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The protests in Hong Kong have turned increasingly violent in recent months and a resolution to the crisis looks as far off as ever. In a previous piece of mine, I looked at three stocks that could be worth buying if Hong Kong goes into recession.
I thought I would flip that around and focus instead on the optimistic possibility, however remote, of the protests ending peacefully. In that scenario, what companies should investors look to as potential beneficiaries?
Investors should take the view that markets always bounce back; Hong Kong’s economy will recover and tourism will likely return. In fact, I’d argue the city’s economy has recovered from worse, such as the 2003 SARS crisis.
So I’ve picked these three solid stocks that could rebound strongly if the protests end; MTR Corporation Limited (SEHK:66), Wharf Real Estate Investment Company Ltd (SEHK: 1997), and Swire Properties Limited (SEHK:1972).
1. MTR Corporation
Hong Kong subway operator MTR Corporation has experienced substantial disruption due to the protests. Protestors have vandalised and defaced MTR’s subway stations. The rail operator has suspended, as well as ended early, subway services.
Because MTR makes much of its money from developing commercial and residential property next to its subway stations, the decline in commercial activity in Hong Kong has hurt real estate values, further pummeling MTR’s stock.
Although shares of MTR initially rose during the protests in a “flight to safety” rally, they have fallen almost 20% from their mid-July highs. During that time, nothing has changed with the company. If the protests end, MTR Corporation will remain one of Hong Kong’s best infrastructure and developer bets as rail operations return to normal and property activity rebounds.
2. Wharf REIC
Wharf Real Estate Investment Company (Wharf REIC) is one of the largest real estate companies in Hong Kong with a portfolio that includes several popular shopping centres such as Harbour City and Times Square.
The company also owns hotels in its shopping centers that serve many tourists. Given the decline in tourism to Hong Kong, Wharf REIC shares are down 25% from their highs in late April this year.
If the protests end, Wharf REIC could find itself in high demand again given the company’s quality assets and attractive dividend history. From 2009 to 2018, it increased its dividend per share (DPS) every year. Shares are yielding around 4.8% at its current price (as of the time of writing).
3. Swire Properties
Swire Properties manages and develops commercial, hotel, retail and residential properties in prime areas across Hong Kong, Singapore, China, and the US. The company’s portfolio includes luxury hotels such as Island Shangri-La, Hong Kong and The Upper House as well as upscale shopping malls such as Pacific Place.
Given that hotel occupancy has fallen sharply in many areas due to the drop in tourists, shares of Swire Properties shares are down around 22% from their April levels. If the protests end, more mainland tourists will frequent Swire Properties’ hotels and malls – leading to a recovery in its stock price.
Commercial real estate-related stocks and infrastructure plays have been hit the hardest due to the protests but in my view, they stand to rebound the most once the protests in Hong Kong come to an end.
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The information provided is for general information purposes only and is not intended to be personalised investment or financial advice. Motley Fool Hong Kong contributor Jay Yao doesn’t own shares in any companies mentioned.