China property

Shanghai-owned Greenland to emerge as the white knight in Hsin Chong’s financial woes

Greenland Holdings, 46.4 per cent owned by Shanghai’s government, is in talks to take over control of Hsin Chong and its unit, using them as platforms for fundraising and for bidding for overseas projects along the belt and road plan

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 September, 2018, 5:04pm
UPDATED : Monday, 17 September, 2018, 12:47pm

A construction company mostly owned by the Shanghai municipal government is in talks to take over control of one of Hong Kong’s oldest builders, using the listing status of Hsin Chong Group Holdings as the platform for fundraising and for bidding for infrastructure work along China’s belt and road project.

Greenland Holdings, 46.4 per cent owned by the Shanghai government, is in discussions to take over 100 per cent of Hsin Chong Construction Group, as well as the majority stake of its listed parent Hsin Chong Group Holdings, according to two people familiar with the negotiations, declining to divulge the value of the deal.

In a filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange earlier this month, Hsin Chong said it had entered into a memorandum of understanding with a potential buyer, without elaborating. The company’s spokesman could not be reached to comment. Greenland’s officials could not be reached to comment.

The discussion could mean a much-needed lifeline for Hsin Chong Group, which has been suspended from trading its stock on the Hong Kong exchange since April 2017 due to its financial woes.

The 79-year-old construction company, founded in Hong Kong by the Yeh family during the early years of the Second World War, has been involved in building many of the city’s most iconic landmarks, including the Ocean Park and the former Kai Tak Airport.

In recent years, it turned to building hotels in Macau, including the Sands, the Venetian Macau Resort Hotel, Four Seasons Macau Resort, Sands Cotai Central and the latest Parisian Macau.

Hsin Chong’s overseas construction portfolio included a railway project in Makkah in Saudi Arabia, and the Imperial Palace hotel casino in Saipan.

The Yeh family ceded control of Hsin Chong to the Mission Hills Group in 2007 and later to Shanghai tycoon Lin Zhuoyan. Since then the company has taken on more projects in mainland China, including HK$10.6 billion (US$1.35 billion) of real estate at the Sanshui district in Foshan city.

Hsin Chong was under the spotlight last month, when the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority terminated its HK$5.9 billion contract for the M+ museum project, amid concerns over the developer’s financial solvency. Hsing Chong last week issued a statement to publicly dispute the authority’s decision, calling it “wrongful termination.”

Parent firm of sacked contractor Hsin Chong Construction in HK$5.9 billion Hong Kong arts hub row files dispute notice over M+

The dispute would not deter Greenland from acquiring Hsin Chong, as the Shanghai-based company - founded in 1992 to construct green belts around China’s commercial hub - is interested in the target company’s storied history and its talent pool.

Hsin Chong’s problem was excessive expansion into mainland China’s projects, and an infusion of capital under a new ownership structure would help it get back on track, the sources said. The Hong Kong builder has a good team of engineers and contractors, which can be valuable in helping Greenland secure large-scale projects in the Middle East or Southeast Asia, the sources said.

Greenland accelerates push into financial services

The takeover plan would be part of Greenland’s diversification plan as Shanghai’s largest builder diversifies into financial services, infrastructure and the so-called new economy. Greenland has expanded into financial services in Hong Kong and on the mainland since 2016 and has many projects in the US, London and in Australia.

The state-owned conglomerate had 900 billion yuan (US$131 billion) in assets at the end of June.