Hongkong-born Samuel Chu’s initiation into the real-estate business began half a century ago when he was five. He recalls accompanying his father on his rounds to collect rent from tenants. “At that time, I think I was more interested in the ice-cream he would buy me after the rounds than in the rent collection,” he says.

The property investor in Chu has long since surfaced. He is managing partner and chief investment officer of Phoenix Property Investors, a firm he co-founded in 2002. The Hong Kong-based private-equity real-estate firm manages a portfolio of assets worth US$6.7 billion ($9.5 billion) today, mainly in Hong Kong and other key cities in North Asia such as Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul, Taipei and Tokyo. In Southeast Asia, Phoenix has investments in Jakarta, Manila and Singapore.

It takes great discipline to be a value investor, Chu points out. One has to actively look for opportunities and refrain from doing anything until the right deal comes along that meets all the criteria. “We are very selective,” he adds. “Historically, we look at more than 1,000 deals a year, and we do just six.”

A classic example is in Singapore, where the group had been scouting for opportunities since 2006 but made its first investment only in late 2014. “The Singapore market was still quite slow in 2006,” says Chu. “We missed quite a few deals in the office space because our pricing was just a few percentage points [below the winning bid].”

 

Phoenix Property Investors’ maiden investment in Singapore was a row of six adjoining shophouses that were purchased for $42.8 million in late 2014