Is Bank of America counting down to Armageddon?

A signboard on top of Hong Kong’s Bank of America Tower is ominously ticking off time. But what does it mean?
Bank of America Tower sporting its new LED crown

A mysterious countdown that appeared on top of Bank of America Tower in central Hong Kong provoked a mild bout of curiosity yesterday.

A spokesman at Bank of America Merrill Lynch said that some worried members of the public had called the bank to ask if it was “counting down to Armageddon”. Elsewhere, others wondered if it was foretelling the start of China’s own Lehman crisis.

The object of these fears is a large LED signboard that crowns the top of the 38-storey building. It was installed a few weeks ago and is now ticking off the hours, minutes and seconds to 9pm today (Tuesday), according to BoA Merrill.

However, the photo we took (above) at a few minutes before 6pm last night only adds to the intrigue. It shows the timer at 24:33:17, suggesting that it is actually counting down to 6.30pm this evening.

But what does it mean? Well, we are happy to report that the truth is much less frightening (and exciting) than anyone imagined. The giant clock is counting down to (wait for it)... its own “official launch” (no, not the rocket kind).

“This latest addition to the iconic Hong Kong skyline is a very significant investment of time and resources by our firm and symbolises our long-term investment in the future of our business not just here in Hong Kong but also for our franchise in Asia Pacific,” says Matthew Koder, president of Asia Pacific at BoA Merrill.

The sign is an integrated four-panel screen made of 3.2 million individual LEDs and stands on the front row of Hong Kong’s skyline, visible to tourists snapping photographs from Tsim Sha Tsui and also to most of the other skyscrapers in Central. The Bank of China, Cheung Kong, AIA and Lippo buildings all look directly on to it, so the countdown has attracted plenty of attention among the bankers, lawyers and other professionals who work in those buildings.

They will doubtless be pleased to know that the new sign will be part of the city’s Symphony of Lights show, flashing spectacularly for 14 minutes every night at 8pm. “The rich design and graphics will showcase the sign’s capabilities – energetic and vibrant,” says BoA Merrill.

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