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  • Home > News > Details
    Canny investor with a keen yen for profit

    Chien Lee, founder-chairman and chief executive of NewCity Capital, was born and raised in Zhongshan, Guangdong province.

    In the 1980s, when Lee was in his late 20s, he went to the US and started to buy foreclosed properties at auction before quickly flipping them for profit, he told China Daily.

    He did that for a few years in Miami. "In the late 1980s when the savings and loan crisis hit the US, huge opportunities came to me."

    Lee then started to buy portfolios instead of single houses. He started buying asset packages from banks, fixed them up and sold them.

    Some properties he held for the short term and some for the long term, even up to 25 to 30 years.

    "In the beginning of the 1990s, I felt that China's opening up to the world should present investment opportunities, so I focused on China to invest," he recalled.

    The idea was to bring a successful US business model to China, like that of a hotel chain, but it needed to be localized, according to Lee. He felt the business model needed to be mixed with Chinese culture.

    So he teamed up with his childhood friend, Alex Zheng Nanyan and founded the 7 Days Group, headquartered in Guangzhou, running budget hotels under the 7 Days Inn brand.

    Lee said that they started in 2005 with only one hotel, and today they have 3,700 spread across 300 cities. The company was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 2009. In July 2013, Lee and his partners took it private.

    "At that time, the share price of Chinese companies was under pressure and we wanted to develop more hotel brands, but it was difficult to do that with the listed company," Lee explained. "Now we have continued to grow and have 22 brands."

    Lee also invested in VIP rooms at casinos in Macao, and made a large investment in developing the Ho Tram Strip resort in southern Vietnam, at a location two hours from Ho Chi Minh City.

    "I like investments as I love the challenge, every day is new, every deal is different and every industry is different, you can always learn."

    The most important thing in a deal is that you have to have both short-term and long-term plans, he said.

    "Buying assets is not that difficult, anybody can have the money, anybody can buy into any deal. But purchasing an asset is only 10 percent of the process, 90 percent of which comes after you buy, (deciding) how are you going to bring it to the next level."

    Citing the Vietnam resort project as an example, Lee said as he has a stake in the hotel property, he can bring tourists to Vietnam and as he also owns a gaming company in Macao, he can bring the support from Macao to Vietnam.

    "After I buy a project, I can bring the support and network to the project to help it increase value."

    Lee said his suggestion to young investors is that they must have a vision, and they also have to be ready to face challenges, as nothing comes easy.

    "Always learn from your mistakes and, using your own judgment, don't do something just because everybody else is doing it. Don't give up, keep trying, keep pushing."


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