Sun Hung Kai Properties

Walter Kwok denies absence will hurt firm

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 March, 2008, 12:00am

Embattled tycoon Walter Kwok Ping-sheung, speaking for the first time since suddenly announcing he was taking leave as chairman of Sun Hung Kai Properties, insisted yesterday his three-month absence would not affect the company's operations.

But he remained silent about the reason for his leave, which sources have said followed a clash with his brothers over his relationship with a woman.

Speaking to reporters in Beijing before a meeting of Hong Kong delegates to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), he replied 'no, no' when asked if his absence would affect the business.

Asked whether he preferred his female friend to his multibillion-dollar fortune, Mr Kwok, whose wife is with him in Beijing, said: 'I have nothing to say. I have nothing to say. I am still on leave.'

His close friendship with Ida Tong Kam-hing is reportedly behind the clash with his younger brothers, Sun Hung Kai vice-chairman Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong and managing director Raymond Kwok Ping-luen.

His mother, Kwong Siu-hing, who holds the largest stake in the firm through a family trust, is reported to have forced him to take leave.

Henderson Land Development chairman Lee Shau-kee, a Sun Hung Kai non-executive director and family friend, said in Shanghai on Friday that Walter Kwok's relationship with Ms Tong had been a cause of the split. Mr Kwok is a member of the CPPCC Standing Committee.

Walter Kwok's wife, Wendy Kwok Tin-wing, made her first public appearance yesterday since her husband was forced to take leave from the company.

Mrs Kwok was mobbed by media representatives when she attended a ceremony to see Mr Lee appointed to an honorary position on the board of Beijing University.

'You guys are stepping on my feet, it's very painful,' she complained to the press pack that descended on her to question her on relations with her husband.

Mr Lee, who has been dubbed Hong Kong's 'God of stocks' for his market predictions, weighed into the saga again.

He said the couple still talked to each other, and there was no problem between Mr Kwok his wife, or his two brothers and mother.

When asked if Mr Kwok would return to the company after his leave, he said: 'Why not? He has an equal share, so you can't ignore him.'