- Edward Wong/South China Morning Post via Getty Images
- Hong Kong’s billionaire Kwok family is unusually exposed to the sectors hit hardest by the economic unrest from the city’s ongoing protests, Bloomberg reported.
- Some of the properties owned by the family’s real-estate developer, Sun Hung Kai Properties, have become sites of the protests, according to Bloomberg.
- Several of Hong Kong‘s other billionaires, including Li Ka-shing and Peter Woo, have also spoken out against the protests, Business Insider previously reported.
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Hong Kong’s billionaires have made it no secret that they are ready for the protests that have engulfed the semiautonomous city for 12 weeks to end. However, none may be more frustrated by the unrest than the Kwok family.
The family owns Sun Hung Kai Properties, Hong Kong’s largest real-estate developer. Sun Hung Hai shares have plunged 11% since mid-June, according to Bloomberg. That is two times as much as Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index.
Thousands took to the streets of Hong Kong beginning in July over an extradition bill with mainland China but have since expanded their focus to police actions and their democratic system, Business Insider previously reported.
Hong Kong’s richest family is losing more money than other billionaires.
The Kwoks are Asia’s second-richest family and the richest family in Hong Kong, with a collective net worth of $38 billion, according to Bloomberg.
Raymond Kwok, Sun Hung Kai’s chairman, was worth $13.1 billion on July 21, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index. Now his net worth has dropped to $11.4 billion. Thomas Kwok, another family member, who was recently released from a three-year prison sentence for bribery, has seen his net worth drop over $1.5 billion since July 21, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index.
The family is unusually exposed to two of the sectors hit hardest by the protests – retail and tourism. The conglomerates owned by other wealthy Hong Kong real-estate moguls, like Li Ka-shing, get their wealth from conglomerates that have interests in other countries and industries. Li, for example, also owns ports, a Canadian oil company, and telephone companies, among other businesses, spread across the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, and Panama, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index. Sun Hung Kai, however, focuses on building skyscrapers and shopping centers in Hong Kong, Bloomberg reported.
Some of Sun Hung Kai’s properties have also become sites of the protests, according to Bloomberg. When protests turned violent at New Town Plaza, an upscale shopping mall owned by Sun Hung Kai, a photo of a woman carrying a Saint Laurent bag stepping over a pool of blood as she fled was widely circulated online.
A great depiction of what happened at the New Town Plaza mall on Sunday evening at Sha Tin. #antiELABhk #HongKong #antielab #ExtraditionBill #HongKongPolice #HKprotests #HongKongProtests pic.twitter.com/FtXe3bG6r5
— Robert John T (@rj_tasker) July 16, 2019
A chorus of local billionaires, including Hong Kong’s richest man, is calling for peace.
In a statement issued on August 13, Sun Hung Kai Properties called for an end to the unrest.
“The recent series of violent acts to challenge the rule of law have damaged Hong Kong’s economy and seriously affect citizens’ daily life,” the statement said, according to a translation by Bloomberg.
And the Kwoks are not the only Hong Kong billionaires who are calling for an end to the protests.
Li, Hong Kong’s richest man, took out advertisements in local Hong Kong newspapers calling for an end to the protests on August 15, the South China Morning Post reported. The ads featured the Chinese word for “violence” covered in a general prohibition sign (red circle with a slash through it), with “stop anger and violence in the name of love” written below. Li alone has lost $3 billion since July, according to the Financial Times.
The billionaire real-estate developer Peter Woo wrote, “It’s time to think deeply,” in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on August 12, according to Bloomberg. “Going against the extradition bill was the ‘big tree’ of this movement. This one and only big appeal has already been accepted by the government, so this tree has fallen,” he added. Over $1 billion has been wiped off of Woo’s personal net worth since the protests began, according to Bloomberg.
Thai billionaire Dhanin Chearavanont, the chairman of the conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Group Co., also weighed in on the protests through newspaper advertisements calling for the “restoration of order, rule of law and mutual prosperity” on August 26, Bloomberg reported. Chearavanont is a major investor in two firms that are listed on Hong Kong’s stock exchange – the insurer Ping An Insurance Group and the holding company CP Pokphand.
The net worths of Hong Kong’s billionaires are unusually sensitive to market volatility, Business Insider previously reported. In 2018, Hong Kong’s high-net-worth population experienced the steepest drop in collective wealth of any region worldwide, according to the French technology-consulting firm Capgemini. The net worths of Hong Kong’s wealthiest residents fell 13% in 2018, compared with the global average of 3%, according to Capgemini.