Hong Kong Disneyland to add ‘Toy Story’ themed land

"Hong Kong Disneyland to add ‘Toy Story’ themed land | AboutHK.Com - More Information About HK"

Toy Story Land at Hong Kong Disneyland

Visitors stepping into Toy Story Land at Hong Kong Disneyland will feel like “Star Wars” action figures in a land of Barbie dolls — smaller-than-life interlopers in a land of larger-than-life toys.

Super-sized Tinker toys, Lincoln logs and dominoes line the walkways as towering “Toy Story” characters Rex the dinosaur and Woody the cowboy welcome visitors at the twin entrances to the lushly landscaped land.

Set to open as early as 2011, Toy Story Land is part of a nearly $500-million expansion at Hong Kong Disneyland that calls for the addition of three themed lands.

The three new rides include:

Toy Story Land at Hong Kong Disneyland

* An 80-foot-tall Green Army Men-themed parachute jump drop ride similar to Jumpin’ Jellyfish at Disney’s California Adventure.

* A 115-foot-tall RC Racer-themed U-shaped shuttle coaster with a magnetic launch system similar to the half-pipe ride at Denver’s Elitch Garden theme park.

* A spinning Slinky Dog-themed caterpillar ride with a circular, undulating track similar to the classic Music Express or Himalaya carnival rides.

An identical Toy Story Playland opens at Walt Disney Studios Paris in June 2010 to coincide with the theatrical release of “Toy Story 3.”

Hong Kong GDP Slows on Weak Exports

"Hong Kong GDP Slows on Weak Exports | AboutHK.Com - More Information About HK"


Hong Kong GDP Slows on Weak Exports

Hong Kong's economic growth slowed in the third quarter mainly because of weak exports, although domestic consumption remained resilient thanks to abundant liquidity and China's robust recovery.

The city's GDP grew 0.4% for the three months ended Sept. 30 from the previous quarter, slowing from the second quarter's 3.5% expansion, official data showed.

The Hong Kong government also said Friday that even though the global economic outlook remains uncertain, it is improving, leading the government to revise its forecast for Hong Kong's gross domestic product this year.

It now expects the economy to shrink by 3.3%, which is an improvement from its previous forecast for a contraction of between 3.5% and 4.5%. It maintained its 2009 consumer price index forecast for a 0.5% rise.

Government economist Helen Chan said the global economy has entered the initial stage of recovery, but import demand from advanced economies remained sluggish in the third quarter.

"The clear risk is that the global recovery could stall after the exceptional fiscal boost begins to fade out," Ms. Chan said.

Hong Kong's exports in the third quarter fell 13.2% from a year earlier, according to government data, a bigger drop than the second quarter's 12.4% decline.

Domestic expenditure, however, grew 0.2% in the third quarter from a year earlier--the first increase since the third quarter last year.

Hang Seng Bank senior economist Irina Fan said the global outlook remains uncertain because there have been "no signs of a strong recovery in the U.S. or in European consumer demand."

On a year-to-year basis, Hong Kong's GDP fell for the fourth quarter in a row, although the 2.4% decline in the third quarter was smaller than the second quarter's 3.6% contraction.

Ms. Fan said she expects business sentiment will continue to improve and forecasts Hong Kong's GDP will return to year-to-year growth in the fourth quarter of 1.5%.

Write to Chester Yung at chester.yung@dowjones.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


McIlroy shoots a 66 in Hong Kong

"McIlroy shoots a 66 in Hong Kong | AboutHK.Com - More Information About HK"

Rory McIlroy made a good start in the Hong Kong Open by firing a four-under-par 66 on Thursday.

McIlroy shoots a 66 in Hong Kong

The Holywood player lies 52,321 euros behind Race to Dubai leader Lee Westwood, who also carded a 66.

Graeme McDowell made a good finish to post a 67, Darren Clarke started with a 70 and Michael Hoey had a 73.

Peter Lawrie is four under with Shane Lowry back on two over while Robert-Jan Derksen and Udorn Duangdecha led on seven under.

McIlroy, who lost out in a play-off in last year's tournament, picked up five birdies his round with the only blemish coming at the fifth.

McDowell also bogeyed the fifth but the Portrush man birdied four of the last seven holes to leave himself just four off the pace.

Hong Kong May Extend Its Recovery With 1.9% Growth in Quarter

"Hong Kong May Extend Its Recovery With 1.9% Growth in Quarter | AboutHK.Com - More Information About HK"


Hong Kong May Extend Its Recovery With 1.9% Growth in QuarterHong Kong’s economy probably grew for a second straight quarter, cementing the city’s recovery from its worst slump since the Asian financial crisis.

