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Hong Kong move for China Guardian as obstacles to mainland prospects gather

30 July 2012Written by ATG Reporter

Beijing-based auction house China Guardian is reported to be launching a sales programme in Hong Kong this autumn.

Having just announced a sales turnover of RMB2.5bn (around £250m) for the first half of 2012, a statement on the company's website announced that the Hong Kong subsidiary, launched in May, will hold its debut sale in October, which coincides with Sotheby's headline sale series andFine Art Asia, the leading art and antiques fair.

 It is widely acknowledged that taxes, red tape and restrictive rules have severely limited the appeal of mainland China as a place to do business for international auction houses, while the recent loosening of regulations and tariffs in Hong Kong have only added to its attractions as a sales venue where other advantages includes the Freeport status of Harbor City, as well as its user-friendly transport system and infrastructure.

Encouraging firms to give mainland China more of a chance is unlikely to get any easier in the wake of the arrest at the end of March of two senior members of staff of the art handlers Integrated Fine Art Solutions.

Accused of undervaluing imported works in a bid to avoid tax, German Nils Jennrich and Chinese Lydia Chu, respectively the general manager and operations manager, have been held in custody ever since amid firm denials of any wrongdoing on their part or that of their employers. Integrated Fine Art Solutions have also said that they do not carry out valuations.

What has raised eyebrows on an equally wide scale has been the reported seizing of a client list from another fine art shipping firm as well as the demand for client details from Christie's and - it is thought, though not yet confirmed - Sotheby's to be handed over to the Chinese authorities as part of the ongoing investigation.

Questions are being asked as to whether the whole state-backed operation is merely a smokescreen to acquire valuable client information and to clear the way for a domestic competitor to parachute in and take over as much import business as possible.

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ATG Reporter

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