Meeting all targets

City talk | Siu Sai-wo 12 Jun 2019

Former secretary for development Eric Ma Siu-cheung has taken over as chief executive of NWS Holdings.

Ma had been managing director of Maunsell Consultants Asia and worked at AECOM, responsible for civil and infrastructural business in the Asia-Pacific region.

His rich experience in both the public and private sectors can be put to good use in his new post, especially as the NWS group has a low debt load and steady cash flow.

I talked to Ma, a professor, earlier about the difference between government and private-sector work. He told me that when he was working for the consultant company he had to go on business trips.

One time he was in Bangladesh when his colleague found something moving in their eyes after coming in contact with contaminated water. It transpired that it was an amoeba infection that required immediate medical attention.

While in the government, he was tasked with looking for enough residential sites to meet the target supply of 20,000 new home units a year, and he found the exercise unforgettable.

He went all over the territory and eventually identified more than a hundred small plots for suitability assessment. One of these sites, in Wan Chai, was just slightly bigger than a public toilet, but the government still insisted on putting it on the sell list, and a developer actually bought it.

It turned out that the site was developed with an adjoining one, thus put to full use to add to new home supply despite its small size. By the time he left the administration, the five-year home supply targets have basically been met.

Now at a private enterprise, he must of course work to increase the investment return for shareholders.

While the NWS group has ample financial resources, he noted, quality assets on the market are not cheap either, which presents a challenge.

As such, he saw uncertainties created by developments like Sino-US trade talks as both crises and opportunities, such as those for mergers, could crop up any time.

Siu Sai-wo is publisher of Sing Tao Daily

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