Gross domestic product rose a seasonally adjusted 1.9 percent in the three months ending Sept. 30 from the previous quarter, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey of eight economists. The figure is due at 4:30 p.m. today. The gain was 3.3 percent in the second quarter.

Financial Secretary John Tsang said in Singapore yesterday that third-quarter data would show “further improvements,” citing the effect of HK$87.6 billion ($11 billion) of stimulus spending. The International Monetary Fund said Nov. 3 that the city may face “a sharp run-up” in prices for property and financial assets, underscoring the risk that asset bubbles could derail a recovery.

“Asset-price bubbles pose one of the greatest risks for Hong Kong,” said Irina Fan, senior economist at Hang Seng Bank Ltd. in Hong Kong, adding that stock and property gains had been driven by extra liquidity in the financial system.

While the Hang Seng Index has nearly doubled from this year’s low in March, the city’s recovery remains fragile and the government should maintain fiscal stimulus measures into next year, according to the IMF. It forecasts a 5 percent expansion next year after a 2 percent decline in 2009.

Hong Kong’s economy may have contracted 1.4 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier, after a 3.8 percent drop in the previous three months, the economists’ forecasts show.

Drag on Growth

Retail sales grew for the first time in eight months in September as unemployment fell from a four-year high.

Exports remain a drag on growth, falling 14.3 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier, after a 12.9 percent drop in the second quarter. Declines moderated after the first quarter, when shipments plunged by the most in half a century, as global demand started to stabilize.

Money spilling into Hong Kong from unprecedented lending under China’s stimulus program has flowed into property and stocks and boosted consumer sentiment and spending, said Brian Jackson, a Hong Kong-based strategist on emerging markets at Royal Bank of Canada.

Henderson Land Development Co., a company controlled by billionaire Lee Shau-kee, last month sold a duplex apartment for HK$439 million ($57 million), calling the price a record per square foot. The government has tightened down-payment requirements for luxury homes and Chief Executive Donald Tsang has warned that a real-estate bubble is possible.

China’s Recovery

China’s demand has put a floor under Hong Kong’s exports as the world’s fastest-growing major economy rebounds from the global crisis. In September, the city’s shipments to the mainland grew 3.4 percent from a year earlier, in contrast with a 27.8 percent plunge in exports to the U.S.

In the stock market, two of the three companies that account for the biggest share of this year’s gains in the benchmark index are mainland banks: China Construction Bank Corp. and Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. The third is HSBC Holdings Plc.

“The chances of Hong Kong sustaining its recovery going forward are highly dependent on strong growth remaining in place on the mainland,” Jackson said.

Hong Kong climbed out of its yearlong recession in the second quarter of this year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sophie Leung in Hong Kong at sleung59@bloomberg.net This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Hong Kong Is New Target of U.S. Crackdown on Global Tax Evasion

"Hong Kong Is New Target of U.S. Crackdown on Global Tax Evasion | AboutHK.Com - More Information About HK"


Hong Kong Is New Target of U.S. Crackdown on Global Tax EvasionHong Kong is a new target of U.S. prosecutors pursuing a global campaign against evaders of federal taxes, spurred by data acquired in their crackdown on Swiss banks.

Prosecutors are trying to determine what role financial professionals in Hong Kong play in tax evasion, according to people familiar with the matter. They are examining how much taxable money was moved to the former British colony that returned to China in 1997, whether accounts were based there in name only and what banks were involved, the people said.

The push follows the government’s success in penetrating Swiss bank secrecy and learning from insiders how UBS AG helped Americans evade taxes. UBS, the largest Swiss bank by assets, avoided prosecution by agreeing in February to pay $780 million and disclose account data on 250 clients. In August, it agreed to supply information on another 4,450.

“They must have reason to believe this is a target-rich environment and a very significant amount of tax evasion is going on there,” said Peter Zeidenberg, a former federal prosecutor now at DLA Piper LLP in Washington.

Since the February settlement, prosecutors have won guilty pleas from six UBS clients who described a web of bankers, lawyers and advisers who helped conceal income and assets. All six hid money in shell companies outside Switzerland. Four used Hong Kong corporations, including toy salesman Jeffrey Chernick.

Probes Beyond Switzerland

Debriefings of Chernick started probes of financial institutions in Switzerland and beyond, “in particular tax- haven jurisdictions such as Hong Kong,” prosecutor Michael Ben’Ary said Oct. 30 at Chernick’s sentencing in Florida.

“From the public statements at the Chernick hearing and elsewhere, the government has made it very clear that they are interested in other secrecy jurisdictions, especially Hong Kong,” said Douglas Tween, an attorney for Chernick, 70.

