New World Development

Cheng's golden years of growing up

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 December, 2011, 12:00am


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After leading Chow Tai Fook Jewellery for more than five decades, Cheng Yu-tung decided to give the family business a new look by listing it in the stock market.

The 86-year-old Hong Kong tycoon, who is also in the property, transport, hotel and casino businesses, describes Chow Tai Fook as 'the most valuable asset' for him as it is what he had started out with to establish a business empire.

At just 13, Cheng was sent by his father from Shunde, Guangdong, to Macau in 1939 to work as an apprentice in a small jewellery shop called Chow Tai Fook. The shop was owned by Chow Chi-yuan, a friend of Cheng's father who established Chow Tai Fook in 1929. Chow later became Cheng's father-in-law.

Cheng worked diligently and was promoted to the post of manager in three years, taking charge of the shop's daily operations. At 21, he was given the task of expanding Chow Tai Fook in Hong Kong. In 1956, he formally took over the company and started to develop the business in the form of chain stores.

In the same year, Cheng launched 999.9 gold jewellery products in Hong Kong and Macau, making Chow Tai Fook one of the first players to promote high-quality gold jewellery in the two cities and winning customers' confidence.

Cheng was also the first to implement a fixed-price policy, which was subsequently adopted by most players in the industry.

In 1998, Chow Tai Fook opened its first mainland shop in Beijing and went on to establish its mainland headquarters in Shenzhen in 2003.

The past five years has seen the company expand aggressively across the border. The number of shops almost tripled from fewer than 500 in 2006 to more than 1,400 by the end of September.

Earlier this year, Cheng's eldest son, Henry Cheng Kar-shun, said he had taken over the company and would take it public in Hong Kong.

Chow Tai Fook's shares will trade under the code 1929, the year the company was founded.