Property expert calls for easing of license acquisition

Acquiring operation licenses remains a challenge for business operators keen on starting a firm in the region.

Real estate expert Oliver Tong called on the government to address the issue, noting that it should provide a degree of flexibility when it comes to licensing and even construction permits.

Speaking yesterday on the sidelines of the annual business talk of the American Chamber of Commerce, British Business Association of Macao and the France Macau Chamber of Commerce, Oliver Tong, senior director and head of leasing at Jones Lang LaSalle said a number of clients at the firm had encountered licensing dilemmas.

Tong remarked that Macau has been actively promoting diversified development of tourism and different industries, which has attracted much attention from overseas operators. However, Macau’s complicated laws, regulations and license application procedures have made them move back and give up their plans.

“Sometimes for food and beverages or supermarkets, it can take three to four months before you get the license ready. In those three to four months, they have to pay rent, so they are paying it for nothing [and] that is the very big challenge for [business owners],” Tong told the Times.

“[Licensing procedures] definitely need to be more effective, otherwise many international brands and retailers would say that it is much easier in Hong Kong [so they may] focus on Hong Kong instead,” he added.

The senior director noted that some operational licenses can take up to nine to 12 months before being ready to fully open a firm.

The expert made such comments on the food and beverage sector as it had showed steady growth, mentioning the opening of franchise stores such as Lady M, The Cheesecake Factory and Hey Tea amongst others.

“The other issue is human resources. This deserves more attention from the government because getting enough people to work for them is not easy, and getting foreign quotas is another challenge. It’s always very tight,” Tong commented in regards to other issues the retail sector faces.

“On the landlords’ side, honestly speaking, I don’t think they are open minded enough to accept new concepts. […] They are not open minded and are just focused on developing traditional retail [firms],” he added.

With the increasing supply of retail leasing space in Macau, it is forecasted that over 1 million square feet of retail space will enter the market in 2019.

According to 2019 predictions, a downward adjustment in retail rental costs is expected, yet at the same time, lower rental costs  will create opportunities for experiential entertainment operators, such as VR game centers, trampoline parks, cinemas and food and beverage businesses amongst others.

Furthermore, when questioned over whether local residents are leaning towards purchasing real estate developments in Hengqin, Tong noted that current policies and regulations are not yet attracting local residents to purchase apartments in the region.

“Hengqin always takes time. I don’t think all the required policies are in place right now to attract tenants. Most build infrastructure and big buildings but in terms of software it is [still lacking],” Tong explained.

“I think it is happening progressively but not everything is ready. […] It will take five to ten years at least,” he added.

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