Dickson Construction (德信建築)

York Lo: Dickson Construction (德信建築)

Dickson Construction Image 1 York Lo

Signing of a construction contract between Lingnan and Dickson in 1975. Left to right seated: architect Arthur C.S. Kwok (郭志舜), Lingnan chairman Paul S. Lam (林秀樑), Dickson chairman T.T. Yik, Lingnan trustee Edward TT Chan (陳德泰, see article). Standing left to right: Lingnan secretary Yuen Siu-kong (阮兆), Levett& Bailey’s Lee Yiu-sang (李堯生),Lingnan trustee Wai Kee-kau (韋基球), Dickson’s Law Sung-ming(羅崇明) and Chan Ting-chung(陳定中)

Founded by YikTak-tsing (易德馨also known as YikTak-hing but went by T.T. Yik, 1900-1984) in 1948, Dickson Construction was one of the leading construction firms in Hong Kong which went public in 1993 before was ordered to be wound down in 2006.

A native of Heshan in Guangdong province where many of HK printing industry veterans came from, T.T. Yik is related to printing industry pioneer Lee Yat-ngok (see article) in two ways as his brother Yik Ching-chung (易靜中) married Lee’s sister Fung-king while his niece Yik Kwok-ying is married to Lee’s nephew Lee Shun-hei. Yik Ching-chung was a graduate of Hosei University in Japan and was active in the printing industry and also known as a Chinese calligrapher.

After graduation from Fudan University in Shanghai, Yik worked on various public works projects in the mainland before coming to HK where he first worked for the Public Works Department before founding Dickson in 1948 (although as a firm it was not incorporated until 1979)

In the 1950s and 1960s, the firm operated out of 15 O’Brien Road in Wanchai. (Handbook of HK Commerce, 1960, HKBCA yearbook, 1957; CGCC directory, 1965)Dickson was awarded an exterior redecoration contract in October 1969 and October 1970 from the HK Housing Society forits housing estates for HK$214,520 and HK$141,918 respectively. (Annual Report of the HK Housing Society, 1973)

Dickson Construction Image 2 York Lo

Left: Picture of T.T. Yik in the 1950s (HKBCA yearbook, 1957); right: calligraphy of Yik Ching-chung from the 1950s (WKYP, 1957-1-5)

By the 1970s, Dickson was operating out of Joseph Hotung House in Tsim Sha Tsui.In 1972, the firm developed and built the 12-story Wai Shun Industrial Building (威信工業大廈) with 6000 sq ft units on each floor at 5 Yuk Yat Street in To Kwa Wan. The tie maker Goldlionwhich was just starting out bought the 5th floor of the buildingat launch. Later as Goldlion expanded, they bought the first four floors of the building for $16 million in 1981 and held it until the 2000s.

Dickson Construction Image 3 York Lo

Ad for Dickson’s Wai Shun Industrial Building in To Kwa Wan in 1972 (WKYP, 1972-1-10)

In August 1975, Dickson won the contract from the Lingnan organization to construct their new secondary school building as shown in the picture at the beginning of the article.

Outside of business, Dickson founder T.T. Yik was vice chairman of the Hok Shan Association, supervisor of the Hok Shan School, honorary life president of the Ng Yup Industrial & Commercial Society and was involved with HKBCA. He died in HK in 1984 and none of his children were interested in the family business as his eldest son was working as an engineer in Canada, second son working as a civil servant in HK and youngest son working at a British bank and daughter involved in social welfare.  (WKYP, 1984-7-20)

After Yik’s death, Ho Kee-kung (何紀功) who joined the firm in 1976 became the chairman of Dickson while Vincent Cheng Wai-chuen was managing director.

In February 1991, Dickson was awarded the contract for the construction of a public pier and a 25m long catwalk on Po Toi island for HK$4.65 million. (Dock and Harbor Authority, 1991) In December of the same year, Dickson won a $297 million contract from the government for Phase III of the Queen Mary Hospital. At the time, Dickson was also involved in two major projects at Kai Tak Airport – construction of the fire station and design and construction of the headquarters of the Air Force, bringing the total contract value Dickson had on hand to over $560 million. (TKP, 1991-12-13) Originally Dickson planned to go public in early 1992 to raise $50-100 million but went public on the Main Board of the Stock Exchange of HK in January 1993 with Ho Kee-kung and Vincent Cheng each controlling 38.2%. The firm’s market cap was around HK$500 million (Companies Handbook: Hong Kong, 1995)

In November 1993, Leung Hung-kwun who worked for China Merchants for 20 years (last position as GM of China Merchants Development) joined the firm as executive director and helped its push into transport, energy, transportation and property projects in the mainland which included a JV with NEC from Japan to make telephones in Qingdao, a JV in Guangzhou which leased two vessels to transport cargo between Guangzhou and Taiwan and HK, a shipping JV in Shanghai, a 60% interest in a residential project comprised of three blocks in Guangzhou and a JV to build a power plant in Shuang Shui town in Xinhui. The firm also signed an agreement with China Railway 2nd Engineering Bureau to introduce the latter to infrastructure projects in HK. As a result of these diversifications, the firm was renamed Dickson Group Holdings in 1998.

Leung left the firm in 1996 while Cheng also stepped down as managing director in 1994 and left the board in 1998. Ho also stepped down as chairman in 2000 and left the board in 2003 and was succeeded by executive director Bernard Fung Wing-mou who served until 2005 when he was succeeded by Lin Xiong.

For the year ending March 2005, Dickson reported $1 billion in sales and aftertax profits of $11 million. In February 2006, the HK Housing Authority terminated three contracts it had with Dickson – Shek Pai Wan Estate Phase II project, the Fanling Area 36 Phase I project and the Fanling Area 36 Phase II project as a result of serious delays in construction progress. For the year ending March 2006, Dickson incurred losses of HK$750 million and unable to meet its obligations, the group was wound up by the High Court in December 2006.

Sources (other than what’s cited above):

https://www.scmp.com/article/54575/dickson-construction-diversify

https://eastweek.my-magazine.me/main/hkclassicbrands/detail/81350

https://www.hkexnews.hk/listedco/sdi/19930113i.pdf

https://www1.hkexnews.hk/listedco/listconews/sehk/2006/0216/ltn20060216047.pdf

https://www1.hkexnews.hk/listedco/listconews/sehk/2007/1217/ltn20071217002.pdf

This article was first posted on 25th June 2021.

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