Walter Kwok building property holdings in Hong Kong

His Empire Group has invested some HK$7bn into the city’s real estate sector since its creation in 2010

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 October, 2016, 5:57pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 October, 2016, 10:57pm

Walter Kwok Ping-sheung, the former chairman of Sun Hung Kai Properties, (SHKP) says his flagship holding company Empire Group Holdings is growing its property investments in Hong Kong as the city’s outlook remains promising, driven by strong mainland demand.

Kwok said an easing in the regulatory approval processes for outbound investment, as part of China’s “going out” policy, has played a vital role in building mainland capital outflows.

“Mainland capital is looking for investments offshore and as an international financial centre next to mainland China, Hong Kong will benefit from the move,” he said.

As a growing number of local mainland governments introduce measures to cool their sizzling property markets, analysts expect more Chinese investors to diversify their holdings, and plug more into Hong Kong,

Kwok said Empire has already invested some HK$7 billion into the city’s real estate sector since its creation in 2010, and he expects more investment in future as “Hong Kong’s property market continues to perform well”, he said.

Two years after Empire was created, it joined forces with Lai Sun Development to develop a residential project, now known as Alto Residences, in Tseung Kwan O.

Empire also teamed up with Cheung Kong Property Holdings to jointly develop The Zumurud residential development in Ma Tau Kok.

Earlier this year, in a venture with Sino Land, it won the tender to develop The Fullerton Hotel at Ocean Park, and in August Kwok and Hong Kong Ferry jointly won a Tuen Mun site for residential development.

Empire will focus on investment opportunities in Hong Kong. Half our resources have been put into the real estate sector and half into the finance sector, in the form of venture capital, stocks and bonds
Walter Kwok Ping-sheung

“Empire will focus on investment opportunities in Hong Kong. Half our resources have been put into the real estate sector and half into the finance sector, in the form of venture capital, stocks and bonds,” said Kwok.

But despite the expansion, Kwok insisted it has no plans to seek a listing status in Hong Kong .

Its future development strategy will focus on partnerships, he said, adding he would not rule out the possibility of teaming up with SHKP, Hong Kong’s biggest developer.

A high-profile, five-year family battle between Kwok and his two younger brothers Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong and Raymond Kwok Ping-luen ended in January 2014 when the family – which controls SHKP – announced “an amicable agreement regarding treatment of the family’s interests” had been reached. The real estate business empire is worth HK$331.52 billion, based on today’s market cap.

Under the agreement, Walter Kwok agreed to pursue opportunities outside of SHKP and resigned from his position as a non-executive director of the company.

Kwok said he has met with his younger brother Thomas, the jailed property tycoon who was freed on bail in July this year after the city’s top court allowed him to appeal against a conviction for corruption.

Separately, he also revealed on Tuesday details of the Tseung Kwan O, Alto Residences development.

Selling prices on the first batch of 131 units, sized between 402 and 1,329 square feet, will be pitched as as low as HK$10,888 per square foot.

“Sales response should be encouraging, as the price is below market levels,” he added.

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