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Hong Kong Paper War Breaks Out

March 18, 1999

HONG KONG (AP) _ The launch of a cheap Chinese-language newspaper today fueled a price war among Hong Kong’s competitive dailies, with one resorting to giving away cash to keep customers.

The Oriental Press Group, which publishes Hong Kong’s largest paper, the Oriental Daily News, began selling its new title, The Sun, for just 2 Hong Kong dollars (26 cents) with a bold promise to readers: ``No matter wind or rain, the Sun will always rise from the East.″

The Oriental Daily did not cut its price of 5 Hong Kong dollars (64 cents), but the debut of The Sun posed a challenge to rival Apple Daily, Hong Kong’s second-largest paper. Apple Daily responded by slashing its price to 3 Hong Kong dollars (38 cents) from 5 Hong Kong dollars.

Apple Daily, known for aggressive investigative coverage, has a circulation of about 400,000, while The Sun’s initial circulation was estimated at 200,000. The Oriental Daily has a circulation of about 600,000.

The Hong Kong Daily News, trailing its bigger rivals with a stated circulation of 140,000, stayed out of today’s price cutting. But the newspaper sought to retain its customer base by giving away cash and charity donations while maintaining its price of 5 Hong Kong dollars.

About 70 people lined up to hand in the masthead from the paper in exchange for a small envelope with 20 Hong Kong dollars ($2.60). The newspaper also promised to give money to charity.

Maggie Ho said she was in line because she could ``do some charity work″ just by reading the newspaper. Samuel Ngai turned up to get the cash, saying he was a loyal Daily News reader and wouldn’t switch to The Sun.

Other readers were apparently lured by The Sun’s low price, if not the novelty of a new newspaper title. Choi Kee, a newspaper vendor, said The Sun sold out at his kiosk by 7:30 a.m. At noon, he still had copies of Apple Daily.

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