take too much time for it to make the March 31 deadline," Lam said.

Faced with the risk of not getting approval in time, developers may be more conservative in bidding, said Charles Chan Chiu-kwok, a Savills managing director.

And because the site is not in the heart of Kowloon Tong, surveyors forecast its accommodation value will be lower than two Ede Road sites auctioned earlier.

The Chinese Christian Cemetery is close by, but Lam said the site's large area and low-development density will enable the winning developer to block the view of the cemetery. The Kowloon Tsai Park is also nearby.

He said the site can provide 212 homes measuring about 100 square meters with buildings no taller than 10 stories.

Centaline senior sales regional sales director May Wong Oi-yen said transactions and home viewings in Kowloon Tong doubled after the policy address, with some homeowners asking for 5 percent more.

The Bloomsville and Beverly Villa at Nga Tsin Wai Road both averaged around HK$10,000 psf.

One Beacon Hill, further away, saw seven deals last month - up from three in September- averaging HK$14,300 psf, according to Hong Kong Property.
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Old November 2nd, 2010, 12:15 PM   #1065
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Investigations into flooding at Sha Po Tsai Village completed
Government Press Release
Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Drainage Services Department (DSD) has completed its investigation into the flooding incident at Sha Po Tsai Village in Tai Po which occurred on July 22 this year. An independent review of the DSD's investigation conducted by a hydraulics expert has also been completed. A summary of the investigation was uploaded to the websites of the Development Bureau (DEVB) and the DSD for public perusal today (October 28).

During the Black Rainstorm on July 22, serious flooding occurred at Sha Po Tsai Village. The Administration is deeply concerned about the incident which resulted in one fatality and damage to property.

After the incident, the Development Bureau directed the DSD to carry out an investigation into the causes of the flooding. The Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, appointed an internationally renowned hydraulics expert, Professor Joseph Lee Hun-wei, to conduct an independent review of the investigation report. The DSD's investigation report and Professor Lee's independent review report were submitted to the Development Bureau in August and October respectively.

In the course of the investigation, the DSD conducted a thorough review of the drainage regime around Sha Po Tsai Village, the improvement works completed before July 22 as well as the degrees of blockage and damage to Tai Po River resulting from the flooding event. With the information collected, the DSD constructed a mathematical hydraulic model to assess the effects that the blockages at the bridges, the interim drainage works and the erosion/deposition had on the flooding situation.

Professor Lee carried out an independent review of the DSD's investigation report on the causes of the flooding, the effect of the river training works on the flooding situation, the sources of the coarse sediment, the appropriateness of the construction sequence, and the adequacy of the improvement measures completed or to be carried out by the DSD.

In the course of the review, Professor Lee made site visits, interviewed relevant villagers and collected information on the flooding event, the flooding history of Sha Po Tsai Village, as well as the construction activities of the drainage improvement works. With the information collected, Professor Lee deployed different kinds of state-of-the-art hydraulic modelling techniques developed in hydraulic research in recent years to simulate the flash flood in the incident.

A spokesman for the Development Bureau said the Coroner had instructed the Hong Kong Police Force on July 26 to carry out an investigation and submit a death investigation report to him within six months.

"At the moment, the Administration cannot rule out the possibility of a Coroner's inquest into the fatality. In order not to affect the conduct of a possible death inquest or possible criminal investigation, the investigation report and the independent review report will not be disclosed to the public at this stage," the spokesman said.

"However, the Administration has prepared a summary of factual information which covers the methodology of the DSD's investigation as well as the relief work and improvement measures following the rainstorm. The summary has been uploaded to the website of DEVB (www.devb.gov.hk) and DSD (www.dsd.gov.hk) for public perusal."

Immediately after the flooding incident, the DSD carried out flood relief work to help restore to normal the daily lives of the affected villagers as early as possible.

"The relief work includes reinstating pedestrian accesses and railings, clearing blockages at bridge crossings, and clearing sediment and boulders deposited along the river. In addition, the DSD has assisted the villagers to clean up and repair their houses that had been affected by the flooding.

"The DSD aims to carry out as much improvement work to the Tai Po River as possible in the coming dry season to further raise the level of flood protection prior to the completion of all the drainage works by end 2011," the spokesman said.

The department has also completed a review of its on-going river improvement works in various parts of the territory, and is satisfied that the flow carrying capacities of these rivers will not be adversely affected by their construction works during heavy downpours.

"These river improvement works will not increase the risks of flooding of their works areas. Nevertheless, temporary drainage management plans have been put in place under the respective works contracts to ensure that the flow carrying capacities of the concerned rivers will not be adversely affected by the works," the spokesman said.
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Old November 3rd, 2010, 08:42 PM   #1066
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Mortgage costs on the rise
The Standard
Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Lenders look set to follow Standard Chartered Bank's mortgage rate hike to reflect higher costs and risks, bankers said.

StanChart, which was offering an interbank mortgage rate of Hibor plus 0.7 percent, yesterday raised it to Hibor plus 0.8 to 1 percent, following a property bubble warning by Hong Kong Monetary Authority chief executive Norman Chan Tak-lam.

Based on the latest one-month Hongkong interbank offered rate, the lender's new rates will be 1 to 1.2 percent.

