Yung Kee Restaurant to wind up over HK$100m deal breaker

Updated: 2015-12-17 09:48

By Kahon Chan in Hong Kong(HK Edition)

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The parent company of Hong Kong's Yung Kee Restaurant will wind up after its estranged family owners failed to close a share deal ahead of a deadline mandated by the Court of Final Appeal.

The public display of an ugly family feud came to a conclusion last month when the city's top court ruled in favor of the widow of Kinsen Kam Kin-sing to wind up the holding company of Yung Kee.

Kinsen, the elder son of restaurant founder Kam Shui-fai, initiated the winding-up petition five years ago to break away from the family business, citing conflicts with his younger brother Ronald Kam Kwan-lai.

The two sides were first given 28 days to work out a deal. The court later approved a seven-day extension.

In the run-up to the Thursday deadline, Ronald offered to pay HK$1.1 billion in cash, as well as hand over a plot on the outlying island of Cheung Chau and valuable dried seafood stored at the restaurant. But the widow and children of Kinsen stood firm on their demand for HK$1.3 billion.

The HK $100-million shortfall has proved to be a deal breaker.

Ronald's lawyers on Wednesday made a literally last-minute bid to extend the deadline again. Their application reached the Court of Final Appeal's office two minutes before closing. But it was promptly turned down by Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li simply because there were not enough judges to hear the case.

Ma cast doubts on Ronald's calculation of the timing to file the application. Ronald's daughter Yvonne Kam, however, said that they were hopeful of a deal before the impasse persisted until Wednesday afternoon.

She declined to comment if Kinsen's family sincerely wanted a deal. "All I wanted to achieve is to keep my grandfather's business afloat," she said. "Then all I know at this moment is that we've failed to make it."

Taking out an extra HK$100 million to claim full control of Yung Kee, she argued, could push the company out of business. She insisted their offer was the best possible, based on professional assessment of the restaurant's worth.

It could take months before the court appoints a liquidator. The restaurant will be sold as part of Yung Kee Holdings Ltd, based in the British Virgin Islands, though the Kam family is entitled to buy it back.

The case will have an impact on other businesses - as it means Hong Kong courts will accept winding-up petitions against offshore companies that have strong connections with the city.

(HK Edition 12/17/2015 page6)