Visionary property tycoon Shing Pee Tao was honoured and conferred the prestigious Outstanding Chinese Business Pioneer Award by the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI) for his spirit of entrepreneurship and charity.
S.P. Tao is the founder of the Shing Kwan group. A naturalized citizen of Singapore of Chinese origin, Tao has extensive worldwide business experience and is widely regarded as a visionary entrepreneur in the commodities, shipping and real estate sectors.
Tao, left Shanghai, armed with a Confucian upbringing, a Jesuit education and the proverbial “five silver coins” from his father. He was a stowaway on a Jardine Matheson ship bound for Indo-China. Some 50 years later, after a successful career in commodity trading in Burma and shipping in Hong Kong and Thailand—taking on the Conference lines—he switched his focus to bricks and mortar in Singapore. The same Jardine Matheson then invited him to join forces, to build up Singapore Land and later Jakarta Land in Indonesia.
As soon as there was a crack in the “Bamboo Curtain”, he conceived and built the 37-storey Jinling hotel in the heart of Xinjieko in Nanjing, which on completion in 1983 was the tallest building in China. He was one of the first foreign property developers to do business on mainland China. His pioneering ventures there, long before its economy powered to greatness, helped pave the way for closer China-Singapore economic ties.
Tao commenced his business association with Sri Lanka in 1958 dealing in commodities and shipping with the Ceylon Food Commissioner’s office. In the 1970s, he assisted Sri Lanka to establish Ceylon National Shipping Corporation when he sold one ship, on credit, to Shipping Corporation, which was renamed ‘Lanka Rani’. Pursuant to that, as payment, he received a 20 percent equity share in Colombo Dockyard.
In 1990, in response to Lee Kuan Yew’s call to venture beyond Singaporean shores, he revisited Colombo. Attracted by the incentives offered by the Sri Lankan government, Tao acquired Overseas Realty (Ceylon) PLC (ORC PLC), a listed company on the Colombo Stock Exchange, owning an undeveloped plot of land at Echelon Square in the Colombo Fort area. Tao has been the Non-Executive Chairman of the company since the Shing Kwan group invested in the company in 1991.
Tao then decided on a monumental investment in Sri Lanka, for his legacy, in developing the World Trade Centre (WTC), Colombo Twin Towers, which at the time was years ahead of any commercial development in the country. To ensure the highest standards of quality that would withstand the test of time, he also invited the world’s leading construction company, Turner Steiner of the USA, to construct the Twin Towers.
Apart from Sri Lanka, Tao has real estate investments principally in China and Singapore. Between 1972 and 1996, he was the Chairman of Singapore Land Limited spearheading its growth into the largest listed property company on the Singapore Stock Exchange. During this time, he conceptualized and developed the iconic Marina Square complex, which paved the way for development in downtown Singapore. Tao was also a co-founder of PT Jakarta Land, developer and owner of the World Trade Centre complex in Jakarta, Indonesia and served on its board from 1980 to 2005.
Throughout his life, this pioneering spirit has driven Tao to venture where no one else has been. He loathes competing. Instead, he channels his time and energy into trail-blazing ventures. Today, his passion is his private educational enterprise in Nanjing, China, which was set up with his constant companion of 71 years, his beloved wife, the late Madam Liu Kwan Li.
The JS-TSPEF (Jiangsu Tao Shing Pee Education Fund) and Peeli Society offer Peeli Scholarships to needy but deserving students from the rural areas to enter college. They benefit from mentorship by a pool of enthusiastic Harvard Business School peers and the nurturing of entrepreneurship amongst a cohort of some 4500 active Peeli Scholars. The challenge gives him immense joy.
A company spokesman for Overseas Realty (Ceylon) PLC stated, “We are proud and honoured that our founder, S.P. Tao, has been recognised by the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry and awarded this prestigious Outstanding Chinese Business Pioneer Award.”