The mild hike is unlikely to impact property prices even if other banks follow suit, Swire Properties' senior sales manager Wendy Ho said.

Hong Kong's interest rates are still low and the currency is cheap, she said.

Bank of East Asia (0023) has no plans to follow suit, but will continue to monitor the market. Currently it offers Hibor plus 0.85 to 0.9 percent.

Robbie Choi Yee-chuen, Wing Lung Bank's head of mortgage and personal loans, said home loan rates are likely to rise by the year-end on cost concerns.

"For one, the Deposit Protection Scheme will surely end this year. Without it, banks will pay more to get funds."

He said banks need to raise mortgage rates slightly to make a profit. While Choi played down the need to raise rates because of risks, ICBC (Asia) (0349) director Stanley Wong Yuen-fai told a radio station the rapid surge in home prices has brought risks for lenders.

Past property price surges have seen banks move with speed to raise rates.

Wong said other loans - including those to mainland firms - have seen considerable growth this year and brought better returns than mortgages.

Based on existing market conditions, he expects mortgage rates to rise to Hibor plus 1 percent.

But an industry source said it is about right for mortgage rates to range from Hibor plus 0.6 percent to 0.8 percent. Banks will not raise rates too much as this may hurt their competitiveness.

The source said the move by StanChart could means that it has already secured a targeted level of market share this year.

The lender ranked fourth with a 10.1 percent share of mortgages for completed homes in the first 10 months, said Ivy Wong Mei-fung, Centaline Mortgage Broker managing director.
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Old November 4th, 2010, 09:04 AM   #1067
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MTR vow on double trouble at Admiralty
4 November 2010
The Standard





Construction work will start next year to expand Admiralty MTR station in preparation for its role as an interchange for four lines.

Admiralty is already handling the Island and Tsuen Wan lines, and the new South Island and Sha Tin-Central routes will join them.

Work is expected to finish in 2015, and one planner pledged yesterday to try to keep disruptions in the area to a minimum.

The expansion to the station will mean it doubling in size.

Total space will increase to 20,000 square meters from the 9,000 at present.

Four new platforms will be installed as well as more than 30 additional escalators.

``The station will become an important interchange hub and will provide an easy and convenient connection to the existing MTR network,'' said Peter Leung Man-fat, design manager for the South Island Line.

It will take passengers less than three minutes to walk from the lowest-level South Island Line platform to the upper three platforms, he said.

Apart from the underground expansion, features above ground are set for a major remake.

The new Harcourt Garden is to be closed during the five-year construction period, and when it reopens it will have a landscaped deck that connects directly to the nearby footbridge system.

The open area will also be expanded by 70 percent with more greenery.

``Members of the public will be able to enjoy the broader space and greener landscaping in the garden,'' Leung said.

He added that MTR Corp ``will minimize the construction disruption.''

Leung did not disclose what the Admiralty project is likely to cost because, he said, the budget hinges on a detailed design agreed by the government. But the yuan's rise will not affect it, he added.

The seven-kilometer South Island Line (East) will be a medium-capacity operation able to handle 20,000 passengers an hour in each direction.

There will be four stations: at Ocean Park, Wong Chuk Hang _ which will have train sheds and a maintenance depot _ Lei Tung and South Horizons.
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Old November 4th, 2010, 08:47 PM   #1068
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New rule puts damper on Kowloon land sale
Chinachem buys residential site for HK$2.17b

4 November 2010
South China Morning Post

New rules on floor area resulted in a lacklustre land auction yesterday as a luxury residential site in Kowloon Tong sold for HK$2.17 billion - at the bottom of the forecast range.

Chinachem Group outbid Tai Cheung Holdings and two anonymous bidders to win the site at Inverness Road for HK$9,537 per square foot. Surveyors had forecast the site could fetch HK$2.06 billion to HK$3 billion, or HK$9,054 to HK$13,185 per square foot. Major developers Cheung Kong (Holdings), Kerry Properties, Nan Fung Development and New World Development did not join the bidding.

The auction got off to a slow start as developers seemed reluctant to place their bids. That forced the auctioneer to lower the increment twice and warn that the site could be withdrawn from auction.

"Developers were cautious because of the new rules capping the amount of common area," Ng Shung-mo, sales manager at Chinachem, said. "The land price is reasonable based on this new rule."

Under the new rules, features such as balconies, utility platforms and clubhouses - previously exempt from gross floor area calculations - should not exceed 10 per cent of the gross floor area of a development. Developers have been known to inflate the saleable floor area by 20 to 50 per cent to generate more profit.

If developers want to dodge the new rule, they have to secure the building plan from the Buildings Department before the rule comes into effect in April next year. But Ng said Chinachem is likely to miss the deadline as it needs to get Town Planning Board clearance before going to the Buildings Department.

The land has been zoned as comprehensive development area (CDA), said Nicholas Brooke, chairman of Professional Property Services. This means all development on the site has to get approval from the Town Planning Board.

"This site is not as clean and tidy as the ones in Kowloon Tong that were sold previously," he said.

"The developer has to submit a master layout plan of the project to the Town Planning Board for approval. [As a result,] the development could be delayed. It [is also what] brought the price down."

