Can Hong Kong break the stranglehold of the city's biggest developers on land reserves?

By Sandy Li sandy.li@scmp.com / https://www.scmp.com/business/article/3030704/can-hong-kong-break-stranglehold-citys-biggest-developers-land-reserves?utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=contentexchange&utm_source=EdgeProp | October 1, 2019 4:32 AM SGT
When Adrian Cheng Chi-kong, the third-generation scion of one of Hong Kong's biggest landowners, met Ricky Yu in 2016, the seed of an unorthodox idea was planted.
Yu, founder of the non-profit builder Light Be, was looking for land to build what his six-year-old group calls social housing, including co-tenancy abodes for single mothers with children. Cheng, then 37, was vice-chairman of one of Hong Kong's largest developers, owning 12 million sq ft of land, not including another 17 million sq ft of farmland.
Over the next two years, their friendship grew, as did their idea of using private land for social homes to ease Hong Kong's chronic housing woes, culminating in a 2018 pact to work together, according to people familiar with the matter.
Last week, their collaboration bore fruit, when Cheng announced that New World Development Limited " founded in 1970 by his late grandfather Cheng Yu-tung " would donate nearly a fifth of its agricultural land holdings to Hong Kong's government and non-profit organisations, including Light Be, for building social homes.
Yu's group would receive 1 million sq ft, of which the first 28,000 sq ft will be turned into 100 homes. All in, New World gave away 3 million sq ft of land, equivalent to 28 hectares, or 60 football fields if they were contiguous.
Adrian Cheng, executive vice-chairman of New World Development, announcing a donation of 3 million sq ft of land at the developer's annual results press conference in Wan Chai on September 25, 2019. Photo: Tory Ho alt=Adrian Cheng, executive vice-chairman of New World Development, announcing a donation of 3 million sq ft of land at the developer's annual results press conference in Wan Chai on September 25, 2019. Photo: Tory Ho
"In today's business world, corporations cannot live by just maximising their profits, but must also have the obligation to take care of different stakeholders of society," Cheng said during New World's annual results press conference in Hong Kong, at which he announced the land giveaway.
The donation, criticised by gadfly analyst David Webb but cheered by the markets with a 2 per cent gain in New World's stock price after Cheng's announcement, marks a turning point...