World’s Onetime Youngest Female Billionaire Sees Wealth Plunge 82% As Default Risks Grow

Yang Huiyan has seen her wealth plunge by a whopping $24.8 billion over the past two years, as shares of Country Garden have dropped to an all-time low. The 41-year-old chairman still has a net worth of $4.8 billion, but it’s a dramatic reversal of fortune for Yang who had been crowned the world’s youngest female billionaire when she debuted on the wealth rankings in 2007 at the age of 26.

Yang’s wealth, which peaked at $29.6 billion in 2021, is derived mostly from her 57% stake in the company, whose shares fell 23% in Hong Kong this week on news that the property developer had missed interest payments on two U.S. dollar bonds. Country Garden failed to pay $22.5 million that was due August 6, but it still has a grace period of 30 days before a default can be triggered.

“Country Garden’s ability to pay remains very uncertain at this point,” says Nicholas Chen, a Singapore-based analyst at research firm CreditSights. “You can be a ‘high quality’ developer but still run into trouble, like what had happened to some of its peers previously.”

Long considered a top-tier player in China’s real estate market, the company had previously set itself apart as one of the few remaining property developers that was able to meet its debt obligations. But now the pressure is on Yang to see whether she can scrape together enough cash to repay debt, which includes roughly $4.3 billion in onshore and offshore bonds that are due in 2024. That figure includes bonds which are puttable by investors, meaning they have the right to demand payment from Country Garden.

Already one of the company’s offshore bonds maturing in January 2024 has plunged to just 12 cents on the dollar, suggesting that investors are pricing in an imminent default, according to prices compiled by Shanghai-based financial information platform Dealing Matrix. Moody’s Investors Services downgraded Country Garden three notches deeper into junk on Thursday, citing reasons including deteriorating liquidity and heightening refinancing risks

A Country Garden spokesperson said usable cash had declined due to falling sales, changes in the refinancing environment and the impact from various fund regulations. Last week, the company cancelled a planned $300 million share sale for unspecified reasons.

Jeff Zhang, a Hong Kong-based analyst at research firm Morningstar, says Country Garden may have done so over concerns about its share price, which has more than halved this year and has been downgraded by analysts at JP Morgan Chase & Co. due to mounting liquidity concerns. Last year, when it raised funds through the same channel, shares had to be sold at a steep discount to its market price.

And analysts say when Country Garden publishes interim results later this month, its financial strength is likely to have worsened further.

Amid the sector-wide slump, the builder posted a full-year loss for 2022 of $885 million—marking the first time it had fallen into the red since going public in 2007. Country Garden, in fact, has warned that it expects to keep hemorrhaging cash. The company said in a late July filing it would post an unspecified loss for the first six months of 2023, compared with a profit of $86 million generated during the same period a year ago.

The developer has been hit particularly hard because roughly two-thirds of its projects by value are located in lower-tier cities, where property prices aren’t resilient amid the weakness in China’s wider economy, as well as mounting signs of deflation. Contracted sales declined by an estimated one-third to $18 billion in the first half of this year, followed by a 60% slide to $1.7 billion in July, according to Moody’s.

The agency said in its Thursday research note that the missed coupon payments would further hurt market confidence and restrain its funding access. Since Yang became chairman, Country Garden has only had access to limited funding streams. The developer received $115 million in April in financing from Flow Capital and another $35 million in July from Chong Hing Bank. It was also able to sell bonds onshore, where a unit issued in May $236.8 million worth of medium-term notes.

Still, liquidity has been under “a lot of pressure,” and “we can’t rule out the default,” says Warut Promboon, a Hong Kong-based managing partner at research firm Bondcritic. Ultimately, survival “depends on upcoming support from the government and state-influenced banks,” he says.

It is now up to the billionaire, who graduated from Ohio State University with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and logistics, and who has long been groomed for succession after her father transferred the 57% stake to her in 2007, to make that happen. Her 35-year-old sister, Yang Ziying, also sits on the board, while the billionaire’s husband, Chen Chong, is a non-executive director.

Together, they are responsible for steering a business the elder Yeung founded in 1992, and grew by offering residences outside major urban centers. Country Garden’s strategy enabled its fast growth with relatively lower costs in acquiring land sites. After taking over, his daughter donated $826 million worth of shares in a property management arm, Country Garden Services Holding, to a family charity. The Hong Kong-listed unit has fallen by almost two-thirds so far this year.

