Born in 1954 in Zhejiang province, Lou Zhongfu’s career began as a construction worker; with gradual promotion seeing him made a section chief, and finally in 1984 the manager of the Dongyang Third Construction Engineering Company. It was a small township enterprise, but was transformed by Lou when he renegotiated staff contracts in 1987 and refocused the business away from state-owned practices to more profit-centric approaches. But with revenues of less than Rmb2 million, Lou had bigger ambitions, and changed the company name to Guangsha Group.
In 1993 Guangsha was restructured into a joint-stock company and in 1997 was listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange. With access to capital, Lou began looking to grow his empire via acquisition. In 1998 he bought the troubled firm Chongqing First Construction, with the blessing of the local government – it brought expertise from construction work on the Three Gorges Dam project. Over the next four years he bought struggling state-owned construction firms in a host of major cities such as Beijing and Nanjing.
In 2006 he began looking at overseas markets. He focused on the Middle East, taking the view it will “definitely have large development”. He has won projects worth $500 million in Dubai, and claims to have the biggest market share of any builder in the emirate. He was particularly proud to complete the Dubai Meydan Racecourse’s grandstand project within 18 months – a deadline that was reckoned to be ‘mission impossible’. (And lucrative. He’s denied in local media that his firm has any financial issues relating to exposures to troubled Dubai.)
Aside from being one of China’s biggest private construction firms, Lou has moved into energy (hydroelectric dams), as well as hotels and real estate. His rags-to-riches tale also has a Hollywood ending: he’s invested successfully in a couple of Feng Xiaogang’s movies, including Assembly (see WiC11).
In his own words
“I don’t believe in pennies from heaven. Opportunity is obtained through effort.”
Lou’s net worth is put at Rmb4.44 billion, ranking 146 on Forbes China Rich List in 2009.
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