Cho Shiu-chung (曹紹松, 1922-2011) – Real Estate Developer and Philanthropist

York Lo: Cho Shiu-chung (曹紹松, 1922-2011) – Real Estate Developer and Philanthropist

Cho Shiu Chung Real Estate Developer Image 1 York Lo Left: Cho Shiu-chung; Right: Staff of On Wah Construction congratulating Cho Shiu-chung on his MBE in 1971 (WKYP, 1971-1-8) 

Cho Shiu-chung was a prominent player in the construction and real estate business and an active  community leader from the 1950s to the 1980s. From 1973 to 1987, he was chairman of the listed developer Wai Wah Enterprises (now Rivera Holdings) and also invested in several industrial enterprises ranging from electrical to plastics to paper over the years. He was also a player in the securities business through On Wah Securities, which is now Hooray Securities.   

On Wah Construction and Others 

Cho Shiu Chung Real Estate Developer Image 2 York Lo

Cho Shiu-chung (first from the right) and others next to the On Wah booth at a real estate expo organized by the Real Estate Developers Association of HK in 1966 

A native of Panyu district in Guangdong province, Cho was born in Canton in 1922 to a large family which included five brothers and one sister from the same mother and two brothers and three sisters from another mother. (WKYP, 1964-1-23) His grand uncle Cho Sau-pui (曹受培, 1868-c1930) was a prominent Ching dynasty official who moved to HK after the fall of the empire and built the Cho Villa (曹園) in Tuen Mun (later sold by his descendants to Chan Yat-san). Another granduncle was Cho Sau-kwan (曹受坤, 1879-1959), politician and scholar who had served on the Legislative Yuan and other notable family members include Cho Chuen-mo (曹傳謨), HK comprador of Andersen Meyer and Jebsen who was one generation above Shiu-chung and Cho Wing-mu (曹永牟), managing director of Huachiao Commercial Bank and Cho Wing-lim (曹永廉), TVB actor who are one generation after. Shiu-chung’s father died when he was 11 and when the Japanese occupied Canton in 1938, the 16 year old Cho moved to HK via Jiangmen and Macau. He first learned shipbuilding and later shifted to construction.  After the War, Tso, whose alias was On Wah, established On Wah Construction Co Ltd (安華建築, incorporated in 1963 and dissolved in 2005), which operated out of Yung Hing Building on Nathan Road and engaged in a variety of construction work including reclamation and blasting. He studied real estate development under Professor Lai Tim-cheung in an extension school course organized by the Chinese University. One of the properties developed by On Wah Construction was Sunlight Garden (明德園, designed by P.K. Ng covered earlier) at 2 Man Wan Road in Homantin which was built in 1964 and counted Bruce Lee and Lam Bun (radio host who was murdered right outside Sunlight Gardens during the 1967 riots) among its former residents. (WKYP, 1964-8-5) Another building built by Cho was the 13-story Edward Mansion (愛華大廈) on Prince Edward Road in Kowloon which was built in 1961. On Wah was also involved in the construction of Yau Yat Tsuen which was developed by a group of industrialists led by U Tat-chee.  

Ming Tak Yuen (2)

Article about On Wah’s Sunlight Garden in 1963 (WKYP, 1963-2-9)

Over the years, Cho was also involved in various industrial enterprises and served as director of the Chinese Manufacturers Association (in fact On Wah was one of the few construction firms that were members of the association and sent representative to compete in the popular Miss Product Expo competition). He was a director of the electric fan manufacturer Din Wai (see article) and its Malaysian subsidiaries including Federal Cable, Wire & Metal Manufacturing Sdn Bhd, which was established in 1967 in partnership with Pacific Electric Wire & Cable from Taiwan to make aluminum wires and cables. (Straits Times, 1967-9-1) Other companies controlled by Cho include his namesake Shiu Chung Enterprises (紹松企業, incorporated in 1964, dissolved in 2016) and Foo Wing Enterprises (富永企業, incorporated in 1970, dissolved in 1992).  

Cho Shiu Chung Mongkok (2)

Cho Shiu-chung (second from left) as chairman of the Mongkok Kaifong Welfare Association with J.M. Rowlands (fourth from the left), Deputy Secretary for Home Affairs and others at the opening of Mongkok Mutual Aid Committee in front of Kwong Fu Building in Mongkok in 1973

In the 1960s, Cho was very active in community affairs, which included serving as director of Tung Wah Group of Hospitals in 1960 and Po Leung Kuk in 1962, chairman of the Mongkok Kaifong Welfare Association from 1967 to 1992, founding the Rotary Club of Kowloon West, HK Gee Tuck General Association (香港至德總會) and its worldwide organization (世界至德宗親總會) and in addition he was very involved in the Scout movement. For his community service, he was awarded the MBE by the Queen in 1971 and appointed unofficial Justice of the Peace by the HK government in 1978. 

Wai Wah Enterprises 

Cho Shiu Chung Real Estate Developer Image 3 York Lo

Left: Ad by Wai Wah Enterprises for Wai On House on Water Street in 1976 (WKYP, 1976-1-29); Right: (WKYP, 1987-7-1) 

In 1964, Cho incorporated Wai Wah Enterprises to engage in property development and Chan Hing (陳慶) and the Lee brothers of Din Wai. Cho was one of the founding directors of the Real Estate Developers Association of HK in 1965. 

