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Last updated : Nov 2009
 
Hong Kong Business Profile
Hong Kong Business Overview - TravelPuppy.com
Hong Kong Economy

The mainstays of Hong Kong’s economy are trading, light manufacturing, media, shipping, tourism and financial services as well as the property sector, which is of great interest to locals but little to outsiders. Even though transport routes to the newly operating ports across coastal China are challenging Hong Kong’s pre-eminence, the city’s great trading house are still important. These major international conglomerates, such as Jebsen, Swire, and Jardine Matheson, have greatly diversified interests.

Li Ka-shing
and his Hutchinson Whampoa is the quintessence of how Hong Kong’s economic power, established on trade, has branched out octopus-like from the Pearl River Delta into very diverse locales and commercial holdings, varying from ports to telecommunications. Property, through eminent houses like Sun Hung Kai Properties and Kerry Properties, provides most of the investment money to support Hong Kong’s broader economy, however the sector itself has been in trouble since the late 1990s. Tourism may yet be Hong Kong’s salvation, with the scheduled completion of the Hong Kong Disneyland on Lantau island in 2005 and new casinos from Las Vegas opening up in nearby Macau. However, its bounty is yet to arrive.

Government figures for 2001 declare Hong Kong’s labour force as just under 3.5 million. Gross National Product (GNP) stood at HK$1.3 trillion in 2001. The September 2002 census listed import and export trade as the largest single job provider, with an 513,000-strong workforce. Financial, real estate, and business services follow with over 424,500 employed. The headline unemployment in Hong Kong was 7.2% in October 2002, nearly its highest ever, creating serious challenges for industry and government. Unofficial surveys report the PRC’s unemployment is also in this region, at 7%, however official figures list it as 3.6%.

Hong Kong has become a major international financial centre since the 1980 incorporation of its stock exchange – now the tenth largest in the world, as ranked by capitalisation, but is soon to be overshadowed by Shanghai and Shenzhen. Banking, insurance and other financial services are provided to mainland and local companies, as well as the many international conglomerates maintaining offices there.

The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation is the strongest bank to have originated locally and have an international presence. The Bank of East Asia is another noteworthy body. Investment banking houses, such as Goldman Sachs and BNP Prime Peregrine, are also very active locally. A huge number of financial brokerage houses, lots of them now online, serve the huge appetite of the Hong Kong punter for short-term speculative investing. They also provide a broader range of investment services that use this funds to gamble on a larger scale with various kinds of venture capital initiatives.

Manufacturing is mainly in textiles, consumer electronics and additional consumer goodsHong Kong is the world’s largest producer of children’s toys. Often, manufacturing operations are based in Hong Kong but use cheap labour across the border. The shipping and logistics sectors are assisted by Hong Kong’s natural deep-water harbour, possibly the best in the region. Maritime entrepôt trade remains very important, although somewhat overshadowed by competition from Shanghai and other ports in Shenzhen and South East Asia.

Hong Kong also has a powerful media and telecommunications sector, banging out Cantopop, kung fu movies and other fodder for the Greater China public. Firms like Golden Harvest and the Emperor Entertainment Group lead the local industry. Internet and telecommunications firms, such as Richard Li’s Pacific Century CyberWorks, have thrived on the backs of established telcos like Cable and Wireless HongKong Telecom. Hong Kong’s efforts to reestablish itself as a wired city of the new millennium have waned as a dominant policy theme, however the quality of the telecoms infrastructure is still very good. Investment into China has replaced this strategy as the primary current entrepreneurial driver.

The main financial district of Hong Kong is the International Finance Centre (IFC), where the Hong Kong Stock Exchange is located, but this is more similar to a mall or walkway complex than Wall Street. Most corporate headquarters are based around Central, Admiralty and Nathan Road, on Kowloon Side.

Business Etiquette

Suits are proper attire for business – Hong Kong is surprisingly formal in its outward business standards, contrasting the casual bucaneering enterpreneurialism of its business practices. Hong Kongers are very serious about business punctuality – appointments should be arranged in advance and kept. The culture of business cards prevails and, if possible, cards should include Chinese translations on the reverse. Nearly all top hotels have business centres for visiting businesspeople, with typing, translation, photocopying, and other services.

Normal office hours are 09:00–13:00 and 14:00–18:00 Monday to Friday and 09:00–13:00 Saturday, with many offices staying open later on Saturday and just about every Hong Kong office is full of late-night workers long after sunset.

Although business lunches (particularly dim sum) and after-hours drinking are a normal part of the Hong Kong business scene, there is not the same emphasis on drinking and bonding evenings as there is in Japan. Hong Kongers are much too busy focusing on the bottom line to think about company camaraderie and many don't have the tolerance for alcohol like their hardened mainland compatriots. Ex-pat workers mainly drink together but it's not a formal part of local business culture – however it does seem to be an unavoidable one.
Useful travel links
HK-Biz information about Hong Kong business
Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce web site
Hong Kong-Business Hong Kong's business directory