In what is shaping up to be another busy year in succession planning in the Pearl River Delta, Kaisa Group Holdings Ltd announced to the Hong Kong stock exchange this month that Kwok Hiu-kwan, son of Kaisa co-founder and chairman Kwok Ying-shing, has been appointed co-president of the group, effective 5 November.
The promotion for the 29-year-old property scion comes just over six months after the younger Kwok joined the board of the Shenzhen-based developer as an executive director in April of this year.
Since returning to China after completing his studies in the UK six years ago, Kwok Hiu-kwan has moved rapidly up the ranks at Kaisa, including being named a vice president in 2018, from which time he took responsibility for the group’s real estate and wealth management operations for the Shanghai region, before moving up to chairman and president of the group’s business for the region in March.
In addition to his responsibilities at the family’s property group, Kwok Hiu-kwan has also been in the news as the second-largest shareholder in Convoy Global, a Hong Kong-based finance firm where four officials were arrested in late 2017, in connection with a corruption investigation.
Kwok, whose family controls just under 51 percent of Kaisa, graduated from the UK’s Essex University with a bachelor’s degree in finance in 2013 and went on to complete a master’s degree in sociology from University College London the next year.
As a group, Kaisa operates in 50 China cities, spanning the Pearl River Delta, Yangtze River Delta, Bohai Rim, Chengdu-Chongqing and central region, as stated on its website.
Kaisa also operates 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).
Directors Try Out New Chairs
In addition to the Kwok promotion, Kaisa named two more changes in its top governing body in the same announcement. President and CEO Mai Fan was named vice chair of the board of directors, and executive director and COO Li Haiming was also appointed co-president.
After gaining notoriety for a series of defaults in 2016, the Hong Kong-listed Shenzhen developer has been expanding beyond its home market in Guangdong as it aims to join the ranks of the mainland’s largest builders.
Just last month, local media reports indicated that Kaisa was in the process of setting up a second headquarters in Beijing to better exploit the capital’s financial, media, technology and talent resources, as well as to help expand its reach in northern China.
The group has also been looking beyond China’s borders, including purchasing a residential site in Hong Kong’s New Territories for HK$3.5 billion ($450 million) in January of this year. The 146,000 square foot (13,564 square metres) plot, which Kaisa purchased via a 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, representing its only official properties outside of China to date.
Market sources have also confirmed to Mingtiandi that Kaisa was the beneficial owner of an offshore entity which bought a Kai Tak residential plot from defaulting developer Goldin Financial Holdings for HK$7.04 billion in May of this year.
The company has also expanded into commercial assets through its investment in NYSE-listed Nam Tai Property, which has led to a struggle with activist minority shareholders.
In September, Kwok Ying-shing’s younger brother Kwok Ying-chi resigned as chair and CEO of Nam Tai, of which Kaisa holds a 23.7 percent interest, after criticism by activist shareholders displeased with Nam Tai’s underwhelming stock performance. Kaisa’s ongoing struggle to maintain control of Nam Tai, which owns office assets in Guangdong, continues to be the subject of a shareholder dispute.
Keeping It in the Family
Guangdong and Hong Kong have seen a good deal of activity on the succession front in the past few years, with several of the city’s family run property titans making preparations for the next generation to take up the reins. Kaisa is the latest developer to join the club.
Things kicked off in 2018, when Li Ka-shing named son Victor as his successor at CK Hutchison and CK Asset Holdings. In 2019, Henderson Land’s Lee Shau-kee set the wheels in motion for sons Peter and Martin Lee to take over before he finally left the developer’s board in May of this year, and Kerry Properties named Kuok Khoon Huan vice chair and CEO that same year.
In February of this year, Adrian Cheng, grandson of the founder of New World Development, was named chair of the builder’s China business and group CEO, and in September, Adriel Chan, the third generation of his family to lead Hang Lung Properties, was named vice chair of the Hong Kong-listed developer.