German Business in Hong Kong. Business Confidence Survey

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1 German Business in Hong Kong Business Confidence Survey 2015

2 HONG KONG German Business in Hong Kong Key Developments Hong Kong is an established business hub for internationally operating German companies. With a predominantly service oriented economy the majority of German companies engage in consulting, finance, logistics and retail. As one of Hong Kong s largest European investors, the presence of German businesses continues to expand as the city attracts business due to its international status as a major center for finance and trade as well as its favorable regulatory framework. Despite a challenging economic environment in both Hong Kong and mainland China, German businesses have retained an optimism for their business prospects in This report will depict recent developments in bilateral economic ties as well as an evaluation of the businesses sentiment of German companies operating in Hong Kong. German-Hong Kong Economic Relations Bilateral trade reached EUR7.4 billion in 2014, just below the 2011 record. German exports of manufactured goods to Hong Kong continue to thrive. More than 650 German companies are operating in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is still attracting a steady inflow of new companies. Accumulated invested capital stock is around EUR6.5 billion. An estimated 30,000 staff are employed by German companies. Business Confidence Survey German companies are being affected by a slowdown in economic growth both in Hong Kong as well as in China. The overall business sentiment has been revised downward compared to 2014, but continuous to be predominantly positive. The majority of companies expect revenues and profit growth to increase, while the outlook for investment and employment is more reserved. Cost of real estate, currency volatility, and human resource related issues considered top business challenges. Hong Kong remains highly attractive for sales and service related business, but its attractiveness for research and development is perceived as low. Although Hong Kong s ease of doing business and its economic freedom are valued, concerns surrounding the political environment are mounting. Content German-Hong Kong Trade Relations 2 German Investment in Hong Kong 3 Economic Environment 4 Business Confidence Survey Results page 1 P a g e

3 German imports German exports German Business in Hong Kong German-Hong Kong Trade Relations German foreign trade remains dominated by trade with other European countries, accounting for nearly 70% in However, trade relations between Germany and Asia have become increasingly important over the past decades. Within the past 35 years German trade with Asia expanded five-fold. As of 2014 total trade with Asian countries accounted for 17.6% of German foreign trade. In recent years Hong Kong s share of Asian trade has remained at levels above EUR7 billion. That makes Hong Kong Germany s 10 th largest Asian trading partner, at similar levels to Thailand and Vietnam and larger than trade with the Philippines or Indonesia. In terms of exports Hong Kong is Germany s 7 th most important market in Asia, slightly behind Singapore and Taiwan, but ahead of Malaysia and Thailand. Share of German foreign trade by region 2014 Americas (ex. USA) 3.2% USA 7.1% Asia (ex. China) 10.1% China 7.5% Europe (ex. EU) 11.3% Africa 2.1% Oceania 0.6% EU 58.2% trade volume expanded by 2.9% annually since 1990, while German exports increased by an average of 6.2%. Development of German-Hong Kong trade in bn EUR Source: Statistisches Bundesamt 6.7 Most important German export goods to Hong Kong are automobiles (11.8%), measuring instruments (7.4%), and machinery (4.8%). Top goods imported from Hong Kong are electric motors (12.0%), telecommunication equipment (5.2%) and personal computers (4.9%). Compared to the trade structure Germany maintains with other Asian countries, trade between Germany and Hong Kong is relatively diverse in nature. Typically the most important German export goods are dominated by industrial products and vehicles. For exports to Hong Kong however consumer goods (watches and meats) are included in the top 10. Top product categories traded 2014 share in % 7.2 Trade German exports German imports 7.4 Source: Statistisches Bundesamt / German Industry and Commerce analysis Since 1990 bilateral trade has undergone a steady transformation. In the process of Hong Kong s modernization in which its economic structure became more reliant on services, its exports to Germany fell from over EUR2.5 billion in 1990 to EUR1.5 billion in Meanwhile German exports to Hong Kong more than tripled. Within the last decade trade volume was strongly affected during the Asian financial crisis (1998/9), the SARS outbreak (2003) and the global financial crisis in 2008/9. Trade volume, however, was always able to recover within a relatively short time period. Following a boost in 2010, trade volume manifested itself at over EUR7 billion. Flourishing German exports to Hong Kong continue to be the main driver of trade relations in recent years. On average Vehicles and engines Measuring instruments Machinery Electronic components Meats (ex. poultry) Watches Plastics Bearings and gears Electronic installations Other Electric motors and generators Telecommunication equipment Computers Watches Electronic components Printed Circuit Boards Electronic installations Measuring instruments Other electronic devices Other 11.8% 7.4% 4.9% 4.0% 3.6% 3.5% 3.3% 2.4% 2.3% 12.0% 5.2% 4.9% 4.8% 3.8% 3.7% 3.7% 3.1% 3.0% 0% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% Source: Statistisches Bundesamt / German Industry and Commerce analysis 56.8% 55.9% 2 P a g e

