Jackie Chan

Lai See

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 October, 2007, 12:00am

Chan makes a statement and speaks volumes as chairman

To many company chairmen, writing is the last thing they want to do. That is why most chairmen's statements are rather dry, even if they are usually prepared by ghost writers.

To Hang Lung Group chairman Ronnie Chan Chichung (below), though, it must be fun. In each of the past 10 years, he has produced a Warren Buffett-style chairman's statement.

This year, it is 7,000 words spilling over 14 pages and spiced with barbs against rivals for what he sees as their dubious practices.

To begin with, Mr Chan wastes no time telling his shareholders that his firm's strategy and execution in the mainland real estate worked well while 'few of our competitors have focused on them'. He challenged them to show that their strategy in Hong Kong in the past decades would work well in the bigger and diverse markets of the mainland.

Specifically he referred to rivals boasting about their millions, if not tens of millions, of square metres in land banks and their low land costs while missing out the golden principle: 'Location, location and location.'

'Suppose we were to build in Manhattan using our criteria. We would only purchase land on Fifth Avenue between 42nd Street and 59th Street,' Mr Chan wrote. 'Madison Avenue is good but too narrow; Park Avenue is excellent for offices but not for shops.'

Just as other developers have begun singing the chorus of a vibrant housing market in Hong Kong, Mr Chan questions whether this fit with the prevalent social trend in the city.

'Our young people eight or 10 years out of university who formerly would begin buying apartments here are now renting instead. They never know when their employers will want them stationed in Shanghai, Beijing or other mainland cities...

'After all, unlike 10 or 20 years ago, living there is now almost every bit as pleasant and comfortable as in Hong Kong. Since their standard of living is lower, the same dollar stretches longer.

'The same appeal holds for older retired folks.'

For the first time, Hang Lung displayed some award-winning projects in its annual report, aping its rivals. But Mr Chan insisted this was different from his rivals buying advertorials.

'It should be noted that in Asia, I have witnessed repeatedly that developers who sponsor conferences organised by certain international business magazines will soon find themselves recipients of one honour or another given by those magazines. We consider this practice a farce and refuse to participate in that game.'

We heard that Mr Chan would soon publish his 10-year observations of the Hong Kong and mainland property markets. Judging from the year's sample, we are sure it will be a fun, controversial read.

Times and things change

How time flies. A decade ago, Mr Chan was visually upset with analysts dubbing his firm the most conservative property company in Hong Kong for sitting on land and cash. Ten years later, he is happy to be labelled as the 'most aggressive' developer in the mainland.

The change in perception fuelled a surging share price for both Hang Lung Group and Hang Lung Properties and helped Mr Chan reap a windfall in remuneration. Last year, he received HK$28.1 million, up 40.5 per cent. The pay rise reflected a big jump in his share-based compensation to HK$14.9 million, compared with HK$6 million a year earlier.

'Just as history has shown us to be right last time, I trust that in time, history will also judge us correct today,' Mr Chan concluded.

Halloween's everywhere

Halloween will soon take over the Mid-autumn Festival as the favourite season in Hong Kong.

The mood for the spooky festival is everywhere. In Tsim Sha Tsui's Harbour City, a five-cubic-metre pumpkin is on display. In Ocean Park, we were told some 30,000 people lined up for a night adventure.

Even in Hong Kong Disneyland, many people visited their newly decorated haunted hotel. (Disney people, evidently spooked by the light of disclosure, declined to reveal visitor numbers as usual.)

The Hong Kong Jockey Club is joining the city-wide party. As Halloween falls on a Wednesday racing day, it will launch a special 'Phantom of the Races' at a Happy Valley meet for the first time.

We were told there will be some Halloween-themed races and decorations in the main race course area, while some spooky characters would take over its beer garden. A post-horse racing party would be held at its Adrenaline restaurant.

How about that for a two-week Halloween countdown?