Now, the main property operation says it will “actively seek guidance and support from the government and regulatory authorities,” according to the aforementioned late July filing. It will also consider adopting measures such as cutting operating expenses and accelerating loan collection to protect cash flow, according to the filing.

But Country Garden doesn’t appear to be included in a list of developers that recently met with newly appointed central bank governor Pan Gongsheng, who said authorities would increase funding support for the private sector. It doesn’t appear to be invited to a meeting that securities regulators will hold with real estate companies on Monday either, according to Bloomberg.

Optimists argue that the developer is still considered systematically important due to its size, and Beijing may now have more incentives to stabilize the real estate sector amid a wobbly economic recovery.

But other big developers, notably the debt-stricken China Evergrande Group, have been defaulting on their debt obligations. What’s more, even the state-linked real estate companies, for example Sino-Ocean Group Holding, have recently missed payments and are working on an extension plan.

“It is just really difficult to say,” says one investor of Country Garden bonds who requested anonymity in discussing the matter, adding that the company has communicated little with offshore bondholders, including on what support it may receive.

Amid all the uncertainties, Yang has pointed to another strategy. When releasing its 2022 annual results, the company vowed to increase its landbank in tier-1 and tier-2 cities to about half of the total by value over the next three to five years.

Analysts say this is easier said than done, as expanding in the likes of Beijing and Shanghai would pit the now weakened Country Garden against still powerful state-run rivals in a fiercely competitive market. He Ruiying, an analyst at Singapore-based research firm Lucror Analytics, says Country Garden’s “survival in the current form” would depend on a major improvement in sales and access to capital markets.

“Supports in funding access seem to be more crucial for now,” she says. “It is hard to believe that Country Garden can change its business model or landbank structure overnight.”

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Vietnam Bans Barbie Movie, Because ‘Map’

If there’s one thing we learned from “The West Wing,” it’s that Democrats need to find Republicans of goodwill who are willing to put America above partisan bickering, and … wait, that’s bullshit. But the episode where the “Organization of Cartographers for Social Equality” explained that maps can be very political, that one holds up pretty good. The Mercator projection really has encouraged “an imperialist European attitude for centuries and has created ethnic prejudices against the Third World,” and anyone who says otherwise is itchin’ for a fight.

Naturally enough, that brings us to the new Barbie movie directed by Greta Gerwig and starring Margot Robbie as the eponymous fashion doll. The trailer is ridiculously fun, but includes a detail that seems to have led the nation of Vietnam to ban distribution of the film. Namely, a cartoony world map includes a little bitty dashed line off the coast of “Asia,” and Vietnam says that means the movie endorses China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. Here’s the trailer; the blink-and-you’ll miss it offense to Vietnam’s sovereignty appears at roughly the 1-minute mark, when Laurie Anderson Barbie Kate McKinnon Barbie advises Main Character Barbie she must go to the Real World and learn how human feet operate, we think.

The movie had been scheduled to open in Vietnam July 21, but Vietnam’s state media announced that the government banned the film Monday, as the AP explains:

The reports cited Vi Kien Thanh, director general of the Vietnam Cinema Department, as saying the National Film Evaluation Council made the decision. It said a map in the film shows China’s “nine-dash line,” which extends Beijing’s territorial claims far into waters that fall within areas claimed by Vietnam and other countries.

The “nine-dash line” is an arcane but sensitive issue for China and its neighbors that shows Beijing’s maritime border extending into areas claimed by other governments and encompasses most of the South China Sea. That has brought it into tense standoffs with the ASEAN nations of Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines, with Chinese fishing boats and military vessels becoming more aggressive in the disputed waters.

Here’s a map, drawn by professors Mark Raymond of the University of Oklahoma and David A. Welch of the University of Waterloo, in Canada-land, for their paper “What’s Really Going On in the South China Sea?” You can see why Vietnamese officials mockingly call the area claimed by China the “cow-tongue line.”

Map by Mark Raymond and David A. Welch

We should also point out that the map in the trailer only has eight dashes, so perhaps it depicts some other planet altogether.