Brooke believes developers will still aggressively bid for a plot if it is clean and not complicated, in the sense that it does not need Town Planning Board clearance, which adds an extra layer to the approval process for the developer. "But they won't be as aggressive as before since the government has imposed a cap on the development potential."

It is the third Kowloon Tong site sold in less than three months. The last two were sold at record prices. One was bought by Chinachem for HK$1.63 billion, or HK$17,976 per square foot, last month.

Ng said Chinachem planned to invest HK$3 billion in the project.

Meanwhile, Cheung Kong executive director Grace Woo Chia-ching said last night the new government measures had caused uncertainties in the market and could further reduce flat supply.

"The industry is hoping to talk with the government about the operational details of the new measures," she said, but added that calling for a judicial review would not be the way to overturn them.

"The most direct effect is that once they come into practice, flat supply will be cut as the original floor space for building flats will now be used for building car parks," she said.
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Old November 7th, 2010, 04:50 AM   #1069
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Tuen Mun plant to take brunt of sewage toll on landfills
28 October 2010



The new sludge treatment facility to be built in Tuen Mun will be able to handle up to 2,000 tonnes of sewage each day, easing the burden on landfills and noses, Secretary for the Environment Edward Yau Tang-wah said.

The seven-hectare facility in Tsang Tsui is expected to reduce the volume of sludge being disposed of in landfills by 90 percent.

Construction of the HK$4.96 billion plant, which will use advanced European Union incineration technology, will be completed by 2013.

Thermal energy generated from incineration will be converted into electricity to fully supply the plant's needs, while the excess will be fed into the power grid.

The sludge facility, which will have a streamlined wave-form design to blend into its waterside location, will also have an environmental education center to give its visitors insight into operations at the plant, an exhibition room as well as a lecture theater.

It will also include a water spa center for visitors and an ecological garden, which can double as a habitat for water birds.

Speaking after the contract-signing ceremony, Yau estimated 1,000 tonnes of sludge will not be dumped in landfills once the facility is up and running.

He also said the government will speed up environmental impact assessments on the site proposed for the Tsang Tsui incinerator as well as for another at Shek Kwu Chau on Lantau before deciding on location and numbers this year.
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Old November 7th, 2010, 08:22 PM   #1070
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Banks join StanChart in home move
The Standard
Thursday, November 04, 2010

The stage has been set for a wave of mortgage rate increases after Hang Seng Bank (0011) followed quickly on the heels of Standard Chartered Bank (Hong Kong) to raise its rate while Wing Lung Bank is set to follow.

Hang Seng hiked its mortgage rate yesterday to Hong Kong interbank offered rate plus 0.8 to 1 percent, on par with StanChart's offer.

The lender did not have a specific mortgage range before and the change offers clients more transparent information, a spokeswoman said.

"There is higher demand for loans in the market," she said, adding the hike has nothing to do with mortgage or property market risks.

Robbie Choi Yee-chuen, Wing Lung head of mortgage and personal loans, said its HIBOR mortgage rate will be raised to a level in line with the two bigger rivals, most likely this week. The lender's current mortgage rate is HIBOR plus 0.7 percent. One-month HIBOR stood at 0.19 percent yesterday.

"Banks' net interest margins have been rather slim due to the extended low interest rate environment," Choi said, noting capital costs have risen.

He said it is hard to predict the final levels of mortgage rates after this wave of hikes ends, but noted the current increase of around 0.2 percentage point is insignificant for homeowners.

"With just sporadic and mild rate increases, there shouldn't be any impact on the property market," Choi said.

Pan Asian associate director Benny Wong Wing-tai said for many homeowners the increase is only 0.1 point and that additional monthly repayment for someone with a HK$1 million mortgage is around HK$20.

Wong said it is unlikely that all lenders will raise their mortgage rates as many smaller banks still need to improve their results, unlike StanChart and Hang Seng, which have already met their targets.

HSBC, Bank of East Asia (0023), DBS Bank (Hong Kong), Citibank, ICBC (Asia) (0349) Dah Sing Bank and Fubon Bank have kept their rates unchanged.
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Old November 10th, 2010, 02:29 PM   #1071
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LCQ14: Implementation of green roof projects for government buildings
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Government Press Release

Following is a question by the Hon Lau Kong-wah and a written reply by the Secretary for Development, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (November 14):

Question:

It has been reported that green buildings have become very prevalent in recent years. Recently, I have also received requests from some residents of the Sha Tin District for greening the rooftops of the Sha Tin Town Hall and the Sha Tin Public Library. They pointed out that greening rooftops could beautify the environment on the one hand and provide more leisure open space on the other. Furthermore, they can help lower the room temperature in the buildings concerned, reduce energy consumption and promote environmental protection. The Government once said that the Architectural Services Department (ASD) would implement green roof projects for new government buildings as far as practicable since 2001. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the number of green roof projects implemented for government buildings in Hong Kong since 2001; of the number of such projects to be carried out in the next three years;

(b) of the percentage of the number of government buildings for which green roof projects have been implemented in the total number of government buildings in Hong Kong at present; whether ASD will explore the possibility of adding green features to the rooftops of all existing government buildings, so as to benefit more people; and

(c) in order to attenuate the urban heat island effect, whether the authorities will consider including roof greening in the standard construction specifications for new government buildings, in particular cultural and recreational facilities, so as to make an extra effort for the cause of environmental protection?

