Link Asset Management Limited (Link), the manager of Link Real Estate Investment Trust (Hong Kong stock code: 823), announced today (Friday) that the company is expanding the size of its support scheme for its tenants in Hong Kong (the Support Scheme) to $300 million to alleviate operating pressures brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
Link established an $80 million Support Scheme in mid-February. Link’s Chief Executive Officer George Hongchoy said, “We have been working closely with our tenants to offer support during these difficult times and we understand the prolonged impact from the coronavirus has resulted in a greater need for relief measures.”
Nicholas Allen, Chairman of the Board of Link, said, “The uncertainty of the situation means that we regularly review the type and quantum of the Support Scheme. The Board of Directors has approved that we substantially expand our Support Scheme to echo the HKSAR Government’s economic relief package.”
Link’s mass market-oriented retail portfolio largely consists of non-discretionary trades and provides for the daily necessities to the public at large. Roughly 50% of our tenants have seen relatively minor impact from the pandemic, and some sectors such as fresh markets, supermarkets and pharmacies have fared well in recent months. However, trades encompassing education centres, food and beverage outlets, especially Chinese restaurants, fitness centres and game centres have been significantly impacted by the pandemic and related social distancing measures.
Following the February news release, Link has immediately liaised with tenants to offer assistance and priority has been given to those in sectors hardest hit by the pandemic.
To date, we have offered support in various forms to some 1,900 tenants which contribute to over one third of our rental income in Hong Kong. In particular, Link has approximately 130 education centres in its portfolio, almost all of which have received assistance including rental concessions.
The Support Scheme aims to offer targeted relief measures to tenants including reducing rents, granting rent-free periods, allowing rent payment by instalments, waiving late payment interests and service charges, and introducing additional parking concessions. It is running in parallel with other support to tenants, such as lease restructuring. Actual arrangement for each tenant varies and Link has taken into account the specific circumstances of individual tenants.
In this period, Link has also carried out a range of marketing measures to help boost tenants’ sales. To ensure customers can shop confidently in a safe and clean environment, Link has implemented preventive and detective initiatives, as well as enforced more stringent cleaning and disinfection measures in all its shopping centres and fresh markets.
In March, Link announced a 50% discount on the monthly car park fee for school bus patrons of Link’s car parks from April to September to mitigate the impact of class suspensions. In addition, Link intends to suspend monthly car park fee adjustments in the short term despite soaring operating costs for increased hygiene measures and labour costs from minimum wage increases.
“Link will remain vigilant in face of the challenging market conditions and respond on a timely basis to support our tenants, shoppers and the community. We are committed to working in concert with the Government and other concerned parties to ride out this challenging period.” Mr Hongchoy said.