This article by Jennifer Tan originally appeared in SGX's kopi-C: the Company brew series, and is republished with permission.
|Wang Qiu’s unassuming appearance belies a spirit of quiet determination and true grit – qualities that have seen the engineer by training through a two decade-long career spanning the construction engineering and real estate sectors.
“Through life’s journey, you will face many challenges. The key is not to shy away from difficulties, but find ways to overcome them,” said Liaoning-born Wang, Chief Executive Officer of the trustee-manager of SGX-listed Dasin Retail Trust.
“There’s always a solution to every problem.”
A Bachelor of Construction Engineering graduate from China’s Harbin Engineering University, Wang began her career in 1999 with Zhongshan Sheng Xing Co Ltd, a curtain wall manufacturing business within the Zhongshan Dasin Holdings group of companies, which is the Sponsor of Dasin Retail Trust.
It proved to be a high-intensity, high-pressure job with a steep learning curve.
“I spent 10 years in that role. Of the 365 days in each year, there were 10 days when we had a break for the Lunar New Year holidays. For the remaining 355 days, I was constantly in battle mode – dealing with precise manufacturing requirements, coordinating complex work plans, managing tight timelines and responding to emergencies at any hour,” she recalled.
Those experiences honed Wang’s attention to detail, resilience and focus. “I learnt what it meant to get the job done, regardless of the project’s complexity or the issues that emerged,” she added.
Between 2011 and February 2020, Wang went on to hold various appointments within the Sponsor’s group of companies, including Secretary to the Board of Directors and General Manager of the company’s Risk Management division.
Between October 2014 and January 2017, she spearheaded the project team behind Dasin Retail Trust’s initial public offering, and in March this year, assumed the role of CEO of the trustee-manager of the trust.
Listed on SGX Mainboard in January 2017, Dasin Retail Trust is the only China retail property trust providing direct exposure to the fast-growing Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area.
Its principal mandate is to invest in, own or develop land, uncompleted developments and income-producing real estate in the Greater China region, used primarily for retail purposes, as well as real estate-related assets, with a focus on retail malls. Dasin’s portfolio comprises seven retail malls strategically located in Foshan, Zhuhai and Zhongshan cities in China.
Dasin is managed by Dasin Retail Trust Management Pte Ltd. Its Sponsor – Zhongshan Dasin Real Estate Co Ltd – is focused on the development and management of real estate, including retail malls, hotels, educational facilities and residential properties.
The Sponsor has been involved in the construction and development of various real estate projects in the Greater Bay Area. It has also established itself as one of the leading, award-winning developers in Zhongshan over the past two decades.
Persistence Pays Off
In July, Dasin Retail Trust announced it had completed the acquisition of Shunde Metro Mall in Foshan city and Tanbei Metro Mall in Zhongshan city for an agreed property value of S$375 million. With this acquisition – its second within three years of listing – the trust’s portfolio size has nearly tripled to about 11.7 billion yuan from 4.6 billion yuan.
Wang attributes the achievement of this significant milestone to her tenacity. “During the pandemic, many have unlocked a range of hidden talents, such as cooking, baking and handicraft, but my main claim to fame was the Shunde-Tanbei acquisition,” she said, half tongue-in-cheek.
Her persistence ran counter to recommendations from the joint book runners and concerns from management over ongoing market volatility, as well as the impact on valuations and revenues following COVID-19.
“I didn’t want to postpone the completion of the acquisition. I believe we should focus on what’s in front of us, because what can or will happen in the future is anybody’s guess,” she recalled.
“Together with my team, we were determined to see it through, regardless of the challenges, and we did.”
Post-acquisition, the fruits of their labour have been sweet. “As a result of our hard work, we’ve obtained recognition from many external parties, and the team has also gained more confidence to undertake bigger goals.”
|“I used to ponder many “what ifs” when I was younger,” Wang admitted. “Now, I know that life is not only about “possibilities”, but also about making decisions, taking the first step, and completing that journey – with steady determination.”
And this has just been one of many steps in Dasin’s growth journey – Wang has a personal target to grow the trust’s market capitalisation to S$1 billion within the next three to five years, through a combination of organic growth and acquisitions. And some low-hanging fruit would be the Sponsor’s right-of-first-refusal (ROFR) pipeline of assets.
Key investment criteria include attractive long-term cash flows, yields above Dasin’s weighted average cost of capital, as well as the potential for net asset growth. Another focus would be tenant mix and occupancy characteristics, as well as properties with longer leases, so as to extend the portfolio’s weighted average lease expiry (WALE).
“S$1 billion is the starting point for a medium-sized trust,” she pointed out. “Achieving this goal will allow us to better realise the benefits of scale, such as reducing our capital cost and improving operational efficiencies. At the same time, we can attract more attention from institutional investors, or be included as a constituent of key indexes.”
Burgeoning Economic Potential
Dasin Retail Trust’s location within the Greater Bay Area – poised to emerge as the world’s largest bay area economy – also bodes well for its future.
