Casino tycoon Stanley Ho's son paid US$64 million for Hong Kong house days before coronavirus gathered pace
Thursday 6th February 2020
Mario Ho Yau-kwan, the youngest son of billionaire casino tycoon Stanley Ho, has splashed out HK$500 million (US$64.4 million) on a house at one of Hong Kong's most prestigious addresses, it emerged on Wednesday.
It may not turn out to be one of the 25-year-old businessman's best timed investments. Within days of buying 2 Island Road in Deep Water Bay on January 7, the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China, had snowballed into a dire health emergency, with the first reported cases in Hong Kong not far behind.
The new virus, which has now infected at least 20 people in Hong Kong, killing one, looks set to dampen sentiment in the world's most expensive property market, already under severe pressure from months of social unrest.
The large home, in an exclusive neighbourhood on the southern shore of Hong Kong Island, was sold to Ho on January 7, according to a Land Registry document released on Wednesday. At 3,836 sq ft, the price tag translates to HK$130,000 per square foot.
"It is rare to see such houses in prestigious locations available for sale on the market. What rich families consider is whether they like the property instead of the price. But there are only a few buyers in the top- end sector," said Louis Ho, a director at Centaline Property Agencies.
Property transactions in Hong Kong fell to a 13-month low in January, according to data released on Tuesday, as analysts warned the coronavirus outbreak is likely to further derail the world's most expensive housing market.
"It [the house] was bought earlier and only known to the public now. Now, we should focus on fighting the coronavirus," said Angela Leong, the mother of Mario Ho, declining to give any further details about the purchase.
Mario Ho is one of billionaire Stanley Ho's 17 children from four wives. Angela Leong, his fourth wife, is co-chairman and an executive director of SJM Holdings.
Mario is the chief executive of a Hong Kong-based software development platform, which charges between about HK$50,000 and HK$500,000 for the development of an app, according the firm's website.
He graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was the youngest graduate in the school's history in finance, he claims in his LinkedIn profile.
One person unlikely to be ruing the timing of Ho's purchase is the vendor, who bought the house for HK$18.8 million in 1990.
But not every property investor is turning a handsome profit.
Hong Kong-listed finance firm Central Wealth announced it agreed on February 4 to sell a 6,700 sq ft house at 2 Lincoln Road, Kowloon Tong, for HK$380 million, according to a filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange on Wednesday.
The firm would record a loss of HK$10.36 million, it said.
"The social [unrest] happening in 2019 and the recent outbreak of Wuhan coronavirus have heavily damaged the economy of Hong Kong and China. In light of the current market conditions, the board expects that the residential property market in Hong Kong will further deteriorate in the future," it said.
Central Wealth said it considered the disposal of the property represented an appropriate opportunity to realise the group's investment.