Oceania Hawaii Holdings (夏香集團)

York Lo: Oceania Hawaii Holdings (夏香集團)

Oceania Hawaii Holdings Image 1 York Lo

Left: matchbox from the Oceania Restaurant & Nightclub; Right: Chinese performance at the Oceania Restaurant & Nightclub from a 1970s postcard.

Earlier in the group, we have covered Ruby Restaurant, which was one of the first restaurant groups to go public in HK in late 1972. Around the same time Ruby went public, another restaurant group by the name of Oceania Hawaii Holdings also went public on the HK exchanges. Established in 1966 by a group of Hawaiian Chinese businessmen when they started the Oceania Restaurant & Nightclub (海天酒樓夜總會), one of the largest Chinese restaurants and nightclubs in HK at the timeat the then-newly erected Ocean Terminal, Oceania Hawaii also held interest in the largest floating restaurant in the world at the time in Hawaii started by its principals and a portfolio of properties in HK.

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Sir S.N. Chau (third from the left) with directors of Oceania Hawaii Ltd at the opening ceremony of the Oceania Restaurant & Nightclub in June 1966. Notice all of them were wearing Hawaiian lei as a tribute to the principals’ Hawaiian background. (WKYP, 1966-6-18)

Oceania Hawaii was led by its chairman Teung-Mun Loui (雷暢民, 1917-2004, aka T. Mun Loui) and managing director Lui Hon-ming (雷漢明, 1921-2005) supported by director Au Tai-chung (歐帝仲) and supervisor Chik Wing (植榮).Immigration records showed that T.Mun Loui was born in Canton and came to Hawaii in 1931. By the early 1960s, he was the proprietor of the 800-seat Hon Kung Restaurant in Hawaii who had hired the famous chef Lam Tak from the State Restaurant (see article on Li Po Chun) in HK (Honolulu Advertiser, 1963-5-26). He was also president and manager of another popular Chinese restaurant – McCully’s Chop Sui (opened in the 1940s, closed in 2006).

Lui Hon-ming was the proprietor of Shelbrook Shoes (適步皮鞋, incorporated in 1964 and dissolved in 2006), a major shoe retailer in HK in the 1960s to 1990s with main store in Ocean Terminal and branches in Tsim Sha Tsui Centre (1981) in TST East and New Town Plaza in Shatin (1985). He also served on the board of Pacific Leisure Enterprises, a firm listed on the Honolulu Stock Exchange which developed condos in Hawaii and California and owned a 11-story hotel in Waikiki alongside Frank Tung Hsi-hui (董錫輝) of Dao Heng Bank. A man with extensive connections, Lui and his wife were invited to attend the US presidential inauguration ceremony by Richard Nixon in January 1969. (WKYP, 1969-1-8).

In January 1966, Loui and Lui incorporated Oceania Hawaii Ltd in HK and in June of the same year, the Oceania Restaurant & Nightclub opened for business with a grand ceremony with 5000 guests and Sir S.N. Chau as guest of honor. The Cantonese restaurant on Deck 2 of Ocean Terminal occupied 32200 sq ft and comprised of five sections – banquet hall, Chinese garden, nightclub (featuring traditional Chinese performances), seafood boat and Hang Fa Tsuen bar and could hold 1250 guests and over 100 tables. (WKYP, 1966-6-18)

In October 1966, the Oceania restaurant hosted the Miss Hong Kong beauty pageant. The restaurant hired a designer to design a special tiara and scepter and Kowloon Rattan Co (see article) designed a multicolored rattan throne for the occasion. The winner was crowned by the wife of T. Mun Loui. (KSDN, 1966-10-15) The restaurant was a success and by fiscal year ending March 1969, Oceania Hawaii recorded profits of $1.14 million. This grew to $1.4 million for fiscal year ending March 1970, $1.69 million for fiscal year 1971 and $1.72 million for fiscal year 1972. Because of its large size and popular location, the restaurant hosted many large banquets for organizations in the 1960s and 1970s including the reception for the Queen when she visited HK in 1975.Its nightclub featured singing performances by popular TVB stars Lydia Shum and Lisa Wang and traditional Chinese performances which included the  martial artists Yuen Qiu and Yuen Wah before they became household names in the movie “Kung Fu Hustle” decades later.

