Scarborough Group International was one of the first UK-based property developers and investors to break into the Chinese market, acquiring a portfolio of Grade-A commercial assets in Hong Kong’s Central Business District in 2003. What followed was a series of strategic partnerships with some of the most successful, reputable and trustworthy real estate companies across the Asia Pacific region. Kevin McCabe, Founder and Chairman of SGI, believes this track record will help the organisation unlock future capital investment opportunities as it seeks to expand its UK operations.
On the rebound
While most leading economies are still suffering the effects of the Pandemic, China’s has rebounded with gusto. Despite enduring months of strict quarantine measures, effective policy support and a surge in global exports have led to several successive quarters of strong growth.
Already a major investor in the UK following then Chancellor, George Osborne and President Xi Jinping’s commitment to a ‘golden era’ of cooperation in 2015, the UK market is hotly-contested to be one of the main beneficiaries of the next wave of investment from China, with housing and infrastructure top of the list. As a UK-property developer with strong links to the Far East through our well-established offices in Hong Kong and Shenzhen, we see this as a significant area of opportunity.
The ‘International’ part of ‘Scarborough Group International’ originated through our entry into China 18 years ago. During that time, we amassed an enviable track record of delivering large-scale, mixed-use developments across mainland China, Hong Kong, Myanmar and beyond through joint ventures with big names including Top Spring, Marga Group, Metro Holdings, Hualing Group and Beijing Construction Engineering Group International, to name a few.
We also established a network of business centres and serviced apartments under the Forsyth and Frasers Hospitality brands, as well as branching out into the retail sector after taking a stake in Rainbow Department Stores alongside leading Chinese enterprise, AVIC. We also broke into the sports and leisure sectors after taking a controlling stake in the Chinese football club, Chengdu Blades.
The pinnacle of our international success, however, came in 2011 in when we floated Top Spring International Holdings, our joint venture with Top Spring, on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
Adapt or die
In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, we took the difficult decision to divest of the Group’s property holdings across the Asia Pacific region and adapted our business model to focus on operational assets. In 2014, we launched upmarket coffee house chain, Espuma in collaboration with the Barcelona-based Novell family, opening three shops in prime areas of Hong Kong.
Despite enduring several years of lockdowns as a result of protests in response to the Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill and, most recently, the Coronavirus pandemic, our Espuma brand has been extremely resilient, so much so that we have just added a new food and beverage concept to complement our existing portfolio in the form of Café Library. Our ambition is to double our number of outlets over the coming years with a view to listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
Another string to add to our bow will be the addition of our new marketing suite in our Bank of America Tower office in Hong Kong’s Central Business District.
In response to a growing number of Hong Kong nationals looking to relocate to the UK, either for education or as part of the UK Government’s visa scheme allowing British National (Overseas) passport holders and their dependents a route to residency and eventual citizenship, the facility will be used as a local base to showcase the residential projects we’re developing across the Northern Powerhouse.
Rising to the challenge
Our journey so far, while not without its challenges, has been incredibly successful and, moreover, hugely exciting and it is in no small part thanks to the support of our dedicated team on the ground.
Under the strong leadership of our Chief Executive Susan Tham, whose character, creativity, drive and determination has seen Scarborough Group International become a highly-respected entity across the Asia Pacific region, I am confident we can continue to solidify our business relationships as we look to embark on our corporate expansion programme.