All eyes on World for next manoeuvre

ANALYSTS are watching World International Holdings to see if its new executive director John Hung can turn the property developer into a major force in the international trading community.

Mr Hung, an executive of World International subsidiary Wharf Holdings, was recently transferred to the company in what has been dubbed an image building exercise.

Mr Hung gained prominence during his time at Wharf for his role in the restoration of the company through a greater base of international institutional clients.

To add value to World's stock, Mr Hung is expected to try to tempt investors with the lure of potential earnings in the next five to 10 years from mainland and local property developments.

The World group, which was a dominant player in government land auctions last year, spending $4.65 billion, has a 10 per cent balance sheet exposure to the China property market.

This may be slightly less than estimates that World was committed to spend $100 million in China although the group would stretch exposure to 20 per cent if market conditions improved.

Despite this, World is a long way behind leaders in the construction industry, such as New World, Sun Hung Kai and Cheung Kong.

The advantage of attracting investment from the international institution set is that this could lead to an improvement in World's property portfolio.

One of the major image problems Mr Hung will have to deal with is investor perceptions that World is a backdoor entry to Wharf Holdings, in which World has a 44 per cent stake.

The group is working on several high-profile residential projects, including a $5.5 billion development at Diamond Hill, which will include five or six residential towers and a 562,000-square-foot shopping tower.

It has been reported the development, which will take three years to construct, will be aimed at the same middle class market which snapped up World International's Parc Oasis development at Yau Yat Chuen.

Sales of World's industrial and ancillary office complex, the World Tech Centre in Kwun Tong, were launched earlier this year.

The 20-storey strata tower boasted its own clubhouse facilities, unusual for an industrial building.

World last year bought a prime 99,000 sq ft development site in the heart of Guangzhou in a joint venture with a leading local developer.