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Left: Miss Hong Kong International pageant at the Oceania Restaurant in 1966 (Central News Agency, 1966-10-6); Right: Lui Hon-ming (second from right) and others greeting Lynneanne Moo (巫素), winner of the Narcissus Queen (水仙花皇后) pageant that year at the Oceania restaurant in HK in 1966 (KSEN, 1966-6-31)

In November 1972, Oceania Hawaii Holdings (incorporated in September of the same year) went public on the Far East and Kam Ngan stock exchanges through the issuance of 4.8 million shares at $1 per share underwritten by Hang Lung Bank and valuation of roughly 10 times PE. (WKYP, 1972-11-20) At the IPO, assets in the firm included the Oceania restaurant in HK, 11.1% of Wen Hwa Ltd, a firm led by Loui and Lui which was building the massive Oceania Floating Restaurant in Hawaii and HK$5.5 million worth of real estate including a 10-story office building at 52 Stanley Street and commercial and residential property holdings on Belcher Street, Mongkok Road, Ngau Tau Kok Road, Battery Street, Pilkem Street, Salisbury Road etc that brought in annual rental income of over HK$300,000.

In December 1972, the Oceania Floating Restaurant, the world’s largest floating restaurant at the time opened for business at Pier 6 in Honolulu harbor close to Waikiki beach. The floating restaurant was a 1200 tons, US$3.6 million barge that was built in HK and towed across the Pacific in a 6 week journey before arriving in Hawaii of August of the same year. The structure featured 4 decks of restaurants, bars,  and shops and had 2000 seats. When Lui Hon-ming’s son Lui Wai-lun (雷偉倫), a mechanical engineering graduate of the University of Hawaii married his classmate Lam Ching-tak(林清德), the daughter of Lam Yiu-kai, a HK camera merchant in Honolulu in October 1973, the wedding banquet at the Oceania Floating Restaurant. (KSEN, 1973-10-27) The popular entertainer Dick Jensen was a headliner at the floating restaurant in the 1970s and it was also featured in an episode of the TV show Magnum P.I.

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The Oceania Floating Restaurant in Hawaii

By fiscal year ending March 1976, profits at Ocean Hawaii had dropped to $1.05 million on sales of $17 million thanks to the economic recession and rising rental, labor and energy costs in the mid-1970s. The next year however, profits jumped back to $2.15 million on sales of $21.4 million. Profits dropped back to $1.9 million in 1978, partly thanks to $118,000 in losses associated with the Hawaiian venture. (KSDN, 1978-7-15) In December 1980, a lawsuit involving the Oceania floating restaurant in Hawaii was filed and Ocean Hawaii’s stock suspended trading at $0.96 per share. For the fiscal year ending March 1982, the firm recorded profits of $3.5 million, including over HK$900,000 in profits from sale of properties.(KSEN, 1982-10-5)

In May 1982, a fire broke out at the Oceania restaurant which resulted in five months of closure and losses of HK$269000 for the six months ending September 1982. (KSEN, 1983-1-4)

In August 1982, financier Yap Chor-kian from Malaysia through Lam Tsuen Investments (林村有限公司, incorporated in 1981, dissolved in 1994) acquired 50.5% of Oceania Hawaii Holdings (equivalent to 9.8 million shares). The stock resumed trading in September 1982 and at the time its assets included the Oceania restaurant and 8 residential units and a retail property in HK. After Yap took over, Oceania Hawaii began to shift the group’s focus to real estate, financial services and trading. In January 1983, the firm announced its acquisition of William Hunt Co Ltd (to be covered), the distributor of industrial and construction equipment founded in 1927, for HK$80.2 million in cash and bought 50% of Tai Fung Hong Construction Materials Co Ltd (大豐行建築材料有限公司). (KSEN, 1983-1-3)

In August 1983, Oceania Hawaii was acquired by London-based Arab International Finance (Arinfi) and renamed Arinfi Pacific (雅利發太平洋). In 1985, the listed entity was renamed William Hunt Holding (衞利行) before it was renamed once again as Hale Corporation in 1989 and finally dissolved in 1998.

As for the Oceania restaurant in Ocean Terminal, it was eventually closed in the late 1980s to make room for shops. Hiram Fong, the prominent US Senator from Hawaii, bought the Oceania floating restaurant in 1981 and in an attempt to revive the business, he even wrote to then Vice-President George Bush in 1986 to propose relocating the restaurant next to the USS Arizona site in Pearl Harbor but the proposal was rejected by the National Park Service. The floating restaurant closed in the early 1990s and had since faded into history. As a firm, Oceania Hawaii Ltd was dissolved in June 1997.

Sources (other than those cited above):

https://pinupshelby.wordpress.com/2014/06/12/oceania-the-worlds-most-fantastic-floating-restaurant/

This article was first posted on 30th November 2020.

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