Two new financial markets – the up-and-coming Guangzhou and Macau bourses – would add to the US$8.8 trillion combined market capitalisation of Hong Kong and Shenzhen, turning the region Asia's largest capital pool, and amplifying the Greater Bay Area's economic potential.
Planned as the central city within the area under the provincial government’s 2017-2030 plan, Zhongshan is positioned to become a high-end equipment manufacturing hub, as well as a regional technology and biomedical research and development centre. Zhuhai is targeted as a world-class centre of leisure and tourism, with a focus on the general aviation industry.
Notwithstanding the bright outlook, Dasin Retail Trust’s more immediate challenges include COVID-19 and evolving consumer trends.
“This year’s economic performance has been impacted by the pandemic and the upcoming US elections, but opportunities still exist in any crisis,” Wang noted.
“We believe the impact of the outbreak on China’s retail sector will be short-lived.”
Wang remains “cautiously optimistic” about retail sales when the situation normalises. “Many families who have cancelled travel plans and those emerging from quarantines will be more interested in “experiential” activities, with the pent-up spending driving local consumption,” she noted.
Dasin has stepped up its events-driven marketing programmes, such as music festivals, cultural exhibitions and sports competitions, which have buoyed footfall in its malls and sparked a rebound in monthly turnover rents.
“Our turnover rent in June represented more than 90% of average monthly turnover rent in the fourth quarter of 2019, compared with 36% seen in February 2020,” she said.
“We believe the recovery will continue, and monthly turnover rents will normalise soon.”
While Wang acknowledges the threat of e-commerce, she believes Dasin’s malls are well-positioned to serve their densely populated catchment areas, functioning as one-stop centres for the community’s daily needs.
“Because we have adjusted our operations to accelerate the integration of online and offline into an omni-channel offering, some of our businesses were not only unaffected during the pandemic, they saw significant year-on-year increases in sales,” she added.
Through proactive asset and lease management, the trust has introduced more experiential trades – including sports, leisure, entertainment – as well as defensive retail offerings – such as supermarkets and home appliance stores – to its malls.
“Apart from improving shopper traffic, this enhanced tenant mix has increased our resistance to e-commerce, making its impact minimal or almost non-existent.”
The trust has also set up its own member management system – “Dasin Hui” – a platform that provides comprehensive information on products and services in its malls to enhance the shopping experience.
“This enables us to draw customers from online channels into physical stores,” Wang noted.
“We’ve also identified the brands that are more suitable for either e-commerce channels or brick-and-mortar stores, which allows us to better target and pivot the tenant mix.”
At the same time, Wang is keeping an eye on the sustainability of the trust’s distribution per unit (DPU), with the distribution waiver from major unitholders terminating after 2021.
“The revenue, net property income and distributable income of our portfolio have grown at a compound annual growth rate of 9.6%, 8.8% and 9.0% respectively since IPO, while the acquisitions of Doumen Metro Mall, Shunde Metro Mall and Tanbei Metro Mall have further accelerated DPU growth,” she pointed out.
This has narrowed the gap between Dasin Retail Trust’s core DPU and the DPU with distribution waiver.
“Going forward, we will continue to deliver competitive DPUs to our investors through organic growth, including rental adjustments, rental reversions and asset enhancement initiatives, as well as inorganic growth, via accretive acquisitions.”
|And when this 43-year-old mother is not managing the operations of the trust, she can be found with her son, 14, and daughter, seven. Ensuring they grow up with the right values is a priority.
“I want my children to face challenges with courage, and be able to solve their problems through determination and persistence – these are important touchstones,” Wang said.
“Last but not least, they must remember that great things are never achieved alone – they are carried out by a team of people – so they must never be afraid to ask for help,” she added.
“Team members can open up fresh perspectives, which in turn lead to new and innovative solutions to problems.”
Dasin Retail Trust
Listed on SGX Mainboard in January 2017, Dasin is the only China retail property trust providing direct exposure to the fast-growing Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area. Its principal mandate is to invest in, own or develop land, uncompleted developments and income-producing real estate in Greater China (comprising People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong and Macau), used primarily for retail purposes, as well as real estate-related assets, with an initial focus on retail malls. The portfolio comprises seven retail malls strategically located in Foshan, Zhuhai and Zhongshan cities.
Dasin Retail Trust is managed by Dasin Retail Trust Management Pte Ltd, and its Sponsor is Zhongshan Dasin Real Estate Co Ltd. The Sponsor Group, established in 2001, is focused on the development and management of real estate, including retail malls, hotels, educational facilities and residential properties. Involved mainly in the construction and development of real estate projects in the Greater Bay Area, the Sponsor has established itself as one of the leading developers in Zhongshan, winning a number of national-level industry awards over the past 19 years.
The company website is: www.dasintrust.com
Click here for the company's StockFacts page.
For the half year ended 30 June 2020 financial results, click here.
About kopi-C: the Company brew
Text: Jennifer Tan-Stanisic
Photo: Company file
kopi-C is a regular column on the SGX Research website that features C-level executives of leading companies listed on Singapore Exchange. These interviews are profiles of senior management aimed at helping investors better understand the individuals who run these corporations.
For previous editions of kopi-C: the Company brew, please click here.