UNTIL VERY recently, George Wang was a name that few Singapore investors had heard of. Then, it figured in announcements by Macarthurcook Industrial REIT (MI-REIT).
George, 47, turned out to be a big shareholder of MI-REIT - he personally owns 40 million units worth S$16 million (based on pre-rights issue price of 40 cents a unit).
Still, little was known about his background until this week when The Edge Singapore featured him as a rags-to-riches story with a China origin.
He hailed from Hainan island and studied environmental engineering in Shanghai University. After a stint working for the Guangdong civil service, in 1988, when he was 26, George traveled to Australia with only A$3,000 to his name.
He studied English for six months and went on to become an insurance agent for AMP Capital Holdings.
The story moves fast forward to him becoming chairman and CEO of AIMS Financial Group, which he had founded in 1991.
The official description of AIMS (www.aims.com.au) is that it is an Australian diversified non-bank financial services and investment group which has a solid track record in the Australian mortgage and securitization markets.
Since establishment, AIMS Financial Group has also expanded to become an international financial group focusing on lending, securitization, real estate investment, private equity, investment banking, funds management, securities exchange ownership and e-commerce across the Asia Pacific region.
In the eight years to 2007, AIMS has raised directly and indirectly close A$3 billion in funds fromthe capital markets, with most of the RMBS rated AAA by both Standard & Poors and Fitch
The link between George and MI-REIT was forged in August this year when AIMS acquired MacarthurCook, an Australian property funds management business that controls MI-REIT.
Last Monday (Nov 23), at an acrimonious EGM, shareholders of MI-REIT voted for a plan to recapitalise the REIT (click here for the Business Times report). Without the vote, the REIT could face dissolution given that it had a looming refinancing challenge.
Now, George Wang can be expected to be in the news headlines from time to time – after all, The Edge report quoted him saying he is looking for a slew of industrial properties to supply to MI-REIT.
And long-suffering minority unitholders would be looking to him to improve the value of their unitholding which has been massively diluted by a rights issue.
George told Business Times after the EGM: 'MI-Reit cannot just buy assets in Singapore. It has to look at growth potential beyond that. And I believe China is the future, with its booming economic growth and massive logistics and manufacturing potential.'
He said that he looked to the example of market leaders such as CapitaLand, which have recognised China's potential.
'During my next two years as chairman of MI-Reit, I intend to bring my resources and contacts to the table, and help the trust's management to understand the Chinese market. I will introduce my connections to them and help them to understand the Chinese system, the Chinese people and the sort of risks and investments they can undertake.'
He works very closely with China's Tianjin government - a region which sees 15 per cent annual growth. 'Tianjin is the next Shanghai. Many large companies have set up there - Samsung, Motorola - and it has a lot of potential for growth,' he said, adding that he intends to position MI-Reit to tap on that growth.
'When I step down as chairman in two years' time, there will be a difference in MI-Reit. I intend to work very hard for shareholders.'
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