With a $2 billion market cap, KWG Property looks like just another Chinese property firm. But one way that it stands out is its similarity to the world’s biggest developer by market value – Hong Kong’s SHK Properties (which is worth $40 billion). Like SHK Properties’ billionaire Kwok brothers, KWG Property is controlled by its chairman Kong Jianmin and his two brothers. (Kong is the second eldest). Even KWG Property’s business motto – Build Home with Heart – is a carbon-copy of the Hong Kong giant. KWG is also an ally for SHK’s growing mainland operations.
Kong Jianmin was born in 1969 in Guangdong. He obtained a degree in computer science in 1989 and worked first as a loan officer at ICBC. After witnessing firsthand how his lending was multiplying the fortunes of Guangzhou developers, Kong decided to start his own property venture.
Kong founded KWG in 1995 with his brothers, operating as a residential developer in their hometown. Early-stage projects were financed by his former employer ICBC but like many latecomers to Guangzhou’s overcrowded real estate market, KWG began to rely more on private equity investments to fund nationwide expansion.
In 2006, Kong sold a 7.5% stake to a real estate fund run by Morgan Stanley. The deal brought timely capital as well as important connections and the US bank would sponsor KWG’s Hong Kong listing in July 2007 (just three months before the city’s key index hit its historic high). Adam Kwok, son of SHK’s co-chairman Thomas, helped orchestrate the highly successful pre-IPO investment. The acquaintance served as good due diligence and KWG is now a joint venture partner in several major real estate projects for SHK in China, providing much-needed local knowledge for the cash-rich Hong Kong firm.
Need to know
Kong keeps one of the lowest profiles among Chinese property tycoons. An exception was made in 2007 at a global truffle auction. Two divine fungus truffles weighing 750 grams were under the hammer for $193,000, and Kong and two other Guangzhou property tycoons bought them both. Presumably he didn’t mind spending a few months in the public eye after his company had gone public, but Kong has rarely ventured into the media limelight again.
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