LOTTE DISMISSES ‘SKYSCRAPER CURSE’
Group optimistic despite delaying opening of observation deck at tower to April 3
THE glass-bottomed observation deck sitting 118 storeys up in the Seoul sky isn’t for the faint of heart. That condition would apply to the tower’s builder, the beleaguered Lotte Group, as well.
After almost seven years of planning and four trillion won (RM15.95 billion) in spending, the conglomerate is preparing to unwrap its Lotte World Tower to the public. The building boasts some record-setting amenities: highest glass floor at the top of a building and highest swimming pool.
Yet the debut couldn’t come at a worse time for Lotte, the chaebol with US$81 billion (RM358.83 billion) in revenue that may be the latest victim of what’s called the “skyscraper curse”.
The empire’s 94-year-old founder and three of his children face corruption charges, and its stores are at the epicentre of Chinese consumer retaliation for a United States missile-defence system being installed on land it provided.
“Lotte is kind of the perfect storm in terms of vulnerability,” said Andrew Gilholm, Shanghaibased principal and director of analysis for Greater China and North Asia with Control Risks. “They’re in sectors that are very exposed.”
“South Korea is definitely facing a lot of difficulties at home and abroad,” said Moody’s Analytics economist Emily Dabbs in Sydney. “Over the next year, we are going to see a low-growth environment.”
Record-setting skyscrapers and economic hard times were no strangers, said Andrew Lawrence, Hong Kong-based founder of Oculus Research Asia and creator of the Skyscraper Index.
New York’s Empire State Building debuted during the Great Depression; work on the Petronas Towers finished during the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s; and Dubai’s Burj Khalifa opened in 2010 as the property market there collapsed.
Lotte’s 123-storey tower got a taste of that misfortune on Monday, when the conglomerate said the opening of the observation deck scheduled for today would be delayed until at least April 3, following an elevator malfunction.
Lotte isn’t buying into talk of a curse, saying yesterday its tower and accompanying Lotte World Mall would generate 10 trillion won in economic benefits a year and attract 50 million tourists.
“There are several cases where landmark skyscrapers around the world have good impact on the local economy,” said Lotte in a statement. “Lotte decided to delay the opening in an effort to keep safety as a priority.”
South Korea’s gross domestic product is expected to grow by 2.5 per cent this year, according to a survey by Bloomberg News, and that would be the lowest since 2012. Bloomberg
Lotte Group has pushed back the opening of the observation deck at Lotte World Tower, scheduled for today, due to an elevator malfunction on Monday.