Ah Pak

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 December, 2008, 12:00am

Rumours and musings from the night watchman

Matriarch Kwong celebrates

Happy birthday, Madam Kwong Siu-hing!

The chairman of Sun Hung Kai Properties hosted a 30-table banquet last Tuesday at the Royal Garden Hotel - one of the group's properties - to celebrate her first birthday since she took up the chairmanship in May.

Ah Pak reckons the menu befitted the occasion, featuring first-class abalone, shark's fin and a bird's nest dessert, all of which was said to cost the host HK$70,000 per table. Madam Kwong's (left) generosity was clearly not tempered by the board's decision to cut her salary to just HK$120,000 from the HK$2.06 million paid to her predecessor in the chair, Walter Kwok Ping-sheung.

If the numbers added up, Madam Kwong spent 171/2 times her salary on her birthday bash alone.

But then the guest list demanded a posh affair, including as it did VIPs such as the wife of Guangdong governor Huang Huahua, and Hong Kong's third-wealthiest tycoon, Lee Shau-kee, and his family at the head table.

Mr Lee, known as 'Uncle Four', is a non-executive director of SHKP. With him were his two sons, Peter Lee Ka-kit and Martin Lee Ka-shing, who was there with his wife, the former model-actress Cathy Chui Chi-kay.

A notable absentee was Mr Kwok, Madam Kwong's eldest son.

Leafing through SHKP's 2007-2008 annual report during some idle time while on watch, Ah Pak noticed that Madam Kwong had disclosed her age as 79, which oddly is the same as that of her younger brother, Kwong Chun, an executive director of the group.

Ah Pak wondered if Madam Kwong and her brother were twins or whether there was a mystery here that required a variation of the traditional song: 'Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday, dear Madam Kwong, and just how old are you?'

When the going gets tough

It is a sad story but true. A managing director at a major investment bank is labelled a 'high-risk client' by commercial lenders and is unable to get a car loan of just HK$500,000. No wonder some former analysts with investment banks have opted to change their jobs and work for property developers.

One who did is Lam Jim, formerly at Morgan Stanley, who recently joined Greentown China Holdings as company secretary. He has more than 10 years of experience in auditing and investment banking.

Another former analyst making the same career change is Trevor Cheung (above), the former head of research at DBS. In June, he joined the then listing candidate Longfor Properties, a Chongqing developer that aimed to raise at least US$1 billion in August in a Hong Kong initial public offering. The IPO was withdrawn because of poor market sentiment.

Star slips quietly out the door

More bad news is buffeting the international property consultancy industry. Eric Chan, deputy managing director at Savills' Beijing office since July last year, left this month.

Although no official announcement of his departure was made, Mr Chan's name was absent from the company's December in-house contact list. How the mighty have fallen. Just eight months ago Mr Chan was involved in brokering a 2.19 billion yuan (HK$2.48 billion) sale of the grade A office property Feng Sheng Building to China Pacific Insurance.

But in the company's latest phone book, his name is replaced by that of Matt Brailsford, who was the former director of investment at Savills' Shanghai office.

Rival Colliers International is taking a different approach to the economic crisis. Instead of retrenching staff, it has announced an across-the-board pay cut of 10 per cent. Once target revenues are reached, full salaries will be restored.

Second chance in Shanghai

Government officials from several mainland cities recently visited Hong Kong to resell sites from buyers who failed to complete their deals after their credit dried up as a result of the financial crisis.

One of the jewels back on the market was a prime commercial site at East Nanjing Road, Shanghai, that was returned by Nanjing Suning Development in early August. Last year, it successfully bid 4.4 billion yuan, a record price of 66,927 yuan per square metre, for the 13,709 square metre site.

Ah Pak understands that Walter Kwok, then the chairman of Sun Hung Kai Properties, was in charge of the group's bidding via a telephone link. It sent a representative to the Shanghai auction hall who kept Mr Kwok updated over the phone. More than 100 bids drove the price steadily upwards.

Mr Kwok was narrowly defeated by the winner when he withdrew after a final bid of 4.2 billion yuan, and the site eventually went for 4.4 billion to Nanjing Suning. Now SHKP gets a second bite at the cherry.