Pokfulam Development Co Ltd (博富臨置業)

York Lo: Pokfulam Development Co Ltd (博富臨置業)

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Pictures and bios of three founders of Pokfulam Development as directors of Po Leung Kuk in 1963 – left to right: B.L. Wong, Chan Chiu-sheung, Wong Cheuk-man (華僑日報, 1963-04-03)

Earlier on the website we covered several real estate developers founded by merchants who served together as directors of the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals such as Tung Kin Land, Eastern Associated Investment and Kiu Fung Investment. Pokfulam Development is a publicly-listed developer founded in 1970 by four merchants who had served together as directors of the other leading Chinese charitable organization in town – Po Leung Kuk and its driving force – real estate and construction pioneer B.L. Wong was also a Lingnan University schoolmate of other HK real estate pioneers profiled earlier such as Pang Kwok-chan, Eddie Chan and Watt Mo-kei. Pokfulam is also the parent company of the audio visual engineering firm Elephant Holdings which was profiled earlier (see article on Norman F.C. Li), and its founding chairman Lam Kwan was better known as the founder of China Paint Manufacturing.

Background of the Founders

Pokfulam managing director Wong Bing-lai (黃炳禮, 1917-2013, hereafter referred to as B.L. Wong) was the son of Wong Chuen-king (黃傳經, 1891-1960), a native of Toishan who worked for Taikoo Dockyard & Engineering Co for many years before entering the real estate business. Chuen-king was a prominent figure in the sports circle in HK having served as director and head of the swimming department of the South China Athletic Association and was president of the Taikoo Dockyard Chinese Sports Club. (WKYP, 1960-9-20)

During the Japanese occupation, B.L. Wong went to Canton to study civil engineering at Lingnan University and after graduation worked as an engineer in Kweilin. After the War, he returned to Hong Kong where he started Wing Sang Construction (永生建築) with his father. In October 1956, B.L. Wong and his father completed a three-story residential building at Tung Shan Terrace and the completion ceremony was attended by many of their clansmen including American Express comprador Parkin Wong, rubber tycoon Wong Kwai (see article) and many others. (WKYP, 1956-10-9) In 1957, Wing Sang Construction completed the 12-story Lok Kwan Building in Shau Kei Wan for Pun Tak Land (see article) (WKYP, 1957-4-10). By 1961, Wing Sang was a sizeable business as its Chinese New Year banquet at a restaurant in Wanchai was attended by over 500 staff members and guests such as Wong Tin-sung, the chairman of HK Building Contractors Association at the time. (WKYP, 1961-2-26)

B.L. Wong also started his own construction business under the name of B.L. Wong & Co (寶和公司) in the 1960s which was incorporated in 1977 under the same English name but a slightly different Chinese name of 寶旺. B.L. Wong & Co served as building contractor for many projects over the years for a wide range of clients including its affiliate Pokfulam Development, the HK Housing Society and schools such as Wah Yan College and King George V School.

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Left: middle-aged B.L. Wong; Center: Ad for B.L. Wong & Co in the HKBCA yearbook; Right: B.L. Wong and his wife Chu Ching-lin in his later years

In 1962, B.L. Wong formed Arran Investment Co Ltd (雅蘭置業) with HK$2 million in initial capital in a 50/50 partnership with China Paint Manufacturing, the famous maker of the “Flower” and “Giraffe” brand of paint to develop properties.A native of Toishan, China Paint founder and founding Pokfulam chairman Lam Kwan (林堃)studied in the United States where he graduated from Pratt Institute of Brooklyn in 1929 and returned to HK to start China Paint Manufacturing in 1932. He served as vice chairman of the Chinese Manufacturers Association responsible for trade promotion and was also active with Lingnan and the Kowloon Tong Alliance Church where he was treasurer and head of its education department and was one of the founders and vice chairman of the Kowloon Tong Club. (WKYP, 1973-4-16) He died in April 1973 at the age of 70, only four months after Pokfulam went public and was survived by three sons and three daughters.His widow Linda Hsieh Lee-chin (謝麗瓊), who had attended Aurora College in Shanghai,succeeded him on the boardof Pokfulamafter his death and served until December 2020. His eldest son Lam Kai (林模楷) was one of the pioneers in the animation business in HK but sadly died the same year as his father.His second son Bill Lam (林模標) is the son in law of William Wong Yung-woo of HK Ham Manufactory (see article) and he had worked for China Paint before joining rival paint manufacturer Yip’s Chemical as non-executive director in the 1990s. One of Lam Kwan’s daughter Stella married Chan Shu-park, the son of General Chan Chi-tang and founder of the International Technological University in Silicon Valley. (see article on Union Metal Works) Another daughter Daisy married Amos Wilder Yong, the proprietor of distributor Amda Ltd in Hong Kong.

