by Torrance Wang
HONG KONG, June 19 (Xinhua) -- The successful business operation in China during the past 20 years has given the Swire Group great confidence to continue investing in the country, John Slosar, chairman of the Swire Pacific Ltd. told Xinhua recently.
Swire Pacific, the Hong Kong-listed flagship company of the long-established British conglomerate Swire Group, is a slice of Hong Kong's history in many ways.
Founded as a trading company in Liverpool in 1816, the group set foot in Hong Kong in 1870, becoming one of the biggest business powers here.
"The return of Hong Kong to the motherland opened up lots of opportunities for the Swire Group," Slosar said, "If you look at our businesses, they have all undergone significant expansion after 1997."
Swire Pacific currently owns Swire Properties, Cathay Pacific and is a South China agent of Coca Cola. The market value of all the group's listed companies in Hong Kong has reached over 200 billion HK dollars (about 25.8 billion U.S. dollars), according to Slosar.
Hong Kong has gained "huge opportunities" for economic growth during the past two decades, as the return has put Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland into alignment in terms of developing Hong Kong, Slosar said.
"If you go back to the mid 1990s and read the local newspapers, there were full of worries and concerns about the future of Hong Kong, and nobody talked about or forecasted that Hong Kong would become an international financial center today," he said.
After joining the group in 1980, Slosar has been living in Hong Kong for 37 years. "You could say the fabric of the place has changed. The buildings and roads are different, but the essential nature of Hong Kong, which is rule of law, is still the same as before," Slosar said.
He said the successful implementation of the "one country, two systems" policy plays an important role in maintaining Hong Kong's vitality and competitiveness.
"'One country, two systems' was an amazingly subtle and wonderful idea and has been great for Hong Kong," Slosar said, adding the policy assures both Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland get the best of what they have already achieved and continue to develop.
With confidence in Hong Kong's future, the group will go on investing in Hong Kong, including expanding the real estate, airline and beverage sectors, said Slosar.
"Hong Kong has been our home for 150 years now and we have a very big presence here," he said, "At the same time, Hong Kong's being part of China is a great opportunity. It would be a terrible loss if a company won't take the advantage of that opportunity and look for good investment in China."
"The growth and development of China has been amazing. If you look at what China is now compared to what it was 20 years ago, totally unrecognizable," Slosar said.
Economic development is not an easy process, he said, adding the Chinese government makes the right policy and reforms to tackle the difficulties.
"You can still read a lot of people who are skeptical about China, but if you look at the past history, China has always been better than people thought it was going to be," Slosar said, "I think China's future is a good one."
Regarding the Belt and Road Initiative proposed by China in 2013 and the "Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area" development, Slosar sees lots of opportunities for Hong Kong as well as the Swire Group.
"Hong Kong is all about trade and logistics and connecting places with other places. It should play a major role especially in the Maritime Silk Road as a leading sea port," Slosar said, adding the Swire Group has many related businesses in line with these opportunities.
The greater bay area is also a great development, as the economic and cultural links among Hong Kong, Macao and Guangdong have grown significantly over the past 20 years, making them become more of one area, he said.
"The realization and now taking steps to help that grow further is exactly the right move," Slosar said, "It is good news for Hong Kong as all the strength Hong Kong already has will only be enhanced after the closer connection, and the Swire Group will make lots of investment in this area."
The 61-year-old veteran spent his whole adult life in Hong Kong. "Hong Kong is a fabulous place. Hong Kong people are driven and energetic. I feel very much at home and will definitely stay here."
He believes Hong Kong has benefited from the tighter cooperation with the Chinese mainland in the past 20 years. "I'm sure the next 20 years will also have a lot of great opportunities for us," said Slosar.