Sunwah journeys from seafood exports to luxury condominiums

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Sunwah general director Jesse Choi. SUPPLIED

Hong Kong-based Sunwah Group’s confidence in Cambodia’s growth potential has not wavered since it first set foot in the Kingdom in 1995.

Taking advantage of Cambodia’s investment friendly reputation, the highly diversified Sunwah expanded its business footprint — from processing seafood to developing condominiums to serve the ever-growing consumer base.

Cambodia’s stable economy, strategic location, corporate tax holidays and pro-foreign investment policies continue to entice investors – like Sunwah – who for decades have made the Kingdom their preferred business destination.

The company shifted from its early investment in the seafood business in the 1990s to property development after it began finding it hard to obtain marine resources such as fish, shrimp and cuttlefish for supplying its export markets.

Sunwah built a seafood processing plant on a 2.5-hectare site at Sihanoukville Port in 1995, which was then considered one of the largest seafood processing plants in Cambodia.

“During the good times we used to export six refrigerated containers of seafood to Hong Kong and China per month, and employed more than 100 local workers in our processing plant in Sihanoukville.

“Then we moved into property development when the government relaxed its foreign ownership laws in 2010. Work on our Sunwah Pearl condominium project in Phnom Penh will begin at the end of this year depending on the Covid-19 situation,” said Sunwah general director Jesse Choi.

The company’s history dates back to 1957 when Sunwah was established in Hong Kong with the launch of a Macau seafood processing company.

The conglomerate currently focuses on the core sectors of seafood and foodstuffs, real estate, financial services, technology, infrastructure, media, education and training, green technology and healthcare.

Despite the turn of events in its seafood business in the Kingdom, Sunwah continued its business commitment, leaping into the tight but flourishing property sector.

“After starting our seafood business in 1995, we saw GDP growing around seven per cent from 1998 to 2019, making Cambodia one of the fastest growing economies. So we believe there’s much potential in Cambodia.

“In addition, there is political stability, and its strategic location sharing borders with Thailand and Vietnam makes it an ideal location for Sunwah to establish its business and reach out to other Southeast Asian markets,” Choi said.

The 62-floor, three-tower Sunwah Pearl luxury condominium – located adjacent to NagaWorld in the heart of Phnom Penh – occupies a prime location in the capital.

A large-scale shopping centre and “green lungs” are some of the upcoming project’s exciting features, while VIP units benefit from a separate entrance.

“We are not threatened by the competition in Cambodia’s property market. Our project’s location is on prime land next to NagaWorld and there are no high rise buildings surrounding the project, and that gives a nice view of the city. If the demand for Phase 1 is good, we will launch Phase 2,” Choi said.

Cambodia has transitioned from an agriculture-oriented economy to one based on manufacturing and services, while the Kingdom’s entry into the World Trade Organisation in 2004 further strengthened trade integration and created trade benefits for investors such as Sunwah, he said.

And Sunwah has also transcended beyond its conventional business activities to provide skills training for Cambodians, with the Sunwah Foundation involved in charitable activities in the Kingdom.

The foundation in February last year signed a memorandum of understanding with the National University of Management (NUM) to establish the Jonathan KS Choi Culture Centre at NUM.

The Sunwah Foundation also donated 50,000 face masks to the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, and NUM when the Covid-19 outbreak began in March 2020.

“Every year Sunwah Foundation will sponsor two NUM students to study a two-year masters degree at the University of Macau and two other students to Jinan University in Guangzhou,” Choi explained.

The Hong Konger said the Sunwah voyage has been a fruitful one.

“My grandfather sailed from China to Vietnam and Cambodia, and to other Southeast Asian countries. When he landed in Cambodia, he started the seafood business and since then we have continued doing business in Cambodia. It has been a rewarding journey,” Choi said.