Sun Hung Kai Properties

Lai See

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 October, 2007, 12:00am

How a Hong Kong ID card opened the door to billions

A salute to the millions of Chinese women, especially the growing number of millionaires and billionaires.

Forget about Bill Gates and Warren Buffett; in the mainland, the riches belong to women.

According to the newly released Hurun Report, Country Garden Holdings major shareholder Yang Huiyan is the country's richest person, with 130 billion yuan, followed by Nine Dragons Paper (Holdings) chairwoman Cheung Yan, with 77 billion yuan. Madam Cheung was the champion last year.

Between the two women, they have more money than Shimao Property chairman Hui Wing-mau, Gome Electrical Appliances chairman Wong Kwong-yu, Citic Pacific chairman Larry Yung Chi-kin and New Hope Group chairman Liu Yonghao combined. All had topped the list at some point since 1999.

This year, the richest was also the youngest and perhaps the luckiest. Ms Yang, 26, has spent two years at Country Garden, having joined as a procurement manager after graduating from Ohio State University with a marketing and logistics degree.

The lucky girl, yet to be caught by the lenses of the paparazzi, was handed the wealth from her father, Yeung Kwok-keung, founder of Country Garden, now the largest Chinese listed property firm in Hong Kong.

In just six months, Ms Yang, who owns 58.19 per cent of the developer, saw the value of her stake jump 243 per cent to HK$124.8 billion, based on yesterday's market close.

For her, the road to billions looked easy. People involved with the Country Garden listing joked that Ms Yang made the money only because she was born in Hong Kong.

Early this year, Beijing discouraged local firms from listing overseas, but luckily Country Garden caught the last train after following a professional suggestion that perhaps a Hong Kong major shareholder may facilitate the listing procedure.

That person with a Hong Kong identity card was Ms Yang, now the mainland's richest person.

Build and grow rich

So, how to position yourself as the richest person in China?

Here is a tip from Lai See: move to Shenzhen and start investing in property.

That was not a hint from the Chief Executive's policy address yesterday, but rather a feeling from studying the data of the Hurun rich list.

Two-thirds of the top dozen wealthiest people in the mainland made money from property, half of those in the Pearl River Delta.

Pay cuts for fat cats

What do you call a company that grew its profit by 6 per cent to a record but managed to cut its directors' pay by 6 per cent?

How about Sun Hung Kai Properties?

In its annual report released yesterday, the No1 local property developer revealed that it paid HK$46.51 million to its 17 directors, down 6.9 per cent.

The decline was due to a cut in bonus for two directors - Michael Wong Yick-kam (HK$ 8.63 million, down HK$1.21 million) and Chan Kai-ming (HK$3.12 million, less HK$2.85 million).

The controlling Kwok brothers all had but small pay rises, led by vice-chairman Raymond Kwok Ping-luen (HK$2.14 million, up 3.9 per cent), chairman Walter Kwok Ping-sheung (HK$2.06 million, up 3 per cent) and vice-chairman Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong (HK$1.98 million, up 4.8 per cent).

The three brothers altogether made less than half of the top-paid executive Mike Wong Chik-wing, who made HK$13.51 million, up 7 per cent.

One share, one vote

If you can't beat them, sell them.

Corporate activist David Webb (below) heckled MTR Corp management about giving up the rail operator's fare autonomy for nothing as part of its effective takeover of rival KCRC's assets. But in a vote over the deal he was defeated - not just in that 82 per cent of the shares voted favoured the merger, but that only 25 per cent of the shares were voted.

Still, as a shareholder in the property developer and rail operator, he has enjoyed the ride as the stock price rose 34 per cent in the past two months.

After the vote, he said he would dump all his MTR shares except for one. Why? Holding the single share keeps him eligible to turn up at future AGMs to say 'we told you so.' Plus, he will continue to get discount vouchers for the Airport Express.