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Monday, October 5, 2009

Asian properties to lead global recovery

KUALA LUMPUR: Vincent Lo, the billionaire chairman and chief executive officer of Hong Kong-based Shui On Group which developed Shanghai’s popular tourist landmark, Xindianti, believes Asia’s property market will take the lead in recovering from the shocks inflicted by the global financial crisis.

“Things are looking up again for the region and we are as busy as ever in China,” Lo told StarBiz.

After his last visit to the city more than 10 years ago, Lo was back last week to attend the three-day Forbes Global CEO Conference 2009.

“I am very impressed with how much Kuala Lumpur has developed and by what Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is doing to further raise the country’s competitiveness. I certainly look forward to coming back again and this time to look at the possibility of venturing here if opportunities arise,” Lo said.

He said if Shui On decided to venture to Malaysia, the first thing he needed to do was to look for the right local partner. “The property business is a highly-localised business and a good local partner who knows the local conditions will be one of the factors for success.”

The affable Hong Kong-born Lo has built up Shui On into one of the largest real estate developers in mainland China. Today he keeps busy with his group’s many developments in prime locations of major Chinese cities, including Shanghai, Beijing, Chongging, Wuhan, Foshan and Dalian.

He sees immense growth potential in China and has made the world’s most populated country the main business focus for his group.

Lo started investing in China 25 years ago and, in recent years, he sold all his group’s investment assets in the United States and channelled them to China.

“We go where the opportunities are. There’s no place like China in terms of its strength as an economic powerhouse and growth opportunities.

“Today, more than 90% of our assets with total investments of at least 100 billion yuan are in China,” Lo added.

Shui On has a land bank of 13.2 million sq m in China. Of this, 50% will comprise residential property and the balance commercial, office and hotel property.

Lo said China would continue to chart amazing growth for many years to come.

“I am very happy to be in China right now. The Chinese leaders have proven their mettle in managing the country’s economy very well throughout the global financial crisis.

“The progress being made in the country’s real estate sector is just in the beginning stages and there are immense opportunities for more phenomenal growth.

“Each year, 16 million to 22 million Chinese are been urbanised and this translates into major needs for housing, commercial space, factories and other public facilities,” the tycoon said.

He said amid the rapid globalisation, China’s economy was being transformed very rapidly with much wealth creation and structural changes along the way.

Lo, who founded Shui On Group in 1971 after borrowing HK$100,000 from his father, the late Hong Kong property tycoon Lo Ying-shek, is today a highly-regarded figure and one of the leading entrepreneurs in China.

Shui On Group is the parent of both Shui On Land Ltd and Shui On Construction and Materials Ltd (Socam). Both are listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

Shui On Land, listed in 2006 and headquartered in Shanghai, is the group’s flagship property company undertaking large-scale re-development projects in China.

Shui On Land specialises in masterplan communities with minimum built-up space of 10 million sq ft while Socam undertakes smaller-scale developments.

Lo, who is still the controlling shareholder in Shui On Land with just under 50% of the company’s shares and 37% in Socam, believes that the Chinese government will soon open up the Shanghai Stock Exchange for listing by companies established outside China.

By The Star (by Angie Ng)

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