Chernick told prosecutors he hid sales commissions in an $8 million UBS account in the name of a Hong Kong corporation.

Hong Kong is already changing its laws to implement the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s efforts to enhance tax transparency, said Katherine Kwong, a spokeswoman for the government’s Financial Services and Treasury Bureau.

These changes would help “significantly enhance Hong Kong’s position as a transparent tax jurisdiction,” she said yesterday.

Global Tax Standards

The OECD has a so-called gray list of countries that haven’t complied with global tax standards. Hong Kong and Singapore announced in February that they would put forward legislation to meet them, according to Pascal Saint-Amans, who heads the tax competition division at the OECD. Macau made a similar announcement in March.

The UBS clients who used Hong Kong corporations told prosecutors how their bankers and lawyers helped them set up offshore corporations so their assets would be hidden in accounts that didn’t bear their names, court records show.

Roberto Cittadini, a retired Boeing Co. sales manager, told a federal judge in Seattle Oct. 5 that he didn’t report income from a $1.86 million UBS investment account nominally owned by a Hong Kong corporation.

He said Swiss banker Hansruedi Schumacher and Zurich lawyer Matthias Rickenbach helped him with the account. Schumacher is a former NZB Neue Zuercher Bank manager who once ran the cross- border business for Zurich-based UBS, according to court papers. Both men were indicted Aug. 20 in federal court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Schumacher no longer works at NZB, said Patrick Hunger, corporate secretary, in a telephone interview. He declined to say when Schumacher left the bank and wouldn’t provide Schumacher’s new contact details. Messages left at Rickenbach’s office and home weren’t immediately returned.

Malibu Businessman

John McCarthy, a businessman in Malibu, California, admitted Oct. 20 that he failed to declare $1 million in a UBS Swiss account tied to a Hong Kong entity.

“I’ve been told there are active investigations on the West Coast of Hong Kong account holders,” said McCarthy’s attorney, Steven Toscher, of Hochman, Salkin, Rettig, Toscher & Perez in Beverly Hills.

Hong Kong hasn’t been the only tax jurisdiction implicated in the past year. UBS admitted in February that it helped U.S. clients create sham companies in Panama and the British Virgin Islands, while hiding the true owners from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. UBS clients who pleaded guilty also implicated Singapore, Liechtenstein, Mexico and the Cayman Islands.

The IRS is analyzing a trove of information from more than 7,500 taxpayers who voluntarily disclosed their offshore accounts this year to avoid prosecution. To qualify, clients had to disclose everyone who handled their money overseas and everywhere it went.

‘Scouring the 7,500 Disclosures’

“We’re going to be scouring the 7,500 disclosures to identify financial institutions, advisers and others” who helped taxpayers cheat on taxes, IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman said Oct. 14.

He said the IRS is hiring 800 people in the next year and increasing staff in eight overseas offices, including Hong Kong. It also will open offices in Beijing, Sydney and Panama City.

“There is a phenomenal amount of money in undeclared status in Singapore, Hong Kong and maybe now China,” said Scott Michel, an attorney at Caplin & Drysdale in Washington. “The IRS has decided that the template has worked so well for Switzerland that it wants to mimic that investigative strategy with other countries.”

While Hong Kong has strict anti-money laundering measures, it is easy to set up nominee and trust accounts there that obscure the ownership and control of assets, according to the Financial Action Task Force, an inter-governmental body.

‘Relative Ease’

“The availability of corporate services and the relative ease with which shell companies can be purchased contribute to the risk of Hong Kong being used for structuring of the proceeds of financial crime, corruption, tax evasion and smuggling,” according to a June 2008 report by the task force, which works to combat money laundering.

Cittadini trusted UBS, as well as Schumacher and Rickenbach, when they advised setting up accounts in Hong Kong and the British Virgin Islands as a way to keep his assets hidden, his lawyer John Colvin said.

“It’s totally routine,” said Colvin, of Chicoine & Hallett PS in Seattle. “It would cost a few hundred or a few thousand dollars at most to set up.”

Schumacher and Rickenbach told Cittadini such accounts were the easiest way to continue investing in U.S. securities while not reporting the income to the IRS, Colvin said. UBS was required to report the income under an agreement it signed with the U.S. in 2000.

David Ellis, a lawyer in Hong Kong, said he was a “bit surprised” to hear that corporations had been used there to help evade U.S. taxes.

‘Legitimate Tax Benefits’

“I suspect it’s probably more for the legitimate tax benefits of operating through Hong Kong that Hong Kong companies are used rather than its efficiency in evading U.S. tax,” said Ellis of Mayer Brown JSM. “I would have thought for evading U.S. tax you would want a different jurisdiction. But Hong Kong is maybe the legitimate end of it.”

