Hongkong Land Appoints New Chief Executive
HONG KONG – Hongkong Land, the real estate division of conglomerate Jardine Matheson, announced that its current CEO Robert Wong will step down from his role on 31 March 2024 after seven years at the helm, reported Forbes magazine on Wednesday afternoon (22 November, SGT).
Effective from 1 April 2024, Wong will be replaced by Michael Smith, the regional Chief Executive for United States and Europe at Mapletree Investments, a property firm owned by Temasek, a global investment company owned by Singapore’s Government.
Hongkong Land disclosed that Smith was most recently responsible for expanding Mapletree’s real estate portfolio in Europe and America across data centres, logistics properties, student housing, and business parks. Previously, he also worked as a managing director at UBS and a partner at Goldman Sachs in Singapore.
“I have every confidence Michael will evolve our business – ensuring we continue to invest, manage and develop prime commercial, retail and mixed-use assets, while at the same time, positioning the group for long-term sustainable growth in China and other key Asian markets,” remarked Jardine Matheson’s Executive Chairman Ben Keswick.
The sudden change in the top role comes at a time when Hongkong Land continues to face challenges on multiple sectors. In Hong Kong, the local office market remains sluggish after higher interest rates impacted demand, while the residential market in mainland China is still yet to recover. The developer and commercial property landlord also forecasted that its underlying profit for the whole of 2023 would be “moderately below” 2022’s US$776 million, the second straight year in which the company saw a fall in earnings.
In a research note, Morgan Stanley analysts said that it remains “unclear” how Smith will navigate the challenging operating conditions in both Hong Kong’s office market and the residential property market in mainland China. They noted that Hongkong Land has been lagging in the main Hang Seng Index in the past six years.
“The market might wait to see Mr. Smith unveil his strategies before giving credit for this change,” said Morgan Stanley analysts Jeffrey Mak and Praveen Choudhary.
Although stepping down, Wong will stay on as senior advisor to help with the leadership transition in Hongkong Land for an unspecified period of time.”