From Metals Trading to Real Estate: the Lau Family of Pak Hing Loong (百興隆)

York Lo: From Metals Trading to Real Estate: the Lau Family of Pak Hing Loong (百興隆)

The Lau family has been a major player in the metals trading business in Hong Kong for over seven decades through Pak Hing Loong Ltd which was formed in the 1940s and incorporated in 1957 and like many others augmented their fortunes as pioneers in real estate development in the 1950s to 1970s.The public have most likely come across the name of the family patriarch Lau Pak-lok because of the secondary school that was named after him in Tai Wai and one of his sons was head of the HK Observatory.

The Founding Lau Brothers

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The Lau brothers seeing off future meteorologist Robert Lau Chi-kwan off for his studies in Australia at Kai Tak in 1957. Right to left: Lau Pak-lok, Lau Pak-lin, Robert Lau, Wong Sui-mei. (WKYP, 1957-1-3)

The founders of Pak Hing Loong are Lau Pak-lin (劉百鍊) and his younger brotherLau Pak-lok (劉百樂), natives of Dongguan in Guangdong province. The brothers also have a younger brother Lau Pak-chuen (劉百川, not to be confused with individual with the same Chinese name from the family which controlled denim maker Chip Tak, see article) and a sister Lau Kui-hei according to their obituaries. The address of the firm in the late 1940s was listed as 24 Queen’s Street West (Business Directory of HK, Canton and Macao, 1949)

In January 1954, Pak Hing Loong shipped 205 bags of copper scrap to Japan on the same vessel as the 600 tons of scrap metal handled by its peer Kwong Yick which was controlled by the Tsang family. At the time, scrap metal orders from Japan for HK dealers was few and far between as the industry was suffering from a post Korean War slump. (NYSP, 1954-1-20)

In 1957, the brothers incorporated their firm with capital of HK$1 million. The firm’s business was listed as mining and working of minerals while Lau Pak-lin’s address was listed as 1 Sui Wa Terrace while Lau Pak-lok’s address was listed as 29 Irving Street (FEER, 1957)

In July 1958, Pak Hing Loong ran a series of Chinese and English ads in Singapore which mentioned “always paying high price for copper scrap” and its address was listed as 65 Queen’s Road Central with the cable address of Pakmetals. (Straits Times, 1958-7-3)

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Left: The Lau brothers and fellow leaders of the Lau Clansmen Association and Sir T.N. Chau in 1958. Right to left: Lau Cho-ping (劉礎坪), Lau Yik-cheuk (劉亦焯), Lau Pak-lin, Lau Fook (劉福), Chau Tsun-nin, Lau Chat-man (劉質文), Lau Chi-ching (劉子清), Lau Pak-lok, Lau Siu-lui (劉少旅). (WKYP, 1958-6-16); right: Chinese ad for Pak Hing Loong in Singapore newspaper in 1958   

With their profits from metals, the Lau brothers expanded into real estate development in the 1950s through the establishment of Chi Shing Construction (志盛建築) and Kar Lok Investment Co Ltd (嘉樂置業). In 1958, Chi Shing developed a residential building at 26 Jordan Road in Kowloon with flats starting at HK$9000. (WKYP, 1958-3-11) In 1963, Chi Shing in partnership with Kwong On Tai controlled by the family of Cham Siu-leun and Hip Shing Hong controlled by the family of Fong Yun-wah developed Fu Hing Building (富興大廈) at 9-11 Jubilee Street in Central and Pak Hing Loong moved into its 9th floor where it has operated ever since. In 1969, the Lau family incorporated sister company Pak Tak Trading (百得貿易) to deal in metals.

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Ad for the Lau family’s Fu Hing Building in Central in 1963 (WKYP, 1963-6-25)

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Obituary of Lau Pak-lin in 1967 (WKYP, 1967-4-11)

The Lau brothers were very active in community affairs outside of their business and both of them had served in various senior roles at the Lung Kong Association (龍岡親義總會, see Cheung Chan-hon for more details),the Lau Clansmen Association (劉氏宗親會), Tung Kwan Natives Association (東莞同鄉會), General Chamber of Commerce & Industry of The Tung Kun District (東莞工商總會, GCCITKD) and Kowloon Chamber of Commerce (九龍總商會). In 1984, Lau Pak-lok donated funds towards the construction of the GCCITKD Lau Pak Lok Secondary School in Tai Wai in 1984.

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Members of the HK Lau Clansmen Association sending Lau Pak-lok off for his tour of Southeast Asia in 1971 (KSDN, 1971-11-30)

In April 1967, Lau Pak-lin died at the HK Sanatorium. He was survived by his siblings, his widow Lam Wah and three sons – Chi-hung (劉志洪), Chi-chung (劉志鍾) and Chi-hang (劉志鏗) and four daughters – Yuk-chun (劉玉鑽), Yuk-leung (劉玉良), Yuk-kwan (劉玉群) and Yuk-ping (劉玉萍).

