Shui On Land is stepping up production volume and slowing land bank expansion as it weathers the storm created in the property market when the global financial crisis struck in the fourth quarter of last year, according to chairman Vincent Lo Hong-shui. 'It was very difficult in September and October [last year]. Not really from our own doings, but from the disaster,' he said. Although Shui On's debt was within manageable limits, at a gearing of just 20 per cent, the timing of the credit crunch could not have been worse, since it coincided with the maturity on a convertible bond of US$375 million, Lo recalled. But the bank that had promised to refinance the funding had shut its doors as a result of the crisis, and the company's financing problem was finally solved only after a long struggle by Shui On to find alternative sources of capital to pay out bondholders. The experience provided a valuable lesson, said Lo, who recently won the 2009 Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the real estate category, administered by Ernst & Young. 'After the crisis, we took a long, hard look at ourselves,' said Lo, and one result of the review was the establishment of a committee with members that included businessmen such as John Bond and William Fung to set financing guidelines to ensure the company would not face a similar situation in the future. With the full support of their bankers, Shui On had maintained a rapid growth rate for years, said Lo. But after the crisis, the company decided to embark on a consolidation of its business and step up production volume by building and releasing more residential space.