November 18, 2019 / 5:26 PM / 19 days ago

Hong Kong's Best Mart 360 to keep stores open despite attacks

FILE PHOTO: Protesters vandalise a Best Mart 360 shop during an anti-government demonstration in Hong Kong, China, November 10, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Best Mart 360’s chairman said on Monday he would keep every one of the popular Hong Kong snack food chain’s stores open, despite them being repeatedly damaged during anti-government protests.

Lin Tsz Fung, whose Best Mart 360 (2360.HK) was listed on the Hong Kong exchange in January, said he was optimistic of being able to limit the impact after talks with insurers about damage to some 72 of the firm’s 102 shops.

“We have 700 staff and we’re a listed company; it is unfair to stakeholders if we don’t open our shops. We hope to minimise our losses,” Lin told Reuters in his office.

Five months of protests have plunged Hong Kong into its biggest political crisis in decades and tipped the Asian financial hub into recession. Meanwhile, Best Mart 360’s share price has fallen by around 50% since May.

Best Mart 360 said its stores have been hit a total of 183 times as increasingly violent protests target Chinese state firms and businesses perceived to be pro-Beijing.

“I’m a businessman. I don’t understand a lot of politics, and I don’t want to participate in politics,” Lin, 48, said.

Lin, a private investor in industrial and commercial real estate, said he will need more time to decide whether he will continue buying in Hong Kong.

He urged the Hong Kong government, which faces demands from protesters for a probe into the actions of police, to set up an independent inquiry to investigate the unrest.

“Hong Kong is a democratic and inclusive society. It is still definitely my home. I came to Hong Kong at the age of 17, I’ve been here for over 3 decades. All of my life milestones happened in Hong Kong,” Lin said.

Reporting by Clare Jim; Editing by Alexander Smith

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