New World Development

New World patriarch Cheng Yu-tung in hospital with unknown illness

Tycoon's son says the 87-year-old's health is not a serious problem as company shares dip

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 September, 2012, 2:26pm

Hong Kong property tycoon Cheng Yu-tung, who retired as chairman of New World Development in March, is in hospital with an unknown illness.

His eldest son, Henry Cheng Kar-shun, the firm's new chairman, confirmed his father was in hospital but said there was no serious problem with his health.

A domestic helper at the elder Cheng's home said on the phone yesterday her boss had not yet been discharged from hospital.

Shares of New World fell 1.77 per cent to HK$11.10 yesterday. The benchmark Hang Seng Index fell 1.2 per cent.

Alex Wong Kwok-ying, asset management director at Ample Capital, said investors did not panic because the property empire had already been transferred to the second and third generations of the Cheng family.

Another reason is investors know blue-chip property firms are well-established and their daily operations are not seriously affected, Wong said.

Shares of New World have risen 12.23 per cent since Cheng's official retirement on March 31.

Cheng, 87, who founded New World in 1970, is the first of the city's ageing property tycoons to step down from leading the businesses they largely built from scratch during the boom years of the 1960s and 1970s.

Born in August 1925, Cheng was not from a rich family. After primary school, he was a trainee at Chow Tai Fook, the gold shop of his future father-in-law, Chow Chi-yuen. He married Chow's daughter, Chow Tsui-ying, in 1943 and they have four children.

In 1989, Cheng retired as managing director of New World Development and passed control to his son, Henry. But the firm racked up debts of HK$25 billion and Cheng returned a year later to restore investor confidence.