Reply:

President,

Hong Kong is a densely populated place. To beautify the environment and attenuate the heat island effect, the Government has been actively promoting greening in recent years. In view of the limited space available for planting in the urban areas, we have been proactively promoting innovative greening techniques, such as roof greening, to enhance the urban environment.

My reply to the three parts of the question is as follows:

(a) From 2001 onwards, the Architectural Services Department (ASD) has, where practicable, incorporated roof greening in the design of new buildings if there is adequate usable rooftop space, after taking into account the actual conditions (such as the rooftop loading capacity, structural safety, the drainage and irrigation arrangements, and the building height). Starting from 2006, the ASD has further encouraged departments which manage existing government buildings to incorporate roof greening works into their roof refurbishment projects if the building structure, availability of rooftop space and waterproof design etc. so permit. Other works departments have also implemented roof greening works, where practicable, in appropriate building projects. As at end October 2010, a total of 159 government buildings maintained by the works departments had green roofs. In addition, the works departments are currently undertaking roof greening works at 62 government buildings (including new buildings and buildings under refurbishment). Planning and design of roof greening works for another 32 government buildings are underway for implementation within the next three years.

(b) At present, the works departments are responsible for the maintenance of some 8,500 government buildings. New buildings completed in recent years account for only a small proportion, while most buildings are at least 10 years old. About 159 of these buildings (about 2%) have green roofs. For buildings already in existence, if they require any roof refurbishment works in future, the departments concerned will consider carrying out roof greening works under the established policy, taking into account the actual circumstances and technical feasibility.

(c) As explained above, it is the current practice of the works departments concerned (e.g. ASD, Drainage Services Department and Water Supplies Department) to proactively consider incorporating roof greening features into building projects under their purview. Notwithstanding, it would be difficult to impose a mandatory requirement on all building projects to install green roofs since there may be practical and technical constraints from some of the projects. To further promote roof greening in government and private building projects, the Greening and Landscape Office (GLO) under the Development Bureau coordinates with the departments concerned in conducting research on roof greening techniques (e.g. suitable plant species and plant growth medium) and disseminating the research findings. The GLO also organises professional seminars to promote these techniques to the landscaping sector, professionals and government officers, with a view to promoting roof greening technologies by lowering the technical thresholds.
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Old November 11th, 2010, 01:21 PM   #1072
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LCQ9: Levy of profits tax on profits arising from property speculation
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Press Release

Following is a question by the Hon Paul Chan Mo-po and a written reply by the Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, Professor K C Chan, in the Legislative Council today (November 10):

Question:

Since April 1 this year, the Government has increased the rate of stamp duty on transactions of properties valued at more than $20 million to 4.25%. On April 21 this year, the Financial Secretary also told this Council that the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) would closely follow up all cases involving speculators profiting from property speculation, and profits tax would be levied on the persons or companies earning profits arising from such transactions. The Financial Secretary also indicated that in 2008-2009, some 4,000 suspected speculation cases required further follow-up action by IRD officers. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the number of the relevant property transactions recorded and the amount of stamp duty collected by the Government since the aforesaid new rate of stamp duty on property transactions was levied six months ago, and how such figures compare with those of the same period last year;

(b) among the some 4,000 aforesaid suspected speculation cases which IRD has followed up, of the numbers of cases substantiated to be speculation cases, cases pending decision and cases proved not involving speculation; in respect of the substantiated speculation cases, of the amount of tax involved, the amount of tax collected, and the number of cases in which tax was not successfully recovered as well as the Government's follow-up actions; and

(c) in cases where the seller is not a Hong Kong resident or a company registered in Hong Kong, whether the Government will consider requiring the lawyer, when processing the transaction for the seller, to withhold a certain percentage of the seller's proceeds until the seller has paid the profits tax or IRD has issued a certificate confirming that the seller does not need to pay tax?

Reply:

President,

(a) From April 1 to October 31, 2010, the total number of property transactions valued more than $20 million as recorded by the Stamp Office of the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) was 3,223, representing an increase of 86% over the same period of last year. The amount of stamp duty involved was $6.16 billion, representing an increase of 127% over the same period of last year.

(b) In 2008-09, 4,300 cases of suspected property speculation were identified through IRD's computer programme and initial review by IRD officers. As at end of October 2010, IRD completed the examination of 3,600 cases with the remaining 700 cases still being processed. Of those 3,600 examined cases, 1,600 cases were considered not taxable. Of the other 2,000 cases found to be chargeable to tax for profits derived from property transactions, 350 cases were already reported in the tax returns filed by the taxpayers. IRD has issued tax assessments for the remaining 1,650 taxable cases, and the amount of profits tax involved is $410 million. However, IRD does not keep statistics on the amount of profits tax collected in this regard.

For overdue tax, IRD would take various recovery actions immediately, including imposing a surcharge; issuing recovery notices to the third parties (such as the defaulting taxpayer's banker, employer or debtor) requesting them to transfer money held on account of the defaulting taxpayer to IRD for payment of the outstanding tax; and applying to the District Court to institute civil proceedings. If the judgement debt remains unsettled, IRD will issue a writ of fieri facias to levy execution against the movable properties of the defaulting taxpayer; or apply for a charging order on the immovable properties belonging to the defaulting taxpayer. IRD may also initiate bankruptcy or liquidation proceedings for the default cases, and may apply to the District Court for a direction to prevent the defaulting taxpayer from departing Hong Kong.