State newspaper Vietnam Plus said that the inclusion of the squiggle in a cartoon map “distorts the truth, violates the law in general and violates sovereignty of Vietnamese territory in particular,” although it remains unclear how exactly the Barbie movie could in practical terms make the international boundary dispute any worse. The UN seems unlikely to determine that China can fish in the area because International Incident Barbie said so in a one-second clip.

Still, national pride and all that; no doubt patriotic Americans would be very put out if a Saudi-owned “news” network depicted part of the United States as belonging to a foreign country.

Screenshot of a 2020 Fox News map with Michigan's Upper Peninsula labeled

The AP reports that Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning, when asked about the matter Tuesday, did not consider life in plastic so fantastic, adding that

“China’s position on the South China Sea issue is clear and consistent.”

“We believe that the countries concerned should not link the South China Sea issue with normal cultural and people-to-people exchanges”

For what it’s worth — very little, since China ignored the decision altogether — a 2016 international tribunal in the Hague found China’s territorial claims to the waters had no merit, but as we just said in what’s now a redundant part of this sentence, China rejected the judgment and continues to claim the area.

So far, nobody involved with the movie has commented on how the controversial squiggle came to be included, although China is notorious for having its own angry reactions to western entertainment or sportsball players who express support for Hong Kong or Taiwan. Our own very deep foreign policy analysis concludes that somebody on the production staff said “well, better include the squiggle if we want to show this in China,” figuring that revenues from China would more than make up for any losses in Vietnam.

There’s nothing terribly new about this, either: Vietnam previously banned the 2022 film Uncharted and 2019’s Abominable for maps showing the Chinese Domination Squiggle. In fact, the scene in the latter completely forgettable kid flick led politicians in the Philippines to call for a boycott of all DreamWorks films, and Malaysia refused to distribute the movie until the scene was cut altogether.

As it happens, Vietnam also launched an investigation this week into the K-Pop group “Blackpink” because a website for its Vietnamese tour included a similarly offensive map. The tour organizer called the incident an “unfortunate misunderstanding” and pledged that the website had been updated, although the site remains down, Reuters reports.

Also, in the latest wrinkle of this developing international crisis, the Philippines is debating whether to ban Barbie as well.

How silly all these foreigns are, launching boycotts and censoring an innocent entertainment over such a nothingburger!

Meanwhile, in the Freest, Greatest, Most Liberty-est Nation on Earth, we’re firing teachers and banning books over the fear that encouraging everyone to get along and accept each other’s differences will lead to nine-year-olds falling into a life of depravity, or because schools might accurately depict our very real history.

Also, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) has now twice condemned the Barbie movie, tweeting yesterday that

Leftist Hollywood’s new ‘Barbie’ movie shows a map that supports Communist China’s territorial claims to the South China Sea.

Looks like ‘Barbie’ is bending to Beijing to make a quick buck.

Blackburn followed that up today by insisting that we all take her seriously, since a fun summer movie about a pop culture icon is actually causing human rights abuses, no really she is serious, if that squiggle were removed, the camps would be opened and the Uyghurs would be freed.

Hollywood & the Left are more concerned with selling films in Communist China than standing up to the regime’s human rights abuses.

The ‘Barbie’ movie’s depiction of a map endorsing Beijing’s claims to the South China Sea is legally & morally wrong and must be taken seriously.

Strangely, not a single Republican has stepped forward to demand that Mattel include realistic genitals on Ken and Barbie, since surely the dolls as they’ve existed for 70 years encourage androgyny.

[AP / NYT / CNBC / Reuters / Sage Journals]

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Avian Flu Fast Facts | CNN


Here’s a look at avian flu.

Avian influenza, also called avian flu or bird flu, is an illness that usually affects only birds.

There are many different strains of avian flu: 16 H subtypes and 9 N subtypes. Only those labeled H5, H7 and H10 have caused deaths in humans.

The most commonly seen and most deadly form of the virus is called “Influenza A (H5N1),” or the “H5N1 virus.”

Most cases of human bird flu infections are due to contact with infected poultry or surfaces that are contaminated with infected bird excretions: saliva, nasal secretions or feces.

Symptoms of avian flu include fever, cough, sore throat and sometimes severe respiratory diseases and pneumonia.

The CDC recommends oral oseltamivir (brand name: Tamiflu), inhaled zanamivir (brand name: Relenza) and intravenous permavir (brand name: Rapivab) for the treatment of human illness associated with avian flu.

