China's third-richest man set for $2.7 billion Evergrande windfall

SHANGHAI (BLOOMBERG) - China's third-richest man is set to get a US$2 billion (S$2.7 billion) cash windfall.

Hui Ka Yan, chairman of China Evergrande Group, will pocket the money after the property developer and electric-car wannabe declared a record dividend for fiscal 2018.

The board proposed a 1.42 yuan per-share payout for the year ended Dec. 31, according to a statement late on Sunday (Dec 8). That would total 18.7 billion yuan (S$3.62 billion), and with a 78 per cent stake in the company, Hui will get the lion's share.

Evergrande shares rose 3.3 per cent in morning trading in Hong Kong on Monday, paring this year's decline to 13 per cent.

The 61-year-old company founder didn't take a salary last year, and was paid the equivalent of about US$34,000 in fees. However, he's worth US$27.5 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Evergrande has poured billions of dollars into acquisitions as Mr Hui pursues an ambition to make the company the world's biggest maker of electric cars in the next three to five years.

So far, he doesn't have much to show for all his grand plans, last month vowing to unveil a debut car by June 2020 - a year later than first promised.

Not only does that pit him against Elon Musk's Tesla, which has been churning out EVs for years, but also all the world's major automakers, which are plowing tens of billions of dollars into EV production and research.

Evergrande will also be entering a crowded local field at a time sales are slumping as the government reduces subsidies.

The proposed dividend translates to a 50 per cent payout ratio of the developer's 37.4 billion yuan profit last year. Shareholders will vote whether to approve the dividend at an extraordinary general meeting Jan 15.

Evergrande had deferred a decision on the 2018 dividend twice since March, partly to comply with Chinese regulatory rules as it pursues a back-door listing on the mainland for its real estate assets.

The dividend is expected to be paid on or before Feb 26, 2020, if it is approved by shareholders at a meeting on Jan 15.

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