Chairman & CEO gives an exclusive interview to China Daily - "Middle East a new frontier for HK businesses"

8 February 2023, Riyadh
Impact Investing

(8 February 2023, Riyadh) Cliff Zhang Kun, the CEO of Hong Kong-based asset management firm Templewater and a member of the Hong Kong delegation visiting the Middle East, said the visit is of great value to the business community, and the Middle East is a new frontier for aspiring Hong Kong enterprises to explore opportunities.

Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu, together with some high-level government officials and over 30 local business leaders, on Saturday kicked off an eight-day visit to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which is part of the city’s global publicity campaign to promote its development after Hong Kong fully resumed connectivity with the Chinese mainland and overseas regions in January.

During the visit to Saudi Arabia, Zhang signed a memorandum of understanding with one of Saudi Arabia’s largest private conglomerates, Nesma Holding, to work together on transforming commercial fleets in the Middle East and North Africa into zero-emission vehicles. It was one of the six pacts signed between the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Saudi Arabia during the trip.

What’s more, he has gained a deeper understanding of the Middle East area and established connections with their counterparts in the new region full of vitality and opportunities, Zhang told China Daily in an exclusive interview on Tuesday.

To further expand the market of Hong Kong and the Middle East, Templewater subsidiary Wisdom Motor, a pioneer zero-emission commercial-vehicle technology company, is looking at setting up a research and development center and a micro-factory in Hong Kong and considering establishing a production facility in the Middle East, Zhang said. Currently, Wisdom Motor has its headquarters in Hong Kong and manufacturing facilities near Xiamen on the Chinese mainland.

Templewater owns Bravo transport, Hong Kong Island’s largest franchise bus operator, which operates nearly 2,000 buses and serves over 1.2 million passengers a day. In addition, Wisdom Motor has just designed and manufactured Hong Kong’s first electric double-decker bus, the world’s first tri-axle hydrogen double-decker bus.

Zhang said signing an MOU with Nesma Holding Co Ltd (Nesma) is a win-win situation.

The Saudi Arabia is looking to ramp up its tourism and enhance its tourist experience, badly needing a well-managed, good quality, efficient bus operation system. This is exactly where Bravo can help, Zhang said.

Bravo manages buses in Hong Kong, one of the most densely populated cities in the world, with one of the most challenging operating environments on the globe. The company is leveraging its expertise to help Saudi Arabia enhance its operational efficiencies and design bus networks, Zhang said.

Meanwhile, working with Nesma can help Zhang’s company participate in Saudi Vision 2030, a crucial social reform blueprint of local government, as Nesma is one of the major contractors for this project.

Zhang said that Wisdom Motor is looking at facilitating the designing and supplying of green vehicles, particularly hydrogen vehicles, to the project.

In addition, the visit deepened Zhang’s understanding of this region’s development and new initiatives, he said. He said he observed that Middle East countries are now hungry for talent, technology, services, and products, which is exactly where Hong Kong, as a financial center, with a lot of talent, products, and professional services, can play a significant role.

Cliff Zhang Kun, the CEO of Hong Kong-based asset management firm Templewater and a member of the Hong Kong delegation visiting the Middle East, reads a copy of China Daily during an exclusive interview on Feb 7, 2023.

Also, from a GDP and economic activities perspective, all the mega projects being launched and infrastructures that will be carried out will make the region grow robustly, also bringing opportunities for Hong Kong’s investors. That’s also the major reason for Wisdom Motor to consider establishing a production facility in the Middle East, he said.

Bilateral trade in goods between the HKSAR and members of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf was $1.7 billion in 2021.

As for the planning R&D center and micro-factory in Hong Kong, Zhang is discussing with the government the factory’s location and the details of the R&D center with other delegation members.

Zhang praised this trip as “fantastic”, saying it is good and valuable that the government is trying to build new frontier markets for Hong Kong businesses.

After the journey ends, he will have many follow-up meetings with new partners, Zhang said. He also suggests the government organize more trips to promote Hong Kong and what Hong Kong can bring to the world.

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