Hong Kong Phone Company Finds Silver Lining in Protests

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(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong’s second-largest residential broadband provider is seeing a silver lining in months-long pro-democracy protests as some companies seek to secure their operations.

HKBN Ltd. is receiving more queries on setting up remote or virtual offices, as businesses carry out their contingency plans, Billy Yeung, chief executive officer of the company’s enterprise solutions branch, said in an interview.

Since the protests started in June, smaller and non-bank businesses have been asking about remote office setups, adding to banks, which have been HKBN’s biggest customers for the service, Yeung said. More companies are also seeking HKBN’s help to move files from physical storage to the cloud for security as tensions rise, he said.

“A very small number” of HKBN’s enterprise customers have been affected by the protests, he said, even as slowdowns in the city’s tourism and retail industries have forced some small and medium-sized companies to close.

Growth in the enterprise market may help Yeung’s ambition to eventually overtake HKT Trust & HKT Ltd., Hong Kong’s largest telecommunications services provider.

HKBN is also seeking growth through acquisitions, spending $1.5 billion last year and this year acquiring five companies including fixed-line network operators and internet technology solutions providers. The deals are adding to the company’s operating income, which is expected to more than double to HK$1.3 billion ($167 million) in the year ending Aug. 31, based on the average of analyst estimates. That compares with estimated operating profit of HK$7.6 billion for HKT.

Demonstrations initially against an extradition bill have escalated into a wider movement against police violence and Beijing’s growing control over the city. Financial Secretary Paul Chan earlier this month forecast the city’s first budget deficit since the early 2000s.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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