High-Tech Hangover Hits Cyberport
HONG KONG (AP) _ Once touted as Hong Kong’s answer to Silicon Valley, the Cyberport industrial park is finally in business _ but with little to boast about in the way of tenants.
The project’s first phase opened Wednesday, but just three of 80 companies that applied for tenancy had signed leases, and one of them was the Cyberport developer, Pacific Century CyberWorks.
Cyberport was launched in 1999 _ when dot-coms were booming _ but stirred controversy when the government awarded the project with no bidding to CyberWorks, run by Richard Li, a son of Hong Kong’s richest man, Li Ka-shing.
CyberWorks is a telecom and high-tech conglomerate that once held grand visions but has since taken a more down-to-earth focus on telephone revenues.
The other two Cyberport tenants are telecommunications group Sonera SmartTrust Ltd., of Finland, and GE Global eXchange Services, a unit of the U.S. General Electric Co.
Critics have questioned the wisdom of developing Cyberport _ as Hong Kong suffers through another economic slowdown.
``Under the current global economic conditions, and seeing that there are others in the region who are more advanced than us in high-tech industries, I don’t feel too optimistic about it,″ said Lau Siu-kai, a political scientist at the Chinese University.
``Seeing that there are so few companies there, people will question whether this can really push Hong Kong ahead as a technology hub and kickstart the high-tech industry here,″ Lau said.
The government sought Thursday to play down any worries, noting none of the 15 major high-tech companies that signed letters of intent to move in _ including IBM, Microsoft and Yahoo! _ have pulled out.
Microsoft Hong Kong still plans an office at Cyberport but hasn’t decided when, spokeswoman Bridget Yau said.
``If they have taken the trouble of entering into detailed discussions with us, I believe they are very sincere in pursuing their leases,″ said Annie Tam, Hong Kong’s deputy secretary for information technology and broadcasting. Cyberport is set to be completed in 2004.
Tam acknowledged the sick global economy has hurt.
``It’s not the best time for people to consider expansion,″ she said. ``If their growth areas and expansion plans have been put back as a corporate policy, then of course their plans of moving into the Cyberport are accordingly being deferred.″