When the Kam Ngan Stock Exchange was formed in 1971, Cho purchased a seat for his On Wah & Co which was run by his wife Kam Pik-loi (金碧萊, director of Po Leung Kuk in 1965), a graduate of the Teachers College in Canton. In January 1973, Wai Wah went public on the Kam Ngan, Far East and Kowloon exchange through the issuance of 5 million shares at $1 per share with the Belgian Bank as underwriter (total registered capital was $50 million). Properties owned by the firm at the time of the IPO included the 10-story, 80000 sq ft Wai Wah Industrial Building (華工業大) at 107 How Ming Street in Kwun Tong (now Kwok Kee Group Centre), the 14-story Wai Wah Commercial Building (商業大廈) at 109-113 Portland Street in Yau Ma Tei, 21 units in Good Luck House (幸運大廈) at 78-84 Portland Street, four old buildings at 39-43 Water Street in Pokfulam which were being re-developed into a 14-story Wai On House (偉安樓), part of King’s Building on King’s Road in North Point, several hundred thousand sq ft of land near the old Jockey Club site in Sheung Shui (later developed into On Kwok Villa) and a 8-story mix use building in Ngau Tau Kok under development. The firm also owned Advance Industrial Ltd (力行實業, incorporated in 1959, dissolved in 2018), a manufacturer and trader of plastic flowers. (KSEN, 1973-1-9) For the fiscal year ending March 1973, the firm recorded net profits of $4.1 million, which was better than the estimates of $2.7 million at IPO.   

Shortly after its IPO, Wai Wah acquired several property holding companies in May through the issuance of new shares. Properties controlled by these firms included 249-251 Temple Street and 35-37 Kam Wah Street in Shau Kei Wan; 381-383 Keelung Street, 169-171 Tai Nam Street and 76 Shanghai Street; 721-725 Nathan Road (which was being developed into a 18-story Belgian Bank Building with first three floors occupied by Belgian Bank), 9 and 9A Nelson Street in Mongkok and several units of Nam On Building on Shui Wo Street in Kwun Tong.  (WKYP, 1973-5-24) 

At the peak of the stock market bubble in 1973, Wai Wah’s stock price reached $6 per share, giving it a valuation of over HK$300 million. But the stock quickly dropped to 60 cents during the crash and profits also dropped from $4.1 million in fiscal year 1973 to $2.5 million in fiscal year 1974 to $1.6 million in fiscal year in 1975, resulting in the stock hitting a low of 20 cents in 1975. Profits rebounded in fiscal year 1976 to $2.1 million with total assets at $12.5 million – aside from the assets listed above it also owned 50% of a 58,000 sq ft site in Clearwater Bay which it was developing into 17 houses, 37.5% of On Kwok Villa (安國新邨) in Sheung Shui which contained 102 residential units and 30000 sq ft of land on Tsing Yi island. (KSEN, 1976-9-30) 

Wai Wah On Kwok (2)

Ad for On Kwok Villa in Sheung Shui in 1980 (WKYP, 1980-1-21) 

In September 1980, Wai Wah was also listed on the HK Stock Exchange and Wai Wah Commercial Building went on sale, with office space ranging from 375 sq ft to 3000 sq ft selling at HK$800 per sq ft.  (WKYP, 1980-9-15) 

In June 1981, Wai Wah acquired 60% of Sociedade de Fomento Industrial de Macau Ltd (澳門工業), which controlled a 422500 sq ft industrial site in Macau with plans to develop two 15-story industrial buildings. The second phase of On Kwok Villa in Sheung Shui was also completed and the third phase had begun which involved building 78 houses on 410,000 sq ft. The projected earnings for the year was $14 million but a stock analysis in Kung Sheung Evening News believed that the stock was already fully valued and not attractive. (KSEN, 1981-12-4) 

In 1982-83, over 87% of Wai Wah’s revenues came from rental income but the Macau industrial project which involved total investments of over $50 million was still under development and Cho told the press and shareholders that the project could bring in revenues of $90 million when completed. (WKYP, 1983-7-30)

In 1984, Cho Shiu-chung immigrated to Vancouver, Canada but remained as chairman of Wai Wah. In June 1987, Peace Forest Ltd, a firm 70% controlled by David Tong of Tomson Group (see article on wallpapers) and related individuals and 30% controlled by the state-owned China Construction (Macau) Ltd acquired over 81% of Wai Wah for $92 million.  

As a result of the transaction, Wai Wah was renamed Rivera Holdings (川河集團) in August 1987. In parallel with the deal, the firm acquired two paper manufacturing companies for HK$100 million with intention of selling its products in the mainland and formed a 50/50 joint venture with China Construction Macau which provided $107 million in additional financing to convert the industrial development project in Macau to a commercial/residential one. (WKYP, 1987-8-18) 

By 2001 completely retired from business and other activities due to a stroke. In August 2011, Cho Shiu-chung died in Vancouver at the age of 89 due to kidney failure and was survived by two sons and two daughters. 

Cho’s second son David Cho Wing-yiu (曹永耀) joined the family-controlled stock brokerage On Wah & Co in 1977 after graduation from university in the UK. The firm became On Wah United Securities (安華聯合証券), which became Hooray Securities in 2001. Cho Shiu-chung was a committee member of the Kam Ngan Stock Exchange and later the Stock Exchange of HK after Kam Ngan’s merger with Far East and HK Stock Exchanges while David Cho worked for On Wah Securities and its successor firm Hooray from 1977 until 2005. 

Sources (other than what’s cited above):

This article was first posted on 20th April 2020.

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