Sunac China chairman Sun Hongbin and his crazy bets

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Sun Hongbin (inset) made his fortune through property development, following a stint in jail. Photo: iStock, Sunac

The expression about the man who would bet everything including his underwear to win more never seemed more apt than it does in relation to the chairman of Sunac China Holdings, Sun Hongbin.

Yesterday, the billionaire property magnate said he was grateful for a 2.5 billion yuan (US$380 million) loan from Ping An Bank that had enabled him to make a 15 billion yuan trading profit in 10 months.

In September 2016, Sun spent some HK$2.8 billion (US$358.7 million) on buying up 453 million more shares in Sunac China at HK$6.18 per share. Two months later, it was disclosed that his stake was in fact owned by Ping An Bank: he had pledged his entire stake to the bank to secure his lending.

Such an all-in bet could have cost the 53-year-old chairman everything but luckily for him the stock has had a strong rally since.

In July this year, he re-sold 220 million shares at HK$18.33. That netted him a quick HK$2.67 billion (US$400 million) profit.

It is not entirely clear how he made his total 15 billion yuan, as claimed, but analysts have speculated his trading may have involved derivative or leverage products, which fits the pattern of his aggressive investment style.

Sunac China’s stock rose further, to HK$40, after a deal to buy the US$9 billion property portfolio of Dalian Wanda, owned by Wang Jianlin, formerly China’s richest person.

That was a brave bet from Sun, who was sentenced to five years in prison for embezzlement, in 1989, when he worked at Lenovo Group.

After his release, he borrowed half a million yuan loan from Lenovo founder Liu Chuanzi and gradually turned his real estate business into a conglomerate with over 90 projects across China and 13,000 staff.

Based on the closing price of Sunac yesterday, Sun has a paper net worth of HK$71.9 billion. He has a 50.89% stake in the company, which is the fifth largest mainland real estate firm behind China Evergrande, Country Garden, China Overseas Land and Investment and China Resources Land.

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