FOR Henry Lai and Francis Cheung of Tysan Holdings, success has been built on being contrarians. When everyone was buying property, they sold, and when everyone was selling, they bought. In the world of business where partnerships can sometimes result in bitter fallouts, Tysan's chairman Mr Lai and managing director Mr Cheung have forged a solid relationship. 'Henry Lai is better than a good friend, he is my mentor,' Mr Cheung says. According to Mr Cheung, Mr Lai is an unassuming man who prefers to keeps a low profile. In 1993, the two took over Chee Hsing Holdings, a construction company, and renamed it Tysan in 1994. China and Britain were then embroiled in a row over the financing of Hong Kong's new airport. 'I put my bet that infrastructure projects were not going to halt, because the Hong Kong economy counts heavily on the construction industry,' Mr Cheung said. 'It is one of the main movers of the economy and absorbs a lot of unskilled workers, especially when you have the manufacturing industry being shifted up to China. 'The only way the Government can help the unemployment situation is to put money into infrastructure and housing projects.' The group then had profits of about $1 million on turnover of $360 million. Most of its money was tied up in long-term investments which were not performing - two development sites and the 25th floor of the K. Wah Building, North Point, which served as Tysan's office. The office floor was sold for $92 million, one site was sold, and the other was redeveloped into residential units. This freed the capital which was used to rejuvenate the company. 'We were able to capture the market surge. Projects started coming in from the new airport and related projects. It was the turning point,' Mr Cheung said. Today, the company's turnover ranges between $800 million and $1.2 billion. With the population of Hong Kong expected to grow to eight million by 2011, public housing projects are expected to be stepped up and Tysan hopes to share this market. Tysan plans to diversify into construction and property investment in China, 'a market which cannot be ignored', Mr Cheung says. Mr Cheung started out as a trainee engineering surveyor for the Public Works Department in 1972. He left in 1978 to work as a metals trader for Daylight Industrial Co, a company controlled by Mr Lai, and later became a partner about 1985. They founded Tung Wing Steel Holdings in 1980 which they sold to Lee Ming Tee in 1989 for $180 million, just after the Tiananmen Square incident. 'The market was going down at that time but we still received the same offer as the previous year, so we accepted it,' Mr Cheung said. In 1992, the company was once again sold. From 1991 to 1993, Mr Cheung and Mr Lai invested in properties in Hong Kong, China and Australia through a private company before taking over Chee Hsing. 'The investment environment was much easier during the period of 1989-1991 when the market was falling and everyone was bearish. We just had Tiananmen Square followed by the outbreak of the Gulf War,' Mr Cheung said. 'Banks were eager to lend money and investors and end-users could borrow up to 90 per cent of the purchase value of the property.' He said the pair had seen the falling market as a buying opportunity. Asked about his business philosophy, Mr Cheung said: 'My belief is that you have to move ahead of the market. You must also have confidence in what you do.'