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iPad hits Hong Kong -- before global release

By Kevin Voigt, CNN
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iPad in Hong Kong before global release
  • iPads went on sale last Saturday in U.S.
  • Hong Kongers buy iPads in U.S., bring home for resale
  • Some iPads selling for 60 percent markup in Hong Kong
  • Apple to launch iPad in Hong Kong later this year

Hong Kong, China (CNN) -- The iPad may have exclusively launched in the United States on Saturday, but by Monday hundreds were available in the stores of Hong Kong -- thanks to the city's laissez faire retail laws and the work of traders such as Ronald Leung.

On Saturday, Leung and dozens of his friends stood in line at Apple stores around the San Francisco area. "We were limited to buy only two apiece," he said on Wednesday, toting a suitcase filled with iPads fresh off a plane from San Francisco and ready for resale on the streets of Hong Kong.

All told, he and his friends brought back about 200 iPads for sale in Hong Kong, where stores were selling them for as much as 60 percent higher than their $499 retail price.

Among those flocking to Hong Kong to own the iPad are mainland Chinese customers, said Alex Tang, who resells iPad for eSatto. Some mainland Chinese bought in iPads in bulk from the reseller to resell yet again in China for a higher price.

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"One trader bought 20 from me for HK$6,500 (US$837) and planned to resell in China for RMB6,500 (US$952), using the exchange rate to make a profit," he said.

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Inside an hour a CNN reporter found seven stores selling iPads in stores on the crowded streets of Mongkok, one of the most densely populated areas in the world and Hong Kong's hub for "gray market" goods -- the importation of legitimate merchandise unlicensed for resale abroad.

Unlike many foreign markets, the gray market imports of electronic goods into Hong Kong "are generally legal," said Alice Li, an attorney for Angela Wang & Co.

Hong Kong -- a free trade port city with no retail tax -- has long been the place Asians flock to buy new electronics goods before their official release.

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Lo Lau, manager of G-World Mobile, said there had been brisk sales since Monday.

"It's not just people from the mainland, but people have come from Macau and Taiwan to buy it," said Lau, as he restocked his store with 11 more iPads just removed from Leung's suitcase.

There has been a great deal of interest overseas for iPads. Nearly 80 percent of sales of iPad on eBay have been from outside the United States, with the highest price sold to a buyer in the United Kingdom for $5,500, according to eBay spokesperson Kathy Chui.

Apple didn't return calls from CNN seeking comment on the resale of iPads in Hong Kong and other foreign markets, although the company has said it plans to officially release the tablet computer overseas later in the year.

Leung, for one, hopes the company takes its time in officially launching the iPad abroad.

"Because it's only limited (for sale) in the U.S. for now there's a very high demand here in Hong Kong ... and a very good profit for me," said Leung, a trader who divides his time between Hong Kong and San Francisco.