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Hong Kong's Link REIT Facing Fresh Legal Challenge

by Mary Swire,, Hong Kong

02 November 2005

An independent legislator who is set to challenge the Hong Kong government's Link REIT in yet another judicial review has assured investors that new court proceedings will not prevent the listing from going ahead.

According to a report in the South China Morning Post, Albert Chan Wai-yip is considering taking the government to court on the grounds that it is violating the Public Finance Ordinance by passing the money generated directly to the Hong Kong Housing Authority without the approval of the Legislative Assembly.

"It is wrong for the government to pass the money generated from the listing directly to the Housing Authority without the money first going back to the Treasury and from there to the authority with Legco approval," Chan argued.

However, Chan stated that even if he succeeds, the action will not disrupt the listing of the Link REIT.

"The Court of Final Appeal's judgment has affirmed the legality of the Link Reit listing, so whether I seek a judicial review will have no impact on the initial public offering," he observed.

Chan continued: "All I am going to achieve is to force the government to go to the Legco's Finance Committee for ask for the money to be paid to the Housing Authority; I can't block the listing."

The launch of the massive REIT offering - which includes 180 car parks and almost 1 million square metres of retail space - was set to take place last December, but Lo Siu-lan, an elderly resident of government-owned accommodation submitted a last minute application for a judicial review, in which she argued that the deal undervalued the assets, and could lead to higher costs for tenants.

However, in an unanimous judgment in July, Hong Kong's highest court held that the Housing Authority "plainly has the power to sell the... retail and car park facilities to the Link REIT".

Chan is currently consulting with legal experts and will decide whether to proceed with the judicial reivew proceedings within the next three weeks.

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