ANN/THE STRAITS TIMES – Hong Kong billionaire Henry Cheng said his family business is still looking for a successor, renewing concerns over future management of his property and retail empire.
Henry Cheng, 76, said he is observing who may be the family’s next leader, according to local media reports, which cited a television interview over the weekend.
The Chengs are among Hong Kong’s richest clans, owning stakes in real estate giant New World Development and Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Group.
Since the family has businesses in different sectors, it is not necessary to find a single leader and instead members can take respective roles, Henry Cheng said. If there is no suitable candidate, he may also consider hiring outside of the family.
Henry Cheng added that he wanted to spin off different businesses to list them at an appropriate time and environment to boost transparency.
His latest comments shake the market’s longstanding assumption that his eldest son, Adrian Cheng, will succeed him.
The junior Cheng is currently chief executive of New World, and the city’s most high-profile third-generation tycoon. His siblings include Sonia Cheng, who looks after the Rosewood Hotel Group.
Henry Cheng is the son of the deceased Cheng Yu-tung, who built the family fortune from jewellery and real estate. Henry Cheng has a net worth of USD21.6 billion, making him Hong Kong’s third-richest person, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
New World has rapidly grown under Adrian Cheng, with investments including a USD2.6 billion mega mall-office complex next to the city’s airport and multiple projects in China.
The expansion has turned New World into the most indebted developer among its bigger peers. Its high leverage, in combination with rising interest rates and the rippling effect of a property slump in China, has raised concerns among investors.
The company’s shares have dropped 30 per cent in 2023, more than an 11 per cent loss for the benchmark Hang Seng Index.