Nan Fung denies new chief Antony Leung hired to gear up for relisting
Privately owned developer denies that hiring former financial secretary Anthony Leung as chief executive is part of strategy for public listing
Nan Fung Development managing director Donald Choi Wun-hing has poured cold water on rising speculation that the firm is preparing the city's first major real estate share listing since 2012.
Market talk has swirled about a possible HK$100 billion listing for Nan Fung since it was revealed in November that former financial secretary, Antony Leung Kam-chung, had been hired as chief executive of the privately led property developer.
"We don't have a schedule for a public offering. We don't need to go public, as we have no funding pressure," Choi told the South China Morning Post.
Leung's appointment had fuelled expectations of an imminent listing given that he had left his previous role as Greater China chairman for United States-based private equity giant Blackstone to join Nan Fung.
But Choi dismissed that the decision to appoint Leung was all about devising a listing strategy.
"He is going to help our chairman [Vivien Chen Wai-wai] to lead Nan Fung into another stage," Choi said.
The firm's financials have been getting closer scrutiny since it bought a 29.98 per cent stake in a Singapore-listed property trust, Forterra Trust in August last year. Documents that formed part of the roadshow material circulated by Nan Fung put the company's net asset value at HK$94.39 billion in March 2013.
If Nan Fung went public at that price, it would be the fifth largest listed developer after Cheung Kong, Sun Hung Kai Properties, Swire Properties and Henderson Land. Its scale would be similar to Henderson Land, worth about HK$112 billion.
Swire Properties was the last Hong Kong developer to list in 2012.
Nan Fung Development has become one of the largest developers in the city and has expanded to mainland and other businesses.
In December 2010, Yang Foo-oi, former wife of the late Chen Din-hwa, Nan Fung's founder, sued younger daughter Vivien Chen, then Nan Fung's chairman and managing director, alleging Yang had been misled into transferring assets.
"I believe the lawsuits between Nan Fung's Chen family members would also affect their intention to go public," said Eric Yuen Chi-fung, head of research at brokerage GuocoCapital.
"It may be good for them to stay as a private company. They can maintain their flexibility in property sales without the pressure of chasing profit," he said.
Lee Wee Liat, head of property research at BNP Paribas Securities, said: "The two major objectives for a public offering are raising funds or financing large projects. But it seems that Nan Fung Development will maintain its existing growth pace. There is no urgent need for it to go public."
But Choi did leave the door ajar for the listing rumour mill. "Everything is possible," he said.