Asia’s oldest architecture firm practises its art along belt and road

14-May-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

A slowdown in China and price pressure in Greater China is forcing P&T Group, Hong Kong’s oldest architecture firm, to look to emerging markets along the belt and road.

P&T directors Remo Riva and Janette Chan estimate that total revenue from China is now less than 30 per cent, down from more than 50 per cent. As a result the firm has had to cut staff, which at its peak was more than 2,000 to around 1,600 today.

The company earns about $130 million in fees annually, according to the directors.

Fees that ranged between 3 and 5 per cent of construction costs were being driven down to 1 or 2 per cent, they said because of local competition and rising construction costs.

A study by the UK consultancy Global Construction Perspectives estimated that between 2003 and 2017, average annual growth in Chinese construction was 11 per cent, but that is forecast to grow by 3.9 per cent from 2018 to 2030.

Felix Li, president of the Hong Kong Institute of Architects, said that a 2016 survey by the institute showed that at least half of Hong Kong architecture firms earned half or more of their revenue in mainland China.

Chan said P&T Group is working on over 600 projects worldwide through 14 offices spread across the Middle East, Southeast Asia and China. Its Vietnam office, which it opened in 2008, she said now also oversees projects in Cambodia.

Riva said that P&T Group was working up plans for the Vietnamese government to build satellite communities linked to old Hanoi via rail and tramlines to preserve older buildings and neighbourhoods in the downtown area.

Architectural firms can potentially earn higher fees on grander projects, such as master plans, if governments are in control of the development process, as they are in China and Vietnam, said Chris Webster, dean of the faculty of architecture at Hong Kong University.

Cambodia too has been enjoying a construction boom thanks to an influx of Chinese investments in Belt and Road Initiative projects.

Chan said that the firm was in the process of registering an office in Saudi Arabia, adding that the company was working on two hospital projects there, with scope for many more.

In Saudi Arabia, “there’s money and will,” said Riva.

P&T Group did the design for a 495,000 square metre medical complex that is now being built, and is working on another, similar project in Jeddah.

Riva feels that Africa could be a big new source of business for Hong Kong architects, adding that P&T has already completed work on a new luxury residential high rise in Lagos, Nigeria.


Category: Hong Kong

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