Wharf unit to open Central Hotel

Business | Esther Yu 22 Sep 2016

Hong Kong-based hotel chain Marco Polo Hotels, a unit of Wharf (Holdings) (0004), will open in late October next year a luxury hotel along Garden Road in Central after converting Murray Building into a hotel.

Wharf bought the site in 2013 for HK$4.4 billion. Its hotel will provide 336 rooms and a 2,400-square-foot presidential suite, and will target high-end customers.

Duncan Palmer, managing director of The Murray, said retail, as well as food and beverage, are also important elements. The new hotel, to be called The Murray, will also provide five restaurants and a rooftop bar.

It will be the latest addition to Wharf's Niccolo luxury hotel brand. Its first Niccolo hotel in the mainland opened last year in Chengdu. Three more hotels will be set up in Changsha, Suzhou and Chongqing.

"We spent more than HK$7 billion on the site and renovation," said Wharf chairman Stephen Ng Tin-hoi. "We don't look at the short-term return so even if the hotel is not opening at the high time of the market, that's okay with us."

Last year, he said the hotel project would yield a 5 percent rate of return. Yesterday, he said the target remains unchanged, but the group has not set any precise date when it would break even. The 27-story Murray Building is a landmark in Central in the 1970s as it housed most government bureaus. But after the Tamar was chosen as the new government headquarters, Murray Building was auctioned off for redevelopment into a five star hotel. The purchaser was required to complete the project by 2018.

"Murray Building is the diamond of Hong Kong," said Ng. "Over the last 50 years though, it has lost some of its shine." He believes that after the building is transformed into a new hotel, it will be "the talk of the industry."

Ng also said that sales at its shopping malls have improved over the past few months, but declined to say if the local retail sector has "bottomed out." Wharf owns shopping malls, including Times Square and Harbour City.

He also revealed that Wharf has been "approached by some firms" with interest to acquire subsidiaries i-Cable Communications and Wharf T&T.

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