Asia Economy

Goldman slashes Hong Kong growth outlook

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Goldman Sachs slashed its growth forecast for Hong Kong as pro-democracy protests stretched into their third week, with no end in sight.

The bank lowered its fourth quarter gross domestic product (GDP) estimate to 2 percent from 2.5 percent on expectations of lower tourist spending – an important growth driver in the semi-autonomous region.

"The most direct implication is likely related to the territories' tourism industry," Goldman Sachs economists led by Andrew Tilton wrote in a note published late Friday.

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"Tourists' spending during the Golden Week holidays was probably hit hard due to the social disruptions, and the unfolding political developments could imply risk of longer-term impact on mainland tourist arrivals," they said.

Hong Kong's tourist arrival statistics for the National Day Golden Week holidays from October 1-7 do not show a major adverse impact, but anecdotal reports indicate tourist shopping took a hit as many shops and restaurants in occupied areas chose to close.

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Retailers have been under severe pressure over the past few weeks, Allan Zeman, chairman of Lan Kwai Fong Holdings, the biggest landlord in the restaurant and bar area in Hong Kong's business district, told CNBC on Monday.

"[The protests] have paralyzed traffic, business. People have been complaining very badly. For retailers, business has been non-existent for most. With higher rents in Hong Kong, it's really caused a problem," he said.

HK protests: What is the impact on tourism?

Approximately 970,000 mainland residents visited Hong Kong over Golden Week, up 5.4 percent on year, but a much slower rate of growth compared with last year's 16 percent increase.

A decline in spending by Chinese tourists has a notable impact on Hong Kong's economy because mainland visitors contribute about 90 percent of all tourist shopping expenditures, which accounted for about one-third of all retail sales in Hong Kong in 2013, according to Goldman calculations.

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Retail sales, an important component of the economy, made up 23.3 percent of GDP in 2013, up from 13.6 percent in 2002, according to Deutsche Bank.

Official retail sales data are not yet available, but sales at major retailer chains fell by double-digits during the bulk of the holidays, according to a survey by Hong Kong Retail Management Association.

The drop ranged from 15 percent to over 50 percent with watch, jewelry, fashion and catering the hardest hit.