Zetland Corporate Services in Hong Kong sets up companies for foreign clients, said its managing director, Michael Foggo.

“Our client can act as director and shareholder,” Foggo said. “Sometimes our clients do want us to act as directors for them and provide nominee shareholders if they are looking for confidentiality for whatever reason. It’s not something unique to Hong Kong or any other place in Asia.”

To contact the reporters on this story: David Voreacos in Newark, New Jersey, at dvoreacos@bloomberg.net This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ; Carlyn Kolker in New York at ckolker@bloomberg.net This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ; Alan Katz in Paris at akatz5@bloomberg.net This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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China Says Hong Kong Drought Support Not Yet Needed

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China Says Hong Kong Drought Support Not Yet NeededHong Kong offered to reduce the amount of water taken from southern China to help ease the region’s worst drought in six decades and has been advised it doesn’t need to do so at present.

The director of Hong Kong’s Water Supplies Department, Ma Lee Tak, told a news conference today he toured reservoirs in neighboring Guangdong province and said Hong Kong would cut back on the water it takes if China needs the help.

Hong Kong, with 7 million people, has about six months’ of water in its reservoirs and buys additional supply from Guangdong, whose 94.5 million people face shortages after rainfall dropped to half last year’s level.

“The Guangdong officials appreciated our offer, but said they would agree to it only when it’s necessary,” Ma said.

Hong Kong’s reservoirs now hold 477 million cubic meters of water, about half the 950 million cubic meters the city uses each year, water supplies department spokesman K.K. Suen said yesterday. The system, built between 1877 and 1978, has a maximum capacity of 586 million cubic meters, according to the government’s Web site.

Hong Kong gets 70 percent to 80 percent of its water from the Dongjiang River in Guangdong, said K.K. Suen, a water supply engineer who also serves as departmental spokesman. Ma said today Hong Kong uses 3 percent of the river’s average annual flow volume.

Southern China has experienced drought for at least two months, China National Radio reported on its Web site yesterday.

Worst in 60 Years

Guangdong’s drought is the worst in 60 years, the Information Daily newspaper said yesterday, citing the water resources department. Rainfall in most parts of Guangdong in August through October was half last year’s level, according to the newspaper, based in the provincial capital of Guangzhou.

“We are in a natural cycle of drought, but climate change and global warming do make it more serious,” Prentice Koo, a campaigner at environmental group Greenpeace, said by phone in Hong Kong today. Koo said India is also facing drought.

The Guangdong city of Zhuhai made an emergency plan to restrict water supply, ordered companies and schools to cut use by 20 percent and will punish users who go over the limit, China National Radio said. City reservoir levels have fallen to 11- year lows, Xinhua News Agency reported Nov. 8.

Macau, bordering Zhuhai, is also trying to save water. The former Portuguese enclave, the only city in China where casinos are legal, is offering cash incentives to residents who cut water use, its government said in a statement Nov. 9.

Bottle-Water Subsidies

Low-income families and the elderly in Macau will receive subsidies to buy bottled water if the salt level of municipal supplies is too high, the statement said.

Fresh water for Hong Kong was a concern during British colonial rule, which ended in 1997 with the city’s return to China. Local storage was the main source of water, and rationing was common until imports from China started in 1960.

The worst water crisis was in 1963-64, when water was available for four hours every four days, the government Web site said.

Hong Kong reduces reliance on imported water by using seawater for toilet flushing, about 15 percent of total use.

To contact the reporters on this story: Sophie Leung in Hong Kong at sleung59@bloomberg.net This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ; Kelvin Wong in Hong Kong at kwong40@bloomberg.net This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Hong Kong shares gain after Chinese data

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Michael Kitchen, MarketWatch

Hong Kong shares gain after Chinese dataHong Kong's stock market rose in early trading Wednesday, helped by mostly strong Chinese economic data released at the session's open. The Hang Seng Index rose 1.1% to 22,501.9, while the mainland Chinese-focused Hang Seng China Enterprises Index was 0.4% higher at 12,426.9. The Chinese economic numbers showed October industrial production up 16.1%, better than the 15.5% expected by a Dow Jones Newswires survey of economists, though consumer prices fell 0.5% from a year earlier, a steeper drop than anticipated. Top advancers included HSBC Holdings PLC (HK:5 93.50, -0.50, -0.53%) (HBC 60.27, +0.17, +0.28%) , which rose 4.2% after it said overnight that its third-quarter pretax profit would be "significantly ahead" of year-earlier levels. Over on the mainland, the Shanghai Composite failed to pull into positive territory after the data release but was off earlier lows, trading down 0.3% at 3,167.36