4 German Investment in Hong Kong As of 2014 the total accumulated German invested capital in Hong Kong is estimated at around EUR6.5 billion. According to official numbers of Hong Kong s Census and Statistic Department there are currently 340 German subsidiaries operating in the territory. However, due to the international nature of the Hong Kong, GIC/GCC estimate according to its German List, which tracks German owned or controlled companies, that the actual number is nearly double, totaling 646 in After the UK, this makes Germany the second most important European and seventh overall most important foreign investor in Hong Kong. German companies have a long establish history in the territory, resulting in relatively slow, yet steady, influx of new companies. Since 2008 the number of German companies has increased between 6-7% depending on the source. This development underlines that Hong Kong is a mature market but that it has retained its status as an important business hub in Asia for German companies. Official figures and estimates of German companies in Hong Kong Subsidiaries German list Source: CSD / German Industry and Commerce estimates. The majority of companies are small to medium sized enterprises (SME) with typically less than 50 employees in their Hong Kong operation. Altogether GIC/GCC estimates that German companies employ around 30,000 staff in Hong Kong. Whereas German business abroad typically tend to be dominated by machinery and automotive companies, the main focus in Hong Kong is on service related industries. Companies related to consulting, legal, finance and logistics comprise nearly 40% of companies. Next to providing services, German consumer brands leverage Hong Kong s established retail platform. Ongoing major investment projects including the Hong-Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, West-Kowloon cultural district or railway extensions developments have equally attracted German construction companies, mostly in areas requiring specialized technical know-how. As a result the industrial spectrum of German engagement in Hong Kong is comparatively diverse. Typically German companies focus on providing their clients in Hong Kong with sales and services support or utilize the territory s well established position as a commercial center to engage in trading or sourcing activities. The business scope however extends beyond Hong Kong s boundaries for a significant share of companies. Businesses ties with mainland China are of particular importance, followed by Europe and to a lesser degree with other Asian countries in the region. The regional distribution across the territory is mainly concentrated in the cities traditional commercial centers on Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. Approximately 55% of German companies operate in Hong Kong Island, chiefly in Central and Admiralty. This is followed by 35% having located in Kowloon. Only a small share of around have chosen to operate throughout the New Territories. Distribution of German companies 2014 New Territories Kowloon 35% Hong Kong Island 55% Source: German Industry and Commerce estimates. 3 P a g e

5 Economic Environment Hong Kong s GDP managed to expand by 2.1% in the first quarter 2015 within an increasingly challenging economic environment. Most recent data for the HSBC Purchasing Managers Index data, a key gauge for the private sector economy, registered its sharpest decline since September 2011, falling continuously since February. In large part the challenging business conditions have been affected by direct and indirect effects of the economic slowdown in mainland China, but also by a persisting weaknesses in other major markets. Despite the challenges Hong Kong s economy is expected to hold up in 2015, although economic growth will strongly depend on how external market conditions develop. Business sentiment of private sector Purchasing Managers Index continue to be affected by weak trade data. After contracting by 0.8% in the previous quarter, growth slightly recovered in the first quarter (0.8%) although, given the weak trade data for April and May of this year, a substantial increase is unlikely for the second quarter. Other sub-sectors of the service industries have been able to perform substantially better, achieving healthy growth. The financial sector (excluding banking) in particular has been growing rapidly (18.6%) although this is in part explained by the weak performance in the reference period in Professional services, which includes technical services, continue to achieve stable growth (8.6%) and have so far remained resilient. The construction sector, after strong growth in 2014, is coming down to lower growth levels. Development of business receipt indices by industry 51 20% 50 15% 49 5% % -5% - Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May Construction Retail Finance (excl. banking) Professional services Logistics Source: HSBC Note: Values above 50 indicate expansion, values below 50 indicate contraction. Affected by a slowdown in the mainland China as well as changes to visa regulations for inbound travel of visitors from across the border have particularly affected the retail sector. In the first quarter business receipts for the retail sector contracted by 2.3% compared to the same period in A key reason for this is a sharp decline in spending on luxury goods by mainland tourists in Hong Kong. Weak figures for the May holidays as well as a relaxation on import duties by mainland authorities on a number of luxury items are likely to further affect retail spending for the remainder of Source: CSD The Hong Kong government expects the economy to expand between 1% and 3% in 2015 and under current conditions GDP growth is likely to be within this range. Improving conditions in external markets should stabilize trade while mainland China s economy is expected to bottom out in the second quarter. In combination with a calmer political environment following the vote on the electoral reform the economic environment should be expected to improve over the second half of the year. Companies related to the logistic sector providing services related to the import and export trade 4 P a g e

