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CNBC Transcript: Mark Whitehead, Chief Executive, Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals


Following is the transcript of a CNBC interview with Mark Whitehead, Chief Executive, of Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals. The interview was broadcast on CNBC on 26 April 2017 at 09:10AM SG/HK Time, during CNBC's "Hong Kong versus Singapore" theme week.

All references must be sourced to a "CNBC Interview".

Interviewed by Emily Tan, Correspondent, CNBC, and Bernie Lo, Anchor, CNBC.

Emily Tan: So this is the operator of the SuperTerminal One, can you talk to us a little bit about how business is doing? How is trade, in the first quarter of this year? We did see a pickup in the second half of last year.

Mark Whitehead: Last year, the final call was very positive. And the first year for air cargo, this year, has also been very positive. One has to always look at tonnage and yield. So tonnage through the airport has been very positive whether the airlines have got the yield that they want is another matter because it's such a competitive environment and it's difficult to balance that out. But again, I remain very positive for 2017.

Emily: There's a lot of tough talk on trade, in particular coming from the U.S. President Trump, on his protectionist policies, everyone's listening out for what he is going to be doing with China, slapping tariffs or not. What are the risks to the market?

Mark: The market is the market. We'll be fine. The air cargo industry is a very dynamic business, and it will survive. And it will do well, 2017 will be a good year for the air cargo industry.

Emily: That's despite a slowing Chinese economy? Everybody's watching, worrying about how much China is going to be slowing down. How is that going to be impacting their imports and exports?

Mark: It will have an impact, but not material. Air cargo is air cargo. Every time you go for a restaurant in Singapore, or wherever. And you're having your fresh vegetables where do you think they come from?

Emily: Now Hong Kong stands for a second year running as the world's busiest air cargo airport-

Mark: Five years.

Emily: Five years, excuse me. Congratulations. Do you expect that to continue and how will you maintain growth?

Mark: I hope it continues. But it doesn't bother me if it does not. Because basically, you can only be number one for so many years. Even the greatest sprinters on the planet can only be number one for so many years. The issue for Hong Kong will be the competitiveness of the Pearl River Delta Airport, but we will continue to fight.

Emily: Now, Li Keqiang, Chinese Premier, has…he has promoted this idea of the greater bay area, so that will be Hong Kong, Guangdong and Macau. Do you think this is going to hurt Hong Kong or help it?

Mark: It will help it.

Emily: How so?

Mark: Because we're more efficient. We may be more expensive, but we're more efficient.

Emily: But will it make Hong Kong irrelevant or a smaller dot on the map?

Mark: No, I don't believe so.

Emily: I just want to ask you one more question about e-commerce and how that has impacted or given you more business in basically moving things around the world.

Mark: It's enormous. We haven't yet worked out as an industry just how enormous it is. But it's going to be enormous. Hey, you want to organize your lunch, you can get it done on e-commerce right? It's enormous and so it will be a game changer. And we will all then have to play the game. And the great thing about the industry is you have to know how to play the game.

Emily: Mark, we're going to have to leave it there. Thank you very much for joining us this morning.

Editor's Note: This transcript has been updated to accurately reflect Mark Whitehead's title.