Yuhu pushes ahead with projects despite Founder ban

Yuhu pushes ahead with projects despite Founder ban

15 February 2019

Chinese-backed property development giant Yuhu Group is pushing ahead with its Australian projects despite its founder, Chinese billionaire and Beijing’s former top lobbyist in Australia, Huang Xiangmo, being refused entry back into the country.

Mr Huang expanded his company’s Australian portfolio by acquiring Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda’s residential and hotel mixed-used projects for $1.13 billion about 12 months ago.

That acquisition included two landmark projects, One Circular Quay in Sydney, a luxurious mixed-used building on the former Goldfields House site, and Jewel on the Gold Coast, a luxury mixed-use project based around three residential towers.

Yuhu’s other key projects include a $250 million 21-storey residential project in North Sydney, The Miller, and the $380 million Bakehouse Quarter development at North Strathfield in Sydney’s inner west.

Last week, Australian officials declared Mr Huang unfit to hold an Australian passport and cancelled his permanent residency.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports Mr Huang is now fighting to return to Australia from an overseas trip. However, he may never be able to return to Sydney, where he has lived with his wife and children since 2011, most recently on a $13m hilltop mansion in Mosman.

Official sources state he may be able to challenge the Home Affairs decision in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal or request an internal review, but that any legal challenge would take “a very long time”.

In an interview with Chinese media, Mr Huang described Australia as a “Giant baby” and said the country would “need to apologise” to him one day.

He also called for the Liberal and Labor parties to return his more than $2 million in political donations. Both parties have refused to do so.

The decision is the first enforcement action to be made by Canberra against a suspected Chinese Communist Party influence agent after the Coalition launched a counter-interference campaign against Beijing in 2018.

Mr Huang handed over the reins at Yuhu two months ago to his 24-year-old son Jimmy Huang, who assumed the role of chairman.

A Yuhu spokesperson said Mr Huang “no longer holds any position at the company, is not involved in day-to-day operations, nor does he hold any shares”.

Yet, Yuhu Group is majority owned by Yufeng Investment Group, which is 70 per cent controlled by Haibin Investments, an investment vehicle owned by Mr Huang wife, “Fiona” Jiefang Huang, and son, Jimmy Huang.

Both entities are registered to Mr Huang snr’s Mosman mansion.

Yuhu also told The Australian in December that Mr Huang was available to “advise the new leadership team.”

Despite Mr Huang Snr’s residency problems, Yuhu claims “the company’s operations and projects are certainly continuing, and it is business as usual.”

The Australian says the company is also facing major problems with its Australian project.

In Sydney, Yuhu has been negotiating to buy the Bakehouse Quarter development and associated land in North Strathfield for two years. It has until February 20 to pay a further $10m to extend the completion of the contract to April 18.

“So far Yuhu have paid $48 million in option fees and the like which has been released to us,” said Blackwall chief executive Stuart Brown, the vendor of the Bakehouse Quarter.

“If completion doesn’t happen, we are happy to keep the $48 million and the property and continue to develop it.

On a much larger scale, Yuhu is yet to appoint builders for its $3 billion-plus One Circular Quay development even though demolition of what was the Goldfields House has been completed and early works are continuing.

Meanwhile, on Queensland’s Gold Coast, Yuhu has been embroiled in several disputes with builder Multiplex over the triple-tower Jewel complex and is yet to announce a hotel operator.

The AFR reported two weeks ago that Yuhu had acquired a new piece of land adjoining the Jewel project to “develop additional amenities to complement the Jewel project”.