(c) Hong Kong adopts all along a territorial source principle of taxation, and strives to maintain a fair taxation system. Any persons, irrespective of whether they are residents of Hong Kong or companies incorporated in Hong Kong, carrying on a trade, profession or business in Hong Kong are chargeable to profits tax on their profits arising in or derived from Hong Kong. Imposing withholding tax arrangement only on non-Hong Kong residents and companies incorporated outside Hong Kong for their purchase/sale of Hong Kong properties would violate the fairness principle of Hong Kong's tax regime.
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Old November 11th, 2010, 03:41 PM   #1073
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Raging river reports to stay under wraps
29 October 2010
The Standard

Authorities are citing legal reasons for their refusal to release reports on a deadly flood at a Tai Po village in July.

An investigation report and an independent review report will not be disclosed ``at this stage'' because of the possibilities of there being a criminal investigation and an inquest, said Permanent Secretary for Development (Works) Wai Chi-sing

A 50-year-old Sha Po Tsai villager, Lam Wing-wick, died in the flash floods brought by a July 22 rainstorm. More than a dozen people were stranded in a Tai Po River surge.

A report by hydraulics expert Joseph Lee Hun-wei went to the Development Bureau after he made site visits and collected data on upriver activities related to drainage- improvement works.

Using a mathematical model to simulate the situation, Lee yesterday talked of a ``scary flood'' and said its scale was very rare.

Director of Drainage Services Chan Chi-chiu said relief work has been done in the wake of the flood, including reinstating pedestrian accesses and railings, clearing blockages at bridge crossings,and shifting boulders deposited along the river.

He did not mention a compensation procedure for affected villagers and refused to comment on ideas that the drainage works caused the flash flood.
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Old November 14th, 2010, 06:02 PM   #1074
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Effort to prevent housing bubble in China diverts buyers to Hong Kong growth pains
9 November 2010
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-1...ss-border.html

"The reaction has never been as good," said Lam, who credits the interest to the Shenzhen government's September 30 announcement that it was restricting home purchases by most local residents to two units. Lam, the regional project associate director at Centaline Property Agency, said almost half of the visitors had made appointments to look at properties in Hong Kong, or left contact details.

China's effort to prevent a housing bubble in cities such as Shenzhen, the country's first special economic zone, is hampering Hong Kong's own battle to curb a 50 percent surge in home prices since early 2009. Chinese buyers accounted for a third of new luxury home purchases in the first half, up from about 20 percent in the previous six months, Centaline said.

"More curbs in the mainland will trigger more funds to move across the border," said Eddie Hui, a professor in the real estate and construction department at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. "All that money needs a way out. There's a strong belief among mainland Chinese that investing in property is the best way to preserve capital value."

The Hang Seng property index, which tracks seven developers in Hong Kong, fell 1.3 percent on Tuesday as Beijing announced curbs on foreign currency inflows. The gauge is up 18 percent this year.

Taxes and showrooms

China unexpectedly raised borrowing costs last month for the first time since 2007. Consumer prices jumped 3.6 percent in September from a year earlier, while home prices in 70 Chinese cities rose 9.1 percent in September from a year earlier, even after officials extended curbs on property purchases.

In September, China told commercial banks to stop offering loans to buyers of third homes and extended a 30 percent down-payment requirement to all first-home buyers.

Beijing might start levying a property tax on a trial basis before March next year, the China Securities Journal reported last month, citing Nie Meisheng, the president of the China Real Estate Chamber of Commerce. The government said in September it would speed up the introduction of a trial property tax in some cities and then expand the levy to the whole country.

Hong Kong is a trade and financial hub for the mainland with its own legal and currency systems. Its population of 7.1 million is dwarfed by China's 1.3 billion people.

Hong Kong developers are increasing efforts to lure mainland buyers. Sun Hung Kai Properties, the territory's biggest developer, had sold about 300 houses in a luxury project in Sheung Shui, a district close to the Shenzhen border, since sales began early last month, the company said.

The company, which set up a showroom in Shenzhen with agents, models and artists' impressions of the project, estimated that as many as 60 percent of the buyers were from the mainland or Hong Kong businessmen who based their businesses across the border, said Andy Chan, a senior sales and marketing manager.

Henderson Land Development had also held regular roadshows in "multiple locations", including Shenzhen, to promote its Hong Kong projects, spokeswoman Bonnie Ngan said.

"If you can identify where those Chinese investment dollars are going next, you'll make a fortune," Michael Klibaner, the head of China research at Jones Lang Lasalle, said at the Hedge Funds Asia Summit last month. "You're talking about a tremendous amount of money. Wherever it goes, asset appreciation would follow."

Millionaire ranks

The number of millionaires in China climbed 6.1 percent year on year to 875 000, the Hurun Report said in April. China has the second-most billionaires after the US, according to Forbes magazine.

Hong Kong home prices have more than doubled from a trough in 2003 on a recovering economy, low interest rates and an influx of mainland Chinese buyers whose travel restrictions to the city have been gradually relaxed. Prior to 2003, home values went through a slump that began shortly after the Asian financial crisis hit in 1997, the height of the previous bubble.

