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ENTREPRENEUR and hotelier Choo Chong Ngen grappled with adversity as a youth. Today, however, he has emerged as one of Singapore's most astute investors.
His approach is deceptively simple: Invest where others may be reluctant to tread. As those assets earn a regular cash flow, keep on investing even through crises.
Mr Choo is the founder of the iconic Hotel 81 chain of tourist -class hotels. The first hotel was built on a property that he already owned in the 1990s in Geylang, which had a seedy reputation as a red-light district.
But Mr Choo was unfazed. "There was good traffic, lots of people," he says.
Today, Mr Choo's portfolio of hotels - there are now six brands: Hotel 81, Hotel Boss, V Hotel, Hotel Mi, Value Hotel, and Venue Hotel - are collectively and conservatively valued at an estimated S$3 billion. As chairman, he and his daughter Carolyn Choo, who is managing director, have recently set up Worldwide Hotels, a holding company for the group. Worldwide Hotels is eyeing more acquisitions overseas with the aim of building its homegrown brand to become the world's leading tourist-class hotel. The overseas expansion has begun with two hotels in Thailand. More acquisitions are in the pipeline.
In this April edition of Wealth, we highlight experts' view of portfolio investments in the Asia ex-Japan region. The region is uppermost in most strategists' picks, although escalating trade tension cast a pall. Even though the Goldilocks environment of 2017 may be over, valuations remain attractive.
Patrick Ho of HSBC Private Banking Asia, sees four key themes: the rise of the Asian middle class; innovation in China; China reforms and Belt and Road opportunities. On a longer term note, Morgan Stanley believes that the theme of "financial acceleration" in Asia would unleash a number of trends. Stock market capitalisation, for instance, is expected to double by 2027. Asia's intra-regional bank lending, FX, rates and credit markets are also expected to expand.
Elsewhere in this edition, in the Legal Vantage column, partners at Withers KhattarWong argue that careful consideration of an appropriate investment structure and vehicle goes a long way to help investors to mitigate risks. One key question to ask, for instance, is whether an investment treaty exists with the foreign jurisdiction in which an investment is planned. Such treaties provide investors with rights such as "fair and equitable treatment", non-discrimination and a right to compensation if they have suffered the expropriation of their investment.
In the Driving Disruption column, Armin Choksey of PwC Singapore explains how the new Singapore Variable Capital Company (S-VACC) structure may well eventually replace trusts as the preferred vehicle for wealth management. As Mr Choksey illustrates, the S-VACC structure proffers privacy and allows redemptions and distributions, among other benefits, in a more seamless manner.
Meanwhile, in Real Estate, Nicholas Holt of Knight Frank posits a robust outlook for the luxury real estate market based on the firm's The Wealth Report, thanks to continuing growth in the wealth and number of ultra high net worth individuals. The study's attitude survey finds 23 per cent of Asian clients plan to buy an additional home outside their home country, with the US and UK as favoured destinations.
On a lighter note, John Wood, founder of non-profit organisation Room To Read recounts the events that led him to leave a successful career at Microsoft to kick-start an effort to transform the lives of children in low-income countries by raising literacy and gender equality in education. Today, Room To Read has achieved scale, thanks to a business-like approach that focuses on maximising the donor's dollar: Eighty-four cents of every dollar goes towards theprogrammes.
In the Ultra Wealth column, Tara Loader Wilkinson casts the spotlight on Marc Glimcher, second-generation president of the Pace Gallery, founded by his father Arne Glimcher. Pace boasts the world's wealthiest collectors among its clients, and its reputation was built on the legend of the senior Mr Glimcher. But a decade on, Pace is flourishing with a healthy increase in the number artists and estates in its list. Its galleries have also expanded from four to 10.
We hope you enjoy this edition and wish you a rewarding investment journey.