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Shui On chairman back in driver's seat as CEO quits

Concerns grow over the developer's inadequate push on home sales

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 January, 2014, 1:21am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 January, 2014, 1:21am

Shui On Land, a mainland developer that has been selling assets to cut debt, said yesterday that chief executive Freddy Lee had quit after less than three years and chairman Vincent Lo Hong-sui would resume a more active role.

Lee also resigned as executive director and managing director with effect from yesterday, the developer said in a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange. Lo would resume a more active role in the business while the company looked for a new chief executive, it said. Lee was promoted to chief executive in March 2011, replacing Lo.

Shui On has been selling assets as it seeks to pay down debt and improve its cash position. The firm said last month that it would sell a project in Shanghai to China Life Insurance for 3.32 billion yuan (HK$4.2 billion). In November, New York-based Brookfield Property Partners invested US$500 million in Shui On unit Shanghai Xintiandi, which operates the popular entertainment complex in the city.

The developer also sold office premises and parking spaces in a project in Chongqing for 2.4 billion yuan in November.

"The company's business model is not sustainable, and the management is not doing enough to improve it," said Jeffrey Gao, an analyst at Nomura. "Besides its redevelopment projects, the company should work better on residential property sales and not hold on to too many properties in non-core markets."

Shui On sold 16.6 billion yuan of properties last year, almost triple the amount from a year earlier, it said on Tuesday.

Only 9.9 billion yuan came from selling homes, while the rest came from en-bloc sales of buildings, said Johnson Hu, an analyst at CIMB-GK Securities Research, who also questioned the company's business model.

Shares in Shui On eased 0.4 per cent to HK$2.35 yesterday.

"We are a bit surprised about Lee's resignation," said Eva Lee, an analyst at UBS. "The impact on the company won't be too big, however, because chairman Lo is still taking the leadership. The key is what their contracted sales trend would be this year."

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