Hong Kong may have been rocked by its worst political crisis in decades, and its economy may have gone into a technical recession in the third quarter, but the wealth of its richest men and women actually grew last year, rising by more than 60 per cent in one case.
The net value of all but four of its 20 richest individuals ballooned over 2019, with the biggest drop no more than 7 per cent, according to Bloomberg Billionaires Index data.
Several of the city’s tycoons have called for a quick resolution to the anti-government protests that started in June, but, overall, their wealth remained untouched by the crisis.
They can thank the city’s resilient stock market, as a year-end rally driven by the US-China trade deal helped them recoup any losses incurred at the height of the protests in August.
Xu Hang, the 57-year-old founder of a Shenzhen-listed medical equipment manufacturer who has also ventured into real estate, was the biggest gainer. He saw his wealth rise by a stunning 64 per cent rise to US$8.1 billion. In comparison, the Hang Seng Index rose by 9 per cent in 2019.
Lui Che-woo of Galaxy Entertainment, Henry Cheng Kar-shun of New World Development and Peter Woo of Wheelock and Co were among a handful of real estate and casino tycoons who saw their wealth rise by more than 20 per cent.
The list of Hong Kong’s richest people, however, was led once again by the likes of Li Ka-shing and Lee Shau-kee.
He is the chairman and largest shareholder of Galaxy Entertainment, one of six companies authorised to run casino resorts in Macau. The company’s shares rose 17 per cent over the year, boosted by the recent announcement of favourable policies for the city by Beijing. Investors also bought into the story that Macau’s casinos were attracting more middle-class gamblers, in a shift away from their reliance on big spenders.
Lui, who also chairs real-estate company K Wah International, urged Hongkongers to reconsider violent protests in a full-page newspaper advertisement in August. He also called on the government “to demonstrate sincerity, and open the doors for communication in a rational way”.
He owns a majority stake in Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Group, the world’s largest listed jeweller. Shares of the company soared 24 per cent on solid earnings. It was one of the few local companies that was not affected by the protests in Hong Kong, as about 70 per cent of its income is generated from operations in mainland China.
Cheng also has a major stake in developer New World Development, whose shares rose 8 per cent. The company donated about a fifth of its farmland reserves to the government for the building of public housing in September.
I knew that if I failed I wouldn’t regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not trying.