Concerns that housing may become unaffordable for the majority of Hong Kong's population have forced the government of Chief Executive Donald Tsang to bring in curbs to rein in prices. The measures include stopping offers of residency to foreigners who buy property in the city and a plan to build more apartments for first-time property buyers, both of which Tsang unveiled last month.

Halting the residency eligibility would not do much to cool Hong Kong prices, said Cusson Leung, an analyst at Credit Suisse. "Most mainlanders invest in Hong Kong through their relatives or their business. I don't see how changing that will have any meaningful impact."

The city's residential property prices were likely to gain 30 percent from now until the end of 2011 because a weaker dollar would boost asset inflation, Leung and Joyce Kwock wrote in a Credit Suisse note to clients this week.

"The pool of money will always be there and they're always looking for speculative opportunities," said Eric Wong at UBS. "If you shut down one possible destination then, naturally, they'll have to find somewhere else to move into, and there's a chance more of those funds would flow into Hong Kong."
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Old November 15th, 2010, 05:26 AM   #1075
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Lam bites over flats `slip'
The Standard
Monday, November 15, 2010

Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has chided a developer for a "Freudian slip" in saying new rules on gross floor area may affect the supply of flats.

On a Commercial Radio program yesterday, Lam reiterated that the new rules, to come into effect in April following a consultation of the industry, will not affect the supply of private flats.

Earlier this month, Cheung Kong executive director Grace Woo Chia- ching said the new government measures could reduce flat supply.

Under current practice, car parks for the use of occupants and their visitors are exempt from gross floor area calculations. But the government has proposed that, from April, only underground car parks will be exempted while those on the ground floor will have a 50 percent concession.

Woo said that when the new rules are in place, part of the floor area will have to be set aside for car parks instead of for building flats.

Apparently responding to the developer's comment without naming her, Lam said: "I really feel that the one who said it was making a Freudian slip."

She said the current practice of exempting certain facilities is aimed at making developers incorporate more environmentally friendly features and amenities so that residents can enjoy a more comfortable living environment.

The policy, she pointed out, exempts the floor area of clubhouses, wider corridors, sky gardens, and podium gardens, but "it has never increased the supply [of flats]."

"Why is it that when we slightly tighten the controls now, it will affect the supply? I don't quite get it."

Under the new rules, features such as balconies, lift lobbies and clubhouses, previously exempted from the gross floor area's calculations, should not exceed 10 percent of the gross floor area of a development.

The government has come up with these measures as developers have been known to inflate the saleable floor area to generate more profit by taking advantage of the exemptions.

Asked to comment on Lam's remarks, another Cheung Kong executive director, Justin Chiu Kwok-hung, said Woo had meant to say that more flats can be built if there is a larger gross floor area.

A government-appointed steering committee on regulating the sale of first- hand residential flats through legislation will have its first meeting today.

The 14-member committee will discuss issues such as the use of salable floor area as the only basis for listing the price per square foot to avoid misleading buyers in the coming year.

Meanwhile, on an RTHK program, Chinachem Group chairman Kung Yan- sum blamed the high property prices on the exorbitant cost of land.
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Old November 17th, 2010, 04:50 AM   #1076
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Work starts on law covering flat sales
The Standard
Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A steering committee on regulating the sale of new homes will complete its work by October next year, with some members hoping a law may be enacted soon after.

The government-appointed Steering Committee on the Regulation of the Sale of First-hand Residential Properties by Legislation, chaired by Permanent Secretary for Transport and Housing Duncan Pescod, will submit a report to Secretary for Transport and Housing Eva Cheng Yu-wah.

After its inaugural meeting yesterday, committee member Lee Wing-tat, a Democratic Party legislator, said he hopes discussions will move swiftly so the report can be ready next summer.

The government can then table a bill a couple of months later, so that the legislative process may be completed by the summer of 2012.

Lee proposes criminalizing acts of providing false or misleading information to prospective homebuyers.

"It is illegal to sell short-weight food. A flat may cost several million to more than HK$10 million," he said.

"It is reasonable to make it a criminal offense if a developer provides misleading or false information."

There are subcommittees on property information and show flats, sales arrangements and practices, as well as enforcement mechanism and penalties.

Another committee member, lawmaker Patrick Lau Sau-shing of the architectural, surveying and planning sector, also hopes that the legislation can be completed as soon as possible.

A spokesman for the Transport and Housing Bureau said committee members will discuss the scope of the legislation as well as requirements on sales brochures, price lists, show flats and promotional materials.

The enforcement agency, law enforcement mechanism and the nature and levels of penalties will also be on the agenda, he said.
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Old November 19th, 2010, 03:48 AM   #1077
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IMF warns on Hong Kong property
19 November 2010
The Wall Street Journal Asia

HONG KONG -- The International Monetary Fund warned it sees increasing risks of a property bubble in Hong Kong due to continued liquidity inflows and rock-bottom interest rates coupled with tight housing supply, and it urged the city's government to take further measures to rein in the real-estate market if asset-price inflation continues.

The IMF said in its annual review of the Hong Kong economy that while the city has returned to robust growth, it sees rising inflationary pressures fueled in large part by soaring property prices and a stronger Chinese yuan.

