Who doesn’t enjoy strolling along some of the most salubrious roads in their neighbourhood, gazing at the beautiful houses and picturing the dream property you’d buy if your 4D numbers came up?
One street with plenty to admire would definitely be Nassim Road, near the Botanic Gardens, with its luxurious mansions boasting swimming pools and tennis courts as standard. Sadly, few of us possess pockets deep enough to afford anything in this sort of area, with some of its properties valued at over US$100m. Yikes!
Indeed, the most expensive house in Singapore is on this very road, and counts Cheung Wai Keung, Chairman of Wing Tai Holdings Ltd (SGX: W05) as one of its previous owners.
Wing Tai Holdings began life in Hong Kong in the 1950s as a jeans manufacturer. Its owner, Cheng Tik Hung decided to move his small business to Singapore in the early 1960s, due to uncertainty over Hong Kong’s future.
Wing Tai Garment Manufactory
By 1963, our appetite for America’s favourite tough work clothes had grown to such a degree that Cheng was ready to build his first factory – the Wing Tai Garment Manufactory at Little Road, which he opened with 200 employees.
The company, with its focus on excellence prospered and by 1966, Wing Tai moved the factory to larger premises.
What’s more, demand was growing worldwide. Wing Tai decided to set up Dragon & Phoenix Manufactory Sendirian Berhad in Malaysia, to manufacture and export clothing all over the world. By 1972, Wing Tai had opened a brand new, 10-storey factory complex, with in-house staff dormitory to house its workers.
By 1978, the Singapore property market was heating up and Wing Tai decided to it was time to diversify, developing its first residential property in Singapore, soon to be followed by real estate operations in Malaysia and Hong Kong.
Textile and Garment Industry Training Centre
In 1982, Wing Tai was the first private company to secure government funding to set up its own training centre. The company was also the first to start NTUC’s in-plant BEST programme, which brought in teachers to conduct over 30 courses and teach workers English and Maths.
First In-house Childcare Centre
By 1984, the forward thinking firm was offering its predominantly female workforce full childcare facilities for children aged 2 months to 6 years, as well as free bus services to and from local schools for the workers’ older children.
Wing Tai Holdings Limited
In 1989, Wing Tai Holdings Ltd became the first garment company to be listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange.
The company continued to grow and by 1993 and the opening up of China, Wing Tai entered into two government backed consortia, which had plans to invest in China.
Wing Tai Retail
By 1989, the company had made a foray into the world of ready-made garments, founding subsidiary Wing Tai Retail.
But by 1998, the company decided to cease garment manufacturing in Singapore, concentrating on its factories with lower operating costs in Malaysia as well as its property business.
But did you know…
- Wing Tai Manufactory was the first factory to produce jeans in Singapore
- Wing Tai was also responsible for introducing Japanese clothing brand Uniqlo as well as Yoshinoya restaurants to our island
- The Wing Tai Holdings logo is a Tembusu tree – a native South East Asian tree known for its deep roots and extensive branch system. The tembusu tree is a symbol of integrity and resilience – a fitting corporate logo for a company that believes in steady and confident growth.
- Wing Tai is responsible for building Singapore’s Draycott Eight, Belle Vue and Ascentia Sky condominiums.
- But Wing Tai Holdings is not all about retail and condos – the company was also responsible for laying and designing the marble facades of the Bugis and Lavender MRT train stations.
Today, this South East Asian success story has developed 113 properties in Asia and continues to invest, develop and manage properties in Malaysia, Hong Kong and China.
The company has also entered the hospitality business, operating the upmarket Lanson Place chain of serviced apartments in Singapore, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Beijing under its Wing Tai Asia Group.
Wing Tai continues to be a prominent player in our fashion retail market. The company currently has over 240 retail outlets in Singapore and Malaysia, managing 18 international fashion brands including G2000, Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and Fox.
Not bad for a little garment factory that started out making jeans!
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The information provided is for general information purposes only and is not intended to be personalised investment or financial advice. Motley Fool Singapore contributor Alison Hunt doesn’t own shares in any companies mentioned.