Hong Kong – the bastion of capitalism that is ironically located in a communist country. Fears that its miracle economy would falter upon the takeover of the People’s Republic of China in 1997 have proven to be unfounded. As a matter of fact, a lot of things have remained the same. Hong Kong nationals still drive on the left side of the road, they still use the date format used by the British, the roads are still named King’s Road, Queen’s Way, etc, and they even have their own international dialing code. Not much has changed, and people still go about the normal business of enriching one’s self.
And enriching one’s self means being able to spot an opportunity and taking full advantage of it. Hong Kong has benefited from the awakening of China’s economy, with the latter’s double-digit growths rebounding into more profits for Hong Kong businessmen. China’s economy has been overheating a bit the past few quarters, however, resulting from a general global economic slowdown and a tighter policy designed to rein in inflation.
So are Hong Kong’s billionaires also feeling the downturn? The most affected are the real estate tycoons, with one family ‘s wealth declining by as much as 25 percent. Still, there are those still making hay, like the billionaires involved in the jewelry business, with one of them hiking his wealth by as much as 66 percent.
So who are in the top ten? Below is a list of Hong Kong’s top billionaires:
Li Ka Shing – $22 billion
Li Ka Shing is the chairman of Cheung Kong Holdings Limited, a multinational conglomerate mainly involved in property investment and other strategic holdings. The property downturn has actually decreased his wealth by $2 billion, but he has been busy expanding his business empire through the acquisition of a couple of utility firms in Britain, namely UK Power Networks and Northumbrian Water. He also has shares in different technology firms, like Facebook and Spotify. He is also known as a risk-taker, investing on an upstart company of a teenage American. He also controls a foundation that owns an additional $8.2 billion in assets.
Lee Shau Kee – $17 billion
Another victim of the downturn in real estate prices, Henderson Land, the flagship company of Lee Shau Kee, has dropped by 25 percent in the market. This is being offset however by the expansion of his retail group. Miramar has been making inroads in the luxury retail market of mainland China, with more DKNY stores being opened to serve the Chinese consumers.
Kwok Family – $15.4 billion
Yet another real estate giant through Sun Hung Kai Properties, a company with an extremely huge land reserve in mainland China totaling 86 million square feet, which is almost two times the size of the company’s landholdings in Hong Kong. The drawback is that its heavy exposure in China makes it extremely vulnerable to price fluctuations and policy inconsistencies in the Chinese market. As a result, even though its profits may increase, shares have largely been down by as much as 25 percent. The company is also undergoing a transition, with the brothers Raymond and Thomas taking over as chairmen, replacing their mother who nonetheless still has a lot of clout in the firm.
Cheng Yu Tung – $15 billion
His flagship property arm, New World Development, actually suffered a big drop in earnings due to the real estate crisis, with shares declining by as much as 50 percent. He has a variety of investments in his portfolio, however, to balance off the loss, with interests in finance, hotels and infrastructure. More importantly, his jewelry company, called Chow Tai Fook Jewelry, allowed him to increase his wealth from $9 billion to $15 billion.
Joseph Lau – $6.5 billion
Mr. Joseph Lau owns the real estate giant called Chinese Estates, another company that suffered from the downturn in the property market. Still, Mr. Lau’s wealth went up as some assets previously unlisted by the company were finally evaluated, appraised and added to its holdings.
Michael Kadoorie – $6.4 billion
The family of Mr. Michael Kadoorie controls CLP, the Hong Kong utility firm. Its impressive cash flow has attracted market investors, resulting into the increase of its share prices. While the value of its hotel chain, called Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels, has declined significantly, the prospects of the Kadoorie’s wealth increasing further are bright, as the family still owns a prized residential property in Kowloon. This site was bought for a pittance way back in 1931 when the land was still made up of barren rock.
Victor and William Fung – $6.2 billion
Rising manufacturing costs in China and economic problems in the United States and in Europe dented their family’s wealth, with share prices declining by more than a third. Their other businesses are doing well, however, like the men’s wear store called Trinity that caters to the upper class market. The family also owns the Circle K convenience stores.
Lui Che Woo – $4.6 billion
His family hit it big with the opening of a $2 billion casino resort in Macau. This means that their company, Galaxy Entertainment, now owns the second biggest share in biggest casino market in the world. Aside from this, they also own K. Wah International, a property firm listed in Hong Kong, and Stanford Hotels, a hotel chain based in San Francisco.
Tang Yiu – $4.2 billion
When Hong Kong’s stock market declined by double digits, one of the companies that stood out was Belle Holdings, a Hong Kong fashion giant owned by the family of Tang Yiu. The company specializes in female footwear retail. While he may have undergone a personal setback when he suffered a stroke, the company remains in his good hands, even as his son is being groomed to eventually take over.
Chee Chen Tung – $3.9 billion
The Tung’s wealth was boosted by the sale of its property arm, Orient Overseas Developments. This made up for the decline in the value of its shipping company that resulted from the fall in shipping rates and overcapacity in the market.