Link Reit, the biggest real estate investment trust in Asia, said that it would expand the support package for its tenants hit by the coronavirus outbreak to HK$300 million (US$38.69 million) from HK$80 million announced in February.
"The board of directors has approved that we substantially expand our support scheme to echo the government's economic relief package," Nicholas Allen, chairman of the board, said on Friday.
Link's move comes after Hong Kong's leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Wednesday unveiled the city's biggest coronavirus relief package so far, worth HK$137.5 billion (US$17.4 billion), to save ailing businesses and ensure some 1.5 million workers continue to get paid at least for the next six months.
Hong Kong's economy is already in recession, having been hit by the social unrest in the second half of 2019. Now, the coronavirus outbreak, which has infected close to 1,000 people and claimed 4 lives, is piling additional pressure as the government forces many businesses to shut down to contain the outbreak.
Since Link established the HK$80 million support scheme in mid-February, some 1,900 tenants have benefited from the programme. These tenants account for more than a third of its rental income in Hong Kong. For the year ended March, 2019, Link's gross rental income was HK$9 billion.
Link Reit manages a portfolio of 126 properties totalling 8.7 million sq ft of retail facilities and offices, and 57,000 car parking spaces in Hong Kong.
The support scheme is intended to offer targeted relief to tenants, including reducing rents, granting rent-free periods, allowing rent payment by instalments, waiving interest on late payments and service charges, and parking concessions.
"We have been working closely with our tenants to offer support during these difficult times and we understand the prolonged impact from the coronavirus has resulted in a greater need for relief measures," said George Hongchoy, CEO of Link.
Link said that almost all of the 130 education centres in its portfolio have received help including rent concessions.
In March, Link announced a 50 per cent discount on the monthly car park fee for school buses using its car parks from April to September to mitigate the impact of class suspension. In addition, Link also said that it would suspend its monthly car park fee adjustment for the time being despite the additional operating costs of increased hygiene measures and minimum wage increases.
"Link will remain vigilant in face of the challenging market conditions and respond on a timely basis to support our tenants, shoppers and the community. We are committed to working in concert with the government and other concerned parties to ride out this challenging period," Hongchoy said.
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