The Observation Wheel at the Central harbourfront has been saved from demolition after the old and new holders of land-lease rights to the site reached an agreement on the transfer of the facility on Wednesday.
Swiss AEX Holding Limited (Swiss AEX), the current operator of the tourist attraction, had failed in its bid to renew its lease on the site and was required to return the land by Oct. 31. It had threatened to tear down the Ferris wheel from Thursday if it failed to reach an agreement on the transfer terms with the new lease holder, the Entertainment Corporation Limited (TECL).
Negotiations between the two parties had been unproductive since the facility was shut down abruptly on Aug. 29, raising fears that Hong Kong could end up losing the wheel, which opened for business in December 2014 on a site close to Piers No. 9 and 10.
But on Wednesday, the two parties, along with the wheel’s maker Dutch Wheels, announced that they have finally sorted out their differences and reached an agreement on the transfer terms.
Part of the agreement is that the wheel will resume normal operation without being replaced by a new one, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported.
In a joint statement, Swiss AEX and TECL said the wheel will be reopened as soon as possible. They also thanked Allan Zeman, chairman of Lan Kwai Fong Holdings Ltd., for helping mediate the dispute, hk01.com reports.
Details of the final terms of the agreement were not made public.
Zeman said he was happy to see a win-win result for the companies, adding that people in Hong Kong are the true winners.
He said it would be “ridiculous and crazy” to see Swiss AEX spending six weeks demolishing the wheel and TECL taking another two years building a new one.
That’s something that would definitely hurt Hong Kong’s image, Zeman said.
Playing down his contribution to the agreement, Zeman said what he did was bring the companies back to the negotiation table, stressing the key issue was mutual trust rather than the price.
He also said it was a pure business negotiation, so it was understandably difficult for the government to step in.
Now that the dust has settled, whether TECL will fulfill its reported pledge to lower the ticket price to HK$20 per person from HK$100 currently remains to be seen.
Zeman said the HK$100 ticket price, in fact, only helped Swiss AEX break even and was cheaper than that charged for similar facilities in many other countries, adding that he does not know much about the new ticket price.
He said TECL may possibly hold more events to increase its income should it cut down the ticket price.
The Development Bureau said it was pleased to see the two parties reaching an agreement, and promised to support and facilitate the lease arrangement, hk01.com said.
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