PROPERTY consultants Vigers Hong Kong celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Set up in 1975 by director Mike Mann, Vigers was originally the Hong Kong arm of a British company of the same name established in 1842. Mr Mann arrived in the territory 20 years ago when the firm was made consultant building surveyor for the construction of the Mass Transit Railway. Vigers had an established reputation in Britain for assisting in the construction of light railways, having been involved in the development of the London underground network, the first of its kind in the world. Vigers expanded its operations in Hong Kong in 1979 when Gareth Williams, formerly of the Hong Kong Government's Land and Valuation Department, joined to open its valuations department. It extended further in 1981 when Bruce Walker joined to manage the agency work. The company's industrial agency department was set up by Stan Wong, the current managing director, in 1987. To compete internationally, Vigers expanded regionally, with nine offices being opened in five Southeast Asian countries over a four-year period. Vigers Hong Kong broke away from its British parent to become financially independent in the late 1980s after becoming 'fed up' with remitting profits to London, according to Mr Mann. The original shareholders of Vigers Hong Kong included Mike Mann, Gareth Williams, Bruce Walker, Stan Wong and Wilson Nei. Mr Walker and Mr Nei have since left the company. In a bid to help it break into the huge China market, the original five Vigers' shareholders sold their stake in the company in 1993 for $110 million to a consortium led by mainland businessmen. However, the downturn in the Chinese and Hong Kong property markets foiled the company's China policy. Instead, the company was forced to streamline its operations. A number of senior Vigers' staff resigned, including chairman Gary Hu; commercial director Paul Dwyer; valuations director Alexander Lyall-Webber; and Bruce Walker amid rumours of impending staff cuts. This was followed by the firm's mainland investors selling their controlling stake to Hong Kong businessmen. Originally based in Kowloon with a staff of four, Vigers moved to offices in Sutherland House, now the Ritz Carlton Hotel, Central, in 1979. Vigers now employs 200 staff in 12 offices in five countries. It has two offices in Hong Kong, one at the Lippo Centre on Hong Kong island and the other at Park Lane Square in Kowloon. The company's turnover last year of $120 million was earned from fees and commissions on $12 billion of business. In Britain, Vigers' erstwhile parent company was sold last year to another British property consultancy, Grimley. Ironically, Vigers Hong Kong has linked up with Grimley to form GVA Worldwide, an international network of estate agents. Vigers Hong Kong nearly failed to get off the ground. On arrival in the territory, Mr Mann was shocked by the poor condition of the buildings. He asked the fellow director travelling with him whether he would be surveying such buildings. When he was told 'yes', Mr Mann said: 'Well, you can turn right round. I'm going home.'