A son of the chairman of Shenzhen developer Kaisa Group Holdings failed in a bid to wrest control of troubled Hong Kong finance firm Convoy Global Holdings this past week, as a shareholders meeting was halted after just ten minutes.
In a statement to the Hong Kong Exchange on Friday, Convoy notified the public that an extraordinary general meeting had been adjourned after a proxy for Kaisa director Kwok Hiu-Kwan, “physically approached the Directors’ bench and also acted in a threatening and intimidating manner.”
Identified in an account in the South China Morning Post as a corporate lawyer surnamed Lam, the proxy claimed that Kwok controlled 51.2 percent of the voting rights in Convoy and “tried to wrest control of the EGM,” according to Convoy’s statement.
With the meeting at Convoy’s offices in Wanchai’s Trust Tower said to descend into a shouting session, the EGM was adjourned until an undetermined date before 31 January next year, extending a struggle for one of Hong Kong’s largest local financial advisory firms, before it was wracked by fraud trials and a three-year struggle for control.
Kwok Brushes Aside Court Setbacks
Kwok, who was named a co-president of Kaisa earlier this month, has been tussling for control of Convoy since buying a 29.91 percent stake in the company in 2017 from shareholders said to be connected with an elaborate fraud scheme. That financial plot was allegedly masterminded by Convoy director Roy Cho Kwai-chee in a report by Hong Kong finance activist David Webb on the “Enigma Network” earlier in 2017.
The Tsai family of Hong Kong’s Fubon Insurance currently holds 29.98 percent of Convoy, with the company’s shareholding and management having been the subject of a fight with Kwok and other shareholders since late 2017. Earlier that year, Webb’s Enigma report had uncovered a network of cross-shareholdings and fraudulent transactions which Cho and other directors of the company are said to have used to bilk investors of HK$89 million (US$12 million)..
Trading of shares in Convoy has been frozen since December 2017, with the Hong Kong Exchange said to be threatening to delist the company if public sales of its equity cannot recommence soon.
Earlier this month a little-known NASDAQ-listed company was reported by the South China Morning Post to have offered to buy out Kwok’s stake in the company, although no formal bid was said to be offered for the shares. As a condition of the proposed share purchase, the reported buyer is said to be asking that Kwok withdraw lawsuits filed against Convoy.
After being denied voting rights at a shareholder’s meeting in 2017 due to questions regarding his acquisition of Convoy shares, Kwok had filed suit stating that his shares should have been recognised in that session. However, a Hong Kong court ruled against Kwok in 2018, saying that Convoy and its chairman acted legally in denying Kwok’s shares be counted. On 24 November, Hong Kong’s Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal by Kwok seeking to overturn that decision.
Also this month, Hong Kong’s courts rejected an attempt by Kwok to seek an interim injunction against Convoy taking any action to prevent the property scion’s shareholding from being recognised.
Former Convoy director Cho, along with two associates is expected to receive a verdict on 30 November in a criminal fraud case. The trio are also facing civil suits over having allegedly siphoned off HK$4 billion through fraudulent transactions.
Kwok Family Empire Expands
Now 29, Kwok Hiu-kwan is the son of one of mainland China’s most aggressive property developers, Kwok Ying-shing, who has recovered from a series of defaults in 2015 to make Kaisa into one of the country’s fastest growing major builders.
Once known primarily for its projects in Guangdong province, the company now operates in 50 Chinese cities, with the group also active in in tourism, health and medicine, and marine transport, among other businesses. As of June 2020, Kaisa Group had 94 projects under development and controlled assets worth RMB 292 billion ($44 billion).
Last month, mainland media reports indicated that Kaisa was in the process of setting up a second headquarters in Beijing to foster its expansion into the finance, media and tech sectors in the capital, as well as to help expand its property business in northern China.
During 2020, the developer has also been expanding its development activity in Hong Kong, including purchasing a residential site in Hong Kong’s New Territories for HK$3.5 billion ($450 million) in January of this year.
Its purchase of that 146,000 square foot (13,564 square metres) plot, via government tender, was the group’s second acquisition in the SAR after it paid HK$500 million to scoop up a 3,924 square foot site on Hong Kong Island in November 2019.
Kaisa was also the beneficial owner of an offshore entity which paid HK$7.04 billion to purchase a Kai Tak residential plot from defaulting developer Goldin Financial Holdings in May of this year.