"These pricing pressures will become increasingly visible in the coming months, with inflation expected to reach around 5% by end-2011," the IMF said in its review.

The organization said it expects Hong Kong's gross domestic product to expand 6.75% this year, with growth moderating to 5%-5.5% in 2011.

The Hong Kong dollar's peg to the U.S. dollar will create challenges in preventing inflation and property-price bubbles, the IMF said. The fixed exchange rate means Hong Kong essentially imports the current low interest rates set by the U.S. Federal Reserve.

"Hong Kong has monetary policy determined by the U.S. in an economy growing much faster than the U.S.," said Nigel Chalk, a senior adviser to the IMF.

However, the IMF also said it continues to support Hong Kong's fixed exchange-rate system as it has proved to be a robust anchor of monetary and financial stability.

Mr. Chalk said the organization's main concern is the rapid increase in property prices in Hong Kong. For now, though, the IMF said prices don't reflect "misalignment or disequilibrium."

Tight land supply, low interest rates, rising incomes and rising rents all justify the increase in housing prices, he said.

The IMF is concerned that if property prices continue to rise at roughly 20% a year, as they have done in the past two years, it could create a disruptive scenario when the economy slows, Mr. Chalk said.

In the report released Thursday, the IMF said the sharp increase in housing prices over the past 18 months has raised the prospect of a market bubble.

"Initially, this property-price inflation was concentrated in the luxury segment of the market but has now filtered down to the mass market," the IMF said in the report. It said luxury-home prices are already about 10% above the levels reached in 1997, when prices peaked before the Asian financial crisis, and mass-market prices are fast approaching their historical peaks.

"Our concern isn't now, it's a prospective concern," Mr. Chalk said.

The popularity of what are known as Hibor mortgages, in which the interest rate floats according to the benchmark Hong Kong interbank offered rates, creates added risk on homeowners in a downturn. Slowing economic growth in Hong Kong and China, combined with a healthy economy in the U.S., would mean falling home prices with rising interest rates, Mr. Chalk said.
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Old November 19th, 2010, 02:04 PM   #1078
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Special stamp duty to curb speculation in residential properties
Friday, November 19, 2010
Government Press Release

A Government spokesman said today (November 19) that the Government would introduce a Special Stamp Duty (SSD) on residential properties to curb speculation.

The Government will amend the Stamp Duty Ordinance (the Ordinance) by introducing, on top of the current ad valorem property transaction stamp duty, an SSD on residential properties of all values at the point of resale if the properties are acquired on or after November 20, 2010 and resold within 24 months after acquisition.

The SSD will have three levels of regressive rates for different holding periods -

(i) 15% if the property has been held for six months or less;

(ii) 10% if the property has been held for more than six months but for 12 months or less; and

(iii) 5% if the property has been held for more than 12 months but for 24 months or less;

"We propose that both the seller and the buyer, be it an individual or a company, will be held jointly and severally liable for the SSD. This is in line with the current law," the spokesman said.

To deter non-compliance, the existing statutory sanctions under the Ordinance will be extended to cover the SSD. Any person who fails to pay the SSD by the deadline for payment shall be liable to penalties up to 10 times the amount of the SSD payable. The evasion of SSD by fraudulent practise shall be a criminal offence, as with the evasion of normal stamp duty under the existing Ordinance.

Moreover, further to the disallowance of deferred payment of stamp duty for all residential property transactions valued at more than $20 million with effect from April 1, 2010, deferred payment of the current ad valorem property transaction stamp duty for all residential property transactions valued at $20 million or below will not be allowed. The stamp duty has to be paid within 30 days after the signing of the Agreement for Sale and Purchase.

Apart from the aforementioned new measures relating to stamp duty, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority will continue to closely monitor the market situation and make adjustments to the risk management guidelines for banks.

The Government has been monitoring the development of the private residential property market closely and remains vigilant on the risks of a property bubble. Various measures have already been introduced at different stages since February this year to ensure the healthy and stable development of the property market. While these measures are taking effect, owing to extraordinary external factors, the private residential property market is still volatile.

"More worryingly, the exuberant state of the property market has spread to the mass market. The current property boom is fuelled by a heavy element of speculative activities, as suggested by the 32% surge in the number of 'resales within 24 months' in the first nine months of 2010, as compared with the same period in 2009. Within the total, the number of 'resales within 12 months' surged by an even more rapid 114%, indicating a shift in speculative activities to a shorter horizon. Also, there is a higher incidence of short-term resales in the lower end market, with 84% of the short-term resale within 12 months in the first half of 2010 being transactions below $3 million," he said.

With the announcement by the United States Federal Reserve on the launching of the second round of "quantitative easing" amounting to US$600 billion on November 3, 2010, more funds are expected to flow to the emerging markets, in particular Hong Kong, given the strong economic fundamentals and absence of capital control here.

Taking into account these developments, the Government considered it necessary to introduce further measures targeted at speculators, including special stamp duty on the sale of residential properties within 24 months after acquisition, to curb speculative activities, reduce the risk of the development of an asset bubble and ensure the healthy and stable operation of the property market. At the same time, genuine home buyers and long term investors should not be affected by these measures.

