Hong Kong faces difficult economic conditions but continues to be a nurturing ground for outstanding people and businesses, according to Hong Kong Jockey Club chief executive Lawrence Wong Chi-kwong. Mr Wong, chairman of the judging panel for the DHL/South China Morning Post Business Person of the Year 2002, said companies were being tested by the challenge of finding ways to cut costs and at the same time raise revenues and profits. 'Hong Kong still continues to be a nurturing ground for great talent and many businesses, despite the conditions, continue to put in outstanding performance,' Mr Wong said. 'All finalists this year have risen through the gloom to achieve good results. There is much to be admired, and much to learn from these outstanding business people.' Michael Ying Lee-yuen, chairman of fashion retailer Esprit Holdings, was named Business Person of the Year at a gala reception last night at the JW Marriott Hotel. Mr Ying said he was delighted to win the award, joking: 'My status at home will be higher now.' He founded Esprit in 1974 and has built the company into a global brand. It was listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange in 1993 and, after nine consecutive years of record turnover and profits, joined the blue-chip Hang Seng Index on Monday. In the year to June 30, the company posted a 61.2 per cent year-on-year surge in net profit to HK$927 million despite the sluggish retail market in Hong Kong. Mr Ying said retailers were facing challenging times amid a slowdown in the retail market. 'How to change fast and how to make the right change? That is the challenge that most retailers are facing,' he said. Mr Ying took advantage of the global economic downturn to expand Esprit's business, for example locking in long-term leases throughout the Asia-Pacific when rentals have been depressed. Other winners last night included Adolf Hsu Hsung, managing director of New World First Holdings, who was named Executive of the Year. New World First Holdings took over the bus franchise of former operator China Motor Bus in 1998 and has generated a 45 per cent increase in passengers over the past four years without increasing the size of its fleet. Donald Hay, president and chief executive of Hayco Manufacturing, won the Owner-Operator Award. Hayco, a maker of household and industrial cleaning implements, has built a worldwide business serving customers such as Procter & Gamble, 3M and Wal-Mart. The Young Entrepreneur Award went to Raju Harilela, group executive director of Harilela Strategic Group. Mr Harilela, 36, a scion of one of Hong Kong's most prominent business families, built a multi-divisional organisation on his own which now employs 200 people at its three-storey offices in Tsim Sha Tsui. Hutchison Port Holdings, the world's leading port developer with 20,000 employees, won the International Award. Fujikon Industrial Holdings, a maker of headphones, speakers and audio equipment which was listed in 2000, won the Enterprise Award.