The mortality rate is close to 60% for infected humans.

Early 1900s –The avian flu is first identified in Italy.

1961 – The H5N1 strain is isolated in birds in South Africa.

December 1983 – Chickens in Pennsylvania and Virginia are exposed to the avian flu and more than five million birds are killed to stop the disease from spreading.

1997 – Eighteen people are infected by the H5N1 strain in Hong Kong, six die. These are the first documented cases of human infection. Hong Kong destroys its entire poultry population, 1.5 million birds.

1999 Two children in Hong Kong are infected by the H9N2 strain.

February 2003 – Eighty-four people in the Netherlands are affected by the H7N7 strain of the virus, one dies.

February 7, 2004 – Twelve thousand chickens are killed in Kent County, Delaware, after they are found to be infected with the H7 virus.

October 7, 2005The avian flu reaches Europe. Romanian officials quarantine a village of about 30 people after three dead ducks there test positive for bird flu.

November 12, 2005 – A one-year-old boy in Thailand tests positive for the H5N1 strain of avian influenza.

November 16, 2005 – The World Health Organization confirms two human cases of bird flu in China, including a female poultry worker who died from the H5N1 strain.

November 17, 2005 Two deaths are confirmed in Indonesia from the H5N1 strain of avian influenza.

January 1, 2006 – A Turkish teenager dies of the H5N1 strain of avian influenza in Istanbul, and later that week, two of his sisters die.

January 17, 2006 – A 15-year-old girl from northern Iraq dies after contracting bird flu.

February 20, 2006Vietnam becomes the first country to successfully contain the disease. A country is considered disease-free when no new cases are reported in 21 days.

March 12, 2006Officials in Cameroon confirm cases of the H5N1 strain. The avian flu has now reached four African countries.

March 13, 2006 – The avian flu is confirmed by officials in Myanmar.

May 11, 2006 Djibouti announces its first cases of H5N1 – several birds and one human.

December 20, 2011 – The US Department of Health and Human Services releases a statement saying that the government is urging scientific journals to omit details from research they intend to publish on the transfer of H5N1 among mammals. There is concern that the information could be misused by terrorists.

July 31, 2012Scientists announce that H3N8, a new strain of avian flu, caused the death of more than 160 baby seals in New England in 2011.

March 31, 2013 – Chinese authorities report the first human cases of infection of avian flu H7N9 to the World Health Organization. H7N9 has not previously been detected in humans.

December 6, 2013 – A 73-year-old woman infected with H10N8 dies in China, the first human fatality from this strain.

January 8, 2014 – Canadian health officials confirm that a resident from Alberta has died from H5N1 avian flu, the first case of the virus in North America. It is also the first case of H5N1 infection ever imported by a traveler into a country where the virus is not present in poultry.

April 20, 2015 – Officials say more than five million hens will be euthanized after bird flu was detected at a commercial laying facility in northwest Iowa. According to the US Department of Agriculture, close to eight million cases of bird flu have been detected in 13 states since December. Health officials say there is little to no risk for transmission to humans with respect to H5N2. No human infections with the virus have ever been detected.

January 15, 2016 – The US Department of Agriculture confirms that a commercial turkey farm in Dubois County, Indiana, has tested positive for the H7N8 strain of avian influenza.

January 24, 2017 – Britain’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs releases a statement confirming that a case of H5N8 avian flu has been detected in a flock of farmed breeding pheasants in Preston, UK. The flock is estimated to contain around 10,000 birds. The statement adds that a number of those birds have died, and the remaining live birds at the premises are being “humanely” killed because of the disease.

February 12, 2017 – A number of provinces in China have shut down their live poultry markets to prevent the spread of avian flu after a surge in the number of infections from the H7N9 strain. At least six provinces have reported human cases of H7N9 influenza this year, according to Chinese state media, Xinhua.

March 5-7, 2017 – The USDA confirms that a commercial chicken farm in Tennessee has tested positive for the H7N9 strain of avian flu, but says it is genetically different from the H7N9 lineage out of China. The 73,500-bird flock in Lincoln County will be euthanized, according to Tyson Foods.

February 14, 2018 – Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection announces that a 68-year-old woman has been treated for the H7N4 strain. This is the first case of this strain in a human.

