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Face-to-face: Derrick Pang, Chun Wo Development

by John Bambridge on Dec 8, 2012

Land reclamation in Victoria Harbour on the Central-Wan Chai Bypass project at the Hong Kong Convention Centre
Land reclamation in Victoria Harbour on the Central-Wan Chai Bypass project at the Hong Kong Convention Centre

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Derrick Pang, deputy chairman of Chun Wo Development Holdings, explains what his company hopes to bring to the Middle East, and why he is so committed to the UAE.

New to the region but an old hand to construction, Chun Wo is a name that deputy chairman Derrick Pang intends to associate with the shining reputation that already defines it in Hong Kong.

A significant part of the company’s success and stability resides in its long-term view towards its overseas projects, and Pang has only positive things to say about his expectations for growth in the Middle East.

“First of all, I would say that we are not just a construction company in Hong Kong. We are a property developer and construction company. My father started the firm about 44 years ago as a very small sub-contractor in Hong Kong, but with years of experience we have built up to one of the biggest general contractors in Hong Kong, and we now do infrastructure, buildings, foundations, and of course, property development.

I mainly look after the construction business in Hong Kong, while my brother, as chairman, oversees the property development business.”

Among Chun Wo’s largest projects at the moment is the Central-Wan Chai Bypass in Hong Kong, a four kilometre-long trunk road being sunk into the harbour along the northern edge of Hong Kong Island to alleviate the congestion in the business district. Pang’s company has secured packages worth $1.2bn, winning three out of a total of nine available on the project.

“Because Hong Kong is such a developed place you cannot really build overpasses in the city, so a tunnel structure is being built under the harbour. For the first two projects we have made a temporary reclamation into the harbour, then established temporary diaphragm walls, and then dug into the dry area in order to construct a box-tunnel structure.

The last part we are responsible for is the North Point section, where the tunnel comes out of the harbour and re-joins with the bridge, which must be partially demolished and then expanded to accomodate additional lanes.

“We are one of the few construction companies in Hong Kong that possesses the skills to execute these projects. We have international contractors coming in like Leighton, Bouygues’ Dragages and China State, but in terms of local companies executing highly technical projects in Hong Kong, I would say we are in the top three, and including international companies we are one of the top six general contractors.”

The UAE piqued Pang’s interest in 2006 when, at the height of the boom, Chun Wo visited Dubai and Abu Dhabi with the trade development council of Hong Kong in search of opportunities. The firm ended up buying two plots of land on Al Reem Island in Abu Dhabi, and another parcel on Al Marjan Island in Ras Al Khaimah.

“We came here looking at the long-term, so we haven’t changed our minds about the fact that we think the UAE is the future of further growth for the entire world. China has been responsible for this for the last ten years, but in the Middle East it’s going to grow.

“We bought land in the first instance because construction is a very local business. You need to have your sub-contractors and labourers, to understand the local recreation and have time to build up. We want to use our own projects to do this, rather than launch a construction arm, find a job, deliver a project poorly, and damage our reputation.

There is no point in us coming here and trying to do a four million square foot commercial mixed-use development. Ultimately if we do a project like that it may be profitable, but we are looking to create a successful product first.”

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