6 Business Confidence Survey Results 2015 The section below reflects the main findings of GIC/GCC s survey among member companies regarding their general business sentiment in Hong Kong. Business outlook Most German companies expect Hong Kong s economic environment to remain unchanged (57.1%), while the share of companies expecting it to improve (20.8%) or worsen (22.1%) is about equal. The outlook for the relevant industrial sector companies operate in is a token more positive. Although the majority does not expect major changes (51.4%), 31.1% expect improvements in their industry. There are, however, notable variations between the different sectors. Affected by a slowdown in retailing as well as weak export markets, over 50% of companies which expect their industrial sector to worsen are engaged in the consumer goods market. The outlook for companies in consulting, finance and partially logistics on the other hand is more optimistic, as companies anticipate improvements in their respective industries to materialize in the second half of Expectations on economy and individual industry Q10 How do you evaluate Hong Kong s economy and general outlook for your industry in 2015? 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 0% 20.8% 31.1% 57.1% 51.4% 22.1% 17.6% improving unchanged worsening while 40% of consumer goods related companies expected to underperform (i.e. partly or not achieve). Altogether however, and despite business expectations cooling compared to 2014, the majority (55.4%) still expect to either exceed or achieve their business targets. The biggest shift however has been a drop of 11.7 points of the share of companies expecting to exceed their targets, while the share of underperforming companies has remained relatively stable. Business targets Q11 To what extent were you able to achieve your business targets in 2014, and what are your expectations for 2015? 50% 45% 40% 35% 30% 25% 20% 15% 5% 0% 23.1% 11.4% 34.6% 43.0% 21.8% 21.5% exceed achieve mostly achieve % 15.2% partly achieve 8.9% 5.1% not achieve In terms of key performance indicators, 59.9% and 50.0% of German companies in Hong Kong expect an increase in turnover and profits respectively. More than 20% expect turnover to increase by more than 15%, while just under 15% of responding companies expect the same for profit increases. However, around 20% also expect to incur decreases in turnover and profits in Investment intentions and employment are at comparable levels, with the largest share of companies intending to maintain the status quo and just over 35% expecting to increase. Despite a more challenging business environment with slower economic growth, the outlook for the main indicators measuring business performance have been able to retain a general positive business sentiment for Economy Industry The differences in expectations are also reflected in companies outlook for achieving their business targets. Nearly all companies engaged in the finance sector and the majority of consulting companies anticipate to either achieve or even exceed their business targets, 5 P a g e

