The man may be small in stature (5-foot-2), but he’s certainly big in attitude and personality, as Zillowites were treated to a rollicking 60-minute talk by Ronnie C. Chan, Chairman of Hang Lung Properties Limited, which is the operating arm of Hang Lung Group Limited, a leading commercial real estate company in Hong Kong that builds, owns and manages commercial complexes in the mainland of China.
Hang Lung, which means “eternal prosperity” in Chinese, is certainly enjoying a prosperous time under Chan. The company sold $19 billion in commercial real estate last year and there’s no sign of slowing down.
“The very best way to make money in China is in real estate — it would make your hair stand on end, ” said Chan.
Chan, who received his MBA from University of South California, was unapologetic about his lack of interest in doing business in the U.S., (“too small,” he said), and laid out some startling numbers:
- 300 cities in China have a population of 1 million or more; in the U.S., there are 9 cities with 1 million or more.
- 80% live in their own homes in China; only 65% live in their own homes in the U.S.
- 400 million households in China; 115 million in the U.S.
- 40% profit margins in China; 6% in the U.S.
- Hang Lung will complete 10 buildings on the scale of the Empire State Building over each of the next 10 years.
And to dispel anyone’s idea that China is held back by its communistic layer, think again.
“In name we are communists, but in form, we are capitalistic,” said Chan, adding, “China is a late-comer and can learn from everyone (mistakes).”
On U.S. borrowing: “Your market is far more risky. It undulates gradually, following inflation. You can borrow 80%, 90% and under (President Bill) Clinton, 110%.”
On real estate in China: “Opportunity humongous.”
On government’s role in U.S.: “You guys suffer from being an advanced country.”
On government’s role in China: “We have a lot of administrative influence, or as you call it, meddling.”
On two things you can’t do in China: “Can’t say ‘down with Communist Party’ and can’t do pornography.”
On how he protects his personal assets: “As long as I don’t borrow and banks are not on my back, I’m OK.”
Chan finished the talk by explaining how he views the stock numbers assigned to Hang Lung Properties Limited (stock code: 101.HK) and Hang Lung Group Limited (stock code: 10.HK):
“Think of it as Bo Derek with dalmatians on the beach.”
If you would like to work at an innovative company where you occasionally get to listen to engaging guest speakers like Chan, please check out Zillow’s Jobs page.
Previous Zillow Speaker Series guests include:
- Hadi Partovi, angel investor, startup investor
- GrubHub Co-founders Mike Evans and Matt Maloney
- Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn
- Adam Goldstein of Hipmunk
- Adam Lashinsky, Author of “Inside Apple”
- Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
- John Cook of GeekWire
- FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski
- Gordon Stephenson of Real Property Associates
- Bill Gurley of Benchmark Capital
- Richard Tait of Cranium
- Adrian Hanauer of Sounders FC
- Steve Souders of Google