Property

HKRI – Creating lifestyles for 40 Years

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Famous for creating Hong Kong’s biggest private residential complex—Discovery Bay—40 years ago, HKR International Limited (HKRI) has never stopped enhancing its flagship property. At the same time, it has expanded into a host of other opportunities in the city and around the region, including real estate, hospitality, commercial property and even healthcare. 

According to HKRI’s Deputy Chairman and Managing Director, Victor Cha Mou Zing, HKRI isn’t planning to slow down. In fact, this year could be its busiest ever. The Group is celebrating its 40th anniversary and the completion of its ambitious, nearly RMB18 billion, HKRI Taikoo Hui project that is transforming Shanghai’s Jing’an district. 


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How did the rise of HKRI come about and how did the group become one of Hong Kong’s best developers?
We actually see ourselves as a lifestyle curator rather than a developer, enabling residents, tenants and customers to live harmonious and rewarding lives. My father and HKRI’s founder, Dr. Cha Chi-ming’s beginnings in the textile industry in the mainland and Hong Kong with CDW (China Dyeing Works), and vision for the future helped transform a remote corner of an outlying island into the unique community we now know as Discovery Bay.

Over the last 40 years, the HKRI brand has come to embody high-quality, stylish living that embraces comfortable accommodation, smart working, fine dining and most important of all, good health. With every project we seek to raise the bar, providing world-class facilities and services that allow people to live to the fullest. It is our goal to bring positive changes to the communities where we operate, for both the short- and long-term.

However, our core values remain the same—respect for the land, the appreciation of innovation and the pursuit of excellence. Our strategy going forward is also unchanged—to maintain a balanced return from different business operations. 


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When did you and your brother, Mr. Payson Cha Mou Sing, join HKRI and what are your roles today?
As the eldest son, my brother Payson, who has been the Executive Director and Chairman of HKRI since 2007, was overseeing the family’s textile business in Africa, and he moved back to Hong Kong to help with Discovery Bay. Together with my father, he planned the specifics of the development.

I was appointed Executive Director in 1989, Managing Director in 2001 and have been Deputy Chairman since 2007, overseeing operations and development and bringing in new commercial elements to enhance the experience for visitors and residents.

What was the Cha family involved in before it entered the property business?
My father, Dr. Cha, was born into one of the oldest and most prominent families in Yuanhua Town, Haining, Zhejiang. After graduating from the then University of Zhejiang at the age of 17, he began his career at the Changzhou Dacheng Textile and Dyeing Company, and business boomed until the Sino-Japanese war. Faced with constant air-raids, Father evacuated the plant and transported over 100 looms to Chongqing, in Sichuan, where production could continue.

After the war, he relocated his entire family to Hong Kong in 1947 and opened China Dyeing Works in Tsuen Wan in 1949. The business grew fast and he became a leading player in the textile industry, expanding globally to become a worldwide success. In fact, he operated the largest foreign-owned business in West Africa.

While this textile empire was at its height, a new business opportunity came knocking—Discovery Bay. In 1977, the relatively modest development was mortgaged to the Moscow Narodny Bank and facing foreclosure. With Sino-Soviet relations at rock bottom, the prospect of part of Hong Kong becoming Russian property stirred unease in Beijing. Father caught wind of this while travelling overseas and flew back immediately with a view to acquiring the resort.

It was a risky move for someone with no previous experience in real estate. However, with his characteristic passion and a unique vision, he set about transforming Discovery Bay into a multi-national residential and resort community. The results speak for themselves.


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What is your view on of Hong Kong’s current property market?
Predicting the future can be tricky. However, according to a South China Morning Post story in April, Hong Kong’s property market has shown consecutive growth for the last 23 months and projections show a steady growth in the upcoming year.

Despite the US-China trade dispute and expected increases in interest rates, market demand is still strong. Indeed, according to a spokesperson from Colliers International Hong Kong, the local property market remains a low-to-medium risk level, with mass residential property predicted to rise 8% to 10% this year.

HKRI is certainly confident about continuing to invest in Hong Kong. For example, we recently acquired two sites on Lo Fai Road in Tai Po which has a total area of 31,700 square metres. These are going to be turned into luxurious low-density developments.

Discovery Bay is one of the most important parts of HKRI’s business. What are the advantages of developing there?

Discovery Bay was the beginning of our success in the property business, and it has been important for many reasons.


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The first reason is its size. Discovery Bay is the largest privately-owned piece of land in Hong Kong. At 6.5 million square metres, it is equal to about 8% of Hong Kong Island; it is also the first environmentally sustainable community in Asia to be built from scratch. After 40 years, it is still being developed.


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Secondly, almost all the infrastructure in Discovery Bay is maintained and managed by HKRI. In the early days, that even included the water supply! We have Hong Kong's only privately-built-and-run vehicle tunnel, and, as of today, we are the sole operator of all the public transport services, including environmentally-friendly electric buses and a 24-hour ferry.

The commercial dimension shouldn’t be overlooked either; the shopping centres and dining options exemplify our philosophy of creating a lifestyle. The combination of all these elements has made Discovery Bay a benchmark for modern multicultural development projects, and many developers across Asia have visited to learn its secrets.