7 Expectations for key indicators Q12 Please indicate your expectations for 2015 to 2014 for your company in the following areas (turnover, profit, investment, employment). Main markets Q15 Please indicate the most important market in terms of revenue generation for your company s local operation. 100% 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 0% 20.3% 19.2% 14.9% 11.8% 20.3% 30.8% 47.8% 51.3% 59.5% 50.0% 37.3% 36.8% Turnover Profit Investment Employment Europe 22.5% Other Asia 10.0% Hong Kong 35.0% increase similar/unchanged decrease China 32.5% Market conditions Companies are primarily drawn to Hong Kong in order to have a presence in the Asian market (80.5%), while the sales potential (76.0%) and the need to follow key accounts (68.5%) are either very important or important for most German companies choosing to locate here. For 35.0% of German companies Hong Kong is the most important market, closely followed by China (32.5%). Business with Europe as well as other Asian countries are of importance to 22.5% and 10.0% respectively. Hong Kong is a competitive market with a wide array of international companies. 55.8% of responding companies report that competition from Chinese companies is increasing, while this is particularly experienced by companies that engage in cross-border business. Only about 40% of companies with Hong Kong as their main market, feel that competition from mainland companies is increasing. Competition from other contestants, mainly originating from Europe or Hong Kong, has remained unchanged for the majority of companies Hong Kong s notoriously high costs for real estate with rapidly increasing rents and tight space are considered either a major problem or problem for 76.3% of respondents. This is nearly equivalent to the challenges pertaining to finding staff with the necessary skills on the labor market (76.7%). A volatile currency market is another area of concern. The strong devaluation of the Euro against the HK$ as well as the CNY is reflected by more than 50% of companies identifying it as a business challenge. Underlying difficulties in the labor market, increasing labor costs as well as retaining qualified staff round off the top five business challenges for companies. The remaining other 15 challenges monitored in the survey are of considerably lesser relevance. The limited scope of business challenges emphasize Hong Kong s reputation for ease of doing business and excellent business infrastructure. Main business challenges Q16 Please evaluate your current business challenges. Real estate costs Finding qualified staff Currency risks 30.1% 21.1% 41.3% 32.9% 36.0% 46.6% 31.6% 14.7% 8.0% 16.4% 6.8% 14.5% Increasing labour costs 18.9% 36.5% 36.5% 8.1% Retaining qualified staff 18.7% 38.7% 30.7% 12.0% 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% major problem problem small problem no problem 6 P a g e

8 Investment climate As one of the world s most open economies, German companies have an overwhelmingly positive perception of the business friendliness of Hong Kong s business environment. In the future the territory will remain particularly attractive for business related to sales (67.7%) and services (63.7%). Trading and sourcing is likely to remain of relevance, but over 30% of companies perceive it to be losing appeal, while the attractiveness to conduct research and development is only appealing to 17.6%. 18.1% of companies plan to open new locations in Hong Kong in the next 2 years, mainly in sales and services (69.2%). A small share of companies is considering relocating out of Hong Kong, mainly into mainland China. Business friendliness of Hong Kong Q17 How friendly do you consider Hong Kong authorities towards your business operation? has emerged as a noticeable area of concern for German companies with potential direct repercussions on the business environment in the future. Evaluation of business environment Q19 Please evaluate the business and investment environment in Hong Kong. 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 0% 41.6% 28.9% 25.6% 20.8% 10.4% 10.4% 10.4% 9.0% 6.5% 2.6% 5.2% 2.6% improving worsening 41.6% 62.8% unfriendly 6.4% very friendly 11.5% neutral 38.5% friendly 43.6% Hong Kong s business environment is evolving with closer regional integration on the horizon. This is welcomed by the majority of German companies. Most companies perceive improvements in business ties with mainland China (41.8%) as well with the ASEAN region (28.9%) positively. Representing a fundamental advantage of Hong Kong, nearly 80% believe that Hong Kong has been able to maintain its high level of economic freedom. Although the majority consider the administrative environment unchanged, 26.6% feel bureaucracy and 20.6% feel that the rule of law has been worsening. Affected by the debate surrounding the electoral reform, the majority (41.6%) think Hong Kong s international reputation has suffered. A key contributing factor to this is the deteriorating political environment, which 62.8% consider to be declining. Political uncertainty and the polarization of the society 7 P a g e

