It’s no secret that the world we face today is markedly different from what we knew before the advent of Covid-19, but for Champion REIT (Stock code: 2778) – the real estate investment trust that owns and invests in landmark properties Three Garden Road and Langham Place – by embracing change it has been future-proofing its business for the new normal; a world where demand for online services has increased and shifts in technology usage are shaping client demand.
In recent months, Champion REIT has made determined efforts to innovate, support its tenants, and adapt to this new normal. One prime example, announced in April, is the agile and novel method in approaching rental settlement during the pandemic.
LOOK AFTER YOURSELF AND OTHERS
To support its Langham Place Office Tower anchor tenant, the Trust temporarily received listed shares of Union Medical Healthcare in lieu of cash for their rental payment. This solution eases the short-term tight liquidity of the tenant through a flexible financial arrangement and offers upside potential to the Trust’s revenue when the market recovers.
More generally, Champion REIT has been in close contact with its mall and office tenants and offering assistance where necessary while increasing promotional activities to boost footfall and consumer sentiment. Examples include cash voucher rebates, parking discount offers, gift redemption, and bonus point rewards. An online coupon e-shop will also be launched to reach out customers with attractive offers.
In order to adapt to social distancing measures, Champion REIT is also developing new technological solutions to drive new business and operational efficiencies.
The Trust recently launched the “first-ever” 360° virtual tour of office buildings with live chat function in Hong Kong, which can be viewed online and provides a 3D version of the interiors and drone shots of exteriors.
“ Seeking and embracing changes is a way to stay ahead of market trends. I believe we don’t need to be afraid of change” - Ada Wong, CEO of Champion REIT
Existing and prospective clients can conduct virtual live chats with leasing teams in advance, also.
The team has also leveraged IoT technology to pioneer sensors in its carparks which measure the amount of exhaust emissions in real time to control ventilation rates. In doing so it has reduced energy costs by 30% within a year.
These activities closely marry the company’s core philosophy and culture of sustainability – creating long-term value and well-being for its business, its staff and of the communities it operates within.
Langham Place Mall also attained the Final Platinum rating under the BEAM Plus Comprehensive Scheme as part of its commitment to environmental performance and sustainable development.
In relation to community, Champion REIT launched a virtual summer student programme called The Real Champion – Entrepreneur in Action, which received an overwhelming response from over 270 university students who are encouraged to execute their business plans to boost the sale of Langham Place’s cash coupons.
In doing so, they learn practical marketing and entrepreneurial tactics while social distancing.
POSITIVE REGULATORY MOVEMENT ON REIT CODE
There is also good news for the commercial property sector in general.
Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission announced on June 9 it had embarked on a two-month consultation on proposals to amend the Code on Real Estate Investment Trusts to arm Hong Kong REITS with greater flexibility in making investments.
Proposed changes in allowing REITs to invest in minority-owned properties and in property development projects in excess of the existing limit of 10% of the gross asset value (GAV), as well as increasing the borrowing limit for REITs to 50% of GAV, up five percentage points.
If enacted it will be positive for the sector, allowing REITs to manoeuvre more nimbly and potentially tap additional funding if required.