June 5, 2019 – Since 2013 there have been 1,568 confirmed human cases and 616 deaths worldwide from the H7N9 strain of avian flu, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

December 2019 – The United Kingdom Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs confirms that a case of H5N1 avian flu has been detected at a poultry farm in Suffolk. 27,000 birds are humanely killed because of the disease.

April 9, 2020 – The USDA confirms that a commercial turkey flock in Chesterfield County, South Carolina has tested positive for the H7N3 strain of avian flu.

January 2021 – India culls tens of thousands of poultry birds after avian influenza is detected in ducks, crows and wild geese in at least a dozen locations across the country.

February 18, 2021 – Russian authorities notify WHO that they have detected H5N8 in humans. “If confirmed, this would be the first time H5N8 has infected people,” a WHO Europe spokesperson says in a statement.

June 1, 2021 – China’s National Health Commission announces the first human case of H10N3.

February 2022 – The USDA confirms that wild birds and domestic poultry in the United States have tested positive for the H5N1 strain of avian flu. By May 17, 2023, the CDC reports there are 47 states with poultry outbreaks.

April 26, 2022 – China’s National Health Commission announces the first human case of H3N8.

April 28, 2022 – The CDC announces a case of H5 bird flu has been confirmed in a man in Colorado.

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Chinese postpartum confinement, called ‘zuo yue zi,’ is gaining Western appeal | CNN

Hong Kong

You cannot carry heavy things. You should sleep more. No working. No household chores.

And the list goes on as Carol Chan explained her postpartum instructions for new mom Taylor Richard.

Chan is a “pui yuet,” also called a confinement nanny, who lives with families after a baby is born. She prepares meals and herbal medicines, takes care of the baby and provides guidance on being a new mother.

Richard, a content creator from Canada, traveled to Hong Kong to become a model and fell in love with her husband, Tom, there. They married in November 2018, and Richard gave birth to their son, Levi, in March 2022.

Richard decided to hire Chan, who lived with the family for a month and spent an additional month helping out.

Richard vlogged about her experience with Chan on her YouTube channel, and that video went viral with 2.9 million views. The reaction was mostly admiration and praise from Richard’s primarily Western followers.

The concept of Chinese confinement — “zuo yue zi,” or “sitting the month”— is when a new mother stays at home for one month to allow her body to rest after giving birth.

During that time, the pui yuet makes dishes catering to the mother’s physical needs and helps her with milk production and other concerns. The pui yuet also cares for the mother with massage, body wraps and lessons on how to take care of the new baby.

Richard and Chan declined to share the cost of Chan’s services. Few entities track the pricing of nannies in Hong Kong on a consistent basis because most negotiations are directly between clients and the nannies.

The estimated cost for a pui yuet in Hong Kong ranges from 63,800 Hong Kong dollars (US $8,100) to 268,000 Hong Kong dollars (US $34,100) for 26 to 30 nights for a live-in nanny, according to a 2021 survey by the Consumer Council, a statutory body in Hong Kong dedicated to protecting consumer rights. The council, which surveyed 19 companies or organizations that provide postnatal care, also reported that the cost of a pui yuet working eight hours a day for 26 days ranges from 21,000 Hong Kong dollars (US $2,600) to 34,000 Hong Kong dollars (US $4,300).

This tradition isn’t without criticism, and some have questioned whether the traditional methods of confinement in the Chinese community are too extreme and may be dangerous. In 2015, a new mother in Shanghai following the custom died of heatstroke after wrapping herself in a quilt and turning off the air conditioner, state media reported.

Chan has gotten calls from the US and UK to be a pui yuet after a YouTube video about her went viral.

In recent years, some people have adapted the tradition to more modern ways, taking advantage of available technology. It’s important to turn the air conditioner on when the weather is hot, Chan said, or else you could get sick. The traditional practice had been to avoid anything cold regardless of the weather.

Richard, now 34, said she loved the time she spent with Chan.

“It meant everything! My husband and I both don’t have any family members in Hong Kong, and as new parents we were pretty clueless,” she said via email. “Having someone take care of my body and gently guide me through my transition into motherhood made for a very positive beginning of my baby’s life. I’m forever grateful for Carol!”

Richard was the first Western mother whom Chan cared for in her 12-year career. But since Richard’s YouTube video went viral, Chan said she’s gotten calls from Westerners asking for her services from as far away as the United States and United Kingdom. She’s now headed to Vancouver, British Columbia, in July to work as a pui yuet for a family there for a month.