9 Profile of responding companies The majority (53.8%) of responding companies are located on Hong Kong Island within the main business districts in Central and Admiralty. The presence there is dominated by companies engaged in finance and consulting, while companies located in Kowloon (32.5%) have a heavy presence in consumer goods, electronics and logistics. With 13.8% the smallest share of responses came from companies located in the New Territories where the industrial composition of companies is relatively diverse. Hong Kong is the Asia Pacific headquarter for 74.3% of companies. Of the companies maintaining an Asia Pacific headquarter, Singapore (10.0%) and Shanghai (8.6%) are of lesser importance. The presence throughout the Greater China region is dominated by companies with further operations in mainland China (66.7%). Fewer companies maintain an additional presence in Taiwan (23.8%) or Macau (7.5%). Only 6% of companies operate in all four locations, while 33.8% are solely located in Hong Kong. Regional distribution Q1 Where in Hong Kong is your company located? New Territories 13.8% Industries Q7 Please specify the main industry of your company. Consulting/Legal Services Consumer Goods Logistics Finance/Insurance Electronics Machinery/Industrial Equipment Construction Medical Supplies Automotive IT/Telecommunications Aerospace Tourism Plastic/Metal Products Chemicals Other 10.0% 10.0% 10.0% 7.5% 5.0% 3.8% 3.8% 2.5% 2.5% 1.3% 1.3% 1.3% 2.5% 20.0% 18.8% 0% 5% 15% 20% Nearly 50% of the sample employ under 50 employees and have revenues of up to HK$50 million in their Hong Kong operation. This reflects the strong focus on small to medium sized enterprises as a backbone of Germany s economy. The vast majority (86.3%) operate as limited liability companies and have been present in Hong Kong for more than 15 years (55.0%). 20.1% of companies have been in Hong Kong for up to 3 years, emphasizing that there is a steady flow of new companies and entrepreneurs setting-up in the territory. Number of employees Q5 Please indicate the number of employees working at your company in Hong Kong. Kowloon 32.5% Hong Kong Island 53.8% % % > % < % The majority of companies are associate with service related industries. Consulting (20.0%) and consumer goods (18.8%) are by far the most prominent sectors in the survey sample. Together with logistics, finance and electronics, each making up around, nearly 70% of companies operate in the top five industries. Consumer retail and professional services are of greater significance than industrial sectors. Typically companies engage in services (55.0%) or sales (32.1%) followed by trading (22.5%) and sourcing (12.5%) % % 8 P a g e

10 About the survey The business confidence survey by German Industry and Commerce (GIC) / German Chamber of Commerce (GCC) in Hong Kong is a key gauge measuring the business sentiment of German companies operating in Hong Kong. As of 2015 GIC/GCC has over 450 member companies, representing about 70% of German companies operating in Hong Kong. This year s survey was conducted between May 11 th and June 5 th, In total the survey contained 24 questions, focusing on business outlook and performance, market conditions and investment climate. The survey was conducted online among our member companies. After controlling the dataset for quality, valid responses from 93 member companies were collected. Reports are also available for China and Taiwan. 9 P a g e

11 German Chamber of Commerce, Hong Kong Founded in 1983, the German Chamber of Commerce, Hong Kong with over 450 members, is one of the largest membership associations among the European national chambers. It serves as a catalyst, promoter and facilitator of members interests in Hong Kong. As such, the Chamber is also involved in trade and investment promotion between Hong Kong and Germany along with German Industry and Commerce (GIC), a member of the oicially mandated AHK German Chambers of Commerce Worldwide Network, the German consulate and the representative of Germany Trade and Invest in Hong Kong. Delegation of German Industry and Commerce (GIC/AHK) Established in Hong Kong in 1986, German Industry and Commerce Ltd. (GIC) is a member of the global AHK network with 130 oices in 90 countries and territories. As a nongovernment, non-political private registered association with the public mandate of the Federal Republic of Germany, GIC represents the overall economic interests of Germany and focuses on the promotion of bilateral trade and investment between Germany and the region. Furthermore, GIC provides the management, dedicated staf and other resources to the German Chamber of Commerce, Hong Kong. German Business in Hong Kong 2015 Business Confidence Survey German Chamber of Commerce, Hong Kong German Industry and Commerce Ltd. German Chamber of Commerce in China North China German Chamber of Commerce in China Shanghai German Chamber of Commerce in China South & Southwest China 3601 Tower One, Lippo Centre Admiralty, Hong Kong Tel Landmark Tower 2, Unit North Dongsanhuan Road, Chaoyang District, Bejing Tel F, China Fortune Tower 1568 Century Avenue Pudong District, Shanghai Tel Room 1903, Leatop Plaza 32 Zhu Jiang East Road Tianhe District, Guangzhou Tel Contact Person Mr. Max J. Zenglein Economic Analyst Greater China Survey Design and Analysis German Chamber of Commerce in China North China Tel

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