Hong Kong's richest lose $19bn as protests lash stocks

The One and Two Exchange Square, home of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in the Central District. (Photo: iStock)
The One and Two Exchange Square, home of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in the Central District. (Photo: iStock)

Hong Kong’s wealthiest are feeling the pain from nine weeks of protests that have jammed the financial hub’s streets, weighed on growth and battered local stock prices.

The net worth of the 10 richest tycoons who derive their fortunes from Hong Kong-listed companies has tumbled $19bn since July 23, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

That was the last day of gains in the city’s equity market before it sank for nine straight sessions, matching its longest losing streak since the former British colony’s handover to China in 1997.

The fortune of Li Ka-shing, Hong Kong’s richest man, is down about 9%, or $2.7bn.

While the losses have been partly fueled by the US-China trade war, they underscore growing concern that Hong Kong’s political crisis will damage the city’s appeal as one of the world’s premier financial and commercial centers. The protests have already hit tourism and retail sales, prompting Hong Kong Financial Secretary Paul Chan to say on Monday that the territory risks a recession.

“The situation has kind of escalated to unknown territory, so right now even investors are taking a wait-and-see approach," said Shaun Tan, analyst for UOB Kay Hian. "It’s still quite hard to see where this is headed.”

The fate of Hong Kong’s billionaires may depend on the path of property prices in the city, which is home to the world’s least affordable houses. The market has so far proved resilient, but Bloomberg Intelligence has warned that demand for real estate - a key source of wealth for many tycoons in Hong Kong - may wane if the unrest continues.

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