The kind of care Richard received is expensive, whether the new parents live in Hong Kong or elsewhere. One US location, Boram Postnatal Retreat, opened last year in New York City.

“It was very challenging to get the concept received by others,” cofounder Boram Nam told CNN. “It was a lot about the education process — information is abundant up to until you give birth, and the spotlight completely shifts over to the baby — so we get into that discussion, and people get it.”

Cofounder Boram Nam opened Boram Postnatal Retreat last year in New York for new mothers.

But her program comes with a hefty price tag, starting at three nights for $2700.

“This is the price we do need to charge for the level of service that we provide within the guidelines of what postpartum care looks like in the US,” said Nam, adding that she hopes eventually to get services covered by insurance. “We want to make sure this can be accessible by others, by more women, a more diverse group of people.”

Mandy Major, owner of Major Care, a virtual postpartum doula service based in the US, has noticed a lack of postpartum education in her country.

“We have a lack of systematic postpartum here within our health care system,” Major said. “We have a go-go, hyper-productive, hyper-independent culture, but we also don’t have paid leave.”

Richard’s mostly Western followers on YouTube noted that pressure, commenting on the luxury of taking a month off to spend time recovering and connecting with their babies.

“As an American woman who has given birth 4 times and been booted immediately out of the hospital expected to figure it all out on my own, I can undoubtedly say had this been an option, it may have changed my whole mothering experiences!!” one person said.

“I returned to work 2 weeks postpartum in America,” another mother wrote. “I never felt that I was able to fully bond with my child.”

The month of confinement came to an end for Richard last April. In Richard’s YouTube video, Chan holds Levi one last time and passes him back to his mother as she put her shoes on to leave.

Richard’s eyes begin to fill with tears, surprising herself at her emotional reaction.

“I feel like I’m losing a family member,” she says as the door slowly closes behind Chan, according to the video.

Even after the confinement experience, Chan remains close with Richard’s family, stopping by for lunch occasionally and still giving baby advice.

“If I have another baby, I would love to have it in Canada with my family, but I want Carol to come with me if I do!” Richard said in a video chat later, smiling. “I can’t imagine going through this again without her.”

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Vincent Lo Plays Long Game With His Shui On Group, Making Big Bets In Shanghai Property As He Prepares Daughter Stephanie As Successor

This story is part of Forbes’ coverage of Hong Kong’s Richest 2023. See the full list here.

Despite woes in the mainland property market, Hong Kong billionaire Vincent Lo is playing the long game with his Shui On group, making big bets on Shanghai property and preparing his daughter Stephanie as successor.

Even as mainland China’s property market remains distressed, Hong Kong-based billionaire developer Vincent Lo sees a silver lining among the dark clouds. “There is no question the market is down, with so many developers overextended,” the founder and chairman of Shui On group says in an exclusive interview in Hong Kong in December. “But with all the trouble, there is also a great opportunity to buy low for the first time in many years.”

His comments came just as Shui On Land, the group’s flagship company, made good on his words: a day earlier, it announced that it had snapped up a large 17,000-square-meter parcel in Shanghai for about 2.4 billion yuan ($350 million). The acquisition was made through a joint venture with state-owned developer Shanghai Yangshupu, with Shui On Land owning 60%.

The move is typical of Lo, who is known for taking a long-term view, doing in-depth research and creating a meticulous masterplan for his projects. For those who doubt his approach, Lo can point to his success with a similarly bold bet he made almost a quarter century earlier in Shanghai: the Xintiandi project.

At the time it was a group of historic but rundown buildings that had escaped redevelopment because it was the district where China’s Communist Party was founded in 1921. “You have to remember, these were the early days for Shanghai and China. Now, everyone is in China, but this was right after the Asian financial crisis in 1997,” says Hei-Ming Cheng, chairman of real estate firm KaiLong, which has invested over $4 billion in more than 50 projects in China.

From 1998 to 2004, Cheng was general manager for Shui On Land in Shanghai. “Vincent took a huge, huge risk. And he was really visionary. He wanted to do something unique, and this was a well-planned, sophisticated project, which nobody was doing in China,” he says. “It was revolutionary and changed development in Shanghai and in China.”

