Sun Hung Kai Properties

New World's Cheng climbs Forbes rich list

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 January, 2012, 12:00am

Property tycoon Cheng Yu-tung made the most gains on the latest Forbes rich list even though real estate developers have been hit hardest in the economic slowdown.

The executive chairman of New World Development is the No 4 richest person in Hong Kong following the listing of his firm's jewellery retail arm, Chow Tai Fook Jewellery, last month.

The jeweller's share offering - the city's largest last year - raised HK$15.8 billion, and boosted Cheng's net worth by more than 60 per cent to US$15 billion.

However, the city's 40 richest individuals - the top five being mainly property developers - saw their wealth decline 7.4 per cent to US$151 billion.

The sharp fall of the mainland's property market was partly to blame, with home sales plunging about 70 per cent owing to Beijing's tough measures to curb the property boom and bank lending.

That in turn sparked a price war among major developers, who were desperate to raise cash to sustain their business.

In addition, the city's benchmark Hang Seng Index sank 21.4 per cent or 5,029 points last year to 18,434 on December 30, further buffeting the wealthy elite.

Billionaire Li Ka-shing, head of Cheung Kong, saw his wealth decline 8.3 per cent to US$22 billion. However, he remains Hong Kong's richest person.

Developer Lee Shau-kee has supplanted the Kwok family, which owns Sun Hung Kai Properties, as No 2 on the rich list. That came despite a 25 per cent fall in the share price of Lee's flagship firm, Henderson Land Development.

Shares of SHKP - Hong Kong's largest real estate developer, which is heavily exposed to the mainland's property market - also dived 25 per cent, slashing the Kwok family's net worth by 24 per cent to US$15.4 billion last year.

Uncertainties about the firm's top management and a family feud were resolved in September when a succession plan was put in place.

Kwong Siu-hing, the firm's 81-year-old chairwoman and wife of the late founder, Kwok Tak-seng, stepped down last month. Her sons Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong and Raymond Kwok Ping-luen were appointed as joint chairmen.

In 2008, the brothers were embroiled in a feud with their eldest brother, Walter Kwok Ping-sheung, which led to his demotion to non-executive director.

Macau casino magnate Stanley Ho Hung-sun is no longer on the rich list after resolving a dispute between his wives over his fortune by giving it away. His fourth wife, Angela Leong On-kei, made the list for the first time.

Leong is No21 with a fortune of US$1.6 billion, behind Pansy Ho Chiu-king, the eldest child of Ho's second wife.

Pansy Ho, the apparent heir to her father's empire, is among the top 12 richest individuals. Ho is worth US$3.3 billion after MGM China, where she is co-chair, was listed in Hong Kong in June.

The Yang family of the Esquel Group, one of the world's largest shirt makers, is a new entrant. Last year, the firm's revenue surged to US$1.2 billion, from US$530 million in 2006. Marjorie Yang and Teresa Yang, daughters of the firm's late founder, Yang Yuan-loong, now manage the firm.

The net worth needed to make this year's rich list fell to US$950 million, from US$1 billion last year.