THE only person who might question the success of Cheng Yu-tung, chairman of New World Development Co, is himself. ''I don't think I am that successful. I feel I'm lucky,'' said the 68-year-old businessman. Mr Cheng, who was surprised at being named Businessman of the Year yesterday, is the kind of person who likes to keep a low profile regarding his achievements. The mottos that have driven his career are simple. To be honest, diligent, sincere, discreet and a person who keeps to his word. ''There are no short cuts in doing business. Everything must follow the right way. I don't like doing things through the back door,'' Mr Cheng said. He pointed to his friendship with some Chinese leaders, such as Guangzhou mayor Li Ziliu, but added that he never took advantage of this kind of relationship to win investments in China. He emphasised trust and credit which, he said, were essential elements of his business philosophy. ''It's important to abide by one's words. If one doesn't, there is no point in signing a contract,'' he said. Under his guidance and management, New World has grown from a property firm into a diversified conglomerate with investments in property, construction, hotels, transport, infrastructure and telecommunications. ''It's my responsibility to do my best for shareholders. I will take the blame if I cannot do well,'' Mr Cheng said. The company was listed in 1972. The untiring tycoon, who started his career as an apprentice in the Chow Tai Fook chain of jewellery stores at the age of 14, puts the interest of New World first and foremost. On the rare occasions he is not working, he enjoys golfing, swimming and spending time with his family. He is a father of two sons and two daughters. To avoid any possible conflict of interests, Mr Cheng is very careful in making private investments. ''I personally do not invest in China, or property projects in Hong Kong. That's why I have invested quite a lot abroad,'' he said. He has led the group successfully around the numerous property slumps, while many companies got badly burned. ''I have been quite lucky over the years. I have not experienced any significant setback,'' he said. ''Even in the 1983 crash, our company did not suffer much because we do not like to borrow too much from banks.'' Mr Cheng, who entered the property business in the late 1950s, has always been confident about the future of Hong Kong. He successfully took advantage of the confidence crisis after the 1966-67 riots and the 1984 Sino-British talks on Hong Kong's future to expand business. The two crises had given New World the best opportunity to enter the massive New World Centre project in Tsim Sha Tsui in 1970 and the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre project in the early 1980s. These are the two developments which Mr Cheng is most proud of over the past three decades. The June 4 incident in 1989 opened a golden opportunity for New World to explore investments in China and, more importantly, establish connections in what was a relatively untapped market then. When most companies put on the brakes, or pulled out of mainland projects, New World demonstrated its strong commitment and confidence to the long-term prospect of China. Its bold strategy to explore the China market has laid a strong foundation for the group to develop its presence in the country. ''I firmly believe China is opening up to the outside world. Its economic development is essential for improvement in the livelihoods of its people,'' Mr Cheng said. He said China's recent macro-control measures were good for the country's economic development. ''I am very optimistic about China's economy. The market potential will be immeasurable once its economy takes off, especially in view of the 1.2 billion population.'' As one of the most aggressive Hong Kong companies in China, New World intends to invest 20 to 25 per cent of its net asset value in mainland projects. The focus of investments in China is mainly on infrastructure developments, such as power plants and roads, as well as property projects. ''Roads are heavily in demand when a developing country pushes ahead with its economic growth. How can a country be developed if the road network is no good? Electricity is important as well,'' Mr Cheng said. ''Telecommunications have good potential too. But the China telecommunications market is not really open yet.'' Despite the company's massive investments in China, Mr Cheng is adamant that New World is still firmly committed to its developments in Hong Kong. ''We will not neglect Hong Kong because we are a Hong Kong-based company,'' he said. ''But currently it's very difficult to buy a sizeable piece of land in the territory. Land supply is too limited. Also, land value is very high. If there is a suitable project, we will go for it. But we cannot do things indiscriminately.''