Shanghai in those days was in the doldrums. “It was dark, even in the downtown and along the Bund,” Lo recalls. Shui On was still a minor Hong Kong firm when Lo was tapped by Shanghai officials to advise on how to protect the historic area. Lo brought in American architect Ben Wood, famed for his work reviving Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall. Wood put together a plan that preserved the buildings by using them for upscale restaurants, shops and entertainment outlets.

Opened in 2002, Xintiandi was an instant hit and remains popular to this day. It is both one of the most profitable real estate developments in China and Shui On’s most consistently profitable project in its history. Shui On Land’s Shanghai portfolio contributes roughly three-quarters of its total rental and related income, most of it generated by the award-winning landmark. In short, Xintiandi is the crown jewel of Lo’s long career in property.

Now as he contemplates his legacy, he is preparing his most important master plan, handing over to the next generation, again the result of careful research and planning. Lo, who turns 75 in April, talked about finding a successor as far back as 2011. He signaled that his daughter, Stephanie Lo, 40, was the heir apparent to take over the group when she was named an executive director at Shui On Land in 2018 (she first started working at Shui On in 2012). She is currently an executive director at Shui On Land and vice chairman and executive director of Shui On Xintiandi, the branch of Shui On that oversees Xintiandi.

She is joined at Shui On by her brother Adrian Lo, 34, who works as a director of corporate development at Socam, the Hong Kong construction arm of Shui On. He joined the company in 2018 after running his own restaurant and catering business for five years in Hong Kong. As of mid-2022, Lo and his children held the majority of shares in Shui On Land and Socam, and the two siblings appear to have a solid working relationship.

“Succession is never easy,” says Lo. Key to the process were consultations with his children and management. The talks went on for the better part of a decade, says Stephanie. “We all sat down together to discuss responsibility, what’s expected of us, and how to better craft his legacy,” she says. They all worked together on a family constitution, which Stephanie describes as a guide for the company and the culture the family wants to create for coming generations. “We had long discussions about the future,” says Adrian. “It was important to make sure that our values aligned.”

Lo has incentive to ensure Shui On’s continuity. His father, Lo Ying-Shek, founded real estate and hotel company Great Eagle 60 years ago. He died in 2006, leaving behind nine children who are still embroiled in a contemptuous inheritance feud. Lo’s mother, 103, and two of his brothers and a sister, are battling with another brother, Lo Ka Shui, who is chairman and managing director of Great Eagle. Vincent, who is a non-executive director at Great Eagle, says his father clearly designated Ka Shui to run the company. He laments that amid a slew of lawsuits he hasn’t visited his mother in years. “It’s tragic,” he says, determined it won’t happen at Shui On.

Stephanie says the company’s focus will remain the mainland and Hong Kong, where its “brand and our management, and our execution capabilities are much stronger.” She emphasizes the importance of Shanghai as an investment, saying it is “well on its way to becoming a global city.” The latest acquisition of the 17,000-square-meter plot on Pingliang Road in the Yangpu district will be developed as a mixed-use property that will include the preservation of heritage buildings but won’t be as high-end as Xintiandi, says Stephanie, who is spearheading China strategy with her father’s guidance. Analysts have generally applauded the purchase, which helps Shui On build its strong presence in Shanghai.

Wood, who lives in Shanghai, says, “The big challenge for Shui On isn’t who will run the company, but how they will survive in a China that is very different nowadays.” Competition is keener, and quality projects like Xintiandi are expensive, he explains. He says Stephanie’s background—a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Wellesley College, Massachusetts, and experience working for New York architecture and design firms—is an asset. “She knows architecture. She’s a great listener, like her father. She asks questions, and gets the opinions of everyone in the room,” he says.

Firm Foundation

Shui On Land continues to focus on Hong Kong and key cities on the mainland, spreading its property interests over office, residential, retail, hotels and serviced apartments. With 13 projects under construction, its leasable and salable holdings could expand in coming years.

Stephanie says a key plank in her approach to the business will be making Shui On Land’s operations more sustainable. Green consultants note that the construction industry has huge carbon outputs, and there are few answers to making steel and concrete production more eco-friendly. However, Stephanie is pledging to reduce the company’s carbon footprint by 65% by 2030. Many companies talk about carbon reduction, says Eric Ricaurte, founder and CEO of Greenview, an ESG consultancy in Singapore, but “Shui On is really trying to make a difference by committing to these ambitious goals, and making them public.” He adds: “That’s really rare, especially in China.”

