Sun Hung Kai Properties

SHKP share sale seen as move towards succession

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 December, 2013, 6:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 December, 2013, 7:02am

Kwong Siu-hing, the 84-year-old matriarch who controls Sun Hung Kai Properties (SHKP), is expected to accelerate the succession plan after she reduced her shareholding in a trust that controls the HK$262 billion property empire.

The mother of the SHKP co-chairmen, Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong and Raymond Kwok Ping-luen, last Friday offloaded 337.76 million shares, or 12.64 per cent, of the company, worth HK$33.15 billion at yesterday's closing price of HK$98.15.

After the reduction in shareholding, her stake in the city's second-largest developer through the trust is down to 30.79 per cent, from 43.43 per cent earlier, according to the company's filing to the stock exchange.

On the same day, Thomas Kwok and his son Adam Kwok Kai-fai added 168.88 million SHKP shares, as did Raymond Kwok and his son Edward Kwok Ho-lai - together taking in shares equivalent to the amount offloaded by Madam Kwong.

"Madam Kwong will continue in this direction of transferring her shares to the second generation in order to ensure a stable succession," said Lee Wee Liat, the head of property research at BNP Paribas Securities (Asia).

Although SHKP declined to comment on the latest reorganisation of the family trust, people familiar with the succession plan believe Kwong transferred her 12.64 per cent stake in SHKP directly to the families of Thomas and Raymond Kwok.

This is the second time she has reorganised the family trust since October 2010, after the Kwok family feud spilled out in the open in February 2008.

Three years ago Kwong, then chairwoman of SHKP, removed her eldest son, Walter Kwok Ping-sheung, as a beneficiary in the family trust, which owned 43.11 per cent in SHKP as of December 20.

Under the 2010 reorganisation of the family trust, a third of the shares of the trust is held by "Walter Kwok's family", not "Walter Kwok and his family", as was the case before, meaning that he himself ceased to be a beneficiary.

Walter's brothers, Thomas and Raymond, are each beneficiaries of a third of the trust along with their families.

"The succession plan clearly shows that Walter Kwok is out of the picture," said Lee.

Alfred Lau, a property analyst at Bocom International, said Kwong is paving the way for succession with her advancing years. "We are not surprised," he said.

But despite the transfer, she remains the largest shareholder in the empire founded by her late husband, Kwok Tak-seng.

Shares in SHKP dropped 1.05 per cent to close at HK$98.15 after the announcement of the share transfer.

A spokesman for the ousted chairman, Walter Kwok, refused to comment, saying he would study the details of the restructuring in the family trust.

Sources close to the family said Kwong last week participated in the Christmas lighting ceremony of Sun Hung Kai Centre, the headquarters of the developer.

"Her health is in good shape," said one source, rejecting suggestions that her health was failing after being admitted to hospital following a stroke last year.

The Kwok family feud erupted in February 2008 when SHKP said Walter Kwok would take a temporary leave of absence for personal reasons. In May that year, Walter Kwok, after 18 years in the top job, was demoted to non-executive director and Madam Kwong replaced him as the chairperson after he lost a legal battle to stop the board discussing his ousting.

Kwong stepped down as chairwoman in late 2011 and appointed Thomas Kwok and brother Raymond Kwok as joint chairmen.