The Government expects that these measures will send a clear signal to anyone minded to make quick profits through speculating in the Hong Kong property market, and they will have to reckon with these measures and other possible measures that the Government will adopt as and when necessary.
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Old November 20th, 2010, 05:03 PM   #1079
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Hong Kong Increases Tax on Property Resold Within Two Years to Cool Market
Bloomberg
By Kelvin Wong and Sophie Leung - Nov 20, 2010

Hong Kong intensified a yearlong battle to curb surging home prices with additional taxes and higher down payments a day after the International Monetary Fund warned that asset inflation may derail the city’s economy.

Homes sold within six months of purchase will incur a 15 percent stamp duty from today, Financial Secretary John Tsang said in a briefing yesterday. Down payments for homes costing HK$12 million ($1.5 million) or more will rise to 50 percent, from 40 percent. A stock gauge of developers in Hong Kong fell for the eighth day in nine ahead of the announcements.

“The measures will likely have the biggest and most lasting impact on property prices seen to date,” Donna Kwok, a Hong Kong-based economist at HSBC Holdings Plc, said in a report. “Hong Kong has jumped onto the band wagon of Asian central banks and is erecting its own defenses to fend off the flood” of capital from the U.S. easing.

Governments from South Korea to Brazil are seeking to stem fund inflows into their higher-yielding markets after the U.S. Federal Reserve’s expanded monetary stimulus. Hong Kong is acting after home prices rose more than 50 percent since the beginning of 2009. The island’s currency peg to the dollar prevents its de-facto central bank from raising interest rates.

Curbing Threats

“The unusual surge in flat prices has attracted speculators; this coupled with quantitative easing measures have distorted the market expectation regarding inflation and asset prices,” Tsang said. “The government is resolute in maintaining economic stability and curbing any threat to people’s livelihoods.”

Policy makers in Singapore share Tsang’s concern that housing price gains may make homes unaffordable to locals. In August, Singapore tightened mortgages and levied a stamp duty on all sales of residential units and land within three years of the purchase date.

The Hang Seng Property Index, which tracks the city’s seven-biggest builders, fell 1.3 percent yesterday to the lowest since Oct. 29. It has declined 7.6 percent since this year’s peak on Nov. 8. It ended the week 4.1 percent lower, its biggest weekly drop since the five days ended May 7.

Stamp Duty

Properties resold within 6 months to 12 months will incur a 10 percent stamp duty, while those resold from 12 months to 24 months will be charged 5 percent, Tsang said yesterday. The stamp duty will be split between buyers and sellers, he said.

Down payments for homes costing between HK$8 million and HK$12 million will be increased to 40 percent from 30 percent, Hong Kong Monetary Authority Chief Executive Norman Chan said yesterday. The maximum loan to value for non-owner occupied residential properties will be lowered to 50 percent, Chan said.

‘Deter Speculation’

The additional stamp duty “is quite substantial and is a way to deter speculation,” said Benedict Ma, Hong Kong-based associate director of research at CB Richard Ellis Group Inc., the world’s biggest real-estate services firm. “Investors, especially those in the luxury market, will have to reassess whether this is really the right time to get into the market.”

Government-backed Hong Kong Mortgage Corp. will introduce a cap of HK$6.8 million on the value of properties it covers, it said in a statement.

The new measures would “impact on market sentiment, leading to a fall in home sales volume,” said David Ng, a Hong Kong-based property analyst at Royal Bank of Scotland Plc. “Home prices won’t see a decline immediately as speculators could still keep their stocks in the low interest rate environment.”

The IMF said in a report this week Hong Kong’s accelerating asset inflation risks causing a bust that leads to deflation and an extended economic “downturn,” and urged further measures to rein in prices. The city has raised down-payment ratios and boosted land supply to curb prices, which surpassed a 1997 peak on the back of record-low mortgage rates and an influx of mainland Chinese buyers.

Hong Kong Measures

In April, Hong Kong raised the tax on homes selling for more than HK$20 million to 4.25 percent from 3.75 percent.

The government announced Aug. 13 it’s tightening lending rules on luxury and investment properties and increasing land supply to curb prices. Down payments for apartments costing HK$12 million or more and for investment properties were raised to 40 percent, from 30 percent.

Home prices have since risen 5 percent, according to Centaline Property Agency Ltd., the city’s biggest privately held real-estate brokerage.

Cooling measures have come “late,” said Justin Chiu, executive director at Cheung Kong (Holdings) Ltd., controlled by Hong Kong’s richest man Li Ka-shing. The measures target short- term speculation, which was less than 5 percent of total home sales, Chiu said yesterday.

Supply Boost

Chief Executive Donald Tsang said in his Oct. 13 policy address the government will stop offering residency to foreigners who buy property in the city.

South Korea revived a tax on foreigners investing in its bonds this week; Thailand is ending foreigners’ 15 percent tax exemption on income from domestic bonds, while Brazil tripled a tax on purchases of local fixed-income assets by overseas investors.

Hong Kong’s government also is cracking down on marketing tactics it has described as deceptive. It plans to restrict common features, including clubhouses, developers claim as part of apartments, to 10 percent of gross floor area from April 2011.
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Old November 20th, 2010, 05:48 PM   #1080
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