In September 1985, Lau Pak-lok died in HK at the age of 80 and was survived by his wife Wong Mei-kam and five sons – Chi-man, Chi-kwan, Bernard Chi-wai, Chi-kin and Chi-wai and two daughters – Lau Yuk-siu (劉玉笑) and Lau Yuk-chun (劉玉珍). (WKYP, 1985-9-8)

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Obituary and picture of Lau Pak-lok in 1985 (WKYP, 1985-9-6)

The Second Generation

Pak-lin’s son Daniel Lau Chi-hang (劉志鏗) ran Pak Hing Loong with his siblings and cousins and served as chairman of the HK Metal Merchants Association (HKMMA) from 1981 to 1985 and 1989-93. (TKP, 1985-8-17). In 1982, Daniel Lau spoke to the press about the state of the metals industry in HK, which had no problems in terms of supplied from Japan, Korea and the mainland but suffered 20% drop in sales in the previous year due to the economic recession at the time. He urged the HK government to establish quality standards for industrial exports in HK and provide more training on quality control and production technology to industry veterans. (KSDN, 1982-3-31)

Pak-lin’s daughter Lau Yuk-leung was a teacher at Sacred Heart Canossian College and married Wong Wai-yat (黃唯一), a medical officer in the police force and eldest son of Wong Sui-mei (黃萃微), the former chief of the political bureau of the HK Police in 1956. The wedding at the China Restaurant was attended by the who’s who from the HK society including Sir S.N. & T.N. Chau, Kwok Chan, Ngan Shing-kwan and many from the legal and medical fields. (WKYP, 1956-9-24)

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Left: Daniel Lau with the HKMMA delegation to Japan and Korea at the Kai Tak Airport in 1982 (WKYP, 1982-4-16); Right: Wedding picture of Lau Chi-man in 1964 (WKYP, 1964-1-11)  

Pak-lok’s eldest son Lau Chi-man (劉志文) had served as director of both Po Leung Kuk and the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals in the 1960s and married Ko Chiu-kwan (高超羣), the grand-niece of Ko Wing-kwan, the chairman of the Chung Shan Natives Association of HK in 1964 and the banquet at the China Restaurant was attended by the who’s who in HK society. (WKYP, 1964-1-11) While Chi-man was also involved in Pak Hing Loong, his primary interest was in property development and in the early 1970s during the height of the stock market bubble, he was the director and major shareholder of two listed property development companies – Kar Yau Company Ltd (嘉祐) and Freedom Development (自由發展) alongside Henry Ip of Ching Hing Construction (see article).

Kar Yau went public in October 1972 on the Far East and Kam Ngan exchanges in an offering underwritten by the HK Chinese Bank. The chairman of the firm was Fong Yun-wah of Hip Shing Hong while vice chairman was Cho Shiu-chung of Wai Wah Enterprises (see article). At the time, the firm had assets of $11.2 million. (WKYP, 1972-10-14) In February 1973, Kar Yau acquired Kar Yiu Ltd through the issuance of 6.9 million new shares. At the time, Kar Yiu controlled a 16000 sq ft site on Argyle Street with plans to build a 14-story residential building with projected profits of $3.3 million. The same time, Kar Yau also acquired 75% of Luen On Paper Products Factory for $15 million worth of new shares. (WKYP, 1973-2-13)

Freedom Development, originally called Leman Estate (利文投資), went public on the Far East and Kam Ngan stock exchanges in March 1973 selling 8 million new shares at $1 apiece, bringing its total capital to $20 million. Lau Chi-man and his cousin Daniel Lau were both directors of the firm along with lawyer Philip Yuen Pak-yiu, Lai Kwai-tim and Law Kin-wan who was chairman. At the time of the IPO, the firm owned three development projects – a 23-story residential/commercial building on a 5000 sq ft site at Lot 5385 in Kwun Tong, a 17-story residential building 23-25 Sands Street in Kennedy Town and a residential project on a 1000 sq ft site on Kennedy Road. (KSEN, 1973-3-5; 1973-2-27).

Both Kar Yau and Freedom eventually changed hands in 1981 – Kar Yau became Bylamson & Associates after it was acquired by the sons of Hang Seng Bank co-founder B.Y. Lam (hence the name) before being re-organized into Applied Electronics in 1986 after its collapse along with the Carrian Group and Freedom became Samaha Investments and was renamed Lei Shing Hong in 1992 after it was acquired by the family of Lau Gek-poh from Sabah and remains a listed company today.

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Left: Robert Lau (HK Observatory); center: Bernard Lau (left) and Michael Lau (right) with Simon Ho, president of Hang Seng University in 2018; right: Alan Lau (Concordia University HK Foundation)

Pak-lok’s second son Robert Lau Chi-kwan (劉志鈞) studied meteorology in Sydney and joined the HK Observatory upon his return to HK in the 1960s. In 1995, he succeeded Patrick Sham Pak who ran the Observatory in the prior decade as its director but only served in that position for a year.  His younger brothers Kenneth Lau Chi-kin (劉志堅) and Lau Chi-wai (劉志威) are both medical doctors while Bernard Lau Chi-wai (劉志偉) joined Pak Hing Loong serving as its managing director and served as chairman of HKMMA from 1997 to 2001.

Today, third generation members of the family such asMichael Lau Wing-kong (劉永剛, chairman of the firm)and Chi-man’s son Alan Lau Wing-fung (劉永鋒, graduated from Concordia University in Canada in 1982 and vice chairman of HKMMA) are involved in the business.Pak Hing Loong has been operating out of the 9th floor of the Fu Hing Building at 10 Jubilee Street since the 1960s and currently stock and trade non-ferrous semi-products, scraps, stainless steel material, zinc alloy ingots, aluminium alloy ingot, copper, cathode, silicon metal, lead, tin, zinc, aluminium ingot and magnesium alloy.

Sources (other than those cited above):

https://aaao.hsu.edu.hk/index.php/en/news-and-events/477-20181207visit

http://hkmma.hk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=73&Itemid=57

This article was first posted on 23rd July 2021.

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