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P.M. BRIEFING : Prime Hong Kong Firm Pulling Out

<i> From Times wire service</i> s

The biggest landlord in Hong Kong today announced a restructuring into a Bermuda-based holding company in a move seen by analysts as damaging to confidence in the British colony’s future.

The Hongkong Land Co., which owns most of the prime real estate in Hong Kong’s main business district, is following Jardine Matheson Holdings, the company made famous in James Clavell’s novel “Noble House,” to Bermuda.

“The only reason to do this is if you don’t trust China,” said a corporate lawyer who asked not to be named. “You can’t take bricks and mortar overseas but you want to be able to sell them and take the cash out.”

When Jardines moved its registration in 1984, commentators called it the “Bermuda Bombshell” because they said it showed a lack of confidence in China’s ability to preserve Hong Kong’s prosperity after it resumes sovereignty in 1997.

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