Another area that might need extra work is the company’s attempts to replicate Xintiandi in second-tier mainland cities such as Dalian, Hangzhou and Wuhan. These projects have had mixed results. “Shui On wanted to push the envelope with these very sophisticated projects,” says James Macdonald, head of Savills Research China. But they may have moved into those cities too early, and with developments that were too costly, he says. Meanwhile in Shanghai, Lo was able to add to Xintiandi, creating Taipingqiao, a larger community that covers 52 hectares (roughly 80 U.S. city blocks) with some of the most expensive residential and office space in the city, as well as a park and an artificial lake.

Shui On needs to reboot after the turmoil of the Covid-19 period. Shui On’s fortunes slid along with China’s economy during the pandemic, hit by lockdowns and a blow-out in the mainland property market after the government cracked down on borrowing by developers. The estimated value of the real estate sector fell 5.1% in 2022, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, while investment in the industry dropped 10%, the first decline since records began in 1999.

Shui On Land’s shares and earnings plummeted in tandem, prompting it in March 2022 to delay a planned Hong Kong IPO of its Xintiandi assets, something Lo says might be revisited if market conditions improve. Profit attributable to shareholders more than halved in the first half of the year to 450 million yuan, while revenue plunged 63% to 4.4 billion yuan. While contracted sales surged 55% in the period, to 18.7 billion yuan, they are down 10% at 27.2 billion yuan for the year (the company has yet to release its full 2022 results).

The company’s Hong Kong-listed shares bottomed out at the end of October and have since rallied, placing Lo at No. 43 on Hong Kong’s 50 Richest list with an estimated $1.7 billion net worth. “We’re in a very solid position,” says Lo. “I’m excited by the opportunities.” China introduced measures to support the property market in November, but Lo and others in the sector believe that with big mainland firms such as China Evergrande Group and Shimao Group facing default, a shakeout remains inevitable. “Then, there will be fire sales,” he adds, noting that Shui On Land has cash of 15 billion yuan, ready to buy distressed assets. KaiLong’s Cheng says prices in major cities have already tumbled about 30%, with some buildings selling for 2018 prices.

Shui On remains on a strong footing. As of mid-2022, Shui On Land’s landbank stood at 9.4 million square meters, 6.9 million of which was salable or leasable. It had 13 projects under construction in major cities around China. The group also has holdings in Hong Kong, where Lo founded the company in 1972 with a $100,000 loan from his father. As well as selling and leasing property, the company earns income from rental and retail operations, including over 600 food and beverage outlets.

Under Construction

Earnings suffered in the first half of 2022, due to Shanghai’s pandemic-related lockdown, construction delays and a weaker yuan, but contracted sales signal better times.

Lo is also invigorated by a renewed sense of opportunity in Hong Kong. Pro-democracy protests that started in 2019 and pandemic lockdowns have pushed the financial hub into recession twice since 2020, but analysts expect a recovery this year. Lo says the city “has regained its sense of stability.” One bright spot is the Greater Bay Area plan, which aims to integrate nine cities in southern China with the two special economic zones of Hong Kong and Macau. The region has a population of 86 million people and GDP of nearly $1.7 trillion, according to the Hong Kong government. As an independent economy, it would rank eighth in the world, Lo says.

“Beijing wants Hong Kong to become an innovation and technology hub,” says Lo. The city would serve as the international finance center for the Greater Bay Area with its well-established banks and legal system. “So, it’s Silicon Valley plus New York,” he says. “I think this is a very, very bright prospect for Hong Kong.” He notes that Shui On Land is well-placed to benefit. Besides its strong roots in Hong Kong, it has its mixed-use project in Foshan, one of the Greater Bay Area cities, which will help it to build a strong presence and identity in the zone.

With opportunities opening up again as mainland China goes back to business after holding back during the long Covid-19 lockdown, Lo is finding it hard to slow down, even as he prepares Stephanie for succession and gives Adrian more responsibilities. “Did he tell you he was taking time off?” asks Stephanie, laughing. “I hope to have a semi-retirement,” Lo says, but concedes it is a work in progress. “I think this is in the context of him really loving the work,” says his daughter. “So, if you’re asking if he’s taking time off to do what he loves, he loves his work.”


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