The founding vice chairman of Pokfulam – Chan Chiu-sheung (陳超常) was an architectwho operated Chan & Chow Architectural & Engineering Service out of Henry House in Central in the 1960s in partnership with Chow Ching-man (周程萬). He was also the proprietor of the building contractor Wah Hing & Co which operated out of 237 Lockhart Road in Wanchai. Outside of work, he was best known for his tenure as chairman of Po Leung Kuk in 1965-66 and also served on the board of Pok Oi Hospital. He died in 1974 at the age of 62 and his widow Ho Lai-kuen (1916-2005, best known as the owner of “Super Win”, one of best performing racehorses in HK in the 1970s) succeeded him as non-executive director of Pokfulam and served until her death. She was predeceased by her son Kenneth Chan Ming-kan and a feud over her estate broke out after her death between her niece Dorothy Ho Yuen-ping and her adopted daughter Lily Chan Yim-fong.

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Wong Cheuk-man and Au Wing-kit with family and friends at the Kai Tak Airport in 1964 before heading to Tokyo for the Olympics (WKYP, 1964-10-10)

Two other founding directors of Pokfulam were Wong Cheuk-man (黃卓文)and Au Wing-kit (歐永傑), who were the proprietor and manager of Cheong Tai Metal (祥泰五金)respectively and both also served on the board of Po Leung Kuk alongside B.L. Wong and Chan Chiu-sheung. A native of Shunde, Auwas also a director of South China Athletic Association and Wong Cheuk-man served as chairman of Pokfulam in the 1970s and 1980s after the successive death of Lam Kwan and Chan Chiu-sheung.

Other board members of Pokfulam at the time of its IPO in 1972 included Toshiba distributor Wong Chung-ying (son of BEA co-founder Wong Yun-tong and uncle of Vtech founder Allan Wong; his younger brother Wong Chung-hin later joined the board of Pokfulam and served until 1994) and piece goods merchant Ko Po-tai.

Development of Pokfulam over the years

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Left: Scenic Villas – the flagship residential project of Pokfulam Development; right: Beverly House

In December 1972, PokfulamDevelopment went public on the Far East and Kam Ngan stock exchanges through the issuance of 9 million shares at $1 apiece with total capital of $50 million. The firm’s estimated earnings for the year ending September 1973 was $4.1 million which translate to estimated dividend yield of 8.5%. (WKYP, 1972-12-6)

At the time of the IPO, the firm owned a 227,775 sq ft plot on Victoria Road in Pokfulam (hence the name of the firm) with authorization from the Department of Public Works to build seven 15-story residential buildings (two units per floor or 30 flats per tower) with a 5-story parking lot with 290 parking spaces. Phase I consisting of three blocks (to be sold) was expected to be completed by September 1973 while Phase II consisting of four blocks (to be held with expected annual rental income of $5 million) was expected to be completed in December 1974. This became Scenic Villas (美景臺) which the firm still holds 44 units for lease today.

In 1981, three sons of B.L. Wong – Abraham, David and Samuel – joined the board of Pokfulam. In 1984, Pokfulam Development developed the 22-story Beverly House (利臨大廈) at 93-107 Lockhart Road in Wanchai which has served as the firm’s head office since its completion.

For the fiscal year ending September 1987, Pokfulam recorded profits of $29 million, including $3.8 million from the sale of Letter B rights. (WKYP, 1987-12-31) At the annual shareholder meeting in December 1987, chairman Wong Cheuk-man reported that Pokfulam Development was flushed with cash ready for investments with steady rental income from Scenic Villas and Beverly House while Avery House at 22 Tai Yuen Street in Wanchai was 90% sold and Park Belvedere in Shatin was completely sold out. (TKP, 1987-12-11)

In the early 1990s, firm expanded the scope of its business through the acquisition ofa majority stake in Elephant Radio (later renamed Elephant Holdings, see article) from the family of its founder Norman Li (Norman’s nephew Aubrey Li has served as non-executive director of Pokfulam since 2004). In 1994, Nina Wang of Chinachem Group acquired 20% of Pokfulam. In 1997, B.L. Wong retired as managing director of the firm and was succeeded by his eldest son Abraham Wong while staying on as chairman until 2010. Outside of work, B.L. Wong was on the board of Tung Wah in addition Po Leung Kuk and had served as chairman of the Lingnan HK Alumni Association, the Lingnan Club, HK YMCA and South China Athletic Association. In his later years, he donated generously to various causes in his native Toishan.

Today, Pokfulam Development’s portfolio of investment properties which include Scenic Villas and Beverly House plus Kennedy Court on Shiu Fai Terrace and 3 & 4 Headland Road are valued at HK$5.15 billion.

Sources (other than those cited above):

http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_5cf7c6b20100bf3x.html

https://stacy4life.pixnet.net/blog/post/37708119

This article was first posted on 4th October 2021.

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