January 30, 2020 / 8:47 AM / in 25 days

Hong Kong property developer Wheelock may delay new launch over virus concerns

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong property developer Wheelock and Co (0020.HK) said on Thursday it may delay the new launch of a residential development as the city’s home transactions plunged amid fears of a new coronavirus.

The Asian financial hub has 10 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, with one in critical condition, and its leader, Carrie Lam, has ordered the suspension of its high-speed rail service with mainland China from midnight.

Wheelock will set a definite time for the launch, which had originally been scheduled in the first quarter, when the atmosphere becomes “less tense”, Executive Director Ricky Wong said.

“The whole community is concerned about the virus now,” he told reporters, but added the company had no plan to cut prices.

This week the developer said its sales office would bar entry to people who have visited China’s central province of Hubei, the epicenter of the epidemic, in the past 14 days.

Property agents said visits of potential homebuyers and transactions have dropped in the past week, but largely due to the Lunar New Year holiday, with the real impact from the new virus yet to be felt.

“Traditionally, the housing market will enter a hot season from next week, whether it will still be hot or not will depend on how quickly the virus is spreading,” said L.S. Wong, senior associate director of research at realtor Centaline.

All market participants are now watching the virus situation, he added, saying he expected more property developers might delay new launches.

Reporting by Clare Jim; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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