Hong Kong developer Kerry Properties Ltd continues a youth movement with the appointment of a next generation leader to its board of directors, Serene Nah, who brings the average age of the company’s executive directors down to 48 years old.
Nah, 42, will be joining the top decision-making body on 15 October after becoming the company’s chief financial officer a year ago. The finance leader’s ascension to the board follows by a little more than two year the appointment of 42-year-old Kuok family scion, Kuok Khoon Hua as Kerry’s vice chairman and executive director in May 2019.
The graduate of Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University was appointed to replace Louis Chi Kong Wong, who resigned from his post effective 31 December due to his retirement plans. Wong is bowing out at 59 after helping the company known for its chain of six Kerry Center mixed-use projects in mainland China and its links to founder Robert Kuok’s Shangri-La Hotel Group, to bounce back to healthy profits in the first half of 2021.
With Nah subbing in for Wong, the average age of Kerry’s executive directors, falls from 53 to 48 — or half a century younger than the developer’s 98-year-old founder.
In her new role, Nah is expected to earn HK$4.74 million ($600,000) per year along with bonus and benefits, based on a disclosure to the Hong Kong stock exchange on Friday.
Nah joined Kerry’s top decision-making body after being with the company for just two years, after being appointed as chief financial officer in September 2020. Earlier, the finance executive had served as Kerry’s chief strategy officer from October 2019 to August 2020.
Before she joined the firm, Nah, who works as a yoga instructor in her spare time, had been head of portfolio management for Asia at the global tech investment company Silver Lake Partners. Her time at the investment bank came after 10 years of service at General Electric , where she led the commercial and consumer finance businesses in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan for GE Capital Greater China.
With Nah appointed to the board, Wong is ending is ending a nearly three-decade career at Kerry Properties, including three years as an executive director. Wong had been chief financial officer until Nah’s appointment last year.
In its statement Kerry thanked Wong for his service and confirmed that he has no conflicts with the board of directors.
“During Mr. Louis Wong’s tenure, he has played an important role in the company’s development and has helped to lay a solid foundation for its future growth,” the disclosure read.
In the first half of 2021 Kerry Properties saw its profit attributable to its shareholders jump by 251 percent to HK$3.77 billion ($485 million), from HK$1.07 billion in the same period last year, based on its latest unaudited interim financial report.
With Wong’s departure, Nah is also joining the board’s finance committee, along with Kuok Khoon Hua, the youngest son of Malaysia’s richest man.
Before taking on the vice chairman spot in May 2019, the younger Kuok had been a non-executive director of the developer since June 2015 and now holds a broad portfolio of leadership positions in the Kuok family empire.
The 2003 graduate of Harvard University is already executive chairman of Kerry Logistics Network Ltd, chairman of Kerry Holdings Ltd (a privately held subsidiary of Kuok Group Ltd), as well as serving as a director of Kerry Group and Kuok (Singapore) Ltd.
Also leaving Kerry Properties’ leadership will be Soon Yuk Tai, who is resigning as company secretary for personal reasons, the company said. Soon is being replaced by Cheung Ka Ki, starting 15 October.
Expanding Mainland Portfolio
After ranking as China’s ninth largest commercial developer by operating income in 2019, Kerry Properties fell from the country’s top 10 owners of offices and malls in 2020 after posting a 10 percent drop in its operating profit last year.
In late February, Kerry made a move to expand its mainland portfolio by partnering with Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC to buy a 66,060-square metre Shanghai site for RMB 6.01 billion ($930 million). With Kerry taking a 40 percent stake versus GIC’s 60 percent ownership, the partners plan to develop the Pudong plot into 219,000 square metres (2.4 million square feet) of retail space and another 45,000 square metres of grade A offices.